It turns out that pickup choirs are not an exclusively American thing. I was at choir practice tonight, and one of the choir members was selling tickets for a charity pickup choir performance of Mozart's Requiem in January! Naturally, I forked over my £10 right away. I haven't sung Mozart's Requiem since junior year at the Fairest College, but I remember really enjoying it. I still have my old score from way back in the day, containing not only my score notations, but also some mysterious notes that clearly meant something to me back in the day, but I've totally forgotten now. Who are Andrea and Isabel? What is the meaning of 209X? Why do I have the name of the Yiddish film Grine Felder written on my Mozart score? The world will never know.
But, hey, I get to sing the Requiem again!
It looks like Michaelmas term is wrapping up here in lovely Cambridge. I've been pretty busy this past week. Part of it is that I had a couple of friends over to visit, a colleague and his wife. They were in the process of moving, but something had gone wrong at their new place, and they couldn't move in until a week after schedule. Meanwhile, they had to be out of the temporary place where they were staying. Of course, you can't let friends be suddenly homeless in December (even if Cambridge isn't nearly as cold as Chicago), so I had them come and stay at my place, which turns out to be plenty big enough for three adults. I declare my first experiment in having houseguests in my Cambridge cottage a rousing success!
It was also mightily convenient, because Colleague and I are working on putting together a proposal to host a conference at Cambridge possibly next year, and we're at the stage where we have to brainstorm themes and go look at potential venues. It was nice to be able to plan these things out with someone who was in the next room rather than the next town over!
The Christmas Season is in full swing, as it apparently has been since early November (no Thanksgiving to slow people down!). The Christmas thing here seems to be mulled wine and mince pies, which have no meat in them. I've had at least three or four invitations to gatherings where this combination of food and drink is served. The next one is on Wednesday. There's also choirs singing carols everywhere you look, and big turkey dinners being advertised. I wouldn't have guessed that English people eat turkey at Christmas, but I guess you learn something new every day. Anyway, there's lots of music going on, so I am a happy Pony.
I also got to see a panto! I'd heard about them, and then it turned out that the graduate students of Corpus have a big Christmas turkey dinner and put on a panto, so I went. The turkey dinner wasn't really anything to write home about, at least not compared with the food that Corpus is capable of producing, but the panto was hilarious! It was a parody of Frozen, and I'm now really glad I watched that movie on the plane to SEM in Pittsburgh last month. My fellow . . . Fellows said that the graduate-student panto wasn't quite fully traditional, but it did include two performers getting dressed up in drag (including the Reverend who is the warden of the graduate campus), and everyone seemed to be having a fantastic time.
And then there was the Benefactors' Feast. I'll write more about that later. For now, all I'll say is that it was spectacle beyond spectacle. O.M.F.G.
Just a little holiday treat for everyone!
I went to see Mockingjay Part 1 today (very good movie, even if I'd forgotten just how long the commercials go on before movies in Europe). One of the trailers at the beginning was for Battle of the Five Armies, and you could tell right away what was going to go wrong from the fact that they actually had Richard Armitage sitting in a chair announcing that you were about to see this trailer. I do hope that little job paid him enough to cover his shame therapy.
So here's a trailer for a three-hour movie covering possibly about the last quarter of a not-very-long, not-very-complicated kids' book. The trailer promises filler, filler, and more filler, along with posturing, Captain Obvious-ing, Thranduil's moose (which will never not be hilarious), and idiotic battle tactics. PJ & Co. also appear to have kept the cast on a slimming diet consisting of nothing but scenery, since they all had to keep picking bits of it out of their teeth. Even Martin Freeman, which is saying something, because his basic shtik is very much not chewing the scenery, even when everyone around him is nibbling away.
I guess this is what happens when you take as the title of your climactic film an event that's pretty much missing from the book, since the protagonist is conveniently unconscious while it happens (way to drop the narrative ball there, Johnny R. R.!), but still. I presume that PJ actually read The Hobbit before trying to make it into the Three Epic Films of Epicness, and therefore I absolve him of no blame whatsoever. Probably the best course of action is just to watch the movie and pretend that it actually has nothing at all to do with Tolkien, but is an independent fantasy movie with a remarkable coincidence of character names. What say you to that?
In other news, I made tonight Pheasant Night! I roasted a pheasant (which you can just walk into a butcher shop and buy, just like that!) with an apple-onion-sage stuffing. Turned out tasty and flavorful, although next time I'm going to make only about a quarter of the stuffing, since I had way too much left over to cook in another pan. But, yeah. Pheasant turns out to cook up pretty much like chicken, except with more flavor, and it's a smaller bird, so there aren't as many meals on it. But I bet the carcass will make an interesting variation on egg-and-lemon soup . . .
Cambridge is a biking kind of town, and I wanted to be mobile. I was advised to get a secondhand bike, since the big crime in Cambridge is bike theft (which tells you a lot about the place, really), so I went to the recommended secondhand bike shop. They had a lovely fixer-upper, and they said they'd fix it up right quick for me.
"Right quick" turned out to be a solid month.
Today, at long last, the bike was ready, and I was able to bike home, carefully remembering to bike on the left. Wheels at last! I've named the bike, of course, and after that month of waiting and waiting and dropping by and waiting some more, there was really only one name that this bike could reasonably have. I have named it: Æthelred!
The great irony, of course, is that in about an hour, I'm taking off for the train station to go to London, after which I'm flying to Pittsburgh tomorrow for SEM. Ol' Æthelred will have to wait a week before we can really start traveling together.
I just heard from the moving company, and it looks like my household goods have cleared Customs, and will arrive on Tuesday. All hail Tuesday, the day my house will stop looking like a crack house and start looking like a home!
I have a fun evening planned!
Last Saturday, at shul, I was given an aliyah, since it was only my second time there. For those who don't know, an aliyah is the honor of reciting the blessings over the Torah, and a lot of shuls give visitors and newcomers an aliyah if they want one. At Beth Shalom in Cambridge, you can either read or chant the blessing, and, as none of you will be surprised to hear, I chanted.
Well, after the service, a guy came up to me and said that he was the secretary of the choir that is associated with the shul, Kol Echad, and he said that, after listening to me chant the Torah blessings, he wanted me in the choir! Not only does this sound like a lot of fun, not only will it give me a chance to sing, which I love doing, but it's a perfect fieldwork opportunity, rolled up and handed to me with a bow on top! They rehearse every other Tuesday.
First rehearsal is tonight, about two miles away, so a nice healthy walk, since the bike shop is still fixing up the second-hand bike I picked out. I don't mind, actually -- since I've never been to the place where the rehearsal is, it'll be good to be able to walk the route the first time, so I can check my map if I get lost.
And here's something else. The dance class I'd picked out meets on Tuesday nights, which conflicts half the time with choir rehearsal. But this is Cambridge, and not Chicago, and it turns out that there are so many Scottish dance classes that I could go to at least four or five a week if I wanted to. And people do hop between classes. I can pretty much work out my schedule such that I can dance at least one night a week somewhere in Cambridge, and be part of the Kol Echad choir! Life is good here.
Hi everyone! Here I am in lovely Cambridge! It's taken a while for things to get set up, and they're not quite fully set up yet, but the new computer (named "Marlowe," since Christopher Marlowe was a Corpus alum) is here, and I've been setting it up.
So, here I am in my new apartment. It's really nice. It's actually not so much an apartment as it is a little cottage attached to the side of the larger Victorian brick house. It has its own private entrance, with a real front door that opens onto the front yard, not just an apartment door opening onto a hallway or a staircase. There are two bedrooms, of which one is the bedroom and the other is the study/guest room. Fancy fancy! There's also a combination living/dining room, a tiny but surprisingly functional kitchen, and (get this!) separate rooms for the toilet and the shower.
I've learned well the first and most important lesson of the house, which is this: do not turn on the hot water taps unless you really, really mean it! Apparently, this has to do with the way that plumbing in older British houses is designed, but every sink has a hot tap and a cold tap, and they do exactly what they say on the tin!
My shipped stuff hasn't arrived yet -- the shipping company's best guess is that the container ship is due to dock on Tuesday, and then my stuff has to get through Customs before being delivered -- so the place has that vaguely crack-house air that houses get when people live in them without much in the way of personalized things. But my books and clothes and decorations will arrive at some point, and then it'll be cute and charming and I could show you pictures.
More importantly, I have every reason to believe that the wire transfer of my money from my US bank to my shiny new UK bank account will be complete on Monday, which means that I'll finally have access to my funds. This is a great relief, since I've been living for the past couple of weeks off of the £500 that I made selling off my furniture and small appliances back in Chicago. Fortunately, the College and the Faculty of Music have helped out by inviting me to large welcome dinners. Discworld's Unseen University suddenly makes so much more sense!
There's plenty to tell, but that's enough for now. I'm here, I'm actually here! I'm in England, and so far, I like it a lot!
But better too early than not at all. I'm flying off to England tomorrow, and I'll land on Wednesday morning. Since I'll be basically pretty much incapacitated on the day itself:
Shana Tova, everyone! Have a happy, healthy, and sweet New Year! I'll be back once I'm more set up.
So this morning, timing worked out such that Dad Pony went out for his morning constitutional, I came downstairs, had breakfast, and had completely cleaned up from the meal by the time Dad Pony got back. The following conversation ensued:
Dad Pony: Have you eaten?
French Pony: NINJA BREAKFAST!
FP: I ate and cleaned up in total stealth. No trace of my breakfast remains beyond a mysteriously missing peach.
DP: Is that what the Ninja Turtles did? Did they clean up after themselves when they ate breakfast?
Ah, Dad Pony. Never letting us forget that he is the Baby Boomer parent of two daughters on the cusp between Gen X and Gen Y.
In other news, I've booked my flight to England! I'm leaving Boston on Tuesday the 23rd, landing in England on Wednesday the 24th, schlepping my sorry self straight to Cambridge, and flopping into the bed in the college guestroom. Fun fun fun!