Monthly Archives: January 2014

Rabbits

Rabbits are okay. They’re cute and furry. I don’t have a garden so I don’t worry about them eating my vegetables. But I don’t love rabbits. Well, at least I don’t love rabbits anymore.

See, back in the 1970s I read Watership Down. Then I read the book referenced in Watership Down: The Private Life of the Rabbit ((Actually a pretty good read.)). Then I visited Watership Down (along with Stonehenge and Oxford) when I visited England the following summer.

So, my sudden fascination with rabbits caught the attention of folks who cared about me and for a few years I was given rabbits as gifts.

I’ve kept a few —

This is not a rabbit, but it has rabbits on it. Jeremy found the bit of white rock (it could have been from the White Cliffs of Dover as we visited those that trip too. It has interesting indentations that suggest it is a fossil of some sort) and painted Watership Down on the side along with a couple of rabbits..

watership down out of white rock

Then there is the green soapstone rabbit. I don’t remember where this came from, but I am pretty sure it was a gift.

green soapstone rabbit

I’m pretty sure I bought this one for myself. At least it looks like a rabbit.

brown fuzzy rabbit

Finally, I must have really liked the rabbits snuggling in bed, because I bought (or someone bought me) another rabbit from that line of pottery.

cute rabbit

 

When Dean first came to my apartment shortly after we met, I had all of these figurines (and more) sitting around. He must have really liked me to look past the bunnies everywhere and decide I was worth keeping.

These guys are going back into the knee-wall from where they’ve stayed for the past decade or so. Although, I kind of like the green one. Maybe he can stay out for a while.

Real Locations of Fictional Places

Map of YorkshireSo I was watching Downton Abbey Sunday night and heard Lady Grantham mention the town of Thirsk. I wanted to hear the rest of the dialog, so didn’t exclaim to Dean, “Thirsk! That’s where the All Creatures Great and Small author lived.” After the episode ended, I didn’t think it important enough to tell Dean — and he would not have cared anyway. I guess I knew that Downton Abbey was located (but not filmed) in Yorkshire — and mention of York later in the episode made me even more certain, but I wondered where exactly it was supposed to be.

I read on Downton Abbey Wiki that in some episodes a sign in the fictional town of Downton points to Ripon (9 miles one way) and Thirsk (6 miles another way). So I located Ripon and Thirsk on a Google map, printed it out and drew a 12 mile wide circle around Thirsk, with Thirsk being the center and did the same with Ripon, only making that circle 18 miles. The circles crossed in two locations, so I’m thinking that the fictional town of Downton is either located in the tiny hamlet of Gatenby or Pilmoor, North Yorkshire. Because Easingwold, according to the wiki I mentioned earlier, is also mentioned in Downton Abbey, I think Pilmoor is more likely the location.

James HerriotArticle about James HerriotThis is not the first time I have scoured a map to find a location from a fictional source. In fact the first time I did it was after reading the All Creatures Great and Small series. Because I’d spent some wonderful weeks in Yorkshire and the All Creatures Great and Small series took place in Yorkshire, I wondered if I may have been in the town where it took place or even crossed paths with the author. I asked Jack Burgoyne, my boyfriend’s father and a librarian, if he knew where the books took place but he didn’t know — however he did know that James Herriot was a pseudonym and Darrowby, England was not a real place. When I returned to the United States after visiting Jeremy and his family, I pulled out a map of England and noted the real places mentioned in the books (which, when I search the book now, not many other than Leeds and York are mentioned) and tried to figure out where “Darrowby” was. I was never successful, but the search was fun. The last time I visited the Burgyones as Jeremy’s girlfriend, Jack alerted me to an article in the newspaper about James Harriot, aka James Alfred Wight. It seemed that he’d been awarded the OBE and the London Gazette gave away his real name and the Evening Post (Leeds?) gave more away stating — the town was Thirsk, in North Yorkshire. I now knew that I’d never been to the town where the books took place nor was it likely I’d crossed paths with the author.

One other time I scoured a map for a real location from a fictional source was when I was reading Steven King’s Christine. Dean and I were living in Pittsburgh at the time and Creepshow had just been filmed in and around Pittsburgh. Placenames in Christine reminded me of places in around Pittsburgh, so I pulled out a map of the area and pinpointed where I thought the town where Arnie Cunningham lived — Murrysville, Pennsylvania. I figured that since King wrote this book, in part, while working on Creepshow, he may have very well set in the area. Something I read later, I think, made me think that my hunch was pretty close. (And Wikipedia confirms it: “Stephen King’s 1983 novel Christine takes place in the fictional suburb of Libertyville, Pennsylvania, which is adjacent to Monroeville. The Monroeville Mall is mentioned repeatedly.”)

So while I don’t always hit the nail on the head when sleuthing for real locations of fictional places, I come pretty close. The internet is a big help these days, since people often do the work for me, but I get a strange pleasure out of doing it myself.

 

Old Writing: Part 6::The Birthday Present

This is another of my writings from Creative Writing 101. I still have the figurine which looks slightly different from the description, but I probably was writing about it from memory. My English professor was quite kind in his words about this one too, although he had some doubts about the analogy of my anger and a volcano — I guess he didn’t know me that well.

The Birthday Present

Last Saturday I woke up so late that I heard the crunch of the mail truck on the gravel in front of our house before I had even finished breakfast. As it is a race at our house to bring the mail in, I jumped up and ran to the front door only to see Bob, my cousin, coming from the direction of the mailbox carrying several white envelopes of various sizes, a colorful postcard and a small package. Seeing the package made me forget the lost race as I yelled, “MY PRESENT!”

My birthday, a month before, had been accented by a telephone call from Jeremy, my boyfriend in England who informed me that my gift was on its way, but had to be sent sea-mail because he didn’t have the money to spend to send it by air, having just returned from America. Since I enjoy looking forward to a present, almost as much as I do getting one, I waited quite patiently — the first week at least. After that, I began to become anxious for its arrival. In one of his weekly letters, Jeremy hinted at the identity of the present. He hinted so thoroughly that I guessed what it was — a ceramic figure. Jeremy also said that he hoped it wasn’t broken. I wasn’t worried about that though — he always took the greatest care when wrapping a gift to be sent through the mail. Now the present had arrived.

The small brown package, tightly bound with the sort of tape with nylon strings in it, was addressed to me. The return address was Jeremy’s. As I struggled to open the package, dented due tot he horrendous treatment the postal system gives mail, and empty feeling began to form in my stomach. My heart began to pound as I turned the parcel upside down and small bits of white plaster fell to my lap. My blood pressure surely rose as I tried to rip off the top of the box. All this time I was saying, “Oh it’s broken; oh no, it’s broken, I know it!” — not daring to believe that it truly was, assuring myself that the plaster chips were from the bottom of the figure or the box. After much effort to break the tape, Bob offered the use of his knife which I angrily, but thankfully, accepted and proceeded to cut the bindings. From there the task was simple. I opened the inner box and unwrapped the tissue paper, exposing the figure — with two horrible chips. The anger and disappointment which had been working its way up from the pit of my stomach suddenly erupted with the violence of a volcano; awful accusations, like red-hot lava spilled from my mouth as my temper reached its peak. I re-wrapped the gift, ignoring my family’s remarks on how cute the figure was, and placed it back in the box.

Later that day, after doing the dishes and eventually cooling down, feeling guilty as a result of my dreadful scene, I removed the figure from the box and once more unwrapped it. Tears stung my eyes as I recalled how terribly I had acted. I hadn’t even thought of the love that had been sent with the gift. The figure, which I had neglected to even admire before, was of two small rabbits cuddled under a black and white polka-dot quilt. One rabbit was soundly asleep, while the other had one eye open, looking at its partner. A black cat was curled behind the knees of the sleeping bunny — just where my black cat sleeps.  The chips, less serious than I had previously thought, were on the same side, but at opposite corners. Part of the fluffy blue pillow and a whole bedpost was missing. Luckily there was plaster of various colors, shapes and sizes at the bottom of the box. Without further thought I found my Elmer’s Glue, plaster filler and watercolors and set to work to restore my birthday present.

Although the figure still isn’t “good as new” and anyone can tell it was broken, I wouldn’t trade it for a perfect one. Too much emotion — on both sides of the Atlantic — has gone into this small ceramic figure to be dumped as worthless trash.