Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Reading Blog

Blogger has a Blogs of Note section that I like to check out. A few months ago People Reading in San Francisco was on this list. I got to thinking about this blog because a few weeks ago when I was in Utah, some of my work colleagues and I had a lot of conversations revolving around our favorite books, and they both live in San Francisco. One of them gave me a copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. I read it on the plane ride home and couldn’t put it down. It is beautifully written and also extremely disturbing at the same time.

I absolutely love the concept of this blog because I often see people on the tube reading a book and wonder why they made that selection. Is it for school, work, pleasure, or some other reason? I saw a young man reading A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian on the train in the UK and he was laughing out loud. Whenever I see someone reading something and laughing out loud I take note. It is very rare to find a book that can effectively do that. I saw it in a second hand bookstore before I went to Australia and thought I would give it a go. It was an interesting read but I didn’t laugh out loud. I had suspected the laughing out loud was a feeble attempt to flirt with this young man sitting across the aisle from him, and now I am CERTAIN that is why he was doing it.

Now I’m reading Bill Bryson’s Down Under. I’m not ready to let go of Australia yet. After such a beautiful day yesterday, it is rainy and ugly today. After working for a bit, I plan to spend the day reading. Nothing feels better on a rainy day than a good book.

So what are you reading these days?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Perfect Saturday Weather

Unfortunately Saturday ended up being a work day but the weather was perfect. I took this picture of the park as I walked to work in the morning.

The Queen is Everywhere

My wallet had three different kinds of currency in it. When I went to the library the other day and was renting a DVD I pulled out some coins to pay and besides the American coins all the rest had Queen Elizabeth on them. I suddenly couldn’t tell what was Australian and what was English. I pulled some coins out and said to the library clerk, “Are these British?” She looked at me like I was insane. I have now cleaned out my wallet to avoid future embarrassment.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Signs of Spring, Signs of Hope

It was freezing on Friday when I got back to the UK but you can tell that spring is on the way. It is such a good feeling when at the end of the work day you aren’t going home in the dark! The B and B has been full of guests but I have been leaving early in the morning and coming home late due to a work project so I haven’t seen anyone.

The inspection of our St. Louis house went fine so H is busy fixing the requested fixes and selling our cars so they are ready to leave on the 9th of June. I am on to the school selection which I am absolutely dreading!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

America the Beautiful

I usually don't take pictures when I am on a plane but the landscape between Salt Lake City and Denver on Thursday was just beautiful. This is a very short flight for the ground to look so different.

Park City, Utah

Park City without the Sundance Film Festival at the end of ski season is a very tranquil place. We even saw baby moose hanging out in someone’s yard! Here’s a picture of the main drag in Park City.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Fix It Sex

I found myself out to lunch last week with a bunch of male colleagues and one female colleague. We got to talking about television in the UK and I mentioned how I miss watching The Office because the NBC website can tell that I am coming from the UK and won’t let me stream content from their website. For the rest of the lunch the guys were throwing around ideas as to how I could get around this block using various forms of technology. My female colleague and I sat and enjoyed our lunch as they tried to fix the problem. Bless their hearts! :)

Celebrity Sightings

When visiting the restaurants at Sundance ski resort or going to Park City I always keep my eyes peeled for celebrities and never see any. Many a work colleague has seen Robert Redford but I have had no such luck. This week I saw two celebrities. Eric Stoltz was walking through our parking lot at work on Saturday. They are filming a movie in the office building. Then in the private club at the Marriott (serving alcohol equals private club in Utah) I saw a very familiar face. It wasn’t until I remembered that he was one of the main characters in HBO’s Carnivale that I realized who he was.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Provo Canyon Pics

Back in the UK

I had an extended trip in Utah so I just got back today. Glad to be back that the B&B with a departure date in mind! I have a few additional posts from the U.S. to send your way.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

American Life

The rental car company didn’t have my compact car ready (reminds me of a Seinfeld episode) so they gave me an upgrade. I am driving a Ford Explorer and no kidding, if I doubled the width of this vehicle it would be as big as the room I rent in England. For some reason the seats were all down in the back and I didn’t bother to change this since I could just slide my suitcases in. When I took my friend T to lunch and he got in the car his first question was, “What are you hauling back there?”

A few weeks ago I was talking to a British colleague who said that you can always tell Americans by their straight white teeth. I explained that orthodontia is a right of passage and that teeth whitening is wildly popular. Even I didn’t realize how popular it was until I was walking through a Utah mall this week and saw two dental chairs in the middle and someone getting their teeth whitened right there in front of God and everyone.

Sometimes it Snows in April

Those are lyrics to a Prince song as well as the state of affairs this week in Utah. It was really coming down on Monday. After the sky cleared, the valley was nice and sunny and the mountains were just beautiful.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Great Salt Lake

For almost two years I travelled regularly to Utah for business but I have never seen The Great Salt Lake. I thought since I had some time on Sunday I would drive out to take a look. While this lake is sometimes called America's Dead Sea, brine shrimp live quite well here, which I am told attributes to the smell.

There is a link from which describes the lake as a tourist attraction. April is not the month I suppose because while I was there with a few tourists, the water line had evaporated quite a bit and it was kind of depressing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Mighty Mississippi

Eads Bridge stretches across the Mississippi. When the water is not so high you can see the full statue of explorers Lewis and Clark.

The Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch is the first sign of St. Louis as you drive in from the east.

Ode to St. Louis

As we were driving in St. Louis while I was home, H declared that there was nothing that he would miss about St. Louis. We have had some rough circumstances here at times. However, I can’t say the same. I was feeling a little strange leaving because even though I have been living out of the country for seven months now I still have a home base here, so it hasn’t felt real, more like a long business trip. Now the change is really happening. So Saturday I got a later start than expected due to jet lag, but got H and A out for a walk along the Mississippi and past Busch Stadium.

Some of my favorite places and memories of St. Louis

The Tivoli Theatre – Having travelled all over the U.S. I find that St. Louis has one of the best selections of movies at any given time, especially for its size. At the Tivoli we saw movies as varied as the documentary League of Ordinary Gentlemen to the Bollywood Bride and Prejudice, but my favorite moment was in 2003 when A & I went with our friend R to see the 50th anniversary edition of Singing in the Rain, still A’s favorite movie. It was February and a Friday night when we left the theatre and there was a beautiful blanket of snow on an unusually peaceful Delmar Boulevard. It looked like a movie set.

St. Louis Art Museum – We used to go to the Art Museum on Friday nights, their late nights. Walking through the rooms being the only ones there felt like it was our own special place.

Soulard Market – One of the oldest establishments in St. Louis was an early favorite. A loved the mini donuts on a Saturday morning. I loved that there was a bar in the middle. I never bought a drink there, but having moved from the Bible Belt, I liked having the option of buying a vodka tonic while I shopped for produce.

Forest Park –Forest Park is actually larger than Central Park in NYC. In our naivety, A, me, my buddy M, and our friend H headed out from his apartment on one corner of Forest Park to go to the zoo at the opposite corner only to arrive half hour after they closed. We nicknamed this walk the trail of tears.

Creve Coeur Park – My buddy K and I would meet and walk these trails around the lake especially right after she moved to St. Louis and we were both missing Alabama.

Blueberry Hill – Good burgers and bad service is what you get here. You never know when your food would show up but whoever brought it would have interesting hair, tattoos, or piercings, or all of the above.

Trivia Nights – Loved being part of a team for these charitable evenings. We had lots of fun and lots of snacks!

The music venues – As diverse as The Creepy Crawl, Pop’s, Scottrade Center, Mississippi Nights, and in-stores at Vintage Vinyl, I heard a lot of great music in St. Louis with a lot of great people.

The Pageant – This music venue gets a special mention. I absolutely love this place and have some very special memories of shows here.

Of course the people make the place and I have met some great ones whether they were native St. Louisans or they had moved to St. Louis as I had. I had a lot of laughs – thanks to you.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Wednesday night we got a low offer from a potential buyer. After a few counter offers, we had a contract by Thursday morning. The home inspection is next week so barring any major issues we will close on the 9th of June! We are so excited and actually the timing is great. It will give A a chance to finish out the school year.

I never say never, but this quick trip to St. Louis this week may be my last time in the foreseeable future that I am here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Interesting Documentary

On the flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong I watched an interesting documentary about how Australians developed their unique accent. According to the documentary, after the first fleets arrived from England and other people migrated to Australia, the children of these immigrants created this unique accent which set them apart from their parents. It was amazing to see that up until the 60’s and 70’s media outlets only wanted to hire television announcers and such that had British accents. You really didn’t hear people on the television with a true Australian accent.

For a country so large, the variation of the accent is not there like it is in the U.S. But for size, I don’t think any English speaking country has the accent variation that the UK has. It is quite amazing.

Time to Go Home

I had the great fortune of having a business trip to the States the second week of March and was able to arrange a quick visit to St. Louis on the way. What did this mean for the travel experience? It meant leaving Melbourne at 11:50pm Monday the 31st. Travelling from there to Hong Kong, then to London, switching airlines and flying from London to Washington D.C. and then finally to St. Louis. I arrived Tuesday night very close to midnight. Every flight was jammed with people.

When I got to Washington D.C. I wanted to kiss the ground. I was very happy to be back in the U.S. The first thing I noticed in the airport shops were Obama and Hilary t-shirts.

Last Day in Melbourne

What was I going to do on my last Sunday in Melbourne? I had a full work day on Monday ahead and then a late night flight that night, so this was my last free day.

I walked down to the local coffee shop and had my last latte in a small glass. I then took a trip to the well-known Victoria Market. Victoria Market is a mixture of farmer’s market and flea market. I picked up a few small gifts and just enjoyed walking around. To the rest of the world Ugg boots are pretty popular and you can get them at the market for a good price. I am told by an Australian that they just consider them house slippers and not anything that you would really wear out. I thought about getting A a pair but couldn’t imagine spending $89 Australian dollars on house slippers!

From the market I walked to Fitzroy, one of the suburbs of Melbourne known for their cafes and contemporary art. The buildings were interesting and the shops were funky. It was a good day.
When the Monday work day was over, and I was taking the tram to meet a colleague for dinner, I was a little sad to leave. It had been an absolutely exhausting month, but I also got to see a tiny bit of a country I never imagined seeing and I met some wonderful people.

Ripping on the United States

I was recently instant messaging with my buddy M in Houston. I had to tell him that while I was in Australia that someone from the UK said to me that if they had lived in the U.S. when they were getting a divorce, they would have shot their husband in the leg. They wouldn’t kill him, they would have just hurt him. I told him that I had to explain to this person that even though we can buy a gun in the U.S., shooting people still is illegal and unacceptable. M’s response was, “Do they think that it’s like Deadwood in the U.S.?” I’ve been surprised by other crazy comments about my home country. I won’t go into it here because I’d rather the idiots not get their due. That one was just too funny. Let’s just say, ignorance can be universal.

Federation Square - Melbourne

Graffiti in Melbourne

Do We All Speak the Same Language?

It was interesting getting a chance to experience Australia and the Great Ocean Road with people from the UK. There were things they found different that reminded me of home and probably vice versa. For example, going out to breakfast during our Great Ocean Road trip just seemed like what you should do on vacation, but my UK travel partners found this a real change of pace. At one of the breakfasts the eggs were served on thick sourdough toast and one of them found this very unique. I thought to myself, that’s Texas Toast! Before we left to go on our trip I called their hotel room and asked if I needed to pack some dress pants, not sure if we would be going to any nice places for dinner. This resorted in a lot of offline discussion, which led me to believe that they were deciding whether this would be a completely casual trip or not. But what was really happening is they were trying to figure out what I meant by “dress pants”. They would have called them smart trousers. This made me laugh because both phrases are strange.

When I was on the wine tour with people from the UK and also some Aussies there was a lot of discussion about how the two cultures greet each other. An Aussie who had lived in the UK said she had a strange reaction when meeting someone from the UK and being asked “Are you alright?” which is the equivalent of “How are you?” in America. She said it sounded like she was always being asked whether she was physically ill. I sat there in silent agreement. Of course the person from the UK had to explain that it was better than the Aussie greeting of “How are you going?” Again, I sat there in silence thinking, yeah, that’s kind of a weird greeting too.

Some of my favorite Aussie terms:


No worries

Brekky – breakfast

Bikky – cookie
Pumpkin - squash (they say butternut pumpkin)

Favorite popular drink – lemon, lime and bitters – refreshing and delicious!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Some Chess in Melbourne

This Picture Says It All

Get a statue erected in your honor and it gets "anointed". Even the birds in Australia subscribe to mowing down the tall poppy!

Melbourne Gaol

I was looking through my pictures and realized that I had not posted anything about my visit to Melbourne Gaol. That spelling of the word really threw me off. I’m so used to seeing gaol spelled as “jail” that I wasn’t sure how to pronounce it.

I was able to tour the old jail from the 1800’s as well as the newer jail built in the early 1900’s. The old jail was quite creepy with descriptions of some of the infamous prisoners jailed here including their death masks. The most famous is the death mask of Ned Kelly. For those unfamiliar with Kelly, we were told by the tour guide that he held the same legendary status in Australia that Jesse James held in the U.S.

Cookies Everywhere

Almost every café or coffee place in Melbourne has cookie jars filled cookies but I never saw anyone buy one. One common cookie in the jars are yo yo cookies. Every morning I would walk past a bakery that had the most beautiful yo yo cookies in the window so one Saturday I went in and bought one. It was very disappointing, so much so that I didn’t finish it. This is unheard of! Anyway, it kind of turned me off to trying any other cookies in the cookie jars.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kangaroos in the Wild?

Our last stop on our Great Ocean Road adventure was to the Anglesea Golf Course, supposedly the home of some kangaroos. Sure enough, there they were, lounging around the course as golfers went about their business. As we were looking through the fence to see them a tourist with a camera came out to the course to take some pictures and quickly got told off by the golfers. The kangaroos hopping around the course are an every day occurrence; the photographer was just a nuisance.

Split Point Lighthouse

We hiked all along the lighthouse and saw some beautiful coastline. You can see from these pictures, the weather was shifting from sunny to rainy in forty minutes that we were there.

Lunch on the Run

One of my fellow travelers was desperate to take a dip in the water, so while she was trying that out, I went in search of lunch. The Fat Cow Café was right across the beach. With a name like that I had to check it out. I got a terrific goat cheese and spinach toastie (grilled cheese to us Americans) to go.