Friday, November 30, 2007

Victorian Night in Chesham

The local businesses have been advertising Victorian Night for quite some time. What does that mean? For one of the local hair salons it means luring in people off the street for a glass of wine as the movie Moulin Rouge blasts from the television. They may have missed the point just a bit, but they were not alone. There were people here and there in Victorian dress, but I don't think the Victorians were big on carnival rides and there were many. The rain did not at all impact the party.

After I stepped in a puddle that went all the way up to my ankle, I decided to call it a night. L had made shepherd's pie for dinner, which was perfect comfort food for a rainy English night.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

David Sedaris

Last week at dinner with the B&B gang we got to talking about book clubs. Everyone living in the house reads a lot and we have a stack of paperbacks that is starting to take over the communal dining area. I told them about the book club that I joined when I first moved to STL to meet people. The woman who was hired by the school district to facilitate the group, didn’t really understand what a facilitator was supposed to do. For the first 20-30 minutes of the meeting we basically got a monologue from her about her life and her kids who were all living the word of God, which was demonstrated by their dedication to one of the most expensive private Catholic schools in St. Louis. The more she talked, the more you realized that she was very close-minded, and in my opinion then not really living in a Christian way, but I digress. You might be wondering, why did I keep going? The rest of the group was wonderful. It was a really mixed bag with an age span from college student to retiree. We actually discussed the book! Maybe it was the evil side of me that when our facilitator asked for “light” recommendations for the month of January, I mentioned David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day, knowing that while our facilitator was bound to hate it, the rest would love it as I do. True to form, she hated it.

When I mentioned this book to the B&B gang, N laughed out loud. He told me he had read that book, not knowing what it was going to be about and found himself laughing out loud. He started quoting the book, especially the first essay, Go Carolina. I told them that I have a copy of that book in my office. So if I’m having a really bad day, I can read a little and it always makes me smile. I brought the book home for H to read and she is enjoying it. Another work colleague is also now reading it. For my David Sedaris loving friends, know that I am spreading the word, and that nothing about his work is lost in translation!

For those of you not familiar with David's work, here's a clip of him reading an essay on Letterman. I remember watching this with H when it originally aired, and even he smiled.


I am a rule-follower. I don’t know if it is nature or nurture that caused it, but that’s me. I recently was watching a film about football hooligans and one of the characters said to the other “we’re the most watched country in the world”. He was referring to the CCTV cameras everywhere in the UK. H had noticed the numerous cameras on our trip here in June and we even have them at work in our parking lot and can monitor them inside on a two different televisions. One morning over breakfast my housemate N said to me that because of the way I walk to work, I’m probably on the cameras the whole walk. This freaked me out a bit, even though I’m innocently just walking to work.

After thinking about this, I was sitting at the tube station in Chesham and someone was handing out flyers for a town meeting. I read the flyer and was about to just sit it on the bench when a voice in my head said “Don’t do it! CCTV will think you’re a litter bug!” I know there aren’t necessarily people watching the footage as it happens, but I have heard of people getting traffic tickets for answering their mobile phones while driving here thanks to the cameras. I also heard B playing cops with a friend in the house one day and he was suggesting that they rewind the tape from the CCTV cameras to check where the criminal had gone. It’s just a fact of life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Hustle and Bustle of Oxford Street

You can tell it is now the Christmas shopping season. I held my camera up over my head as I was being pushed through an intersection on Oxford Street on Saturday.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Last Comment on the Meal Last Night

In preparation for cooking the Thanksgiving meal last night, I had done my conversions from Fahrenheit to Celsius. When we lived in Germany I had the formula to figure this out hanging on the refrigerator since our oven dial had Celsius temperatures on it. As I went to pre-heat the gas oven at the B&B and I was faced with 1 through 9 on the dial. What is this? Here is the history.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Sunday

My husband H can tell you, if I get annoyed or in a mood, it is sometimes difficult for me to snap out of it. I know it’s immature, but I never said I wasn’t that. So today was the day for Thanksgiving dinner at the house, and think about this… shopping for Thanksgiving dinner for seven or eight people without a car. It was a good thing the temperature warmed up today because I had to make two trips to the grocery store with my backpack and several bags in my hands up the hill back to the B&B. The dressing recipe that I was planning to make was a bust because I couldn’t find polenta which my friend M had said should work for cornmeal. I decided to just wing it and I was in a mood. Here was the menu.

Wine (lots of it)
Roast Chicken
Sweet Potatoes
Green Beans
Sausage Dressing
Apple Brown Betty with Ice Cream

We ended up having a lovely meal or they were all lying to me, and I didn’t have to ply them with alcohol! I didn’t want to have to go into London to get pumpkin, so I went for one of my daughter A’s favorites, Apple Brown Betty. I am glad the meal is behind me.

I, Restaurant Critic

Last year during the Christmas holidays I read Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires about her experience as a food critic. Although she had tired of the job by the end of the book, it did not sway my opinion that being a food critic would be an awesome job. However, I also know my limitations. While I love food, and have the hips to prove it, my inability to distinguish flavors as she does in that book would probably make the reviews pretty short. It didn’t stop me from accepting the challenge when Timeforone asked me to review a Persian restaurant for them. The context of any restaurant review for them is if the restaurant is a good choice for a single diner, as well as the food and the service. I can certainly do that! It also gave me my first excuse to wander into Chelsea and check out the area.

The dinner was really delicious and if I had not been doing this officially, I probably would have missed out eating there because the candlelit atmosphere looked a little intimidating for a single diner. However, the service was so good that I didn’t at all feel out of place. There will be more on the website about my experience. The host ordered for me after we discussed the menu and his recommendations were spot on for my tastes.

Humous and hot pita (chickpea and tahini dip with garlic and lemon)
Kulouche (feta cheese in light phyllo pastry)
Joojeh Kebob (chargrilled chicken kebob marinated in lemon, garlic, and yoghurt)
Jewelled Rice (basmati rice with saffron)

After Dinner – Latte with a small piece of baklava

Saturday, November 24, 2007


My colleague/new roommate H invited me to go out to dinner in North London last night with another work colleague, her husband, and another friend. Our other work colleague, L is Italian. She recommended we go to an Italian restaurant in Islington where a lot of Italians go for dinner. Three of us at the table ordered pizza, with different toppings. It came out on a wooden plank as one pizza that was about a yard long, divided only by the toppings on the different sections. I had my favourite pizza, Quattro formaggi, and for a moment, all was right in the world. Their version did not have tomato sauce on it, but instead just some olive oil and fresh basil with four cheeses. We finished with tiramisu, and by the end of the night, I finally understood the whole election process here in the UK! Since H just moved from London and does not drive, she gave me some helpful tips on the bus system in London. We had a very cold train ride home. The train heating units were not able to keep up with the dropping temperatures last night.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another Long-Term Guest

Everyone that is now staying at the B&B is a long-term guest. The last room that rotated the most, which is across the hall from me, has been occupied by one of my work colleagues. Buying property in the UK seems like a nightmare that can stretch on for months. She had moved out of her flat in London and was purchasing one in a nearby village. There have been so many delays in the purchase that she had to find temporary housing. She told L over breakfast that she needed to book her room until Christmas at least. We were joking last week over dinner that we need to put a wager on who will actually move out first. We have another person added now to the mix.

The B&B owners may be planning a trip to the States on the first of January. H was concerned that when I got back from Christmas in the States I would have nowhere to live if they were vacationing. I asked L about it and she told me not to worry, I would have keys to get in even if they were not there. She joked and said, “You may be running the place until we get back!”

My Thanksgiving

I had to use Instant Messenger to talk to one of my colleagues in the States the other day. I IM’d him to see if he was there and the first thing he asked me was, “Hey, do you get Thanksgiving off or do you get screwed?” I laughed out loud.

Every week at work we have Wednesday lunch. This week instead of Wednesday lunch, we had a Thursday Thanksgiving lunch. While the food was not traditionally Thanksgiving, the desserts were more American. There was a pecan tart, key lime tart and a pumpkin tart. I call them tarts because it was much shallower than our pie and the crust was like shortbread, instead of a flaky pastry. Delicious! To end my Thanksgiving celebration I plan to go see a movie tonight with our newest B&B guest.

Toad in the Hole

The other night for dinner we had something called Toad in the Hole. It looked very much like the picture on wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Longing for Home

I have been thinking about H & A today travelling to Alabama for Thanksgiving and how much I wish I was with them. I am glad to know that they will be with our good friend B, feeling at home. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Camden Town

I had heard tales of the Camden Market in North London but had not visited yet. Saturday I made my way there around noon to check it out. I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to take A there. The area is very diverse with an expensive glass apartment building right next to a men’s shelter. The market has all kinds of interesting stalls selling vintage clothes lots of food. I had a falafel wrap for lunch that was made in heaven!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Time For One

I had the opportunity to meet the editor of for coffee on Saturday and talk about some writing opportunities. I love the concept of the website, which is to get out and do your own thing. When I read about the site, I was thinking of all my friends who business travel and use the opportunity to explore new things. I just submitted a walking tour review that she asked me to write. Check out Soundmap as well.

Looks Like Your Average Pub

A question was answered for me on Saturday. Where do goth kids in England get their gear...Camden Town! Visiting this area of North London on Saturday I saw lots of goths of all ages and lots of goth shops. I would have taken their picture but you know they probably wouldn't have liked that. However, isn't part of the reason they dress like that for the attention? I'm just guessing. Anyway, this pub is known as a goth pub.

So Mature

After dinner I was sitting on the couch with six year old B as he was eating from an assortment of cookies. He said to me, "J-, try one of these. They are quite nice". I thanked him for sharing his cookies with me and I got corrected right away. He was sharing his biscuits, these weren't cookies. Cookies are much bigger. Sometimes his tone and his words are so proper I think I am sitting next to an old man. When the cat does something funny, he responds with "Well done!" But my favorite was one night recently we were going out to dinner and he said to me, "It's cold outside tonight, that's why I have on a proper coat".

Sunday, November 18, 2007

An Expensive Venture

There is a new fancy grocery store in Rickmansworth that’s only three stops away on the Tube. So I ventured there tonight to check out what they had by way of Thanksgiving offerings. I was particularly interested in knowing if they had the following in stock:

Disposable foil pans

I left with two things, two pieces of olive bread and a slice of goat cheese I bought from the deli to make a sandwich, not exactly Thanksgiving fare. They had none of the things I was looking for. They did have fresh turkey breasts (bone in) and they were about $22.00 each. When I went searching for the cornmeal, I saw something called corn flour and thought, maybe this is it, but as soon as I picked up the bag and felt it, I knew it was corn starch. I was very disappointed.

When I got home I told Lorraine about coming home empty-handed and she told me not to stress about it. I told her that I may have to cook something else that is American instead of Thanksgiving.

I'm with My People, and about 20,000 Other Screaming Fans

Yesterday was a beautiful day. A feeling of serenity washed over me in the a.m. knowing that I was able to get two tickets to a sold out Foo Fighters concert in London without paying more than face value for them. I took housemate N with me. He loves American rock music. When lead singer Dave Grohl talked to the crowd in between songs and said “Well shit”, and shit was two syllables because of an exaggerated southern accent, it warmed my heart. This show was bigger than any of theirs I have seen in the States and the fans were definitely the most committed. Almost every one in the stadium had either a new or a past Foo Fighters concert shirt on. You don't see that in the States.
The O2 Arena is a beautiful place. I tried to take some pictures outside but they did not do the venue justice. It's an entertainment complex with the music arena, several restaurants, a movie theatre, as well as a skating rink all under one big tent. I hear that it was built for New Year's Eve in 2000 but has been a bit of a white elephant. Finally, they are using it to its potential. Since most people take public transportation to the O2 Arena, it was a bit of a nightmare to get out, but it was worth it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More Random Observations

The other night as I sat at the station waiting for the train home, I looked around and noticed that the three men sitting around me all had mufflers on, which is a higher percentage than I have ever seen in the States. Scarves are way more popular here and now that the weather is getting so cold, I will also be wearing one. I laughed though because about a month ago I had told my friend K how I was sick of seeing so many girls here scantily clad from the waist down but with the biggest, bulkiest scarf wrapped many times around their throats, sometimes covering their faces up to their eyes. What?!

Other interesting tidbits:

No one says bless you when you sneeze here unless it’s a very dramatic sneeze that just cannot be ignored. This doesn’t bother me because it’s just a silly superstitious tradition which has somehow evolved into proof that you are a kind person if you say it to others See the early 90’s movie Singles for a very funny “bless you” reference.

You know how in America we use the word gourmet a lot, like gourmet coffee or gourmet sandwiches, etc. Well here, luxury seems to be their gourmet. The grocery store is selling luxury mince pies right now.

What we call calendars, they call diaries. I always feel a little strange saying to my group “bring your diaries to this meeting…” I feel like I am about to ask them to reveal their deepest darkest secrets.

We talk about vacuuming a room. Here it’s all about hoovering.

I have also noticed that people don’t say that food is delicious or good, they say it’s nice or it wasn’t very nice.

The train that I took home on Thursday started in Glasgow. There was a little boy sitting in front of me who looked about three. He kept turning around and asking me a question that I could not for the life of me understand because of the mixture of baby talk and heavy accent. My work colleague told me that he was asking me “Where do you stay?” which is the Scottish equivalent of where do you live.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Long Day for a Short Meeting

I was up with the commuters this morning, heading into London on the 7:30am train to catch a fast train North to visit a customer. The meeting lasted about an hour and a half and I didn't get home until midnight. The bright spot of the journey was getting to see some stunning countryside and seeing the customers' offices which are in a real castle where Mary Queen of Scots was once held prisoner.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thank God For Food

Work has been very stressful this week and it continues to build. Due to the mounting stress, I now have to travel several hours away to visit a customer tomorrow. I didn’t leave work until almost eight o’clock and I was fuming about the situation because of how it had come about. As I got to the B&B I remembered that guest U was planning on cooking us all a meal tonight. When I opened the door the delicious smell of garlic was wafting through the air. U is half Italian and very proud of his heritage. I went upstairs and unloaded my coat and laptop and then met the others in the kitchen where the radio was playing softly, and there was a bottle of wine and some appetizers waiting for us.

For appetizers U had prepared bruschetta and broiled mussels that were seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. They were heavenly. He then served us seafood risotto and the flavour and the presentation was beautiful. It was so interesting to see another side of U, so confident and calm in the kitchen. The delicious and relaxing meal washed away the evening’s anxiety.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Anticipation of Christmas

Without Thanksgiving here, it’s a strange slide into the Christmas season. The shelves have been filled for weeks now with Christmas crackers and special Christmas gift packages of booze. I wonder, when do people decide they will put up a Christmas tree? I’ve started my random poll and it sounds like about ten days before Christmas is when trees are bought and decorated. I hear that Christmas lights may start to be hung this weekend in various parts of the UK and a visit to Oxford Street in London is a must.

P.S. I appreciate all of the recipes sent my way for Thanksgiving! The meal has been moved to Sunday the 25th to allow additional cooking time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thanksgiving Stress

So the social calendar at the B&B for us guests who never leave is getting quite full. I have been designated cook for a Thanksgiving meal next Thursday so they can all experience the joys of American holiday cooking. I was asked last night, what other traditions come along with Thanksgiving besides the meal. I laughed to myself thinking of my friend S, in his Southern accent talking about putting on his “fat man pants” to relax in front of the television. I simply said, American football.

So now I am freaking out about what to cook for a few reasons.

1. I’m not a confident cook. When someone comes to my house to eat, as I am serving them, I am usually going through a litany of mistakes that occurred as I cooked their meal. I also haven’t cooked ANYTHING in at least three months. And before that, H did most of the cooking so I’m also a cook that’s way out of practice.

2. This is a meal that I am going to be cooking when I get home from work and to do it right, Thanksgiving cooking should be an all day affair. Last year, H did the turkey, I did the side dishes, and A did the dessert. We were so busy cooking that we didn’t realize until we sat down to eat later in the day that we were all still in our pajamas we were so focused.

3. There is no refrigerator space for make-ahead dishes. The average UK refrigerator is smaller than the average U.S. television set. There’s no room for storing things, let alone massive leftovers.

I have been discussing this with my friend M, who writes a hilarious blog. I asked her if she thought I could do some kind of casserole. You know where the conversation led from there. Do I dare open the door to cream of mushroom soup and the inevitable green bean casserole?

I need to come up with a basic menu and then go to the grocery store and figure out what I can make from the ingredients that are available. I have seen sweet potatoes at the store and of course getting fresh rolls will not be a problem. If I am really stuck, I just need to get good wine!

He's Back!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

For the last few weeks the majority of people that I pass along the street have a poppy on their jackets and television has been dominated by programs for Remembrance Day.
War memorials here are plentiful. I took this picture at the Canterbury Cathedral.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Chesham in Autumn

I took this picture from a hilltop field. The autumn colors will soon be gone!

Middle of the Night Ramblings

I sent a friend of mine a link to our STL house which is now on the market. She emailed me back and said, “How come it looks like you have already moved out?” I explained to her that H & A are living in the unfinished part of the basement which is not in the listing pictures and that H has been going through the process of giving away/throwing away/selling all of our belongings except a few pieces of furniture, clothes, and the two computers. She commented that she needs to plan to move overseas then because her husband is a pack rat and that would be the only way he would get rid of things. I have been here since mid August and I don’t miss any of the “stuff”. Besides food, shelter, and transportation/sightseeing costs, the only things that I have bought since I’ve been here are books, and a new purse that can hold my weekend travel necessities, which always include a paperback.

Years ago when I lived in the South my friend T took me to an estate sale, which I had never been to before. The house was owned by an elderly woman who had passed and instead of the company arranging the estate sale pulling everything out of the house for the sale, they just let people go through the cabinets in the kitchen, the closets in the bedrooms, and the bookshelves to find things to purchase. I have never forgotten this experience. I was standing in front of this woman’s bookshelf looking at her collection trying to figure out what kind of a person she was. Naturally I began to wonder what story my bookshelves would tell. This experience coupled with my friend J and I driving to Georgia to help our friend’s sister clean out her house after she had passed away has made me think differently about stuff. In her rebellion against breast cancer, our friend didn’t prepare anything, including putting her house in order. Her sister was overwhelmed by the task at hand and I never want someone to feel that way because of my junk.

I’m writing this in the middle of the night, and it probably sounds crazy, but it’s something that I think about. H tends to think that I am morbid for thinking about someone going through my things after I die, but I just find it an extension of my practical nature (and maybe a touch of OCD). To make light of my obsessive thoughts, I'll leave you with this clip of George Carlin's classic "stuff" monologue.


After a very stressful work week, I was very much looking forward to Friday night. Now I find myself wide awake at 2:30 in the morning, worrying about Monday morning. Having moved several places in my adult life, every once in awhile after moving to a new place I have flashbacks. A memory will wash over me that is insignificant but familiar about the last place I lived. As I sit here in my little B&B room, I just had a recollection of standing at the checkout line of the Schnuck’s grocery store by our STL home and it felt really comforting for a moment. This is funny since H & I have always bitched about Schnuck’s, so it’s not as if I have this longing to be there again. It was just a piece of my old routine. I'll never forget my brother M's reaction to going to Schnuck's with me the first time. He said, "Where are the vowels?"

Friday, November 9, 2007

London at Dusk

I was so engrossed in my book coming home from Canterbury that I barely looked up except right at the end of the journey as the train was passing over the Thames River at dusk. It was beautiful. As soon as the train stopped I walked down to one of the walking bridges to take these pictures.

Lost in Translation?

Last year my friend K invited me over to watch the Brit Music Awards on BBC America. This guy Russell Brand was the host and we couldn’t figure out if he was for real or it was an act. I move to England and the guy is everywhere. He’s a DJ, he’s an author, and he has his own television show, Russell Brand’s Ponderland. There are so many things I don’t get here, starting with the hair. I am attaching a link from YouTube. If you want to see more of Russell search for Russell Brand's Ponderland on YouTube. Oh, and he's known as quite a ladies' man. That's the major part that I don't get.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Canterbury Cathedral

The Mix of the Old and New

I can't get over seeing Starbucks next to these historic buildings.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chesham Tree

Friday night, a bunch of us went up to a field on the top of a hill in Chesham to watch the Guy Fawkes fireworks below. When we were walking out of the field, I noticed this tree in the distance, so the next day I went back up to the field to take the picture. It reminds me of the opening credits for HBO's Six Feet Under.

Trees in Canterbury

Some of the trees were so unusual that I had to take some pictures.

Giving Up

In the last two days I have had conversations with both county educational authorities. Also, one of the Vice Presidents at work who had to write a letter to the educational authority to explain my situation has also had a call with one of these authorities. Her exasperated response about the call was, “They were quite rude”. It was recommended to me that I should try and find a school first and then find a place to live and I think over the last few months, it has become glaringly obvious that that is an impossibility. I wish I could have transcribed the last conversation because it was comical. So I have picked out a village nearby where if we rent, our address will cleverly disguise us as rich people and rich kids don’t go to bad schools, so I am hoping our address will see us through.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sticky Toffee Pudding

A former work colleague had me over for dinner tonight. We had a delicious meal of salad, roast beef, vegetables, and Yorkshire pudding. But the highlight of the night was the dessert. If heaven exists, I will be eating Sticky Toffee Pudding on a regular basis there. I don't know how the cake is made, but it is a dark sponge cake that is covered in a hot toffee sauce. To add to the decadence, they pour cream over the top. She sent me home with an extra helping which I handed over to B&B owner P. I don't need that temptation!

New Guest

On Saturday a new guest checked in across the hall from me. She is an Egyptian architect in her mid-twenties, very beautiful, who is contemplating coming to London for a second master’s degree. This morning I was late leaving the breakfast table because she, L, and I were deep in conversation. She lives a very different life. From what she explains, Egypt is a land of wealthy and poor with no middle class. Her family is wealthy and she is used to being very spoiled. The idea of moving to England and having to do things for herself on her own is overwhelming for her.

I hadn’t realized it until Sunday morning but I actually gave her and her cousin directions on the tube on Saturday. She told me over breakfast how she was scared for me when she saw me at the train station alone. This made L and I laugh later on. There is really nothing to be afraid of being on the trains alone at five p.m. on a Saturday.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Let the Sale Begin...

Our St. Louis house has been officially on the market since Saturday.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Canterbury Library

Centrally located on the High Street, I thought the Canterbury Library was an interesting building.

BritRail Pass - Part Two

I had to use the second day of my Britrail pass so I decided to go down to Canterbury. I had these visions of travelling all over the place with my pass, but I have found that the trains in England are not as speedy as you might think, or maybe the way I plan an itinerary is backwards. With my Eric Clapton Autobiography in hand, I boarded the train for my own personal pilgrimage. Being an English Literature major in college, I remember The Canterbury Tales being the oldest text that I enjoyed reading.

I was so engrossed in my book that I didn’t stare out the window the whole time but when I did I saw lots of sheep on the countryside. I did actually get to see a border collie shepherding in a group which was amazing. I would highly recommend visiting this city. It has a wonderful mix of old and new.

The cathedral is beautiful and so are the walls surrounding the city. There is an excellent mix of shops and restaurants.

Since I have moved here it has been painful buying a book at full price. There are many charity shops (like our Goodwill or Salvation Army) on all of the high streets in every city that benefit the RSPCA, Cancer Research, etc. and they always have loads of books for as low as 50 pence. Because of the bargain price I find myself having to talk myself out of buying as much as I want at times. In Canterbury OxFam, which has charity shops all over, has a separate bookstore that is packed from floor to ceiling. I went in to browse because I have decided that I want to read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road but refuse to buy the “anniversary edition” with its inflated price, especially since the author is deceased. I wasn’t quite sure if it was considered fiction so I went up to the counter thinking I would ask although I doubted the clerk would know their entire inventory. Before I could get my entire sentence out I was told, “It would be classified in fiction if we had a copy but we don’t, thank you”. My bargain hunt continues…

French Market Comes to Town

Every so often a French Market travels through the UK to sell their goods. They are visiting Chesham this weekend so I walked through on Friday night as well as today just looking at what they had to offer. They had some beautiful bundles of pink and smoked garlic, interesting sausages, delicious looking cheeses, as well as freshly baked breads. Without a kitchen of my own, I was simply browsing.

The One Thing That's Cheaper

Pretty much everything is more expensive here. I went to see the new movie Elizabeth: The Golden Age last night and the box office offered me a choice of seats that cost £12.50, £13.50 or £16.50. Of course I picked the lowest tier and tried not to do the currency conversion because of the guilt. However the other day in the grocery store I found one thing that is actually cheaper. Clementines!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Saturday Night Entertainment

One benefit of having time on my hands is that I have time to wander on the weekends. It’s how I accidentally got a ticket to a sold-out screening of I’m Not There at the London Film Festival. I was walking through Leicester Square last Saturday evening and saw some people standing behind a barrier in front of one of the Odeon theatres. I thought, what the heck, I’ll see what’s happening. I quickly learned that Christian Bale was going to be walking down the red carpet in front of the theatre since he is a star of the film. Again, I thought what the heck, I want to see Batman so I kept standing there. Soon a man came up to me and asked me if I was waiting for a return ticket. I asked him what he meant and he said that for the film festival screenings, so many tickets are allotted to the press. But if the press has already seen a film, they will turn their tickets back in and these tickets will be sold at the door. I thought, what the heck, yes I’ll wait in line to see if I can get a ticket and I did. It was funny, when Christian Bale turned up (looking sloppy but handsome), the crowd behind the barrier got totally nuts, pushing, taking pictures, and trying to get closer. I heard several in the crowd say things like, “Who is he again?” It just goes to show that people can get caught up in the moment and not even know why.

The director, Todd Haynes, and another star, Ben Whishaw introduced the film with Christian Bale. They also came on stage after the screening for a Q&A. Interestingly enough, it was obvious that they had not sat through the screening because when it was time for the Q&A, the moderator said that the director and others were having traffic issues getting back to the theatre. I was able to stick around for the why did you make this film question, which I was curious to know, but needed to get out early to catch my train.

As for the film, if you need a linear story line, this is not the film for you. I enjoyed it because it was very different, but I don’t know if I would watch it again. The most amazing person in the film is Cate Blanchett, playing a man, a persona based on Bob Dylan.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Nice Surprise

I was a little disappointed with my trip to Salisbury so I exited the train in London and began just walking the streets trying to decide whether I should have some dinner or just head back to my little village. Just then, I noticed this poster that directed me to walk down the adjacent street to a photography exhibit at a local gallery where Bruce Springsteen was the subject. I walked in and the exhibit spanned from about 1972 all the way up to about 2005 and all of the pictures were black and white. Some were concert photos and some were behind the scenes pictures.

I have never seen Bruce Springsteen in concert but my friend J in New Jersey once sent me some beautiful pics he had taken when he was covering one of his shows. Everyone that I know who has seen him says it is an incredible experience. Since moving here, because of lack of funds, transportation, and being without my buddy K, I haven’t seen many concerts and I miss it. Because of my love of the live show, I thought the concert pictures were really moving. The photographer had taken pictures from behind Bruce on stage so you could see the reaction of the audience. Some of them looked like they were experiencing the greatest moment of their life. The gallery was such a nice surprise.

Autumn in Salisbury


As I mentioned early on in this blog, some of my dear friends at work got me a BritRail pass, so last Saturday I decided to use the first day and go down to Salisbury. What’s in Salisbury? Well, it’s the train stop where you can get the bus to Stonehenge, which I did not do since the family wants to see that. There is a cathedral and the regular shops. It was really gloomy and rainy when I got off the train which probably coloured my perception of Salisbury. I did not stay too long before I got a train back to London. I did see some pretty fall foliage and I finished Ian McEwan’s Atonement on the train ride back.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Autumn in London

Pity Party

Recently my boss and I went out to view parts of Hertfordshire and the schools. I really liked a few of the areas and it gave me a different perspective since I have spent most of my time in Buckinghamshire. Of course when I have inquired at the schools that were good they are all oversubscribed which means I now have to contact the Hertfordshire Education Authority to find out what the options are if we move to an area we like with an oversubscribed school. Like all parents, I want A to have the best educational experience she can have. But while I am doing all I can to find her the best, she has chosen to slack off and withdraw at her current school.

Yes, I have neat things to do on the weekends but I’m also navigating new waters at work, some not as good as others. It’s hard not having a support base here during this process. However, I know that H doesn’t have it easy, throwing (or giving away) our American lives and dealing with the hormones and the attitude of a twelve year old girl. It is very hard to be here when there are discipline issues going on at home. It’s part of the move that hasn’t been a walk in the park.

I am trying to think of the positive.
1. Soon we will be back together as a family and we will appreciate each other more than some do who take advantage of seeing one another every day.
2. I have a boss with a great sense of humor and also cares about people. It makes a difference in tough times.
3. And due to the chilly weather, L put flannel sheets on my little bed.