Greetings, fair Reader, from the Colonies! (Use of the word “Colonies” went out of fashion about the same time as erratic Capitalization. But never one to be halted by a mere accident of chronology, I soldier gamely on.) Some highlights (from a pictoral standpoint, anyway):
I’ll be back in Edinburgh in early June, so posting may be erratic until then. Enjoy the start of summer!
“That sounds… I want to say exciting, but can’t quite pull it off. That sounds like you’re doing exactly the work you signed up to do.”
That’s my dad’s genuinely supportive take on my masters thesis. I think it’s a pretty successful effort, honestly. That’s as effusive as I can realistically expect anyone—even (especially?) a parent—to sound when I’ve just finished telling them about my big project on pronouns.
He’s ahead of Daniprose’s acquaintance in recognizing that I surely do have to do a lot of work, which is a relief, as parental approval is an excellent thing to have. I can’t quite blame him for being puzzled about why on earth I would want to know about the pronouns of an obscure language. I, myself, occasionally have trouble remembering how my work is relevant. Compared to someone who helps farmers plan economical and environmentally-friendly crop practices, the utility of a historic linguist is nebulous at best.
Fortunately, I seem to have unwittingly planned for these unfortunate crises of faith. We’re all the protagonists of our own stories. Every person has a narrative in which he is the hero. Well, owing to a surplus of imagination, I have two. Captain Brid sails high in the aetherosphere, unconcerned with petty politics and revolutions, on discovery intent. She will not be put off by such trifles as a coup in South America or the property rights of a petty dictator, much less the inapplicability of her investigations to modern farming methods. Her motivations remain shrouded, for the moment, in a convenient lack of exposition, leaving me free to take her example and run, on discovery intent.
We all have our narratives. Sometimes, just sometimes, the protagonist of yours can swoop down from the aether and give you a lift.
If you’re watching for her.
I’ve had Steampunk on the brain for the past few days.
For the unitiated: Steampunk is a re-imagining of the Victorian era, now the way it was, but the way it might have been if technology had advanced as some people imagined. Jules Verne, with his mighty submarine Nautilus and men who flew into space, might be considered the grandfather of the genre, which has taken off in recent decades. For more, google ‘What is steampunk’, but be warned; it means many things to many people. But one thing is certain: it has a very cool aesthetic.
Ever since finding out about a steampunk ceilidh in April (the last one was during finals), I’ve been looking at pictures. Over the past few days, I’ve conceived and discarded half a dozen ballgowns.
Then I looked in the mirror. With the exception of the leather bodice, this is the outfit I’ve been wearing all day. Maybe coming up with a steampunk outfit won’t be so complicated after all.
Something to listen to with your steampunk? How about Can’t Talk About It from Abney Park‘s new album? As they describe it, ‘Abney Park comes from an era that never was, but one that we wish had been.’ It’s a fun, if fictional, good time.
It took a few days, but my body has finally caught up to what my brain has known: finals are over. The first day after I handed in my last final, I was afraid that the state of heightened anxiety, excessive adrenaline and lack of sleep had become permanent. You know, along the lines of ‘Don’t make that face, it might freeze that way’. Happily, the spring in my mind just took a day or two to uncoil.
My lovely husband, knowing what I needed most, had a Christmas tree delivered the day of my last final. It’s some kind of spruce, and smells different, but similar. We decked it with his childhood ornaments (my collection was too large and breakable to send) and some adorable vintage shoe ornaments I found last month. They have tiny wings! And, of course, more Christmas baubles.
I myself am unfamiliar with the process of purchasing a Christmas tree, having retrieved one, at increasing peril to life and limb, from the back forty every year since I was a child.
When we were small, our parents would bundle us up and we would head into the (usually) snow-decked winter wonderland in search of the perfect tree. At first, these were all firs. Firs have sturdy branches and don’t run the risk of unpleasant, animal-related smells when you bring them in the house. Occasionally, my parents bent under the weight of our begging and let us bring in a hemlock. They’re just so fluffy in the wild, all feathery and dusted white. The downside, of course, is that anything heavier than a feather (and I exaggerate very little) bends down the branches in the most ludicrous fashion. And we have a lot of ornaments.
As we got older, my parents left the three of us to our own devices in the matter of Christmas trees. As we grew, the trees in our relatively young woodland grew, too, so that the perfect trees were a little tall for our purposes/ceiling. Thus, away from parental supervision, was born the practice of scaling the Christmas tree before sawing off a festive eight feet. (Don’t feel bad for the forest; it was selective harvesting. The back forty can spare it.) It was years before my parents caught on. In fact, cell phones came into widespread use during this time. This is how I came to receive a call from my sister during finals my freshman year. Perched near the top of an evergreen tree, she wanted to know how you tell the difference between a spruce and a fir.
Happily, the spruce that produce strange smells does not seem to be native to our woods.
Happy Christmas from the Far Outer Hebrides! As you float in your airship or perch precariously in your Christmas tree, may you find peace above the earth and goodwill toward your fellow airmen.
the Harris tweed skirt with leather waist. For the outrageous price of three pounds fifty, this honey has it all. Genuine Harris tweed–note the label from the original garment–real red leather (it only shines like that when the flash goes off), lovely hardware for hanging things and a really Victorian deep red tone.
The gentleman at the used clothing shop says it’s got to be the work of a man in town (Edinburgh) who refashions out-of-fashion Harris tweed (a famous name for the island’s best-known export) into more modern garments. I approve.
The red leather effectively acts as a Swiss waist. I think I’ll pair it with a cropped jacket in bronze or garnet and a bronze underskirt. Preferably knee-length with a ruffled edge over a petticoat. Or I could add a simple white blouse and boot or ankle-length skirt when I’m feeling demure. So many possibilities. And such an unexpected Scottish twist to find while thrifting.
From the logbook of the Skyra Brae
Leaving the Purser to procure the standard-issue supplies, I set off in the opposite direction to pursue the more elusive items on the supply list. I could not, for instance, send the Purser in search of ‘five pieces of antique lace’ or ‘coordinating plaids’. ‘Vegetables, unspecified’, is license enough for one trip.
I meant at first to procure turpentine or engine solvent to wash it off as soon as we left the area, but I do say it has grown on me. It reminds me at once of an old, old ocean, or a brand new summer’s night, when the moon is just risen through the ether. The bluest blue you’ve ever seen. But I suppose that’s neither here nor there. But I shall keep the paint until it wears off.
I should like to exult in detail over the spoils of my supply run, but as the miscreants aboard this vessel cannot keep their noses out of the log book, I shall restrain myself until after the festive season. Rest assured that the results of my handiwork are legion and wondrous to behold.
* The Italian coffee machine on board has consumed such unreasonable amounts of fuel of late that I curtailed our coffee intake until our grease monkey could requisition either the required substitute parts or a French pressing apparatus
Brid stands in the kitchen, frowning
NTS: What’s wrong?
Brid: We don’t have any brandy. I’m standing here looking all mysterious in my smoking jacket, ready to settle in for a night at home. I don’t smoke, so brandy is the next best option. And I haven’t bought any yet.
NTS looks. Thinks for a minute. You haven’t even got to that part yet, have you?
Brid: blank stare
NTS: I’ll take that as a no. You’re really going to enjoy the book you’re reading.
From which I am forced to assume that a large portion of the book I’m reading–New Amsterdam, a steampunk/paranormal novel that NTS has already finished and I have just started–is played out by dapper steampunk characters in sharp dressing gowns, drinking brandy. Or not drinking it, unless their valets have gone to the liquor store more recently than I. It appears that life imitates art, whether I’ve read it yet or not.
Things that have happened in the past two days:
I got my first pair of red shoes! Now I am all ready for my first day of school.
I got my student visa! Now at least one of us can get into the country.
I put a travel notification on my credit card… ending in September 2016.
I bought street maps for the entire continent of Europe to put in my navigator. I was against having one at first—I only got one because my sisters are constitutionally incapable of navigation—but I find that as long as I still pay attention to the turns as I drive, I don’t seem to be losing my own navigational ability. (Which reminds me, I still have a funny story about a map waiting to tell you all.)
I got my suitcases finally and irrevocably packed. The big one, according to my bathroom scale, weighs 50lbs, the smaller one 44lbs. We could have cut down the weight by leaving the camping gear, but where’s the fun in that?
Fun fact: I have now packed everything, including the kitchen sink. That’s right. I have a 10L collapsible sink for washing dishes, carrying water and leaving by the fire while camping, and it is in my suitcase, wrapped in two fancy headbands and a scarf.
I have resigned myself to having my dirigible sent on by post. That’s right, my dirigible. My most steampunked wedding present.
From the logbook of HMS Skyra Brae
22 June 18–
Just under two months remain before we set out on our longest voyage to date. I confess to a certain restlessness… no, that doesn’t do the feeling justice. I’m antsier than a cat on a hot tin roof. I can hardly turn my hand to anything that doesn’t directly pertain to the trip, alternately mooning about, musing on the trip and our future, and fretting at the thousand minor tasks that occupy me until then.
To packing, planning, provisioning–anything that treats with the trip ahead–I willingly devote hours. Even unwittingly, I devote hours, when I should be elsewhere occupied. But what satisfaction does it relay to plod away at the chores that bring us no closer to the shores of our destination?
When we first took flight, in our hurry we packed all the accumulated equipment, artifacture and assorted detritus of two years into the Skyra Brae; we went, and stood not upon the order of our going. Add to that that accumulation of several years of military men, their cooks, leaders and mechanics… Well, suffice it to say that there is much that must be discarded before we take flight.
And I, in my impatience, am unwilling to be held down by anything we intend to be rid of. Yesterday, trapped in the captain’s quarters by the oppressive heat without, which rendered even the limited cooling powers of the miniature steam Eisbergsantrieb* breathtakingly refreshing, I began emptying hold and cupboard with reckless abandon.
Now pacing my impatience lap for lap is the sudden realisation that we’ve only two months to finish our preparations. It seems at once a terrible great span to be tied to a continent not one’s own, and an impossibly brief period in which to fulfill our obligations and outfit ourselves for an adventure greater than any I’ve previously undertaken.
Inspired, perhaps, by the soothing powers of the Eisbergsantrieb upon my skin, to soothe my nerves I also undertook to school the Purser in the German tongue. Aware that experience is often a better teacher than books, and that the words surrounding the vocabulary are as important as the vocabulary itself, I did not sit him down to learn exercises, but sustained an informative stream of information on my own actions as I worked. It was soothing to me, at least, and he did not storm out of the chamber, so I consider the lesson a success. Though I suppose this last attribute may owe as much to the Eisbergsantrieb as to my expert tutelage.
* An older model ‘iceberg driver’, one of the original model cooling machines out of Germany; it’s nearly impossible to acquire this far west. On days like today, however, it is almost impossible to conceive of my continuing existence in its absence.