Friday, 27 June 2008

Ceilidh Cripple

Despite the ceilidh being three nights ago, my calves feel the need to seize up and begrudge any attempt at movement after any sitting (or resting) period longer than 27 seconds. This results in my walking as though the inedible part of a certain variety of maize had been implanted in my posterior.

It may have been mentioned before, but a ceilidh is a traditional social dance originating in Scotland and Ireland. As Celtic peoples are mad (and therefore completely wonderful), this event is absolutely non-stop once you get into it and also quite capable of rendering normall sedentary persons (aka, herself) utterly useless for walking for days afterward. Stairs are a particular challenge. A request has been made of the E that this become a regular part of my social calendar as I have not hopped around so much since the age of 4. And I like hopping and twirling! (This picture is unfortunately from the earlier -- and therefore tamer and less populated-dance-floor -- part of the evening. The set dances are kind of like American square dancing where you are in either lines or squares and you do crossing over and swinging. There are no pictures of this part as your photographer happened to be dragged out repeatedly by her new friend, Elsa, and is therefore unable to provide cultural documentation.)

Fortunately, on this occasion, there was a caller (i.e., a person telling you where the hecks to go). This was due to the large number of foreigners at the conference (Americans and Canadians) and was quite useful since when you get native Celts together for these things, they (naturally) know what to do. This is intimidating to easily emabarrassed outsiders. Our caller was amazingly patient with dealing with the chaos (we all know what a challenge it can be if you are told to go left and you don't have time to do the 'L' thing with your hands -- no giggling). She dealt with us for nearly 3 hours without a break!

This kind of social activity is really not a part of most people's lives (at least people that I know, but then I do know a lot of Baptists), and this vaccuum seems kind of sad to me. This is an opportunity for intergenerational connection (in a community or family setting), historic traditions, good safe fun (not to mention excellent calf development) and brings people together to a sharing depth that we mostly do not get past inprobably 98% of our little shallow 21st-century interpersonal interactions. Since I am listening to 'Me and Bobby McGee' while typing, my brain is not really putting this so smoothly, but perhaps you will get what my point is.

Earlier in the same day (this was Tuesday), we were fortunate enough to have a day trip which involved walking down and up a steep grade to see Giant's Causeway -- and began with an 8am coach trip to the Bushmill's Distillery. (Note to the mama: we were not drinking whiskey at 8am... it was an hour an a half ride and then an hour tour, so it was at least 11.30 before I tried the Distiller's Reserve. Which was lovely! ahem, ahem. I need a toddy.)

Bushmills was licensed to distill whiskey in 1608 by King James I (of Biblical fame -- obviously fairly human and prseumably not opposed to a wee dram of the Aqua Vitae), although it is thought that is has been being distilled since the 13th century. Since the heat is not created with peat smoke (as Scotch is), it is a smoother liquor. The process is really amazing and even the fermented barley remnants are sold to farmers for feed, so it is a pretty resourceful creation.

All casks are pre-used before the whiskey is aged in them and what was in the casks before guides the flavours -- sherry, madeira, American whiskey, etc. Casks are only used once (or maybe it was twice) and then are recycled or sold to garden centres. The bottling room is also amazing and just like a movie. Fascinating!

(This is a former pot still, which is in the cafe. Very sadly, no photos are allowed within the factory, as you would blow up the whole shebang. My favourite part was the Distilling Master's area, because he has all these pipes connecting to little brass and glass aquarium-ish things with and chemistry readings being made by computer from the liquids. It looked like Willy Wonka and the Whisky Factory. Without the Oompa-Loompas.)

Several of us decided that we could have actually skipped Bushmills (despite being fascinating) and spent the whole time at Giant's Causeway (it is known as The Eighth Wonder of the World), as it is truly spectacular and we were only allowed out for a tad over an hour. We didn't even make it to within sight of the suspension bridge (which was something we all wanted to do). This means that it is mandatory that someone go back with me for an explore, a ramble and an entire day of hiking -- anyone, anyone?
We did, however, learn some of the legend of Finn McCool, (or Fionn mac Cumhaill in Gaelic) the Giant and his Magic Camel (seen here, if you look carefully at the bay). Finn McCool built the Causeway with the approximately 40,000 hexagonal columns that make up this geological phenomenon, and one of the columns is his chimney.

Back when the British Isles were below the Equator (who knew! I am going to have to get a book on plate techtonics...), this entire area was formed by multiple lava flows, and the columns formed when the basalt cooled very rapidly. There are only maybe twelve other places in the world where this has happened, three of which are in the continental USA.

On one of the mounds is the Wishing Chair, which our guide probably tells as a different column every time... wishing involves sitting and wiggling your bum back and forth three times.

And this is wild thyme. Wild things make me happy.

The rest of the week was actually spent working and in sessions (at Queens University Belfast) and learning about immigration laws and how banks in the US are dropping UK schools from their lists of approved destinations to loan money to students -- all very scintillating stuff.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Everyone loves a parade!

So, despite very loud bagpipes that started tooting right outside the church door in the middle of the Eucharist on Sunday (they were disturbing in an irreligiously amusing sort of way even though it was Amazing Grace), there was a later enjoyment of said bagpipes as there was a military parade through town.

Not sure if it was a holiday of remembrance but there were what looked like all branches of HM's services as well as a contingent of US servicepersons. Parades bring tears to my eyes. Most especially the tottery man carrying the 'Norfolk Desert Rats' flag from the Northern Africa campaign, who could not keep up with formation speed and had to fall out and walk on his own by the time they got back around from in front of the castle and back around and up Guildhall Hill (or Gaol Hill -- street names are ever so confusing here).

Another highlight of the Sunday was the chance to see some of the new elephants that seem to have been arbitrarily picked to be the art exhibit token for a summer exhibit. The theme is (indecipherably) Go Elephants! I have no idea whether this refers to archaeological evidence of Norfolk once being a natural habitat of elephants (which is doubtful) or whether some artsy organiser is simply pachyderm-obsessed (which is more likely). It is deemed a 'mammoth' event... this furrows my brow, raises the left eyebrow, and purses my lips in a slightly annoyed manner. They are actually quite cute, though. My particular favourite is the one that has tulips for painted toenails (actually, do you call them toenails on creatures without separatable toes?).

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Happy Juneteenth!

19 June is an official holiday only in some states.

It is interesting to note that Juneteenth is not celebrated in many of the rebelling states... Perhaps that is because the Great Emancipator did not free the slaves in all the States -- just the rebelling ones. Let us keep our slaves working, you know. Just penalise the tax complainers.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Too many corks.

There is no such thing.

Especially, when one is trying to create a piece of kitsch. B and E have raised many eyebrows at my screeching about cork wastage (I am sure there is also a climatic crisis related to cork somewhere, so this was also me being environmentally friendly -- in addition to the psychotic control I was attempting to inflect).

This screeching began in approximately September 2006 and continues to the present day.

This past weekend, E got tired of my protestations that one day a frame would leap from the appropriate shelf in a charity shop, offering itself on the altar of Martha Stewart. And he built me my very own frame (with materials from Thorn's, one of my favourite stores in Norwich, the olde tyme style hardware and everything store -- kind of like King's Hardware used to be before the yuppies hogged consumption). Isn't he fabulous! Isn't said frame fabulous!

(It will be painted black before the corks are glued, and I have to keep reminding myself this because the glue is calling to me)

Alas, and alack! We can see upon perusal of the evidenciary photo above that there are NOT enough flipping CORKS.

Any donations of corks (real ones, please, as the plastic ones will just look tacky. Being from the South, 'tackiness' is the 8th Deadly Sin.) will be gratefully welcomed, as my accumulation (and those commandeered from above-mentioned and abused E and B) is woefully lacking and only covers approximately 1/3 of the board.

Other people are funny.

I am never amusing. Or comical. Or a sitcom character. My descriptive adjectives include: serious, sober (in the intellectual sense), and premeditative.

So, E found this shopping list in the sidewalk (aka, pavement) in front of his abode. And it just makes me giggle. Here we go, verbatim. It is the shopping list of the 21st century.

cat food
rat food
hair dye

... and off to the side '£25 petrol'


I would also like to point out something else amusing from the past week. The morning DJ was discussing the news and did this (atrocious) American accent saying, 'Oh. My. Gosh! Gas is almost $4.00 a gallon!' This is equivalent to about 50 pence per litre (petrol is £1.17 a litre here -- about $10.00 per gallon). His suggestion was that maybe the UK could consider starting a relief fund...

It is interesting that Bush is proposing that the American public might question the Democratic-led Congress's decision to disallow all petroleum investigation in American territory. Funnily enough this article words it slightly differently than the verbal report of the radio address I received earlier. Funny that...


In other news, Ysolde Allegra Eloise is here -- well, 18.06 this evening! (this is Clem and Richard's dramatic girl, who has made a fashionably late appearance 13 days after she was due)

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Summer has Sprinted

Despite a drizzly welcome back to Norwich, today has been an utter gem of cheerfulness and sunny skies.

If we compare the St Miles picture from the day I left (24 April) with today's picture (which is technically cheating since it wasn't taken until about 17 minutes ago, therefore not aligning with the attempt for time consistency in photos taken between the hours of 7.30-11.00 ante meridien, but we won't go into that issue...), one is most aware of the striking difference in tree canopy.

When one is sleeping, or needing sleep, one is also aware that it is summer when there is daylight at 5.30am. I shall be sure and alert everyone when it is day at 4am again :)

There has also been a slight decrease in black bird song since April; the boys appear to have done all the romancing they have to do for the year and there are no dire territorial boundaries that must be maintained. Seagulls have now reclaimed the points of the tower for their unearthly shrieking (which reminds one so of Cardiff, the City of Seagulls).

Black birds, though, are extremely funny and there are many of them running and dipping and stabbing worms in the churchyard (along with tiny pert pied wagtails, woodpigeons, grey squirrels and blue tits). [Also at the moment, is the melodious sound of a child screaming blue murder -- slightly less intoxicating.]

The honeysuckle on the back stairs is about to burst forth, and there are these lovely pink and purple flowers hiding my recycle bins which Eamonn tells me, in a tone of disgust, are actually weeds. I refuse to allow them to be pulled up and murdered. (Please try to overlook the upstairs neighbor's attempt to artistically undermine Nature's beauty by piling her trash in a most slovenly manner in the rubbish area right outside my window -- The Elephant Princess annoys me ever so slightly.)

Despite Summer being here in full, and my having missed a month of Norwich excitement (including the Norwich and Norfolk Festival), this Friday was a normal event in that it was the First Friday Five! This exciting outing began in Trowse, which is to the South of the city and across a bridge that used to be a toll bridge apparently. As the only estrogen-infused person in attendance, I gleaned much espionage-worthy information relating to rugby; football (or as some people like to refer to it, 'grass-diving championships'); opinions on karaoke; the previous FFF; the wonders of parenting twins; and of course, trips to America!

The Crowne Pointe is in the heart of the village of Trowse Newton and is quite cute and clean (plus the landladies were very nice and their menu looks yummy). It was established in 1854, but I have no other fascinating information.

The White Horse Inn was apparently damaged by enemy action in 1942, but has managed to recover to such an extent that karaoke is Friday night. The die-hard CAMRA members were less than amused when I asked if this was a new addition to the agenda: CAMRA Karaoke.

And, this is just funny:

The Norfolk Chronicle of 17 May 1783 reported.

Fun! Fun! Fun!
Trowse, first Spring Meeting for Asses will be on Monday next, the 19th
Instant. A handsome Saddle and Bridle will be run for by Asses of all
Ages, the best of three Heats, from Trowse Toll Bar round the Direction-
post (standing between Bungay and Beccles Road) and back again.
To start at half past Six o' Clock in the Evening.
No crossing will be allowed.
Also a Smock will be run for by Fillies.
The Asses and Fillies to be entered at the WHITE HORSE, from half past
four till the Time of starting.
Amazing Sport is expected, as many capital Asses have been some
Time in training.
Vivant Rex et Regina.

After a perspiratory 20-minute walk uphill back into Norwich, the Asses and Filly arrived at The Rose. There is a really good selection of real ales and cyders here, but it didn't feel very cosy. The lights were too bright, people were too loud, and there were these two mooses on stools barricading off half the selection view.

A lack of photographic evidence from the last two stops has nothing to do with my state of mind (as half-pints do not affect you that quickly, esp. when you have been walking and all) and everything to do with a lack of successful angles to capture shots (also not wanting to inspire any shadily tattooed smokers in the ambient vicinity to attack me demanding privacy).

Around the corner, is The Freemason's Arms. This is okaaaay, but as there was wrestling on the t.v. and it was a little more bar-y, I wasn't overawed with desire to make it a regular destination.

However, I did like The Kings Arms (right across Hall Road), as it was cute, cosy and has a good selection of ales. It dates from 1824. Despite there being a noticeable amount of green and yellow in attire (it is fairly close to the football ground and therefore a local...), I shall look forward to going back :)

And so began another weekend! Yesterday morning, it was rainy at St. Clement's but most of the crew stopped in: Ronnie and Rev. Jack, as well as the stinking old nutter who tries to steal out of the collection pouch, whilst pretending to be a policeman. Tom was absent, but we have made a new friend, Peter, who has offered to come back and help!

The last Saturday I was at St. Clements (before yesterday) was the last time Liz and I hung out -- she is my cool friend who I recruited from Australia to come on exchange, and she left to go back home the day that I flew from the US... :(

We climbed the tower successfully (it was fun and scary and eerie and adventuresome all at the same time -- my knees were shaking!). The time we tried before, we didn't have a flashlight and were afraid of dead things, and then a twig fell on both of us about 10 feet up (while we were wedged into the VERY tight circle staircase) and freaked us both out, so we gave up.

It is my intention to have a picnic on the top of the tower this summer. Oh wait... it is here!

And now, the dark chocolate digestives I finally got today are calling me (pant, pant!).

And I also must get busy with the charming project which Matthew (T, not P) has so industriously found for my nuptial knitting. I mean, it IS Yves...

Friday, 6 June 2008

A Sparkley!


Now that the Mama has gotten into her email, and will not therefore be the last person to see it, it is now appropriate to share a piece of newsiness.

Similar to Jeremy the Crow in the Secret of NIMH, I am quite charmed by Sparklies, although I generally feel quite too juvenile to deserve to wear them. (Clutziness plays a logical part in this historical attire choice as well.)

But Eamonn is dear enough to think otherwise and to have gifted me with several lovely pieces of jewelry. His most recent addition was bestowed upon a travel-bedraggled and snuffly Bruner in the parking lot/car park at Norwich International Aeropuerto on Sunday at about 9.30am :) She was a bit overwhelmed and had to sit down and ask to be driven to a cuppa tea.

Later on Sunday, the ring was forcibly taken from her by the mean jewelry store people, as they were so inconsiderate as to lack a smaller sized ring. It was to be delivered by the 12th but in fact they managed to phone yesterday with the new one!

While she has now recovered from shock, travel, her chest infection, and too much excitement, she is still walking around with her hand in a fist so as to avoid any potential for loss. Please pay no attention to the wrinkles on her hand.

Put on Your Stretchy Pants!

Or maybe not.

Herself is still here. She has not gotten lost on an airport moving sidewalk :) Although, she could ride those People Movers at Dulles for hours! (They are these Dr. Suess vehicles which roll around like busses, but they also have hydraulics to move up and down to attach to the buildings. Inside the seats are along the walls facing inwards -- it is just all very bizarre and 1980s.)

However, she is slightly tired after a manic 5 weeks. And she has tried to catch up with laundry and the fish and the new snails (Ern and Bunyan) and solving milk crises and re-acquainting herself with Norwich. And attempting to prevent any mandatory buying of 'stretchy pants' despite eating her way across a great swathe of the US (with its fabulous to-go boxes, to-go cups and corpulent portions).

Just for those not from the Ark-la-Port, 'Put on Your Stretchy Pants!' comes from an advertising campaign on the neon Casino Tragic sign in Bossier City (East Bank). This alluring reference is to the $9.99 all-you-can-eat buffet. Conjures up charming image of classiness, eh? Stuff it all in!

In the past weeks, these places have been visited (and many fascinating blogs and notes of cultural humour have been quelled and lost forever. this is sad for me.):
Tarrytown, NY
Long Island (who knew it is so dang LONG?)
Connecticut (who watches TV while pumping gas/petrol?!)
Ark-La-Port (v. sorry to people I didn't get to see, but my Daddy's birthday comes first)
Baton Rouge, LA
New Orleans, LA
Houston, TX
Atlanta, GA (this counts when your 1:30hr layover turns into 5 due to sitting on the runway for 3hrs -- which wouldn't have happened if she hadn't missed her flights from Shreveport, but we won't go into that)
Virginia (who knew there were so many Civil War signs?)
DC (who knew people play chess in a park?)

There were many funny signs along the way, and sadly they did not all get photographed (esp. sad the lack of Put on Your Stretchy Pants!).

What is a chickenologist? Why do they need vans?

What is the logic of a fine in the amount of $219...?

And now, as John Grisham does in every book, I must dash to do some necessary tasks before the end of the day, and so this blog must end. All character issues are resolved and they live happily until the next time I need some money (or some reader adoration).

As well, if Judith can get into her email, then I have another blog to do today... ahem.