Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Magical Mystery Tour

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I went on the LondonWalks’ Magical Mystery Tour which is a tour through London to various Beatles-related sites. The guy leading the tour has been doing this for some time and he’s a combination circus barker/super fan. I was a bit envious of him that he has been able to turn his obsession into profit. The final stop on the tour was Abbey Road Studios. I stopped paying attention to what he was saying at that point because close to Abbey Road Studios is the infamous crosswalk that was on the cover of The Beatles Abbey Road. It’s become a very popular tourist destination and on that Sunday it was particularly busy with people trying to pose for pics on the crosswalk. I could have watched this all day! There was a group of teenage boys with an older lady that took a lot of time trying to get the pic right, changing shirts, taking off shoes, all in the name of flattering imitation. You can watch a live webcam from the crosswalk here.

Abbey Road Studios has been in the news recently. There was talk of it being sold to help pay EMI’s debts. It has quite a history, and I hope no matter what happens, someone will take care to preserve that. I met up with my friend L by the Baker Street tube station after the tour and she was telling me about her friend who works there in the music library. He has in my opinion what might be the coolest job in the world despite getting his picture taken regularly by tourists visiting the studio.

Saville Row

World famous Saville Row was home to The Beatles' Apple offices.  They performed a rooftop concert at that building site and is still visited today.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Last Day - We Hope

Looks like our flight is going to happen and tonight will be our last hotel stay. I’m going to work in the morning and then after we check in online we’re going off to London for one last time. Funny, with all of this happening, I haven’t gotten a chance to mourn leaving London in a proper way. Last night after work we took the train in and went to see Avenue Q, H’s first theatre experience. I was able to snap a few covert pics of the theatre, which is the smallest London theatre I’ve been in. Beautiful! All three of us really enjoyed it. As we were walking through theatreland A said “I’m gonna miss London”. Yes indeed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Relief Maybe?

After dinner last night we checked and they’ve cleared the airspace over the UK for flights! So if all remains in motion we’ll be flying on Friday. I cannot wait! I’ve been working in the hotel lobby on their wireless network and have had the opportunity to meet several stranded travellers. We are all happy to have a hotel room but the bills are piling up. I felt particularly sorry for a couple from Phoenix. He’s been in Europe for work and the tour he was working on ended last week in Amersterdam. His girlfriend flew out there to meet up with him and they decided to add a quick stop in London to their trip and got stuck for a week! Of course, because work has ended this is completely on his dime.

We’ve spent some quality time in the area around our hotel and it’s been interesting to be in a working class community that supports all of the posh people of London. I walked down the street the other day looking for lunch and on the busy high street the only language I heard was Polish. We had dinner at a Polish restaurant (my dinner pictured below) and it was the best meal we’ve had this week.

Something Good Comes From Ash

I’ve mentioned in the past that A is obsessed with Rupert Grint. We waited in vain for him at an awards event and he didn’t show. Every week if not more she has been giving me the update on his new non-Harry Potter film called Cherrybomb which has been trying to find a distributor. When we gave A the ballpark date of our move the first thing she said was, “No! We can’t move then! Cherrybomb is coming out on April 25th.” You can imagine the reaction that generated with H. Our flight was booked for April 19th.

As A was monitoring the Rupert fan sites they announced that in London last night he and a few friends were gathering at a private club in Chelsea for a private screening of the film and she was desperate to go there and see if she could catch a glimpse. Of course her friends couldn’t meet her on such short notice and I agreed to take her down there. Side note, they first announced that it would be held at “a private screening room in West London”. I had no idea until after talking to a friend that there are private screening rooms all over London. We headed down the Kings Road in Chelsea and got to the location. A was the only “fan”. The PR folks and the wait staff at the club were staring at A. I told her to go ask them some details and she got very embarrassed, afraid they were laughing at her. I tried to motivate her by saying that she would never see these people again so go for it. Finally close to 7, a car arrived and she saw a mop of ginger hair which made her gasp super loud, so loud that a guy walking down the street stopped and asked in a concerned voice, “Is everything alright?” She navigated the busy street but by then he had walked in the door. One of the PR ladies turned to A and asked if she wanted something signed. A asked if she could take a quick picture with him so he came outside. Cue the shaking and multiple thanking for coming outside. Rupert replied in a calming tone, “Is-okay, Is-okay” and posed with her with a genuine smile on his face. She swears that will be her Facebook profile pic and phone wallpaper forever!

We watched Bonnie Wright and Jamie Campbell Bower make their way into the club and then we started the walk to the train station. A hugged me and thanked me for bringing her down. I told her that for the rest of the time we were stuck in flight limbo she had to drop the attitude and every time she got snotty, I was simply going to say “Rupert” and she needed to change her attitude. That lasted about 14 hours.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Flat White

Flat Whites are all the rage in the coffee houses in England. The other morning my buddy A and I had our last coffee together and instead of me getting my normal Americano I went for a flat white. We stood at the counter for ages until finally the exhausted barista said to me that she had finally gotten one to look half-way decent. I explained that as long as it had caffeine I didn’t care what it looked like but she said they weren’t allowed to serve them if they didn’t look nice. I told her that I’d take a pic of my flat white so she wouldn’t feel like her work was in vain. I’ve since had a few more and she is right, some baristas can get pretty fancy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Part 2

Okay, I should be thankful that we have a hotel room and we are not stranded in an airport but I still want to scream.  I was on hold yesterday for almost two hours trying to rearrange flights after ours was cancelled by the airlines.  When the woman told me that Friday was the next available flight I asked her about train or ferry service to Madrid.  She told me that none of the trains were booking tickets.  People had to just show up at the train stations and see what they could get.  People were waiting 13 hours and they were over-selling the trains, which leads to who knows what.  I just started laughing.  I figured this poor woman had probably been yelled at more than once today and what was the point of getting upset.  So here we are stuck until Friday if all goes well in a very tiny hotel room.  Of course A, thinking of only herself was trying to arrange some more time with her friends which lead to a serious argument.

They have wireless in the lobby so I'm going to try and work from here since the journey via public transport would take about 2 hours.  There is the most pain in the ass guest here.  I just listened to him give the waiter a ten minute monologue on how his tea was not strong enough and now he is giving the desk staff a list of five things that are wrong with his room.  That same waiter, seeing me set up shop in the lobby came over and asked me if I'd like a cup of coffee as I work.  Like an angel from heaven, he just brought it over.

So much to write about from last week so I'll have to catch up later.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Leaving Isn't So Easy After All

It's been a mad rush to get everything done for the move.  We are once again without home and without car and this should be relaxing as we prepare to fly out of Heathrow tomorrow but we just got the message that our flight has been cancelled.  Stay tuned.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Is it April Fool's Day?

One of my colleagues said yesterday that every day this week when he's gone to the BBC website to read the headlines the lead story has made him wonder if it is April 1st.  I agree.  All flights are cancelled in the UK because of volcanic ash from Iceland???

I also couldn't believe that last night was the first televised debate between the candidates for Prime Minister.  The first?  When I shared my amazement with a colleague, he made it sound like the reason they haven't done that in the past was because they've seen the U.S. elections become a beauty contest because ot if.  I think I'll ask around and get a second opinion on that one.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pub Lunch

The weather was gorgeous last Friday and so I went to lunch at our local with a few colleagues. I wanted to take a few pics to remember this place. Standing at the bar my eye is always drawn to these frames that contain old ticket stubs and always to the David Bowie ticket stub.

They have a lovely little courtyard perfect for sunny days.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What's This?

There’s some road work happening on the main road to work in the mornings. H has been taking me so he can have the car and the road work always has us stopping in front of this house. What is this head hanging outside their front door?

Last Day on the Farm

A. promised that she would come out and work at the farm last Saturday. I was surprised that she made those arrangements as it would be her last Saturday in Buckinghamshire and figured she’d be hanging out with friends. However, she does love being there. The first time I picked her up from the farm she explained what she ate for lunch that day by saying, “Mom, we had eggs and sausage for lunch and it was the best sausage you’ve never tried”. They make it there at the farm, so she has requested that I buy some since, and yes it is good.

Friday night she started whining about going to the farm because she was tired and didn’t want to spend the whole day out there. Saturday morning she whined some more and when we got in the car, she said to me, “Can’t we just go there, I’ll hide in the car and you can explain that I couldn’t make it today, you buy the sausages, and then we’ll come home?” I had to laugh because the idea of NOT going there was out of the question all because of the sausages.

It was a beautiful sunny day on Saturday and once she got there she was happy she didn’t change her mind. I did buy the sausages, brought them home and H made sausage and peppers for lunch, and of course left plenty for A.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Header Pic

I thought it was only fitting for my last week in England that my shoe make another appearance.  I took that yesterday and at that moment I was walking on the crosswalk (aka zebra crossing) near Abbey Road Studios.  More on that later...

Abbey Road has been my go to stress record the last few years.  Every time I listen to it and hear the words "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make", I smile, partly because I'm thinking about this SNL clip.  Mid-way into this I laugh out loud every time.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

From My Office Window

As spring finally decides to make an appearance, in the afternoons out my office window I can see people gathering for a pint at the pub across the way.  Damn this working for a living!

Moving is Never Fun

This week was very stressful on the moving front. I’ve got a deadline at work next week so that coupled with the move makes my head hurt. Moving doesn’t bring out the best in a family, LOL. After H and I had a very tense lunchtime discussion early in the week I headed back to work and sat at my desk feeling like I was going to have a heart attack. I called my coffee buddy A and we walked down for a Starbucks before the afternoon kicked off. I probably didn’t need a stimulant at that moment but did need a friend. I unloaded about the move and everything else that’s been adding to the craziness. I told A that I felt like I was heading down a spiral of negativity. He perked up, stopped me in my tracks and said with both surprise and delight, “J! You are turning into an English person! Just in time before you leave the country, it’s happened!” We shared a Belgian chocolate cornflake treat, each had an Americano and headed back to the grind.

The next morning morning when I came into work there was a bottle of wine and a bon voyage card on my desk from the cleaning lady. I know it’s scary that I’m at work late often enough that I have a great relationship with the cleaning lady, but something about solving crimes together bonds people. I thought to myself bottle of wine as a gift from a casual acquaintance at work, you won’t get that in America!

Made Me Laugh

Two pictures I took in Whitstable made me laugh out loud.  This first is what an homage to glam rock or the band KISS in the middle of the folk CDs for sale?  And this figurehead from the Whitstable Museum looked like Will Ferrell in drag. 

More Whitstable Pics

Quick Road Trip - Whitstable

Easter Monday, no work and no school and probably our last weekend with a car, so we decide to take a quick road trip. Two options came up: Stonehenge and Whitstable. Should we really leave England without seeing Stonehenge? It is a top tourist destination but it is also top on the disappointment list of tourist destinations and after reading on the website that you can no longer walk amongst the stones unless you are part of a special tour group it was declined. Why Whitstable? It’s a short hour and 45 minute drive over the Thames estuary to Kent. It’s both a tourist destination as well as a working harbour.

It was the beach experience in true British fashion, blustery weather in winter coats praying for the sun to make an appearance. I’ve never walked along the beach that was covered in broken shells like this one is. We mostly strolled along, took a peek in the museum, looked at a few shops and tried to ignore the sulking teenager that was with us before driving home.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

As the countdown begins, I’ve been thinking of all the things I would have liked to have seen while living here that just won’t happen in the next few weeks. Forget all the trips to mainland Europe I wish we could have taken, what things would have been fun to do right here on our island.

1. Liverpool – Yes, I would have liked to have done all the touristy Beatles things in Liverpool.

2. Hadrian’s Wall – Starting in Newcastle with my camera in hand.

3. Cornwall – Like A, it would have been fun to horseback ride along the beach (minus the horseback riding)

4. The Fat Duck in Bray – Is it worth all the fuss?

5. Wales – There’s a lot of natural beauty and I would have liked to have seen more of it.

6. Ireland – Any and all of it.

7. More Scotland – Would have loved to have gone even further north and also seen more islands.

8. Isle of Man – The pictures of the motorcycle races that happen along the streets in May look amazing.

Two things have stood in the way of us checking things off the list. The first is money. Don’t move to the UK unless you’re independently wealthy, and then if you’re independently wealthy you usually move somewhere else part of the year for the tax shelter, LOL. I believe I have mentioned this here once before but American travel writer Rick Steves proclaims that Americans don’t realize how poor they are compared to Europeans until they travel. Yes, this is so, and having to work for a living just gets in the way of seeing all that you’d like to see. The other thing that’s gotten in the way is travelling with a spoiled teenager. If it doesn’t interest her, she’s not interested, in fact she’s downright rude about it. I said to H last night, I hope at some point she realizes what she’s been like while we’ve been here and what we have been trying to expose her to and what a butt she has been. H assures me in 10 to 15 years’ time it will dawn on her. I don’t know if I can wait that long!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Moving Madness

We’ve hit the point in the moving process where we are:

1. Selling off the big items.

2. Packing up the items to ship and then pulling them out of the boxes to use because it’s too soon.

3. Getting rid of inconsequential things.

4. Sitting amongst filth.

We had a four-day weekend here for Easter and besides doing some things for the move, I also wanted to do something fun. Yesterday my internal monologue was so negative that I laughed as I thought of my friend B who, if she could hear me would have said, “You want a little cheese with that whine?” I set out to walking in a nearby wood with a map and H’s phone which has GPS and ended up on such a windy narrow road that for the first time in my life, I was car sick while driving. I didn’t think that was possible. It was Easter Sunday, the sun was making a brief appearance, lots of families were out for a country walk stopping to take pictures of the horses, etc. and I was just annoyed by the whole thing. After a nap the sun was shining bright in the early evening so I ventured out again, but stuck close to home.

I will miss living close to these beautiful houses, which I will never in all my life be able to afford!