Winter approaches

It’s here. It’s happening. In the frozen flows from the outdoor pipe, the biting wind, the stinging in your hands as you fumble too late for gloves: the much warned-about winter is advancing. I’m writing this blog curled under a blanket on the sofa, clasping some life-preserving Tetley tea. Give it a couple more weeks and I might even consider a scarf.

At least the lights are out

At least the lights are out

At Ellen’s Master of Peppers chilli-making competition on Saturday, Agata and I celebrated being here for five months already. Time really has gone so quickly! (“Don’t blog about this as if all Americans hold chilli-making competitions,” warned Kristina. “And don’t blog that I told you not to, either!”. I’ve officially been here long enough that people are wary of my misreporting… now isn’t that something?)

Last week I also saw two more Common Room promoted plays. The first, Strandline, was an adaptation of a Northern Irish play from a few years ago, and was somewhat… confusing. It’s a shame when you leave a theatre wishing rather meekly for a bit more exposition of the plot: gets in the way of all those emotions you’re supposed to be having. I got more out of Watch on the Rhine (featuring friend-of-the-blog John Stokvis), and not just because of the lovely set, with seats scattered in all four corners of the fancy country house living room. This play dates back to 1941, as an anti-Nazi rallying call for an America not yet at war. It’s not exactly the most subtle of messages: if it was written today, I’m not sure I could stand the strength of the halo which beams from the anti-fascist hero and his too-perfect family. But as a piece of history, it was thought provoking.


When we were young, my dad made sure we watched 2001: A Space Odyssey and Contact. I think he was always a bit disappointed that the promised near-future of spaceships and moon bases from his childhood never really came to pass (yet). But in these films – and it’s so rare to find this kind of sci-fi on screen – it was still possible to believe in a future for human beings among the stars.

I just got back from seeing Interstellar with Nolan, Saujanya and Chris, without knowing much about it in advance. And I have to say, for me, this is that film for our generation. It’s a stunning achievement. A masterpiece. It’s visually beautiful, of course, but unlike Gravity there’s so much more to it than that. This film trusts trusts its audience enough to play things out with sufficient scope to tell a very fine story. If you can’t tell, I loved it, and I’m very grateful that it got made.

That said, I can see this one dividing opinion. If you don’t love it, and it won’t be for everyone, three hours is a long time to sit through a movie. But for me, it was also the perfect afternoon build-up to the Doctor Who finale tonight. Exciting! Today is a good day.

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Routine fluctuations in The Force

It’s been a good week for experiencing some more American institutions. Halloween is, of course, a famously big deal here although I can’t say I really threw myself whole-heartedly into the dressing up. Still, after sushi a group of us went back to Nisreen’s (last seen back in December!) to watch The Empire Strikes Back.

My problem with Star Wars, which I should probably keep in my head more often, is that I’m about 80% on the side of the Empire. Sure, blowing up a planet certainly looks bad, but that would be true of almost any military action if you overlaid sinister music on top of it. And while they might pose as romantic freedom fighters, I’m not sure dissolving a galactic empire is wise or desirable. Perhaps the new sequels could adopt a more Fabian approach to fighting the Dark Side.

Just in case CNN didn't provide enough maps

Just in case CNN didn’t provide enough maps

Speaking of battling against an unstoppable evil force, on Tuesday night I dressed all in blue, bought a load of Blue Moon and sat with Randi to watch the Midterm elections. It didn’t do much good, although it was hard to summon up the feeling that much was at stake anyway. American politics is like playing a giant (and very expensive) slot machine, which you get to spin every few years, but unless all the reels happen to line up with matching parties you don’t actually win anything.

Say what you like about the Empire, but at least Darth Vader wouldn’t subject you to campaign ads.

Boo for: Hershey’s. Billy bought me some after I complained it tasted like vomit, just to see if I had changed my mind. I hadn’t.

Yay for: Brother Matthew, who we waylaid outside the nearby church because we wanted to check if the standard answer to “but why exactly did God want to create the universe in the first place?” was going to be love. (Spoiler alert: it was.) Significantly less yay for the anti-abortion posters inside, bragging about how many abortion centres they’ve successfully closed.

Some of my phrases which have required explaining recently:

  • Much of a muchness
  • A whole other kettle of fish
  • Going hell for leather