A Windy Thursday

Just returned from a windy run past Clifton Village over the Suspension Bridge through Ashton Court across the harbor up the steps & home again, and feeling so much better for it. Maria, my sister older by just under two years, arrives for a fifteen day visit on Monday, and between planning our itinerary (though Momo has done the brunt of it), wedding planning and preparing for my dissertation, today found me feeling a little overwhelmed. But none of these count for much in light of my worries over my beautiful nine month old niece, Sophia Isabel. Yesterday, at her nine month check up, the doctor expressed concern over Sophie’s lack of hitting key milestones–she won’t eat solid foods, doesn’t really crawl, and though she is a chubby baby, hasn’t grown much since her six month appointment. The doctors are running blood tests and, depending on those results, may need to do an MRI. So if you would, please pray for my baby niece today. I love her so much.

I’m home now in less than a month and, though I hate being so far from Minnesota in such times as worrying over little Sophie, I’m doing my best to enjoy these final weeks in Bristol. I love this city so much; the novelty of it all hasn’t yet worn off, but it does feel like home. I don’t get lost anymore. I can gauge distances. I don’t need to ask for directions. I know the nice café s and the ones merely so-so.  But I still come across new corners and views every day. Today on my run I saw:

-A herd of skinny sleeping does (no need for winter coats) in Ashton Court

-A circle of handsome ‘stags’ resting away from the does beneath a shady tree

-A sweet German Shepherd peering out a window

-A bay gelding who approached me and let me pet his velvet nose

-New flowers growing along old brick walls

-A couple old for a stroll with their baby girl

And the ‘usual sights:’ the Suspension Bridge, the colorful flats along the River Avon, rolling green hills surrounding Ashton Court, pretty stone coffee shops, the little Clifton shops decked out in Union Jacks for the Diamond Jubilee…moving back to Minneapolis might be a shock.

Back to A Laodicean (last Hardy novel left to read! Love him, but so fatalistic. Somebody I like always dies).



Banana Pancakes & the Olympic Torch

Sun is streaming through my window, I’ve changed back into my pajamas and have a hot cup of tea and orange slices beside me (the pancakes are already in my tummy). No complaints on this side of the Atlantic. It’s a beautiful morning–one too good to sleep away even after only getting a few hours sleep. Earlier this morning I met Caro and Jennifer in Clifton Village to watch the Olympic torch pass over the Suspension Bridge and it was just–fun. Groups of school children were there waving their ‘Union Jacks’ while BBC Bristol filmed the excitement of this ‘historic’ moment. With the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee less than two weeks away, the Village shops had changed their window displays to picnic baskets complete with tea things, streams of more British flags hung in the doorways, and pictures of the Queen (on plates, books, postcards, shirts) were readily available.  As Caro would say, “I quite like British culture.”

The Olympic torch crosses the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Yesterday was the ‘dissertation symposium’ where I, along with the other English MAs, presented my dissertation proposal to several of my professors to get an idea of the validity and strength of my topic (the consensus: I have a ‘rich’ topic, but no argument (yet)). And with that, the academic year was officially over. My routine of reading and ‘learning’ won’t really change all that much as this dissertation needs to get done somehow, but it was odd to finally arrive at the last official date on my calendar. The year is winding to a close and though I’m here for another month, I keep wondering how it suddenly passed so quickly. Some months didn’t pass by quickly at all. Strings of days were punctuated only with trips to the library and cups of coffee, but time is sneaky. I’m convinced that the more I’m enjoying myself, that faster it goes.  I visited Cambridge last Saturday (gorgeous city–photos to follow), and among the ancient, particularly by American standards, colleges and chapels the new clock Corpus Christi Clock seemed evocatively out of place. On our tour we learned the clock was installed in 2008 with the purpose of emphasizing the relativity of time. And I’m beginning to see the point. How can the same measurement of hours and minutes pass with aching slowness in the grey walls of my former cubicle, and here, melt away without even eyeing the clock? The universal question.

I, for one, need to use the hours of this next week to read four unfamiliar Hardy novels and develop my dissertation topic into an argument. But please, reader, don’t hold your breath in edge-of-your-seat suspense (as I know you all are). It will get done.



Exploring Gloucester

Three days ago, on a rainy Monday morning, I left Bristol by train to explore the south-west city of Gloucester. Stepping off the platform, I was greeted by my cousin and dear friend, Leah, and her darling goddaughter, Lily. Leah graduated from Redcliffe College in Gloucester four years ago, and inevitably, this city holds a special place in her heart and, fortunately for me, it meant being shown around  by someone who knew the city inside and out.

After a solid twelve-days of nonstop essay-writing, getting out of Bristol and my flat for a full day of wandering seemed just the thing, and the city exceeded my expectations. Gloucester was charming–picturesque and very English. Bristol isn’t really a big city (at least by American standards), but escaping to smaller, slower-paced cities is always a treat.

The Beatrix Potter Shop

We began the day exploring the small and pretty campus of Redcliffe College, and after hearing so much about this place so pivotal in Leah’s life,  I could understand firsthand why she loves it dearly. We then wandered to the little Beatrix Potter shop–made famous as being the setting and inspiration for the Beatrix Potter story “The Tailor of Gloucester”–which, I learned, was Potter’s favorite of her stories. It’s always a delicious feeling to literally stand in the footsteps of writers I’ve so long admired.

Just beyond the shop was the stunning Gloucester Cathedral dating back to 681!  I’ve been blessed to see many awe-inspiring cathedrals, but I’d never seen cloisters and corridors as stunning as these (no wonder three of the Harry Potter movies were filmed here). Growing up in Minnesota culture where what is ‘basic and functional’ rules over extravagance and detail, the beauty of the Cathedral was overwhelming.  For the first time, I could understand the motivation behind these painstakingly-ornate Cathedrals as surrounded by inspiring-beauty, God felt closer.

The cloisters

The history and age of England still hasn’t lost its allure for me, and I’m realizing yet again that even nearly a year here is not enough time to take in all the wonder–the castles, the cathedrals, the tea shoppes, the cliffs of Cornwall, the green hills of Devon, the beauty of the Lake District, the charm of the Cotswolds–and I still haven’t been up North!

Today was my last day of class and to celebrate, our professor, Ralph, brought white wine and cloudy lemonade to class, and we leisurely discussed British poetry for an hour. My final essays were turned in six days ago and now, all that stands between getting my degree, is a little dissertation. Time has moved fast and slow here, but lately, it’s swept by much too quickly…the thought of leaving is a bittersweet one, but lo! no need to think of that yet.

It’s so much easier to put Mary Oliver’s words into practice, for some reason, away from home:

“I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”



The Engagement

I have truly terrible about updates this past month, but for have good reason! First of all, my final MA essays were due  this past Friday, and miraculously, I got them done: all 12,000 words of ’em. Needless to say, I never want to read anything to do with Ann Radcliffe again. Thomas Hardy, however, is quite another story, and from studying Hardy and Impressionism, I believe I’ve found my dissertation topic. O, the relief!

But for my favorite news of all: there is a yellow-gold solitaire on my ring finger and on October 27th of this year, I will be marrying my best friend. In between the rush of essay-writing and lectures, Brady flew into London and after meeting him at Heathrow, we took the train back into Bristol. That night after a relaxed dinner at The Lido, Brady took my hand and we began strolling through Clifton Village. After sheets of rain all day, the sky had suddenly stopped crying  and the moon had just come up and in the dusky twilight, we reached the Clifton Suspension Bridge. There wasn’t a place in the world I’d rather have been at that moment, and when Brady got down on one knee and said, “Will you marry me?” I could only nod and say, “Yeah.”

A couple days later, Brady was on a plane back to Minnesota and I was left with two essays to finish,  but it’s hard to complain about essay-writing when it gave me an excuse to admire the ring as my fingers tapped the keyboard.

Brady et moi

This being engaged feels wonderfully surreal, but now back to dissertation research: more soon.


Three Days in Firenze

Finally (finally!) posting some photos of the romantic capitol of Tuscany: Florence.  As the birthplace of the Renaissance,  a World Heritage Site, and ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world by Forbes, Florence doesn’t need introduction.

Over a month ago now, I stepped off the train having no idea what to expect (Ryanair’s strict cabin luggage forced me to leave even my guide book behind!), but even this was part of the allure. Of course, the Duomo, the domed cathedral of the city, was visible from nearly any point in the city, but even ‘unimportant attractions’–little side streets peppered with cafes and gelaterias, brimmed with charm. Mmmmm….present nostalgia:

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore


The Neptune Fountain (1575) at Piazza della Signoria

The Neptune Fountain (1575) at Piazza della Signoria


Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s oldest bridge built in 1345 (and the only Florentine bridge to survive WWII).

At Ponte Vecchio


The view from Piazza Michelangelo


A panoramic view of Firenze

Yes, wouldn’t mind a visit back!



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May 2012