Running down Hunter Street with an armful of zines, lanyard flailing in the wind I realise that I probably look ridiculous. I haven’t had a lot of sleep, my shoes barely match my dress and my hair is still sticky with sweat from dancing the night before.
It hasn’t really sunk in that today is the last day of NYWF. There are mere hours until it’s all over for another year and I have to, once again, start counting down the days until October. I push the thought to the back of my mind. It isn’t over yet.
Sunday morning runs away from me, or perhaps I run away from it. After a hasty sweep of the zine fair I race to The Royal Exchange for The Future In Review, tweet madly for an hour, learn some things and then dash to the other end of town to hear This One Time… with Ellen van Neervan. In the foyer a man with a strong accent asks me where the event is and tells me he’s come because “van Neervan” is a Dutch name. He, I gather, is also Dutch and has come in some bid to ward off homesickness.
I realise its 1pm and all I’ve eaten since last night’s pie is a handful of cereal and a cup of tea. I have eaten nothing and run a lot. There is a chance this is effecting my vision. I remember the party bag of lollies that I still have from the sleepover. So I eat sour worms and call them lunch, at least for now.
After another mad dash across town to submit Saturday’s blog post, I stumble into a café just as it’s closing, almost delirious with exhaustion and hunger. The woman behind the counter tells me they have takeaway salad and, after I accept this kind offer, asks me what sized salad I would like. Large, I reply. Very large and, while we’re on the subject of large, that is also the size of the piece of that there chocolate cake that I would like you to cut me.
Between shoveling pumpkin and haloumi into my mouth with a too-small-for-my-needs plastic fork, I have to say the first of many goodbyes. Erin is leaving to Tamworth to visit her family for a few days and I hug her and tell her I’ll see her soon. Goodbyes are strange this year. In a few months time I’ll be packing up my life and moving it southward, to Melbourne. Where most years I finish TiNA with no idea when I’ll see people again, this year it doesn’t feel so bleak. February. I’ll be in Melbourne in February. Even the goodbyes to non-Melbournites are a little less sad; they’re more likely to come visit me in Melbourne than they ever were in Newcastle or Grafton.
My brother and I head up the road again for a final raid on the zines. We collapse upstairs at the Blue Write Disco, surrounded by zines and books (how good was the pop-up bookstore?) and our attempts at lunch. It is quiet in that strange disco-ball filled room. This venue feels like a portal to another world and I can’t really believe that it will still exist come Monday.
We wander along Hunter Street (again) toward the Terrace Bar for Lush 4 Life. A table has been setup downstairs. There is pasta available for a donation and a microwave in which to heat it up. Sian falls upon the table explaining something about it being “HER DREAM”. Her face when the woman behind the bar tells her that both dishes are vegetarian and one is vegan is one of the best things I see all weekend.
We sit in the dark and listen to people talk about booze. As someone who still hasn’t managed to live down something I said on a panel last year (I’m not repeating it, if you were there you know what I’m talking about) I want to give my sympathies to Seaton Kay-Smith in regard to his Muddle Headed Wombat comment. It happens to the best of us.
The Grammar Bee is an intimate affair and it feels like a private party just for us. We laugh a lot and learn a lot. There are stickers and discussions and hilarity and we’re all pretty nonplussed about where everyone else is. Afterwards, we wander up Hunter Street and find a Vietnamese restaurant that is the only thing that’s open. Over tofu and noodles and rice paper rolls we talk about the value of supposedly terrible music and the wander up the road to the pub and talk about feminism and inclusion and all kinds of things. The best discussions I’ve had this TiNA haven’t been at panels.
Late that night, at the sea baths I walk in the rock pools and tiny phosphorescent organisms scatter from my footsteps. Their trails are like tiny blue-green stars fizzing across the surface of the dark water. All around me there are squeals of delight as people stamp in puddles and watch the glittering trails that the ripples create. The reflection of the real stars is almost as pretty as these pretend ones and the two mingle in the black, black water of the sea baths. I talk to people on the tiered, concrete steps beside the baths and we all say how beautiful it is.  It is peaceful and none of us have anywhere to be except bed. I’m exhausted but I can’t tear myself away from it all. My exhausted, vaguely delirious brain can’t quite conceptualise that it’s almost over. Hellos and goodbyes start concertinaing until they’re happening far too close together.
And then it’s over and we’ve said all the goodbyes. We walk back to the car down a deserted Hunter Street Mall.“TiNA,” I say in a sleepy mumble, “is an annual reminder that actually, everything is going to be alright.” 

Below are some of my favourite photos from the weekend, taken by the fabulous Alan Weedon.
Head over to the NYWF site for more great content from The Press Room (and even MORE coming soon) or check out the NYWF Facebook for more photos.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year