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 Loughborough is in many ways the Most Typical Village in Little England (that is, England-as-England, as opposed to the whole of the UK). It has 57 thousand people, making it a bit smaller than Santa Cruz, a mixed economy including a University, some manufacturing, some farming, and some commuting, and apparently all the usual institutions. It has the usual history: it went through brickmaking, slate quarrying, textiles, etc., always losing out to some other production center in the course of time, which tragedy hit me pretty hard when I read it over and over again in the historical exhibition at the Charnwood Museum in Queen's Park. And yet...it doesn't look impoverished. Not wealthy, but not impoverished. I believe the University does a lot to make up for the lost industries of yore. It actually looks like a real estate ho/tbed, with signs for student rentals everywhere. That's different from Santa Cruz, where the student rental business is sort of hush-hush.

Another consequence of the University's prominence locally is that you see the word and color "purple" kind of a lot. There's a Purple Pig deli (never open that I see), a Purple Pumpkin...something shop? I thought craft supplies but maybe tschotchkes instead? But the "Purple Bricks" signs are a coincidental national UK real estate thing. Don't ask me to explain UK real estate. It's as byzantine as US real estate, but different.

Hana complains mightily about the sameness of British residential architecture, and at first glance she's right. All the houses are made of brick, usually the exact same red brick with the exceptions being a lighter orange brick, though a few have a veneer of stucco over the second floor, or decorative rustic-sawn planks over the top of the gable, and some of the ones from a hundred years ago are made with decorative bricks inset here and there--that would be during the era when there was a local brick factory, coincidentally or not. Most of the houses have narrowly similar floor plans, with a steep staircase right inside the front door, with a narrow hall and narrow lounge to the side of that, a small dining room and smaller "U-shaped" kitchen (so called because the cabinet fittings line three walls, leaving room for one person to work) behind. Upstairs: two small bedrooms, maybe a third one almost too small for a single bed and definitely not big enough for anything in addition--none with builtin closets--and a bathroom.  Larger houses are often the result of expansion to the side (if not in the middle of a row of terraced houses) or the back. In Frank and Hana's neighborhood the houses have garages but they are proportioned for Reliants or Minis and modern cars can't get into them so they're used for storage and work rooms. In the center of town there are terraces of tinier cottages, and also some larger modern apartment buildings for students. 

In Loughborough there is no road grid. Except for a small number of big roads that connect to highways, all the roads curve, really every which way. It's not radial, like Paris, more contoured, except the roads are not curving round the lay of the land as far as I can see, as the land is mostly flattish. Their street maybe follows Black Brook for a way, but then it veers off in a completely other direction. Also the roads do change names a lot (there are some long streets in Santa Cruz that change names s few times too, but I think they do it more here). And another thing. I've been complaining for years about the occasional misuse of street identifiers--"avenue," "boulevard," "lane," etc., back home--here I see "avenue" used to designate a one-block cul-de-sac. Though most of the cul-de-sacs are helpfully called "close." 

Demographics--I have no numbers, but considering it's a little village in the country, it looks pretty diverse to me. I've heard a number of different languages spoken--Turkish, Polish, Chinese (I don't know which kind) and more than one Indian language (I'm not familiar with any of them enough to identify them). Also, English accents! It seems like there are at least ten different ones in Loughborough. Of course this is reflected in the restaurants-I haven't seen a Polish one, but I've eaten at a Chinese one (it seemed Cantonese but had Szechuan things on the menu) and a Turkish one. It had a guy with a keyboard and recorded riffs, and a dancer whose name was Natasha and she was very English.

Queen's Park maybe deserves its own entry. It has the Charnwood Museum, requisite playgrounds, a little labyrinth mabe od bricks in the ground with a swan statue in the middle, a stream (is it a bit of Black Brook or another one?) with a prominent moorhen nest (Hana calls it the stupid chicken, which describes its looks, but I like it), an aviary full of psittacines, and the Carillon. The Carillon was built after World War One over the objections of the soldiers it memorializes, who wanted a health center instead (and why could they not have had both, I ask!). It is a tower with a patina-copper fancy roof, lens-shaped windows, and a full set of bells which are played from a keyboard. For a pound you can climb the endless steep windy stairs to almost the top, stopping along the way to small rooms that have exhibitions about the soldiers lost in various wars over time. I don't know why, but World War One seems to get much more monumental action in the UK than WOrld War Two.

About those bells--one of the historical industries in Loughborough is the Taylor Bell Foundry which has a museum which is no longer open except by special arrangement so I didn't see that. I'm unclear about whether the bell foundry still operates. I think it does, a little bit.

Loughborough has been a market town since the 13th century. What that means nowadays is that every Thursday and Saturday the town center fills up with stalls selling mostly small goods--fabric,notions, yarn: small tools: housewares:  dishware: clothing and more clothing: toys: accessories; and also food, including meat and fish, baked goods, and produce. Some of these are small operations, but for example, I bought some plaid ribbon (of course!) at a huge stall maintained by a big fabric store from Leicester. I wondered if the butcher shop resents having a big butcher stall set up in front of its doors two days a week, but I don't know, maybe they are related in some way. 

One thing that makes Loughborough very very different from Santa Cruz is that the shopping is mostly all in the town center.  I mean there are no huge outlying malls and little in the way of big box stores (we went to one attempting to get ericaceous fertilizer for Hana's rhododendrons). There is a small indoor-outdoor mall called, of course, "Carillon Mall," but it's right in the middle of everything else, so there's no need to drive ten or fifteen miles to get things. The buses run pretty well, though it's bewildering how many different private bus companies there are running public buses everywhere. And the town is small enough that walking from one end to another is quite conceivable. 

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 It's about five hours from Gatwick to Leicester on the bus. Most of this is through the countryside. It was late April, and lots of stuff was blooming I have taken lots of photos since then, but none through the bus window, for which you are very welcome. However, I did get to see lots of hedged fields--the hedges were much lower than I thought they would be. I didn't reach sheep country really, though I saw a few, and some cattle, and a lot of grain fields and some gorgeous yellow canola(rapeseed) fields.  It was immediately obvious that they weren't exactly mustard fields. They were a different yellow, and even farther away the texture was different and I could tell the flowers were bigger and carried a bit farther from the main stem.

The verges were planted to forest trees and a large shrub with abundant small flowers. If you're from the UK, you know what it is. I had my suspicion because I know some songs that talk about how well the may blooms, etc., but I didn't know for a couple of days when I asked Hana and she said her mother called them "hloch" in Czech, which was enough of a clue that I could look it up on slovnik.com, which is a priceless asset if you ask me. It turns out the standard Czech is "hloh," and it means hawthorn or may. So there you have it. 

Hawthorn isn't quite the life-changing revelation that linden was to me, but it's a pretty amazing thing. It apparently will naturally grow in ragged hedges,putting out these great elegantly curving branches covered in earnest lobed (almost palmate) leaves, and for a long time in the spring, these tiny flowers like plum flowers both in shape and scent. And here in Thorpe Acre (a neighborhood of Louhgborough, where Frank and Hana live), you can walk all over town and pass under arches of the stuff several times in the process.

Who else loves hawthorn are the many many loud melodious songbirds. Of thrushes alone (that is, like blackbirds and American robins) there are may species: also finches and corvids. I am lousy at photographing birds, so no dice there either.
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 Most of this is going to be a simple travelogue, with a few trenchant observations, so please skip everything with the tag "UK 2017" if this is boring to you. Sorry, dreamwidth informs me I must delete 846 tags before I can make any new ones, and that is just too damned much work, so the tags for these are going to be vague.

The only things to say about the flight are, one, I was extremely smart when I packed myself piroshkis and carrot sticks. I had made the piroshkis of my own pickled cabbage, leftover bread dough, some ground meat, manymany onions, and dried mushrooms. They were good, they didn't cost me extra, they helped with the goal of leaving my fridge empty of perishables, and frankly the weird little dinners they gave the other passengers did not look filling or tasty. But not terrible. Just not forty-seven dollars worth of comfort.

Two: I had terrible, terrible seatmates. They were not mean to me, or especially rude (with exceptions I'll mention in a bit), but they were terrible, terrible people. I didn't have to interact with them much because I had an aisle seat, but they were about to commence on an affair so they spent all but a couple of the ten hours in breathless conversation in which they revealed their most terrible aspects as if they were precious diamonds: fortunately for them, they each found the other's tedious and horrible personalities enchanting.

Look, you know me. I complain a lot but I rarely say a person is just plain terrible. So it means something, right?

The fellow was one of those English guys who Americans always find attractive at first glance: a bit tweedy, maybe sixty, with a softly rumpled beard&silver hair, impeccable manners but not stuffy. You know what I mean: you expect an archaeologist or a botanist or perhaps a player of an obsolete musical instrument. This fellow was coming back from a conference in San Francisco: was it a Zen one or just a general spiritual one? Anyway, he was there flogging a book called Zig Zag Zen. I don't know which of the editors or authors he was. He asked was it all right if his friend joined us as we had an empty seat between us and of course that was all right. Even if I had known how the night was going to go I would have said yes because if you can't accommodate the worst, being kind to the best is kind of hollow.

She arrived, and she was another English type Americans recognize. Tall, blond, willowy, maybe forty, with an accent I think is a normal middle class one but it sounds a little affected and self-conscious to American ears? You expect an academic, or maybe someone who works in publishing or possibly fashion. But she was at the conference as a delegate from a group of Zen? or maybe something else? practitioners? 

Look, even though I'm uninterested in spirituality, this could have gone another way. They could have spent the time breathlessly exploring the history and practice of Zen, and they did a bit, but only in self-serving and self-aggrandizing ways. He was arrogant, self-regarding, and always sounded like he was lying about his accomplishments (he probably wasn't always). She was gullible, self-regarding, and always putting down some other party to magnify her own wisdom. Plus, she was convinced she had second sight or some damn thing because she predicted trouble with the pound sterling and Donald Trump's election.

They went on and on and on. He slept and she read for maybe two hours out of the ten-hour flight. By the end, they were talking about their respective love lives. Obviously this was their own business, and of course they had to have that conversation because they were going to part at the airport (she lives in London somewhere, he in Ramsgate)  and they had to send the signals that they were mutually up for working something out at a later date--and it was clear neither of them had a monogamous partner to consider, so this was certainly okay and not my business. It's just--they were so loud, and they had been being so awful all night long, and I couldn't escape them even by sleeping--that what could have been nothing at all or even kind of cute was terribly annoying.

I did pass a couple words with them, once when she had gone to the toilet and I was struggling with my chromebook (it likes to hide files sometimes and I was trying to work, silly me) and he asked me what work I was doing and I told him and he said he used to write for Marvel-My Little Pony and Dr. Who-- but "don't tell anybody." Given what I had heard all night I was not inclined to believe him, but then again, maybe he did. (I hadn't said a word about comics, by the way. Just I was working on a fantasy story)

The other time was when we were about to disembark-have you noticed that most stranger-seatmate conversations happen at that time? They asked where I was going and I told them and they drew a blank. They had nothing nice to say about Leicestershire. She said, twice, "It's not a cultured sort of place, is it? I mean, not like Manchester."

(I'm going to be a lot more careful about how I talk about hinterland cities to visitors, from now on)

And to think I sat in the terminal next to a large rowdy family from Modesto who had a great salty sense of humor and a lot to say to each other about everything. I was hoping I'd get to sit by them in the plane, because they would have been fun, but no. (My favorite moment from the terminal was during the long facetime call the younger matriarch was having with a motley group of children, some hers, some nieces and nephews and other assorted kin, when she said, "Now don't fall over, watch it--" she looked up and said, "she just fell right over and dropped the phone." My second favorite is when she said "Tell him put that puppy right back where he found it. It;s not his. We already have five dogs in the house. I'm outnumbered by dogs and children."  You can see why I wanted to sit next to these people and I was so disappointed when I got the terrible people instead).


Apr. 20th, 2017 09:04 am
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 I got a wee Chromebook some months ago for traveling & I've be'en using it for an auxiliary downstairs. It's kind of clunky in the track pad & a bit clunky in the keyboard. The worst part is that the tracking & button features of the mouse are all in the one awkward rectangle so it's confused and not so responsive.

This moment  I'm experimenting with using it as a tablet. It seems to be better at tableting than at laptopping. I'm fonder of laptops than tablets for writing but  I will use this however it uses best.

On another front I think I am done shopping for the trip &  I am almost done sewing. What's left is a few seams on my carry-on bag for my Bipap machine & medicines, and a shopping bag (very quick) for a present for Andrea. If there is time I'll run up the livingroom curtains before I go. Otherwise they can wait.

What I will have made for the trip: 3 presents, all shopping bags: 3 shirts & a nightshirt:: a messenger bag big enough for this wee computer: the carry-on bag: & I don't know if it counts, but 2 skirts I made last summer, my wallet & pussy hat both crocheted for general use. so while I have been so out of it I haven't been completely useless. Everything is from odds & ends, old stash that was free or cheap to begin with, & they fit me. Even the findings, buttons & zippers are found or stored (for example the rings & clasp on the purse are from leashes & harnesses Zluta chewed up in her puppy months). Oh & not EVERY piece is plaid....

On a larger world front, Sarah Kendzior is pissing me off. She's taking every possible opportunity to push a divisive, anti-left, anti-communist agenda. Now that she is a Queen of the Resistance this behavior is dangerous & counter to effective action. But then she's never been as interested in fighting fascism as she is in glorying in its horrors. She remains only interested in foreign interference and not in homegrown oppression.

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Reading The Global Pigeon by Colin Jerolmack. It's research for the girls who save the world from fascism through their magical connection to urban birds book. It was recommended to me by none other than Donna Haraway who I met through Katie King at FOGCon. It does not have in it what I intended to be looking for but it has all sorts of other things that I didn't know I needed. That last category is a mark of a felicitous reading choice, I think.

Other than that, I'm trucking along. I find it is better for me to work on a bit of this and that right now because I can't concentrate very well what with the sleep deprivation and the chronic intestinal issues. Oh yes and now I have a very mild neuropathy too, so that takes some of my focus away as I obsess over its progress--if it gets to a certain level we have to stop chemo to prevent its becoming permanent. As it is, my dose has been dropped. This phase of chemo is just to be sure anyways: there's reason to think that in many cases the first round withn the adriamycin/cytoxan is all a person needs. But survival rate is higher and recurrence is lower for people who've had both, so that's where we're going. But yesterday was 6 of 12 doses, so the light is at the end of the tunnel either way. The oncologist says most of her patients make it to dose 9 or 10, but some make it all the way to 12. I would like to get to 12 just to be sure (and also quite honestly so I can feel so very tough, but I don't admit to that often), but I'm fine with following her advice.

We've been repairing the outside of the house and clearing foliage because the painters are coming on Saturday. I probably shouldn't own a house because I'm not houseproud enough to do what needs to be done. Honestly when stuff gets broken or dirty I don't care enough at all. It's weird because I used to take pride in just doing what needs to be done and in mechanical competence. But I'm kind of broken a bit myself, I guess.

While at the library I also picked up a Tobias Buckell book because I keep bouncing off his writing and I want to like his work. And another book called Watermind by M.M. Buckner that was near it on the shelves because it looked interesgting and I've never heard of it or the author. I want to read more genre stuff that's more recent but it's hard at the library because most of the requests for material seem to be coming from the grognards.

Emma told me there's a magnificent petrified forest in Chemnitz and now I want to go there more than ever. My dream itinerary for next spring is: Eastercon, a couple weeks with Frank and Hana in Loughborough, some days in Paris with Andrea, and then on to Chemnitz, Prague, and maybe a bus tour of Poland and if my bro-and-sis-in-law are in Langaland, a few days in Denmark. I imagine it would be summer before I got back home.

I would also like to travel in the States some: to Portland to see my aunt and a friend or two, and maybe the Woodstock Memory Hole if anything is going on there right now: to LA to see my other aunt: to Houston to visit Nancy Zeitler, a friend who's been living there for years & I've never visited her there: to Silver Spring Maryland to visit Katie King, who I visited over a dozen years ago: to Chattanooga to visit Sharon Farber, who I visited 29 years ago: to Philadelphia, just to see it again after 50 years gone from it: to New York, to visit Phil Josselyn, who I've never visited & when he visits me I realize how much I miss him: and to Boston, to visit Mary Porter, who I visited 26 years ago but never in the house she lives in now.

That's a lot.
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1. Now I know what a musette de cour is. It is ridiculously cute and you can find them playing Vivaldi on Youtube. Also this painting of a dandy playing one, all clothed in velvet and silks (both the man and the musette).

2. I've been wondering for a month and a half how come the Slovenian bagpipe band at the Strakonice festival sounded more Hungarian than the Hungarians (which is a good thing when it comes to music but not politics), while the Slovenian folk music I find online is boring oompah music (as opposed to exciting oompah music, which is entirely possible and probably exists in the Slovenian folk corpus somewhere). I was so sure the sign at Strakonice said "Slovenian." I was damn sure it said "Slovensko," anyhow ... I'm sure a moment's thought will tell yhou where I'm going with this, "Slovensko" is in fact Slovakia, which really does trend Hungarian to the ear (musically, and I am afraid politically too). Slovenia is Slovinsko. How could I ever, ever confuse the two? They are nothing alike!

3. Looking at Youtube videos of the Strakonice festival, after having been there myself, is thrilling in a way that I couldn't have predicted. I think I need to do a lot more traveling, just so I can have the thrill of recognition when I encounter the places I've been in media somewhere. Yesterday I saw the chateau of Troja in a tumblr post and I was so excited because even before I read the caption I knew it could be no other place.

I am in bagpipe mind because the story I am writing is about digging in California dirt to arrive at fairyland. There are no bagpipes in the story, not even one. So therefore, bagpipe mind.
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Monday night Frank took me to see the Berg Orchestra do a concert around the streets of the Clementinum. It's kind of hilarious, listening to modernist music in a Baroque chapel. The music itself is actually very nice. The soundwalk in the first part of the concert didn't work for me because I could not keep up with our leader, so we went back to the Clementinum to wait it out along with a young English man who had twisted his ankle and was having a disagreement with his Czech girlfriend who wanted him to put away his phone and come listen to things on the soundwalk. Frank was sure that one of the pieces was a 1940s tone poem but the earliest piece was from the 1970s. I am not sure they were played in the order they are listed at the link. We foolishly didn't buy a program, so I can't tell you what they did, but guessing based on looking things up online, I think they intercut the "Shaker Loops" piece with the "Pendulum" piece and the premiere of "La Ballade" was separate. I think. But I don't know whether "La Ballade" was first or third. But listening to the music without knowing what it was wasn't too much of a detriment, it was an interesting experience all the same. There was a mixture of strings -- sometimes played with exotic techniques -- recordings of industrial sounds, and feedback screeches produced by swinging microphones over their speakers (as ear piercing as but ten times more musical than it sounds). The soundwalk was to put the audience in mind of city sounds so that the music would be that much more evocative. I approve, though honestly, the musicians and the presenter were all so young and earnest that part of my response was just "you are so adorable!"

Earlier in the day I went off on my own as Frank and Hana had to go bash their heads against admistrative things. I went in a nearly-random direction. First I got off the Metro at Národní Třda and walked around taking a lot of pictures there. I also windowshopped at the mall there -- not an especially useful  t materials and wee notebooks). I also discovered that the season's colors for women seem to include the most unfortunate versions of neon-ish tangerine and the major texture appears to be coarse yarn knit and knotted into open fabric for shawls and sweaters that provide a screen but not cover or warmth. Well, in Prague at least, though the brands are all international.

Then I caught the number 9 streetcar and rode it all the way to the end of the line at Spořilov, which is a poorer neighborhood, with kind of decayed looking infrastructure and sad looking paneláks. I got frustrated trying to take pictures of a beetle on a flower: I simply could not figure out how to turn on the macro function which I used so easily last year. So I have like six fuzzy pictures of a red beetle on a purple vetchy flower.

Then I took the tram back a bit, hopped out, walked some blocks taking pictures, and hopped on again, and at some point found myself going in the wrong direction, so I had to take the metro from Hradčanská. By then I was pretty tired and achy. I stopped at the Anděl metro station and bought batteries and a rohlík s párkem (sausage in a roll), and then went home. All told I think I walked like three hours.

An aside about my camera batteries. Last year I was always in a panic to buy more batteries so this year I brought rechargeables and a charger . . . but it doesn't work. Somehow the current that comes out of the converter is not right? Hana had the same experience in the opposite direction when she tried to recharge batteries in Santa Cruz. So just a heads up about recharging AA batteries in Prague.

I had my first photography incident during this trip. I was taking pictures of an extremely cute casino with cats all over it and this man came up and started yelling at me. He was carrying a clipboard so I think he was the owner or manager. I know he was yelling at me about the camera because I heard the word "photography." I said "Nerozumím česky," (I don't understand Czech) and that just enraged him. He either said "It's not true that you don't understand Czech," or "I don't care that you don't understand Czech," or maybe just "don't bother me about how you don't understand Czech," and we both went on like this for a couple minutes till I switched to English and said "I don't speak Czech, I speak English, I'm from America," when he yelled at me one more time and stomped off into the casino.

So I don't know, Frank thinks the cute signage covering the front of the casino was probably a code violation. But code violations do not generally receive punishment in Prague.

Yesterday was rainy and I slept a lot. Tonight I am going with Hana to a ballet at the Estates Theater. Tomorrow we are going to a party thrown by the English-language magazine for students Hana and Frank contribute to.
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Today I almost bought tickets, but the verification step didn't work, so tomorrow I am going to talk to the credit union about it. If the same deal holds, I'll be leaving from Oakland on Norwegian on August 11 and leaving from Prague on Norwegian on August 28. No extensive layovers this time. I could have scheduled a day in Amsterdam on the way out, but it would have been on the order of five or six hundred dollars more. So fooey on it.

I don't know how other people choose their tickets. But since time is not of the utter essence for me, I do look for a long daytime layover and take it if I can get it. It's like adding another jaunt in the travel. Also: I decided as of this year that I'm avoiding ridiculously early or late takeoff or landing times. I'm an old lady and I don't want to be taking the bus to and from the airport in Prague at a stupid hour, or asking my stateside friends and family to drive me to and from Oakland at those times. Another thing I look for is I don't want the homeward bound stop to be in the US. I want to go through customs at the last airport, thank you. I do not want to go through customs and also catch another flight. Customs on the European end are trivial. I decided to go cheap and not reserve specific seats or a meal. I'll carry my own food and buy water from the flight attendants. And though I love a window seat, I usually need to go to the bathroom a lot of times, so those preferences cancel out and I can just take what I get.

So the other thing I am working on is a visit to Chemnitz. I'm not longer certain that my last name being Kemnitzer means a definite connection to the city. My grandfather found no traces of our ancestors there. And once you know the name is Slavic (probably Sorbian or some other Western Slavic dialect) rather than German, you discover -- it's not a rare name, for one, and for another, there are dozens of place names that are some variation of Kamenice. So it's possible that my name was never spelled with the Ch, that my ancestors came from any one of these places scattered over Central and Eastern Europe: and even Southern Europe, though there's no reason to think we came from there: the folks who came here were German speaking and told their children they were Germans.

But anyway, when my father visited Chemnitz, he came back with a glowing description, and I've been wanting to see it ever since. I want to see the giant Marx head and the Museum of Industry, tootle around the quaint streets, pick up a children's book written in Sorbian, eat some Saxon food (much of it, according to my research, is precisely what you'd think it is). And Chemnitz is a four-hour drive through the mountains from Prague. I won't be driving, naturally. Apparently the way to get there is to take a train to Dresden and tghen another one from Dresden to Chemnitz. So I could make it a twofer, and see Dresden.  Did I tell you they sell chocolate and marzipan Karl Marx heads in Chemnit? they do.

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