Friday, 30 October 2009

Illuminating York

Last night we went to the Illuminating York displays; these are light and sound shows dotted around the most historic parts of the city. This has been going for a few years now, and I was priviliged enough to see this (now famous) image of the Minster for real, in November 2005:

This display hasn't been matched in its spectacular-ness since, I don't think, but even so, every year I love to wrap up warm and head out into the chilly city for some exciting light and noise.

Yesterday, there was a display at King's Manor with sound and noise. Huge images of nature and science were projected onto the back facade of the beautiful building, while eerie synthetic sound was played in time to the pulse of the film.

It swept me away a little, whoosing me along with the images, which were really quite beautiful.

It also meant we got to see King's Manor by night. Everything seemed to be extra-illuminated for some reason, maybe because of the colour in the trees and the leaves all over the ground.

It meant I got some exciting pictures of York by night too, playing with night mode and sunset mode on my camera to get some fiery displays and making eerie corners all the more eerie.

Here Kings Manor looks like it's ablaze!

Then we went to a display in Minster Gardens, where an artist was painting onto a screen, which was then projected onto part of the historic walls. It was exciting to see the story unfold onto the old bricks, right out of the artist's head! The images were colourful and surreal; it was odd to see a dog holding a cat in it's oversized hand, while an octopus teased them with its tentacles, all on a piece of Roman history [I think...]!

After all this chilly nighttime wandering, we of course went in search of some warmth, in the shape of a cosy open fire and some drinks.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Culinary Experiments

I recently purchased a very pretty celebration squash from the supermarket, simply because it looked exciting and was cheap. It has been sitting next to my teapots for a little while now, and so I decided to try cooking it up into something delicious!

I only found one recipe for celebration squash on the whole of the world wide web! And so, I decided to improvise with a tasty sounding recipe for butternut squash. The result was delicious, and so I will share it with you all, in case you are similarly tempted by the lovely gourds available on the supermarket shelves!

Fry onion and garlic until soft, then add 100g squash (peeled, in cubes), 1tsp turmeric, 1tsp cinnamon, half tsp ginger, 75g raisins and 270ml stock. Simmer until just tender (about 10 mins for our squash) and add 400g tin of chickpeas. Simmer for a further 5 minutes, then gobble up! We had it with crusty bread, but I bet it'd be nice with cous cous or brown rice too.

Suggested pudding option: ginger parkin and wine, curled up with someone lovely and getting crumbs all over the bed.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

It's that time of year again...

Today I bought green felt, green fabric and green cotton, to become the boy who never grew up this weekend!

Crafty times are calling!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Day Trip to London

While I wait for Emma to begin (I'm an hour behind on the iPlayer), I will write an update on my daytrip to London! Claudia, a close friend who happens to live at the other side of the world, e-mailed me recently with the good news that she would be visiting the UK this week! So I booked some super-cheap tickets with Grand Central to spend a day in the capital (which I am ashamed to say, I hardly know at all) and make the most of her being here!

I met Daniel at King's Cross, and we proceeded to Kensington to meet Claudia and Dan, where we ate and drank and wandered the day away, while catching up thoroughly on the past 2 years. The magic of the big city really captured me, and I found myself being taken in by it the way Paris, Munich and Budapest have each taken me in, one by one. I actually managed to be late meeting Claudia (I am never late unless exceptional circumstances get in the way); we had to stop every few minutes to gaze through windows into a different world: chandelier shops, mirror shops, private art studios, cupcake bakeries, pubs decked in flowers...the grandeur of Kensington was like nothing I'd seen before! But it wasn't a snooty, pretentious grandeur; it was magical, the kind of fairy tale grand involving princesses and palaces and things that just don't happen in real life.

After food and drink and a lot of conversation, we whiled the afternoon away in Kensington Gardens, where the colours haven't quite met the oranges and browns of York yet, but are still very yellow and green and alive. It was quite warm, and incredibly beautiful; the hubub of London had moved from the shopping streets to the park in the afternoon sunshine, and we were almost mowed down by people on bikes and rollerskates as we meandered along. The pace was much slower than I imagined, too; not the 'ratrace' (or metro boulot dodo, as the French so wonderfully put it) pace that I expected, even on a Saturday.

We ended our little reunion at the Princess Diana memorial, which was serene, and just as it you would hope it would be. Memorials can so often be a contentious subject, but this one to me is just right. It is moving, lively, loud in places and calm in others. People can paddle in it, sit on the edge in the sun, walk around it, or just look as they walk past. It looks on to a larger lake, and past that you can see the London Eye peeking over the trees.

When we'd said goodbye to Dan and Claudia, Daniel and I set out to Westminster Bridge to enjoy something of William Wordsworth. I hate visiting pinpoints of a city from its underground, so we went on foot in order to capture as much of London in one day as we could. We saw Buckingham Palace bathed in the beginnings of a lovely sunset, but unfortunately didn't make it as far as the Thames. Next time, for sure!

So lovely to see you both!!

I know life is in disarray when...

- Coffee intake exceeds tea intake
- I don't cook for days on end
- There is a mountain of washing up to conquer
- Sunday afternoon is spent in a reading room
- My alarm goes off and I'm not sure if I slept or not
- Things aren't put away

This calls for some serious self-care!

Yep, an evening with Gordon, some Green & Blacks and a bubble bath is in order! Maybe then I will have the energy to write about my amazing daytrip to London, and my new-found city girl self!

But for now, some sweet potato soup is simmering on the stove and a presentation must be printed!


Thursday, 22 October 2009

Words I Might Have Ate

My mental stability reaches it's bitter end
And all my senses are coming unglued
Is there any cure for this disease someone called love

Not as long as there are girls like you

Everything she does questions my mental health

It makes me lose control

I just can't trust myself

Green Day got it so right, all that time ago in 1992! Songs about real life! Songs that still touch me now, still mean everything to me now, almost 10 years after they hit me for the first time!

Where is the 2009 equivalent of Green Day? What are these bands doing, poncing around in their tight jeans and pointy shoes, singing about the environment and Africa and questioning democracy? Who is getting teenagers through the toughest part of life? I do hope that they are still listening to Kerplunk, playing along on their second hand guitars and forming bands and caring way too much about appearing to not care.

Although I'm still as much 'into' music as the next person, I haven't been hit by a band or even a song in a long time, maybe years. Music has seemed to stop understanding me. It used to be my life, my best friend and my way of determining who I wanted to be my friends. It all seems so 'middle class' now, trying to keep up with the Jones', or, in the music world's case, Radiohead.

Blah, Radiohead. Who wants to 'support' a band that is smug enough to allow the listener to choose the price of their album?

I won't be heading back to my punk days just yet, no fears. I need a little more than 'three chords and the truth' to keep my senses satified (must be getting old). But there is something warming and sweetly melancholy about this CD, revisiting my 14-year old self with baggy jeans and too much jewellry, and the way I delighted in visiting Rocola (independant record store in Pontefract, long past its demise) and coming home with a whole afternoon's worth of listening and re-listening, reading the booklet from front to back, writing the especially good lyrics in my notebook. And then weeks and weeks of guitarring, learning each song by heart. And years of being lonely with it, laughing with it, frustrating with it.

Nope, don't make 'em like they used to.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Let There Be Wool!

And so my favourite part of the year begins! Today has been soggy and cold, with visible breath in the morning air.

But I will not catch a chill! Father Christmas has paid me an early visit, to assure utmost warmth from the beginning of winter to the end!

A scrummy new wooly jumper! I must have been good this year ;-)

Hehe I hate photos taken of me by me...also, a lovely 60s-style duffle coat, with a swishy back to facilitate cycling. It makes me feel like a member of the Parisian socialist scene. I need a red scarf! The best thing about these things is that they are from my favourite ethical clothes store in York. This made it extra special - Mum always tries to get me ethical gifts, but I was worried of the challenge that hunting out an ethical duffle coat would produce; and we did it!

Speaking of scarves...

(cue more awkward facial expressions)

FINISHED!!! And ready to wrap up warm!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Coriander and Cumin

Brrr there's a chill in the air today.

Soon I must get my glad rags on, as I am going to Daniel's new house to be cooked for, and then to the theatre to see Krap's Last Tape! I'm so excited, it feels very date-like; the theatre always causes me to feel like I'm pretending in some way. I've never been a frequent theatre goer, so it's still such a treat, requiring smart dress and a modest-yet-open-minded attitude.

I've spent the past 2 hours putting together a small hamper as a housewarming gift for Daniel. I had a lot of fun in the local wholefoods shop, Alligator, exploring the seeds, nuts, herbs and interesting teas. I was so tempted by everything, but did manage to hold back.

Since he doesn't have internet access, a sneak blog preview of the hamper won't spoil the suprise for Daniel.

In the hamper I put goodies which would otherwise come as a luxury. This included some wheat free organic cereal which we had for breakfast at a B&B in the Lake District, crunchy peanut butter, some spiced tea and some cumin seeds (my favourite of all the herbs and spices!). I also treated myself to some coriander seed from the pick n' mix seed counter :-)

My cousin is visiting England from Canada at the moment, and yesterday he visited me in York. While waiting for him to arrive I came across a fantastic bag shop - 70% of their bags are made there in the shop, and they were on the sewing machine as I was browsing. The bag I bought is made from an old bag and some old curtains, and such a lovely combination of autumnal colours!

It will carry my things to campus perfectly!

I met my cousin and we spent the rest of the day drinking and eating. My parents came over later on and treated us to a meal at Melton's Too. It's tough that we only see eachother every few years, but this does mean that on the rare days we have together, there is so much to talk about and catch up on. Distance does have its advantages.

Now I must shower and choose something nice to wear for Beckett! Maybe it's an evening for my red chinese-style dress...

On a final note - Adam and I found a pub last week selling Oktoberfest beers! Even Sooty was celebrating!

(I didn't have the heart or the pretention to correct their error)

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

It All Begins Again...

I love waking up too early. After a late night, I was allowing for a lazy 8:30 wake-up call this morning, but at 7:30, my mind was racing with the day behind me and the day ahead of me. So I curled up with my book and enjoyed a leisurely chapter before breakfast :-) Now that course-reading will become a large part of my day-to-day routine, I fear that reading for pleasure will become something I no longer want to do. Hopefully there will be more opportunities like this morning, when I don't want to get up but I do want to occupy my mind.

Already my life is turning back to the way it has been for the past 4 years: the tasks ahead constantly in mind, my never-ending to-do list, making use of every empty minute with necessary daily tasks, and biscuits! I never feel the need for biscuits or chocolate unless I have a lot of reading to do - at times involving a heavy reading lists, a pack of M&S cookies and a large mug of tea is the only thing to help me through.

I'm so excited to be doing more linguistics, and the theme of my reading in phonology is pointing directly to where my interests lie. I'll be spending the year studying the cross-linguistic similarities and differences of the phonological development in infants. This means lots of languages, lots of transcribing, lots of interesting linguisticky ideas to get my teeth into. I just wish I'd done more preliminary reading, but I suppose that was inevitable ;-)

Monday, 12 October 2009

Subdued for a while, this massive twist of emotions that was recently my prototype has come back to overwhelm me and excite me, to temporarily lock me up inside myself and have me put up a massively pleasurable fight to get out. My fingertips are buzzing with emotional sensitivity; every extremity in my body is pulling me in it's own direction, urging me to get out and feel everything, enjoy everything, jump in leaves and shout for nothing, feel the autumn chill on my bare arms and the uncomfortable moisture from too much wool. I'm ready to be overcome by it all again: to do too much and feel too much, give not quite my everything to all my past intentions, and give more than what I have to new ventures I discover on the way. I'm ready to be everywhere all at once, the routine of no real routine or sleep pattern taking over me and pulling me down until I surrender. Ticking off long to-do lists that are never fully done, causing my tidy life to fall into disarray, and the joy of allowing it to do so.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Postgraduate Life

Today is the first day of my year as a postgraduate. This started with a meeting with "all" other postgrads on campus, though I'm pretty sure that there weren't 3,000 attendees! It was dissappointingly hard to chat with other people - everyone was either in a group or sat alone reading! There was one girl who I wanted to befreind (simply because she had red hair) but she had her nose in a book. Not a way to make friends, that's for sure.

Following this there was a postgraduate fair, where we can sign up to get involved in GSA (Graduate Student Association) activities. I'd love to have a go at either radio or writing for the magazine, so I signed up for both and hopefully will be contacted shortly and become a stylish campus celebrity.

I got talking to a girl who I already sort of knew from second year, when we both took part in a demonstration in London. We got on but never took the chance to make friends properly - maybe this is our chance! I'm heading to a campus bar tonight and will hopefully meet her there.

What all of this comes down to is a fresh start; I can't wait to begin with proper academia, away from the trivial issues that I encountered as an undergraduate. This is all about a personal academic experience now; I will be able to lead my own education, and I feel that I'm finally in the adult world. Being an undergraduate was fun, but it was a lot like an extension of A levels, there was no hint of the real world in those 4 years (not including my teaching post in France). I will be taken seriously as an academic now, I hope. I have chosen this MA over heading up the career ladder - not to get extra time as a student, but to learn and to fulfill something inside me which is demanding more knowledge. I want to spend this year thinking and working and trying to understand what myself and others think.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Dales Way

And so I have returned to York after a 5 day trek across the Yorkshire Dales.

I really did think that this would be an easy stroll across a few Dales; up a few hills, maybe the odd marshy terrain, down a few pleasant valleys...84 miles didn't seem like a lot, and I was expecting a 17 mile daily average to leave plenty of time for leisurely picnics, exploring woodland and lengthy evenings in pubs.

Actually, I have never done anything so difficult in my life. Not even scrambling Goredale Scar comes close. I wasn't aware of the physical challenge that 5 days non-stop walking (because it was actually non-stop from 8:30am to 7pm) would bring - blissfully unaware, I must say! 10 hours of walking with a 10 minute stop by the M6 for a bread roll had me in tears - not that you could see them for the rain washing down my face. We had blisters from day 1, and made it through 5 packs of blister plasters (that's £25 worth of plasters!). We faces winds that came scarily close to blowing us down scars and into rivers, bringing relentless rain that soaked our feet, face, hands. Agony with every step meant evenings were spent rubbing muscle balsam into our tired limbs, streching, taking painkillers and showering to fight the chills. We waited as long as we could manage to digest our meals, then fell into bed to await the 6:30 call for more stretching and quick-fix foot operations with a pen knife the next day.

Sounds miserable, doesn't it?

Yes, at times I suppose it was miserable. But not miserable enough to loose sight of the incredible landscapes, the fresh air, the harsh weather, the autumn colours, the wildlife and the distance from this world. On most days we hardly saw a car or another person for hours at a time. We were left with the changing scenery - watching valleys becoming hills becoming dales becoming mountains, and the fantastic colours that October has brought. 2 days back in the real world and I am longing for the space around me and ahead of me. Although painful, the physical turmoil that we put our bodies through was amazing; I could feel myself getting stronger and fitter, and walking has never felt so easy. With every painful step I could appreciate the power of my body, putting it through so much and yet it didn't give up or even falter - it was finally doing what it was really built to do.

I can't really continue to put all of this into words - I will be typing all night. What the Dales Way brought to me is something that I probably couldn't ever find the right words to describe. The biggest challenge I've ever encountered, and possibly the best learning experience I've known in 22 years. The closest I've come to thinking I couldn't do something, at one point (only one point) the only time I've considered giving up and going home.

Mum asked me whether I'd do it again. I would for definite!