Saturday, February 28, 2009

Signs of Spring

To Kill a Mockingbird

The neighboring village has a multi-purpose theatre that shows concerts, plays, and films and the films usually only run for one night. When I was here alone I would go often to see whatever they were showing and what I like about their selection is that it is not usually a Hollywood blockbuster but some quiet world cinema selection. The fact that the movie shows for just one night also makes the experience a little more special than your average cinema experience. I noticed on their website that they were screening To Kill a Mockingbird this week for one night and I told A that I didn’t care if she wanted to go or not she was going with me. I didn’t think I could get her to read the book but because the adaptation is so good, I wanted her to see the film. To Kill A Mockingbird was the first “required reading for school” book that I ever read that I fell in love with. It opened up a whole new world to me and for that reason, I will always love it. I bought a used copy last year here at a charity shop before I went home for Christmas and when I took it to the counter the sarcastic clerk said something to me like “and you always wanted to read it right?” It was blasphemy! Don’t get sarcastic about Atticus Finch!

A was in quite a mood this week, for reasons she wouldn’t share so when the night arrived to go see the film, I gave her the choice of going or not because I didn’t want the experience ruined. She went with me. The movie was being shown as part of a fair-trade film festival and I couldn’t get the connection. Before the film one of the organizers explained that they were showing the film because it was about injustice, but before the film started they wanted to run a short about fair trade cotton production. When the short began I turned to A and said “You studied fair trade at school recently didn’t you?” And her response was, with absolute disgust, “Yeah and it was boring there too”. I started laughing which made her realize just what a pain in the neck she was being which also made her laugh. The mood lightened significantly.

The theatre was packed and in spite of the print of the film being in really poor shape (it even snapped at the crucial Walter Cunningham syrup scene and had to be mended) everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. I guess I was surprised to see so many Brits come out for a movie about injustice in the American South. I got teary eyed during those beautiful opening credits. On the way home A did tell me that she really liked it and was glad she went. Obviously the stories transformative powers worked on her too.

Payday Fails to Impress

A few months ago I went to a pub quiz with some colleagues and we were asked some candy bar questions. It prompted lots of conversation about a few and one of my work colleagues has since made sure that I try them. When B came for a visit she brought lots of Payday candy bars for H. I have to say, I was happy to see them since they have always been one of my favorites. I brought one in to work for this colleague and saw him recently and asked what he thought. He got that look on his face where you knew he was trying to say something polite but he didn’t like it. He told me he thought it was weird the way it was salty and sweet at the same time, which is the beauty of the Payday! His final response was, “I don’t think Britain is ready for that”, hahahaha. I found this website which looks to be Brits commenting on the Payday candy bar. It made me smile.

The Wellies Get a Proper Day Out

Okay so they aren’t the Wellington brand of boot but I do have something that will do. We went out to our local farm last Saturday and the owner gave us a tour so we could see the piglets and a newborn lamb. She warned us that we needed to wear our Wellies because it was muddy. She wasn’t kidding. Here's a picture of some of the pregnant mamas hiding the baby from our view.

P.S. We do try and throw the word "proper" in for effect (and a laugh between A and me). A said that one of her friends referred to someone as "proper fat" and we've been laughing about that ever since.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tour Guide in London

After a rest on Saturday it was back to tour guide duty on Sunday. A work colleague of mine (another B from Alabama) was in London with her daughter, a model working during London Fashion Week. A and I met up with them and we spent the afternoon with B doing some shopping and walking along the Thames as her daughter went to her casting meetings. I was very happy with this pic I took for her because it reminds me of Peter Pan. It was the perfect time of day, and a very enjoyable afternoon.

The Telephone

A week ago we noticed a truck for our telephone service provider down the street. We didn’t quite make the connection but after that, we started getting lots of wrong numbers, all asking for George. One of the callers enquired how long we had had the telephone number because he had been calling this number for four years. We all got irritated over the past week when we called the house and the person that was home never answered the telephone. On Saturday morning at 3am as we all tried to sleep as long as we could before the alarm rang at 5:30 to get B to the airport the phone rang once again. We realized our line must have gotten crossed with someone else’s. It was fixed by Monday but Saturday we were all junk after not being able to go back to sleep after the 3 o’clock call. H did make a lovely breakfast, a modified Eggs Benedict pictured here thanks to our farm fresh eggs. As Anthony Bourdain would call it, this would probably be my “death row meal”.

What Didn't We Do? Catch-up Friday

We had nothing scheduled on the Friday of B’s visit. H had school and A wanted to be lazy. B had a list of things she wanted to pick up so we decided to take our time and visit some of the local villages and do some shopping. Since B is a library director and former children’s librarian a visit to the Roald Dahl Museum in neighboring Great Missenden seemed like an obvious stop. Because the kids had the week off last week, the museum was full of children. It was weird to be visiting a children’s attraction with no children in hand, but in spite of all of the rugrats, we had an enjoyable but short visit.

La Cage Aux Folles

We definitely wanted to see a West End show when B was here. We picked La Cage Aux Folles because we hadn’t seen it and the fabulous Graham Norton is playing one of the leads. Graham is the host of a popular talk show here in the UK. I used to watch it on BBC America when we lived in the U.S. It is really hilarious. The show did not disappoint. Even A thoroughly enjoyed it and it has such a sweet message. After the show, which was a matinee, we met H after his classes and went for a fabulous meal before heading home to our village. B got to experience the rush hour crush of London as we travelled to the restaurant. It's best to be travelling by foot because it's the fastest mode of transportation.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More Brighton Pics

The Beach in Un-Beachy Weather

Here’s what I have heard about Brighton.

1. It is a beach destination, but not a very nice one.
2. It is the alternative lifestyle capital of England.

So why go on a February day? Why not? I think holiday destinations are interesting on their off-season. B, A and I took the train down since H had school on Wednesday. Brighton does have a Coney Island carnival down by the water. A was begging to go down to Brighton Pier and ride rides which we shot down quickly. We spent the afternoon playing “pick up and put down” (a B phrase) in many shops as well as the standard pick up and purchase. B had a list of souvenirs in mind and I was looking for a wedding gift. We had a terrific lunch at a local Italian restaurant. During lunch after we had made B’s to-do shopping list, A made a list of the 50 states, a skill that amazed her English classmates, and we each went through marking the states we had visited. B won with 39! A didn’t do bad with 13.

For the alternative lifestyle bit, yes there are a few signs but not anymore than you might see in Soho. And the beach, it was prettier than I expected, especially on a February day. While we were bundled up in our winter coats to protect us from the cold winter wind, there was a family swimming in the water! I couldn’t believe it. One of them came out of the water and was absolutely beet red. We sat for awhile on the pebbled beach and looked at the rocks and the yahoos partaking in illegal activities with their pals before heading back to the shopping.

We had a few funny train moments on the journey. On the way down we were on a tube train that was stuttering out of the station. The conductor announced that the reason the train was doing that was because someone was leaning on a door on the train somewhere. In a very calm and cold voice he asked that someone “remove their derriere from the doors so the train could move properly”. On the way back, when it felt like we were inches from pulling into London Bridge train station, the conductor announced that someone had “fallen over on the tracks” and then got stuck in them. This was at rush hour so when we finally did pull into the station (45 minutes late) you could see the mayhem that someone’s practical joke had caused. The stations were heaving with people trying to get home.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Little Chef

On our way to Wales we made a pit stop at Little Chef for breakfast. It reminded me of an American Denny’s. Last month H and I watched a series on television called Big Chef Takes on Little Chef where world-renowned chef Heston Blumenthal worked as a consultant to this food chain in the hope of making it relevant once again. Here is the link to Little Chef. Here is the link to Heston’s Three Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck’s tasting menu. I think you will see that this was probably not the most sensible match. The show was very interesting. I think at the beginning of the show viewers might have had an image of Blumenthal that changed by the end. He was very pragmatic in his approach, knowing that his Fat Duck menu could not and should not become the Little Chef menu. The breakfast at Little Chef was okay, and since there were no signs of the items that Blumenthal tried to roll out in the taste test, I am afraid the company must not have gone through with the breakfast overhaul. I am attaching a pic of H’s Olympic Breakfast. The fact that this particular Little Chef was housed in a beautiful old building made it a little more appealing than the run of the mill chain location.

More Pics of Hay-On-Wye


B had one place that she definitely wanted to visit while she was here and that was Hay-on-Wye, a village in Wales just over the English border. Due to H's school schedule it turned out that Tuesday would be the best day to go and it had to be a day trip. I was originally going to suggest we be on the road by 7 but we decided on 8 and actually hit 8:20. Moments like this make me wonder as I believe I have said here before if our home will be more harmonious once A is of the age that I can hand her a cup of coffee in the morning. She is not a morning person and she gets that directly from me. I can hold it together just a sliver better once I’m caffeinated. Tuesday morning she was at her finest. She couldn't find a book she wanted to pack for the drive and she was having a meltdown. So basically my teeth were clenched as I pulled out of our road let alone in unchartered motorways. There’s no way to take public transport to get there so driving it was.

The drive was beautiful and both H and I wondered how much more beautiful it would be if it wasn't winter and it wasn't one of those oh so common UK gray days. I had read up just a little about Hay-on-Wye before we went. It is a village full of bookshops. I was excited to see this, hoping I would find something that interested me enough to read from cover to cover. On the drive I was thinking about the last book that I read in its entirety and was embarrassed to admit it had been a book I finished on our train journey to Edinburgh in November. I go through periods where there is just nothing that interests me enough and this is definitely one of them. Funny though, as I was faced with shelves and shelves of secondhand books, I was searching my brain to remember something I had wanted to read. I picked up a copy of David Sedaris’ Naked just to read one of my favorite funny parts to H. I should have purchased it.

We spent a few hours there before we headed back to our neck of the woods. I would have enjoyed the trip a lot more if I wouldn’t have been driving so much in one day, about six hours. Driving here is not my cup of tea.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Day Out in London

You would never have believed that just a few weeks ago London was a blanket of snow. We went into the city today and you could feel that spring is on its way. I was glad that the sun was shining for B’s visit. Our plan is to head to Wales tomorrow for a quick day out.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


We were taking pictures of this moss and behold, a St. Louis Cardinals cap seems to be growing out of this patch.

Batting 1000

B got in safely on Friday afternoon. We met H at our favorite curry house for dinner Friday night. I was so exhausted from trying to get everything done at work so I could take the week off that I felt like I was the one with jet lag.

Saturday we had our day planned with a trip to London but the trains didn’t agree with us so it was off to plan B, which quickly became plan C, and then D. In the end B got a taste of village life complete with a pub lunch, a trip to our favorite farm for eggs and vegetables, and a walk through the park. We cooked dinner together in the evening and it was nice just to share the laughter with a good friend.

One Stop Shopping

Excuse the blurry picture but I had to take this in a hurry. I was picking up some wine today and noticed that in the wine section you can also pick up some condoms! Remember, shoplifters will be prosecuted!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Disaster Down Under

I have been following the Australian fires on the BBC website and also got an email from a friend in Melbourne this week. She told me that the town of Maryville, which we visited to see some waterfalls last year, is virtually unrecognizable. It is so sad to know that people have lost their homes and their family because of arsonists. Here are some pictures of the waterfall and the beautiful trees that used to surround them.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Sunny Day

Last week, we had two snowmen in our backyard. Maybe it was H making a lovely lemon cheesecake with summer berries or B bringing the sun with her today as she visits us from the American South, but the landscape has definitely changed.

I'm ready for the weekend!

Friday, February 6, 2009

More Snow

While H and A both had nowhere to go early this morning, me and Johnny Cash (courtesy of iPod) made our way through the snow to some seriously delayed trains.