Category: Britain

Weekend Links

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
― Henry James

Hi ducklings! It was the 4th of July for American minions this past week (NPR tweeted out the Declaration of Independence and got some…confused responses), and this weekend in PRIDE in London. We have a houseguest in situ, more coming next week, and Katarina and I are scheming for a visit in August. The sun is blazing, the river is high, and politics were only typically bad this week. Let’s celebrate some summer, shall we?

This profile of one of the One Direction boys (the one you probably don’t remember the name of) is poignant and kind of lovely.

Say it with me: “women’s fiction” is just…fiction.

Great. Just ******* great.

Bitch magazine rounded up a bunch of podcasts you should be listening to. I can personally recommend about half of ’em.

SUPER NOT GREAT, TEAM.

I will be donating to this cause.

Well this was…devastating.

It’s rare that an agony aunt letter affects me, but this is one of those occasions.

#distractinglysexy is trending and it’s great.

Album of the week: Something to Tell You, by Haim 

Weekend Links

“When good Americans die, they go to Paris.”
― Oscar Wilde

So, we went to Paris for a few days, and didn’t miss any news at all.

Just kidding! Because it’s 2017 and the pace of the spacetime continuum is on warp speed!

The UK had a general election that did not quite go according to the Prime Minister’s plan, and Mr. Comey testified before Congress on the investigations into Russian interference in the US election–sounding for all the world like a victim of sexual assault or pressure from the way the president behaved to the way people are trying to make the subsequent decisions of all involved Mr. Comey’s own fault. It’s been shocking. The US president continued to tweet up a storm (which, let’s be clear, is precisely what kicked off this whole mess with Mr. Comey in the first instance), leading to his own teammates delivering the weakest defense possible to explain away his actions: “He’s just new this this.” No shit, Mr. Speaker. That’s always been the problem, and in no way absolves him of the responsibility of catching the hell up with professional expectations.

At time of writing, the White House has canceled an anticipated state visit to the UK. Trust me, President Trump would go down like a lead balloon at the moment, following his outbursts in response to the London attacks. Current reports are that he doesn’t want to have to deal with prospective protests or negative coverage, the poor dear. Though let’s be clear, the UK government is far from having its ducks in a row at the moment! Nevertheless, it astonishes me how he continues to casually do damage to some of the most enduring relationships in Western democracy, and I continue to be dismayed by the failure of his own (supposedly constitutionally mad) party to check him. The fact that the most likely outcome of the Comey hearing is, at this moment, nothing at all is deeply disheartening.

But a break from that, ducklings! I’m feeling marvelously refreshed after our short holiday–posts coming as soon as I clean the house, do masses of laundry, shop for food, go the gym, try to meditate, and generally try to get our lives back into some semblance of working order. Stand by. Not sure for how long. Meanwhile, I’ve put together a delightful batch of links to make you feel prepped to take on the coming week, regardless of whether or not you are currently stuffed to the brim of delicious French food.

A diverse list of female medieval writers.

I loved–LOVED–the Amazons of Wonder Woman, both the fictional characters and the casting. Different sizes, shapes and colors. Some were teachers, some were fighters, some were senators, some were thin, some were highly muscled, and every last one of them was a badass. Where the hell do I enlist for the Claire Underwood battalion? The outpouring of love and appreciation from other women for this film has been a source of internet joy for me from the get go, but

In tragic nerd news, Adam West passed away. A writer I enjoy pays tribute here.

In heroic and joyous nerd news, the first Black Panther trailer came out!

This generator gave me quite a chuckle. My favorite thus far have been “Islamic Revolutionary Thatcherite” and Post-Colonial Anarcho-Communist.”

Nope.

A fashion designer urges consumer to not buy anything this season. I see the appeal!

 

Album of the week: Ti Amo, by Phoenix 

Weekend Links

“They want us to turn on our neighbors and it will never happen.”

It was a rough week here in the UK, as I’m sure international readers may imagine. The company I’m contracting with is tangentially but significantly affected by security changes throughout the world so work was a bit full on this week and London was operating at a heightened state of vigilance. Nothing but praise for first responders and the Manchester community who showed up to support their city, refused to tolerate malicious commentary based on prejudice, and general came together in ways that might have made me tear up a bit. Oh, and humor. The Brits responded with humor.

The American president leaked I mean mentioned in casual conversation the location of nuclear subs, put forward a budget that is (in my opinion) aggressively hostile to poor and disenfranchised citizens whilst potentially seriously ******* with NATO’s ability to function, and quite literally cost a dear friend of my her job–in case you thought it had to pass through Congress before having any effect. He also received the Pope’s treatise on climate change. Boy I hope they included the Cliff Notes.

Meanwhile, I’m happy in the knowledge that human beings are fantastic.

Here are you links for the weekend, kittens, and hope you find some joy in it. Stories and sharing in the comments, please!

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Here, have some balm for the soul.

Fellow yanks, let me translate this British for you: they are pissed at us right now.

Not subjected to high levels of editorial scrutiny, huh? You don’t say. (I don’t have time to delve into why this whole conspiracy theory story and the people promoting it are garbage, but there I stand. In case you were wondering.)

Heartbreaking

Enough with the depression, let’s have some fun for a bit! This bot is doing the lord’s work.

Guy, GUYS! The internet did something good!

Also, GET HYPE. 

Loved this piece in Bazaar. It’s fine, good, and healthy to want a loving partner and committed partnerships–and voicing your support for feminism and feminist causes is NOT a barrier to that. I have a kind of great partner who proves that point. False dichotomies are lazy and unhelpful–and dare I say, tools of the patriarchy. Meanwhile a partner who abuses you, limits your choices, is unwilling to find family-specific and personal compromises on all aspects of home and family life, or is otherwise a jerk to you for having opinions IS a barrier to a healthy, happy, and productive life.

Here’s an instagram feed to make your day more pretty.

This story is altogether too common, but I’m thrilled her account is getting recognized and is being taken seriously.

You decide, ducklings: how important are these pineapple earrings to my happiness?

It’s going to be a summer of TV for me, between Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, American Gods, and a list of other pop culture To Dos. But I’m also committed to finishing up my audiobook goal and getting my Goodreads year end report looking impressive.

Album of the week: True Care, by James Vincent McMorrow

The Lakes District

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
– William Wordsworth

I’ve been saying it forever, but I mean it: we do not go on enough vacations. Here in the UK, in addition to national holidays, I have about 25 days off a year as part of a typical contract–ditto Jeff. We are piss poor at using them.

We blame American work habits and norms. To this day I cringe whenever I submit a time off request, as if what I’m doing is somehow shameful or looks lazy. Over the past nearly four years that we’ve lived here, we’ve been so bad at taking holidays that Jeff has been able to sell back a few every year to get a bit of extra money…but last year we hit the limit of that and so much of his time off allocations have piled up that we have to either “use it or lose it.”

We are awful at holidays…but we are getting better.

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This shop knows holiday hours!

For the April long Bank Holiday weekend, feeling absolutely stir crazy and needing to get out of the city, I booked us a few days in the Lakes District in Cumbria. Initially I had grand ambitions of trying to organize a quick mini break to Europe, but the onboarding as part of a new short term contract quickly took over most of my life and energy and before I knew it, the Bank Holiday was upon us. Jeff was deep in the bowels of tax season and working 12+ hour days meaning that while he too needed a holiday badly, I needed to plan this one. A quick burst of research and reservation making, et voila!

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The Lakes District has an abundance of natural beauty and has been a popular visiting spot since the Edwardian period. In spite of being an admittedly tourist spot, it remains charming. There is a thriving but tidy local economy that makes getting around the cluster of lakes and villages that makes up the area easy and affordable, and a blend of indoor amenities like shops, B&Bs and restarants to supplement the outdoor nature of the holiday spot. It’s a famous hiking district with peaks and hills for the adventurous/fit, with lots of woodland walking trails for the more moderate/lazy. We took advantage of both the outdoors and food–copious amounts of tea were drunk and more than one excellent meal eaten in between boat rides across Lake Windemere, multi hour hikes along shorelines, walks through the villages where some of Britain’s most famous poets lived and wrote, and general meandering.

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The fresh air, long walks, good food (we ate so much local cheese, guys), and time away from the city. It was exactly what we needed.

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So. Much. Cheese.
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And gingerbread.

In case you are interested, we stayed at Mylne Bridge House which is a charming B&B run by a married couple who serve an absolutely scrumptious breakfast! You’re about five minutes from the high street of Windemere and a half hour leisurely walk from Bowness-on-Windemere on the lake itself. Highly recommended!

Weekend Links

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”
[Remarks on the 20th Anniversary of the Voice of America; Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, February 26, 1962]”
― John F. Kennedy

So. The news. By Wednesday of this week, this whole mess had gone down. Things haven’t gotten much clearer since. Then there was an attack on my beloved adopted hometown of London the same day, seemingly the actions of a lone wolf assailant.

As I put this list together, the American political system is arguing with itself (on a fundamental level) as to whether healthcare (or rather its watered down version of “access to healthcare”) is a right or not. There’s an actual and interesting ideological basis to this debate, but we long ago spun into vitriol and obstruction and I’m not sure that we’re any closer to finding our way out of either. Apparently the leadership is going to force a vote on it today, we will see what happens.

Thus far 2017 seems to be doing its darndest to up our collective rates of cardiac stress and fatigue. Here are your links this weekend, and they are designed to be a politics-lite batch for to give us all a bit of a break.

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The importance of understanding shifting language and context in our culturally ongoing discussions about sexuality and identity.

Relatedly! An interview at Man Repeller about the changing language and communication expectations of our current age.

Female writers on books that influenced them.

The great and good Margaret H. Willison (oft of Pop Culture Happy Hour fame) defends libraries!

Escaping the guardianship laws placed on Saudi women.

Speaking of Pop Culture Happy Hour, this post from NPR’s Monkey See about the podcast Missing Richard Simmons is an interesting exercise in pondering fame.

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her. And then the murders began.”

This article on how ISIS is changing and evolving is worth a read.

The latest trailer for The Handmaid’s Tale is chilling and gripping. I can’t wait for it and am simultaneously a bit chilled.

Why Jane Austen is Wrong for the Alt-Right. I may never have click on an article link this fast in my life.

Album of the week: Paradise by ANOHNI

Politics and Money

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”
― Albert Einstein

For obvious reasons, politics is on my mind this week.

Something I’ve probably not spent enough time thinking through is how politics affects my money choices. A lot of the “big” purchases normally associated with American politics are simply not part of our lives at the moment. We have only ever bought one car and that was from a family member, we have never bought a house, and the biggest choice we’ve made is to live and work abroad which obviously makes an impact in our taxes and expenses. I know that political policy informs my life day to day, but I’d never really really done an examination as to how or how intimately.

That started to change last year after the Brexit vote. It was a political decision that had and will have enormous consequences for the industry I work in, to the tune of millions and perhaps billions of pounds. Of course I know that every budget the US Congress has passed in my lifetime has affected me, but this was the first time that I felt the financial implications of politics hit my work and wallet directly since the Great Recession. It was sobering and it changed several of our potential futures.

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We love living in London, the idea of ever leaving cracks my heart…but we do occasionally take a look at career opportunities back in the States where we’d be likely to make larger paychecks (Jeff in particular). Meanwhile the exchange rate is now much less favorable to us than it once was, with more uncertainty in the forecast. Given these financial realities, influenced by international and local politics, it’s not inconceivable that we may move back to the States or to another country at some point. If we do our taxation will change, so will other political realities.

As the future of the Affordable Care Act is currently in a state of limbo in the States, I just had the cervical exam I’m entitled to as a person who pays UK taxes that funds the NHS–I won’t call it “free.” I’m also provided access to regular birth control at no additional cost to me and regular dentistry (joke about UK teeth care all you want, I still get mine checked out every six month and it costs a fraction of what it would in the States). On the flip side, there are legitimate critiques for a system that many find bureaucratic and overstretched, and that some people dislike.

Money and politics are a constant trade off for what we have, what we want, what we are able to provide for ourselves, and what we deem that government/society/employers should provide for us. The financial choices I/we have made are personal ones, but they are political as well. As the saying goes, “The personal is political.”

But we’ve not yet really parsed out how politics will affect our desire to invest, to save, to retire. These still feel like “far away” problems, even though I know they aren’t.

So, wiser, older, and more experienced friends, talk to me about how politics has affected your money choices. What decisions did you have to make under the past administration (if you’re American), and what decisions do you think you will need to under the new one? Brit friends, ditto your experiences under recent governments?

Devon

“Country things are the necessary root of our life – and that remains true even of a rootless and tragically urban civilization. To live permanently away from the country is a form of slow death.”
― Esther Meynell

We bid adieu to the summer with a very lovely and generous invitation for a weekend house party in Devon on the coast.  There was minimal communications, croquet, amazing food, and wonderful company–we had a amazing time.
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The weather was very British and temperatures and sunlight varied by the hour, but we got glorious chunks of time in the sun and good enough weather for a long hike on the Saturday afternoon. Mornings were spent at the massive kitchen table or out on the terrace, after a brisk swim in the sea, we played parlour games at night.  The villages we hiked through and stayed in were beyond charming, there is no other word for them. Here, have a photo smorgasbord:

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It was exactly what we needed to round off the summer. Quintessentially British, restful, and invigorating at the same time.  I’m ready for another helping!

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