30 December 2010

2010 in Review...Lettuce Style


Contemplating.
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
I thought before I talk about what I'm going to do next year, I'd jump on the bandwagon in the blogosphere and recap the past year here at the lettuce. See how I'm contemplating, there in the picture (that was taken in January almost three years ago...)?

Other than Susan, Dave, and Joy visiting, I don't think anything happened in January. Well, there was nothing blog-worthy, I suppose, or maybe I just couldn't be arsed to write anything. (As if to prove my point, I didn't even blog about them being here until February!)

I did say in my last post of 2009 that I was planning to earn part of my living via my writing. How did that pan out? Stay tuned...

February was a short month, but it saw me heading back home for a holiday at the end of the month that included one of the best visits EVER with my best friend Leah as well as Sandy Paws, the best greyhound gathering all year. In addition, I just happened to be within an hour's drive of Athens, Georgia, when ,See What I'm Saying screened at the University of Georgia. Marvelous, life-changing, fabulous movie, that. Go see it if you can.

March started with me still in the US, but I was soon back home in the UK and back to work at the bookstore. I'm assuming that something along the lines of a run on anti-American/anti-gay/anti-anythingbutChristian/etc. comments must have cropped up during that month, as my only post during the month has a kind of "I've had enough and I need to remind people who I am and what I stand for" sort of flair.

April started out to be rough. I'd been here a year, Jeany would have been 13 years old, would have been with me 11 years, and had been gone for a year. Susan had a birthday and I was reminded that I'd made it through 12 whole months of living abroad and no one had died or gone insane. Life turned out to be better than I'd expected in April.

May brought us Mills's birthday...big number 12! That was the only post that month, most likely because I was trying to not think about the fact that my precious little man was twelve and that I was twelve years older than I'd been when he was sprung from the Spartanburg Animal Shelter. Somewhere during the month a new government was elected here in the UK, and things have gone downhill fast ever since. The end of May marked the lost of my Hunky a year prior, but we chose to remember him fondly as we took a day trip to a place that he would have loved...York.

June wasn't hot, but it wasn't freezing anymore either which was quite nice. I'm going to include July here as well, because there was one event that absolutely stole focus for all of us for the entire month. I found a lump in one of my breasts. I survived having what turned out to be a cyst drained, as well as a needle-core biopsy (google that if you want to be scared out of your mind) that showed absolutely nothing. Mind you, I'd planned my funeral in the six weeks from finding the pitch invader to the results of the biopsy, and I've never been so glad to hear a doctor say he recommended that I not come back to him again.

In between June and July a former co-worker and friend of mine, Christine, came to visit for 10 days. Other than family, she's turning out to be the only visitor I've had from the states, and I very much enjoyed playing bumbling tour guide while she was here. Totally took my mind off the pitch invader, that's for sure!

August is the hottest month of the year, with temps soaring into the...wait for it...70s. Holy moly. Can you believe it? Tempers ran a bit hot during August, but I said then and I will continue to say that I am very proud of myself for sticking to my guns and asking for what I needed. I think that all involved have gotten past it...but to be honest, the most important people involved, me and Simon, have and all is well. He and I had a blast doing some exploring of West Yorkshire.

The heat didn't stay, as evidenced by this excerpt from a post in August: "We're now fully into the August Bank Holiday weekend and I was wearing a scarf to work this morning. A Scarf. In August. I'll leave you Southern Americans a moment to fan yourselves madly as that thought settles in."

September was full of planning for our American Future, publishing a volume including all my dog books, and politics all over the globe. Somehow I got drawn into all the "Tea Party" insanity back in the US and wrote what I think to be a very salient explanation of why I think those folks are just plain nutters.

October was pretty much nothing but a countdown to our trip to America at the end of the month. I was captivated momentarily by the rescue of 33 Chilean miners from a collapsed mine, and wish that the result had been the same when the mine collapsed in New Zealand.

Oh, there was the wearing of a witch's hat, stripey socks and an actual skirt to work one day just before we flew because it was almost Halloween. Moving on.

November=NaNoWriMo. I wrote 50,000 words worth of an EQ fan fiction novel during the month of November, and I have never felt so much like a real writer. I know some people look down their collective literary noses at NaNoWriMo but I feel like I really accomplished something awesome that month. I also recapped our visit to America, a fact that makes my winning at NaNoWriMo even more special...I didn't really start in earnest until after we got back on the 12th.

And here we are in December. It's been a rough month. It's the second Christmas in a row I've been away from my family, and this year Simon and I were here on our own because the rest of his family was up north and we just couldn't manage that without our own car. I think I've been the most homesick that I've been the whole year this month. I'm trying to channel it into resolve and determination to make the move back to America happen as soon as possible.

So to my resolution last year...earning money through my writing. While the blogs haven't brought in any money (only one of them possibly could) and NaNoWriMo produced a novel that I can't publish without asking for Sony's permission first, I have sold some of the Proud Racer compilations so I'm letting that count. I'm keeping the same resolution for next year and just going to build on it. There will be money made through writing...and even if there's not, there will be published work. There's a writer in me...she just needs to come up and get busy.

Happy New Year, see you guys in Twenty-Eleven.

28 December 2010

Deep and crisp and...very uneven.

So I'm sure that you've all been wondering how our Just the Two of Us Christmas went, haven't you? All five or so of you Lettuce Readers, your patience has paid off...see that photo there? That's pretty much how I've spent this Christmas.

I have not been ill. Wonder of wonders, I did not fall up or down any stairs and find myself bedridden as a result. The dog next to me in the photo is not ill. We have just been afflicted with, as they say here, "I Can't Be Arsed" as far as anything constructive goes. Simon and I have slept in every day since Saturday (we didn't make it to consciousness until well after 9am on Christmas morning) and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning every night since. Tomorrow will be a shock as we're both going into work...me because I have to and him because he needs to top up his flexi-time balance.

Christmas came and went, and was an extremely emotional day for me. I think the overwhelming Not Wanting To Be In England somehow collided with the equally mind-numbing This Might Be My Last Christmas while LIVING In The UK and they got tangled up in I Can't Afford To Give What I'd Like To Loved Ones. It wasn't pretty, but at least the episodes were brief.

Now, turning to the loot...we were all very lucky, including Daisy who got a small pink monkey that she has summarily ignored ever since. Mills received an orange and purple scratching pad that he hugs and rubs his head on before returning to the carpet to clean his claws.

We haven't gotten the snow that the BBC warned us we would, but instead had several hours of very loud, very heavy and very frozen rain last night. However, all is as it was before outside and cars are blaring their stereos as they cruise down our street today...or maybe that's the music in the SimCity game Simon got for Christmas. Hard to say.

So yeah, that's our Holiday Tale, full of food and bad telly and staying in bed...which is where I am now, as I write this, looking very much like the photo above only without the greyhound appendage. Next stop, New Year's Eve followed by our second wedding anniversary and THE ARRIVAL OF MY KINDLE.

What? I forgot to mention that I got a Kindle for Christmas, courtesy of my parents giving us money rather than sending us gifts through the unreliable and always delayed post? Oops. You can bet that will have its own blog post when it gets here. I might even give it a name.

Happy New Year, y'all. Stay tuned for a review of my NY resolutions from last year that might have come true...maybe a little, anyway.

21 December 2010

T-4 and counting...sort of.


ornamental.
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
It's almost here, the big day that seemed so far away this time last year. We were getting ready to head to my sister-in-law's house for three days then. Or even further away the year before, when Simon and I were in the States for Christmas and there was a perfect little 20 day old bundle of Joy waiting to greet us in Atlanta.

This year, though, I'm thinking, again? It's already Christmas again? I'm not ready. I'm not festive. I just want it to be over and done. I had a burst of Christmas spirit yesterday, when Simon was wrapping our Dunne family presents to send up north tomorrow with Louise. Everyone is getting together up there this year, but because we don't drive and I have to work Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas Bank Holiday, we can't go. So it's going to be me and Simon (and our families via Skype, I hope?) on the big day.

I think part of me has already started looking forward to Christmas next year because it will really feel like Christmas to me...because I'll be back home. The lighting of the tree at Underground Atlanta. Hopefully going with Joy when she sees Santa and rides the Pink Pig. Sending Daisy off to have Christmas with her Auntie Leah and then going to my folks' place in the mountains for Christmas Eve/Day. It's funny how much of that I took for granted until I couldn't do it anymore, and how incredibly important that ritual has become in its own absence.

But for now, I'll look for presents to be delivered by the terribly lazy postman who never knocks. I'll tromp through the snow to the bus stop to get to work. I'll deal with the customers at work who seem to think it's open season on Americans just because there's a bit of extra stress involved in holiday shopping. I'll watch Simon eat mince pies, and enjoy brussel sprouts at Christmas dinner. I'll try my best to enjoy what will be my last Christmas in England for a year or so. And on Christmas morning I'll wake up with my family...Simon, Daisy, and Mills, and be so very thankful I have them.

Merry Christmas, y'all, from all of us here at the Lettuce.

13 December 2010

Well, hello again, MONDAY.


Back in the U...K.
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
(Those of you that are familiar with Seinfeld, imagine that Monday=Newman.)

Oh, what a weekend. I spent most of Saturday not feeling well, but had a brilliant night out with Simon's oldest friends Saturday night. It's amazing how good conversation and laughter can make an absolutely disgusting curry taste better. (Seriously...that was the WORST chicken korma I've ever had, but I digress...) Cheers all around to Ben, Poom, Wesley and Suzanne for a marvelous time. Egg McMuffins all around!

Sunday we CLEANED the house in preparation for a visit from Simon's parents, which was just lovely even if all we had for a meal was pizza. I guess there is enough of my mother in me to want to be a proper hostess, even in a "dine in kitchen" that is only about 8'x8' all together. I'm going to miss being able to ask Simon to reach into the fridge and get more to drink, or grab another fork from the drawer without him having to get up from the table. Cheers to him, by the way, for doing the dirty work (I DON'T do bathrooms) while I mopped the kitchen.

Now it's Monday, and despite my best efforts there is nothing wrong enough with me that I can ring in sick. At least it's not snowing...yet. They're saying we're getting more of the white stuff on Thursday and I'm so not looking forward to that. Cheers, Nature, for giving me a break in the weather today and Wednesday, at least!

09 December 2010

Warning: Totally Emo


Who, me? Good. Definitely.
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
Right, so the last few posts here at the Lettuce have been pretty upbeat, I think. I've been making an effort, anyway, not sure that it's come across as such but we do what we can. NaNoWriMo kept me busy and focused throughout November, so perhaps my current attitude is just the big let down after a month of up? Not sure. Whatever it is, though, you have been warned.

A lot has been going on lately. Tempers are on a hair-trigger. I include my own in that statement, as anything seems to have the potential to set me off these days. Today I was yelling at the telly as students were destroying Parliament Square, then a few hours later I was crying my eyes out watching the lighting of the White House Christmas Tree. Thank goodness it didn't involve the National Anthem or you'd have heard me sobbing from all the way over where you are...wherever that is.

Work is stressful but that's pretty much a given during the run up to Christmas. Daisy and Mills and Simon and I are healthy but I'm not sure I'd go on record as saying we're 100% happy all the time. I miss Hunky and Jeany (and all my other furbabies, don't mistake) more this time of year than the rest of the time, and I guess that's why I picked that photo for the post tonight.

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time wishing I was still in that little house with that little tree and my little life... or that I was just anywhere but here. Normal for an expat during holidays, I get that. Even more so for one like me who really didn't 100% WANT to be an expat in the first place...and who can't wait to go back home. It affects everything I do...home is perfect, here is not. My rational mind knows that isn't the case, but I've got to say, the UK right now is giving me plenty of reasons to think I might be on the right track.

New government. Cuts to public spending. Angry students breaking windows and putting graffiti on walls. Customers (and others, mind you) in the store where I work that thinking they can say anything they like to me once they hear my accent. Some days I want to break windows and spray paint buildings and lob concrete blocks, but I don't. I take it out on you, my poor Lettuce readers. (I did warn you. Right there, in the title. See?)

Does that make me better than someone else? No, but it surely does color my perspective on some issues. Does that make me wrong? No. Will I become violent if I keep hearing that my experiences, my views, my perspectives on life and the world are somehow inferior or less enlightened? Possibly...

Who me? Good. Definitely. Just today I don't feel good enough.

30 November 2010

Thoughts on Winning, in 50K words or less...

I chose the picture above for today for several reasons. One, it's just as cold here today as it was when I was standing there on Bamburgh Beach almost two years ago. From what I'm hearing, this sort of cold weather and SNOW is here a bit early this year. I can't remember, to be honest. My memories of last winter here in the UK are that it was freezing cold and there seemed to be snow from November until about April. I might be exaggerating, but I'm not sure I'd thawed completely before we were hit with the white stuff again.

Two, there's a castle in the background that reminds me in no small way of the one I just spent the last month writing in and out of in my NaNoWriMo work. I mentioned in a previous post that I was writing a piece of Everquest fan fiction, and I wanted to tell you a little bit about it here so that it doesn't pass into oblivion. That was a lot of work for nothing.

When I played Everquest my main character was a wood elf druid named Ginolwenye. Years ago I started a blog for her where I recorded the stuff we did in game as though it was an unfolding fantasy novel. Well, that might be tooting my own horn a bit, but I wrote in first person as Ginolwenye and it was a fun little project for awhile. Later on I turned some of that into a few disjointed prose files, which lead to a larger project that I worked on now and then over the past seven years. I started my NaNoWriMo with a totally new idea, and couldn't get anything going, so on day three I switched back to writing a new chapter for Gin and her friends and BAM, game on. The best part was the day that I discovered I was not writing a continuation of the seven year novel, but a sequel...that happened around day 15 or so.

Three...I'm alone in the photo. NaNoWriMo has fab forums that you can join and talk to others on the insane quest for 50k words in 30 days. You can get help when you're stuck. You can adopt characters that others have created but can't use. There are pep talks and commiserations. Beyond cyber-help, there are people setting up Write-Ins and Word Wars where you meet up and interact with others working on the NaNoWriMo quest. I read a lot of stuff and even posted a few things (I'm sure that those following me on Twitter will be glad when this month is over!), but for the most part I finished my 50k (a few days early, I might add!) like I started it. Alone. Just like me standing on that beach in the photo.

I'm already looking forward to Script Frenzy in April and next year's NaNoWriMo. Hopefully I can get together something that I can actually publish next November...and I will have learned how to reach out and join the community that is at the heart of NaNoWriMo. For now, though, I am going to sit back and be proud of what I've accomplished.

Well, until December 1st when I start looking at it with a critical eye and a virtual red pen that would make my English teacher mother proud...

25 November 2010

Just wanted to say that...

As of 1:00am GMT, I've reached the 50K point on my NaNoWriMo novel!!!
(It's not even really CLOSE to finished, but still...)




I am WELL CHUFFED.

14 November 2010

condiments.


condiments.
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
I can't believe I forgot to mention that I've gone completely insane and am participating in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. You can follow the progress of my novel with this widget which will update, allegedly, as I update the website on my progress. My project is the continuation of ... don't laugh... an EQ Fan Fic novel I've been working on for a few years...and we'll see if I can get it to 50k words by the 30th of November.


13 November 2010

On perfect shots and even better holidays.


Purple.
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
Simon and I have just returned from two weeks in the US and currently the evil that is jet lag is keeping me wide awake, well past my bed time. The photo in today's post is my friends Katy and Kurt's daughter Ellery, and it's an example of the photo journey this vacation became. It seemed like everything we pointed the camera at became photo gold...well, almost everything. Okay, not even almost everything. We have loads and loads of blurred and similarly Susan'ed photos that I've been weeding through to get the perfect ones for uploading.

Did I mention jet lag? 1:45am GMT. Me=awake.

The holiday seemed to simultaneously last for a month...and a minute. We'd just arrived, and we were back in Philly on the way home. We were in Greensboro on a Monday, rejoicing that we'd have another Monday in the US in a week's time...and now I'm staring down a Monday back in the UK in under 24 hours. But I think holidays are always like that...time speeds up and slows down and folds over on itself.

We arrived in Atlanta via Philly on the 28th, and took a VERY long MARTA (because it's SMARTA, natch!) ride north to meet my parents. We spent the night there, then on Friday headed to Greenville. Katy and Kurt and Ellery were kind enough to host me, Simon, and Leah, and a good time was had by all. Seriously, if I could covet someone's life/house/etc etc it would be theirs!

By the way, just in case anyone was wondering, it is not at all legal to turn left on red in the US, even when you're 99% sure that the green light you see includes your left turn lane and completely miss the fact that the lane has it's own light. Moving on.

Saturday we hit the last Greenville Farmer's Market of the season, ate lunch at my fav downtown restaurant (Blue Ridge Brewing Co) and then Simon, Leah and I dropped in at the Bark in the Park to see our friends in Greyhound Crossroads.

Saturday night we went Trunk or Treating with about a million other people. After Ellery's successful climb to the top of the bouncy slide (and Kurt's rescue of same when she decided sliding was not for her), amid rumors of candy shortages at the event, we headed back home for lots of laughs, even though Katy was feeling absolutely pants with an oncoming head cold.

Sunday morning we headed north to the Carolina Renaissance Festival. It's all I can do to walk through that gate as a patron because my heart is there, in the group that I helped found. It wasn't right to be there without a greyhound at my side, but the group has grown and done so so well...I can't wait to be a part of it next year. Many kudos, much love, and a whole lot of chemise dancing to Debbie for taking the reins and running with them in my absence. I can't wait to see where she will take the group in the future!

Sunday night saw us following Leah up to Greensboro, and Monday we got to see the house that we hope against hope she will be able to buy and move into very soon. Anyone who knows me and Leah knows that we watched Talladega Nights while we were there visiting. "Just one more shot, Ricky. One more shot..."

Tuesday we headed back to Greenville to meet with a realtor and saw a few houses. Tuesday night Katy and Kurt again opened their home to us, and we had more of the same..."Fun, Food, and Conversation!" Thanks unending to everyone that put us up for the night on our Carolina Excursion!

Wednesday we were off to Georgia to spend a night with my parents before going to Atlanta on Thursday to spend a night with my sister, her husband, and the most perfect niece anyone could EVER have, Joy. She has grown up so much since I last saw her in March! Part of what sucks about being an expat is that I feel like I have missed so much.

Friday night we headed back to north Georgia, and on Saturday we drove over to the gorgeous Unicoi State Park to meet my college classmate Heather and her new husband for lunch. To be filled under Weird Things That Only Happen When Nancy and Heather Are Together, the Georgia Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf was having their conference at Unicoi that same weekend, so the place was overflowing with interpreters.

Sunday we went to church with Mom and Dad, and Sunday night we again imposed on Katy and Kurt so that Monday morning we could meet with the realtor again to see more houses. This time, the first one we saw not only ticked ALL the boxes for us but was literally right around the corner from our friends...but it is under contract and we wouldn't be ready to buy yet if it wasn't. We had a good experience with Suzanne, our realtor, and look forward to working with her in the future.

Thanks to Anne, we had SUSHI Monday for lunch...mercy was that delicious. After she spent a very harrowing weekend looking for a lost bloodhound, I was so glad that we got to actually sit down with her for a meal. That is going to become a HABIT when we live there. Suuuuuushi.

Sorry, where was I?

Monday night saw us back with my parents, and Tuesday we drove down to meet my Aunt for lunch and hit a few outlet malls. We are nothing if not overly aware of the exchange rate being in the favor of those coming to the US from the UK. Wednesday Simon and I went up to my grandmother's house with my father to start cleaning things out, but that experience is another blog post for another day.

Thursday we bought groceries, we packed our bags, and we generally mourned the fact that we'd be leaving the US on Friday. Friday morning we were up before the sun, we drove to Atlanta, and before we knew it we were at Hartsfield on our way back across the ocean. While it's been good to get back to Daisy and Mills, my heart splinters a bit when I think of Joy hugging me, trying to give me a kiss and saying "Bye Bye, Auntsie! See you!"

When Jet Lag finds someone else to annoy I will better be able to reflect without floods of tears on a fabulous two weeks. For now though, I'm just so very motivated to get us on track to move back. Bye bye, America. See you!!

20 October 2010

As heard on the Beeb just now..


Look kids...yeah, you know.
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
"You know something important is going on today as there are helicopters over Westminster. Of course, they (ed note: the helicopters) may be cut in the next few minutes (ed note: referring to the upcoming Spending Review Announcement/Bombshell), but let's just enjoy the view for now..."

Now to watch the kindergarteners sling insults and mud at each other...sorry, for those not watching the BBC News Channel, I'm referring of course to the Prime Minister's Questions. Good LORD it's like "Cheers" in there...Labour Leader is announced and the entire room full of pompous and pious MPs shouts, "ED!!!!"

13 October 2010

Thanks, Kiddos


The Usual Suspects
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
I was just looking back through my blog to find when I moved to the myriad of places I lived between 2005 and 2010, and I was struck by what a support and saviour my greyhounds were through all of that. Of course, my Daisy is continuing in that tradition, but I'm thinking now of Hunky, Profile, and Jeany who have left me for the Bridge...where hopefully they can stay in one place for a long time.

They put up with moving three times in as many years. They put up with living in two houses in Greenville and Anderson. They did so many tours at the Carolina and Georgia Renaissance Festivals, and all they wanted in return was my undying love and...well, in Jeany's case for sure, worship. They had it, and they still have it. Miss you guys. Love you to bits. Thanks, kiddos.

Gracias a Dios

Everything wrong in the world is right, for a few moments, as I'm sitting here watching the miners in Chile being rescued from the mine where they've been for the better part of two months.  You can click here to see photos of the first miners being pulled from the rescue tunnel.  Gracias a Dios, Gracias a Dios.

07 October 2010

Soon and very soon...

See that view? That's what my parents see EVERY DAY as they eat their meals, venture out onto their back porch, or just gaze out the windows in the great room. I don't know what mountain that is, exactly, but I'm sure my dad does. He was born and raised just across the road from where this picture was taken, and has made these mountains home his entire life.

There are just 20 days left until Simon and I leave for our much needed holiday in America. While I'm still fretting over fitting in visits to everyone that I want to see, scheduling a time to meet with a real estate agent in Greenville, and possibly chasing down leads for jobs for me once we move back, I'm also just desperate to be home. I think it's the amount of time I've been away this time that's making the homesickness worse, plus the stress of the house not selling and all the rest.

But seriously, if you had THAT view to look forward to, why would you ever leave? Soon and very soon, we are going to see...home.

29 September 2010

This time next year...Ahoy CRF!


Cap'n Morgan Arrrrrrrrr
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
My last entry was a bit of a downer, so I wanted to think of something happy to write about today. As I looked around the web for inspiration, I found it in the strangest place...the calendar at the bottom of the screen. It's coming up on October, which means it's coming up on the 10th season that the Hounds of East Fairhaven have made an appearance in the cozy village at CRF! Ten years...

The first year there were four of us humans and about ten greyhounds all together. We didn't have our own building but were annexed onto the Lord Mayor's Court instead. We sat on benches in the back. We left during the shows so that we didn't steal focus. Orphans brought the dogs water and tucked blankets around them when it got colder. We learned to stick weave and more than we ever needed to know about bullfrogs. We probably lost several stone among us from the sheer amount of walking we did.

The second year we were thrilled and amazed to have our own tent, despite it's placement in front of a storm drain that sadly got blocked halfway through the season. Our tent, or "A River Is Still Running Through It," was too small for a platform, but we brought a dining room table, chairs, trunk, sheepskin, and a variety of oriental rugs and made it home. We had new members and I think our running total was about 6 humans and 15-20 greyhounds.

Something happened before year three and we lost lots of members. There were three of us that were regulars, but luckily we all had multiple hounds so we still had at least 5 hounds at any given time. Our tent was in a new place, over by the joust. We drank chai tea and listened to the horses behind us in their paddock. We played with the drums from the stall next door, and put fairy wings on the greyhounds (much to their general UNamusement). With a huge open area behind the jousting arena we did lots of lure pole and other demonstrations, much to the delight of the patrons (and the dogs, who got to RUN). We camped on site for the first time, some in tents and me in my Element. We were feeling like part of the CRF family.

Fourth year rolled around and we ended up at the other end of the festival, right by the front gates! There were cinnamon almonds and chai teas within arm's reach, as well as pumpkin milkshakes and tiramasu. The lure pole demonstration was a great hit, even when the dog being demo'ed ran past the handler and joined the audience at the Tortuga Twins show. There were hay bales and yellow jackets...the latter giving us trouble in the tent and in Joanne's corset.

We started our fifth season with a new spring in our steps and our hips, as we were positioned next to the Jewels of the Caravan. We snuggled with our dogs on our new platform and learned new words like yalayahabeebee. We feared being so close to the petting zoo, and were thankful when only one rabbit broke free and came visiting...luckily during houndie nap time. By the end I think some of us had morphed into half fewterer, half bellydancer!

The sixth season is a bit of a blur to me because I was in Alabama. The woman in the photo up there was an absolute lifesaver for me, as she agreed to take on the leadership of the group in my absence. HOEF is like my child...it was my idea in the beginning, I gathered a group and went to CRF to pitch the idea, and I'd been there almost every opening since we were given the green light. To hand it over was heartbreaking, but at the same time I knew Debbie loved it as much as I did. There were growing pains that season including a strange argument over a displaced young tree, but the two times I visited it was like I'd never left.

Come seventh season I was BACK and raring to go. Our tent was borrowed, due to Mother Goose's inability to be there due to illness. We painted a concrete goose, put a bonnet on it, and put it in front of our tent lest we forget to send her our best good wishes and thoughts for recovery. Once again we were near the almonds and the chai, but I was without one of the originals...as I walked the grounds the first morning, I could feel the presence of a certain white and dark brindle hound just to my left, nuzzling my hand and then dashing off in search of a Tortuga show. It was Daisy's first season, and the first time that I went Pirate...and may never go back.

The eighth season saw us with new wonders to behold. Under Debbie's leadership the group had been given a BUILDING! A permanent place to be...no river would run through it and no late autumn Carolina monsoon wind would carry it away. We had sparse furnishings but we had a storage room/time out room for tired hounds. We had our own real backstage area. We settled in and made ourselves at home. We had become part of the CRF family.

The ninth season I only made it for one weekend because I was away...far away, here in England. I remember walking past the flying machines and toward the HOEF building and feeling like I was going to explode from pride, from jealously, and just from happiness to be there...to see them doing what I knew they were so good at doing...to see what HOEF had become, and to remember huddling in the back of the mayor's tent that first year. This year will be the tenth season and again, I'm only there for one weekend. But next year...Katy bar the door, I'm back! Now...where's my sewing machine?

For more information about the Carolina Renaissance Festival or the Hounds of East Fairhaven, please visit the CRF website and click on "Entertainment." Much love and thanks to all the cast and crew over the past ten years, and special thanks to Debbie Rater, who flies the flag high for HOEF every day of the year, and has kept it alive for me to come back to next fall. Ya-lah, ya-lah? Arrrrrrrrr...

22 September 2010

Happy Inside



Can you imagine if they released 100 greyhounds into an IKEA? There wouldn't be a meatball left in the store, I can assure you of that, and they'd find them all asleep on the Ektorp sofas.

(There's a ginger tabby that looks right at the camera at one point...looks SO much like my Mills...)

Seriously.


Seriously.
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
Things have gone from weird to totally nuts in two days here at the Lettuce. (Nods for that to my former boss, Roger, who taught me that totally nuts IS in fact a diagnostic term.) We got a phone call about 2pm on Monday that someone wanted to come see the house THAT DAY. Considering at that time the house looked like a tornado had not only hit, but had brought its friends Hurricane and Duststorm and settled in for the long haul, that was not going to happen. Friendly and Not At All Helpful Estate Agent suggests Wednesday at 5pm. I agree, hang up the phone, and PANIC.

Thankfully my employer was sympathetic and let me switch one of my work days this week so that today can be spent getting ready for the potential buyer that may or may not turn up.

No, before you say anything, that's not my general pessimism about the world at large rearing its head. That's an assumption based on the cold hard fact that in the two years plus that the house has been on the market, we've had five calls that someone was coming and only three of those have turned up on the day.

So, laundry's in and I'm taking a tea break, and I started thinking about what might happen if the bloke actually turns up AND wants the house. Remember the previous post and my thoughts on change? Yeah, anxiety times infinity. But good, really good I think. When I start getting nervous about the move and think it would just be easier to stay here because I sometimes can't be asked to do anything difficult (go on, those that know me, laugh, I'll keep going though if you don't mind?) I start thinking of specific things I've experienced in the past two years that have made up my mind that this is not the place to be for me at this time. Here's a few, for your general amusement, pity, shock, awe, horror, and ambivalence. Enjoy.

1. At work one day a customer said to me that he'd never visit America because he wasn't a fan of George W. Bush. I casually mentioned that we'd elected a new president and had high hopes for his administration. The customer went on to tell me that Mr. Obama wouldn't be in office long because, "he'll get shot. That's what you American lot do, you get a gun and shoot people."

2. I miss my car. It worries me that if something should happen to Daisy I don't know how I'd get her to the vet quickly because most of the taxi drivers here won't transport dogs...or if they do, they put them in the boot and won't allow them in the backseat with me.

3. "What part of New Zealand are you from? Oh...you're American. Huh."

4. "What part of Canada are you from? Oh, I see, well I guessed Canadian first because most people are offended if you call them American and they aren't."

5. During a conversation that I wasn't an active part of but was close enough to hear, the statement was made that "America is always going to be at least two decades behind the rest of the world." The person then noticed me, grinned, and said, "I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, right Nancy?"

6. I miss my dishwasher, my tumble dryer, my box springs, Kraft Dinners (that I don't have to go to Manchester to purchase or pay close to $4/box for), Target (yeah, I know, boycott, blah blah), WalMart (back off man, I'm poor), Renaissance Festivals, greyhound adoption work/events, and Hazelnut flavoured CoffeeMate coffee creamer (creamer, not whitener!!).

There are things that I love about living here, but this isn't a post about that. I want to stop feeling like an outsider. I want to be home.

And speaking of home, my current one isn't going to clean itself. Ta-rah!

20 September 2010

On Entrances, Exits, and Just Passing Through...


Entrance or Exit?
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
Like a lot of my photos, the one for today's post is of a gate and a passageway. I seem to be obsessed with them, and if you check out Coming Out of the Tunnel and It's a Journey, you'll see that there is a reason for this obsession.

When I was a kid (and still today, if I'm honest), I had a big problem with change. Mom tells me that I used to cry during the credits of TV programs because I didn't want them to be over. I can remember anxiety hitting just before the bell rang in school because I was changing classes. I never wanted the change to occur because, I think, I wasn't self confident enough to know that I could handle what was coming next.

What the heck is someone like that doing moving to another country, you might ask? Been asking myself that for the past 17 months, if I'm honest. Everything has been a struggle for me, from the first time I took the bus on my own to the supermarket to the first time I used my debit card and remembered the PIN (those happened in the same trip, coincidentally).

Yeah, I know, this blog is all about sunshine and happiness, isn't it? Watch out, the unicorns in the corner may poke you with their horns as they scamper away from the leprechauns holding balloons.

I was thinking about my photos of entrances/exits as I stopped by random bacon, a blog run by a fellow American expat and friend of mine, Julie. Her post, Somewhere In Between, struck a chord in me, specifically when she said:

Just as I was turning left to take a short-cut through a nearby park, I was suddenly overcome with the feeling of "foreigness". Potentially only other expats can fully understand what I mean by that statement, but basically I was riding along on my bike and this huge swell of emotion came up involuntarily, pushing the thoughts of "I live in a foreign country. This is not my culture. This is England. How did I get here again?" into my mind. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling necessarily, but just a highly intense awareness around the fact that I'm not in my native land. These thoughts were then followed up by mixed feelings of pride, sadness, intrigue and loneliness all at once.

That's it. That's what has been following me like Winnie the Pooh's stormcloud since I got here a year ago in April and for the life of me, I can't shake it. I think that what I'm realising is that I'm not really cut out to LIVE permanently outside of the US, and that's okay. There is no shame in knowing who you are and where you belong...in fact, that's the same thing that settled expats feel, just they feel that they belong here.

So are my photos entrances or exits? Neither. I'm just passing through, on my way home to regroup before I head out to explore again. Only next time I'll take an extra jumper...

13 September 2010

All Together Now...


proud racer cover
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
(from Lulu.com )

"The entire Proud Racer series (One Greyhound's Journey, A Tail of Two Brothers, Blind Faith, and Half Crazy) is now together in one volume: The Complete Proud Racer! As told from the perspectives of the greyhounds, follow Hunk as he leaves his athletic career behind and becomes a pet in One Greyhound's Journey and A Tail of Two Brothers...will he be reunited with his littermate Marky? In Blind Faith, available for the first time with Lulu.com, meet Shotgun Liz, a fiesty old greyhound lady whose faith leads her not only to a new home with new friends, but possibly back to the old friends from home. Finally, in Half Crazy, follow the newest pack member, Daisy, as she learns the ropes at Home...with the help of a former pack member turned angel. This series is sure to delight both those who share their lives with greyhounds and those who don't...yet."

I have my copy in hand now...and I hope that wherever he is my Hunky-man is happy with seeing his beautiful face on the cover of this new book...yet another way for me to tell his story. Thanks for looking, y'all...and thanks even more if you buy one!

06 September 2010

On Tea Bags, Birth, Truth, and America


He looks hungry...
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
I was listening to Radio Four's Americana with Matt Frei yesterday while having my tea, and the topic was "Conservative economist Thomas Sowell on how America's greatness is being dismantled." Let me pause a second before I get started and say that while I do enjoy listening to this program, it's a bit of a bone of contention in our house because my husband LOVES a good debate. I do not share that love, and often come out of these "discussions" feeling as though I've endured an hour's worth of America Bashing. My rational mind knows that is not the case, but my emotions often take over when the topic is my country.

You would think that since I freely admit to loving the United States of America, warts and Republicans and all, that I would understand the motivation behind the "Tea Party Movement" even if I don't agree with it. This morning I've devoted quite a bit of time to researching these "teabaggers" (*snort*) and I've got to say that I'm even more puzzled by them than I was when I started.

Call me naive. Call me a tree hugger. Call me a socialist. I'm not thick and I'm not reading "left wing propaganda" describing this movement and its proponents. I'm going to their own websites and checking out the profiles of their champions that are in their own words...and I gotta say, I still don't get it. Here's what I'm seeing and what it is leading me to believe...I'm sure I'll be corrected every way but Sunday, but y'all, maybe before shouting at me you should look at your PR people with a closer eye because they're the ones that are producing this convoluted information.

Aren't you proud of me? I haven't called it drivel...yet.

I feel that calling the current loose conglomeration of dissent the "Tea Party Movement" is disrespectful to those patriots that opposed the taxation imposed by the British. The main problem there, unless I seriously slept through ALL of my history classes, was that there was no representation of the colonists in Parliament when these taxes were voted on and approved. None. As in zero. The people voting on the taxes lived in England, not Virginia. Now all of those people that you Tea Party members see as oppressing you? They're all Americans. YOU voted them into office, if you voted. So...um...not the same thing. Dissent may be patriotic, but this isn't dissent. It's more like you've changed your minds.

I already know what the argument will be for my next statement, and I can bet it will have the word conspiracy in it at least once, but this one is for the birthers out there. Barack Obama, II is an American. He was born in Hawaii, and I think we all agree that Hawaii is a state and not just some random collection of Polynesian islands. I feel fairly safe in believing that when the then senator from Illinois submitted, via his political party, his intention to run for the office of the President, SOMEONE up there in Washington vetted his creds to see if he was elligible to run. If he'd been born in Kenya or Bali or wherever else these folks claim he was born, HE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN ON THE BALLOT.

I will say that I'm not sure how I feel about the Health Care Reform business because I'm still weeding through all the miles and miles of text of the bills and the amendments and the opposition and and and...but I can say this: Those of you that are outraged because the law forces you to have health insurance, are you kidding me? I suppose you're also opposed to laws that make driving a vehicle while intoxicated illegal, and the one that requires you to wear a seatbelt? I was pleased to see, however, that there is a tax imposed on indoor tanning...or as I like to call it, Please, Give Me Skin Cancer and Let Me Pay You For It.

Here's a neat tidbit I uncovered: all that bailout business that the right whinges on about being proof that Obama doesn't care about America etc etc etc? Yeah, that was a Bush thing. How soon we forget.

And what of the ringleaders of what seems to me to be quite the circus of discontent and anger and...patriotism? I've never liked Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, or Rupert Murdoch. FoxNews is a joke as far as Fair and Balanced goes. (And before you ask, no, I don't watch CNN. Currently I'm getting my news from the BBC and the Daily Show, thanks for asking.) Sarah Palin? Seriously, that's a whole blog post in itself but I'll sum it up by saying I think she's a victim of a political machine desperate to lure in female voters. You can't dress up a pit bull in lipstick and expect it to do anything but bark incoherently. Mama Bear will still maul you as soon as look at you...she's not the best choice for rational conversation.

This post is sliding down into a right proper rant so I will wind it up by saying that I love my country. I'm proud to be an American. I don't think that Mr. Obama is a savior, I'm not waiting for him to pay for my way through life, and I feel that he has missed the mark on some things that I was hoping to see when I cast my vote for him as my choice for President...and I can't wait to get back home and add my voice to those rational Americans not won over by the current cacophany of fear-mongerers and bullies.

27 August 2010

Didn't I tell you not to blink?


Heading home...
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
Well, after the exciting and scary and revealing events of June and early July, I was hoping for a bit of calm. A bit of warmish weather. Peace. I was going to enjoy the British summer and relax after staring my own mortality in the face twice in as many months.

Wrong.

With August came family drama that I won't rehash here save saying that I will go to my grave being proud of myself for sticking to my guns when it came to getting what I needed, and proud of my husband who remains, to this day, the most romantic and wonderful man on the planet. I felt our family solidify over the course of some very ugly and potentially soul destroying days, and I'm thrilled to report that we've come out the other side intact.

And that happy, smiley British summer that the cider ads were all touting on telly? Yeah, apparently that was over last week but no one sent me the memo. We're now fully into the August Bank Holiday weekend and I was wearing a scarf to work this morning. A Scarf. In August. I'll leave you Southern Americans a moment to fan yourselves madly as that thought settles in.

Today was a lesson in patience as far as getting to work goes. I was out of the house on time (two hours and fifteen minutes prior to my official start time at work) and made my bus as well as the train from Keighley to Leeds. However, forces outside of my control and all the way down the line at Fitzwilliam (remind me to tell you why I hate that town one day...it has to do with a long walk to a greyhound event and quarter-sized hail in June) conspired against me. I boarded the 0940 Leeds to London KX at 0925 (along with about a million happy Leeds Rhino fans and others wearing kit I didn't recognize) and settled into the one square foot of space left in a vestibule to read while I waited to arrive at Wakefield Westgate at 0952...however, at 0951 we still hadn't left Leeds.

A broken down train at Fitzwilliam (just typing the name of that town makes me go all stabby) had caused delays up the line at Leeds...delays that turned into cancellations. When it became apparent that I wasn't going to leave Leeds until well after I was supposed to start work in Wakefield, I called in and started looking for a train BACK to Keighley.

At least the laundry's out on the line.

So I think that summer is officially over and we can now slink into my favourite season of them all, Autumn...as well as start the countdown toward our American holiday at the end of October. Life isn't GOOD yet, but it surely is getting BETTER every day.

Now if we could just find a buyer for the house...

21 July 2010

Our Great British Summer


Is this the way out?
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
As we wind down July and head into the hottest month on the planet in every other place but England, I wanted to take a minute or two and catch you up on what's been going on here in our little corner of this damp island.

June was a bit of a wash, really. For those that don't know (and I'm going to apologize here to my more sensitive and MALE readers, this is heading into serious TMI territory), in early June I found a lump in a place women never want to find lumps. We did the responsible thing, of course, and headed to the GP. Turns out she couldn't definitively (I think that's translated as "without fear of a lawsuit") say what it was, so we were "fast tracked" to the Breast Care Clinic at Airedale Hospital over in Steeton.

PS-Steeton is a lovely village, and the staff at Airedale were just fabulous.

Why is "fast track" in quotes? Because here being "fast tracked" means that you'll be seen not more than two weeks from your referral appointment. I was seen on the day before the two week deadline, so I suppose that's pretty "fast." Nevermind the absolute panic and dread that had set in...a friend of mine here said that when it happened to her she'd planned her entire funeral before she got in to be checked out. I can relate.

The first something turned out to be mostly a nothing, a cyst to be exact that they gave me the option to have drained with a needle. Seriously? Y'all, don't ever give me the option when it comes to a needle because I will say no EVERY time. This time, though, they asked me what my husband might say...to which I replied that he'd want it drained and let's just get on with it. I came away from that thinking I'd truly turned a corner and Holy CRAP am I brave or WHAT?

Then I found out about the second somethings.

Seems that when they did a mammogram (which, to the delight and amusement of the techs, I referred to as Twister Plus a Vice Grip) they found five little itty-bitty things that they wanted to check out further. Okay, more xrays? Um, no, we need to remove them to check them out.

See above dire panic and funeral planning. This time I went so far as to pick out flowers.

A week later I was in to play another round of Vice Grip Twister while they did what is politely called a Needle Core Biopsy. I don't really know what they did, to be honest, I looked the other way, stared at the poster of Scotland on the wall, and tried to ignore the sound of the needle as it removed sample tissue. Actually, it reminded me so much of a staple gun I was finding myself amused a few times remembering staple gun fights in the theatre shop when I was in college...but I digress.

Again I was on top of the world, I'd survived the removal of 12 tissue samples and was told they were just going to get one more. Yeah, they really could have kept that to themselves. I remember looking at my hand and thinking that it was amazing I'd held onto the machine this long without losing my grip...and noticed that my hand was now turning a weird color, kind of greenish...and then the yuck hit and I told them I was feeling sick.

Did I mention how awesome the staff there are? They did the last one, removed the Jaws of Life, and one of the sweetest nurses EVER literally mopped my brow until my color came back.

The results came back, and I think the best way to tell you is to quote the doctor directly: "We would recommend at this time that we do not treat you any more, as the samples were all normal."

I need to take a moment and admit that I clapped my hands.

In between these two appointments, a former co-worker and friend of mine, Christine, came to visit. In a week, we saw Keighley, Leeds, York, Haworth/Moors, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Manchester. You can see pics of that week here. Now I'm starting the countdown to our holiday in America in October, and thinking on ahead to our move back to America next Spring...but not too much. There's still allegedly a tiny bit of British Summer left to come, and if you blink you might miss it.

Don't blink.

07 June 2010

It's a Journey...with lots of rest breaks.

I was writing a post for the other blog for which I am a writer, Touring Old Blighty, and came across the photo I've used for this post. There is a lot going on at the moment here at the Lettuce HQ. Some things I can discuss (my job, our plans to return to the US next year, Daisy's never ending love affair with custard cremes, thank you Simon!) and some I can't. The Hive of Angry Bees that live in my head have reached a fevered pitch over the past few weeks, and I found myself doing the only thing that I could do to calm them yesterday. I did nothing.

Seriously. The only strenuous exercise I undertook was lifting the laptop off the floor in the sitting room and placing it in my lap. My destination of choice? The two-seater with a view of the telly. Sorry, let me translate that for my American readers...I was on the loveseat watching TV. Simon joined me for part of my slugfest, then took on his own slugfest in the backyard with actual slugs. I hope he relocated them to new postcodes but in reality he probably just shoved them under the fence into the neighbor's back garden.

Right, back to my original point, why I chose this photo... This was taken at Alnwick (pronounced Ann-ick) Gardens in Northumberland last summer during my vacation with my inlaws. I took it because there is a photo in existance of Simon in the same spot a few years prior with considerably less greenery around him. Looking at it now, I not only am reminded of how much can change in a short time, but struck by how in the photo as in real life, the path draws me along to the end. The stresses, the problems, the issues (Ihs-shoos, innit?) are like the vines that continue to grow up and over the trellises. One day I will be able to look back on them and be amazed at the journey I've had.

I just have to remember the rest breaks.

01 June 2010

Happy June, y'all.


The Dunnes, minus one
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
In typical English fashion, the beginning of June has come in with a drizzly annoying rain to accompany it. You know, the kind of rain that means you can't really hang out washing. The kind that turns my hair from carefully straightened to a home perm circa 1980 in a split second, that kind of drizzly rain.

Not much to report, really. It's now been a year since I lost my Hunky man, and a year for Daisy as an only dog. Mills is still enjoying his own personal climbing frame, aka our stairs. The house remains on the market, and we've done some DIY (with much more to go) in the hopes of actually getting someone in the door that wants to buy it.

There are plans afoot for a move back across the ocean, but with the uncertainty of the house sale they're going to have to stay afoot for awhile longer. Eurovision was last weekend and was marvelous, wonderful, and totally kitchy as it always is. The UK's entry was abysmally out of tune and awful, and came in dead last. Better than nil pointe, I suppose.

On the 22nd we took a fantastic day trip to York to meet up with some other Americans. In a way, it made me want to give the UK another try and see if I can be happy here...but at the same time it made me remember what I missed...American accents, shared cultural references and experiences...oodles of advice and reassurance that my experience here has been normal for an expat.

So that's been my May, really. Onward and upward from here, yeah? Ah to be where I was last year, with no job to rule my schedule, but with the knowledge and courage to travel and experience that I didn't have last summer. Eh.

20 May 2010

M is for May...and Mills


And then he got even cuter!
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
Twelve years ago, a perfect little orange tabby cat was born somewhere in the wilds of Spartanburg, SC. He and his littermates were retrieved from a dumpster and brought to the Spartanburg Animal Shelter...and soon after he reached through the bars of his cage and smacked me on the shoulder. He named himself, meowing loudly each time I said the word Mills when we passed Spartan Mills in the car.

Mills has outlived his feline housemates Franny and Zooey. He and Zooey were buddies as brothers often are, but he drove Franny round the bend, puffing up at her and dive bombing her from the back of the sofa. He has welcomed (with claws at the ready, mind you) six greyhounds who became permanent residents and countless others just passing through on their way to their own forever homes. He has become Daisy's shadow and not-so-welcome bosom companion since her status change to Single Dog.

He crawls across my head at night and nuzzles into my hair, purring like a freight train gone awry. He routinely gives lectures on the value of Giving Him Some Milk Right Now in the kitchen (especially when someone puts the kettle on). He would love to explore the back garden, and I'm positive he's keeping minions in the cellar. As I sit here, even now, he stands up and pats me on the arm with one of his paws for attention, then sits back down to guard the door.

Mills never left the house save a few emergency vet appointments in the first eight years of his life. From years nine through eleven he moved six times, one of those being a four thousand mile move to a new country. I think that all that moving has brought my timid little ginger kitten out of his shell. Well, shoved him out, if I'm honest.

No longer a figment of my imagination, he greets visitors from his perch at the bend in the staircase before fleeing to the safety of Under The Duvet. His reward for his 12 long years of service is a nightly nap in front of the gas fire...something he will surely miss when we move back to America next year.

Happy Birthday, my Little Man, my Orange Terror, my Punkin Kitty. Twelve years old this month...I've blinked and those twelve years are gone. Let's take the next twelve a bit more slowly, shall we?

30 April 2010

Inspired by La Chat Noir...


My first reading!
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
(who, by the way, is positively lovely and should be followed on Twitter and by way of her blog by the same name!)

This is a list of the top 100 best-loved novels as complied by the BBC in 2003 as a part of their "BigRead." How many have you read? I'm going to make it a late New Year's Res to read all the ones from here that I haven't already...the ones I've read will be marked with bold type.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

29 April 2010

Happy Gotcha Day, Bean.


Is there a problem?
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
10 years ago today I came home from a workshop to find a spooky little blond girl in the back of a crate in my basement. I opened the door and sat down outside, and in a few minutes the most beautiful greyhound I'd ever seen walked slowly out of the crate and put her face into my collarbone and sighed. Finally, she seemed to be saying, you're here to take care of me. A year ago I arrived in a new country, and the same blond girl hobbled over to me, sank her beautiful face into my shoulder, and sighed. Finally, I'm tired and I hurt, but you're here to take care of me.

Happy Gotcha Day, my Bridge Angel. I miss you.

Love,
Mommy

26 April 2010

Hello from the St George's Day festival!

As seen over at Touring Old Blighty, this is "Travels with Daisy, Part Two."

This installment really centers on the great days out you can find by checking on the market schedules in whichever part of the UK you're visiting.

This past weekend, Simon, Daisy and I had a fantastic time at the St. George's Day festival/market right here in Keighley. For those that aren't familiar, St. George is the patron saint of England, slayer of dragon and saviour of fair maiden (that was set up as a sacrifice to said dragon). On our lovely church green in the town centre was set up a market, demonstrations of medevial life/crafts/swordplay and food! We took Daisy with us and she was a star yet again, handling the crowd like a champ. We were also excited to check out the finished products from the Shorn Keighley project, where local artists painted sheep statues in honor of the rich history of the wool trade in this part of the country. It reminds me of the painted bulldogs in Athens, GA at the University of Georgia (go DAWGS! Sorry, Dave.).

While there are many attractions in the UK that will permit dogs (far more than in the US, I must admit), if you have a gorgeous day in England you should definitely take advantage of the weather and get out to some of the outdoor markets. You won't be disappointed, and you may find a treasure or two along the way. If you're lucky enough to be in the UK in the springtime, outdoor markets and festivals/faires are an absolute must because the weather is sunny but not boiling and all the plants are in bloom.

The next installment of Travels with Daisy will be a trip to Skipton this Friday that we've been trying to accomplish for two weeks now...fingers crossed the rain stays away!! We will be cruising the Skipton open market and hopefully heading up to Skipton Castle, which is a dog friendly attraction.

21 April 2010

Lazy Days


Mills loves the gas fire...
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
There's not a lot to report here at the Lettuce. Work continues as whateverisnormal for where I work. The house continues to not only NOT sell but NOT attract any potential buyers. Daisy continues to need a place to run full tilt and I continue to not have any options in that department. The weather continues to be weird and ever so chilly, and Mills continues to worship at the Gas Fire Altar most nights when I can sneak in and light it.

And speaking of the weather, one thing that seems to not be continuing is the ban on flights in and out of UK airspace...well, down south anyway. I think airports in my end of the country have been open since sometime yesterday, but I wouldn't swear to that. However, since the majority of the flights come through the London airports, that's what is getting the media attention.

Sorry, I need to take a second to remove my tongue from my cheek. It's painful.

There are lots of things that I just don't get about British/European life, but this week's drama with the airlines over the volcanic ash that grounded flights has me puzzled on many fronts, not the least of which being the overwhelming amount of whinging going on on television, radio and newspapers from people whose flights are grounded.

Oh, sorry, whinging=whining.

Really? I get that it's a first class pain when your travel plans are interrupted...when I lived in West Virginia for that one LONG year, there were plenty of times that I had to re-arrange my plans because there were no planes going anywhere near Charleston's airport (usually if someone suspected that there was a vague notion that there could possibly be something that slightly resembled frozen precipitation). But at the same time, I'm so very attached to the fact that I'm still alive that I had to be okay with the cancellations and delays. Give me stuck in an airport over dead next to a smoking pile of melted airplane engine any day.

Another bit that I don't get is the fact that UK travellers are being "rescued" from places that are accessible by train or car, but not from places that are, let's say, across an ocean like the US. It isn't the "why aren't they getting folks onto boats from the US, etc., and back to the UK" part I don't get...boat=slow, I got that part. But why are we sending boats to Spain? Isn't it connected by rail to France, which is further connected to the UK by train and ferry?

I know that on some level I should keep my mouth shut on this because I'm not stranded anywhere and none of my plans were disrupted by the volcano. (But now that I mention it, why doesn't this happen when I'm on holiday in the states?) But that leads me to the third thing I don't get...why has there been little to no coverage of what's going on in Iceland as a result of this major occurance? Are there people near the volcano who have lost lives or family or homes due to the eruption? Why are we so quick to worry about our flights and to forget, almost, that the volcano has possibly affected others in far more critical ways?

Much to ponder. I think I'll go turn on the fire.

16 April 2010

Well, it is Friday after all...

This month has been a time of great retrospection in the Dunne household. On 2nd April we celebrated Mills and Daisy's "Daddy Gotcha Day," marking one year from the day when a van pulled up behind our house and deposited four crates with a new pet owner. We wished that H and J were here with us to celebrate and talked about our favourite memories.

On 8th April we celebrated the one year anniversary of my arrival in Keighley, as well as the fact that even if we HAD a car, I could no longer drive legally on my American driver's license. We remembered how I had four checked bags and two pieces of hand luggage, and yet somehow made it from baggage claim to Lou's awaiting car without any of it falling off the trolley. Say what you will, but I am in possession of mad stacking skillz when it comes to luggage.

On 10th April we were quiet and remembered that it had now been a full year since our Jeany Bean left us. We again missed her, wished that she was still with us, and told our favourite stories. There was the one about how many times Simon would spoon feed her water, or the look she would give me when I dared bring her food she didn't like. We reminded Daisy of how she would run up to Jeany in the early days of their relationship, happy and bouncy, only to be backed up by the mere lifting of Jeany's lip.

Soon it will be time to wish my sister a happy...birthday (I won't say how old she is because then the addition of 5 to find how old I'll be on MY birthday would be just too easy, now wouldn't it?) and again to remember my Bean on the same day, for her Gotcha Day was Susan's birthday.

But for now, it's just Friday. The house hasn't sold. My rail pass has expired. We're going shopping tonight and to Nando's in Leeds for dinner after. Daisy is fine, Mills is sassy, and Simon and I are still crossing all appropriate appendages that we'll soon be announcing the countdown to a new Baby Dunne.

Life's not so bad on this Friday. And tomorrow, we'll go to the chippy in the picture there, and we'll do our grocery shopping and all that happens on weekends here in Keighley. Happy weekend, y'all.

07 April 2010

As seen on NERDA's world...My Deaf Family

Check it out, y'all. This is a fantastic idea for a reality show, and it's very well made to boot. Double props to Google for the automatic captioning!!

30 March 2010

As Seen on Facebook: "Just so ya know..."

I am a democrat. I come from a family of democrats. I am probably the most left-leaning liberal democrat in my family, with my sister and her husband a close second.

I believe that it is our responsibility as those that have to care for those that don't. I don't particularly care WHY they don't have, all I need to know is that they are in need. If we have food, water, shelter, HEALTH CARE, medicines, or anything, really and someone else doesn't, it is our duty to share. I think Jesus might have had a comment to make about that, if you give to the least of these, that ring any bells?

I believe that it is none of my business if someone is gay or straight or bi or whatever. I am straight, and that works for me (and my husband, LOL). I believe that love is love, and that we don't get to choose with whom we will fall in love. You are born who you are. See above statement about how that is none of my business.

I believe VERY STRONGLY that it is not my place to judge. I leave that up to my Higher Power. If what you're doing works for you, fantastic. What I'm doing works for me. If what you're doing seriously gets in the way of what I'm doing, then we might have a problem...but it's nothing that can't be worked out.

It is all but futile to try and bend my views toward the more conservative side of the political fence. If there's a tree out there, you're going to see me hugging it. If there's a war going on, you can bet I'm opposed to it and am praying daily that all military personnel involved will come home safe and sound (on both sides) and it will end. I have a work ethic, I work for the money I bring home, and yet I still believe that I could be helping someone else more than I do.

Speaking of a Higher Power, I have no ideas or opinions that the one I choose to worship is the only right choice. I believe strongly that we all follow valid paths to the Divine. Churches that exclude me from their worship because of my denominational choice or my gender or for any other reason really bother me. Exclusion, in my mind, is not a path toward enlightenment.

I am an American. I will always be an American, even if at some point I hold citizenship in the United Kingdom. I will always speak like an American, although there may be bits of vocabulary and intonation that are most definitely British that creep into my speech. I did not care for Dubya and I am a strong and happy supporter of Obama.

Speaking of being an American, that does not mean that I own nor carry a gun. It does not mean that I am in favour of anything less than even tighter gun control laws than the US already has. It does not mean that any of my relatives are married to each other, nor does it mean that I am uneducated and backward. That last one goes double for the fact that I was born and raised in Georgia and consider South Carolina to be home.

I did not marry my husband because he is English. I married my husband because he is Simon.

I believe that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never, ever hurt me unless I let them.

27 February 2010

See What I'm Saying

All I'm gonna say is I saw this movie finally and it blew me away. I've been on the email list, I'm a FB fan, and I couldn't believe that it was being premiered at UGA while I am in the states. GO SEE THIS MOVIE. I came away from it with a happy reminder of my second family, my second culture...and with stabbing, stinging pain at not being a part of that anymore. Go see the movie and hire a deaf entertainer. You'll be glad you did. Both.

11 February 2010

Verbal Torrents in the Train


Hello from COLD Keighley!
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
I was taught, in my undergrad, that if you are ever in a room with a Deaf/HOH person that you should be signing if you can as well as/alongside of speaking. I attended Deaf Club events where I was one of only a few hearing people, and I got to feel what it was like to being the odd person out who doesn't understand the conversation.

Today, on my ride home on the train, I had a taste of that feeling again. I got on and started looking for a seat. First car was full to the gills so I moved on, but got stuck in the vestibule between cars. There were two women there with their pushchairs blocking most of the passage way through. They didn't notice me at first nor did they make any effort to clear the passage, so I stood on my toes to look past them into the next car. Seeing it was full, I let out a frustrated noise that unfortunately got their attention.

One of the women, looking at me like I'd sauntered over and snatched her bald-headed for blocking my way, started huffing about and trying to move her pushchair. I immediately apologized for my outburst and made it clear that the noise I'd made was frustration at the full train and NOT at them. I chose to stop talking before I said "...not at you two, since you're taking up all the room in this walkway and no one can get through due to your decision to not fold up your pushchairs, even though your children are in your arms..."

Anyway, I decided I'd just stand. It was only about 15 minutes to where I was going anyway. The women went back to their conversation...in French. Aha! I thought, that's why they looked at me like that, maybe they didn't understand me! I was all set to launch into self deprecating inner monologue, and to wonder when I could have ever become so arrogant as to assume everyone on a train would speak English, etc., when I happened to overhear something I recognized. I can't quote it exactly because my French is really abysmal at best, but the jist was that the one woman was wondering aloud why that stupid American had thought it was okay to talk to her in English.

Properly incensed, I glowered for the other nine and a half minutes until the train stopped. How dare she? How did she know I didn't speak French fluently? Etc. etc. etc...until the cold air hit me in the face and caused me to really think about what had happened. All I'd needed to say was "No no, that's okay," when she started to move the pushchair rather than, "No no, that's okay, you're fine where you are, that noise I made? That (insert sound of frustration here)? That totally wasn't at you, that was at the full train, that's all. Sorry about that." Yeah, I would have rolled my eyes at me too. Ugh.

But more importantly it reminded me that I never know who might sign, and if I'm going to say something I should make sure I can say it in front of whomever is around.

07 February 2010

Hello from Daisy!

Sort of, anyway…I was working on posts for my ASL VLOG, Nerda’s World, and Daisy came downstairs to see what I was doing.  So, for those that know and miss the little Psycho…here she is:

Sideways...and then some

The I Can't Even face. Y'all. How is it that things can go from zero to one hundred so fast when I'm not anywhere near where...