At Rio

Four years ago, on this blog, I wrote a post entitled Heading for Rio. At that time, having been inspired by the Olympic Games in London, I set myself the challenge of writing a novel and finding a publisher for it by the time the next Olympics rolled round in 2016. I also mentioned my habit of wasting time on Twitter and Facebook instead of spending time writing. As I write, the Rio Olympics are coming to a close and I’ve been revisiting the goals I set myself in 2012.

In 2012, I wrote this:

What I want to achieve by 2016 is not only to have written the book, but also (no doubt after many rejections) to have found a publisher and got it published… my aim is to finish the book in 2014, two years from now.

Significantly reducing the amount of time I spent on social media certainly freed up time for other things, including writing, and since 2012 I’ve written two and a half novels, as well as a number of short stories. Back then I also wrote this:

I know that I can do something difficult if I put my mind to it and want it enough, but in order for me to have any hope of achieving it I have to have those two elements: determination and desire.

I very much wanted to prove to myself that I could write a novel. Keeping going was a struggle at times, but I had the determination and desire to carry me through to the finish. What I hadn’t given so much thought to was how I would feel when I had finished writing it.

Since completion, the first novel has undergone numerous revisions and edits, processes I found neither easy nor enjoyable. In some cases, I had to re-read the same passages many times in my quest to sharpen them up and make the story flow. It was laziness that made the task so difficult, but putting in the effort did give me some satisfaction.

By the time I had spent a year or more editing and re-writing the first novel, after taking a break to write the second, I began submitting the book to agents, and then to publishers. Most of them replied to say they weren’t interested, and one or two of them didn’t reply at all. It’s now nearly three months since I last submitted the book to anyone, and I haven’t had a reply from that submission.

Although I found the first rejections difficult, I was determined enough to keep on trying. After a while I branched out from submitting exclusively to agents and started sending the book directly to publishers instead. I hoped this change in approach might yield better results, but it has proved no more successful.

This leaves me wondering what to do next. I’ve looked into self-publishing but it’s not the route I want to take at the moment. If I were an outsider giving myself advice I might tell myself to keep going and never allow the dream to die. There’s nothing wrong with that opinion and, indeed, I can fully see the sense of it. To have dedicated so much time and effort to the project already makes it seem only sensible to refuse to give up until I find a publisher.

In order to do that, however, I need to have some motivation, a real desire to find a publisher, whatever it takes. At the moment, the motivation isn’t there. Who knows if it might return, perhaps it will after I’ve taken a break to do other things, but until I get it back I don’t think I’m going to make any progress on that front. Far from feeling sorry about this, I feel surprisingly content.

Watching the Rio Olympics, I possibly have even more admiration for the athletes now than I had in 2012. Even if they don’t get a medal this time around, many of them – having already dedicated years to training – will keep on trying and hope for better things at the next Olympics in 2020. Maintaining such long-term goals, with an unrelenting desire to succeed, are character traits I stand in awe of. To want something so much that you’re prepared to wait however long it takes to achieve it is quite mind-boggling.

All of the top athletes I’ve heard interviewed in Rio have given their own reasons for wanting to succeed, citing different motivating factors that have driven them on. Mo Farah, the British runner who last night got the gold medal in the 5,000 metres, after achieving the same in the 10,000 metres, winning both in London before repeating the feat in Rio, has often said that his children are what motivates him. He has four children and now has an Olympic gold medal for each of them. For Usain Bolt it was the chance to do something no other athlete has ever done before, getting gold in three track events at three separate Olympics. That desire to be possibly the greatest sprinter the world has ever seen has driven him on and got him through the tough times because it was something he wanted so much.

My own desire to become a published author is a far more modest ambition, and yet from my point of view it will take something of the same sort of drive and determination to achieve it. Without that determination I’ll find it impossible, so do I still want it enough? The past four years have taught me many things about myself, some of which were completely unexpected.

One of the influencing factors in the way I view things now has been what happened to my eldest brother, Fergus, in September 2014. He was a highly intelligent and enthusiastic person, and although he suffered from various mental health problems for many years he worked hard to fight depression. He made a considerable effort to join a variety of groups, and gave a lot of his time freely to help other people. He was 51 when he went missing in Switzerland, and nothing has been heard from him now for nearly two years. I have come to the conclusion that he suffered a fatal accident in the Swiss mountains and, sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we never find out what happened to him.

Fergus achieved a great deal in his lifetime, and I’m sure he could have gone on to achieve a lot more. Having been made acutely aware of how fragile life is, I might have expected Fergus’s experience to make me more determined than ever to achieve my own goals while I still can. In fact, it’s almost had the opposite effect. I realise how lucky I am to be able to enjoy each day and get something good out of it, even if I do nothing of earth-shattering importance. I would still like to become a published author one day, but my attitude to life, and a possible future, has changed. To appreciate what I have today, seems to me far more important than striving for a position I might or might not attain in the future.

That isn’t to say I’m giving up on goals and dreams, far from it. I’m still hugely inspired by Olympic athletes, and indeed anyone who sets themselves difficult goals and achieves them through grit and determination. I still dream about the future and imagine the things I would like to do if the opportunities arise, and it’s these dreams that keep life exciting and inspiring. Inevitably, I sometimes think about what will happen to me if I don’t achieve my writerly ambitions, but I try not to dwell on such thoughts. There will always be things I wish I had done, or still want to do if I get the chance, but being thankful for what I have today makes the present a blessing, whatever the future holds.

Travelling hopefully

Lorna McInnes

Welcome to my writing portal.

“… to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I’ve been labouring over my fiction for the past four years, in which time I’ve completed one novel, more or less completed another one, and started another two. Although four years seems a long time sometimes, I know it’s relatively short in the writerly scheme of things.

Becoming a successful published author requires a number of attributes, among them patience and determination. I’ve been getting quite a lot of practice in both of these areas. I initially sent out my first novel to several agents in 2013. The rejections left me feeling demoralised and dispirited, and were almost enough to persuade me to give up. After a while, however, I regained confidence and decided to keep going.

I’m still getting rejections, but they don’t upset me as much as they…

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The best carrot cake in Edinburgh?

Another blog? Surely not. But yes, dear friends, I’m afraid so.

Lorna's Blog

If you happen to be in Edinburgh wondering where you can get your teeth into a tasty bit of carrot cake, you could do a lot worse than popping into Cafe Modern One at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. In fact, I’m not sure you could do much better.

I’ve had carrot cake there on more than one occasion and it’s always been delicious. It may be a little drier than some versions of the treat, perhaps a little denser, but it is undoubtedly packed full of interesting ingredients and decorated in a magnificent manner.

Here’s a piece I had a few days ago, topped with a superb orange-flavoured icing and decorated with pumpkin seeds, grated carrot and candied peel.

Modern Art Gallery carrot cake

While I’m on the subject of the Modern Art Gallery, it is, to my mind, one of the best places in Edinburgh to get a decent cup of tea.

There are a number…

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An end and a new beginning

As regular readers will know, I have a penchant for starting new blogs. Much to my astonishment, Lorna’s Tearoom Delights is nearing its fourth anniversary and it feels to me like the right time to let it retire gracefully.

When I started this blog I had no idea how big a part the delightful assistants would play in its evolution, nor did I imagine that four years down the line I would be fully occupied in the role of cook-housekeeper, chauffeur, carer and small tyrant to my aging parents.

In light of the fact that the delightful assistants are such a big part of my life, and that tearooms have taken something of a back seat, I have created a proper platform for the stars of the show and they now have a blog devoted to their shenanigans. If you’d like to keep abreast of their toings and froings you can follow them on this blog from now on:

Who knows what they’ll get up to on those pages but there will, undoubtedly, be the odd tearoom visit and perhaps a few tastings of various sorts.

Thank you to everyone who has followed or popped into this blog over the years. I’ve met lots of truly smashing people through blogging and I hope to continue those friendships for many years to come.

small ones in Grange-over-Sands

Intrepid assistants bravely striding out into the unknown (actually, on their way to a cafe in the genteel Cumbrian town of Grange-over-Sands).

Meikleour Beech Hedge

Earlier this year I did a post about the tallest hedge in the world, which happens to be a few miles away from where I live, next to the village of Meikleour in Perthshire. This is how it looked in the spring with its fresh greenery on show.


Being a beech hedge, the colours change quite spectacularly in the autumn. I’ve often wished I had photographed it in is fiery clothing, but every autumn I failed to do it. I was determined to do it this year and had been waiting for a sunny day, but it’s been dark and damp pretty much every day for weeks. With storms forecast, I took my chances one wet afternoon before all the leaves were blown off.


Scones I have known – no.9

I had quite a few scones on holiday in Cumbria last month, but the best was saved till last.

After leaving our holiday home at Red Hall Farm, on our way back north we took a detour to Lanercost Priory, about half a mile from Hadrian’s Wall.

We didn’t have time to visit the priory itself, but we did visit the award winning tearoom next to it.

Lanercost Priory tearoom

Lanercost Priory Tearoom, gift shop and information centre.

The delightful assistants opted for coffee and a slice of lemon cake between them.

lemon cake

Pleased to find there was leaf tea on offer, I chose a pot of Darjeeling accompanied by a fruit scone.

fruit scone with jam

The scone hadn’t been long out of the oven and was still slightly warm. With a little butter, it was absolute bliss. The poor old jam that came with it didn’t have a look in.

Lanercost scone

A tale of two caddies

For as long as I can remember, this tea caddy has been in my family. For some time now I’ve been using it to store my breakfast Darjeeling in.

old caddy

Neither of my parents know exactly where it came from, although my mum thinks it may have belonged to her grandfather. She believes she’s had it for at least 55 years, during which time it’s been well used. This goes some way to explaining its worn and shabby appearance.

caddy with lid open

The design on the caddy is known as ‘Black Jap’, and features three different scenes in black, gold, red and silver.

The lid, which has become very scratched over the years, is decorated with no fewer than six cranes, two inside a central circle and one in each of the four corners. Cranes are popular symbols in a range of different cultures and religions, and in Japanese mythology they’re said to live for 1000 years. As well as being symbols of longevity they’re thought to bring good fortune.

cranes lid

There are two more scenes on the sides of the caddy, each depicted twice. One of these features two young ladies holding fans, with what looks like a pomegranate tree behind them.

ladies with fans

The other scene shows a well dressed oriental gentleman sitting beside what I think might be a cherry tree planted in a decorative urn. A small boy boy approaches him bearing a bowl of food with chopsticks in it. The old tin is so scratched that the picture is hard to make out.

old gent under cherry tree

In the picture below, however, you can see what the original caddy would have looked like when it was brand new and clean as a whistle.

old and new caddies


The lid featuring six cranes.

This morning’s post brought me two items of mail from D C Thomson & Co Ltd, producers of numerous well known Scottish publications such as The Beano comic, Oor Wullie and The Broons, The Courier newspaper and The People’s Friend magazine.

Set up in 1869, The People’s Friend is the oldest weekly women’s magazine in the world. A few weeks ago I sent a letter to them, which seems to have been to their liking.


The prize was a double delight for me. Not only did it include a packet of excellent leaf tea (which I opened this afternoon to make a deliciously flavoursome post-lunch beverage), but the tea came inside a brand new ‘Black Jap’ caddy, exactly like the old scratched one.


Oddly enough, only a week or so ago I had been looking at the old caddy and wondering if it could do with being replaced.

Now that I’ve received the new one, however, I have a new appreciation of the old one. Seeing them sitting side by side in the kitchen brings a pleasing sense of continuity.

the old and the new

I’m not really a collector of anything, but I suppose if I were going to collect something Black Jap tea caddies would be a useful sort of thing to have. Do two caddies constitute a collection, I wonder? A small one, perhaps.

two black japs