Sunday, 27 January 2008

Update On No News

I just heard that Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints passed away this evening (well . . . yesterday from this time zone) at 7.00 PM Mountain Standard Time. He was president since 1995, and will be very missed.

For the full story, please see the official Church Website:

No News Is Not Good News

The old aphorism that No News is Good News is tragically not true in this case. There's been no news on the whereabouts of my birdy. I'm absolutely gutted. I've posted fliers over the whole neighbourhood and put them up at the Co-Op and Pub and in the community notice boards. If anyone does see him, I should hear about it fairly soon afterwards. However, at this point I really doubt that I'll ever see him again. And I'm so sad.

It's not been an entirely tragic week, however. Friday I had my appointment at the Home Office to request a renewal on my Student Visa. Interestingly, rather than giving me a new Student Visa, I was issued with a Temporary Residents Visa! Really the only difference is that I don't have to play 20 questions with the Immigrations Officer at the airport when I come back into the country. However . . . that's an evilly expensive upgrade! 500 GBP. Never mind. It's good till the end of February 2011.

And finally, the fun news. I've been called as the 1st Counselor in the Young Women's Presidency. This means I get to play with the 12-18 year old girls in the ward. Specifically, the ones between 14 and 15 year olds. Err . . . old, currently. There's just one. But at the end of March I get one more :) I'm really chuffed about the whole thing. It's going to be a lot of work, and I can SO feel the weight of the responsibility, but I'm very excited about it, too. Funny thing is, I've been waiting for this calling for two weeks. Ever since the previous 1st Counselor was released. The moment she was released I just knew she was going to be called next. Had to wait for the Bishop to come back into town, though. Such a same I'm away this week. It always seems to happen to me that way. I get called the week before I have to be away for a week. Poor Lucy is stuck without a leader (eeek! I just said 'leader' with regards to me!!) for one more week.

And the reason I'm away? I have to go to the University of York for the whole week. I got an email on a week ago Thursday evening. It was from Rebecca (my supervisor) to inform me about a workshop I was highly encouraged to attend. One catch: the enrollment deadline was the following Monday. So I emailed them Friday morning to ask if there was still room, and if so I'd like to be included. Since I didn't hear back from them by the end of Monday, I assumed they didn't have room. It wasn't until around 11.00 PM Wednesday that I finally heard back from them, saying yes, they did have room, and if I wanted to attend, could I please wire the 450 GBP registration fee the next day? Eeeek! Ok, maybe two small problems! So this week was tragic and very very expensive.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Frantically Searching

My bird got out today. He didn't mean to. He's just not very good at this whole flying thing. He was trying to find me (I was in the kitchen and he was in the lounge) and just as he came fluttering around the corner I opened the kitchen door to take the recycling out. He missed my shoulder and all the sudden didn't have anywhere else to land. So here I am watching as he keeps getting higher and higher, flying further and further away. I know he didn't mean to escape. He thinks he's a people! (Or maybe better said, he thinks we're birds.) He was just looking for the rest of his flock, and isn't very skilled in the flying department. He doesn't understand enough about the mechanics of flying to know that if he just turned around, he'd come straight back, after all, he'd never had a long enough run to try turning around and going back in mid flight. And he doesn't understand enough about navigation to get back to where he started. Up until this point his world consisted of the four rooms in the downstairs of the house. I'm sure he's out there frightened and cold (it's well below freezing tonight) and not sure what to do about it. I just hope (and pray and pray and pray) he's found somewhere warm to settle down for the night and that he lands on someone's shoulder tomorrow, as they get ready to go off to work, or come back from taking the kids off to school. I did deliver nearly 100 fliers today, so most of the community in the area he's most likely to have landed in knows what's going on. I even put up posters at the pub and the co-op. Everyone's been so lovely as I've knocked on their door to request their help in finding him. I'm just so afraid I'll never see him again, or that even if I do, he will have caught something, and won't survive. I feel so guilty and so miserable. My consolation is that Lois' bird got lost in November, wandered into a neighbour's house the next day, and 3 days later was reunited with Lois and Steve. So, it's not impossible that he'll make his way home. Everyone's prayers for his safe return are welcome.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Chaos Resumes

Mornings are not my strong suit. Monday mornings? Cruel and unusual torture. And this Monday was perhaps particularly heinous. It was the first day of the new term. What does that mean? Well, for my PhD studies, not much. Doing PhD research is much more like a normal 9-5 job. Except, of course, that it's more like a 9am-11pm, 7 days/week job! (Well, for me it's more of a 10am-12am job. Remember that discussion of mornings???) Trust me, I've held down major, demanding 'normal' jobs. PhD research is far more time consuming. And that's sort of the point when I mean I say that term recommencing is not particularly earth shattering for my routine. Contrary to the assumption of those who've never done PostGrad studies, 'between term holidays' actually translates into, 'oh good, no pesky Undergrads bothering me, I can get more done'. Unfortunately, PhD research is not my only University responsibility. I also teach two sections of an Undergrad course called Sociolinguistics. This means that for me, the resumption of term means extra reading (I have to read everything my students do), sitting in on the large lecture (I teach the smaller seminars which go into greater detail of what is covered in the large lecture), lesson plans, coming up with handouts, worksheets and exercises, and most intrusively: collecting 25 3,000 word essays to mark! On the happy side, my adviser was happy with what I'd accomplished over the break :)

The rest of my week, unsurprisingly, was therefore consumed (one might even say devoured) by the monumental task of marking all those essays. It wouldn't be quite so bad, except that they are of such an appalling standard that it takes hours to read each one. I could get through them much faster, except that if I did that, I can't give feedback. Obviously feedback's important. So I have to spend a lot more time per essay, which means that after one week, I've only got a handful of essays marked.

Random activity of the week:Now, you may well ask, What on earth?? Well . . . the flooring in my kitchen is (was?) this horrible linoleum. It was printed with a wood plank pattern. Unfortunately, the people who owned the house before me did a lot of DIY, only without the help of knowing what they were doing. So the linoleum was not well installed. It was rippled and torn, and soft and horrible. Saturday, after a whole long difficult week of marking depressingly terrible essays, I was in the kitchen making dinner for me and Claire (housemate) and all the sudden, I just couldn't stand it any more. So I grabbed the stanley knife (exacto knife for you Americans) and started tearing it up. Claire heard me and came in, startled to find me ripping the floor out. I knew from plumbing the washing machine that there was other linoleum, which had been installed much better, underneath. We got it up and discovered part of the problem is that, because the top layer had not been sealed, it had gotten wet, but could not dry. That was part of why it was soft and rippling. It was also moldy! The underlayer of linoleum is old, stained and damaged, but it's sealed. I'm willing to live with it for a few weeks, until I get the kitchen gutted and replace the floor. For the first time, my heels made clicking noises as I crossed the kitchen this morning.

Right . . . back to marking. *sigh*

Sunday, 13 January 2008


After sending my parents off home, it was time to get my life back into some semblance of order. I spent all day Monday picking up and reorganising. I also got paint for the upstairs bathroom, which desperately needed a facelift. I'm keeping it yellow, but just gave it a fresh coat of paint. I didn't manage to get anything actually painted, but I did manage to get the shelves all down and everything taped up in preparation. Tuesday was a little more successful: I got all the walls painted :) Hooray! It needed a second coat in one spot (where the previous occupants had not painted over the ghastly green which underlay the sprightly yellow) but it was in pretty good shape.

Tuesday was also the birthday of one of the West Gang. The Wests have taken me into their family. They're marvelous. It was Elliot's 15th, and I made a birthday cake for him. I didn't think it was anything all that special, but you'd never guess that from the reactions I got when I arrived! Jonny was my favourite, I think. He followed his mom into the entry way, saw the cake, and exclaimed, "Wow!" Adoration is pretty great :D

Wednesday was a foray into London. My best friend is a Siderodromophobic (that's she's afraid to travel by train), so she asked me to come along to London with her to meet some friends from her undergrad for lunch. So we met at the train station and jumped on a train for Liverpool Street Station, with the intention of meeting Ian, Alex and Jemma in London. Somehow Alex did not manage to get the message out to anyone that he was deathly ill, so Ian, Jenny and I waited around for quite some time before finally giving up and getting something to eat. I pulled a traditional Adele stunt: fell off my flat shoes on flat pavement! I managed to bruise the ankle bone! 5 days later I'm still suffering from it. Eventually Alex did manage to let us know he was not going to show, and Jemma rang to say she was done with lecture, where should we meet? So Jenny, Ian and I met up with Jemma and headed off to the Science Museum on Exhibition Road. After an entertaining afternoon seeing what the future may hold, we separated at South Kensington Tube Station.

Wednesday was the highlight. Or possibly the lowlight. It is for Wednesday that I have named my entry for this week. Detritus. The OED (that's Oxford English Dictionary for those of you philistines who use anything else) defines it as "a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away". This is a case of destruction. In my quest for order and cleanliness I ran up to gather a load for the washing machine. Unfortunately, I forgot that the bird was on his playpen, not in his cage. So I ran up the stairs, separated out the lights and the darks, came back down, loaded the machine, started the machine, and came back to the lounge.

And discovered mayhem! Hamish, my Dutch Aqua Peach Faced (he's too young for the peach face to have come in yet) Lovebird had made lunch out of my keyboard. He'd grabbed the opportunity presented by my inattention to detail and flown with it! He has this fascination with computers in general, and keyboards specifically. The first thing I did was grab the key he'd just yanked it up. At which point he growled at me! The audacity! When I discovered he'd already stripped the back of the little nobly bits which are what hold the key case to the plastic bit underneath, I gave it back to him, and grabbed my camera. He's such a rotten fink! He got 14 keys off, and the underkey of one of them, making it exceedingly difficult to use the right arrow key. Fortunately, all he got were the function 'F' keys, and the 'Delete' 'Home' 'End' etc... keys from the upper right corner. Also fortunately, I know where they are, so I can still type as normal.

Thursday I spent repainting the bathroom (a piece of the paint had pealed off when I took the tape off) and getting the second coat on that bit that needed it. And doing the ceiling, the trim and the door.

Friday I picked up Camilla (another of the West Clan) for an evening of Scrapbooking. We had a great time together. It was good fun. Made Taco Casserole for us for dinner. Claire (housemate) has been having a rough week (month, holiday, term, PhD....) so it was a treat for her, when she got back to the house.

Saturday I got a frantic phone call from Jenny. Her mother had lost the keys to the car (happened to be Jenny's keys and Jenny's car) in town, and Jenny was stuck out on Mersea Island. So I went and picked up Jenny's gran and took her out to the Island. When we got out there, Jenny met us at the house, and helped unload the shopping...... and uncovered the keys! So after my impression of a superhero (rescuing the helpless) I zipped off to the Wests for a date with the girls. Mum and Dad West had taken the boys (for Elliot's birthday) to a bike park. So Camilla and Hannah and I went to the cinema. We saw Enchanted. Then I rushed off to a birthday party in Wivenhoe. Met Jenny there, and had a laugh withs some friends, couple of Diet Cokes, and a bit of dancing before returning home and (hooray hooray) a bit of sleep.

Today's been quiet. Not much to report.

Tomorrow it's back to the mill. Term starts tomorrow, and I get the pleasure of 25 or 30 3,000 word essays to mark. Loads of fun. I love teaching, and don't really mind the marking, but it is a lot of work. It's just going to be a huge shock to the system, having to get back into a routine. Never mind. I really do love it.

Monday, 7 January 2008

My New Years Resolution

I don't actually like "New Years Resolutions". They seem a bit ridiculous to me. Why should I wait till the 1st of January to improve my life? New Years Resolutions seem designed to fail. However, since I happen to be getting this blogging thing going right at the new year....

My goal for 2008: to keep this blog updated weekly.

In the spirit of my new goal I guess I should start off with the first week's activities. To ring in the new year I hosted a Murder Mystery party.
The guest list consisted of (left to right in the photo) Jenny, Mom, Dad (seated on the floor), Russ, Claire, Nicholas, Sebastian and me. The year was supposedly 1925 and we were at Lord Lew De Behavioure's country estate. I was Baby Doll, an American Socialite and former dancer in the Follies. We had fun, even if the mystery was a bit lame. The clues were the exact same pieces of information that had been given at the introduction. Only my mother got the murderer right, and it must be said that it was blind luck. But everyone got into their assigned roles and we had an enjoyable meal.

The 1st found us getting stiffly and grudgingly from our beds. I was vertical around 9 in the morning. Dad beat me by half an hour or so. I don't know what time Nicholas (who'd stayed the night rater than driving back to Nottingham in the wee hours of the morning) or Claire made it up, because the first thing I did was hit the supermarkets to get cold medicine. I had to go to three before I discovered that the Tesco's at Highwoods was blessedly open. Claire and Nicholas were both up by the time I got home, though. Mom didn't see light of day till close to noon. We picked at leftovers from the previous evening and worked on a puzzle. Nicholas took off for home around 12.30, and Mom, Dad and I met Sebastian (who'd stayed with his aunt overnight, rather than going back to London) for an afternoons bowling. We played two games. Mom got the high score, 139. We dropped him at the train station to catch the coach back to London and then headed home.

Our plan for the late afternoon and evening was to make a Gingerbread House. I'd wanted to do this before Christmas, but time was just too restricted, and it hadn't gotten done. So we mixed up the dough, but as the evening wore on, my cold got worse and worse. I ended up in bed by 9, but couldn't sleep. I felt sick to my stomach. Eventually, around 11, the nausea got the better of me. For the next 2 hours I was up every twenty minutes giving an all out attempt to lose my my stomach. Or maybe my toenails. Eventually my tummy calmed down a bit, and I was able to get an hour's worth of sleep between sick sessions. My Dad sat with me till sometime after 2, and my Mom came up around 4 and stayed for another hour. My last round of toenail extractions took place at 6 in the morning. From that point on my stomach behaved itself. I was able to fall asleep until 9.

I spent the whole next day curled up on the sofa watching TV. Claire dropped my parents off up at Colchester Castle Museum. They had a good time seeing all the history Colchester has to offer. I would so have loved to go with, as Dad is very fun to go to museums with. He really enjoys them. But everyone (including me) agreed that me staying home was the better part of valour, even though my cold had subsided and my stomach had called a cease fire. We had Cottage Pie for dinner (homemade by Claire) and finally got to make the Gingerbread House. Mom had brought over frosted mini wheats to use as thatched roofing. I had the idea to use piped icing to make a 'half timbered' house. It turned out very cute.

The 3rd was a lazy day. We spent it kicking around the house not doing much. We went to Tescos some rediculous number of times, had a quiet lunch, threatened the bird (for destroying several of the keys off my keyboard). Dad and I went into town for a bit to get some souvenirs for people at the plant. We ended up with 30 Tiptree Jams! Mom spent a lot of the day sleeping, as she was afraid that she was catching this cold that I had. During lunch we videoed the conversation so that I can use it as part of my trial run on my PhD. Don't know exactly how useful it's going to be, but I guess we'll find out. For dinner I made taco casserole, which is one of the best foods ever. Mom and Dad had brought over 50 boxes of the key ingredient (corn bread mix) which you just simply cannot find in this country! Claire and I decided that once/week was a pretty good number of times to have it!

On the 4th I sent my parents home to Mississippi. I miss them terribly. Living over here is not all that different from living in the US. I wouldn't get to see my folks much more if I lived on the East Coast (or really anywhere other than the Deep South), so I'm not really missing out on that by living in England. However, I still don't like having to say good bye to my family when it's time to send them home. We got the car packed (poor Dad like a sardine amongst the suitcases!) and took off for Gatwick. We'd allowed 3 hours, though it doesn't usually take more than 2, and it shouldn't take that long, but London Traffic being what it is.... We ended up getting there so early we decided to drive by the London Temple (which is one exit before Gatwick) and drive the back roads to the airport. We were all very surprised to find that the London Temple's car park was all pulled up and they were doing a bunch of construction works. (Found out Sunday that the Temple is closed most of the month.) But that didn't stop us from being able to see the building. Mom and Dad had both seen the Preston Temple on their previous visit together, so this completes their English set. We got them checked in and I said good bye. I really hate that turning to walk away alone bit. I'm terribly sentimental, and I'm also very close to my family. Not a good combination! Managed not to cry, though. *sigh* Someday instant teleportation is going to be a viable option. I just hope it's during my lifetime.

Saturday and Sunday were kind of catch up days for me. I'm still not really feeling 100%. The cold's still there a bit. But I feel pretty good. I got the Christmas decorations down and boxed up. Now all I have to do is get them into the loft. I have spare linens in all directions. I can't figure out how I managed to have them all put away in the first place... but obviously I did. I really must figure out how I managed to do that. I also have plans (and paint) to paint the upstairs bathroom. It's a bit dingy, and could really do with a fresh coat. I also picked up the woodwork paint, but that's going to be an ongoing project. Not something that gets done overnight. Unless there happen to be some brownies living under the stairs. Hear that brownies? If you have the urge to do a bit of redecorating, the woodwork all needs doing ;).

Welcome, 2008.