November 24, 2011

November D

Hokay. So it's Thanksgiving, and even though I've never been a huge fan of the holiday per sae, I sure miss my fam this year. I realized recently that is the second year in a row I'll be spending my Thanksgiving Day away from home -- last year I had to stay in Seattle for Eurydice. Anyway, I "celebrated" today by turning in two essays and completing another one. That means I'm that much closer to completing my before-home to-do list, so I don't feel too down about it.

Anyway, I took a break and made a new inspirsession:












For some reason lately I've been wanting to wear a lot of black. Maybe that's London rubbing off on me or just my constant desire to be sharper/more professional than I actually am. Either way, it isn't going anywhere fast because I seem to have left most of my black stuff at home. Probably so I wouldn't wear only black. There you go. Anyway, I've been really enjoying my high-waisted brown skinnies from H&M, and I think I want to get a black pair when I'm home. (Imagine! Pants that actually leave room for a butt! You wouldn't believe how many years I've been lamenting the hipster jean issue of having all that extra waist fabric hanging out at the back, crack lines and all that jazz. It's not pretty if you have any junk in the trunk. But I desist.) I also want to cozy up in sweaters -- if anyone's reading this and desiring to get me something for Christmas (or my birthday!), a sweater would be rad. I'm not really picky. Especially if it's soft. Or hand-knitted with a big "R" on it, like a Weasley sweater. Or a Cosby sweater ("A COOOOOSSSSSBY SWEATAHR!!!" -- Name the movie?)

I've been listening to a lot of Billy Bragg, and by a lot of him I mean the one song I own of his on my iTunes "Way Over Yonder (In the Minor Key)." It's super rad and I suggest you check it out. Anyway, he's hanging out in sweaterville there. Below him, you'll see my London Christmas fixation, which has become a conglomeration of Dickens, mince-pies, Cadbury treasure tins (I'm so sad we don't have these in the States! They're delicious. I'm going to try and tote one home if I have room.) December's going to bring skating rinks, a big tree in Trafalgar square, and (hopefully) some snow, so there's excitement yet to come.

This is, of course all set against a wintery Spokane, which I dearly miss and cannot wait to see again when it's all white-covered (or not) next month. Strangely, the lilac color of the sky is the exact shade that's been creeping into my consciousness lately -- probably cause I just bought a pen in that color. It's been calming me down -- my heart's been racing furiously what with all the upcoming excitement. Yesterday I couldn't even get to sleep thinking of how close I am to coming home. I sort of feel guilty about being so excited, when London's treated me so well, but I can't help it! And, of course, amidst this all, are the lovely red roses I've had the good fortunate of waking up to throughout the past week. :)

Happy Thanksgiving! I sure feel thankful for a hell of a lot, and I imagine I'll have a renewed sense of thanks for my lovely home and the people in it very shortly.

November 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Species

With Essay #5, monster of all essays, finally out of the way (or as out of the way as it needs to be at this point in time), I have a spare half hour to relax with some Christmas music and tell y'all a little story from today's London adventures...

Haha, that's some generous wording. The "adventures" I speak of scarcely extended past the rehearsal room, where I was for 9 hours today. Buuuuuuut...

On the way to rehearsal I popped into Pret to grab breakfast. Since it wasn't too biting freezing this morning, I took my stuff to a nearby garden (park) and settled down on one of the benches. It was a quiet Sunday morning, and there was maybe one other person in the square, so I was on guard for any suspicious subjects and kept my purse locked in my lap.

What I didn't prepare for was the visitor that ultimately came to interrupt my early morning tranquility.

I hadn't been there even long enough to open my oatmeal container when suddenly... from right behind me....................... comes this squirrel.

And he was a pretty cute little guy. As I've likely said before, the animals here are way friendly -- even moreso than those squirrels at UW who wait in the garbage cans until you pass them by and then make the biggest stir in the world causing you to jump into a nearby bush. I've heard it said that they'll gladly take nuts out of your hands. Even the London pigeons don't bother to get out of your way on the street till the last possible second.

This is likely all Mary Poppin's fault for making us sympathize with the poor, starved creatures who, for just tuppence and an open heart, might be spared a life of destitution and haunting little old bird women's hats.

Anyway, he sort crept up to where my feet were and popped up on his hind legs, just to let me know he was open for anything I might send his way. I laughed at the little devil and told him and told him oatmeal and honey probably wasn't part of his diet, as if he could understand one word I was saying.

As I progressed to open my oatmeal he sort of danced over my feet and, from what I assumed, scampered off in the opposite direction. This assumption was quickly dislodged when he hopped up on the bench beside me and PROCEEDED TO CRAWL RIGHT BEHIND MY BACK. So now I'm sitting here with my oatmeal cup in one hand, lid in the other, frozen solid because I know if I move one inch that squirrel will go absolutely crazy. And as I try and inch my rear off the bench as imperceptibly as possible, he starts squirming around back there, likely seeking the Pret goodies he knew I was lying about not having enough of to share with him, and then I feel him PAWING AT MY BACK with his little claws!!

And that sort of tickled. And for a two seconds I giggled, then went back to complete and utter terror. Having rodents actually stalk you quickly turns a sweet Disney-instilled fantasy into a terrifying what-has-gone-wrong-with-nature-and-how-do-I-deal-with-it sort of paranoid panic. Regardless of what was actually going on behind my back all I imagined was this:



When I couldn't feel him anymore, I shut my eyes and leapt about a mile away from the seat as quickly as I deemed safe. When I turned around the furball was still there, crouched stubbornly where my butt had been only moments before. My Pret bag lay just a tail's length away. I decided I'd try to reason with the bugger.

"Hi. I don't have any food for you. You need to get off my seat now."

When I talked to him he perked up again and for a moment I thought he might jump at me. I sort of half-heartedly waved my napkin at him, not wanting to actually frighten him, but desperately hungry for my overpriced oatmeal.

"Please? I know Christmas is coming up, and you likely have a lot of naked babies to feed, but I'm sure there's some other squirrel's nuts you can steal around here. I'd really like my seat back."

I looked around the park to make sure I was still the only one here. I was talking to a squirrel, after all.

When I looked back he'd scampered to the other side again.

I took my seat on the bench.

He leaped down.

I eyed him suspiciously.

He flicked his tail at me and, with an air of perceptible indignance hopped over to kick it with a nearby statue.

I breathed again.

Only as I left the park did I remember a bag of nuts I hadn't finished from yesterday's rehearsal. Sure enough there were three almonds left in there. I started to feel pretty guilty.

I found a squirrel that looked like him, but definitely wasn't, cause he wasn't fat enough. I fed him an almond and set the rest on the bench seat.

Hopefully the crazy little thing finds them in time for Thanksgiving.

November 15, 2011

Oxford and Other Things



First off, I'm going to apologize for all the upcoming building pictures. I'd heard Oxford was beautiful, but the architecture here was just incredible!! I figure if you're reading this blog, you're probably a little bit like me, and if you're a little bit like me, you'll like the pics a little bit anyways.



I must've arrived in Oxford on the coldest day I've yet experienced here in England. I'm sure it was only in the 40s or so, but I was convinced I'd time-traveled into January. Above are views from the double-decker Megabus (yes, it was red) that I just barely caught. I was careful to leave ample time for getting to the bus stop, but somehow I still managed to use it all up in sorting out 3 different directions from 3 different people, my own poorly drawn map, and my ever-failing sense of direction. The place was all of 2 blocks from where the tube let me off, so I thought I couldn't miss. Directions and me are just a rubbish match.

Anyway, I did manage to get on, and even scored a seat on the second level, right up in the front. That meant I got the best view coming into town.

And boy what a town!!



 There were bikes all over in Oxford, but this was definitely the saddest of them all.



In all honesty there isn't a lot to actually do in Oxford, unless you're an Oxford student, that is. Much of the school is closed to the public, understandably, and the place itself is so tiny it's pretty easy to absorb most of it in about 4 hours. I was there for 6, and a great deal of my adventure was spent museum-hopping to keep warm. I spent far more time in the Maths and Sciences Museum than I probably would have under normal circumstances, but now I know all sorts of new things! There was an original solution drawn in chalk by Albert Einstein -- some student saved the blackboard after one of his guest lectures! I also found out that doctors used to determine where to avoid letting blood by which sign the moon was in. About this time our chests are in danger. So weird, but so cool!

One of my favorite exhibits was just beyond this building:



 

It was called "treasures" and displayed various artifacts that have come into library's possession over the course of history, much like what I described from the British National Library. Among this collection, however, was the very first Folio copy of Shakespeare's printed works, an original watercolor of Smaug by J.R.R. Tolkien, an original edition of William Blake's Songs of Innocence open to the "Nurse's Song" poem and colored engraving, a draft chapter from Lyra's Oxford by Philip Pullman (his handwriting is so interesting!), another Jane Austen journal that I would much liked to have seen more than two pages of, and a first draft of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (from the chapter where the monster wakes up, of course) WITH HER HUSBAND'S CORRECTIONS IN THE MARGINS. Good old Percy and Mary... prolly the most morbidly-sweet, weird couple ever. (If you don't know about them and are looking for a good story check it out, under Percy Bysshe Shelley. Great stuff.

Back to buildings! Before I had to find refuge for my frozen limbs in the museums, I spent a great deal of time wandering up and down the streets, peering down every alleyway that was accessible to me -- and some that weren't! Here's what I found:



Miss Kowalski, are you in here??

This is a library. A LIBRARY!




New friend.
On the other side of this gate (and facing the opposite direction) is where the film "An Education" ends. See here, about 5:25 in.
Also, weird thing -- I heard the opening song in this clip in the tube station right before I left. A man with an accordion was playing it.
Also also -- you should watch the subsequent scene, because it's great. 
Oh, Graham.


On the opposite side of this courtyard, in the corner you can't see, there was a little doorway. And through that doorway was a staircase which I wasn't allowed to ascend. And beyond the staircase on the opposite side was another little doorway. And beyond that little doorway was another library. And right in front of that library was...


A GRAVEYARD!!!


Seriously, if there's anything more Romantic (not to be confused with romantic) than sneaking around Perc-Shel's old stomping grounds on a sublimely freezing foggy fall day and stumbling one's way into a graveyard, I'd like to hear it.


Hold the phone -- February 31st??


This was particularly creepy. I looked through the bars of this doorway and the wooden stairs just went down and down and down...



Seriously, the crypt?! I couldn't even handle this place. My camera was going bananas.


Almost thought this said "Harry." POTTERGASMOMGARSH!


Even the steps leading out of this place were graves!

I don't know what it is about me, but I love graveyards. Guess that's what comes of spending your time in grade school making up stories about moving statues and plotting ways to get past the chain-link fence into the adjacent cemetery. Careful, kids.



Ah, goodness! What a delightful journey! I do wish it hadn't been so cold, but I spent the last hour and half or so catching up on some reading for school at Starbucks and gradually began to feel my fingers again.

I'm not sure why it took leaving Seattle to suddenly become a Starbucks devotee (especially when everyone in London says it's even worse here than in the states). It's a comforting reminder of home and Christmas, I suppose.

 
Some other updates:

-The Producers has been carrying on good and strong. I've got a bit of a tap repertoire now (wooooh, Shirley-shorts!) and am mastering the art of pigeondom...


and grannydom....


and Nazidom, but I won't put that up lest someone gets the wrong message.

-My journal has taken a serious backseat. Unfortunately that's partially on account of this blog, but also because all I ever do any more is read and write and research! (And go on Facebook...)


My last essay was on Asta Neilsen's Hamlet -- an examination of the feminist reclaiming of the incompetent Romantic Hamlet which required translating German subtitles into English and comparing them alongside Folio and Quarto texts. What an exciting mind-meld!!

State of my desk during Reading Week.

-I promised I'd let you know when I was done with this! It's finally covered completely.


-Even on a simple walk to school, I'm continually finding new things around corners. On my journey to Golder's Green I ran into this little gem:


And of course whenever I get a spare moment, or need to find a place to take my Pret, I visit the Ghand-meister in Tavistock Square. (Mom, I took lots of close-ups for your yoga cards!!)



-Last but definitely not least, my journey northward to make mincemeat pies and watch Little Women was a wonderful break from the books. These two ladies are just lovely for humoring me my "surrogate Thanksgiving."

"Isn't butter divinity?" -Amy March




Well, that's all for now, folks! Hope you're enjoying your November. I can't believe there's only a month left to my stay. While I'd gladly tack on more time for essay-completion, it's going to be so exciting to come home to hot chocolate and Spokane snow and everyone I SORELY miss after such a time.

It will be awfully bittersweet leaving London, though. If ever a city could be your best friend, this would be mine.

Love,
RB

November 9, 2011

Regent Street Fun!

Every year the major shopping areas set up some really fantastic Christmas lights and typically have bands and celebrities there to flip the switch. This year it was Kelly Clarkson (kind of forgot she even existed...) and (far more excitingly) BILL NIGHY.



Favorite. I wish they'd filled the time we spent waiting for the lights with him just standing on stage talking -- or even just standing on stage being; he is so cool! -- instead of crappy pop music and horrible news anchor jokes.

Oh yeah, Baby Spice was there, too.


Anyways, here's some videos to give you the idea. All in all, good fun!

video 

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Tomorrow it's Little Women and mince pies at a friend's place in North London, and on Friday...


Inordinate levels of excitement pulsing through my veins right now.