31 December 2009

The Beginning, at the End.


Hello from Boxing Day.
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
It's almost 2010. Twenty-ten, two thousand ten, or next year, whatever you want to call it, it's almost here. As usual, I've got a handful of resolutions that mostly have to do with my weight, how I eat, and my attitude in general. None of those will last past the end of the day tomorrow, but there is one that I'm going to try my best to keep. 2010 is going to be the year that I go back to writing.

I have so many ideas floating around in my head. Novels, short stories, epic adventures and children's picture books. This year my focus will be on sorting through the hive of bees in my head and making some strides toward categorizing and committing them to paper.

I'm easing myself back into this mindset by reading. I hate to use this analogy but I can't think of a better one...I'm like Helen Keller at the water pump. I can't stop wanting to read, and for once I'm reading all sorts of things rather than my usual sci-fi/fantasy books. It's the words...I truly can't get enough of the words. I can't wait to see how things will be described or what one character will say to another.

I'm blogging more, and in two languages. I've gone back to my ASL V-log, Nerda's World, and I have every good intention of keeping up with it this time.

2010 is going to be the year of re-kindling my literary fire. I'd lost my voice, in terms of my writing, for many years and I'm so happy to see it coming over the horizon, headed for home. Just wait and see what happens when it finally crosses the threshold. I know I can't wait.

Happy New Year, Lettuce-Heads. See you in the new decade.

21 December 2009

The latest from Old Blighty

Please ignore my lack of lips in that picture and enjoy my latest contribution to Touring Old Blighty:

"Number Eleven for Christmas in Yorkshire"

I work in retail (in a mall) and my store is a bus and two trains away. The other day I was working and had popped down to the food court in the mall for some lunch, when I was treated to some lovely Christmas carols performed by a brass band set up by the entrance to Morrisons. Then today, as I was coming down the escalator at Leeds station, in a hurry and admittedly cranky with the crowds of shoppers and people with large luggage traveling for the holidays, I had a chance to be still and just listen. A brass band was playing Christmas Carols outside of the ticket barrier, and I will further admit to missing the Carlisle train because I lingered there, under the big board, feeling more in the Christmas spirit than I had all day.

I'm a sucker for a brass band, and I'm lucky to live in Yorkshire where bands come in all shapes and sizes and ages, from the colliery bands still playing together despite the end of that era to the village bands that blend old and young performers. But there's something about "Ding Dong Merrily on High" played by a brass band in the acoustic perfection that is a concrete and glass railway station that would make Scrooge and the Grinch both smile. Merry Christmas from the land of whippets, flat caps, and brass bands!


My Avatar Experience


I see you...
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
I want to start this by saying that I was stunned and amazed and thrilled by the graphics and the effects in Avatar. The movie is visually beautiful, the creatures on the created world of Pandora are surprising and the language Cameron created for the natives has the lilt of a cross between Tolkien's Elvish and modern Gaelic.

I don't want to say too much about the move for the folks who haven't already figured out where the plot will be heading and want a surprise. Fair enough. However, I want to comment on the biggest complaint I had with the movie and I'm able to do that without spoiling it for those of you that haven't seen it yet.

I just want to pause for a moment here and say that if you have the chance to see the movie in 3D and/or IMAX, please do it. You'll be glad you did. I caught myself almost swatting insects, the 3D is so convincing.

Right, back to my complaint. I will say openly that now that I'm outside of the US I have become a bit sensitive about the portayal of the Average American in the media and toward the ideas that other nationals have about us. I consider myself to be more or less an average American, albeit a very liberal democrat American. My complaint is that the team of humans that were mining on Pandora, the military presence that resorted to violence at the drop of a hat and packed some serious firepower, and even the scientists who wanted to improve the lives of the natives by setting up schools for them...they were all American. I know that it's an American movie that was made in America by an American director/producer/writer/whathaveyou, but a multinational cast might be more representative of where humanity will be at that point in the future.

I see the effects of this kind of portrayal every day. Several months ago an Englishman told me that he didn't think that Obama would be in office long enough to make any positive changes because "He'll get assassinated. That's what you lot do in America, you shoot people." Today a customer at work insinuated that my family could help me find a book once he learned that I was born in Atlanta. The book was about reloading guns.

Anyway, if you can make it in to see Avatar at an IMAX, do it. The effects will blow you away...while the Americans on screen do the same.

11 December 2009

This Week's Article on Touring Old Blighty

(Otherwise known as my other blogging venture...click the link in the title to read more!)

Disclaimer: Unlike most "Top Ten" lists, this one is in no particular order and draws its results from nothing more than this ex-pat's experience of her first Christmas season in the UK. Do with as you will.

10. Christmas adverts on the television.


Starting in about late September, there were "holiday" adverts on the television. (Yes, those who think that all British TV is advert free, we DO have them on some channels...mostly the ones NOT controlled by the British Broadcasting Compay.) Those tended to be filled with reminders that "the holiday season is just around the corner" but were delightfully void of "make your layaway purchases now!" advice. However, following Halloween, Christmas adverts have been appearing all over the telly, and some of them are just spectacular. While it can be said that Christmas is even more commericalised here than it is in the US (if that's even possible) and that the "Reason for the Season" is left out, I don't completely agree. The adverts show warm, happy, scenes of home, with people gathering and celebrating together. Now, granted that leaves out the Christian reason for the season, but it promotes giving and what I think to be family values. One such example, included for your viewing pleasure, is the following lovely John Lewis advert.



9. Christmas Displays in Shop Windows


Of course, this is not limited to the UK, but I have seen some positively fantastic window displays in shops here since around the middle of November. Moving parts, music, lights - nothing seems to be too much when you're talking window displays. However, what has impressed me is the participation in what seems to be more commonplace here than the US. I'll give you two examples of what I mean: first, I work for a retail shop and the company policy is to make all the windows across the country look the same. The idea is that continuity brings with it a certain amount of familiarity and therefore brand-trust. Makes sense. However, some of the branches, mine included, have large, walk-in front windows (or fall-in, if you're me) and the staff were visibly disappointed at the notion that we will not be decorating the window beyond the bits sent to us (and all branches) by corporate. To my lazy American mind this was joyous news indeed...they tell us what to put in the window and we do it. But my colleagues were telling wonderful stories about Christmases past and staying at the store well past closing to work on window decorations - and I admit to feeling a bit cheated that I wasn't there "back when."

8. Christmas Light Displays and City-Wide Christmas Light Switch-Ons.


Perhaps I didn't live in an area in the US that felt as strongly about switching on their Christmas Lights. Greenville, SC, where I lived until immigrating back in April, had fantastic fairy lights in all the trees downtown - that are on year round. There were of course banners and extra lights added to the streetlights, etc. downtown, but I think the big "thing" in the US is the Christmas parade.

The big thing here is the celebration and official Switch On of the town/city/village's Christmas lights every year. It happens in late November/early December, and I'm ashamed to admit that I missed it for Keighley because I was just feeling a bit too homesick that day to go watch anything Christmas-related. The celebrations range from a local band playing to lavish stage shows and last several hours, the climax of each being some local celebrity pushing a big button or throwing an oversized switch that lights up the big Christmas tree (and other lights in the town, I would imagine). Each place has their own unique thing that they do for Christmas, and I'm pleased to share with you my husband's favourite bit from the town centre here in Keighley (shot yesterday afternoon on my way home from work):


7. Mince Pies (if you like sultanas, that is).


Personally, I don't care for them, but my husband (and other friends, I must admit) giggle with glee when these precious little pastries first appear on store shelves in late November. A mince pie, according to Wikipedia, is "A mince pie (sometimes also minced, minced meat, or mincemeat pie) is a British festive sweet pastry, traditionally consumed during the Christmas and New Year period. Mince pies are filled with mincemeat – a preserve typically containing apple, dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas, spices, and either suet or vegetable shortening."

These things are the stuff of legend, and I'd always compared them to the frightening and traditional fruit cake that is served, feared, and probably re-gifted throughout the US at Christmas. (I have a theory that there are only a few fruit cakes in the US, and those few have been circulated across the country for years.) But where the fruit cake is a joke, mince pies are beloved. I can say that I've tried them and sadly my distaste for raisins and anything similar keeps me from enjoying them, but they are a much anticipated treat here and I felt, as such, they deserved mention.

6. Christmas Specials on Television.


Now I'm not referring here to Andy Williams or The Osmonds. These have little to do with Bing Crosby, a contrived sitting room with Christmas decorations, or two hours of back to back Christmas carols. The Christmas Specials I'm talking about are the episodes of popular programs such as Doctor Who, Two Pints, and others that have specific Christmas themes and sometimes last longer than a normal episode. The Doctor Who specials, for example, are must-see-TV and often herald the new series that will start in the new year by dropping hints or introducing new recurring characters. Other programs use the Christmas special to bring back former characters or craft an entirely different story that has nothing to do with what's going on in the regular series. It's like a Christmas present from the show, and while some programs in the US have similar ideas I see this as unique to British television.

5. Nativity Plays in School.


Have you seen Love Actually? Do you remember the lobster and octopus that rode to the Nativity Play with Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon? While I understand that schools in the US also perform "Christmas Programs" just before the winter break (having been a participant in them myself many many years ago), I find it charming and just lovely that the schools put so much thought and time into their Christmas programming. I also find it, I will admit, a bit astonishing the amount of Christianity in the plays and pageants, but then I am reminded that I am living in a country now with a State religion, the Church of England.

4. It's Flippin' Cold!!


If you didn't grow up having Christmas in the southern part of the United States, then this item won't mean as much to you as it does to me. The temperature outside at Christmas when I was young could range from the 30sF to the 70sF, and I can't remember a single one where we've had snow. There was ice occasionally, and it's not nearly as beautiful and magical as one would think to have one's yard turn into a skating rink. Also, having grown up watching people on TV shiver and pull up their collars around their ears while out Christmas shopping or warm up with a mug of cider or eggnog around a roaring fire while singing Christmas carols, I felt a bit cheated every year when my Christmas included iced tea and shorts (indoors at least).

I'm paying for all that envy in spades now that I live in the UK. Man alive is it cold here! The wind is gusty (if only to remind you that this is, after all, an island) and the air is frosty. It FEELS like Christmas here and has since about October, off and on. We have our odd warm days where the mercury climbs to a scorching 60 degrees and I see people outdoors in shorts, but those are few and far between. In fact, I've found myself thinking that I don't need my hat if it's not going to be below about 2C outside (35F) because I'll be warm enough without it. When I lived in the states I didn't go outside unless I had to when it was that cold!

But oddly enough, the British tendency to "Keep Calm and Carry On" seems to be rubbing off on me and I truly am not minding the cold as much as I did just after I moved here or two years ago when I visited over Christmas/New Year. It's all about layers, public transport, and lots of cups of Yorkshire tea, friends.

3. German and Otherwise Christmas Markets


One of the best parts of living in the UK, in my opinion, is the abundance of markets. Keighley, for example, has a Farmer's Market on the third Sunday of every month that is set up on the Church Green and has some of the best of local produce, butchers, and crafts. These markets happen every day of the year somewhere in the country. However, as Christmas draws near the items on offer change as the markets themselves change. There are "German Christmas Markets" that set up in cities across the UK and this website, Christmas Markets.com, has a pretty comprehensive listing of "European Christmas Markets," including offers for coach trips and mini-breaks (flight and all) to some of the markets around Europe.

Keighley's Christmas Market is this weekend and I'm anxious to see how different it is from the regular Farmer's Market. Wakefield, where I work, has a German Christmas Market (complete with bratwurst!!) that sets up around the Wakefield Cathedral and has been running every day for about two weeks now. I see the stalls with their festive red and white roofs on my way into work in the morning, and can smell the brats cooking on my way home in the afternoon. Leeds has a well-known Christkindelmarkt as well that runs into the evening, so it's a must-see on the Thursday Late Night Shopping trips during the Christmas season.

2. Panto


For number two I had to think about something that my husband loves about Christmas in the UK that you don't find in the US. This entry, I must admit, puzzles me slightly and makes me feel like an outsider because I just don't get it. From our good friend, Wikipedia, we find this entry on Pantomime or "Panto" as it is called:
Traditionally performed at Christmas, with family audiences consisting mainly of children and parents, British pantomime is now a popular form of theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, audience participation, and mild sexual innuendo. There are a number of traditional story-lines, and there is also a fairly well-defined set of performance conventions. Lists of these items follow, along with a special discussion of the 'guest celebrity' tradition, which emerged in the late 19th century.

It is not uncommon during Christmas to see hordes of children being shepherded by tired and slightly frantic-looking teachers on public transport, headed for the local theatre to see the Christmas Panto. It is a huge deal every year to see which TV celebs are appearing in which Pantos. My husband has already been checking into tickets for us to see one in Leeds, I think, so I can report more if that happens. If I'm honest, though, it isn't a Christmas tradition that I'm looking to join anytime soon.

1. Christmas Crackers


Last year my husband and I celebrated Christmas at the home of my sister, Susan, and her husband Dave (also known as the other part of TOB) and he made sure we had some British traditions on hand to make my husband feel at home. One of those is one of my favourite things about Christmas in the UK: Christmas Crackers. Again I turn to Wikipedia for a bit of history of the Christmas Cracker:
"Crackers were invented by Thomas J. Smith of London in 1847. He created the crackers as a development of his bon-bon sweets, which he sold in a twist of paper (the origins of the traditional sweet-wrapper). As sales of bon-bons slumped, Smith began to come up with new promotional ideas. His first tactic was to insert mottos into the wrappers of the sweets (cf. fortune cookies), but this had only limited success.

He was inspired to add the "crackle" element when he heard the crackle of a log he had just put on the fire. The size of the paper wrapper had to be increased to incorporate the banger mechanism, and the sweet itself was eventually dropped, to be replaced by a small gift. The new product was initially marketed as the Cosaque (i.e., Cossack), but the onomatopoeic "cracker" soon became the commonly used name, as rival varieties were introduced to the market. The other elements of the modern cracker, the gifts, paper hats and varied designs, were all introduced by Tom Smith's son, Walter Smith, to differentiate his product from the many copycat cracker manufacturers which had suddenly sprung up."

Sadly we can't take them back and forth from the US to the UK because of the "banger" mechanism mentioned above - TSA tends to frown on exploding bits in luggage - so last year Dave bought them at a British shop stateside. I have to say I love this tradition and I don't even mind wearing the paper hats found inside the crackers.

Happy Christmas!!

As Seen on Touring Old Blighty...

Disclaimer: Unlike most "Top Ten" lists, this one is in no particular order and draws its results from nothing more than this ex-pat's experience of her first Christmas season in the UK. Do with as you will.

10. Christmas adverts on the television.


Starting in about late September, there were "holiday" adverts on the television. (Yes, those who think that all British TV is advert free, we DO have them on some channels...mostly the ones NOT controlled by the British Broadcasting Compay.) Those tended to be filled with reminders that "the holiday season is just around the corner" but were delightfully void of "make your layaway purchases now!" advice. However, following Halloween, Christmas adverts have been appearing all over the telly, and some of them are just spectacular. While it can be said that Christmas is even more commericalised here than it is in the US (if that's even possible) and that the "Reason for the Season" is left out, I don't completely agree. The adverts show warm, happy, scenes of home, with people gathering and celebrating together. Now, granted that leaves out the Christian reason for the season, but it promotes giving and what I think to be family values. One such example, included for your viewing pleasure, is the following lovely John Lewis advert.



9. Christmas Displays in Shop Windows


Of course, this is not limited to the UK, but I have seen some positively fantastic window displays in shops here since around the middle of November. Moving parts, music, lights - nothing seems to be too much when you're talking window displays. However, what has impressed me is the participation in what seems to be more commonplace here than the US. I'll give you two examples of what I mean: first, I work for a retail shop and the company policy is to make all the windows across the country look the same. The idea is that continuity brings with it a certain amount of familiarity and therefore brand-trust. Makes sense. However, some of the branches, mine included, have large, walk-in front windows (or fall-in, if you're me) and the staff were visibly disappointed at the notion that we will not be decorating the window beyond the bits sent to us (and all branches) by corporate. To my lazy American mind this was joyous news indeed...they tell us what to put in the window and we do it. But my colleagues were telling wonderful stories about Christmases past and staying at the store well past closing to work on window decorations - and I admit to feeling a bit cheated that I wasn't there "back when."

8. Christmas Light Displays and City-Wide Christmas Light Switch-Ons.


Perhaps I didn't live in an area in the US that felt as strongly about switching on their Christmas Lights. Greenville, SC, where I lived until immigrating back in April, had fantastic fairy lights in all the trees downtown - that are on year round. There were of course banners and extra lights added to the streetlights, etc. downtown, but I think the big "thing" in the US is the Christmas parade.

The big thing here is the celebration and official Switch On of the town/city/village's Christmas lights every year. It happens in late November/early December, and I'm ashamed to admit that I missed it for Keighley because I was just feeling a bit too homesick that day to go watch anything Christmas-related. The celebrations range from a local band playing to lavish stage shows and last several hours, the climax of each being some local celebrity pushing a big button or throwing an oversized switch that lights up the big Christmas tree (and other lights in the town, I would imagine). Each place has their own unique thing that they do for Christmas, and I'm pleased to share with you my husband's favourite bit from the town centre here in Keighley (shot yesterday afternoon on my way home from work):


7. Mince Pies (if you like sultanas, that is).


Personally, I don't care for them, but my husband (and other friends, I must admit) giggle with glee when these precious little pastries first appear on store shelves in late November. A mince pie, according to Wikipedia, is "A mince pie (sometimes also minced, minced meat, or mincemeat pie) is a British festive sweet pastry, traditionally consumed during the Christmas and New Year period. Mince pies are filled with mincemeat – a preserve typically containing apple, dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas, spices, and either suet or vegetable shortening."

These things are the stuff of legend, and I'd always compared them to the frightening and traditional fruit cake that is served, feared, and probably re-gifted throughout the US at Christmas. (I have a theory that there are only a few fruit cakes in the US, and those few have been circulated across the country for years.) But where the fruit cake is a joke, mince pies are beloved. I can say that I've tried them and sadly my distaste for raisins and anything similar keeps me from enjoying them, but they are a much anticipated treat here and I felt, as such, they deserved mention.

6. Christmas Specials on Television.


Now I'm not referring here to Andy Williams or The Osmonds. These have little to do with Bing Crosby, a contrived sitting room with Christmas decorations, or two hours of back to back Christmas carols. The Christmas Specials I'm talking about are the episodes of popular programs such as Doctor Who, Two Pints, and others that have specific Christmas themes and sometimes last longer than a normal episode. The Doctor Who specials, for example, are must-see-TV and often herald the new series that will start in the new year by dropping hints or introducing new recurring characters. Other programs use the Christmas special to bring back former characters or craft an entirely different story that has nothing to do with what's going on in the regular series. It's like a Christmas present from the show, and while some programs in the US have similar ideas I see this as unique to British television.

5. Nativity Plays in School.


Have you seen Love Actually? Do you remember the lobster and octopus that rode to the Nativity Play with Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon? While I understand that schools in the US also perform "Christmas Programs" just before the winter break (having been a participant in them myself many many years ago), I find it charming and just lovely that the schools put so much thought and time into their Christmas programming. I also find it, I will admit, a bit astonishing the amount of Christianity in the plays and pageants, but then I am reminded that I am living in a country now with a State religion, the Church of England.

4. It's Flippin' Cold!!


If you didn't grow up having Christmas in the southern part of the United States, then this item won't mean as much to you as it does to me. The temperature outside at Christmas when I was young could range from the 30sF to the 70sF, and I can't remember a single one where we've had snow. There was ice occasionally, and it's not nearly as beautiful and magical as one would think to have one's yard turn into a skating rink. Also, having grown up watching people on TV shiver and pull up their collars around their ears while out Christmas shopping or warm up with a mug of cider or eggnog around a roaring fire while singing Christmas carols, I felt a bit cheated every year when my Christmas included iced tea and shorts (indoors at least).

I'm paying for all that envy in spades now that I live in the UK. Man alive is it cold here! The wind is gusty (if only to remind you that this is, after all, an island) and the air is frosty. It FEELS like Christmas here and has since about October, off and on. We have our odd warm days where the mercury climbs to a scorching 60 degrees and I see people outdoors in shorts, but those are few and far between. In fact, I've found myself thinking that I don't need my hat if it's not going to be below about 2C outside (35F) because I'll be warm enough without it. When I lived in the states I didn't go outside unless I had to when it was that cold!

But oddly enough, the British tendency to "Keep Calm and Carry On" seems to be rubbing off on me and I truly am not minding the cold as much as I did just after I moved here or two years ago when I visited over Christmas/New Year. It's all about layers, public transport, and lots of cups of Yorkshire tea, friends.

3. German and Otherwise Christmas Markets


One of the best parts of living in the UK, in my opinion, is the abundance of markets. Keighley, for example, has a Farmer's Market on the third Sunday of every month that is set up on the Church Green and has some of the best of local produce, butchers, and crafts. These markets happen every day of the year somewhere in the country. However, as Christmas draws near the items on offer change as the markets themselves change. There are "German Christmas Markets" that set up in cities across the UK and this website, Christmas Markets.com, has a pretty comprehensive listing of "European Christmas Markets," including offers for coach trips and mini-breaks (flight and all) to some of the markets around Europe.

Keighley's Christmas Market is this weekend and I'm anxious to see how different it is from the regular Farmer's Market. Wakefield, where I work, has a German Christmas Market (complete with bratwurst!!) that sets up around the Wakefield Cathedral and has been running every day for about two weeks now. I see the stalls with their festive red and white roofs on my way into work in the morning, and can smell the brats cooking on my way home in the afternoon. Leeds has a well-known Christkindelmarkt as well that runs into the evening, so it's a must-see on the Thursday Late Night Shopping trips during the Christmas season.

2. Panto


For number two I had to think about something that my husband loves about Christmas in the UK that you don't find in the US. This entry, I must admit, puzzles me slightly and makes me feel like an outsider because I just don't get it. From our good friend, Wikipedia, we find this entry on Pantomime or "Panto" as it is called:
Traditionally performed at Christmas, with family audiences consisting mainly of children and parents, British pantomime is now a popular form of theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, audience participation, and mild sexual innuendo. There are a number of traditional story-lines, and there is also a fairly well-defined set of performance conventions. Lists of these items follow, along with a special discussion of the 'guest celebrity' tradition, which emerged in the late 19th century.

It is not uncommon during Christmas to see hordes of children being shepherded by tired and slightly frantic-looking teachers on public transport, headed for the local theatre to see the Christmas Panto. It is a huge deal every year to see which TV celebs are appearing in which Pantos. My husband has already been checking into tickets for us to see one in Leeds, I think, so I can report more if that happens. If I'm honest, though, it isn't a Christmas tradition that I'm looking to join anytime soon.

1. Christmas Crackers


Last year my husband and I celebrated Christmas at the home of my sister, Susan, and her husband Dave (also known as the other part of TOB) and he made sure we had some British traditions on hand to make my husband feel at home. One of those is one of my favourite things about Christmas in the UK: Christmas Crackers. Again I turn to Wikipedia for a bit of history of the Christmas Cracker:
"Crackers were invented by Thomas J. Smith of London in 1847. He created the crackers as a development of his bon-bon sweets, which he sold in a twist of paper (the origins of the traditional sweet-wrapper). As sales of bon-bons slumped, Smith began to come up with new promotional ideas. His first tactic was to insert mottos into the wrappers of the sweets (cf. fortune cookies), but this had only limited success.

He was inspired to add the "crackle" element when he heard the crackle of a log he had just put on the fire. The size of the paper wrapper had to be increased to incorporate the banger mechanism, and the sweet itself was eventually dropped, to be replaced by a small gift. The new product was initially marketed as the Cosaque (i.e., Cossack), but the onomatopoeic "cracker" soon became the commonly used name, as rival varieties were introduced to the market. The other elements of the modern cracker, the gifts, paper hats and varied designs, were all introduced by Tom Smith's son, Walter Smith, to differentiate his product from the many copycat cracker manufacturers which had suddenly sprung up."

Sadly we can't take them back and forth from the US to the UK because of the "banger" mechanism mentioned above - TSA tends to frown on exploding bits in luggage - so last year Dave bought them at a British shop stateside. I have to say I love this tradition and I don't even mind wearing the paper hats found inside the crackers.

Happy Christmas!!

07 December 2009

In Which Nancy DOESN'T Watch Where She's Walking

It was a Saturday morning just like any other in the UK...Cold, dreary, and potentially rainy. Simon and I bundled up Daisy in her coat (thank you, Rebecca and Dave!) and then bundled up ourselves and headed out to the post office to retrieve our Christmas cards that had arrived. We headed for Oakworth Road post office which requires a walk through the park, nothing really earthshaking.

Then I saw them...we were almost to the park and I saw a gorgeous Alsatian and another bull terrier type dog and somehow forgot my own clumsiness and lack of walking ability. I had just said to Simon that the Alsatian was lovely and "ooh look there's another one too!" when my toe struck the curb rather than cleared it. Next thing I remember is being on my hands and knees on the pavement, left palm stinging and both knees on fire. Bless him, Simon was very concerned and was trying to help me get up, and all I could do was hiss at him that I was fine and could we keep moving please?

Luckily, when I "went straight over like a stone," (Simon's account of my swan dive onto the pavement) I didn't let go of Daisy's leash nor did I fall on her. I should really not be allowed out of the house. We managed to pick up the Christmas cards and get back home, and all I have to show for my adventure is a scraped and bruised left hand, some bruises on my right knee, and a stiff-legged walk that could only be made more pitiful by a walker or a cane.

At least I wasn't having to figure out which way the traffic was coming at the same time or I might have a concussion as well.

03 December 2009

Piano Lessons and Happy Birthdays



A year ago this past Tuesday I was working at the University of Georgia. I had a class in the Poultry Sciences building to interpret and was running up the hill between Clark Howell Hall and the Chemistry/Biology block of buildings because, per usual, I was late getting to campus. My phone went off in my pocket and I simultaneously pulled my iPod earpiece out and slammed the phone against my head. Breathing like something off a bad B movie, I answered the phone and heard the most wonderful news I'd heard to date: "Joy is here!"

A year ago this past Tuesday something incredible and remarkable happened. My sister and her husband had their daughter, my niece, Joy. Now, I've had nieces and nephews and god-daughters before, but this time it was different. Joy is my sister's child. She's my niece. And she's perfect.

I can't believe she's a year old now or that I wasn't there to celebrate with her on her special day...but I'll see her next month when her parents take her on her first trip to the UK. Until then, join me as I enjoy her piano "lesson" with me back in October of this year. Miss you, Joy, Auntsie loves you to absolute bits.

Dia duit ó GARF.

Almost TOO Irish, that. Go raibh míle maith agat  to Chris Heffron (of the Southern Travel Guide ) for this great shot from last Sund...