cardinals and coins


England, part two

After I left Oxford early Sunday morning, I took the London underground to the Bloomsbury area so I could spend the day worshipping Virginia Woolf.

I found a walking tour devoted to her online, so I started out, as instructed, at the British Museum:

Inside, I went directly to the reading room. It has been restored to the way it looked in the 19th century and something like the way it looked when Woolf herself sat here, reading and writing. It's a beautiful room, full of wonderful books. On a plaque on the wall there's a list of some of the famous writers who read in this room--it brought tears to my eyes. I sat for awhile and wrote in my journal and wished I could talk with Woolf and ask her some questions I have about what she wrote. Mostly, I just sat and felt thrilled to be in England and in a room where brilliant minds have worked.

After wandering around the museum a bit and looking at old things, especially old Celtic things as I am studying old Celtic literature in school, I found Lady Ottoline's house. Lady Ottoline was a wealthy lady who had a sort of salon in which she hosted parties. She loved being known for knowing famous writers and artists. The Bloomsbury group (as Virginia Woolf and her friends are now called) made fun of her a lot, but she's supposed to have thrown really great parties. I'll spare you my picture of her house, as well as the picture of the hotel that now sits on the site Virginia and Leonard Woolf's Hogarth Press once occupied. After getting lost a few times and walking around for what seemed like forever, I finally found this street, where SHE LIVED!

Maynard Keynes, the economist and a number of other famous people lived here as well. This is VIRGINIA WOOLF'S HOUSE:

University College London now owns the house. They have kindly placed this plaque there:

At this point, I sat down on the sidewalk across the street and thought, for about ten minutes, SHE LOOKED OUT THOSE WINDOWS. She looked out of those windows at this spot. She walked on this ground. I finally wandered away in a daze of wonder and awe. I ended up shopping some, and finally having coffee in a lovely little cafe. After calling Nina from a phone booth (I lost the directions she gave me, like a really smart traveller), I made it back to her place exhausted but happy. We had a great night in, with great London Indian food (it's famous) and fantastic Cadbury chocolate.


England! part one

I love England. I have spent most of my life wishing I were English. Actually, that's partly why I didn't study in England--why destroy the illusion? No, really I feel that now is not the time for me to live in England, although that day will come, I'm sure. At any rate, imagine my excitement when I took a train from Edinburgh to Kings Cross, London! I was very excited. But part one of my England entries is devoted to Oxford, not London, because that's where I was headed first. My excellent mood even survived the train being late and not arriving until after the tube had closed. Can someone explain why in God's name the tube closes? If the subway doesn't need to close, London's underground doesn't. It's completely insane. At any rate, after a very expensive cab ride and an extensive search for a cash point, I arrived at the bus stop for the Oxford tube, near Victoria station. The cab ride was actually a nice tour of central London. It felt really good to be in a big city again. I had some time to enjoy this feeling as well as notice my own exhaustion while waiting for the bus, which was half an hour late. Finally, after a late train, a cab that got stuck in traffic at midnight (?!) and a late bus, I arrived in Oxford--at 3 am. I went to Oxford to visit my friends Genevieve and Brad from Columbia. Gen is a junior at Columbia, studying astrophysics at St. Peter's College, Oxford, for a year. Brad is a post-grad doing something with poly sci at Christ Church. More about the colleges later. First, let me explain how wonderful Genevieve is. I met her when we were both in the ensemble in a Columbia production of Hamlet. I got sick during the production and ended up only doing one of the performances, but met such fantastic people during rehearsals! Genevieve is not only wonderful for standing outside in the rain for Hamlet, but also for standing outside in the cold autumn air for my bus—for an hour! Thank you Gen!!! Brad was less brave. He didn’t meet me at the bus station, but instead showed up at Gen’s place later.

On Saturday morning, I got a special tour of a few of Oxford’s prettiest colleges. Oxford is made up of lots of small colleges within the larger university. Each has it’s own quad/central area with old buildings and gardens and “keep off the grass” signs. You have to pay to get into them if you’re not a “member” or the guest of a member.

This is the bell tower of Christ Church, which has an incredible quad and beautiful hall. Ask Brad for the entire history of the college, he knows is by heart.

This is Magdalen College, which is very pretty. I don't know why I took so many pictures of this one and not the others, but I did.

This is the beautiful library...

Brad and Gen stading outside some college, I don't know which (Brad, Gen, if you guys know, tell me please):

Really cool gargoyles, I don't know where, but seriously zoom in if you can they're awesome:

Yay for perfect weather and a perfect two days in Oxford. Who knows, maybe I'll be back one day soon to get an advanced degree of some kind!


Day 3

We spent most of our third day making it back to Edinburgh. But we did stop a few times. Highlights: the beatiful Glencoe. This glen used to be a MacDonald village inhabited by hundereds of people. The story of the end of that village goes that the King of England was annoyed at the MacDonald leaders for being slow to sign something stating their devotion to him. So he asked the men of the Cambell clan to go kill them. That Winter, the Cambells came to Glencoe and asked for shelter. The families kindly took them in, but after a few days, in the middle of the night, they got up and murdered everyone they could find. You can still see the old road that ran through the village, but all the homes were burned. It's a very sad story, but a beautiful valley.

Next, we stopped to hear this piper play:

Finally, we went to the Wallace Monument. The Victorians built this in honor of William Wallace during a time when old Highland Scotland was being romanticized. It's a pretty big tower at the top of a big hill:

I didn't go inside (too expensive), but it was still pretty neat. After that, we drove home. I went straight to Edinburgh University Theatre Company auditions, which was stressful. I ended up getting a part in a one-woman show! More on that later...

Bascially, I recommend visiting the highlands. I've never been so in love with any place I've ever seen. It's uniquely beautiful and all the history makes it even more magical. Even if that history is bascially people killing each other. I have even more stories of violence, English/Scottish, clan/clan and Scottish/Viking, but I won't bore you. Suffice it to say I had an awesome trip.

Day 2

On day two of my trip, we woke up early and drove past Loch Ness as the sun rose. We were blessed with perfect weather all three days, which NEVER happens in Scotland. We saw some Highland cattle, aka "Hairy Coo'oos" (spelled according to the tour guide's specification):

We stopped to have tea and admire the mountains next to this waterfall:

Next, on our way to visit a castle, we drove up a mountain, where we met these beautiful horses who definitely have the best view of any horses I've never met before:

A view of the castle we later visited:

Next, we drove to the Isle of Skye. The Vikings named it, and "skye" meant mist. People have lived on this island for ages and ages. There are still remains of Viking funeral pyres and ancient standing stones. Fortunately for us, this incredible, magical place was not misty the day we visted--we could see for miles. We hiked up along side this waterfall:

And splashed around some in the cold, cold water. We even stuck our faces in a pool said to be enchanted by fairies. It was supposed to make us 5 times more beautiful than we were before... maybe it meant inside?

Here is a sign on Skye, in Gaelic and in English:

Before heading to the hotel, we visited this volcanic beach on the eastern shore:

One is never more than 3 miles from the sea on this island, and the beaches are often black because the islands were made by volanoes. I fell completely in love with this place, if you can't tell. I want to live in this house and do nothing but write. Perhaps visit my neighbors' sheep and talk walks in the hills:

We slept in a hostel that night, just under the brige that took us to Skye. I was very sorry to leave and hope to make it back for longer than one day...


Day 1

Alright, I'm finally writing a post about my trip to the highlands. But I only have time for day one:

We left Edinburgh very early in the morning. The first thing we saw was this bridge. It is very old. Queen Victoria hammered in the last rivet herself; it was made of gold. It replaced a very ancient ferry. The water there is the Firth of Forth and if you were to cross this bridge (on a train) you would eventually find yourself at St. Andrew's.

Next, we went to a whisky distillery. At this point, it was, brace yourself, 11 am! Here's me and Annie drinking whisky to keep warm:

Next, we drove some more and ate lunch at a pub in a tiny town. Annie and I ate haggis! We cheated a little, because it was battered and deep fried... try to wrap your brain around that. For those of you unfamiliar with the legend of the haggis, it is said that years ago there was an animal called the haggis in Scotland. It had evolved to walk around/up mountains in circles until its legs were shorter on one side of its body and longer on the other. It was a small animal, and all hunters had to do to catch one was wait along a haggis path (you can still see circular paths around hillsides) until a wee haggis came along. They couldn't turn around, since their legs weren't built for that, so running away was difficult. Many people think they never existed, but my tour guide claims some builders found one preserved in a bog they were draining. I have a little stuffed haggis called Henry now. He squeaks. I bought him at Loch Ness. Anyway, the modern dish haggis is supposed to replicate what people did with the haggis after they hunted them: took out all the insides, kept the good stuff, mixed it with oats and spices, put it back in and cooked it. Nowadays, they use a sheep's stomach like a sack, taking out all the nastiness and putting inside various organs and things (I try not to think too hard about that) plus oats and spices. It actually tastes quite lovely if you refuse to think about what you're eating.

Next, we visited a fort that was used by Redcoats to fight Highlanders during the Jacobite rebellions during the 17th century. The fort is in ruines because the Redcoats burned it down when they left so the Highlanders couldn't use it.

Please note the beautiful scenery behind me in that photo. Next, we went to visit ancient cairns or burial grounds. When I say ancient, I mean more than 6000 years old. These are OLD. This one used to be covered and on Winter Solstice, the sunset would shine right through that passageway and light the little room inside by bouncing off a panel of mica on the back wall.

Next, we visited the Battlefield of Culloden. I'll try and keep the history parts short: the King of England got sick of the Highlanders wanting their French Catholic king back (in this case, Bonnie Prince Charlie) and wanted to maintain the (German) Hannover dynasty. So the Highlanders fought the Redcoats at Culloden and were massacred. Even the Highlanders fighting on the English side were killed. All the women and children were killed and their houses burned. This is a replica of a "black house" a highlander might have lived in:

After the battle, the bodies weren't allowed to be buried for SIX MONTHS. The Redcoats hunted and killed everyone they could. They searched far and wide for Prince Charlie, but no one every betrayed him. He hid on an island in a cave until he went back to Europe, dying in Italy an alcoholic, feeling guilty for raising the standard in Scotland and getting all the Highlanders killed. Meanwhile, Highland language, dress, music, dancing and every part of the culture, essentially, became illegal. You could be put to death for speaking a word of Gaelic or wearing your clan's tartan. The kilt didn't exist until much later, when a guy who was actually English figured out an easy way to sew something that looked just like the long piece of fabric the highlanders used to wear looked after they folded it and wrapped themselves up in it. Anyway, this battlefield is a gruesome, awful place.

After Culloden, we went to Loch Ness. We slept in a tiny town off the loch. I didn't take any pictures of the Loch, but it was really truly beautiful. Here we have a photo of Anne-Marie and Annie posing with the Loch Ness Monster:


a taste of the highlands...

I have no time to post right now, and shouldn't be doing this (so much reading!). But I couldn't resist, having just returned from a 3-day tour of the highlands. So here's a Robert Burns poem and a picture I took Saturday...

A Red, Red Rose

O, my love's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
O my love's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I,
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
I will love thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only love,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my love.
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!


Joyeuse Anniversaire a Moi

I turned 21 yesterday! It was a fantastic day. I don't have any courses on Wednesdays, so I had a whole day of fun to plan. Annie and I had lunch (and margaritas) at 1:30 pm, then I did some shopping, had dinner and went to see As You Like It with Nina. I really enjoyed the show, it was great. Next, we went to a bar called Dome because it's converted from a very old bank and it's incredibly ornate. It has this beautiful dome ceiling and palm trees and makes you feel as though you were in late 19th century Britain. Annie and Marie met us there. (Isn't it strange that I'm Anne-Marie and two of my flatmates are Annie and Marie?) After Dome closed, we wandered into a student pub. After that, we came home and had some Cadbury's birthday cake. It was a great day! I'm very grateful to everyone who made my foreign birthday a happy one.


First Steps

the cobblestones trip me
as I look up at everything at

once I could remember
the route back to my front door,
I could concentrate on walking,
developing some grace
to carry me through uneven

streets look different here
paved sometimes familiarly
with asphalt but usually with

these bricks have been here
how long? and why
are these streets still
rough stone? is it
the labor of pulling them up
and paving the street smooth?
more labor than
my awkward steps?
or is it an aesthetic thing for

an old city is new to a girl
used to prairie towns
built in a year
and an eastern metropolis--
nothing older than

a few centuries ago
the city I just left,
now several times
bigger than this much
older city, was a wooded island
called Manahata, never seen by a

European cities slow me down
with their historically
uneven streets--
I want to know,
do they replace the bricks?
they must keep them out of

pride in a deep history is new to me,
and I can’t help wondering
as I pass buildings built before
concrete conquered cityscapes,
when cobblestones were practical,
did James I
and his mother Mary,
Queen of Scots
stumble sometimes
on a brick
out of place in the Royal Mile?



In my third entry in two days, I would like to write more about the experience of being here-- what my days feel like, rather than what I do with them. I spend most of every day alone with my thoughts. Lately, I have been battling a series of minor illnesses I can only attribute to combination of new strains of diseases and an immune system destroyed by the stress of moving across the ocean. This means that I've spent a little too much time in my room since my sister left. But more importantly, it has given me plenty of time to focus on the project that, I now believe, is the reason I felt so strongly compelled to spend a whole year in a foreign country.

My father told me when I left that I was going to Europe to find myself. I probably nodded and smiled and said something about how it was going to be wonderful. I had no idea what that could mean. I now describe my journey like this: I packed up most of my life in boxes, and signed papers that put its American parts on hold. I got on a plane and arrived in an unfamiliar space with very few familiar things to find that when I subtracted all the familiar, every-day things about my life, I was left with Me.

I have learned a lot about choices and relationships in the past year, and I have grown up more than I probably realize right now. I found, however, during my brief time in Minnesota and at Columbia before I boarded that Air India flight to London, that it was difficult for me to act on the lessons I had learned. I found myself repeating old thoughts and patterns that I thought I had left behind. I'm not sure I can explain this clearly, but, essentially, there seemed to be two (rather outdated) versions of Anne-Marie: Minnesota and Barnard.

Minnesota Anne-Marie tends to behave like she did in high school. She's a little bit too loud, she talks too much, and she's a little bit reckless, knowing, as she does, that she'll leave the state at any moment. She's defensive, having never found a comfortable place to fit, and awkward in the uncomfortable knowledge that she belongs somewhere else.

I tell this story a lot, but it's important. My senior year in high school, I said to someone very cool that I had been told I had an edge and that I should soften that edge if I wanted to get along better. Her response was, "Anne-Marie, don't soften your edge. Find people who like your edge. Go to New York." And I did. And it was good.

Barnard Anne-Marie is more confident. She still talks too much, but her peers are interested in what she has to say more often. She has more to do and a stronger sense of purpose. But she is unsure of herself and constantly looking to the people around her to tell her that she's doing all right, she's on the right path. She is insecure with men and confused about what she wants. She is usually very assertive, but occasionally feels anxious and shy, until she'd rather be passive and let someone else make all the decisions for a while. When Barnard Anne-Marie found her friends, she never wanted to let them go. They helped her feel whole and accepted. They liked her edge.

This summer, I spent some time away from Barnard. I lived there, and I remained in New York, as did a number of my closest friends. However, my internship took me away from the familiar neighborhood of Morningside Heights and deeper into a city I now feel I can call my home. I'm not sure I'm comfortable calling myself a New Yorker, but I definitely live in New York, now. Everywhere else is a trip away, destined to end and eventually lead me back to the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Flatiron and the Park. I made it a project to be happy on my own, knowing that I was about to spend a year away from the friends who have come to mean the world to me. I learned to listen to myself better. But as soon as Columbia and Barnard students began arriving back at campus, I felt myself slipping into the person I had been before the summer. I like that person--she was pretty great--but as soon as I felt those familiar feelings, I felt that I had taken a step backward. I didn't want to look for approval in the places I had become accustomed to looking. I wanted to stop questioning myself and feel that confidence I had felt walking home from 22nd and 5th. It was time to break those habits for good.

As soon as I began to explore Edinburgh on foot, I knew I needed this distance in order to break the habits I had formed during my first two years at Barnard. I never wanted to spend time away from the friends who have such faith in me, but I am beginning to have that faith in myself now that I can't depend on them every day.

And so I spend time alone with my thoughts, writing in my journal and walking the streets of this new university and city. I'm getting used to the cobblestones, and I'm still convinced that the cold wind and changeable skies are necessary to maintain the city's incredible atmosphere. I find that because I don't care what anyone here thinks of me, this sense of being a temporary citizen gives me exactly the freedom I was looking for. No one knows me, and suddenly I feel no pressure to be the English major, actor or writer that I was in New York or Minnesota. I am trying to do things because I want to do them. I go to class because I would like to speak French when I visit Paris next spring. I read my books because I chose courses with fascinating reading. I write because I feel great when I'm writing. It doesn't matter if I'm an artist or a scholar, because there's no one here to keep track of anything I do. Somehow, I feel that my responsibility here is to myself, rather than my resume or reputation.

Today I finished the first draft of a new play. I worked on this play off and on all summer, but didn't really get anywhere until I moved to Scotland. Somehow, I needed to trick myself into opening up by putting distance between me and the places that recall all my old habits. I hope to get to know myself better, until I have a sense of who I am that the haunted spaces of my past cannot displace. The ghosts, friendly and otherwise, that occupy these familiar places have held too much power over how I see myself. I hope to greet them after my time abroad with a newfound confidence in who I am now, in who I have become.


More About My School

This entry is about my new school. I seem to have settled into a routine. This is a picture of Old College, the oldest building on campus. Construction began in the late 18th century, and the building was finished in the early 19th. The dome was always supposed to be there, but didn't get added until the late 19th century. Here's more about Old College if you're curious:

Here's my schedule:

Monday is my busiest day. At 2 pm I have Celtic Literature, a small lecture of about 17 students. On Mondays we hear a lecture about Welsh literature. At 3 pm, I head over to French literature, a 200 person lecture that is actually in French. I get about 75% of what she says. But it's a good class. At 4pm, I go to Celtic Revivals, a seminar of about 15 students. Half our class is American visiting students. But my "Autonomous Learning Group" is a group of 5 students who meets each week independently, and they other 4 are British. Anyway, Celtic Revivals is fantastic. It's taught by Aaron Kelly, a lovely Irish man who brings us tea and biscuits each week.

On Tuesdays, I go across the street at 11 am to the Geography Building (no one knows why) to my French tutorial. We have a lecture on Mondays and tutorials for an hour 3 times a week. Tutorials are very small. Tuesday is for language. We do grammar excercises and work on writing in French. This is the beautiful Geography Building:

At 2 pm, I go to Celtic Literature. Tuesdays are devoted to a lecture on Irish literature.

I have no schedules courses or tutorials on Wednesday. I loooove Wednesdays!

On Thursday, I have a French "practical tutorial" (oral skills) at 11 am. Celtic Literature is at 2 pm, and on Thursdays we have a seminar-style class discussion about the Welsh literature that was introduced on Monday.

I have another French tutorial on Friday, this time about literature. I have Celtic lit again at 2:00--a discussion about Irish literature.

There you have it, my course schedule. I don't spend very much time in class. But I have a lot more reading here than I did in the states, and life just moves at a slower pace. I enjoy the work very much, and I find myself wanting to go to all of my classes every day. When I was taking 5 courses a semester at Barnard and each course was meeting twice a week, there was often one class I didn't enjoy. Statistics, for example. On the other hand, I'm not completing very many requirements here. At any rate, we're only in week 3, so I'm sure I'll have more to say about my courses in the future!


Since I haven't done an update in awhile, I thought I would do two today. This one is devoted to my sister Holli's visit to Edinburgh. Holli came at just the right time. I was getting over being very ill after giving myself food poisoning. I knew that sauce had been left out too long, but it seemed such a waste to throw it away... anyway that was a mistake. But just as I was feeling better, my big sister came to cheer me up. We walked around Edinburgh and ate in fun cafes. We visited the castle and the Royal Museum and the National Museum of Scotland. Holli taught me to cook some new dishes. I really need new ideas for Scotland because lots of the food I was used to eating doesn't exist here. So that was very fun and helpful. Okay, here are pictures of Edinburgh Castle, the most over-priced tourist attraction EVER (10 pounds, or almost $18). Parts of the castle are really old, although they did lots of building in the 19th century. The oldest building is a chapel from, I think, the 12th century. Maybe 13th. Something like that. And people have been living on this spot of ground for 3,000 years. You can see for miles and miles in every direction from the top of the extinct volcanoe on which the castle sits, and some of the wall seem to grow right out of the rock. ...

Holli at the gate (19th c.):

The portculis. There are 7 gates leading up to the castle, and no invading army ever took it by force. There are 4 gates in this little archway, the portculis being the most familiar and scary looking. The cobblestones in the road are different in the middle so that the horses carrying up the really big guns could get a better grip. I felt sad for those horses.

A view of the city from one of the canons on the north wall. Notice that you can see all the way to the Firth of Forth (an estuary connecting a major river to the sea on the Eastern side of Scotland):

The view from the room in which Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to Jame I who unified England and Scotland. Notice that the sky is blue in the lefthand corner and dark gray in the right. That's the weather here--sunny one minute, raining the next:

Some armor and stuff from the great hall, a very old building on the outside but not so old on the inside, most of which is Victorian:

This lion gaurds the monument to all the soldiers who died in WWI and after, housed in a very old and beautiful building built on the highest point in the city of Edinburgh (that's really really high up). I like him: