Sunday, June 24, 2012


I'm having a difficult time figuring out the new blogger set up so these photo's are in opposite order of what I wanted but I don't care enough to redo them. I'm sure you won't mind. 

A friend and I went for a day trip yesterday, down through areas of Somerset (Somerset, like Gloucestershire, are like counties in the US). We went for a hike, to the city of Wells, drove through Cheddar Gorge and then to a henge circle. By the time we got to Cheddar Gorge and the henge circle it was raining cats and dogs so we weren't able to get out and hike around. Hence no photo's. But if you've ever traveled through Southern MO and the Ozark Mtns you'll have a good idea of what the gorge looked like. It was gorge-ous.  

Wells is a beautiful 'city' (roughly 12,000 residents) and if any of my American friends come to visit this would be my top place to take you. There is an enormous cathedral that originates 1180 (that I don't currently have a photo to attach. It's too big and my camera is too crap. But you can google it. :) ) and then there is the Bishop's palace. It gives you a good sense of just how much power the clergy had in these times. 

This is a moat and wall surrounding the Bishop's palace.


 This is inside the grounds of the palace, and one of the walls along side the back moat. 

 The picture below is the Bishop's palace.
 This is the High Street. I think every town (city) in England has a High Street. It's the main commerce street. You can see the top of the cathedral in the background and can see that the cathedral and palace are basically in the center of the town.
This is a residential street that leads to the cathedral. I think I could have taken a picture at every single dwelling. Again, you can see the top of the cathedral in the background. 

 This is the same street from the view near the cathedral.
 Lavender and a wooden gate leading to a dwelling.
 Probably my favorite photo of 2012 so far. I just love how much lavender there is in England.
 There are these fund raiser swans all around the city. I was particularly taken with the dragon swan and thought it was the most clever design.
 So prior to us getting to the city of Wells, we had gone for a hike. Somewhere. I don't know where. I got in the car. He drove. I got out when he said we'd arrived. This is a monster who lives in the woods. I guess once upon a time he was fully developed but he's lost some of his twigs. The photo doesn't do it justice.
 My friend. Sorry readers. This isn't his blog so his face doesn't get put out there on the world wide web. :)

This was our view during lunch atop the cliff. It's easier to capture the beauty of a building than the landscape, but as the eye could see, it was more lovely than building with lavender. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Solstice

Every Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, I think, okay, the day's start getting longer from now. I can endure. Spring and early summer comes, the days are longer, there is warmth in the air, but usually not so hot as to singe your lungs on a deep inhale. The spring frogs have come out but the drone of the summer locusts haven't burrowed out of a tree yet.

Then comes the Summer Solstice. I feel a little sad that the days will start to get shorter now. Even though there is ample heat to come in July and August (and sometimes September), I'm losing a little sunshine every day. It's all downhill from here. Some of you know that I have planned to pass away at sunset of the Summer Solstice of my 120th year. I want to go out on my perfect day.

This was the American me. When season's had definition and the shortest day and the longest day weren't almost polar opposites. The longer days here in England are excessive but still damp and cool. It's like March but with what seems like 24 hours of sunlight. There's no cooling in the night from the excessive heat to tell me the time has changed. There is no setting of the sun. Just the same same. I'm not filled with despair but nor am I filled with joy. Now I'm actually looking forward to peak and descent from the Summer Solstice just so the days will even out again. I've decided that if I stay in England I'll have to rethink my passing away date and have decided maybe the Vernal (Spring) Equinox will be ideal. Many of the spring flowers have bloomed, little lambs are in the field, and day and evening are equal. So if I stay in England, my new expiration date will be the sunset of the Vernal Equinox of my 120th year. I like to have these things planned out.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


We've had a four day holiday this weekend. It was a combination of the May bank holiday (I don't know what it's for - just time off) and an extra day for the Jubilation for the Queen's 60th anniversary. I went to a BBQ on Sunday at the local church around the corner. They must have thought I was the rudest person ever since I didn't partake in the toast (it was champagne) and I didn't sing along to the National Anthem (which I only know as My Country Tis of Thee and I don't think they'd much appreciate me singing those lyrics!)

Today my friend Sarah and I hopped on the bus and went to Tewkesbury. Tewkesbury is one of the still existing Medieval towns, unfortunately I didn't get any photo's of the town itself. The weather wasn't very cooperative for sight seeing and photo ops.

This is the Abbey. It dates back to the 11th century. And yes, the hair quickly got put into braids. It was a bit windy...

 The grounds were beautiful. Even on such a cold and wet day we loved the place. Sarah and I both end of going to places alone and never have anyone to take photo's of us touring places so we were a bit like kids on a field trip taking photo's of each other on our respective cameras.

 My camera is lame and won't take non-blurry photo's indoors. I have a few ultra-blurry photo's that I didn't post.

 A nook with lovely smelling flowers.

This house had a funny plaque that said "In 1706 nothing exciting happened here". I'm sure the tenants get tired of tourist thinking that every single building has historic significance. I just thought it was a nice looking passage way.
 This was another passageway that led into an amazing bookstore where we spent hours looking at surveyor maps and leather bound tomes. I managed to find a quaintly illustrated James Herriot book for £2.50. Of course the large book became heavier and heavier as the day went on...

 Here is the Back of Avon. The swan was swimming towards us and I was hoping to get a nice profile of the swan with the bridge, willows, and narrowboats, but shortly after I took this a few people walked onto the bridge and started feeding the ducks and swans. I had nothing to offer.

This is an old flour mill on the river way. There were several old abandon manufacturing buildings here. It reminded me of Gaskill's North & South. 


Next time I go I'll get a few pictures of the town for those interested in seeing a classic Medieval town. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I took a trip to Bristol yesterday. If you are hoping for a post with lots of photo's of the bustling city, you won't find them here. I wanted to go to the zoo. I love zoo's. But I also wanted to go on a 2nd date with a man I fancy and the zoo in Bristol was the best pretense I could find to inviting him on a day out. I'm not going in to all the date details on my blog (that's what my private journal is for) but the most basic details are these:

I took a train from Cheltenham to Bristol (my first train ride). We walked, taking a scenic route to the zoo, he acting as tour guide. We walked and talked and walked and talked, we went to the zoo, we had dinner, we went up a tower, we saw other things, we walked some more, we watched a swan stalk a duck. I managed to miss the last train to Cheltenham but was able to secure a ride from a friend from Gloucester. It was perfect. The only thing I could have asked for was warmer weather, but then again, perhaps I should have been more sensible in dressing myself for the day (that turned into a night).

One of the first places we were going to see was the church in the background. It was magnificent from the outside, but a wedding was being held so we couldn't go inside. The river and it's activity on both sides of the bank reminded me of Boston though you don't see as many boats along the Charles.

I loved the pigeons and cloths pins that looked like little birds.

We followed the river out of town, towards the Clifton suspension bridge. I loved the texture and contrast of the old road, or railroad path, that is falling in decay, against the backdrop of the river.

There is a long winding paved foot path that leads to the bridge. It reminded me of a walking version of the road to Hana in Maui. We walked across the bridge and back, looking out across the city, then walked up the hill behind it. I'm not sure we could have gotten much higher in Bristol. It was a cloudy day, but there was a patch of sunlight out in the far pastures.

Towards dusk we walked past this church that had been bombed during WWII. There was a beautiful little herb garden on the grounds and I felt a small lump in my throat looking at the church.

And to end this non-tour of Bristol, we really did go to the zoo. The lemur habitat is open and the lemur's very brave. Their fur is so soft and you want to reach out and touch them, but as we walked past one of the employee's in the enclosure we noticed his hand wrapped in bandages. Lemur's are not pets. But they are cute.

And me. He was the one who suggested have the photo taken. How did he know I would want it? Not to worry, I didn't have my photo taken as every animal in the zoo.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Lillie Elsie Gournay Ziolkowski - 1919 - 2012

Every family calls the grandparents differnt names. In the South mother and father are Mamma and Daddy and for us, my mother's parents were Mom & Papa. The name was probably even more fitting as there were times that Mom was closer to being a mother to us than my own mother. We moved a lot in my early years; Mom & Papa were always home base. I was more comfortable in their house than any other house we lived in. My best and worst memories were created in that house. Most things that are great about me, and all things that are bad about me, were formed there. The smell of coffee, musty libraries, fig trees and tiger lilies, and the sound of chirping frogs and the click of flying insects hitting a screen door bring me back to that house.

Mom passed away today. It had been a long time since I last spoke with her. A long time being close to 20 years. Some who read this blog know what my family past is. For those who aren't you'll have to be left wondering. But she passed away today. In Lousiana where what little roots I have lie. I am in England. I always thought she would be the one person I would go back to say good-bye to. But it couldn't happen. And maybe I'm a little bit relieved.

I'm sad for my brother because I think he'll feel sorrow the most. I'm sad because it's another door to my past that has been closed for good. But I think at the very base of it, I'm sad for things that I never had. She was a person who lived and died, just as we all will live and die, but there are no familial heart strings and turmoil to be played on. I'm sad because I'm not sad enough.

I spent many late nights saying my prayers with her, counting the beads on my delicate blue glass beaded rosary. Tonight my prayers are that she finds peace in the afterlife to come.

Friday, February 24, 2012


No one likes to be criticised. Even the most 'constructive' criticism can feel like a punch in the gut.

There are some careers where the person's work is criticised by the the armchair public. Acting, music, writing, and politics come to mind. In 'real world' careers, those that have hierarchical management structures, employees can be criticised on specific work, but an annual review which involves criticism is almost always mandatory. Some employee / employer relationships manage this process better than others, but no employee actually enjoys it. And for good reason. Even at it's best, it tends to be a list of subjective items to change without any direction on how to change it, how to measure if it's been changed, and often times, why it's beneficial to the employee/team/manager/organization. This form of criticism comes across more like a parent telling an eight year old child what to do.

I'm now in the world of academia where criticism is an on-going part of any piece of work you do. At first I dreaded this process having had very painful and unproductive experiences with the 'real world' types of criticism. And I'm not going to lie, the first six months of feedback was very painful, but now, I love getting a paper back with line upon line of feedback, corrections and suggestions. I don't come away from it feeling stupid or ridiculed or rejected but instead feel smarter and more capable and reassured that I do know what I'm doing.

I think this is the kind of criticism that employers in the 'real world' want to have but lack the skills to achieve it. Or maybe it's a sign that I am finally in the right career for me.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


No, don't worry, I'm not signing-off blogging. (though my lack of blogging on a regular basis may have lead you to think this.) This blog post is about signing-off email.

In the States, typical professional and semi-professional email is generally signed-off as:

Thank you, Sincerely, and Thanks! (And if I know you well, to be followed by something silly like Heidi Hamburglar Hughes.)

Here in the UK, most of the email I recieve from colleagues ends:
With Regards, Best Wishes, All the Best, and Cheers.

Cheers seems to me to equal in tone and relationship as Thanks. I like it. I'll use it with people that I've exchanged more than one email with.

With Regards, Best Wishes and All the Best? The tone of these sound more like 'up yours'.

A recent email started with 'Hi Heidi' (which if I'm to understand correctly is a very American and overly friendly salutation) and ended with 'All the Best'. So are you telling me in a very friendly way to get bent?

Let me say, that if I can't figure out the tone and meaning of email sign-off, I'm a bit worried about spending two years trying to interpret UK employees in their daily work-place behavior.