Adventures of a Canadian Victorianist

Find out just what Jen is doing so very far away.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been

Well folks, after way more deliberation than the subject deserves, I've decided to say farewell to Jane Eyre in Brighton. While I am still Jane at heart, I am no longer in Brighton and my day to day life doesn't provide quite as much interesting material as living in a foreign country did.

The good news is that I'm starting a new blog which will be different, hopefully in a good personal-growth sort of way. My hope is that it will keep my writing skills sharp and perhaps I can slip some politics and poetry in. While I completely understand that this doesn't sound like a barrel of monkeys and isn't everyone's thing, I hope some of you will visit me at

Thanks to all for your support and readership over the last year. It was appreciated.

I leave you with one of my favorite poems by the wonderful Emily Dickinson:

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me-
The simple news that Nature told-
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see-
For love of Her- Sweet- countrymen-
Judge tenderly- of Me

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Better late than never?

It's a little embarrassing to write a post that is so overdue, but I do have a good excuse, my laptop was MIA for a few weeks and then we couldn't get it online. Upon my return I was also mostly in habitation mode in attempt to readjust to being back. After a week of reading Thomas Hardy and playing with the cat I then felt ready to re-enter the world. I'm still getting used to being back- I don't think it's sunk in yet that I'm not going back to England. Or that my dissertation is finished. I need someone to give me an essay topic. Even just a reading list!
I start work in the real world on Monday and am looking forward to it, though I think the 40 hour work week will be a bit of an adjustment.

So I promised updates about the trip, and I had intentions of presenting a well organized travel journal, however my journal writing became more irregular and rambling as the trip went on and now I'm honestly too lazy to make sense of scribbled phrases like "weather forecast!" and "the creativity of pub food..."

But for a summation (without pictures, as Blogger still seems to be making my life difficult), my first stop was Haworth, a beautiful town in the middle of no where that took me a day to get to. I was thankful to have my Elizabeth Gaskell novel with me. I sprung for a bed and breakfast, which turned out to be owned by a guy who could have been a British version of my Uncle Bob. Haworth was by far the most stunning place I had been to in the UK, and being a city girl it felt like I had stepped into a Disney movie. I wandered amongst sheep, horses, chickens and cats and managed not to break into song. I did, however, try to make friends with some sheep who in turn looked freaked out and avoided me. My assurances that I was a vegetarian didn't seem to help, as the fact that I was talking to them seemed to make the situation more worrying. Anyway, the town has milked its Bronte heritage of all its worth and there was nothing you couldn't buy with a Bronte face on it. The Bronte parsonage, where the family lived, has resisted too much commercialization and was well preserved. It was run by the Bronte Society, which is just scholarly enough to prevent Haworth from being a big Bronte shop.
But the best part was the countryside around the town, with the wide open rolling hills and thin rolling fog it was hard not to feel inspired. On my last day I walked up to Wuthering Heights in the rain and allowed myself to feel rather angsty. The air was full of so much energy, it was overwhelming.
The next day I headed back down to Gatwick to meet my sister, who was apparently arriving the day after, so I spent 12 hours longer in an airport than I needed to. Anyway, 12 hours later Julia arrived and we went back to our hostel so she could sleep. We did some shopping in near-by second hand shops, and the next day we went to Camden market, which is full of the coolest useless merchandise I've even seen but also the worst place in London to drag a giant suitcase around. We also went to the British Museum, which somehow in my year of being in England I had never visited. The Egyptian and Greek/Roman collection was amazing.
On Sept 11 we were in Scotland, having took the longest train ride ever that almost drove us insane with boredom. Edinburgh was breathtaking at first sight, the architecture of the city is so fantastic you hardly know where to point your camera. We did all the trouristy things, including the gigantic castle and the National Gallery. The best part of the castle was going into the dungeons, which included shared bathrooms and bunkbeds, on which my sister observed "it's just like a hostel!"
I would have to say the highlites were the Whiskey Experience (I can love anything that begins with "let's take a trip back in time...") and the ghost walk which took us underneath the city in a series of vaults, and when told they were haunted few people disagreed. The Writer's Museum was also interesting, being spread out through someone's house and containing lots of information about Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns, among others. Sadly even Robbie's oddly lyrical Address to a Haggis didn't convince either of us to try the dish.
Around this time we discovered a passport had gone missing and we had to cut our travels short to make a very urgent and very expensive trip down to London to get to the Canadian Consulate before we left to country. In the end everything worked out, but we were so broke and tired we were looking forward to the plane ride home where we could get two full meals and sit in cushy seats. Nine hours and three viewings of Failure to Launch and X-men 3 later we were back on Canadian soil and eager to do laundry.

Pictures will be up on Flickr asap so you can have some visuals.

Several people have asked me "so how was England?" and I'm still trying to sort out the answer. It's a bit like being asked to cram a years worth of experiences into a few words. Mostly I just have to say it was overwhelming. But for the time being I'm home, and home is always the best destination.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

road's end

Hi folks. This is a minimalist post to let you all know I'm still alive and on my way back home on Monday. I've spent more time in the Canadian Embassy than I ever hope to again. Further explanations and travel stories to come.
See all of you (or at least most of you, I assume- I actually have no idea who reads this blog) soon!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Seriously guys, whose got the smelling salts

So I found out today from the "Assessment handbook for postgraduate students", that I was supposed to receive in the mail but certainly never did, that I have to write a summary, and an introduction and a preface for my dissertation. As if the fact that I already have 2000 words too many wasn't already enough of a problem. £"%%^!!$*!

Pre-deadline chest pains are becoming frequent. Why am I doing this again?

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Hi folks. Not much time for an extensive entry today. I took a day trip with Sarah yesterday to the beautiful town of Arundel, home to Arundel Castle. It was an amazing trip, the castle took my breath away. It even had a gigantic garden complete with a hedge maze and mysterious fruit, taking me back to the days of reading The Secret Garden over and over.
The inside of the castle was huge and packed full of artifacts from various centuries, all of which were unlabeled so we used our imaginations.
More pictures are up on Flickr.
The thesis is coming along, I'm pretty much finished writing, except for the sections I left ellipsis after because I didn't know how to finish them. I'm not sure how my supervisor would feel about me putting "to be continued" at the end of chapters.
So sleepy. Must drink more tea...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I'd marry you for your money in a minute

Hi folks. Today was a day well suited to staying in bed drinking tea and reading, alas I am not a middle class Victorian woman so I had to get up and be productive. To compensate for my disappointment at not being able to go to Amsterdam, I took a trip to Cambridge yesterday, it being one of the few places I've wanted to visit but haven't had the chance yet. The weather wasn't on my side, for the first time in months it was chilly outside and I of course didn't bring a coat, and as it tends to do when I go on a trip, it rained. But my spirits would not be dampened (ha ha dampened). The train ride was long so when I got there I just bought a ticket for the hop-on-hop off tourist bus, which proved to be a huge rip off because the city was small enough to just walk around in. I stopped off to view some punting and then wandered around the city, and tried to find all the colleges. The most impressive was Christ's College, being visually overwhelming and also had the most beautiful chapel attached to it. Alumni include John Milton and Charles Darwin, nothing to sneeze at. Trinity Hall was also really interesting, with a mini King Henry guarding the gates. I think Stephen Hawking went there. I passed by Cambridge University Press, and inside found myself surrounded by books I could never afford. I nervously tried my best to look and not touch, then went to find some secondhand shops. I bought a copy of the True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey* and then totally by accident stumbled upon an open air market in the centre of the city. It had a really non-commercial feel about it, I bought some croissants and postcards. Cambridge was less obviously a University town than "that other place" (being Oxford) and I have to say didn't have the same historical charm. There weren't as many old buildings and more chain stores that are in every British city. The fact that women were not granted degrees at Cambridge until 1947 also explained a few things. There was definitely a conservative feel to the city. Though Wikipedia tells more both Germaine Greer and Sylvia Plath graduated from Newnham College, one of the colleges I couldn't find in my wanderings.
I arrived home cold and ready for bed, so I pretty much just went to bed. Today I've done some editing on my introduction, despite not having finished the last chapter or conclusion. Still waiting for inspiration. This evening Emily, Jill and I watched Breakfast at Tiffany's which will always be one of my favorite movies. I'm a sucker for talented feline acting. And what ever happened to George Peppard?
I have to start packing soon. Yikes! If anyone feels like calling me and telling me to get my crap together it would be really appreciated. I'm usually self motivated but I appear to be drifting this month.

* I'm about half way through this book and it's spectacular, really interesting to read after Isabelle Allende's Zorro. And I just discovered Carey's been nominated for the Booker again. Doesn't that make it three times? Though I think my vote's with Sarah Waters (because my opinion is so important to the Booker judges).

Friday, August 11, 2006

How terrorism ruined my weekend

I woke up this morning to a frantic phone call from Kristin reporting that our flight to Amsterdam has been cancelled, due to the rather scary events going on in UK airports. It seems they cancelled all the smaller flights and left the more expensive ones running, which it totally not fair. Sigh. Now I'm going to have to do work this weekend. My work regime hasn't been so good this week, I'm on my last chapter so I feel like it's my last chance to say everything I need to. I'm having a hard time keeping my writing as snappy as it was in the beginning when I was bursting with energy and ideas. There is not much bursting going on anymore. But yesterday I did get a hold of an academic in Australia who's working on a biography of Kingsford, and he offered to answer any questions I had. I hope he means it! This also means I have someone to thank in my acknowledgements besides my absent supervisor.

Some highlites of the last week:

- Gay pride day on Saturday. The parade went right by my window, and I didn't think to get my camera in time to get any good pictures, book it looks like Julia and Melissa have some good ones if you're interested. There were lots of costumes, and, well costumes. It was all really fun, however it gave me some misgivings about how commercialized Pride days have become- they used to be much more of a political statement. But this is just me being the humourless liberal I am. I spent the day with Kristin and her flatmates, mostly sitting on the beach being taught for hours how to juggle. Still can't do it.
- Breakfast on the beach with flatmates. Apparently there's a cafe that does cheap breakfast right across from our building. Milkshakes for a pound! What more could you ask for.
- Buying train tickets for my travels in September. I love planning trips- in fact I think I may add travel guide to my list of back-up careers. We managed to book some cheap hostels, too, all with breakfast included. I hope everything's ok with the airport situation and my sister flying over.
- I found an entry in Edward Carpenter's journals in which he comments after being at one of AK's lectures: "We poor little mortals must be grateful for what illuminations we can get, however quaint or queer the mediating personalities may be. " Poor mild mannered Edward.

Well, that's about all the interesting stuff.
5000 words to go!