Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Interview Wednesdays: Nancy Langham

Nancy & I doing our best sophisticated pose
on Monday night at the Mattson 2 show in SF.

I am so pleased to introduce you all to Miss Nancy Langham, a dear friend of mine who lives in Oxford, England. I met her around the year 2000 at a small start-up company. She and our friend Amy and I bonded there and would take breaks together, sometimes going for a ride in the car and getting things off our chests. We also took a self-defense class together and have stayed close ever since.

Nancy is one of the brightest, kindest and wittiest persons I've ever met, and a most supreme conversationalist. She is beautiful, fun, strong, follows her own path, and is part of a very loving family who make you feel like you're a part of it. If I had only one word to describe Nancy, it would be passionate. No further delay...

You grew up in Fremont, CA but had ties to England. What was it that prompted you to move to England?

I am certainly a California girl, but both my grandmothers were English war brides, so I grew up with frequent visits from English relatives and other cultural things, like lots of tea! However, it wasn’t just my heritage that led me to England- I’d always wanted to live there, and in a strange way, always felt English. I even told my 3rd grade teacher that I was born there- imagine my mother’s surprise at conference time! But I was right- the moment I set foot in the country back in 1995, I knew I was home. I had a chance to transfer to the UK with my software company back in 2000, and I’ve never looked back.

Do you think you'll ever move back to the states?

Well, the only scenarios I can think of are: a) global warming plunges Britain into a new ice age, making it akin to Siberia, b) nuclear devastation or c) God says to go back (I do what God says, when I listen). That sounds flippant, but I really do love the States, I just don’t feel at home there like I do in the UK. As much as I love California especially, I never felt like I belonged here, weirdly.

Is there anything you miss about the states, besides your family and friends?

Well, my family and friends top the list, but I do miss other things, like customer service and Mexican food. The USA has a real ‘can-do’ attitude that is sadly lacking in slightly-depressed Britain. Though America often goes overboard on the ra-ra cheerleading, it is something really positive and encouraging.

You live in Oxford, but you've also lived in Wimbledon and London. What is it about Oxford that you love?

London is a really wonderful, exciting place (Wimbledon is technically part of it) but it was just too big. There are 10 million people in the greater London area, and it seemed crowded and endless, as much as it had to offer. I love living in Oxford, because though it is relatively small (150,000 people) and is very near the countryside (lots of lovely walks, country villages and pubs) it is an exciting place.

Oxford makes news. There is always a discovery, debate or analysis making world headlines. The university ensures that not only are the very best scholars in the world wandering the streets, its beauty attracts tourists all year round. The university was founded in the 1200s, and the skyline (known as the ‘dreaming spires of Oxford’) is breathtaking. What I love most is the history. I recently walked by a plaque that I had never bothered to read on one of the main streets. It said that in a house there in the 1600s, Robert Boyle had discovered various things, including Boyle’s law- which essentially founded modern chemistry. That would be incredible in any other place, but in Oxford, it’s one of many famous and amazing incidents in a relatively small town.

How much is gas (or do you say petrol) in the UK currently?

Well, my maths (that’s math to us Yanks) isn’t wonderful, but I estimate it’s $10 a gallon. (It’s about £1.23/litre). Yikes. I have to commute quite a distance (to lovely Slough in Berkshire) and the petrol price rise is killing me.

Since the dollar is weaker than the pound, do you plan on doing some shopping here? Anything you like to buy here that you can't buy in the UK?

My pound goes so far, that when I’m in the states (like now, for a holiday) I usually shop LOTS. I buy any electronic equipment I need (laptop, Bluetooth) and things like makeup. I buy most of my shoes and about half my clothes here. I’m currently looking for some killer jeans. Any ideas, anyone?

Congratulations on recently completing your masters and getting published! What did you get your masters in? Tell us about your current studies.

Thanks! (Or, as we say, cheers!) My MA was in Victorian Media and Culture, which essentially means Victorian literature and art. I decided to go with the art route for my PhD, and am now researching an artist called John Rogers Herbert, who was a Victorian painter of mostly historical and religious subject matter.

What is the most fascinating thing (or things) about the artist you are writing your thesis on?

Herbert was a funny guy- he was deeply Catholic (one reason I chose him, as I’m a Christian myself) but terribly eccentric. He felt that art could communicate the highest, most divine truths. Late Victorians were a bit more sceptical and sensual, and his ideas were definitely not with the times as he became older. I think it was that pressure to conform to the ideas of the day that made him put on a fake French accent when he was about 50- which he used for the rest of his life!

What would you like to do once you have your PhD?

I’d like to become a university lecturer (or professor, in USA-speak). I plan on climbing back into the academic womb, never to crawl out again!

Once you have your PhD can I say things like, "Doctor Langham, I presume?"

Only if I can say ‘Elementary, my dear Watson!’

Your top favorite authors and artists and bands?

I love all sorts of books, but especially 19th century stuff. Jane Austen is my absolute favourite, but I also adore Charlotte Bronte and Elizabeth Gaskell. I love the Victorian poets- Tennyson, Browning (both of them) and Christina Rossetti. I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan.

It’s hard to choose a favourite artist- but I love the Pre-Raphaelites, Constable, Turner, Reynolds and the German Expressionists for a bit of dark flavour.

I love music too- I think I keep my emotional connection with the USA through bands like Counting Crows, REM, and Green Day. I also love folk and singer-songwriters, some of which is very American. Jason Mraz and Alexi Murdoch are current favourites. Of course, I AM European- so I love Coldplay, Damian Rice, U2 and Athlete. I also listen to really good Christian bands like Switchfoot , Jars of Clay and Delirious? as well as big band standards from Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington.

Tell me about your passion for your favorite pastime, Lindy Hopping. I saw you dance for the first time this week, and you are a great dancer and look like you are having a blast.

I AM having a blast when I dance! I think lindy is a dance that is pure joy. It’s a joy to watch and dance to, and the whole vibe is having fun, being silly and enjoying life. I did a few lessons on and off for about 10 years before deciding last summer to go to lessons every week. I dance with the Oxford Swing Dance Society, who are amazing teachers, and I look forward to every Wednesday evening. I think I passed the point of absolute addiction about a month ago, and now dance socially whenever I can. In fact, I danced last night in Redwood City, which was great fun, and am going tonight to Sunnyvale!

Can you tell us about your favorite pub?

I have lots of favourite pubs, depending on my mood and the time of day, but one of the nicest pubs I know is a 5 minute bike ride away from my house, in a little village called Sandford-on-Thames. It’s called the King’s Arms and was opened sometime in the late 18th century. It’s everything you would expect- lovely open fireplaces, wonderful food, and a view of the river and lock outside.

Can you tell us a few funny or quirky differences between the UK and the states - sayings, anything...

There are loads of differences- each one is revealing and special. But I’ll just leave you with one saying I heard: ‘In the USA 100 years is a long time, while in Britain 100 miles is a long way.’

Would you do me the honor of being a guest writer from time to time on PineappleLuv, reporting from Oxford? Stories from Oxford...We'll think of a good title for it!

I’d love to! ‘The Oxford Accidental’? ‘Oxford Words’? Eh, we’ll think of something!

Thank you so much, Nancy. We will certainly look forward to your upcoming posts here.

Lady friends, if you have any recommendations on your favorite jeans, please leave a comment for Nancy. Cheers!


Clare said...

Well, being an english gal living in the United States, I really, really, can I say, REALLY loved this post. Its funny, I miss England and my friends and family the most too, but I feel like the USA is my home. If I moved back to England I think the top thing that I would miss about the USA was the healthcare. It is rubbish in England.

Ok... rambling over. Levis 501. Wouldnt go with any other brand. Sears or Mervyns have the best prices.

Ana said...

I loved that interview! It makes me want to jump on the next plane straight to the UK!

Hi, Nancy! I'm really liking my Joe's Jeans. They are a little pricey but I totally think it's worth it considering I practically live in them.

Anonymous said...

I think Nancy is a fantastic dancer. She has great rhythm

MSingAste said...

Q: "Once you have your PhD can I say things like, "Doctor Langham, I presume?"
A: Only if I can say ‘Elementary, my dear Watson!'

Now *that* was a fabulous comeback!

Sean said...

Go Nancy!

Jessica said...

No jean recommendations beyond I go to Brass Plum at Nordstrom and say "I can't spend more than $50" and "I don't want Mom Jeans even though I am one. A Mom."

The dancing sounds so fun, great in-depth interview Jamie.

Nancy said...

Hey guys- thanks for all the amazing reccomendations. I went shopping before I saw them (got some great DKNY cigarette jeans) but will be back at Christmas, and will try ALL your suggestions!

Thanks for the very nice comments. Between them and Jamie's lovely post, I'm feeling nearly almost famous... ;-)