Digging up the Earth

Jenny's UK ramblings.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Veering into self-absorbed territory here, but does anyone else find making new friends after the age of 30something really difficult and awkward? (For those of you who I haven’t bored with this topic – one of the hardest things about moving here to London was making friends – husbands are great for many things, but you need a high-quality girlfriend or two to survive life here in the big city). The thing about friend-dates is that if they go badly or fizzle due to “lack of chemistry”, you really wonder about yourself. This week’s a big one – I have two, back-to-back ladydates. Tonight’s date involves a foray into a book club in which I know no-one (not even my date). It doesn’t bode well as the book of choice is “Valley of the Dolls” (my reaction: “…you’re kidding, right?”) Stay tuned…

Monday, June 25, 2007

Les Miserables

Back from the battle of the Somme, I mean, the Glastonbury Festival. I have now apparently attended the “two worst Glastos on record” and would still go back again. Why? I really couldn’t tell you. The toilets are rank, the “site” is a mud pit that runs the length of a river valley, the food is “passable hippie” (read: vaguely ethical but also a bit yuck – think early-90’s-UVic-one-pot meals), the mud is unspeakably gross and 177,000 is a lot of dirty, incoherent, (and sometimes incontinent) people to share a campsite with.

But there’s something about this festival that is just so full-on, so over-the-top and so ridiculous (honestly – it feels like a battle for survival – the smallest task can take you hours of slogging, dodging, and gasping at the surreal-ness all around you) that it becomes an often-enjoyable parallel universe. As beloved was working for a lot of the festival, I spent many hours slogging along solo – more enjoyable than it sounds.

Musical highlights – Rufus Wainwright – Canada’s finest showman, in full Liza Minnelli-style drag, Arcade Fire, Canada’s finest apocalyptic rock band, (who isn’t a little bit in love with them all, especially the ginger one that plays drums on his own head?) Lily Allen is a potty mouthed rich kid from West London who sings the sweetest songs about f*cking over her ex-boyfriends in violent and painful ways. But perhaps the biggest surprise was my new (and slightly shameful) fandom of Pete Doherty and Babyshambles. I came expecting a punk-car-crash (that I planned to watch with crossed arms and bemused-yet judgemental expression on face) and instead found myself dancing around to some very entertaining guitary-britpoppy-good times, complete with g.f. Kate Moss on backup vocals.

Other highlights – the crazy lengths people will go to for self-expression. “Lost Vagueness” is this little treed glade/hideaway in the far corner of the festival site that is beyond description – imagine a circus, a house of mirrors, a rockabilly barn dance, the Las Vegas strip, a slam poetry convention, punk rock bingo, the Lord of the Rings set, a funfair, Chinatown, a Star Wars convention, and an acid trip and place it in a muddy wooded corner of a Somerset farm and there you have it. But we were only there at 11pm or so – apparently the real action starts around 3.

But the toilets
eventually broke my spirit. By Sunday they were heartbreaking cess pits a la Calcutta. People whispered about “splashback” in hushed tones. I hightailed it back to London on the bus with 50 or so other shellshocked revellers (in keeping with the war metaphors, our bus pulled out of a swamp with hundreds left behind, begging for passage back to London…”I’ll ride in the luggage hold!” “For the love of God, stop!” “Please take me with you!” etc.) Christian stayed on to enjoy the Chemical Brothers in a torrential downpour. We’re both traumatized but slightly giggly (hysterical?) about the whole experience.

Raging against Facebookdom – the return of the Blog

The siren call of Facebook is proving hard to resist. I found myself hunched over an old high school yearbook photo on Facebook last night, reading messages from people I barely remember, and before I knew it, an hour had gone by.

An hour! Now, an hour may not necessarily seem like much, but I’m time-poor. I don’t mean this in an “ooh, look at me and how busy I am” kinda way, but more in a “Whoah, life is going by so quickly I still haven’t managed to: a) call my parents enough; b) keep in touch with friends in enough thoughtful and adequate ways; c) read enough books; d) have enough deep meaningful chats with husband in any given week; e) acquire hardbody of the regular exerciser or triathlete; and f) do anything creative.

It is with point “F” that I have decided to resuscitate blog with one hand and un-subscribe from Facebook with the other. If I’ve only got a few hours in the week to keep in touch with people AND attempt to use creative juices, the Blog is the Thing. As you know, I used to think blogs were soooooooo lame, so be gentle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

We got married! Again!

Hey everyone,

Christian and I enjoyed our final wedding celebration this past weekend in London. We both had a great time. We had all of Christian's family and friends (and a few friends and family of mine) to a beautiful pub/restaurant in our neighbourhood, for champagne, a big lunch, and some speeches and good times.

Christian's Oncle Bernard attempts to put his nametag on his head

Jenny Leslie giving her toast to the bride, in which she blows my cover and tells all about my Chilliwack roots....
Christian's oldest friend Dustin came from Halifax. Here he is, telling stories about a much younger, nerdier, but ahead-of-his-time Christian...

Christian's mum is French, so we had a great representation of French relatives, as well as Christian's English family. I attempted to give a toast in French but didn't make it past "Merci pour le...erm...umm..." before I had to switch.

12 hours later, we were still going strong (or at least my family was, anyway!)...

...ending with (slightly drunken) burgers later that night at Ed's diner.

Thanks again to all of you who made these celebrations so special!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Who says Canadian culture is boring?

The Andersen Project was one of the coolest plays I've ever seen. It's a one- man play-within-a-play-within-an-opera-within-a-Hans Christian Andersen-story, with the most amazing sets and music and energy....it's difficult to explain but was one of those transformative theatre-going experiences where you completely lose yourself in the story and "feeling" of it all.

This play has taken London by storm a bit. Even the crustiest old critics are raving about it. It was written and directed and performed by Quebec director/actor/filmmaker and all-round avant garde dude Robert Lepage. The hard-to-impress London audience was blown away. I was proud to be a Canadian.

In a spooky cooincidence, we happened to see Gillian Andersen at the Andersen Project. We even "accidentally" followed her into the parkade to make sure she was who we thought she was. I think we freaked Agent Scully out a bit. But she and her pals seemed as buzzed about the show as we were.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

"Real" British food...

The Tyee has been running a series of columns called Living on the Hundred Mile Diet for about 8 months now. It's written by a Vancouver couple, both writers, who are trying to eat nothing but food grown within 100 miles of the Lower Mainland for a year. It's not that outrageous of a proposition when you think about it - but perhaps not so easy in practice.

I went to a farmers' market in London today based on the same principles - everything for sale came from within 100 miles of the M25, a massive ringroad/noose/superhighway that circles around London (if you're feeling particularly bored, check out London Orbital - a bizarreo book where Iain Sinclair WALKS around the entire thing...hands down, the weirdest book I've ever read - but I digress)

Anyway, it was interesting to see what there *really* is to eat this time of year from within 100 miles of London. Behold:

A bit of this:

One of this guy's fish - (better act quick - only two left!!)

Some of these (mmmmm):

A few choice game birds:

And my personal fave:

There were several surreal conversations along the way, including a farmer from Kent trying desperately to introduce the chilli pepper to the British palate, and a Kosovar family with a fledgeling Buffalo cheese operation. The lowly parsnip was loving his moment in the sun:

In the meantime, any tips on how to deal with the pheasant in our fridge would be greatly appreciated.

(*note to readers: soon I will have job and such random blogging posts and adventures in cookery will likely cease - indulge me, please*)

Friday, February 03, 2006


I bet this guy feels really, really crappy:

Man trips and destroys priceless vases

A museum visitor tripped on his shoelace, stumbled down a stairway and destroyed a set of priceless 300-year-old Chinese vases.

The three vases, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century, had stood on a windowsill at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge for at least 40 years.

The museum refused to name the visitor, who was unhurt, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Steve Baxter, another visitor, who saw the accident, said: "We watched the man fall as if in slow motion. He landed in the middle of the vases and they splintered into a million pieces.

"He was still sitting there stunned when staff appeared. Everyone stood around in silence, as if in shock. Then the man started talking. He kept pointing to his shoelace and saying: "There it is; that's the culprit.""

Duncan Robinson, the director of the museum, said: "It is a nightmare you are always afraid of in a museum. I have been here for 40 years and now that nightmare has happened."

The vases, from the Qing dynasty, were donated to the museum in 1948.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Nerdy book club?

I don't know about you guys, but I've been really crap on the reading front these days. Last year I managed to tear through quite a few books, but this year....there've been a lot of magazines and newspapers, even the odd bridal mag (!!!!) but just not enough super-sweet chow-down-and-lose-track-of-yourself-fiction in my life. This is where you come in, dear readers. I'm going to put a little "recommended reading" thingie somewhere on this blog, and please let me know if you have any book suggestions.

So I'll kick things off. Last year's hands-down fave was Middlesex (bloody brilliant) by Jeffrey Eugenides. Thanks to JB and Shaker for that suggestion. Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness also really blew me away. Don't be put off by the chicken on the cover, or the words "farm" or "prairie" on the flyleaf - this is NOT boring CanCon fare!In the non-fiction realm, I also read a lot of Robert Kaplan last year, who is great, but don't read him if you're feeling a bit melancholy or concerned about the future of the world. In that vein, I really, really, REALLY, loved A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright. If you read the Wright book, I wouldn't bother reading Jared Diamond's Collapse - it takes about 400 wordy and blustery extra pages to get to the same point that Ronald Wright makes in an elegant 130.

Right. On that nerdy note, let your book suggestions fly...