Friday, January 28, 2011

The Nation; Or, A Portrait of Procrastination

Red is, in my humble opinion, a fantastic color – it features strongly in my d├ęcor and wardrobe choices. For years I’ve wanted to wear a bright red lipstick, but I’ve never had the courage to actually go through with it.  This week I finally took the plunge.  Here are the results:

 Here's hoping can carry this look off!

My new cosmetic purchase made itself useful as I prepared for a day on the town.  Amanda and I had lunch at one of my favorite places in the city centre, A Nation of Shopkeepers.  It has a great atmosphere and great burgers.  I’ve been in love with the mushroom burger since it and my taste buds were first acquainted.  It’s nothing much – just flat mushrooms, grilled halloumi cheese and red onion – but its simplicity doesn’t detract from its deliciousness.  This, combined with amazing chips, made for a great lunch.  We then followed up our meal with some afternoon shopping.

 Tasty, but messy. I finally resorted to consuming it with a knife and fork.
 Amanda with her chicken burger.
She said she prefers the beef.
 Funky Background

I believe I have already mentioned my Achilles’ heel: procrastination.  What follows is a perfect instance of that horrible habit in action.  For this transatlantic flight I decided to bring along the majority of my bedding.  It turned out to be a brilliant idea.  My sheets, comforter and duvet cover were miniaturized with the aid of vacuum bags.  After nearly thirty hours of traveling, I finally arrived at my new house exhausted from all the layovers, waiting in airport terminals and dragging of suitcases.  But in five minutes – voila! An instant bed.  My pillow, however, added too much weight and remained at home.

I vowed to buy a pillow or two as soon as possible.  In the meantime, a cushion from the living room would suffice.  Yet with the hassle of settling in to a new home in a new city, I just didn’t seem to find the time.  Next week, I said.  But then I commenced university  seminars and the chaos of graduate study distracted me from my task.  Next week, I said…and so on. Today I finally succeeded in acquiring two plush pillows.  This means I spent approximately fifteen weeks postponing such a simple errand.  I think that merits some sort of procrastination award.  Now I just need to hang up the Pre-Raphaelite prints I bought in London for my bedroom to be complete.  Maybe I’ll do that tonight…or next week.

I also found a fabulous dress on clearance today.  That is irrelevant to this post; I just felt like sharing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November...

Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…

This past fifth of November marked my third celebration of Bonfire Night.  For those of you who may not be familiar with it, this is the day when Britain celebrates the foiling of a plot by Guy Fawkes and other conspirators to destroy the Houses of Parliament in 1605.  Guy Fawkes was later drawn and quartered.  Every year large fires are lighted and Guy dolls burned to symbolize the remembrance of treason.  The university’s international office was kind enough to circulate an email emphasizing that these effigies were dummies, not real people.  Thanks, I was worried.  Apart from the massive fire, Bonfire Night reminds me very much of Independence Day.  In fact, I have been known to refer to it as 'the Fourth of July in the cold.'  There are carnivals, cotton candy (called candy floss here), sparklers, and the evening concludes with firework displays.  Instead of snow cones, however, you find hot tea.  Tank tops and sandals are replaced with coats and scarves.

The crowd gathered around the fire.
 The fire is large, but I've been to bigger bonfires than this.
It puts me in the mood for s'mores.

 This year I attended the festivities at a local park with Amanda, Anna and Lindsey (who was visiting Amanda from the States).  After trudging our way through the mud, we finally made our way to the bonfire.  So sorry, new boots! It’s interesting to note how traveling has the ability to recreate excitement over habitual occurrences.  We have all seen too many firework shows to count, but witnessing one for Bonfire Night in England made it thrilling.  We oohed and ahhed and discussed which fireworks were our favourites.  We drew the attention of a nearby spectator who struck up a conversation with us.  I think he was particularly charmed by Amanda’s accent. 

 Anna, Lindsey, Amanda & Me

Ben seemed harmless enough; a bit strange maybe, but a nice sort of fellow.  His willingness to take the featured group shots was very convenient.   But before we knew it, he was inviting himself for drinks following the fireworks.  Awkward.  It was a feeling that grew as he uttered one inappropriate comment after another, and we all grew increasingly uncomfortable.  I doubt Ben realized this.  I think he thought he was pretty smooth as he showed us his moves. Literally all of us; his focus rapidly transferred from one girl to the next. A friend from our group thought he recognized Ben from his accommodation hall in first year and sent a text to a friend wondering if they remembered Ben as well.  The response: ‘Yeah, he’s a weirdo.’  And I was the poor soul sitting next to said weirdo at Strawbs.  I inched closer and closer to Amanda in a desperate attempt to evade him.  At long last, he excused himself; but not before inviting me to the chaplaincy for international student meetings.  He didn’t even accept my passive-aggressive refusal.  Luckily, the mood lifted at his departure, and I had a fantastic night pubbing in great company.

Sam immediately bonded with Lindsey over chats about One Tree Hill.
Lindsey's brother is the producer. Sam maintained this level of enthusiasm throuoghout the evening.

All in all, it was the best Bonfire Night yet.  Still, there are those of us for whom the words ‘Creepy Ben’ will forever conjure a myriad of uncomfortable and hilarious connotations.  By the following morning he was the theme of all our jokes – to his day he creeps his way into our conversations.  At the very least, he’s provided us with an interesting anecdote.  But there are also some great lessons to be derived from this experience.  ‘Creepy Ben’ (so called in order to distinguish him from the lovely Ben on our course) did everything wrong despite his efforts to be the suave ladies’ man.  Therefore, for the benefit of men on the prowl everywhere, I shall conclude this post with a short compilation of what guys should avoid when attempting to pick us up as inspired by ‘Creepy Ben.’

1.      Don’t be fickle: We know you like to keep your options open, but don’t hit on more than one girl at once.  It makes us feel like pieces of meat, and here you are, metaphorically comparing prices and squishing the packages trying to decipher which has the lowest fat content.  Bottom line: it’s not flattering.

2.      Don’t tell us our friend is really hot: Even if it’s true, we don’t want to hear it.  To expound on this principle, making sexual innuendos about our friends is even more inappropriate.

3.      Arrogance kills ardour faster than anything: Wondering aloud why your friend is with her significant other makes you sound like a total ass, particularly when you’re no looker yourself.  Never a turn on.

4.      Nix on the ex business: Case in point: ‘I got my ex a giant card for Valentine’s Day.  The sex afterwards was amazing.’

5.      Refrain from stalker-ish comments: You might not mean anything by it, but stating you’ll look up where we live on Google Maps is seriously scary.

6.      Don’t be a sexist swine: No modern girl wants to be that down-home woman who will bear and raise your children.  Ugh.

7.      Stick to your dating pool: Why is a man in his thirties (who, I might add, is no longer a student) trying to find women at university clubs?  I will not be meeting you at the chaplaincy for these meetings.  Tempting, but no.            

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

There and Back Again

Graduate school.  The thought first crossed my mind about six years ago, along with the vague idea that attending one across the pond would render prolonged education a much cooler endeavour.  I finally roused myself into the application process last spring.  For a time, however, it seemed like a dream that would never be achieved as recurring illnesses and numerous insecurities plagued my summer.  

If it weren’t for a few fantastic people who shall remain nameless, I have no doubt I would have officially entered my late twenties still working at Barnes and Noble.  Still living with my parents.  Still idly trying to get a real job.  Still wanting a change but feeling unsure as to how to make it happen.  Within a few frantic weeks, I made all the preparations for moving to another country: classes chosen, loans approved, accommodation deposit paid, visa processed, flight booked, luggage packed.  If it weren’t for the continued support of my spectacular parents, I would never have made it.  But as usual, they were for me, and I did.

I am notorious for my procrastination, an awful habit that has doggedly followed me into adulthood. Packing is no exception.  For my London study abroad program, it somehow seemed like a good idea to hastily shovel clothes into a suitcase a mere seven hours before my flight.  When returning home from Birmingham, I crammed two years of my life away the night before departure.   Every time I stress myself out to the point of sickness; and despite promising myself I will be better prepared next time, it always happens again.

Being the analytical person that I am, I’ve wondered if my subconscious does this on purpose.  When I’m fully occupied with the tasks that accompany such a transition, there’s little time to lament the forthcoming change.  For me, the days preceding leaving home are always the hardest; now matter how excited I am for a new adventure.  I realize that the wonderful family members (and friends) who have been there for me at a moment’s notice will be thousands of miles away.  I wonder how long it will be before we’re once again rushing to a movie in order to see the featured trailers or laughing over the antics of our beloved pooches.  And when will I get to eat proper Mexican food?

I was pondering these things and more as I flew from Salt Lake to Chicago and from there to Zurich.  It felt strange, foreign.  I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing.  But as my flight from Switzerland began its descent into Manchester, something changed.  I looked at the sea of green below me and suddenly felt at ease.  Everything was familiar, and I felt at home.  I had never been up North before.  But it was still England; and England and I get along just fine.  

As many of you know, I’m not the most consistent emailer; I often become engrossed in reading yet another nineteenth-century novel or socializing at the pub.  Nevertheless, I am commencing this blog in an attempt to keep loved ones better acquainted with the goings-on of my life in England.  Here’s hoping I’m better at this than email!

My farewell breakfast at IHOP

 With the coolest  baby sister ever.  She's also a fantastic book buddy.
 The Moms.
I just might miss this green-eyed devil the most.
 Train to Leeds. I was trying to capture the rain -- it didn't really work.
 As soon as I arrived at my new house, I devoured some microwavable Indian food.
I then made up my bed (sooo glad I decided to bring my bedding with me) and crashed.
I call this photo 'The First Supper.'