Monday, 29 August 2011

August is the Rainiest Month

They sky over Bath: 25 August 2011
The rain came in the hour-long deluges that are infrequent visitors to this part of England. I'm inclined to tell you that the rain and cool weather are all part of a typical English August. But those who chart these things remind me that August isn't much more inclined to rain than any other summer month. And though the pace of the rain strikes me as untypical, I am glad for the occasional washout of a day. 
The week has been too eventful on the other side of the ocean. I've written before about the difficulty of not being able to snap my fingers and return to support my family and friends. For most of my adult life, I've lived too far away to turn up --it is not simply a function of choosing life here. I could not have changed or even mitigated this week's events for my sister and her family any more than I could have changed or mitigated the events of past Augusts for any of my sisters. There are times when it seems that it would be easier, if only I were there. 

My east-coast sister and her family are safe and warm in their own home tonight. They have electricity and have returned to work. As the photos begin to come in from Vermont, from the Outer Banks, I am saddened for all of the people who were not so lucky.

I am reminded that I could live in the same block as all of my sisters, and I still could not wrap them in enough cotton wool to keep them out of harm's way. I am not ready for this early autumn, followed as it will be by winter, but I am done with August.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Happy Anniversary, 2001

Some Highway in Alaska
The sun is fully set by 9pm here. That's 21:00 for those of you functioning on a twenty-four hour clock. I'm told that it's dark by 11pm in Alaska. There's part of me that is desperate for the nights to stop drawing in. It inevitably leads to a time change. I don't cope well with the time change and think the one in the fall is particularly viscous, stealing, as it does, an hour of evening daylight.

The new neighbors had a party this weekend. Mostly, I'm grateful that this didn't involve burning the treated wood from the kitchen they've just pulled out. Mostly, I'm grateful that they're using a recycling skip rather than giving the local asthmatics a vision of what it must be like to run a marathon without an inhaler. Mostly, the smell of wood burning reminded me that autumn is well and truly on its way.

It made me want to reach for an ax and build a wood pile. Our house is heated with gas. There is no need for a wood pile. Though one of our neighbors heats with wood, and I'm fairly certain isn't terribly good with wielding an ax. I'm inclined toward pulling out my thermals and washing the winter coat. But I no longer live in a place where any of this is necessary before the end of September. I wonder, when I leave this place, what olfactory memories will drive sudden and senseless behavior.

As for the bread, I swear it came out of the oven smelling like acetone. The housemate insists otherwise.The starter smelled of beer, like it should. I suspect that I am now imagining odors that do not exist. Perhaps tomorrow it will be nasturtiums and golden honey. Either way, I'll be eating rye bread and butter for breakfast in the morning.

Here the job search continues. And the work I do have remains strangely fulfilling. Mostly, I look forward to kneading bread dough and the day when a day off doesn't mean the work of finding a job. I wonder what that will feel like. Will I, when the sun is set at five pm, find it easy to settle into the making of baby blankets and watching films on tv? Will I think of planning a holiday to Budapest--the holiday I've been promising to spend with a friend for three years now? Will I begin to drink tea again?

I remember a nearly perfect day in an Alaskan spring when we drove two hundred miles out of our way and walked a bit further. I know I was looking for a job then too, and we knew that our days in the far north were numbered by the the inevitability of one coming winter or another. I know that we had no idea that ten years on from the day we first met one of us would be beginning a job in Hawaii and the other would be mopping floors near a completely different ocean. Many of us have started families and seen the end of years long marriages. We are all lost in a world we didn't expect to find. Mostly we had no idea that it is possible for a decade to pass; though it has. Another decade seems near impossible.

Happy Anniversary. The view from here is not better, but it will do.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Yellow Leaves and Summer

23 August 2011
I was cleaning a coffee machine today. Naturally that was my first mistake. I cleaned the same machine a few days ago, but I had the spray bottle that makes things shiny out. How could I possibly resist? My second mistake was in leaning over to pick a spoon up off the floor. And finally, I had my eyes open as I stood up-open wide enough to look out the window. Tomorrow we are scheduled for summer weather. But the trees are indicating a early autumn. Autumn is my favorite season, but today it seems a little soon.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Those Ain't No Texas Longhorns

Not to be outdone by my fellow Americans, I finally made it up to The American Museum in Britain. It was a lovely day out with my dear friends Josh and Sarah. We ate oatmeal cookies, snickerdoodles, and some ginger cookies that were decidedly unamerican. And we sat on the grounds of Claverton Manor and talked about babies, bulk-buying flour, and life.

It's taken me five years to make it up the hill to the museum, in large part, because touring a museum of my own country's history felt a bit squidgy, or rather, felt a bit too much like being a tourist to me. One of the many things I am guilty of is being too much of a snob to embrace the city I live in. Oh and I'm really bad at museums. I don't see what's in front of me. I see the words but only skim them, and I almost always forget to look at the objects they refer to. I'm supposed to be learning patience along with gratitude. I am not patient, even with myself.

I'm told by my fellow Americans that the museum doesn't quite tell the story of American history. I'm inclined to think that we all learned our history from the same text, and I know that we all saw it through the same filter of American childhoods. Given all this, I was surprised to find myself rereading-twice, three times, four times-a small blurb about the early years of the American revolution. It took a fifth read before I finally got it. The Boston tea party is referred to as infamous. Five tries to catch the phrasing that put me off. Of course the Boston Tea Party is infamous. The museum makes little of America's split from Britain and even less of the War of 1812. And really, if a group of Americans or Britons went to their local ports and destroyed the cargo on ships what would we call that? Infamous is a perfect descriptor, even if it makes my eighth-grade spine twinge.

The museum was meant to help in "fostering historic ties between the United States and the United Kingdom." And I assumed that the decoration of the house must have had that same goal in mind. So when Sarah kindly pointed out the cornice in the entrance. I assumed that it was meant to represent Texas Long Horns. Admittedly this seemed a bit of an odd choice given the other possibilities of eagles, turkeys, or even moose.

The lovely staff, and they really are lovely, were kind enough to set me to rights. They are laureled ox skulls and are original to the house.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Banana is Not the Only Cake

Oven Spring

I've spoken here about American tourists and even their likenesses to English tourists. Looking back through the archives, I haven't spent nearly as much time complaining about Americans on the blog as I do to friends here in the city. Perhaps there is a reason why some folks think I'm awfully hard on the locals.

Last year at about this time, I sat in front of my computer at my local-international-chain-coffee shop trying to get a few words down on the page before I went to my terrible country-wide-chain job. I like to sit with my back to walls and within easy view of both the doors and the tills. There is only one plug in the coffee shop that caters to this particular predilection of mine. It sits me within whispering distance of the punters. Nice British word there--punters.

Three things happen rather predicatably in the queue for coffee. There is always someone who is horrified by the price of a brownie. They're cheaper at the grocery store just up the street, and yet said person will complain to the barista about the prices before buying said brownie. Someone will complain that the location of the queue is not obvious. The location of the queue is completely obvious even to Americans who do not queue. And someone will complain that their cappuccino is mostly foam, or as those of us who make coffee like to call it--a cappuccino.

Unfortunately, sitting with my back to the cityscape that is exactly like the cityscape in your local-international-chain coffee shop makes it nearly impossible for me not to stare in disbelief. Honestly, I get the the cappuccino thing. There a plenty of places that only serve espresso, and if you don't know the lingo you may well think that cappuccino is the easiest way to obtain something white coffee like (ask for an americano with warm milk or cold). And really the prices are higher than the grocery store, but you're rather getting a different product and you're paying over the odds because you choose to. And really, I've yet to identify someone who was actually confused by the queue location rather than being unwilling to admit that they were trying to jump the queue altogether.

Tourist season is particularly interesting as every American desperate for a taste of home will drop in for the coffee that tastes the same around the world. Did I mention to anyone that my trip back to the states proved this wrong? It did.  More wrong though, was hearing the following exchange:

American Tourist A: Banana Muffins? What do those taste like?
American Tourist B: It's a local cake. You can only get it in this part of England.

They taste just like your grandmother's banana bread, ladies. Just like your grandmother's banana bread in a muffin casing.

On the bread front, I've solved the oven-spring problem. I don't know why I was kneading the dough a third time before placing it in the oven. I'm learning.

Friday, 12 August 2011

About the Bread

I had the day off today so I made my way to a neighboring town to see my friend and her boys. We went to egg and spoon races (hard boiled) and to a sing song. Then we read stories and played a couple of homemade games. Someone's father really likes making 'go back to start' squares. And did you know that knights will save you from dinosaurs? I got kicked by a triceratops twice. Don't fear though, it pushed me closer to the treasure.

The bread is going well. Though I have got to start remembering to cook some veg and beans. Either that or I need to invest in a giant bag of nuts and certainly look into buying flour in bulk. I still can't seem to make a perfect crust. It's a small thing, but it keeps me focused away from the news cycle.

There are several organizations collecting donations (including toothbrushes, tampons, and underwear) and organizing cleanups throughout England including Haringey council.  The predictions of the demise of Britishness were clearly wrong and I am reminded again as to why I choose here.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Thank You, Again

Thank you all for your concern, your thoughts, and your prayers. I am fine and safe. More importantly, I am not in long-term poverty. I have not been dispossessed. And I am not losing services while others show off their wealth all around me. Please direct your thoughts, concern, and prayers to those young men and women whose needs have been ignored through good times and who are condemned as useless in these bad times. And pray for the police who must deal with a reality that the popular narrative doesn't acknowledge. The world could use some peace.

It's not been an easy week here in the UK. If I were a rhetorician living in the US, I'd be having a field day. I'm not, and I'm also an immigrant in a time where anything I say may be misinterpreted. So instead, I want to say two things. Right, I want to say one thing, and I want to repeat another.

I have great faith in the ability of Britons to clean up their neighborhoods, to put out the fires of anger, and to allow the country to grow as a whole rather than as parts. I hope that the leadership to do so will begin to show itself in the next few days.

I've noticed several bloggers asking why those of us in the UK have not begun to speak about this week's events. I would suggest that things are very real for many of us here, especially those in the cities which have been torn by poverty and now by violence. I would suggest that there is no middle ground in the national rhetoric, though there is quite a lot of middle ground on the buses, in cafes, and on the walking paths. 

"We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos or community." MLK Jr.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Some Cleaning and Gratitude

The big writing project is finished, knock wood. I can't wait to see what our words look like up against Beth's film. I'm also pretty excited about a future in writing outside of the blog and the rewrite of the book. I will, rather joyfully, let you all know when it goes on sale.

Do you see me swooning? I am, and it's nothing to do with the heat. Redilocks over at Swoon Worthy rather kindly passed on the Liebster award to me. She says that, ". . . the Leibster Blog award is for smaller blogs (less than 300 followers) that deserve some additional attention." And like Redilocks, I have well under 100 followers. So do many of the bloggers that I read. Sooo, I want to share a few of them with you.

  • Redlissa has been cracking me for eons now, but she just started blogging this year. You should check out this post if you're ever tempted to click on those google weight loss ads or if you wonder who does.  
  • A Belle Abroad did this expat thing long before I got around to it. Her family is still on the move, and you should read here, if you liked studying vikings.
The last batch of sourdough started rancified and grew black mold. So starter #3 managed to make good bread today. It wasn't sour at all. My sister has assured me that it is perfectly safe to eat whole loaves of bread and butter as long as I have no other calorific intake. Have I told you how much I love real butter?

Friday, 5 August 2011

About the Cats

The housemate and I have both reached an age where we're inheriting inanimate objects. It started as furniture from her family as they down sized to bungalows (think ranch style houses). There is a lovely chair in my living room that I am terrified of sitting on, but also a fantastic table that tends to hold the mail. Then it was the entirety of someone's cat collection. Not the live ones. Not the dead ones either. These are statuettes and pillows and coffee mugs, a pie bird,  and salt and pepper shakers. The housemate thinned out the collection. And from the experience, I learned to never ever buy anyone something that they are perceived as collecting. Unless its wool (yarn). I can always use more of that.

Last summer I finally managed to follow a crochet book--ok it was two crochet books with the help of the internet--and one of my nephews became the first recipient of a baby blanket that wasn't knitted. Midway through buying the wool for a blanket for my grandmother, she up and died. She lived in Florida and really didn't need a blanket so that's all right. When she was downsizing, she wanted me to take the plastic mushrooms that had adorned her wall during my childhood and dump them in her condo's shared skip. I stuffed them into my suitcase and carried them first to Baltimore, then to Alaska, and finally to the UK. I have other more important of my grandmother's things. I still can't figure out how to give up the mushrooms.

I'm a week behind on a writing project for a friend. It's an important project for her and for me. I'm not just embarrassed but  rather annoyed at myself about the whole thing. But I find it impossible to turn away two-year-old kisses even when they carry with plague. There will be a post, sometime in the future, about something of import to the larger world. In the mean time, please don't leave me.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Fabulous Things About England #35: Midges

The last time I had a mosquito bite was in May. Before that I hadn't been bitten by the loathsome creatures since July of 2007. On neither occasion was I in England. I should be overjoyed about this. In fact, my friends who still live in Alaska will now refer to me as a big whingy pants. I am a big whingy pants. England does produce mosquitoes but not on the scale of any state that I've ever stupidly bared skin in.

The other thing that English doesn't produce and seems to actively eschew--window screens. Soo late night writing combined with open windows (it's  too warm to close the windows) results in ceilings full of midges. Or if you're really smart and have closed the bathroom door on an open window and bare bulb, a floor full of midges.

These don't bite; some do. Probably someone is going to come across and tell me that these are mayflies or some rather better defined grouping of insect. I do rather prefer noseeums for their better name. Still these are pretty, green bodies on white wings.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...