Sunday, 17 February 2008

Maybe I Should Get a Flat in York . . .

It's Wednesday! Aaaah! Where has my week gone? I'm sorry. My only excuse is that I've been out of town again, so didn't get to post Sunday. And to my credit, I did start this Monday. But Monday was rather difficult. And Monday ran into Tuesday. And now it's Wednesday. I'm sorry! Eeeeek! It's FRIDAY!!! I will get this posted today!

So yes, once again I've been in York for the week. It's exhausting travelling back and forth between here and there. Of course, it's even more exhausting attending these conferences. However, this is the last one for a while. That's both a good and a bad thing. It's good because it means I can get back to my life. Specifically, get back to my teaching responsibilities. Thank you Jenny for saving me and teaching my classes for two weeks! You're such a star, and you so own me. I think I'll need to be your slave forever to repay you. I also get to get on with my own research, which is very good and the real test of whether or not these two weeks were well spent or not. I'm confident that they were. The bad news is that I have to do my own work without anyone holding my hand the whole way through. That's not to say that Rebecca won't help me, because she will, but it's not the same as working through things with an expert sitting at your elbow. But it's time for the bird to leave the nest. Scary, but good for me. However, I probably am not totally done with my York visits. There are several other courses on offer to be done: Repair, Word Selection and I forget what all else. Poor Christy has had to put up with me for so long, so often, I figure I ought to get a flat! Last time I was in York, Christy had said something about wondering why there is no "I (heart) Y" for I love York, instead of "I (heart) NY", tshirt. So, as a thank you for taking such good care of me, I photoshoped the NY version, uploaded it, and ordered a tshirt for her. She loved it!

In the middle of the week, of course, we had S.A.D. (That's 'Single Awareness Day' for those of you unlucky enough to get to celebrate it every year.) To commemorate our state of unmarrital bliss, we made sugar cookies.

Then we decorated them with cream cheese icing. MMMMMmmmmMMMM! Well thought out Christy! (totally her idea).

After the exhausting routine of 9.30-5.30 CA days, Christy and I spent Friday evening at the movie Penelope. I totally recommend it. It's a Fairy Tail, and a Love Story, but it's very different from the ones you've seen before. Very fun!

Saturday, Christy and I went to Riveaux Abbey, North Yorkshire. As with nearly all the Abbeys in England, it was emptied during the Disolusionment of the Monastaries by Henry VIII. Christy's doing one of her essays on the architecture of Riveaux Abbey, and as she's already been to Fountains Abbey, which is the other grand Abbey near York, we thought it would be good for her essay to visit Riveaux. It was a gorgeous day, and we had a grand time exploring the ruins. The sky was so clear and beautiful, the sun made some great shadows. But the clear sky also meant that the temperature was very low. Freezing cold. But the beautiful arches with the gorgeous sun and shadows.

Some of the remains are kind of funny. There's this one bit that's the base of the vaulted ceilings. It looked so odd just standing there all by its onesie, and really, rather forlorn, too.

But the most wonderful bit was the remains of the colonnade in the cloisters. It was this little corner bit, just 2 arches on either side, meeting in the middle, but was stunning. I can only just imagine what it once looked like. It must have been fabulous.

Yet again, Christy, thanks for a fabulous visit!

Sunday, 10 February 2008


Well, looks like I'm working for BYU next year! Or at least I've said yes. There's always the outside chance that I won't get the job (like, if they decide I just don't have the experience necessary). However, as of now, it looks like January of next year I'll be Swing Dancing, Snowboarding and Ice Skating in Utah. Not such a bad way to spend 4 months, eh?

I'm also back up to York tomorrow. Well . . . going to Sheffield tomorrow, and York Tuesday afternoon. The workshop I went to the other week was so good for my research skills, I decided to bite the bullet and pay for the second half. Fortunately, Celia (the woman organising the workshop) was able to get me a half price bursary. So I'm not footing the whole bill. It's going to be another tough week, but hopefully will give me the tools needed to really succeed in my own work.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

In Decision

Yesterday I got a marvelously flattering email from my former professor at BYU. Cynthia (said prof) has received permission to take a study leave for January Term of 2009. She was asked if she had anyone to recommend as a replacement. She recommended me! I was originally offered the whole of the calendar year for 2009, but I declined that invitation as being just a bit too long for my current situation as PhD student. They then offered me just the one term, but this was all on a very supposing-if sort of term. I said that yes, I'd be willing to consider teaching at BYU for the one term. I then did not hear anything about it. That was back in October. I'd seen the job posted on Linguist List, so figured they had found someone either fully qualified, or at least willing to take the whole year, not just one term. So yesterday, when I got a formal official offer to take Cynthia's classes, I was very surprised. In fact, I emitted just the smallest yelp. Poor Claire (housemate) thought something tragic had happened. It's a wonderful opportunity, and very flattering to be nominated for the position, not just hear about it and get a job I've applied for. However, it requires a decision be made.

On the one hand, it is a fabulous oportunity to build my CV. Academia is highly competitive, so anything that says, 'Look how cool I am' will be hughely helpful navigating the post PhD application minefield. Also, my adviser, Rebecca, thinks that not only am I capable, and not only do I deserve a chance like this, but as she's going to be on study leave that term as well, it wouldn't even really affect my supervision. She's all in favour of me taking the term out.

However, I've really put some roots down. This is the first time I've strugled with the thought of being somewhere else for a while. Partly it's that I'm only going to be away for 4 months. You'd think that would make it easier. But it doesn't. I'll put my life here on hold, go away, and have to pick back up here. Now to a large degree that's not such a huge problem. Claire's still going to be my housemate, and Jenny still my best friend, and Rebecca still my adviser. But what about my church responsibilities? I've just been called into the Young Women's Presidency (1st Counceler). That's not something I can put down and pick up. And on the flip side, what about the time I'm over there. Of course I won't live in isolation. I'll have to make friends, or I'll be terribly lonely. Forutnately a few of my friends from my BYU days are still kicking about. That'll make my life sweeter. And there's always the alure of really good Swing Dancing to be had nearly every night of the week. But 4 months is not very long! And, of course, there's the problem of where am I going to live? How am I going to commute? I don't want to live in Student digs there. Just don't think that would be appropriate. But I don't have a car in Utah (or in the States at all!) so I'll need to be relatively close. Eeeek! So much to think about. And I have to make a decision soon.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Close Encounters

This week was hugely different from my average week, so sit back and get comfortable. This is going to be long. However, I hope it will be as entertaining to you to read, as it was for me to live. Ok, so that's probably not possible, but I still hope you enjoy it.

Monday afternoon I threw my bags in the car and drove up to Sheffield. I spent the evening with my best friend, Jill. We hadn't seen each other since a couple weeks before Christmas, so it was really nice to spend some time with her. It happened to be that it was Mark's birthday . . . but he was out of town on business! I didn't forget, though, and took up his birthday present (Jiffy Cornbread Mix!) which was waiting for him on the kitchen counter for his arrival. Jill had an orchestra rehearsal, so I drove her down and marked essays whilst she played with the orchestra. I just about survived the essays :S and we had a lovely evening at home.

The next morning I dragged myself North for the real reason I had braved the roads. I had to attend a workshop at the University of York. I had only found out about the workshop a week before. Rebecca sent me a forwarded email saying if I could make it to the workshop, it would be quite useful. Well, when one's adviser says go . . . one goes! Even if one is less than thrilled with the prospect. In fact, I was petrified. I was absolutely dead sure that I was going to be miserable all week, in over my head, struggling to keep up. I had this dread because over the past year and a half I have been struggling every Monday morning to keep up in the 2 hour Data Session I attend with Rebecca, and this was going to be a 4 day, 9.30-5.30 long Data Session. Well, 10 minutes into the workshop and I thought, 'Actually, I think I'll be ok. I'm at about the same level as everyone else here'. By the end of the week, though, it was clear that all those Data Sessions with Rebecca had paid off and I was actually quite a bit ahead of most everyone. I vowed to return to Essex and kiss Rebecca's feet in repayment. Today, when I arrived at the previously Dreaded Data Session, Rebecca said, 'You've got a fan up North!' Apparently Celia (the Conversation Analyst running the workshop) had sent not one, but two emails to Rebecca (they're quite good friends, both being very prominent Conversation Analysts) saying that she had really enjoyed having me on the course, that I was bright, enthusiastic, talented . . . and several other flattering adjectives, and that they should do whatever necessary to get me the funding necessary to get me back up North for the second half of the workshop I was on last week. Rebecca is currently trying to get the Department to authorise some money (any at all) to help ease the way, and Celia has arranged a Bursary which covers half of the tuition. So it seems I'll be heading back up to York next week.

At the end of the workshop my friend Christy (whom I'd been staying with. She's getting her MA in Art History at the University of York, and lives across the courtyard from where the workshop was held) and I jumped in my car and drove further North yet! We drove clear up to Loch Lomond in Scotland. We stopped around 11.00 pm at the top of the Loch, at this little hotel. They let us have their really posh room which is normally 100 gbp for half price. So, we got this fabulous room, with really nice bed, amazing shower (which we didn't figure out till too late to use!), sitting room and fabulous view of the loch (which we could only JUST make out that evening. The full glory wasn't revealed until the next morning). Christy, a true SoCal girl, was freezing, so the first thing she did was cuddle up to the heater in the room.

The next morning, the view out the window was spectacular. The mountains were cut off by the low lying clouds, and the snow was clean and new. We'd driven through the beginning of a reasonably heavy snow the previous night. It looked lovely, if cold. The loch especially looked uninviting. Not somewhere particularly warm at any time, especially frigid in February!

We turned from the vista and made our way further North still. Christy had never been to anywhere other than Edinburgh, so she was keen to see the country side. Of course, because it is mid-winter, most of the attractions were closed. Not many people travel to the North of Scotland (in fact, not many people travel to Scotland!) between November and March. But the country side in winter is gorgeous! I've been up there before, but always in June or July. Never in winter. It was fabulous!

The best part of the trip happened later Saturday morning. We had driven through most of the Glen Cloe area, and were just climbing up the North side of the valley when the vista opened up. It was stunning, just as Loch Lomond was, but in a completely different way. So we were looking for a spot to pull off the road and take a photo, when we saw a sign saying Parking area 500 meters. I pulled off the road at the top of the road, just as it was curving round to the right, about to crest the mountain (or hill). All the sudden, we realised that at the far side of the parking are were two deer! They were just having a drink off the water, not bothered by all the people and cars and buses and cameras snapping their photos. We got within 5 feet of these enormous deer. They could have made a whole lot of mess if they'd decided to attack with those antlers. Instead, they either ignored us, or stepped back a bit. Christy agreed that seeing these deer was the best part of the whole trip. However, she laughed at my enthusiasm. I admit it; I was perhaps a bit overly enthusiastic. In my rush to make friends with the fauna, I left the door to my car standing wide open! Christy comes over a moment after me and says, 'Do you realise you didn't close your door?' I was absolutely shocked! But I wouldn't have changed my reaction for the world. A little door forgetting is good for the soul.
Christy got the best shot of the day, though. Well, best shot of the whole trip.Amazing. Looks more like it came out of a National Geographic Magazine than off an Art History MA student's brand new camera that she is still trying to figure out how it works. Good Job Christy!

After our close encounter with the animal kingdom, we continued our journey North. Are you getting the sense that North was the theme of my week? Until I had to come home, of course! We ended our Northerly push at Urquhart Castle, on the Western shore of Loch Ness. One of the things that surprised me was how little snow the Loch Ness valley had. As we'd driven into the valley, the snow just (forgive the pun) melted away. Only a light dusting, where other areas had several inches of accumulation. It was still beautiful, though. I was reminded of postcards. You always see postcards of places dusted with, or covered in, snow, but you're always there during summer (barring ski trips). Well this time I got to see the postcard version.

My favourite sign in the world is up at the edge of Loch Ness . . .

'Disabled Driver of Horse Pulled Carrage In the Area.' How great a sign is that? I've laughed at that sign for years. I used to have a photo of it, but it was on my old computer, which was stolen. One of the few that I didn't have backed up else where. Never mind. I have a new one!

Eventually we had to turn around and head South. It was getting dark, which means we weren't going to see anything fun, or at least our fun was going to be limited. So, we figured we might as well get a start on the next day's return trip home. As we headed out of the Loch Ness valley, it started to snow. As we got into the Glen Cloe area, the snow got harder, and started to accumulate. And worse? It was dark. It has been years since I drove regularly in the snow, I've never driven this particular car through snow, I didn't know these roads, and -- of course -- it was dark. I decided to slow down. A lot. We crept along at about 25 mph, just keeping safe. After a while we came up to a switchback. There was a bit of oncoming traffic, so I decided to slow down further and wait till it had past. I didn't want to be on the curve with anyone else. And boy did it turn out to be a good thing! Just as the first oncoming car got to the critical point of the curve, he lost control, spun out, fishtailed, and I was SURE we were going to have to call someone to fish him out of the ravine. He came within centimeters of hitting the guard rail. On MY side of the road! He managed to avoid it, then nearly hit the one on his side. And then came back around and nearly hit it on my side again. He eventually got control, but if I had continued on at my original speed, we would have been sideswiped at best, head on-ed at worst, and easily could have ended up in the ravine ourselves. Another very close call. Fortunately we were protected, and we were safe on the near side of the curve. Hopefully, he learned his lesson about driving in the snow!

We stopped for the night in Carlisle, Cumbria for the night. The next morning we got on the road and headed home, -ish. We weren't in any hurry, though, so we took the back roads for a while. We stopped off at one of the various Hadrian's Wall points. Then we headed over towards New Castle.

Over there (which was well East of where we stopped to see the Wall) we were getting hungry, and saw a sign for the National Trust Gibson 18th Century Pleasure Grounds property. They always have good cafes with lovely food, so we thought we'd take a look. Since we're both members of the National Trust, it was free to get in. We had a nice little wander, but it was really freezing, so we only stayed out for about half an hour, forty-five minutes. We headed into the blessedly warm tea shop, and cuddled up to a mug of hot chocolate and an amazing 'Sunday Stew'. That consisted of potatoes, pork and apple sausages, carrots and parsnips, all served up on an enormous Yorkshire Pudding. Delightful! And exactly the right remedy for cold hands and noses.

We finally made it back to York and I dropped Christy off at her dorm and headed back to Essex. Thanks, Christy, for such a fabulous week and weekend!

Parting shot: Christy and Adele, Scotland.