No one woke me up when September ended!

But seriously, that Green Day song has been the bane of my birthday for YEARS now. Oddly enough, no one mentioned it this year. This was finally the year I was allowed to sleep through September ending. Wild. So, what’s been happening?

Well, for starters we have a new and furry family member in our house! Her name is Ophelia and she’s the prettiest kitty in Colchester. (Significant Otter will argue the prettiest ever.) She spent the first week in our house hiding behind the sofa, and the next two only hanging out with us when we were sitting. Nowadays, she goes where she pleases and loves hanging out with us. This does lead to some comedic moments, like this morning when she accidentally fell in the laundry basket and nearly destroyed it getting out. However, she came out unscathed and came to purr on M’s legs whilst he tried to sleep a little longer.

I’ve also been on a bit of a museum binge (Surprising, I know.) recently and been to some new ones. My colleague managed to score some tickets to the Bart’s Pathology Museum, which is only open a few times a year. It’s a room filled with jars of human bits and skeletal remains. Basically, it’s disgusting and fascinating in the same go, and each jar has a little blurb of information on it, so you could easily spend a lot longer than your allocated hour there. It was originally used by the university as a teaching collection, but now the room is only ever used for exams. M says he’s sat some there and was wholly unimpressed. I loved it. Unsurprisingly, they don’t let you take close up photos of the specimens, but you can take room-wide shots. The room itself is cool just for its architecture.

Next was a staff field trip to our satellite museum in Tring. Someone described it to us before going as a Dead Zoo, and that’s actually a pretty apt description. Not in a terrible way, but I wouldn’t go if you have issues with taxidermy. It’s a small museum, but absolutely stuffed to the gills with specimens, and really helpful and friendly staff. Tring is a bit out of the way, but it’s definitely worth a stop. We got a fascinating backstage tour of the collections, and saw more eggs and bird remains in one room than I’ve probably ever seen alive in one area. They’ve got one of the best and most diverse collections for each, so if you’re researching birds, you’ll likely end up in the little town of Tring.

After a museum binge, I had two different work trips through September. First was the ToScA 2017 meeting, in which I had to give a talk on my work with the blue whale. It was only slightly terrifying, and I think it ended up okay. Over the three days, I met a load of interesting new people, learned some new tips and tricks in the tomography world, heard some cool new work going on, and got to have dinner on the HMS Warrior – the first ironclad ship built in 1860!

Towards the end of the month, I got to fly on one of the few uncanceled RyanAir flights up to Edinburgh to attend a Standing Up for Science workshop. While there, I learned all about working with the media as a scientist and how best to get work across to someone who will inherently not know what the topic is on. It was a really handy course, and I met even more cool people in varied fields with some fascinating works. It was a good month for meeting people! Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to wander Edinburgh as I’d hoped, and was on the last flight of the evening home for a weekend with the family.

Towards the end of September of course, is my birthday! I was working late on the actual day, but the Saturday morning M and I had a nice lie in and then wandered over to the nearby village of Coggeshall. It was such a cool place, with over 300 listed buildings and two National Trust sites. I spent the day blissfully looking at old things, and my beloved M came along for the ride, enjoying a scone with me in the garden of the Paycocke’s House and a pint of beer at the medieval pubs I had earmarked. We ended the adventures with dinner at one of the pubs, which had a steak so good that I think we would both gladly go back the 13 miles to have it again. The weather behaved, my gifts from everyone were fabulous, and it was all in all a really good day.

Sunday morning began October, and with it my Sober October challenge. I’ve signed up to be sober for the entire month in order to raise money for the cancer support charity Macmillan. It’s a great cause and a good reason to give up alcohol for the month. I suspect by the end of it I will be a bit healthier and Macmillan will have a bit more to put towards helping people whilst they fight cancer. I’ll be taking donations all month, alongside of sorry looking photos of me in pubs with friends and a soft drink in my hand, so if you feel charitable, donate a pint’s worth to the cause. 🙂

And most recently, there was the car wreck outside of the Natural History Museum that had everyone in a tizzy. Turned out to be just a really bad taxi driver, and nobody had serious injuries. I wasn’t even at work when it happened as it was on a Saturday, and got woken up from a nap with my phone blowing up to ask if I’m okay. Grumpy yes, but okay. Honestly though, don’t let these things put you off coming to London. It’s a wild city with so much to offer. And if you want to see us here at the NHM, we’ve still got the Whales exhibition open where you can stand next to a flipper for a sense of perspective – and the ice rink will be opening soon!

All in all, it’s turning into a fine autumnal season. I’m looking forward to seeing what October will hold. 🙂

 

— Kate

April weather means friends flock together.

Or something like that. Over the last few weeks of March and the beginning of April, it seems the stars all aligned and everyone was able to meet up. And so meet up we did.

First and most far flung award goes to the lovely D, all the way from California! She and I met and became fast friends during our course at the University of Leicester, but sadly she had to go back to America at the end of the year. She’d come back for a week to see friends in both England and Wales, and we were graced with her presence for a few of those days. She swears we only let her stay because she brings us American junk food, but she’s welcome even without the Ranch dressing packets. 🙂 I can’t wait until we get to meet up again next – and hopefully it’ll be because she finally got a museum job here!

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Truly a fashion statement.

Next up we had the kitty couple from Leeds only a few days after D had to leave us for Gatwick. Sadly, the kitties were not in tow with them, but it was still a great weekend out. The sun even made a glorious appearance on Saturday, which was well received regardless of the temperature. Ended up going bowling, which I couldn’t even tell you when I did last! Thankfully, they seemed to know I was coming and had the gutter guards up on our lane. I still managed to lose spectacularly in both rounds. It was all good fun though, and you sure can’t beat those shoes.

To round out our meet ups to a respectable triad over the period, we were back up in Colchester to see M’s old friend Dr and Mrs Anaesthetist and their baby, who is quite possibly the cutest child in Colchester. They were currently working on making the back garden a nice English landscape and not the muddy war zone it looked like when they first moved in. The trellis is nearly complete and it looks like grass will be coming in soon. I imagine it will be more than summer ready soon enough.

Speaking of summer ready, we also did some lurking to see how our house is turning out. We couldn’t see much as they’ve done extensive building on the houses in front of it and the security panelling is still up, but it looked to be coming along nicely. The good Doctor later managed to capture a photo through his walk in the nearby woods, and it looks like everything is right on time. So excited!

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Photo courtesy of Dr Anaesthetist and his ability to find loopholes to the building site rules.

 

The good times can never last forever though, and the significant otter and were quickly back in the daily grind, with the poor thing having to work a weekend on top of it! Of course this meant that Saturday was glorious for having a BBQ. Alas! But hey, we have nice weather and the house is still on time. Can’t ask for too much right? 🙂

 

— Kate

Trip to Leeds (Winter 2016)

Fast forward into early December! We’d taken some friends up on their offer to come and see them in Leeds. M and I took the Friday off and trundled into the Little Red Mini to adventure forth up the M11. It was a welcome break to not have to go around the M25 for a change. It was exciting as a first trip up to Leeds, and because the lovelies we were going to see for the weekend had cats. 🙂

We arrived after a slight detour off the motorway and through a village and turned around to go for dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. The samosas were legit, man. The guys are childhood friends and were quickly thick as thieves again, cracking jokes and catching up. Myself and the lovely K caught up as well on life. We haven’t seen each other since Thanksgiving last!

It was a lovely evening, but we were up and ready for the next day’s adventures. First to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The park is an open-air gallery showing work by many modern artists, including the well-known Henry Moore. The YSP is situated in the grounds of Bretton Hall, which was an 18th century estate until recently, when it became a college.

If you’re in the area it’s a great place for a peaceful walk, as well as enjoying art (and possibly some chips at the centre).

We returned back to theirs in the afternoon and has some down time before we then drove over to see the seasonal event going on – the Magic Lantern Festival!

The festival was held in Roundhay Park in Leeds. It was a mixture of traditional Chinese culture and Christmas festivities all wrapped up in gigantic lanterns lit and inflated across the park. We entered through a massive lantern gateway and joined a moving troupe of families as everyone marvelled at the lanterns and took photos. The pathway meandered through the park at a leisurely pace, leading up to the ultimate lantern to be found at the end of twin dragons over a pond.

With about a million photos each, we all nipped off to a nearby pub to warm up and inspect our pictures. We had also met up with some of their friends at the festival, who joined us afterwards.

From there it was back home to order some of the best local delivery pizza I have had in ages, and then we all chattered away the night!

The next morning was a bit of excitement, as the shower started leaking into the ceiling below, onto the heads of our hosts drinking tea. It was a tense moment, but her dad was able to come over and diagnosed it as a simple seal issue. It was fixed, the ceiling was dried, and all was well with the world again!

We finally headed out and had an uneventful drive home. The highlight of the drive was probably the news that the cats were finally getting the hang of the cat flap and no longer merely stared at it and cried. Progress for kitties. 🙂

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Until next post!

 

— Kate

Moving to Chelmsford (Summer 2016)

Because we are gluttons for punishment, only two weeks after returning to England (and returning to the correct mental time zone) we up and moved from Norwich to Chelmsford. Thankfully we had done all the house hunting beforehand, so it was just a case of packing up boxes and sorting out moving day.

But oh, were there boxes to be packed. Boxes and boxes. I don’t know how we keep expanding with each move, but it’s going to have to be slowed before we lose an entire room of the house to storage. It’s always good fun to figure out how you last packed all your breakables before doing it again. One year I’ll photograph it all as it’s done so I remember. Maybe.

Due to time restraints and lack of willing (and wonderful) bodies to help us move, we hired movers for this round. It’s amazing how much faster a move goes when professionals are involved. A bit harrowing to watch though. M and I opted to take the train down to Chelmsford and sort out the rental paperwork whilst they put everything on the truck under the watchful eye of the in-laws. Keys were handed over in much better time than anticipated, so we ended up just kind of sitting on the floor of our new empty rental and waiting for the truck and parentals to arrive.

Everyone and everything arrived unscathed, apart from a flower vase that I had improperly wrapped. Not too shabby all things considered! With much help from the wonder in-laws, we unpacked the basics of the house and even built some flat pack furniture without too much profanity and blood loss. In a bit of a box fortress, but a functional box fortress, we bid adieu to the family and began to settle in for the year.

The excitement for the week (post-moving) came the next day with the arrival and installation of a dishwasher! We’d gone a year without one, and let me tell you what a luxury one is when you don’t have it anymore. Not only the ease of cleaning, but also having a space to put dirty dishes before washing that doesn’t cram your kitchen counters/sink and stink up the place. Let’s be honest – sometimes the night’s dishes don’t always get washed right after dinner. Especially when your husband has the ability to use every pot and pan in the house for even a mere casserole.

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What a sight for sore eyes.

Within a week we had tackled the majority of the boxes and put the rest into banishment in the loft. With the house looking vaguely child-safe, we had company over with their bright eyed little baby. Putting down a blanket in the back garden, this was a brilliant evening for catching up and having a BBQ. There were copious amounts of food as per usual, and no one burnt any hair off their face or arms, so it rates as a general BBQ success.

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Plus it may have just been an excuse to use the awesome new grill as soon as possible.

At the end of the weekend, we felt pretty much at home. We’d decorated some, we’d tidied, and we even met the neighbours. Oh, and the neighbourhood cats.

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I was back on the internet scouring for work, and M was doing well in his new posting for the year. Chelmsford is infinitely walk-able and I took advantage of this with my time off. By then I was (and still am) a firm slave to my FitBit. I have to say, the city doesn’t have the same charming feel of Norwich, but has everything you could need and is only 35 minutes away from London by train, so it’s a fair trade. All in all, life was good. Now to just find work again. I make a terrible housewife. 😉

— Kate

Dissertation Delays

On the bright side, my dissertation is complete. On the darker side, it’s currently on a computer I’m locked out of this afternoon. Thankfully, I can get to it by this evening in a worst case scenario. It’s really strange being finished with it and having a few days left to spare. Not sure what I’m going to do for the next few days.

Oh wait, yes I do. I’m going to be packing things. I moved out of Leicester at the end of June, and now the favourite human and I are about to turn around and move to Norwich due to work commitments. He’s going to have an hour commute, and I’ll be on a two-hour commute down to London for my internship. Public transport for both of us, so I imagine we’ll both be sleeping whilst riding in the mornings. I’d say chatting with friends on the ride back, but phone service is admirably spotty on the train lines. I’m thinking attempting to re-read the Harry Potter series over the two months.

It’s going to be another shift in life, but it’s one I’m looking forward to happening. It’s going to be a house and not a flat for a change, and one we both get to create together, rather than feeling like a squatter in each other’s places. It’ll also be doing work directly in a museum environment for me, and I’m so excited to be out of the abstract of academia and back into the real world! From here on out it’s a great internship and job applications galore.

Also in terms of shift, it also feels like it’s time to shift this blog a bit. I suppose you can be a tourist forever, but if you want to live somewhere permanently, it becomes detrimental. I’ll continue to write (and hopefully a little more regularly), but rather than being an intrepid reporter for all things *different* between the US and the UK, I’d like to just write about life as it happens. Things that surprise, comfort, amuse, confuse even. It’s not going to devolve into a Dear Diary thing (I hope), but it just feels more and more awkward to write in the style I have been for the last few months. Instead, I’m going to try to tell stories. Hopefully decently written stories, but stories of settling into a new phase in my life and of all the cast that appear in it. I might even do an overhaul of the blog layout!

So let us spring forth with a new Kate, unencumbered by blog traditions! I’ll start this reformat with a piece I’ve adapted from my fellow blogger Inspired Life and list 20 things I’ve either learned about myself this year, or things about myself that have changed over the last few months.

  1. The further into academia I delve, the worse my cleaning obsessions get. Before university, I was a messy lady. Now, I’ve been spotted vacuuming and wiping counters on a regular basis. I even make the bed! (The bathroom remains the bane of my existence though.)
  2. My accent seems unlikely to change in the near future. The idioms have altered, but I still very commonly stand out as an American. And honestly, I’m fine with it. At first I wanted to do everything I could to blend in quickly, but now I’m finding it alright to just be who I am. Within reason anyway.
  3. I’m learning to better accept that not everyone will like me, and that sometimes you just can’t do anything about it. It stings to find out someone thinks ill of you, but you really can’t please everyone. Just try to be kind in general.
  4. I have been an idiot. Oh, hindsight. I count this as a good thing though. If I can look back at things I’ve done and realised it was a poor choice, then that means at least I’m not as likely to do it again.
  5. There is always time to read. You don’t realise how much TV and internet sucks up your time until you start reading more and realise how far behind you are on pop culture. There’s a balance to it I suppose. I managed to read 53 books last year, and I’m up to 28 so far this year. Some have been school books of course, but a good portion are just for pleasure. The not having to drive places thing really does help with this.
  6. I’ve reached the age where I no longer put my head to the pillow and don’t wake up again until the alarm buzzes. It’s never been insomnia for more than a day, but I’m commonly awake briefly in the middle of the night. We’ll definitely need to move the bed away from the wall in our new place, as being awake in the middle of the night is useless when you’re the one stuck facing the window.
  7. Just like when we moved across the US, there are things I miss from US. Would I want to move back? Not really. Would I like to visit often? Most definitely!
  8. Living the first year of my life with no animals in it has been rough. My chivalric love of cats from afar is getting ridiculous.
  9. I’ve realised that sometimes, the cheapest plane ticket is just not worth it.
  10. Having friends around the world is a fantastic thing, and the ones that keep in contact after all this time will likely be friends for life. With that said, it also really sucks when all your friends are nowhere nearby and you’ve got nothing to do on a Friday night.
  11. I have grown to greatly appreciate adequate public transport. It’ll be nice to drive again at some point, but being able to get nearly anywhere you need to go with public transport and your own two feet is phenomenal.
  12. I’m not sure how long I have to live here to stop being surprised by things, but today is not that day.
  13. I still hold firm that rain and thunderstorms are great. Mists and fogs of water consistently pouring from the sky all day? Not great.
  14. I’ve not gotten any slimmer than when I got here, but for possibly the first time in my life, I’m beginning to feel comfortable in my own skin.
  15. There is, in fact, a point where I can see too many ancient buildings. I never thought it was possible, but here we are.
  16. My alcohol tolerance has gone up considerably since moving to England, but I still don’t think I’ll ever manage to get to the level of drunkenness that the English manage grandly. It’s truly a sight to behold.
  17. I’m not sure I want to continue my education past a master’s degree. I think it might actually break me to attempt a PhD.
  18. If I did go back for a PhD though, it’d be back to my one true love of anthropology and not in museum studies.
  19. Being totally alone in a new city where no one knows who you are and you can do and see what you please is one of the most liberating things in the world. I’d recommend everyone should try it once, even if it’s just a cool new city nearby your hometown.
  20. Watching and learning how a culture works is very different from being immersed in a culture yourself. It’s very easy to say, “Well that’s different from what I know, but it seems to work for them.” It’s much more difficult to allow yourself to be placed into different cultural norms and not rebel against them. Some you will come to accept and love, and some you will consistently struggle with.

— Kate

the internet is coming to get us. well let's get it before it gets us.