Archive for March, 2011

Before & After

We have suffered through an unfairly cold winter – snow, rain, the monotony of endless overcast skies – but after a day like this one, you remember why it’s worth it.

Today was phenomenal. I spent over an hour in the Square soaking up the sunshine and blue sky in a flowery sundress and flip-flops, with no room on either side of me because so many students had the same lazy agenda. If you couldn’t tell from the blue sky, the sudden surplus of empty Coronas in the trash would have given it away, and since nearly last August I broke a sweat just from sitting in the sun. It was glorious, and I’ve got the photos to prove it (including one of me, looking slightly nekkid and big-nosed, and one of my delicious smoothie and the flowers I was seated next to):

Great weather makes everything better. My MA application (both, in fact) may be stuck in academic reference purgatory for the fifth week running, but I wore sandals and sunglasses today so it doesn’t really matter. I essentially have no clue what the next year holds, but this moment is so perfect I don’t really care. Maybe my nonchalance will be my undoing, but as far as I’m considered, at least I’ll go down happy, and can you really ask for more than that?

I’m currently on a Lenten diet, and having indulged in a bit of trifle last night that narrowly elluded my rule list (no cookies, cakes, candy, chocolate, fried food, takeaway, or meat), I’m feeling pretty good about it. Meat is on the list not for ethical reasons, but rather as a personal exercise in both curiosity and control (also, I got  sick off nasty bacon just as Lent started and it pretty effectively put me off the stuff so I figured what the hell? let’s be vegetarian!). So far so good, though I certainly have been consuming more Quorn and yogurt than usual. Yogurt is possibly my favorite food on the planet at the moment. I swear I consumer nearly a quart of the stuff a day.

Bizarrely enough, my Lenten fare has induced a certain amount of nostalgia, for two reasons. In my time at uni, I have never been a particularly great grocery shopper. What I don’t eat at work I pick up from either the co-op down the road, the artisan bakery a few doors over, or the chippy across the street. Being a temporary vegetarian and a pseudo-health nut has required a certain amount of planning, however, and planning inevitably means grocery shopping. Wandering the aisles of Sainsburys I couldn’t help remembering when I was younger and, fresh from a day in school, would leap bright-eyed at the opportunity to go grocery shopping with my mom.

When you’re a kid, a grocery store is a beautiful thing, full of fruitsnacks, cookies, and all sorts of lunchables that can be easily snuck into the cart. I would have the greatest time perusing the aisles of Raleys with my mom, helping her pick out dinner and – if I was lucky – grabbing a box-kit for my FAVORITE (and unfairly delicious) Oreo cake dessert. I’d get to chat about my day and my mom would let me pick a treat for my lunches, and she’d ask my opinions on certain foods to see which me and my sisters would like more. My adult self looks back and wishes I’d taken notes on how to actually buy necessities and shop for a full week, but then my nostalgia takes over again and I just wish I was ten.

The other unexpected memory conjured up by my Lent diet revolves around Grape Nuts – possibly THE most underrated breakfast cereal in the world. Besides a marketing campaign nearly entirely based around the crunchiness of the cereal, most people have probably never given it a second thought. I, however, was exposed to the glory of Grape Nuts at a young age.

Throughout my life I’ve been close with both sets of grandparents, but at a young age, I was closest with my maternal grandmother. Her husband, my Grandpa P, was a bit hard of hearing and slightly more involved with watching baseball on the television than taking me and my sisters to Adventureland. This isn’t to say in any way he was less loving – just, shall we say, a little less expressive. Despite this, I have this incredibly vivid memory of sitting with him at the kitchen table at their condo, surrounded by beige and that very particular smell their condo had, watching him eat breakfast. I couldn’t have been very old when I watched him, but I will never forget that he would have Grape Nuts with sliced bananas and that I thought it was the strangest cereal in the world. Little did I know, at age six-ish, that Grape Nuts was God’s cereal-form gift to man and that my Grandpa P was a genius for putting bananas in it. Now, at age twenty-two, I can fully appreciate his wisdom, and I think of him every time I pour a bowlful.

At this point I think it’s fair to note that I wrote the above portion of this post earlier in the day. Now, with some just wonderful fresh news at hand, I’m going to make my “maybe my nonchalance will be my undoing” spiel a little too close to the mark for comfort. Essentially, the UK government has decided to scrap the post-study work visa I was planning on applying for directly after my graduation as of April 2012. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, except for two things: one, I’ve been seriously considering and am now quite sure I’d like to go for my masters next year rather than join the workforce, and two, even if I still wanted the post-study work visa right now, I don’t have the new, nearly £600 fee required upon application. So basically, if I get my MA here, it’s a guaranteed extra year, but then I am quite possibly going to be forced to leave the UK after I graduate if I’m unable to find a professional sponsor to hire me. Or I can ditch the idea of getting my masters (which upsets me at this point, because I’ve decided I really want one) and just join the workforce (after coming up with £600, that is).

When I found all of this out a few hours ago, I couldn’t help but think of the notebook in my bag, the above blog post sitting freshly written and blithely naive regarding my entire future, which has now been slightly shot to shambles. I sat down twenty minutes ago to type it up and wasn’t sure if I should even bother; a black mood and pajamas have replaced the cheer and sundress of this afternoon, so it did seem a bit inappropriate. I have, however, decided to take it all with a salty grain of karma – maybe I saw this coming, and before it all set in, fortuitously had a moment of clarity in which I could say: fuck the system, the world is beautiful, I am not going to let my problems get to me. And frankly, I think that’s a fantastic idea to run with.

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Beginnings.

I know I look ridiculous, I know you can hardly seen him, but below in his be-stickered glory is Konsuke, my old laptop:

Now if you know anything about me you know I have a penchant for naming important electronic objects in my life. My phones have ranged from Horatio to Joben, my old ipod I fondly called Jimmy, and my briefly previous laptop was named Charlemagne. Never, though, have any of these come close in status to Konsuke, my Sony Vaio that carried me gloriously from my freshman year of high school through to Thanksgiving of 2009. Konsuke was the first electronic thing I ever named and he will always stand out as the best.

I have never not had a computer. First I shared the family computer back in the early 90’s when we had a Gateway as tall as I was, and in the later 90’s I got my own PC, a monstrously slow but cheap Compaq that forever doomed my faith in the brand. In 2000 I got a Vaio PC, and in 2003 my childhood dream was fulfilled and I became the first of my friends to own a laptop. I’ll never forget the experience: hopping in the car with my dad for the special trip down to Fry’s, spending ages walking up and down the aisles of laptops scrutinizing each one because for the first time, I would actually get to take one home. I couldn’t count the number of times I’d enviously wandered down the aisles typing on the keyboards, just dorkily savoring the smooth clicks of the flat buttons. After hours of talking and speculating we settled on a silver K Series Sony Vaio. My dad paid $2200 for that laptop – admittedly, I was a lucky, spoiled kid. But of all of the gifts I received in my childhood, never did I appreciate one more.

Right now I’m looking into getting a new laptop. I’m not quite sure which I’ll be getting, but I know two things: it’ll be a Sony Vaio, and it will be more than fours times as capable as Konsuke, but cost less than a third of the price. That technology can advance that much astounds me. I was considering the other day that had you handed me my current HTC Hero when I was a ten year-old obsessed with Harriet the Spy and told me in twelve years it would be my phone, I would have told you you were crazy. Imagining where the next twelve years will go is almost something I’d rather not think about. Regardless – new times, new technology, and right now, that means a new laptop.

For me, this is a huge deal. It’s where all of my writing will happen. I’m not going to pretend I do much important writing; 90% of the time it will never see the light of day. But recently I’ve been talking with some course friends about writing and it’s brought a lot to my mind about what I write. The creative writing course I’ve taken at UEA has its roots firmly planted in the grounds of realism – if you want to veer into anything vaguely fantasy and retain a semblance of importance, then you better be writing something dystopian. Genre fiction, though? If you listened to them, they’d tell you realism is where it’s at. Maybe that’s true for some writers, but that’s not how I break it down. There’s a time and a place, and the Booker prize can keep its gloomy, monotonous, over-critiqued contenders. I’ll take Tamora Pierce, Kristen Britain, and George R. R. Martin any day.

In a way it feels like a massively frustrating cycle: I came to UEA loving fantasy and wanting to write fantasy, I spent two and a half years trying to break successfully into realism, and now with less than half a term left, I realize I’m back where I started in my love affair with fantasy. I’ve gone through so many phases here, imagining myself fitting all sorts of authorial stereotypes. I had my many piercings which I fancied made me edgy. I chopped all of my hair off to be different (though to be fair, it did look horrendous when it was long and the pixie cut is an inarguable improvement). I dressed how I thought English people imagined Californians dressed, then I bought leggings and high-waisted skirts because I wanted to seem English. Don’t get me wrong – I loved doing every single one of those things. I’ve never seen the problem with wanting to dress like a bit of a cliché; honestly, I think it’s what lots of people are trying to do and they just never admit it. It’s fun and that’s what I wanted. But more than that, I thought it all somehow had an effect on the sort of writer I had to be, as if I couldn’t write fantasy if I didn’t look the part, or the same for Booker-prize wannabe realism. I realize now though, happily, that it simply doesn’t matter how I look. I could dress like Carrie Bradshaw and it wouldn’t make me any less of a fantasy writer.

When graduation comes in four months, God only knows what I’ll be up to. I’ll have a place on the Norfolk and Norwich Festival Publicity Team under my belt, plus the nearly-three years I’ve accumulated at the Pasty Cafe, but beyond that,  my professional future is hazy. If I’m lucky I’ll have secured a place in the Medieval and Early Modern Textual Cultures Masters program I’ve applied to at UEA, and also somehow be lucky enough to have secured the required funding. But I’ve been waiting to keep writing and now that I’ve figured out what’s been stopping me lately, I’m ready to start again. And honestly, I feel like a new laptop – almost as if to help see me through this next part of life – is a huge part of that. Konsuke saw me through an immeasurable amount of change. Hell,  seeing me through high school alone would have been daunting enough (especially considering the pathetic lifespan of laptops these days…a topic for another day). The importance of getting a new computer may sound very vain, very dorky, or perhaps the epitome of how many older people see my generation, tied almost pathetically to the technology we’ve watched evolve faster than we’ve grown up. But I don’t care.

I’m ready for the new bits, and after having borrowed laptops and hand-me-downs ever since Thanksgiving in 2009, I am really ready for a new computer. After all, it essentially is my life. I write on it, I keep in touch with my friends on it, I keep in touch with the world on it. It’ll be like getting a new take on life, and seeing as a lot of change will be happening pretty soon here, now seems as good a time as any. I’ve got my writing sorted out, so bring it on.

And here we go!

I’m sitting cross-legged in cozy pajamas watching Sharaz play a ridiculous motorcycle and fire-pit filled game called Trials HD and I’ve decided that while I meant to write a post yesterday, now is as good a time as any. I’m going to pretend that I haven’t ignored this blog for the past year and just throw you into my life at the moment.

Lots of things are going on so I feel thrown in about a million places at once. For one, this time last week my mom was visiting from California; she arrived on Monday and stayed until Sunday morning, and it was beyond the word amazing to be able to see her. If she hadn’t been able to make the trip out, by the time I see my parents at graduation it would have been nearly a full year since I’d seen them, and that idea (which still stands for both my dad and my sisters) blows my mind. Missing someone becomes normal after a while, and you begin to forget you miss them – not in an impolite or unloving way, but in the way you get used to anything that nags you, like a small cut or a bug bite. It’s not until somebody points it out that you realize how painful it is, and now that my mom’s left, that’s how I feel. Two weeks ago I missed her inactively but now everytime I have chips or walk to Chapelfield mall I think of her. All the same, though, it was wonderful seeing her, and I wouldn’t trade her visit for the world!

That fact may or may not also have to do with the many fantastic trips we took. We spent an entire day wandering Norwich (the weather did a rather half-assed job of cooperating, but we had coats and as such survived): going through the Lanes, touring the cathedral, stopping for lunch in Tombland, & other Norwich activities. For my actual birthday, our family friends from Norwich were nice enough to drive us all out thirty minutes away to Blickling Hall, where Anne Boleyn was born. I may not have been posting on here very often, but I promise you, you have missed little-to-no travelling on my part, so that makes Blickling Hall one of the first English National Trust buildings I’ve seen, and it was fantastic! Again, the weather left a bit to be desired, but I must admit it gave the grounds a thoroughly English backdrop (mist, a bit of rain, ludicrously green fields, all against red brick and leaded glass). I shall show you a picture for effect!

Last Thursday we spent all day in Cambridge and luckily enough the sun finally pulled its thumb out and gave us a bit of blue sky and sunshine. We literally must have walked over five miles, wandering from the train station upon arrival to Kings College, across the street from our breakfast cafe, and then down to St. John’s (where we later had tea and scones!) and eventually the River Cam for a good old bit of punting.

Punting, for those that don’t know, is the Cambridge version of gondola-ing (not a verb, I know). It’s apparently a tourist must when visiting Cambridge, and seeing as we’d magically avoided the rain-showers and overcast skies of every other day that week, we shelled out the required £15 for the forty-five minute tour. Though the day got chillier as it progressed, it was all in all a wonderful day, and was especially appreciated once we saw the weather for our day of wandering in London.

London, I am quite sure at this point, hates me. I have NEVER been to London when it hasn’t rained. Every. Single. Time. Gray skies and rain. Sadly, besides a beautiful sunny ride home on the train Sunday morning, AFTER having dropped my mom at Heathrow, the weather was rainy. It rained on and off for the majority of the day, but my mom and I were fantastically determined to not let this affect our touristy agenda, and after girding ourselves with hot coffee and Krispy Kremes (which I insisted on getting as they, and any other decent semblance of a donut, are unavailable in Norwich) we hopped on the first round of our double-decker bus sight-seeing tour. After one stop of standing on the over-crowd, overly-humid first floor, we snagged a pair of seats in the coveted covered portion of the second floor and enjoyed the next hour and a half seeing all of the things you’re meant to see in London: Big Ben, Westminster Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, & etc. It sounds boring, but in my (rain-soaked) previous travels to London I’d never been able to see much of any of the above, so I had an amazing time. Besides, I was sitting next to my mom (who is one of the most amazing people on the planet) the entire time, so there was no way it was going to be a bad time!

We listened to the crisply-accented tour-guide for just over an hour and a half before getting off at Green Park, ready to make our way to Harrod’s for a bit of walking and copious amounts of window-shopping. We eventually made our way there (though not before being told by a French-accented man at the Ritz that we couldn’t take a peak at the famous tea room because I was wearing jeans) and quickly found ourselves lost among runway fashions, an endless gourmet food department, and the massive Egyptian Escalator (because even escalators get the fancy treatment at a place like Harrod’s). My mom and I decided most of the restaurants were a bit ridiculous in the price department, but we found a middle-ground cafe that suited perfectly and had lunch there. My mom had an iced coffee that, I swear, tasted of absolute roasted perfection. I would give my left hand to wake up to one of those iced coffees every morning.

After lunch we did a bit more Harrod’s-ing (you could literally spent a week in Harrod’s and still not know your way around) and then left off for Picadilly Circus so we could find the Comedy Theatre, where we had tickets booked to see The Children’s Hour. This particular play, which is by no means light-hearted, I picked for its cast: Keira Knightley, Elizabeth Moss, and Tobias Menzies (Brutus in Rome!!). If I’d been thinking at all I’d have picked something much happier for my mom’s last night in town, but alas, I was a bit starstruck and booked The Children’s Hour anyway. The play itself was amazing, though there was a young girl starring in it that acted a bit like a psychopath (so much so that by the end you certainly wanted her to get what she deserved, so I guess she did a good job!). I would definitely recommend it, as long as you don’t have plans the next morning to drop your mom off at the airport and then spend the next four hours alone on a journey home reading Never Let Me Go, yet another hardly uplifting story. But I highly doubt any of you would find yourself in such circumstances.

Weather, lack of sleep, and over-spending included, it was such an amazing six days that I can’t believe it’s already over and that now I have to wait another four months before I can see my mom again. But! It made me realize not for the first time how lucky I am to both have such an amazing, happy, generous, and loving mother and that she is not only all of those things, but also so in love with England that somehow it resulted in me living here!

On the note of living here, you might be wondering how much longer that’ll be going on for. Well, unless the government says no, I plan on living here for at least another year. I might be getting an MA at UEA (either in Creative Writing or Medieval and Early Modern Textual Cultures – I won’t be hearing back for another month or so probably), or I might be working – who knows. Either way, I think it’s fair to say that my near future is definitely Norwich-bound!

Sharaz has at this point moved on to Black Ops, so I think I might head off to bed. But I do feel that much better about myself having thrown 1300 words out into the ‘net, so I hope you enjoy!

Get ready.

Once a week. Starting Now. (But really in about half an hour).

Get ready.


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photo cred to myself and Maggie J. Moxie