Sunday, February 27, 2011

A First

This weekend I attended my first literary conference.  This means I awoke on a Saturday at seven in the morning of my own volition.  I’m thoroughly impressed with myself.  I say literary, but in actuality it was an interdisciplinary event on psychoanalysis and children’s fiction.  Apart from one moment where hunger and the warm temperature of the room threatened to sedate me, I was enthralled by the papers presented. Topics such as art therapies, manga, and the figure of the orphan in juvenile literature were among the highlights.  My favorite, however, was a student paper on Twilight and rape fantasies that was very persuasively argued.  In a word: fascinating.  

Ragini and Me

Liz and Ragini
Liz was one of the organizers.

I clearly struggled to get a decent group shot of
Brinda, Sarah and me.

A few of my fellow students were also in attendance (a friend of mine was one of the organizers), so it was nice to be able to chat and discuss the presented papers during lunch and coffee breaks.  The grub offered for the former was surprisingly delicious, and I may have consumed three pieces of cake throughout the day.  Maybe.  I hope I have the chance to be part of more academic conferences in the future – even if they begin at ungodly hours.

I had to capture the rainbow that emerged 
as I was walking home.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Flatmate No. 1: Gaurav

 Gaurav is a 29-year-old Phd student who is researching hydrogen fuels.  He hails from India – just outside of Mumbai, to be precise.  

Gaurav likes: sci-fi television, cooking, sharing what he makes (luckily for me), and sending cryptic text messages.

Gaurav dislikes: turning on the heating, wasting food, inauthentic Indian cuisine, and meat.  

Creating a delicious and delightfully spicy biryani.

Gaurav and I have bonded over food.  It really does bring people together: he likes cooking, and I like eating.  It's such a symbiotic relationship!  In all seriousness, I think Gaurav appreciates that I appreciate his cuisine.  Our other two flatmates don't have much of a tolerance for spicy food, so I am sometimes the only one in the house who is able to try what he makes and, with complete honesty, compliment the outcome. Also, Gaurav has been a vegetarian all his life, and since I am trying to go veg (it's much more difficult than I was anticipating), he has opened my eyes to all sorts of meat-free combinations I have never before seen.  However, we widely differ in our media preferences.  What follows is a brief conversation that took place shortly after I moved into the house, in which Gaurav rebukes my taste in television.

Gaurav: Do you watch Star Trek: Voyger?
Me:  No.
Gaurav: Do you watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?
Me. No.  In general, I'm not into sci-fi.
Gaurav: [Makes exclamation of derision.] Do you watch Stargate?
Me. No.
Gaurav: Do you watch Stargate: Atlantis?
Me. No.
Gaurav: Do you watch Babylon 5
Me. No.
Gaurav: [Shakes head in consternation and disbelief.]

Clearly, I need to reform my viewing habits.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Welcome to My Humble Abode*

I've had a few friends and family members ask questions about where I live, so I thought I would provide a little virtual tour.  I live in a terrace house (what we Americans would call a townhome) in the middle of a quiet street.  I'd guess it's just over 100-year mark.  Although it contains six bedrooms, there are currently four occupants, myself included.  
The entryway, the door on your right leads to the living room...

Back to the hallway, where you will find the kitchen door at back of the ground floor.
 No need to tell me you want my carpet.
I can feel your envy emanating through cyber space.
Excuse the bad lighting.
 Then up the stairs we go to the second floor landing where you will find...
 Bathroom No. 1. and...
 Bathroom No. 2.
We have since had spiffy new linoleum installed.
Also, take notice of the position of the toilet seat.
I felt it best not to interfere with nature for my photo shoot.
 Stairs to the third floor, taken from Bathroom No. 2.
Bathrooms, apparently, are so important 
they are granted capitalization.
If this frame continued to the left,
you would find my bedroom door.
Third floor landing.
Yes, it is raining.Welcome to England.
A view from the top.

Still to come: photos of the exterior, surrounding area, my bedroom, and the basement of which I am sorely afraid.

*The title of this post is provided by Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice fame. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Bad Bus Day

I love utilizing public transport in England.  It’s much better than that of any other place I’ve had the opportunity to visit.  Plus, I don’t have to deal with the hassle of vehicular maintenance, rising gasoline prices, and (confession alert!) I still have no clue how to change a flat tire. 

Instead, I walk a short distance to the bus station, a mere two miles from campus.  I have friends who walk this twice daily, but the American in me maintains I am entirely justified in making use of the quintessential double decker.  Buses run frequently, so I never have to wait long; and once on board I sit back and watch the scenery or immerse myself in a book.  The only instance in which I truly lament the loss of a car is when I wish I could pop over to Del Taco at three in the morning for a quesadilla.

Sadly, a few days ago, my trust in Britain’s transport was shaken to the core.  Nothing seemed amiss as I claimed a seat towards the back of the bus on my way into town…until I noticed the smell harassing my nostrils from several different directions.  It was a delightful combination of body odor and unwashed hair.  I began to wonder if all the horrible jokes about Europeans and their lack of regular bathing were rooted in truth. 

And then, just behind me, the congested snorting.  I can be slightly obsessive compulsive, so visions of virus-laden air danced through my head.  To make matters worse, a man at the front of the bus then began an incessant hack that only added fuel to the proverbial fire.  Needless to say, I was quite happy to make my escape.  Perhaps I will start wearing ‘bus pants’ like Sheldon Cooper in an effort to avoid contamination.  

I have only seen red buses in London.
I wonder why that is. Hmm...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Meet Percy

Most of you know that I dote on my dog Percy to the point of ridiculousness and, if my conversation is any indication, doggy anecdotes will no doubt litter this blog before I can say, 'Sit!'  I thought a short introduction would be the order of the day, but Percy had other ideas and insisted on introducing himself.  So, I will leave him to it....

Dearest Friends,

It has come to my attention that the evidently insane lady who relentlessly insists upon referring to me as her ‘baby boy’ (such an impertinence) has resolved to incorporate narratives concerning me into her little writings.  As such, I feel it only right I should be first be presented to you by own paw.  What can I say of myself?  I consider myself to be an active fellow.  Vigorous exercise in the form of long romps and games of cuz, the details of this extraordinary invention shall be related at a future date, are wholly invigorating and enjoyable.  I wish I could say that such practices occupy much of my day, but this would be a falsehood.  For I often find that following these corporeal efforts, I am much fatigued.  The only practice I have thus far discovered as a means of establishing restoration is the undertaking of multiple slumbers, they need only be brief, throughout the day.  

I consider it my sworn duty to protect the property and livelihood of my family.  Much of my time is dedicated to this endeavour.  I must confess I often quickly retract from interrogating interlopers upon their entering the estate, but I assure you that this action is entirely due to my quickly comprehending that these persons impose no threat.  Nor is it a sign of cowardice, as many have supposed, that I quickly scamper under the furniture at these entrances.  Rather, I feel it necessary to have an improvised weapon at my disposal in the event that I should abruptly be called upon to defend my residence.  As I am not a sporting lad, I own no traditional weaponry and would of necessity be compelled to make use of such items as chairs should an unfortunate incident occur.  Yes, quite.

My lone grievance is that my family often show to me the same deference given to the canine in our household: Scavenger, a rotund and indolent beagle.  As a well-bred gentleman of considerable rank descending from a fine lineage of toy fox terrier blood, I find this treatment appalling.  While I have repeatedly expressed my displeasure at the inedible kibble served to us twice daily, I have yet to witness any enduring alterations in the menu.  Perhaps it is time to engage new servants.  My sleeping quarters are equally disagreeable.  At times I succeed in acquiring the comfort of the best beds in the manor, more often than not I am left to repose in the kitchen with the animals.  It is a hardship not easily borne.  

Despite all this, I possess an implacable fondness for my family. My mother especially is, indeed, rather too effusive in her affections, but I tolerate them the best I can.  She is, nevertheless, devoted and benevolent.  During this prolonged absence, I miss her greatly.  I remain

Yours, etc.

Sir Perceval P. Pup

It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance.
 Defending the drawing room, 
in this case, from the wily schemes of the cat.
 En garde!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Problem

These are the books I have accumulated from just one semester of graduate studies:

Not included are the texts I have (or will have) purchased for the spring term and my dissertation.  The problem, of course, is finding an inexpensive means to get all of this home.  I am in big trouble. Big. Trouble.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Happy Birthweek Anna!

Anna doesn’t celebrate her birthday for just one day.  It is an event that takes place over an entire week.  Thus: birthweek!  

The birthweek girl!

On Saturday, a bunch of us gathered to honor Anna and all her fabulousness.  The festivities began at her flat where party hats were compulsory.

The International Students Squad!
From left to right:
The Norwegian, the Swede, the American & the Canadian

While devouring Anna’s homemade focaccia bread (amazing!) and assorted snacks, we played a drinking game. I am ashamed to say that this really emphasized how slow I can be.  The rules had to be explained to me multiple times, and even then I still managed to do things incorrectly.  I have absolutely no excuse either, because I was downing sparkling fruit juice during all of this.  I guess I am one of those people who is book smart – or, let’s say, has an uncanny ability to quote entire scenes from numerous films – but is wholly lacking in common sense.  Go, Me!

Sporting 'The Clearance Dress'

Eventually, we made our way to The Faversham for some dancing.  I am clearly getting old, because by two am I was knackered and had to call it a night.  Coming from someone whose ‘natural’ bedtime is when the birds start chirping, that’s saying something.  All in all, it was a great night.  Happy Birthday Anna!

Amanda, Alexandra & Me
 Drinking with pinkies up was one of the 'rules' for our little game.
The Group:
Amanda, Alex, Kate, Lucy, Anna & Elin.
 Anna & Me