Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Was it a full moon?

After traveling back from Hampton Court Palace to London Saturday my plan was to do the Sweeney Todd Audiowalk and then go see the movie. See, the meat pie theme continues…

The tour started outside of the Temple tube station, looking out over the Thames. As I turned away from the river, my attention was drawn to the mass of people standing outside of Walkabout, an Australian pub across the street. I began to wonder if there was some sporting event happening that I didn’t know about. Following the tour guide’s voice, I walked back across the street and along the edge of a public park that had lots of foot traffic, and in the middle of it, I saw an Australian lad drop his pants down to his ankles and take a pee in the most public way I have ever seen. EVERYONE saw all of him. You may be wondering, J, how did you know he was Australian? I’m just taking a guess since the only thing that was covering him as he stood in the park was an Australian flag draped around his shoulders.

Continuing on in the tour, I passed what had to be some kind of tour group of about 75 goths in all black, leather, piercings, vampire gear, the whole works. There were so many of them that I had to stand aside as they all descended a public staircase before I could walk up.

Continuing on the tour, standing outside a pub, was a very rough looking character in boots and leather jacket, but attached to the back of his leather jacket was a furry long lion’s tail. Just goes to show that you just don’t know what you will see on the streets of a big city.

How was the Sweeney Todd Audiowalk? I enjoyed it. It was a bit promotion-heavy for the movie but I didn’t mind that, because I was interested in why Tim Burton wanted to make the film. The tour focused on the history of Fleet Street, as well as the history of the story of Sweeney Todd. It also took you down some narrow alleyways which made me happy I was doing the tour in broad daylight.

And P.S. I found out on Monday that Saturday was Australia Day, and the cause of the celebration.

Hampton Court Palace Gardens

I can only imagine if the gardens at Hampton Court Palace are beautiful in the winter, that they will be stunning in the spring.

Meat Pies at Hampton Court Palace

While you can find chicken pot pie in the U.S., you don't find a lot of meat pies on the dinner table. The narrator on the audio tour at Hampton Court Palace explained that in the time of Henry VIII, the shell of the pie was thought of as a cooking vessel for the meat inside. Made of just flour and water, the top crust was cut off and disposed of once the middle was eaten.

The meat pies became a theme for Saturday. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hampton Court Palace Kitchen

This will prove that I don’t have a drop aristocratic blood in me because while the tales of royalty are interesting, nothing has fascinated me more on these tours as the workings of the kitchen at the Hampton Court Palace. Once a month, the staff at the palace cook as they did when Henry VIII lived there and so now I must go back to visit and see this. The kitchen was also the only interior that could be photographed on the tour.

The audio tour that is included in the admission is quite good. It explained that the reason why the king had to move around from palace to palace during the year was partly because feeding the entire court would deplete the food resources surrounding the palace, so they would need to move on.

I was fascinated with this big fire place that was used to roast meat. As anyone knows who have toured castles, they are all very cold. So to be able to stand next to fire was very nice!

January is a Cruel Month

My friend J emailed me yesterday to say that our cat Phoebe had kidney failure and had to be put to sleep.

While our other cat was all personality, P had the looks. She will go down in my personal history as the world's cutest kitten.

Monday, January 28, 2008

More Hampton Court Palace Pictures

Hampton Court Palace

With my British Heritage Pass in hand, I headed to Hampton Court Palace Saturday morning, taking the tube into London and then a short train a little further. Frommer’s London 2008 tour book says this about Hampton Court Palace:

“The 16th century palace of Cardinal Wolsey can teach us a lesson: Don’t try to outdo your boss, particularly if he happens to be Henry VIII”.

No surprise, they sell Showtime’s television program The Tudors in the gift shop at Hampton Court Palace, and I couldn’t help but think of Jonathan Rhys Meyers while walking around the palace. Interesting fact for American readers, shows that run on pay channels in the States like The Tudors are sometimes run on the regular channels here.

Like The Tower of London, the tour guides try their best to make history come alive, dressed in period costumes and telling the visitors all about life at the palace. I went through part of a tour but then because you also get an audio tour, I chose to break away and explore on my own.

Perfect Friday Night?

It’s funny what sometimes makes for a perfect Friday night as you age. L had told me over Friday breakfast that they were going out for dinner Friday night and she would leave me the key to the kitchen if I wanted to cook myself a meal while they were out. Knowing I could cook my own meal, take a bath, and watch the final two episodes of Heroes, Season One on DVD sounded like the perfect night.

After our nightly call, and H and I debating different scenarios with the house, my stomach hurt. We’ve had two people recently make appointments to come and look at it and then not show up, which is worse than no calls at all. It didn’t feel like such a perfect night after all.

With the sun rising Saturday morning, I was ready for a new day. A sunny Saturday morning with no have-to’s on the list is one of the best feelings in the world.

Gary, Indiana

My high school buddy R in DC sent me the following link of these amazing pictures of Gary, Indiana. Born and raised there, I have always been fascinated by the decline of the city, and I truly believe this decline leaves its mark on the psyche of its inhabitants. My grandfather lived with us until his passing and when our neighbor across the street agreed to drive him (my mother wouldn’t dare go down there), he would go to a barber in downtown Gary. One Saturday I was allowed to go and we spent the afternoon driving around the vacant buildings hearing stories about what they were like in their heyday.

A few years ago, me and the family were at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game and were sitting high up in the seats. It was their last season in old Busch Stadium. Two young guys were sitting behind us and they were talking about going to a game at Wrigley Field. Then one said to the other in the most mocking tone, “When we go up there, what I need to do is take you to a Gary Railcats game, you won’t believe it!” I didn’t hear the rest but I looked behind me at that Abercrombie & Fitch wearing sissy boy and instantly wanted to knock him out of his seat, take off my shoe and beat him with it. Cause that’s what we do in Gary. All kidding aside, it really angered me. Especially if this kid was from St. Louis because there are some parallels to downtown St. Louis and downtown Gary.

Anyway, I thought I would share the pics with you in case you are interested in what was once called the Magic City (I believe Birmingham, Alabama, another steel town has been called the same).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

So Much To Write About

I spent a lot of time on trains this weekend so lots to write about as the week begins. Right now I'm just tired!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Who's Going To Walk Through The Door Next?

For the past week since my work colleague H has been on a business trip, I have been the sole guest at the B&B which has been nice. I’m not feeling particularly sociable. As I came home from work the other night in a foul mood, there was a scooter parked in front of the B&B and instead of the scooter being parallel with the sidewalk, it was perpendicular. I was about to tell L that some idiot parked their scooter outside the house at the perfect angle to be hit, when L introduced me to the new guest and told me that she had ridden her scooter all the way up from the coast to attend a course in town. Glad I kept my mouth shut.

Over breakfast I asked her what kind of course she was taking and it sounds like hypnotism, but called it by another name. She said that she had first learned about it from a television program. I had visions of late night programs in the States that promise insomniacs the answer to their prayers for the bargain price of $59.99. She said it had helped her quit smoking as well as lose two stone, which I now know is 23 pounds. I tried to mask my skepticism as I spread jam on my crumpet. I wanted to tell her that if she wanted to work her voodoo on me across the breakfast table, that would be great, but I had no expectations. She had also told L that she had been conned out of a significant amount of money by a man recently, and surprisingly she wasn’t referring to the person that accepted her payment for her class. I couldn’t help but think about that saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”. I guess all the world over, we are all looking for the answer, and willing to take a chance when we think we have found it. Bless her, she is a nice lady, I hope it works out. I just wish she wouldn’t park her scooter like that. It makes me anxious.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bedroom Break-In

I woke up to quite a start this morning. I could hear L saying to little B through his bedroom door that it wasn’t funny, to open the door. It turns out that he had slammed his bedroom door in a huff and it then could not be unlocked. L and I proceeded with the cordless drill to try and take the door handle off, which didn’t help. L said to me, I may need to call the fireman to get him out. As we worked on the door, B asked through the door with all of the hope and anticipation of a 6 year old boy, “Is the fireman out there yet?” While this was distressing to a mom hoping to get her son to school on time, you could tell this was a bit thrilling to B. When the neighbor came after a call to break the door to get into the room, B was crestfallen at the prospect of getting to school on time.

An Untimely Death

I drifted off to an early sleep last night and then work up sometime between 11 and midnight. My laptop always close by, I checked my email and my friend M from Alabama had sent me an email about the recent Heath Ledger announcement. I was shocked. M and I used to go to movies quite often when we lived in the same state and we had both become a fan of Heath’s long before Brokeback Mountain. I had recently emailed her asking if she had seen the trailers for the new Batman movie because Heath looked amazing in it. How sad. In the digital age, it is amazing how speculation becomes fact. Me and my buddy K sat online comparing the news outlets’ coverage of the story. You could actually watch coverage of the crowd outside his apartment building on and long before any of the other outlets were painting a picture of a troubled life, The Daily Mail was stating that a heroin addiction was the problem. What is really true?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It's All Going to Hell in a Handbasket

Okay, I just wanted to say that. What exactly does that phrase mean???

Last night about 10:30pm I briefly turned on the telly, and boom there's a news report saying that the United States is in a recession and because of our financial issues, it is affecting the rest of the world. Thanks alot America! The first thing I thought of is who will buy my house? I guess I'm American that way. It's all about me, me, me. :)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Class Reunion - 2008

I was asking L if in England they have something equivalent to a high school reunion and she said that it is not as common as our institution. I am rolling up to my twentieth and part of the planning committee and cannot believe it! I know many people feel this way, they meet someone who is their age and they think do I look that old??? I feel very privileged in many ways to have grown up with the people that I did. They are real people. When we had our ten year, no one that I talked to wanted to engage me in a conversation of one-upsmanship (I don’t think that’s a word but I think you know what I mean). If it gives you any indication of our upbringing, more than one guy in our class has listed his most proud accomplishment as “not going to prison”. They joke but there is a kernel of truth.

Having met people from all walks of life, many of privileged upbringings, one thing that is glaringly obvious is that most people at my high school got nothing handed to them. To hear of them going out into the world and making a happy life for themselves just makes me smile.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ashridge Business School

Yesterday, L took me out to show me the neighboring town of Berkhamsted, which I really liked. She decided to take the scenic route back and we found ourselves in some beautiful woods with lots of bright green moss growing on everything. Out in the middle of nowhere we stumbled upon the Ashridge Business School. Not knowing what it was, L stopped and struck up a conversation with the security guard who told us a little bit about the school, and also how some of one of the Harry Potter films were filmed here as well as part of Lee Marvin’s The Dirty Dozen. What a find!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I've Been Rainbowed

My friend M is going to love this story because he predicted that this was going to be just a matter of time. One night over dinner when N lived in the B&B we got to laughing with L about all of the people that have lived at the house that have gotten pulled into her theatre shows over the years. They used to call it being “rainbowed”. I have been curious to see her act. She has been a children’s entertainer for parties and theatre shows for twenty years. Because of work being done on the Underground trains, going to London this weekend would have been a very long trip, so I decided just to stay around here and relax. Over breakfast L said to me that she was doing a 45 minute show today for a four year old’s birthday party in the next village. She said if I wanted to go with her to get a “flavor” of the show I could and I thought why not. It wasn’t until I said yes that she threw in, “the only thing is that I will have to put you in costume”. L had also told me over breakfast that she could feel my depressed mood across the breakfast table, and I think looking at the costumes, she was hoping that a mixture of colorful satin and silver piping might do the trick. I chose a costume and thought to myself as I looked in the mirror, boy a clown costume can hide a multitude of sins, who knew clown pants could have a slimming effect, hahaha. When I came down the stairs in my costume (note, no face makeup except two circles of red on my cheeks) husband P couldn’t believe it and had to take a picture.

I noticed when we stopped at a light a man did a double-take looking at both of us in the car. As we were pulling up to the party L said that I had to have a name and named me “Sunbeam”. Again, I think another attempt at turning my frown upside down. I sat there trying to figure out what the exact opposite of a sunbeam might be, because a sunbeam I was not. As we got the balloons and L’s magic tricks out of the car, I looked at the picture window of the house and about 6 four year olds were all huddled up on the couch looking out the window, squealing with anticipation. I said to L, “you’re a rock star”.

So I acted as assistant, doing the singalongs with the kids, helping with the magic tricks. I can report that the hokey pokey is slightly different here than in the States. The father of the birthday boy enthusiastically joined in with the ten children as well. When we first walked in as L set up, she put on some music and asked me if I would keep the kids dancing. While most of the kids danced, there was a little boy standing still in the middle. When I asked him why he wasn’t dancing, he looked at me very seriously and said, “I would dance but I’m rather itchy right now”. Mental note, Sunbeam to stay away from the itchy character in the Superman t-shirt.

There was one little boy, who definitely looked smaller than the rest, probably three who when L called them a “little boy” stood up and yelled that he was not a little boy but a big boy and he used to be a baby. He was one of those children that even though he had child characteristics, you could already see what he would look like as an adult, and in my mind at forty he is bitter!

L is amazing with the children, and I told her when we got in the car that I didn’t know how she did it. That 45 minutes seemed like an awfully long time and I was in the mood for a nap when it was all over.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Hoo-See-Ers

Before I left for Christmas, I was in the kitchen cooking at the B&B when my housemate N answered his phone and was discussing with the caller that he had picked up a CD as a gift for someone. I looked over as he was looking at the CD cover and he said, “The Hoo-see-ers”. He had purchased a CD by the band The Hoosiers, who are surprisingly English. I normally don’t interrupt someone on the phone with another but I had to stop and pronounce it correctly and explain that to most of the United States, a Hoosier is someone from Indiana, or if you live in St. Louis, it’s a redneck. Finally, I get to teach a cultural lesson. Here’s a link to one of The Hoosiers’ hits if you are curious.

The Secret to an English Winter

The weather here has been in the 40’s and rainy every day. My boss asked me if the dreary weather got to me. I really hate the cold so I’ll take rain over freezing temps any day. However, I have had to learn to walk on the farthest part of the sidewalk from the street to avoid a drive by drowning.

Before Christmas, it was much colder. I woke up with a terrible migraine headache one day and decided to go back to bed. After telling L I wasn’t going to work, she put my breakfast on a tray and handed me a hot water bottle. My feet were ice cold so I put the hot water bottle in between my sheets and it kept me toasty all day. In my experience, you just don’t see people using hot water bottles often. This particular hot water bottle was actually little B’s and it came with a furry duck cover specifically to sleep with. My housemate H uses one every night too to keep warm. I was telling L that they just aren’t that common in the States, but I was not converted.

Before I came back to England, H and I went to Walgreens so I could buy one for myself and give little B his back. When I arrived, L had one all set for me in my clean little room. I haven’t had to use it this week, but it’s ready for the temperature drop.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Jazz Singer

Tonight it was just L and me for dinner. We sometimes watch a movie together and tonight she had picked The Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond, a favorite of hers. I've never seen it. I don't know if it's a sign of my recent insomnia because the movie is pure cheese with bad acting thrown in but I got all teary eyed at the end when in his spangled shirt he was blasting out "America", the movie's theme.

Panto - Part Two

A work colleague and her partner invited me to go to a benefit pantomime for a theatre that may be closing its doors. She had asked if I had been to one yet and I told her I took B to see the Wizard of Oz before Christmas. She said, "You wouldn't want to take a child to this one" and laughed. It was called "A Christmas Carol - A Gay and Ghostly Pantomime" and it was hilarious. Pantomimes are like The Rocky Horror Picture Show in that they are all about the audience participation. This one was especially good because besides the usual things the crowd is supposed to yell, the audience at this panto yelled out funnier lines than the dialogue, and even the actors couldn't keep a straight face at times (no pun intended).

Outside the British Museum at Dusk

The buildings in London always look so nice at this time of day.

British Museum - Ming Dynasty

British Museum - North American Treasures

They had some interesting turquoise mosiac pieces in the North American room. This picture is one of my favorites.

British Museum - Greek Sculpture

British Museum - The Rosetta Stone

In the tour books for London, the British Museum has one special treasure that everyone must see, The Rosetta Stone. If you don't remember its significance from the history books, here's a link. It is housed among many other Egyptian treasures.

First Trip to the British Museum

I was headed to London on Sunday to meet a work colleague to see another panto and thought I would do a quick pass through the British Museum since I would be in its neighborhood. I had asked a friend what was in the British Museum and she responded, "Just a bunch of stuff we nicked from around the world". I have lots of pics from the museum so in this post I will just mention the building itself. From the outside, it looks like your standard museum. But after walking into the building you are in a large room filled with light because of the glass ceiling and there is a massive round building in the middle. It was really beautiful.

Resetting the Body Clock

Week two and only one night since I got back have I gone to bed before about two o’clock in the morning. I have a very difficult time getting back into the groove. I think it is for a couple of reasons. First, I am not getting any exercise. I keep telling myself that I’m going to walk after work but it has been raining pretty hard every morning and every night this week. Second, I live in one room so my bed is my work space and sleeping space. All of the advice that you read about getting rid of insomnia talks about not using the bed for anything but sleep. And last, since I get on my laptop in the evenings to talk to my family, I’m always checking work email which gets my mind cranking away. This morning I trudged through the rain to be faced with a problem with a customer as soon as I walked through the door. I just wanted to cry, so it’s taking its toll.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Highlights of The National Gallery

Saturday was a busy day with the Royal Albert Hall in the morning and a West End musical in the evening. In-between I took a stroll through the National Gallery, picking up a map at the entrance which pointed me to the collection highlights. The two pictures attached to this post were probably my favorite of the highlights. “The Arnolfini Portrait” by Van Eyck is so famous. I’ve seen it in art and history books for years and it was even featured in the opening credits of Desperate Housewives. It didn’t disappoint with its rich colors.

For weary tourists, The National Gallery offers a combination that few can refuse. The admission is free and they have very comfy seating in some of the rooms. So comfy, I saw a man with mouth wide open fast asleep.

Movie or Theatre?

I was really in the mood for a movie Saturday night and thought since I was in London I might catch something there. I found out that the Coen Brother’s film, No Country for Old Men had a sneak preview this weekend so I thought I would check it out. When I got to the theatre and saw that an adult ticket at a Leicester Square cinema would cost £12.50 (about $25.00), I just couldn’t do it. I decided if I was going to make an investment for the evening I would see about getting a theatre ticket so I headed to the half price ticket stalls to see what the cheapest single ticket would be. I was able to go see the musical Blood Brothers for £20.00. I wasn’t crazy about the play, but there is something about the live theatre environment that can’t be beat. For the film, I’ll wait for DVD.

Absentee Ballot in Hand

I faxed the form on Friday evening and got the ballot in the mail this Monday. That's speedy service. It will take me longer to decide who to vote for...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Touring the Royal Albert Hall

While I am still hoping to see something at the Royal Albert Hall, I at least got to tour the building on Saturday. The tour is a reasonable cost, £8.00 and lasts about an hour. The tour guide provided us with some history of the Hall, took us to the most expensive seats in the house, also to the cheapest seats, and also answered all of our questions. She was probably thinking at the end of the tour, who is this nosey American? Everyone else in my small tour group was from England. Unfortunately you can’t take pics inside the venue, but I did take these outside of the building. Cirque De Soleil has made the Royal Albert Hall their home in January for the past several years, so as we were touring the building, we got to watch some of them rehearse.

At the beginning of the tour, the tour guide asked us all if we had ever been to anything at the Royal Albert Hall. I was in the minority. She asked each person to share why they had been there and the range was pretty awesome. We had everything from Eric Clapton, to the BBC Proms, to an older gentleman who had been part of the Remembrance Day memorial that the Queen takes part in every year. There was also a woman that had seen both Frank Sinatra and Shirley Bassey there. Because the building is round, the stage door seems right out there in the open. I had to ask if the stars really do use that door or if there was some underground tunnel or some other sneaky way to get in. She said that although there is a way to get into the building other than the stage door, that everyone who plays there, enters and exits that way. Hmm, my stalker self of course made note of this! :)

Sunny London

I left the house Saturday morning about 9:30 with a hop in my step, made possible by seeing the sun for the first time since I left the U.S. Even though it was cold, the sun made everything better. People were out in full force in London. I was telling my housemate H that I keep waiting to go into London one weekend and notice less tourists but she says that never happens. Even though it was freezing outside, I saw a little girl eating a popsicle (they call them ice lollies), which I thought was just a little extreme! I have been a little bummed about being back alone but my mood totally changed when walking the streets of London on a sunny day. I love that city.

The American Experience

When I saw L and P for the first time after their trip to the States, L greeted me with a warm embrace and P said to me, “Did you think about not coming back, we did”. They absolutely loved everything about it. They flew into Tampa, then did a Mexican cruise with Royal Caribbean and then drove from Tampa to the suburbs of Atlanta to visit P’s dad. L said that even though they have family there, if I hadn’t been staying with them they would’ve never thought about visiting the U.S. She said that when they met people on the cruise and talked about their life, they mentioned their “American lady”. L exclaimed “What you must think of us when you go to a shop or a restaurant!” They were extremely impressed with the service and of course the amount of food. I told them that the friendliness had a lot to do with them being in the South.

Mostly Americans were on the cruise ship, which gave them the opportunity to hear lots of different accents. She commented on how exuberant the Americans were. When they boarded the ship, music was playing like the Macarena and the YMCA and men and women alike were dancing. They were amazed. As they were playing Bingo, the announcer said that anyone who won Bingo had to run around the room. Suddenly L and P panicked that they might win. Her comments spoke to how much more reserved a people the Brits are, which says something coming from someone who is a performer by trade.

I was glad they were back and also so glad they had a good time. L is such a positive person. I will need to feed off that positive energy as January slogs on.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Santa the Troublemaker

My housemate N who just moved back to New Zealand did not have a car in the UK. He thought driving in England was dreadful and travelled almost everywhere by bike as well as public transportation. Back in September he had a biking accident which put his bike out of commission so he was borrowing a bike from L at the B&B until he moved. Why am I telling you this? It plays an interesting part in little B’s Christmas morning.

L and P just got back from their trip to America today (more on that later) and so this evening we watched a video they took of B on Christmas morning after Father Christmas left a bike on the porch for B. As B walked out onto the porch to see what was out there, mother L prompted him for the camera by saying “Look, what is that?” Very matter of fact, little B looked back at the camera and said “it’s a bike for N”. Even though this bike was covered with Christmas tinsel and was obviously built for a six year old boy, in B’s mind, that bike was not his, it was N’s. As the video came to an end, it had never occurred to B that the bike was his, it was pretty amazing. He even thought at one point that the bike was for his friend down the street and Father Christmas had just made a mistake.

L had emailed me after Christmas to tell me about this so when I got back on Monday and saw B, the first thing I asked him was what he got for Christmas. A bike never entered the conversation. I think he is playing along with the parents, but in his heart he still doesn’t think that bike is his.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Into the Wild - Part Two

I thought it was a nice coincidence that the film Into the Wild was being shown on the plane Sunday since that was the book that I read on the trip over when I moved. While the movie was not bad, I thought it stressed some points that were not stressed as heavily in the book, which I think skewed the story a bit. It was quite sympathetic to the subject of the story, and I didn’t quite walk away from the book feeling that way. With that being said, the performances are very good.

Trials and Tribulations

I remember having a conversation with a friend who was contemplating having a child. I told her that you think you have a handle on where you and your partner agree and disagree until you have a child. After having a child, you start making decisions about how to parent, and the landmines are everywhere. My friend now has a dog, not a child. I don’t know if that conversation influenced her or not.

The trip home for the holidays was blissful until A’s math teacher called on the 2nd and she had to face the music of having lied to us. H and I were both angry and hurt but probably for different reasons. While H was baffled by her behaviour, I identify with most of her actions. I don’t think her behaviour is right at all, but I also refuse to think she’s a bad egg because I did the same things and I ended up a productive member of society. So I guess in some ways, I take the criticism personally, which really is ridiculous. She is so headstrong and stubborn at times. It led to us having a disagreement and of course I felt guilty because I was away and not doing my part of the parenting.

When we moved to STL, I single parented while H stayed behind to work for four months. It was a very bad time having also lost my mother. There were times I thought I would lose my mind. At least when we are together, when one is fed up, we can say “tag, you’re it” and the other comes in and takes over. I take my hat off to single parents. It has to be the toughest job in the world.

I know the fun is just beginning as she enters her teen years. She had a sleepover Saturday night, the night before I left. I was dreading picking her up before the airport because of her cranky mood. What girl comes home from a sleepover well-rested and with a sunny disposition? Of course, she was cross as ever. At some point she told H to stop asking her questions because she hates when people ask her questions, which made us both laugh, which just made her mad. I was all set to be happy to say goodbye since Mr. Hyde had obviously possessed my child. She was silently reading in the back seat, but when the car stopped and I turned around to say goodbye tears were streaming down her face. We got out of the car and sobbed together. In the heat of an argument, my mother used to say that she prayed that I would have a daughter just like me. Oh, if she could see it now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

All Quiet on the B&B Front

The B&B is a different place these days. My work colleague H and I are the only guests and L & P, the owners are in America until this weekend, so L’s mom and dad are here taking little B back and forth to school and preparing breakfast for us. I miss L’s smiling face, asking me if I’d like a cup of tea when I come in from work, but it is also nice to have some quiet as I ease back into work life.

My housemate N left the day I returned. We were hours away from seeing each other at Heathrow. After living in the UK for eighteen years, he is settling back in New Zealand, where he was born. I will miss him for two reasons. The first, he made so much noise slamming doors and getting his bike out of the garage in the morning that I never had to set an alarm clock (housemate H totally agrees). The second, he had a great sense of humor and would entertain all of my cultural questions. I look forward to hearing all about his adventures as he starts his new life.

The Election

When I talked to my dad when I was home he asked me what I thought of the presidential race. I told him that I didn’t want to pay attention until the candidates are decided. This topic also came up when I saw my buddies L & R as the results of the Iowa caucus were being totalled. We reminisced about a Halloween party we attended the October before the last Presidential election and how confident we felt that Bush would be defeated. Just sitting in the airport Sunday watching CNN analyze the race made me nervous. Then I got on the plane and there was an American and two Brits talking, also analyzing the results of the caucus. It was hard for me not to jump in since I didn’t really agree with the American’s viewpoint. Oh, I hope to escape some of the media attention surrounding the election, but surprisingly (or not) there is a lot of coverage here. It’s not that I am not interested, it just makes me very anxious.

The Tour

This Tuesday, fifteen realtors toured our house with our agent to try and drum up some business. Hopefully it will be like that shampoo commercial from the 70’s where they tell two friends and so on and so on…

What I Did on Winter Break

Last month I was out to dinner with a colleague and I mentioned that my time at home would be the longest I’ve been away from the office in years. According to her European sensibilities, this was appalling. I joked with her that I feared if I ever took more than a week off at a time, I might have a nervous breakdown when it was time to go back. The Friday before the Sunday I flew, that joke was looking close to my reality. Three things always come to mind when faced with continuing the life of a working stiff.

1. Is there a way to become independently wealthy?
2. Criminal activity.
3. Why wasn't I born into royalty or at least the Hilton family?

Of course once I got back, it was fine. How did we spend our time? Mostly just the three of us hanging out.

Time flew by. For the first time ever during vacation I avoided checking and responding to business email. I also avoided running myself ragged with obligations. It felt good. It also served as a bit of an experiment. We all have family in our lives that we probably wonder, if I didn’t make the effort to contact them, would they contact me? I can only speak for myself, but the answer is no, they would not make the effort. And I’ve decided that’s okay. I just won’t worry so much about making the effort anymore.

My friend T called early in my vacation and asked me if I was sleeping okay. I told her that I had been getting up about five o’clock every morning and said that was okay because then I could watch whatever I wanted on television. She laughed but it is not far from the truth. I fell back in love with my TiVo and Netflix. If you have food, shelter, and a loving family, these two things are all you need. I caught up with my favourite HBO series with Netflix. H and I watched the last season of The Sopranos. I will miss the complex characters and the stories that like life, never come to a neat end.

Thanks to our buddy M in Houston, A and I caught up on our favourite reality show, Project Runway and we also watched several reruns of Malcolm in the Middle. We laughed a lot. It was glorious.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Thoughts

It’s strange to think that on the first day of the New Year we are a family in transition. I am sitting here typing on my laptop as the sun is setting in an empty living room as a truck stops outside to pick up a flyer next to the “for sale” sign in the yard. Please, be the one! I didn’t think at this point our family would be split across two continents.

We have had such a good visit and it has been so nice taking a break from work that it is hard to imagine getting on the plane this Sunday. Our good friend B drove up from Alabama to spend the evening of the 28th and the 29th with us. She got to partake in one of our “clean the house for a potential buyer” moments when we got a call from our realtor on the 29th. She then stayed with A on the night of the 30th so we could go away for our anniversary, probably the best ever. I am forever grateful to her for that.

Last night for New Year’s Eve, A attended her first party, a sleepover at her best friend’s. It was the first New Year’s Eve that we have ever spent without her. Inevitably, now she is fast asleep on the couch because they were up all night so I’m taking advantage of the quiet.

The B&B owners are travelling to U.S. today for a vacation for a few weeks. P has been here before but L has never been. I’m feeling a bit nervous, hoping that they have a good visit and L leaves with a good impression. Somehow I feel responsible!

Put Away the Goose Fat, Christmas is Over

I took this pic of an advertisement in a popular British magazine to illustrate how popular potatoes roasted in goose fat are during the holiday season. Haven't tried them yet, but will be sure to during the 2008 holidays. One of my many New Year's Resolutions!

A happy and prosperous 2008 to all!