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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. 

in Prague

Jun. 27th, 2013 03:54 pm
ritaxis: (hat)
I have been traveling since Saturday and I am only half sure of what day it is at the moment. First I went to Los Angeles and spent some time doing mutual culture shock with my very kind cousins. They took me all over as I got various doodads for Emma and Frank and visited Glen Fitch and Elizabeth Strong in Venice. My Uncle Jerry had a ninetieth birthday party. You'd think, almost, that he lies about his age, but if you knew him all along you'd see how the years do sit on him. But he's vigorous and sharp and makes me wish I had any genes from him.

Eleven-thirty Tuesday night I caught a flight to JFK, arriving after one of the most uncomfortable nights I can remember at a bit before eight in the morning. I had to collect and recheck my suitcase so I took advantage of that and moved some things from my carryons but it was still a lot to haul around New York. But the Air train - J train combination to get to the Tenement Museum was simple and fun. I took pictures but you won't see any till August.

The Tenement Museum was great. I went on the installation tour called "shop life" which I thought was going to be about sweatshops but was about ground floor commerce from saloon in the mid 1800s to an underwear shop in the mid 1900s with a kosher butcher in between.

Using the tablet is not conducive to long posts so I will go into detail later.

My flight out of JFK was two hours delayed mostly due to rain but we had a tail wind most of the way and we only arrived an hour late. I was greeted by Frank and Hana and now I should try to sleep because it is late night here even though it is mid-afternoon by my real clock, which is Pacific time.
ritaxis: (hat)
I've been offline more than on since Friday. There are multiple issues. My ISP had its own troubles: they were doing one of those maintenance things for a while on Friday, and on Saturday they had a crash for a while. There also seems to be something wrong with my router, so that sitting absolutely next to it with the tablet I can't get a strong enough signal to finish authenticating. In addition, we had a short at the box that just got fixed, so that meant no phone and no internet at all for most of yesterday and today. Since I'm trying to get files on to the tablet so I can use it to write while I'm on the plane and thus not allowed to connect to the cloud storage, I'm very frustrated.

I've started packing. Phase 1 is identify everything I could possibly want to take and put it in and around the suitcase and carryons. Phase 2 is saying "that's too much crap" and taking it all out again and sifting through it for what I really want. Phase 3 is "wait, I can't last that long with only that," and sifting through the rejects for more stuff. Et cetera. Later, when it is closer to departure time, I get to the phases involving realizing I have forgotten exteremely important things I need to live. I hope to execute those phases before takeoff.

Part of Phase 1 is mending things and hemming things I have never bothered to hem before (almost everything I own that could be too long is). Today I did an eccentric job of shortening pants that could not be hemmed because of the stratewgic placement of zippers and snaps at the bottom. I attempted to replace buttons but apparely Emma has all the buttons? I need to talk to her about multiple things.

I am now in possession of my knee xrays. Each knee has a particular place where bone touches bone: the rest of the knee is normal looking. Also, the doctor's notes say the right knee is worse but the right knee doesn't hurt at all these days.
ritaxis: (Default)
It's almost 7:30 at night. The animals are at the boarding kennel, and I have been poking at my other tasks. This is what I have to do before 11:00 tomorrow morning:

1. finish bagging the food that will be stored during the termite tenting. This involves also throwing away a lot of food and cleaning containers and the refrigerator. I've been doing this desultorally for days -- starting with medicine in the bathroom -- but there's no more dallying now.

2. finish packing. I have been doing laundry for days and I have been selecting/unselecting items for longer than that. The trip is ten days long. The weather is running 3-22 C (32-74 F), which is a pretty big range. It may rain but Frank says showers last about 20 minutes. So I have a lot of fine-tuning sorts of decisions to make. Also, I have presents.

3. Download pictures from my camera to a safe place. I believe I will use Frank's camera again.

4. Move my two remaining houseplants outside and water everything that is in a pot.

This is actually not too bad,now that I have it written down.

I got my medicines. I got my new glasses, and my new shoes. I'm pretty well prepared!

I'm going to see the arboretums this time! And, of course, the Astronomical Clock, again, and various Narodny museums and things. And ride in a boat on the Vltava!

When I get back I will be getting serious about jobhunting though there is a real chance that if I wait a couple months and take a 22% pay cut I can return to my workplace, as there is a teaching assistant who will be leaving in a while. Depending on what other jobs develop in the meantime, that could even be my best bet. Not all jobs in my field have health care benefits, and not all of them are in walking distance, and not all of them support professional development like mine. Also, I have friends and stuff.

Also I seriously need to get the furnace cleaned and to get cracking on the yard.

And I will also be seriously researching, outlining, and proposing the Baby Book to Put Other Baby Books to Shame. And writing along on other projects.
ritaxis: (Default)
My new favorite singer. Tonight, anyway.

Also. Animals have a place to stay, and paperwork to prove that they are healthy enough to stay there. This entailed finding the cagt carrier and cleaning it out and making sure I got Loki into it. Weird old cat purred the whole time he was in it and all through his examination, which only reinforces my suspicion as to what purring really means ("this is okay, boss, no need to rock the boat . . . don't make any bull moves . . . yeah, keep it like that"). Tickets confirmed, reserved room at the Hotel Denisa confirmed. I know where my passport is. I have confirmed that Truffle's medication is up to date. Called the termite people yesterday and will call them again tomorrow or the next day if they don't call me first.

I swear I've done more productive things in the last two days . . .

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