Monday, April 30, 2012

Thing 1

All these are courtesy of Thing 1.  We had a "board battle": I called him a Cheerio Thief (which when I told them I didn't draw it, they thought it was the Easter Bunny. How brilliant is that!) I laughed so hard I cried at the "I'm Natalie" drawing and asked to put it here. He got really excited and drew the following sequence. Maybe this will become a ritual, who knows? Thing 1 was upset that I called him Thing 1 here because he really likes even numbers. And really, who can blame him? I personally have a preference for odd ones but I think that's because my birthday is entirely odd numbers. Do you have an even/ odd preference? Certain numbers you like better than others? Or we may all take after Sheldon...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Natalie's Song

My sister wrote me this song after a Jonah day.
 Isn't she talented? She makes any day bright.
I can only ask that you not take too serious offense at my weaker moments.

Warm Fuzzies

For all ICSers, old and new, who know and love Mr. Eiler, this is for you.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Henry V

Henry V Stage
There are disadvantages for an American living in Britain.  All the numerous theatre productions and opportunities to see Shakespeare performed is not one of them.  For my birthday (way back in November), Fran bought me tickets to see one of my favorites, Henry V. Wednesday we took an evening trip to Newcastle to see it.

We both lamented the timing as I have my nine-month review and he has exams, but one's ability to plan six months in advance is always limited. However, we enjoyed the show immensely.  The company was an all-male cast, and they sang for every scene change and act conclusion, and their strength as a performing unity was unbelievable. It's not every day you get to see one of your literary crushes come to life.  

During intermission, instead of going backstage to take a well-deserved break, they performed for us in the halls singing songs for charity, and I captured just a few moments on my phone. Its a really shaky video, so if you're the least bit queasy, close your eyes and just listen.  Their harmony rivalled one of UNC's acapella groups-- and that's nigh on heresy! Overall a lovely show, a military show, with an extremely talented troupe.

For more information on the performance, see here:

In our seats

Monday, April 23, 2012

MEMSA 2012

For a paper yet unwritten, here we go.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Accents and Movie Stars

There are some days when I feel like I'm losing my American soul.  Like the other day on the plane. The hostess asked me if I'd like chips, and just to clarify, I said, no I'd like crisps. She gave me a blank sort of look at having been corrected, so instead I just ordered a beer to make the fact that I had just turned cultural turncoat slightly more bearable.

Instead of "where are you from?" I now change it to the slightly less prying, "whereabouts are you from?" At a conference in Oxford, I found myself beginning conversations with strangers about the weather or the temperature of the room.  Before moving here, I wouldn't have thought twice about asking someone for the time or striking up a conversation on the train.  Now I continually think, "Oh no, they wouldn't want to be bothered." 

I now notice when American go over the top with stationary, Christmas decorations, or baby or wedding showers. I begin to think, "oh that's just a bit excessive."  I find myself trying to find more descriptive adjectives and to tell someone critically exactly what I think, rather than the bland, "oh yeah, it was good." I no longer pronounce ten "tee-in" (too many awkward phone conversations).  I've dulled my Americaness down to the minimum, at times, so that I hope I'm not associated with "those" people.  An American in customs last week made me bury my head in shame at his cultural insensitivity.

But truth be told, I miss my accent. I miss sounding strongly American. I wish this pressing need-to-be-understood didn't weigh on me so self-consciously so I could just speak and pronounce the words I was taught.  Naturally shy, I've been made fun of pronouncing t-i-e- "tahye" or telling someone I was about to "fix" dinner. ("What- is it broken?") These things wear off and only come about when I'm spending time with other Americans, which happens more seldom than I would like.  Yet the longer I'm here or more importantly, the longer I date an Englishman, the more important I realize it is to think like an Englishman. Ideally, I'd like to think like a Brit (a Scotsman, an Englishman) yet sound American.  The more I spend time over here, the more I'm determined that speech links towards home. 

Oh for the 1940s Hollywood days when Americans and Britains sounded so similar! Have you ever watched Cary Grant or Bettie Davis perform? They seem so culturally fluid with such unrevealing accents that they'd just camouflage perfectly within either American or Britain. I bet they didn't feel their passports were on the line every time they opened their mouths!

Coping with Hedgehogs

Darwin: From Edinburgh Hedgehogs

This upcoming move to Durham is scaring me senseless.  I have nightmares about at night, and its a nebulous gremlin lurking in the recesses of my thoughts in the day.  I know Durham will be all sorts of wonderful and fulfill desires I didn't even know I had: I know that. But it's the leaving Edinburgh that causes me to be infinitely sad.

Odd as it may sound, I am determined to live by myself.  But the thought of going into a dark apartment all by myself gives me the creepsies. So pets are the natural answer. I am so glad I have bunnies.  But even the bunnies don't have that positive, o're powering gleam to dispel this bleakness I feel. I want something to look forward to. In my spare time, I've found myself trolling through gumtree looking at pets, like some sort of sick kryptonite. And do you know what? I'm going to get a hedgehog once I move.

I could justify it by saying I've wanted one for years, that I've read all sorts of things on how to take care of them, that it will be a good thing to look forward to. But it simply comes down to the realization that I am just going to be one of those crazy ladies with loads of pets: like some kind of reinvention of Beatrix Potter.  I was despairing to Gillian how I wanted a hedgehog and it was taking all of my self-control not to buy one immediately and I knew it was because I was stressed out because of my move and I felt like I was a bit crazy, and Gillian, ever wise, blinked at me, and then said: "People cope with loss in all sorts of ways: drugs, alcohol, abuse, sex. Why shouldn't you get a hedgehog if it keeps you from those?" Well, the thought of drinking myself senseless or hitting up contacts for some stash had never once crossed my mind: but the worrying thing is those seem alot more normal than buying a hedgehog.

How ADORABLE are they? What if I became a hedgehog breeder? Pretty lucrative for petty cash. There's not many in the Northern part of the UK. Here are some of my favorite UK sites so far:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Words seem entirely superfluous. It was like going home to a home I didn't even know I had. We wrote stories, and curled hair, and went shopping, watched breakout kings, ate bread and cheese, took walks, lit fires, chatted late into the night. I'm proud, but ever so selfishly sad that she's moving to Singapore.

who are you?


happy owl

hitting the roof

a bed should be under books

Easter City Center

River in Town

Easter Sunday walk


knitted socksies

ice fishing

hare tracks

how cabins should be



golden years

moose tracks

wood nymph

we're this close

attire for flight home

On my flight home I wore: 
1 pair socks
2 trousers
2 skirts
2 bras
2 tank tops
2 shirts
1 thick sweater
1 tweed jacket
1 lined coat

:because I could not fit it all in my bag.

Popular Fiction and the Renaissance Conference

Newcastle University

This past weekend was a nervous mess as I went to Newcastle to present my old undergraduate thesis on Melville and Shakespeare.  It began by me scrambling to find something to wear, finding I had washed the trousers I had planned to wear the night before and spending 35 minutes ironing them in a mad scramble to get to my train on time.  In my mad rush, I somehow missed deodorant. Usually this isn't a big deal as I don't sweat much here, but my nervousness quickly affected by glands and before long I smelled myself and thought: Lord have mercy, is that me?!

When I finally realized it was me, I was on a tea and coffee break and so worried about smelling I forgot I had to pee. It wasn't until I got up to the podium did this sudden and horrific urge fall upon me, and then I had another moment: Oh no, I think I just might wet my pants from sheer nerves.

Usually I don't have any problems reading or speaking in public, and this audience was ideal: it was a small setting of 15 people with all young researchers like myself.  Everyone had been incredibly warm and open, yet excited to talk about things that academics get excited about. (For this conference we discussed Anonymous and who actually was Shakespeare and what did he write?) Yet as I opened my mouth to speak, I began to shake uncontrollably with my hands and blundered the first three pages as my heart kept leaping into my mouth.  Oddly, I began to sort of rock back and forth to dispel this excess of energy from me, hopefully decrease the sweating, and praying that no one else noticed that I was now smelling palpably.

By page five I had gotten into a swing, and though I butchered my American accent with Englishisms, had found a cadence of steadiness. Now the good stuff was coming out in the paper, and by the end, there was a hush on the audience, and I felt the heaviness of what I had just read: he self-destructs when his desire to perceive hidden things exceeds human limitations... total annihilation is not too large a price to achieve his final goal.

The questions after were mercifully kind, and we ended with wine and the screening of Anonymous, which, after nearly wetting yourself in a room of kind, but complete strangers, is a lovely way to end a conference.

I must have left the fuctioning part of my brain at the conference for on the way home, I heard the words "Edinburgh" and "Newcastle" and jumped on the train. I found it was heading in the opposite direction! Thankfully, it did indeed stop at Durham (imagine if the next stop had been York!) and a very kind security man ("Come in, love", "Sit down, love") informed me that there just happened to be one last train heading to Edinburgh that night (praise the Lord!). I sat in the cold of what my phone told me was 5 degrees C, but what I assure you was at last 1 C until the train arrived, managed to stay in the part of the train that was not splitting off at Newcastle and arrive safely back in Edinburgh with the days work, finally, well behind me. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Catch Up

Me and Felix

I've spent this past week with my dear friend Sanna, which was glorious, but have hardly had a moment to write anything. If you would care to see a few embarassing photos and a short recap, see Sanna's blog here. Fran and I trained up from Southampton Thursday, after which we headed to Arthur's seat with the bunnies (see photo). Must hit the ground running as I present a paper at a conference on Sunday. A bit frightened. Do you think these will give me confidence? Check yes or no.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Sunday

Sweetheart Abbey, Scotland

For the Easter Holidays I've been visitng my dear friend Sanna. I've known her for 11 years as my classmate in Singapore. They celebrate Easter Sunday on Good Friday. This day was momentous:

Did a.) I eat entire tray bake of Sanna's cookies b.) Sanna get an offer her first 'official' job at our alma mater, ICS, in Singapore c.)I lose twice in a game of Swedish Yahtzee d.) I get healed of back pain I'd had since 2009, or e.) all of the above?

I hope your Easter weekends are just as splendid and that you find moments of tremendous fullness, brimming and whole, for the new season to come.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On Babies: Revised

In our Senior year of college, friends started getting engaged, and I remember the shock of it all: it wasn't happening to "other people." It was happening to my friends. I had reached that stage of life, and it felt surreal. Now its not just engagements, but babies. My church here is a baby making machine. I don't think we've had any fewer than 3 women pregnant at the same time in less than 2 years.

Still, when my good friends, the Inces became pregnant, this was something much closer to home. The Ince's are like family. Like, older cool cousins who have it all together, who you want to be when you're their age. I babysit for Seth all the time (cutest toddler ever. It's slightly depressing to know if I ever have kids they will never beat that) and the Ince's have me over for meals, like, every fortnight. (REAL Mexican, guys). So I've gotten to see Robin throughout her entire pregnancy.

Robin was a fit, pregnant woman. Better shape than me. Who would have thought this woman
was this pregnant? Ah know. Not me.

(Note the wedding-cake shaped diaper diorama in the background. Some women know how to throw baby showers!)

And now, ever so happily, Avery Kaitlyn Ince is here.

Babies still scare me. It's not that I don't like them. That's not true. It's more of a holy, reverent fear. All these hopes and fears and prayers and dreams wrapped up in a person, a being who is just so small and so alive. Perhaps its their size, that everything is perfect, exactly perfect, just smaller proportioned. I'm not even sure I can put it into words. But it pretty much leaves me speechless everytime.

17 days old today