Oct 15 2012

We came, we saw, we shivered

So most of you know that I spent the last two weeks drinking Guinness and taking pictures of castles and cathedrals so I could make my friends jealous.  But if you didn’t know, then here is a post to immerse you in all the damp splendor that is the UK and Ireland.

We arrived in London and promptly fell asleep, but after that we went to dinner on the South Bank and then took a river cruise of the Thames.

That’s the Tower Bridge in the background.

The next day we started our bus tour.  I really enjoyed it, actually.  The tour company organizes the itinerary, the hotels. the ferry rides and more than half the meals, while also handling tickets for all the attractions.  There’s still periods of leisure throughout the day, so my husband and I were able to strike out on our own and find some of our own restaurants and museums.  Plus, we had an awesome tour guide, Jonathan, who was a bald Englishmen who enjoyed drinking and knew impossible amounts of history.  The only downside was the fact that I COULD NOT stay awake on the bus to save my life.  But narcolepsy aside, it was a pretty good way to see so much in so short a time.

We saw Stonehenge:

Stonehenge, where the demons dwell.

We saw cathedrals:

Salisbury Cathedral

Bath Abbey

Christchurch Cathedral

Jedburgh Abbey

Yorkminster Cathedral. This one was probably my favorite–eventually I just had to stop walking and sit and absorb.

And of course, castles.

Cardiff Castle




And booze!  Lots of booze!  Ale, Guinness, Scotch, yum.

Basically, aside from missing my kids like crazy, I had an amazing time.  I think the best part was being away from library, away from the house, away from all those every day obligations that stunt and stutter creativity, and just allow myself to plunge entirely into my imagination.  It had ample food, with all the haunted pubs and ruins and green rolling hills.  I felt refreshed and inspired. I felt that magic of atmosphere that I hadn’t felt in so long and I felt connected to centuries of people who had felt the same way in the same place.

I know the hard truth of being a working artist/creative type is that you have to let the work flow, even when it’s constantly interrupted by dishes and day jobs and oil change appointments.  But it was nice to take a step away from all that, and to enter a foggy bubble where there was nothing but my husband, my brain and green grass studded with ancient stones.

Well, and booze.

Sep 4 2011

Things that inspire me

I’m up late (or early) with a coughing toddler, uncomfortable from a recent surgery and watching Cars for the billionth time.  Ice water, saltines and television were cure-alls in my childhood–that and a vaporizer which apparently breeds germs so you’re not supposed to use them  any more–so I deploy them indiscriminately to fevers, coughs and aches.

Anyway, now is the perfect time for my mind to wander to things that have been inspiring me lately!

1. My friend and webmaster Nadine at Fox and Toad Design.  Despite a fancy new job and a off-the-ironically-vintage-bicycle-chain hipster wedding in the works, she still has time to collect and tweet hilarious/adorable/awesome things all day long.  I consider her my personal tastemaker.

2. Noblesse Oblige by Nancy Mitford.  I had to ILL this slim, battered volume because it’s out of print and tricky to find–it sells on Amazon for about $150 dollars now.  It’s this hilarious book of essays on class distinctions (U and non-U behavior and language) from the fifties.  The novel I’m writing features a group of people who deliberately made themselves into an aristocracy, and so I loved reading such an irreverent yet insightful take on the world’s most famous aristocracy.

3. America, the Story of Us.  It’s this History Channel series that was on last year, and I loved it then too.  I rediscovered it after spending a couple days in the hospital recovering from an emergency surgery, and being too groggy to read, it made perfect half-dozing watching.  What I love is the sense of scope and narrative, and the plain old optimism and pride that colors the series.  Landry Park takes place in a future America that is not so optimistic, so it’s nice to remember our roots, and how every time, our better natures eventually overcame our bad.

4. Lana Del Rey.  I’ve been listening to “Video Games” non-stop since I first saw a blurb about her in Entertainment Weekly.  Sexy, depressing, addicting.

5. The Pride and Prejudice soundtrack.  Dario Marionelli’s haunting piano pieces and lively dance tunes accompany Landry Park so well in some scenes that I’ll listen to them on repeat.  While Jennifer Ehle will always be the real Elizabeth Bennett for me, the Keira Knightly version by far has the best soundtrack.