Tag Archives: vacation

The Greatest Fool

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I felt a bit icky on Sunday. I was not ill per say but I definitely think I was fighting something. I had been feeling nauseated (I just looked it up and nauseous is when you make other people feel sick and so I do try to be grammatically correct since coherent is not always an option) from about Friday night onwards. And so when I woke up on Sunday, with those muscle locking cramps in my right calf, I decided my body was trying to tell me something.

It was trying to tell me to rest up and watch the final 6 episodes of “The Newsroom” while positioned firmly on my sofa. My body is very specific. I had been recommended this show by my mother, and indirectly my father too, who I was informed was a keen observer of the show on his weekend trips home. I had managed to sneak in the first 4 episodes over the past two weeks and was now well positioned to complete the first season. Horizontal in fact.

To say that this show is realistic might be pushing it. To say it has bundled me into its clutches and run away with me is the absolute truth.

As a summary and to get you all up to speed, Jeff Daniels plays Will McAvoy, an anchor for a fictional nightly news show. The season begins with him losing his composure and manners at a female student who has posed the question, “What makes the United States the greatest country in the world?” He proceeds to rant about how this country is in fact not the greatest, all the while seemingly hallucinating that he has seen Emily Mortimer in the audience.

McAvoy is allowed/instructed to take a break. To recover from his meltdown and allow the fickle US public to forget his misdemeanour so that ratings do not tank any further. On his return to the office he is greeted by his “boss” and friend whose role I didn’t quite grasp but he seems to be running the network on some level. He is a big shot, but a really nice guy with incredibly honorable morals to boot. And a bow tie, which is just too cute. McAvoy is informed that his Executive Producer has been shifted to the 10pm show and he will be getting a new EP. Hello Emily Mortimer. Hello McAvoy’s romantic past.

So now we are in the thick of it. McAvoy hates Mortimer (MacKenzie), but we all know he doesn’t really, and he is helpless to stop her rolling in with her band of journalists and her new vision to “fix” McAvoy and the news. McAvoy is a genius, we are told, despite losing his way with his greed for viewers and adoration. He has succumbed to the trash that is Justin Beiber, Kim Kardashian, anyone’s current and past weight change, anyone else’s relationships that last all but two minutes and the group of people who were not famous yesterday but suddenly find themselves so because of a Youtube clip that went “viral”. MacKenzie despises this culture. She wants to reform the news and she wants to set out new rules to achieve this. Rules where the world of Snooki/Kardashian go unreported and where global issues that affects mankind in a real way headline every night. Noble behaviour from the Brit. I for one want to be saved so let’s go.

The Newsroom is filled with a lot of gushy big statements about saving civilization as we know it and annoyingly wonderful love interests that just don’t quite get together even though everyone knows, including them, that it is inevitable. I managed to power through 6 hour long episodes of back to back Newsroom on Sunday and I was not even remotely pooped at the end of it. Although it was dark outside.

However, in hindsight I think watching 6 hour long episodes in one day is unhealthy. For one I am easily influenced by quick witted unrealistically intelligent repartee and two, I start to lose a grasp on my own reality as a result. For instance, on Monday morning I woke up thinking I worked in a newsroom and was an investigative reporter. I was so excited to go at the news and tackle the big stories that I nearly wandered over to Bryant Park to try to get in the offices (that don’t actually exist as it is Aaron Sorkin’s fiction).

It was very confusing to re-address my actual reality where I measure telomere length in double cord blood transplantation (we don’t talk about the “other” project).

Now it is Tuesday and I have slowly come down from my role as global educator and noble informer to the misguided masses. I certainly achieved a lot, in my dreams on Sunday night, and want to thank everyone who supported me and made this “World’s Greatest News Anchor/Investigative Journalist” award (fictional award) a reality. I want to thank my parents who taught me right from wrong. My sister who goes around saving the world on the front line and my teachers for versing me in the skills of thorough research and truth. I could not have got this far without every one of you. I hope to continue my role as Greatest Anchor ever known to man (or woman) for as long as you will have me, but a special mention must go out to my crew, because without them our show would just not be as award-winning as it clearly is. We just want to bring you the news people. The real life world news as it happens. And we will never rest until we do.

Thank you, and good night.

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Jam Roly Poly and Custard

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After disappearing off the blogosphere for a while as I travelled about visiting Europe, watching my best friend get married and sunning myself on a lilo in the Mediterranean Sea, I am finally back. And with plenty to comment on.

First off, the BIG WEDDING. Congratulations to Becca and Davide on a master class in wedding days. Who would have thought that preparing ALL the food, flowers, literature, table dressings and general details of perfection would come so easy to my wonderful best friend from Northumberland. Well… we sort of all did, didn’t we.

There were cakes in abundance (see http://scarlettandthespottydog.blogspot.com/), which were prepared in advance. Homemade fudge that calls to me. Sleeping is no longer an option until I am reunited with a cube. And the most beautiful flowerful setting of Cambo in the heart of the Northumberland National Park. And no (directed at the Americans) that is not a made up place from Harry Potter’s dreams. And no it is not another name for Brigadoon. Cheeky monkeys.

This was one of those days where you have so many feelings (and only the good ones) that you think you might burst with happiness. The bride and director of events was truly resplendent in her dress and she absolutely set the bar (possibly as high as the pole vault and only accessed as such) for all future weddings, including my own.

Hmmm… might have to steal some of those ideas then…. I do so love a pork pie!

The Wedding Pork Pie (obviously)

Next up. Olympics. One word. Nicework! You can spot a Brit now from a mile off. That goofy pride grin. Go Danny Boyle. Go Mr Bean and huge congratulations for the 65 Medal wins (29 Gold) that put us into a magnificent 3rd place on the leaderboard! Bursting with pride over here for Team GB.

The European tour continues. Next stop Italy. Amalfi Coast to be exact. A break from science and from the bustling, sleep depriving Big Apple. We chose to swim around our airbed (around 3 times) for exercise (oh and climb Mount Vesuvius after a quick wander through the 2000 year old city of Pompeii). 31 deg Celsius and some leather sandals on my feet and I was happy as can be and chomping on those flavourful tomatoes that you can only find on the continent in the glorious sunshine.

Post Mount Vesuvius

And now I have returned stateside. Straight back into the swing of things both at work and in play. But today, one lone thought has been plaguing me. Not how to get through this experiment without another instrument crashing moments before I require it (although if that could be sorted more’s the better). And not how am I going to motivate my legs to endure again in that torture room that is known as “Spin class”.

It is simple, repetitive and overwhelming.

Where can I get my hands on some REAL Jam Roly Poly and Custard? It has come to my attention that I have not seen a Jam Roly Poly at all in my almost constant sugar search in the US, and for some reason today it has become apparent that this cannot and will not continue. Jam Roly Poly (squidgy in nature and creamy in custard) speak up. Let me hear you call me to your side so I can devour you without thought or care to my health. Please.

A final thought

Va Va Voom

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A visit to the Red Bulls stadium this weekend. To watch none other than Monsieur Thierry Henry. Surely his superior skills in the company of American “footballers” would make for a delightful showcase.

Erm… not so much. I think it must be pretty difficult to perform when the ball is moving at a snail’s pace. It must be frustrating to be unable to predict your teammates’ moves. Well they don’t know where it is going to go either. It would be tough to score in the box when outside the box is chaos and the service is dire. Poor Thierry. Poor poor Thierry Henry with his $14 million triplex in SoHo. We did feel sorry for him.

English Flag bearer with his mohawk “do” stepping out of line

The Red Bulls stadium has a good showing

Thierry Henry. Need I say more?

After a frustrating match Henry sets up the winning goal. He couldn’t make it any easier for his team mate. We were all relieved he didn’t fluff it!

Daily Commute by Sister Architect

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At 8.58am I leave my house in the sewing school and head down the road to my office at SAFE (as part of an Engineers Without Borders project). A two minute commute to work is quite a first… If I have had a sugary tea with fresh cows milk, I can do it in under one minute!

Keep up the good work sister. If anyone wants to get involved please contact Jo through her website. Or simply follow her along her journey. In between cactus harvesting, bamboo building and brick forming she is actively looking for funding to carry on all the great work she plans to do out there.

Because if anyone needs flood and wind proof housing I think Bangladesh deserves that attention!

What I can and cannot do two weeks out

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I thought since I have non-trivial pain in my face today (symptom of trying to wean myself off codeine) I would indulge in a few moments of blogging to lighten the mood.

So I am 2 weeks out today. I no longer have elastic bands holding my jaws together. They were removed 3 weeks prematurely with the proviso that I DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES CHEW! I promptly indicated to the surgeon that despite having food envy on an almost constant basis, the mere consideration of chewing made me feel ill and so he had my word that no solids would pass my excellent botox-imitating lips (the bonus of swelling).

I have no real insight today however. No philosophical musings on health, life or family (although I am missing my primary care givers- mother and sister Jo since their departure on Sunday), and no extensive adventures in recent days apart from a delightful trip to the New York City Ballet. But I am more concerned with my face presently having a constant reminder of its presence with a putting ache that sometimes puts a little too vigorously and makes me feel like I should reacquaint myself with the opiates!?!

So how to make this blog remotely amusing/worth reading? I think a picture or two would hold your attention briefly don’t you think? And to make things easier I will list in a pictorial manner what I am currently denied in my present state and then to cheer myself up I will conclude with a list of annotated images that I CAN enjoy and will continue to do so until my mouth is fully restored to its former glory.

I CANNOT:

box with my fellow New Yorkers – sad face

Crusty bread. This is a dilemma. Bread and cheese for that matter are a current craving. EEK

Spotted Pig better watch out when I am released back into the culinary sphere. In fact burgers globally. Beware.

Chocolate cake and sponges of all varieties. I am coming, slowly. But I assure you I am on my way!

I CAN:

I can eat this but I don’t want to (not a great example. I don’t feel cheered)

After my dalliances with soups aplenty I have come to the conclusion that tomato is my top favourite of all time. Go Cream of Tomato. Although shout out to broccoli and stilton, lentil and sausage, leek and potato and spicy black bean.

PANNA COTTA I love you. Yes this is going to be my treat when the food envy washes over me. Panna cotta. You cheeky, squishy dessert. Bravo.

So my mouth is watering now and panna cotta is nowhere to be seen. I think I will go hunt some down (no mean feat I assure you. It is quite a specific foodstuff)

Swelling under control, mouth opening sufficiently to fill it, painkillers on their way out and creative food ideas keeping me amused. This was not the drama I had expected.

Guess I will just have to drum up drama in some other manner.

First Woman to Run in the Boston Marathon

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Kathrine Switzer of Syracuse found herself about to be thrown out of the normally all-male Boston Marathon when a husky companion, Thomas Miller of Syracuse, threw a block that tossed a race official out of the running instead.

That’s Switzer, of Syracuse, being pushed off the Boston Marathon course by Jock Semple, one of the race organizers. The year was 1967 and as Switzer tells it, Semple jumped off the media truck and began yelling at her.

“Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers,” she says he told her.

The reason the picture seems to be making the rounds is that when the 116th Boston Marathon gets underway in two weeks, the Boston Athletic Association will mark four decades since women were allowed to run the world’s oldest annual marathon.

Switzer entered the race five years before that day. She entered using the name K.V. Switzer and wiggled out of the required physical by saying she had been cleared earlier.

Here’s a video from PBS’ Women Who Make America seriesin which Switzer talks about that day: (copied from NPR: PHOTO: The First Woman To Enter The Boston Marathon by Eyder Peralta)

Kathrine Switzer

The Perfect Sentence

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My weekend writing class is a welcome break from my week of molecular biology. In my 10-week Gotham Writing Workshop entitled Fiction Writing I, we read short stories, by professionals and each other. We discuss sentences and their merits and flaws, debate what works in a short and what just doesn’t quite move the reader. I am currently reading around 5 or 6 stories a week as homework. It is challenging but I have discovered that when I find a sentence that “sings” as our teacher Mike puts it, my heart flows over. But how do you write the “perfect sentence”?

Yesterday on my way out of class a fellow student gave me an article published in the NYTimes by the acclaimed writer Jhumpa Lahiri. My life’s Sentences discusses her relationship with words and the structures you can make with them.

I remember reading a sentence by Joyce, in the short story “Araby.” It appears toward the beginning. “The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed.” I have never forgotten it. This seems to me as perfect as a sentence can be. It is measured, unguarded, direct and transcendent, all at once. It is full of movement, of imagery. It distills a precise mood. It radiates with meaning and yet its sensibility is discreet.

I want to be able to measure, unguard and radiate with meaning. Now I am inspired. I want to find sentences that make my hair stand on end. I want to read how a wordsmith can conjure up vivid images on the page and make me smile at their genius. And I want you to help me. Have a little ponder on the best sentences or sections of prose that you have come across recently or in your distant past. Please share them so we can all marvel at the beauty of language (and by that I mean they don’t need to be in English).

Here are a couple of passages that I found after a quick browse on the Internet.

“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

“Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow, it was hotter then. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning; ladies bathed before noon, after their 3 o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating and sweet talcum. The day was twenty-four hours long, but it seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go and nothing to buy… and no money to buy it with. Although Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself… That summer, I was six years old.”

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (is this the greatest opening to a book? I think it might be. Unless you can prove me wrong?) ‘The day was twenty-four hours long, but seemed longer” is just magnificent. Childhood recollections are often bathed in a soft hue of hotter, longer and safer. For me, Harper Lee achieves perfection in this simple phrase.

Other sentences that have stood out in my recent short story addiction include several examples in Roberto Bolano’s Labyrinth.

His face is round. it would be an exaggeration to say that this is the face of a fat man, but it probably will be in a few years’ time: it’s the face of a man who enjoys a good meal. An ironic, intelligent smile is hovering about his lips.

At first glance she could be Vietnamese. Except that her breasts, it seems, are larger than those of a Vietnamese woman. Hers is the only smile that allows us a glimpse of teeth.

Bolano plays with the reader, mocking us throughout the whole piece. His oddly straightforward descriptions of his characters are sometimes bizarre and therefore jolly good fun.

In Los Gigantes, T. Coraghessan Boyle shows us his skill.

I couldn’t see anything but her face in the mosaic shadow of the wire, but I could feel her shrug animate the mattress.

I came up off the bed, chains rattling loose around me, telling tales, and if the guard who must have been watching through a hidden peephole came hurtling into the room I barely noticed.

I could go on. But I am tired and I will be climbing into my bed now. More sentences please. Isn’t this just a great game?