(** This is where I answer any questions readers send me!)

Yes, I really enjoyed living in England and there are many things I miss about life in the U.K. (aside from family and friends, of course) – such as…

…long walks on Sunday mornings followed by a cosy lunch in a country pub
…seeing the changing of the seasons from the gorgeous autumn foliage to the crisp, snowy winter mornings to the cherry blossoms and snowdrops in spring
…the beautiful historic architecture (something you take for granted until you move to a “young” country like Australia!)
…the access to so much culture in the form of theatre, musicals, concerts, museums, art galleries, etc.
…the witty commercials & programmes on British TV
…the great underwear selection at Marks & Spencers!

Of course, there are some things that I don’t miss so much, such as the long cold winters when it would start to get dark by 2pm in the afternoon and you hardly saw any sunshine for a third of the year, the freezing wind-chill factor, and the sullen service and grumpy sales staff (there was a horrible woman in Boots the Chemist who always treated me terribly! I think because I’m small and look young for my age, so I always seem to get bullied by rude sales people)

Still, nowhere is perfect, right? 🙂

(here's me enjoying a Sunday morning walk in Oxford's Port Meadow...)

(here’s me enjoying a Sunday morning walk in Oxford’s Port Meadow…)

As for Oxford – yes, it was a really magical experience and I was very lucky to have had the chance to study at the university and live there. It’s a very unique experience. Aside from being surrounded by spectacularly beautiful architecture and historic buildings, there are all the quaint traditions of the University itself – some of which I try to share in my Oxford Tearoom Mysteries – and of course, all the brilliant, creative, fascinating people who go to study & teach there.

(This is my college, Christ Church, and some of you may recognise the dining hall as very similar to the one at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies! Yes, it was based on the Great Hall at my college and some scenes were filmed there)

(This is my college, Christ Church, and some of you may recognise the dining hall as very similar to the one at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies! Yes, it was based on the Great Hall at my college and some scenes were filmed there)

And here’s me in my first week at Oxford, at Matriculation – which is the ceremony when you officially become a member of the University. At Oxford, you wear the formal academic dress of sub-fusc and your black gown and mortar board not just when you graduate at the end of your degree but also at your Matriculation ceremony, when you first arrive at the university, and for every Examination as well. Oh, and we had to wear our black gowns for dinner too if we were going to “Formal Hall” (yes, that’s a bit like Hogwarts too!)

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I’d grown up mostly in the United Arab Emirates and had a very sheltered upbringing – and going to Oxford was the first time I’d left home, the first time I’d had my own key, the first time I went to the supermarket by myself… the first time for everything! 🙂 It was a very exciting time in my life and I have lovely memories of my time there.

In my first year, I threw myself into every event and activity on offer – I joined college societies, learned ballroom dancing, went to 3 parties a night, cheered at the boat races, was late for lectures, went on pub crawls, sang in the cathedral choir, had an essay crisis the night before every tutorial, and stayed up till the early hours drinking way too many cups of tea with friends, as we sat around discussing religion and Jaffa cakes and the existence of black holes and Monty Python’s dead parrot…

I think, though, that sadly you never appreciate things very much when you’re young. I wish now that I’d taken the time to savour the experience more and realised how lucky I was – when you’re 19, you’re just rushing around, trying to throw yourself headlong into every experience and never really stopping long enough to “experience” it… if you know what I mean! 🙂

(here’s me checking the daily mail in my pigeon hole. Those of you who’ve read Two Down, Bun To Go will probably remember the scene when Gemma is woken up in the middle of the night by her friend, Seth, and asked to retrieve a mysterious note from his pigeon hole – right after he’d been arrested for the murder of an Oxford professor in the college cloisters!)

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Got a question for me? Maybe you’re curious about something in my stories or about me or have a question about my books and how I write them… don’t be shy!  Just drop me a line at contact[at]hyhanna[dot]com and I’ll try my best to answer! 🙂

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