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Emigration Blog

Location: Norwich, United Kingdom

I'm one of those people that temp agencies, and ordinary employment interviewers, don't know what the heck to do with. I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry, which is still an interest, but I don't want to do the kind of work I did in that area ever again. Besides, I left it 15 years ago. I then worked in publishing as a production editor, and then freelance copy edited and proofread. But that was by hand, in the US (while I now live in England), and I don't yet know Quark. Then I got a degree in textile design and worked for a fashion company. None of these skills are apparently of any use in finding work in Norwich, UK, at the age of 57, so I'm working a very boring office job three days a week. Have a suggestion? Please speak up.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The most wondrous fog

The fog has cleared now, but it was wondrous. For the past week, all day long, every day, there has been thick fog throughout a large portion of the county of Norfolk where I live. At the same time, the temperature wavered just above or just below freezing. The result was beautiful. Up until the temperature suddenly dipped to freezing and the fog came, it had been unnaturally warm here. Even under normal circumstances, these days, there are some flowers right through winter, but this year, many flowering plants had been fooled into flowering. So when the fog came with the temperature hovering around freezing, all the leaved and flowering plants became etched with frost. The longer the fog and the just freezing temperatures went on, the more layers of frost were deposited, and the results were magical. The news has been shoing the pictures that people had sent in. Whole bushes apparently made entirely of delicate white ice crystals, a rose in full bloom, each petal and stamen edged and etched with sparkling frost. And what made it all especially magical was the fog. I traveled on a train this last Friday. With the fog, these visions appeared suddenly out of a white blankness only to disappear again a second later. You get the same experience walking a familiar path. A tree you had seen every day was suddenly a work of art.

At the same time, the fog has made the sidewalks carpets of moss and lichen. Even my doormat has moss growing. Fences of all materials are topped by moss. With the fog going on for days on end, it almost seemed as if we had somehow moved through a doorway between eras, returning to a time when it would not have been a surprise to see a faerie sleeping in the hollow of one of those roses, or to meet the green man, his features edged in frost. You begin to understand on a heart-deep level the England that faerie tales were born in. Perhaps there's still a bit of druid in each of us. I felt my part stirring this last week.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dec. 3, 2006

Today is my birthday. I'm 56.

We're going out! To a pub! Why does this deserve exclamation marks? It's been so long since we have been out at all. My husband, in all the time we have been here has not felt comfortable with it. Part of it is the alcohol-centeredness of pub life. I've tried to tell him that it is not the same as a bar in the US, that it's OK to bring the kids or granny (if we had any), that it's more like Central Perk (with alcohol), that it's a neighborhood gathering place more than anything, that hanging at the local pub, even for a cup of tea (which, surely, we could have afforded), was a good way to "join", so-to-speak, the neighborhood, to get to know our neighbors, to form relationships of all kinds.

When we first came here, we had one meal at the pub down the hill. It's a rather classy place, where young people who have money lunch, apparently, though it has a pizza place as well. It stretches along the river, as three out of the four pubs in our neighborhood do. We are older and have no money. It would take more than one visit, but I do not think it matches us.

We will go to the one pub that does not stretch along the river, although it is across from the riverside park where we feed the swans. In warm weather, folks hang out at the picnic tables out front and in the beergarden created from an old building on the side. It's an old building, next to the church with net curtains (lace curtains, I live the US word for that much better) and fairy lights.

Sweetie has put aside enough to have a celebratory meal, he thinks. He may be right, or we may need a bit more. If so, I have it. I appreciate that he will finally come out. A meal is not likely to be the socializing experience that I envisioned, but it's a start, and it is what he is presently comfortable with. I hope it will be good enough that he will want to come back. If not, there are still the other two pubs to explore.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A day of variety and major family events

I love a life of variety, a day in which what I am doing varies by the hour. However much it wears me out, it leaves me feeling that I've really lived the day intensely.

Today, for me, started out with a photography class, the last of four. I'm taking the class to improve the pictures on my welbsite, to learn, finally, to really use all those bells and whistles on my digital camera, which in itself is already far behind the cutting edge of digital cameras. I've learned things that should allow me to take better pictures of other things, for example sites that I think would make good paintings, as well.

Today I came away with the idea that maybe my website pictures should be different from the pictures I might use to jury for a show (should I ever be rich enough to risk a major show application and booth fee again). Slides for such a purpose would generally be very spare and formal, no extraneous materials around, for example. But for a website, might they not be more interesting if they included the materials and tools and inspirations that brought a piece into existence? I may try a few such illustrations and see what the response is.

This has to do with emigration, because already in the year and a half that I have been here, I have acquired three new class-acquired capabilities, a basic business qualification, a knowledge of basic website design and construction (enough so that I have even been asked to create one for someone else!), and now a digital photography course. The possibilities for further education here are endless. Surely that must make for a more valuable working population in general, and probably a more satisfied one.

Then I moved on to acquiring the fabric to construct a mediaeval gown for myself. It's to be worn at a "Mediaeval Fair" at Dragon Hall, a local merchan'ts hall from the 15th century recently brought back into functional condition. All the sellers at this fair are to decorate their booth mediaeval style and wear mediaeval costume. I assumed there must be simple way of doing the costume since the original would have been from handwoven fabric, which usually means limited cutting and waste, since fabric making was so labot intensive. Norwich was a fiber-centered town at that point. I don't have to be sternly authentic, so I chose a light wool in a red-violet. I'll also be sewing it by hand because I imported my mom's sewing machine and have not yet dared to try to "transform" it to English electricity. After all, the original would have been handsewn, too.

Another experience I would not have had if I had not emigrated. I hope I sell enough (not exactly mediaeval goods) to justify the cost of the gown (another reason to choose the light yarn.)

And then, after acquiring some fish from a local market stall and having lunch at Pret a Manger, an hour of Chemistry tutoring. Yes, I'm doing that again.

And the major event? My husband is back at work, not the work he would choose, since he's still UNJUSTLY on that list that prevents him using his real degree, but work. He's come through a huge amount of mental anguish that finally ended in a deep depression, all of which I put at the door of the Suffolk Council. Having your means of living, which you worked very very hard to acquire and were very proud of pulled out from under you on the basis of an unfounded accusation has to be one of the worst things that a person could go through. Work does not define the person, though. He will find unofficial ways to help people, and will put in one more appeal, this time while not trying to deal with a mental crisis at the same time. He will move on, And I will love him through whatever he has to deal with.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

November 9,2006

Let me just say how proud and pleased I am with the US election. Congratulations. I had really wondered if the American people had it in them. The job is not finished, just because you did your part by voting. Hold those legislators's feet to the fire! Make them do what you want instead of what the corporations want! Let them know you'll be paying close attention over the next two years. Ignore any hype or swift-boating or scare tactics. Make the US what it should be.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oct. 17, and History Matters

Today I participated in a very cool UK thing. You've seen those collections of photographs: A Day in the Life of the USA or some such? Well, today there was a history project of a similar nature done as a surt of universal blog. Whoever wanted to could go to a website and blog what they did with their day. The total results will be held in perpetuity both in electronic and hard form as a record of what life was like for individuals in the UK on this particular date. I loved having that opportunity.

Other than that, I am particularly enjoying the leaves this autumn. I grew up in West Virginia where the leaves turn like crazy, but I never much got a kick out of those projects revolving around collecting autumn leaves. But UK leaves are different.

I know you don't believe me, but they are. US leaves turn some particular color, the whole leaf. UK leaves? I've seen leaves where the veins and the edges were one color and all the rest of the leaf another color. The multicolor leaves, each leaf in and of itself being multicolored, fascinate me. I wish I could figure out a way to preserve some of them permanently.

And then there is the Virginia creeper ivy. For all I know, from the name, it may be an import from the US. (Yes, I know the name of the state Virginia came from the UK.) What I do know is that it turns the most intense bright red, and it covers whole walls, or falls from the edge of a roof, or covers the side of a house. or creeps along a wall in graceful lines of shiny red red red leaves. Some houses, it blends into the bricks, as if the bricks themselves sprouted leaves. It is so beautiful.

On the other hand, it's beginning to get grayish, and coldish, and dark too early for my taste. I'm going to need a very warm holiday sometime this winter and I doubt that I'll get it. Working (at a "real" job) three days a week may save me because I can come out into the light on the other days. Actually, I probably work as many or more hours on the days I have off from that job, because on those days I do what I love, or at least things to do with what I love, such as updating and improving my website.

One of my necklaces sold at the Fringe Festival. Depending on what it sold for, I hope it was the Egyptian one, but I suspect that it was the amber colored one, because that's the one that I consider the best, one of my best for some time. I guess that's it for now.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Another thing that's different

Yesterday, I was at work. I had printed out something and when I went to the printer, a local woman was there who has worked for the company over the summer. She is a student and is going back to school in a week or so. She had had a discussion about the payback consequences for some student loans she had taken out. First of all, the tuition for a year of university is not as high here in general, and there's guaranteed tuition relief if you are low income. We're talking grants, here, not loans. But loans are often necessary.

The difference comes when it's time to pay the loan back. You pay nothing, not one red cent, until you have an income of £15,000, an amount that would be pretty easy for a single person to live on here. Families could do it, but it would be really tight. The rate is about 2%, I think she said. Anyhow, even then you could be paying as little as £5 per week, a bit more than you'd pay for a meal at Mickey D's. And if you end up still oweing some when it comes time to retire, it's forgiven.

Meanwhile, they keep raising the rate on mine back home. And not too long ago, I read that a court had ruled that they could take 15% of your SS to pay it back. At the rate I'm going, that may happen.

Friday, September 08, 2006

One of my favorite things about the UK

Actually, for all I know, this might be true of other places and other emigration circumstances as well. Maybe it's true of life, and I'm just now finding out. All I know for sure is, it works here in Norwich, Norfolk, UK.

What is it? Volunteering, especially when you initiate. Today, I had two contacts out of the blue. Only they aren't really out of the blue. they are both just unexpected results of things I did without consideration of benefit.

One came as a result of my participation in the Norwich Fringe Festival (assuming I somehow manage to get hold of a lot of cardboard tubes and other largish bead-shaped items. My initial ideas of how to manage this have not been panning out well.) Anyhow, one of my attempts to obtain these cardboard tubes (as in when you've used all the toilet paper, or the paper towels, or the wrapping paper, or the fabric, or the wax paper, or aluminum foil, or plastic wrap...Youd think it wouldn't be so hard to get hold of a lot of them!) Ahem. One of my attempts to obtain these tubes was to put a notice on the local freecycle site. (When will I learn to add links to these blogs!) I mentioned my website in the notice, and a woman saw it. Not just any woman. A woman from Hurricane, West Virginia living in Norwich, better yet, a woman artist from Hurricane, WV, living in Norwich! Cool, huh? I could have lived here a long time and never known there was another West Virginian living not two miles away. But because I decided to apply to make a giant fringe for the Fringe, now I know! If nothing else comes of my participation in the Fringe, I've earned a profit in the way that counts.

The second resulted from a conjunction of two or more things. I've been trying to figure out how to establish some sort of market/teaching venue/studio thing to be shared among artists. This idea has been through several incarnations, none of which have come to absolutely nothing in the end, because they are all still open, somewhere supposedly in the works, and none of which have come to anything what-so-ever concrete either, I confess, so far. the latest incarnation comes as a result of seeing a notice at the local art store about two rooms to rent as artists studios. One with water, one without. No way I could afford to rent them on my own, I thought, but maybe, if I got together with a group of other artists, each of whom put in enough so that we had the rent, then we could each have use of the rooms for classes, or maybe one for classes, and one for shows/sales, whatever. A friend I hadn't even told about this latest incarnation, a friend I met through taking a free business course, a friend whose website just happens to be the last one, I think, on the page of Norfolk artists on my website (www.donnajcarty.co.uk) and contains the word "shed", met someone who is trying to do the same sort of thing! So now there will be two of us, and I know another person who's interested in participating, too. This idea of mine keeps reviving from the apparently dead over and over again like something from a horror movie.

What a horrible analogy! Still and all, I am just loving how things sort of keep coming together in unexpected ways, as long as I keep acting like some kind of cock-eyed optomist trying to accomplish things on almost no budget. I get richer and richer in the ways that count here. And that's one of my favourite things about the UK.