Friday, August 29, 2008

We've gone back to the 20th Century!

The Head of the River is a pub that sits on the Thames near our house in Oxford. We walk by it daily but I have yet to wet my whistle there.

Ok, here's my situation. I think that it might be the house we are staying in, and also a little bit England but we haven't got a clothes dryer and this has been my most exciting foreign exchange project to date! Stay with me, I haven't gone mad. Or have I? I do wash each morning, especially if no explicit rain is forecast (there's always a chance as it is England). To begin, I have to tell you that the washer uses hardly any water (eco-friendly sensors detect just how much water it needs) and it's fascinating to me. I drink my coffee and watch the wet clothes tumble around in the washer, mesmerizing me, I tell you. I read the manual, I played with the settings....and yet there are still only about five tablespoons of water washing the clothes. Maybe Europeans think it's gross and wasteful that our wash churns in gallons and gallons of dirty water, but it's all I've ever known. Once done, I have a puzzle to efficiently hang it all on our few little clothes hangy things that I put in the garden to dry. Every day I try a new configuration.

Now, here's the good stuff about it. My laundry gives me a real sense of accomplishment. I cheer it on to hurry and finish so I can get it out in the little bit of sunshine, I nurture it and reposition it toward the sun, etc. At night, I take a hot iron to anything that's still damp and press the dampness out, folding it neatly as I go. It reminds me of my mom ironing when I was little. I am playing house, really. Am I the Marie Antoinette of Parkwood?

Pulling meals together is less romantic and more reminiscent of college. Grotty pots, nothing matches, no lids, five unmatching glasses, one martini glass (you know I'm on the search for #2), pitiful tools and too few of them. It feels like a real job well done when I can make dinner with the contents of my mini fridge and my imagination. Really as long as there's a baguette involved, it's all good. I have peered into a few neighbors' houses and they seem to have all the modern appliances (I spied a dishwasher and what looked like a range which did not appear to require the strike of a match) but I like playing peasant woman for now.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bath Spa

Not the greatest two weeks of our life.  We're muddling through. Took a trip to Bath Spa to visit the Jane Austen Centre (that's us with sad, sad Jane) where we learned that Jane Austen really didn't like Bath at all.  Say whaaaa!?  It tries as a little museum but really doesn't deliver as it reveals her life as happy and productive before and after living in Bath, but not while living there. The tour guide describes the family's literal fall from grace down the hill of Gay Street (down the hill, down in one's station in life and so on), after Mr. Austen's death, to the less expensive streets at the bottom of the town. She eventually moved away from Bath and her fortunes turned around, leading me to wonder why oh why they put the Jane Austen Centre in Bath! The highlight of the tour was the gift shop where there were lots of delicious pictures of Colin Firth.

We also hit the Fashion Museum where like at the V & A in London, the fashion is organized for viewing by its artfulness and themes, rather than by era.  It's a fun way to look at fashion as garments from the 1800s sit next to garments from 1986 and contrasts and similarities are exposed.  The vaulted ceiling pictured above is in the Bath Abbey.  My dad says he has visited churches all over Europe because they are excellent places to sit down and rest.  Spoken like a pro.  And so we did.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The fact that teenagers are not impressed with Stonehenge should come as a shock to no one.  I recommend always bringing along another adult for viewing wonders of the world, for spirited discourse and fellowship with Mother are not interesting to teenage girls.  We were intrigued by the man at the fence...maybe Druid, maybe not.  There have been many Stonehenge worshippers and custodians over its 5000 years of existence.   I enjoyed his nifty outfit and the politics of his cause but became slightly dubious when he stepped away from the fence and whipped out his cell phone.  That didn't seem right.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A week to go

Ominous skies are common in the summer here. No matter the weather, the atmosphere of support and good wishes I felt tonight saying farewell for five months to my beloved book club ladies was delightful. This group has given me a place to belong since the first month I moved to Madison. They rally around me now as I go off on my adventure and their support gives me such optimism about my trip. They all get presents in January!