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Archive for the ‘holiday’ Category

Uh, so it’s been a stupid busy few months. See, I turned my PhD in yesterday. (Cue parade) Now I am just waiting to sit my viva and then I’ll be The Doctor!

In celebration of finishing that and of my new inability to brain (seriously–I barely left the house or had any days off the past couple of months, and the final dissertation was 142,000 words, not including about 20K more in works cited and appendices. So, I’m tired, eh?)… so in celebration of that, here are pics from, oh, a year ago!

Great Yarmouth is a tourist destination on the seaside. It is full of ‘amusements’: put-put golf, some rides, an aquarium, and arcade/casinos that are FULL of machines that cost 2p. It’s *hella* tacky and fun and I loved it! Also, it reminded me of where I grew up. Exhibits A through….well, take a look:

Because Yarmouth puts the 'Fun' in Caesar's?

Because Yarmouth puts the ‘Fun’ in Caesar’s?

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Uh, the one at home didn’t have grabby machines out front!

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Nope. No buffet!

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At this point I just couldn’t help but laugh.

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Bugsy, SPINNING IN HIS GRAVE!

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To continue with the list of ALL THE THINGS:

Eastercon in Glasgow (I went to Edinburgh right before)

So this year the con was a bit of a hike, up to Scotland. As you saw from my previous post, I spent a few days in Edinburgh before heading to Glasgow. As it was, I didn’t see any of Glasgow apart from the train station, the con hotel, and a pizza hut in the town centre. I wasn’t on panels and had no ‘professional’ role at this con, so I had a long weekend of fun with my friends.

This fun included trying on tiny hats!

This fun included trying on tiny hats!

And even tinier hats!

And even tinier hats!

All topped off by seeing the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre LIVE! This was,  seriously, one of the highlights of my time in Scotland. I've loved the SFSPT for years and so got in early to sit front & centre. My friends weren't familiar, but afterwards said how hilarious it was. Converted!

All topped off by seeing the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre LIVE! This was, seriously, one of the highlights of my time in Scotland. I’ve loved the SFSPT for years and so got in early to sit front & centre. My friends weren’t familiar, but afterwards said how hilarious it was. Converted!

Want more of the list? OF COURSE YOU DO!

Finishing teaching for the year and then spending 2 weeks marking papers:

This last year was very teaching heavy. I taught 3 classes a week, all the same class (which I’ve discussed here before). After Easter break, there were only a few weeks of classes left, and then the marking pile happened. Three classes, 45 students, a portfolio of 3 fiction pieces from each student, plus an essay from each. PLUS two longer packets from my two BA students. PLUS another 8 sets for double-marking a colleague’s work.

This took two weeks to do. One of the reasons why I didn't get a whole lot of PhD work done this spring!

NOt the whole pile. This took two weeks to do. One of the reasons why I didn’t get a whole lot of PhD work done this spring!

 

Coming up next time:

Visiting Ely
What happened when I had two suspicious moles removed (well, maybe I won’t tell you about that…)
Sissinghurst with visitors from the States
Presenting a paper at the British Country House 1914-2014 conference in Newcastle
Presenting a paper at the Great Writing International Creative Writing conference in London
Going to Belgium for a couple of days
Seeing the Tour de France
Finding out that I’ve been named as a guest at a SFF con
Selling a story and then signing books at a launch for the anthology
Getting ready for NineWorlds GeekFest, LonCon3 and British Fantasy Con
Having my short story turned into a chapbook that was put into goody bags at Nine Worlds
Being a panelist at the con
Going to LonCon3 as a volunteer and a panelist
Getting con crud as a result of two cons in two weeks
Finding out I sold another story (SF this time!)
Finding a new place to live and getting ready to move

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I'VE BEEN SO BUSY!

I’VE BEEN SO BUSY!

I’ve not posted here since July, when I explained why I’d not blogged since March. It is now nearly September.

Here is the list I said I’d touch on:

Eastercon in Glasgow (I went to Edinburgh right before)
Finishing teaching for the year and then spending 2 weeks marking papers
What happened when I had two suspicious moles removed (well, maybe I won’t tell you about that…)
Sissinghurst with visitors from the States
Presenting a paper at the British Country House 1914-2014 conference in Newcastle
Presenting a paper at the Great Writing International Creative Writing conference in London
Going to Belgium for a couple of days
Finding out that I’ve been named as a guest at a SFF con
Selling a story and then signing books at a launch for the anthology
Getting ready for NineWorlds GeekFest, LonCon3 and British Fantasy Con

I will add to that:

Having my short story turned into a chapbook that was put into goody bags at Nine Worlds
Being a panelist at the con
Going to LonCon3 as a volunteer and a panelist
Getting con crud as a result of two cons in two weeks
Finding out I sold another story (SF this time!)
Finding a new place to live and getting ready to move

Think that will touch on it all?

 

EDINBURGH!

This was my first trip to Scotland, and it was lovely!

Yes, there were pipers. Lots of pipers. On the top of the Royal Mile, near the parks off the Mile, all over the damn place.

Yes, there were pipers. Lots of pipers. On the top of the Royal Mile, near the parks off the Mile, all over the damn place.

Atop the Royal Mile, atop the hill at Edinburgh Castle.

Atop the Royal Mile, atop the hill at Edinburgh Castle.

Everywhere I went in the city, what I wanted to see was up a hill...

Everywhere I went in the city, what I wanted to see was up a hill…

...often up a narrow set of steps...

…often up a narrow set of steps…

...accessed via a close...

…accessed via a close…

LOTS of closes!

LOTS of closes!

The site at the top of Castle Rock has been used for fortresses for hundreds of years and was a royal residence until the early 17th century, when it became a military barracks.

The site at the top of Castle Rock has been used for fortresses for hundreds of years and was a royal residence until the early 17th century, when it became a military barracks.

At the bottom of the Royal Mile is the parliament building, very modern...

At the bottom of the Royal Mile is the parliament building, very modern…

...across from Holyrood Palace...

…across from Holyrood Palace, which isn’t so new…

...which sits in front of the ruined Holyrood Abbey, founded in the early 12th century.

…which sits in front of the ruined Holyrood Abbey, founded in the early 12th century.

The day I visited, barely I pretty much had the place to myself...

The day I visited, I pretty much had the place to myself…

...even the former in habitants had taken off for sunnier climes!

…even the former inhabitants had taken off for sunnier climes!

Edinburgh is really gorgeous: full of history...

Edinburgh is really gorgeous: full of  literary history…

...religious history...

…religious history…

...LOTS of religious history!...

…LOTS of religious history!…

...fab shopping (Yep, bought myself a cashmere muffler)...

…fab shopping (Yep, bought myself a cashmere muffler)…

...and the obligatory flower close-up! (pretty sure these are forget-me-nots)

…and the obligatory flower close-up! (pretty sure these are forget-me-nots, taken in the Royal Botanical Garden, if I remember correctly)

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Here, have a sunset.

Here, have a sunset.  I took this from an elevated walkway overlooking a field with a football pitch, halfway between my place and the nearest big supermarket.

Growing up, I always thought it was ‘for all intense purposes’, which makes sense in its own way.

I had intended to post here much more often. I had intended to catch up with everything over the past few months. I had intended to keep track of things. This blog has a purpose. Alas, my purpose for being here–the PhD–has taken over my life of late, so nothing else has got done. Like cleaning my room. (I tidy. Honestly, I do. It just never looks it. A square space stuffed with books and notebooks and folders and papers, with very little storage space, will sooner or later end up looking like an over-large rodent hole.)

[That ‘got’ above: evidence A of my changing vocabulary, from USian to Brit. I have to do it for the PhD, and it’s easier to let it take over outside of that as well.)

Right.

I’ve been teaching since last October. A creative writing course for first-years. It’s been loads of fun, and good for me, too. Talking to my students about characterisation (with an ‘s’–that Brit thing again), world-building, dialogue, etc., has made me focus and think about those things in the PhD novel and stories I’ve been working on. However, I teach 3 classes a week, 2 hours each class. That means I have to repeat myself and be sure that I tell class #3 the same things I told classes #1 and #2. That can be tricksy. It is also exhausting. Hence my kinda-sorta tradition of going to the movies on Tuesday night (I teach Monday and Tuesday mornings and then Tuesday afternoon). By 6 pm Tuesdays I’m brain dead, so I take myself to the movies for the really really cheap ticket night (under £5!) and a scoop of Ben & Jerrys.

Thankfully, term has been on break since before Christmas until this coming Monday, when I’m back at it again. Then we have a two-week break over Easter and then the term ends in May. It’s been exhausting, but good.

And then it was autumn.

And then it was autumn. (Yes, this looks more winter-y than autumn-y, but I took it last October.)

Here's a proper Cambridge-in-autumn shot: newby rowers, all lined up on the Cam, waiting for instructions to GO!

Here’s a proper Cambridge-in-autumn shot: newby rowers, all lined up on the Cam, waiting for instructions to GO!

Halloween was eventful. Good friends had their annual party; this year’s theme was Time Travel. They served food to go with the theme, connected to The Time Machine (roast pig for pre-history, finger sandwiches for the late-Victorian setting, and I made parmesan-bread finger things, complete with sliced almond fingernails, as ‘Eloi fingers’ for the far future).

Cheap dress + glow-in-the-dark fabric paint = TARDIS costume!

Cheap dress + glow-in-the-dark fabric paint = TARDIS costume!

The TARDIS isn't the TARDIS without its light, so I made a fascinator that actually lights up (it's one of those battery-powered jack-o-lantern candle lights)!

The TARDIS isn’t the TARDIS without its light, so I made a fascinator that actually lights up (it’s one of those battery-powered jack-o-lantern candle lights)!

Over Halloween and the following weekend, I was in Brighton for World Fantasy Con. This is a view of the seafront from the pier.

Over Halloween and the following weekend, I was in Brighton for World Fantasy Con. This is a view of the seafront from the (new) pier.

It was insanely windy that weekend--and rainy, of course. That's the old pier (built in the late 1800s, in total disrepair by the 70s, burned ten years ago).

It was insanely windy that weekend–and rainy, of course. That’s the old pier (built in the late 1800s, in total disrepair by the 70s, burned ten years ago).

View of the new pier from the beach. It' pretty much a long, skinny carnival over the waves.

View of the new pier from the beach. It’s pretty much a long, skinny carnival over the waves…

ON the pier, you can ride a rooster named Fred.

…where you can ride a rooster named Fred…

...and eat donuts that you wish were named Fred.

…and eat donuts that you wish were named Fred.

Selfie!

Selfie!

No trip to Brighton is complete without a tour of the Royal Pavilion. It's too bad I wasn't allowed to photograph the inside; the coolest thing was the dragon chandelier (look it up...seriously awesome).

No trip to Brighton is complete without a tour of the Royal Pavilion. It’s too bad I wasn’t allowed to photograph the inside; the coolest thing was the dragon chandelier (look it up…seriously awesome).

Then Thanksgiving happened. We had an ex-pat dinner here at the flat, complete with mis-matched chairs and card games.

Following that I was back up in York for an academic conference, and then it was time for the Mill Road Winter Faire. Every year, one of the main roads here in Cambridge closes on a Saturday and the street fills with shoppers and eaters. And then there’s the parade.

The parade isn't winter themed. No Santa. Lots of kids taking part. And drums.

The parade isn’t winter themed. No Santa. Lots of kids taking part. And drums.

Coolest thing about the parade? Mill Road isn't all that long, so the parade goes down one direction, and then turns around and COMES BACK!

Coolest thing about the parade? Mill Road isn’t all that long, so the parade goes down one direction, and then turns around and COMES BACK!

Did I mention the food? There's also booze. Lots of booze!

Did I mention the food? There’s also booze. Lots of booze! Here are all the empty cider jugs at one stall.

photo (5)

In December, I had the opportunity to have a Christmas dinner at King’s College. It was like dining at Hogwarts. Only without the floating candles. Or the ghosts. Or Maggie Smith being awesome.

And then it was winter. I started with a sunset; I shall end with a very early morning on my walk to school.

And then it was winter.
I started with a sunset; I shall end with a very early morning on my walk to school.

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A friend and I did a very touristy thing this summer and went on a day-long coach trip to Leeds Castle (NOT anywhere near Leeds), Dover and Canterbury.

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle: situated on an island, the current building is mostly Victorian, but a castle has been on this site for about 900 years.

Because Leeds castle was owned by so many queens, it became known as the 'ladies castle'.

Because Leeds castle was owned by so many queens, it became known as the “ladies’ castle.”

When I was a kid visiting my grandma on the weekends, sometimes she would play music from WWII. All I could hear when I looked at the cliffs was her singing along to 'The White Cliffs of Dover'.

When I was a kid visiting my grandma on the weekends, sometimes she would play music from WWII. All I could hear when I looked at the cliffs was her singing along to ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’.

Along Dover's cliffs I saw numerous castles and keeps.

Along Dover’s cliffs I saw numerous castles and keeps, but I’ve no idea of their history.

Canterbury Cathedral. A graduation ceremony was taking place that day and there was construction going on, so part of the cathedral was off-limits to visitors, but there was still plenty to see.

Canterbury Cathedral. A graduation ceremony was taking place that day and there was construction going on, so part of the cathedral was off-limits to visitors, but there was still plenty to see.

I sometimes like the outsides of cathedrals more than the insides--the details are easier to see with empty sky as a background.

I sometimes like the outsides of cathedrals more than the insides–the details are easier to see with empty sky as a background.

DSCN4533

DSCN4534

 

We could take photos inside, but not in the lower level where protected murals are slowly flaking off the walls. Carved wood and stone will have to suffice to show you how amazing this place is, and why pilgrims have been coming for hundreds of years.

We could take photos inside, but not in the lower level where protected murals are slowly flaking off the walls. Carved wood and stone, and colored glass will have to suffice to show you how amazing this place is, and why pilgrims have been coming for hundreds of years.

DSCN4536

 

This candle sits on the spot where the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury stood for 300 years until 1538, when Henry VIII had it destroyed.

This candle sits on the spot where the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury stood for 300 years until 1538, when Henry VIII had it destroyed.

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Nope. It’s  rumor.  Pure gossip. I have NOT fallen down a well, off the face of the earth, or into a volcano. I’ve just been busy. And tired and lazy.

Last night I wrote a list of all the things that have happened, things I need to blog about. They are:

Stratford
Moving house & finding a cool new housemate
High tea at Fortnum & Mason
The Tudor & Stuart clothing exhibit at the Queens Gallery
Hampton Court Flower Show
Race for Life 10K
My Coach trip to see Canterbury, etc.
Going to We Will Rock You
Going to Nine Worlds Geek Fest
The Great British Bake Off inaugural viewing party

So, now that you have the list, expect to start seeing some blog posts. Yeehaw!

I went to Stratford in June on a mini-hol all by myself. TWO MONTHS AGO! So it’s high time I show you some cool pics.

The River Avon

The River Avon

Morris Dancers

Morris Dancers

Especially for mom: I came across this on a morning run along the river. Completely random! But as it was near the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre, I suppose it sort of makes sense?
Especially for mom: I came across this on a morning run along the river. Completely random! But as it was near the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre, I suppose it sort of makes sense?
Stratford's oldest inn...

Stratford’s oldest inn…

...and its oldest house...

…and its oldest house…

...and a row of almshouses.

…and a row of almshouses. Sometimes this country feels like a movie set, only I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not–that these places are real and have been here for hundreds of years.

But you came here to see Shakespeare stuff. So let's start with his birthplace, which is pretty much right in the middle of town.

But you came here to see Shakespeare stuff. So let’s start with his birthplace, which is pretty much right in the middle of town.

Behind the house is an extensive, and beautiful, garden where actors stage small scenes for the tourists. There is also a museum that holds original pieces from Shakespeare's life and times.

Behind the house is an extensive, and beautiful, garden where actors stage small scenes for the tourists. There is also a museum that holds original pieces from Shakespeare’s life and times.

Also in town are the site of Shakespeare's house, New Place, where he died. It was a huge house, with 10 fireplaces!, but was destroyed in the 1700s. His granddaughter lived next door as an adult, and that place is still standing.

Also in town is the site of Shakespeare’s house, New Place, where he died. It was a huge house, with 10 fireplaces!, but was destroyed in the 1700s. His granddaughter lived next door as an adult, and that place is still standing. The site of New Place has extensive gardens–this one is in the Tudor style.

 

A little way out of town is Mary Arden's Farm, where Shakespeare's mother's family lived for generations. It's a sort of living history museum now, and the day I was there schoolkids dressed in Tudor-era clothes were going from building to building, learning about how a 16th-century farm was run.

A little way out of town is Mary Arden’s Farm, where Shakespeare’s mother’s family lived for generations. It’s a sort of living history museum now, and the day I was there schoolkids dressed in Tudor-era clothes were going from building to building, learning about how a 16th-century farm was run.

This dried frog was hung in the farm's kitchen window. I don't know why.

This dried frog was hung in the farm’s kitchen window. I don’t know why.

 

The top floor of the big farmhouse.

The top floor of the big farmhouse.

 

My favorite of the Shakespeare houses was Anne Hathaway's Cottage, where his wife lived. It's a traditional thatched cottage with the most gorgeous garden.

My favorite of the Shakespeare houses was Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, where his wife lived. It’s a traditional thatched cottage with the most gorgeous garden. Because the winter was so long, spring and summer happened sort of simultaneously, and the gardens were all a riot of color. 

obligatory flower close-up #1: Columbine.

obligatory flower close-up #1: Columbine.

 

Trinity church, back in town, is where Shakespeare is buried.

Trinity church, back in town, is where Shakespeare is buried.

William Shakespeare 1564-1616

William Shakespeare 1564-1616

While I was there, I went to two plays: All’s Well That Ends Well and Hamlet. The theatre itself was set nearly ‘in the round’ with the stage in the center of the space and seats almost all the way around. Hamlet was staged as if it were in a fencing school, with the ghost of his father in full fencing kit. All’s Well That Ends Well is a play I’d never read before, so it was fun to be swept along with it.

In all, it was a relaxing few days. I ate well, got some sleep, saw great theatre, took a zillion photos, and took in some history.

Stratford_New Place_June 2013_27

Obligatory flower close-up #2: a dog rose, Rosa canina. These roses always make me think of Shakespeare and the Tudor era.

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It’s time for some catch-uppery:

1. Transfer to new uni complete. Old uni still thought I went to school there and sent a letter for overdue tuition. Nice!

2. First term of teaching at new uni complete (except for grading, which will happen the beginning of January). It went…okay. I got good evaluations, but there was a LOT I would do differently. Teaching next term is nearly set up: different course, but similar to what I taught at old uni. So it shouldn’t be as steep of a learning curve. And now I know the new uni’s system.

3. Part of transferring to new uni is catching up with all things PhD that old uni didn’t do, such as a whole LOT of training (everything from research funding to project management to ethics). I’ve been exempted form some of it, but others are required, meaning more time spent in transit from home to uni and more time spent NOT doing my own work.

4. I’m on deadline with the PhD novel. Originally it was ‘supposed’ to be done a year ago. And then this past June. Then this October. And then by Christmas. Right now I’m working on finishing the first draft by mid-January. It WILL get done because I have to start writing up a draft of the analysis for my Confirmation of Candidature in June. Gulp!

BUT don’t let this sound like I’m not enjoying myself! New uni is FAB! I’m glad I transferred. I’m part of a way better department with a lot of amazing people. There are things happening al the time: panel talks, paper presentations, and even today a colloquium (which I was supposed to attend, but the trains went FUBAR again, so I couldn’t make it).

That brings me to the fun stuff:

The view out my front door a couple of weeks ago. Note the three garbage bins: one for trash, one for metal/glass/plastic recycling, the other for brown cardboard and food. Near my feet is the paper recycling bin. No one can say England isn't 'Green'!

The view out my front door a couple of weeks ago. Note the three garbage bins: one for trash, one for metal/glass/plastic recycling, the other for brown cardboard and food. Near my feet is the paper recycling bin. No one can say England isn’t ‘Green’!

 

Winter_2012 007

About two weeks ago, we had a visitor, which meant going to the City. For two Christmases I wanted to go ice skating, and this year I finally DID something about it! We skated at Somerset House. I didn’t fall!

Skating is its own ‘thing’ here at the holidays. Half a dozen rinks pop up and you have to book ahead of time to get an hour of skating. And, like everything in London. it’s spendy (the later in the day, the more expensive it gets–it’s the ambience you’re paying for!). The rinks are small, they cram about 1/3 too many people on the ice, and everyone is so busy taking pictures that it’s hard to get going. But barely anyone can really skate. And you’ve never seen so many HAPPY people in one place in London. Ever. It was too much fun!

Winter_2012 010

At the Savoy: London is all decked out for the holiday!

 

Had turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. For my American peeps: a turkey here costs somewhere around £30. That’s like $45.

FORTY-FIVE DOLLARS!

FOR A TURKEY!

It’s not LOBSTER for chrissake!

This is why Turkey is sort of ‘special’ here. And why bacon is a food group.

Things I’m looking forward to this Christmas:
1. Going out of town and seeing people I don’t get to see very often.
2. Baking!
3. Eating all of the holiday food!
4. Chilling out and having movie marathons, playing countless games of Scrabble, and sleeping in.

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