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...)


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.

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