Friday, July 31, 2015

A Skype Date with Sheldon

Dear Friends,

Today I had a precious 30 minutes to Skype with my boyfriend, Sheldon. We have been apart for the past month and a half because I have been home in the Czech Republic with my family and he is in the States working at a landscaping firm. The time we get to spend talking are very precious and rare, due to the time difference and his busy schedule.

When we finally do get to sit down and talk over our computers the conversation usually takes this form:

1) Remembering What They Look Like: A few moments of smiling and saying how good it is to see the other person's face, because we forgot what they looked like. There might be some comments from my side about how I think Sheldon's hair is doing: "It needs cutting" or "It looks pretty good!" He might say something very kind about how I look pretty, even though I feel like the web camera makes me look weird.




2) Confused Silence: Then for several seconds (sometimes minutes, if we are feeling particularly awkward) we don't really have anything to talk about. This is strange, because usually we feel like we have so much to say to the other persona and we wish they were there to say it to. This is the time when all of the important stuff disappears from our minds and we have to ask each other, "How are you?" repeatedly until someone thinks of a good topic of conversation.




3) Actual Conversation:Now we will have finally gotten over the worst of the awkwardness and have hopefully made progress with some sort of topic. Today it was "Why Sheldon Doesn't Like Dogs". This was a productive topic, because we were able to fully uncover some of Sheldon's grievances with dogs (main objections being "They are gross" and "They are covered in hair and the hair gets all over") as well as examine a variety of our shared dog acquaintances to discuss the pros and cons of each.




4) Silly Randomness: There comes a stage of our conversation which gets a little silly. This is often my fault if I am in a silly mood. The silliness in this instance involved me chastising Sheldon for choosing saltwater taffy as his favourite candy.

LR: That is a terrible choice for a favourite candy.
S: I am sorry you feel that way. That's just too bad.
LR: It is terrible because it is so hard to chew and you can never count on the consistency. It can be hard as rock one time and then soft and messy the next. Plus the flavours are gross.
S: Well, it is still my favourite. 

Yup. Things get pretty crazy on our Skype dates.




5) Hard Goodbyes: The last step is the Saying Goodbye part. This is tough because I hate saying goodbye. That is the moment when the faint illusion Skype has created which makes you think that the person is actually in the room with you bursts. Then you really are sitting alone at your desk, which is covered in the papers you still haven't cleaned up since you finished your homework a couple of days ago. Usually it takes a few tries before we actually push the red hang-up button and burst the bubble. Sigh.




So there you have it! That is what a Skype date with Sheldon is like. Oh, and just to be clear, sometimes we actually do talk about more important stuff than dogs and candy. But since we dealt with some of that last time we felt free to be a little more frivolous.

Have a great day!

Love,
Lucy Rose

PS
Here is a random post about the time I got CPR certified.
Here is another random post about the time I visited my grandparents in Texas.
Here is yet another random post about meeting up with an old friend.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Body Image, Spas and a New Game

Dear Friends,

Today I went to a Polish spa with my younger brothers and mother. My dad is coming back from a trip tomorrow, and it's been a long couple of weeks without him. So we needed to get out of the house so that my mom would survive the last day. This spa has been an old favourite of ours. We go there for a couple hours to enjoy the pool, mineral hot tubs and sauna.

My mother, Paul Hugh and I took turns spending 40 minutes in the pool with Isaac, my eight-year-old brother. When it was my turn I watched him practice underwater handstands. He held my glasses while I showed him how to do it. We went into a pool with waves and he held onto my neck, because he gets scared of water sometimes.

While we were there I started thinking about the way that people here think about bodies compared with the way they think about it in the States. People here in Poland and Czech are pretty comfortable with their bodies. At the spa there were a few young fit people who had great bodies, but most of them actually were middle aged or older or sometimes just lumpy. Most of the women wear two piece swimsuits regardless of their shape. People just don't care and the guys let their beer-bellies hang out.

When I first moved to Czech this was a shock to me. I was very uncomfortable in my class when we would change for gym. I was uncomfortable in the sauna when our class went to the local pool and had mandatory sauna time afterward. But gradually I think I have become way more comfortable with being around people who, frankly, aren't wearing a whole lot of clothing. Part of the reason I am comfortable with it, is the fact that nobody else cares one bit.

To be perfectly honest, there are times when I don't want to wear my swimsuit. Today I told my mom that I didn't want my bacne to show in my scoop-backed suit. She was like, "Don't worry about it. The sauna will do your skin good. And besides, no one cares."

Thanks, Mom.

Love,
Lucy Rose

PS
Here are some photos from today. I invented a new game. The game is called "Your Head is a Piece of Bread". This is an exciting game which we played with a strange and perfectly round piece of breasd. The rules are that you hold the object out and squint one eye to make it look like the person has a piece of bread for a head. this game is especially exciting, because, as Isaac discovered, you can do it with any object: a salt shaker, a lemon wedge, a cucumber...you get the picture.












PPS
Here is an old post about my favourite family vacation a few years ago. XOXO

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Finished with Paper Writing!!!

Hi Guys!

This is the photo I posted to Facebook in celebration of handing in my final three papers for our England program.

I expect to return to my blogging duties shortly.

See you soon!

Love,
Lucy Rose


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Abducted by Frankenstein's Monster

Dear People,

I have been abducted by Frankenstein's Monster (or "Creature", if you want to be politically correct). 

Well, OK, maybe not. But I guess that is just my dramatic way of saying that I have been absorbed in writing a research paper on Frankenstein and unable to leave the house. I haven't spoken to anyone besides my mother and brother for four or five days. 

"Have you showered or exercised, Lucy Rose?" 

Good question. Let's move on...

There actually is a good analogy to my paper writing and Victor Frankenstein's creation of The Creature. He locked himself away from the world and devoted himself solely to his experiment while he ignored all family and friends. That is me. I feel like this paper is as hideous as The Creature and has isolated me as much as Victor. 

The upshot of this is that my blog post for today is scanty. Sorry, guys. I have to beat this paper. I must discover the origins of human life...I MUST CREATE LIFE! I must make YOU LIVE! LIVE! MONSTER! LIVE! 




While we are talking about Frankenstein I must share a short scene from my favourite film adaption of the novel: Young Frankenstein. It is a genius comedy directed by Mel Brooks and featuring one of my favourite comediennes of all time Madeline Kahn.




Hopefully, I will see you tomorrow. 

Love,
Victor
Ahem. 
I mean Lucy Rose. 

PS Now is a good chance for you to read up on some of my old posts. 
Here are some of my drawings from last summer. 
Here is a series of drawings from last summer about the things for which I was grateful. 
Here is a random post about a time I went to Chicago and got rained on. 

PPS
This song is my jam today. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Little Lucy's Literary Crushes

Dear Friends,

Did you ever have a crush on a character from a book? I totally have. As a young girl there were several book characters who captured my imagination and whom I considered to be fine specimens of manhood. I thought that if they existed in real life I would hopefully marry one of them. I share them down below in chronological order my encounter with them.

Here are my top three literary crushes from my early years:

1.



Character: Henry Huggins
Author: Beverly Cleary
Books: Henry Huggins, Henry and Ribsy, Ramona the Pest (here Henry does not have a large part, but he is older...and cuter)
My Age: 6-7
Quote: 
"Henry Huggins was in the third grade. His hair looked like a scrubbing brush and most of his grown-up front teeth were in. He lived with his mother and father in a square white house on Klikitat Street. Except for having his tonsils out when he was six and breaking his arm falling out of a cherry tree when he was seven, nothing much ahppened to Henry."
-Beverly Cleary, Henry Huggins

Attractive Qualities: I loved Henry, because he was fun, creative and just a plain nice guy. He liked to build cool things like a clubhouse and he would have adventures in his ordinary American suburb. I have always found guys who make stuff to be pretty attractive. He was also nice to girls and very loving to animals, especially his dog Ribsy. I love the old illustrations by Louis Darling.

I was introduced to Beverly Cleary's children's novels at around age six or seven. I loved Henry before I loved Cleary's more well-known character Ramona Quimby. My favourite thing to do ever at age six or seven was to sit and listen to Henry Huggins on tape as read by Stockard Channing.

2

Character: Samwise Gamgee
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Books: The Lord of the Rings
My Age: 8-9
Quote: 
‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam. ‘Don’t you leave him! they said to me. Leave him! I said. I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon, and if any of those Black Rulers try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said. They laughed.’ 
-JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Attractive Qualities: I loved Sam dearly from the first time my parents read us LOTR when I was around eight or nine. I loved him, because he was so loyal to Frodo. I thought that his kindness and stubbornness with regards to remaining faithful and brave were totally awesome. I always wanted to play Sam when we played our LOTR board game.

I was also attracted to Sam's profession as a gardener and someone who cared about earthy and domestic things like dirt and potatoes. I like his practicality.

My mother and I compared notes on LOTR crushes. She said that when she was young she adored Aragorn. She said that it took her a long time to like Sam, because he was simple and annoying! Humph! Excuse you!

3.

Character: Klaus Baudelaire
Author: Lemony Snicket
Books: The Series of Unfortunate Events
My Age: 11-12
Quote:
“Being only twelve, Klaus of course had not read all the books in the Baudelaire library, but he had read a great many of them and had retained a lot of the information from his readings. He knew how to tell an alligator from a crocodile. He knew who killed Julius Caesar. And he knew much about the tiny, slimy animals found at Briny Beach, which he was examining now.” 

-Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning 

Attractive Qualities: I was obsessed with The Series of Unfortunate Events in middle school. I thought they were so cool and so clever. I loved the dark tone of the books and the prospect of a conspiracy to uncover which pervades the series. I also adored the illustrations and style designed by Brett Helquist, who remains one of my favourite illustrators today. I actually think my style has evolved to resemble his on occasion.

I loved Klaus. He was a lot like me in many ways: He wore glasses, was a middle child (he the middle of two sisters and I of two brothers), and he read incessantly. Those were three things which built a huge part of my identity in middle school. HE also carried around a thing which he called a "common place book". He wrote everything of importance down in it. I was inspired to do the same thing and ever since reading SOUE I have kept a common place book of some sort.

Who is you literary crush? Post a comment below to tell me!

PS
Here is a post about some of my favourite children's books.
Here is another book-related post.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Frýdlant Journals: Seven - Feeling Dorky







Random Bonus: This song is my jam today. Hooray for music! 

PS 
Here a super old summertime post about gardening.  
Here is a slightly less old one about my summer job in high school. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Frýdlant Journals: Six - Weird Leftovers

Dear Friends,

Today my mother purchased groceries. We had to make room in the fridge for the beautiful bowl of summer blueberries and the new lettuce. As my mother unloaded the bags I frantically searched for things from the fridge which we could get rid of. I found several visually and olfactorally (this is not a real word, but now it is because it is on the internet) arresting items.

These items were fascinating. They had vibrant colours and textures. I took photos of them so that I could paint them later. I just finished the paintings. I tried to make them all in watercolour, but it was taking too long and I found my skills were insufficient to capture the beauty of the weird leftovers. 

Here are my feeble attempts:

1. Squid?: This leftover was old marinated squid. The squid was trapped in its own hard, yellow lard. When I scooped it out of the tupperware it looked like a hunk of white chocolate, which, incidentally is my dad's favourite kind. He also loves squid (which is why we had some in the fridge). I think he would probably love squid chocolate. 

For this drawing I started out with some watercolour contours. The yellow, brown and the outline of the blue tupperware were painted in a one-layer wash. Then I went over them in a woodless watercolour pencil. I left plenty of the watercolour shining through. 




2. Tomato Stuff?: This is an odd, unidentifiable red substance. My guess is something tomato-related. That is pure conjecture based on the colour. I did not have the courage to smell. I don't know why this got put back in the fridge since there was literally nothing inside this tupperware beyond a couple of smears of goo. 

I was drawn to this piece artistically, because of the reflective quality of the gunge. I appreciated the way the slimy surface caught the light and the glowing, translucence of the red. I tried to paint it and ended up going over it in a couple layers of pencil and paint. Unfortunately, I don't think I was able to capture the splendour of the actual leftover. 



3. A Cheese?: When I smelled this seemingly harmless cheese leftover my nose was arrested by the pungent smell. It smelled like a cheese, but I couldn't be sure that the strong smell was the one it was supposed to have. Some cheeses do not smell good, but that is the way they are supposed to be. Do you know what I mean? My parents, especially my dad, have a love of strong smelling cheeses. I requested the aid of my mother's superior smelling abilities. She has a wonderful sense of smell and she determined that this was the incorrect smell. The cheese, according to her, had been a part of a giant block of Mozzarella. "We got this huge block from Makro and we actually managed to eat most of it. We couldn't eat it fast enough, though. Oh well. Better toss it." 

Yup. That's our family. A big achievement for us is almost eating a giant block of cheese. Together. 

I liked how this rotting leftover had structural appeal. While the previous two leftovers are primarily amorphous substances, the blocks had shape and perspective. I also was intrigued that it managed to become a different kind of aged cheese over a long period of time. I used a Sharpie to outline the contours of the blocks of cheese, which were initially painted in a light yellow wash. 




Have you found any lovely leftovers in your fridges lately? Feel free to post a comment and describe them! 

Love,
Lucy Rose 

PS My mother is a wonderful housekeeper. Let not these leftovers give you the wrong impression.

PPS
Here is another food related post.
Here can see a very special painting which was made using food as paint.
Here is a photo of a giant cookie that I decorated. 

A Lost Frýdlant Journal - First Day Back

Good Day, Friends,

I found a journal entry that I did not post at the time, so I thought I would share it with you retroactively. It is from one of my first days back in Frýdlant. 

Enjoy!
LR








Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Frýdlant Journals: Five - Watercolours of My Yard

Dear Humans,

It is day two of feeling wan and PMS-y, but I have rallied a bit more than yesterday. Mostly because I couldn't stand the idea of having to tell you folks that I was just as unproductive today as I was yesterday.

I spent some of the morning and afternoon playing with watercolours. I took a few photos last around my yard last night using my last screeds of energy and phone battery. Today I tried converting some of the images into watercolour paintings. I haven't done anything very serious in watercolour for a while. I have mostly been using it as a splash of colour for my journal illustrations. That doesn't require proper use of the technique, though--I just dab it on randomly.

Here are three of my brief pictures from today:

1. This painting is of one of our garage windows and some spare logs. I like the way that the logs turned out. The key with watercolour is to put the darker colours, such as the blue shadows of the logs, on last. I started with the light shades of the walls and then I added started to build up the logs with washes of orange and brown. When the washes were dry, then I added some darker contours and detail. I also had trouble with the window. It got a little overwrought with too many layers.


 2. This is of the big, round lightbulb above our garage door. I had toruble manipulating the paper in this painting, because I was using notebook paper instead of watercolour paper. Watercolour paper is designed to be able to absorb several washes of colour and to withstand the friction of the brush without pilling. You can see that under the lightbulb the paper got too soaked and a bit messy. I like the colours, though.

Also, this might not actually count as "watercolour" because I used a white paint for the lightbulb. Technically, there should be no use of white paint in watercolour--the white should come from the paper shining through the gaps in the paint. It is a mark of proficiency to be able to plan carefully enough to do this. It also maintains the airy, translucent feel that watercolour is meant to have. What I have done should probably be categorised as "gouache".


3. This is a small landscape of the view from our kitchen window. I do not love the way the strands of the telephone pole turned out. But the washes of blue actually photographed well. I think this painting has more value when photographed than in real life. Sorry to disillusion you!


Love,
LR

PS
Check out these extremely old watercolour experimentations of mine! Or these...Wow. That feels like so long ago. It was just at the time when I was beginning to apply for art college.

You can also get caught up on my five-part series of Sketching Tips. It is very educational. You receive two college credits for reading it! Hooray! Free college credits!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Frýdlant Journals: Four - PMS Time

Dear Friends,

Today I felt extremely weak and tired. I have a day like this once a month, if you get my gist. On such a day I feel inexplicably tired and as though I am moving through a cloud of fog. I have zero energy and if I have responsibilities like school then it is all I can do to keep doing my work. Luckily I am on holiday and I don't have any responsibilities...except for three big papers still due for the Wheaton in England program...but I still have, like, ten days for that! No rush.

So, I woke up late and slowly folded all the clothes that were on my floor. That was it for productivity. Then I watched the end of the first season of Broadchurch and napped. It is a great show which was filmed around the area where we stayed for two weeks in England. Check out my journals from that stay in Beer.

I like Broadchurch, because it has a couple of my favourite British actors in it: Olivia Colman and David Tennant (The tenth Doctor Who). I also love the cinematography, which makes a normal English town seem foreboding and dark, but also beautiful. The camera has a way of playing with the horizontal nature of the jurassic cliff landscape and echoing those lines in the focus on household furniture or houses. All the while you really have the sense that the characters and the place are real--especially if you have spent a good chuck of time in a town very similar like we did in Beer. The community is so tiny and by the time we left I knew several people by name.




I usually get a bit more energy in the evenings and am able to hang with the family. So we Skyped my grandparents, ate dinner and watched an episode of Phineas and Ferb, which is a surprisingly funny cartoon.







Goodnight, Blog Peeps! 

Love,
Lucy Rose



Sunday, July 19, 2015

Frýdlant Journals: Three - Photoshoot From Run

Hello Friends,

Since being back home in Frýdlant, where I spent 10 years of my life (age 11-21), I have felt like taking photos of everything. All of a sudden my hometown has become this fascinating visual experience that it never was when I lived here. It was just the place where I trudged up the hill every day after school and where I would ride my bike to get ice cream in town or go goof off by the river.

I did appreciate some aspects of it when I lived here--I was not immune to the beauty of our small, valley town, but I didn't find the same joy in the sight of strange socialist architecture or crumbling cement sidewalks. Our town has been working very hard to update its look and restore buildings which scream "Communism Was Here...Yesterday!" Apartment blocks are painted with cheery colours and we got a new bridge last year.

I think my newfound interest Frýdlant as a visual experience is a sign of the fact that I am drawing further and further away from its being my home. It is hard to admit, because my roots here feel very deep, but I feel like my home is more and more with Sheldon and less with Frýdlant.

Here are some photos I took on my run this evening. Be nice. I took them on my phone.

Love,
LR






















Bonus: Here is a long lost photo of me as a twelve-year-old. This is the second year of our living in the Czech Republic. I got the fab skirt at the UK TK Maxx and my raincoat in England on holiday. Paul Hugh is about nine in this photo. He is wearing the sweatshirt our older brother brought back form his class trip to Washington DC the year before we moved from Illinois.





My First Illustration Friday Post!

Hey Pals,

Yesterday I posted my first drawing to the website Illustration Friday. Each week the site chooses a topic and then hundreds of illustrators can post their illustrative interpretation of that topic. This week's theme was "Treasure". 

Here is my contribution:




I used a felt tip pen in a size 0.3. To draw the hands I took photos of my own hands in the position I wanted. For one of them I had my little brother Isaac take the photo. I am most pleased with the hands in the third panel, because they look fairly anatomically correct, while still being loosely drawn. The second hand is too rigid and I feel like you can kinda tell that I was working from a photo. Does that make sense?

My goal is to become a regular artist on Illustration Friday. You guys can hold me to it. Politely. I know how crazy vicious all you readers can get.

Love,
Lucy Rose

Friday, July 17, 2015

Frýdlant Journals: One - At Home



Back Home in the Czech Republic

Dear Friends,

I am home at last. I have been here for about three days. They have been sweet days in which I have only been with my family and around the house. I have slept in my own little room (that makes me think of this song from the old Cinderella musical...), picked cherries form our tree and eaten them for breakfast, gone on a run with my little brother (by little I mean younger, because he is actually a large man) and read a book for fun (what!!!???). 

I am trying to figure out my family's scanner in order to post my journal entries, but until I figure it out I will share this video with you. I took it on the train from Prague to Ostrava in the Czech Republic. I intended it to be for my fellow students who went to England with me and frequently asked about what my homeland looks like. 

The last shot has my father in it. He is pretending that he doesn't notice me filming him. 





Love,
Lucy Rose 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

England: Alternative Perspectives

Dear Friends,

Are you interested in reading multiple eprspectives about my group's time in England? I am not the only person out of our class of 35 to keep a blog about the time. Becasue we are a group of English majors there are many writers among us.

Here is a list of some of the other blogs:

1) A Chapter Called England: Carolyn was in my writing gorup for our Travel Writing class. Her style of writing is exuberant and full of passion. Everything she experiences goes straight to her heart and flows out through her pen. Her special love is Shakespeare and the theatre. Read her thoughts about The Bard!

2) Rachel's Rambles: During our reading of Pygmalion, Rachel assumed the role of "Sarcastic Bystander". After having spent a good deal of time with this young woman I can say that this acurately describes Rachel. In her blog, however, she is the central figure through whom we experience England. She narrates what she sees with humour, attention to detail and poetry. I got to be featured as a character in this post about a "sunrise" walk on the cliffs of Beer.

3) The Write Things: Ciera writes even when not travelling. She brings her love of literature and sharp critical thinking to her blog. She is a smart cookie who also appreciates photography and moments of beauty. But I really love her recent snarky post about 12 Things I Won't Miss About England. 

4) Further Up and Further In: Francesca uses her quiet humour to evaluate her time in England. I love the way she brings her observations into thoughtful musings about things like viewing everything idealistically or England living up to our expectaions. I giggled at the combination of truth and humour in this post about "Truths Universally Acknowledged".

5) I Want Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere: Lauren writes incrediblly detailed and thoughtful posts from her sweet, keen perspective. I appreciate the time she puts into docuemnting our time faithfully and with an emphasis on her integration of our experiences and the sights we saw with her own faith. I like this post about our time in Beer.

I am on my way home to the Czech Republic. In a couple hours I board the plane. Currently I am sitting in a black leather chair overlooking the tarmac at the Dublin airport. At this airport I split from the gorup who is headed back to Chicago. I stationed myself at a corner of the path to customs and bid people awkward goodbyes. They were awkward because I know I will see them in a few weeks time anyway, but this is also the end of a shared thing. We may return to school and not talk much, whereas, here in England, I came into contact with most of our group at least once a day.

Well, goodbye for now, Friends. I will come back soon. In the mean time enjoy the links and get to know some of the other bloggers from the trip!

Love,
Lucy Rose



Monday, July 13, 2015

England: Manchester, Final Day

Dear Friends,

I am in a hotel in Manchester. Members of our group are scattered all over the hotel’s cafe reading, trying to connect to the internet or chatting with one another. This airport hotel is just another fine institution upon which we have descended in full force. We are bedraggled and creased from a two hour bus ride in which we sat stewing in our own damp clothes after we had waited for twenty minutes in the rain for the bus. We didn’t actually mind the wait in the rain that much because it gave us time to say a properly drippy goodbye to the Windermere lake and to the hills surrounding it. 

I walked out to the dock that juts out at the base of our hostel. I had my turquoise leather shoes on, which I am still planning on throwing away in a few hours when this trip ends. They got a hole in the sole when we tramped around on the moors behind the Bronte’s house and now rainwater is flowing in through that hole. Is that a metaphor? “The rain of life flows through the holes in the shoes of travelling…”

OK. Wheaton in England is over and I am feeling a little loopy. This trip has been a whirlwind of experiences. 

Some favourites:
  1. Running along the Thames in the early morning and watching the sun glitter above St. Paul’s Cathedral. 
  2. Sneaking off to a Costa Coffee in Canterbury as soon as the coach dropepd us off in order to write an email to Sheldon. 
  3. Walking along the coastal paths of Beer in the evening. 
  4. Visiting Jane Austen’s home and pretending to be her while walking through her gardens. 
  5. Sitting with my fellow students and reading Pygmalion aloud complete with accents (a range of skill was exhibitied—from very skillful to incredibally poor. We are talking about “cockney” accent whcih freely flowed into a southern drawl.)
  6. English breaksfast at every single hostel. Yes, 80% of it was from a can, but I actually love canned things. 
  7. Tea and toast time! I have Lily and Elena, two girls from thsi trip to thank for this almost nightly ritual of eating and preparing tea and toast and eating it with whoever was around at that time. 
I will be back in the Czech Republic tomorrow afternoon. I cannot wait to see my dad when he picks me up in Prague. 


Last thing I will do before leaving: Throw away my turquoise shoes. 












Saturday, July 11, 2015

England: Stonehenge Part Two

Anyway, I thought that I was going to learn some new things about Stonehenge, but I didn’t. I tried and failed to switch the device back to English. In the end I ditched the audio guide and let it hang from my neck like a nineties-era mobile phone on a string. Super cute. 
My Polish audioguide and I were swept along in the herd by the demarcated path around the stone configuration and I tried not to feel stupid, but I just felt like a sheep. We were part of  the Stonehenge herd (which is a fitting analogy because all the surrounding area of Stonehenge is farmlands and smells like it). I felt a small kernel of comfort from my Polish audioguide. Even though we couldn’t communicate very well, we were both foreigners and our friendship made me different from all the losers with boring old English audioguides. I was like Paul-Hugh taking pleasure in sounds only I could understand—wanting to be different and better. But I was failing. 

I tried to tell myself that I should just embrace the experience—there’s no shame in being a tourist. But the farther I crept along the packed path the more I realised that my problem wasn’t in being an uncool tourist amongst all the other uncool tourists. I was thrilled as punch to be one of a large flock of tourists at Anne Hathaway’s house in Stratford Upon Avon. I was totally cool with trailing along in a herd when we visited Coventry Cathedral. Why was Stonehenge different? I think that the reason was that I didn’t have to try. The site was so carefully managed that I barely had to exert any brainpower in order to explore. Even if I had tried to explore the Stonehenge site I probably would have been aggressively discouraged. My only option was to stay on the path which gently curved at a good twenty foot distance from the actual rocks. That and attempt to interpret Polish. 

I finally found a patch of grass to sit on. I had The Henge and a constant stream of tourists before me. I could let my Polish audioguide rest beside me on the grass for a few moments and I sketched some of the tourists. That was where Sophia and Nate found me. We all sat in the grass commenting on tourists until we realised that we had one hour before our bus left. I suggested that we walk back instead of the the three minute bus ride. Nate opted out because he had an interest in the museum, but Sophia was game. 

We marched away from Stonehenge past the wimpy bus riding tourists, the parking lot and lone man selling strawberries and toward the large mounds in the distance. My feet felt lighter and glad to free to walk wherever they chose instead of along the narrow path. Sophie kindly allowed me to put my audioguide in her purse along with her own English one, which she had never even turned on. The only trouble with forging a new path back to the museum was the amount of cow poop. While we were free to walk wherever we please, there was still lots of places we didn’t want to step. 

We felt like our ramble through the pastures called for a “The hills are alive” moment like in the musical The Sound of Music when Julie Andrews sings and dances on the hills of Austria. Sophia pulled up some Indian electronica on her on her phone and played it over the mediocre speakers. It was the closest thing she had to epic, hill sweeping music. It got swallowed in the huge space of field and sky, but we pranced as Julie-like as we could manage while still dodging cow pies.
The beginning of The Roof Climber’s Guide to Cambridge begins with a quote by Horace which translates from Latin to mean, “That place and the hilltops summon you with me”. 
The quote is taken from an ode that Horace wrote to a friend trying to persuade him not to go to war, but instead to come away and reside on the hills. The idea of the hills summoning a person makes me think of, well, Julie Andrews singing to the hills, but also of The Hugh. For him it was buildings at night, rather than hills, which summoned him. The leader of the Cambridge Climbers, Geoffrey Winthrop Young, once gave a list of the reasons why he climbed buildings at night: “The sheer enjoyment of climbing roofs and spires, spiced by the extra thrill of unlawful adventure; the happy companionship of my fellow conspirators; the satisfaction from reaching the lofty goals that we had set; and the sublime beauty of the college buildings from the rooftops by midnight.” 

Although Sophie and I did not have the added thrill of trespassing, we felt those things too—the “sheer enjoyment” of galloping like large, giddy school girls , happy companionship of being together, the satisfaction of blazing a trail through the field and leaving our bus-bound colleagues to wander a museum without us and the sublime beauty of the fields and sky. 

Both Paul-Hugh and I both started out on our excursions to climb buildings and to wander the fields instead of a museum with the intent to stand out from the rest of the sheep. We craved to rise above the teeming crowd of suckers, like the man in the painting called Wanderer Above the Sea Cloud by Kaspar David Friedrich. In it a man in a suit with a walking stick stands upon a mountain top and looks down at the swirling clouds below. He is alone and master of the universe below. It is a painting well suited to many narratives, but especially those which deal with people trying to be exceptional. I know this because it was on the cover of both my copy of Frankenstein and our family’s copy of The Birth of the Modern

It works for me too as it symbolises my desire to get out of the crowd and stand on a rock, rather than twenty feet away from one on a tiny path with a hundred other toruists. By walking across the huge field instead of taking the bus Sophie and I did end up getting away from the other tourists, but the farther we trudged away form Stonehenge, the less I cared about rising above anyone. It was more about enjoying my friend’s company being on the hills and impersonating Julie Andrews.

Friday, July 10, 2015

England: Stonehenge Part One

Dearest People,

I haven't been eaten by the Britons! Hooray! I am not dead yet! I disappeared because we have been staying in places with not internet. But now I have some and I will share this piece of writing with you that I did for my Travel Writing class. \it is super long so I will post it in two parts.

Enjoy!

Love,
Lucy Rose

Night Climbers, Stonehenge and Julie Andrews 
Part One

My younger brother Paul-Hugh is a night climber. He and his band of friends have tried to climb most of the buildings in our small town in the the Czech Republic. When we were both teenagers and living at home, there were evenings when cleanup from the family meal would drag on and he would get impatient to finish so that he could go climb. Our cleanup process was complex and lengthy— each family member was expected to pitch in. He couldn’t stand the tedium of the nightly puzzle to match the leftovers to the perfect size of Tupperware when he knew that his friends were already down in the dark, deserted town waiting to start. 

My parents gave both me and my three-years younger brother two first names. When Paul-Hugh was younger everyone used both of his names, but later he going by one or the other of the two names. Usually he goes by “Paul”, after my father, but my parents, other two brothers and I often refer to him as “The Hugh”. The word “The” makes him seem like a force of nature or a phenomenon as the titles “The Clash”, “The Tempest” or “The Big Bang” also connote. This title suits the brooding young man who enjoys a Byronic saunter over the mountains around our home and who delights in developing and producing a series of alien sounds with his mouth for the satisfaction of creating something that “no one else can make”.

Doing something that no one else can do has always been a fascination with The Hugh. I think that is one driving reason behind why he goes night climbing—he wants to get up to a place where no one else has been. 

Eventually Paul-Hugh began to offer to wash all of the dishes when he got home from his excursion so that he could leave immediately after eating. He didn’t often share his plans with us, because my mother would have worried had she known what they were up to. But he was proud of his escapades and told me about them afterwards. He would return at around twelve or one o’clock in the morning and creak in through our noisy front door and past our whining dogs. I would be sitting in the dining room still working on drawings for my art high school and he would get a box of apple juice form the fridge and sit down with me. He was would launch into a detailed description of the night’s escapades and provide me with a detailed account of how they had managed to climb whichever building they had chosen for that night. 

Once they climbed the roof of the old people’s home which used to be a monastery. The Hugh told me about how they had tried several evenings in a row before finally discovering a route which led them to the roof over the laundry rooms. He couldn’t hide his pride as he poured himself a huge glass of apple juice. It is obvious he was pushing back a smile in order to maintain his teenage suavity. The amount of juice that boy drank made me think that it was the magical liquid which fuelled his efforts like Popeye’s spinach which allows him to wrestle Olive Oyl away from his rival Bluto or the Grecian god’s ambrosia, which when drunk by humans, gave them immortality.
 
There was a group of men who climbed the buildings of Trinity College Cambridge and although they do not mention apple juice, my guess is they also indulged in copious amounts of the strengthening liquid to fuel their own night climbs. In the early years of the twentieth century they were pioneers of something that is now a popular sport. They called it Whipplesnaith so that people would not know what they were talking about and they would climb at night in order to stay out of trouble. The leader of the band of young men climbers was Geoffrey Winthrop Young. He was a mountaineer at the time when mountain climbing was just beginning to be an official pastime and a serious sport. Night Climbing was a way for him to keep in shape during school so that when he returned to climb the Swiss Alps in the summers he was ready for them.

Young published the first edition of The Roof-Climber’s Guide to Trinity in 1900. He meant it to parody the Swiss guides to mountaineering that were just beginning to be published and popularised. The guide offers several different routes to getting onto the roofs of the college’s various buildings. Each chapter begins with a quote about something related to buildings or climbing and then the short chapter gives detailed instructions for the route. It even includes tips on the best techniques. Here is a line of advice given for climbing the chimney stack in Cloister Court: “Holding with the right hand to the summit tiles of the gable and turning the face to the chimney , the left arm must be stretched to its utmost round the stack until the parapet can be reached and grasped, the body and legs the while drifting aimlessly on the steep tiles.”  

Along with being intrepid explorers and skilled climbers the Night Climbers were pranksters. They would leave strange objects on the tops of buildings they had visited as a mark that someone had been there. An example would be a Santa Claus hat or a chamber pot on a statue’s head.


Unlike the stones at Stonehenge people are a lot less willing to stand still in order for me to draw them. I was sitting on the edge of the strip of grass designated for people to stand on in order to take photos of themselves in front of the rocks. I took my couple snapshots of The Henge on my phone, but then I settled down to draw the people. There was a son who took a photo of his mother being hoisted into her husbands arms in front of the stones. Their story was so much more captivating to me than the story of the prehistoric people who supposedly created the monolithic structure. 

Another thing that was stopping me from fully engaging in the story was the fact that my audioguide was in Polish. I had chosen Polish because I thought that I would enjoy hearing a Slavic language, which would remind me of home in the Czech Republic. I thought it wasn’t going to be a problem. I said to myself, “This’ll be great. I speak Czech. Polish is not that different. I can work on my Polish skills at the same time as I learn about Stonehenge.” Turns out that Polish is different enough from Czech, that I went away from my audioguide experience believing in the theory which claims druids were the ones who created the Henge for their rituals. A couple days later I was set straight by some friends (who had had the English version of the audioguide) after I tried to say something smart-sounding about the druids of Stonehenge. 

“Didn’t you listen to the audioguide, Lucy Rose?”
“Yes.”
“Don’t you remember how they were saying that because of resent carbon dating we now know Stonehenge was definitely not created by druids?”
“My audio guide was in Polish.” 
“Do you speak Polish?”
“No.”

To be continued...




Friday, July 3, 2015

England: Beer Diaries VI

This is the last one, I promise.









England: Beer Diaries V

"Enough already with the Beer Diaries, Lucy Rose."
"No! More! You know you want more."