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Pre-Covid, my neighbors in our little village would gather on the beach to celebrate Guy Fawkes day and Bonfire Night. For my American readers, this is basically like the Fourth of July, except without mosquitos. And we have a big fire because it’s fun to burn old boards and effigies and the odd papist. And instead of watermelon and beer, we have hot soup and whisky because it’s damn cold out there on the beach. And instead of celebrating our independence from the King of England, we celebrate um… not blowing up the King of England. And we burn a Catholic (well, in effigy, anyway, although I think the last Guy was orange, with a yellow wig and teeny hands…)

So actually, it’s absolutely nothing like the Fourth of July in America. But there ARE fireworks, and little kids DO run around with sparklers, and people clap and “Ooooh!” at their favorite rockets, and it IS a hella lot of fun!

BUT…that doesn’t help me. I’m supposed to be churning out thousands of words per day for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Only I have to wonder why they hold this in November. It’s the one month of the year when stuff you never planned for happens. Lots.

I know this because Google Photos decided to send me the past decade’s worth of photos from this week. If you look carefully, you’ll note that there is not one single photo of me churning out the Great American (in Scotland) Novel. Not one…

November, 2021: Isle of Arran, Scotland. Today’s gorgeous sunrise, during which I wrote… zero words. It’s going to be one of those Novembers.

November 2020, Florence Italy: We could see Florence bursting with art and food and history just below the terrace of our rented house in which we were sheltering from the mass murderers who refused to wear facemasks.

November 2019: Kew Gardens, London. Dale Chihuly’s art glass installations were stunning. My NaNo total words? Not so much…

November, 2018: Bonfire night and fireworks, Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran, Scotland. Remember, remember…

November 2017. My gallbladder went on strike. As I drove myself to the hospital, the Hub texted to ask if there were any bank accounts I hadn’t mentioned… Before I could take a shower, I had to disconnect and peel off all of these electrode tabs with which the Arran War Memorial Hospital had copiously decorated my body. Cause I know how to have me some November-fun.

November 2016. Arran, Scotland. “I have a great idea! Let’s wait until it’s really cold outside and then remodel the kitchen!” said nobody, ever…

November, 2015: Chicago. (I kind of desperately want to make a pun involving lion-around, but I’m staying strong. You’re welcome.)


November, 2014. Moscow. As one does…

November 2013. We’d just said goodbye to my mother, and now my father was heading to join her. Our family gathered for each farewell, a team complete with team uniform (Captain America t-shirts), team drink (Baileys), and team movie (Waking Ned Divine).

November, 2012. Brancepeth, England. And…ponies! (Who can write when there are PONIES?)

November, 2011. We moved to Durham, in the north of England. Or—more specifically—we moved into one tower of a friend’s medieval castle in England. And within those (2-foot-thick) walls, I learned the true meaning of cold.

It doesn’t look good for NaNoWriMo this year either. November is already suiting up, grabbing its puck, and talking smack from the ice. So the chances of me writing a book this month—or at least 50,000 words that could someday grow up to be a book?


You lurch & you lumber
From bonfire to ember
From waking to slumber
You deaden the grass
& you piss in the pot
The birds all haul ass
And the pumpkins all rot
Remember, November:
Momentous elections
Ignite us, divide us,
Divine new directions

Gnight, November
Come in from the cold
We’re making hot cocoa
with WHOLE milk: we’re bold.
CHILL, November. CHILL.”
― Lin-Manuel Miranda