In Which We Turn Northwards (and by We I mean Me)

Terrible hostel internet precludes me posting pictures with this blog. My apologies. Remind me to add them later?  UPDATE: Photos now added.

When I last left you I was roaming about Bristol getting unexpected sunburns. You’ll be delighted to know that I’ve demonstrated substantially more prudence in my sun exposure since without compromising my adventures even the tiniest bit. So let’s get caught up shall we?

On Wednesday, Alison had the day off work so it was off to Oxford for a day of colleges, museums, and trains. We walked in to Temple Meads from Alison’s gaff in Brislington just in time to hop aboard the train to Oxford. We’d been rather slower to get ready than we’d initially planned to be so found ourselves unfed on a train after a 30 minute walk into the station. To say that there was an urgent need for food would be a bit of an understatement. We were gasping. Which is how we ended up eating slightly pricey train porridge with little pots of jam. It was fairly tasty and only a little bit more expensive than I deemed necessary. After a train change in Didcot Junction, we eventually rolled our way into Oxford, hopped off the train and began our relatively aimless wander about the place.


It’s a cacophony of architectural styles from the medieval on up with each college sporting a different stylistic twist unrelated to the vastly varied and often overlapping academic themes. As we wandered, we made our way to the Bodelian (a shrine to conservationists the world over) and then landed in the Weston Library where we took in a few exhibits then headed back out to continue our ramble. The next stop (after a short diversion into a gorgeous three story book store) was the Pitt Rivers Museum, which beats even the Dublin Natural History Museum in terms of overwhelming strangeness and it’s decided lack of modern sensitivities and sensibilities. We could have lost the entire day there but instead settled for checking out some of the Haida masks, the magical amulets, the shrunken heads, and the textiles section. We did make a few diversions on account of the sheer overwhelming fullness of it all, but eventually my head began to spin and so we headed back out into the air to find food.


Back at the Weston Library we tucked into some very nice salmon sandwiches paired with salads and followed up with some nice little sweets (mine was a pistachio rose loaf). Having managed to fill our bellies, we then headed down to the Ashmoleian Museum where we took in a few more exhibits. We started with a temporary exhibit on women in Chinese art followed by a trip to see the Roman Mummies. I don’t think I’d ever seen Roman mummies before and this was an excellent first introduction. Firstly they are wrapped in this marvellous intricate diamond patter which recalls to me images of Indian step wells all gradually descending into the centre of the wrappings one linen step after another. And as if I wasn’t already completely fixated on the novel use of textiles, the Ashmoleian has a CT scan of one of the mummies which they have chose to display by printing each cross-section on a sheet of glass and aligning all of the slices neatly into place so that the image shifts in and out of visibility as you move around the display. I was quite smitten.

Having spent more than enough of our day in museums, we headed back out into the streets to yet another college. Unlike the colleges we’d seen earlier in the heart of the town, this one was seated in the midst of fields nearby to the canal. And there were cows! Yes, this college apparently keeps a herd of beautiful long horned cattle in their back 40. Alas the cows were not nearly as interested in us as we were in them and so we soon gave up our hopes of bovine beauty shots and headed off down the canal. Though none of Oxford’s famous rowers in were in evidence along the canal, we did see a group of kids out in a punt doing a rather impressively erratic job of punting along.

As we returned to the train station, we snagged a quick dinner from M&S and then headed back to Bath. In Bath we were to catch a student play put on by some of the students from Alison’s University. I won’t say I was apprehensive because I really wasn’t, but when we walked into the very informal, community theatre, I was a little uncertain as to what kind of quality we should be expecting. I was most pleasantly surprised. The students were excellent! It was two lads putting on a modernized revision of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and it was bloody hilarious. I nearly cried I was laughing so hard.

Waking up in Bristol the next morning, I threw on some laundry, whipped up some crepes, and played at domesticity for all of an hour before it was time for Alison to head to work and me to follow along to see Bath Spa University’s campus. The campus is almost painfully pastoral. It is placed on an old estate with a long winding drive, a fish pond featuring swans, a partially ruined castle, a mansion house, a walled Italian garden, oh an tenant farmers. Yes, it’s quaint. Alison gave me an initial tour about the place and through the library and then released me to my own devices, which meant that I spent no small amount of time sitting in the folly up the hill from the swan’s nest reading papers then changed both attitude and location to lounge about the Italian garden reading more papers and watching students practice theatre in the sun. At some point there must have been some drama in one of the pastures because the sheep turned it up to 11 and all were nearly deafened, but by the time I finally made it back to the bus loop to head on to other adventures, all appeared to be well with only a few uninspired bleats emanating from the grazing herd.


From Bath Spa, it was on to Wells. I was meant to be on the direct bus, but we seem to have driven every back road in Somerset to get there so I’m not convinced that there isn’t even a slightly quicker route. Nonetheless, I found myself in Wells about mid afternoon faced with the terrible choice between spending my afternoon in the Cathedral or the Bishop’s Palace and gardens. Weighed by relative rarity, the Bishop’s Palace won and I settled in to enjoy. It really was a beautiful space, from the grandiose ruins of the former great hall, to the sunlit chapel, the shady wells themselves, the wild arboretum, and the most beautiful modern meditation garden. The wells are softly lit by sun through shady canopies and filled with just the right amount of mysticism while the modern garden uses smooth white forms between thickets of silver birch to create a space of such meditative simplicity that I couldn’t help but feel its serene call to contemplation.


Having taken in the gardens and rested for a while on a swinging bench, I was making a final tour of the place before leaving when I was inexorably attracted by a little door in the outer wall. There is something about doorways that is just so tantalizing! And I had no regrets for giving in to the temptation because beyond that door, I found a momma swan and her five fluffy little grey cygnets. Between her dives to pull up weeds for her offspring, a rather clingier little devil kept trying to climb up onto her back. It was positively adorable and I probably spent far more time than I ought to have leaning against the wall watching the tiny avian drama unfold.


After the Bishop’s Palace, I attempted a visit to the cathedral but was thwarted by the impending Evensong service. I managed to spend about ten minutes listening to the choir, saw the Wells clock do its famous song and dance featuring a wooden figure ringing a bell and wooden knights racing about jousting each other off wooden horses, and then was ushered out unless I planned to stay for the service. Fearing I might get trapped in a lengthy bit of Christianity from which I could not gracefully escape, I made my leave and set out to find dinner. To say I was thwarted might be an understatement. Apparently all of the cafes in Wells close at 5pm and all of the pubs don’t start serving food again until 6pm. Wandering down streets of quaint little closed signs, I found a chain coffee shop where I scarfed some sustenance in the form of tea and cakes before heading back to the bus.


The bus back to Bristol swept through even more rolling countryside filled with charming little herds of sheep and cows, but did so rather more swiftly than the bus from Bath and in no time at all I was back in the Brislington Tesco choosing my dinner from the clearance aisle and heading back to Alison’s. Though my dinner was mediocre at best, my choice of beverage proved most delightful. I had whimsically grabbed a bottle of cider on my way out of Tesco and it just happened to be Brothers Rhubarb and Custard. It tasted like dessert in a bottle. Genuinely. If stewed rhubarb and custard was a beverage it would taste exactly like that cider and I might have birthed an obsession just then–an obsession with has sadly proved impossible to assuage as I have yet to find a single other bottle of the stuff in my further travels!

And then it was Friday, I was piling my freshly line-dried clothes back into my bag, and it was time to bid Alison farewell. From Bristol, I caught a bus to Birmingham where my obsession with folk art and craft lead me straight to the industrial exhibit hall of the Birmingham Museum. Wandering through cases of pottery and metalwork, I admired the beauty of the Edwardian rooms that housed the exhibits and after reading each and every explanatory plaque in the gallery, settled into the Edwardian Tea Rooms below to rest and lunch. My lunch was a delicious bowl of potato and leek soup, followed with a slice of Victoria sandwich cake. I felt very British and a small bit steampunk-y as I sat there under the aging glass roof amongst the industrial decor. It was a very pleasant break altogether.


Leaving the museum, I met up with another wonderful library friend from my Dublin Days, Cai. We killed most of the rest of the afternoon catching up in a vegan coffee shop before glutting ourselves on aubergine, dumplings, and tofu in the Chinese Quarter. When we eventually returned to Cai’s we set up my bed (a giant bean bag) and then settled in to drink cider and chat our faces off until sometime after midnight. As you may be beginning to sense, we had a lot of catching up to do.

Saturday morning we woke up and headed for Harborne. A pleasant sunny walk later, we were brunching merrily in Boston Tea Party (a chain of the best, most authentic variety). We’d found seats in a sunny courtyard and I’d ordered a corn hash which I can best describe as three delicious corn fritters seated on a bed of tomato and guac and topped with two perfectly poached eggs. It was a heavenly way to spend a morning.

We spent another few hours wandering about the Birmingham University’s charming Edwardian campus before losing ourselves in the very well appointed teaching gallery in the University’s Art History Department. It even had a few gorgeous bits of Degas bronze.


After a short break to save ourselves from the heat of the day, Cai and I then returned to Harborne area to join some of her uni friends at a backyard barbecue. I feel that perhaps it is sufficient acclaim to report that we left after midnight with bellies so full we could hardly move. Very good people all together.

On Sunday, we caught a train out to Stratford-Upon-Avon for a bit of that quaint weekend-y charm that only Shakespeare’s birthplace could provide. The town is almost agonizing charming with hilariously irregular half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, and wisteria bedecked walls in every direction. We wandered the main streets of the old town, visited the church, watched the last chain ferry in England cross the Avon, and somehow ended up eating rhubarb fudge and packed lunches on a shaded patch of grass watching the world go by. Reading in our shady bower, for me soon turned into napping face down in the grass with only the lightest tendrils of sunlight keeping me perfectly toasty and content. It was an excellent way to spend the afternoon.


On our way to the train station, we grabbed a quick pick me up in the form of iced coffees which carried us safely through to Cai’s place where we put together a vegetable casserole of the tastiest kind and chatted night away while watching Bake-Off. Can you say, excellent weekend?

And now it’s Monday. I spent most of my day on a train zooming over the better part of the country, winding through the stunningly rugged Lakes District and eventually depositing me in Edinburgh. I checked into my hostel, charged my devices for a hot minute, and set out to explore. Starting with the Edinburgh Museum to gather some context for the rest of my wanderings, I then headed down the Royal Mile to the Scottish Government Buildings and Holyrood Palace. As it was already after 5pm and there was someone of consequence resident in the palace, I stuck to outside views only and soon turned towards the hills. I do so love to be up high; it really is no wonder that I ended up climbing up through a graveyard, past a very dilapidated through incredibly grand old building and on up to Carlton Hill. From the top of the hill, the southward view is one of the ornate but darkly stained stone that gives Edinburgh its dour almost gothic grandeur, while the northern view lead my eye out over the misty reaches of the Firth of Forth and on to a brightly gleaming light which my oilfield trained eyes immediately labelled a flaring station. It was mystical and yet nostalgic all in one as I stared out over the landscape of sharply carved ridges and valleys, hills, and sea. It was stunning.


On my way back to the hostel I dropped past a bunch more painfully grand buildings and took a quick stop by the Scott monument before I crossed back over the train station to the hostel common room where I sit now, scribbling away to you.


At a glance, I think Edinburgh and I will get on very well and on that note, my stomach has just informed me that I am forbidden from further scribbling until I feed it.

The Salsa Girl


In Which a Vacation Begins

So I guess Tuesday blogs are a thing now. I mean, I had every intention of writing this yesterday, I even started on the train but then I was tired and watching the world go by was just so much more compelling so now it’s Tuesday night and I’m settling in with a tin of gin and tonic (yes it comes in tins here) to scribble out a quick summary for you all.

On Wednesday, which currently seems like a lifetime ago, I decided to use up a few hours of my comped time and finally take true advantage of my membership at The Met. For those of you who follow such things, you’ll know that the Met Gala was on Monday night and the theme was The Catholic Imagination. You probably also know that this means that the Met’s Costume Institute is hosting an exhibition on the theme of the Catholic Imagination, but you probably don’t know that if you have a membership, you can get a preview of the exhibit two days before it is all opened to the public. I mean, technically, I can get previews of almost every new exhibit, but usually I don’t mind waiting until it’s open to everyone. The Costume Institute is different. Despite the utter lack of fashion that enrobes my body on any given day, I am obsessed with fashion museums, costume museums, anything that allows me to admire the remarkable craftsmanship that is put into garments and ogle the innovative modes of draping, cutting, and seaming that take clothing so far beyond its utilitarian roots. So I decided that since I would already have had to leave early for a doctor’s appointment, I may as well just take the whole day and actually take advantage of my preview privileges.

I started my morning with a cherry danish from my beloved Ceci Cela and then hopped on the train up to the Met. When I got to the museum I found that the exhibit expanded far beyond just the costume institute galleries. Instead, the central hall of the Medieval wing was studded with modern interpretations of Catholic aesthetic. From fashion interpretations of the habit and the soutane to embroidered and bejewelled gowns, all quoted strongly and directly from Catholic tradition and the majority were simply stunning. In a corridor off the main hall, I also found a rather unearthly garment composed of a fairly simple shite shift over which was worn a bodice and wings formed from thin strips of perforated and bent wood. It was all so beautiful and that was before I even reached the costume institute itself.

Once down in the actual preview, I was met with absurdly jewel encrusted mitres, papal tiaras, and ornaments as well as the most incredibly embroidered garments. The embroidery was such that I legitimately thought the fabric was painted until I got my face pressed up against the glass close enough to see the perfect, minute, little stitches. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such immaculate embroidery. But of course, even as I admire the beauty produced by the commissions of the Catholic Church, I can’t help but think of the ugliness that those garments may have robed, and I can’t quite rectify it. Is the aesthetic value of art impacted by the moral/ethical quality of its creator or commissioner? I really don’t know, but I suspect I ought to try to figure it out sooner rather than later.

After leaving the museum, I stopped in for a cassis truffle and a pistachio and marzipan bonbon at La Maison Chocolate before leaving the ritzy Upper East to return to the L ower East and my laundry. Fuelled by a late lunch from Vanessa’s Dumplings, which though inferior to North Dumpling was substantially closer to my laundromat, I wrapped up two loads of laundry and headed to my doctor’s for a bit of blood work. As the afternoon rolled into evening I was feeling a bit drained, so I lazed about the house until it was time for the weekly journey to Westie Cafe.

Thursday saw me back in the office crawling up mountains of work, trying to get everything relatively under control before my holiday, but I was not to be defeated by the exhaustion of the day. Instead, I finished up at the office, grabbed a kottu on the way to my apartment, snuck in a very quick lie down, and then popped back out of bed and headed back to Brooklyn. It was free salsa night at the Brooklyn Museum, and two of my friends were planning to be there so I had decided that nothing would do but that I go.

It was a fun night of varied dancing and shows helped no little bit by the ridiculously tasty grapefruit margaritas that somehow made their way into our hands, but by 9:30pm it was done. We, on the other hand, were not. We were joined by another friend who had declined to join us for the salsa, before heading down the street to The Way Station. The Way Station is essentially geek heaven. It’s a steampunk bar with a Tardis for a bathroom, and half the menu dedicated to various variations on the Sonic Screwdriver theme. Oh and they serve shots in tea cups. So it probably would have been pretty great night of the week, but Thursday is karaoke night and that made it even better. We drank, we danced, some of us even sang–no, not me, I decided to save my fellow drinkers from the misery of my particular brand of untrained vocal chords–and then sometime drifting towards 1am we wandered back out into the world in search of transportation.

The 2/3 train had decided that running at night was not for them, so I and another friend bound for the western reaches of Brooklyn set off on foot. I left my walking companion at Barclay Center and hopped a D train back to my borough where I topped off my booze sodden stomach with two slices of Williamsburg pizza and collapsed into bed. Irresponsible? Yes. Worth it? Unmistakably!

Friday met me with a busy workday, and an alarming lack of either hangover exhaustion. I mean, I’m not complaining, but I really had earned myself at least a touch of exhaustion if not a full blown hangover… But maybe my body likes irresponsible Thursdays. So I spent the day tidying up a few lingering work items, trying to anticipate all the things that people might want from me while I’m away, and securing water for my two beloved plants. The first is an orchid which was easy enough to transport to a colleague’s desk for care, the second was my gigantic pothos that had been slowly consuming my entire bookshelf. No one felt comfortable climbing up onto my bookshelf to water the monster up there so I had to carry it down to a lower home. Nowhere in my office had enough space so I appropriated a shelf out in the open office space and learned that my ridiculous menace of a plant is now 3.5 office cubes long when I spread its various tendrils out laterally. I really hope I can get it back into my office when I return.

When I bounded out of the office at 4pm, it was time to hurry home, shower, finish my packing, and head to the airport. From work to JFK all went very smoothly, but then JFK did that thing that it does and everything went hellish quite quickly. Firstly, Norwegian Airlines, whom I used to adore, betrayed me with understaffed check ins and a machiavellian practice of weighing your carryon luggage and personal item together at the check in desk. Should the two bags together weigh more than 10kg, you are slapped with an immediate $100 charge and forced to check the larger of your bags. Though both bags were sized such as to have no problem fitting into the overhead locker and under the seat respectively, they came to a total weight of 15kg. Not figuring that I could dispose of 1/3 of my baggage, I found myself forking over $100 and stomping grumpily to security where I joined the queue, only to find 5 min later that this queue was the priority queue and I was to join the monstrosity that legitimately snaked all the way around the terminal. It was insane and featured a canine unit stalking about, menacingly sniffing everything, but it did give me a chance to chat with other similarly frustrated travellers and we all managed to make our flights nonetheless. While waiting at the gate for mine, however, I realized that my beloved memory foam neck pillow had been in my now checked bag, so when I found my seat on the plane itself I wrapped my coat around my neck as a surrogate pillow, popped a few gravol, and promptly passed out.

Six hours later, we were taxi-ing in to Gatwick and I was a very tired grumpy puppy, a state in no way improved by the 45 minute passport control queue that met us when we entered the terminal. When I finally escaped the airport and found my way to Clapham Junction, I was met by a light English drizzle and a beloved Northern Irish friend. One of my old dance teammates from Ireland, Erin, has since moved to London and she was to be my first host in the UK.

We stopped by her house to drop my luggage and take a moment to rest and chat before heading in to Borough Market. Once there we ogled all of the delicious eatables, sampled some local rum and gin, and somehow ended up with both a box of baklava and a slice of cheesecake. We cannot be blamed for the things that ended up in our shopping bags, but they were delicious. After a bit of a wander, we decided that it was time for a late lunch and settled into a charming little Lebanese place called Arabica. We ate a divine plate of hummus with grilled lamb and a dish of haloumi and endive as our appetizers before divine into some beef shish and stuffed squid for the main. The restaurant also had a tantalizing gin and tonic menu, but as our next stop was a cocktail bar in the Sky Garden, I resisted.

When we got the Sky Garden, it was a bit gray but the view was nice enough, and the garden was lovely, to say nothing of the gin! Yes, I got my gin on in the shaped of a Spiced Gimlet which was perfectly cool and refreshing and featured a mint leaf applied with forceps. I am very much involve with the prevalence of gin in British cocktail menus and I’m not sure what I’ll go when I go back to a country that doesn’t deem gin a uniquely important source of drunkenness.

Spiced Gimlet at the Sky Garden

After our drinks, we wandered back down to Clapham to pick up a few pizzas and some extra toppings before getting ready for salsa. We were headed to an event over an hour’s drive out of the city, so we bribed a lift with pizza and snacks, and soon were whizzing down the motorway to The Alchemy Social. I am told that it was a quiet night, but it was fun. The dancing is more laid back here, but the people were lovely and there were some very good dancers out, including one leader with whom I very nearly had a diva off but I’m afraid he might have won if we had. Around 2am (I think, I wasn’t really paying all that much attention) we hopped back into the car for another hour or so of chatting down the road back to London where we almost immediately passed unceremoniously into unconsciousness.

Come Sunday morning (alright midday) we peeled ourselves out of bed and headed down the road to meet another of my former teammates, Suzanne, for brunch. The venue was The School House and the eggs benedict was delicious, especially when followed by an absolutely perfect bramble–gin drink #2. We polished off our respective meals and headed back up to Suzanne’s place to continue our gossip sesh. It quickly turned into Catan–which I’d never played before but which turns out to be a lot of fun–and rosé. Somehow (beginner’s luck, I’d imagine) I won the game and we carried our conversation right up until the moment I had to head to the train to meet with another friend for dinner.

I met my wonderful library friend, Martina at Kings Cross and we set out into the city walking and talking until our bellies began to complain and we decided that it was probably time to stop in somewhere for dinner. We ended up in an adorable little japanese cafe where I ate a wonderfully uncomplicated bowl of soba before bidding Martina good night and heading back to Clapham. In Clapham, we whiled away the evening with tea and biscuits trying to talk sleepiness into our bodies. I suspect that I was a victim of jet lag, and Erin was a victim of her two hour afternoon nap. Eitherway it was an unintentionally late night full of good chats. No regrets.

The following morning, I woke up to say goodbye to Erin as she headed off for work, then snatched a few more minutes of sleep before heading for a train westward bound. Yes, it was time to head to the West Country to catch up with another old friend who now lives in Bristol. My first stop was to have been Bath, but thanks to what appear to have been staffing issues, we were all unceremoniously dumped off the train in Salisbury and left to wait 30min for the next one. I wouldn’t be a huge fan of British rail services now, but that one about blew my mind. They just up and cancelled a train, halfway through that train’s journey. What?!

I did eventually make it to Bath where I saw the my first beautiful British cathedral on this trip, drifted by the Roman Baths, scarfed a cornish pasty–which was delicious even though I only bought it for the wifi that came with–and made my way to Great Pultney Street. It really is remarkably Austen-esque with all the grand town houses all neatly packed into a row. What surprised me, however, was the presence of grand old heritage townhouses with double basements! Yes, some of them had stairs down to a door below street level, and then more stairs on down to another floor below that! It was madness!

As I crossed back over the old Pultney Bridge, which is a lovely old artefact of the days when bridges were important commercial real estate rather than just ways to get across water, I got distracted by a path by the river and wandered along the Avon for a while before making my way back up to The Assembly Rooms and the Fashion Museum that lives in their basement. The rooms were mostly closed off for an event but the fashion museum was wonderful! To prevent me having to explain my absurd fondness for fashion museums twice in one blog, I refer you back to the second paragraph of this entry and only add that my fondness for beautiful clothes is even more prominent when there’s history on offer as well. I will avoid gushing about all of the lovely things I saw, but cannot help but mention the stunning 1940’s evening gown that I spotted. It was one of those divinely slinky silk numbers that just clings and drapes so perfectly as to be almost more revealing than nudity. Someday I will own such a dress. Until then, I shall simply ogle them unrelentingly.

Leaving the Fashion Museum several hours later, I roamed through The Circus, the Georgian Garden, and the Gravel walk before plopping myself down on the lawn of the Royal Crescent to read a book and soak up a bit of sun. Apparently the entirely of Bath had the same idea, but I can’t really blame them, because it was divine! Somewhat later, I headed back to the station to meet my Bristol host, Alison, for dinner and drinks before we headed into Bristol. Our dinner was at a spacious pub called West Gate where we drank cordial, Alison had a falafel burger, and I plowed through a Ploughman’s Dinner. I’ve seen them on menus before but have never actually had the chutzpah to order one. I will no longer be such a fool. The giant plate that landed before me, had pea shoots, celery, apple slices, a slab of local cheddar, a little dish of potted pork, a sliced whole grain roll, a pot of delicious chutney, and a sausage roll. It was at once overwhelming and perfect, and I would even venture to call it healthy.

Plougman’s Dinner

Stuffed full of food, we then went to the Canary Gin Bar. There we drank slightly ridiculous but abundantly tasty Bath Gin cocktails, chatted with the bartender and perhaps owner, and gossiped for a bit before my sleepiness lead us back to the bus station to catch a bus to Bristol. A cup of tea and a bit of chocolate later I was passed out in bed.


And that about brings us up to today. As seems to be my custom on this trip, having no immediate obligations, I slept late, only finally leaving the house around 11am to climb the hills of Bristol into the city centre. Once I made it into the centre, I started my sightseeing with a brief visit to the Redcliffe Cathedral which was another wonderful soaring gothic monster full of arching ceilings and stone effigies of the local benefactors and otherwise important departed folk. From the church it was on to Queen’s Square where I did a bit more reading on the grass. I finished a few chapters and then continued my walk, strolling past the Granary and the Old Vic Theatre which is currently under renovations, drifting down the riverside and across the river to the next cluster of notables. The first was the Bristol Cathedral which incidentally featured a photographic exhibit showing photos taken by women on the lines in WWI. They were nearly as striking and even more affecting than the cathedral itself with its soaring ceilings and intricate detailing.

My next stop was the Bristol Central Library which has a wonderfully Art Nouveau feeling entryway all done up in marbled green stone and turquoise tiles arches that savour strongly of New York’s Guastavino tiles. About the time I left the library and set off up yet another hill, my stomach decided that I could not be trusted to look after it on my own and started asserting itself. I appeased it with a mediocre BLT at a rather cute little gastropub before continuing my trek up to the Cabot Tower. It’s a beautiful, almost delicate tower atop a hill in the middle of Bristol. My only complaint would be that the landscape of Bristol, despite being very hilly as far as my feet are concerned, seemed rather uniformly flat from the top of the tower. I did however get a much better look at the absurdly grand building that seems to sit at the centre of Bristol University. To look at it, you would really think you’d stumbled across an ancient castle of some variety, and perhaps one day it was, but now it appears to just be another university building likely full of offices and classrooms and little else.

From one viewpoint, I headed on to another. Drifting into Clifton, I wandered the Mall, admired the pretty little wrought iron balconied buildings, and found my way to the observatory. From the observatory hill, I found a view of the Avon Gorge on one side and Bristol on the other. Being impressively cheap, I did not enter the observatory, but I did wander across the Clifton Suspension Bridge to South Somerset where I was to find another beautiful old building, this one seated on rolling parkland and forests just outside the city. The place in question is Ashton Court. It is an old estate complete with giant mansion, rose garden, deer parks, and miles and miles of rolling hills and forests. I spent the balance on my afternoon wandering about the grounds and reading in the rose garden before the grumpy tummy once again asserted itself and I set off back into the city to deal with it.

Some time thereafter, with yet another park in between, I found myself seated in a quirky little bar on North St called the Old Bookshop. It was adorned with all manner of miscellanea and kitsch and staffed by the friendliest bartender who dealt with my annoyingly atypical American card with all the grace in the world before handing me a pint of ale called “I speak for the trees” and a place of beet and ricotta tortellini that may have changed my life. It was so perfectly al dente with a tantalizing pink filling and topped with the perfect glaze of garlic pesto. I was in a heaven of pasta and cheese and I don’t care if my stomach hates cheese–it will deal.

Having nursed my beer as long as was defensible, I stepped back out onto the sidewalk and headed back to Alison’s place in Brislington. It was a bit of a long walk so I paused at a Tesco for biscuits and the aforementioned tinned G&T before eventually finding my way back to write all this up for the lot of ye. Over gin, tea, and tasty lemon biscuits. I suppose there are worse ways to spend a Tuesday night.

Unleashing the inner gin-hound,
The Salsa Girl

In Which There is a Westchester Weekend

Every now and then, it becomes clear that weekend away which doesn’t involve dance is in order. This was just such weekend. After tumbling head first through the past month of chaos, I was ready to rest and recoup which is how I ended up commandeering a kitchen in Westchester and spending the bulk of the weekend happily cooking away in the company of friends and Marvel movies. It was a good choice.

Before getting to my marvelous weekend, however, there were still a few days of slog left before me. Wednesday was a perfectly average day which featured a few extra minutes in the office followed by all the usual suspects at Westie Cafe. Thursday featured a few more speckles of excitement in the form of a fairly dismal bone density scan—don’t worry, it’s probably just because I dance, but it might be because of genetics and looming osteoarthritis, a trip to my favourite wine store to pick up a bottle of my favourite wine for the weekend, and finally a quick visit to the Essex St. Market to pick up some beautiful fresh food to pile into my almost entirely empty side of the fridge.

And then finally it was Friday! Around midday, my Friday went from yay, to HOORAY! as a friend from my UVic days texted me to say that she was in the city on a layover looking for dinner. As she’s a flight attendant, I never know quite when I will see her, but it’s always a delight when I do. This time we grabbed a light dinner at a painful hipster little vegan Mexican joint in my neighbourhood. Yes, vegan Mexican. The food was very pretty and it tasted okay but not as stunning as I’ve grown accustomed to in this city. The search for good pupusas continues.

Post-dinner, we dropped by Doughnut Plant to grab dessert in the form of a couple of dough seeds and a mole yeast doughnut. It was as delicious as ever and provided the perfect fuel for a long lazy wander across the bottom of the island. We cut through Chinatown to do a bit of souvenir shopping before drifting down flowering tree lined streets and paths to the Financial District. It was a beautiful walk cooled by a light breeze and full of those wonderful New York surprises that always catch me as I spot yet another unnoticed detail in an area I’ve already been to so many times before. It’s not always an easy place to live, but god, I love this city.

The following morning I woke up, cleaned the apartment, bought some much needed new running shoes for my upcoming trip to the UK, and then stopped by the pharmacy to pick up some necessaries. From there, it was home to collect my things for the weekend before heading up to Grand Central Terminal. I normally take the 6 train up, but thanks to the almighty inconsistency of the MTA, there was no 6 train to be found so I headed to the F, which happened to be late. Thankfully, a lifetime of power walking and a year and a half in this city allowed me to slide into my seat just before the train pulled out of the station headed north to White Plains.

Arriving before my host, Jessie, had made it home from the store, I was let in to lounge on a real actual couch and talk to the lovable feline fur ball, Tesla. Yes, living in the city in a room with only a bed and a few hard chairs, I’m hard up for couch time which make something as simple as lying on a couch talking to a cat into something only the slightest bit short of heaven.

Once Jessie got back, I helped myself to her kitchen and started my baking project. It was quite the project (as if you’d expect anything else of me): two rounds of dense dark chocolate red wine cake layered and frosted with whipped cream cheese frosting flavoured with a splash of red wine, and finally decorated with red wine chocolate ganache and garde manger strawberry flowers. The flowers were definitely an afterthought but an excellent afterthought. You see, the red wine frosting, perhaps only because it was pink, tasted so strongly of strawberries that I couldn’t help myself, I just had to add a few of the real thing.

While the cake chilled in the fridge, we scarfed down some tasty take out Thai and then settled into a pile on the couch for movies. I should note that by this time our group had swelled from 2 to 5 which meant that we covered the couch fairly thoroughly. So sprawled over every cushiony inch, we trained our eyes on Jessie’s impressively cinematically sized TV and flipped on Spiderman. It was a joyful romp with a few very well composed twists and turns and cinematography so crisp that it was very nearly sliding into uncanny valley. Modern CGI is pretty darn impressive. Post-movie it was time for cake and boy was it ever delicious! It was so incredibly rich but then the frosting was so light! It was a really wonderful amalgam of all things chocolate, wine, and decadence.

Following the cake, our party shrunk to three again and we remaining three somehow ended up flopped around the living room chatting until nearly 3am, which may have had something to do with our failure to launch several hours later.

We had planned to go to some yoga classes Sunday morning, but after far too few hours of blessedly quiet Westchester night, we were in no condition to drag ourselves to hot yoga. So I made some crepes, we watched Thor: Ragnarok, and then it was time to roll on down to the cinema to conquer our ultimate movie goal of the weekend: watching The Avengers: Infinity War. It was one heck of a movie. I will avoid spoiling it for any of you who haven’t seen it, but let me tell you, a lot goes on in one little film, and the feels are rollercoaster worthy.

Having watched probably too many movies for one weekend and having wrung our hearts out in every possible way, we then schlepped down to the Scarsdale Best Buy to pick up an AC for Patrick. The poor man had been slowly boiling alive in his Harlem apartment and so it was time to help him get set up with a cooling system. After popping the AC in the car, we stopped at a nearby Bareburger to gather our strength before heading into the city to install. Five flights of stairs is quite a lot of flights of stairs, especially when carrying the most awkwardly shaped and strangely sharp edged box on earth, but we nonetheless got the AC into the apartment and with no small bit of nerves and hesitation, managed to get it securely fastened in the window without anything falling into the street below. Installing window ACs is remarkably nerve wracking despite being objectively quite easy. I’m not looking forward to installing mine when I get back to the UK.

And then almost unexpectedly it was Monday. I managed to make it outside for a minute at lunch and had every intention of spending a few more hours outside in the evening while waiting for a talk, but instead I was struck by the total exhaustion of an impending headache and my options were collapse on a bench, or collapse in my bed. I chose bed.

Two hours later I woke up and discovered that I’d forgotten my very dilapidated charger in White Plains which meant that I had finally run out of excuses to buy a new one. So I wandered on down to the Apple Store, and by the time I got back home, it was late, and I was tired and no blog happened. Mea culpa.

But now it’s Tuesday and despite a completely immovable spine (the chiropractor was thrilled), a blog has emerged and now will be hastily thrust onto the internet so that I can make it up to Columbus Circle in time for a salsa audition. More on that later.

The Salsa Girl

In Which The Exhaustion Extends

I think the coming week will be the last week of insanity and long nights at the office, or at least it better be because I am on my very last reserves of energy. I’m not sure quite how much is left in the tank but allow me to refer you to Exhibit A: last night I stumbled home from work, shoved some food in my face, and then passed out. I had all the best intentions of going out for a drink and some dancing but then my body gave me some hard side eye and I decided that, in the interests of avoiding the looming migraine, I should just call it a night. And somewhere in there the blog didn’t happen, so we’re writing tonight. Mea culpa?

But exhaustion notwithstanding, let me tell you about my most recent round of insanity. I started my week with the final day of prep for our symposium. I got out of the office only a little bit late and headed into Chelsea to catch an event at Civic Hall. It was a fascinating night of talks and I ran into one of our students who made for interesting conversation while we waited for the talks. But of course the event food was pizza and since I’m trying to save my tummy from conflict with dairy fat which is cannot stand in any form, I spend the night drinking cider instead. Which might have contributed to the urgency with which I dragged myself into Trader Joes immediately after to scoop up some groceries. Hungry and 1 drink in, is not necessarily the best state for shopping, but at least the lines were only halfway around the store…

The following day was the first day of the symposium and despite a bit of a late start and some on the fly agenda changes, it went quite well. As the speakers headed off to dinner, I tidied up and settled in for another few hours of work before the main public day of the symposium. Somewhere around 10:30pm, I stumbled to the train and decided that perhaps I would not be going to Westie Cafe that night. In the morning, I rolled in at 7am and set to work. 11 hours later, I was cleaning up the pantry after a very successful symposium. There were a few small glitches, but there will always be a few small glitches, and on the whole it went off very smoothly. Which is not to say that I wasn’t exhausted. By the time I got home I could do nothing but collapse face first into bed. There is something so beautiful about the sleep of utter exhaustion.

When Friday finally came, I settled in to send out mounds of follow up emails and conquer at least a few of the neglected items on my to-do list that have fallen afoul of ground truthing and symposia. Come 5pm I was slightly more on top of my to-do list, which was a perfect excuse to join a few colleagues for cake and drinks at a relatively nearby Brooklyn bar: Butter & Scotch. Thank goodness it is only “relatively” nearby, because it is dangerously delicious. We shared a slice of birthday cake and a slice of chocolate cake and both were heavenly–especially paired with the gin, apricot, and raspberry heaven that was the “pink emoji” drink. I mean it was pretty kitchsy but it was also incredibly delicious and it was great to hang out with some of the awesome ladies from work.

When I left the bar I had all the best intentions of going out to salsa in the Bronx, but then I took a little nap and the rest is history.

Saturday morning saw me wandering into another intense round of Broga, this one with additional headstands (or failures to headstand as the case may be). After an hour and a half of shaking, sweating, and contorting I wandered back home via Petee’s Pie. It’s only a few blocks from my apartment and it’s absolutely full of delicious sweet pies. I got a piece of sour cherry and a piece of key lime with meringue. Both were heavenly, neither were needed and yet I have no regrets. Post-pie, I house cleaned, did laundry, and set off to Midtown for another night of westie. I was manning the door which suited my evening energy perfectly. I was surrounded by good people and music with no obligation to do anything but sit and soak it all in and occasionally dance a song or two, but only if I felt like it and could find cover for the door. It was about perfect.

Sunday I straggled out of bed to shower and head to Midtown for dance. I made a quick detour to Tisserie for a tortilla, a salad, and a chai before an hour and a half of indulging my inner perfectionist. Yes, ballet with Finis Jhung. It’s very basic but very technical and I love it. It also makes my upper back want to cry but I’m convinced that eventually my upper back will give in and admit that it’s better this way. After ballet, I dropped by a lovely little cafe down the street. I’d been angling to visit the place for ages but just hadn’t made it yet. Somehow I knew that a place named Fika would have to be lovely, but it exceeded even my expectations. Two high ceilinged stories bedecked in Swedish design and full of all manner of people and chocolates. Yes, they had award winning boutique chocolates. I had the lingonberry and chilli, the quinoa and hazelnut, and the chestnut. All three were perfection.

Refreshed with chocolates and hot cocoa, I headed back to Ailey for a fantastic contemporary class. Levi Marsman took us through a fantastic warm up, across the floor, and combo, by the end of which I was thoroughly stretched and pleasantly wiped–perfect for heading up to White Plains to practice westie. I refuelled with some pad thai on the way and some tea once we got there and then settled in for about two hours of practice before bounding back into the city to hop on a four-way Skype call with Mandy, Patrick, and Jessie. We critiqued some videos while I cooked pasta and stuffed my face with hummus until after midnight. Had I fallen asleep right then, I might have been okay, but instead my inner insomniac struck and by the time I was drifting into sleep, it was 2am and my street was inhabited by the loudest and slowest garbage collection crew that has ever roamed the streets of this city. Have you ever experienced exhausted rage? I hope you haven’t but if you have you’ll know that nothing feels quite so powerless as being consumed with the adrenaline of utter rage at whatever is keeping you from sleep while knowing that nothing you can do will stop the disruption or allow you to sleep through it. It’s the worst.

So Monday was a wash. I stumbled through another long day at the office facilitating an event and continuing to work my way through my to-do list. I got home with every intention of enjoying my evening, only to find that my head was inseparable from my pillow and the only workable solution was sleep.

Today was rather too similar to yesterday and similarly I now find myself lying in bed with burning tired eyes, wishing I had even a tiny bit of energy to go outside and enjoy the sudden burst of spring weather that has finally come our way. Perhaps tomorrow.

The Salsa Girl

In Which We Were Bawston-bound

I had undue difficulty with the title this time. I know, it seems silly, but I just couldn’t decide whether it ought to be “are” or “were” and wasted entirely too much time trying to figure it out. I remain dissatisfied but have decided to move on regardless, lest I spend the entire evening waffling over a title and end with no blog at all. So we shall move on to bigger and better things, or perhaps just Tuesday.

Tuesday was an entirely average day. I went to work, slipped out to catch a talk, and ended up working through the entire talk and rather missing most of it. This happens far too often. I have every intention of listening to a fascinating talk on a topic that I’m genuinely interested in and then I end up spending the whole thing putting out fires in my inbox. I really must get better at compartmentalizing. After wrapping up as much of my inbox as could, I headed up to Trader Joes to grab some groceries and somehow, after ages of dutiful shopping and queuing, came out with fruit and veg, and a giant round of sticky buns. I could say that I didn’t eat them all in one sitting, but we would all know it was a lie…

The following day was another busy day at work blessedly followed by the wonderful respite of Westie Cafe. I always enjoy my Wednesday Westie but this week I had a sort of a break through. Upon watching videos, I must admit that the breakthrough was mostly internal, but the failure to improve the aesthetics of my dance does not undermine the fact that my creativity and musicality finally seemed to find an outlet through my body. I only hope I can keep and further develop this self expression and actualization as I retrench and sort out the technique and quality of movement issues that render the visuals of my dancing so soundly mediocre. It will forever be a work in progress.

And then all at once it was the weekend. Yes, I took Friday off for a dance weekend so, after work on Thursday I was bounding along to GCT to grab a biryani and head to White Plains. We practiced for a while before hopping in the hot tub for relaxation and shenanigans. There are silly pictures somewhere on Facebook to prove it. Because we were leaving from White Plains the next morning, Patrick and I stayed the night at Jessie’s. We drank wine, ate macarons, and gossiped until I dropped rather unceremoniously into sleep.

Come Friday morning, I was popping off a few emails for work before we collected Jenny from the train and shipped on up to Boston. After a few hours on the road and some very dubious rest stop food, we arrived in corporate retreat land in the woods of rural Massachusetts somewhere in the approximate vicinity of Boston. That I’ve been to “Boston” six times since moving to New York and have yet to enter the actual Boston city limits, may be one of the more ridiculous aspects of my existence, but then again there are a lot of ridiculous aspects of my existence so perhaps it doesn’t even rank. Either way, we barely arrived before we were diving head first into a very full weekend of dance education at ESS Camp.

I’ve spent far too many events telling myself that I would catch a class or two only to find that sleep, competing, and socializing always seem to win out. So a weekend of only learning was desperately necessary. The workshops were levelled and each level had 9 very full 75min sessions with some of the top pros in our dance plus an additional hour of role based styling. To say that it was intense only begins to encapsulate. I was reminded of things I’d once learned and since forgotten, I learned drills and patterns and combos, and every evening my little brain was a spongey dripping mess of information by the time the social dancing arrived. But even so the dancing was divine.

Some of my friends had pretty major break throughs during the weekend and it was amazing to see! I’m afraid that I didn’t have what you’d call a break through but I got a lot of tools that will hopefully help me to move past my current blockade of foot action and movement quality. In fact, as soon as I finish up writing to you all, I’ll probably be spending some quality time with my mirror and my feet.

As if all the learning and dancing wasn’t enough, the weekend also featured some of the most spectacular demos I’ve ever seen performed. It helped that we were sitting super close nearly in a circle around the pros, but it also helped that they were just dancing and playing and sharing themselves with us. I was so deeply inspired. I only hope I can someday make people feel the day they made me feel. I don’t know if I want to call is a raison d’être, but it’s certainly a driving goal.

And then all too soon the weekend was over and we were driving those familiar highways south to the city. I’m coming to have a very particular and emotion laden relationship with that stretch of highway. I think it may yet come to live in my soul as only selected sections of Peace River highway have done before.

We took a brief pause in White Plains to wait for a train before schlepping ourselves back to the city to do battle with the subways. I for one did not win that battle, which is part of why I’m so darn tired today. But despite the tired, I made it through one more day which means that I’m that much closer to my vacation and, equally importantly, I’m that much closer to the next westie cafe, the next contemporary class, and the next group practice. Is it still an obsession if it’s good for you?

Rolling on through,
The Salsa Girl

In Which The Weather Vacillates Wildly

It’s been quite the spring. After endless snowstorms, windstorms, and generally frigid weather, we finally swung up into the 70s, just in time to dive straight back into a whole new storm complete with flash flood warnings. At the rate we’re going, we may never get to spring, but while we wait, let’s go back over the week shall we?

All the way back on Wednesday, I wrapped up a busy day at work before heading home via the discount Easter aisle. Yes, it was that wonderful time of year when Easter chocolate hits rock bottom prices and even the most nutritionally virtuous of us can’t help but cave. I mean, 70% off is pretty irresistible. Revived by the candy, I then put the kettle on for a spot of tea with Patrick. And yes, for those of you that are wondering, it was herbal tea. Yes, I’m still caffeine-free, and it’s getting easier everyday–or so I tell myself…

A few cups of tea later, we hopped a train and headed into Midtown for the most marvellous cheap and cheerful pre-dance dinner at Harmony Istanbul Grill. It’s my new favourite place to eat and it’s only about a block from dance, which is to say that it’s spectacularly dangerous. I could live off their pita and baba ganoush, not to mention all the other delicious things on offer. Post-pita, we popped up to westie to dance a while before we all caught our separate separate trains home to bed.

Thursday was another busy day at work from which I stepped out a touch early for a free skin cancer screening. NYU provides all manner of bits and bobs for its employees, and as the proud owner of entirely too many moles, I figured that his was a bit and bob that I ought to avail of. Apparently I’m in the clear for now, though after my weekend shenanigans, I might have to retract my proud proclamation of appropriate suncream usage. After the derm, it was off to the chiro, and then home to rest my sorry sleep self. I don’t know if I’m trying to do too much, or if I’m just getting old, but I seem to always be exhausted these days and I’d really rather not be.

And then after a relatively low key week, I had an even more boring Friday. Yes, after a very late night at work, I went home and did absolutely nothing exciting for a few hours before plopping unceremoniously into bed. But in my defence, the sleep was necessary because the next day was fieldwork and fieldwork began at 5:15am. Blessedly it was a beautiful day, getting up to 75 degrees, and I wore my face sun cream and long sleeved shirt even when it was terribly hot and the sun cream was dripping in my eyes, but clever beast that I am, I forgot about my hands and despite my diligence, even my face ended up several shades darker, though nothing compared to my oh so adorably sunburned hands.

It was quite the day. We laid out over 750 square meters of experiments ranging from masonry and tiles, to road markings, mannequins, roofing materials, and just about anything you could imagine finding on a building site or somewhere in a city. We got it all laid out in time for the second pass of the helicopter carrying the various data collection sensors and for a precious hour or so, we took a moment to rest, only occasionally leaping up to rescue boxes, fences, and mannequins being blown away by the gusts of wind. We were even visited by a little dust devil at one point, but the flyover was a success and the helicopter was headed back to the airport by about 4pm, which only left the final documentation and the clean up. 5 hours and a lot of heavy lifting later, we’d filled a dumpster with our debris, emptied most of the debris out of that dumpster and then filled the correct, not NYPD owned dumpster, and a 9′ cargo van with the things we were keeping for further research. From there, I bid the van, my boss, my coworker, and a carload of students adieu as they drove off to other parts of Brooklyn and I headed to the train. When I finally fell through my front door after 10pm, I realized that in that more than 16 hour long day I had consumed a sum total of one bowl of oatmeal and a donut. You’d be surprised how filling adrenaline, urgency, and determination can be.

On Sunday, I woke up a lot less sore than I thought I would, but far more exhausted than I would have imagined. I had grand ambitions of going to dance, but after doing my laundry and cleaning my room the only answer was sleep. I really did think about just pushing through, but my evening was to be composed of the final step of the field work which was to say emptying the cargo van and stowing all of our goodies away in the office storage room. Between my boss, my coworker, and I, we got everything out of the van and into the storage room in less than two hours and I went home tired, and a bit sore, but it was a good sore. Unlike the soreness that comes with desk work, this was the soreness that promises more strength and better alignment rather than being a symptom of misalignment and a sedentary lifestyle.

My poor sore, sunburned, newly callused, and splintered hands felt less good–but then you can’t win them all.

Today was my day to attempt to catch up on all the work that went undone while we were prepping for field work–yes, I was in the office today–but of course there is always more work than time and I left the office late again having still not completed nearly all the things I’d intended. It’s my very own sisyphysian torture I suppose. Either way, despite all my best intentions, yoga just wasn’t going to happen so I grabbed some dumplings from North Dumpling and stumbled my sleepy butt home to write. Oh and did I mention that it was fantastically stormy today? I got into the office before things got too exciting, but between the news and my friends I have a wide variety of exciting stories of flooding subways and showers of water pouring from the tunnel ceiling to drench commuters as they tried to step outside the train doors. So we’re still waiting for that magical season we’ve be promised. I think they call it spring?

Well and truly tired of winter,
The Salsa Girl

In Which the Withdrawal Wears On

It’s been nine days since my last cup of coffee, 5 since my last cup of caffeinated tea, and I am still suffering mightily. I mean it’s possible that I’m just going through a bad bout of migraines, but the co-occurrence is too tight and I think I must admit that this withdrawal is hitting me long and hard. I can only pray it ends soon as I sip my herbal tea and ride out the migraines. Predictably enough, this week has not been the most exciting as I have fended off various delightful and exciting symptoms of my journey to liberty from my insidious caffeine addiction. Remind me of this next time you see my on my fifth cup coffee.

On Wednesday, as I pressed through only one of many headaches, I set myself the project of roasting chickpeas. The recipe called for high heat and plenty of paprika and the result was ever so slightly crispy, smoky, reddish skins wrapped around the warm, tender chickpea insides. I added them to some whole wheat pasta with tomatoes, garlic, and all the rich wonderful olive oil. It was quite heavenly indeed. After my meal of pasta and chickpeas, I headed in to Westie Cafe to get my dance on. And the rest of the evening is perfectly predictable from there.

The following day I left work and headed North. With a stop at Grand Central Terminal to grab a curry and connect with friends, I hopped the Metro North to White Plains for practice. After quick cup of tea, we spent several productive hours working on dance before packing it in and heading upstairs for another cuppa before the train. On the way back, I utilized my clever new method of not freezing to death when returning home via Metro North late at night. Yes, rather than my classic method of taking Metro North to Grand Central Terminal to catch a 6 train to Spring St and then walk 12 minutes home, I now get off at Harlem – 125th, walk about 2 minutes to catch any green line train down to Lex – 59th where another less than 5 minute walk gets me to my beloved F train and a straight shot home. Of course the connections don’t always line up exactly right and sometimes it keeps me waiting longer, but it’s far warmer and I feel quite clever about having figured it out so I’ll probably continue until the weather finally decides to straighten up and turn to summer.

Friday was my first day with absolutely no caffeine and by god was it ever difficult. I drank cup after cup of herbal tea, hoping that hydration alone would save me from wilting, but it was not to be. Around mid afternoon, the headache started to creep in, and by the time I got home from work, I was a hot horrible headachy mess. I had all the best intentions of catching a dance technique class, but in the state I then found myself in, the only answer was a quiet night and an early sleep. I know, I’m so exciting.

But despite my boring Friday, I was to have a very busy Saturday. I rolled out of bed early enough to clean the apartment before bounding up to NYU to catch a TEDx event. The MC and the organization left rather a lot to be desired, but the speakers were spectacular. From the hands on mindfulness exercises, to stories of fighting waste and building community in our consumerist society, all the way through to a discussion of how to find fulfillment in your career, it was jam packed with goodness and aspirational stories. It was also accompanied by a delicious falafel sandwich and some knafe from Mamoun’s which was as delicious as ever.

After the talks wrapped up, I wandered up to Union Square where I drifted through the market before finding a sunny patch of bench to sit and read upon. It was a bit too cold to be entirely comfortable, but the warmth of the sun brought it near enough that I spent about an hour there devouring pages before I got too cold and decided to head out. I dropped by my apartment quickly to change and pick up my dance gear before heading up to Midtown for Gotham Swing. The evening started with three classes taught by the visiting Floridian instructors: Hugo and Stacy. They were fabulous, and I picked up a tidbit in the first of the three classes which may yet save my dance from one of its biggest deficits. After the classes, a few of us dropped down to Chipotle for a quick dinner before we headed back up to social dance.

Despite my typical shyness about asking pros to dance, with Patrick’s needling help, I managed to get a dance with Hugo and it was wonderful! He is so creative and seems to take genuine pleasure from figuring out what to do with what the follower gives him. It was a very worthwhile way to spend an evening.

Attempting to be responsible, I headed home as soon as the dance ended and flopped straight into bed. I should have had a long lovely sleep that night, but the world decided to intervene. Of course there was all the usual cacophony from the street, but what I hadn’t counted on was waking up at 5am to see someone letting themselves into my room and closing the door behind them. It’s a special kind of vulnerable, that feeling you get when you are woken up by a stranger closing themselves into your room with you. As an added bonus, this stranger was wearing only underpants, and between the darkness, my visual challenges, and the fact that I was still half asleep, I couldn’t even be sure whether it was a man or a woman.

Apparently, frightened Brittney defaults to an assertive andindignant voice. So I would first ask in a sharp, incisive tone: “Excuse me, What ARE you doing in my room?” The figure didn’t reply, merely turned to face me with its hair all covering its face and looked as it if might advance. That was when my scaring away wild animals and feral dogs voice made its appearance and I coldly and aggressively commanded: “You need to get out of here NOW.” It seemed to work as the silent figure would then turn about, open the door, and leave. As soon as my room was clear, I lunged out of bed on an adrenaline rush like none other to lock my door. There was a bit more door slamming to be heard as I lay behind my securely locked door and slowly pieced my early morning adventure back together. Until given reason to believe otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and assume that my roommate’s new girlfriend sleepwalks. I shall be locking my bedroom door a lot more in future.

As a result of my rather dramatically broken sleep, Sunday saw me waking up rather a lot later than expected: too late to do laundry, but fortunately not too late to do ballet. So I peeled myself out of bed and headed up to Ailey. I spent my first 90 minutes in absolute beginner ballet with the monstrously intimidating Finis Jhung. The class is very good and I absolutely need it, but the teacher is terrifically good at making you feel inadequate and the exercises leave my upper back and shoulders stiff as boards. I suspect this means that it’s good for my hopelessly inward rolling shoulders. After ballet, Jenny and I grabbed a lunch of sushi followed by hot drinks and halva donuts before heading back to Ailey for contemporary. Contemporary was excellent as always and left us tired and satisfied, which of course was the perfect state to brave Whole Foods in. If you haven’t been to the Whole Foods a Columbus Circle, don’t go. It’s just awful. The layout makes no sense whatsoever and the entire place is seething with carts and bodies. As soon as the grocery shoppers amongst us had made their purchases, we escaped the zoo and headed to Turnstyle for a snack.

They’ve a new vendor in Turnstyle, it’s called Daa! Dumplings and it is heaven! The dumplings were tender and tasty and they came with this marvellous tomato sauce that savoured strongly of my beloved Balkan Ajvar. I was in culinary paradise! Once we’d eaten, Patrick and I wandered about for a bit before he headed off for another dance lesson and I headed home to sleep and prepare for the week ahead.

Monday was another wonderful work day full of delightful frustrations including the opening salvos of another battle with Home Depot. Around about 3pm, I would also be gifted by my most beloved of companions, yes, another charming migraine and it was a doozy. All I wanted was to go home and sleep, but instead I had another event to attend after work and I really couldn’t miss it. It would have been a pretty cool event, but I have to admit that between the headache and the presence of a coworker who I prefer to avoid after certain liberties were taken by said individual earlier in my time at NYU, meant that I mostly just wanted to leave. So I got the information I needed, made the connections I wanted to make and then waited for my chance to flee home.

When I finally got home, I would pass out almost immediately, which is why this edition is coming to you today rather than yesterday as it should have done. Today, I spent entirely too much of my day on hold with Home Depot before out of frustration, I finally decided to just get on a train and make the 30 minutes journey down to sort them out in person. Though my coworkers all thought that I should just be harder on the phone and make them sort it out, it seemed to be an intractable computer error in the payment processing which was resolved almost immediately upon my being there in person with the card and the pin in question. And to be honest, I cannot imagine how my getting up on my angry high horse with any of them would have made any difference. I expect it would only have made everyone feel bad and lead to even poorer results as the people who had been trying to help me would likely have turned to hating me. In short, the train ride was worth it.

And now as I sit here writing to you, I’ve just heard that a friend from Canada is in town tonight only so I may yet go out and celebratory conquering of the Home Depot challenges. We can only wait and see.

The Salsa Girl