Wednesday, March 31, 2010

when violet eyes get brighter

On Tuesday, it rained pretty much all morning. So I played on the wii fit (it’s so nice – I love how I feel when I exercise, but I have a hard time doing it without direction. And I can mix up the duller strengthening exercises with fun games.) and wrote the blog post.

In the afternoon, Jack took me to King’s Lynn. Wyvner insisted on coming along.

I felt bright and excited when we arrived, and while we were there the rain cleared up and there was even some sunshine.

We went along buildings, and then there was a sort of alleyway with brick on either side, and we went down it, and I was in a very exploring mood. Along the left side was the back doors of a theatre.

A man came out of one of the doors and went across to another. He had left the door he came out of ajar, so I peered in. I couldn’t see much, just a hallway and then what looked like a painting behind glass, and someone sitting on the floor a little way away, but it smelled like backstage.

Continuing along, I ran up to a brick wall as high as my head, and stood on tiptoe to look over into the garden.

“You can see it better from here,” called Jack. And indeed, up a set of a couple steps, one came around to the main part of the garden where the wall was just a couple of feet high.

On up a flight of brick steps was the quay, and the river. And it was bright and silver and I do like water.

What an inscription. It's a pity we're so cynical about people now.

After that we walked around King's Lynn

and then went to the King’s Lynn museum – they had exhibits of life in King’s Lynn from the 1600s through WWII, and a pretty little Victorian garden.

We came to a lovely café that was sort of underground – it had stairs going down into it and an arched brick ceiling. Presumably it was an old wine cellar.

Jack asked if I wanted a coffee or something, and I was feeling a little hungry so I said yes.

We sat down at a little table, and the server came to take our order. Jack had hot chocolate and I had a chocolate milkshake. It was quite an excellent one – kind of dark chocolate tasting.

After we left King’s Lynn, we drove to Snettisham to see the Wash. A storm was coming in very impressively, and it was strange to see the fields lit up with sunshine under the dark sky.

Jack persuaded the gatekeeper to let us park for free since we were only staying for fifteen minutes, and I ran up over the hill and to the water,

and watched the storm come, and looked for pretty rocks and shells. I ran back to Jack at the car when it was sprinkling a bit. I thought it had probably been ten minutes, but it had been twenty.

[I’m having trouble writing this entry, almost as much trouble as I had finding anything to say to Jack during the whole day. My thoughts were all of a sort that goes better into poetry than prose – nothing really coherent or defined. So forgive me for just sort of listing happenings, and enjoy the pictures.]

On the way back we went to Sandringham, which is where the Queen lives when she isn’t at a palace, and where she spends Christmas. We drove all around the brick wall around the outside of the estate, but the main house is too far into the centre so we couldn’t see it. It was all very lovely, though, in the middle of the woods, with lovely green fields and sheep inside the walls, and all the houses for the people who work there.

I would like to work there. I hope that at least a few people who do haven’t lost the wonder and poetry of working at the Queen’s estate.

Trying to get out, we had to drive down a one lane road with rather high banks on either side so that you couldn’t pass, and when a car came toward us we had to back up to where there was a little spot with dirt on both sides for passing.

We had tea pretty soon after we got back, and I watched Jack make it. It was fish and rice and egg all mixed up together, which has a fancy name that I can’t remember. It was fresh free-range eggs and my, they are nice. The yolks taste so yummy and usually I don’t like egg yolks.

Then Jack and I competed against each other on the wii fit. I am bad at the balance games, which is sort of depressing. I always thought I had pretty good balance but I don’t think I actually do. I don’t have very good control and I’m very wobbly. Sigh. I guess I just have to practice more.

I did do pretty good at the ski jump once I switched to doing it in first position. You have to bend your knees, and then extend up to being on the balls of your feet to jump, and hold that position as steadily as possible to go as far as you can. And that’s just plie, releve, and that I can balance in.

Then we did rhythm boxing, and he still beat me.

Then we all three played Sorry, and I won. Only because at the end Jack got stuck with fours and couldn’t get into his home.

I know how to make tea and porridge the way they like them, so I do that fairly often. It’s nice to be able to do things.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

can you feel the drops as it starts to rain

Yesterday morning, I slept until 10, quite without meaning to. Jan and Jack were at a doctor’s appointment where Jan was getting her blood test results back. (She’s been feeling really run down and strengthless since a few days after the surgery, and they don’t know why.)

They arrived home just as I was thinking of breakfast, so since Jan hadn’t had any yet, I made porridge for all of us. Porridge made with whole milk with real brown sugar in it is awfully nice.

After that I played on their wii fit for a while, and then they left for Jan to go get a chest x-ray because the doctor wanted to make sure that she didn’t have an embolism. [She doesn’t.]

It had been raining, but it seemed to have stopped, and I wanted to do something, so I got out the bicycle and took off. I wanted to go somewhere different, so I went down Gote Lane and turned left at the end of it, which I hadn’t done before. I went down there for a while, then decided that I wanted to north to where I had gone before. Of course, I actually had my directions completely backward, since I had gone north down Gote Lane, but regardless, when I came upon a “public footpath,” I turned down it. My thoughts upon turning into this muddy unpaved lane were,

“This isn’t exactly the smartest thing you’ve ever done. You’re going to get stuck or something.”

“Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

But I didn’t get stuck – it wasn’t even that difficult to pedal along – and I rather enjoyed being on grass and mud instead of pavement.

The lane ran into Honeyhill Road – the main road that St. Mark’s Lane (Jan and Jack’s street) is off of. I certainly wasn’t ready to go back yet, and since there was a paved lane straight across it, I looked both ways and went on across.

A little while down that lane, another lane, Black Drove, turned off to the right. It looked interesting, so I turned that way.

It was after this that things started to be strange. It was a chilly day, and biking kept me just warm enough to be in capris and a t-shirt without a jacket. The sky was overcast, making everything fairly dark. Slight sprinkles of rain came down occasionally, and it was a little bit windy. Apart from the wind, it was very quiet, except when birds would suddenly make a great racket. Everything seemed to be set up for the first scene in a ghost story, or some other mysterious tale. Everything seemed to be waiting for something to happen.

This feeling came to its greatest intensity when I reached a house with a label at the gate that said “Hundredacre Farm.” (Whether that is a reference to Winnie-the-Pooh, I do not know.) It had a fairly large garden, surrounded by a low brick wall. Inside were purple and yellow flowers, a couple of trees, bushes around the edges, and a very green very well-kept lawn.

The garden seemed like it was the place where something should happen. It seemed like the centre, the place where the story would take place.

I stopped, of course. And I took pictures. But what else was I to do? Knock on the door and say,

“Excuse me, I think there’s a story that’s supposed to happen in your garden. May I come wander around it to see if I’m the main character and if anything happens?”

It would have been convenient if it had suddenly started pouring down rain with thunder and lightning, or if I had fallen off the bike and sprained my ankle, but nothing of the kind happened, and I went on.

Nothing else that’s interesting to describe happened on the bike ride, except that I stopped at a church. It’s not in use any more, but it’s pretty.

I also found this at someone's front yard, and it charmed me:

When I got back home, Jan and Jack were still gone. I was very hungry, so I had a bowl of cereal and then toast and cheese, and read Great Expectations.

At four o’clock Jack called to tell me that when Jan had been going for her chest x-ray, she had complained of a pain in her chest, and of course was thence immediately ambulanced to the main hospital at Kings Lynn, just in case.

So who knew when they’d be back. Once you go to a hospital – especially the ER – you can be there forever. It’s like a black hole of time-warp-ness. Especially if they don’t really know what’s wrong with you.

So I kept reading Great Expectations. I didn’t really feel like doing anything.

At about six o’clock I feel asleep, curled into the corner of the couch like a little kid. And I woke again at about seven, and it was nearly dark, and it was raining again, and they weren’t back, and I was feeling mildly freaked out about Jan.

So I had peanut butter and nutella on bread, and read more Great Expectations, and did foot and ankle strengthening exercises, and stretched.

At about nine o’clock, Jan called, much to my relief, and said they’d left the hospital and would be home in about half an hour.

And when they came, I made tea, and Jack made fried eggs on toast, and we ate supper and then went to bed.

And that was yesterday. Although it was a fairly exciting day to me, it did not make much to write about.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

what will it take to make or break this hint...

The Tuesday after I returned from Wales, I did basically nothing, except blog and read and rest, because I was entirely wiped out. I went to bed at about 8pm on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, in the early afternoon, I went for a cycle in the rain. Not pouring rain, of course, just sprinkling. Cycling through the vast expanse of the fens, with the wild wind whipping about and the rain cool against your face, is my sort of thing, I find.

A pigeon was lying dead on the path, presumably having been hit by a car. So I buried it in the field, because that’s the sort of thing lost princesses and noble youths and poor but beautiful peasant girls are always rewarded for later in fairytales.

I came back rather wet, and then it was lunch time.

And then I did nothing in the afternoon, as far as I remember. Worked some more on blogs, maybe. And read Heidi books.

On Thursday, the Groats had three ladies over for coffee and to meet me, and that was nice, especially because they were very chatty and I didn’t have to talk. And I got to show them our house on Google Earth and pictures of Grand Rapids.

And now it’s time for the explanation you’ve all been waiting for, now that things have – I think - chosen their direction to develop in.

The first Saturday night that I was in England, Jack took me to a Christian concert in Wisbech – you may recall me writing about it. The drummer of the last band, which was the band that does the music for their church, was quite adorable – amusingly enthusiastic about getting to use an egg shaker, and clearly enjoying praising God with the music, and good-looking besides. But he didn’t really seem to notice me at all, even when the guy who did lights was touring me all around the theatre.

Then, the next morning, after church, he came right straight up to me and asked if I’d like to hang out sometime and have him show me around and go to the cinema.

To which I said yes.

A couple days later we sent a couple messages on Facebook and chatted and asked questions about each other, and it became clear that we have vastly different interests and likes/dislikes. I was made a bit dubious of the prospects of this working out.

Then I went to Oxford, and didn’t have any contact with him for a week. Then on that Sunday, we had been considering doing something on Monday or Tuesday after 8:30 when he got off work.

Then I went to Wales, and when Tuesday came I was still way too exhausted to try to do anything social.

Thursday was his brother’s birthday, and he invited me to come to his family’s house for dinner, and maybe doing something else afterward. This seemed ideal to me.

He startled me by showing up to pick me up wearing a shirt and tie, but that was just because it was what he wore to work.

We had a very nice time, and had takeout Indian food for dinner which was delicious, and we all watched Mall Cop which was 90% rubbish, but not overly crass, and then we watched Coraline. I think I enjoyed it most of anyone.

I don’t know if Franek – that’s his name – wanted us to leave after Mall Cop and do something else, but he didn’t say anything, so… I don’t know.

But his mother and I got on well – she sat by me on the couch and we chatted some.

And afterward we stopped by his apartment for him to show it to me, and then he brought me back home.

And if you can work out definitively what all this means, you’re more skilled than I am.

I think that it means we both thought, “oh, cute/nice person of my age! hmm!” and then found out that we didn’t really have much in common and decided that although we each find the other reasonably pleasant, it wasn’t worth pursuing beyond that. I think maybe if I showed enthusiastic interest in him he might return the favor? You never can tell with boys. And I am in the position of being not certain enough of his solidity to want to do any strong encouraging from my end. He would need to show me his solidity through his pursuit of me.

And besides all that, he says he wants a girl who he’s smarter than. ;)

Let’s see… has anything else happened of note? I biked to Wisbech yesterday, but that was just to buy a few things at Asda, so that’s not exactly interesting. Well, other than stopping to take a picture of a lovely big cobalt blue pot of pansies and having the lady who’s yard it was in bang on her window and shake her head fiercely at me. Which was depressing. But I got milk chocolate digestives (they’re a kind of biscuit, round and about 4” across, that tastes like in between a graham cracker and an animal cracker) for only 33p.

Oh yeah! And then later in the afternoon Jack and I went grocery shopping (to Asda again) and on the way there was a huge spectacular double rainbow!! It was amazing!!! But I didn’t have my camera, sadly. But while he went into B&Q (it’s like Home Depot) to buy some glue, I stood out in the parking lot in the sunshine-and-rain and stared at it.

And then we went on to Asda, and bought lots of vegetables, and lots of kinds of cheese, and whole milk, and butter, and naan bread and hummus, and cereal, and apples, and oranges, and biscuits. And a pizza for dinner, because it was art club night (Jack’s in an art club that meets on Friday nights). They make them custom there, and then you take them home and bake them. I liked the girl who made the pizza, because she was dressed all in the green asda uniform with a funny little green hat and she had red hair and made me think of a leprechaun.

Jan and I played fun mind games on the wii while Jack was at art club. I liked it because it was brain challenging – memory and quick math and figuring out how things look from different angles and that kind thing.

Today I have been reading A Companion to Owls, a book that takes place in the Fens right around here in the 1600s, and I was talking about the places in the book, and then Jack drove me out to see them!

And now me and Jan are just chilling, and I’m going to help her with some stuff she has to do for work.

Sunday update: Never mind anything about Franek. He went on a date with some other girl on Friday. :-p

Friday, March 26, 2010

please take a long hard look through your textbook, 'cause i'm history

[okay, so basically the entire owl city song "cave in" describes my trip to wales, with extraordinary precision. i couldn't choose just one line to make my title, so i have inserted several 'titles' throughout the post.]

i’ll ride the range and hide all my loose change in my bedroll

The first day after I got back from Oxford was Sunday, and I was glad that their church starts late so we didn’t have to leave very early. On the way we picked up Becky, a lady who is a friend of Jan’s from work, and is wanting to explore Christianity. She had come to their church once before and liked it.

I got to sit on the end of the row this time, and it did make a lot of difference. I was far less self conscious, and it felt so good to be at church and singing.

Their pastor is a good preacher. You know how Pastor Louie preaches 30-40 minutes of solidness, and most pastors preach 20 minutes of fluff to make a point that Louie would have made in three minutes? Well, their pastor preaches 20 minutes of solidness. Which is quite good enough for me. Also, he said emphatically that the idea that if you were following God, then life would be good, and that if life wasn’t good it meant you were out of God’s will, was “total rubbish!” which of course delighted me with both its good theology and its Englishness.

We went home and had lentils and stir-fry vegetables for lunch. I hadn’t had lentils before but I like them.

Then, in the middle of lunch, Jan was checking her facebook and found that there was a message from my friend April who is at the military base in Lakenheath (about 40 minutes from Wisbech), who I had been thinking of going on a trip to Wales with. I had lost track of dates and didn’t realize that this was the day we were going to go!

So I called her phone, and left her a facebook message and an e-mail with Jan’s number, and finally she called back and we worked out how to meet up, she and I and two of her friends from the base.

Goodness gracious.

At 3:10 they told us she April told me they’d be leaving in about 20 minutes, and that she’d call when they were.

I thought it was very possible they wouldn’t manage to leave by then, but Jack was determined to leave at 3:30 even though they hadn’t called.

With the result that, as they left at 4:15, and got stuck in traffic besides, we waited in a parking lot for about two hours.

Jack bought me a McFlurry, though.

And I sat at an outside table and wrote.

‘cause riding a dirtbike down the turnpike really takes its toll on me

Then they arrived, and I said goodbye to Jack, and thanked him for driving me out to the meeting point, and then we were hungry so we went to McDonalds.

I wasn’t overly thrilled with this, but then it turned out that they have a special where every day a different one of their deli subs is £1.99, and the one for today was chicken and bacon, so I got that.

I was quickly established as navigator, because I had an atlas Jack loaned me for the trip, and besides that none of them had any sense of maps or navigation whatever. (This was obvious from our conversations with them while they were trying to get to us.)

So, at about 7:15, I think, we set off for Wales. It was a long drive in the dark and the traffic was pretty heavy. I was doing well with interchanges until we were supposed to get on M6 and I couldn’t figure out how to get on it the correct way because there was a smaller road that connected with it farther north and I had taken that instead of continuing on until it actually met the motorway we were on. In the middle of that we came to a Premier Inn and they wanted to just stay there – it was about 10pm, I think. Fortunately for my peace of mind – who wants to end a day lost? – it was too expensive for us to want to stay there. So we continued on, and I figured out where I’d gone wrong, and we got back on the right road.

i’ve had about enough of quote “diamonds in the rough” / 'cause my backbone is paper thin / get me out of this cavern or i’ll cave in

When we were well into Wales, we found a different Premier Inn and stayed there for the night.

I’d rather not go into detail about the getting of the room. Suffice it to say that I will never be a con artist (well, unless it was for a very good cause and I’d done lots of advance planning…). Lying to a hotel lady – why on earth didn’t I just tell April to come in if she wanted us to use her credit card? – sent me into an anxiety attack that resulted in me sitting on the ground outside the car and declaring that I would NOT be going back into that hotel and talking to her; they could figure it out.

I think that after that April’s friends decided that they didn’t like me that much. Since I’ll probably never see them again, it doesn’t really matter, but it was still unfortunate.

At least after that one of them went in and did the talking for me.

And at least the price was actually the same no matter how many were in the room, so I was only (pointlessly) a liar, and not a thief.

i’ll soak up the sound and sleep on the wet ground / i’ll get ten minutes give or take / cause i just don’t foresee myself getting drowsy / when cold integrity keeps me wide awake

Between the anxiety attack and the night spent shivering under a damp towel because there weren’t enough blankets, I think I did my penance.

That hotel lady was not very bright, but she was very chatty. I went to get a water from the vending machine for one of the girls and she started asking me a bunch of questions about the military. (April’s in the air force, she’s at the military base at Lakenheath which is why she’s in England.) Which, of course, I knew none of the answers to, and just made things up.


My theatre experience makes it so I’m able to make up stuff to a person without breaking, and be reasonable convincing, and even if my heart is pounding in my throat I don’t show it.

I just go to pieces afterward.

i’ll keep my helmet on in case my head caves in / ‘cause if my thoughts collapse or my brainwork snaps it’ll make a mess / like you wouldn’t believe

Anyway… the next morning we got up at about nine, packed up reasonably quickly, and set off again. Thankfully the night lady’s shift had ended…

For breakfast, we went to an American themed diner. There were five things I was looking for in a breakfast place: inexpensive, filling, delicious, Welsh, and non-argument-causing. I settled for four out of five. Even if it seemed completely ridiculous.

The pancakes were really good, though.

So we drove and drove, and then things improved greatly, because of course it was daylight now, and the north coast of Wales is very, very beautiful. We saw a castle, so we got off the exit and found it. Unfortunately there were signs all over saying “closed to day visitors,” but we got close enough to take pictures anyway.

We later saw another huge castle, so we got off to find it, too.

We couldn’t get close to it, but the road we drove on had a stone wall all along it which was presumably the old outer wall of the fortress. Awesome.

We found a pretty little piece of ruin, with a path going under and out of it. I would have liked to walk on down the path, but they said, “there’s nothing here.”

We also found a cemetery, which was pretty, and had tombstones in Welsh.

A young man at the diner had recommended Llandudno as a good place to see, so we were going to go there and then take the same road the opposite way to get to Betws-y-coed, which we had heard was beautiful.

Oh, a lovely drive along the coast… rain and welsh mountains and wistful country music…

And when we got to Llandudno, there was a pier going out into the water, and they said, “Let’s walk down the pier,” and I was glad.

I let them go on ahead, stopping to talk to a lady and her dog. She wasn’t from Wales, but told me about different places she had lived in England.

Then I went on, and caught up with them in an arcade.

After that I discovered that there is a difference between those who mean by that phrase, “go all the way down to the end of it and breathe in the sea,” and those who mean “browse through all the chintzy shops along it.” And nearly all the chintzy stores were closed, it not being summer yet, so the two girls walked back in the opposite direction.

But April said, “You can go if you want,” in a voice that did mean it, even if the other two wouldn’t have. But she said it, and I did want, so I went.

I wish I could put it into words, but I find I can’t, really, so you’ll just have to look at the pictures.

It amused me that they declared themselves polite.

On the way back toward the car, I stopped where a cement ramp with stairs on both sides went down into the sea, and I went to the side and sat on the step, and took off my shoes and socks, and put my feet down onto the rocks, and let the waves wash up and over my ankles.

I had forgotten how good real water is.

if the bombs go off, the sun will still be shining / ‘cause i’ve heard it said every mushroom cloud has a silver lining

Then I went on back toward the car, and then there they were. We walked among the shops, looking for souvenirs.

And we were hungry, so we looked for lunch. I found a café with meat pies and pasties, which is what I wanted, but they did not care for that, so we went on. We stopped at a fish and chips restaurant but no one was particularly enthusiastic about the menu options so we left again. the Italian place was closed. Then we found a restaurant with reasonable prices and food that looked pretty good, so we chose there. But I looked at the menu and there was nothing there that I wanted more than one of those pies from the other shop, so I went back to it while they ordered. They had miniature steak-and-kidney pies, so I got one.

I came and sat down with it with them, because the place wasn’t fancy, and I would rather be slightly rude to the restaurant people than be avoiding my companions. A restaurant lady brought me a little plate for my pie, and so I bought apple juice from them, to pay for my seat.

And I am pleased to announce that steak-and-kidney pie is extremely delicious.

One of the girls had lots of vegetables that she didn’t want, so she offered them to us and I ate some. So I had plenty to eat.

After that, they started saying that they just wanted to buy a souvenir and go home, and not go to Betws-y-coed. This was very distressing. We were to continue south and see more. But one of the girls had to work at 4am the next day, which I didn’t know until then, and I didn’t know they wanted to go back so early or I would have been speedier at the pier and such.

I stopped to look at postcards. Found one of “the fairy glen, Betws-y-coed”, and then I had to cry which was not what I wanted.

April asked if I was okay. How do you answer that?

They agreed – albeit somewhat reluctantly – that we could go since it wasn’t that far out of our way.

But then as we left the souvenir shop, it started to rain, and rained harder and harder. After we got in the car it started pouring. I said that if it hadn’t cleared up by the time we got to the turn off toward home instead of to Betws-y-coed, we would just go on home.

It didn’t stop, so we didn’t go. But it was easier that it was pouring anyhow. They really didn’t want to go.

People can want such different things out of a trip.

After we’d driven a few miles out of the town April tried to stop for gas, but took the wrong turn at the roundabout and ended up going back the way we came. We had to go all the way back to turn around at the town’s exit.

But as we were going back the right way, the sun came out through a gap in the clouds, though it was still raining, and then…

The rainbow went all the way from where it went into the sea in a bright splash,

up high into the sky in a great semicircle and down again to where it touched down into the spray thrown up by the car ahead of us.

I checked the hood of the car for the golden key when we stopped for gas back at the station, but it wasn’t there.

swallow a drop of gravel and blacktop / ‘cause the road tastes like wintergreen / the wind and the rain smell of oil and octane / mixed with stale gasoline

And we weItalicnt back along the coast, and it gradually got dark, and we got rather lost in Leichester, and I convinced them to please take me back to Gorefield and not take me to Lakenheath even if it was making a longer drive – that was one advantage of not having gone to Betws-y-coed – and fortunately we had a GPS because I’m not sure I could have gotten us back to Gorefield in the dark without it.

I felt like I never would get back to Gorefield, that we would be lost for always or get into an accident and die on the dark wet winding roads that seemed too narrow and curvy for their 70mph speed limits.

The first sign saying how many miles to Wisbech was a great relief to my heart. Forever was now reduced to 42 miles.

The GPS took us a ridiculous way into Gorefield, because it took the shortest way in distance, which happened to be along the most ridiculously winding roads in the area, and we all got rather carsick, besides me being in an agony of anxiety because there are deep ditches on both sides of most of the roads. Besides being embarrassed because it was my directions (courtesy of the GPS) and my needed to get home that were putting us on this road in the first place.

tie my handlebars to the stars so i stay on track / and if my intentions stray i’ll wrench them away / then i’ll take my leave and i won’t even look back

I cannot really convey the level of relief and happiness that flooded my heart and mind when the GOREFIELD sign came into view.

They went past the house by one, but wouldn’t go back, nor would they come in. Passive-aggressive or just exhausted, I didn’t really care, because there was the house, and then I was going inside, and then there was stirfry and lentils and bread and butter, and bed.

The trip was not exactly the most wonderful experience of my life. But I am glad that I went. I found, as we crossed back into England, that I had left part of my heart in Wales. And though I don’t know when or how, someday I will go back to Betws-y-coed.