October 29, 2013

God's actual goal

"And so the time of trial in which we are now living will last just as long as it takes to attain this, God's actually goal. That means for each of us the length of time it will take to learn genuinely the lesson that God has now assigned us. For man in his natural state this is not easy; yet everything depends on not evading God's teaching, but willingly accepting everything that he sends us. Everything comes from his hands and not at all from those of man; every day anew God is ready with his aid, both material and spiritual, for those who really trust in him."

Letter by unnamed author in WWII Germany - 'Dying We Live'

October 11, 2013

The battle with Mould begins!

I think 'mold' should definitely be spelled the British way, 'mould'...it seems more mouldy with an extra vowel...and you'd get more points in Scrabble. 

I feel I'm on the way to happiness and content at home now that my dehumidifier has arrived. It looks like it's collected about 3/4 cup of water so far today. Not sure if that's a lot or not...Seems pretty decent going tho'.

In anticipation of a dryer house I scrubbed the bathroom down to get rid of existing mould so we (the house and I) could have a fresh start. So we'll see what happens in the next month.

Also, I put pressure on my landlord (as far as someone raised in 'Minnesota nice' actually CAN put pressure on someone) and he's finally turned on the heating! Ahhhhh! 50F/10C outside and nice and toasty inside. :) I bought a hot water bottle as well...Apparently it's one of those things that is a part of life here...Speaking of which...I'd better put the kettle on.
There we go! Nicely tucked at the foot of my bed heating it up for me. :) G'nite!

ps. Do you know to see the doctor here you have to book 2 weeks ahead for a 10 minute slot??? At least I pay via taxes so I don't know how much that 10 minute slot actually costs me. :p

October 3, 2013

So much for good intentions

There's nothing like making a resolve to finding yourself immediately doing what you resolved not to! After coming home from my latest holiday it struck me there was a lot of grumpiness at work...perhaps I noticed because I myself have been feeling grumpy for some time. Anyways, I believe that grumpiness spreads grumpiness and if I could manage to be cheerful and upbeat about work then the mood would generally spread.

So much for good intentions...Two weeks of working long, long hours have left me feeling like I'm trying to think around a cotton ball lodged in my brain. Sometimes I feel I can't even see properly...

Tonight I finished work 45 minutes late and came back in pouring rain without an umbrella...and found I'd lost my house key...Fortunately my landlord was in, so I was able to get inside. Oh, and my overhead lights are still being problematic so I'm living in gloom with only 2 lamps.

Gloom and doom aside...I've booked my train ticket to London in December! Just 2 nights but can't wait! I love London...in short bursts. I've been waiting for some time for a cheap ticket and East Coast just gave me a real deal at 22 pounds round trip. Things on my to-do/to-see list are: British Museum, theater, National Gallery, evensong at Westminster, lunch in the crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Victoria and Albert Museum, etc., etc.! :) I'm hopeful that a friend of mine will be able to come too...her ideas of holiday are similar to mine...and include intermittent tea stops.

To close with a little CS Lewis...

"Don't be too easily convinced that God really wants you to do all sorts of work you needn't do. Each must do his duty 'in that state of life to which God has called him'. Remember that a belief in the virtues of doing for doing's sake is characteristically feminine, characteristically American, and characteristically modern: so that three veils may divide you from the correct view! There can be intemperance in work just as in drink." (CS Lewis, letter to Mary Shelburne)

"...It seems to me that one can hardly say anything either bad enough or good enough about life". (Letter to Bede Griffiths)

Oremus pro invicem!

August 26, 2013

Bank Holiday weekend / A visit from the police

Happy Bank Holiday Weekend! :) Miraculously it was a sunny Bank Holiday...judging from comments that tends to be quite rare. The best word to describe today, however, is 'smashing'!

I 'organized' a group of friends to go to Finchale (pronounced Finkle) Priory in Durham and have a picnic amid the ruins of the priory. A river runs alongside the extensive ruin.
Tell me something interesting! I wish to be entertained.
A Dutch friend of mine came to visit over the weekend as well...Another Scottish friend was kind enough to drive us around visiting various National Trusts, including Warkworth, which was interesting to me as I had an ancestor who lived there many hundred years ago.
Belsay Hall
Costumes from Jane Austen films

Northumberlandia / Lady of the North

Warkworth Castle
In other news, my landlord is finally back from his 10 day holiday. One the third day or so his house alarm went off...as I was quietly sitting in the front garden reading 'Wind in the Willows' and drinking tea. I called them up to let them know...and unbeknownst to me they rang the police...So at 11pm there was a knocking on my door...The police...What good they were going to be 4 hrs after the alarm went isn't precisely clear, I suppose to re-seal the house and report it. Fortunately I'm pretty sure there was no robbery...especially as I was sitting in front of the house at the time!

Anyways, these two Yorkshire chaps decided they'd climb through my bathroom window into my landlord's backyard just to make sure there hadn't been an entry from the back. High commitment to duty there! I had to take a photo...Unfortunately it's a bit blurry as I didn't realized I'd left it on manual focus. And then the moment passed. He didn't want to stay in the middle of the window while I took the photo...strange, these Yorkshire men! :)

July 30, 2013

Singing the Psalms...and Gnarls Barkley

A weekend in Girona, Spain
Well, it may not come as a surprise to many that the happy state of affairs related in my last blog post didn't last. Like a bug that leaves its shell I became something of a dry husk in the shape of myself but without the life. Well, slight exaggeration, but I like the analogy. :) On the cusp of a nervous breakdown I was given more time off over the summer. Maybe one day I'll even feel lighthearted enough to change my ringtone to be something other than Gnarls Barkley.

The house damp and the mold (should I be spelling it 'mould' now?) continue as before! My flat used to be the stable...might account for it. Nice to know that something is dependable, I suppose.

My English vocabulary continues to expand...I've been learning words such as 'faff', 'naff', 'blag', 'canny', 'bait', etc...

I've discovered Debenhams...And have become a regular customer! They have lovely dresses. As usual, the hopes that something new will completely redefine me as a new, lovely and thin person, looms large in my mind. The caveat emptor is I can only be new and lovely and thin occasionally when I'm wearing those new items. Life is sad.

Never mind...I've been reading in Psalms lately...My 'huskiness' left me not only an emotional husk but a spiritual one as well, so I've been trying to be more disciplined about meditating on the Bible. And this is what I've found...

"I told You about my life, and You listened to me..." 
This is great! Women love to talk about their lives anyways, and now I find it's Biblical! :)

"Help me understand the meaning of Your precepts so that I can meditate on Your wonders."
"Teach me, Lord, the meaning of Your statutes, and I will always keep them. Help me understand Your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart."
I like this too because the psalimst really wants to get at what's at the bottom of the Law...like when Jesus showed that people kept the Law but missed the point...Easy to do.

"Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in Your ways."
"If only my ways were committed to keeping Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed when I think about all Your commands."
Yup...Por aĆ­...

"Open the gates of righteousness for me; I will enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
"I called to the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and put me in a spacious place. The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
"I love the Lord because He has heard my appeal for mercy. Because He has turned His ear to me, I will call out to Him as long as I live."

"The Lord guards the inexperienced; I was helpless, and He saved me."
"For You, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling."
"How can I repay the Lord for all the good He has done for me?"
These are other verses I really like and want to remember.

Yours, Lydia

Oh, and here are some pictures of my life lately!
Brilliant family vacation back 'home'
Great trip w/ work to N. Ireland - Wall mural & me

December 27, 2012

My life thus far

Without being particularly inspired to write, I am nevertheless yielding to public demand and updating my blog. What should I write about? Work consumes at least 48 hrs per week of my life so I suppose I should mention that in passing. Maybe the dark-chocolate-covered-ginger biscuit I'm eating deserves a mention as well as it is remarkably delicious, even after several days of exposure to the 'elements', or damp of my house.

I continue to really enjoy my life and work here in the UK. You'd think with only 1 day off a week and only a few free evenings a week I would have very little social life, but you'd be wrong. Maybe it's just because the days fly by so quickly but my life seems full of fun and people.
Weekend away in the Lake District

Last night I had 7 Chinese students over for a Boxing Day dinner. I have 4 chairs...but I discovered that if I shove my table against the sofa (I learned this trick in Romania) I can squeeze two more people on at the end and easily dine 6...and if I borrow my landlord's chairs I can even fit 8! It seems a waste to invite a mere 3 or 4 guests when I know so many people to invite.

Back in the summer
Everything I made turned out well, even the rice, which I was a bit worried about as I felt my diners would be quite particular about how rice was cooked. Most of them brought me a Christmas gift...which was anything from a fortune teller calendar to a lovely Chinese dress which I was really disappointed to find doesn't fit. (Maybe I will have it adjusted.) I was quite mortified because I had only gotten them very small token presents like bit of chocolate...Gulp. Next year I will be better prepared.

By my calculations I can have 2 more sets of people over before I go on my well-earned holiday in January. These will be different from last night's dinner in that nearly everyone coming will be British. I think I will make tacos...and gooseberry fool...Which sounds quite tough on the stomach I will admit, but I don't know many good Mexican desserts and I have these lovely gooseberries I was given. Mom once said a meal I made would 'separate the men from the boys'...sigh. Maybe I will think up another main dish and another dessert and have Mexican one week and gooseberries and whatever the next.
Women's Encouragement Group
Going back to the 'damp of my house', I discovered pink mold or 'mould' on the bathroom wall. :/ This house doesn't get direct sun and every now and then I'm tempted to move because of aforementioned damp...but then something will happen and I'll decide to stay again. The last thing was my telling a British chap that my radiators came on 3 times a day and just seeing his awe at such luxury. It's on now for the last time for the night and I've got my back plastered to it as I type.

I've continued my plan to buy an orchid a month and have 3 blooming at present in cascades of white, white with purple spots, and yellow/orange with a burgundy middle.

So there you have it...I may work 48 hours a week but I have the life of Riley. :)

October 2, 2012

Orkney Islands and Norway - a walking holiday

This August a friend and I had a most lovely walking holiday in the Orkney Islands. Mom had been there years ago and I've been hearing about them for about as long as I can remember. So when I was trying to decide where I would go she suggested the Islands again...and I discovered that they weren't too difficult to get to. Although the locals say that it is "grim" in the winter, in the summer it is lovely light jacket weather. 
Car "passing area"
If you're looking for an escape from the busy, stressful, crazy world I strongly suggest the Orknies. Everything and everyone there seems very old-fashioned and wholesome. It's a place where locals say you can safely hitchhike (and we did...sorry Dad!) and neighbors invite you in for a drink as you walk past (we did that too...). 
Westray, Orkney
Orkney is known for its ice cream and beef. We tried both...although after eating the beef I felt guilty every time I looked at a cow...or they looked at me. And they always looked. They didn't seem to be able to grasp the concept that any human wouldn't be involved in their lives in some form. They would turn to stare every time, and if it were in the evening, when I imagine they either got fed or milked, then they would come running to the fence.
Social cows

We started our Orkney adventure in the bustling metropolis of the capital, Kirkwall, population 7,600. Then we took the ferry to Westray for a few nights...population approx 550. We took a little ferry over to the neighboring island of Papa Westray while there...Population 65. A local was heard to refer to the inhabitants of Westray (visible across the water) as the "savages". You might wonder how in a place w/ only 65 inhabitants we came across an actual person, but the answer is quite simple, we went to the weekly community tea and coffee.
Westray cliffs

Viking ruins
The Orkney Islands have Viking ruins all over the place. Unlike Italy and France, these are not all cluttered up with tourists...mostly there's nobody there. We took a series of walks, some of them about 4 hrs each, and rarely encountered more people than we could count on one hand.

 The walks were great, despite missing the Nortland Links archaeological site due to having thought it was a golf course and also the Viking long boat buried in the sand beneath the church near Mae Sands which was terribly mislabeled in our walking guide.

After Orkney we went to Norway for a bit as I wanted to see the fjords and also had to leave the UK and re-enter to start my work visa. All I have to say about that is, if there's a more expensive country than Norway I don't want to go there! We set ourselves the task of trying to find something, anything! that cost less than $1.00...We did manage in the end...a little packet of mayo like you get with your burger at McDonald's and one shop was selling post cards for less than $1 although the standard for a post card was generally $1.71 each. Using the public toilets also cost $1.71...in case you wanted to know!
Preikestolen - Pulpit Rock

Youth Hostel - Pulpit Rock