Thursday, October 27, 2011

Site Visit Update

So yesterday I viewed Hall Place and Devonport House, as well as dropped in on a pub with a function room that was nice but up a flight of stairs (mean to grandmas) and rather small, so no.

Devonport House was like Ye Olde English Pubbe in Heathrow Terminal 4. Fake. Superficial. Devoid of any unique features or character. I hated it from the moment I stepped in the door. They had two rooms and a bar available for large events, and while one of them was merely soulless, the other had the ambiance of a Denny's--the sort of place that you know if you tried to decorate it, it would just look even more soul-crushing. The meeting coordinator asked me if I had any questions, and I had a hard time thinking of anything aside from "where is the nearest exit?" Curse my politeness. Any further details and you'd surely run away.  Moving swiftly on . . .

The first house I visited yesterday was a beautiful, amazing structure called Hall Place. Out about ten minutes away from Eltham, it a 16th century manor house, with a 17th century manor house stuck to it, surrounded by several acres of gardens and parkland. The duckling-covered River Cray cuts through this, and structures (including a wisteria-covered bridge) cross it at several points.

Great Hall at Hall Place. If I had a room like this in my house, I'd name the house after it too.

They offer their Great Hall, which is part of the 1537 build, as well as the adjoining Tudor Kitchen for parties and drinks receptions, plus access to the private courtyard (with a lovely knot garden), the minstrels gallery, and (in case of inclement weather) their upstairs Long Gallery which overlooks the Topiary Garden (which boasts a delightful collection of Heraldic Squirrels, as well as abstract pieces).
Tudor Kitchen, which sticks off the Great Hall like an L.

The venue boasts plenty of parking, as well as a greenhouse and café which are open to the public. As a gesture of formality, they open the main gates to the house (usually closed, and you have to enter via the public access point by the greenhouses) for cabs and limos and the like to drop the wedding party (and any handicapped guests) at the front door.

Long Gallery upstairs. The caterers would bring up sit-able chairs.

The place is gorgeous, that's a given. And everything is ready and right there.  The Great Hall is absolutely fabulous. The (substantial) hire fee includes paying a few staff members of the house to wrangle tourists, who would still have access to other areas of the house, as well as the informal areas of the grounds.

A couple of problems I have with it, though: you have to use their on-site catering. Now granted, they appear to be fine, and they know the place well and are prepared to set up for it. That is their only vendor requirement, but it is a big one--the building controls the food and drink, so the selections of meals and beverages are rather specific. They do have some lovely vegetarian options and can offer a buffet instead of table-service, but the booze is the big thing.  Boy and I aren't big wine drinkers, and the beers we like tend to be funny little micro-brews and local companies. I enjoy port and Boy doesn't mind it, but Champagne gives me an insta-headache and makes Boy want to run screaming from the room. I will of course offer wine to those who want it, but when it comes to ceremonial boozing, there are certain things we want that I don't think a caterer could offer.

Also, while it would be very difficult to take a bad picture in the whole setup, the bookings for this place are through the roof, which makes me feel like all of our photos would be...canned. As neat as it could be to take bride and groom photos nestled amongst the topiary chess pieces, they already have two other couples on their brochure doing just that. Lamezors. Their midweek rates included a full-operation package: ceremony, interval drinks, table set-up, meal, interval drinks, table clear-away, dj, cash bar, dancing, get out. Boring. You don't have to take the dj, but you do have to pay for him to not show up. Ew.

It is a perfect venue for a fairy-tale wedding.  But I don't particularly want a fairy-tale wedding--if nothing else, weddings in fairy-tales are usually mentioned in passing right at the end.  Before that there's ogres and witches and wolves and starving German children in cages.  Eeeek!

A venue which is getting a bit closer to my cup of tea (though I'm not sold on anything yet) is Shrewsbury House in Plumstead. The best way to describe it, I would say, is early 20th century mock-Georgian manor house, usurped by Greenwich Council in the early 1950s, kept and maintained as one might expect the state to maintain a community centre ever since. The lighting is Functional. The spaces are Clean. The electrical cables are Enclosed in Plastic Troughs. The pipes are Exposed. I feel sorry for it.

But it offers a wealth of potential! It is beautiful, in its way, and it's incredibly versatile. The room hire would include the library (which used to be the Plumstead local library) and the lovely back room, with access to the garden. It offers parking, handicapped access, and adequate facilities in the event of a nuclear meltdown. That's right, boys and girls--Shrewsbury has a bunker.

The facility is a community centre first and foremost, but there's not a whole lot on the books so they're flexible. The site manager, a lady named Cathy who I absolutely adored, explained that the centre has had their budget slashed and the building has not received the sort of upkeep and updating it deserves for a number of reasons (mainly the people who've been running it are in their 90's and think the Internet is a fad), but they are trying.  And as of tomorrow the library floor will be sanded and re-finished.

The beautiful back room has a potential hitch, but avoidable if we are in touch with them early enough: it is used during term-time as a day care, and as per Ofsted regulations it must be decorated in bright colours so as to designate it a children's place. Now, I'm planning the events for around Easter, primarily because a significant number of my Boy's family and our friends will be off work because they're teachers (so they'll be available to help out and hang out with my family, who regardless of vacation periods will not be at work). The pre-school teachers switch out their decorations and bulletin boards at the holidays, so if we let them know in advance, they can pull down the winter paper and hold off on hanging the spring décor until after the show. Then we get a pretty room that doesn't look like it's set up for toddlers. (And it does have such beautiful ceilings, and curvy walls!)

There is access to the upstairs rear balcony but not the front, but it is much prettier anyway.

The back garden also boasts a pleasant area with benches, a wisteria walk, and a rather utilitarian side garden that I may guerilla-plant some tulips in.

The institutional stuff can go away and be replaced with nice stuff. We can do whatever we want for food, booze, and furniture, as well as parlour games, music, and "Traditions".

I don't know, for some reason Shrewsbury is more attractive to me than Hall Place. What it lacks in Elegance it makes up for in Character.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Venue Shopping

This week I will be visiting Shrewsbury House, Devonport House, and Hall Place, all in Greenwich borough, as I begin to look for reception halls. I've phoned and scheduled visits, and only Hall Place's receptionist didn't attempt to re-invent my name so it's going to the top of my list. It is also face-meltingly pretty. Go on. Have a look. Now look at their gardens. I'll wait.

Shrewsbury has already essentially said it's not the best idea, but offered to show me around anyway.  Apparently the local bridge club has called dibs on the pretty room on weekdays (and based on their society page I wouldn't cross them--too many canes)

Devonport House is a hotel, not exactly what I had in mind but they are very well-located (next to the National Maritime Museum) and would make accommodation easier.

A list of decisions and declarations I've made in regard to this whole wedding thing:


NO marquees, tents, or making people wear heels in the grass

NO bouquet tossing or undergarment-groping-and-flinging

NO ceremonial standing-around of family members or friends

NO couple's first dance, dancing-with-one's-parent or f'ing DJs

NO veiling, head-scarves or wimples

NO religious paraphernalia or activity of any kind (offenders will be removed)

NO solo march down the aisle or gestures which allude to an exchange of my ownership

NO babies

NO speeches alluding to reproduction (offenders will be slapped)

NO chicken dance, electric slide, hokey-pokey, polka, Riverdance or group dances or DJs

NO Gifts

NO Smoking, Drinking, or Talking

NO Guests



I don't particularly like weddings.

In other news, why is beige chic these days? Even the prettiest of models look frumpy or naked in them. BLEH.

Bonus: Photoshop Hack-Jobs on Nordstrom's Dress Site Are Always Disturbing.  It's the blend of confusingly-proportioned women doing bizarre contortions, strange lighting, and that hilarious paper-doll style cut-n-pasting (sized to fit with the liquefy tool) that turns a genuine dress-inspiration session into a hilarious, if unsettling joke.  I enjoy going through the stacks of poses and dresses to try and find the original model-dress combinations. So far I haven't encountered anyone with an extra limb, but some of those double-sized heads look heavy.

Who has six inches between their thighs? What living person?

After a while you forget what human beings actually look like.


And finally, I've been rejected from two positions at the drugstore. Wow.

Monday, October 24, 2011

And then I spent a year unemployed

I formally completed my MA a year ago this month. Let's have a look at what I've accomplished since then.

I have applied for nearly 300 jobs.
I have landed 2, both short-contract and painfully underpaid.
I have been formally rejected from about 20, and never heard back from another 278.

Since October of 2010 I have had approximately 6 weeks worth of work.
Of that, 2 weeks have been spent volunteering. 1 week has been more akin to "volunteering" (e.g. I was told I'd be paid, but then wasn't.)

I have been highly qualified for everything I've applied for.  Some things I may have been over-qualified for but I gave it a shot anyway. I've applied for positions that offered a fair deal less than minimum wage, internships, very short contracts, permanent contracts, seasonal contracts, casual, ad-hoc, and even online gigs. Near home, far from home, impossible to get to, upstairs, downstairs, but not in my night-gown.

I gave up on applying for theatre positions a while ago and have been seeking development, administrative and reception-type work in pretty much any industry. Today I broke down and applied for three gigs in retail, as well as another half-dozen clerical positions. One of the retail applications asked me to confirm that I was at least 14 years old.

I need a drink.

I also need to get paid more than £1.50 an hour for the work I actually do, so I can afford to drink.

Even selling myself short has gotten me nowhere. This is absurd. I'm losing gigs to teenagers. In London it would appear that if it's not at one of the big 10 theatres it's simply not paid, and administrators should feel privileged to earn minimum wage--something I've always found stupid, because if you don't pay the people who handle the money enough to not be tempted by the money, you're begging for trouble.

My student loans are entering their 8th month of forbearance (after the initial 6-month grace period.) I can't apply for deferment because I'm not in the US and therefore can't register for unemployment. So they're just accruing interest while my MA gathers dust.

If I actually do find a position that offers minimum wage I may be able to start paying my fair share of the rent and the interest on the loans, but not the capital, and I will not be able to save anything. Whee.

I give it back.  The degree, the education, the year.  The waste of money and time and intellect. It wasn't worth it at the time, it isn't worth it now. I would have better luck finding a gig if I was still working on my GED. I'm not qualified to flip burgers.

Update: I have now also been rejected from all of the retail positions mentioned earlier. Woo!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Because that means I win (bad poetry alert)

Plate Tectonics
Are Never Ironic
A continent shifts with no regard for who's on't
The planet don't care
Or even know who's up there

Don't give mundane events
Cosmic Significance
No one decided where it rains

Outbreed or Outlive the competition
And if nature helps out it proves our conviction

You think God saved you because you knelt down and prayed
But your neighbour did too, and got swept away
You gave happenstance a name
You think you're winning some game

The beauty myth has been packaged and sold
on the notion that winners don't have to get old
And this time I'll win
I'll show you the perfection of my skin
I'll be thin
And svelte, and sexy and more
Until the day I'm nine-hundred and four
'Cos I earned it
I did everything right
I smiled and I knelt and I sucked and didn't bite
I gave you what you wanted
And you gave back a lie

You obeyed the rules
Financed the schools
And it gives me no real pleasure here to say
The men who lead
They don't believe
But it keeps you down and props them up so they
The cunning ruse
Where you pay them well to do nothing for you.


I recently posted a photo of my next-door neighbours' two cats. They're very affectionate and playful, and their owners seem like nice, low-key people. They're in their mid-30's, moved here from Camberwell, watch chat shows and relax in their garden on sunny days.

I have no particular reason to talk about them.

My next-door neighbour on the other side, however, is a woman I've never met, a woman I've only seen twice in the nearly two years we've shared a wall. I believe she's somewhere between 30 and 60 and is Polish, but as I can't actually speak Polish I could be mistaken. I do not know her name, but for the purpose of this narrative I've decided to call her Doloreta.

See, I've gone so long with Doloreta as my anonymous neighbour that I feel like I know her, even though I know nothing about her, can't understand a word she says, and couldn't pick her or any of her visitors out of a line-up. From years of hearing bumps and murmurs, ringing and hammering, laughter and shouting I've crafted a picture of a very interesting woman who is almost certainly nothing like my actual neighbour.

Doloreta spends most of her time alone, and keeps a variable schedule. Some mornings her alarm goes off at 5am, other mornings at eleven--but most mornings it doesn't go off at all. I've decided this means she's a freelance journalist. I believe she sleeps in the back bedroom and leaves the front for guests, as I occasionally hear mobile phone alarms through the wall early in the morning but sounds of stirring more often come from down the hall.

Her garden is professionally landscaped, with a beige flagstone patio surrounded by spiny, pointy plants like pampas grass and bamboo that don't need tending but look discretely tasteful. It has a feel not unlike that of a spec house--generic shrubs around a reasonably-priced picnic table that no one has ever sat around and no one ever will. Nice, but impersonal.

I rarely hear her when she's alone, but when I do she's out in this garden, enjoying a cigarette and talking on the phone. She doesn't smoke often--I've decided she smoked regularly when she was younger but has gradually weaned herself off, particularly since she successfully separated from her husband.*

Every few weeks an angry man (let's call him Jakub) arrives to argue with her and drill holes in the walls. When the bickering starts I know to close my windows, because while the insulation between our houses is quite good they almost always take it outside. The reasons for their divorce or separation are many and complex, but as some part of their settlement he's agreed to fix up her house, possibly because they have a mind to sell it. Jakub is not particularly happy about this, and he's not much of a DIY guy, but he does it, sometimes for an entire weekend. He oddly never seems to be around when Doloreta's sister comes by, but the situation with him is frequently inquired after.

Doloreta's sister, a compassionate woman I've dubbed Sabina, has a jovial husband and young daughter, and the three of them drop round to visit every other weekend or so. Her niece is well-behaved, but Doloreta is inexpert and uncomfortable around children. She speaks to her the way I speak to cats, with an excited, half-whispered "oh boy! Look at you! Wow!" despite the fact that the girl is at least five and clearly doesn't appreciate that. Every half-hour or so Sabina's husband will usher the child inside and let the two women talk. On days when Jakub has been drilling holes in the walls the talk comes fast and bitter, and I imagine he's been pressuring her to sell the house and split the sale value with him. Then Roza will grow bored with her father and bound outside again for more of Doloreta's awkward praise.

Recently a stocky, middle-aged builder has come to share Doloreta's life on more pleasant terms than Jakub. His name, as I learned when I signed for a package for him from a flustered delivery man, is Piotr. A few weeks ago he spent an afternoon cutting down and destroying most of the bamboo grove that had been rapidly overgrowing Doloreta's garden. Piotr seems quiet but not unkind, and Doloreta's angry outbursts have reduced. I have decided Piotr is a Good Thing. 

One day Boy happened to espy Piotr skipping rope out in the garden, looking like a short Polish Mohammed Ali training for a fight. Whatever he does for a living, the man likes to keep fit.

I have never understood a word of what has gone on next door, so absolutely everything I've said or decided about Doloreta is of my own invention. She may be lovely. She may be vile. She's probably just a person with her own concerns. But as long as she remains a mystery to me she will remain intriguing and exciting.


*Last summer I was feeding my tomato plants in the garden when three women came into Doloreta's garden and began to talk. I didn't listen closely to what was being said, and wouldn't have noticed at all except that the conversation had a funny meter to it. One woman would speak in English, one in Polish, one in Polish, one in English, one in English...and round and round and round they went. At the time I figured it was Doloreta herself facilitating a conversation for someone in the community, but it only really dawned on me recently that this was going on in Doloreta's garden, not in an office or public park. Why on earth would she bring strangers into her home to translate for them? My neighbour was talking to a lawyer.

A few months after this Jakub started coming around--sporadically at first, but with gradually increasing frequency. His first work visits were quiet and short, but as they got longer and more involved so too did the arguments. The Sunday morning 5am shelving installation event, complete with shouting, hammer-drilling, banging, door slams, and books on my side of the wall crashing to the floor nearly landed them a visit from a police constable, but it subsided. Things have been quieter since then.

University Baseline

Several people yesterday linked Nicholas Kristof's "Occupy the Classroom" opinion piece from the New York Times, which got me thinking. While he had some lovely points regarding investment in early childhood education and socialization, and I would support such an investment of tax dollars wholeheartedly because I've seen first-hand the impact early development work can have on a child's life, it nevertheless calls into question a whole host of concerns regarding the structure of our society.

As Boy pointed out in our ensuing discussion of the article, the number of jobs available in our countries for uneducated people is diminishing rapidly. While high school kids and dropouts can still find positions waiting tables at late-night diners and (to a lesser extent) in retail, unskilled labour positions are fairly scarce and many community service positions have actually been usurped by the corrections sector. But I hastened to point out that what used to be "dropout" work now calls for a diploma, and what used to be diploma-level work now requires a degree. (Not necessarily arbitrarily: warehouse work used to just require a strong back and an honest demeanour; now forklift operators need to interface with complex inventory software and potentially-dangerous machinery.  Fair enough.)

Of course, we can't overlook the simple fact that when everyone is expected to go to university, university education becomes valueless.  The whole reason you go to uni is to make you more qualified than your peers for the career you want, so that you can get ahead in said field and make more money than you would otherwise. (Your mother wanted you to go to college so that you could get rich and take care of her in her dotage, not so you could smoke weed and discuss Kafka in a coffee shop.)  But now everyone has a degree, so in order to stand out from the crowd you need to go even further: either earn an advanced degree or wear a really, really tight skirt to interview. As education rates increase, so too increases the baseline level of education you need to exceed in order to be considered exceptional. (Or employable.)

The fact is, the more people who graduate, the harder it gets for every graduate to find a job. The market is flooded now with unemployed applicants--at least 14 million in the US--most of whom have college degrees that they're still paying for. And now that tuition costs have begun to skyrocket, as governments withdraw funding due to over-subscription to the university system, the cost combined with your unimproved chances of finding employment makes your education even less valuable than if you didn't have one at all. (My MA is just getting more expensive, sitting in the filing cabinet, waiting for a job to come along and free my loans from forbearance.)

When we encouraged everyone to go get a degree, what did we actually accomplish? Whereas 10 years ago receptionists needed a high school diploma to qualify, now they need a BA. What once was a minimum-wage career has become a minimum-wage career that costs $20,000 just to apply. And every job attracts hundreds of qualified applicants.

And universities are challenged now, in the face of growing awareness of the plummeting net benefit of earning one of their products, to convince people that their worthless documents are somehow better than other schools' slightly-cheaper worthless documents. It's either that or go bust when everyone signs up for The University of Phoenix Online just to slog through the next required stage of debt accrual before they qualify for the dole queue. (In order to do so I believe recruiters are trying to draw a distinction between students--people who genuinely want to learn and engage with their education--and those who just want to get a stamped document saying they paid their dues. And maybe that's how education will evolve in this country. In-person education will become the remit of professional academics while the rest of us are processed by the one-size-fits-all internet diploma mill.)

But what is the next logical step to all of this? Needing a Ph. D and $100,000 worth of student loans in order to be a garage attendant? Co-authoring twenty papers on oral surgery over ten years in order to be a dental hygienist? People need to be able to work without fighting up an ever-growing tower of requirements just to get started.  People need to know that their job won't be suddenly taken away from them when after five years they discover they're no longer qualified. Twentysomethings are still regularly becoming tenants, spouses, parents, and bill payers. They need an income that will actually cover their debts, even if they don't have an MBA and don't have time to study for one.

If we increase education for all, unfortunately, we make it harder for everyone to achieve. We merely reset the zero-point higher and longer away. I don't fault anyone who has enjoyed a good education who might not have in another age, but I also can't help but think that in the long run it isn't helping. I don't know how we can actually improve opportunity for everyone, but surely making it harder for everyone isn't the answer.

How Religion Lost

It was not the atheists that instilled doubt.

It was not the feminists who undermined your authority.

It was not the blacks or the gays or multiculturalism or other people and ideas you seem to hate who interfered with your claim to rule the world.

It was literacy.

When farmers gained the ability to read, understand, and interpret the sacred books, a power previously reserved for holy men, farmers began to notice inconsistencies. Farmers began to notice contradictions, incorrect statements, omissions, and--most importantly--clear points of distinction between what the priests declared and the books said. When the lies were revealed by the very people who had been lied to the illusion was shattered.

See, funny thing--pretty much all lies don't hold up under scrutiny.  That's why for thousands of years the clergy of the Catholic church made a point of preventing parishioners from actually understanding texts for themselves. Once higher education began to become necessary for the merchant classes, however, a new tactic had to be adopted--it was decided it was the burden of priests to learn Latin, read and interpret the books for the sake of the people, because, y'know, it's really hard. Rather than prohibiting reading, Catholics encouraged their audiences to be lazy and simply passively trust they were right and obey. That worked for most people (and still does for many), but within the Protestant persuasion (as exclusivity of knowledge was one of their bones of contention) just to be on the safe side the texts were re-written in archaic, highfalutin legalese (no, King James didn't really talk like that) in order to bore and confuse the inquisitive into stopping.

The same is true of the Glorious Qu'Ran--written in classical Arabic (the Middle Eastern equivalent of Chaucer), it is technically update-proof: any copy intended for general consumption or text which varies from the original, impenetrable writing style is considered an interpretation or translation and automatically inferior. The only way to have any idea what the whole thing Really Means is to study classical Arabic--an undertaking which only Imams and Islamic scholars would ever do.  Indeed, the idea of even praying outside of Arabic is impure among Islamic fundamentalists.

This approach to teaching is still upheld in many religions, and is generally agreed-upon to be the most useful way of holding onto followers. The rules are in the book, and the book is available, but no one really reads it. Bible study classes tend to skip around and repeat themselves in order to avoid the really embarrassing texts--Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Revelation, in particular--and they're always led by an authority figure who makes a point of quieting opposition and questions that get too nit-picky. The contemporary faithful are given enough to feel close without enough to understand just what it is they believe.

Because the second you understand it, you realize just how amazingly absurd it all is.

NatWest: "and don't let the door hit you on the way out"

Dear Complaints Department:

I recently transferred the balance of my NatWest step account to another bank and believe one of your employees may have attempted to subvert this process.  A full two weeks after the scheduled account closure and transfer date (October 7) I contacted your friendly and helpful customer services department to ask where my money was. No one knew. The first time I called I was asked to wait half an hour for a return call. When after two hours no one called back I phoned again and was asked to wait up to five days for a return call. Two days later a friendly and apologetic customer service representative phoned to inform me that

somehow the balance in question had been transferred INTO ANOTHER NATWEST CUSTOMER'S ACCOUNT.

This has been corrected, and I am happily doing my business elsewhere.

But the big reason I left NatWest is that every time I have had to deal with your company someone has screwed up. From the wrong statements being sent to the border agency to your Swiss Cottage branch employees flatly lying and telling me I could only have an international student account to the Lewisham branch employees lying and saying I couldn't have an interim statement mailed to me in time to prevent me being deported, I've had nothing but incompetence, lies, laziness, and insults from your staff from day one.  But this goes well beyond unacceptable and into criminal territory. Had I not contacted your friendly and helpful call centre someone in your transfers department could very well have gotten away with stealing my every last cent.

Why did I have to go out of my way to save my money from your employees' incompetence or sticky fingers?

How did you manage to successfully transfer my direct debit to my new bank but flatly fail to transfer my actual money? Yeah, my phone bill that went unpaid because my new account was empty. I had to go in and fix that too.

How did you manage to screw not only me over like this, but also my fiancé when he transferred his own account out six months ago? Yeah, the same thing happened: his direct debits were transferred, and his money never showed up. He wound up walking out of the bank with six months' worth of pay cheques in cash because your employees couldn't figure out how to transfer the balance for two months after he signed a transfer-and-close order.

Your business model appears to be "screw over customers until they complain" and is sincerely in need of an overhaul. What is preventing you from doing things right the first time? Why do you employ idiots and/or criminals to handle sensitive data and currency?

To sum up, your company's failures and lies have caused me to:

:pay for an account I didn't want after a viable free alternative was refused

:pay fees for non-payment of direct debits to my local council, gas company, phone company, and HMRS

:nearly be deported for incorrect balance data

:fight to have my money restored after its apparent internal theft

I expect nothing less than a sincere apology written by a human being, though a promise to review your systemic failures in training and employee screening would not go amiss. I'm sharing this information with my MP, except more politely.  I am among your most dissatisfied customers, and think you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Oh Right

Engagement. Not an upcoming engagement, a previous engagement, or a catered engagement. A declaration between two people of their intent to get married.

I has one.

We decided to tie the knot near the end of August, after I returned home from a visit to my family.  We'd been talking about it with increasing sincerity and seriousness over the past few years, and particularly at the airport before I left to visit the States, but something finally took when I reached the customs official at Heathrow. I'd been standing in the "foreigners and scum" passport control queue for about two hours, dragging a carry-on bag full of memories and dirty underwear, when I was called to the desk by a middle-aged man who looked surprisingly content for a state employee. He bipped my passport, glanced at his monitor, and asked me, not the usual question of "why are you here?" but "how long have you been away?" I said three weeks, and he smiled and said "welcome home."

Welcome home.  I realized then, with great clarity for someone who's been playing in-flight solitaire for eight hours, that home is wherever we are together. All the casual conversations and "we really oughtta"s took on a meaning beyond legality and convenience. It is time to commit ourselves to one another, not a nation. So after another serious and sincere conversation, we agreed to do just that.


As of Thanksgiving, Boy and I will have been together for seven years. We met when I was an Erasmus student at the University of Kent, about a month after I started this blog in 2004. Thanks to the modern marvel that is Skype we've been in constant contact since I had to return to the States to finish my undergrad--generally two to three hours a night every night of the week on the phone (and later, on video phone). We've enjoyed about three years of living in the same country, two of them consecutive, and are looking forward to many more.


We have an appointment to give Notice of Intent on the 23rd of November here in Lewisham. We plan to hold the ceremony in the registry office to make sure it's all done right. I've known too many people who've had weird things go wrong--from my mom being issued a new social security card without anyone ever writing it down, to couples sitting down to file their taxes after a year only to find out that they were never actually married, to people winding up with misspelled official names and brand new birthdays. Most of these things can be sorted out without too much trouble, but I'd rather not push it. UKBA nearly denied my visa because I was missing 8 days worth of bank statements thanks to NatWest's idiocy policy.


Our landlord still lives in Mexico and so far has no intention of moving back to London, so we can continue to keep our home. Since we cut down the huge cypress tree we've been getting more daring and may even hire a tree surgeon to hack some limbs off the ugly sycamore in the abutting neighbours' yard. If we make that investment I want to be damn sure we get to stay.


We are looking to buy an attractive ring for Boy in the next little while.  I would like to see him in a court-style 6mm titanium band.  They're shiny and scratch-resistant. And it's what my drill bits are dipped in so you know it's manly. I'm also open to him having palladium, platinum, or tungsten. Shiny. Sturdy. Simple.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Jumbled Thoughts

I'll try to make clear distinctions between them.


I'm getting married.  Soon.  Well, fairly soon.  I want April 5th. I like April 5th.  It's a good date. It's a Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays. Long-time readers of this blog may have noticed my spouse-to-be's arrival on the scene in November of 2004. Thanksgiving, actually. I've let my hair grow out since then, and started using punctuation.  He's grown a beard and gotten a job. I think that means he wins.


I've never liked children. (cue half of my readers finding something better to do.) But I think there is some sort of mathematical principle to the noise they make. I call it the Exponential Baby Figure. One baby, quiet, equals one baby, but one baby screaming seems to magically become ten babies, all screaming as loudly as they can from every point in the room. Two babies screaming is at least 100, three is over three million, and any number over 4 would make a calculator cry ERROR. This expansion property seems to have the capacity to bend the fabric of space to accommodate for all of the mouths--which would make day care centres and maternity wards the most fragile areas of space/time continuity in the universe. Scary stuff.


I've been having a lot of nightmares lately. This isn't wholly surprising--I'm nervous and worried about many things these days and I'm sure my circadian rhythm is reflecting that. But they all seem to involve terrifying dolls coming to life and chasing after me. I don't like this.


I smushed my thumb in a door this past weekend. It still hurts and is somewhat blue, but doesn't look as bad as some people's smushed fingers have. I think the nail isn't going to fall off.


I just realized that Sallie Mae no longer has a British bank account and I now have to send money to my US account in order to make my loan repayments, at a cost of at least £25, plus whatever my US bank wants to charge, per transaction. This sucks ass. Their website doesn't even exist any more. I thought I had options.  Apparently I don't. Thanks, America!


I know the names of two of the four people whose houses are attached to mine: one of each partnership on either side. I have met two of the four people whose houses are attached to mine: the couple to the right. I wonder how typical this is.


dont let the dolls get me dont let the dolls get me dont let the dolls get me how on earth can i sleep?

Brown Thumb

 Moon over my tomatoes, a couple weeks ago.  The weather has been warm and beautiful for the past fortnight, and days and nights have been clear. Just lovely.

 Bowl of cherry tomatoes, with tea cozy for size. Each bowlful is about 120 tomatoes, and we've pulled in at least five heaping bowlfuls since I returned home from America. They've all been delicious.

 But I am starting to think that maybe I planted too many. I actually have fewer plants this year, but they're more productive than last year, somehow. Not complaining!

 This year's mutant. Not sure if it should be eaten.

 Still on the vine.  Taken this afternoon. They're really lovely.  I've noticed that they generally don't go fully red until after you've picked them.  They become a lovely deep orange colour on the vine, but if you let them go solidly red outside they almost always split and become food for critters. I pick them a day or so before they're deep red and let them finish ripening in the bowl.  They're still sweet, juicy, and delicious.

 A larger variety, just now beginning to turn. These are Marmandes and grow well in France.  They grow pathetically in London. We're expecting to hit our main cold snap in a few days here and these are nowhere near ready. Better never than late, maybe? I don't think they'll ripen before the cold kills the plants. Fail. Also failed this year: bell peppers, dill, coriander. Also pretty much failed this year: lavatera (one plant bloomed), Nigella Moody Blues (one plant volunteered under a table) salad greens (planted as a peace offering to the snails; they ate the salad and everything else as well).  Thrived this year: Gardener's Delights (cherry tomatoes, grow like weeds), courgettes (made several meals out of them), lemon balm (still haven't done anything with it),  flowering tobacco (still blooming at the far end of the garden) and actually we got about five tasty apples off our tree. Others were eaten by bugs and squirrels. The rosemary, mint, thyme, and sage are doing okay, the primrose is hobbling along. Now that the cypress is gone we have more room in the sunshine for tulips, pinks and daffodils in the spring.

This is my tomato hedge. It is actually just six plants--four Gardener's Delights, two Marmandes. The forsythia in the centre appears to have made friends with its nearest tomato, as it is absolutely filled with them. I built them a trellis this year, supported by the latticework, the beech trees, and the forsythia, but the plants on the far side still decided to grow straight up through the trees and to the sky--a climb of about 12 feet. The miniature rose in the pot was an engagement gift from Boy's aunt that I just put in a larger pot.