Thursday, November 19, 2009

What do Marx, three-year-old nieces and paeonia moutans have in common?

I sit in an office quite a lot, thinking about history, writing about history, researching history - oh, and facebooking (a concept so crucial to time-wasters that it has become a verb). This year the walls of my little cubicle are MADE of red pin-board type material, and the temptation to cover them with Things is just too great. I am not by a window, so this substitutes as the window out which I gaze when pondering. More will be added, I have no doubt, but for now, here is My Window. (I apologise for the quality of the photo; I took it with my webcam.)

Middle: Karl Marx. His tombstone at Highgate Cemetery, possibly my favourite of the places I visited in London. When I look at this I get a delicious chill running down my spine; it also is kind of relevant to my interest in Soviet history.

Bottom left: "Rendezvous", the famous 1939 political cartoon by David Low. This is an incredibly cool cartoon just on appearances alone, but once you understand a little of the history it simply thrills me, and I love it more and more every time I look at it. Hitler and Stalin, sworn enemies for the entire 1930s, completely scathing about each other - right up until 1939, when suddenly they sign a non-aggression pact, shocking the world, and take over Poland together, like good chums.

To the right: Marc Chagall's stained glass window based on Psalm 150, which is housed in Chichester Cathedral, which I visited in the south of England. I love the concept of modern stained glass, especially when it's sooo pretty, and so expressive of the psalm. In fact, I did a whole blog post on it.

To the right: Paeonia moutan, a postcard I bought at Kew Gardens in London, and then decided to keep, not send, since it was purty.

Bottom right: A postcard sent recently from Bretagne, France, by one of my best friends, who travelled in Europe with me before going to start a job in Bretagne. SUCH a beautiful picture and it reminds me of my friend whom I miss heaps!

Middle left: A famous poster of Lenin, bought as a postcard from Memento Park in Budapest. I particularly like that I can understand the Russian words on it: "Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live!"

Above left: A painting I saw at the National Gallery, London: "Christ before the High Priest", by Gerrit van Honthorst. It doesn't translate incredibly well onto postcard-sized card, but the full-sized painting was just amazing; the use of light and dark was so effective; everything about it was expressive, and I LOVED it.

To the right: A photo I took of a sunrise in Dunedin, from the park next door to my sister's house. (I blogged about it here.) I recently bought a colour printer and printed this off and was very pleased with the result. I have to say, this is the picture that distracts me the most because it's sooo pretty.

To the right again: my niece, two and a half at the time, riding a donkey at the local zoo with an over-sized helmet and a huge happy grin on her face.

Middle right: picture by said niece, drawn recently for my birthday. She is only just three, but she wrote my name on the top left corner!! Yup, she's a genius.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A&P Show

... which stands for "Agricultural and Pastoral Show", otherwise known as the Royal New Zealand Show, held annually across the country but it is generally acknowledged (by Cantabrians) that the coolest one is Canterbury's, held in Christchurch every November, with a public holiday to celebrate.

It's the first time I've been in about ten years, and was hardly typical, the weather refusing to cooperate. So it wasn't the usual sweltering Canterbury November day. Who cares? When you can view the following, the sun isn't necessary.

Slightly frightening funfair games and rides.

Big strong men chopping wood really fast.

Pretty horses jumping over things.

Ridiculous sheep (and other animals).

Hanging out with the flatmates, trying not to freeze.

Eating low-quality hot-dogs that seemed sooo good at age ten.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

serves me right

Well, it just serves me right for being a snobby postgraduate. For the last two years of postgrad study, I've avoided exams - up until now. 'Ha! Undergrads!' I thought, swivelling on my swivelly office chair, drinking free coffee, complaining to the College of Arts because we don't have pinboards on our doors anymore. 'They don't know what hard work is!'

And then I decided to take a first-year paper this year - Russian language. I decided it would be fine for me to up and leave the country for two months, and then just catch up when I got back. It's a 100-level course, right? Can't be that hard? The exam'll be a breeze!

Well, I've spent the last week studying Russian verbs, vocabulary, cases, grammar. Memorising three months' missed classes. Feeling guilty day and night because I wasn't working hard enough. Beating my head against a brick wall going "it's soooooo haaaaaarrrrd, I hate exams, heghhhhh".

And now the exam is over and I am exhausted. Really looking forward to getting back to my thesis. I apologise, undergrads. Exams suck. I will never downplay their horror again.

As an interesting aside, below is the result of one my moments of procrastination this week:

Monday, November 02, 2009

disclaimer: will definitely contain mistakes

Я так плохо говорю по-русски, и пишу по-русски, и читаю по-русски.

I am really bad at speaking Russian, and writing Russian, and reading Russian.

Кроме того, я не ходила на много классы.

Besides, I did not go to many classes.

Теперь, я должен учиться.

Now, I must study.

Пожалуйстa, экзамен, ___ симпатичный меня. *

Please, exam, be nice to me.

Твой, Элей

Yours, Allie

* I couldn't figure out how to command the exam to 'be' nice to me, so I left the verb space blank.