Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Look! I made your piggy stripy!"

This is our pink stripy piggy. He is technically a doorstop. Gordon bought him to keep our lounge door (which is weirdly spring-loaded like our other interior doors) open. But to me he is much more than a doorstop. He is my friend. He is the only friend I have in Nottingham so far. I know things will be different when I have a job, but since the Eurovision party the longest conversation I have had face to face with a human (Gordon doesn't count) was with the guy who tried to sell me vision insurance in the mall. He was nice. And the postman dropped off something once and said a whole sentence to me. That was good. But the piggy is there for me every day, holding the door for me when I come in after a long day of shopping, "struggling with bags from Tesco", Aldi, and Holland & Barrett. Sometimes we have a nice cup of tea and a chat about the weather. When Gordon comes home the piggy holds the salt shaker for us while we eat dinner. He likes to wear my shoes (the piggy- not Gordon). He has buttons for eyes, for nostrils, and for hip flexors. I know that if one of our shirts lost a button that the stripy piggy would sacrifice his own comfort and donate a hip flexor or a nostril, because that's the kind of piggy he is. I only wish that everyone could have such a lovely piggy friend. Then nobody would eat bacon. Especially not the stripy kind.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Flying the Flag

It was all worth it. Packing, moving, leaving my jobs, my apartment, and my home country- all of it. Because I have seen the light. I have found something brilliant, something dazzling. The void in my soul, heretofore inexplicable, has been filled, its mystery unraveled. I know what I have been missing all this time, why I could never be completely happy. And I can tell you now what it was, in one simple word. It's a word I had heard previously in passing, but I never really knew its meaning. (No, I am not talking about crumpets, though I could write an equally adulating bit of prose about those-- amazing little syrup-permeable English ambassadors that they are.) What is it- this thing that my soul cried out for, that I would wait 30 long years to know and to understand? In a word, Eurovision. That's right. The Eurovision Song Contest. Brilliance. Sheer brilliance. I can't think of another way to put it. All of the adjectives I can muster seem inadequate. And, I regret to inform, that it seems it must be seen to be believed. And you've missed it. But I saw it, and believe me when I say that I am forever changed! =) Okay, so what is it, this Eurovision? Well, it's a contest where each European country gets to submit one song, basically, and there's an enormous final- a raucous and over-the-top affair characterised by campy music, dizzying light displays, and nutty costumes, where they all get together and perform their songs and all the people of Europe vote for the winner. It's fantastic. Confused? Learn the basic rules. One of the best things about the UK broadcast of the show has to be the wry commentary, provided by Sir Terry Wogan, who is terribly rude at times, but hilarious! I enjoyed my first official Eurovision experience at a party thrown by a couple of Gordon's friends. I didn't know anyone there, but we were quickly bonded by the international spirit and the frenzied emotions brought about by this unique and fantastic event. =) It's amazing how much I have missed, but my hostess and her friends were veritable founts of Eurovision knowledge! They taught me, for instance, that Celine Dion had actually represented Switzerland in 1988 and won! And that Katrina and the Waves (who used to walk on sunshine in the 80's) came back and won for the UK in 1997. Who woulda thunk? They seemed to know just about everything there was to know about the contest's history; they could quote Terry's commentary from years past, and could sing along with every song when they flashed back to clips from decades ago. I was amazed at their ability to sing along with this year's entries, regardless of language (having purchased the cd's in advance) and to predict to whom exactly each country would give it's highest scores. Amazing. Where have I been all of these years?! How could I have missed all of this?! Never again, my friends. Much to Gordon's dismay, I have bought this year's cd set and shall definitely be tuning in again next year- no matter where I'm living! :o Now, I have not been able to locate much footage of the finals online, but I did find this gem from the Ukraine, one of the highest scoring groups on my personal scorecard. (Yes, we had scorecards at the party with categories ranging from best gratuitous key change to weirdest lyrics or costumes- extra points for wardrobe malfunctions, along with a rousing game of Pin the Tail on Macedonia. Quite the shindig!) Other favourites included the entries from the UK, Greece, France, and Sweden, none of which actually did very well in the official voting. The Ukraine actually did quite well, but they were sadly kept in second place by the unimpressive ballad-y entry from Serbia, to my surprise. The western countries did quite poorly on the whole, and there are quite a few rumours going around about some kind of corrupt Eastern European "block voting" practices, the details of which I do not yet understand... Anyhow, Eurovision may have its critics, but I found it fantastic! Many thanks to Craig and Kate for inviting an ignorant stranger to the party of the year (and for making vegan chili)! And for those of you in the States who can't be here to enjoy this, don't worry- I'm "Flying the Flag (For You)!"

Monday, May 14, 2007

Home Sweet Home

One week in Nottingham and things are going well. Thus far there have been no major catastrophes, though there was one minor incident wherein cycling shoes were destroyed, a pair of nice jeans was compromised, and I was honked and laughed at by a car full of teenagers whilst lying on the ground in the rain unable to disentangle my legs from my traitorous fallen bicycle. Add to that the fact that I have not enjoyed a hot shower since my arrival (water heater due to be fixed on Wednesday), I have made grave errors in judgment where packing weather-appropriate clothing is concerned, and I seem to have brought the rainy winter weather with me from Seattle, and one might think that I'm having a bad time of it here. But no, not I. Despite the minute challenges presented me since my arrival, I am not discouraged. No lack of hot water is going to keep me down. No mocking teenage ne'er-do-wells can crush my globetrotting spirit. Jeans will be patched and new bike shoes purchased. And I, I will survive. Now, it seems like I'm focusing quite a bit on the negative. And I am. Because challenges are what make us stronger, right? But non-challenges are what make us happy! So let's have a look at those, shall we? =) First and foremost, my arrival was in no way difficult. Gordon had already gone about the difficult business of finding an apartment, had learnt his way about town, and had stocked up on all the necessaries (hand soap, wine, chocolate, etc.) before I even got here. He made the actual travel quite a bit easier by renting a car and driving us back up here so that I could avoid the potentially harrowing travail of dragging my valises and bicycle all around the Kingdom on trains. Most importantly, I get to live in the same country as my boyfriend! =) I have friends in this country to whom I am quite glad to be closer, and I have a month to get the lay of the land before I have to figure out where I want to work when I get back here. Things really are good. In addition, we live in an amazing apartment! =) I've not had an opportunity to photograph the building from the outside, as the weather has been most uncooperative, but here's a picture I found on the Internet. It's a Grade II preserved building. Used to be some sort of mill but now it's home! =) Our apartment is unbelievably cute. =) The main living area includes the lounge (British for "living room") and kitchen, and is very small. But what it lacks in spaciousness it more that makes up for in cute! =) We have a tiny sofa and chair with spotty pillows, a little glass tv/stereo stand, and an odd but cosy little area rug. There is exposed brick on the wall with the big windows, which is painted white. Gordon bought a doorstop shaped like a pig. He's stripey. He really pulls the room together. =) The kitchen has a small glass dining table, plenty of cabinet space, and is finished very nicely with chrome and wood. Everything is brand new, and we have the most adorable appliances my American eyes have ever seen- a tiny stove (called a "hob" here), a tiny oven, a tiny washer/dryer (all in one!), and perhaps the cutest little microwave I have ever seen. =) The bedroom and the bathroom are both quite large in comparison, and the bedroom is decorated with bed linens that match the spotty pillows in the lounge. =) They have even provided color-coordinated potpourri and flower arrangements! Definitely the cutest place I have ever lived! So, that's good. Really starting to feel quite at home there. We have access to a small gym and to secure bike storage as well, which is quite handy! All of the amenities (minus the hot water)! Many more wonderful things about Nottingham to be revealed in future posts as I do a little more exploration, but for now I must head home, as I have been promised a feast of Roast Veggies a la Gordon and all of this blogging has made me hungry!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I'm here! =) It's a beautiful, sunny day in the 'Shire! =) As I sit typing, I am watching ducks and swans (and Canada Geese! Why so far from home, geeses?!?! I guess they are kindred North American expats!) swim and frolic in the pond here at the University of Nottingham, workplace of my adorable boyfriend Gordon. (I am in an atrium area really close to that roundy building, which is the library.) Much has happened since last I posted here, and I shall attempt to be brief in my summary of events (though we all know that being brief is not necessarily my greatest strength). Leaving Seattle was more hectic than I ever dreamed it could be, as I was in quite the impressive state of denial for most of the three weeks leading up to my departure. Several people stepped up to help with the insanity at the end, most notably: Jess Wetter, who was over at my house many an afternoon to help pack and move and provide invaluable moral support, Britton, who supplied me with a last minute storage solution for the odds and ends that simply could not be crammed into the storage space, Cupcake, who came over and cleaned out my cabinets and is lovingly caring for my sweet car in my absence, Michele and Chris, who made the apartment nearly spotless before I even started cleaning, Suzanne, who selflessly ran all of my last-minute errands with me and wouldn't even let me buy her dinner, Wayne, who didn't have to help, but did it anyway, and countless others who provided much needed work breaks and conversation when I was knee-deep in cardboard boxes and lack of motivation. (Whew! That was long. This post may never end. But thank you to all of you. Really.) My last weekend in Seattle was divided between grueling phyisical labour and catching up with friends. =) Friday night I had a few few cocktails with my peeps, Sunday I spent all day running errands with Suzanne, and Monday I had a nice lunch with cute Katie in the U District. My last night in Seattle was pretty much perfect. I had a lovely dinner with some of my dearest friends at India Bistro, which was both wonderful and sad- it's hard to think of leaving so many amazing friends halfway across the world! After dinner (and dessert at Ben & Jerry's) Jess and I stayed up most of the night trying to get the place in shape for the inspection and only got 2 hours of sleep before we had to leave for the airport! (I'm pretty sure I had blocked that part out when I described the evening as "perfect" earlier in this post.) I did manage to get to the airport on time, though getting to Atlanta was not without incident... Once I finally arrived in the ATL I spent a nice few days dress and shoe shopping and watching Lifetime Television for Women with my mom. Quite relaxing. =) It was Kevin's birthday and we went out for dinner Friday night with Virginia and Ray. =) Then I came here. No problems at all with the flight, baggage, customs, or finding a smiling Gordon most patiently awaiting my arrival at Gatwick. =) He had rented a car, and we drove into London for a lovely brunch with Andy and Katie before we headed up the motorway to the Midlands. =) And there you have it. More on my new home in future posts- this one has become quite long! I hope everyone back home in the Colonies is doing well, and I'll be in touch as best I can! E-mail is still the best way to find me, though I should have a phone soon- I'll send the number out as soon as I know it. Until then, cheerio! =)