Saturday, July 28, 2012

Differences Between America and Britain

In Britain, they so love their National Health Service that it played a central part in the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

In America, people are so messed-up about the need for universal health coverage,  a victim of the Aurora shooting (23 year old Caleb Medley ) is facing millions of dollars debt because he and his wife are uninsured (And also because he is in a state which doesn't control access to attack weapons.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Great Book First Lines

Face it: you will never have time to read all the good books there are.  So here are a few great first lines from books I may or may not have read.

"Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last." from Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

"There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever.  Joe Morelli did this to me - not forever - but periodically." from One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (OK - it's two lines, so sue me.)

"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

"Polar Exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has ever been devised." from "The Worst Journey in the World" by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, survivor of the disastrous Scott Expedition to the Antarctic.

"There are dragons in the twins vegetable garden." from A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it." from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered that she had turned into the wrong person." from Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

"In our family there was no clear difference between religion and fly fishing." from A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean

"In the middle of my life I came to myself in a dark wood, and the way was lost" from Inferno by Dante

"Having spent two months travelling in the primary rain forests of Borneo, a four month journey in the country between the Orinoco and the Amazon would pose, I thought, no particular problem.' from In Trouble Again, by Redmond O'Hanlon.

"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day." from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

"Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French." from The Luck of the Bodkins by PG Wodehouse

One line I remember from a book title I've forgotten:

"Somebody said 'true love is like ghosts which everyone talks about but few have seen.' I've seen both and I don't know how to tell you which is worse."   Can't remember the name of this book, but the author's name starts with G and there's a picture of the corner of a white house on the cover. Plus, it's a quote within a quote and the part starting 'true love is like ghosts which everyone talks about but few has seen' is adapted from La Rochefoucauld. [edited - the book is More Than You Know, by Beth Gutcheon.]

Do you have any favorites: I've left off some of the most famous ones - Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Huckleberry Finn, Rebecca, Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace, etc.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Back in the USA

Kind of a rough re-entry this time - it has taken nearly a week to feel de-jet-lagged.

Anyway, my big achievement of the week is a pedicure - with blue toenails.  Every time I look down at my toes I feel a little jolt of surprise because they aren't pink or coral.  Kind of fun.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pretty Blue Flowers

The pretty blue flowers that were blooming all along the walk from Beachy Head to Birling Gap have a distinctly un-pretty name - they are called 'Viper's Bugloss'

En masse:

Up close:

I know you are asking yourself - 'Why are they called that?'  And, through the miracle of modern technology, also known as 'Google', I can tell you.  'Bugloss' is from the Greek and refers to an ox's tongue, possibly in reference to the roughness and shape of the plant's leaves. The 'viper' may refer to the spotted stem which are said to recall markings on the snake.  Which is pretty much like saying that no one really knows. 

And even if it does explain the origin of the name, it still doesn't explain why it doesn't have a nicer common name.  Why do other plants get names like 'Evening Primrose' or 'Canterbury Bells' or 'Lady's Mantle' or 'Love in a Mist' and this equally pretty flower gets 'Viper's Bugloss'.  

It's just not fair.   I tried to come up with something better but my brain is jet lagged and not cooperating, I don't get any farther than 'blue spiky ... flower'.

Blue Angel Spires?
Celestial Pokers?
Ox-tongue Indigo?

Not much better than 'Blue Spiky.... flower.'


Beachy Head to Birling Gap

After walking 8 miles to the Devil's Dyke, we needed to take the next few days easy. So the next day we decided to do one of our favorite walks from Beachy Head to Birling Gap, on the chalk cliffs above the Channel. It is a very peaceful and pleasant walk over easy rolling hills, and only a couple of miles long. It's the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, with long, long views of the coast in either direction.  

The name 'Beachy Head' has nothing to do with beach, by the way.  It's a corruption of 'Beauchef', Old French for 'beautiful headland'.  It has been an important as a landmark for sailors forever, and, along with the adjoining Seven Sisters was strategic during WW2, as a landmark for airplanes, both enemy and friendly.  There's a little red and white lighthouse at the foot of the cliff and this view (I hope the COG posts a better picture of this) is an  iconic British picture.  Because the lighthouse is so low, and is often obscured by mist, there's another, higher, one called Belle Tout on the next cliff over. 

Pictures don't really capture how peaceful and idyllic this spot is - there's something about the combination of distant views, with beautiful reflected light, and sheep baa-ing in the distance and birds singing and the sound of the wind that I find just smooths all the rough places in my soul. 

The holes above are rabbit holes:  Desirable purpose built dwellings with million-pound sea views, rustic interiors, in need of some updating.

Location, Location, Location

Look what $750,000 will buy you in Sussex:

Sorry for the lousy photo - I was shooting through a Estate Agent's window with the sun at the perfect angle for glare.

Home Safely, plus a Factoid

I'm home safely, though very tired,  after an uneventful trip.

Factoid: I wore a pedometer from the time I left the flat in Brighton yesterday.  Despite spending most of the day sitting or standing in line, I walked nearly 2 1/2 miles just getting through the various transportation points.

I wore the pedometer because I was just curious.  Airports are huge. and you have to do a lot of walking just to get to your gate, or get thru security etc.  I've always wondered how far you actually do walk. Now I know.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Home Tomorrow

I'm sitting in that blue chair enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and listening to the seagulls.  Gosh, I love the sound of seagulls. I know they are basically flying rats, but I still love them. I love looking up into a clear blue sky and seeing them gliding over me. And I love the sound of them, which we don't hear in Ipswich,  even though we are so near the sea there, too.

After the rainiest June on record, the weather has turned wonderful just as I am leaving. It's lovely at home, too, the COG tells me, and I've missed the heat wave. So I can't complain really.  And the work we had done on the back room would have kept us in even if the weather here had been great.

The COG is going to phone me at 10:30 his time, which is 3:30 am here - he's my wake-up call. Then, the last few things - grab the garbage bag, turn the water heater off,  make sure everything is turned off and out the door to catch the bus to the coach to the plane to the subway to the train to a car - our next door neighbors are picking me up in Ipswich because the COG is working tomorrow.

I know it will be lovely to be home, but it's so hard to leave here. The thing that has happened this time is color - pretty much everything we had bought for the flat was white and fairly minimalist, apart from a couple of yelllow cushions and some curtains.  But over the time I've been here I've hung pictures (some of the COG's and some calendar prints that will end up being replaced (but they are nice in the meantime).  There are flowers on the mantel and in the kitchen and some pretty new tea towels, and we bought  2 lovely bird prints from a local artist and some pieces of blue green pottery (the COG hasn't seen these yet).  It's a nice feeling to have these pretty things around us and makes it all seem more homelike here.  Here are the prints. I'll need to get them framed next time - they aren't a standard size.

I have lots of things to post that I didn't get around to, and I promise to do it over the next week.   Here's the back room as of today. I primed the raw plaster walls, but left the spot on the ceiling over on the left. I wasn't sure it was dry because they only finished that part yesterday.  The plaster really is pink, just like the Farrow and Ball color 'Plaster Pink'.  We'll have to paint the room and the ceiling next time we are here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Weird/Nice Thing Happened Today

I was browsing in a shop in The Lanes, which is all that's left of medieval Brighton - narrow winding pedestrian only streets with zillions of little boutiques.  I became aware that a young woman was staring at me and following me around the shop.  I turned to her and smiled and she blurted out that she had seen me pass the Trevor Sobie Salon, where she works, and followed me.  She said she was a trainee and needed to pass a blow dry exam, but her model had cancelled.  She asked if I would do it for her.  She couldn't offer me anything but a shampoo/blow dry, but if I came back later in her training she would do a color or cut or anything I wanted. She could do it now, or later in the day, or at my convenience.

I was taken aback. I thought about how this could be a con and asked a couple of questions and then I just shrugged and said -sure. Why not?  She was so grateful.

So I went back to the salon with her - Hannah is her name - and down to the basement training area. I got a shampoo, and blissful conditioning head massage and a blow dry.

She passed her exam. Thank heavens, I would have felt so (irrationally) guilty otherwise.

On the way out of the training lab, I had to walk a kind of gauntlet of other trainees telling me what great hair I have, how lucky I am to have such a nice color etc.  Hairdressers always make a big fuss of my hair and I'm sort of flattered on the one hand, but uncomfortable on the other hand.  I guess it feels like undeserved praise, since it is just a lucky DNA draw and I don't actually do anything to warrant praise.

Anyway, it's always pleasant to have someone wash and blow dry your hair, plus, it's a nice feeling to do something nice for a stranger for no reason at all.