Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The rain is trying to bring it but I've got socks on

'Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.' - Viktor E. Frankl

OMGYOUGUYS. NationalBlogWritingMonth* is coming up fast so I've got to get back in the swing of things. In that spirit, and high on the domestic bliss that comes with doing the dishes, laundry, and groceries all in the same hour, I'm attempting a post today. And one next week, and the week after, and so on and so forth until November hits and I'm spewing daily nonsense once again like the devil's on my heels.

NaBloWriMo comes at the ideal time, really, if you think about it. November is such a wonderfully gloomy month, perhaps second only to January or February in the calendrical 'why go on's'. The October autumnal romance is gone, you're a bit down but cosy with the knowledge that things will be looking up soon with Christmas, and in an effort to stay warm and dry and not short of hope, what better cure or past-time than writing? I know I take small comfort in it, and I'm not even a writer. I may even throw down a poem or two if things get desperate next month. I am BRILLIANT at abab rhyme scheme, so get excited for that.

Lately I've been playing this really fun game in the mornings that I think of as What Do You Remember or perhaps You Reliant Fool and the gist of it is seeing how many things on my to do list I can do before having to consult my evernote. For example, today it was the aforementioned laundry, dishes, groceries, and blog. (I'm pretending not to remember emails, expense reports, media, and invoicing.) Then I get the never-ending satisfaction of opening my checklist and ticking off stuff before the day's even begun. Doesn't that sound like terrific sport?

Speaking of wild living, the neighbors have invited us round for drinks. THE NEIGHBORS. Like, a SOCIAL call. Like, we're going to SOCIALISE. With the NEIGHBORS. Youguys. It's crazy. I am looking forward to it in the same part of me that wears an eyeglasses chain and wants to own calling cards and has a purse full of wadded tissue and dusty mints. (That is to say, the biggest part of me.) The Wolf is a bit groany about it but I am secretly excited. I'll bet they're wicked fiends, which is why they asked us to come over after their babas have gone to bed.

I will leave you now with this picture of an Argentinian cactus. This cactus is like me: watching the lush, healthy people around me thriving and growing and connecting, while hanging out on the edge, barbed and wishing I had tequila.

I also like how there's clearly something happening in the distance and he's craning to see it. Never confuse antisocial for incurious.

Big hugs and lots of love,

*This is not actually a real thing** but rather a misappropriation of National Novel Writing Month. I like to think the heart of NaBloWriMo is the same while the practice is wildly lazier.

**OMG just googled it and it turns out someone's created a National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) but since clearly NaBloWriMo is way different I'm going with it. I don't need no stinkin' community! CACTUS OUT. *mic drop* 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On butterflies, a holiday home, and a new place to live

'No one can be sad while they're using wrist and hand and eye and every muscle of their body. . . It was the hardest work I'd ever done, and, while it lasted, one could think of nothing else. I said not long before that work and weakness are comforters. But sweat is the kindest creature of the three - far better than philosophy, as a cure for ill thoughts.' - C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

OMGYOUGUYS. I'm currently working from the back garden listening to my favourite jazz playlist on Spotify and I KID YOU NOT as soon as Brubeck came on, a host of butterflies flew in and fluttered around like a bunch of maniacs. COINCIDENCE? I think not (she says as she begins to pen a paper titled 'The Brubeck Butterfly Correlation').

Sidebar: I'm currently expecting a work call that is leading me to answer the home phone that I always pretend not to hear and as a result, I've just been privy to a sales call about the value of insuring my home's boiler. EFF YOU TELYPHONE. Also, why do I keep asking this sales person more questions? She's calling back in a week now! Her name is Stephanie! My boiler is old!

Back to the business at hand: please indulge me for a moment while I attempt to explain - perhaps miserably - my blog-esque absence of the past three months. It has not been a NORMAL three months. There was a visit to America in May (San Francisco, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, to be specific). There was an attempt to finalise the French house in anticipation of The First Visitors Not Us. And all of this - busy enough as it made things - happened to time exactly with - spontaneity of spontaneities, how quickly things grow - a house move here in London. And in the midst of all this stress, Alan's wonderful, good-humoured and beloved father passed away and the earth temporarily halted on its axis and grief paid a visit.

It has been - needless to say - a very full time. But slowly things are starting to steady and boxes are getting unpacked one by one and things are becoming more or less okay, or at least normal-looking. Which to be honest, I will totally settle for at this point.

Onward and upward! Would you like to see the French place? I'm thrilled by how it's coming together, even though there's still a lot to be done.

This is our dining room. That stone wall is like a million years old. Also I'm excellent at history. Also we're getting more chairs so if you're OCD like I am, DON'T PANIC. 

What you can't see: behind that painting is a chimney! For the wood-burning stove that we don't have! But it will be done. Oh yes. It will be done.

Youguys, look at that 1930's art deco chandelier. I got it from a French flea market for like FORTY EUROS. That's like twenty five cents in Great British Pounds. Or LESS even.

I don't have any photos of the bedrooms yet because I feel like they aren't finished - that said, I don't know what they need in order to become so - but hopefully by the end of summer they'll be closer to where I want them and then I can show you the whole place.

Speaking of rooms unseen: we've officially moved house here in London. A beautiful opportunity came up for a place in (deepest, darkest) Hackney and - despite reservations about moving out of bustling, central, civilized Islington - we saw a back garden, we saw a bigger kitchen, we saw an extra bedroom, and we jumped on it. They say we're still in Zone 2 but guys, I swear we're out in the country. There are TREES on our street. Like big, pretty ones, not scrawny little well-ordered ones. The houses have bay WINDOWS. We've met the NEIGHbors. They've given us welcome-to-the-street chocolates and a CARD. A CARD YOUGUYS. Signed by their KIDS. WHAT EVEN IS THIS! I'm equal parts terrified and delighted.

Inside the house, however, is a small world of chaos: prints lean against walls waiting for hanging, a tv sits on the floor, our clothes have already overflowed the lone wardrobe, and shoes lie everywhere. But each week something else finds a spot and in this small way we're getting there. Home home home.

Not pictured: home.

I hope your summer of 2015 is going well, and all my heart to you.

Big hugs and lots of love,

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April and Paris and Some Other Stuff

"I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.” - John Kennedy Toole

OMGYOUGUYS. It's time for my monthly blog post. I'm really killing it this year. I figure one a month and then MyBloWriMo in November again, and I've got a real thing going here.

So let's talk about April!

Son of a gun. I just took a sip of my coffee and realised that I forgot to boil the water in the kettle before pouring it in. WHAT FOUL BEAST IS THIS CUP!

Ah, well. Too lazy to get up and fix it. *slurp*

Okay. It turns out I have very little to say about April. Or possibly too much, and can't be bothered with the effort of applying all those words to paper screen. Also I worry about putting too many words here, because isn't that a thing that causes people to lose interest in things these days?

So on that note: Hey! Pictures!

We went to Paris the weekend before Easter and it was lovely. I forgot how lovely it was. I don't know why I don't go more often, it's so ridiculously close. That's actually probably why: when a weekend can be spared for a city break, there's a sense of 'I can go to Paris anytime! It's right there! But Berlin, on the other hand, is totally new to me...!'

This time, though, an exception was made because the Eurostar vouchers in our grubby little paws required us to go. And I'm glad they did. Just LOOK at the place:

They've got buildings and stuff.

This visit was particularly exciting because I recently acquired a new lens - an absolute stunner of a telephoto (thank you, Uncle John! I love it too much!!) - and I couldn't wait to give it a go. It meant I could photograph all the people I wanted from a masterful, unobserved distance. A dream come true! Usually I'd have to get right up in people's faces to get a good shot, which made me tons of friends. 

Do you know what I think my favourite thing in France is? The flea markets. The combination of charm and junk is just bar-none. You can really find some spectacular trinkets, and the flea market at Place d'Aligre was no exception. It was chock-FULL of stuff I didn't need but desperately wanted. It also had produce, but as a tourist staying in a hotel, there was little point to perusing those gems, other than to note the proliferation (and consequent affordability) of white asparagus, with a half-second thought spared to whether they'd fare well in a suitcase. 

Speaking of: I took some photos of all that gorgeous veg but they look like every other farmer's market photo in the history of farmer's market photos. Is there any way to shoot a food market that's remotely unique or interesting?  I mean, really, how many pictures of piles of citrus, layers of sausages, mounds of cheese, and stacks of vintage crates does the world need? I for one am all full up. 

But them people: 

I like to imagine that the guys in the top right photo are comparing their purchases: 'You paid HOW much for that gilded mirror?? That's it, I'm returning mine. I got robbed.'

 Paris has got food, too!:

We had gorgeous smoked meat at The Beast, a pizza picnic on the canal with Pink Flamingo, oysters at Paris Peche, carnitas at L'Adelita, and a stunning brunch at Claus. Also, bistros and stuff. Maybe all we did was eat, now that I think of it. 

When the sun comes out, the canal turns into a giant picnic:
Paris, London, Buenos Aires: all filled with unbearably hip cats.

Oooh, hey! We went to a museum! See! We ARE class.

 Look at this clock. Just LOOK at it. My new lens is insane. I think we also saw art, like paintings and sculptures and stuff.

You guys want to play caption contest? Because these works are begging for it: 

My dollhouses! Ruined! 

Has anyone seen my monocle?

Museums. What a comedy.

In other news, London has really been pulling out the stops lately. You can see the sky (it's blue!) and there's a sun, and it even seems like the weather is inching up, degree by degree, though I'm terrified of saying so, lest it all slip immediately underfoot and we're plunged back into winter. 

Want to see a picture of a beautiful girl? This is Katie. She is good and kind and funny and a librarian and a writer, so right away we have almost nothing in common. We recently went to a quilting workshop (we retired nearly immediately) and last weekend we hit Tate Modern (where the below was snapped) and soon we will be checking out the Liverpool Street Station archaeology project (they're excavating a burial ground! Called Bedlam!* With 20,000 bodies, they think!).

So yeah, I think it's safe to say we know how to have a good time. 

I would like everyone to leave a comment about how porcelain her skin is. She would be super embarrassed and possibly never speak to me again. SO WORTH IT.

I'll leave you now with one last photo taken from the top of the Montparnasse (have I mentioned my new lens?):

I hope your April is going well!

Big hugs and lots of love,

*This has got to be the equivalent of all those 'ancient Indian burial ground' ghost stories we tell as children in Oklahoma. Except ten times worse.  I'm of half a mind to get out of London now. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

On stuffed mice, Southwold, and road trips in France

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. - Rilke 

OMGYOUGUYS. So much has happened these past few weeks:

1. I made the world's most terrifying taxidermy mouse. He is my mangy little treasure and clearly the stuff that nightmares are made of:

I love him so much.
Also, I'm supposed to cut the wires now that he's stiffened, but I can't bring myself to do it. I suspect they're the only thing keeping him upright. (He's so jazz.)

2. A weekend in France indicated that spring arrives there sooner than here. We CYCLED. In the SUN. And we didn't die or need a jacket or ANYthing:

If you follow the lane to where it winds around to the right, you'll come to our back garden!* 

3. We also spent a weekend in Southwold! I'd like to say it's because I can't get enough of coastal England, but really it was because I bought an armchair on eBay and didn't notice until it was too late that it was listed as 'collection only.' 

'But think about how much money I saved!' she justifies, as she reserves a room in a seafront b&b. 

Luckily, Southwold has everything an English seaside town should: 

A pier with a retro arcade in which all the machines have been handmade by the town inventor:

Beach huts:

Village confectionary that advertises via vintage bicycle:

Seafood sold out of harbour-front shack:

Again with vintage bicycle. It's like this town was designed by Instagram.

And Lighthouse:

So really, I don't know HOW one could say I messed up here. 

France update! We officially did the Mega Move: we hired a van here in the UK, packed it full of random furniture and miscellany, and drove it the ten hours down to Bergerac. And I think it is safe to say WE WILL NEVER DO IT AGAIN. For one, our sat-nav apparently likes the scenic route, and the van barely fit through tiny village after tiny village. We suspected that nearby there was a highway - there had to have been! - but our garmin refused to guide us there, and our Michelin road map was unfortunately crammed somewhere in a box in the back of the van. Two, an old man in a truck totally took off the van's side mirror when he barreled past us (while we were pulled over, mind), before promptly disappearing into the wind like so many old men going renegade in the French countryside. All we could see was his wild, white, bush-like hair retreating into the distance, his own mirror clattering along. 

It also turns out life in France is a lot like camping. Like how you have to bathe with a garden hose because your builder has gutted your bathroom in the process of installing a new shower. You would think a hose-shower in the cold dawn of early spring would be romantic, except you're also doing it while standing barefoot on what feels like frozen concrete, overlooking the back lane that the neighbors also enjoy. The same neighbors who - after months of being nowhere to be seen - started to appear en masse over the course of the week. (I refuse to believe there is a connection. Also, they are WAY friendlier than stories would have you believe.) Luckily, I've been practicing Not Showering for years, so I handled seven days of filth like a pro.

Also, I think Alan tried to kill me in the act of gardening. There was a thorny little tree climbing up the side of the house (and more importantly, scratching heck out of the top of the rental van) and finally, in a fit of agitation, I decided it needed to come down. We had intended to trim this tree 'eventually, down the road' - but after two days of it attacking us every time we approached, I had enough. I grabbed the hedge-trimming shears, and with a strength known only to enraged hulks, WENT TO TOWN ON IT. It didn't stand a chance. Branches are flying everywhere. And as I was nearly done, Alan grabs the tree and gives it the final yank that will pull it from the wall. And DIRECTLY ONTO MY HEAD. MY HEAD YOU GUYS. A THORNY TREE ON MY HEAD. And as my face and bare arms are being scratched to pieces by this barren twiggy tree completely enveloping my person, I'm pretty sure Alan just stood there, possibly smoking a cigarette. He claimed later that he reacted immediately, but I think we can all agree I was encompassed for about an hour. By the time I emerged, it looked like I had been attacked by a pack of wild cats.

Thank God I could at least clean my scratches under a bone-chilling hose shower.

But it's coming together. Trials and tribulations aside, with each visit down, it starts to look less like a skip and more like a dusty, dirty, box-filled home. We haven't been able to unpack anything yet - our contractor has dust-clothes and plastic draped over every surface - but soon. Soon our stuff will be laid out to collect dust the good-old fashioned way.

I can't wait.

Big hugs and lots of love,

*I didn't say we cycled FAR. I'm still ME.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

On cycling, taxidermy, and very little else

There are some days when I think I'm going to die from an overdose of satisfaction. - Salvadore Dali

OMGYOUGUYS. I am having the best day ever and it's only eleven a.m. Get this: I just got a BIKE. And I RODE it.  For five whole minutes, on the streets of London. I never felt so alive. The wind in my face, the sweat under my coat (from terror rather than exertion, it must be said), the ground so far beneath me that I felt like I was flying: it was incredible. I thought I'd die of fright and thrill. I'll obviously never do it again - my heart just couldn't take it, and I don't have the fearlessness in me that cycling in London requires - but I'll be happy when we take it down to France-house and I can use it to get to and from the nearby lake. I'm going to put flowers in the basket on mother effing PRINCIPLE. And also baguettes, even though I can't stand them (I am pretty sure they are only good as baseball bats). It will be so romantic. I will ding my little bell merrily all the way there. Forget towels and lotion, that's for people with no imagination. And if anybody gives me that judgy French look when I pull up, I'm just going to haughtily untie the ribbon of my charming straw hat, slowly reach for the baguette, and then whack them across the face with it. LIVING THE DREAM!

And in even more exciting news, I've got a taxidermy course today! I am going to learn how to stuff and mount a mouse. I cannot wait. I'm going to give him a little stop sign and use him to warn off the living mice that are no doubt lurking in our ancient Victorian walls and plotting to take over our kitchen.

What a day of firsts!

And because it's been too long since I've posted a completely irrelevant photo of Lake Garda, here you are:

Big hugs and lots of love,