Aug 20 2016

Dispatch 003: A Different Breed of People

or The Cravens vs the Yard Salers (pt 1)

Moving to the other side of an ocean will make a person re-evaluate how much you need all of the things you currently possess. Particularly when it costs an appendage or two to ship your possessions across said ocean.

Suddenly the things that have composed the backdrop of your life for fifteen years don’t seem all that vital.

A friend who’d moved even farther afield than we’re going (from Georgia to Japan) suggested a method, which was to start with only the things we loved most, then pack things we loved/needed a little less, etc. That way we’d begin the next chapter of our lives surrounded by our most treasured possessions.

This idea appealed greatly. When it came time to go through my library, though, my brain, pled, ‘No, no, I’ll read that book I’ve had twenty years and just haven’t read yet! I swear!’

No. No, you won’t. Prising the book out of my brain’s grasping, phantom hands, I’d put it in the ‘for sale’ boxes and, eventually, got my library down to about half its size.

K was much better at this task. He is ruthless. Of course, he arrived in the country ten years ago with only two pieces of luggage and I wondered if he understood he was meant to remain here after we married.

Then we got to the house and it turned out one of those pieces of luggage was mostly electronics and CDs.

K is not high maintenance.

Inspired by his example, it was easier to say, ‘Sell it!’ for other items.

Eventually, the cupboards, drawers and cabinets divested themselves of their contents. You’d be surprised just how much stuff will fit in a 400 square foot/37 square meters apartment. And we aren’t even hoarders.

This brings us to the yard sales.

Or yard sale number one, at any rate.

I’d only thrown… conducted? Hosted? Whatever. We’d tried to sell a boatload of my childhood toys (my childhood was in the 80s) many months ago and two people showed up. One of them bought something. Total haul: 4USD. Cha-CHING!

I’d also posted my toys on Craigslist and a local yard sale site on more than one occasion to no real luck.

Why don't people want to buy my stuff? It's baffling. (source)

Why don’t people want to buy my stuff? It’s baffling. And a little offensive. (source)

When it was time for this one, I put the ad up in three places—a neighborhood site called NextDoor, the local yard sale site and craigslist. The copy read:

My husband and I are leaving the country in September so we are selling a variety of things in order to avoid shipping them and to raise money so we are not destitute upon arrival in England.

Items for sale include, but are not limited to:

  • Books
  • CDs
  • Coffee mugs
  • Bookcases
  • Toys (Legos)
  • Lots of vintage toys from the 80s
  • Games
  • Kitchenware
  • Frames
  • Tools
  • Storage organizers

It’s basically an estate sale but no one died.

This is the first of two–the second will be closer to when we leave and will include anything not sold in this one (in case you miss it!) and the things we need for the moment but won’t need when it’s time to go.

We simply need to do this sale now, as the house is going feral on us and we’re beginning to fear for our lives.

Within four hours I had four emails. Two of which were asking about Legos and toys. In the morning I had two more asking just about the Legos.

K asked: Is Lego the street name for some kind of drug we don’t know about?

Then he tells me a story about a car boot (trunk) sale he and his mother went to to sell some of their things when he was younger. He said before they were even out of the car people were crowding around, trying to look in the windows.

It’s a little Night of the Living Yard Salers.


Look, now, I know how to deal with your type. (source)

Look, now, I know how to deal with your type. (source)

One guy emailed me three times between the time I posted the ad and when I got back to him, twelve hours later (you just know what he’s like in online dating, right) asking about how much for the Legos and all of the vintage toys.

He doesn’t even know what I have—and I have a lot, as my parents tried to buy my love.

I told him I hadn’t priced anything yet.

His response: Let me know when you do—I have cash.

Dude. Bro. Friend. Mate. Everyone has cash. That’s how they do it. Unless people are paying in gold bouillon now and I’m the last to know.

Is it less about the actual item and more about getting something so someone else doesn’t get it? I don’t know how these people work–their brains clearly function differently than mine.

We’ve decided to start it at 10, but I just know people will arrive earlier than that. Our friend who is basically the adult in our relationship, M, knows quite a bit about yard sales and she says 6 or 7am is typical.

These crazy people are going to be outside our house, scratching at the windows at 8.

Like this, except the blinding light of day. (source)

Like this, except in the blinding light of day. (source)

I’m going to be standing there with my half sword, trying to keep them back while we bring things out and someone will ask if that’s for sale, too.

Me: No, I’m trying to threaten you into acting like a sane person, you fool!
Them: I’ll give you $15 for it. $20 if it has a holster.
Me: FFS.

The first person who contacted me was a woman. It must have been within the hour of posting the sale. She wanted to know if we did pre-sales. Cheeky.

I said I just didn’t have time, as there were too many moving and packing things to do this week. (I also didn’t feel like being haggled, which I’m positive is the form of torture awaiting me in Hell.)

Her reply: See you on Saturday! 10am? :o)

She’s definitely going to be out there at 9. Probably with one of those beer hats on—you know the hats that hold two beverages? But instead of beer it’ll be two energy drinks. It’ll be her yard sale hat.

The blood runs cold.

Though if I meet an alternate reality version of myself and my friends, that could be pretty cool. (source)

Though if I meet an alternate reality version of myself and my friends, that could be pretty cool. (source)

Aug 17 2016

Dispatch 002: The Future of Architecture in Oxford

One of the reasons I am excited to be moving to Oxford is the sheer beauty of the place.

The University was established in 1096, though the first college, St Edmund Hall was founded in 1226. It was constructed of the golden/yellow stone native to the area called Headington stone.

Many colleges that followed over the next 600 years would also be constructed of said stone.

Then the Victorians came along.

The Victorians had no intention of going anywhere. They were going to conquer the world (and never lose control of it, obvs) and it was time to shake things up, architecturally. They had a new type of building material—brick—and they were going to construct the newest college, Keble, out of the stuff. 1870 was a happening time, man.

Everyone thought it was hideous.

Now, of course, we think it’s beautiful. It’s certainly distinctive.

Keble panorama (click to enlarge)

Keble panorama (click to enlarge)

The dining hall at Keble is the largest at the University and was the original choice for the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Keble turned them down (it went to Christ Church) and now they regret it, as it’s a huge tourist draw.

Nice one.

Here are photos K took whilst staying there during his in-person interview. Behold, what the Great Hall was supposed to look like.

Keble Dining Hall

My husband ate in this room and he had cereal. CEREAL.


Keble Dining Hall 02

You can just see Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman up there, can’t you? Way to go, KEBLE.


Zooming forward now, I sent the beloved to The Eagle and Child and The Lamb and Flag, as they were both haunts of the Inklings, a literary group that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and many others.

He took this rather lovely photo:

It sort of looks like an exterior shot for a League of Gentlemen sketch, but it's still lovely... right?

It sort of looks like an exterior shot for a League of Gentlemen sketch, but it’s still lovely… right?

Then he tells me that just to the left of this was some sort of concrete monstrosity from the 60s or 70s (when concrete would have been the wave of the future) actually coming over the wall. (I couldn’t figure out what building it would be from Google.)

No. Why. Ugh.

Did someone say in some meeting somewhere, ‘Well, look what people thought about Keble and the bricks? This will be the same! You think it’s hideous now, but in a few decades everyone will love it!’

Did that happen? If so, as soon as time machines are available, find that meeting and slap that person.

Still, colleges expand and new buildings are constructed and the newest favorite building material is… *drumroll* … glass.

Which works in its own way.

First K showed me this one:

Yes, but school of *what* government? Human government or...?

Yes, but school of *what* government? Human government or…?

Which I thought looked like a spaceship and he said looked like the revolving restaurant at the top of a skyscraper. (It’s the Blavatkin School of Government.)

Then there’s this one:

Is that not the *worst* Photoshop job you've ever seen? (click to enlarge)

Is that not the *worst* Photoshop job you’ve ever seen? (click to enlarge)

Which looks like the worst composite shot from Dr Who, ever. There’s been a rift in the space-time continuum and Victorian England has meshed with 22 century England but neither can see the other or something.

The trees are clearly there to mask the break in the photo…

If I didn’t trust my husband implicitly I wouldn’t think this is a real picture—it’s so incongruous. But Keble is on the left and the glass building is an extension of the college—it’s a sunken bar.

At the moment the glass buildings look fine to me, though I do wonder what future generations will think.

Will they, heaven forfend, find concrete to be classic?

Though of all the bizarre design decision in our soon-to-be home, the one I find most baffling is this:

The door on the left is attached to the wall. They're in the student dorms. Why?

The door on the left is attached to the wall. They’re in the student dorms. Why?

Aug 09 2016

Dispatch 001: Panic, Planning and Palpitations

‘You’re an Anglophile.’

I was sixteen and had met (for the first time) someone who was interested in the same sorts of books and television shows I was.

He was in his early forties, quietly fabulous, and had a small painting of the Queen in his very well-appointed, Victorian style house.

After seeing his books and vast collection of videos—it was twenty something years ago—I was happy to have someone to chat to about our shared interests.

And that was when I learned there was a name for people like me.

His name was Jeffrey and he went to Britain once or twice a year and rented Landmark cottages (once a castle!) and generally luxuriated in his Anglophilia.

Well, having a name for it, I dove straight in. Though I was a clever child I wasn’t particularly bright—I hadn’t, somehow—put together that all of the books, films, music and television shows I liked were made and set in the same relatively small geographic area.

Once that information was set in front of me I knew what to look for when choosing media and went for it. My interior world became English overnight. I went about methodically learning English spelling and words and phrases (there are 3,000 different usages between American and English).

Eventually, in my early twenties, I would begin writing my first novel, which would be set at Oxford University. It would teach me how to write a novel by turning into a 2,400 page delight of over 580,000 words. (It got through two edits before I found a plot difficulty that was insurmountable, but that’s a story for another time.)

The point is, while writing that … thing I made my first trip to England to do research. Oxford was my home base, with side trips to other cities.

Oxford was incredible. I fell in love with the city. My trip was in November—hardly tourist season—and I’d gone out one Sunday morning with a plan to go to the London Zoo. The trains weren’t running on Sunday so I decided to take some photos of Oxford, then. It was a bit drizzly so I had the place to myself. The photos I took are fairly empty of people, which was rather lovely and not the sort of mementos most people bring back from their trips.

Pictured: Bridge of Sighs. Not pictured: Other people.

Pictured: Bridge of Sighs. Not pictured: People.

While there I met up with a man in Hereford I’d been chatting with online for a year. He was very tall and goofy. We went to Hay-on-Wye for a day and had a great time. But I was a lesbian so I was busy telling myself we were just good friends.

I returned home to the States and would occasionally see a street on a British show that would make me ache with longing to return to the U.K. I missed it so badly.

This post is going on a bit long so I’m going to skip the intervening twelve years.

The very tall and goofy guy (his name is Karl) and I have been married ten years this last May. He’s got a job at Oxford University and should be starting in October. We’ve begun the panicking and the planning and the heart palpitations.

[This is the first in a series of posts called Dispatches from the V & K, which will chronicle the madness and merriment of moving overseas and settling into a new country and culture.]

Dec 31 2015

Writing from December 2015

Seriously. We've had the a/c on. I've taken to pretending I live in Australia. (source)

Seriously. We’ve had the a/c on. I’ve taken to pretending I live in Australia. (source)


For the Greater Wilmington Business Journal I wrote a piece about Renewable Recreation, a company that aims to help gyms shrink their carbon footprint.

Book Review
Christopher J. Yates’ debut Black Chalk was a compelling mystery that would appeal to fans of The Secret History. I highly enjoyed it.

Film Review

Limitless was a science fiction thriller film that was the inspiration for a television show this year. It was incredible.


2015 has been a great year and several opportunities have become available to me that I could never have foreseen or imagined even a year ago. I’ll still be writing for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and WILMA, but it’s unlikely I’ll be writing book or film reviews with any regularity and so will do writing round ups only when I have enough pieces to warrant one.

Here’s to an excellent and even more productive 2016!

Dec 01 2015

Writing from November 2015

I might be showing my age here, but this is the video to November Rain and this song rocks. It has TWO blistering solos. (source)

I might be showing my age here, but this is from the video to November Rain and this song rocks. You will never rock as hard as Slash on Axl’s piano. (source)


For the Greater Wilmington Business Journal I wrote about the virtual reality lounge at Cucalorus (it was incredible).

For WILMA I covered the InnovateHER Challenge and other events at the Cucalorus film festival that were geared towards female entrepreneurs.


Book Review

Neil Gaiman’s short fiction collection Trigger Warning was classic Gaiman. Fiction, fantasy, mythology, fairy tales, poetry. In short, magic.


Film Review

The Kiss of the Damned was a vampire film with a twist–they’re just like us. Just trying to get on with their deaths with as little harassment as possible. Definitely enjoyable, that one.

Nov 01 2015

Writing from October 2015

Oh look, people with more fine motor skills than I have. (photo by Matthew Apgar)

Oh look, a person with more fine motor skills than I have. (photo by Matthew Apgar) (source)

We started redecorating/repurposing a room in October while I was writing essays and fiction, which I highly recommend, as it isn’t nearly as time-consuming or complicated as you might think.


For the Greater Wilmington Business Journal I wrote about Human Innovations and their technology to help people improve their lives.

Book Review

Well, shooting script review, really. For Halloween, I read The Addams Family film screenplay, which is available online for free and is a blast.

Film Reviews

David Hyde Pierce was excellent in The Perfect Host, which was one of those bad-guy-meets-worse-bad-guy films.

The Suicide Theory was a dark, philosophical little film about a man who hires someone to kill him after multiple failed suicide attempts leave him believing himself immortal.

Oct 01 2015

Writing from September 2015

September 2015 will always be when I learned *this* abomination exists.

September 2015 will always be when I learned *this* abomination exists.

September was a somewhat slow month writing-wise, as I spent some of it on holiday and the rest either recuperating from all the extroversion or catching up from being away.


Boundless Energy: A profile of Kristin Lancaster’s tech career from the Pentagon to GE Hitachi. 
Catwalk Coiffeur
: A profile of Hannah Lynne, owner of Beauty Bar Boutique and her many experiences with various New York Fashion Weeks.

NYFW: Beyond the Runway. An article for the print magazine about three women working backstage at the most recent New York Fashion Week.

SpeedFaces Looks to Ease Advisor Scheduling: For the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, I spoke with Robert Kehaya about his software platform, which is designed to make life easier for students, faculty and staff in higher education.

Film Review

Housebound was the only film I reviewed this month and it was fantastic! I highly recommend this horror comedy from New Zealand.


I interviewed the wonderful Louie Stowell about her book The School for Supervillains and what it’s like writing for Fiction Express.

Posts about New Orleans

The first post, wherein I explain why there are no posts and talk about reactions to Southern U.S. weather from people accustomed to vastly different climates.

And the second post, which encompasses what I saw and ate and wanted to see but couldn’t for ridiculous reasons.

Sep 18 2015

New York Fashion Week — Beyond the Runway

(l-r) Brandy Alexander, Chelsea Sule, Alecia Mounixay (photo by Chris Brehmer)

(l-r) Brandy Alexander, Chelsea Sule, Alecia Mounixay
(photo by Chris Brehmer)

This month I wrote a piece for WILMA about three people from Wilmington participating in New York Fashion Week as a hair stylist, make up artist and nail tech.

Sep 01 2015

Writing from August 2015

Me at the end of the month. August was too hot, is what I'm trying to say.

Me at the end of the month. August was too hot, is what I’m trying to say.


This month’s tech column for the Wilmington Business Journal is about Blooswell, an SEO, SEM, social media management company.


Film & Television Reviews

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play Grace and Frankie, two women blind-sided by the news that their husbands of forty years are leaving them in order to marry one another in this Netflix original comedy.

The Kings of Summer was an enjoyable, light-hearted coming of age comedy featuring Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally as suburban parents.

Jake Gyllenhaal killed it in Nightcrawler a dark, must-see thriller about a crime scene photographer who’ll do anything to get the best story.

I rewatched the film before binging the entire TV show of Wet Hot American Summer. A strategy I highly recommend others take.

Aug 01 2015

Writing from July 2015

Every July 4th, the US celebrates its independence from Britain by blowing up things. FREEDOM! (credit WETA)

Every July 4th, the US celebrates its independence from Britain by blowing up things. FREEDOM! (credit WETA)


This month’s first Greater Wilmington Business Journal Tech Column was about Schedulefly, software targeted to independent restaurants that make making schedules less of a nightmare from the Inferno and more of something you can do on your iPad.

This month’s second GWBJ Tech Column (it was a long month) focused on the Toast Together app, which is designed to help people coordinate their evening plans and find places to grab a drink, a bite to eat or dance.

For WILMA, I interviewed Emilyanne Atkinson. Emilyanne is one of those people who makes the rest of us look like slackers. We talked about her involvement in the new Cape Fear Women in Tech group.

Book Reviews

Erika Swyler’s gorgeous debut The Book of Speculation is going on my end of year best of list. If you’d like to know why read the review.

I finally read The Picture of Dorian Gray and loved, loved, loved it. It was Gothic and witty and penetrating. Read it. Go. Now.

Louie Stowall’s The School for Supervillains was so much fun! If Slytherins had their own school, this would be it.

Film & Television Reviews

American Horror Story: An Ode. A post about one of my all-time favourite shows.

Dear White People is satire about being a minority at an Ivy League university. It was funny and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it.

Dear White People reminded me of Higher Learning, another racially-charged film set at an American university. So I gave that a rewatch and review.

Matthew Gray Gubler and Kat Dennings were quirky in the horror comedy Suburban Gothic. I’m pretty sure the horror parts were an homage to 60s horror films. I think.

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