Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The clock is ticking!

I am getting very excited for my trip home. Not only do I have fun and frolic planned with my Minneapolis friends, but I have guests traveling from out of town to visit me! Most exciting.

I have many things to do before I leave on Saturday. (Actually Friday, as I have to stay at an airport hotel if I want to make my flight since I leave at sunrise.) I am in a cleaning frenzy. Okay, that's actually quite an over-statement. I am working my way through a longer than usual list of housekeeping tasks because my home must be in relative order when I leave. I have a guest arriving on Sunday who will be staying with me for the month (or at least a few days of each week for a month,) and I don't want him to flee in shock and horror at my untidiness. I have managed to move the living room furniture and dust and vacuum this weekend, and have done laundry last night and tonight. I still need to give the kitchen a what for and move the crap that's accumulated in the dining room. Oh. And there's a dead plant that should really hit the trash. And the bathroom needs cleaning. And I have to write a "good to know" list since I won't be here for orientation. (Just ask my guests about the toilet and the shower....they'll tell you how important this is to your physical and emotional well-being.)

My lodger is a fellow BI colleague from the US. He is French, and he will be working here for the month of July. He needed an inexpensive place to live for three nights a week, and then he travels back to France for the weekends, where his daughter will be spending a month with her grandparents. I don't know him at all, but he's been warned that I'm not your average BI-group-thinky type, and he still wants to stay. Go figure.

I am eating silly meals because there is very little in the fridge and I don't want to do a big shop this week. Tonight I concocted something akin to chili-fritos (a Luther caf favourite unless you are Sue Neill,) except no fritos. Just soy protein crumbles, salsa, onion, and seasoning on a bed of lettuce. Yum yum. (Actually, it wasn't horrible.) I even have leftovers for lunch! Planning to do a little shop Thursday on the way home so Fred has something to eat when he gets here.

Have two pairs of shoes in mind for the journey home, and will get them at lunch tomorrow. Need to make arrangements to deal with moving stuff while I'm home, which will be more complex than I'd like, though BI is offering lots of assistance.

And since our fiscal year ends on 30 June, I have to have all my files and paperwork completed before I fly. Thank goodness it's a slow week at work!

See you all soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Do the chickens have large talons?

It's been incredibly hot here this weekend (like 90), and so I got up this morning to do some yard work, moved my furniture around in the living room, and then spent the heat of the day watching movies in the cross breeze from the front to the back of the house.

Did a Rushmore/Napoleon Dynamite double feature.

Rushmore is a brilliant film, which is really saying something from me what since that Wes Anderson's world view depresses me so. (I defy you to find redeeming value in The Royal Tenenbaums...go on...I DARE you.) I've had a school-girl crush on Bill Murray for years, but he's getting much better with age. (swoon)

Faithful readers of this blog will know how I feel about Napoleon. (Newbies with curiosity can refer to my December entries.) If you haven't seen it lately, it's worth another viewing.

With a little Napoleon and some ukulele strumming, even a hot sweaty day in England when I'm anxious to get on a plane for home turns into the best day EVER. Though it did make me crave tater tots. Oh well. A week from now I can have as many as I wish.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Aristocracy gone awry - revised

I just watched the most amazing tv show. It was called The F***ing Fulfords.

Here's what the Observer had to say:

"Strangely compelling documentary about a frankly hopeless aristocratic family, who when not spending their days searching for increasingly inept ways to save their crumbling pile, appear to do little but bet on the horses and swear at each other."

How can that not be great?

Yes, I had high hopes for this one, and the show fulfilled my every dream. People who know me well know that I can be a bit obsessive in my fascination with the truly awkward, freakish, or merely odd. (Perhaps this explains why the odd and somewhat freakish seem drawn to me...like seeks like and all.) I tell you, this film captured the brazen absurdity of humanity better than anything I've seen in ages. Guffaws of shocked glee were bellering within the first two minutes and didn't stop until the credits rolled. I hate that these things fascinate me, but there you have it.

Basically, the 22nd Earl of Fulford is this bushy-eyebrowed aristocratic eccentric. Not just bushy-browed, but that surreal black bushy-browed with silver hair that you only find in England. He and his wife and his lazy, unruly children live in this manor house that could just as easily be a 19th century tip. The roof is falling off, the wallpaper is peeling, they let their dogs lick the dishes in the dishwasher and haven't dusted in ages. Every inch of the house and their belongings has been broken/damaged/destroyed, but it's all just sitting there. The kids use the ballroom for rollerblading and wrestling. Even the six year old helps earn the f***ing title. They need to find a million £'s immediately to repair the place, or it's going to be condemned. You know this is going to be good when rather than getting oh, say, A JOB, the Earl buys a metal detector to look for gold coins dropped by his relatives through the years.

Initially they seem a little eccentric but likeable enough, but then they start saying totally ridiculous things that stun and offend, explaining why no one will help them and they can't get real jobs.

Here are just a few of the objectionable things they said....

Explaining his joys in parenting: "I like my children to have the same prejudices as I do. When he was younger (one of his sons) went out for pizza with a friend from Exeter, and when he came home I asked him, "How was your day?" He said, "AWFUL, Daddy. There were Germans at the pizza parlor." And I said, "Oh, that's terrible." And he said, "But there was some good news, too. One of them was disabled."

He agrees to give some unsuspecting tourists who are curious about the house a tour for £8 a head. (This is not much less than what we paid for Woburn Abbey, and it has a restaurant and a gift shop instead of cracks in the wall.) He's thinking this might be a new industry for him and a fast, easy way to save his home. His explanation: "I guess that makes me similar to a whore, but I'm sure I'll give my customers the same feeling...and I'll have them begging me for more. We'll be rolling in it in no time!"

The tour quickly proves to be more than the guests bargained for. They didn't film the guests' reactions, probably because shock and horror don't play well on the screen.

Describing some of the remaining carvings in the wood moulding of the entry hall: "Over there is someone who looks like a Negro, you can tell by the thick lips, and here is an Italian if the nose is any indication. I'd rather be a Negro." Note to readers...ignorant comments about thick lips and noses are especially ridiculous coming from this guy, who has both of these features in abundance.

Regarding a family painting of an Earl who was executed for treason: "You'll notice his wife weeping on his grave. Naked. I wonder if my wife will weep naked on my grave? I hope so."

Those people must have fled for their lives.

His wife seemed likeable and reasonable, but you know there's something wrong there because she's married to this freak. And when she gets angry with her lazy children for watching too much tv she tells them to, "Play a f***ing board game!" and throws the tv in the lake. Not so stable after all, I fear.

They never did get the money they needed, but they're still trying. And next week the cheeky cleaning ladies from BBC America will be ridding the house of poo-covered books and dead rats. I think we've found the new British media whores.

I think the closest thing I've seen to this is the classic documentary Grey Gardens about Jacalyn Kennedy's crazy aunt on the Bouvier side. The aunt and her second cousin live in squalor in a tumble down estate in Long Island and they have too many cats and dance with scarves. (This is a must-see if you have access to a good documentary library, by the way.)

While the people in The F***ing Fulfords have no redeeming value, I must admit I enjoyed watching them for an hour. If nothing else, I can be relieved that no one I know is like this, and that I was raised by nice, common people who taught how to be a relatively kind and decent human being.

Today's News

Two news items have caught my eye:

1) Turns out Terri Schiavo's autopsy shows her brain was half the size of a normal human brain and that she was probably blind, thus proving her husband's contention about her inability to recover. Perhaps we should send Sen. Frist a video tape so he can make a diagnosis just to be sure?

2) I love this story. Those depraved Democrats get all their funding from HOLLYWOOD. (Code for commies, homos, and drug-taking practicers of free love.) They're out of touch with middle America. Republicans, on the other hand, share YOUR values and morality. I mean, why make Saving Private Ryan when you can make Double D Dolls? I wonder if Bill O'Reilly got her phone number.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Merriam-Webster is Psychic

For about two years now, I've been a subscriber to the Merriam-Webster "Word of the Day." It's a great service...each day I get an email with a new word and its definition. Sometimes it's a totally unknown word, sometimes it's an antiquated expression that really needs to be used more often, sometimes it's just a classic word I've forgotten about that makes me smile...kind of like finding a photo of a family vacation from 1979 or reminiscing about the night Sue Neill's dress matched the pool table at Zahasky's. And occasionally, Merriam Webster sends me a word that eerily reflects my life.

Today I received this:

The Word of the Day for June 9 is:

emigrate • \EM-uh-grayt\ Audio icon • verb
: to leave one's place of residence or country to live elsewhere

Example sentence:
O.E. Rolvaag emigrated from Norway to the U.S. in 1896 and subsequently wrote Giants in the Earth and other books about Norwegians who settled in the American prairies.

Did you know?
"Migrate," "emigrate," and "immigrate" are all about being on the move. All those terms come from the Latin word "migrare," which means "to move from one place to another." "Emigrate" and "immigrate" sound alike, and it is true that both involve leaving one location and entering another. The subtle difference between them lies in point of view: "emigrate" stresses leaving the original place, while "immigrate" focuses on entering the new one. You won't have trouble keeping them straight if you remember that the prefix "e-" means "away," as in "eject," and the prefix "im-" or "in-" means "into," as in "inject."

Even odder than the fact that they referenced Rolvaag in the usage example, this email came while I was down in HR signing a contract to remain in the UK indefinitely. In fact, as of Monday I no longer work for BI in the US. I work for BI UK, I get paid in £'s, and a return to the states will require a job hunt.

I suppose "emigrate" is a little strong...I'm not going to get citizenship, I'm just here working. But for the next few years, this is now home.

So the good news is that if you've had to postpone your trip to England (or want to come again soon,) your window of opportunity has widened. And if you're on the continent and want to have dinner, I can meet you there on the weekend.

The bad news is that some of you think I've already been gone too long. I miss you, too, but this is the right thing to do. I'll be back eventually, but it's going to be a bit longer.

And the best part...Mindy, the unabashed liberal, becomes a full-blown participant of "socialized medicine" as of Monday at 12:01 AM. Is that a dream come true or what? =)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Not much new

I still have a cough from back when I had my cold...it's just a voice boxy thing, but when I cough the top of my head hurts. I want this to stop.

It was lovely and sunny today. Had a nice evening stroll by the canal. Discovered that the One Stop is open again after the fire damage. This is very good.

It's hard to drink the requisite amount of water each day.

Looking forward to pickles and mexican food on my trip home, not to mention a pizza at Red's Savoy Inn. Yum.

Now that I'm coming home for a visit in two weeks, I'm really home sick. You'd think I was away at summer camp.

Watching a show about a woman with five personalities. It's weird how her face and mannerisms change with each character. Her mom addresses her by different names, because she can tell who each person is by the way Pamela looks. How odd.

My hair is too long.

In case your "media" isn't telling you, turns out the Bush team to address environmental policy has been doctoring scientific memos to downplay the connection between global warming and car emissions. The Chief of Staff for this office is a former lobbyist for the oil industry. I think I'd better email President Bush the "conflict of interest" definition, because that seems like a concept he's a little foggy on. Meanwhile, Greenland is melting.

Oh. And another story that's probably been obscured by GAY MARRIAGE. There's a 2002 memo to Downing Street from a UK intelligence agent who visited the US...turns out the US was doctoring intelligence to support their policy and war was going to happen regardless of the UK stance. (And they had planned their entry strategy but weren't really talking about the whole "what then" problem, but that's another issue.) Yes, our government hid the truth from us so they could do something that wasn't popular with most people in the country or the planet. Is hiding the truth technically lying, or is it merely intentionally misleading? I wish they'd show me this part in the bible, because I always feel guilty if I do things like this. Silly me and my skewed moral compass. But I hang out with GAY PEOPLE AND ATHEISTS, so what do you expect? (Read the memo link...it's unbelievable.)

The multi-personality girl farts at people to express anger and disappointment. She even changes the sound of her wind to express specific kinds of anger. That's talent.

My car got new tires today. There is plastic packaging still attached to the tread, and they told me to just drive it off. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but I'm trying.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Land of the 10 o'clock sun

I went to bed at 11 last night. The sky was still kind of blue with twilight. If I were 7 years old and Mom had told me to be home before dark, technically I would not have been late if I'd come home then. It makes it hard to get enough sleep, but I can't wait for the 20th when we have our longest day.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Important Reading

For many of you, this article is in your local paper today (or you may have seen it in the NY Times.) It's a great op-ed by Tom Friedman about the way we've changed since 9/11, and I'll tell you, it's pretty accurate in summarizing the sentiments I get from people when they hear me speak and figure out where I'm from.

Many of my Red State loved ones will be quick to tell me that this is wrong...people love America. That the US has done lots of great stuff in the world and that we've been a beacon of hope for years. And they're right...historically, that IS true. People do want to like us, they do like our movies, they have dreamed of the freedom we offer. We're great, we are.

But these days, we're a government that uses Orange and Yellow alerts to solve PR problems. (FYI, Tom Ridge has admitted these alerts changes were driven by the White House, and yet no one seems to care. In my opinion, this sort of lying and manipulation deserves at LEAST as much moral outrage as the whole "Monica-gate" thing, but without cigars and stained dresses it doesn't seem to generate the press.) We are condemned by Amnesty International for human rights abuses, and our response is to question their credibility (even when that same credibility was used in our argument for the evils of Saddam.) We get caught destroying the Koran in interrogations (and deny it repeatedly until pesky evidence got in the way.) If we're not careful, no one's going to remember the US that fought in two world wars and helped bring freedom to the eastern block. We'll be something else entirely.

It seems like a trivial study, but just yesterday in the Observer there was a little piece about global brands. After surveying an international audience, it seems that most other nations view the US as ignorant and dangerous/aggressive. That makes me sad. I don't want that to be true.

Maybe its time to start worrying about our image, lest we actually BECOME what they're perceiving.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The silence is over

Hi all.

It's been a breakneck two weeks. My friend Timmy arrived on the 27th, and I just dropped him off at a lovely Gatwick Hotel tonight. Between then and now, we did the following:

  1. Drove around the English countryside saying "BAAAA RAM U" to every sheep we saw.
  2. Ate bangers and mash, butterbean cassoulet, chicken balti, lamb madras, a couple of specialty currys, lots of garlic naan (and 2 chipatis each), steak and guiness pie, luxury fish pie, salad, pizza, pasta, some gelato, and fish and chips from a chippie that fried it FRESH when we walked in. Oh, and we drank rose wine and bourbon cocktails and I think we even fit in a bottle of red and a bottle of white, too.
  3. We went to Woburn Abbey (an historic manor just about 15 minutes south of here), and toured the house. The Marquis(es) of Bedford tend to breed a prominent foreheads and uni-brows into their lineage, and things aren't looking up for them since the current lord seems to have married a sister/first-cousin. Ah, the follies of the aristocracy.
  4. Toured the Woburn Safari Park. Saw lions, tigers, and bears, as well as elephants, rhinos, antelope, giraffes, and a host of other creatures all from the comfort of my Audi. You actually drive around the park, and the animals are RIGHT THERE. (Best to heed the "stay in vehicle"signs.) There was even a monkey sitting on the roof of a car ahead of us. Oh. And we learned that rhinos mark their territory with poo.
  5. Walked lots around London, some of which was in tights and heels for me,so my feet and knees are telling a sad tale tonight.
  6. Ate bitchin' dim sum in Chinatown, and messed the table up something fierce. It looked like a table for five year olds at a birthday party by the time we were done. (Need to work on those chopstick skills, I think.)
  7. Stopped in the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern for some free art. (FYI to my artsy pals, there's a Frida Kahlo show going up next week and it's on through October. Book your ticket now, and I'll treat to the show.)
  8. Rode the eye. Man that thing's high.
  9. Saw Theatre of Blood starring Jim Broadbent at the National Theatre. Brian Dennehy was two rows up and to our right. Did not embarrass Tim by approaching Mr. D to compliment his Willie Lohman, though I really wanted to.
  10. Tried to see Billy Elliott, the hottest ticket in town, but there was a screw up and the box office lost our tickets. Rats.
  11. Rode the tube next to THE worst breath I've ever smelled, bar none. Seriously, this guy smelled like he'd had compost for lunch with a sewage cocktail. Talk about ketosis...there's something rotting in his gut.
  12. Chewed a lot of gum and mints in a paranoid frenzy after that.
  13. Drove around the Cotswolds looking at pretty little villages, and toured a Norman church in Cirencester. Oh. And went to the big Chalk Horse at Uffington, where we got to walk in a big sheep field and see the place where St. George allegedly slew said dragon.
  14. Did a little stroll around Oxford looking at spires.
  15. Planted garden pots and hanging baskets and mowed the lawn.
  16. Changed a light bulb that I can't reach, weeded the garden beds, and changed the slip covers (Tim-only activities.)
  17. Walked around the centre at Milton Keynes.
  18. Went to Lush, where Timmy cleaned out the store.
  19. Stopped in Dover to view the White Cliffs. They are, indeed, white.
  20. Talked and laughed and slept in and watched bad tv.
It was a very good week.