"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Scholar's Journey

Our friends departed London a few days ago. Since then I've upped sticks from Mayfair to Bloomsbury and have devoted myself to scholarly pursuits and pubbing and dining in familiar restaurants.

On my way to one of the reference libraries I frequent when here, I passed Landsdowne Terrace where, much to my surprise, I found goats and a single black sheep grazing!

On arrival I submitted the necessary paperwork and became a card-carrying London historian. While waiting for document services to provide me with a real-life character's 18th century last will and testament, I took a quick pic of my new possession with the web cam on my laptop.

From there I went to the Museum of London. For several years all the exhibition space after the Great Fire of 1660 has been off limits for a major renovation and re-interpretation, and the Modern London galleries opened a few months back.

The Plague Rat, however, is still on view!

I have loads of photos of the 17th & 18th century displays and may do up some webpages. For the time being, here's a pair of shoes that I would dearly love to have in my possession. I'm wearing red rather often just now.

A highlight of the exhibition is now what I can only call the Vauxhall Gardens experience, a re-creation of the famed London pleasure garden. The layout throws the visitor into the midst of the action, which takes place on screens all round in the form of "you are there" film scenarios. Here's the young rogue, a hungry gentleman and his wife and his daughter. Of course the older fellow complains about the expence of the chicken and the thinly sliced ham, and of course the rogue tries to tempt the young lady into the dark alleys. All the while, nightingales pierce the night with their song.

The costume cabinets show the attire of Vauxhall visitors.

The Lord Mayor's coach.

I began my Saturday at the British Library, where I have long held a Reader's Pass.

I accessed some important primary research material for my book, tied up some loose ends from last year's visit. Then I went to see the delightful production of Sheridan's The Rivals at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (where one of my main characters often performed.) The cast included Peter Bowles and Penelope Keith--an ideal Mrs Malaprop--and a most talented and lively and comic group of younger performers. This production, directed and produced by Sir Peter Hall, premiered at Bath (the setting of the action) and has toured regional theatres to great acclaim. It's popularity is much deserved. This is the second time in recent years we've seen Bowles at the Haymarket; last time he was playing Beau Brummell in the waning days of his career, and his sanity.

I happened to be seated by a couple of women who both were positive clones of Sybil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers. Their voices, their comments, their attire. I was almost in stitches listening to their chatter before the curtain rose, and during the interval, and as we were departing the theatre.

Every night so far I've dined in Mayfair, very well if I do say so, and despite the transfer to Bloomsbury in the evening I return to the old neighbourhood. Last night I had Spanish food, tonight French at my beloved Le Boudin Blanc. If there was an equivalent of a "reader's card" I'd have one. All we have to do is give our UK phone number, and our names pop up on their reservation computer screen. Bit of a celebrity crowd there this evening, which added to the experience.

One of the art galleries on Curzon Street is featuring these remarkable glittery objects--everyday objects, cameras mostly, refashioned in a very bling-y way. I particularly liked the sparkly typewriters, and one of them might turn into a blog header whenever I get round to it.

So much of England is having extremly heavy snowfall. No sign of it here. I wouldn't mind a bit, but would prefer it visit us after the forthcoming Tube strike has ended. I expect to be getting about on foot more than usual for a while. Apparently it's snowing at the Lodge as well. Well, 'tis the season....

I've got a UK mobile phone and phone number now. Very convenient. The Chap's had one for yonks.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Non-traditional Thanksgiving

In the years of my marriage, we have rarely spent Thanksgiving at home or even in the United States, last year being a rare-exception. More typically we've spent it in Bristol or London.

It has been a week of reunions, with longtime friends and newer ones. The day after our arrival, we hopped a train to Bath with our Friends From the North Country, aka the Newlyweds aka the Honeymooners, for a lunch party with the Chap's retired business partner. I'm not certain how to describe them...they used to be our Friends in Clifton, then they were our Friends in France, and now they will reside in both France and Britain, having purchased a new property in Bristol environs.

We had booked a table at Cafe du Globe, a wonderful Moroccan restaurant in the North Parade, for a protracted and festive lunch. We remained in town the rest of the day with the Honeymooners, who had never been there, giving them our version of The Tour.

We started at Bath Abbey.

And ended at the Royal Crescent.

And of course made sure they saw my favourite buildings!

They picked up some Christmas pressies for family before we hopped the train and returned to London, dining at my favourite pub.

In the dining room is a portrait with a dog who reminds me of Jewel.

And every time I visit the Wallace Collection, I gawp at this little dog, who reminds me of Ruth. Who likes to cuddle.

Yesterday the Honeymooners had a list of Things They Wanted to Do and Places They Needed to See. So I guided them around. We began at King's Cross Rail Station, and the famous Platform 9 & 3/4, where Harry Potter and his mates catch the Hogwarts Express. We went over to the British Library nearby, where I spend so many hours in research, to explore the treasures in the permanent exhibition. Some of which include the Codex Sinaiticus, Jane Austen manuscripts and her writing desk, the first draft and the libretto of Handel's Messiah, handwritten lyrics by the Beatles, the Magna Carta, Lindisfarne Gospels, Sherburne Missal, and so much more.

After a quick lunch we met the Chap back at St. James's, Piccadilly, for a midday concert by a remarkable and truly gifted soprano. It's a very familiar place, we've sometimes attended Sunday services there, and the acoustics are amazing. Here is the organ loft.

The Chap had bought me a new UK mobile phone. That might explain why I'm smiling as I pose here in St. James's Square. Or it could be because it's a place so closely associated with characters in several of my novels.

One of the Honeymooners wanted to purchase some cd's at HMV (check), the other wanted to see the French Impressionists at the National Gallery (check), and I wanted them to see Cecil Court (check). And then we met the Chap a the Wallace Collection for a quick view. And then on to yet another favourite drinking establishment, for a pint and a catch-up before dinner.

On our way to the restaurant I paused and posed for a necessary photo.

We had the best Indian meal ever in London, I think. We had high hopes, knowing the place well, and they were exceeded. The restaurant had moved premises and re-hired their former chef, and we couldn't have been more pleased!

A very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone Stateside. We are mindful of our blessings, and oh, so grateful. And I like remembering that Ruth & Jewel will be eating roast turkey today even though we won't be!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Lodge-y Saturday

A brisk but bright day, lots of brown leaves blowing about, thoroughly seasonal

I eased slowly into the morning, despite having places to go, things to do.

Well, really only one place and just a couple of things!

Jewel and Ruth staged a dogfight in our bedroom.

Wee Ruth prevails...but only because lazy Jewel preferred a nap!

Hope your weekend is exactly as you might wish it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Easy Living

No, I don't actually own a pair of bunny slippers. I've got some sock monkey slippers and woollen clogs and mukkluks. They've all been getting a lot of use lately by this lady of leisure. I spend my time knitting, reading, on not-very-arduous research and trip planning, in the jacuzzi, cooking and baking. I'm trying out at least 2 new recipes a week, all of them wonderful so far and now added to the repertoire.

Oh, and I have the occasional chat-up with a reporter about the Bishop's announcement. Most recently, it was for an LA Times article.

My official legislative Vice Chair licence plates have been removed from my Honourable vehicle. On Thursday I enjoyed some anonymous, apolitical driving round the Capitol Region. I could've left them on till the end of the year...but what would be the point? I'm no longer doing anything official.

Our Friend From the North Country and her husband are honeymooning in Rome, and having a terrific time sightseeing. About time they had a wedding trip, they've been married since late July! She's suppposed to update her blog with travel pics.... She hasn't posted since her trip to Jerusalem, where she got all distracted by falling in love!

We've been enjoying some really nice weather, mild and bright. It won't last, but it's certainly pleasant while it does.

The Chap donated one of the woollen scarves I knitted to a winter-themed gift basket put together by his department at work. I hope the recipient enjoys it.

We finally got round to watching the Keira Knightley/Ralph Fiennes film, The Duchess. I happen to be extremely familiar with the source material, having researched Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and her contemporaries in society and in the theatrical realm. The film was lovely to look at. The facts that got left out would've made a much better story, but it was sufficient entertainment for a Saturday evening at the Lodge. Ruth and Jewel slept through it, except when the Duke's dogs were barking.

I intend to blog more than once a week. No, really!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Last Week

So much has happened since last I shared my activities. I've had some very busy time and plenty of quiet reflective time which has made for a good balance. If I had several meetings crammed into an afternoon, either the day before or the day after I had a completely free day at home which I could spend with an entertaining comfort read, in the jacuzzi tub, or doing creative and new and special meals in the kitchen.

Tuesday's elections had a profound impact on my colleagues in the State House--of both parties. It was a change election, as often happens in these polarised times. I wasn't part of it in this cycle, having decided last spring not to seek re-election for a host of reasons. Many of my friends--in both parties--are surpised and dismayed not to be elected, others perhaps regret that they were elected, other will be relieved, some are elated, and all face a lot of uncertainty about the next Legislation. I'm a very bi-partisan girl at heart, feeling goodwill and frustration towards colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I was blessed to serve on and eventually co-chair a non-partisan committee. Although I've charted my political activities through this blog from time to time, I made a deliberate choice not to be political and that won't change now. So my very mixed reactions to all that happened, whether nationally or locally, will remain private.

And I've had other matters taking up my time and my emotional energy. As with my work as a state representative, I do refer at times to my ministry within the Diocese of New Hampshire,without delving into matters religious or spiritual. I was part of the Search & Nomination Committee prior to the election of our current bishop. I'm moderator of the Council, serve on various committees, attended the triennial General Convention in 2009 as a lay deputy, and ever since his consecration have been blessed to work closely for and with our Bishop.

Late this week I learned that he has chosen to retire at the start of 2013. I shall not share how I learned, except to say that I did know in advance of yesterday's annual diocesan convention. On Friday I was authorised to speak to a New York Times reporter, for a story that was embargoed until Saturday evening, after the adjournment of our convention. (A brief quote of mine made it into the online edition.)

Let me confess here that I truly love convention. For me, it's just a big, busy family reunion, a chance to see and visit with people I know and many I dearly love who are scattered throughout this state in amazing congregations. We had a fantastic Part 1 of the Bishop's address, a creative and wonderful Eucharist, the release of our new 2-part Evangelism Toolkit and debut of a cool video about it, a United Thank Offering in-gathering, collection of toys and gifts for children of incarcerated parents, and the installation of a new Canon for Lay Leadership (yay!) We had some diocesan positions to fill by balloting...I'm happy to report that the Chap was elected to something. He was uncontested so we felt pretty sure he would prevail!

And eventually, as an officer of convention, I had a significant duty to perform as moderator of our legislative session. Despite a few forays into parliamentary thorns, the discussion of our 8 resolutions and the voting went fairly smoothly overall and directly preceded Part 2 of the Bishop's address, in which he announced his plan for retirement.

During his address from podium, I was still seated at the high table with the Chancellor and the Secretary of Convention, facing two hundred-plus people who were receiving an unexpected message. It was an experience I shall never forget--emotional, to be sure, and tearful for nearly everybody, including him. But also lovely, and a moment filled with mutual care and consideration.

An AP photographer captured this meaningful moment of mine with the Bishop, just before my husband and I departed the convention hall.

This image appears in various postings and printings of the AP story filed by Rachel Zoll last night. In some places it ran wtih an identifying caption...including my own hometown. Meaning my parents probably saw it at breakfast, long before receiving my email with a link to the full article. (Thanks HWH for the evidence posted below!)

I know the final two years of his episcopate will be busy and productive. Although we aren't by any means in the "goodbye" stages of his time with us, the calling of a new bishop takes about 2 years (trust me, I know it all too well, by experience!) To retire at the desired time, he needed to initiate the extensive process with the announcement of his decision.

Oh--my name was on the ballot this week, after all. I was one of the candidates to be lay deputy at the 2012 General Convention of the church, and again was chosen to represent the people of my diocese. The surreal aspect of this development is that GC 2012, our diocese will be requesting the Convention's consent to the consecration of our next bishop. Something I did not know or imagine possible when I submitted my candidacy papers. Strange and wonderful--at least to me.

The news about the Bishop and other aspects of our common life were shared at church this morning. This afternoon the Chap and I have a lunch date planned at our fave Mexican restaurant in Manchester.

I hope you are enjoying your weekend.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Vampire Dogs

The girls do a nightly performance of feral thrills, chills, growls, neck-biting, and teeth-clashing. I decided to capture it on film.