“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” ― Mark Twain
I’m furious to report that the photos of the first room we entered on our way to the Haddon Library didn’t turn out at all. This room was dark, stuffed with shelves filled with books about ancient Babylon, first contact with the Zulu, Assyrian and Egyptian glossaries, and other fabulous finds. Some of the old tomes containing early maps were nearly as tall as me. And it turns out that the room had a slightly scandalous recent history.
The academic who was in charge of interacting with visitors told me the story of a recent department reshuffle when collections of libraries were combined and had to be moved from one location to another. Not only did they have to worry about the proper transfer of historically significant books, they also had to be sure that the order and classifications were preserved–putting a collection like this back together from scratch if it was scrambled was too daunting a task to be thought of! Luckily the professor in charge found a moving company that specializes in this and a disaster was avoided.
It didn’t seem like too many visitors were going to the Haddon Library through this entrance and the professor and librarian talked to me for nearly twenty minutes simply because I started asking questions about the massive books. It’s always a delight to me what you can learn about the workings of places and people if you just pull up a chair and are genuinely interested.
The Haddon Library itself looks like a Victorian Eccentric’s private room and it’s wonderful. It supports primarily Anthropology students and research. What I loved was the old card catalog still there and still in use. No school like old school. Literally in this case.
“Cambridge was a joy. Tediously. People reading books in a posh place. It was my fantasy. I loved it. I miss it still.” – Zadie Smith
King’s College is the jewel in the Cambridge crown. It’s a glorious Early Modern architecture find with the imprint of the Tudors all over it, and the chief attraction is the chapel. The spires dominate the whole city and in good weather (which we had, because the weekend gods were kind) the composition just gleams.
When Mum was a student we could get into the chapel for free. So when I was on “study abroad,” and therefore dashing home on weekends with armfuls of friends in tow for home cooked meals and general Rodgers clan entertaining, we’d wander through it before trotting down to the Cam to be punted along the river by attractive male students in various degrees of shirtless-ness. Memories.
This visit was much more dignified. I adore the chapel for another reason: it’s choir. Come Christmas time, they dominate the both my iPod and Spotify and I wander around in a state of perpetual fuzzy holiday bliss.
That fan vaulted ceiling at one point was the wonder of Britain. Architecture nerd fact.
We took our time going over every nook and cranny of the chapel and I found many delightful elements I hadn’t noticed before.
Like the greyhound on the right, which looks like it’s judging us.
Afterwards we wandered down to the river a bit and circumnavigated the grounds. The weather has taken a sharp turn for the chilly this week but up until then, this summer and early fall have been absolutely glorious and the gardens have lasted much longer than usual.
“Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose” ― Leonardo da Vinci
I absolutely loved my degree at university – a BA in European Studies (emphasis in British history, literature, and linguistic development) and a Minor in history. But I will be the first to admit that as educated as I believed my degree helped make me, there were a host of other skills I didn’t learn at school. Among them were a number of business skills that I’ve spent the last year working purposefully to acquire. I’ve had to develop a book keeping system. I’ve had to learn how to set prices for my services, and how to eventually change them to reflect new skills, value, and economic realities. I’ve had to learn how to do taxes as a freelancer – yick. I’ve learned about coding and SEO and other things still beyond my current scope, but not as much as they once were. But one of the most important things I never learned at school was “networking,” and I’m still learning how to do it well.
Since transitioning to freelancing full time, I’ve worked from home. For a few months I was working from a kitchen table in the middle of a central Virginia in a rural town. Now I work largely from a desk in a foreign city. I love meeting people, swapping stories and information, but chances to engage with other professionals (freelance or not) to say nothing of people are not always easy to come by.
Which is why I was thrilled that Levo League was organizing an evening of networking and negotiation training and discussion last weekend! I signed up immediately and last Thursday, off I trotted to it.
I first heard of Levo through a blogger whose skill and tenacity I admire tremendously, especially since she’s five years younger than me and already accomplishing things I find truly impressive things even though we have very different interests. Levo is a network and community of and for Millennial professional women of all stripes. They offer content and resources in the forms of articles, training, events like the one I hosted, and what they call “Office Hours,” conversations and presentations from big names in their industries like Warren Buffet, Cathy Calvin of the United Nations Foundation, Deborah Spar the President of Barnard College, and Nanette Lepore.
The event I went to was hosted next door to the Tower of London (the views were stellar) and one of the best things I’ve done in a long time. I met Maxie McCoy, a woman and writer who I’ve girl-crushed on from afar for months, who works for Levo. I bonded with the presenter, a fabulous woman in sales who taught me to think in a new way about offering value and with whom I hope to meet up with again in the future because she’s hilarious. I met students from NYU who are so ambitious, whipsmart, and capable that it’s a bit staggering. And I even met another freelancer doing amazing work with social entrepreneurship who was not just brilliant but wonderfully lovely to talk to – we’re already making plans to do some co-working when we need to get out of our home offices!
I’m really lucky to be working in a time when so many others are freelancing as well (some estimates in Britain put the numbers as 1 in 6 Britons and 1 in 5 Londoners working for themselves), and that there are communities and resources available to us. At times it’s been downright frightening to feel so out of depth this past year, but it’s also been really encouraging to find I’m able to rise to challenges with just a little help, good information, and the realization that I’m not alone in either my struggles or my triumphs.
Levo League is currently expanding in Europe (congratulations!) so hopefully there will be more of these events to look forward to – and more seriously impressive people to get to know!
(PS – nope, no one paid me to write any of this, it’s 100% gushing. Carry on.)
“Oh Frederic, can you not in the calm excellence of your wisdom reconcile it with your conscience to say something that will easy my father’s sorrow?” “…What?” “Can’t you cheer him up?” – The Pirates of Penzance
Without doubt, one of the best things about working for a university with several renowned performing arts programs and groups, and the talent they manage to attract – is coupling all that with the sweet staff and faculty discount I get on tickets. I’ve seen at least one opera or musical and play every year I’ve lived here (The Magic Flute was painfully mediocre – although the witch trio was amazing, Die Fledermaus was one of my favorite comic performances ever, The Phantom of the Opera could have been mistaken for a Broadway or West End performance, Love’s Labour’s Lost – set in WWII France – was brilliant).
Today I bought my last tickets as a staff member: a summer performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance (the movie version of which starring Kevin Kline and so delightfully, purposefully camp was a childhood favorite). It felt bittersweet tucking my last discounted ticket envelope into my bag.
Then I got an email about next year’s lineup for touring performers. John Lithgow, Audra McDonald, and Joshua Bell. As well as a Middle Eastern group performing an adaptation of Hamlet in Farsi, a marionette troupe, and some really great looking Shakespeare.
Bittersweet to just bitter, alas!
…But then I think about how I can go to performances at The Globe and in the West End…and I’m mollified.
Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught. Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught.
~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
Dear me, I think the semester has started.
The evidence: lines out the door, barely a third of my To Do list done (and it’s length growing exponentially), swarms of student pin-balling around campus in various states of befuddlement, calls from hysterical parents, and no lunch break.
Normally this would feel either overwhelming or at least a bit irritating, but it’s amazing what the prospect of London and working on Mysterious Projects can do for a girl. Once she makes it through the midday “Where is my bloody chocolate bar?! What New Year’s diet?!” episode anyway.
“This guy’s insane.” “Well, he thought he was the subject of a secret government mind control project. As it turns out, he really was being given daily doses of LSD for 11 years.” “Well, in that case he looks great.” – R.E.D.(2010)
It’s going to be one of those weeks, minions. Know how I can tell? Because Lt. South came to me and started a conversation in this manner: “Remember this guy? The one who we arrested naked in the sauna and who tried to set fire to the student center?”
Keep off the drugs, kids, they get you banned from respectable universities.
The following is a true story as told to C. Small Dog by one of the detectives. Some [tiny, practically unnoticeable] liberties taken.
It was a dark and stormy night* when this dame called up. She’d seen something horrible and thought she was being followed so she couldn’t squeal. I wasn’t in the mood to do the damsel in distress routine, I’d been drinking since noon and musing on the wretchedness of the human state for nearly as long, but she sounded desperate.
As it turned out, she did need me. She’s witnessed a kidnapping and had every reason to suspect the worst. One of ducks that lived at the campus pond had been snatched before her eyes, shoved squawking into a bag by gorilla armed goons and driven off in an unmarked car**. I suspected that the fowl had run afoul of the bootleggers and crooks who run this town – whiskey is normally involved. And if it isn’t, I involve it. I carry a couple flasks just for cases like this. You can’t see what I’ve seen and do this job sober.
A couple of contacts of mine down at the botanical studies buildings tipped me off about the car and I knew enough to trace it to a run down part of town infested with the scum of humanity and broken dreams***. I’d been there more times than I cared to count, but I had a job to do. I had to break a few ribs, but eventually I found the guys that had been hired for the job. A couple of drinks, some moody dialog and veiled threats and they squealed. They told me that this guy they called The Mallard**** came up with the plan to get back at this other guy, The Loon, by using the duck to stir up trouble. They dumped the duck at The Loon’s joint, leaving it to wreck the place and its crap all over the floor (an apt metaphor for life) before returning it, a broken bird, to its pond to live out what remained of its days.
I found this Mallard and let him know how many federal laws he’d violated, ducks were protected in this town and he knew it. Turns out he’d had his way with ducks like this before, but I wasn’t going to turning a blind eye to it. His laugh ended when I plugged a bullet in his brain***** and walked out, leaving the assorted persons and waterfowl to contemplate my anti-hero behavior and debate the wisdom of cheering a guy like me on.
I left them there, stuck in moral ambiguity, and went to the bar and let some of the boys from the precinct know I’d been doing their job for them again. They reacted with the usual disdain of the establishment when shown up by an outsider.
“Good job, Duck Tracy.”
“You quacked the case.”
“Any evidence of fowl play?”******
I didn’t care. I’d done my job. I knocked back the whiskey and headed back out streets where I belonged.
*About 3 in the afternoon
** Partial license plate
****The idiot whose idea this was
*****No one was harmed in the making of this noir
******Actual puns unleashed by our witty, witty staff
“I’m going as your mom.” “And I’m going as your dad.” “And I’m going…to therapy.” – The Fairly Odd Parents
Costumes spotted on campus:
Captain Jack Sparrow (in swaggering, drunken form)
Mario riding a papier-mâché Yoshi
An 18th century girl
The King (of Burger King fame)
Hobbit (in bare feet, the freezing idiot)
The Doctor (which is not the same thing as a normal doctor. Is it, fellow geeks?)
The medieval club in full regalia
And a whole host of babies dressed up as everything under the sun (the cutest is Janssen’s darling little cheeky monkey, even if they weren’t technically on campus)
I was thwarted, I had two really good costume ideas and wasn’t able to find crucial components to either of them. Next year, dumplings. True to expectation, Hennessy and I ran to the university bookstore on a break, and the red and green are already on display. Le sigh.
“They might in the future more than ever before engage in hunting beavers.” – Samuel de Champlain
We have a bunch of feral cats that roam campus after dark and periodically leave their kittens in bushes for us to find, we had a young bull moose on campus that trampled two cars once before being tranquilized, we have tons of deer that come down from the mountains and graze the lawns and landscaping in the early hours of the morning (once when walking to a class I heard a snapping of branches to my left, looked up and not three feet of me was a young buck munching on acorns, as placid as a cow). You get what I’m saying, right, lovelies? We attract the wildlife at Undisclosed University, we are pals with Mother Nature, we can deal with the fluffy and furry.
But every once in a while something weird happens.
For example, when a beaver crawled into a truck engine like a cat and road to campus from parts unknown. When it arrived outside the student center and the truck came to a halt, the beaver shot out and began running around looking for a new place to hid – prompting our dispatchers to be flooded with calls of, “There’s, like, a huge rat over here!” and “Kill it kill it kill it kill it!” and “My daughter just called me and told me there was a rabies infested rodent terrorizing students, and I want to make a safety complaint.”
Our officers were on the case. Armed with long poles with a lasso like loop on the end of them, they chased the beaver around campus until in Animal Control moved in to take over, by which point the beaver had retreated to another truck engine and was stubbornly refusing to budge.
We were simultaneously setting up a sting operation for stolen electronics and dealing with a domestic violence incident that required most of our on duty officers to diffuse.