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Now that he's endured the Christmases, Andrew's safely ensconced with his laptop at the desk in my bedroom, which I just next to a window. Here are his observations so far:

It's all white! The ground is white and the sky is white. That's all wrong.

There's a bird out there that keeps eating from the feeder and then looking in the window at us like "What? What is that?" and then going back to eating.

That is a fat squirrel. It has a huge bottom. It's shaped like a pear!

The Current

Jan. 3rd, 2015 07:52 pm
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I'm unduly excited that I finally got my favorite radio station working on the internet for me. I do a lot of digital-radio-listening on my phone, and it hadn't worked for me since I got this phone last March! That's a long time to go without the steady, reliable flow of music I love, music I am content listening to, and music I need to know about. One reason 2014 didn't seem a very musical year was that I didn't have easy new(-to-me) music discoveries from The Current.

Today I found a workaround (as a note to myself, since I'm sure this won't mean anything to anyone else: the main Twin Cities station doesn't work, but the Northfield one does! I don't get it, but whatever) and I'm basking in aural joy.

Bill DeVille's on! He's a DJ (my favorite even before The Current existed! I remember him on Cities97!) He played "September Gurls" a bit ago and though I hear Big Star a lot now cos Andrew loves them, it was this guy who introduced me to their music. He seems to like similar things to me, but he knows about a lot more than me! An ideal musical guide. Plus his voice kinda reminds me of my dad.

I love The Current partly for being full of the kind of DJs associated with rock music's early days on the radio; maybe not quite as larger-than-life as those characters -- this is still Minnesota! we're never more than the same size as life -- but there is a sense of personality and enthusiasm behind the music that's lacking from more rigidly programmed stations.

(Plus I'm utterly fascinated by the weather reports. They're so unlike anything else I hear these days that I can't help but stop reading my book when I notice one, and I am somehow soothed and homesick at the same time.)
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Well if I'm going to have insomnia, at least I've got a lovely thunderstorm to entertain me.

A friend from Washington (the state) moved to Ohio a little while ago, and started saying things like "omg, Midwestern thunderstorms!" on facebook. Only then did I appreciate how lucky I was to grow up with such weather.

And this is a particularly good one, too, the kind that makes me wish I had company to share it with, someone whose eyes I could catch and smile in mutual recognition of the brightest or loudest bits. Thunderstorms can be seriously destructive and scary but they remind those of us lucky enough to have them to be grateful of sturdy walls around us, and for the company of people to mutter to about our mutual experience.

I saw the first flash of lightning so long before any other signs of weather that I had time to convince myself I'd imagined it before there was another one. After a good long time of increasingly-frequent flashes, a few minutes apart or so, I started to hear thunder in the distance. No rain, so I could savor the gentle, rolling thunder along with the lightning. Tons of lightning, a proper light show. Gradually louder, and some of the peals go on and on, but it's rumbling rather than cracking and there's still no rain so I don't think the storm can be very close. Just once the thunder is so intimidatingly violent and loud overhead that I don't blame anyone who believes in a thunder god. Then finally there is rain, in a short intense burst of white noise so different from the Manchester rain, which I always say sounds like someone throwing gravel at the windows. Now the thunder seems to be quieter again, receding; we must just be catching the edge of the storm here. The lightning is still filling the world with light every few seconds, eerie in its relative silence -- this is not one of the storms where you can count "one Mississippi..." to see how far away it is -- but the sky is brightening too as we get on. towards dawn. A couple of hours now I've been watching and listening to this storm, and (along with one of my favorite radio stations, which plays ambient/electronica music over Apollo-era astronaut and mission-control chatter) it's held my attention better than any movie of similar length.

Now I think it's gone. I find myself holding my breath, listening for more thunder.

Ah, there it is. Not done yet.
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Ever since I first got here British people have been telling me that they love to talk about the weather. This has always mystified me -- maybe because of the people I know? -- because compared to what I'm used to no one talks about the weather at all. I remember hearing forecasts on the Today programme that go "Rain in the northwest, otherwise nice." That's it!

Whereas my dad still talks about isobars because a local TV weatherman used to go on about them. My grandpa got irate at me once for not being able to answer to his satisfaction the "what's the weather like in England now?" question when I was visiting; I still remember him demanding "but what's the temperature?" like he was Jeremy Paxman, because I didn't have a number ready for himself. My dad has a rain gauge that measures down to hundredths of an inch, so it's not at all unusual for him to tell me "yeah, we only got seven hundredths." After talking to a few friends and relatives, a good Minnesotan will be able to give you a comprehensive picture of the wider weather situation, comparing rainfall or snow accumulation or temperature/windchill/heat index differences thanks to their equally precise family and neighbors.

Maybe it'd be different if I hung out with farmers here too, but as things are the only place in British life I now encounter sufficiently-detailed weather reports is during rain delays on Test Match Special. It's quite sweet and soothing to hear the details of the direction the storm is moving, the appearance and growth of water puddles, the wind and the color of the sky.
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Your mom apologizes for telling you she has cancer when you just lost your job. Both of you feel worse for making each other feel bad.

Your dad talks about golf at first. When he mentions the cancer thing, it's only to talk about supplemental insurance and time off work and how my mom is getting to Rochester for her appointments. To some people this might seem cold and callous but it's actually the most reassuring part of the conversation to me.
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Despite Andrew getting fed up with the mosh pit, and us getting separated when I failed to follow him away from it on account of having insufficient mass to overcome the momentum imparted on me by selfish men all around me, it was almost worth being right at the front for the beginning of the Hold Steady gig.

Craig Finn comes onstage with his arms outstretched like a magnanimous messiah who really does love us all. There's such intensity in the frenzied way he thrusts his arms, hands, fingers at us as he delivers his lines with the speed and power of a machine gun. His eye contact seems genuine no matter how quickly it moves from one area of the crowd to another. It wasn't long before his gaze fell upon me, with a renewed smile and a thumbs-up for the Twins jersey I was wearing.

Finn doesn't sing as much as he tells stories, and for a while those stories were loosely connected by a small group of characters, one of whom is called Holly (short for Hallelujah). A lot of the stories center on Minneapolis, "my hometown" Finn always explains in the live gigs in the middle of "Your Little Hoodrat Friend." So much as I admire him, and as much joy as his work has brought to me, I've no desire to meet him; having to introduce myself as Holly from Minnesota would hardly be believed, especially so far from home.

Yet you don't have to have my name and my provenance, or even my Twins paraphernalia, to feel special. If you stand within Craig Finn's sphere of attention at a Hold Steady gig, you won't go home without feeling you matter, and you are important, and you belong somewhere or at least you can if you want to.


Apr. 21st, 2014 06:08 pm
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Of course everybody wanted to know what I thought of Martin Freeman's Minnesota accent. But they all talked way too much and too fast for me to think they sounded Minnesotan!

Ironic for a weekend when I was worried I was talking too much. (My brain felt so Full Of Things by the time I went to bed last night I thought I wouldn't be able to sleep.)

He was doing the accent as well as he could've been coached to do. Clearly there were a few things they'd all been told to concentrate on -- and it wasn't the actors' fault how unbelievable most of the dialogue was!

I enjoyed the first episode a lot and can't wait for the next one, and it's been a long time since I said that about anything on TV!
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Everyone else on this bus has a coat or a jumper on, and I'm in a sleeveless dress and sandals.
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"I don't mind the two-run homer so much, of course," I said to Andrew. "But an infield error in the second inning of the...season?! We don't need that!"

Andrew cheerfully agreed with me, but I imagine it's like when he tries to tell me things about Doctor Who.

Only difference is, it's not nearly as difficult for him to find people who know or care what he's on about (as last week proved, when he, James and Stuart sat around in our living room speaking their own little language).

This is a lonely place to be a Twins fan. Still, I'm so delighted to see baseball again, I'll be okay for a while on my own.
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Except at self-confidence. But that's no shock. We might be the most sensible state in the union, but it's no big deal.

Heavy snow

Dec. 19th, 2013 09:41 pm
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This picture was captioned, on the BBC website, as "There was heavy snow at Llysdinam, Powys, on Thursday."

It's so difficult not to become one of those really obnoxious Americans, the "you call this a mountain/lake/winter?! Why, where I come from..." type, at times like this. But actually what I really want is not to win a competiton but to impart the wisdom of my people, the salt and snowplows and shoveling your damn sidewalks, that allow us to survive winter with such alacrity.
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All the trees here turn yellow in the fall. It's pretty -- in the sunshine -- but I miss the blazing red maple trees and the ones that turn purple (ash?).
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I'm so proud of [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours, who told me excitedly (and I don't think it was just the sugar and caffeine) yesterday that he was able to tell an American at work, who used to work at 3M, what the three Ms were. The 3M guy couldn't even remember that himself.

This is as least his third fact about Minnesota, the others being using Target Field as his address, a la Jake Blues, when he needed an American zip code, and that the Minnesota Democrat party is not just the Democrats but the DFL.

I think he's off to a good start.
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I love Minnesota.

But also, I love this tattoo.

I love lists of good things about Minnesota, because I have no perspective myself. Of course I think it's great. But then I would say that, wouldn't I. So what do other people think?

1. Bob Dylan;

Can't go wrong with that as a starting point. Tactfully says "He was born in Duluth." He doesn't like people to think he's from Hibbing, though the fact that people line their kids up in front of the house he grew up in, even though it's a normal house and used to have a Dortios truck in the driveway because the guy who lived there at that time worked for Frito Lays.

2. The Hockey Haircut

Oh my god, look at these North Stars, getting their photos taken with shirts and ties under their jerseys! So cute.

I bet they don't do that any more.

3. Red Wing Shoes

Red Wing shoes! Oh man, do the rest of you not get Red Wing shoes? I do remember my dad always having to go to some particular store to get his, which was okay as he didn't need a new pair very often.

I never owned a pair, but it's possible the first shoelace I ever tied was a Red Wing boot, because I used to practice on my dad (his big shoes seemed much easier to tie than my tiny ones).

4. Duck Duck Gray Duck

Oh man. I think somewhere in the bowels of my very early LJ there's an entry about the fight between the "duck duck gray duck" and "duck duck goose" camps. Until then, I hadn't known there was anything but "gray duck"! This is why education is broadening. This article makes a very good point about the superiority of "gray duck": there are so many fake-out options, like "duck, duck, plaid duck" or "duck, duck, green duck.

Now I want this t-shirt.

This list leaves me wanting a lot of things.

13. Betty Crocker.

Look at these Betty Crockers!

They're so scary! 1936 and 1972 don't think much of you. 1980 knows her cakes are better than yours. 1986 has a hair cut my mom still made me have in 1999.

16. Tator Tot Hotdish

I've been threatening to make hotdish for my foreign friends for years now, and I never have. I'd love to make this, the canonical hotdish as far as I'm concerned, but you can't even get tator tots in these heathen lands (though I do think the abomination they call "hash browns" here are pretty similar,, they're too big).

25. Prairie Home Companion and Garrison Keillor

People from other parts of the world laugh that anything so ridiculous could exist.  I laugh in recognition.

27. Hilarious Snow Jokes

Only in Minnesota is "Must be pretty warm out" a sentence. I can't imagine it in any other accent, but it flows just perfectly in mine.

This is also a method of rejoicing that it's no longer too cold to snow.

The other day someone told me "It's too cold to snow!" In Manchester. I am so proud of myself that I didn't laugh at him. It wasn't even that cold. Like, it wasn't even below zero (using my Minnesotan instincts, and thus Fahrenheit temperature scale).

30. Lakes, Year Round

Oh dear god do I miss lakes.

Two years ago, when we had at least one day hot enough to be worth the name, I remember going outside one day and just thinking "god, what a good day to go to the lake." Sunny and warm, just enough that I'd love to jump in some cool water. But you can't do that here! Last summer when [livejournal.com profile] haggis asked about going "outdoor swimming," and I thought "yeah, sure, cool" but we asked people who'd done it before and there were links to webpages full of the hazards of "wild swimming" and I was like "wow, I'm not in Minnesota any more, Toto." Lakes are nice and tame in Minnesota. I do really miss them.

31. Honeycrisp Apples

My parents are obsessed with these. They have planted a Honeycrisp apple tree.

33. Beautiful Butter Sculptures

I'm gonna get to see these at the State Fair again this year!

37. Eternal Optimism

This makes me laugh

As this list says about #32, Judy Garland, "There's no place like home, when your home is Minnesota."


Jan. 31st, 2013 02:13 pm
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Stuart Maconie just mentioned me on the radio!

I sent him a tweet because he said Low were from someplace called DULL-eth, Minnesota, when I know they're from Du-LOOTH, and on a whim I corrected him.

He said "Thanks Holly, listening in Manchester. Did I say DULL-eth? I know its Du-LOOTH. That was stupid of me." I thought I was a bit overexcited about this but I told Andrew this story (he finally extracted himself from bed just after this happened!) and he laughed a lot so I felt better about finding this so delightful.

Andrew also told me that before he met me he thought Duluth was pronounced DULL-eth. "That's how it'd be if it was a British place name!"

Grumpy day

Jan. 18th, 2013 01:49 pm
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I am grumpy today. I had a series of vivid dreams on closely related subjects, of the extremely-believable type where you wake up wondering if it's actually happened yet. It hasn't, but it's dismaying that my brain stores up the capacity for sadness and realistic modeling of family members' insanity. If it wasn't for stuff like that cluttering up the place, my brain might have got the hang of calculus.

The other thing is, when it snows, I turn from my normally-mild-mannered-if-eccentric Dr. Jekyll into some kind of growling scowling monster. I can't look at Twitter today because it's all spam about snow (and the #uksnow thing winds me up to no end. I'm like that xkcd: all of this is 1/10! You can take the girl out of Minnesota...)

I especially hate that there's a culture of people not clearing the sidewalks. There are actually myths about how if you do clean the path in front of your house, you'll then and only then be liable if someone falls on it. Which leads to all kinds of frictionless horrors, and me plotting political coup in my head as a coping mechanism.

When I was home for Christmas, a neighbor of my grandma's (knowing her husband had died this year and she wasn't in any shape to be worrying about this) brought his snowblower around to clear our her driveway, and when he refused to accept any money for this, she gave him some lefse as a thank-you. That's what I'm used to! That's where I want to be, in the winter.
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[livejournal.com profile] greyeyedeve has managed to make my day suitably American, by showing me links to what basically seems like a giant U.S. county fair...in the UK.

As she says, it looks like they have both kinds of music: country and western!

And tractors! And motorcycle wall of death.

And Airstreams!

And people pretending to be homesteaders, which gave me the chance to say "I bet you don't even have the right kind of sod to build houses out of here!" and Eve to say "I wonder if everyone fakes dying of dysentery."

We wanna go. We're hoping they have funnel cakes.
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Oh when will I ever get Swedish coffee again, and see girls' heads sculpted in butter?

When I was in high school I knew someone who was a regional "Dairy Princess" -- it's just a beauty pageant like any other; I think there's a college scholarship or something sensible that goes along with it -- and she and I were on our school's Knowledge Bowl team that went to the state tournament.

The three boys on our team got a room of their own, but since there were only two of us we had to stay with two girls from another school, and Amy somehow ended up telling them about having been a Dairy Princess, the head sculpted in butter at the fair, and so on.

When we eventually bid our goodbyes, one of those girls said to Amy "Have fun being Dairy Queen...or whatever" and you could see the exact point where she realized that "Dairy Queen" didn't quite sound right.

Even in Minnesota, there are some of us that just don't get it. They're more to be pitied than anything, really.


May. 28th, 2011 09:33 pm
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Format inspired by [livejournal.com profile] thebustocrookes and [livejournal.com profile] mammadibiba, content inspired by my awareness that, with my hardcore bleak things being what I need to talk about (and the support and affection of lovely commenters means a lot to me, thank you all), one might get the impression that my time in Minnesota has been unrelentingly bleak.

1. My dad listens to Radio 1. There's digital radio in his car and that's the one BBC station it gets, so in the backseat my headache throbs along with the pounding bass of some of the worst music I've heard in a long time. He, inexplicably, loves it. I am not growing up until my dad does, and he's not showing any signs of this yet, having turned 62 a month ago.

2. My parents picked me up at the airport, when the last thing I wanted was two more hours of traveling. I was just telling [livejournal.com profile] greyeyedeve how excruciating the conversation is with my parents when they fly to the UK. They tell me what they had for dinner on the plane, and where they sat, how motion-sick my mom got, how numb my dad's legs got from having to fold his 6'3" frame into an airplane seat, etc.etc. First thing my mom says as our car is pulling out of the airport parking lot? "What did you have for dinner on the plane, then?"

3. It was less than an hour from hello hugs at baggage claim to my mom saying the word "colonoscopy."

4. A girl I used to babysit for is graduating from high school tomorrow. She and her sister are the first people who've ever made me want to say "I remember you when you were a baby!" Something I loathed hearing myself, so I have vowed never to do it. I do think it, though. She and her sister are nearly unrecognizeable now, tall and slender and with complicated hair and iPhones and the usual teenage derision for all adults as they carefully sequester away corners of their lives to be filled with their friends.

5. I was trying to talk yesterday at lunch about the difference between a family of obligation and a family of choice. I was having lunch with my mom and two of her friends, though, and they like her are very much family of obligation people... though their lasting friendships make them as good as, and often much better (at least in our case!) than family. Still I didn't fancy my chances of succeeding in explaining to them why kids these days move away, why they don't care about the things you care care about...

6. Yesterday my grandparents took us out for dinner, something they never do. Mom said it was because I was here, but they said it was for my parents' anniversary. Thirty-nine years they've been married.

7. There's a wind farm here! I knew they were building it last summer, because it brought lots of business to the tiny Village Cafe (that's its name!) where my mom works one lunchtime a week, but I'd sort of forgotten I'd get to see the fruits of that labor now. We've driven through them at least half a dozen times now (they're only a mile or two away from this house) and yet I am, inexplicably, utterly transfixed by them. I think it'd be a while before I stopped staring rapt at the elegant white stalks with their three-pronged blades slowly turning. The sleek future comes to rural Minnesota.

8. Today as I was cutting fruit in helping to prepare for the graduation party tomorrow, the grandmother of the graduate, who lived in the house before her daughter and son-in-law moved in there when I was young, was helping me cut up the cantaloupe and asked, "Do you get fresh fruit like this over there?" So I talked about my veg box a bit, which Mom is utterly envious of -- my food is better and cheaper than hers from the supermarket -- and then she asked, "And what about your meat?" I don't eat meat, I said. "What?" I. Don't. Eat. Meat. "How do you get your protein then?" she asked. I listed off a dozen or more things with protein in them that I eat -- dairy, beans, lentils, eggs, peanut butter -- all of which she agreed about and approved of. She later handed me a barbecued beef sandwich for lunch. I'm so used to this I didn't even notice the disconnect until I later remembered this conversation we'd had.

9. My mom found a hair on my chin today and made me cut it off. At least I was allowed to do it myself this time. And the one-hair-sitcking-out-of-the-chin is a thing I have no love for. Put me on edge, though.

10. I have to go to bed soon so I can wake up early and go to church tomorrow. I usually go with my mom when I'm here. I don't believe in God, but this is as well kept a secret as that I am not heterosexual, though it would probably be less damaging. But I like it as an excuse to talk to people I don't see otherwise when I'm here. Plus I like the singing and the way the place smells and no one bothers much about God. This week Mom isn't even going herself, helping out at T-minus-a-few-hours for the grad party, but a couple of her friends have offered to pick me up and take me along with them. I can't get anywhere on my own here; it's such an unnverving thing to have to get used to again.

But only for a few more days. I'll be getting myself home from the airport in Manchester early Friday morning; that'll teach me to wish for independence!


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