I decided to hot foot it over to Oxford for a dose of literary inspiration, where the Bodleian/Weston Library hosts the J.R.R. Tolkien exhibition until October. The Financial Times published a pre-exhibition review that tells it far better than I can – you can read it here.
But I learned some valuable ‘writers’ lessons from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings creator.
Lord of the Rings, sequel to The Hobbit, took Tolkien a long twelve years to finish, ‘squeezing his writing into late nights’ after teaching and family activities.
He pursued his creative endeavors (drawing, illustrations, writing) alongside his academic day job and family.
But he had a ‘room of his own’ where he not only wrote his masterpieces but also met with his students, marked essays and carried out his professor duties. In addition, it was a hub for entertaining his children with evening stories.
His illustrations are quite beautiful and complement his writing perfectly. How I wish I could draw! Never mind, at least I can work on my photography.
Tolkien was actually quite an extrovert. He formed a writers’ group with his mates, which served as an excuse and a ‘safe space’ to down beers, and read their written stories to each other.
Nonetheless, he had a literary best mate, CS Lewis.
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth is at the Bodleian/Weston Library, Oxford
I’m starting to prefer staying in the suburban outskirts of a city. Apart from getting more reasonably priced accommodation, it’s nice to be able to retreat from the frenetic centres to somewhere more quiet, if not totally peaceful. As long as there’s accessible transport to ferry me across to the centre when I want then that’s fine by me.
Changi Village in Singapore is a case in point. Just a few kilometres from the airport my hotel was about a five-minute walk from the South China Sea beach side. Nothing amazing about the hotel itself – but (on the whole) it was clean and quiet. Food there was horribly expensive without the quality to match, in my opinion. But, that only galvanised me to sample the nearby local restaurants, where prices were low and the quality significantly higher.
Quiet(er) Melaka (or Malacca) in next door Malaysia is a pleasant two-hour coach drive from Singapore (I used the bus company KKKL which I do recommend). And even in Kuala Lumpur, I stayed at Airbnb apartments that just skirted the flashy main centres, though with easy transport to shopping malls for sheltering from the heat.