Nov 28, 2007
Nov 27, 2007
Nov 26, 2007
Nov 21, 2007
Looking back, this was definitely the best trip so far. I finally seem to have learned how to structure my time in the UK: some downtime in London at the beginning to get over the jet lag; a full work week in Durham, so that nothing is rushed; and a few days of relaxation at the end, traveling or catching up with friends. Staying in Durham from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon was great, and allowed for productive work sessions, numerous trips to the cathedral, and lots of time with friends old and new.
And not just the best trip so far, but the best trip out of 7 -- has it really been that many? That's pretty amazing, to me. It seems like I was just there for the first time, but that was actually in September 2003, over 4 years ago. Yowza.
Trip highlights: I think my previous posts have covered those pretty well. The whole trip was a highlight. And, of course, returning home to Miranda and Billy and John.
The trip anti-highlight was undoubtedly the fact that I didn't take any pictures while I was there. Next time, I'm packing the digital camera and vowing to use it.
Thanks to everyone who kept up with the journey and touched base. Stay tuned for volume 4, set to air in March 2008.
Here's the layout of the homeward journey. All times are Greenwich Standard, with Eastern Standard in parentheses:
- 6:45am (1:45am) Awaken for the day. Stretch because I've slept on a short loveset.
- 7:30am (2:30am) Leave the Turners' house in Hackney to walk to the overground train. My flight to Chicago leaves Heathrow airport at 11:15am.
- 8:05am Catch the overground train to tube stop at Highbury & Islington
- 8:20am Realize that it's rush hour. Stand with your suitcase, backpack, and computer bag and try 5 times to get on the overpacked cars. Finally abandon scruples and worm your way past some businessmen because you don't want to miss your flight.
- 8:45am Change tube lines at King's Cross station, trying to get the Circle or Hammersmith lines, but not Metropolitan. Watch 4 Metropolitan lines go by, then finally get the one you need. Get stuck back against the doors on the wrong side of the car, step on someone's foot as you fight your way out.
- 9:10am Get to Paddington Station to catch the express train to Heathrow airport. Collapse into seat and think about breakfast.
- 9:25am Get to Heathrow airport and take the train to the terminal for Virgin Atlantic. Try unsuccessfully to check in at the kiosk, only to be told that our flight is cancelled. Get into another line and arrange for a seat on a British Airways flight, also to Chicago. Collect bags and walk back to the train, get back on the Heathrow express, reach the next terminal, take another mini-train, and get to the BA check-in.
- 10:15am Realize that the lines at BA check-in are very long. One employee begins to separate us, saying, "Chicago? Chicago?" She looks around at the crowd she's gathered and says, "There's a hell of a lot of you!" Yep. We are fast-tracked through the line.
- 10:40am Get to security only to realize that 1) we can only take one carry-on bag. Spend time trying to stuff my purse into my computer bag. Then, 2) reach security only to hear that I don't have a boarding pass, only a ticket receipt. Head back to BA counters. Accost agent who's standing around chatting. Get boarding pass. Go back to security.
- 11:15am Get to my gate with just enough time for a brie & cranberry sandwich (I've got to make this at home!) and a juice.
- 11:35am Board the plane and get seated, in my middle seat. Sigh.
- 11:45am Hear announcement that takeoff is delayed.
- 12:15pm Takeoff from London. Spend the next 7.5 hours reading Stephen King's The Waste Lands and watching "The Interview", starring (and written and directed by) Steve Buscemi. It's great. So was Stephen King. Doze for a while.
- 7:45pm (2:45pm) Flight lands in Chicago O'Hare. Proceed through customs, baggage claim. (Do you know how many bags come off a full 747? Lots and lots and lots.) See Jerry Springer across the baggage carousel. Yawn.
- 8:15pm Re-check baggage into United for the flight to Lexington. Wander to the train, checking your voicemail for the first time in 11 days. Text Billy. Take train to terminal 2.
- 8:40pm (3:40pm) Reach terminal 2 and learn that I need a new boarding pass, which means heading back to the main United counter in terminal 1. Realize that the quickest way is a refreshing walk outside. Reach terminal 1, wait in line 15 minutes before realizing that I can a boarding pass from a kiosk. Say "D'oh!" like Homer Simpson and go to kiosk, get pass, and proceed through security.
- 9:30pm (4:30pm) Reach my gate area to discover that about half the flights are either delayed or cancelled. Recognize the impending arrival of a migraine. Find a coke and some advil, administer both and feel sorry for myself until I remember how much harder this would be with Miranda. Feel a little better and lay down for a nap.
- 11:45pm (6:45pm) Wake after sleep almost 1.5 hours, feeling very stiff but much better. Go in search of food. Consider Chili's but realize that, for some reason, it smells like... 5 kinds of wet dog. Quickly reconsider and settle for Burger King, where I cautiously purchase chicken tenders and fries (still feeling a bit of migraine nausea). Find my gate and nibble while watching the monitor. Make a few phone calls and check email. Finish Stephen King and begin reading Ender's Shadow.
- 1:25am (8:25pm) Give thanks that our flight is actually departing on time. Board the flight. Read. Do a few sudoku. Sip juice. Yawn.
- 2:45am (9:45pm) Land in Lexington. Text Billy, and watch gratefully as he arrives. Wait on baggage. Collect baggage and head home.
- 3:30am (10:30pm) Arrive home, eat a bowl of cereal. Head to bed and fall asleep while reading.
Are you yawning from boredom as much as I was from fatigue? Mission accomplished!
Nov 18, 2007
Billy titled them " Hippo Hideout" and "Cramming for Exam Nap/Collapse After Huge Fit".
We also prayed the daily office, which is a rhythm of prayers that mark their days. They pray the Morning Office, Midday Prayers, Evening Prayers, and close the day with Compline. I didn't make all of them, but the ones I did attend were wonderfully soothing and calming.
We left today after lunch and drove down to York for dinner at Ye Olde Starre Inn, York's oldest pub (see left). We talked about marriage, parenthood, PAPAfest, and baby names. Catherine said something about naming their first child Moonbark Lindisfarne Askew (a perfect combination of their affections for both old and new monasticism, right?). I'm not sure she wasn't serious, hmmm... We had bangers and mash, pints of local beer, and apple pie with custard. Yummy! I then took the train to London, where I waited almost an hour in the rain to catch a bus, because the tube wasn't running the route I needed. A quick walk through Hackney to the Turners' home, a nice bath and cup of Earl Grey, and here I am, ready to come home tomorrow.
It's been a great trip. I was reading through the entries from last March's visit, and this has been much better in every way. I'll elaborate later; right now I should get to bed, early plane and all that.
Nov 16, 2007
- I've stayed longer than I usually do -- 5 nights instead of 3 or 4 -- which meant that I could do more fun things during the day and in the evenings, like eat dinner twice with the Songs and attend a lecture from an artist-in-residence and 'formal dinner' at St. Chad's college last night (more on that later)
- I've attended morning and evening prayer and midday communion on a pretty regular basis. This has been very good for me, very centering and soothing.
- I've discovered the library in the cathedral -- it feels like i'm an extra in a Harry Potter movie.
- I met another of Robert's students, an amazing woman named Maeve Sherlock. She's done about 500 amazing things working with the UK government, and has worked in the past with Gordon Brown. She's extremely bright and very funny, and a Rocky Horror Picture Show fan to boot!!
- Laughing about Monty Python's "Life of Brian" with Robert -- Biggus Dickus (he said it, not me)
- I'm beginning, just beginning, to master the style of writing suitable to phd level work. Less reliance on secondary sources, less in quotes in the text, more authoritative in tone. Of course, I have to be able to defend whatever I say in the paper. Hmmm...
- Explaining "y'all" and "all y'all" to Robert and his family. Working on pronunciation. Reciting "git along, l'il dogies" in a Texas accent.
I'll travel this afternoon to the Northumbria Community, near the border with Scotland. Saturday should be a good day to relax, do some non-academic reading, take a nap, and catch up with friends Pete and Catherine. They are affiliated with Northumbria, so we'll spend the weekend there together. Then back to London on Sunday, and home the next day.
- Fantastic formal dinner last night as guest of Margaret's
- walking to & from school along the river at night -- very dark, very quiet, the lights from the city reflecting on the water
- making new friend Maeve
- drinking sherry for the first time, and rediscovering gin and tonic -- very, very British
- having tomorrow off from schoolwork!
Somewhat surprising anti-highlight: Finding out that your b&b doesn't take credit cards, and that the atm won't give you enough money in a single day to pay the bill. Trying to convince them you're not a fraud.
Nov 14, 2007
The time with Miranda has been great. That is not to say that it hasn't been very challenging at times, but it is very important to me to be able to make these kinds of more intensive investment in her. She is really testing all of the boundaries, taking her arms out of the car seat, fighting gettting into the car seat, running from me when I try to put her into the car, and various other kinds of mischief. She really is a mixture of incredible sweetness and defiance at this point, and again I have to remind myself to rejoice in the fact that she is so alive and full of vitality. Our little shark, which Miranda seems to really love, looked sick last night and seemed to be on the way out of this world. So, we prayed for him, and after a couple of minutes, I heard Miranda saying "look daddy, cark..." The shark had seemingly revived and was behaving normally. That was a really cool experience. This morning the shark seemed okay and Miranda said "Cark sick." Cool stuff...
I realized that in the first draft of this post, I used the word 'amazing' 4 times. Which is neat, as 'Miranda' means admirable, amazing, extraordinary. All of which I find her to be!
(This is a song we sing as we descend the stairs the 'safe' way, bumping down on our bottoms. Apparently, she's done an artistic interpretation with Legos, her new fave toy.)
Nov 13, 2007
I've had a good mix so far of study, contemplation, and other work. I've met twice with my advisor Robert, and we've discussed the following:
- how to read a primary text
- how to employ and cite the secondary literature
- the difference between primary commentaries and next-tier works (i.e. Cambridge Companions)
- the difference between masters and doctoral level work in terms of originality and authority
- whether Aquinas was more influenced by Aristotle or Augustine
- the difference between gluttony and greed
- the difference between historical research for its own sake, and that which aims to inform a contemporary discussion
- what the working title of my work should be, something like 'An Historical Recovery of the Virtue of Temperance for Use in Contemporary Discussions of Consumption'
We've also had other, equally esoteric conversations on the following topics:
- whether or not we liked the movie Brokeback Mountain, and why
- our respective ages when we first saw a Star Wars film (Maria-6, Robert-44)
- where his soon-to-arrive telly should reside in their living room
- the difference between a yorkshire pudding and a dinner roll
- the first 'bad' words we heard our kids say (sh*t v. bugger)
- how americans think about houses in square feet, and brits just say small, medium, large
- the similarity between a british choc ice and a dairy queen dip cone
I also had the opportunity to help him finish painting the kids' room at their church. It was fun to do something more mundane, and get the chance to chat about all kinds of stuff, and it felt very much like the kind of life-sharing we do at Communality. We then went back to his place and I was invited to stay to tea with the family. It was just a great time, talking parenting with Robert and Margaret, playing with their cat Sparky, and getting to know their kids, Iona and Jamie, even better. They're just really cool people.
- attending morning prayer, midday communion, and evensong at the Cathedral
- enjoying the crisp weather
- fish and chips with tons of vinegar and salt from Bimbi's on the square -- a perenniel Durham favorite!
- wandering through the Durham Indoor Market, checking out the cool chutneys and jams
- discussing Shane Claiborne's book and the new monasticism with Margaret and Robert
- chatting with the nice staff at my B&B about Durham and the UK in general
Anti-highlight: Not having anyone from my daily life here, with me, with whom to share this experience.
Nov 11, 2007
Friday was great, just a quiet day with Rachel Turner and the girls in Hackney. Rachel and I haven't been able to spend tons of time together, but for a large part of the day it was just the two of us and her youngest girl, Eve. We chatted about tons of stuff, ate lunch, prepared tea (the evening meal), and laughed a lot. Then I took a long nap while she childminded and collected her other girls from school. I awoke in time to help finish tea, said hello to Andy (her husband), then did the washing up. (I used far too much soap, again!) Then, after the girls were settled, we went to a friend's house and watched Starter for Ten. It's hilarious, a must-see.
Saturday started with a nice lie-in (that is, I didn't get out of bed until after 10am). Had a cup of tea and a croissant, chatted with the girls, helped serve lunch, discussed parenting and admired Rachel's amazing abilities as a mother. Then headed off to the train with Jessie, their 12 yr old daughter, where she travelled to meet her aunt and I went off in search of Christmas presents and a possible theatre ticket. I found that nice street of rare bookstores off Charing Cross Road, then went searching for a certain Picasso poster for Miranda, which I couldn't purchase online, and which I found at the National Gallery (it's at the top of this post). It's in one of her board books, and she LOVES it. She always holds up her hands like she's holding the dove herself. I hope she'll like having it on her wall! As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to see Spamalot at the theatre, but tickets were outrageous, so I wandered around Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, and ended up back at Covent Garden, where I had a beef and stilton pasty and some nice chocolate candies from a stall. I also watched a juggler on a unicycle and a Charlie Chaplin impersonator. I then took the train home, where I watched my first-ever episode of Doctor Who with Millie (then another one later with Rachel, Andy, and their friend Paul). What a day!
Sunday, I arose slightly earlier and bid farewell to the sweet Turners as they left for church. I had lunch and a nice chat withg their lodger Nathan, who's very interesting and has lived in Romania for a year, working with Romani children. I then caught the Tube to King's Cross and the train to Durham. I read more Augustine and ate the most fabulous sandwich -- bacon, Brie, spinach, and a cranberry relish -- so tasty. After arriving in Durham, I caught a cab to my bed and breakfast, the Castle View Guest House, then had a Subway sandwich, read some more, and went to sleep.
The daily highlights:
- Very tasty chicken and leek crumble for Friday tea, and Saturday lunch
- numerous cups of Earl Grey tea with milk
- bacon & brie sandwich (note: you'll see lots of food and bevs in these daily highlights)
- talking marriage, parenthood, faith & travel with Rachel
- getting surprise cuddles from Eve
- wandering through London on a Saturday evening, watching the theatre crowd
- riding the train with Jessie
- strolling through Hackney, taking in the sights and sounds
- singing loudly to "Bicycle" by Queen with Millie
- sleeping late in a warm bed with snuggly pillows and duvet
Anti-highlight: Hearing that something "biggish, and black, and running" was spotted under my bed. Discussion as to whether it was a mouse or a spider. Not sure which made me feel more uneasy. (OK, definitely the spider.)
Some of you (probably those who were in junior/senior high in the mid-80s) will recognize this quote from one of the best movies ever, when King Arthur is addressing some poor peasant pushing a cart of various sorts of muck:
- Old woman!
- Old man, sorry. Who lives in that castle over there?
- I'm 37.
- I'm 37, I'm not old.
I guess I'm posting this for 2 reasons. Reason 1 -- I wanted to see Spamalot at the theatre in London last night, but wasn't willing to spend $150 on a ticket. Reason 2 -- I'm 37, I'm not old.
Nov 8, 2007
For those who've followed this blog (and been so patient with this extended absence), you'll remember the first and second installments of our exciting travel series, Over the Pond. (If you're interested, check in July 2006 and March 2007 archives; for some reason the links won't work.) So, the management is pleased to welcome you to the season premiere of the third installment. Yes, I'm sitting in O'Hare airport in Chicago, eating a (supposedly genuine) Chicago hot dog, complete with mustard, relish, tomato slices. a pickle spear, relish, onions, and hot peppers. It's seriously good. Tomorrow morning, I'll arrive in London and spend a few days with our fabulous friends, the Turners. Then on to Durham on Sunday, working all week with Robert, and the next weekend with our friends Pete and Catherine at the Northumbria Community. Then back to London for the flight home on Monday the 19th.
Don't be fooled by the brief summary -- the posts will be fun. Stay tuned, unless you've lost all hope in me!