around liverpool

Liverpool Cityscape 003
Liverpool Skyline from Albert Dock

Yesterday was a really good day. I woke up with the church bells chiming, the birds singing (honestly it sounded like a darn Disney movie outside - ha!). I went out for some breakfast, came back and prepared for a trip to the library. Even though the forecast called for rain it was sunny out and a bit warm 52F (funny how that used to be cold to me). As I started out I spotted my friend the song or mistle thrush and thought I should really have my camera on me. Quick trip back to the flat grabbed camera and thus started my photographic journey around Liverpool.

Victoria Building 002First stop, the Victoria Building on campus, all the scaffolding has been removed and her red bricks are clean and shining, built in 1892 she is responsible for the coined term, 'red-brick university'. The inside is also being renovated and will be open to the public in June or July of this year. Just next door is a nice white building with moulding but most impressively on top lounge two sphinxes, the Scouse Sphinxes facing one another. There are actually 4 Scouse Sphinxes the other two lounge atop the archway leading through to the archaeology building. I remember when I first moved here I looked everywhere for those suckers. A profile of one of them was featured in my welcome package and there was a bit of greenery just behind its shoulder so I assumed they were at ground level, you know like lions in front of a library. Imagine my surprise when one day I happened to look up! The greenery was just a bit of vine that had started to grow on his back.

On to the library where I picked up some great reads :
: The Diary of a Nobody . George & Weedon Grossmith - I've been looking for this book, it just happened to be lying face up on a shelf completely in the wrong place but seems I got lucky because the stamped dates in the front show its been checked out over and over during the past few months. Finished it last night - it's hilarious!
: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan . Lisa See
: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie . Muriel Spark
: Madame Bovary . Gustave Flaubert
: She . H. Rider Haggard - now this sounds really good - ancient scrolls, lost civilization, a tyrannical female ruler waiting for the true descendent of her dead lover plus it's on THE LIST!

Liverpool Building 001Before moving on I climbed the steps of the World Museum to take some shots of the cityscape. From here this is where I left my 'comfort zone' and turned down Dale Street, a street I've never walked down before. And boy was I glad I did, fabulous architecture! Wow! The picture to the left is of the Royal Insurance Building and it is magnificent. It was hard to get shots of the fronts of buildings because they're so tall and the street wasn't very wide. As I was taking photos of the Royal Insurance Building (a google search solved the mystery of its name) a Liverpudlian stopped and asked "It's amazing isn't it?" and then he advised me to turn left on Castle Street to seem more beautiful architecture. I think some Liverpudlians really are proud that their city was awarded the European Capital of Culture this year.

Liverpool Town Hall 003At the mouth of Castle Street lies Liverpool's Town Hall (pictured left). Another building hard to capture all in one shot, since it would be rather unsafe to stand in the middle of the street. This is one of the reasons why I love living here because there's real architecture, old architecture, Phoenix is just too new to have anything like this. On the corner of Dale and Castle Street was a Starbucks! I felt like treating myself to a nice iced chai tea latte among all these Victorian buildings and reading a Victorian novel, The Diary of a Nobody.

Royal Liver Building 001I must admit I didn't get all the way down Castle Street as a view of the Royal Liver (pronounced lie-ver) Building to the west distracted me and I headed down a side street to make my way towards it. I've only ever seen this building from Albert Dock (as pictured above). The building consists of two clock towers that can be seen from passing ships in the Mersey, the clock faces are larger than those of Big Ben in London. The two Liver Birds (mythical in nature, what started out as an eagle type bird in 1350 morphed into a type of cormorant with a sprig of seaweed in its mouth by 1797) sit atop the clock towers, one looking inland to watch over the city, the other to sea to protect passing sailors. A joke states that the bird looking inland is male and is making sure the pubs are open while the bird looking out to sea is female watching all the handsome sailors. Legend has it that if one of the birds were to fly away Liverpool would cease to exist, thus they have been chained to their domes to insure that they stay put.

St. James Cemetery 021I walked around Albert Docks and then worked my way towards the Liverpool Cathedral. At this point it started to get a bit overcast and I was a bit nervous about going into St. James Cemetery by myself. Not that I'm afraid of the dead, it's the living that had me worried. It's a nice park-like atmosphere and a lot of people walk through but a lot of hoodlums hang out here too and I've heard stories. Luckily after a small hail storm lasting a couple of minutes the sun emerged and the there were a few people walking their dogs and talking. In fact one old man talking to a younger couple turned to me and said, "Why hello there dear, aren't you pretty?" Now if we were the only two people in the park I think I would have ran but he seemed genuine and soon after passing he was commenting on someone's handsome Bull Terrier. But most of the time I was or seemed to be the only one in the entire cemetery.

St. James Cemetery 022I love St. James Cemetery. When I lived here before I used to come often but believe it or not after being here 6 months this was my first visit! The variety of gravestones and memorials is really neat and I love reading them and just being amazed by some of the dates and how old they are. There are quite a few gravestones belonging to children, one has an epitaph that I always find really touching, She is not dead, she sleepeth. I love how everything is green and mossy, there were beautiful purple hyacinth blooming here and there, they were so fragrant. It's really a peaceful place and the Liverpool Cathedral is one of my favorite buildings in all of Europe. I know there are much more amazing cathedrals out there (Notre Dame, Sagrada Familia, etc) but the Liverpool Cathedral just has real presence on its hill. Plus coming to Liverpool in 2004 was my first time ever in Europe (first time on a plane actually) and so it was really the first big architecturally beautiful building I saw.

Just before heading home I backtracked a bit down to St. Luke's Church otherwise known as the 'bombed out church'. It is nothing more than an empty shell left standing after the Blitz of 1941. There used to be trees growing inside the church that peaked through the windows (at least I think they were trees they would have to be pretty tall to be seen from the windows) but now they're gone. It's still a very nice place to visit. My journey ended down Rodney Street to say hello to good ol' William MacKenzie sitting in his pyramid (sorry for the lame excuse of a short story yesterday - ha!) then it was home again home again jiggity-jig.

I took 100+ photos and have posted quite a few of them on my flickr page, just click on 'photos' in the top navigation bar and then click on the Liverpool album to view them. I really need to get a Pro account, the free account only allows you to have 200 photos visible and so now some of my Egypt photos are MIA. I wonder how many miles I walked... all I know is that I was gone for more than 3 hours! I really must do that more often, maybe drag some other people around with me. I'd like to make it out to Strawberry Fields again and just see as much of Liverpool as I can.

Sorry about the lack of reviews lately, I seem to be reading faster than I can write them up. Plus sometimes it feels like a chore and I don't like doing things that feel like homework. I will get around to them eventually but I think I'll stop promising to do so many by such and such time. I just really needed to get outside this weekend, I've been cooped up for too long. Now that we've sprung forward the sun sets just before 8 pm so there's a lot more daylight to get stuff done. I remember that in the summers it will be 11 pm and you can still just see a bit of sunlight on the horizon. It's going to get up to 59F/15C on Friday! Yippee!

. listening . send it up . vertical horizon . everything you want .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 12:26, ,

do you want to play?

St. Andrew's Church Yard 07It was a dark and story night and notorious gambler, William MacKenzie was walking the streets of Liverpool. His goal was an old building in city centre where a Dutchman waited for him, a Dutchman wearing red shoes. During the past few months MacKenzie hadn't much luck when it came to playing poker, his continual losses had left him close to destitution. He was determined that tonight he would beat the Dutchman and gain back some of his pride.

As MacKenzie reached his destination he sent a quick prayer to no one in particular, "Please let me win". With a deep breath he reached for the iron knocker but quickly withdrew his hand, a searing pain chased up his fingers and up his arm. The knocker was hot. Behind him a child snickered, "Be careful Mister". MacKenzie turned around to tell the brat to mind its own business but found he was alone on the street. Frustrated, MacKenzie reached out and rapped on the red door with his knuckles.

An old butler opened the door slowly emitting a long creak. "Right this way sir, his lordship has been waiting."

When MacKenzie was shown into the drawing room the Dutchman leaped up from the table and shook his hand as a slow smile crept up under his moustache. "MacKenzie so good to see you again. I trust you brought a deck of cards?"

MacKenzie patted at this coat pockets and suddenly his face fell, "I seem to have forgotten them."

"Not a problem we can use mine. Would you like to inspect the deck before we begin playing?" the Dutchman handed him a red box of cards.

MacKenzie lifted the lid of the box and flipped over the top card, the Joker. Yet there was something about the face. He brought the card closer to his eye when suddenly the joker's face turned into a hideous devil. MacKenzie quickly shut the box and handed it back to the Dutchman, "No sir, I trust you. Shall we begin?"

The two played for a couple of hours while the wind picked up outside, moaning and groaning in the trees. MacKenzie's bad luck continued. He had nearly bitten through his lip when he realized that his life was over.

The Dutchman put his cards down, "I'm afraid good sir we must end this game. You have nothing more to give me... unless... no never mind."

"What? Unless what?" MacKenzie practically blurted in desperation.

The Dutchman smiled his greasy smile and begin shuffling the cards. "Let us play one more hand, if you win I will give you back all of your losses and double them."

"And if I lose?"

"If you lose you will give me your soul." The Dutchman continued to shuffle the cards eyeballing MacKenzie through his spectacles.

MacKenzie jumped up from his chair knocking it backwards. "Give you my soul?! Whatever do you mean sir?"

From out of the dark corner the old butler moved forward to right the chair. The Dutchman gestured for MacKenzie to be seated. "Please be seated my friend. There is nothing to fear, after all it is well known that you are an atheist so what is your soul to you? It is nothing. I am giving you the chance to win your purse back and more."

MacKenzie sat back in his chair, his mind racing, his heart beating fast. His collar was choking him and the shuffling of the cards was beginning to sound like a swarm of bees in his ears. "Fine. If I win you will return my losses, double. And if you win..." McKenzie swallowed, "I will give you my soul. But I will shuffle the cards."

"As you wish" the Dutchman handed him the deck of red cards.

The game was over before MacKenzie could even begin to contemplate what it was he had agreed to. The Dutchman laid his cards out in front of him, a Straight Flush. The blood drained from MacKenzie's face and his cards shook in his hand. "Sir lay your cards on the table," the Dutchman demanded with a smirk.

"It makes no matter." MacKenzie folded the cards close to his chest. "My soul is yours."

The Dutchman laughed and slammed his fist on the table, "You keep your soul."

MacKenzie looked up a glint of hope in his eye. The Dutchman quickly leaned across the table and grabbed MacKenzie by the wrist, "You keep your soul that is until your dead and buried," slowly he released his fingers, "and then it will be mine."

The old butler came forward once more and helped MacKenzie from his chair and guided him across the drawing room, into the hall and towards the front door. MacKenzie stopped in his tracks and quickly turned to the butler, "Who is that man?"

"He is nothing and everything, a fallen angel sir, now goodnight." MacKenzie was pushed out the door into the rainy streets of Liverpool.

Over the next few days MacKenzie grew sick with fright. What had he done? As his illness progressed he sent for his good friend and lawyer, Frank Dawson. MacKenzie told him what had happened and told him that no matter what he could not be buried, "Please Frank do not bury me. I have left instructions." MacKenzie gestured to an envelope on his nightstand, "I have no money but I know you will look after me, won't you Frank?"

St. Andrew's Church Yard 06

Within a couple of hours MacKenzie drew his last breath. Frank closed his eyes and said a prayer. He opened the envelope and read his friend's letter. Although he believed them to be the ravings of a mad man he valued his friendship and saw that MacKenzie's last wishes were granted.

A pyramid was erected in the small church yard of St. Andrew's where William MacKenzie now sits above ground in front of a card table holding close to his chest a winning hand.

The End

St. Andrew's Church Yard 05I have of course taken great liberty in telling this tale but it is true that a William MacKenzie who was known to be a gambler was 'buried' inside this pyramid in 1851. And he is actually reported to be sitting at a card table with a winning hand clutched to his chest. It is not clear whether he sold his soul to the devil in order to win or if he actually gambled his soul in a game against a Dutchman who was actually the devil. The latter seems unlikely (but works nicely in a story). MacKenzie most likely believed that being buried above ground would cause his contract with the devil to be null and void but just in case the devil comes for him anyway he is prepared to play poker for all eternity. People since have claimed to have seen or have been haunted by the ghost of Mackenzie. The church at St. Andrew's is listed as a Historical Building and is under renovation and has been for quite some time. There was a rumor that the cemetery was going to be relocated. Hopefully this isn't true because it would be a shame to disturb the dead, and how on earth are they going to move that pyramid? And if they rebury MacKenzie in the ground will the devil come for his soul?

Wikipedia information on MacKenzie can be found here

. listening . ramona . guster . keep it together .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 19:08, ,

bookish notes

I felt inpired last night to finish Middlemarch, actually I should say this morning since I finished a little after 2 am! And still I wasn't tired so I read the next short story in The Ladies of Grace Adieu - On Lickerish Hill. I loved Middlemarch, Virginia Woolf calls it "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people" (full review coming soon). It's amazing how attached one can become to characters especially if you spend 838 pages with them. I'm glad everything worked out the way it was supposed to. I really enjoy stories where the lives of characters unfold on the paper in front of you with no sense of hurry.

I just realized that the library here is a bit more advanced than I thought it was, I was able to make an online reservation for Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson and The Dirk Gently Omnibus by Douglas Adams (including the stories Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Dark Tea-Time of the Soul - both of which are on the 1001 list)

One of the things about working from the 1001 list is that I tend to get caught up in it and forget about other books that I want to read. It's not a huge deal because I've really enjoyed reading the books that I have, save for maybe 3 (Catcher in the Rye, Crash, Thursbitch). But some of the new books seen in the library, on amazon or other people's blogs have been catching my eye. Here are some that I'd like to check out eventually:

: How I Live Now . Meg Rosloff
: The Court of the Air . Stephen Hunt
: Mister Pip . Lloyd Jones
: Notes from an Exhibition . Patrick Gale
: The Testament of Gideon Mack . James Robertson
: Nefertiti . Michelle Moran
: The Red Leather Diary . Lily Koppel
: Half a Yellow Sun . Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
: The Diary of a Provincial Lady . E.M. Delafield

In reading about and trying to hunt down a copy of Miss Pettigrew... I discovered the delightful Persephone Books with their beautiful simple grey covers and they're gorgeous 'fabric' endpages. I must look into reading some of these titles or perhaps begin collecting them myself. Imagine my surprise while reading one of my regular blogs I learned that there is a Persephone bookstore (I think THE Persephone bookstore) in London (read her post here and check out her Persephone fairy cakes). I must make a visit!

And another cool bookish discovery this week, you can now design your own book covers on a selection of 13 classical novels, brought to you by Penguin, the My Penguin series is really neat! "That cover is naked! Put something on it!" I'm no artist but I still think it would be pretty fun to design a cover.

St. Andrew's Church Yard 08For all of you who are tackling the mountain of pages that is Les Misérables there is now a blog here for you to join and discuss your thoughts and progress. Sign up any time there is no time limit, everyone can read at their own pace.

This weekend's plans include finishing The Voyage Out, catch up on Les Misérables, possibly finish The Ladies of Grace Adieu, visit the library on Sunday and pick up some more books, and write up at least 3 book reviews. Oh and I musn't forget to spring forward on Sunday!

Tomorrow, the story of the Liverpudlian Pyramid...

. listening . latest mistake . mandy moore . wild hope .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 15:45, ,


Charmed... that is what I feel like today! I finally got a good night's sleep, a full 10 hours!! I know sounds like too much, but I've been lying awake for hours on end the past few nights with my brain on overdrive, finally falling asleep around 3 am then waking around 8 am. I am and have always been a must have 8 hours of sleep or I'm not very happy kind of person (I can survive on less if I absolutely have to but prefer to have 8 hours).

St. Andrew's Church Yard
A graveyard in bloom in St. Andrew's Church Yard

Today has pretty much been a lazy day. It was raining this morning as I laid in bed reading from Middlemarch then a bit from The Voyage Out (I love how the Dalloways make an appearance in Woolf's first novel). The sun started to creep out, and having an entire wall as a window my room began to get nice and warm and I started to feel a bit sleepy. So like a kitten I curled up in my super soft sheets and took a wee little nap. But then I jolted awake thinking "Good God there's sun!" I needed to get my butt outside before it disappears because as I said yesterday the forecast shows rain for the next 5 days. After a quick shower I grabbed my camera and headed to the little cemetery on Rodney Street (more on that later). I got some pretty good photos, the pyramid was lit up by the sun and it was just perfect.

Then not wanting to go straight home I crossed the street to check out a little used bookstore. What a charming (that is my new word) place! Wooden floors that creak, shelves and shelves of books in absolute no order so it is a real treasure hunt, and there were some treasures: little old cloth bound copies of Emma and Pride and Prejudice for £2, a red hardbound copy of Nicholas Nickleby with gold foil lettering and much much more. I was hoping to spot a copy of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I'm going out of my mind people, I want so desperately to read this book. I just can't buy the brand new copy sitting in Waterstones without feeling waves of guilt, £12 (or $24) can get me through a week of food. Wait, I just checked the Liverpool library website and they finally ordered 1 copy! 1 copy for the entire city! It's at a different branch so I'll have to put it on reserve.

But I digress... back to the little green used bookstore... I did not buy anything, I was just browsing but I think I'll be back. So yes creaky wood floors, a ton of books and the old man looking over the store was sitting in an old wooden chair behind a wooden table with a crackling fire by his side, yes a real fire in a real fireplace. And to make sure we all remember that we are in the 21st century, before him on the table was a laptop. It was just too much! It really made me smile and that let me tell you hasn't happened in awhile.

I popped into Tesco before going home knowing full well that the sandwiches would be all sold out because it was going on 2 pm but I was wrong! There were sandwiches, but more importantly there was the BLT I had been craving! Happiness!

Song/Mistle(?) Thrush 1
Song or Mistle Thrush busy eating worms

Between Tesco and my flat there's a little strip of green grass with trees. Last weekend I spotted a bird I had never seen before, a brown bird about the size of a pigeon with a spotted chest, quite beautiful. I researched it on the internet when I got home and it's either a song thrush or a mistle thrush, both birds look very similar with the mistle thrush being about 2 inches longer. Everytime I walk by now I look out for him/her. Well today having my camera on hand I was really hoping to spot it so I could snap its photo for my birdwatching mom. There it was hopping along whipping worms out of the ground, it looked like it was eating from a plate of spaghetti. I got a few pics but then it moved too far away to get a real good shot. I turned a bit to the right and there was another one, a bigger one with the same spotted chest but brighter and more defined. It was going at the worms as well until a pigeon swooped down on it trying to steal its worm which resulted in both thrushes crying out and flying off one up into the tree the other to another lawn. I'm afraid my pictures of them are less than stellar but I blame my sad little camera, it's only a 3.1 MP with 3x zoom... my other nicer camera was stolen in Mexico last summer. *sigh*

Song/Mistle(?) Thrush 2
Song or Mistle Thrush

But anyway that was my Friday, the rest of the evening will be spent reading from Middlemarch, The Voyage Out, Les Misérables and The Ladies of Grace Adieu. Definitely not going outside this evening it's grey and rainy again.

. listening . end it on this . no doubt . tragic kingdom .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 17:32, ,

cold comfort farm

Title :: Cold Comfort Farm
Author :: Stella Gibbons
Completed :: Mar 13 2008
Challenges :: 888 Challenge : 1001 Books
Rating :: 4/5

This is not a cold book - it is absolutely warm, witty and full of charm. It is a Austen, Waugh and Wodehouse latté! What would you do if your parents passed away leaving you £100 a year (keeping in mind that this was a sufficient fund) and you had absolutely no desire to work? Why you spend a few days in London living it up with your good friend, shopping, theatre-going, dining with attractive men. But then it hits you that although you could care less for employment you do desire to do something good and surely your many relatives in the country are infested with problems that need solving. So you pull out your prettiest stationary and you begin to write to those relatives relaying your sad news and requesting a place to stay. Letters go out to every corner of the country with responses that leave you feeling dull and utterly bored until you open the letter addressed from Cold Comfort Farm...

The beautiful Flora packs her trunk and takes with her a valuable copy of The Higher Common Sense, an essential volume which she hopes will aid her in her stay at Aunt Ada Doom's farm. Judith Starkadder, Flora's cousin and acting matron of the farm responded to Flora's letter saying if she must come then she must come since she owes it to her for what was done to Flora's father (a mystery that is never cleared up in the novel as far as I know). Flora immediately sets to the task of solving the problems of the entire farm, of which there are many. From introducing the maid to the idea of contraception, to making over Elfine so that she can marry her true love, to freeing Judith from her obsession with her son Seth via a physchoanalyst. As people begin to leave the farm to follow their destiny Aunt Ada Doom goes into hysterics, declaring that she saw something in the barn over and over (something which darnit is never explained). Armed with copies of Vogue Flora introduces Aunt Ada Doom to the 20th century and sets her loose into the world, specifically Paris.

The whole book is a riot, I love stories where the main character enters a situation where they try to change and solve everything to the betterment of those involved. The names of the farm cows are also a hoot, Aimless, Feckless, Pointless and Graceless and we musn't forget the bull, Big Business! Absolutely delightful! And I'm so pleased to learn that there is a collection of short stories that act as a sort of prequel titled Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm and a sequel titled Conference at Cold Comfort Farm. I must try to track those down because I have high hopes that they are just as funny as this novel.

Other Thoughts ::
: you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

. listening . 155 . +44 . when your heart stops beating .


posted by Ashleigh @ 16:39, ,

water for elephants

Title :: Water for Elephants
Author :: Sara Gruen
Completed :: Mar 12 2008
Challenges :: 888 Challenge
Rating :: 4/5

A dazzling view behind the curtain of the glamorous big top. Life in the circus as I'm sure you can well imagine was as topsy-turvy as bears juggling and elephants dancing. I like how the author really captured the feeling of the circus as its own little world with its own rules and its own segregation. The sheer possibility of living on a train, pulling into a city and popping up tents and putting on a "world class" act is fascinating. I wonder if the idea of it just sounds romantic and adventurous or if for some it actually was. I'm sure for many it was hell, especially if you lived in the lowest rung of circus life, as a working man.

Most of the story takes place during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The protagonist, Jacob Jankowski is a veterinarian in training, a student at Cornell University preparing to take his final exams and to begin his life working with his father, but tragedy strikes and Jacob's life changes. Unable to face his exams Jacob runs away and jumps a train which he soon realizes belongs to the traveling circus, The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. After meeting a few of the working class he soon befriends a man named Camel who helps him get a job. Eventually Jacob catches the eye of Uncle Al, the owner and is brought to his car. When Uncle Al discovers that Jacob is an 'almost' veterinarian he immediately hires him on as the circus vet. Jacob begins working under the head trainer, August a man who oozes cruelty and will anger you more than once.

It's not long before Jacob is faced with the brutalities and hierarchy of circus life. But this is not just a story about the circus, there is the unavoidable love triangle when Jacob becomes increasingly fascinated with Marlena, the star of the show, a beautiful woman with a heart for animals only there's one problem, she's married to August. When I heard that the love story was of a Romeo and Juliet nature I thought it was going to be cheesy but it somehow manages to highlight the overall theme of managing morals in this type of life as well as acting on one's emotions.

I thought the story was beautiful and I liked how the author included archived photos of circus life in the 1930s. The author's note in the back was interesting. How horrific that in NYC during the time there was a public execution of an elephant that killed his handler after having a cigarette put inside its mouth. But this wasn't just any old execution, Thomas Edison was invited out to give a demonstration of the powers of electricity by electrocuting the poor elephant. I was shocked! (no pun intended)

Other Thoughts ::
: the 3 r's: reading, 'riting and randomness
: reading adventures
: you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

. listening . throw me away . korn . korn unplugged .


posted by Ashleigh @ 11:14, ,

books and statues

Gladstone Statue detail 1I wasn't going to go to the library yesterday, I was going to abstain until the weekend but I just had to get new books. I had to power walk cause I got carried away talking about books and other things with my friend over tarts and tea and suddenly realized the library closed in 50 min! I got there with a half an hour to spare and I walked quickly up and down aisles with my list trying to locate books and getting pretty frustrated. I'm sure I mentioned before that the collection at this particular branch is a bit sparse. I really wanted to pick up a couple Jeanette Winterson books and Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally which said it was in but no luck on either account.

I did get away with the following :
: Crash . J.G. Ballard - on the 1001 List, finished reading this today and good God what a bizarre and quite disturbing book and no it is not the book that inspired the Academy Award winning film, Crash of 2004 - but it was made into a movie of the same title in 1996 starring James Spader. Just a warning the book is quite pornographic and a bit grotesque in its descriptions of car crashes and sex. Full review coming soon!

: The Ladies of Grace Adieu . Susanna Clarke - after reading a bit from Crash I needed some nice reading before going to bed so I cracked Clarke's newest book open and read the first short story also titled The Ladies of Grace Adieu. Jonathan Strange of Clarke's first novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is featured, this short story is actually referred to in footnote 46 of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I bought that book last summer when the hardback was on sale for $5 at Borders and I started to read it but then I got so wrapped up in preparing to move to Liverpool and trying to read my ever growing library stacks that I never finished it. I've listed it as a book to read for the 888 Challenge so I will get to it before the end of the year.

: Saturday . Ian McEwan - on the 1001 List and part of the 888 Challenge, the novel takes place in London just before the US announced that it was going to war with Iraq. The main character, Perowne is growing uneasy with the state of the world and when a car accident (jeez what's with all the car accidents!?) brings him into contact with Baxter, a fidgety agressive man Perowne and his family may be in danger.

: The Female Quixote . Charlotte Lennox - on the 1001 List and part of the 888 Challenge, I have to say the title of this one has been catching my eye for some time, having read Don Quixote last year and absolutely loving it. The description sounds charming: Arabella reads French novels and paints a picture of her life as adventurous and deeply romantic. After her father's death she learns that she must marry her cousin, Glanville in order to keep part of the estate. But Arabella has a private code of conduct which does not allow her to take any role but center stage in the drama of her own life; her literary heroines are always in control. Sounds delicious! A quick flip through it has just revealed that there are no quotations used during scenes of dialogue so will have to pay attention.

: The First Century After Beatrice . Amin Maalouf - the author's name caught my eye when I was browsing the shelves on a previous visit to the library and I memorized the location so that I could check it out on my next visit. And as always the book had moved but luckily I found it again! May your name live forever and a son be born to you (an ancient Egyptian prayer) A French entomologist attends a symposium in Cairo where he finds a curious bean being sold in the market. It is claimed that the bean, derived from the scarab beetle has magic powers; specifically the power to guarantee the birth of a male infant. The entomologist conducts research and soon discovers that the rate of female births is becoming increasingly rare, he believes that the world has entered into a critical phase of history. He begins to question the validity of gender bias and attempts to redress the growing inbalance before it reaches irreversible proportions. But the poverty and famine of the South, where male children can mean the difference between survival and starvation, the popularity of the scarab beans is already taking devestating effect. It is a short novel, 192 pgs and was winner of the 1993 Prix Goncourt.

: The Plot Against America . Philip Roth - on the 1001 List and part of the 888 Challenge, I've heard Roth can be difficult to read but I'm willing to give it a try. This novel takes place during the fictitious Lindbergh presidency in 1940 which caused fear to invade Jewish households in America. Lindbergh publicly blamed the Jews for pushing America towards a pointless war with Nazi Germany and upon taking office he negotiated a cordial 'understanding' with Adolf Hitler. Roth recounts what it was like for his Newark family and for a million such families during the menacing years of the Lindbergh presidency when American Jews had every reason to expect the worst.

The days are getting longer and we actually had some sun yesterday. As I was leaving the library the sun was lighting up some of the buildings and statues across the way from the library so it was time to whip out the camera and take some pictures.

(you can view them all by clicking on 'photos' on the top navigation bar, once you're on the flickr page just click on the album titled Liverpool 2007/2008)

In the Round Sitting Up High Residence Hall The Fountain The Fountain 2

No Longer Speaking Empire Theatre Wellington Memorial Columed Hall Fishy Light Poles

Balfour Statue King's Regiment Gladstone Statue Gladstone Statue detail 1 Gladstone Statue detail 2

Even though the forecast shows that the next 5 days will be overcast with rain I hope to get a bit of sun this weekend so I can go pyramid hunting. There's a small cemetery located nearby squeezed between two buildings and inside the cemetery is a pyramid. I took a picture of it (of course) when I lived here in 2004 but I have since learned the story behind the pyramid. The picture is on a disc back home so I need a new one and then I will post it here and tell you all the story behind Liverpool's Pyramid.

Now that I'm fairly certain that I'll be returning home this summer there's so much to see and do here and plenty of photographs to take! I can't believe next week we're already in April, and then it'll be May and I'll be on my way to the island!

Strawberry & Rhubarb Tart (close up)This is one of the delicious strawberry and rhubarb tarts I made for Easter dessert. It was actually pretty good, it was my first time using rhubarb in a recipe. I made darn sure there were no leafy bits anywhere on the rhubarb before chopping it up, I got scared after reading that the leaves are toxic! Didn't want to give any one a bellyache. These are very nice with fresh cream drizzled over them while they're hot. The recipe is here if you want to give them a shot, they're pretty easy and well worth it.

. listening . intuition . feist . the reminder .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 17:47, ,

more jeeves

For those interested in reading from the Jeeves & Wooster sagas by P.G. Wodehouse and are curious about the order, I've compiled a list here based on a couple found on Wikipedia.

There are 39 short stories and 11 novels :

: The Man With Two Left Feet (1917 - 13 short stories, only Extricating Young Gussie features for the first time Jeeves, Bertie and Aunt Agatha)
: My Man Jeeves (1919 - 8 short stories, 4 about Jeeves, 4 about Reggie Pepper)
: The Inimitable Jeeves (1923 - US title: Jeeves - 11 short stories related to each other)
: Carry On, Jeeves (1925 - 10 short stories, 5 repeated in some form from My Man Jeeves)
: Very Good, Jeeves (1930 - 11 short stories)
: Thank You, Jeeves (1934 - first full length novel)
: Right Ho, Jeeves (1934 - US title: Brinkley Manor)
: The Code of the Woosters (1938)
: Joy in the Morning (1946 - US title: Jeeves in the Morning)
: The Mating Season (1949)
: Ring for Jeeves (1953 - US title: The Return of Jeeves)
: Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954 - US title: Bertie Wooster Sees Through It)
: A Few Quick Ones (1959 - 10 short stories, only Jeeves Makes an Omelette features Jeeves, a retelling of a Reggie Pepper story originally told in My Man Jeeves)
: Jeeves in the Offing (1960 - US title: How Right You Are, Jeeves)
: Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963)
: Plum Pie (1966 - 9 short stories, only Jeeves and the Greasy Bird features Jeeves)
: Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971 - US title: Jeeves and the Tie That Binds)
: Aunts Aren't Gentleman (1974 - US title: The Cat-nappers)

To really confuse everyone there are several omnibuses out there that seem to collect the stories in different ways. Either in collections of short stories, the best of or the stories are collected by location; i.e. Life at Blandings only contains stories that take place at Blandings. From this I really get the feeling that the stories can be enjoyed in any order. Hope this helps anyone who was interested in taking up a Jeevesian novel. And don't forget Wodehouse wrote several other novels, short stories and series. For the entire list click here.

. listening . my blue heaven . taking back sunday . louder now .


posted by Ashleigh @ 12:12, ,

thank you, jeeves

Title :: Thank You, Jeeves
Author :: P.G. Wodehouse
Completed :: Mar 08 2008
Challenges :: 1001 Books
Rating :: 4/5

I've seen the Jeeves & Wooster books at the library here and know they're quite popular. There's even a TV series which I'd like to catch, especially since Hugh Laurie portrays Wooster and Stephen Fry is Jeeves. When I first saw that the book was on THE LIST I thought it was odd but I suppose Wodehouse really made a name for himself with these books and it is said that his work was admired by Evelyn Waugh, Rudyard Kipling, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Salman Rushdie. Thank You, Jeeves can be read without having read any of the others in the series (I wonder if that's the case with all of them) which, I was thankful of. The story was absolutely delightful and full of British charm.

The story begins with Wooster's return from New York where he wooed a young lady, became engaged but when a doctor, Sir Roderick Glossop butts in and declares the future marriage unsound Wooster leaves the States a bachelor. Sir Glossop turns up at Wooster's flat and demands that he cease playing his banjolele as it is harmful to the nerves of the lady living below. Wooster vows he'll never stop playing and decides to move to the country. Unfortunately Jeeves is also a bit distressed over the banjolele and resigns from his post. But not to fear the two are not separated when Jeeves takes a post with Wooster's friend Chuffy (or Lord Chuffnell) in the country. The real adventures begin when Chuffy receives an American millionaire, J. Washburn Stoker and his beautiful daughter Pauline, the same American beauty that Wooster engaged himself to. The tale continues with a string of misunderstandings, mistaken identities, mischeif, kidnappings, a house burning down and a hunt for butter.

Such a charming book that had me giggling at several incidents. I really think in the future I'll look into reading more of Wooster and Jeeves.

Other Thoughts ::
: you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

. listening . to you i bestow . mundy . romeo + juliet soundtrack .


posted by Ashleigh @ 18:17, ,


Title :: Slaughterhouse-five
Author :: Kurt Vonnegut
Completed :: Mar 04 2008
Challenges :: 1001 Books
Rating :: 2/5

I've been wanting to read Vonnegut for awhile but I have to be honest I wasn't impressed with this book. It was witty and original but just not my cup of tea, not to mention the fact that I really don't dig stories involving aliens... This was another case of expecting a certain type of story, having no idea where I got such an idea but in any case being absolutely off. Oh well, there were a few chuckles here and there. And it's on THE LIST and now I've read it. Sorry this is probably the worst review ever!

Other Thoughts ::
: you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

. listening . mr. zebra . tori amos . tales of a librarian.


posted by Ashleigh @ 17:58, ,

the novella challenge

I know another challenge... but I was going to read these anyway so why not participate? Using the definition that a novella is a story consisting roughly of 100-250 pages, pick 6 novellas to read between April and September 2008. And hey prizes are involved! To sign up and/or to get a list of novellas click here.

Completed novellas are in red.

01 : The Passion . Jeanette Winterson
02 : The Uncommon Reader . Alan Bennett (review)
03 : The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie . Muriel Spark (review)
04 : Shopgirl . Steve Martin
05 : Written on the Body . Jeanette Winterson
06 : Death in Venice . Thomas Mann

Extra Credit :
07 : The First Century After Beatrice . Amin Maalouf (review)
08 : One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich . Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
09 : The Reader . Bernard Schlink
10 : The Sorrows of Young Werther . Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
11 : The Outsider . Albert Camus (review)
12 : The Lonely Londoners . Sam Selvon
13 : A Room With a View . E.M. Forster
14 : The Thirty-Nine Step . John Buchan
15 : The Postman Always Rings Twice . James M. Cain

(and I'm sure I'll be adding more)

. listening . life uncommon . jewel . spirit .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 14:49, ,

once upon a time... again

It is time to slip into the worlds of fantasy, folklore, fairy tale and mythology. The Second Once Upon A Time Challenge began yesterday (ooops but just heard about it) and runs through June 20th, Midsummer Night's Eve (of course). I took part in this challenge last year and completed it only... I was a bit of a bad girl and didn't post any reviews. But I swear an oath that will not be the case this year.

I have accepted the challenge that lies in Quest the Third: fullfill the requirements for Quest the First or Quest the Second AND top it off with a June reading of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. In this case I will be guided through Quest the First: read at least 5 books that fit in the categories of fantasy, folklore, fairy tale or mythology. Books can be read from one category or any combination you choose.

To join in the fun or to find out about the other quests go here! To read everyone's reviews go here!

My choices :: (completed books are in red)
01 : The Complete Fairy Tales . Oscar Wilde
02 : Northern Lights . Philip Pullman
03 : The Subtle Knife . Philip Pullman
04 : The Ladies of Grace Adieu . Susanna Clarke (review)
05 : Un Lun Dun . China Miéville
06 : A Midsummer Night's Dream . Shakespeare

Good luck to everyone else in the challenge - can't wait to check out other people's lists, progress and reviews!

. listening . cold . crossfade . crossfade .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 09:33, ,

slipping into the weekend

Duck Duck Goose
Last year's Easter Canada goslings

Tomorrow is Saturday... I had to keep telling myself that today, it just didn't feel like a Friday. My days have been off since Thursday. I guess today felt a bit weird cause the city is so quiet, all the students having escaped back home or wherever. TV was devoted to back to back movies. I guess Easter weekend has begun!

It's supposed to be nice and cold tomorrow and wet and probably windy... but I'm going to make the best of it. Today for at least an hour if not longer I was able to sit near my window and feel the heat of the sun. I almost waned to purr like a happy little kitten. You see one entire wall of my room is a window so the doom and gloom of grey skys really does get to me. I covet those days or even hours of sun! Hopefully tomorrow I can catch a still moment to run into town and if the library is open exchange some finished books for new ones. I need to pick up some laundry detergent, eggs and mustard in order to make deviled eggs and either berries or apples depending on what looks good at the fruit market to make some rustic tarts for Easter dessert. I think it'll do me good to bake something. I'm starting to regret not having had a birthday cake, I'm pretty sure this is the first year it's happened. I suppose I can whip one up anytime and declare it my birthday cake but I crave the traditional Betty Crocker Rainbow Chip (or Fun Chip as I think it's called now) with Rainbow Chip frosting. Yum! Sadly not available here...

Wait for Me
Wait for me mom!

I'm well into Middlemarch now and should have it finished by next Sunday. It is the very definition of a Victorian novel, well my definition anyway. So many lives and incidents are involved and the story unfolds at a leisurely pace that each chapter requires chewing, contemplation and slow digestion. That is why I whipped out my trusty post it tabs and broke it down into a manageable 36 some odd pages a day so that I could take my time but at the same time finish it in a reasonable amount of time. I'm pretty sure I could devote all my reading time to it if I really wanted to but I would definitely have to be in the mood otherwise I might get frustrated, bored and end up putting it aside. Breaking it up allows me to enjoy it while having the freedom to read another book (or 3) at the same time.

190 pages into Les Misérables and so far it has captured my attention. Unlike Middlemarch I feel at this stage I'd be able to read Les Mis comfortablely in one go. This is my first Hugo novel and I can tell it's going to be epic (as if the 1463 pages didn't give that away...). I'll read 50 more pages tomorrow to reach my goal of 240 pages a week. I liked the description of Monsieur Madeleine's library "[it]was small but well chosen. He loved books; books are cold but sure friends" Amen to that!

I'm nearly done with Bee Season. I've been wanting to read this book I think since it was published back in 2000 and somehow I kept overlooking it. Then when the movie was released (which I have yet to see) I was reminded that I wanted to read it and again it was forgotten. Well finally I checked it out and it's pretty darn good. I can really relate to the sibling rivalry and being jealous when my sister was given attention as if I deserved it all. I like to think I've grown out of that but every now and then I can turn a very pale shade of green, but nothing like when I was younger! I was almost always a giant green rampaging monster! Ha! No longer speaking from personal experience, I'm interested in the overall theme of being pushed by parents to be more than what may even be possible. Or being pushed aside because you've already been deemed smart enough, no longer needing help or support. Lots of good themes going on eager to see how they all merge together.

Duckling Daycare
16 DUCKLINGS!!! I hope this is Duck Daycare otherwise mom might fly the coop!

The fourth book playing host to a bookmark is A Passage to India. Finally cracking it open after checking it out almost 5 weeks ago. Can't say much about at this point as I've barely begun - only on page 8 but I liked Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread so I have high hopes. Plus friends have said it's good.

Wish I had an idea of what I'll be bringing home from the library tomorrow, but I haven't a clue. I have a long list and can only check out 6 more. Besides I'm not even sure if the library is open tomorrow. It normally is on Saturdays but maybe because of the holiday... would be nice if they would post holiday hours on their website but well not every library system can be the best.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend and for all of those who celebrate Easter either religiously or commercially I hope you and yours have a great one!

. listening . echolot . wir sind helden . von hier an blind .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 23:48, ,

the diving bell and the butterfly

Title :: The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly
Author :: Jean-Dominique Bauby
Completed :: Mar 02 2008
Rating :: 4/5

I am alive, I can think, and no one has the right to deny me these two realities.

Ignoring the fact that this book was written by a man blinking his left eye as letters of the alphabet were read aloud this book is amazing. It is the story of Bauby's 'cardiovascular accident' which obviously is life changing when it leaves him in a coma and upon waking leaves him locked inside of his body only able to move his left eyelid. But the story itself is not depressing, sure it's sad and maybe a bit emotional but it is inspiring. Bauby comes to realize that though he may be living life as if "a giant invisible diving-bell holds [his] whole body prisoner" his "mind takes flight like a butterfly".

There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas's court. You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still-sleeping face. You can build castles in Spain, steal the Golden Fleece, discover Atlantis, realize your childhood dreams and adult ambitions.

Bauby is not shy in sharing his frustrations of not being able to communicate. Certain staff members at the hospital get on his nerves when they come into his room and turn off the TV while he's watching a football match - only he can't shout at them to turn the TV back on. Or one of the staff forgets to return to his room to turn the TV off and it's left on all night keeping him awake. When his speech therapist, Sandrine, develops a communication code Bauby is given the opportunity to speak out but unfortunately only to those who are patient and take the the time to learn the special alphabet. Instead of using A-B-C Sandrine created an alphabet according to the frequency of use of a particular letter in the French language - E-S-A-R-I-N-T.

A couple of weeks ago I went to see the The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly in the theatre and it was absolutely gorgeous. The director really caught the atmosphere and by using mostly the point of view of Bauby the audience really gets a feeling for how his life is, how he sees the world. I also thought the colors were perfect, can't really explain it but nothing was harsh it was mostly soft blues, teals and whites - it's very artistic. I heard quite a few sniffles throughout the movie. I didn't feel as emotional as others perhaps because I was going into the movie having already read the book so maybe I was a bit more prepared and knew what to expect.

I was however rather moved at one point in the film when Bauby's father calls him. His father is obviously upset that he can't visit his son, as he's 93 years old and can't make it down the stairs to leave his apartment. He tells his son that like him he's also trapped. The entire phone call is frustrating because his father doesn't have a very good short term memory and keeps forgetting what he wants to tell his son. Something that is not helped when he has to wait patiently for the nurse to read out the alphabet and wait for Bauby to blink at the letter he wants in order to answer his father. Both father and son end the call in tears. The scene is really touching and really got to me.

In the copy of the book that I have, Bauby's obituary is included and I was especially moved by this passage :

He is also in search of past time, of memory itself, of the books he has read, the poems he learned by heart; even more sad, he thinks of all the books he wanted to read and hadn't done so.

Bauby's book was first published on March 7 1997 and he died two days later of heart failure at the age of 44. But he lived long enough to witness the success of his book with 25,000 copies being sold on it's first day of publication in France. His story is truly inspiring.

Other Thoughts ::
: you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

. listening . make you smile . +44 . when your heart stops beating .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 14:01, ,

sexing the cherry

Title :: Sexing the Cherry
Author :: Jeanette Winterson
Completed :: Feb 28 2008
Challenges :: 1001 Books
Rating :: 4/5

Are we all living like this? Two lives, the ideal outer life and the inner imaginative life where we keep our secrets?

This book while seeming a bit bizarre on the surface is actually a fabulous narrative on life and fantasy. I loved Winterson's historical facts and creative retelling of the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Sure they lived happily ever after but not with their husbands. Ha!

The story has two narratives, the female voice of The Dog Woman, an apparently grotesque woman whose skirt could be used to sail a ship, and poc marks big enough for fleas to live in. Yet she commands the respect of her adopted son as well as some of the locals, who are afraid of her. She doesn't appear to feel any remorse when it comes to murdering those who stand in her way or those who disagree with tradition. The male voice is that of The Dog Woman's adopted son, Jordan. She finds him floating along the river á la Moses and takes him into her care. Jordan eventually takes to sailing and leaves his mother to explore, inspired by the sight of his first ever banana. He also becomes obsessed with finding the location of the 12th Dancing Princess.

Like I said this book is a bit bizarre but it works. I think I liked it because there were a lot of humourous passages. These are just a couple of my favorites :

We file past every Sunday to humble ourselves and stay clean for another week, but I have noticed a bulge here and there where all should be quiet and God-like.

... I discovered from my time in the brothel that men's members, if bitten off or otherwise severed, do not grow again. This seems a great mistake on the part of nature, since men are so careless with their members and will put them anywhere without thinking. I believe they would force them in a hole in the wall if no better could be found.

This last quote sums up how I feel sometimes - I seem to always want to escape from wherever it is I am.

Outwardly nothing is changing for me, but inwardly I am not always here, sitting by a rotting river. I can still escape. Escape from what? The present? Yes, from this foreground that blinds me to whatever may be happening in the distance. If I have a spirit, a soul, any name will do, then it won't be single, it will be multiple. Its dimension will not be one of confinement but one of space. It may inhabit numerous changing decaying bodies in the future and in the past.

I felt this book was a lot different from Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit which I've since learned was actually a biography of Winterson's life. I'm curious to read more of her work. I think I'd like to check out The Passion, Gut Symmetries, The Powerbook, Lighthousekeeing and The Stone Gods.

Other Thoughts ::
: you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

. listening . hey girl . dashboard confessional . a mark, a mission, a brand, a scar .


posted by Ashleigh @ 13:15, ,

spring break

Spring break officially started on Monday and will last until April 6th! 3 weeks! Unfortunately I have no travel plans. The original plan was to fly home but that was too expensive and then I was going to maybe do a small trip somewhere in Europe or even around England but all my funds went into the big Rhodes trip in May. Who knows maybe I'll go somewhere close or maybe I'll just stay here in the 'Pool and tuck into several good books. I've got to do a bit of work as well and I also need to made a decision about my future here...

Right now I'm reading Middlemarch - 402 pages (about half way) into it and I'm really enjoying it. I hope to finish it by the end of the month (should do - I have it all tabbed out). My copy of Les Misérables finally arrived last week, I'm only 20 pages into it right now but I'm going to shoot for about 240 pages a week, which means I should finish it in 6 weeks. And I'm reading The Namesake - a much much shorter book than the last two. I've got all the books listed to the right to read as well before they're due on the 30th. So lots of good reading to do!

Can't believe Easter is this weekend. Luckily I've been invited over to to a friend's house for dinner so I won't be alone. I plan on whipping up some deviled eggs and maybe a dessert. Yesterday I was over to their house for tea. I brought the box of Peeps bunnies my mom sent me for Easter. They don't sell them here and so I thought I'd share an American treat. We put them on tea biscuits and stuck them into the micro for like 5 secs, watching them get all bloated! They were delicious and I think they were a hit.

So tomorrow is the first day of spring and it's still pretty Arctic here - well you know Arctic in my standards - only a high of 50F/10C tomorrow - that's just not spring! Especially when I compare that with home where the high tomorrow is 84F/29C. So unfair! Oh well it will warm up eventually.

. listening . pawn shop . sublime . sublime .


posted by Ashleigh @ 11:11, ,

missing arizona

Palo Verde Blooms & Blue Sky
Palo Verde in Bloom

The more I contemplate returning home the more I realize I really miss it. Just look at that blue sky, the sunshine, the beautiful blossoming trees. Now I know I'll miss Liverpool too, part of the reason I returned was because I did so much. But the love of a place is not always the right reason to stay in that place. And it's becoming more and more obvious that being in Liverpool and so close to the rest of the world weighed heavily on my choice in coming here. I know I'm seriously homesick right now. And I'm super jealous of the 80+ temps versus the 40 degree windy, rainy, sunless weather here. I've definitely got a bout of SADD. I had planned on going home for spring break since we get 3 weeks here because UK school systems have terms instead of semesters but I just couldn't afford to do it. I'm living on a US loan and with the exchange rate I'm not given much after they take my tuition and room and board. *sigh*

Palo Verde Blooms
Close up of Palo Verde in bloom.

Desert in Bloom
Fishhook Cactus in bloom

And I miss the giraffes at the zoo even if I haven't seen them in over a year. I've just been going through old pictures and stumbled upon these and was remembering what a great day that was. It was New Years Day last year and we managed to get there when the giraffes were being fed. I've never seen them so close before. They're very majestic and unusual looking creatures. I'm reminded of a book I read back in 2006 called Giraffe by J.M. Ledgard - holy cow that book was a tear jerker and left me feeling really sad but please don't let that deter you it was a beautiful book. I just can't believe the cruelty that exists in this world. At least there is a zoo here, in Chester. In fact after my naughty little obsession of watching Home and Away at 6 pm a show called Zoo Days comes on and it's all about life at Chester Zoo. It looks really nice and I've heard nothing but good things about it. Luckily I know someone with a car so hopefully I can manage a trip out there soon.

Giraffes @ Phoenix Zoo 1
Giraffes at the Phoenix Zoo - I love the one in the front sticking out his tongue!

Giraffes @ Phoenix Zoo 2
Giraffes at the Phoenix Zoo - this poor guy finally managed to get a bit of food and the rest of them followed him around everywhere trying to steal it. Ha!

I finished reading Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons this morning. That really was a wonderful book - it was really a combination of P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh and Jane Austen. I loved it! Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen was also excellent but again a sad story about animals. I'm really going to try to catch up on my book reviews this next week since I'm "off". Hope everyone has a great Friday!

. listening . don't . jewel . pieces of you .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 23:57, ,

in which she makes a tough decision...

Do I stay or do I go? This is where I think I'm at, the fork in the road. Life in Liverpool has been difficult - well I should say academic life. I have not felt very welcome here by the staff, my fellow colleagues have been great but unfortunately that's not going to carry me very far.

The problem is that I was accepted here based on my proposal of studying archaeological aspects of prayer during the New Kingdom. It sounded feasible to me. I love studying religion especially in Egypt and I have an archaeological background. Now on day 1 I met with my supervisor and left completely shocked! Apparently in his opinion a research project like this could not be completed by me because I don't have the background (i.e. I don't have a BA in Egyptology) and I could never learn enough in 3 years time to even attempt this project. Now I say I was shocked because I couldn't understand why in 9 months time nobody notified me of this via email. I completed my MA at this school so they know me and my background and if they forgot my entire academic history was written in my CV. So what conclusion am I to come to other than I was accepted because as an international student I bring in more money (a lot more money) and as a statistic I look great?

Ok well here I am in Liverpool I've got to make this work. So I contacted my mentor back home and discussed a few ideas. It was at this point I was given permission to use data coming out of our excavation in Egypt. Wow! Such a rare opportunity! Over the next few days I chewed on the idea trying to figure out how I could make this into a project. At the end of my first week I met with the Graduate Tutor to tell him that my first project had been rejected and here's what I've come up with. They agreed that the project sounded good and it was suggested that I talk to another instructor in the department about being my secondary supervisor since my current one would absolutely be wrong for this new direction. I went to see them and they seemed to be thrilled that I had the opportunity to use new data - because I'm telling you it is very rare! Everything seemed to be fine.

My primary supervisor however, seemed to have lost interest in me and my project and seemed to use our meetings as a forum of nothing but criticism. Now I can handle criticism, in fact I appreciate it BUT constructive criticism is of more use to me than wasting my time basically telling me in so many words that I'm stupid and they don't understand why I'm even here. If there's a problem with something I'm doing I want to know why and I would like some feedback as to what I can do to fix the situation so I don't continue to repeat it. I am only in my first year as a PhD student I'm in the process of learning what it means to be a research student and how to go about doing my research. Cut me some slack! Don't hold my hand but some direction would be nice. Especially since with a project change I'm starting from square one.

By December and buckets of tears later I realized this was no good. This was an unhealthy supervisor/student relationship. It is widely believed that students should feel comfortable having tea with their supervisor - ummmmm.... ABSOLUTELY NOT! I sought advice from the graduate college as I truly felt that was the first place to go. And I'll admit I was very upset and was in tears. It was their advice to speak to the faculty head (going over quite a few heads) to get this situated. Unfortunately I was not able to meet with them before Christmas break and then I was off to Egypt (thank God because working in the field and talking with my mentor got me excited again about my work as well as boosted my ego and made me realize that I'm not stupid). Anyway I've talked to a string of people now and the process is still being dragged out.

I had a meeting last Thursday with the Graduate Tutor, potential new supervisor and my secondary supervisor. It was the Spanish Inquisition. I felt like I was on trial having to justify my actions and having to validate my research project. Before the meeting I emailed my mentor back home and said this is how I would like to use the excavation material to make absolute sure that full permission was given and that there would be no problems. Permission was granted, he's very excited about my project and says he's been waiting for someone to do this type of research (looking at the development of the mortuary temples). He even went above and beyond and said that the temple and its material could be used as a control therefore if possible he could alter excavation plans in order to help me answer questions. Oh my God! Seriously folks this is just not heard of. He was also interested in sitting as an external supervisor to help legitimize my use of the material.

I thought this is perfect perhaps this will lighten the load since one of the problems of switching supervisors is putting me with someone who isn't already overloaded. They're eyes bugged when I said my mentor was willing to adjust the excavation plans to aid my research. After about an hour I stepped out into the hall while they discussed. When I came back they agreed to see about shifting some other students about so that they can work out a new supervisory team but they seem now to have a problem with my project. They believe that it's valid research for a MPhil but not for a PhD. I think because we got so tied up with discussing my work in Egypt they had it in their head that that was all I was wanting to do and I had said this would only be a chapter. But anyway we were meant to meet this morning to work out the details of the project but that's been cancelled because they don't yet have a solution to the supervisor problem.

Now one of the things they asked me was why don't I go home? I said, trust me if I could I would. I explained that Arizona does not have an Egyptology program to which they replied well what's important is the student, the supervisor and the research. Good point. However, I would need to be enrolled in some sort of relevant program. My mentor is in the Classics dept but it does not offer a PhD. The only other place for me to go would be back to the anthro dept where I would be taking coursework in southwest archaeology - not particularly relevant to Egyptology. Plus there's the fact that application deadlines have come and gone so I wouldn't be able to start until the fall of 2009.

BUT I've been thinking about it and researching it. And I think I could work it out. I've been studying the classes available in the anthro dept and it looks like there are a lot of theoretical and practical archaeological courses that could be used in any archaeological field. I would be able to work with my mentor. I'd be back at home - or at least 2 hours away. There's sunshine, never thought I'd admit to missing the damn AZ sun. Sure it's hot but it's a dry heat right? Now as for my start date I couldn't officially be in the anthro dept until next fall but starting this fall I could enroll as a non-degree seeking student and at least begin taking some of the courses so I wouldn't be too far behind. Unfortunately I'll have to take the GRE (grrrr) so got to study for that. And I could join the Pride of Arizona - the marching band!!! I love marching band and miss it. I didn't actually join the Pride when I was doing my BA because it is a lot of work and I was on scholarship and afraid to lose it. But now I think I could manage. In general I miss being a Wildcat. The University of Arizona is a great school and the anthro dept is #5 in the country so that's good right?

This is all so crazy and complicated. But I have to do what's right for me no matter what I think people might say. I haven't failed, Liverpool failed me. I had high hopes and have been met with nothing but disappointment and grief. And I honestly think this is what they want me to do, it's easier on them if I just leave then they don't have to 'deal with me'. And it's not like this year would have been a complete waste of my time. I have been able to conduct research, use the Egyptology library and over the summer I can hit the museums in London and Manchester to study the foundation deposit from our temple excavated by Petrie. So in a sense I'm still working. Well nothing has been decided for sure but this isn't the first time I've thought about going back home. But because I keep returning to the idea and now that it seems feasible perhaps it would be the best thing to do. Nothing's been decided for sure just yet. I need to really think about it.

. listening . elephant . damien rice . 9 .


posted by Ashleigh @ 19:44, ,

the bells

On Sunday mornings the bells of the Metropolitan Cathedral next door clang clang clang waking me up - 10 mins before 11 am. They are a nice alarm clock and 10:50 am is a good time to get up whether you crawled in at 3 in the morning from a night of dancing or you just needed to sleep in. Of course if you're still in bed when the bells ring again 10 mins before 2 pm then you're probably a lazy bum, and certainly if you're still there when they're ringing 10 mins before 4 pm you might as well give up on Sunday.

I luckily got up during the first set up bells, got around and made my way to the library and the chemist to pick up a prescription that WILL rid me of this enemy of the sinuses. After a lot of searching I managed to locate a copy of Maus: A Survivor's Tale vol. 1: My Father Bleeds History and vol. 2: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spigelman, the holocaust survival story of his father as told through the medium of a graphic novel. I keep seeing people talking about them on their blogs so I wanted to read them too. I also picked up a copy of George Eliot's Middlemarch. All the books have been renewed so they have the same due date which makes me happy because I've been wanting to read some of the books that were on the bottom of the pile.

One more week of school, next weekend is the 2nd British Egyptology Conference being hosted here in Liverpool and then I have 3 weeks "off" (technically should still be working but don't have to full time) to read and relax!

. listening . the best of what's around . dave matthews band . under the table and dreaming .

Labels: ,

posted by Ashleigh @ 15:45, ,

a tale of two cities

Title :: A Tale of Two Cities
Author :: Charles Dickens
Completed :: Feb 25 2008
Challenges :: 888 Challenge : 1001 Books
Rating :: 4/5

Having been warned that this would be a difficult book to read I have to wonder why. It was perfectly straight forward and if I may say beautifully written. The plot started right from the beginning so there was no dull overture to get through (well actually there was a short introduction of sorts to the time but it was short). Perhaps the person who warned me is either a) afraid of Dickens or b) thinking of the wrong book. In fact my copy had a few illustrations here and there that were a nice addition to the text.

I plan on reading Les Misérables later this month so this book was a perfect literary introduction to the French Revolution since Dickens tale takes place in the years leading up to the revolution and ends during the Reign of Terror. With the story taking place in both London and Paris and the characters of Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton who are in love with Lucie Manette give the book a nice symmetry. I liked how all the characters moved throughout the book in this circle that eventually showed that they were all connected in one way or another. Madame Defarge was a character I liked what with her listening in the shadows calmy knitting in the corner. But then later her calm demeanor became bloodlust and she was out in the streets holding people down with her foot while she stabbed them with a knife. Her cruelty and desire to see Darnay's née Evrémonde neck offered up to the guillotine changed my attitude towards her. She truly is the antagonist in Dickens book. This book has it all, plot, excitement, terror, love, passion, fear, anger, sympathy, hate, happiness, action - you name it. I definitely recommend you read it, it's definitely not something to be afraid of and come on it's only 390 pages, that's nothing.

Other Thoughts ::
: you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

. listening . another place to fall . kt tunstall . eye to the telescope .


posted by Ashleigh @ 15:37, ,

happy birthday to me

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! Pictured to the left is a fantastic cake or cakes rather created by the brilliant Colette Peters. If I could this would be the cake I would use to celebrate the day! As it is there's been no cake and seeing how it's going on 10 pm don't think there will be. This has been an interesting birthday. Frankly I'd have to say it's been the worse! I still feel like crap and have major sinus pain in my cheeks, my eyeballs feel like they're going to fall out along with my teeth. Got another doc appt in the morning so hopefully they'll get me some more antibodies. It's been 5 weeks since the last batch so here's hoping they oblige...

Beyond that today was very stressful because I met with with the dept head, potential new supervisor and acting secondary supervisor to discuss my concerns. I was so nervous and it really felt like an inquisition! The meeting lasted about an hour then they asked me to wait outside while they convened. Agghhhh! This was happening just like the bad dream I had the other night where they asked me to wait outside and when I was called back in they told me "We no longer want you here... anymore." I waited out in the hall for 20 min - but it felt like forever and then they called me back in. The good news is, it looks like I'll be getting my supervisor changed after some shiftings been done. The bad news is they feel that my research topic is not big enough for a PhD that it's a proposal for an MPhil! Hmmmm... I think this is due to a couple of reasons: 1) I haven't really been giving the kind of supervision I need, basically I really haven't had any direction. 2) Being that I was nervous I wasn't really able to explain myself fully. I did focus maybe a bit too much on the data I want to use from the excavation I work on and I can see how that could be viewed as not broad enough for a PhD. But I have another meeting next Tuesday with just the two new supervisors to try to work that out. Hopefully I'm getting on the right track.

My weekend plans of running down to London to sightsee, finally see Wicked after 4 years of longing to (I know all the songs!) and checking out the Tutankhamun exhibit have been postponed. *sigh* The friend's house we were going to stay out is actually unavailable she misunderstood and thought we were coming in April - so that's when we'll be going. Oh well something to look forward to and save for. Instead tomorrow afternoon I'm going to see the movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly based on the book of the same title I just read over the weekend (review coming soon). Saturday I'm reading my heart out, going dancing later that night, and reading all day Sunday.

I did get goodies, gifts, cards and picked up my free birthday gift from The Body Shop. Over the last week I've been receiving birthday coupons in my email, free ice cream at Coldstone Creamery (damnit there isn't one here!!!), 25% off at Borders (they are here but far away and I don't think they do the rewards program), free goodie at Origins (also not here... well not in Liverpool anyway). Darn, darn, darn! Oh well! Here's hoping the weekend is better!

. listening . earthquake . the used . lies for the liars .

Labels: ,

posted by Ashleigh @ 22:21, ,

the yacoubian building

Title :: The Yacoubian Building
Author :: Alaa Al Aswany
Completed :: Feb 24 2008
Rating :: 5/5

The distance between Baehler Passage, where Zaki Bey el Dessouki lives, and his office in the Yacoubian Building is not more than a hundred meters, but it takes him an hour to cover it each morning as he is obliged to greet his friends on the street.

Aswany's The Yacoubian Building is raw, it is a true roman à clef. When it was first published in Arabic in 2002 it caused scandal because Aswany throws caution to the wind and is completely open on the topics of political corruption, sexual repression, religious extremism and alludes to the modern hopes of Egypt today. Although the story takes places in the early 1990s around the time of the Gulf War, I have a feeling that the author views these as major concerns among Egyptians today.

The reader is introduced to a myriad of characters most living or working in the Yacoubian Building, a building which really exists in downtown Cairo. In fact Aswany worked in this building at one time (not sure if he still does) as a dentist. The characters are vibrant and are expressed vividly. You really get a sense of who they are and even if you hate them or love them you are certainly interested in what happens to them. The main characters are :

  • Zaki Bey el Dessouki: a man in his 50s who owns office space in the building using it to have various appointments with women. He is the local expert when it comes to women and their ways. But when he is drugged and robbed by one of these women his life seems to spiral out of control but there may be one woman who can redeem him. His character personifies life before the Revolution, culture, a western outlook, not particularly observant of Islam.

  • Taha el Shazli: son to the doorman, Taha has high hopes and the grades to pursue a career in the police force, only his position in life seems to be holding him back. Angry about the situation Taha is convinced to attend university instead to further his studies, it is here that he falls in with a militant Islamist group. Suddenly a sense of anger and injustice take over and guide him on his path through life.

  • Buthayna el Sayed: originally intending to marry Taha, her father dies, life changes and she is forced to seek employment to help care for her mother and siblings. Only Buthayna has trouble keeping a post, it isn't too long before she is forced to quit or fired because she won't give extra services to the boss. With pressure from her mother to do whatever is necessary to keep a job she finds work in a clothing store where she is once again invited into the back room. This time however, a co-worker has told her how to work the system and demand extra money or even clothes for these extra services. Buthayna becomes so disgusted with the way life has worked out and with Taha's changing attitude that the two no longer plan on getting married and she turns her sights to another person in the building.

  • Hatim Rasheed: perhaps one of the more controversial characters in the book is the son of an Egyptian father and a French mother. Hatim is homosexual and unlike other homosexuals he is rather open about it, something which in Egypt, well in the Middle East actually is considered very taboo and in some places illegal. As editor of Le Caire, a French language daily newspaper Hatim is portrayed as very intellectual, cultured but above all human. My favorite quote from Hatim: "There are lots of people who pray and fast, but they steal and harm others. God will punish people like them. As for us, I’m sure God will pardon us because we are not hurting anyone. We just love each other.”

  • Hagg Muhammad Azzam: a migrant to Cairo who began life as a shoeshiner is now among the wealthiest men in Egypt. When his aging libido is given a second wind the Hagg seeks a second wife who he keeps hidden in the Yacoubian Building. It is understood that she is to sever ties with her son from her previous marriage and is under no circumstances to get pregnant in this second marriage. Hoping to serve in the People's Assembly, the Hagg is elected and learns first hand the corruption of politics and may actually lose more than he bargained for.

    I'm telling you this is the BEST book I've read so far this year. Why? Because it made me so angry! Aswany's portrayal of cruelty and injustice is so (hate to repeat myself) raw, this is not a sugar coated story with happy endings, well not for most anyway. It makes you realize that life can be a lot more miserable than you ever thought it could be. Having discussed this book with a friend of mine who happens to be gay I was kind of shocked on his feelings of the book. He thought it was a bit homophobic. But I think that's the point, Aswany is not saying "this is how I feel on the subject" he's showing the reader how it really is, right now, today. Besides homosexuality in Egypt is not the main focus of the book, it's only a small part of several social and political issues that Aswany brings to light. It would be like me getting upset that in the case of Buthayna, Aswany must be saying it's ok for male bosses to sexually harass their female employees, no he's not saying that he's just telling you how it is.

    Like so many other books this one has been made into a movie and on its debut in 2006 grossed over £E6,000,000, the biggest debut in Egyptian theatrical history. I'd be curious to see how the directors brought this wonderful "scandalous" book to the big screen and whether certain things were edited or toned down. If you've read the book I'd like to here from you (frankly I'd like to hear from anyone not many people post on my blog... hmmmm... hello? any readers out there?)

    Other Thoughts ::
    : you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

    . listening . rose-colored times . lisa loeb . tails .


    posted by Ashleigh @ 21:19, ,

  • random field notes

      ashleigh (ash'lė) n.
      1: egyptologist; currently living in the uk attempting to obtain a phd in egyptology, hoping in the end there will be a job.
      2: literary; reading to escape reality, to improve conversation, for inspiration.
      3: crafter; crocheting and needlework, creating heirlooms, keeping the world warm.
      4: dreamer; head in the clouds, full of fantasies, wishing to be someone else, somewhere else.
    This is a Flickr badge showing public photos and videos from random field notes. Make your own badge here.

    :: reading ::
    : Ivanhoe . Walter Scott
    : Schindler's Ark . Thomas Keneally
    : The Amber Spyglass . Philip Pullman
    : The Red Queen . Margaret Drabble
    : Un Lun Dun . China Miéville
    : A Handful of Dust . Evelyn Waugh
    : Adjunct: An Undigest . Peter Manson
    : A Kestral for a Knave . Barry Hines

    :: recently finished ::
    : Falling Man . Don DeLillo
    : Written on the Body . Jeanette Winterson
    : The Bell Jar . Sylvia Plath
    : No One Writes to the Colonel . Gabriel García Márquez
    : The Subtle Knife . Philip Pullman

    :: book rating ::
    5 : True Love
    4 : Like
    3 : Good
    2 : Ok
    1 : Why did I read this?

    :: challenges ::
    : 1% Well Read
    : 888 Challenge
    : Chunkster Challenge
    : Decades Challenge 2008
    : Novella Challenge
    : Once Upon A Time II
    : The Parisian Underworld
    : The Pub

    :: creating ::
    : sadly nothing at the moment

    :: recent posts ::
    : so what have you done since your last post?
    : 1001 books you must read before you die (2008 edit...
    : a longer break
    : bon voyage
    : six random things & childhood favorites
    : hmm what to call this
    : catch up
    : collecting book review links
    : 1% well read
    : fairy tale friday

    :: labels ::
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    : book review
    : challenge
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    : life
    : liverpool
    : movie
    : photos
    : quiz/meme
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    : weekly geeks

    :: archives ::
    : 2008
    01 :: 02 :: 03 :: 04 :: 05 :: 06

    :: blogroll ::

    :: bookish
    : 1 more chapter
    : a high and hidden place
    : a striped armchair
    : a work in progress
    : bookie
    : books please
    : eloise by the book pile
    : estella's revenge
    : eve's alexandria
    : the hidden side of a leaf
    : people reading
    : red room library
    : stainless steel droppings

    :: crafty
    : cosmicpluto knits
    : crazy aunt purl
    : how about orange
    : inside a black apple
    : ma petite théière
    : midnight knitter
    : not martha
    : posie gets cosy
    : ranger sarah
    : wild yarn
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    :: special
    : idyll thoughts