23 February 2009

Spring is springing

So I've been informed by not one, but several people in my family that I'm slacking on the blog. I apologize, and submit the following post as part of my apology:

Mark and I had a great time with Jeremy - Mark's older brother came for a few days this past week on his way to Switzerland - but I'm going to let Mark blog about that. More pressing is the fact that spring has sprung in Liverpool! Crocuses have popped out along Lark Lane and throughout Sefton Park, and we have daffodils straining to bloom out of their buds in our backyard/patio.

Awesome. But let me back up:

We spent Saturday doing laundry at the laundromat (ugh - I thought I'd left that behind in college, but nay), cleaning, getting cable installed, and getting library cards at our local library. It's tiny, so I wasn't expecting much - but it was breathtaking inside. I see myself spending many summer mornings coming in, picking out a book, then taking Miller down to the park to read and watch him run around and make friends. 

The library looks like a small Tudor cottage from Aigburth Road, the closest main road to our little neighborhood. It has a small lawn and an unassuming plot - but inside are original windows facing toward Sefton Park, high ceilings and a narrow balcony circling the main room. The interior itself was completely refurbished a few years ago, but it's endured a lot in the past several decades. There's a photo display as you enter - black and white photos of patrons standing knee-deep in rubble as they wait to check out their books, and a gaping hole in the roof of the main room of the library, devastated by German bombs in WWII. 

Now it's populated by gregarious older ladies proud to show off their state-of-the-art computer systems (I get to scan the books myself! And it doesn't even need to see the bar code!) and their collection - impressive, considering the library's small size. Absolutely adorable. I will post pictures next time we visit.

We also drove up to Bootle, on the north side of Liverpool, to finalize my plans to purchase a new (used) car. I've been driving a hired Ford Focus, but the hire was coming to an end and I needed to suck it up and go to a few dealerships. For those of you on the opposite end of teary phone calls and exasperated shouts (and possibly whines) during my last car purchasing adventure, then you know what Mark's been putting up with. I hate buying cars. 

Let me make that clear: I loathe buying cars. 

I like to know what I am talking about, I like to be an educated consumer, I like to look at a price tag and know immediately whether I'll take it or not.

I do not like walking into a dealership to be accosted by salesmen. Particularly salesmen who act and speak exactly as you expect salesmen to speak. I do not like trying to read up on cars and then looking at cars and realizing I am still at a complete loss. I do not like being pressured to make decisions. I do not like negotiating (my recent course notwithstanding) and I do not like it when I tell a salesman frankly what I am looking for and what I am willing to spend to have it promptly ignored.

Whew. Now that all that's out of my system: I have bought a used 2006 Ford Focus. Paperwork still to be finalized - but it looks like I will pick it up on March 2nd. This will be my first car to have six (six!) gears, reverse not included, and it is pretty snazzy looking, if I do say so myself. (Pics to come...)

Mark was an excellent fiance and accompanied my to this and many other car dealerships. I knew he'd rather be somewhere - anywhere - else (and who wouldn't?) but he sucked it up and came. Especially after I begged.

But secretly, let me admit something: even though I told him that I wanted him there for moral support, it was really that I just appreciate having him there. And this weekend, after everything had been finalized to the point that me going to the dealership was really just a formality and filling in paperwork, and it meant that he didn't go skateboarding in order to sip terrible coffee and pretend to make conversation with Peter across the desk, I didn't really need him there. But I still made him come.

I am not really adjusting to the whole sales/travel thing particularly well. I don't know if it's just that I've grown to depend on Mark like a crutch, or that we're really that disgustingly in love, but I hate leaving him. I hate leaving our home and our routines to spend nights away in an empty hotel room. I do little things to make it better: watch movies, take baths in extravagant bathrooms, read books late into the night... but the truth is, I'd rather be growing exasperated with his sighs and moans as I turn another page and keep the light on for a few more minutes than to roll over in bed and realize he isn't there.

(Well, in truth, some giant extravagant bathtubs do make me feel a little bit better...)

I'm sorry if that just made you throw up a little inside your mouth, but it's the truth. And all this weekend I was dreading going to the airport. Dreading packing, dreading all the time to myself. Because even though I'm lucky enough to meet lots of nice, interesting people when I travel, sales is pretty lonely.

The airport was everything I dreaded, but I arrived in Cork to sunshine and a beautiful spring day. Crocuses and even some daffodils bobbed along the side of the road as I made my way out of the airport and toward Carrigaline. I passed rolling hills patched like eathen quilts - shades of green and gold edged by hedge rows, and ancient stone walls, and the remains of castles and churches, overgrown by ivy in some cases, lovingly tended in others.
And I perked right up. I still missed Mark, but I started to enjoy the adventure a bit.

17 February 2009

British Sea Power and The Seal Cub Clubbing Club

Kathleen and I never really get too into Valentine’s Day. In the past we usually have not been around each other and flowers would suffice. However one year, I received the classic heart-shaped box of chocolates which were absolutely amazing because they were from Lake Champlain Chocolates. Last year we decided to spend this annual night of romance at a fondue micro-brewed beer tasting event at out favourite local bar in Somerville: The Independent. (This bar is always playing great music and they have Brooklyn Lager on tap so if you are ever in the area). Our aim was to meet our neighbours, but we just kind of got drunk and laughed a lot.

This year, I found out that a band I like was playing so I convinced Kathleen to buy tickets 4 weeks before the show. I am a bit neurotic with these types of things and am always convinced something will sell out, so she obliged by getting us tickets. The band we were going to see is called British Sea Power. I first heard of them years ago while living in Vermont with Colin and I have listened to them off and on, since. I was surprised to find out that they are actually from the Lakes District up in Cumbria which is where New Balance has one of our factories. So I was really looking forward to seeing this ‘local’ show.

We spent the few hours before the show at home, having America Night. This consisted of cooking Mexican food and drinking Corona. Kathleen has perfected a method of slow cooking chicken in spices so that it just kind of falls apart and is perfect for burritos. It was almost too good in that by the time we were ready to go we were sufficiently stuffed. We ended up getting to the show a bit early and caught one of the opening acts: The Seal Cub Clubbing Club. It is super rare that I go to a show and like the opening bands. I am one of those people that need to listen to bands a few times through before I can pass judgement. However, I was pleasantly surprised by these guys. First of all, their name is just kind of awesome. Their songs are super diverse and their singer has a pretty wide range of vocals. You can listen to them here. You should listen to the second song ‘Secrets.’

In between acts, we checked out the merch table and Kathleen laughed as I bought a t-shirt, poster and tea mug. I have not bought merchandise at a show in years, but I was not ashamed. I am toying with the idea of not wearing only black tee-shirts any longer and bought nice baby blue one. I bought a concert poster that fits a frame we have perfectly and consequently looks amazing in our living room this very minute. Finally, British Sea Power have a series of tea mugs that they sell and this one was rad because it was red and had a bear on it. Kathleen immediately absconded said mug and has been calling it ‘her’ mug ever since.

After a couple of Tuborgs, the band took the stage and played for about an hour or so. They were pretty amazing right of the bat and played for about an hour or so. I suck at describing music so I won’t really try to here. All I can say is that listening to this show made me think about cold rainy coastlines, World War II, the British ‘identity’, bombed out cities, and thinking. Whatever. You can listen for yourself here. So in short, the show was awesome. If you ever get the chance to go see them do it. You will enjoy your self. And if you can’t go see them, listen to their music on a rainy night, by a fire, with a glass of scotch.

Oh and as a side note about the whole Valentine’s thing. Kathleen outdid herself this year by having a box of not only chocolate but beer as well sent to me at work. It is Green and Blacks, is organic, and was absolutely, ridiculously delicious.

11 February 2009


So Kathleen and I went out to Liverpool on Saturday. As we were waiting for the train in, I was commenting that I was feeling really good about the city recently. I mean sure Manchester is bigger, glitzier, and more cosmopolitan. But there is something about the city of Liverpool that has been growing on me recently. I have been reading bits and pieces of a small five-volume collection of writings on the city. Basically they are different perspectives and recollections of the city from famous and not-so-famous authors, politicians, etc. Everyone from Allen Ginsberg to Dickens to unknown sailors is represented. Some are just one or two lines about the city whereas others are a few pages in length. Perhaps it was reading about the history of the city as a major shipping port that did it. I have also been skating a lot and this has shown me another side of the city a bit more. And I have been running during the daylight more and getting to know it better in the early morning hours. Maybe it has been hanging out at FACT more. Regardless, something prompted me to remark: “I am glad Liverpool has retained some of its sketchiness.”
So as we set out on Saturday, I had this in mind. We spent the afternoon at the Walker Gallery which is a fairly well known museum in the area. After this we planned on catching a movie at FACT, but had a few hours to kill. I declared to Kathleen that in the next two hours we would find and explore new areas of the city. She was very game to this idea and very patient with my random whims as usual. I had seen a tea shop on a few runs that looked very intriguing so I set that as our ultimate destination. We slowly worked our way to the other side of town only turning down streets and alleys we had not been down yet. Along the way we found: a strange open block surrounded by run-down nightclubs, numerous empty lots that reminded us of all the 1970’s NYC crime movies we watched last year, a few sketchy looking tenement apartments intermingled with what looked like gentrified middle class housing, a random dog who was fine but scared me, and a group of skaters my age literally sculpting their own four-foot quarter pipe out of wet concrete in yet another vacant lot. Quite an exciting walk for sure. We ended up finding the tea shop whose website you can visit here. It is called Leaf and was started by a young woman who renovated a vacant space in a rundown warehouse. It was very well done and served a wide-range of tea and food. It had a bit for both of us in that it has described itself as for people into Punk music and knitting. As Kathleen said; “I told you knitting was not just for dweebs!” The girl running the place was super nice and I am sure we will go back regularly.
After tea, we made our way back across town taking a more direct route. We watched Benjamin Button at FACT (very good, but sad!) and I lost a new book I had bought at the museum. Afterwards we grabbed a quick bite at one of our favourite noodle places and headed to the train. At this point we were pretty exhausted and ready to be at home, a good day in Liverpool behind us. As we reached the top of the escalator, I heard our train on the platform below and we ran to catch it. In true NYC style I shoved my leg in the closing doors and forced them to stay open a crack so Kathleen could slide in as well. Sweet. Made it. Little did we know that we just rushed to get in the same train car as a couple of maniacs. I would put one in his late twenties and the other in his mid forties. Kathleen commented later that she first thought they were father and son. The father immediately started in mimicking my falsetto as I attempted to imitate Kathleen whining (Karma at its best). When I looked up to see what was going on, he quickly became all apologies for mocking me. Whatever. So I picked up a copy of the Sun Newspaper which was lying on the seat next to me. Immediately, the older guy stood up and stumbled over in a stench of stale alcohol. He ripped the paper out of my hand and threw it on the ground. He then spat out a bunch of words that neither Kathleen nor I understood, but we think had something to do with the fact that he hated that paper. He managed to tell us that if anyone (and he meant anyone) in Liverpool saw us reading the Sun we would get punched immediately. It has something to do with football and the fact that Liverpool had lost recently. Nice. He was laughing the whole time, but was very wasted and a bit all over the place. He next decided to sit down and asked me my name. I told him and he started in about my name for some reason and how it was pronounced. He chose to sit across from me and next to Kathleen so I put my foot up on the chair to be sure he kept some distance. Unfortunately that resulted in physical contact which was followed by handshakes all around (you know how some people just seem filthy to the touch?). 
Meanwhile the whole time Junior is just laughing uncontrollably. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the Metro Police coming up. All right, surely these guys will recognize that this guy is a bit off and they will take care of him. Nope. They simply walked by and commanded me to take my foot off the seat. Their appearance then prompted our man to start going on and on about how he really wanted to become a ‘train guard man’ when he was a kid because of the powers it would give him. He said a lot more, but we really had no comprehension. I would like to think we have gotten better at understanding accents in the two and a half months since we moved here. Not with him. His accent was as Scouse as could be. At this point, our stop was next so we positioned to make our getaway. Then out of nowhere Junior pops up from the next seat with a one pence coin containing a tiny mound of coke for dear old Dad. “Drugs?” one or the other or both said to us. “No.” Snort and it was all gone up the old guy’s nose. Kathleen and I just looked at each other and tried really really hard not to laugh and spilled out on to the platform. I think we laughed until falling asleep that night.
So was this guy a true representative of Liverpudlians? No. Not really. But as unexpected as the encounter was, it did just seem appropriate at the time. And I think it did make me enjoy our fair city even a bit more.

04 February 2009


I have been quietly but hugely excited to come to Ireland. I've been dreaming of coming for years, from back at McGill and years earlier - but Monday morning I found myself seated on a plane, albeit an hour later than planned, ready to hurry up and get there already.

Monday morning Mark and I awoke to several inches of fluffy snow coating the cars and the streets of Liverpool. It was still dark as we made our way to the car, and it seemed our neighborhood hadn't yet woken up. It was the perfect way to enjoy a rare occurrence of snow in northwest England, and we squeezed each others hands as we quietly made our way to Manchester for my flight.

Upon my arrival in Ireland, however, a flurry of different sorts awaited us. People were panicking on the television, the terminal, and the car hire. People were panicking on our visits, leaving early or not coming to work at all. People were... clearly using the snow as an excuse to call in to work, since though we saw alot of snow in the air, not too much stuck to the ground. Here's a terrible webcam of the snow outside my window in Dublin (you should normally be able to see the harbor outside): 

Scratch that, uploading the damn thing was more trouble than it was worth.

The past few days have been a flurry of activity and I'm learning a lot. Everyone here has been very friendly, even if I can't understand them (we were in Northern Ireland the other day and I met a guy with a Celtic accent, apparently, and I still have no idea what he said. I did try to laugh when he smiled, but that's all I could do). The only downside thus far was a five hour traffic snarlup that Matt and I found ourselves in last night, trying to get back through Dublin and out to Tullamore in the midst of rush hour traffic and the snow... It's hard to believe we only travelled 60 miles from 4pm until 9...

Tonight we're in Clonmel, and I've returned to my hotel room from a few pints of Guinness in front of the Liverpool VS Everton FA match. To those of you not in the loop of English competitive football, these two teams are ranked 2nd and 4th (?) and have already played once to a 1-1 draw. We're now in extra time and it's still 0-0, but they'll play until someone wins. Apparently the FA cup is one of several that football teams compete for here, and it's supposed to crown the best team in the UK Premier league. I think. Liverpool is chock full of Irish that never made it across the Atlantic, so they're one of the most popular teams over here - meaning we weren't the only ones interested in the Liverpool match at the hotel bar.

The best part of the evening (besides being hit on by an 80 year old from County Kerry named Willie - apparently I just need to head down there and tell everyone that I know Willie, since he once ran for office on the slogan 'don't be a sillie, vote for Willie' so they'll know who I'm talking about) was listening to two dozen older men from County Kerry (one of them a Brosnan or Brosnahan!) converge on the hotel bar, drink several pints, and launch into song after song. It seemed like I was stuck in a Maeve Binchy movie, and apparently all the old guys do it, but it was a lovely way to meet these characters, and even though it was corny I loved every minute of it. I'm looking forward to coming back.

Now back to my chips and gravy, and then a well-deserved sleep. I miss you all.

03 February 2009

Pics of Snow

Not much fell and it all pretty much melted the next day, but here are a few pics....



02 February 2009


OK so it is not a lot - only an inch or so. But it was enough to cover all of the roads, cars, buildings, trees, and grass. Kathleen and I walked out of the house (the new one!) to see our Lucerne Street covered in a blanket of white. And it has just started snowing again! No pictures cause my camera phone is terrible, but I can look out the office window and see it falling on to pine trees. When you squint a bit, the little concrete industrial city of Warrington looks a bit like New England. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know all you people back home are probably sick of all the snow you are getting (shame on you), however this just does not happen in Liverpool too often. This is a good start to the week!