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  • Heather McQuillan

Routines and re-setting

I've been in Dunedin for two weeks now. This is a city I've visited before but never got to know. I joked that every time I visited it rained. It did. It poured down for the first few days and I even wore the padded coat I'd bought especially for a Dunedin winter. In February.

The welcome, however, was warmer. I was allocated a lovely office at the University College of Education. It is light and spacious and looks out onto a garden. People are friendly. There is the busy buzz of office chatter. Almost next door is a library where I can pick up the books I've ordered online. So convenient!

For a week and a half I set up a routine, walking through the campus from my motel each morning, writing until midday, taking a walk to explore different corners of the campus, then lunch at my desk, followed by some editing until mid afternoon. It worked well, with over 20,000 words redrafted and about 7,000 new ones written in the first week. That's my new routine, I thought. Sorted!

Then, over the weekend, I moved into the cottage that will be my home until the end of July.

Now, I really want to thank all of the people who gave me warnings.

'It's tiny!' 'Its noisy!' 'It's cold.'

They set up expectations that were quickly ( and thankfully) demolished.

It is small but certainly not poky, and with a bit of decluttering ( who needs 17 vegetable knives in the drawer?) and shifting of furniture to suit my needs (comfortable armchair placed for maximum sun) it feels quite spacious!

The neighbours have been reasonably quiet ( it is O week!) There's a party house along the main road that booms from about 8:00 to 11:00 pm but, with doors and windows shut and earplugs in, I'm fine. And maybe soon they'll be studying more and partying less???? Right????

And, I know, I have yet to experience a Dunedin winter but there's a heat pump, and a hot water bottle has been provided.

I have fallen in love with The Writer's Cottage.

So, today I changed up my routine. Straight after breakfast, in yoga pants and bare feet, I was seated at the front room desk writing the next chapter. And the next. Time vanished. When I needed a stretch I put the radio on and did a bit of a dance.

Before a late lunch I went for a walk and discovered a glorious stand of kahikatea trees where bellbirds sing.

My first full day in the cottage wasn't without interruption. The Campus Watch police came in for a chat and to let me know to call them at any time if I need help with neighbours or walking home in the dark. They were my first visitors. I gave them a guided tour. It wasn't a long tour – just three rooms.

So, will this be my new routine or will I come up with something that makes the best of both the peace and home comfort of the cottage and the collegiality and convenience of the University office? I'll see what happens tomorrow.

And the day after that.

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