Monday, August 13, 2012

Puppet shelf.

No blogs for two months and now two in one night; what's that all about? I've been feeling guilty, and I've really missed blogging. Remember in May (no) how I said that once May was over, I'd have a lot more free time and would be on here more? Lies; all lies. I'm full of lies, apparently. You see, May was nuts, but everything went swimmingly, and resulted in a new job and a new house, which just lead to more craziness.

In the London Tube

Tower of London

South Park, Oxford
Like these people visiting me. Mom did a better job blogging about the visit here.            

So that was June, and in July I was working every single day, going between two jobs, at the end of my contract at the Bodleian and the beginning of my new one at The Story Museum. I'll back up.

Speaking of magic (see last post), I have a magical new job. It's technically only a summer job, but it could possibly continue after September. I'm the new duty manager at The Story Museum (I know, right?)- the most magical place in Oxford. This place is sort of hard to explain, although some days I feel like all I do is explain it to people for hours on end (not complaining). Basically, The Story Museum is going to one day be an amazing place for young and old to come and enjoy the power of stories in all their varied forms. At the moment, until they raise enough money to fix up the building, they can only do temporary exhibitions in the warmer months of the year, before the building becomes an ice box. There are two exhibitions on at the moment, that I oversee, Rochester's Extraordinary Storyloom and Tea with Alice. I won't say too much about them as not to spoil the surprise to those of you who have yet to see them. Click on the links and check them out; they are both basically amazing and well, well, well worth a visit. Here are a few taster pictures:

My friend Rebecca's son Oscar in the Storyloom.

View of the courtyard on the private view night.

Tea with Alice, Riddle Me room

Storyloom control center.




The exhibitions are amazing, but my favorite thing about working there is the building itself. It's this bunch of buildings all surrounding an odd-shaped courtyard, in true Oxford fashion, each with their own unique history. Parts of it used to be a dean of Merton College's home, parts were once a few different pubs, the rest was all once the old post office, and the first telephone exchange. There are tons of rooms of all shapes and sizes, ranging from little glass cubical to a massive room on the very top floor, complete with a dinosaur. It's like every single one of my childhood and adult interests leaked out of my daydreams and built a place for them all to live in harmony.

There is no working elevator, no heating, hardly any light in places and no air conditioning. There are holes int he walls, things that need ripping out and things that need putting in. Every door has a different key and a special way of opening or closing it (pull hard; slam; be gentle; push with shoulder; keep trying till it works). From the top floor you can almost see across the city, through the dreaming spires and beyond.

I usually go on about The Story Museum all day (my friends are getting sick of me), so I'll stop now. But needless to say, it's a dream job. If it ends in September, then I will always have had this one, magical summer. If it continues, then the future will be very exciting indeed, and my life will be practically perfect (barf, I know).

My friends and I graduated.

My weird, replacement family.

Other things that have happened:

I went to a real Oxford ball.
Played carpet croquet.
Saw the Olympic torch.

Saw it again on my road.

Braved London to see some Olympic stuff.

Went to the Caucus Race.

Curiouser and curiouser.    

Kitchen. I miss the blue one, but it does the job.

Rose and I moved to a new place with our friend Jonno. Not every room is ready for the camera, so stay tuned, if you care.
The awesome shelf in my room.

Much smaller bed, but whatevs.

Back to The Story Museum.

 And that's it. If anyone needs me, I'll be at The Story Museum till the end of September at the very least. I know I said I'd stop, but I can't help it: I LOVE this place so much. I haven't loved a job so much since I worked on my grandparent's Christmas tree farm when I was little. I wake up happy every day, excited to go there. I get to spend my day talking to awesome, interesting people, most of which are artists or writers or both, brainstorming ideas for the museum, life, and the future. New friends = people who haven't heard me rant about the evils of Twilight yet, which = happy Maria.

I've finally found Neverland, and it's just as fun as I thought it would be.


I am a leaf on the wind.

 Dandelion Wine.

So much has changed. So much is new. New house, new job. A few new friends. New bike rout (and possible new bike). New degree (officially), new outlook, new bookshelf, new qualification (First Aider, but all I can really do is give you a band aid and call 999). Many good, new things.

A few changes were not so good. It's funny referring to death as a change, but that's really what it is. In the same way that Maeve Binchy and Ray Bradbury changed the world with their books (and changed my life like all my favorite authors have), their absence will also change the future. I can't say how sad it makes me that they are now gone.

It might seem weird for me to claim that Maeve Binchy and Ray Bradbury have always been two of my favorite authors (it's on Facebook, it must be true): they could not be more different. Maeve was introduced to me by my grandmother, back when I was in high school and eating up every book put in front of my face (and subsequently failing math). Her books are all (from the ones I've read) about the power of human relationships: friends, family, lovers. They are about the different turns your life can take and the people who'll be there along the way to help and hinder. Her books made me feel very grown up, since they were for the most part about people much older than I was. I read them eagerly and with each one I felt like I was gaining some new incite to life. They were like secrets about being an adult. Maeve's books completely took me away from whatever I was doing, and they always left me feeling just plain good. I love many authors and many books, but very few have put such a skip in my step and warmth in my heart. I don't care how cheesy that sounds because it's true. I am grateful that I haven't yet read them all, especially now that there won't be any more.

Ray Bradbury's books could not be more different, even if he had been from Mars as he so often enjoyed writing about. The fact that I can love those two authors equally goes to show the range of my ridiculous taste. When you want me to recommend something for you to read, first you'll have to tell me what your favorite genre is, because I just don't have one. Although to be honest, I'll probably just recommend The Princess Bride no matter what you say.

But back to Ray. Ray was, and in my mind still is, the King of Science Fiction. I discovered him around the same time as Maeve, in high school. I can't fault the US Education system too much as long as Fahrenheit 451 (the temperature at which books burn) is always on the required reading list. This dystopian epic blew my malleable teen-age mind and terrified me, scared me so much that I had to read more. I soon discovered that Ray could not only write novels, but that he was a short story champion. I think it's safe to say that he is my favorite short story writer of all time. Each is exceptionally short, but packs a punch you never stop feeling. His imagination was a wild, untamed thing that the world is not likely to see again, not in the same way anyway. Firefighters that burn books, literary ghosts exiled on Mars, living houses, illustrated men, Martians, artificial suns, killer nurseries, time travel disasters, Happiness Machines and many, many rockets: Ray Bradbury was a true creator of worlds, master of the fantastical and storyteller to the core.

A few days before his death, on a train to Edinburgh with my parents (another that changed: my parents became world travelers), I discovered yet another thing Ray Bradbury excels at: every-day magic. In Dandelion Wine, a simple book about one young boy's attempt to enjoy his summer vacation as much as humanly possible, Ray created the most magical portrayal of childhood I've ever read. It's not all hearts and rainbows either; magic isn't always nice. Bad things happen, but good ones do too, and every single page sparkles. It is magical realism at it's best, so subtle you'd have a hard time calling it that at all, yet so obvious that you can't call it anything else.

I love Ray Bradbury's stories, and again, I'm glad I haven't read them all. Although Ray and Maeve's passing upsets me a great deal, I take comfort in the fact that they will both live on in my heart and on my bookshelf. 

LOVE, Maria

Maeve and Ray:
As my circle of friends ebbs, 
toward grassy fields and Irish seas, 
I will miss how you took me, 
(where I can go again, but never the same)
from my cowboy bedsheets, 
across the ocean and through the stars. 
You are my Happiness Machine.