This Memorial holiday weekend I decided to drive ‘Up North’, a local spring tradition, in search of the populous. The Interstate out of Minneapolis was full of pick-up trucks loaded with, or trailing, ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles). The smaller, State Routes, had signs for ATC crossings with mud tracks leading to and from them.
I left Minneapolis after work, with a B&B booked about 2.5 hour’s drive away, according to the land lady and my SatNav. I should get there before sundown. Traffic, and having to slow down to avoid hitting the deer who jump out from the forest to wander across the road meant the journey took longer than planned. I learned that many ‘Roads’ in the wilds, of Minnesota and Wisconsin, are not ‘paved’, ‘tarmaced’. They’re mud and gravelled. They look like roads on the SatNav, but really they’re ‘tracks’. I guess keeping them in decent condition isn’t worth the expense for the local city. Those ATVs are useful.
As darkness fell my SatNav announced that it would no longer give turn by turn guidance.
It bailed on me, in the dark.
I have no map of the wilds of Wisconsin. I panic’d, pulled over into a soft verge and reached for my cell phone. No reception. Bugger.
I grabbed my Surface 1. It still showed the Bing-delivered route directions that I’d checked before leaving. Phew. I worked out where I was, memorised the distances, road names and turns then drove on.
A pleasant surprise to find my pre-SatNav skill of memorising maps and directions was still in good working order. I pulled up at the Three Sisters B&B just before the tavern opposite, Gliders, stopped serving it’s hunger quenching pizza. Just in the nick of time. Pizza to the sounds of ABBA and a host of frisky frogs. Cheerfully surreal.
The landlady joined me for Pizza and told stories of her life, those of her 2 husbands & 4 children. Awesome, such a friendly and open hearted place.
Since September 2013 I’ve been using a surface pro 1
4 frowns (NO! It’s just wrong) Rating scale explained
In 20yrs of buying computers, this computer ranks as my single worst computer purchase. Expensive and ‘unfinished’. The Microsoft surface range is already on Version3 and the company no longer manufactures compatible power-cables – that fail within 8 months anyway. My current power cable has just died. This means I either have to get a new PC or try another power cable made by someone other than Microsoft. The last non-Microsoft produced power cable I tried lasted all of 2 months.
Furious, I was
When I first got the thing the software was all buggy, it took nearly a year of updates to get that working smoothly.
During skype-calls with mum, progressively we encountered problems where she could hear me, I couldn’t hear here her. Rebooting my surface solved the problem. Sigh.
The top volume has always been a bit too quiet for listening to music or watching films. I’ve been using a jambox to get a better volume but the sound keeps cutting-out, even when the Jambox is physically connected to the surface. It gives the impression that the hardware was too poor quality for sound production.
What to do now?
Microsoft will give me (up to) $150 trade-in on my current surface if I can take the risk that they’ve actually acted to change all the problems with the surface 1. I’ll get a year’s free subscription to office 365 and free upgrade to windows 10 when it’s released. Windows upgrades are not something that I enjoy spending half my weekend doing… I’m not sure $150 will cover the inconvenience because I have to mail them my old surface for them to assess if I’m entitled. That means…
- finding packaging, wrapping it, taking it to the post office, paying for the mailing.
- Worst of all, that means being without a personal computer for how long? Days? Weeks?
- I don’t get the advantage of checking the contents of my old computer against the contents of my new one
Oddly, there is still a risk I might buy a surface pro 3. I call this risk ‘optimism’ and a belief that Microsoft learns quickly from it’s mistakes..
Really, I don’t want a sensible plan, I want a new computer NOW!
While wandering around MN, I stopped at the Spring Garden Lutheran Church, founded in 1858. It’s white wooden construction, wrought iron railings, and graveyard intrigued me.
The church itself was locked. Sadly, passing travelers like myself do not feel welcomed.
I wandered through the graveyard and admired the many Scandinavian family names, the old (1870’s) gravestones and the lush grass that gave the church it’s name.
Northfield, MN. a city about 40 miles south west of Minneapolis, has maintained much of it’s downtown (1870’s) brick architecture and attracts day tripping tourists from nearby big cities. Like me from Minneapolis.
It’s named after Mr. North who decided to found the town there when the Dakota tribe ‘ceded’ the lands in 1855. There seems to be a particularly descriptive tone to city naming in MN. I suspect you can visualize some of the characteristics of these cities:
- Plain View
- Still Water
- Lake city
Feel’s very “Yorkshire” to me. Both influenced by the settling of people from Nordic regions. The local college is called St. Olaf’s. There are many other names that point directly to their Nordic heritage and Danish, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian flags hang outside the main, division Street, hotel.
Despite some impressive flour-milling-related achievements the town is best known for a bank robbery by the James-Younger gang, where 2 locals and 2 gang members were killed. The town re-enacts the robbery annually (Sept 7th) to celebrate the courage of the local townspeople.
Thinking about the law, I was fascinated by the opportunity for a close-up look at the city’s police vehicles, major protection for hitting things, cage barriers for the people in the back…
Within the hour there are swirling winds, rain and dramatic hail. Beating the coating off my hare and giving my guests cause to whip out their iPhones.
Wisely the guests hold on to their beers to prove my camera isn’t set on monochrome…
As the sun comes out and the youngsters start getting frisky in public places, I find myself receding into the shadier places and looking at the ceilings. I like ceilings, they keep me warm, dry, entertained, protected from sunburn – Happy. This is only my second ceiling post, but there will undoubtedly be more, I felt a fetish coming on…
In this old (1880s?) brick building the bare bricks support and ornate plasterwork(?) ceiling with directional lighting cunningly worked into the symmetrical ceiling pattern.
Below this modern, uncovered, wooden ceiling the ominous black ducting contrasts with the white glass shades. The fans were silent and motionless. Are they decorative of does it really get that hot, even with big-ass ducting to help out?
The bride wore fluorescent orange
The groom was engrossed in his cell phone. Their clothes don’t fit. Her dress is too small, his suit trousers too long and jacket shoulders too wide.
I wore sunglasses. My clothes don’t fit, I’ve been steadily loosing weight for a couple of years now.
April in Minnesota is beautiful, wedding season is in full swing here, it’s a youthful, colourful affair. This wedding party acted out poses from “Charles Angels” very cute. Smiles all around. April may have just become my favourite month
You know those permanent, indoor, antiques markets dotted around English cities and towns? They have them in the USA. The riverside city of Stillwater is full of them. It looks like whole families make day trips to Stillwater to browse through the many antiques markets. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the archaeology of different decades. The wood burners and red glassware were particularly beautiful.
The British version of antiques roadshow is broadcast on the local Public (free) TV
My furniture is shrinking
Starved of the natural moisture provided in the old, damp, Wendy House of the UK
It’s showing the strain as gaps appear. Oh Dear
The Minnesota Orchestra went on strike for 15 months, the nation’s longest-running contract dispute for a concert orchestra. Orchestra’s across the country are suffering similar challenges. They’ve resolved the dispute with the orchestra taking another pay cut. They’re talented, dedicate professionals and their music should be accessible, but they’ve got to earn a wage that reflects their skill and societal value. If the orchestra is making a loss they need something to help raise awareness of their value. I’m now donating, but money isn’t always the answer, I wonder what the management are doing to change the way they engage with potential audiences? I’ll be popping along to see performance on May day. Hooray!
They’re based in a fantastic venue within walking distance of my home. I’m loving the advantages of city living, which I couldn’t really afford in southern, central, England.
Paper bags, Laura Ashley style print, in the women’s ‘restroom’ (UK toilet) cubicles. No bins in the cubicles.
“Serviettes” are removed and placed in these bags. For me it’s a process that leaves me feeling like lady Macbeth. Bloody handed. Not discreet at all. Especially when I have to carry the blood stained paper bag into the public wash area to reach the bin.
Not something I’ve had to do in the UK in the last 7 years living there, in shop toilets, in workplace toilets, in train station toilets, in friends homes. Nowhere.
I’m changing my sanitary protection to use try out a menstrual cup process I used last time I lived here. They lasted a whole day, meaning that I could remove and insert them in the comfort of my own bathroom, accompanied by a bath.
With BUBBLES! Hooray!
Not a froufrou rose in sight.
St. Mary’s Basilica (1914) is less than a mile from my home, I can see it’s imposing dome from my windows. It was the first ‘Basilica’ in the USA. Designed by a French architect, Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, trained in Paris, the Minneapolis-opedia says:
The pro-cathedral’s architecture reflected Masqueray’s training at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. The pro-cathedral was designed in the style of late Renaissance and Baroque churches in France and Italy. Masqueray wanted the pro-cathedral to create a serene impression through perfect proportions, good lighting, and sincere composition. The focus of his design was the wide nave, or main worship space. At the time, it was said to be the widest nave in the world.
The lower windows are colourfully decorated with characters from the old testament. It’s not a church style I’m familiar with. I did recognise the fluer de l’isle built into the decoration, recognise the French connection.
I lit a candle for Dad
I wandered in at 2.05pm on a Saturday afternoon to find a fantastic concert in progress. Minnesota Sinfonia performing Beethoven’s piano concerto #4 in g major, opus 58. Beautiful music filling this vast place. The audience were all shapes, sizes and colours. Some people looked homeless, shabby and sleeping in the pews. Other’s looked wealthy, dressed-up for a special event. Children in smart outfits, families that looked like tourists
The event was free
Because it was free, it gifted a spontaneous happiness, I donated more than I would have paid for a ticket. Free, quality, live music produced by experts in a building built by experts, built for the people, this is the sort of ‘humanity’ that inspires
Phillipo Lippi’s “Madonna” reminds me to wash my hands as I move from the bathroom into my bedroom. She prays for me at night and watches over me sleeping.
A couple of Ben Bauer views of the Minnesota landscape bring calm and countryside from the distance into the main living space.
Rob Piercey’s Snowdonia landscape and boats bobbing in Portmadoc harbour (Cei Ballast) show both peaceful and expansive opportunities for a fresh day. They greet me when I open my eyes each morning.
The 16th century maps in the living space show where I’ve been. They map my history with places.
A couple of (oil copies of) Rembrandt portraits keep an eye on everyone who enters my apartment and guest room. The evening light runs across them highlighting different brush strokes and their eagerness to look into my world.
Still unhung are the 20 Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac prints. I’m waiting to find out where and how they can move the apartment’s “feel” in the best direction. For now, they decorate the bedroom floor and move around the apartment in pairs and triads, testing the local light and mood like lost souls.
American #1: Living the dream!
American #2: Rockin’
Wendy: hi ya
American #3: Doin’ fine
American #4: (Nods head and smiles)
I’m still working on it….
I took Holly’s advice and went in search of the locally named ‘Honeywell hill’. It was easy to find because Minneapolis is relatively flat. People had posted pictures of views from the hill on Flickr, which helped me to find it.
At the bottom of the hill is an old, neglected looking, Honeywell building with a brick tower announcing it’s name. I followed the tower, then drove into the cemetery next door.
Apparently people come here to court. In the quiet company of the dead they watch the city’s profile, cuddle and kiss.
My brother renamed Minneapolis to Gotham city, as lightening danced across the black cloud encased sky. Gotham city. The city hall, with mayor, fire department, courts, CSI, District Attorneys and other city administration would have existed when Batman first appeared on the dark streets of Gotham.
The sunshine of day leaves a taste of the electric night. Surreal juxtaposition of city hall from last millennium and a skyscraper thrusting upward with no ‘twiddly- bits’ to distract from it’s line of action.
City hall has been beautifully maintained, restored. It’s a living museum that still works for it’s original purpose. The civil rights office is empty today. Letter boxes on the doors half frosted with glass to borrow light onto this big building, giving us a shadowy glimpse of what might be going on behind those doors. The lady Major’s name is painted on the glass of her door ‘Betsy Hodges’. I like her already.
Stained glass lights the marble coated entrance hall. Statues, plaques, column all attest to it’s significance. I’ll definitely be visiting again to find out what happens behind the court doors, where my camera cannot go.
“but where are the people? Where are the shops? It looks deserted and there’s nowhere that looks like a place I’d want to stop and shop”
Mum was a bit baffled by a drive through the heart of downtown Minneapolis, in December.
Downtown shoppers don’t walk on the streets, sidewalks. It’s too goddam cold! Why have a shop-front onto the street if there are no people to be lured into your store by that view? There are shop fronts. I’ve learned that you have to read the shop fronts in a different way. I’m not sure what I’ve learned, but I’ve learned something because I see more than mum.
Wandering, on foot, downtown in the warmer, above-freezing, temperatures of the Spring revealed some beautiful views of the city. Still no people on the streets.
The walk from my apartment to downtown passes a host of sex bars/shops, I counted 6 on one route…A depressing story that there is demand for this and women find it’s the best way available for them to earn a living. I wonder if mum noticed these places?
This area was clearly a seedy part of town, still is. The seeds of change are showing as restaurants, hairdressers, and other ‘local’ services start to emerge between the sex bars. Anyone for chargrilled Pizza?
Exchanging the Wendy House staircase of doom for the Wendy Loft scary balcony, is a novelty. As the weather warms I’m sending myself as a scouting party onto the balcony to discover it’s virtues:
To the east in the morning an active dog park & neighbours’ BBQ’d balconies of similar scariest quotients
To the North in the evening dramatic shadow cast through the legs of a local state route ramp
The grass is yellow from months of snow-covered sun starvation. Now we’re in a ‘drought’. It hasn’t rained since I moved here in November. The local’s tell me the snowfall has been very light. It seems to come 3-6 inches in a couple of hours, but only for a couple of hours and not frequently. During the winter months snow falls and stays, gradually accumulating then spring temperatures above freezing melt it away.
You know how much I LOVE driving. I bought myself that road trip, Route 66, in a red convertible as a 50th birthday present.
State law requires people to secure a local driving licence within 60 days of arriving. I booked myself a local driving exam, how long is the wait-time? First ‘behind-the-wheel’ test on February 9th. Online knowledge test, walk right in anytime. I passed the online test in December without any studying.
The results of the ‘behind-the-wheel’ test. Were a little more surprising.
“How do you think you did?” asked the examiner when we pulled up at the end of the test.
“I could have stopped nearer to the curb, only just got within the 12″ and I had to make a significant adjustment when reversing around the 90° corner, other than that, I’m not aware of what I did badly”
“Placement in the road, moving between lanes, you’ve failed, you need to practice moving between lanes and choosing the right lane to be in. Minimum of 1 week of practice before your next test”
FAILED?! “but am I allowed to keep driving here without a local license, there’s a 2 month wait list for another test?”
“It’s up to the discretion of the police officer”
I weighed up the risks. I’ve never been in a car accident and I’ve driven in the USA for over 8 years in total. The reason that police officer will be talking to me is because of some other idiot, so I’ll probably get their discretion. Especially given the advantage of my English accent and a little humility and respect thrown into the mix. These people carry guns, that lures my humility and respect front to the fore.
A perfect reverse parallel park, a perfect reverse into a tight 90° turn (pseudo parking space) showed my ‘handling skills’ were good. I realised that the mock road system I’d been driving on was supposed to all be dual carriageway. The lanes weren’t marked. I’d driven as-if it was an ordinary single lane in each direction. That meant I was never in the right lane and never indicating to move between lanes. Doh! No wonder I failed.
I didn’t argue with the instructor about the fidelity of the road markings, or ask to do the test again – there and then- because I hadn’t heard the examiner tell me this feature of the road set up at the start. Examiners probably have to deal with lots of weird people being obnoxious when they’re failed. Plus:
- I don’t like being uppity
- Retest should be a doddle.
- I don’t get charged extra for a retest – flat fee of $25 – Bargain
Though, the embarrassment of telling everyone I’d failed my test was pretty high. Because I knew the driving course and why I’d failed, and I can drive, the result of the 2nd test, March 23rd, wasn’t a surprise
‘massive improvement. Passed’
My main shortcoming was not looking over my shoulder enough before changing lanes. But I was the only car o the circuit! It’s so easy to forget that you are pretending to be on a real road with real traffic when the is no traffic, NONE at all. I know there’s nothing behind me. Looking in the mirror is habit, looking over my should is to check for traffic, I do it a lot when changing lanes on real roads. I didn’t’ say anything. I was happy to have passed.
Now, when I go on my holiday to France this September I can choose to take either my British or American driving license… choices…I’ve never driven a stick-shift on that side of the road…
5hrs exploring. All of it full of treats peculiar to my tastes.
Holly, the lady on the till in the hat section of the 8 storey Macy’s store on Nicolette, was so helpful. 45 minutes helpful. Our chatting. My listening. Didn’t stop anyone else buying anything! I’d already bought the hat, so this wasn’t a sales tactic. I suspect she’s chatty by nature and more than a tad bored. Downtown is VERY quiet on Saturday at 11am. she explained that weekends, when all the office workers have left, are always quiet. Ideal for “don’t like crowds’ me!
Holly was a high school teacher, she taught biology. She didn’t like the students who went on to be Engineers because they were unimaginative and focussed on ‘interesting’ engineering rather than societal value and function. She told me there’s a place near Industrial Blvd (and a cemetery, that I’ve been meaning to visit) that’s called “Honeywell Hill” because it’s where the company ‘Honeywell’ started out. Evidently they have excellent July 4th celebrations there, on the hill, not in the cemetery.
I think I’ll visit Holly again on another Saturday and find out about her dreams.
Eliel Saarinen designed one of my favourite buildings, Helsinki central train station. One day I’ll ride the line from Helsinki to St Petersburg with a layover at Viipuri, my fathers birthplace. Eliel Saarinen also designed the Viipuri train station. Train stations are fabulous places, they are the door to adventures, they bring loved one’s home.
Eliel’s last building was a Lutheran church in Longfellow, a suburb of Minneapolis. One of the earliest examples of a modernist building in the USA and listed on their national register of historic places. It stands in very stark contrast to the surrounding classical wooden, suburban, homes. No more of a contrast than the pseudo-gothic, often Germanic, red stone churches in most other districts.
Eliel’s son Eero appears to have worked with Charles Eames, clearly knew both Ray and Charles. Eero also designed the educational annex on the church, added to the building in 1962.
On the Saturday morning that I spontaneously visited, all the doors to the church were locked. No sign of life inside, no opportunity to see the wonderful light streaming through the cleverly placed windows to fill the space for worship. The door design is simple and beautiful. Ashame that someone felt the need to add the instruction to “Pull” the door handle which already displays all the affordances of being ‘pull-able’ more than ‘push-able’.
Though far more beautiful, the outside design reminded me of the Danish church in Hull that the House family occasionally visited when staying with Hull branch.
I’ll be back, with some locally rounded-up fellow building-lovers on an official, docent-led tour day
I was 18 in 1981
I knew I didn’t want to be a wife, a secretary, an accountant, a person doing a job to earn money to live in a home and go on holiday. I tried to find things that I really wanted to do. Travel and see the world? Not really, it may be fabulous but what’s the point in that? It’s just hedonistic, and I didn’t want to do things just to make myself happy. Maybe I should want to be the prime minister? No, I didn’t want to be important.
I would walk out onto the Cotswold hills at night, sit watching the lights flickering over Wales in the distance. Sit in my Paddington bear duffle coat, which I loved, alone on the hillside in the dark thinking that the world was beautiful but there was nothing I wanted from it or could give to it. These thoughts were at once profoundly peaceful and sad. I would cry because there was nothing that I wanted to do or be. I had no vision or desire for a future. These thoughts were mine, I shared them with no one, I did all the things I believed you were supposed to do, ate, slept, went to school, studied, looked at universities to go to. But it all felt like an act for the purpose of fitting in, not worrying anyone with my complete lack of interest in anything.
One March morning I walked out of school and went home. My parents both at work, one brother at Salford University another living in Didcot. Just me at my parents home. Warm, comfortable full of good memories. This was enough, this was all I needed, nothing more.
I collected all the pills I could find in the house. Had a hot bubble bath to clean my body for whoever had to deal with it afterwards. Took off the earings and necklace that I always wore. Carefully, neatly, placed them by my bed. Put on my pyjamas and my favourite hand knitted (by me) aran jumper. Went into the front room and put “Closer” on the hifi at a really high volume. I loved Closer, so beautiful. It took 3 pints of lemon squash to down all those pills. Pills are dry. Unpleasant to swallow.
I curled up on the sofa and fell asleep. Ian sang “Existence well what does it matter? I exist on the best terms I can.”
I woke up 3 days later in Frenchay Hospital. My first thoughts were “Shit, I’m still here, and now everyone knows I don’t want to be here”. The nurses had no trouble showing their disdain for someone taking up a valuable hospital bed when there are genuinely sick people around. Another girl on the ward had a broken leg and she persuaded me to push her wheelchair as fast as possible up and down the corridors. She was full of life, positively glowed and kept me away from the hissing nurses.
I was allowed home after a couple of days ‘observations’ and required to have weekly meetings with a psychiatrist as an alternative to being sectioned into an insane asylum. Charming. I’d rather not be in an asylum. Waking up in Frenchay was like being born again. Not in a Christian ‘I’ve seen the light’ way.
A new beginning nonetheless
At 1°F the temperature is actually very close to “Goodness this is a bit too cold to be walking anywhere” or “F**k” in the old English vernacular. This is without a wind chill factor, it’ll take a lot more research to really grasp the frostbite inducing winds. Currently I’m avoiding all winds at temperatures below 32°F (freezing). I’m building a list of real descriptions of the new temperatures I’m experiencing. This will help me understand how to dress and talk to the locals.
Goodness this is a bit too cold to be walking anywhere
Preliminary scope suggested as from 5°F down to 0°F This range needs to be confirmed. Behavioural implications include:
- Hat that covers ears & gloves required
- Talking about cold is acceptable
- The mucus in your nose freezes about 30seconds after you go outside
- A heated steering wheel would definitely be a plus for a car that’s been parked outside in this weather. Darn, it’s not included for my car. Driving gloves essential… I keep 2 pairs of gloves in the car lest I haven’t anticipated a drop in temperatures. One thick insulated pair for leaving the car and one leather set for covering that period whole the car warms up.
- For short walks (from car to office, store, specific building) thin soled shoes are passable, but your feet will feel the cold quickly. Thick soles, such as Dr. Martens airware are advisable
Cold is stuff below 10°F
I wandered out from my heated car, 30 paces, to the heated central post office in downtown Minneapolis. The post office has an amazing exterior. I’ll photograph the exteria in the summer.
The inside was like walking into the deserted 1920’s. There were a few people around, but not many given the size, capacity, of this building. The brass panel in the ceiling that hid recessed lights, the wooden, marble and brass wall panels. This building reeked of celebrating the postal service as a service for everyone. Fabulous.
I love the social responsibility of the locals and their city governance. I feel really at home here. Which is good, because this is my new home.
When I moved to the Wendy House UK I let the removal people leave without unpacking. Lots of neat boxes stacked around the tiny Wendy house. It took me months to hack my way into the boxes, unwrap the stuff and dispose of the packaging.
This time, I made sure everything exact the picture gallery was unpacked before they left. It helps that this Wendy Loft has more floor space to pile random stuff on. Since taking this photograph I’ve managed to clear the useful surfaces: tables, sofa’s walk ways, dressing room. Now I’ve got to organise how to store the books and stuff I rarely use like Christmas decorations, tent, hiking bags, and decide on how and where to hang the rather extensive picture gallery. It will take a while to clear a visitable hole in the guest room where this stuff is flocking, out of sight
My real life eye colour doesn’t appear to closely match the eye colour in my passport photo. The Dutch border control officials conducted a thorough investigation.
This hasn’t been picked up by any border control officials in 7 years of travelling. But then, I haven’t been through Schipol Airport in that time.
They checked my drivers licence photo, whether I was wearing contact lenses and several other documents I wisely had available. I complimented the senior security staff, leading the two suspicious border control guards, on their thoroughness.
“We are good” she said.
I just managed to catch my connecting flight
Alas, when they arrived I wasn’t in Minneapolis to greet and shepherd them into the loft. Arizona’s nice this time of year.
While my belongings have been elsewhere indulging in meditation and mindfulness, I’ve been preparing the loft for their arrival, adding peanut butter, porridge oats, honey and tea to the empty kitchen cupboards. I’ve not yet found a local Marmite, or twiglets, source.
My dusty things arrive today
Today I spend my first night in the loft
This is as near as I’ll get to what my aunts and cousins call ‘settling down’ which is what they think I should be doing. Apparently, I’ve left it a bit late…