Saturday, January 2, 2010

Homecoming and hiatus.

It's officially a new year and I am officially back on U.S. soil for an indefinite amount of time. It feels strange for sure, though not necessarily bad. 1,000+ cable channels are nice, as are shops that are open past 6pm, and an efficient bank that records ATM withdrawals the same day the cash is taken out. But I do miss Glasgow and Scotland, and while I've been quite good about dropping all Scottishisms from my speech, I haven't managed to get rid of all my change yet, and still have a wallet full of sterling. One of these days, I'll trick someone into accepting a 10p piece instead of a quarter.

For now though, it's full steam ahead on repatriation. And my hunt for gainful employment. Since this blog was created to chronicle my time in Scotland and Europe, it seems a bit strange (as well as pointless) to keep it up since I'm no longer abroad. So until I get back across the pond, I think a bit of a hiatus is in order.

To mark my hiatus, this picture seems appropriate. The massive Union Jack-clad winglet of a Virgin Atlantic A343, as seen from seat 55H on a spectacular day, roughly 38,000 feet above the North Atlantic. Heading home.


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Friday, December 11, 2009

Moving Day.

This is a bit strange: tonight is my last night in my Glaswegian flat.

Tomorrow, I clear out of here and head to the Holiday Inn at Glasgow Airport for the night. My flight on Saturday morning is at 6:35am, and there was no way at 4am I was lugging three enormous suitcases down four flights of steps or doing a final walk-through of the flat. It wasn't happening. £42 for a lot of sanity and a relaxing night before my flight seemed like a fair price to pay. Plus getting to sleep an extra hour! And lest you scoff, the difference between an alarm going off at 3:30am and 4:30am is huge. So I will spend my last night in Scotland holed up in an airport hotel, sipping on leftover champagne from my birthday, and watching television, which I'm actually really excited about, since I haven't had a TV this entire time. Then going to bed early, because of said 4:30am wakeup call. I'm okay going out that way.

I think it's all happening so quickly that I'm not really processing it all, which is good because it's not giving me much time to be sad and dwell on just how much I'll miss the city and the people. I'm just so focused on MOVING. And getting rid of stuff. And making sure my three suitcases are exactly at weight, since I'm already paying to check a third and don't want to pay for extra weight too. It's a tedious process, praying that the cheapy scale I bought at Tesco is right, hopping on and off of it with massive luggage. The stress of it all is tremendous, just the packing and the luggage. Once the bags are checked though, I can breathe easy. Until then, I live in fear that both Virgin and BMI will charge me hundreds upon hundreds of pounds for my baggage.

I really, really just can't believe it's all over, that I'm heading back to the States. I feel like I just got here. I feel like I was just packing up to come over here. And now I'm leaving. Granted, with a bushel of new friends, many more passport stamps, a lot of new clothes, and Master's degree in tow. It's been a crazy fifteen months. Good, but crazy.

29.5 hours until I board BD01, bound for Heathrow...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

RUGBY!

It's official: I am a rugby convert!

And apparently, watching the Scottish National Team lose is a rite of passage that every wannabe Scot must go through. So I'm one step closer!

Murrayfield in late November is brutally freezing. Lovely, but freezing.

I think it is safe to say that I'm now pumped for 6 Nations.



A blurry view of Scotland winning in the first half; we were so very close to the field, and for only £10!


A blurry view of me (numb and frozen, but totally having a blast) at Murrayfield.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Twas the night before turkey...

Thanksgiving Eve here in Scotland, and while sadly there are no evening shenanigans planned for the biggest bar night of the year like there would be in the States, there is, more importantly, an uncrowded and calm grocery store.

This is one of the big pros of celebrating the holiday expatriately: you don't need to resort to throwing elbows or pulling hair the day before in order to get a bag of cranberries. And if you need something tomorrow at the last minute? Everything is still open as normal, and you don't have to resort to going to 7-11, cleaning the place out of Big Bites, then removing the hot dogs so you can have the "rolls" you forgot to buy the day before, but promised to bring to dinner.

But everything being open and normal because there isn't Thanksgiving here? It's also a con. Said bag of cranberries? Doesn't seem to exist. At least not at the Maryhill Tesco. Which makes baking a pear-cranberry pie a bit challenge. Same with canned pumpkin. There is none! Last year, Lupe Pinto's, the "American" store in town, sold out of canned pumpkin at the beginning of fall. So me trying to snag some the day before is unlikely, and very unworth a 3.5 mile round trip in the miserable weather. So I have to improvise on the pie front.

I actually have to say though, I really like Thanksgiving abroad. There's something really special about celebrating with other Americans when you're all away from home. Corny, yes. But really nice at the same time. Plus, I appreciate the irony of having Thanksgiving in the UK!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's the final countdown...

I have just submitted my final workshop story of possibly my academic career, and while getting a 4,000 word beast out of my dreams and into my car my laptop and into our web-based classroom file-sharing utility thing, it's surreal to know that this is it.

As one of my final big leaving activities, I'm going to see Scotland take on Australia in rugby this weekend at Murrayfield in Edinburgh. The weather is looking phenomenal for standing outside all night: cold, wet, and super windy. Still, I will take lots and lots of pictures through the driving rain. I can think of few better final memories of Scotland to have than sweaty, muscular men in tight shorts running around after a ball that looks slightly like an American football, but really is nothing like it at all. And I am not being facetious! I'm really looking forward to it!

Plus, a national match! It doesn't get better than that!

I realized today that my birthday and St. Andrew's Day coincide. A sign, maybe? Scotland and I are MFEO? I overlooked it last year because I was in Paris. But this year, I'll be soundly on Glaswegian soil.

My leaving Glasgow countdown is T-minus 23 days. Talk about surreal.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Countdown.

In exactly five weeks, I will be back on US soil for "good," or at least the foreseeable future, which for me usually means about six months. The reality of leaving Glasgow and Scotland is starting to hit me hard; this is now my home. This is the base of my existence. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that when my plane takes off from Glasgow Airport on December 12th, I won't be coming back. Not for a long while at least.

For all of Glasgow's flaws -- the weather, the grime, the crime, the neds, the weather, the social issues, the weather, the weather, the weather -- it's still a fantastic city, with fantastic character, and people who are maybe some the best I've ever come across. I cannot stress or underline enough how much I love Glaswegians. And Scots. But really, Glaswegians. They're a special breed, and my heart's breaking thinking about how five weeks, I suddenly won't be around them anymore.

Yes, this move is my doing. Yes, this is the responsible thing. I realize that. But it doesn't change the suck factor. Which is high. Not living in Glasgow is going to suck.

Obviously there are big pros to moving back to the States. Like seeing my family. Seeing my dog. Not having to buy three separate transatlantic tickets for three must-attend 2010 stateside weddings. Being able to buy things (any things!) after 6pm. Having an efficient banking system. Or an efficient anything system. Being able to eat good (or any) Mexican food on a regular basis. Being able to buy Goya products in the grocery store. These are all pluses. And I am looking forward to all these things.

I'm really trying to prepare myself for the reverse culture shock. When I was ten, and we moved back to the States from Yorkshire, I remember it lasting for a few months. But I was ten; as a person still in her late 20s, I should have a better, more logical grasp on what's going on in my head. Hopefully, preparing myself for it will help ease it a bit. But I know that it won't be easy. I may complain tomorrow morning when I leave my flat, and walk out onto a street lined with broken bottles of Buckie, but damnit if I'm not going to miss those stupid numbered bottles when I'm gone.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?

Я не люблю глупых людей. I do not like stupid people.

Taking the cake for this week's Dumb Stunt By Someone Other Than Me award goes to fantasy writer Catherynne M. Valente, who posted in her blog recently about booking a honeymoon to Russia, being told by Expedia that they "didn't need visas," and consequently being stranded in Frankfurt because of it. Valente's fans and readers are now taking up collections for her and are up in arms at Expedia on her behalf. They've even started a Facebook Group to "help" her and boycott Expedia.

I realize the Cold War is over (mhmm), but come on. Thinking you don't need a visa to go to Russia? Since when? The concept is so ludicrous. Who cares what Expedia says; isn't there an alarm bell that would go off and make you check another source?

I'm not a fan of the Expedias and Pricelines of the world, just because it's the least flexible option ever, but poor Expedia is just being ripped apart by this clueless woman and her even more clueless fans. Whatever happened to days of, oh, I don't know, checking with the State Department on whether or not you need a visa? Or even the Russian embassy? Expedia can't even give you seating assignments. Are they really expected to give you visa information? Did this woman even open a Russia travel book (all of which very early on talk about visa requirements). Did she not look at a single Wikitravel article? Even a three second Google of "Russia visa requirements"? Or did she actually just hop on the computer, do a vacation package search on Expedia, input her credit card, and then go to the airport?

To go to Russia.

I can understand if you're transitting through SVO or DME, and not being sure if you need one then (if it's a straight gate to gate transfer of >24 hours, then no, no you do not). But an entire vacation? Really? I wouldn't be so bothered by this woman if she accepted some shred of culpability in the whole thing; instead she cries victim.

Besides, if you didn't need a visa or any paperwork, what would you give the Militsia when they try to shake you down?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Everyone gather 'round. Actor announcement!

So with my (one-way) flight booked home for December 12 (mark your calendars), I remain uneasy about the booking. In the age old issue of Price vs. Miles, I succumbed to the temptation of a lower price tag, and am now feeling regret gnaw in my stomach. But still, price is price, and I am but a poor graduate student.

Sort of.

The above one-way ticket is one-way for a reason.

I will however officially graduate with my Master of Letters degree on December 2nd. Which is still nice, even if there won't be a PhD following it in three years. Turns out that I actually missed working and being employed everything that comes with it. That and I really didn't want to have to go through the (expensive, invasive, passport-stealing) visa application process again when my current visa expires in January.

Perhaps with the money I saved on buying the cheapo ticket, I can do one last Euro-jaunt, while I still have the continent just an hour's flight away. Maybe another birthday-weekend trip?

What's it going to be? I think the big contenders right now are Stockholm, Vienna, Poland, and Berlin. But really, it'll probably be whatever is dirt cheapest that weekend.

Being back on the other side of the ocean again for 2010, I think I'll try and get over the loss of proximity to Europe by focusing my energies on Central and South America. That's probably where employment will come in handy...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Le Tour Eiffel

I am back from Paris with my mom, aunt, and sister, and now having been a fifth time in less than a year, am happy to be feeling quite comfortable there. The shiny newness of the experience has worn off, but the familiarity of it all is in fact even better. It feels like Paris is a dear old friend. And my French continues to improve with each visit. If only I had six months there, I feel like I could be near proficient.

If only.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I love Paris in the fall...

I haven't blogged in forever and a day, and realized it this morning when I woke up to a brief rejection email from a stateside lit mag. Thanks, but no thanks, etc.

It's the second time this particular story has been rejected. I think having gone through the "thanks, but no thanks" with this baby has softened the blow. Strange though that may sound. I'm sitting here sipping my morning coffee, watching the morning flights head into GLA, and am not terribly devastated about it. Instead, I'm thinking of a quick turnaround for it. Seeing if I can't have it submitted again by this evening. Since it's edited and ready to go. If a date stands you up but you're already in a dress, you might as well see if anyone else feels like a night on the town, right? (This is entirely an analogy, and not commentary on the state of affairs of my social life.)

It is worth noting however that in the month since I've written, I did have a small acceptance for a short story, in the form of the soon-to-be-published Glasgow University student anthology. So it's not all doom and gloom for yours truly in the literary world.

Also, in the (oops) month since I've written, a lot's gone on:

  • Gabriella's been here, and our sisterly bonding has fallen into a blissfully boring domestic routine in which I forget she's not my roommate. It's going to be tough when she's gone (next week, crap) and I'm living alone again.
  • I received a Merit award on my dissertation, which is huge!
  • SCHOOL STARTED. The work of a PhD seminar in literature is not to be taken lightly. It's making my head spin.
  • Though I'm not actually in the PhD program as of now. I'm just doing the coursework. It's complicated. Glasgow offers three different levels of creative writing postgraduate degrees. The MLitt (the equivalent to an American MA) is one year, the MFA is two years (the first year of which is the MLitt), and the PhD (of which year one is the MLitt, year two is the second year of the MFA, and then there are two subsequent years after the MFA year). What this means is that right now, I have an MLitt, completed in August, and am working on year two of the MFA, meaning that after this year, I can walk away (with an MFA) or just keep going all the way to the PhD. Confused? SO AM I. It's a lot of acronyms.
  • My mom and aunt arrive tomorrow for a week here!
  • In that week, the four of us are heading to PARIS!
Paris Paris Paris Paris Paris! Le meilleur ville du monde! Easyjet in, Ryanair (ughhhhhh) out. Two days, one night, in the City of Light with my three favorite girls. It doesn't get much better than that.

I am making a concerted effort to update this more often.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

It's raining outside and I can't go out to play...

At the beginning of summer, the Met Office declared that it would be a wonderful summer, warm and dry. Except, August didn't really live up to that. August was rain. And chilly temps. Almost every day. And so the Met Office went and took back their statement, changing it to one stating that this will be one of the wettest and unseasonably coolest summers in recent history.

It has rained. Every day. While there have been a few breaks here and there (Wednesday, it was dry in the morning, before raining all afternoon), it has essentially rained every day for a month. Not drizzle, not even anything light. But rain. Serious downpour, sometimes sideways, gets you soaked, fills your shoes with water RAIN.

I like rainy days usually. They're cozy and perfect for snuggling up with a good book and a cup of tea. But not every day. Even for here in Glasgow, it's gotten excessive. Even the Scots are complaining about how wet it's been, and the Scots never complain about their weather, because for them, it's normal. But lately, they've been moaning and groaning about it. That's how bad it's been.

One day without rain. It's all I'm asking.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

You take the high road and I'll take the low road...

Tomorrow is the day where I see if Virgin came through on their "seven days" promise, and see if there is indeed broadband at the new apartment. If not, I might have to break up with them.

Gabriella comes on Monday for six whole weeks of sisterly bonding! I am very, very excited. While it won't be the Restaurant Extravaganza that it was during her visit in March, it's still going to be a good time.

I'm really hoping that we can do a serious hike while she's here, before the weather turns. The two biggies in Scotland are the West Highland Way, which goes from Milngavie (just outside of Glasgow) up 95 miles to Fort William (in the Highlands). It generally takes a week to walk (depending on how fast you walk and how frequently you stop at pubs), and is supposed to be amazing. And then there's the Great Glen Way, which is slightly shorter (at 73 miles), and goes from Fort William up to Inverness, along Lochs Linnhe, Oich, and Ness.

Both would be amazing, and it's the perfect time of year for it too. Tourist season is done, the kids are back in school, but the weather hasn't quite turned (though this would imply that the weather ever properly moved into summer). The midges will be bad, but we'll deal. I'm feel quite remorseful that in my year in Scotland, I haven't really done much traveling in Scotland. I've done Paris (four times!), Belgium, London, Yorkshire, Spain... but not so much the country where I live, save for random days in Edinburgh, which doesn't really count. So getting to hike almost 100 miles of Scottish countryside would be awesome. And quell some of my guilt.

...though knowing us, we'd hike for five miles, find a pub, and that would be the end of our adventure. We'd be back in Glasgow the same evening.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Because really, I'm a citizen of the WORLD.

It should be noted that I am officially on summer break. My dissertation is handed in, I've moved, and fall term doesn't start until September 21st.

(*insert a "WOOOOOOO, SUMMER VACAY!" here*)

Granted, it's not really time off. The PhD Year One reading list (for our novel seminar alone) is 62 required books, which are apparently "supposed to be read" by the time term starts. So I've got my work cut out for me. But if reading is ALL I have going on between now and September 21st, I can definitely handle that.

I can't believe I've been in Glasgow for almost a year (my anniversary is coming up in two weeks). Sadly, time spent in the UK on a student visa doesn't count towards the five years necessary for obtaining Permanent Residency. So I could be looking at an additional eight years before I get Permanent Residency, then I think it's an additional year before I can apply for Naturalized Citizenship, and then (and only then) do I get to apply for a UK passport that allows me into the superquick EU passport lines in airports.

Not that I'm contemplating giving up my American citizenship. Just that it feels weird to technically be on a track to actually allow me to become a citizen of another country. To even have the option. Living here is one thing. But to think it's technically very possible in the future to be BRITISH? Strange. Just really, really strange. Because as much as I love it here and think that I can hold my own pretty well living here, I'm a Yank through and through. There's no mistaking it.

See? This is the problem with "summer break." I have too much free time to sit around and think about inconsequential things like my citizenship.

My Misadventures with Virgin Media...

So, earlier this month, I signed the lease on my new flat in Maryhill. Even though I still have my flat in student halls through mid-September, I had to double up on the leases because I didn't want to lose the other place.

Back on July 29, I started the process of getting my internet hooked up with Virgin. Figuring Richard Branson's a good way to go. They have lovely planes; I had high hopes for their internet.

A month later, guess who's still not online at the new flat? If you guess THIS GIRL, you'd be right.

FIRST: the guy never showed for the appointment when he said he would; I wasted an entire afternoon waiting for him. Not only did he never show, but he never called to either A) cancel or B) apologize.

Then, a week later, a second guy came to take a look and tell me what was needed for installation. We set up an appointment for a week later to have an engineer come do the installation. I was excited. I was finally going to get internet in the new place and have it up and running.

Fast-forward a week to last Thursday. The engineer comes out and spends two hours installing the line. We test it out, the modem doesn't work. He goes back down to his truck and gets another modem. THAT modem doesn't work. He tells me they have to fix something in the office, and to wait four hours, but then it should be fine.

Fast-forward four hours: still no internet. I spend 20 minutes on the phone with Virgin, for the girl to tell me at the end I just have to wait four more hours.

Fast-forward to Sunday: STILL NO INTERNET. I call Virgin again. Am on the phone this time for almost an hour. Tech person tells me I have to now wait 24 hours, and that they'll call me to tell me it's fixed then.

Fast-forward to Monday, 24-hours later: no phonecall. Still no internet. I call Virgin again. The tech guy tells me that yep, there's a big problem with my account (on their end; it's nothing I did wrong), and that he's "putting a rush" on the order to fix it. And that the soonest it will be working is in seven days.

SEVEN DAYS. And apparently not an hour before then.

And that's the "rush." Seven days and then "if it's not working then, call us back."

I am livid. Beyond livid. Are there hamsters running on wheels powering the internet at Virgin? What kind of problem takes seven takes do fix, when all I need is connectivity? I'm not an IT geek, but I know enough about computers to know that SEVEN DAYS seems beyond ridiculous. And what if it wasn't a rush? Would I be looking at a month?

It's not like my internet broke. It NEVER WORKED. This is some of the worst customer service I've ever seen; I'm a new customer. You'd think they'd want to get it right for me from the get-go. They should be busting their hump to make sure that as a new customer, I'm happy with the company. Instead, my first impressions of Virgin is that they don't care about their customers, they seem to operate on a pass-the-buck system when things go wrong (I kept getting transferred and referred and told my account was being "passed on to someone higher," yet it's never FIXED), and that they're slow and incompetent.

This does not bode well for the rest of my time with them. What happens once I have service and the internet breaks? Are there going to be frequent outages, with them just telling me to suck it up for a month while they take their time fixing it?

We are now approaching a month since I contacted Virgin about getting internet set up. A MONTH. And I still don't have access in my flat. I have their modem, and all the lights are lit up and give the illusion of internet, but there's no actual CONNECTIVITY. We past the point of ridiculousness two weeks ago. This is now unimaginable. A month. To get internet. And it will pass the point of a month and I still won't be online, since the EARLIEST I've been told I'll be connected is September 1.

...which is cutting it close. Term starts in September. I cannot be without internet once term starts; it's not an option. And I 100% don't believe Virgin when they tell me it'll be fixed in seven days (because actually, they didn't. They prepared me for it to NOT be fixed in seven days, to be ready to call back then when it's still not working).

Right now, I'm soured to the whole Virgin empire: planes, record shops, gyms, mobile phones, you name it. I'm really glad I didn't book a flight home on VS. I don't care if they have some of the best IFE of any airline I could fly between LHR-IAD. I don't want to give this company another penny of my money.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My dissertation was due at noon today. I did not go to sleep last night. The timeline of the insanity of getting to noon went something like this:


4:30am: Print out first copy. It is 85 pages and 21,437 words long.

4:45am: Need to change ink cartridge. Realize that I only have enough paper for three copies, not two.

4:50am: Do a quick (and sloppy) edit of my other paper due, make changes, and print it out. Realize that I don't give a crap about it, only my dissertation.

5:30am: Other than finishing printing, am done. I set three alarms and get in bed. The sun is up.

5:50am: Realize I can't sleep because my mind is racing and the adrenaline is pumping.

7:09am: After drifting off for a little bit, I wake up on my own, a whole ten minutes before my first alarm.

7:10am: Switch the coffee on.

7:11am: Pee.

7:15am: Begin coffee consumption.

7:30am: Print out second copy. Watch as my paper supply dwindles dangerously lower and lower and lower.

8:00am: Go over regulations and specifications for the hundredth time. Decide that I am finished.

8:30am: Take a shower.

8:41am: Get exfoliator in my eye.

8:57am: Realize that no amount of makeup in the world will make me look like a functional human being today.

9:16am: Am in mad scramble to leave the apartment. The goal is to make it to the copy/print shop next to campus when it opens at 9:30am.

9:25am: Am walking to campus when it starts raining. I use my umbrella to protect my box of dissertations. Not myself.

9:39am: Get to copy/print shop. It is closed. I have heart attack.

9:41am Sit on the stoop of the closed copy/print shop in the rain. Text K in Edinburgh frantically about potential back-up plans, as I have none, and only 2h19m remain until my dissertation is due. Am entirely too tired to cry. Feel like I am in bad movie. Hear my dad's voice echoing in my head about not leaving things till the last minute.

9:47am: The lady who runs the copy/print shop shows up. She was stuck in traffic. Of course she was.

10:09am: Leave copy/print shop with three bound copies of my dissertation.

10:14am: Arrive at SESLL building, at 6 University Gardens.

10:15am: Turn in dissertations! Sign drop-off sheet!

10:20am: Have long talk with departmental admin about PhD program. Ask incessant questions. Have lost ability to speak coherently. Am quite sure she thinks I'm mentally deranged.

10:30am: Swing by M&S for celebratory breakfast.

10:35am: Run into classmate on Byres Road. He looks in worse shape than I do.

10:45am Go up to new flat to get mail and get K's suitcase that I'd borrowed to start moving stuff. Catch bus back so I don't have to walk in the rain.

10:57am: Instead of pushing the button to signal my stop, I accidentally push the handicapped emergency button, setting off a massive bus-wide siren. Have thoroughly embarrassed myself in front of full double-decker bus.

11:07am: Arrive back at my old flat to realize that I have almost an entire ream of paper in the form of drafts on my floor. Realize that I'm done. Update blog and Facebook instead of crawling into bed.

Now, I crawl into bed.

And just in case you were ever wondering how I'd look at 5:30am after pulling an all-nighter to finish my dissertation:

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

T minus seven days...

I have exactly one week until my dissertation is due.

Actually, less than one week, since it's due by noon on August 18th and it is currently 2:09pm.

Can coffee be administered intravenously? I think I need to walk around with a constant drip for the next few days.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Wherever you wander, wherever you roam...

Since one can't do upper-level graduate coursework without a roof over her head, I am now proud owner renter of a sweet little one-bedroom flat in Glasgow! It's located in Maryhill, a diverse area in every sense of the word, be it economics, skin color, or nationality. Maryhill has its rougher edges (understatement), but also has really great bits about it too.

Or at least it does where I am (in the decidedly/hopefully not-
as-rough fringes of the notorious G20 postcode). I am three blocks from the Kelvin Walkway, which follows the river as it winds from Dawsholm Park, four miles north of the city, down to the River Clyde, and the walkway feels like another world away from the noise and the grime, rather than something that's smack in the middle of a large city. I am five minutes from the Botanic Gardens. And only half a mile from the top of Byres Road and Great Western Road, the two main drags of the West End, chock full of pubs, restaurants, shops, and two subway stations. It's about a 20 minute walk (which is nothing) to the university, and if the weather's terrible or I'm feeling especially lazy, there are three major bus lines right outside my door to take me to campus and another two to take me directly into town.

But the best part of my new place? Minus being on the third and top floor with a big bay window, high ceilings, hardwood floors, walk-in closet, gas cooking, electric fireplace, and views of the Campsie Fells (though admittedly, I'm much, much further away from the Fells than that picture)? It's that I am 100 feet from the big Maryhill Tesco! Which is one of the super Tescos, containing a housewares and electronics section, in addition to being a gigantic, US-style grocery store! It doesn't get more convenient than that, and I'm sure once the weather gets bad again in the fall, I'm going to be insanely thankful that I have food and toilet paper just outside my front door.

Also, the flat is on the final approach path for one of the runways at GLA, which means on a good-weather day, I can sit in my big bay window and watch (though luckily not hear) the planes go by. It's a pretty cool view, between the occasional 777, the hills, and an overview of northern Glasgow. I like being on the third floor. I like being removed a bit from the street.

Overall, I'm a little in love with my flat. And really excited to be living alone again with a kitchen to myself. It is so hard to cook properly in a communal kitchen. And not cooking properly makes me ten types of antsy. But this place has a good kitchen. It's one of the things that made me fall in love with it. That, and the windows. I really, really love my windows.

Fun UK fact of the day: My gas bill isn't a bill at all. It's pay as you go. Like my mobile phone. PAYG gas works with a little card. You top up the card at a pay point, and put money on it. Then you insert it into a little box in your utility closet. When the card runs out of money, you don't get any more gas.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Food

We went to The Italian Caffe in the Merchant City tonight for K's birthday dinner, and I've got to give it two very enthusiastic thumbs up. If I could give my monkfish, wrapped in parma ham and drizzled with a sundried tomato dressing, three thumbs up, I would. Just really stellar food, great atmosphere, good service, and pretty reasonably priced. I love hitting new restaurants. Especially in parts of town that I'm not tremendously familiar with.

Even though I've been here for almost a year (seriously?!), I've realized that I mainly stick to the West End and its university bubble, with hops into town for a night out on Bath Street or a day of shopping on Buchanan Street or a movie at the big Cineworld. But neighborhoods outside of the West End or City Centre? I hardly ever go into. Like tonight. The Merchant City remains largely undiscovered territory for yours truly. And I'm learning that I need to start discovering it more, because it's got some really great spots, provided I have taxi fare. Tons of good bars and some really excellent restaurants. This country gets a bad rap for for food, what with the haggis, deep fried Mars bars, greasy fish suppers, and unrecognizable curries, but honestly? Glasgow is a great restaurant town. It makes me sad that not a single establishment here has a Michelin star, especially when this is a city that genuinely loves dining out.

But this is a resolution of mine this autumn: branch out.

That, and finally attend a Celtic match.

I wonder how much a taxi down to the Merchant City will cost from my new flat in my new postcode, but since all the paperwork won't be finalized until I sign my lease on Saturday, I won't speak of it for fear of jinxing. But hopefully, on Saturday afternoon, I will able to unleash my giddy excitement of having new digs and a new neighborhood. Outside the university bubble.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Seriously? Seriously?

I hope that I'm not incurring some kind of bad publishing karma by slagging off a publisher, but poor Justine Larbalestier, an Australian young adult author. Her novel Liar, which is about a black girl with short hair, is set to be released in the US in September by Bloomsbury.

Except, the cover for the book features a white girl with longer hair.

Larbalestier blogs about it, in a far more eloquent way than I would have if it was my book and my main character's racial identity in question. Because for me, it's a disturbing prospect and points to one of two reasons: either Bloomsbury didn't actually read the book (unlikely) or they think that a cover featuring a picture of a black girl won't sell as well. It suggests that they think it places the book into some kind of racial niche, because clearly, only black teenage girls would read a book about black teenage girls, just as Latina teenage girls would only read a book about Latina teenage girls (but everyone reads books about white girls). While I don't know that this was Bloomsbury's reasoning, I can't really see any other logic behind changing the main character's race for a front cover, other than it would affect sales, which if that's true, has a whole mess of unpleasant implications attached to it.

Covers are important. I always judge books by their covers. And so do you.

My Glaswegian flat hunt continues today. It's looking more and more likely that come August/September, I'll be a resident of either Maryhill, Kelvinside, or Partick. And I'm 100% okay with this. I'm a bit done with living in Finnieston.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Parisian love letter.

I had a plane ticket to Paris today, that I bought the other week after an evening spent with a bottle of Chilean cab. Just for the day, leaving Prestwick at 6:40am, and returning from Beauvais at 8:50pm. When all was said and done, I'd have had roughly eight-to-nine hours on the ground in the City of Light.

The price was right: £8 for the round-trip ticket, with another £10 in fees tacked on. On paper, £18 to hang out in Paris for the day isn't bad, even if it shreds bits of my soul to give Ryanair my money (which it really does. Aside from Michael O'Leary's general offensiveness, it's a company whose logo is in a font that's more or less Comic Sans. Can I really expect them to get me from Point A to Point B safely when they can't even use a normal typeface to showcase themselves to the world?). My anti-Ryanair feelings aside, £18 to Paris is tough to beat.

£18 seems like a worthy expenditure to stroll around the city if it's nice out. And I had such a phenomenal day planned: I was going to pick up a roast chicken and dripped-on potatoes in Belleville (as well as a cheap bottle of wine), and then head down to the Jardin du Luxembourg and snag a metal chair so I could have the best outdoor lunch ever. Then, I'd check out what's new over at the Jeu de Paume. Maybe do a bit of grocery shopping, since it's only a day trip. Have a late afternoon coffee somewhere near the canal and be willing to shell out extra cash for a prime table on the sidewalk to people watch for a few hours. Sit down along the Seine with an ice cream and wave at people on the bateau mouches. Take a quiet moment or two in the Eglise St. Etienne du Mont. And then wander down to around Gare Montparnasse for the crepe to beat all crepes, before catching the Metro back out to Port Maillot, to get the bus back out to Beauvais. It wouldn't have been a terribly important or historic day. Just lots of people watching and walking around and eating. A nice break from dissertation madness.

That was supposed to be my today in Paris.

But things didn't quite work out that way (I am in rainy Glasgow right now, not walking through the Latin Quarter). What I failed to take into account when I spent the £18 on the plane ticket in the middle of the night after a few glasses of wine, was the fact that I'd have to be at Buchanan Bus Station here in Glasgow at 4am this morning to catch the early bus out to Prestwick. So it would have been £5 for the cab ride to the bus station, £9 for the bus ticket to PIK. Then, from Beauvais, it's a €13 bus ticket into Paris. And the same back. Even before any metro tickets bought in Paris, I'd have been looking at essentially £50 in transportation to and from each airport. Which is more than double the price of the flight.

And suddenly, my nice cheap hop to Paris for the day is a big expenditure.

So I ate the £18. And didn't go to Paris. I think a bit of me died today, having a plane ticket to Paris and not using it.

This is my issue with Ryanair. It is the working definition of TGTBT. No such thing as free lunch. Or plane fares cheaper than a cab ride to the bars in City Centre on a Saturday night. Yes, you can get to another country for £4 each way, but then there's Ryanair's fees. And the cost of getting to and from an airport that's sometimes 100 kilometers away from the "city" (Girona "Barcelona," I'm looking at you). I hate Ryanair. It just feels so sleazy and cheap and dishonest. This is hopefully the last time I give them my money. And I hate Beauvais. I hate their bathrooms, I hate their coffee, I hate their immigration officers, and I hate how their entire departures area has like five benches for four "gates."

Besides, ten of my favorite words in any language are "Madames et messieurs, bienvenue a Paris, Aeroport Charles de Gaulle" spoken over an airplane PA system by a flight attendant in perfect French. There is something insanely romantic about landing in Paris, about flying by the city as you make your descent, and seeing the Eiffel Tower from the air. It just gets me deep down. I don't even think they say "Welcome to Beauvais" on Ryanair. I think they say, "GET OFF MY PLANE" in a surly Irish accent, and charge you a fee to de-plane via the stairs. Don't want to pay the fee? Jump. That's the Ryanair way after all. Only provide the bare essentials, and the passengers pick and choose and pay for the rest. Oh, Ryanair, I hate you.

I am convinced that the Glasgow rain today is the universe's way of crying on my behalf for not being Paris today. That's how I feel, at least.

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Kwan.

There's a weird duality about being a writer. On one hand, you want a big book deal, maybe to sell the rights of your novel to Hollywood for a fat enough paycheck that you can sip Mai Tai's happily by the ocean, while working on your follow-up, and you want to be known and respected. And then you want literary glory, the kind that's usually not achievable (except in rare cases) until after death. Too often, if you're a big commercial success, it means you have little respect within the literary community. If you're okay with this, then you're a sell-out. Or a hack. Which sometimes, to a writer, are labels worse than "unpublished."

At the heart of it, we're snobs, we're elitists. And we're comfortable being such. We'd rather win a small literary prize and live in a studio apartment eating sardines out of the tin than have a novel published that brandishes the sticker of Oprah or Richard & Judy's respective book clubs. Being a starving artist means you haven't sold out yet and that you still have integrity. Which is everything.

(I will say, however, the worse the economy gets, I'll settle for any publication and any book list, and if Oprah wants me to sit on her couch and have housewives all over America read my book and have Mandy Moore play the lead character in the Lifetime adaptation of it, I'm all for it. You've gotta pay the mortgage.)

But news broke today that was a reminder that it
is possible still to have both. The literary respect and the MONEY! financial security that accompanies selling lots and lots and lots of books.

Yann Martel, author of the Booker-winning "Life of Pi" reportedly is receiving $3,000,000 for the manuscript of his third novel. Do not adjust your monitors. Seven figures. Three million dollars. For his manuscript. This isn't even film rights, it's just the book.

While I realize that Martel is definitely the exception, and not the rule, it's nice to be reminded that authors of literary fiction, and not just chick lit or crappy crime fiction, can make money too. Because while the respect part is grand, eating ramen sometimes sucks.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Planes and publications...

When hypothetically helping my sister plan her visit this fall, and going back and forth with each other on low fares we were finding, she admitted that she'd rather drive three and a half hours out of the way to Newark to fly non-stop to Glasgow. Because she hates connecting. Gabriella is about as fantastic a traveler as they come, and she hates connecting.

I, on the other hand, am clearly an insane person. Because I love it. Non-stops and itineraries with one leg bore me. It's too easy. But connections make things interesting. There's no better feeling (after the fact, not during) than sprinting through a terminal and making a tight connection, just like there's no better feeling than finding a perfect spot in an airport to just sit and people or plane watch for a few hours on a long layover. I love it because when you're transiting, you've got nothing else to do, nowhere else to be. It's almost like a blizzard. You're just there and you have to make the best of it.

Plus, airport bars!

Can you tell I'm itching to go somewhere? But a real trip. Málaga was great for vacation purposes, but it did nothing to quell the travel bug. Going on holiday and almost physically needing to be in-transit somewhere are two very different feelings. Sometimes, a girl just needs to be in an airport. The bigger and more foreign the better. It's the butterflies you get when walking down the jetway to board a longhaul flight. I'm jonesing for those butterflies.

Sadly, there are no longhauls in my forseeable future. But the whole conversation with her got me all worked up to go somewhere. And I'm going nowhere right now, with every spare penny I have being put towards fall tuition and a deposit on my (still not yet acquired) Glasgow flat.

In non-travel related news, I had a story picked up for the Human Genre Project, a collection of works (both fiction and poetry) inspired by genetics and the 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human body. The project is based out of the University of Edinburgh, and I must say, it's a far more pleasant letter one receives when work is accepted, rather than rejected. It makes for a really good week, especially with dissertation deadlines looming and a PhD reading list that so far has gone unread by yours truly.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'm never gonna stop the rain by complaining...

There is a lot to like about living in Glasgow.

It's a compact city, easily walkable, with tons of bars, restaurants, shops, an international airport, a budget-airlines airport, decent public transportation, nice parks, friendly people, an active nightlife, three major universities, and big-time sports.

But you know what I don't like about Glasgow?

THE HORIZONTAL RAIN.

I'm just saying.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

PhD? PhMe!

Apparently, I am one of three things: an uber nerd academic, a person avoiding the current bleak job market, or a glutton for punishment. Perhaps I am all three, as I accept the university's offer to stay on for an extension of my Master's, which is also known as the first year of the PhD program.

What it comes down to is that I'm just not done. I'm not done learning quite yet, not with the year's reading list staring me in the face, and the exciting prospect of getting to read the likes of Hemingway, Cervantes, Joyce, Morrison, Faulkner, Capote, and Balzac in a PhD setting. I'm not yet ready to leave the comfortable confines of academia for a scary professional world that I have no desire to re-join. I'm not yet ready to leave Glasgow, a city that I'm just starting to really get to know after ten months. I'm not yet ready to leave a country where I'm a short hop away from Europe's major cities.

The States will see my shadow again, and lots in the upcoming year, with about ten thousand weddings to attend, new baby cousins still to meet, and pasteles and pernil to be eaten at Christmas. But for now, Glasgow remains my basecamp.

What this means though is that with no trip back Stateside booked for any time in the near future, I'm going to need the Pony Express to kick into gear. Cinnamon Toast Crunch, stick deodorant, Goya Sazon packets, DVDs that work on my laptop, Butterscotch Krimpets, and Alba chapstick would all be appreciated. Put the US Postal Service to work, people! And actually, any Goya products that fit into a box would be a lifesaver. Calamares and pulpo tins aren't that heavy. And I'm desperate. Desperate. Ooh, and some chicharrones too, please. You'll get a mention in the acknowledgments when the novel is published*.

For now, the dissertation is still due in early August. Coupled with the final edition of the literary magazine to publish, two freelancing stories to write, and a final academic-ish paper to turn in. And apartment-hunting, as my current lease runs out in September. Plus, I still have to give the new Tragically Hip album a proper listening-to, as well as break in my purple clogs.

Somewhere in there, I need a trip. I refuse to let August be the first month in the calendar year that I don't travel. I'm thinking of keeping an eye on KLM fares and maybe doing a quick jump to Amsterdam. A biertje and plate of kaas by a canal as a celebration for a submitted dissertation, maybe?


*Clearly, this is not a binding legal promise, as there is no novel pending publication. I'm not even sure "the novel" in the works is the novel, or if there's anything even in the works besides a short story collection. But those require dedications as well, and providing the author sustenance is no small feat and won't go unnoticed. At the very least, you'll get a thank you card and my eternal gratitude. Not quite as good as your name in lights, but it's something!


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Goodbyes are always hard...

I think I may be in the process of losing a very dear friend.

Upon my return from Spain, I realized that there is a huge gash on the bottom of my suitcase. And while I'm sure I could use some black tape to try to keep the fabric together, I think it may be time for me to admit defeat on it and start thinking about purchasing a new suitcase.

I bought this suitcase in November 2007, right before my trip to the UK. Since then, the suitcase has been a faithful companion, accompanying me on over 40,000 miles in 18 months. It has crossed the big, blue ocean many, many times with me, been used as a bench at train stations when no bench is available, and somehow, despite flight cancellations, major delays, tight connections, and many an abrupt terminal change, has always ended up by my side at the end of a trip.

The thought of retiring it is a sad prospect.

But it's had a good run of it. It's been a lucky suitcase, getting to see some of the most epic airports in the world, traveling on at least a dozen types of airplanes. And a 40,000+ mile life isn't a bad one for a suitcase, especially one that was $20 on a TJ Maxx clearance special.

It's much better than the carry-on bag I bought at Primark in March, that lasted for four trips, and now has a handle that's ripping off.

So now my quest begins for sturdy, yet affordable, luggage to take me another 40,000+ miles (or with my track record, through next summer).

Farewell, dear black and green Benetton suitcase. I will think of you fondly whenever I go to check my bags.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Upon my return from Spain...

I'm not going to lie. For the first two and a half days of my trip to Málaga, Spain, the trip seemed to be a bit of a bust. Not that the city wasn't lovely (it was) or the museums phenomenal (the Museo Picasso now ranks as one of my favorite galleries ever) or the weather divine (hot, but not humid, with sunny skies that were so blue it seemed out of a travel commercial). But something about Málaga hadn't quite grabbed me the way other cities have. Part of the way through my final day in southern Spain, it hit me what the problem was. The food had been fine. Just fine. Not spectacular, not that different from the tapas joints that dot Washington, DC. In other cities, there have been foods so good that they not only make your toes curl, but they make you want to return to that city just to eat.

And I'd had such high hopes for Spain, for the tapas and the olives and the seafood and the paella. They were all fine. I even went as far as to boldly state that while the flan at the lovely Cafe Moka on Calle San Bernardo el Viejo was delicious, it wasn't as good as my mother's. Wednesday afternoon, I'd resigned myself to a vacation of culinary adequacy, but not fireworks.

But then, in the bottom of the ninth of my vacation, Málaga came through in the clutch with a homerun.

Espetos de sardinas. Sardines on a skewer, an Andalucian specialty. Nothing more than whole, fresh sardines, tossed with salt, racked up and grilled over an open flame. Served on a plate with a wedge of lemon.

I had mine at an outdoor shack on the beach, on a bright and clear day. I stared out at the Mediterranean, downed two cold San Miguels, dipped the fresh bread they serve with it into the sardine and lemon juice, and didn't need my book. The afternoon I spent eating espetos was worth the entire trip to Málaga, and would be worth returning for.

Toes? Consider yourselves curled.




Before I dug in. Or maybe after one small bite to confirm that it was indeed food heaven.




The aftermath.




The view from my table.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

On an exceptionally hot evening early in July...

It is the longest day of the year here at 55°. While Weather.com officially has sunset at 10:06pm, in reality, the light hasn't been really leaving the sky the past few nights. The sun sets, but there's a pale glow that sticks around, and the darkness never gets truly dark. I've never seen anything like it.

While it's not quite being in St. Petersburg for White Nights (which would finally check off one of the bullets on my "To Do Before I Die" list), it's close enough for now, and requires no wacky, expensive visa. So until I can get my travel plans together enough to be strolling down Nevsky Prospekt at 1am in late June, I'll just have to be content with a slightly less-white version here in Glasgow.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

In An Aeroplane Over the Sea...

CNN.com ran an article this morning about how computer programs are being developed to help you beat jetlag. That's the silliest thing I've ever read. You don't need a computer program to get over it. You need ALCOHOL. I'm not even being facetious. Transatlantically, it works. Leave the States at night, arrive in Europe early the next morning, force yourself to stay awake all day, and then that evening, go out and have a few drinks with dinner. Or go out out if you're up for it. When you get to your bed that night, you'll pass out for sure, but the next morning it's just really not as bad! At least for me. Dammit, Jim, I'm a writer, not a doctor. I can't give a remedy that works for everyone. But for me beating jetlag, I've found that the best method involves a late dinner and a bottle of wine at Pizza Express the night you get into the UK, and then you're quite normal the following day.

I think my favorite beating jetlag story is actually not mine, and is from last summer, when my cousin's girlfriend flew in from Japan (including a brutal connection here in the States before even getting to BWI). She got in at probably 10pm, met the entire extended family for the first time ever (which I'd imagine is insanely intimidating with our lot), and then still came out to the bar with all of the cousins until the wee hours of the morning. I think at one point she actually said she was delirious from being halfway around the world and not having slept, but she came out with us. The girl is a traveling champ.

T-minus nine days until Spain, which means nine days until real sun. No jetlag involved!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Writing update.

If I go by my "outline," my dissertation goal is 24,700 words. Right now, I'm at 11,886 words, with about a month and a half to go. Which means I'm right on target for where I should be.

Or so I think.

I have my first meeting with my dissertation advisor this afternoon, and I am hoping she will look at my outline and my work and give me a thumbs up. Otherwise, I'm stopping at the liquor store on the way home and drowning my sorrows in cheap whisky, because if I need to start from scratch, then it's going to be a very miserable July indeed.

But I'm optimistic that there will be no Famous Grouse ingested tonight!

Yesterday I sent three short stories out into the Big Publishing World. I still have four out there that I haven't heard back on yet, which all in all, makes seven short stories to possibly be accepted or rejected. To go 0-for on them all would be really horrendous. See above about Grouse.

On Tuesday, I packed away my winter coats, because it's June and the temperatures have seemed steadily in the 60°s and 70°s for a few weeks, to the point where my light jackets have sufficed. Of course today? It's down in the 50°s, with 30 mph winds, and temperatures going much, much lower tonight. Trying to predict weather in Glasgow is the ultimate exercise in futility.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yes, I'd like some cheese to go with this whine.

You know, as an unpublished writer struggling to get published, I'm not sure there is anything in the world more demoralizing than stumbling across the news that Lauren Conrad has published a novel. I'm sure the "novel" is crap, that it probably has as much substance as Cool Whip, and that she didn't actually write it. But still, the indignant, elitist snob in me wants to scream from the rooftops about how unfair it all is. That she already has ten bajillion dollars in the bank, her own clothing line, her own television show, a cute actor boyfriend, and a stint on Family Guy. Can't she stay out of the book world?

I sort of feel similarly to when Jessica Simpson started dating John Mayer. Why do the blond, Hollywood girls have to cross over into regular, smart girl territory? I want to put a big "KEEP OUT" sign or pee around the borders.

And it's not just a "novel." Mrs Bobby Newman apparently has a
three book deal. Three books. Uno, dos, tres. Now Lauren Conrad gets to call herself an "author." It actually says that on her Wikipedia entry. "Author." I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

They say the publishing industry is in trouble, but wouldn't it have been more economical for them not to shell out the cash for Lauren Conrad to have a ghostwriter, and actually spend the money on publishing one or two quality, albeit non-celebrity, authors?

I think this is the part where I stop whining about literary injustices and get back to work on my own dissertation.

Monday, June 15, 2009

¡Viva España!

...and Spain it is!

I have decided that Andalucia -- Málaga, to be exact -- is my next destination.

The runners up in the
Where Am I Going At the End of June game were Budapest, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Amsterdam especially because I have a bunch of stamps in my passport from the Netherlands from transitting through Schiphol, but I've never actually set foot outside the airport, so those stamps make a mockery of me. Plus, I really wanted to go the Van Gogh Museum and eat stroobwafels! But that will have to be another trip. For now, Spain it is.

I'm really excited about going. I've always loved the idea of Spain, especially southern Spain and all its Moorish influences, and have been plotting a trip to the Alhambra since my senior year of high school. Plus, the lack of language barrier will be a nice change.

Looking out of my window right now at dreary, gray Glasgow makes me almost giddy to think that in two weeks, I'll be on a Mediterranean beach!

And don't even get me started on the thought of the food there. If I don't come back twenty pounds gloriously heavier from the paella, fresh seafood, Manchego, and flan, I will have done something wrong!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

An Englishman and Scotsman walk into a bar...

And I'm back in Glasgow from my trip down south to England to Yorkshire with my dad.

Overall, it was a most excellent trip. Good company, good views, good food, good beer, good times. It's also the first time -- other than trips to London, which doesn't count -- that I've been back in ENGLAND since moving to Scotland. And it really struck me again just how incredibly different the two countries are. Not that different is bad. Different is just different. And the two are just incredibly different.

Regardless, this is not a platform for me to wax poetic on what makes a Scot a Scot. This is a platform for me to post pictures!

(The rest of which are over at Flickr.)




Our initial climb out of Glasgow, very early Saturday morning.





The first road sign pointing to Pateley Bridge, my childhood hometown! It was a very, very long drive up from Heathrow to North Yorkshire, but seeing this made it all worthwhile.




I'd like to solve the puzzle, Pat.



North Yorkshire. 'nuff said.



More random Yorkshire goodness.





The first sight of the golf balls at Menwith. Some say it's an eyesore, but I love it. Even though we never lived on base, it's still feels like "home" in a way, and where I did my ballet and Brownies as a kid, as well as kindergarten and first grade.





A certain father of mine "borrowed" a beer mat from the pub near base where we stopped to have lunch.





Dad at the top of the Pateley Bridge High Street. We stayed at the Harefield Hall, a lovely little hotel just on the edge of town. Is it wrong that I miss their breakfasts big time right now?




We took a hike to the very top, which is much steeper than the picture makes it look. All in all, the walk from the hotel, through town, up to the top, and back again, was probably pushing five miles. Not bad for a day's work.




All I wanted was a picture with the sheep, but they kept running away from me...



Pateley Bridge from about halfway up the hill. This is the town where I grew up. Not a bad place to spend a childhood.





Dad at Brimham Rocks, a park of natural rock formations in North Yorkshire. It's a stone jungle gym! Though one where you really can die, because there are lots of steep drops and some of the rocks are really, really high.




Me smushed in between two rocks.




The ruins of Jervaulx Abbey, which dates back to the 1100s.




More ruins, but this time inside Middleham Castle.




Up on the wild, wild moors.





Minor roadblock.




In Wensleydale. Home of the cheese and also some spectacular scenery.





Back at Heathrow, sixth in line for takeoff to head back to Glasgow, though in a much, much smaller plane. This will be known as Good 747. Or 747 #1.

We timed our flights perfectly: my quick hop to Glasgow was leaving at 3:15pm, Dad's much longer flight back to Dulles was at 4:20pm, and we were both in Terminal 1, so we got to do some airport shopping and have one last lunch together before parting ways. Lunch was particularly exciting for me: I finally got to see an A380! It was the daily Emirates A380 flight from Dubai, and I've been hoping now for the past four trips to Heathrow to catch a glimpse. Finally, I did, seeing first its reflection in the glass behind me, and me thinking to myself, "No waaaaaay!" and then turning around to see that it was indeed it. Then I proceeded to (rather embarrassingly, looking back on it now) spazz.

I must say, it is a very strange feeling to be with someone in an airport, through security, and not be headed to the same place on the same flight as them. I'm used to tearful goodbyes curbside outside of check-in. Not hugs in front of the second security checkpoint for UK/Ireland domestic flights. It was just... bizarre.




Wheels retract and I spy below us at Terminal 3... Iran Air!!! Not something you get to see every day, or ever in the States. And this is precisely why I adore Heathrow so much. People whine and complain about lines and crowds and inefficiency. But don't see it that way. I love it. Heathrow is a convergence spot for the entire world.




Coming full circle: back to Glasgow on another beautifully sunny day. And our pilot let us know we were back by bringing us down with a very hard, teeth-rattling thump of a landing.




The other 747. Also known as the airport bus back into City Centre. Far less glamorous, though just as loud. The driver stole £1 from me, claiming that the fare into the West End was now £4, instead of the £3 it was raised to over Christmas. I argued and argued, but he wasn't letting me on the bus without forking over the extra coin. The rate has NOT been raised. I am still bitter. SPT owes me money.

And so ends my trip. My feet are still mighty itchy however, so I'm tossing around ideas for where to go in July. Right now, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Spain are coming up cheapest. Or at least cheaper than Tokyo or Cape Town (a girl can dream, can't she?). I hate this feeling of having nothing booked. It is most unsettling.

But overall? An excellent six days down south. Glaswegian pubs just can't hold a candle to their North Yorkshire brethren.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 5: In Gloucestershire

Location: Cheltenham, England

After four days in North Yorkshire without internet, I now type this from the lovely Hotel du Vin in Cheltenham. It's one of those gorgeous, comfortable, stylish rooms that makes you want to live in a hotel forever, from the suede furniture to the down comforters to the twenty-foot ceilings and windows to the oversized tub to the monsoon shower. Or maybe it's the fact that the in-room coffee isn't some crappy little packets of instant, but instead they give you an actual caffetiere. So I am quite happily caffeinated this morning as I get ready to go out into town for the day, the final day on our England trip.

Tomorrow -- after a morning in Oxford -- we head back to Heathrow, where I will catch a quick flight to Glasgow and my dad heads back to Dulles.

I don't feel like spending my entire morning in front of the computer (not when, again, there's an oversized tub and a stack of all the latest magazines, including the new In Style, calling my name), even though I have a million pictures to post. (If I was a ballsier/richer person, I'd totally be popping the extremely overpriced bottle of rosé champagne in the mini-bar, since that seems like an excellent addition to this morning. But I'm not, so I stick with coffee.) So for now, just a teaser picture of my old hood will have to suffice until I get back to Glasgow.


A view of Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire, taken while descending Greenhow Hill.


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Friday, June 5, 2009

1,000 Ways to Not Write A Dissertation: Part 9

It's been a busy week here in Weegieland. The nice weather has made me not the most productive dissertationing grad student, and as a result, I am nowhere near my goal of 10,000 by tomorrow morning. In fairness, there are a lot of distractions here that maybe had I gone and instead holed myself up in a cottage in the Hebrides for the summer to write, I wouldn't have. In my fictional Hebridean cottage, I wouldn't be spending my time at pub quizzes, meeting friends for coffee, doing a small pub hop on a random weeknight, having fantastic lunches at Mother India (oh, my kingdom for their corriander chutney right now), and doing long, leisurely workouts at the gym. In my fictional Hebridean cottage, I'd be alone and working. I'd probably be hovering somewhere near 50,000 words at this point, almost certain to break through 100,000 by the end of the summer.

Except I don't stay in a fictional Hebridean cottage. I stay in Glasgow's West End. And so as a result, I have only 1,700 words written. There is a chance I'll be cursing having a social life when August rolls or around. I'm not here in Scotland to play and I must keep reminding myself that this is not a year-long vacation. It's a Master's. It's serious business.

So I swear I'm going to get right (write!) on that dissertation. Or I will as soon as I get back from my trip. I head out tomorrow morning for Heathrow, where I'm meeting up with my dad who's flying in from Dulles (Terminal 1, what what?) and then we're driving up to Yorkshire. I'm flying south to drive north, but it all makes sense in my head. Three days in Yorkshire, two in Cheltenham, and then back to Glasgow.

With a bajillion things to do today before I leave though, my day did not start well. It started with an almost-heart attack. My alarm went off, I looked at my phone, and saw that date was June 6th, 2009. At 9am.

June 6th, 6:30am, I'm supposed to be on a Heathrow-bound flight. Not in my bed, in my pajamas.


For the first time in my life, I actually thought I'd become That Person who slept through their flight or booked their flight on the wrong day or just got their flight all wrong, and my entire life goal (other than literary success, a fabulous apartment in Paris, and Chris Pine on my arm) is to never, ever be That Person. A million things were running through my head, like imagining my dad sitting at arrivals at Heathrow, cursing my existence for being so stupid. Or how was I going to come up with the money for a last-minute (literally) plane ticket to get down to London today. But as it turns out, my MacBook and iTouch both calmed me down, told me to breathe, and assured me the date was indeed still just June 5th. It was just my stupid phone that was stupidly wrong somehow. Damn you, Sony Ericsson. Damn you.

Once my heartrate (slowly) got back to normal and the adrenaline stopped making me feel like I was going to fall over, me and my coffee became a rational person again and checked in for the flight, got an optimal seat, and made sure to call the taxi ahead of time for ridiculous early tomorrow morning.

In February, the the ridiculously early BD001 to London is great. First flight out of the day and it takes off in darkness. But somewhere over the Midlands, the sun starts to come up and there's nothing like the sunrise at 35,000 feet. Now though, it's June. And here in Scotland at least, there's still light in the sky at 11pm, with sunrise just after 4am. So this will be nothing more than a normal daylight flight. Which is slightly less romantic.

But romantic flight or not, I am excited for this trip. My dad and I haven't been in Yorkshire (or the UK) together since 1991, and other than quick trips to Ohio, haven't gone on a vacation just the two of us since we hit up the Isle of Skye when I was eight years old. This five day northern swing is a long time overdue. It's going to be great. Standby for pictures.