Sunday, 31 January 2010

Entre chien et loup

'Entre chien et loup' is a French phrase signifying the period of time between dusk and dark, when dogs and wolves are difficult to distinguish.

It also spawned the title of the most recently released English translation of Irene Nemirovsky -- The Dogs and the Wolves (originally published in 1940, presumably just before it became illegal for Jews to be employed in France). Sandra Smith, the translator, spoke on Friday night at the Forum in Norwich, which coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day and also slightly with the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Berkinau (27 January) -- where Nemirovsky died on 17 August 1942. One month and 4 days after her arrest.

Only since living on this side of the Atlantic, has my selective isolationist brain absorbed that there was war (outside the story-telling world of textbook knowledge) prior to Pearl Harbor. The hardship that Europe underwent has become much more real; words cannot really describe.

Suite Francaise was, I believe, the first of her work to be translated into English and is only a portion of what was to have been a book of 5 parts. It was untouched for decades since one of her daughters thought the manuscript was her diary and left it in the suitcase with which the children had been sent away into hiding. It is a contemporary view of life in occupied France, and in her optimism, she planned to describe through to the end of the war.

It is an impressive and incredibly brave book; my copy can be borrowed from Judith.

My next reading assignments to myself (in addition to various Spanish vocabulary lists for my Tuesday night class) are my Friday purchases: The Dogs and the Wolves, Fire in the Blood, and the new biography of The Life of Irene Nemirovsky, which is not released until 1 March (quite excited re: advanced reading). And I will also be venturing into an attempt to read a shorter Nemirovsky in French, as Ms. Smith recommended to me. Busy, busy, busy (a la Oma)!

Keeping busy hopefully delays the onset of dusk and the impact that has on one's awareness.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Worm. Charming.

And in today's lesson, boys and girls, we shall all be introduced to the phenomenon called Worm Charming.

Of course, we are all well-aware that the study of worms is known as Oligochaetology (oh-lee-go-kett-ah-luh-gee); but then there are people who do more than study. Some get quite involved... since 1980.

They have an International Committee.

It is called the International Federation of Charming Worms and Allied Pastimes (IFCWAP, for short).

Their 18 rules have been translated. Into 30 languages, including Tibetan.

There are 4 primary techniques: twanging, twickling, tweaking, and twacking.

Twanging is simply inserting a garden fork into the ground and 'waggling' it back and forth; twickling involves a rotation of said garden fork; tweaking uses a long-handled fork; and finally (my favourite) twacking, in which the charmer strikes the ground with the fork and uses the handle as a sort of tuning fork.

This (w)hole (titter) phenomenon was started by a headmaster from Cheshire and the first world record was held by a miracle-worker named Mr. Shufflebotham (titter, titter). However, it is no longer Mr. Shufflebotham who holds the world record for being Mr. Charming... a 10-year old upstart seems to have snatched it from his talented fork in 2009.

.Thousands of people attend their annual international competition. Peut-etre une plan pour certaine de les gens qui journey across L'Atlantique cette summer? Je pense que oui.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Just Another Day at the Office...

It is a nice compliment, or consolation, to yesterday's impression of Une Pincushion to a) have managed to dress nicely for work and b) to be reminded that The Prince is visiting when you get there. Prince Charles, that is.

He is the patron of the School of Environmental Sciences. So he was visiting, possibly to see what was the cause of all the CRU email-hacking row and scandal (which managed to get UEA in the news even in lil' ole' Bossier City). I would venture to propose that it might be the fact that ineptitude and the hiring of unskilled monkeys seems the order of the day in IT, but... who knows for certain? Surely the fact that hired consultants were able to hack into the system was completely an aberration.

Being pro-Royalist (in a most un-Colonial manner), it seemed like a necessary excursion from the office to toddle the 25 yards around the corner to stand in the freezing cold behind a barricade made of plastic chain. My amazement at all of this (besides slight giddiness at having my first royal-spotting) was the perceived lightness of security. Yes, there were some Springer Spaniels wriggling over parts of campus today (I want one... hint, hint) and there were also a few police walking around with mirrors, looking under buildings, but...

Having been fortunate enough to observe President Clinton's visit to Barksdale from the vantage point of the air traffic control tower and to attend a Presidential debate in 2004, it was shocking that people could just wander up randomly -- half the wanderers not even knowing why they couldn't walk that way to their lectures. I cautiously went back to the office and put my handbag back since I was sure there would be bag searches. There was no frisking. There was no guard-type bloke observing to see if you looked shifty.

Nope. Nada. Walk on in; stand right there; baby, let your hair hang down (it is best anyway, as this warms the ears).

The cool bit of this was that I was literally one person away from him as he walked past, and he was honestly gentle, soft-spoken, and observant and thoughtful in his questions of people. Not at all up his own backside. I rather liked him and shall purchase Duchy Originals when I can afford them. :)

This was all quite lovely in a civilised (and yet, cold) sort of way, but the tragedy of it is that we do not live in a civlised world. Not at all. If it were my event to organise, I would have gone mildly deranged with a week of orchestrated security checks; there would have been a lock-down of campus; and bag searches.  

But then, he is not really my Prince yet -- dual-citizenship being a few years and a few thousand £s down the trundling road... *sigh*

Monday, 25 January 2010


It used to be my opinion that I was calm and relaxed and pretty chill in general. However, the ongoing internal cobustion of my back, my joints, my patience, and my tolerance levels towards unruly children and cats who attempt to cover up their pretty crockery food dishes after eating does seem to perhaps indicate otherwise. Obviously, I have been engaged in quite a high level of self-delusion.

Fortunately, the National Health Service has agreed to provide services of a therapeutic and healing nature. This makes me relatively happy since, despite not being a citizen, I am worthy to receive something for the nearly £700 per month which is thoughtfully extracted from my paycheck. Presumably they don't want to overburden my already traumatised back with the weight.

So, after a considerate referral from my GP (at The Mulbarton Surgery), I have been to the physiotherapist five or six times now. Of course, the physiotherapist is in Wymondham (pronounced 'Wind-umm'), which is possibly the most awkward location to reach either to or from the Main Road in Swardeston OR from The University of Easy Acronyms (UEA) if one does not drive. Normal bus tickets are not good enough (one must invest in a £4.70 day pass, which makes one want to just ride around on the bus and judge -- or not. Especially if one is trying to be more charitable to the cretins surrounding one.) since Wye-mond-ham is apparently in the outer zone of Norwich Worst -- oops, I mean First -- Bus system.

After my first encounter with the physio -- a lovely person named Jane -- she either thought I was neurotic, a victim of muscular hypochondria (possibly requiring NHS psychotherapy), or a severely broken person. Now she is aware that she beheld a trinity.

On one's first -- or in my case, one's first and second -- visit(s), one has what is called a 'triage' appointment. This is where they go through all the aches and pains of things that you, in your feebly deluded state, might think are wrong with you. They ask you to tell them whether the pain in ________ region is constant, periodic, or infrequent and then to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10.

They refuse to explain this rating scale. Is it on a scale of 1 to 10 of what i can bear before I lay writhing on the floor next to the washing machine crying and singing Edith Piaf songs; or is it on a scale of 1 to 10 of how painful it has ever been; or is it on a scale of 1 to 10 of whether I believe it is possible to have a stiff upper lip and Keep Calm and Carry On without resorting to surgery? What is this scale business?

Based on one's completely flawed scaling of the pain, they draw little coloured sections on the part of the diagram person on the computer. Yellow means numbness; cerulean means scrintchety periodic pain (apparently); pink means you are messed up. My little diagram has an entirely pink back with blue polka-dots, and a little yellow streak going down the right leg (and NO! This does not have anything to do with wet pants. Ahem... Rude.). Poor Jane.

Apparently, your correspondent who spends 120,000 miles a year in the air, and most of the rest of the time sitting on her haunches has a condition called 'Hypermobility Syndrome'. I am quite appalled to have a label, but maybe it will be good for me; I could get a nametag: 'Hello! My name is Anne-Marie, but you can call me Gumby!' On the bright side, the x-rays for which I was zapped in December happen to show an absence of slipped discs or anything pinched, so no incisionary activity close to My Spine is imminent (this is good, particularly in light of my inexplicable fear of deathly punctures in my person -- well, other than shots in the arm. I'm not a complete chicken.). On the negative side, my job is sedentary. Hypermobile people need to move alot (ahem -- it seems a good time to perhaps point out that it was not hyperactivity in my childhood; it was my syndrome. My body knew that it needed to move incessantly...). Because my body languishes in front of a computer all day and a good portion of the evening (when it functions -- the computer, not my body), my muscles are no longer managing my hypermobile connection points and the joints are mad. So I hurt. My back is pink with blue polka dots. And I have a yellow streak down my right leg (AGAIN... NO snickering. How childish. *rolls eyes*)

I am meant to do stretchy exercises and retrain my nerves. I should really do them more often (instead of sitting in front of a computer -- oops), but I am getting pretty good at regular stretching in the ladies room at work. The shelf on the wall next to the hand drier makes a lovely support bar and one can also do pushups agains the wall -- whilst beadily watching the door for approaching shadows, at which point you have to shove yourself speedily away from the wall, simultaneously pivoting on heels as if heading for door, and pretend to have been using completely silent hand drier. This is definitely a skill worth honing; I expect to have upper arms like Courtney Cox by March.

In addition to my Bendy Bruner-Tracey (BBT) regimen, Lovely Jane recommended acupuncture. For a person with a morbid fear of punctures, this was a big step. After all, haven't we all heard about people who have an acupuncture needle emerge from their foot 4 years after having a treatment in their eyelids or something? I was brave. The needles were small. And the first two treatments really relieved quite a bit of pain in my back.

Until this past week, when I had to go 2 weeks between treatments. And then I had a nerve completely freak out in my big toe -- it is a long story. No doubt many of you can look forward to long evenings with a lovely shiraz while I detail the agony of a mysterious feeling of shards of glass living inside my toe rather than the lovely bones which ought to be there. Copious amounts of Vitamin B (gracias a los parentes) seems to be helping. And then my back decided to relapse and go all Octogenarian on me on Saturday whilst doing laundry.

However, the whole scintillating Shards-of-Glass feeling which has persisted over the past week (but very strangely only with downward pressure, such as a blanket during SleepyTime) had me a little leery today. Jane decided that it was most probably coincidental, this dramatic Shards of Glass thing; she bent my phalanges and metatarsals, this a-way and that. And no radiating shocks of pain. None atall. Until she decided that we should start with that particular needle... next to my big toe.

Today was absolutely pitiful. I wept. Snot ran from my nosey to the floor through the little hole where they put your head so's you won't suffocate on the relaxation table.

The weeping and gnashing of teeth did not stem from the big toe one needle; I was braver than that. Just nearly reflexed her in the face -- oopsy. No. It was the building up, I think. When you (or maybe just I) am/are supposed to relax, my brain kind of goes into 'MUST RELAX!' , **, 'NO! MUST RELAX!!!' hyper-repetition syndrome mode. And pretty much everything just flipping does the opposite. 

One of my most significant spot of tension, which is most-of-the-time invisible, non-painful and completely menacing, is on either side of my spine, about 3 inches below my shoulder blades. If this area has any sort of pressure applied, I cannot help it: spasms and convulsive twitching results. And I flee, if possible. (This is in no way a recommendation as potential amusement to so-called 'friends' during social and cultural outings. Obviously, this is a little more explanation than some people might have needed, but how else are we to be honest with each other if not broadcasting to the whole webernet-connected ribbon of civilisation? No. Seriously; do not try this -- I might have to get mediaeval on yo' ____.)

Being unable to flee, and with an indeterminate number of needles in my back (actually there were 22), weeping was my only resort. But I told her to keep going... Keep Calm and Carry On! However, the whole situation was worsened by the pinching that the tension in my muscles was making where the needles had already gone in. And then, Poor Jane hit several capillaries -- which hurt like crap. And made me twitch, which tensed my muscles, which made the needles hurt, which made me cry (and produce snot, which was unreachable due to arms flapping at sides of table with needles in hands). The additional fact that a pressure on my middle back caused a twinge of electricity in my right hip did not help.

Poor Jane.

Her assessment today was, 'Well, you are just wired pretty funny.' She attempted to smile and comfort me, but I think she was afraid.

My next acupuncture treatment is in 2 weeks. We'll see if Jane is in, or if she has become a florist.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


Due to one's frugal noticing of the sale bananas at Bobbins (the farm shoppe dans La village), this afternoon's primary culinary activity involved making Banana Pudding for a certain Wirish person, who seems to be unfamiliar with said dish. Despite a typically apathetic attitude toward dessert-type foods (odd, I know), he did manage to clear his bowl and then ate a couple of bites out of the pan (there was no company, so this was acceptable). This indicates to me that it has been approved.

I was quite pleased with my pudding texture and so happy to have the recipe from The Oma Cook Book (ed., Judith and James). Banana pudding is the first recipe that my Oma's mama taught her to cook, and the recipe has been passed down from the five maternal generations preceding moi. Oma is unfortunately not here in La Village to concoct puddings on request, and since it appears that January is now Oma-'Spa'-Month, we must hope that she returns from the hospital soon so she can make sure we are cooking our puddings correctly.

This past week was an interesting week. It has been my first 'normal' experience with long-term snow, and the exoticism and thrill has not worn off yet. We have had probably 4 inches (or maybe more) of snow this week and it has been cold enough that it has stuck for almost the whole week. It is the coldest winter in Britain in 30 years!

Kitty likes snow. Angus is obviously related to Simon's Cat, as the 'Snow Business' video is pretty much his hyper reaction to the crunching snow. However, after his outside frolicking, Kitty likes to come inside and be cosy. This is an example of stretching and looking cute in order to have some tidbits of gorgeous seabass dinner with leeks and rostis... (the snow is not forcing us to diminish the culinary exploits of Chef Eamonn).

Along with the kitty, the snow is fascinating to me, too. I am quite obsessed by snow clouds and learning to see snow coming over the fields, although I am glad not to be in charge of driving to work in the snow (see L).

I love how snow makes everything quiet. Except for the ducks and the pouncing kitty. I love seeing parents pulling children to school on little tobogans. I love the crunch and squeak of the snow under one's boots. I love the way it sparkles in the sunshine. I am not so taken with wind-frozen teeth, so I suppose I had best be quiet.... nahhhhh.

Monday was my first acupuncture treatment, and whilst it is quite bizarre (I am going to wear my contacts to tomorrow's needling, so as to see the two that are in my hands... it is all quite wierdly fascinating).

Thursday was the first Knit Night of 2010, and Clare convinced me not to wimp out. We have returned to The Forum, now that loud Mondo Night is no more. It was a little chilly :) 

Pretty Night Snow.

Saturday was far too cold to open St. Clement's to the public (even with the Cloak), but we made it into town on La Bus with the goal of climbing the tower and getting some snowy photos. Dawdling in the bank caused us to miss the sunshine, but maybe the snow will still be here next week (although my enthusiasm may cause me to have no playmates remaining).

The view towards the Cathedral looks over the River Wensum and since the road below is a bus route, it is obviously a little clearer than the view down Colegate, below on R (the second church tower down Colegate is St. Miles -- where I lived in my little flat). The river has not frozen :(

The climb up and down the tower is always a little dusty and wind-ing. Stopping to continually take photos of one's feet can get a little vexing for the person behind you. But, oh well... :)

Stairs at the very top are really quite tiny. There is a very small section where the stairs are not stone, but are wooden.

So many hands have touched the central support of the spiral stairs, the stone is smooth and shiny. This is my favourite part. Despite its being a bit wonky, there is no risk attall of anything falling to pieces quite yet.

At the bottom, the person behind the photographer can finally escape into the less claustrophobic air.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Twenny Tee-yun

Yes. I think I shall go with 'twenty-ten' as the verbal reference for '2010' instead of using 'thousands'. Why this seems to have sparked such critical and intensive debate is rather beyond me. Thank the Heavens for the wisdom of the National Association of Good Grammar! [I feel a slight tinge of guilt for my hypocrisy as a pedant in mocking NAGG, but then, they really ought to have organised a better acronym.]

Perhaps some people have nothing more productive to think about, for example: considering the newly joyous state of Christmas Day air travel as a result of rabid and annoyingly well-educated fundamentalist psychotics; or what is behind the soaking of beans and pulses before cooking; or perhaps why snow renders felines utterly mad; or how time is able to slow or race, depending on one's enjoyment ratio and/or dread of returning to meaningful employment.

My goal for Twenny Tee-yun is to write more regularly (as compared to the tragic state of 'twothousandnine') , instead of keeping all my eccentric thoughts and interesting stories nebulising in my brain -- which clogs up general functionality of said brain and leads to meaningless, disconnected tangents during various conversational activities. This sometimes can alarm fellow conversationalists and one should really avoid alarming people... unless they deserve it. Or are trying to set their underpants alight.

So far, I am slightly behind in my goal outlined unsuccinctly above, due to faffing with photos and getting self distracted with snow (a la feline) and knitting (also, possibly, a la feline) and tidying (definitely, a la feline).

New Year's Eve was spent uncertainly wondering if our Letter K Correspondent would brave the forces of nature and join the Norfolkians for an icy celebratory activity. Therefore, the promised birthday cake was not created until just before midnight, upon finding out that LKC would not be remaining to even break his fast on New Year's Day -- choosing instead the tantalising fun of driving 4 1/2 hours back to Wales (oddball). Additionally, my failure to venture to La Shopping before 5pm resulted in a failure to make either cream cheese ball or cherry cheese pie.

However, through a miracle of collaboration (and with some grand patience on her part), Clare and I managed to pull together a last-minute snacky, and relatively healthy(ish), buffet of delicious homemade hummous, tomato-mozarella-basil salad, semi-homemade guacamole, homemade salsa and mango salsa, fresh olive bread -- and a nip of Clare's sloe gin (scrummy!). This was entirely useful, since the Burger-Maker was ever so slightly delayed in producing edibles for nibbly persons. There were no homemade tortilla chips... again due to lack of time and planning [since our return from La Louisiane, we have become mildly obsessed with creating legitimate salsas and tortilla chips. Efforts were well received and fully consumed by E's office colleagues.]

Sadly, New Year's Day was not well-planned for, past breakfast, by moi and our main meal lacked black-eyed peas. And ham. I am a b-a-d Southern Girl -- who doesn't keep black-eyed peas in their pantry for emergency year-change celebrations?! However, the tinternet indicated to me that lentils would perhaps cover my sin and so we had them with our cabbage and cornbread. It was passable, but there shall be more adequate preparation for Twenny 'Leven.

Additionally, after damage had been done did I become aware of our other failures (also delineated by the previously helpful tinternet article):
  • to NOT do laundry. Oops. Obliterating Clothing Dirt.
  • to plan for a first-footer. We went out before someone new entered the home... actually no one other than us has actually entered the home after midnight. The cat probably doesn't count, although he is tall and dark. Ah well... give up.
  • to open all the doors to let out the old and let in the new. It was a tit bit chilly.
  • to wear something new. That would have required shopping instead of occupying resident pajamas during shopping hours last week, so... ick.
  • making loud noise. Even the kitteh was quiet and slept late on New Year's.
However, despite these glaring faux pas, I am sure it will be a lovely year. And I wish any readers remaining after my Protracted Twothousandnine Depth-of-despair-and-mental-distraction-silence all of the Love, Peace, Joy and Goodwill they can handle for their year to come!


(...and now, I must go and test some more salsa.)