Monday, 23 February 2009

Spring is springing

Admittedly, it is a bit early and optimistic (esp. since someone mentioned there might be more snow this week! Wheeee! This may be a pipe dream, though), but spring is busily springing.

The snowdrops have been out for several weeks, the croci are colouring up the roadsides (and gardens) and the trees are working very hard to bud. Yesterday, I even saw a daffodil (a dwarf daffodil, as it was on pretty much a 2 inch stalk)! I would have taken a picture of it but was being regaled by Rosie the 3-year-old (who is pretty much Eloise with an English accent) as to the merits of digging rocks out of roadways and saving them in special places for the next time one walks that way... The Dawn Chorus begins about 5.15 a.m. :)

This weekend, we pumped up the bicycle tires (E had had to air his already for the emergency cycle commute on Monday last) and went for the first foray into the countryside, along Marriott's Way until we reached Chav-Land, where we turned back instead of barrelling through the children with their spawn and their herd of small Paris-Hilton-wanna-be dogs. We birdwatched. I petted the sad gypsy horses and untangled one's chain :( There were no ducks, so the stale loaf of bread is still in E's panniere bag.

We watched I Hero, a Chinese film that Lisha lent us. It is fun to try to figure out subtitle settings when everything except the word Hero is in Chinese... But I found the translation of the intro text online and it was a really gorgeous film. The water theme reminded me of Prospero's Books (and that I need to buy it on DVD).

Then, Sunday, was not quite a Day Of Rest so much... started out following a horse trailer and then a tractor (not the most efficient way to travel -- unless one is knitting), getting to Walsingham Cross about 10 minutes before 11. [Hint: church started at 11] One missed turn later, we managed to make it into St. Mary's with about 2 mins before the opening bells rang. (pic is of weathervane in Anglican Shrine, not St. Mary's. It is the Annunciation Angel.)

The service was particularly uplifting in that the hymns were sung, not in the traditional feeble quaver towards heaven (almost where you feel that you need to be singing in your whisper voice so as not to distress the people around you), but at a normal level and quite enthusiastically. Like people were actually happy to be there! Wow! Eamonn has discovered that there are nuns in the Anglican Church, too. It is interesting how it is the little things that are missed between parts of the Christian world -- in some of my conversations with various people, it is almost like discussing two completely different faiths and this cannot be healthy for encouraging any sort of unity. However, St. Mary's does seem to have a warm sense of unity, with its very friendly congregation (esp. towards so many outsiders) and its worshipful dog.

St. Mary's is a lovely church, set on the edge of the town, on the far end of the Abbey grounds. From the churchyard, you could see over the wall into the Abbey (you can just see a ruined tower through the trees). And then it became clear why people were 'going to Walsingham to see the snow drops' -- they are like snow! (Mayhap the reason for the word 'snow' being in the name?!?)

Our reason for going up in the first place was to meet up with the 21 pilgrims from St. Martin's Roath, who had been there for several days of lectures and such; and we briefly visited with them after the service at the Black Bull (meeting random people who know other Americans in London who we know!). Sadly, no lunch for us, since we needed to drive back through tractor-horse-trailer populated roads to Wymonham (pronounced, 'wind-umm') for to meet Stan, Juliet, with Rosie and Tommy (the twins) for a little wander through the countryside.

However, on the drive back, there were some funny things which must be returned to on a sunny day (the people in pic to R were giggling at me as we drove around the circle and out the other end). We also drove through Little Snoring, but I
was not quick enough to capture anything but directions to the airfield (hahahaha!)

A little knitting later, we arrived to the one-way streets of Wymondham, which does not put E in a very Christian mood. I believe some of the words were, 'I hate bleeding Wymondham!' (said in vehemence and extreme swivetude).

After catching up with the small group of explorers on the banks of a nameless stream, perhaps part of the natural border of the Abbey (lots of Abbeys today, no?), we moved through the Hundred Acre wood (where the Giant lives) towards the Pooh Sticks Bridge at the pace of 3-year olds who are fascinated by dirt, and snails, and grass, and ducks, and fences, and dirt, and rocks, and sticks, and hills, and dirt (see small human figures far back in pic -- Stan and Tommy, digging dirt and rocks). It was so much fun! (and it was so very cold by 2pm, since the temperature apparently did not want to stay at mildly mellow 10am levels).

We raced floating snail shells down the stream, and this is highly recommended for keeping small people focussed and moving. And then we played Pooh Sticks on the bridge (after the white snail shell won the race).

Juliet brought some snacks as well, which was good for keeping up flagging energy levels when you are going on a bear hunt.

There was lots of muddiness and next time, I shall take my own wellies so as to be able to splash in puddles as well.

After, we went for some much-needed sustenance (and toe-warming inside air) at the Marsh Harrier, and Tommy conned some sliced cucumber out of the servers by being cute and batting his eyes (since that is his favourite food in the world right now). Rosie and Tommy have agreed that they are willing to come to our party in Ireland, and we are happy! (I think they are two of the smartest 3-year olds ever.)

Friday, 20 February 2009

Clever Monkeys

...those darned students!

They are just too smart for their own good. But it does make one snicker :)

So, the story is that our Marketing and Communications Division (MAC) developed a super-duper-magical-forward-thinking marketing campaign with real alums, which I may have mentioned previously -- through fits of giggles -- as they had a 'Back-End' strategy to put the ads on the backs of busses.
(mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha... okay, focus.)

It is called the 'Made In...' or the 'Born and Made' campaign. Some grammarians in the group have a problem with awkwardness of construction of both here, but what the hey. We are only Crawling Insects, so it is best to Keep Calm and Carry On.

Well, lately some current students have become disaffected with the University, because of some 'green' policy preventing construction of more parking lots on campus (after a new educational building took away 50% of the parking lot). While I do applaud the 'green' intent to encourage people to take public transport, walk, cycle, etc. -- it is just sometimes not feasible. But anyhoo, staff get preference for the meagre remnant of parking slots in the morning...

...resulting in queues of students sitting in cars for ages, blocking the car park entrance and repeatedly pushing the button for a ticket until they are allowed in at 12.01pm, or some such nonsense. This blockage can prevent staff from getting in as well. It is all a big kerfuffle (that word makes me happy. And what fun etymology!).

And this causes vexation, increased angst and rage apparently.

So, in retaliation, the clever monkeys designed their own advertising campaign:
Clever monkeys! Personally, I think we need them on our design team, since they have been very creative in their protest -- and I bet they didn't even have to pay an overpriced designer (instead of the on-campus 'Publications' office, with their completely wasted Macs) to produce them. I mean, I do my best with Word, but £100 for a Quark license (which I discovered today) would save money and time since I design my own brochures, write the text AND do the initial layout anyway -- do you think they would pay me half the fee they pay the designer?

Yesterday, there were posters plastered all over the University, as above. Yet, today, they are mysteriously missing... a spate of thievery of clever objects (in which students are so apt to indulge), or a severe infringement of Freedom of Speech?????

However, the chef has just informed me that there is no UK law for Freedom of Speech!!!
Shocked! Shocked and appalled, I am! And shall perhaps need to go outside and
jaywalk (since it is not against the law here) to make myself feel better.

Thankfully, today is the beginning of National Margarita Weekend -- although I have severe doubts it means this nation... and we have no tequila.

My husband does not know who Jimmy Buffett is... we shall have to remedy this travesty.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Kitteh Can Stay...

for one more night at least!

We have just returned from a foray up t' 'e Tesco to peruse a sign advertising a lost black kitteh-cat, which Clare was good-souled to inform about. Said advertised kitteh has white paws and since ours is coal black (except for the green eyes that peer at you through darkness and gloom), he can stay tonight. And tomorrow (we hope).

Situation also good because C also was kind enough to let me buy a kitteh carrier off her last week (after knitting), which belonged-ed to her brave kitteh Erasmus. And it would really be kind of silly to have an Angus C-A-T holder without an Angus.

So, hoorah! Now, we plan our foray to the vet... and if he is not chipped, he will be mine. Mine, mine.

Other excitement in the week is that Wales beat England in the rugby. We were in Caerdydd -- and there was much singing of 'Bread of Heaven', etc. [in the pub -- one forgets how much the Welsh do like to sing. And so loudly, too!] (and we got to see the little ones from Ireland on half-term break, although we did not play our word game; the Traceys; both Eamonn's sisters; Keith; Maurizio and Gabby; and to spit at Matthew through various messaging services).
  • We also went to Cardiff Market for laverbread (and cockles, because it couldn't be helped. Last night, E cooked the laverbread with shrimp, cheese and mushroom and we ett it on toast. And it was delish!).
  • We demonstrated that Amrie has no memory for card game rules.
  • There was also the thrill of going to IKEA, which somehow escaped Eamonn! The vexing part was that the sale items (bookcases) that we needed were on sale at every UK store EXCEPT Cardiff and Edinburgh. Thank God we hadn't driven to Scotland. So we have ordered them for delivery.
  • I went to St. Martin's and visited with my lovely church friends -- even bumping into Sheila on the way up the steps below Crwys Road and walking in with her. It is an interesting/odd/bizarre/familar/strange feeling going back somewhere where you lived for a short time (after not living more than 40 miles from where you were born for 30 years) and where you don't live anymore. Funnily enough, 21 people from St. Martin's are going on pilgrimage to Walsingham this coming weekend, so we are going up for Sunday 11am service with them and lunch at the pub!

It was a lovely Valentine's Day, but I didn't get enough chocolates (yet) and my attempts to indoctrinate E this year with the Gospel of Martha do not appear to have taken complete effect. It may take some constant monitoring, and it would perhaps be prudent to sign him up for the Organising Tip of the Day and maybe the Craft of the Day.

The Cookie of the Day might be taking it a bit far.

Less enjoyably (and one reason for fewer blogs, among many lame excuses), spending 9 hours a day staring at mon computer de vexation dans l'office (and 'working' with a wretched CMS which contributes nothing to the efficiency of the Organisation, but seems to keep jobs for muppets who would otherwise be mere oxygen-thieves), I do not want to type or stare at a screen -- preferring instead to knock my head against a wall. Or knit.

Speaking of knitting -- a quick share of a little heartwarming story (possibly could be interpreted as Normal for Norfolk). A lady has rescued 1500 battery chickens from death and brought them to the Little Hen Rescue Centre. As people may know, stress makes these birds lose their feathers and they are therefore fitted with little jumpers which people have been knitting for them! It really is the sweetest thing to see them (on t.v., as we have not been out to adopt any so far) pecking around wearing their little jumpers, seeing sunshine and grass for the first time in their lives.

For E, the highlight of his week has been having the clutch replaced on the car. After the long trip to and from Cardiff, the clutch decided it had had enough (that, or the P.G. Wodehouse I forced us to listen to). He cycled to work on Monday boldly, after 4 (?) months off.

Another highlight for him (no doubt) was watching the Sound of Music all the way through for the first time in his life. I expect to hear him singing 'Raindrops on Roses' in the shower if I am sleuth-ey enough.

And now, off the computer. And on with life. What life, you say? (Hush, Matthew. Keep looking out your window, and there will come some sunshine!)

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Yes, Let's!

This week, I am more than a little baffled by the narrow-mindedness of this country in reference to St. Valentine's Day (mayhap this bafflement has occurred before, but like Dory the Fish...). It has taken me a couple of days to recover from my shock enough to go on a rant (that, and needing to interview other British folk surreptitiously to determine if it was simply that some boys don't pay attention to things around them, esp. if those things have to do with pink and flowers).

It appears (and perhaps people might notice this if they ignored the circus music soundtrack in their heads) that it is just not kept (the holiday, I mean) here except in the following circumstances:
a) a bloke is dating a bird*
b) a bloke wants to date a bird
c) a bloke is married to a bird
d) a bloke wants to be married to a bird
*[bloke=male; bird=female]
Note: This woefully brief explanation no doubt extends to other-constructed couples.

After the horrified look that I got in reference to my suggestion on Sunday that we needed to prepare Valentines for the family (including three adorable children), it did dawn upon my easily distracted mind that there were not rows upon rows of Valentine cards surrounding me in the stores; nor were there multi-packs of Valentine cards for schoolroom distribution. Or the quintessential 2.5lb bags of conversation candy hearts; no ginormous heart-shaped creations of chocolate delectability filled with pink marshmallow fluff; or feathery balloons. No Valentine pencils with heart erasers to give to friends at school. No containers of grocery store bakery crap Valentine cookies with painfully hard sprinkles on top (yet, they are so good!).

And I don't believe the British know what a cookie bouquet is. [They are also not acquainted with Christmas popcorn buckets.]

Eamonn's explanation is that they are prudish here. I retorted with, 'Hellooooo! We were the Puritans... and we refused to pay tax on your bloody tea!' And this Puritan is horrified to be visiting people and NOT taking any Valentine greetings -- these are the best cookies, no? (from gensler97 photostream on flickr)

There are no doubt good things about this (like, such as the South Africa and... ummmm, not being left out of getting Valentines because children can be such cruel little beasts. But then there is always the kickball team, where you might be last, too. You just learn to kick harder, run faster, and have someone help you make the most delicious Valentine cupcakes and you will be fine.). But a negative thing is not learning how to be nice to people you might not like; or missing out on a reason to show your friends you care -- whereas they might think you were alarmingly odd if you gave them a bunch of pink heart iced cookies on sticks on a random day in November, especially if it were close to Hallow E'en. Surprisingly, there is no real religious reason for St. Valentine's Day (unless you need to go into some Catholic heathen cover-up, and then there will be NO cookies for you!). But I think it is just nice to encourage the practicing of random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

A living example of this philosophy is Clemmy-poo! (Not that I am insinuating that she is giving Valentines as this would apparently be dodgy) She has brought us a wee gifty this evening. And we are thrilled! After the omelettes and fresh buttered soda bread settles in the tummy there shall be a knees-up with The Alexander Brothers :)


Further adding to my righteous hysteria over this Valentines dearth and the prudishness it represents (and I have been forwarding the Martha Stewart Valentine's Day Workshop Craft-of-the-Day to a certain bloke for several days now), this album cover has 3 ladies (or birds) dancing in a circle while two men (no doubt with really heart-melting brogues -- swoon) with a reputed lack of undergarments sit and grin inanely over their keyboard instruments.

Attentive readers may notice the playlist includes such perrenial favourites as: The Auld Paisley $hawl, The Hill O'Kinnoull, The Rose O'Aberfeldy, and The Quiet Men O'Lanarkshire. And should folk be interested in more o' the collected works o' the Alexander Brothers, we have several listings to the right -- such as The Lass O'Leven Vale, The Barnyards O'Delgaty, Bonnie Wee Jeanie McCall, and The Cock O'The North (and this popularised by a prudish society...!).

Negating everything just ranted, I must apologise in advance to my family members who are not getting Valentines on time ... but I will make some, dangit! Martha Stewart Community 'My Collections', here we go!

LET'S HAVE A CEILIDH! (Indeed, let's! 'Tis scheduled for the 18th April...)

Oh, AYE!

(and now I must go and find some pink marshmallow fluff)

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Lazy girl

Grumpy blogger (self-loathing for lack of blogging discipline and focus).

Slightly vexed knitter (pattern-induced anger--by the time these darned flappy mittens are done, it will be June).

Cat-napper (ahem, rescuer).

Cape-wearing wise woman (due to wonderful eccentricity of my St. Clement's friends!)*.

So, I am sat home not going to knitting tonight with a kitty on my lap and having a grand old time listening to the 'flishy-flishy-pause-flishy' sound of the washer going in different directions. This is okay because will be on manic trip to Cardiff this weekend, and unless I spend all of my time in IKEA the store or IKEA the catalogue, there should be a little time to knit in the vehicular transport (it really makes me happy not to have to drive in this country! yet.).

Last week, I sort of went to knitting. But never actually got there. The journey began when C picked me up at 7 and we drove in to the Forum. Forty-five (45) minutes later, we were sat at the barrier in the parking garage waiting for someone, anyone to freaking leave the car park so the machine would let us in... 3 minutes later when we finally got in, we both decided we couldn't be arsed (and I needed to go home in less than an hour for a husbandly creation of completely homemade pizza -- a 20 minute walk away). So we drove all the way back, she parked her car at hers, introduced the kittehs to me (mew!), received decline from hubby to join the pizza/knitting/cider outing, and we walked to E's Pizza Wonderland, where tomato sauce was being flung with wild abandon (have I mentioned that cleaning is my task? sigh.). It was all excellent fun, but not a whole lot of knitting was accomplished on my part. C has this outstanding sock technique she invented herself where she knits two socks, toe-up, at once on 2 circulars -- my next project is to learn this; sounds like an Oz/NZ trip project to me!

Fortunately, I was able to do a little knitting on the (3-hours late) train to and from London on Monday/Tuesday, but two (further -- i think I have ripped this flap out 7 times now) attempts had to be abandoned and re-started. At this point, I am beginning to hate the mittens -- for the knitting problems and for the fact that I am running out of the purple angora from Kneece. Kneece, move back to France!

The rest of this week, I have been pooped in a sort of 'grump-and-stay-at-home-drinking-hot-chocolate-and-knitting' sort of way, and no more knitting has been done.

Above, I must admit that I optimistically said there will be a trip to Cardiff (and IKEA -- slightly obsessed with storage solutions for my life at the moment) this weekend -- there is a forecast of 8 more inches of snow across south and west England, so we may be in drippy Norfolk instead. But if so, I shall selfishly and suspiciously indulge and drink hot chocolate, knit, sit with kitty, etc., etc., as mentioned above... so as to fit in with national culture.

In case it hasn't outstripped the local need to report on drive-bys and bar fights in the Ark-La-Tex, it has been a snowy week in England -- the snowiest in 18 years! London was as quiet at Christmas on Monday night. Banks were shut (or at least the 3 branches of Lloyd's I tried to visit on Tuesday). Transport has been chaos (London busses didn't run on Monday, and 90% of the Underground was suspended).

As the girl who got married in 79*F heat on 20 December, snow/ice/frost is exotic and thrilling. I take pictures of it. I force the macro setting to capture the frost on the car roof; people stare at me as they walk down the street. I peer out the window in the morning in anticipation of a snow day (in vain). I smile in my water-proof-waxed and fleece-lined hat. An understanding of the logic of legwarmers is continuing to develop (no, I still haven't any of my own -- cannot take that idiotic step yet).

Eamonn has only let me scrape the ice off the car windows once, because he said it made him look like a b-a-d man for him to sit in the warm car while the wench scraped the window.

I may have mentioned there is a warm kitty on my lap. This is all well and good except that my toes are on the ground and they are cold. So I must now relieve myself of the computer position and adjust everyone so that my toes are on the insides of my knees where they can begin to thaw.

* Explanation of cape-wearing in medieval church. One of our regulars is just lovely and thoughtful and, as he is clearing out some unneeded things from his house, happened to bring a clerical cape into St. Clement's on Saturday since he has watched me slowly turned blue over the past few weeks (a medieval church does hold the chill to an impressive consistency). So, I put it on and then when Tom (pictured above, another regular) came in, I think I rather terrified him, standing alone in the middle of the nave next to a heater :)

However, I think it may become necessary for me to wear capes -- not in an attempt to be the best Harry Potter fan ever -- but because that thin cape is warmer than my hugely thick woolen Gap coat! Judith is afraid that I am becoming blasphemous, although her logic in this conclusion baffles me somewhat. I shall have to force British humour and eccentricity on her during her upcoming visit.