New-to-me bike

This past weekend I bought a bike.

I felt like such a little kid last week when I tried it out: It had been four years since I’d last ridden a bike, so there I was, semi-wobbly, with F. running alongside to make sure I didn’t fall. But I didn’t fall, and the bike met with approval, and so when my helmet arrived in the post on Saturday, I took it as a sign to pick up the bike.

The first few times I rode it, my first inclination was to veer to ride on the right side of the rode. But of course, I live in Scotland, where one drives (and rides) on the left side of the road. I think I’ve wrapped my head around that concept now. Roundabouts are still somewhat scary… I think I’m getting used to them…

My bike is purple. Also, it needs a name. I had planned on naming it after Gawain’s horse, but that’s a boy-horse’s name and I’m pretty sure my bike is a girl. Suggestions?

This year, I vote

Earlier this month I posted links to a few articles about what is important to me in this 2012 U.S. Presidential election. I have already voted — the privilege of getting an absentee ballot, I guess — but because one cannot escape the election campaigns, I still think about how and why I voted the way I did.

My fellow OBU-alum Mary writes it better than I could. Her reasons are very similar to mine. Read her blog post here: This year, I vote.

This year, I vote as a Christian; as a woman; as a liberal; as a beneficiary of socialised healthcare.

I have cast my vote; now I wait.

R.R.S. Discovery

One of the benefits of working at a museum that is a member of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions is that it allows one to visit other member institutions for free. We took advantage of this on Monday, going to Dundee to see the R.R.S. (Royal Research Ship) Discovery — the same ship that carried Captain Scott and his team of intrepid explorers on their first journey to Antarctica in 1901.

Discovery Point has a museum packed with details of the ship’s construction and commission, including history about shipbuilding in Dundee — where the ship was built. We spent a couple of hours in just the museum, taking in all of what we could of the story. Then, upon exiting the museum, we came to the ship itself.

The R.R.S. Discovery is restored to how it was on its second Antarctic journey in the 1920s. Most of the decks are accessible to visitors; compared to the museum, the signage on the ship was not as informative, but it was still interesting and fun to walk around. It really helped me to re-visualise some of the scenes from Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian or any of the Temeraire novels by Naomi Novik, especially the officers’ quarters and dining room. I kept wondering where the dragon deck would be — the Discovery couldn’t hold a dragon such as Temeraire of course, but maybe a Winchester…

Visiting Discovery Point all in all took about four hours, and that’s with reading nearly everything in the museum and spending quite a lot of time on the ship itself. It definitely makes for a good afternoon adventure!

Autumn

October has seen the days alternate between the two extremes of autumn: dark, grey and blustery days, and bright, crisp clear days with crunchy leaves and colours in the trees. Today was one of the bright autumn days.

 

A sunrise dusted with gold and peach and orange, an exchange of good-morning meows with one of my feline friends on my way into town, the air full of birdsong and sunlight: the day was already off to a good start. After work I took a very leisurely walk home via Lade Braes. There the trees were turning, the river sang, a heron stood on the banks. I stopped to look at the leaves, to watch the heron, revelling in the autumn afternoon, thinking my own thoughts and enjoying my own company. The sun was setting as I turned towards home at last, setting the clouds alight, bright and fleeting.

Radio silence

Term began some weeks ago and as predicted, I have found myself quite busy. Museum work, PhD work, PGCF (Postgraduate Christian Forum), Renaissance Singers choir, spending time with friends and with someone particular, have all amounted to a very busy bee. Or at least, one who is not often at her computer with time to blog.

So yes, I know I haven’t gotten around to posting pictures from my trip to Poland, which was, yes, a month ago now.

And yes, I know, I have been less regular with my book reviews. I finished Miracle on the River Kwai last Saturday night and realised with a shock that it was half-way through October and I had only read one book.

Which leads to another confession, dear readers: I will not be doing NaNoWriMo this year. The 1st of October has passed and I am not among those who have registered, with novel idea and title already in mind. While I do have five novels waiting in my head, now is not the time to write them. Not when I have a PhD thesis to finish. Not when I have other things in which I gladly want to invest my time. I have barely enough time to read fiction, let alone write fiction.

So there you have it. My apologies for my present radio silence and an explanation for why it might not change anytime soon.

Miracle on the River Kwai

Opening line: ‘I was dreaming, and I was happy with my dreams.’

Thus opens the first chapter of Miracle on the River Kwai, ominously titled ‘The Death House’. Ernest Gordon, an officer in the 2nd Battalion, 93rd Highlanders — or the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders — was deployed with his regiment to fight the Japanese during World War II. Miracle on the River Kwai is his first-hand account of his capture by the Japanese and his experiences as a prisoner of war over the next three years until the end of the war. One of the prisoners forced to build the Death Railway and the bridge over the River Kwai, Gordon recounts the appalling, horrifying conditions and treatment suffered by the P.O.W.s, including his own very near encounters with death. Through retelling his experiences, Gordon demonstrates the very depths human beings can reach — and the very height. For while toiling in the jungle, surrounded by death, Gordon and his fellow prisoners found Hope. Unbidden, unsought, the faith of two men who cared for Gordon led to his own spiritual awakening and of others’. The revolution of hope was Christ revealed in those prison camps.

I had known a bit of Ernest Gordon’s story, having once seen the film To End All Wars several years ago. That did not make the story in Miracle on the River Kwai any less powerful. What I appreciated most was Gordon’s sincerity: free from ‘churchy’ lingo, skeptical of religion as a crutch in hard times, he wrote with honesty about how in the blackness of a P.O.W. labour camp in the jungle of South East Asia, he encountered Christ and came to be a disciple. It wasn’t easy. How does one love one’s enemies, especially when they are so near at hand, at whose hands one experiences only brutality and hate? And yet nothing is impossible with God. Near the end of the war — even if the prisoners didn’t know it yet — Gordon tells of a group of emaciated prisoners tending, of their own volition, the wounds of dying Japanese.

‘We were beginning to understand that as there were no easy ways for God, so there were no easy ways for us. God, we saw, was honouring us by allowing us to share in His labours, aye, in His agony — for the world he loves. God, in finding us, had enabled us to find our brother.’ (218)

What a message for the Church today — for Christians in this safe, Western world! There are no easy ways for God; there are no easy ways for us. Faith isn’t supposed to be easy. Faith takes us, human and flawed and broken as we are, and transforms us, over time, through trials and challenges, into the perfect image of Christ. To share in God’s work is to share in Christ’s agony. I pray that my own faith would be as brave as that.

Favourite things

West Sands:

One can walk a very very long way down West Sands, especially when the tide is out. This is looking back towards Town near the end of West Sands. Being out on West Sands also brings some relief when this desert native feels that Scotland is a bit too green sometimes.

Voting early

The U.S. presidential candidate debates have started this last week. Living overseas, however, I have already received and sent off my absentee ballot.

I want a president who:

Considering I have three pre-existing conditions that require medical treatment, I work in museums, and have a strong interest in the U.S.’s international relations (being as I live overseas), these three issues are important to me. As are fair pay, women’s health, improving public education, and subsidizing higher education, among others. In short, I want the candidate who will be the president of a country I can actually live in, with a job and health care, should I move back to my home country in the next couple of years.

If not, well, then I’m better off staying in Europe for a while longer. I hope I will be able to. (Job and visa circumstances permitting.)

(This will probably be my one and only blog post on the American Presidential Election. I hope you enjoyed it.)

Favourite things

Used book table on Market Street:

I think all of the School of English postgraduates are friends with Bill, the owner of Bouquiniste. Not only because he owns the used bookstore in town, or because the actual shop is right next door to our offices, or because he sets up used book tables on Market Street on sunny days, but also because he is such a nice person and lover of books himself. When I was looking for a particular book a few weeks ago, I asked him if he had it — he did, at home, and brought it in for me the next day, and yet understood completely that I was looking for an older edition. It’s not just about selling books, with him, it’s the shared love of books that matters. I always enjoy stopping and chatting with him when I can.