Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Christmas in London

 I'm not gonna lie: this past Christmas was probably the worst of my life.  Why?  I spent the holidays all by myself.  Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day; each of these calendar-marked days passed in complete solitude.  Being the pessimistic whiner that I am, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.  'Woe is me!' and all that.

After wallowing a bit and crying to the old still-looks-like-she's-twenty Mumsy (mumsies are good for stuff like that), I decided to do something about it.

'Right!' said I. 'It's time for a holiday.  Mini break for Diana!'  And I sent myself to London for the few days sandwiched between Christmas and New Year's.  

This was a big deal for me.  I had never gone on vacation solo before, but I decided not to allow a tiny detail like that stop me.  I embraced my independence and traipsed all over the London streets, visiting museums and seeing West End plays. It was an amazing experience that has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone more often.  Amazing.  Here are a few snapshots from the trip...

Leicester Square:
The very spot where I saw JK Rowling in the flesh in 2004
(from a few hundred feet away, but still)
London Streets
Just outside the National Potrait Gallery
St. Martin in the Fields
View from Trafalgar Square
Lions of Trafalgar by Edwin Landseer
Victorian Fun Fact:
He's also well known for his portraits of dogs and other animals
A better view of the National Gallery
Fountains in the Square

The only downside to traveling on your own is not having anybody handy to take photos of you in front of historical sites and other monuments.  Just to demonstrate that I'm capable of poking fun at myself I will share this horrid self-portrait:

I'm looking very chipper there.  The London atmosphere must have given me a bit of a buzz.  It's been known to do that to people.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ewe Should Come: The Moors Edition

I suddenly realized today that I hadn't posted any of my sheep photos from my hike on the moors.  I don't want the moor sheep to feel left out, do I?  I can hear them now, baa-ing in protest.  So with this post I'm giving the wooly animals their proper due.  I think this is very gracious of me considering the sheep I encountered here avoided humans at all costs.  As soon as one came within a ten-foot distance, off they went!  That's rather rude.  But on the bright side, isn't the lamb pictured above adorable? 

I love how they kneel down to graze
Why isn't there a yoga position named for it?
As you can see the sheep pictured above
was grazing directly on the path when he saw our approach
After which he decided to eat elsewhere
Sheep aren't very people friendly
Another wee lamb
This particular specimen looks very stoic

That's it.  I'm all out of sheep photos, which I'm sure causes great heartbreak for many.  Before I sign off, I'll reiterate the great lesson we can all learn from these animals, given to us by a little pig called Babe: 'Baa, ram, ewe!  Baa, ram, ewe!  To your sheep, your herd, your clan be true!  Baa, ram, ewe!'  Maybe I should try shouting it the next time I come across a flock?

Flatmate No. 2: Aisling

Meet Aisling (pronounced ASH-ling).  She hails from the Emerald Isle (e.g. Ireland, the Republic of), and man, she sure is tough.  Aisling used to lift weights competitively and is currently undertaking a degree in hopes of gaining employment with her favourite football club.

Ash is great fun to have around the house.  We love to watch good movies and bad television together.  Plus, it's nice to have another female around for girly chats.  Here we come to the one point on which she and I can't seem to agree: the Y chromosomes.  Ash likes men who are older and distinguished, big and brawny.  And me, well, I like 'em scrawny, lanky and above all geeky.  The geekier the better. 

Aisling gets a kick out of teasing me by saying I dig boys whereas she goes for men.  And I, in turn, retort by asserting she's attracted to brutes and beasts whereas I demand some refinement.  We have yet to settle this dispute. 

In the meantime, we'll be chilling in the living room with a bad (ass) 80s movie. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

England: Ewe Should Come

While I'm on the subject of animals, I've been watching loads of Flight of the Conchords lately and am always amused by the horrible posters in the background of the manager's office that are meant to promote tourism in New Zealand.  Fans of the show, do you remember this classic?
Image via Google 
'New Zealand: Ewe Should Come.'  It's absolutely priceless!

I've taken so many pictures of sheep this past year that one would think I had set out to produce an English version of this.  So I'm going to share all my sheep photos in a conniving attempt to lure all my American comrades to this side of the pond.  The verdure of the English countryside is pretty and all, the museums and castles are top notch, but it's the sheep that lure in visitors.  Or so Murray Hewitt seems to think.
Pastures of Yorkshire
These next photos feature sheep
with some rather unfortunate haircuts
See what I mean? 
I can't help feeling this young animal would
simultaneously be feeling hot and cold
The Sheep & Me
That sounds like a cracking title for
a sheep farmer's memoir, right?

The Curious Incident of the Fox in the Night-time

Image via Google

The urban fox is not an irregular occurrence in my city.  There is a particular specimen that roams around our neighborhood.  I've even given him a name: Robin, because the Disney Robin Hood was a fox.  I've only spotted him a couple of times, and it's always been from a substantial distance.

Then the other evening, I had a real wildlife encounter.

My friend Liz had kindly provided me with a lift home when we saw  Robin directly across the street from my house.  He was digging through a large dumpster as he scavenged for food.  I know what they say about feeding wild animals, not interfering with nature and all that jazz.  However, I can't sit idly by while an animal starves.  I'm just too sentimental for that.

As luck would have it, I happened to be carrying half of a leftover pizza with me.  As I got out of the car and Liz drove away, I threw some crusts and pizza the fox's way.  Seeing that he, after some hesitance, was nibbling away, I watched him from across the street.

Once he had sated his appetite he wandered down the street and then up again, evidently quite curious about me.  He checked me out as I stood by my front door, just watching me.  Then quite slowly he crept up to my bags that I had left a few feet away.  He sniffed around, gave a little tug to the bag with his teeth, then meandered down the street and out of sight. 

I was quite thrilled with my foxy encounter.  I felt we had a real moment there, each of us feeling inquitisive about the other.  I tried really hard to snap a decent photo, but fate was working against me.  The batteries on my camera were dead, the lighting was horrible, my flash was being uncooperative, the fox would creep away right as I clicked the shutter, etc., etc.  Nevertheless, I'm posting what I got; purely for the sake of documentation.
 See the shape of that tail?
It's distinctly foxy
Enjoying the proffered Domino's
Just a spectral outline as he trots off

Oh, meeting the fox was such good fun.  I think I'm ready to take on a bear now.  Or a squirrel.  Either one.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stuffy Victorians

Victorians have a reputation for being stuffy and repressed.  As a true fanatic of the time period (I am, after all, specializing in them for my MA) I feel like they're getting a bad rap.  They're so misunderstood.  Sometimes it's a matter of reading between the lines; catching the subtext in a seemingly insignificant sentence of a novel.  Other times the innuendoes fly at you with a flashing neon sign.  Just the other evening I was reading from an 1883 novel by Wilkie Collins before bedtime when I came across this gem:

'Make love -- hot love to her, doctor!'

Obviously, I'm aware that the term 'make love' at this time period alluded to emotional and verbal (not physical) expressions of affection.  But come on!  Show me a contemporary reader who can encounter that line without at least laughing on the inside, and I will eat my head!  To prove my point I'll conclude this post with a hilarious Kate Beaton comic featuring Victoria and Albert.
See more Hark, a Vagrant! comics here

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lunch with Jamie Oliver

Confession: I didn't literally have lunch with Jamie Oliver.  Although wouldn't it be cool if I had?  He seems such a jolly fellow.  He does, however, have restaurants scattered all over the UK, and I had a lovely meal there with friends.  If anybody is looking for a good place to eat over here, I give it two utensils up (in lieu of thumbs).
 Outside the restaurant
Amanda and Anna peruse the menus
I ordered lemon and buffalo mozzarella ravioli.
It was delicious!

My Boudoir

Now, most people have a bedroom.  But me -- I have a boudoir.  Before you get too jealous I'll just point out that my boudoir features an unusual color scheme: forest green carpet and baby blue paint.  Talk about an intriguing (read, downright ugly) combination.  Apart from this one foible, I'm quite pleased with my boudoir.  It's fairly spacious for student accommodation, has large windows and is on the third floor (read, view; but more on that later).  Factor in the down comforter I insisted upon hauling across an ocean with me -- nor do I regret it -- along with my books and posters, and it's become a comfy space (read, I sleep in way more than I should do after staying up late reading).  Here is the virtual tour...
How many people get to look at a chimney
outside their window, am I right? 
My desk, where I occasionally pretend to work;
above which I have an 1848 print from a
Victorian fashion magazine.  Just cuz.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Percy Post: Sunbathing

Percy says, 'A little sunbathing would set me up forever.' 

On this grey and gloomy day, during which I perform hard labour in the library, a little puppy sunshine perks me right up! 

Photos by Chelsea

P.S.  Percy stole Mrs. Bennet's line from Pride and Prejudice and then adapted it for his own purposes.  Or maybe I did that.  I'm so confused....

Please, Sir, I Want Some More

Dickens and I haven't always been the best of friends.  After reading a horrible abridged version of Great Expectations in middle school, I had no desire to further our acquaintance.  I started to come around to Old Charlie when I studied A Tale of Two Cities for my undergraduate degree.  But overall, I maintained the firm opinion that he was a vastly overrated author. 

And then I had an epiphany: I should dedicate an entire section of my dissertation to Dickens!  I am not sure why I thought it would be a good idea to focus on an author for whom I had previously felt nothing but disdain.  But so it was.  Then I threw myself into Oliver Twist.

What a darling lad!  He immediately enchanted me.  What's more: so did Dickens.  Having watched the musical and multiple film adaptations growning up, I had a general idea of how the plot would develop.  The book, though, was still different from what I expected it to be.  In a good way.  I really, really, enjoyed it.  In fact, I find myself echoing Oliver's request for more.  More Dickens, please!

The iconic scene
images via Google

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Contrary to Public Opinion...

...The sun does occasionally shine in jolly old England.  This summer, for instance, I can count several examples of warm -- nay, HOT -- days.  And by several I mean two or three.  No wait!  I believe we experienced the fourth just this week.  Not that I'm complaining.  Britain is a dream come true for a heliophobe like me.  But as evidence that the 'sign and semblance' of summer does occur, I am posting a few photos from an outdoor pub lunch some weeks ago.

Bring out the shades!
 Slather on the sunscreen!
Summer is here!
And now it's gone...

I wish I were here...

Even the most casual of observers would easily note a distinct lack of summer posts here.  My poor technological device suffered from a viral infection that ultimately required treatment by professionals.  Several weeks later, my humble little laptop has received a clean bill of health.

The stamina of my aging computer will be essential over the next couple of weeks as I complete the dreaded D-word: dissertation.  I have been surprisingly dedicated to logging an impressive number of hours, days and and even weeks at the library: reading, napping, staring at the domed ceiling, or (if I'm feeling really ambitious) writing a smattering of words here and there that will eventually evolve into what is essentially a very long essay.

Since this has been going on for months now, I have begun to question my sanity.  Surely there is something unstable about a person whose primary frustrations in life are the library's limiting summer hours -- what university library closes at five pm on the weekends?! -- and the scoundrels who insist upon speaking at full volume in the silent study area. 

With all the intellectual mayhem, I find myself wishing I could escape to the wild moors like Heathcliff and Cathy.

I took these pictures during a hike on the moors in June*.  It was my first Wuthering Heights Walk.  I was instantly struck by its beauty and the serenity this area engenders in its visitors.  Perfectly cushioned by the moors beneath me and the dull English sunshine overhead, I felt like I was in the prime location for a nature nap.

Maybe all I need to regain equanimity is a day on the moors.  And the heather is now in bloom.

*Note that although these photos were taken in June, I am still bundled up in winter gear.  Summers in Yorkshire....