Thursday, September 21, 2017

"But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days"*

My favorite time of the year is just about to start: FALL! Cool, crisp days; apple cider; chrysanthemums in bloom; red, gold, and orange leaves on the trees and crunchy under foot; pumpkins; Halloween; apple crisp. It always feels to me like the start of something new rather than the end of something. (This is probably tied to the academic calendar and was ingrained at a young age.)

Of course, it doesn't actually FEEL like fall right now with temps in the high 70s F and nearly 90F predicted for Sunday. But the days are growing shorter and soon enough cooler temps will arrive. I think I might put up my fall decorations around the house this weekend.

Pumpkins

When I was a kid, my dad had my siblings and me memorize the following poem as an after-dinner contest. (We were always memorizing stuff. Whoever could recite the whole thing by heart first won the contest.) The second stanza has always been one of my favorites; it perfectly captures how I feel about this time of year. 

When the Frost is on the Punkin*
By James Whitcomb Riley 
 
They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"It's great to learn, 'cause knowledge is power."*

I was over my parents house this past Sunday helping my dad with a project in the basement. It was kind of dark, and he warned me not to trip over the base of the Lally column.  I quickly replied that I thought it was called a "lolly column", not a "lally column". And then completely without thought, I started singing "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here!" from that old episode of Schoolhouse Rock!

My dad had NO IDEA what I was singing, so I had to explain about Schoolhouse Rock! and how my siblings and I (and pretty much an entire generation) grew up watching it on Saturdays between the cartoons.
Aside: do you know that the big three networks no longer show cartoons on Saturday mornings? WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?!?!? Poor kids. What's the point in getting up early on Saturday now? Oh, wait. I think I understand this now...
I found him the video on YouTube so he could actually see what I was talking about, and he has been singing the song ever since. (My mother is not best pleased.)

Cut to Monday night: I am over Sister B's house for dinner. I answer a call from my dad on my cell phone. He has the song all cued up, and it starts playing "Lolly Lolly Lolly, get your adverbs here..." I hang up on him, laughing at having been "Lolly-rolled". Sister B asks me what I am laughing at. I start to tell her the story, as I just did here, about the "lally" columns vs "lolly" columns, and before I even finished my story, she starts singing...



*Schoolhouse Rock! slogan

Friday, July 7, 2017

"OMG POLDARK NO ONE TOLD ME"*

So the Fourth of July is kind of a downer for me; as an Anglophile, I daydream about what it would be like if the colonies were a part of the Commonwealth, like Canada.  (JUST KIDDING - sort of. Since this year, less on the kidding, more on the wishing.) But for me, the 4th has never lived up to the hype surrounding the holiday. I can't really sum up what's missing, but it's always been anticlimactic for me, especially now that I don't live in Boston anymore.

The most hilarious part of that holiday was receiving the above text message from my friend SJ. She cut the cable/TV cord long before I knew her, but I keep forgetting that and just assume she is in the loop about all the Sunday night PBS shows (which she watches through PBS Passport or other streaming services). The last time I got a similar text was a couple of months ago when she missed the most recent series of "Sherlock".

So for all the folks who cut the cable cord (I WISH I could be one of you), here is my list of Sunday night British PBS shows you should be watching either live, On Demand, or through your streaming service of choice (Amazon Prime, Netflix, PBS Passport - which by the way, is worth the donation - ALL the seasons and masterclasses of the Great British Baking Show. Love it!)

Image result for Poldark1. Poldark: Captain Ross Poldark creates a boatload of drama when he returns home to Cornwall, England. Wounded in the American Revolutionary war, his family thought he was dead, and life has gone on without him: his father has died; the family home is in disrepair and the fortune is depleted; and worst of all, his beloved is about to marry his best friend/cousin. It is up to Ross to rebuild his life, making his fortune while helping out the tenants/miners who are living on his land. He starts a new business venture mining for copper, makes a formidable enemy of the wealthiest businessman in the area, outruns the revenue men while free trading, and finds a new, steady love in his very own kitchen. (Yay, Demelza!) This drama is based on books by Winston Graham and was originally filmed for television back in the 1970s, but this new adaptation is really engaging and has some lovely scenery, both of Cornwall and of the dreamy Aidan Turner ("Being Human", The Hobbit) who plays Ross Poldark. One word: ::scything:: You can thank me later. Series 3 will be starting on Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, October 1, 2017.

Image result for grantchester cricket episode
2. Grantchester: After seeing action in WWII, Canon Sidney Chambers seems to enjoy his quiet life in his small Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester, albeit one complete with whisky and jazz, much to the chagrin of his prim and proper housekeeper, Mrs. M. However, his life is turned on end when he gets involved in a murder investigation, and after that Sidney finds himself entangled in more criminal cases. His ability to listen to people and his compassion for their problems make him an excellent investigator. Unfortunately, he is not as discerning in his own life - the man has a full plate: his attraction to both Amanda, who is engaged to another man, and the intriguing Hildegard, a German widow; instructing his new curate Leonard; house training Dickens, his Labrador; and writing his sermon for Sunday. And whatever will the Archdeacon say about Sidney's new sideline in detecting? More Bakewell tart, anyone? Series 3 is currently running on Masterpiece Mystery.


3. Home Fires: It is the eve of war in the Cheshire village of Great Paxford. In the uncertainty wartime, Joyce, the chair of the local Women's Institute, proposes that the group disband until the end of the conflict, but is opposed by Frances, who realizes that the WI is a lifeline for many of the women in the village. Relaunching and expanding the WI to be more inclusive of class and station, Frances and her friends do their bit for the war effort and bring together women in their community in a way that they had not been united previously.  So if the show is about women, why the picture of the RAF flyer? Because Wing Commander Nick is LOVELY! Series 2 just concluded running on Masterpiece Classic. Sadly, this is the final series because ITV didn't commission a 3rd series, but the official story will continue in eBook form from Amazon. (I have just started reading!)


 4. Prime Suspect: Tennison aka Prime Suspect 1973 is the origin story of Jane Tennison's career at the Metropolitan Police. Viewers of the original "Prime Suspect" mini-serieses know Jane (played by the great Helen Mirren) as one of the first female Detective Chief Inspectors at the Met; this series goes back to her very first murder case at the Met while she is still a probationary WPC. The show is dark, which is typical for Prime Suspects, and there are a number of times where you may find yourself yelling at the television. One thing I liked about it was the little ways in which the young, naive, and idealistic Tennison from this program starts to become the more hardened character we know from Prime Suspect. The series just concluded running on Masterpiece Mystery; sadly, it is just a one off.


5. Endeavour is another origin story: this time of the Oxfordshire police's Inspector Morse, a character made famous by John Thaw. Shaun Evans plays Police Constable Endeavour Morse (it's just "Morse" to you and me), a smart, introverted music lover and Oxford drop-out who learns quickly when he joins the CID that he is going to need all his smarts to solve crimes in the circumspect academic community in Oxford of the swinging 1960s. DI Fred Thursday recognizes that Morse has a lot of potential, taking him under his wing as his "bag man", becoming both Morse's mentor and friend, solving crimes together over a pint and a bagged lunch in the pub. Series 4 has its premiere on Sunday, August 20 on Masterpiece Mystery.

ETA:
1. While is it great to watch these shows streaming on your own, it's even more fun if you take part in the live Tweet that goes on when the shows air on Masterpiece on Sunday. It's great to read and to join in! The hashtags are usually the showname and then PBS, eg. #PoldarkPBS
2. PBS does shorten episodes so that they can have their sponsorship bits at the beginning and end of episodes. This is most noticeable on Endeavour. Well, at least it is to me, but then again I just rewatched the whole series on Amazon. I caught a bit of a series 2 episode on PBS this past weekend and realized they skipped a very small subplot that had no impact on the mystery.   

All photos from the Masterpiece website
* text message from S-J

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Low Country (Don't worry: this is NOT a post about my mood of late. ...That was an attempt at humor; it may have failed.)

Last year, instead of having a big "to-do" about our ::coughcough:: "not insignificant number that I am not disclosing here" ::coughcough:: college reunion, my college suite mates and I decided to go on a trip. We ended up heading down to South Carolina, where a family member has a home that we were able to use. We had a great time hanging out, watching the Olympics, going to the beach, and site seeing in Charleston and Georgetown (home of the Gullah museum - fascinating!).

Georgetown, SC

Georgetown, SC

In case you haven't noticed my Good Reads list on the blog (it's over there on the right), I am sort of "mad about" fiction set in the Low Country of South Carolina (as in "mad about the boy", not as in "angry at you for the Civil War") and between the works of Karen White, Pat Conroy, and Fannie Flagg (although she doesn't specifically write about the Low Country), I have developed a strong affection for the area. (Don't worry, London, this isn't a competition; you're still my favourite.)

Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC

Just give me some sweet tea, she-crab soup, and air conditioning, and I am good to go. (Not kidding about the air conditioning. We visited the first week of August, and it was hot. Really hot. Like the OCEAN felt like bathwater hot. I actually got badly dehydrated after a walking tour of Charleston - my fault entirely. But I still had a great time!) These are some of my favorite snaps of that visit.

Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC

I highly recommend visiting Charleston if you have a chance. Probably not in high summer, but if that is what works for you, it is still a really cool place to visit!

Monday, May 1, 2017

A National Treasure...Exposed

I was going to just tell you to google "Tracey Ullman as Dame Judi Dench", but let me make it easier for you by posting some of the links. These had me in stitches last week. (I wish BBC America was airing Tracey's show; the woman does impersonations like nobody else.)






Monday, April 24, 2017

"Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now."*

So, previously in my life (to steal blatantly from the marvelous Miranda Hart), well actually it was last week, something unusual happened involving the animal kingdom. My colleague E and I were taking our daily constitutional (which just means that we were doing our daily mile walk for our morning break). The square block where our office is located downtown is just shy of a mile, and we were coming into the home stretch in front of the courthouse when I noticed something odd. There were two men standing there looking closely at a bird.

Disclaimer: I am terrified of birds. It is an irrational fear, but it is my fear. Birds are going to peck your eyes out. If they don't go for your eyes, they'll go for your hair. I blame this on 1. Alfred Hitchcock and 2. Okane Hall at Holy Cross where you had to walk into the back of the ivy-coated building through a door in the inside corner of the basement. The birds used to sit in the ivy just waiting to attack making a fearsome racket. I used to enter the building at a run. And, normally, I only run when chased.

There was something strange about this bird. It wasn't running away from the men. In fact, it was hopping closer to them. That immediately got my attention. Potential bird on the attack. As we got closer, I got a better look at it and realized the bird was a parakeet.
Sunlight the parakeet, not dead

Then I made my mistake. I TOLD my colleague, "Hey look. It's a parakeet. How did that get there?" Well, my colleague is an animal lover and decided then and there that we needed to rescue the bird because the weather was still pretty cold. She tried to get it to come to her, but it was too fearful to land on her finger. I started to back up as all this happened because even though parakeets don't have sharp pointy beaks, they still have claws.

E couldn't get the bird to come to her (thank goodness) so she came back into the office where she got a box in which to hold it, saying she'd take it to the Humane Society at lunch. After conferring with another animal loving colleague, she got a good size packing box, and twenty minutes later, she was back in the office with the bird in the box. The second colleague, H, who keeps parakeets as pets, decided that she wanted to adopt the bird and brought her home with her at the end of the day. While a little gun shy at first and definitely hungry, the parakeet, now christened "Sunlight", is healthy and doing well.

 
* from "The Dead Parrot" sketch by Monty Python

"And there's another country, I've heard of long ago"*

So I went with my parents to Easter Mass at their church because I didn't have enough time to go to Mass at my church in Hartford, go home, make the hors d'oeuvres I was responsible for, AND get myself to my sister's house in the 40 minutes it takes to get there and be on time for dinner.

It was a very nice service. The children's choir was performing the music at this Mass, and they were doing a very fine job (despite singing everything in a high register that I haven't been able to reach since my middle 30s.) Something happened during Communion that "caught me for a loop", as my friend MMH would say.

As the congregation stood up to go to Communion, it was announced that the hymn would be "O God Beyond All Praising", which I didn't know. Or rather I THOUGHT I didn't know because all of a sudden the organist is playing "I Vow to Thee, My Country". At a Catholic Mass. In the United States. In a predominantly Polish-American church. My dad poked me in the back as I got in the communion line, and we shared a little pleased look.

This will surprise no one: as I sung the "proper" lyrics in my head, I teared up a bit.


* "I Vow to Thee, My Country" lyric by Sir Cecil Spring Rice/music by Gustav Holst

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