Archive for the ‘Anglophilia’ Category

hodge podge

I’ve been getting cabin fever lately—hence the trip up into the mountains—which seems especially wrong given that the weather has been beautiful. Bright skies. Sun. It’s Colorado.

So, a few days ago, I decided to break up my staring-at-the-computer routine by first walking to Starbucks…and then staring-at-the-computer. After I finished my work, I kept walking, past Old Navy, past Barnes and Noble, past TJ Maxx, all the way to Homegoods, where I bought some cocoa powder on clearance. Ricky has mixed feelings about buying food at Marshall’s/TJ Maxx/etc., but I like the odd things they have. Candied mango. Chocolate granola. Cheap saffron. And when we went to Whole Foods the other day—or, as one of Ricky’s colleagues calls it, Food Hole—they were out of cocoa powder (save one $8 canister that was thoroughly smashed on one end).

All of this is quite mundane, but it amuses me; there’s something contradictory about sprawling, yet pedestrian-friendly expanses of big box stores. I walked a three mile loop (losing a pearl earring somewhere in process, alas) and felt almost like I could have been in a city again. The big boxes here are bigger, but somehow, this town almost works on foot. In Canterbury, we walked everywhere in a freezing, gray fog—to buy packets of mango slices at Tesco, to indulge in cream tea, to browse department stores (my navy Longchamps bag, purchased at Fenwick, is still a frequent companion) and charity shops.

I bought this little porcelain creamer at a charity shop in Canterbury—a shopfront crowded with our own artifacts, the detritus of one century (give or take)—worn shoes and yellowed paperbacks and novelty mugs—standing above layers of stratified junk from epochs past, Roman trash that has come full circle into treasure again—shattered bits of glass, cracked pottery, tilting floor tiles, ancient earrings with no mates.

Perhaps my own earring will emerge someday from the ruins of this civilization. If we are to believe political debates, cable news, and my dentist (who proposed, gauze and gloved hands crammed in my mouth, that all our economic ills be met with nation-wide adoption of night guards for stress-induced tooth clenching)—that end will be here sooner rather than later.

I’m at Starbucks again (wearing a different, complete set of pearl earrings—a Wellesley woman is always prepared). I meant to tell you about  the new light fixture that my dad and I installed. It will keep.

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At my mom’s house last week, I was finally able to unpack and inventory all of the teacups that I’ve been gathering for the weddin’. Rather perversely, my entire house would fit into the living room of the St. Louis house. Suburban sprawl has to be good for something—it certainly is good for spreading out 100+ teacups and saucers. I don’t have an exact count, partly because the cats quickly started developing a rather unhealthy level of interest in the sound that bone china makes as it clatters against the floor.

Fortunately, china that has made it through the rigors of thrift store handling stands up pretty well to feline frolic. We lost a few minor pieces before I packed everything up again; it was fun, though, to have the floor laid out like an enormous mad tea party.

Darwin, though, was confused—and perhaps a little concerned about the advancing lines of the teacup invasion.

After two years of seeming rather abstract, the wedding is finally becoming a reality. We visited the venue—a chapel perched on the bluffs above the Mississippi—and listened to the absolutely arresting organ that will be played at our ceremony. We talked about food and flowers. I bought some tea and clotted cream. I’m more than a little wary of shelf-stable dairy products; before we invest in clotted cream for the wedding tea I’m going to try out this little jar that I bought at World Market. Well, I’m trying to try it. I just can’t get over the fact that it’s cream. In a jar. On a shelf.

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day 13

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh; a brief post with a bit of blue sky (which we are sorely lacking). I stared at a thimble for a while today and tried to come up with something to say about it. That sounds like it could be a metaphor, but it’s not. Instead of a thimble, you get the rooms where Mary, Queen of Scots watched the murder of her private secretary. Tourists in later centuries claimed that they could still see the bloodstains on the floors. I could not. I did see, however, a number of rather random Mary, Queen of Scots artifacts, including a bit of needlework depicting kittens.

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day 11

Umm, here’s a ship. In a bottle. In Trafalgar Square. I don’t like to post without pictures, and since this post is pretty random, a pretty random, knicknack-ery picture seems oddly fitting.

Have you writery types heard of 750words? Despite my recent blogfails, I like the idea of daily writing. The ups and downs of my posts here actually have a lot to do with the ups and downs of my own writing; I write more here when I am generally writing more. I should try to remember that when I get really stuck. Writing about Nancy Drew books for an hour or two does much more good than cursing at these snailpaced revisions.

Yesterday was a good writing day; today, not so much.

I met with students, went to lecture, met with more students, read the play I’m teaching, and fell asleep for a bit, pinned beneath the heft of my aggressively affectionate 18-pound cat. These short days make me feel less guilty about giving up early. I went to the gym and read some young adult werewolf romance fiction on my Kindle while half-halfheartedly pedaling a stationary bike. I tried to block out the caveman cries of the weight room bros with Taylor Swift.

I have a giant box of pears, so I made these, which are lovely with vanilla extract but even more amazing with a vanilla bean (which, alas, I did not have tonight).

I somehow ended up watching Bride Wars (I know how: I was sitting here waiting for pears to roast and it was on HBO).

Now it might be time for some Animal Crossing, which just arrived in the mail. I had an earlier version of this game in college and came pretty close to not finishing my senior thesis because of my obsessive need to weed imaginary gardens (the weeds keep growing! even when the game is turned off!) You would think, perhaps, that I could have transferred some of my virtual weed-pulling skills to home-ownership, but it doesn’t really have the same appeal.  I was oddly charmed by one of the Amazon reviews, which is not a review so much as a treatise on the care of virtual lawns.

However, the thought of caring for a fake lawn right now is making me increasingly tired. Maybe I’ll just eat more pears and watch 16 and Pregnant.

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Tintern Abbey

Though absent long,

These forms of beauty have not been to me,

As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:

But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,

Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,

And passing even into my purer mind

With tranquil restoration:

—feelings too

Of unremembered pleasure; such, perhaps,

As may have had no trivial influence

On that best portion of a good man’s life;

His little, nameless, unremembered acts

Of kindness and love.

(from William Wordsworth, “LINES Written a Few Miles Above TINTERN ABBEY, on revisiting the banks of the WYE during a tour, July 13, 1798)

The first image in this post is a Claude Glass that you can find a few yards (not miles) above Tintern Abbey— lucky for me, a helpful Welsh Heritage employee overheard me confusing the Tintern Abbey gift shop cashier (yes, there’s a gift shop; no, I didn’t buy anything) with questions about a largish, ovalish mirror somewhere in the vicinity of the Abbey. She pointed it out— up the hill, in the gardens of a nearby hotel. The Claude Glass is supposed to help an artist (perhaps an amateur artist) frame a scene from nature for a drawing and better observe the forms and features of the landscape. Rather oddly, though, you have to stand with your back facing the landscape you wish to draw— so the most complete view of Tintern Abbey that I could capture in a single frame is that backwards, color-drained mirror image.

Unrelatedly, and somewhat unpoetically, one can have a rather excellent cream tea in the shadow of the Abbey. Or a jacket potato.

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Among the innumerable sites we visited across the Atlantic: Stonehenge. Perhaps it’s a bit generous to say that we visited it. Really, we accidentally passed by it on the way to our rented cottage somewhere in the general vicinity of Bath. I spotted it as we were coming down a hill— “Is that Stonehenge?”— I asked, half-wondering, half-exclaiming. Ricky laughed— of course it was Stonehenge. How many henges could there be? I feel like there might be more than we expect; even so, it was an astounding thing to stumble upon. The best that I can usually hope to find on one of my long drives is a Target or a Dunkin’ Donuts. One moment, the landscape was a beautiful and unrelenting expanse of hills and sheep— then all of a sudden, it was broken by this passing glimpse. It was just enough henge for me, really. Quite perfect.

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During our trip to England, I got a chance to do some follow-up research on one of my life goals: to own a piece of cauliflowerware and/or pineappleware, which I first encountered in one of my minor courses last year. I know: aim high.

Cauliflower tureen, about 1760-1765 (Ashmolean Museum). I prefer the teapots, but this tureen has an appeal of its own. I like how they apparently tried to make it a little classier with the addition of butterflies. It’s a little too cute for me.

No so cutesy: cauliflowerware and pineappleware in the British Museum (also probably ca. 1765, school of Thomas Whieldon). These are the emblematic pieces of a short-lived craze for naturalistic serving wares. This picture doesn’t really capture the surface detail and colors of the pieces— they’re almost grotesque in real life. The popularity of these items subsided within the decade; basically, these were the Beanie Babies of the 1760’s. Potteries like Whieldon’s shipped the resulting surplus across the Atlantic to the captive audience of the Colonies, where the fad enjoyed a brief revival.

A curiosity cabinet in the British Museum, containing teapots and tureens as well as some Sloaniana — items from the foundational collection of Sir Hans Sloane, who bequeathed his antiquities, manuscripts, and vegetable lamb to George II so that they could become the property of the British people, and so that people like me could continue to enjoy the truly bizarre experience of facing down a room filled with shells, framed papercuts, stuffed birds, teapots, and a rock that apparently looks like Chaucer. I saw the rock. I still don’t have any idea if it looks like Chaucer.

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so much for july

July was a busy month. I’ve been jet-lagged for most of August, trying to recover from my insane return-trip itinerary (fly standby, London to Dulles; Dulles to Newark; drive Newark to PA, PA to WI) and the kind of household chores that materialize during a month-long absence from one’s home. My many travels were wonderful, exhausting, and filled with all kinds of THINGS. Really. Cauliflowerware, a stuffed dodo, giant cement dinosaurs, a rock that looks like Chaucer—it was my kind of trip. Maybe I’ll blog about some of them soon. I’ve only just gotten around to uploading some of the pictures—I’m missing about a week in the middle when my camera battery died and I took over Ricky’s for a while. Then I worked up the nerve to use our cheap-o adapter and got my camera back, just in time for hairy coos:

And now, a somewhat less-inspiring landscape. My backyard:

Ricky said that this looks like a “canary dissection.” It seems that Goddess and I had two parallel problems: me, too much jewelry and nowhere to put it; she, an unwanted place for putting jewelry. I saved this jewelry chest from the jaws of the crane during Saturday’s moving madness and spent most of the afternoon inhaling five cans of spray paint. It’s pretty hard to get from dark-stained wood to bright yellow—I had to drive to a neighboring town to get more spray paint after I exhausted the supplies at my local hardware store. I wonder what they thought I was up to….probably nothing this mundane.

I’m pretty happy with this transformation. I should really have taken a before picture, but this was the kind of project that was either going to happen rightthisminute or never. It’s not perfect, but it’s done!

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