Friday, July 27, 2012

Fly, The Guardian Dog


Today, we're off to Cornwall for ten days.  It sounds like we're on perpetual holiday, but really, as most of our jobs right now can be done from anywhere, we'll be toiling away just as much, just in new settings.

We'll be taking Fly with us, Fran's brown Labrador.  All of the Goodison pets have been named after insects.  [I've adopted this tradition and named mine so far after ships: Indy and Felix.] Fly is ten and has a grey muzzle and reminds me of our first black lab, Amelia. I like Fly because he loves to go on walks as much as I do.  Sometimes he'll go on runs with me, but only if he feels like it. The other day, I tried to get Fly to go on a walk with me, while Fran had stayed to sit on a bench.  Once we rounded the bend and Fly didn't see Fran, he just stopped and stared at the bend, expecting Fran to come round. He refused to go any further until I took him back to Fran. Not even food could sway him.

Fly is bear. He's big boned and has the appetite of a t-rex. He seems to be perpetually on a diet.  But he is master at one thing: stealing food. He'll get the bread from the bread bin. He'll even get the lamb in the Sunday roast. He once opened a cupboard and ate Fran's Melba toast.

The other hilarious quality Fly possesses is his possessiveness.  At least I think that's what it is.  Anytime Fran so much places a hand on me in the same vicinity as Fly, he let's out a howl and squirms his way in between the two of us. It will start off with a low woof. Then, once more, more gruff.  Two, then three, until he's positively clamoring for attention. It's not only me, though. Even his mother can't hug Fran without Fly squirming. Needless to say, my father is a great fan of this dog. 

I think Fly likes the bunnies too, or just wants to play with them as he play bows when they're flopping about the run. Sadly, the bunnies will be staying behind and I'll miss them.


Some of you have been asking about Fran's job.  He applied for a position with Blue Tutors, a nationwide company that provides private tutoring lessons for school children. It's a client by client basis, and I'm not sure how permanent it is, but it's definitely something in the right direction. They've even asked him to star in their teaching videos, so he's off to Bath in the coming weeks. On the road to stardom? Let's hope!


RIB: Rigid Inflatable Boat

We took advantage of the good weather and hit the Southampton waters.  Even gathered courage and went swimming in ocean water! (One of my many fears.)  I will just say, later that afternoon, I encountered my greatest fear. Fran and I were flopping outside the bunny run, when Fran jumped up because a snake had just slithered on him.  Needless to say, I am petrified, start hollering, try to find a hoe to kill the dern thing. Nevermind it's about the size of my middle finger, it's a grass snake, and as they are incredibly rare (so I'm told) I'll never see one again in England: I want blood and wish they had a gun around the house so I could shoot it.  I begin wondering what the firearms policy is in England and the chances of letting a gun-happy Southern girl have one, when Fran has to practically carry me up the stairs and give me a shot of morphine to calm me down. Ok. So maybe I just searched for a hoe, but I keep imagining it in my room and I don't sleep well at night wondering what else might be lurking in the recesses of those shutters.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


1. Lunch with Allison --my sisters old housemate-- on Southbank.  UNC ties even in London!
2. Skate park
3. Book market!! In which I buy three works of poetry.
4. Thames
5. Tate's new exhibit in the gallery-- FLASH MOB. SHeesh, it scared me to death.
6. Fran boarding ferry to go to Greenwhich
7 + 8.  London bridge decked for the Olympics.
9. Greenwhich
10. Professor Karen, enjoying the sun
11. Anna dancing at Laben.


We travelled up to London to see Anna (Fran's sister) performing her final year recital with her dance school at Laben.  The sun poured down on us; we had a lovely meal in an old brewery to celebrate a birthday; we headed to Laben to watch Anna dance -- all 11 of us! Anna even stole a lead in one of her pieces so pretty proud and drove back through London to So'ton late late at night.  I will be impressed by anyone who can drive through London, especially if you are sans GPS.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What Really Happened in the British Library

On Friday, I travelled up to London with Fran for his very first job interview (which was a success- he got the job!). I accompanied him to go to the British Library and examine some much needed books. As I walked up to the steps, I couldn't help thinking, "I have arrived! I have arrived. I'm really an academic now. Muahahaha." I skipped blithely up the steps, brushed my way to reception, past the tourists ("I am here for work, you vacationing, Olympic mob") where I pulled out my bazillion forms of ID.  The librarian glumly surveyed me: "We do not accept bank print offs of your proof of ID."

"Oh." My heart sank. "Umm, I've showed you my visa as leave to remain. That had to be mailed to me current address." This visa cost me something around 400 GBP and it shows. It has a chip inside it with all my biometric data. Fingerprints, hair color, probably a scan of my eyes, and if I was the anti-Christ, most likely the mark of the beast. If I ever lose this, I may as well never try to build any credit ever, as it would be the supreme case of identity theft because someone could spawn a new me off the DNA encoded into that baby. Surely this will suffice. I play my trump card.

"No, sorry. We can't accept that. Look at one of these following forms of ID" wherein she hands me a list of ID forms: I don't have a utility bill; I'm not on pensions or benefits; no tv license; no firearms license. My heart is slowly sinking to my stomach.

"But please, I've travelled all the way..." My voice is small and she suddenly makes me feel like a Balrog with her very stern, "You shall not pass."

Depressed, I call my bank to get them to send me a statement. How hard can that be, and I'm coming up again on Sunday. Can make up for lost time then.

"Not a problem miss, we'll get you one in the mail within the next 7-10 business days."

"Er.. could you speed things up? Like if you did it now, it would be posted today, I'd get it Saturday, can go to the reading rooms on Sunday."

"No, I'm sorry miss. You can just pop by a bank and we'll print one out. They'll even put a seal on it. I'm sure they'll accept that." Nope, nope, nope, they did not.

So I slowly wander around, feeling like a small beetle, and join the crowd of vacationing olympicers.  I wander into their National Treasures room. This slightly cheers me at all the first editions of books. I'm even more pleased when my poor paleography pays off and I can read the handwriting and the texts. There's a Gutenberg Bible, a Wycliffe Bible; a whole host of musical texts. I'm sad I don't see Beowful, but I put on a pair of headphone to listen to its recording. See how good my Old English is. It wasn't in Old English. It was a translation. Probably by Seamus Heaney. Ugh. I listen to Virginia Woolf. She sounds very posh and not at all how I would expect her voice to sound. I expected it to sound like her writing, lyrical and husky. But then there's Yeats and he's reading "Isle of Innisfree" and that's lyrical and magical.

I wander out, feeling rather superior, and amble to the exhibition. "Not All Who Wander Are Lost." I should be pleased at the Tolkien quote, but I get a little rankled, perhaps annoyed by all the Christians who use that as their email taglines. It's not unaffordable. It's about British geography as a character in British writings. The more I think of it, the more I think it's true. That's perhaps what's so distinguishing about British writing. America is so vast, so many different pockets. I see this video and I wonder if I'll turn like Sara Maitland.

I wander through and see so many first hand manuscripts by so many different authors. I see their hand writing and sometimes can ever make out a word or two. There's the oldest manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and I'm so excited my knees are knocking.  And Chaucer, and that page they're showing was the cover of my book at UNC. There's George Eliot and JK Rowling and Charlotte Brontë and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and JRR Tolkien and T.S. Eliot and my heart is so very full and I feel so underserving to be able to see books that I've held so dear for long, and the very hand writing that first penned them, and well, perhaps I had arrived after all.

---For a full list of texts at the exhibit
--- For a list of IDs the British Library requires one to bring

How to Enter the British Library Reading Rooms

"For nine days before the ritual, the operator must be free of pollution in mind and body, abstain from food and drink and hateful or immoderate words.  Each day he must attend mass and place the book of experiments on the altar, then take it home, sprinkle it with holy water, wrap a priestly cincture and stole around it in the form of a cross, kneel facing east and say various prayers (The Seven Penitential Psalms, the Litany of the Saints, and other prayers specifically for the occasion), then open the book with humble devotion, "so that Almighty God in his mercy and goodness may sanctify and bless and consecrate this book dedicated to his most holy names."  In the prayers written for this ritual, the magician professes his own unworthiness and begs God's pardon for his sins... One of the prayers recites a long litany of divine names, and then proceeds:

'By these most holy names, and by others which it is not lawful to name, I humbly beseech thee, that thous mayest bestow power and strength upon the prayers, consecrations, and invocations contained in this book, by the divine power, for the consecration of all experiments and invocations of demons, so that wheresoever the malign spirits are summoned and exorcised by the power of thy names, they may come at once from every quarter and fulfill the will of the exorcist, without inflicting any harm or terror, but rather showing themselves obedient.' "

from "The holy and the unholy: sainthood, witchcraft and magic in late medieval Europe" by  Richard Kieckhefer in Christendom and Its Discontents, ed. Scott L. Waugh and Peter. D Diehl (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 310-337

Ok so maybe this is how to summon a demon from a book of spells possessed by a medieval magician. For what really happened, read here.

A day trip to London

1. Fran off to his interview for a job (which he got!)
2. Church near Euston with Classical looking statues.
3 + 4. Exhibit in the National Library.
5. The best part of the London tube because it reminds me of home.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Uppark: A park

The drive to Uppark was one on country roads in England which means high hedgerows, limited visibility, and winding curves, leaving the destination as to somewhat of a mystery.  But oh the drive was beautiful and the sun shone and it was like uncurling out of cramped space in a musty room.  Fran volunteers at Uppark and whisked up a picnic and tossed me in the car.  At our picnic, a bird joined us and hopped about. eyeing us, yet not greedy for our food. I wish I knew birds better because he was lovely.  

As we entered the house, we were stopped short by its grounds.  A full view of the South Downs, rolling gently, completely untouched by road or development, all protected lands now.  A mown path led us around their "front yard" where the wild grass heaved thistles and wild flowers.  The bordering fields, held, what I suspect was corn.  Views like this made one understand all about the isolation of the house. And who would resist?  The house, though it was nice with some lovely works by Joseph Vernon, seemed like it's biggest asset was the grounds, and as I wandered through it, wondered what on earth I was doing inside, when I could be outside.  Each day, each walk in the woods just ascertains what I feel more and more each day: that one can't get enough of country walks, and beautiful views, and in a sense, isolation, and that these moments should become the rudder, to steer decisions by this.

Friday, July 20, 2012


we wound our wet way to the city walls

and into the great hall that held these iron doors and panelled political genealogy

The round table hung high on the wall.  Lanelot's seat is two the right of Arthur.

We strolled the high street where old meets new

Wandered into Winchester Cathedral where we met Tom

Admired the tiling

And the saint statue in the crypt which had flooded over 16 inches so the saint stood in a pool

Good ol' Jane buried here

And with a door of dreams [don't you love that color?]

The city walls on the way to Wyckham Restaurant

where even little girls giggle like little boys when discovering from whence the name comes

Tom was a stellar tour guide and told us ever so much about the city and the Cathedral

And we took the train home.
Beautiful, beautiful city, and even though so wet, really enjoyed our time, especially catching up with Tom.  We both survived the MSc at Edinburgh and we celebrated his acceptance to their PhD program, which he will commence this fall! Lucky lad to come from such a medieval city that boasts not only of Anglo-Saxon saints (St Swithin) but also of Arthurian myth. A dream! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Dog and Walk


This is a walk right by Fran's house, and I love it and wish it didn't require a car in order to access it. And a dog makes things so much better. In fact, Fran keeps drawing parallels between me and the dog, saying how very often our interest align.
+ I have more books to read than I know what to do with, but rather than tackle the pile with my usual verve, I find myself incredibly despondent, picking up The Order of the Phoenix which I literally must have read a thousand times. This lack of reading shows too.  I'm less calm and ordered. When I read, I plumb this inner reservoir of, I dunno, Natalie-ness, and when I don't read, I feel tossed about. I often wonder how people survived before books as means of an introvert's haven.
+ I've been grazing through Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel and I'm not enjoying it, which makes me feel like a traitor, like I don't belong to the South or any of its host of great literature, and I feel guilty, so maybe that's why I can't get past page 47. 
+ I was reading War and Peace.  I made it to about p. 200 and anyone in their right mind would consider that a book. But no. I'm not even a fifth of the way through. It's brilliant, and until now I never found length at all daunting. Until now.
+ I have discovered and love, love, love evernote. Click here or or EVERNOTE. It's like, interactive word, so I can keep track of all my ruddy book notes, to-do lists, reading lists, work logs... So if you love lists and keeping track of stuff and need it on your computer, here you go.