Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Life reduced to penury

In September, the New York Times interviewed those responsible for the Norton Anthology-- the basic texts for all English and American Literature students.  Their power scares me a little, but its a really enjoyable interview.  For the full thing, click here or from Heather, here.

Unread Books: A Perusal

[click for source]

When making goals to read this year, I thought I would make it through all the great-books one needs, or ought to read.  The great joke in the English department goes like this: what do English professors do when they get drunk? Admit to the others the great books they haven't yet read. With that in my thoughts I compiled a list of great-books I hadn't yet read, or even considered.  I found, much to my dismay, these grouped more into authors or regions I had never read.

 The great Russians leap out: Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, or Anton Chekhov.  This seems inexcusable. In French,  The Count of Monte Cristi  and The Hunchback of Notre Dame-- though it's not for want of trying.  For Americans, Faulkner is my glaring fault.  I've not read Absalom, Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury, or Light in August. In addition to that, there's Flannery O'Conner, Eudora Welty, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Despite being my favorite subject, I think it might also be my weakest. For British literature, the resounding classics I keep avoiding are all by Dickens. There's a truckload: Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak house, and Great Expectations. I've also never touched D. H. Lawrence or Walter Scott. Then there's George Orwell who I found too traumatizing in middle school to re-try 1984 or Animal Farm. 

And then they're the books I pretend to have read. I can write essays about them, I can talk to you knowledgeably and become animated and discuss my favorite viewpoint, but have not, from cover to cover, read them.  The Divine Comedy and The Faery Queen and the Metamorphoses and Gulliver's Travels all come to mind.  

Not to mention the modern writers I won't yet touch (how can I-- am I smart enough yet, for Ulysses James Joyce? for Swan's Way, Proust?) or the ones I read when I was too young-- mostly Hemingway and Harper Lee-- and need to reread. I'm not even going to tell you the phd books I need to consider. Far too many, and that would be appallingly embarrassing.

So much for my confessions! Any authors you love, or love to hate? Hope you're warm despite this dreich Tuesday found here in Durham xo

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weekend Antics


This past weekend, it snowed in Durham. The snow did not stay. I liked the new James Bond, especially the Scottish bits.  Got scared out of my trousers in Newcastle and Durham on the weekend nights. Note to self: do not leave flat when the natives get restless.  Fran decided not to buy a fish.  We had a lovely Sunday lunch with the Bygates whom I met on Iona. Love me some game stew. One of my flatmates had a do, and cooked for us some amazingness. I've never had eggplant I devoured before. Win. The Durham food festival was also on and I stuffed myself with some Spanish paella, tapas, and Italian sweets. Marzipan, how have we never met before? And today, for the first time, I sat down in my desk, and realized I could get back to research. Oh where to begin. Today, I booked flights home-- home for a month, America; bet you can't wait. I also tried to fill in my absentee ballot. I didn't get far. I got this greasy feeling like when I eat too many fried oysters.  Will come back to it once my political nausea has passed. Maybe I'll go cuddle the bunnies or something.

Would anyone else eat saffron with every meal if they could? Soooo delicious. xo

Friday, October 26, 2012

tutorials, elections, and fall

tree on my two-hour detour home

1. I taught my first tutorials. They were wonderful! I absolutely loved it and would find so much joy in just doing that for the rest of my life. We discussed Genesis 1-3. Can't believe I get paid to do this. Academia, you might not be a mistake yet.

2.  I mustered up all the courage I possess to run for Livers Out Rep in my College MCR. Yup. And no one else ran, so they were kind enough to vote me in.  I am now part of the EXEC and it's going to be a lot of fun.

3. I got my hair cut. Probably shorter than I would have liked, but she did a lovely job and it feels wonderful.  Not been cut in eight months. Won't even describe the nests of knots my hair had. Char Lloyd, a friend from UNC, used to say that getting a hair cut marked change in one's life, a turning point. I believe it. Feel better already.

4. Letter today from Heather Johnson. Didn't even know she had my address. Might have jumped to the moon and back was so excited.

5. First MCR Formal for me this term. Hooray to gowns, and high tables, and three course meals, and my lovely and friendly MCR. [Real life Harry Potter? Methink yes.]

6. Took a rather longer route to get back home today and got so flipping lost I nearly made it to Sunderland. Seriously, there were signs. And the road kept winding left and I needed to wind right, but the farmer's field was completely unforgiving. If guns were more prevalent in the UK I might have been worried.

7. It snowed today. For about 45 minutes. I got stuck in it. You couldn't tell now to look at it now that it snowed, but my gracious is it cold. Hats and gloves, where art thou?

8. Just went to make some cornbread, but didn't have the right pan. Pretty sure I'm going to dream about cast iron tonight.  I also haven't had sweet tea in 140 days. Hope my blood doesn't run dry. Can't wait to get me home and right these atrocities. Old North State, you are home.

This weekend may or may not include me dressing as an 80's zombie, watching the SkyFall premiere, repotting an herb garden, seeing friends from Iona, and Durham Food Festival. Hope you're well and enjoying the fall--that is now fast becoming winter. xo

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Iona Prezi

This was a report I put together for my time in Iona for those who funded my trip.  Alot of them are mostly pictures I've already put up here, but I've put it up here just in case you wanted to see a prezi!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Settling In

No new pictures of Indy and Felix. But here is a cow I saw in Iona. Isn't he adorably shaggy?

This weekend we spent settling in, namely shopping for things to make our respective flats livable: shoe racks, hangers, bowls, and, the best one-- food. Bare pantries for the last few weeks are no longer empty but stocked.  We did get kicked our of the grocery store because it closes at four on a Sunday.  Probably the most exciting thing was getting pots and pots of herbs, and I am soon to create my own herb garden: rosemary, basil, parsley, chives, thyme, oregano, basil, all at my command.  In addition to shopping, we attended many a gathering this weekend and a lovely new church.

Felix and Indy are okay, I think. They like the two story hutch. They love having space to run, and often they jump and binky. Happy bunnies, right? But, as I went out to feed them last night, a mouse ran out from the bottom of the hutch, scared the sheet of out of me-- and probably Indy and Felix too. They have a look about them when they're upset.  It used to happen when slugs were in their cage and if they speak that look may say something like "Invaders!"  It makes me so uncomfortable with dirty mice around my lovely clean bunnies. Any ideas on mouse-proofing hutches? Or are most bunnies actually manly and tell a mouse what's what, rather than cower in a corner while he eats his little heart out? They are happy enough running about the garden, among the plants and herbs.  In fact they're delighted and keep pulling plants up. Oh goodness....they're going to get into my basil, aren't they.

Friday, October 19, 2012

This Week: October 2012

the group (sans carrie) at drooothy neebors

the flat pack society aka the simple touch. probs playing lady gaga

first day of work!

am I one happy girl or what?

I put it together all by myself

It does feel a bit like home. Taken from Old Elvet bike path


felix in his new territory

both bunnies. eyeing me suspicously.
Indy and Felix: they make my heart beat.  Despite the fact I think they don't like me, and come up with escape plans. Most days I feel like we're playing Colditz Castle, where I'm the Nazi and they're the escaping Americans. Since moving in, they have rolled their food bowl down their new ramp and decided not to pee in the litter tray. Oh me.  Next time I'll have to tell you about the party they threw while Fran and I were out for dinner.

Happy Friday! I'm off to Newcastle for the evening, with many sweet welcoming engagements this weekend. Enjoy xo

Thursday, October 18, 2012


a sampling of dresses

I have come back from Iona in a bit of a whirlwind. We got all our my things out of storage and I opened them to find them rather wet.  I thought they needed a good airing and were only slightly musty smelling. I skyped mom and showed her bed of strewn clothes and she kindly told me it was mildew.  Feel really smart for not being able to put two and two together myself. [Face palm] So for the past few days I have washed about 18 loads of clothes to get mildew out of them. 

I also came back from Iona with a nasty cold, and did something a bit different. I tried herbal remedies.  And you know what? It works. I feel like me mema, chopping up a clove of garlic and swallowing it in honey, and despite the fact it's outright disgusting, feel a little proud of myself.

A part from that, Fran started his new job this week, which is great.  He uses a mapping program to place wind farms.  He's good, too.  It's just bizarre as it's real adult life, which I've not encountered yet. [The life of a perpetual student.] He has two days of holiday between now and Christmas.  I'm planning my flight home around his office Christmas party.  I think that's the threshold to adult hood: office Christmas parties.

I've been busy writing up reports, emailing my new students (whom I will see next week!), and attending lectures.  I haven't attended lectures in what feels like ages, and it's comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time.  I began French today and my professor is so lovely. It's so much easier than Mandarin. [Highschool Natalie: what were you doing spending 7 years learning something you'll never speak well?!]  I've also attended poetry readings on T.S. Eliot, met the writer in residence at St. Chads, eaten at the closest thing to Mexican I can find, sought out my tutorial room (rabbit warren to find it!), and met other English PhDs.

I've also been sussing this 9-5 routine. Think I like it, but will let you know once I finally put all my laundry away and beast this cold. Happy Thursday! xo

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The Mull busride

The ferry to Iona

a stone

the abbey and cross

the abbey with mull across the sea

the boats

a rainbow

a climb to Dun I

a looming sky

a pilgrimage

a trip to St Columba's Bay

a distant view of the paps of Jura

a hazy self-portrait

an unabashed sheep

a post-card quality chicken-on-tub

some cow lovin'

lighting the tapers in the abbey for service

a cheeky trip to the pub

the abbey

the cloister

the cathedral cat

the abandoned nunnery

Iona was gorgeous.  We had a stretch of lovely weather-- 4 unblemished days.  And then 2 of incessant rain, but it's the glorious ones that stay in memory.  Each day we woke up, had breakfast, went to Morning Service, did chores-- clean bathrooms and showers, headed to Bible Study sessions, had tea and coffee, prepared, served, and cleaned lunch, walks in the afternoon, dinner, Evening Service, and final activity.  We spent time in the common room reading papers or building fires.  We went on long walks around the island and its numerous sandy or pebbly beaches.  We went on a pilgrimage to St Columba's bay.  I made candles.  I wrote and read and prayed and listened and sang. I volunteered and lit candles, run church bells, and directed seating.  I danced at a ceilidh.

I met lovely people.  Many of them were retired.  Many were from America. Many were lovely and it felt like home.  A few were even from Durham and happened to be in my college and reside in my very own common room there.  The world is a very tiny place.  I can't say it was spiritual ground-breaking, but it did cause me to consider and suspend judgement. My favorite service was the one of healing. The food was wonderful.  Three meals a day, all hot and prepared by someone else, to dine in the terms of fellowship.

There are no monks or nuns there now.  Just people who want to live a religious life as a part of the Iona Community.  They love social justice, equality, and peace.  Their faith is active and outward, rather than deeply introspective.  But it is one that is ready to make a visible difference, and though they may differ in personal beliefs from mine, I have no doubt they are living out their faith in the manner that is best to them, and they put me to shame in their earnest and eager desire to preserve the earth and its inhabitants from the all types of harm.

The highlight of my experience my seem small, but it was that I could see the paps of Jura from Iona.  It has long been etched in my family history that we descended from Jura and although it is so American to say I'm from there, I visited with my mom and dad when they visited, and it's something of legend amongst our family.  So seeing it brought them all a bit closer and made me feel like I was possibly sharing part of this experience with them.

All in all a wide experience and I'm very grateful. How were your weeks and weekends? Hope they were as fab as fabs. Happy Monday!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Papers and Possessions

Hello! This week has flew by faster than light years.  I gave a paper that went well, I think. In Newcastle, I spoke in the Literature and Philosophic Society which was lovely.  In that very room, I spoke where the likes of G. K. Chesterton, Ezra Pound, and Dorothy L. Sayers had presented before.  But never fear, with my ego running away in the light such great predecessors, for a grand total of nine people were present in the room, only three of which were completely unaffiliated with us before hand. But one of those people was Fran.  He had moved up to Durham that very morning, unloaded his things in his new flat (which is a dream: it's the top floor of a retired professor's mansion), parked his car, and then hopped on the train with me to go to Newcastle.  We were completely delirious post-paper and headed to Chinatown (there is a Chinatown! God does exist!) and gorged ourselves on noodles and tea.

Today. Today we head up to Edinburgh.  From there I'll leave for a full whole week in Iona, while Fran, meanwhile, will hopefully be cycling down from  Edinburgh to Durham. So exciting! He'll train back up to meet me and then we'll be touting our things from storage in Edinburgh to Durham. Possessions are such a burden. No wonder Jesus was like, sell all of your stuff. So there: that's a goal for the future life-- not to be weighed down by possessions, not to let them rule me. In this professor's house, the books completely run the place.  It's like they've come alive and bred, and their offspring now reside in every nook and cranny. The ball room is a library, the library is an archive, the master bedroom bed is pulled into the center of the room so books can line all four walls.  I swear if the AGA wouldn't burn a book, there'd be some tucked in there too. As much as I like books, this frightens me a little. In fact, it would make for a delightful short horror story.

Happy Friday!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

What Durham Is Like

Durham is the sort of town where The Wind and the Willows could have been set.  There's lots I don't know.  The river defines it's structure, and to that extent, is quite like Paris, just at the bit with the Notre Dame.  The River cuts it into an island and one can only reach it by bridges.  It is a hilly city.  Very steep hills that slope drastically up and down, around and away from the river.  It is small and cosy, and very old. It feels old.  The Cathedral and Castle take up the skyline and every morning that view greets you as you walk into town, going to the Library or College.  It's a religious town, with churches in every crevice, churches older than the discovery of America.  And it's a smart town.  It's a University town.  People walk about in their black, college robes.  The colleges dot the campus maps and provide the backbone for the University social life.  And most days, it is wonderful, but at the same time, all rather intimidating.