Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Farewell Durham, Farewell 2010

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied,
'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'

The Dark Knight, Christmas leftovers, Jon Foreman and Sky Sailing, the book of Job, and trying to figure out bus times have dominated the last day or two. London tomorrow!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

and I, I celebrate the day

SO, it's been forever since my last update, as Zoe and assorted others keep reminding me *ahem**ahem* Merry Christmas everyone! Right now I am sitting under three blankets in a drafty house northeast England, munching a candy cane and chocolate Euros.

School ended on December 15th. Most people left that evening; I was there until the next afternoon, and in between the castle was weird and silent and empty. And our room was actually clean and lunch that day was delicious. Bizarreness, all of it. It seems ages ago now.

Megan and I spent a day in Dublin (thank you super cheap Ryanair flights), a trip which involved snow, a delayed flight, a diversion to Leeds, a very late bus, and finally arriving back at the Manchester airport at 3AM. We planned to spend two nights in the airport to begin with (who wants to bother with finding, getting to, and paying for a hotel?), so that all worked out ok. Oh yeah, plus the luggage crisis... Anyway Dublin itself was a lot of fun; very touristy and very cold, but we explored and popped into shops to thaw whenenever we could no longer feel our fingers. We saw Trinity College--Ireland's oldest university, founded in 1592--and its magnificent library. Actually we saw only a sliver of the library from beneath the stairs because ordinary people can't get in (either that or you have to pay, I forget) but the library is still magnificent. Witness this. I also found two Tim Hortons! There of all places! It was quite the occasion.

Then we took the train to Durham, where Megan has cousins who are letting us stay for eleven days. Durham feels a little bit like Edinburgh without the touristy-ness. Megan's cousins are some of the nicest people ever and although they've only lived here for a year (he's a student at the university here), they're full of stories of the legends and history surrounding this place. So yeah: university, castle, cathedral, those are Durham's main selling points according to the travel guides.

I used to be awed by cathedrals and old churches; now, after seeing a dozen of them, not so much--but Durham's cathedral is a massive Gothic monster that is impressive any way you look at it. It's almost a thousand years old which kind of blows my mind. "It's like there's a story in every hewn piece of stone," I heard an old lady say to her friend at the Christmas Eve carol service yesterday. Yes.

And that service was awesome--choir, procession, the works. Even though we heard rather than saw everything, thanks to three large pillars directly in our view. We got there 35 minutes early and the place was absolutely packed! The service was basically Christmas carols--some familiar, some obscure, some with familiar words but completely different, "traditional English" melodies--and Scripture readings. I thought it was cool that they started not with "In those days, Ceasar Augustus issued a decree," but with the Fall, and traced the promise of Jesus all the way to the beginning.

Christmas Day was nice too--we had dinner with the neighbours--but it didn't feel like Christmas. Christmas happens at home. The end. :P

So that's pretty much it. On Thursday I take the train to London, kill two days there alone, then meet up with Christy! Pray her flights don't get messed up because of the crazy weather!

To close, here's the end of my dad's Christmas message:
Finally, mom tearfully said something like, "Tell her I love her, miss her, wish she was here, yet didn't have time to send a note" - all in between hurriedly scrubbing some obscure cooking device that I have never seen before, neither could I explain what exact purpose it might have. In fact, it could have been some sort of alien power device or protective radiation plate - it really did look unearthly. Well, I can assure you that she is thinking of you in between brush strokes.
So that's a comfort. Happy Boxing Day everyone. All seven remaining minutes of it.

[Completely unrelated; I'm quite excited about this. A bunch of different Christian artists have put together an album of songs that are more or less justice-themed for International Justice Mission. And it's only $5, which is like £3.75! and it includes the At the End of Slavery documentary! and it supports IJM! What reason is there not to buy it?]

Friday, November 12, 2010


I thought November at home was windy, with our traditional yearly power outages, but today the wind slams into you like a wall the moment you open any door. Then you run and it carries you along and if you spread your arms out it feels as though you might take off. I was experimenting with this and ended up doing some complicated but accidental dance steps down fifteen cement stairs. This put an end to my ambitions of flying.

So I moved to the library, where I'm typing this now, and it's unusually quiet except for the wind which is screaming above the roof and flinging dried leaves against the windows. It's been a long time since I've actually been alone, but right now it's just the bookshelves and ridiculously comfortable couch and photos of students past for company.

I came here to write my testimony (which is, notably, not what I'm actually doing right now)—we all have to share ours in our family groups. I have never had a good experience sharing my testimony because I hate being scrutinised and I hate opening up so it always ends in awkwardness, but I like hearing everyone else's so it's only fair. My family group has done six testimonies so far and every one of them has been interesting, but the thing that has stuck out to me the most is how every person has their own struggle. Nobody's life is charmed—now matter how much someone seems like they have it all together, they had or have their own particular battle to fight.

The wind died down for a while and now it's roaring again. When it rattles the bushes against the glass the sound overpowers the chatter of students in the hall outside. My battery's dying and it's almost lockup and I had better face the storm and run back to my loud and chaotic and wonderful room. Hello hurricane!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Edinburgh Adventures

Friday-Monday was travel weekend and most of us went to Edinburgh. The city is beautiful: old buildings, cobblestone streets, history in every corner, skeleton trees everywhere. I stayed in a hostel with seven other girls, roommates and honourary roommates (plus some random other people) but you couldn't walk two blocks without running into one familiar face or another.

On Sunday five of us decided to go to St Giles' Cathedral for church. Surprise surprise, thirtyish other Capernwray people showed up too. The service was interesting to observe, but there was nothing to take away from it...nothing challenging, nothing deeper. Beautiful words and that was all. There were no families there and pretty much no one under age 60.

The best part was the pipe organ (I think when I get back I will begin a Buy ROS an Organ Fund) and the most amusing part was Communion. Capernwray laws strictly forbid drinking alcohol—and the wine was legit wine, not grape juice—and not everyone realised this until they took a large mouthful of it. Some people did better at remaining solemn and unsmiling during all this than others, I was one of the others :P

After that some of us went to The Elephant Café (J.K. Rowling once wrote in the back room, but the only evidence of this is a sign in front and HP quotes graffitied all over the bathroom) and shared a haggis. Jaimee pointed out that it tasted very similar to Capernwray food and this is terrifying.

Went to Greyfriar's Kirkyard and the National Museum of Scotland both of which are filled with awesome old things. And Covenanter-related things. Google the Scottish Covenanters if you haven't heard of them, it's fascinating. The Covenant was first signed inside Greyfriars' Kirk, and part of the churchyard was at one time a prison that held 1200 Covenanters before they were executed or deported.

And it was Halloween. Gabby and Harmony decided to buy some food and give it out to homeless people, so a few of us came along. We walked around the city for a long time amongst the vampires and Jokers and Frankensteins and handed out sandwiches. I saw the Phantom of the Opera and someone who was obviously Doctor Who even if didn't realise it. :P There was occasional creepiness but the atmosphere was mostly lighthearted, just people having fun.

Until we stumbled across a crowd in front of St Giles', with an enormous burning branch in front on a stage in the darkness, and dancers in black robes and masks in a circle leering at us. And then people started chanting or stomping or something and it became louder and louder, and Megan and I got separated from the others by the crowd and panicked for a minute before finding them again. Creepy. More than creepy. Oppressive. We slipped into the Starbucks down the street and sat about talking until they closed and kicked us out, and then came back to the hostel and rejoiced in its amazingly fast free Wifi. So that was Sunday.

The next day, other than finding six fake moustaches on the ground, everything was back to normal. And now we're back at Capernwray with dinner and lectures just as if we had never left, and it's raining just like it was on Friday...but it's good to be back.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

which is mostly rambling.

I miss a couple things about home:

-cooking. Being able to go into the kitchen, throw together ingredients, and see what happens.

-healthy food. Whole wheat and vegetables and natural/unprocessed/organic stuff!

-people under age 18

-Youtube (blocked on the school's network)

-NaNoWriMo (which would be so much fun to do here if a group of us did, but I have yet to find anyone else who's interested. Found one girl who writes vampire novels...)

-a library that doesn't charge to order things. Or take out CDs. Or DVDs.

Right now I'm sitting in the hall by the teapot. Lost my phone card and this is very sad. About to watch Sweeney Todd with the roommates. Our movie selection so far has consisted of 100% chick flicks so this makes me happy.

Duties switched. No more vegetables; it's now the sound room. Recording lectures and controlling microphones. The job comes with lots of perks (i.e. couch, fridge, skylight, the ability to see who is taking notes and who is playing Solitaire) although I think it was bad judgement on their part to put me there—far too many opportunities to make mischief. For instance the laser.

This week we had a series on Ecclesiastes which is brilliant. Both Ecclesiastes and said series. The first time I read that book I thought what the heck?? The second time I understood a little more. The theme of wanting something more: this is awesome. The author tries everything, work, pleasure, power, wisdom. Nothing fulfils the vague longing for something greater. Everything is meaningless. Under the sun. It only makes sense when he realises that God is there, above the sun and the limits of the finite world, weaving threads into beauty and meaning.

I started reading Harry Potter (this will shock half of my friends) for the first time (this will shock the other half). I liked the first book enough to stick with the series, because of the characters and because everyone says they get deeper and darker. But my favourite part was the beginning—the feeling of I was made for something more. The “something more” being spells and fantasy creatures doesn't quite satisfy. The hoping-for parts were better than the real thing. Because longing is something every person can understand and has experienced but the fulfilment of it we're all unsure about.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


(written ages ago, real post coming soon...maybe)

Dear kitchen staff: Your food is good but I wish you would discover the joys of whole wheat flour. And fruit and vegetables (potatoes don't count). However I am having fun chopping lettuce and things after lunch (usually), especially with your loud and energetic music, and especially when I see you waving dishtowels and dancing.

Dear unbalanced paving stones: When it rains you make walking to the conference hall a strategic adventure. Thank you for ensuring my alertness in lectures by spraying muddy water in my face every time I accidentally step on you.

Dear Carnforth library: I am very sad that one has to pay 50p a week per CD and that my laptop wouldn't connect to your wireless internet. Other than that I whole-heartedly approve of you. I foresee a long and happy relationship.

Dear rooms that we share a wall with (3): I'm SORRY.

Dear Capernwray internet connection: The fact that you a) won't load Goodreads and b) flail and die at any attempt to upload pictures is disconcerting, but I think I am finally getting used to you. Amazing.

Dear roommates: You have music playing at all hours and you occasionally provide chocolate. I think I'll stick around. Maybe. (...No. Kidding. You rock.)

Dear architects: Thank you for including that handy window right above Harmony's bed. It's so much more efficient than using the door every time. (These are also very useful when you're cleaning rooms and don't know the door codes. I think I've crawled through almost every window in this building.)

Dear £5 phone card: I don't know what trick you were trying to pull the first five times I attempted to use you, but I CONQUERED YOU AT LAST. So ha.

Dear Edinburgh: October 29th.We're coming. Look out.

Dear Americans and Canadians around here: It is not pronounced ED-IN-BURG, just sayin'.

Dear God: where do I begin? If I had to sum up, I think a THANK YOU would be a good start.

sincerely, Kelsey.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


That was about all I saw of Iceland.


The third storey of a bookshop in Carnforth.

Three people on a budget + coin-operated dryers... This is what curtain rods are for.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Three days in

(written Tuesday)

So I am HERE! Arrived Wednesday evening, stayed at a hotel near Heathrow, took the Tube to the YWAM base in Fulham the next morning (with all my baggage in tow—I am never doing that again if I can help it, but it still beats spending half a paycheck on a cab). Stayed at the YWAM base for a couple nights, had a look round London, eventually learned enough to avoid making a fool of myself and looking like a tourist. I was rather sad to leave. But I caught the coach on Saturday and now here we are. :)

I'm not in the “castle” (which isn't really a castle but a manor house—it was built in the 1800s) but in the distinctly unromantic rooms beneath the conference hall. But we get wireless internet in our bedrooms, which covers a multitude of sins (everyone else has to trek to the library or other loungey places). We swap rooms after Christmas and between terms anyway so it's all good.

Six other girls in my room, plus various honourary members who are somehow in here all the time too, so it's loud and crazy and there's always something going on. The six come from exotic places such as Surrey (BC not UK), and Oregon, Alaska, Virginia, Manitoba, and Yorkshire. There are 19 people here from BC which (I think) is the largest amount from any state or province—second is Washington, third is Oregon—so much for an inter-cultural experience! The other day I met a girl who lives a few streets down from me. Other than the inevitable North Americans there are quite a few Germans, a handful of Brits and various Europeans, one Kiwi, one Argentine, a couple Ugandans, a few who aren't quite sure what they are...

Lectures started yesterday and the two series-es so far have been on prayer and 'The Transforming Friendship.' I love it when speakers are so passionate about their topic that they automatically make you excited about it as well. I think if I learn one thing this year, it will be how little I know.

Still muddling my way through everything. Still seems like summer camp. I wish I could upload pictures but with the rubbish internet connection it would take days. Photos don't really do the place justice anyway.

It's raining tonight for the first time—feels exactly like home.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

To Begin

Naming this blog "Among the Mad English" was very tempting but I decided not to because 1.) it doesn't make as much sense if you haven't read the obscure but wonderful Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery and 2.) the 'mad English' might object. So. Oh well.

I leave for Capernwray Hall, Lancashire, on Tuesday. This is the story of what happens after, assuming I don't become too busy/forget/get struck with a permanent bout of laziness, and also assuming I don't get lost somewhere between Seattle and Carnforth. Both of which are all too likely but let's hope not.

Said goodbye to a bunch of (fabulous) people tonight. This whole thing still seems absolutely unreal.