It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday

A moment of silence while you give it up for Boyz II Men….

And scene.

We are going to miss this modern city flat with its Le Corbusier influences. Its modern furnishings have given us a true taste of urban life.
living room

My little intimate kitchen has been a hazard and a haven. Cakes have been made here.
kitchen

The tiny bathroom, with the weird European shower – that always reminds me of how hard it might be for my mom to get in should she ever come to visit – will always be special to me somehow. Yes, the pink toilet paper, too, Stinky.
bathroom

And the view that made us feel like real city folk might be soon sorely missed, but the street noise will not.
bedroom view

This was our first flat in London. This was the place that I got the worst news I had ever heard – and the place in which I resigned myself to conquer everything I feared. It was the place where our guests stayed our first year in London… No value can be given to the memories we have in this simple brick and mortar. But I can tell you that I know we’ve made the right decision in choosing to move on.

Our offer on the canal side flat in King’s Cross has been accepted; a beautiful two bedroom flat is officially ours to let from 20 Feb 2010 to 19 Aug 2011. Please make plans to stay in the upgraded Huddleston B&B before we change our minds. There are so far only two bookings for 2010… Couldn’t you stand to spend some time with me? With us. With London. With a bit of history.

But before you come, get versed in the lingo on the website.

The Great Beer Pull

I have blogged at length about our friends at The Marksman, I believe. But did I tell you that the landlady operates a barter system on a chosen night about once a month? A patron may make an offer to the landlady, usually for an item on her Wish List. If she likes what you offer, she might just buy you a pint! Apparently, an unnamed food stuff from the states and a few certain cds are a valuable trade indeed. The landlady graciously agreed to allow me to pull beer for myself and my lunch guests, Drew and Lauren, in exchange for her overseas treats. I am not sure she came out ahead in the deal, but I am really pleased to have memories (and photos) to share with you – and some day my kids.

Speaking of kids, the pitter patter of two more little feet are soon to be heard at The Marksman! Dawn and Gary do make a beautiful baby, so I look forward to meeting the January babe when mom and baby are out and about.

Why beer pulling? Yeah, I understand why you might be confused by my desire to learn this skill. It’s all part of my quest to understand the culture of the community pub. I couldn’t think of a warmer, more fun place than here among these people to learn about the art of pulling beer and pub ownership.

Just look at the glow. Doesn’t it just look like “the old” and “the new” got cozy here together in this pub?
marksman bar

First, there was a brief lesson on glasses.
lesson on glasses

Then, we started with the most complicated pull of the day: Guinness.
guinness

And then I waited for the Guinness to settle.
waiting on guinness

Lauren ordered a Red Stripe. Easy. (Please, forgive the face that I am making.)
lauren and red stripe

David, Gary – I can’t thank you enough!

Thanks also to Michael for the unexpected lesson in cocktail making! Can you bring the crew ’round to our new place for dinner and another lesson? Let’s say… housewarming party? I’ll provide dinner and materials.

My little blog is not much in the way of PUB-licity (hahahaha!) for my friends at The Marksman, but I am pleased to sing their praises nonetheless.

Hey there facebook friends, check out our entry on the web to really make my day! (Oh, and become a fan of The Marksman on Facebook.)

A Room with a View

I’ll make it simple for you to figure out – without the gushing and tears. This is the kind of thing I might be doing today, right now, if we hadn’t taken the crazy train to London in October 2008.
fixing hem

pinning cassi

me with statues

So. What do color guard addict-turned-fans do with their weekends?! This addict-turned-fan filled the day with flat hunting, job training, and educational activities. (Snicker.) Sort of.

Because you’ve told us that you need to know where you’ll be staying when you come, I understand how anxious you are to hear the flat hunt update – so we’ll talk about the job training (wink, wink – right Lauren?) tomorrow. But I am going to tell the story the way I always do; the long way.

Estate agents are generally accepted to be on the social hierarchy beneath the feet of tax collectors and lawyers. (Drew and I have had our frustrations with a few agents who shall not be named.) You might remember, also, that flat hunting in London is a bit of a pain. Taking all of this into consideration I must say that we have had the pleasure of working with some really sweet estate agents. But Mumzad is tops. He took us to see at least 5-8 properties in October 2008; he was terribly kind even when I told him we had found something with another agent. When we were ready to move this time around, I gave him a call. He has shown me at least 15 flats. Bless his cotton socks, for real though. I am a pain to work with, having a long list of requirements and tastes outside my budget. Mumzad totally took it in stride. I am relieved to say that he may have just found the right place for us today.

Do you remember contestant number nine with the balcony overlooking the canal? Yes, this one.
new wharf road
photo courtesy of Foxtons

I didn’t ask to take photos inside the flat because the current tenant is still in and that seemed like an invasion of their privacy. However, we did snap a shot of the entrance.

entrance new wharf

We also wandered through the London Canal Museum a few doors down. It’s a cheap school lesson on a very interesting topic if you ask me.

london canal museum

The flat “ticks quite a few boxes” for us – great location for transport, open plan reception/kitchen, washing machine, quiet, good light, secure, good floor plan, two good sized bedrooms, nice size fridge, freezer, good amount of storage… It also has some extras that are worth a lot – like the nearby nightlife, the balcony and the super cool kitchen/dining area. (Previous guests of the Huddleston B&B might be pleased to know that a full shower curtain is in use in this flat. Brilliant, right?!) Really, my requirements are largely relative to my desire for people to enjoy staying with us – having a space in which we are comfortable entertaining.

By the way – did you know that you can rent or buy a place on a houseboat or barge? Not kidding.

Yeah, so. We talked about it at length. We put in an offer. There isn’t any reason that the landlord wouldn’t accept a realistic offer from two people as nice as us, except that he doesn’t know what ridiculously good tenants we are. That’s what references are for, right? We’ll know something as soon as our agent does. And when I know, you will know. Thank you in advance for the good vibes.

By the way, when you visit the website it tallies our “hits”. It gives me a good cheap thrill to see the numbers. No pressure.

A Bog for My Blog

Snow flurries in London have brought to my mind the most ultimate of questions. “Which one of these things is not like the others?” Do take your time to see if you can spot it.

snow one

snow two

snow three

snow on toilet

You are right! One of them is street art!

Or not.

In other news, flat viewing 2010 visit two is complete. Contestant number two is very quirky cool in person. It is in the front running for an offer. After tomorrow I should be able to narrow it down to the one and the runner-up. Either way, I think we’ll be really happy in our new place.

Surreal Life Begins Again

I. Am. A flat hunting maniac (having been recently promoted from “flat finding enthusiast”; thank you kindly – but do hold your applause). Now those things they have said to me about Londoners pouring their hearts into choosing property is beginning to make sense… It is an emotional thing to choose the right little space to hang your clothes and your head at night, let alone choose the right neighborhood. Barbican has been my home for just over a year, but a sinking sensation in my gut tells me I am cheating on the City of London proper in viewing a flat south of the river. Yes, I said south. South, south, south, south, south. So there. And it’s southeast to boot. Please excuse me while I vigorously wash my mouth out with soap.

The west side is greener and may well be cleaner, but the east side calls to my inner artist. Besides, my search has barely even extended outside zone 1! Stick any post code you want on it – I must argue that SE1 is absolutely borderline central. Don’t judge.

And there are properties on the north side of the river that I am booked to see as well. Lovely, sweet, good sized, nice places. Close to the canals and the Vue Cinema… Trust me, I am torn. In such a good way.

It’s not just the neighborhoods that tear at my heartstrings. Those dang neighborhood pubs loom on the map – beacons of big piles of mash and mushy peas on lazy Sundays, over a game of Jenga on an uneven planked table with friends all around… Really. I said it. It’s a big factor. But bigger than that is the tug-of-war between the well planned out conversion and the spiffy new purpose built.

Ultimately, I am sure I will know the one. Can you pick it out of the line-up?

Contestant number one is ten minutes walk from Borough Market.
Great Suffolk Street
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number two is impressive with the loft style- warehouse conversion vibe.
Cardigan Street
photo courtesy Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward

Contestant number three certainly entices in the could-be-a-warehouse-refurbishment department.
St John Street
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number four is charming and quaint.
New North Road
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number five comes in strong with a view.
Lever Street
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number six just looks so cozy.
Halton Road
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number seven seems to belong on an episode of Dr. Who. Enough said.
Baalbec Road
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number eight does not fail to impress in any way.
Ecclesbourne Road
photo courtesy Foxtons

Contest number nine makes me swoon with the waterside balcony.
New Wharf Road
photo courtesy Foxtons

[Commence with applause.] These contestants really are quite a delight, wouldn’t you say?!

We have been lax in updating the website, but you miss it anyway don’t you?

Red Nose Day

Today I had a lovely afternoon tea at a cafe called Allans near Bond Street Station.  It is truly lovely, with a comfortable atmosphere. The patisserie was extremely busy, but the staff were attentive and friendly nonetheless.  I appreciated the inviting decor and was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the sugar.  It might sound snobby, but I really didn’t realize what I was missing…

tea at allans

This evening Drew and I are meeting my friends Cassi, Cayla, and Mr & Mrs Holmes for dinner at Caffe Uno.  I am so excited that they are getting to visit my new home!  I might get to meet the extended family before they head home!  (Mrs. 007, if you think about it, please be sure to tell your parents that I got to see the Holmes/Clark family while they were here!)

A Beautiful Birthday Story

Long ago (yesterday, the 11th) and far, far away (use google maps) in a land called London, there a lived a girl who had a beautiful birthday. Her day began when a handsome prince, and an uncharacteristically cheerful sunrise, woke her.

A box came.

http://www.drewandjengotolondon.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/flower-box.jpg

A very sexy bunch of flowers lay inside – from queens of neighboring realms. (Thank you Mrs. Buffy and globetrotter Kassi! It was almost like you were here laughing with me, except we skipped the part where we all pretend there are not tears in our eyes when we have to say goodbye. And seriously, just look at how these sunny ladies work the camera!)
sunflowers one

sunflowers two

The birthday girl had lunch with her handsome prince, the king and queen of a magical land called South Carolina (cue Emily and Kerry), and the princess of a place called Kensal Green (that’s you Janita…). Unfortunately the prince, the king, and the princess were kidnapped from Covent Garden to an ugly place called Work. The queen rescued the birthday girl and whisked her to the Primrose Bakery where the safety of tea and cupcakes awaited. (Didn’t she do a fabulous job?  I am sure this makes my family very proud!)
tea for two

After tea and cupcakes, the queen took the birthday girl to a play called Plague over England, at the Duchess Theatre where they considered very deep issues and a complicated historical tale.

Just before twilight, after the queen left the birthday girl entering a misty clearing called Leicester Square, bright lights and the sound of music drew the girl toward a large crowd. There she helplessly snapped photos of Kiefer Sutherland and Reese Witherspoon – being trapped in a crowd of Monsters vs. Aliens premiere enthusiasts.

monsters vs aliens

Kiefer Sutherland ear

(Pictured above, that’s Kiefer’s ear in the middle there, mom.)

Kiefer Sutherland partial

(Stay focused on the partial face there in the middle…)

Kiefer Sutherland profile

(Yeah, in the middle there, barely recognizable.)

Reese Witherspoon

(At about 2:30 you might catch a glimpse of someone famous and/or handsome… wink, wink)

Monsters vs Aliens from Drew Huddleston on Vimeo.

When the girl escaped she ran home, relieved to find the prince waiting with the lovely ladies pictured below. (Pay no attention to the sweet post-it notes he left me last month for no reason…)
birthday flowers

Alas, the girl looks not one day older this year. (You nod and close the book even though I have already told you about the grey hairs this adventure has given me.) And she lives with her prince happily ever after. (In a place where you can visit – all the cool people are doing it.)

There’s No Place You Can Hide

I can find something nice to say about anything.  Don’t test me.  You. will. lose.

Here’s the conundrum:  I just saw STOMP at the Ambassador Theatre in London’s West End.  You need to understand that I did not, at any moment, find myself searching for something nice to say.  Rather, I worried that mere words could not possibly express…  Words fought each other in my head for the chance to describe…  

Infectious. Hilarious. Personal, heartwarming, instinctually conversational, unbelievable.

Praise for STOMP is not a kindness.  It’s natural – and unavoidable – like the beat.  The audience dancing in their seats and the long-running success of the show are evidence enough that you should get tickets.  Before even getting comfortable in my seat I was impressed by the fantastic set, a serious piece of art in its own right.  If I had come across it in a gallery I might think it a monument to our “society of stuff”.  In use though, the meaning changes to something much more celebratory and simple.

STOMP is a show that is proudly representative of a relatively new genre in theatre, comprising the live performance of a musical composition, characterization, dance or movement, and clever use of the audience as the final performer on the bill.  It is surprisingly funny; the average audience member will laugh more at this show than they will have all of last week.  And the talent of these performers is phenomenal.  They must at once be musicians, actors, dancers, and conversationalists – without the muss and fuss of words.  Mm, Mm, Mmmm.

And before it goes seemingly unnoticed, the lighting designer deserves a round of applause.  Performance glue meets icing on the cake.

I took away the following message – we take music for granted.  Our heartbeats, the tide, the mathematical language of the cosmos…  We are living within song.  Listen for it.  Feel it.  Celebrate it.  Share it.

I think Gloria Estefan may have said it best (finally, knowing this song is useful), “the rhythm is gonna getcha”.

Let’s Do Lunch

Ah, the joys of lunching in Central London!  The crowds are thick, queues are long, and real Londoners never look at the menu.  You should walk in and fire off your order, like a round from a machine gun, as soon as any person behind the counter makes first eye contact with you.  Don’t wait to be asked if you want salad on your sandwich, soldier!  Have your money ready to throw (think grenade-style toss and dash) at the site of your napkin being slipped in the bag.  Ok, ok…  I admit it’s not quite like that; ordering lunch in London just felt to me – upon first arrival at least – like entering a war zone.

We’ve now slipped into a more comfortable dining routine.  It is also the case that we have come across some great places to eat and meet.  If you find yourself in the smack dab center of the city for lunch, dive off the high street for a real experience.

If you are a vegetarian in the mood for something like traditional fast food, Soho’s Red Veg has a creative menu to please your palate.  Vegans (and most omnivores) can also enjoy a burger wrapped in paper like everyone else.  Check out the menu on the website and give Red Veg a try the next time you are in the neighborhood.  I have already decided what I will have the next time I meet friends for lunch!  

Just minutes away, Govinda’s boasts a buffet full of curries, veggie comfort food, salads, and teas – all made without meat, fish, eggs, onions, mushrooms, or garlic.  If your taste buds appreciate international cuisine, you’ll want to become a regular here.  Choosing your meal is the hardest part.  Enjoying it is easy.  Invite a friend to lunch and share one of the great desserts from the sweet dish counter!  And then go back again tomorrow.

South of Leicester Square and a stone’s throw from the National Gallery or Trafalgar Square is the cavernous but cozy Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin’s In the Field Church.  It’s a great place to find an affordable English lunch, to meet friends for afternoon tea, or to people watch over an Apple Crumble.  You won’t be the only one who knows about this place, so avoid the lunch rush by arriving a little early or a little late.

Crypt one

Crypt two

Cheers!

There is No Excuse

Apparently, I have not been sitting still long enough to throw my thoughts together, but I can promise that food reviews are in your future.  I’ve been busy over the last two days making arrangements to accept a job offer, in case the offer is made, which involves a string of employment verification and getting the flat in extra clean shape so that I can ease Drew into the sharing of household chores once I return to work.

We are still excited about the launch of our newly designed website which is currently under construction.  I can’t wait to see what you think.

Please let us know what exciting things are going on in your life.  Let us know what London street scene you would like to see in a future post.  Send us your love (support works just as well, for those less mushy folks out there).

Yes, Like Mozart

Slightly east and ever so north of our neighborhood lies another that is host to busy weekend shoppers and pub crawlers.  Shoreditch is home to our new friend, and on this occasion our tour guide, Wolfie.  (How cool is it that we know someone named Woldgang?!)  He led us past the Moorgate area and beyond Liverpool Street Station to the Spitalfields Market.  It’s less fruit and veg than Borough Market south of the river and more of an urban, covered, trendy flea market.  The vendors are surrounded by restaurants and shops to break things up.

Surrounding the market are well known locations like S & M (Sausage and Mash, of course!  Get your mind out of the gutter; our grannies read this stuff!) and The Ten Bells pub.  The Ten Bells looks like it hasn’t been touched much on the outside since the 1600s when a regular patron was rumored to be a victim of Jack the Ripper.

A few short minutes away is the open air market of Brick Lane, home of The Big Chill and Rootmaster, as well as the very best in affordable Bangladeshi cuisine as previously mentioned.  I have to go on record stating that Brick Lane is overrated – for my taste.  Crowds, hustlers, and dodgy street vendors are intimidating to little ‘ol me.  The shops that line the street on either side are, however, more manageable at a good time of day.

Beyond Brick Lane is the Flower Market.  I wish, I wish, I wish that my camera had not pooped out by the time we got there!  Orange trees, bamboo, God-knows-whatsits, oh my!  There’s a fantastic smell and color for a mile.

Tucked in alleys all along the high street are cozy pubs with great food for sharing or for keeping to yourself…  There are people in the streets playing badminton and kids on bikes.  When the door of the pub swings open as you walk by, there is a rush of sports on the telly and laughter; it must still be early in the match and everyone’s rooting for the same side!

Real Life Begins

I never felt inspired to shop for the perfect vintage wear while living in Nashville, but in London the idea seems completely natural.  While preparing to attend a fancy dress housewarming party as Mr. Lucas and Miss Brahms from Are You Being Served?, Drew and I discovered several great places to shop for unique pieces of clothing.

Near Victoria Station there are several charity shops which stock gently used and well cared-for household items as well as clothing.  There is also a brilliant vintage shop, called Retromania, packed to the brim with mens’ and ladies’ wear.  Drew rather quickly found a suit and shoes; we deliberated a bit about the tie…  Facilities for trying on are available in the back of store to ensure a good fit before getting home.

On Monmouth Street, of Seven Dials, there is a lovely shop called Pop that feels very similar to a designer boutique – without the heart stopping prices.  Facilities for trying on are also available to Pop customers and the staff are quite helpful and outgoing.  I really enjoyed the atmosphere as well as the selection of quality pieces.

After donning our costumes, we joined the party in Ealing.  Meeting lots of lovely people, seeing a beautiful home in a lovely English neighborhood, enjoying deep conversations, and learning how to do “the caterpillar” was worth the joys of late night London transport.

The 7 Fingers Have my Heart

Loitering in the Peacock Theatre is the Sadler’s Wells production Traces.  It is an absolutely stunning piece of performance art with an urban vibe and abstract presentation.  Despite being a work of finest art it remains accessible to us all through such universal themes as struggle, self awareness, love, loss, relationships, belonging…  Traces elevates the human potential for expression through movement at the same time that it highlights the joy of movement for its own sake.

As the audience members enter they become a part of the performance – as if entering into an intimate conversation with the real life cast of the show.   There is a faded story line, artistic exploration, and timely commentary tied together by language truer than words alone.  It is a wonder to witness.  Breath taking moments are strung together seamlessly, one after the other.  As if it were as easy as the wind blowing or rain falling.

There isn’t enough praise to lend; I couldn’t sing it, dance it, paint it, play it, or spin it for you myself.  Thankfully, these performers can do a little of it all.

Not to be missed.

(Upon seeing that he was more than pleased with tonight’s show, I offered Drew the opportunity to give me his review for this performance.  Unfortunately, though “utterly speechless” works very well for him on this occasion, it’s less than our discerning audience demands.)

Happy Wednesday!

 

Any Dream Will Do

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a spectacular event not to be missed.  Gareth Gates lends a tangible familiarity and lovable quality to his debut as Joseph.  This show is absolutely dream-like in its presentation – the detail in every fantastic element, as well as the timely humor infused throughout, makes for an evening to be remembered.  If you allow yourself to stop wondering how the cast manages to belt out each beautiful note amidst the frenzy of choreography and perfectly timed costume changes, you can fully appreciate the wonder of this show. 

Brits know the Bible story of Joseph very well and most learn the musical score of the “Joseph” show in their music classes.  They might agree that the musical is a bit more like a circus than a Bible story heard in traditional Sunday school, but they identify with the teacher and pupils in the play as they accompany Joseph on his amazing journey, imagining it as a child might.

Prior to the show we enjoyed tapas at La Tasca just off Leicester Square.  With an environment that would please a local and tourist alike, as well as a perfect menu for sharing, I highly recommend it.  Meals and drinks are affordable and we found the staff to be friendly.

Five stars for our brilliant Tuesday evening!

Are You Diggin’ On Me?

To look upon Joss Stone is to behold someone distinctly familiar.  Sweet. Young. Lovely.  But when she parts her lips her soul comes rushing out like thick velvet or strong coffee.    You can blink, but she’s still your little sister or the girl next door – she’s standing on stage and it’s as if the voice of someone soulful, sultry, sexy, older sings straight through her.  Each of us has a gift to give the world and Joss clearly understands what she is meant to share.

Touring the UK in intimate settings prior to the release of her newest album, she offers her grassroots fans a fantastic show complete with band, back up singers, and a bit of polite conversation.  She’ll sing her part.

It’s quite a bit like a show built for a bigger venue, but gives a certain air of closeness that you miss in a stadium.  In fact, last night one of Birmingham’s locals asked Joss out for a curry after the show.  I am not quite sure that her coy smile said either “yes” or “no”, but he’ll always have that.

Opening for Joss was a singer/songwriter friend Adam Isaac, also from Devon.  Quite the cure for my headache, Adam has a fantastic voice and an accessible style.  Adam’s energy is refreshing to say the very least; his clever lyrics and poetic wordplay won my heart almost instantly.  If your iTunes folder includes anything by Jason Mraz, Jon Meyer, or Jack Johnson you should check out Adam Isaac.

If you are in Birmingham, do look up the The Rainbow Pub.  You’ll be sure to enjoy.

And that was only Monday…

Mind the Elbow

We joined a group of ex-pats and west side locals for an eight mile walk along the Thames River between Putney Bridge Station and Richmond.  Our walk was broken into two mile segments by stops at three cozy pubs along the way.

It’s easy to forget how quiet London can be – or how much green space still exists in some areas.  The personality of each borough continues to impress and amaze me.  Most of our walk wandered through residential areas looking over the river, though we did happen upon a rowing club, complete with rowers busily readying to take the water.  Some of the communities along the river had gardens where bamboo and tropical plants still thrive through the moderate winter.  Lush green grass still grows under topiaries and tasteful statues.  Where there is water there are also reminders of New Orleans and San Francisco in the architecture.  It’s nice to find something familiar so far on this side of the globe.

There were fascinating individuals among us; I barely scratched the surface of the knowledge that brought all of these intriguing individuals to London.  (Of course, it isn’t surprising that work brought almost all of us here; Americans have a very hard time living abroad without a work or student visa.)  What most of us do have in common is a sense of adventure and a desire to see new things beyond the comforts of home.  We are looking to be challenged and to question the ways in which we all fit into the fabric of life, the universe, and everything.  Each of us has a unique story, but there are common themes.  It’s funny what we miss about home – and how we define it.  The tactile things (especially food) seem to be pretty high on the list of things we miss and the things we’ve come to love about London.

Although the walk itself was incredible and the fresh air was the best thing I could have done for my body, I am so thankful to have shared a day full of conversation with fantastic people…  I learned that not everyone from Vancouver lives in an igloo, not everyone likes the high-five, not all Californians turn their nose up at fish ‘n’ chips, there are British people who don’t think I am undermining the economy or committing a crime when I buy soy butter, and that I now have a group of friends that live close enough to me that we can meet for a burrito.

Si Senorita!

The Huddleston Bed and Breakfast is celebrating the confirmation of another visitor’s travel date!  This time our dear friend, and possibly the girl who will save the world by the time I’m rocking on my front porch, is a world traveler whizzing by to share a pint and maybe catch up with another friend.  I’ll have to start digging up a list of hot music venues – wait.  What am I saying?!  I’ll let her show me around!  And teach me some Spanish.

So, this costume shopping thing is turning out to be trickier than I thought; there’s a fancy dress party next weekend.  We are supposed to be characters from a sitcom that was aired in the 1970s.  I am only familiar with one British sitcom from the ‘70s and I am not sure how to achieve just the right look…  Still I think it’s much easier for me than it is for Drew.  At least it’s back in style for women and I might wear the costume again.

We’ll keep trying.

Fancy a Curry?

Tonight I am making my first ever Vindaloo to celebrate.  (Brad, if you are out there, this Vindaloo is for you.)  I have a bank card for our new bank account, I have a confirmed interview on Wednesday with a great company, and (in case you haven’t heard) we have guests coming in June.  Perhaps by the time they get here, the vindaloo will be good enough to make for someone pickier than Drew!  

vindaloo veggies

vindaloo

We have plans to purchase costumes for a fancy dress party and attend a walk in west London this weekend.  We might also nail down some dates to visit the states again.  Get your diaries out.  Have a pen handy.

Now Booking

We have added to the calendar our first confirmed guests to The Huddleston Bed and Breakfast!  This June two well-loved and beautiful people will be celebrating an anniversary here in our grand city.  I am so excited about showing them the ropes of basic London navigation and help them get familiar with our little ‘hood.

In related news, website improvement works continue and we are increasingly excited about new features and content for your browsing pleasure!

This evening I attended a lecture presented by the Linnean Society with my ex-pat buddy.  It was a fascinating evening that started with an ice-breaker tea.  Just prior to the lecture we were witness to the induction of new fellows into the society.  After the lecture, wine was served.  I felt truly academic (in a very cultured London sort of way)!  You will never believe the newly available images available on their website…  If your child comes home with a bug research project, check it out!

linnean society

royal academy

Norman Carreck explained the history of study of diseases affecting bee populations over the globe, in the end bringing us up to speed on more current research findings.  Ultimately he expressed his view that much more research is needed to understand the full scope of the issue, or compound issues, as the case may be.

Toyer

Last night Drew and I had the pleasure of attending Toyer at the Arts Theatre London on Great Newport Street.  The theatre itself is modern and intimate, housing the London Cocktail Club – a fantastic and sexy new addition to the nightlife in the Covent Garden area.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show, a rumored thriller, but always enjoy a night at the theatre.

Under a full moon, quite late, we arrived at Maude’s swanky apartment.  Waiting for her to arrive we listened to the coyotes bawl and bark.  It was quite spooky waiting there for her…

Here’s what Drew had to say about the evening:

“William Schoular’s adaption of Gardner McKay’s Toyer is a tense psychological thriller featuring discomforting performances from Alice Krige and Al Weaver. In a medium filled all too often with over the top show tunes, dancing and mundane drama hoping to appeal to all ages, Toyer is a welcome change from the stereotypical theatre experience.

The play begins a bit awkwardly with the already distraught female lead, Maude, taking the stage, but very quickly settles into proper audience engagement once her counterpart, Peter, knocks on her door. The performance keeps the audience at the appropriate level of discomfort by continuing to move back and forth between tension and respite as neither Maude nor the audience is certain if this man is the Toyer or just a misguided actor.

In the end, Toyer leaves the audience considering the sexual tension between victim and victimizer as well as how performances like this are not the subject matter for children.”

I have to agree that the actors delivered an uncompromising performance and kept me quite on the edge of my seat until they finally left the stage.  The audience may have wanted to offer a standing ovation, but the air was so thick as to hold us in our seats.

Random and Interesting

Apparently Britain is a happening place. Thanks Taylor, for providing this link to prove it: Click Me!

In other, random news, we believe someone might occasionally leave us hints regarding who is boss in this building.

shopping trolley

Also, Drew would like you all to know that I am feeding him.  Something besides icing and cake.

veggies

tilapia

pasta bake

Sadly, the Chinese Lanterns are coming down in China Town.

chinese lanterns

waxy sister

Che?  (and Dang, Gina!)

Lemon Lovely

Valentine’s Day was more about lemon than chocolate this year.  For our first V-day boycott in our new little city, we caught up on Battlestar Gallactica and dined on London Lemon Dessert with a side of Lemon Cupcakes.  Mmm.

lemon valentine

Of all the amazing things there may have been to do in London this weekend, staying at home for quality time with each other (and the new website reconstruction project) seemed just the thing to tickle our fancy.

We Can and We Did

Friday the 13th was rumored to be a day of Zombie flash mobs at London Bridge Station and Trafalgar Square, but I have been informed that far more Police personnel and cameramen showed up than Zombies.  I didn’t dress as a Zombie or rearrange my plans for the day to try and catch a glimpse of this orchestrated traffic-stopper, so I am relieved to know I didn’t really miss anything.

I did have lunch at the Borough Market with my lovely friends and attend the Slumdog Millionaire showing at the Barbican Cinema.  I can say with confidence that impressive performances were given by far more than two actors in this film.  I hate to give anything away in case you haven’t yet decided whether or not to see it.  I also hesitate to recommend that you see it.  It’s well made, it’s a story you won’t soon forget, it reminds you to be grateful…  But it is called Slumdog Millionaire.
At your own risk, get your ticket and your Maltesers and your Three Musketeers.

(Oh yeah, Happy We Changed Banks day!)

Please note: I have been informed, by international an theatre goer, that Maltesers are best eaten ice cold.

Praise Song for the Day

It seems that we may have sold the motorcycle; that is, our amazing friend Matt may have sold our motorcycle.  We woke up to his email yesterday morning and I think that must be why the sun is shining so brightly in London two mornings in a row!  How nice for everyone here?!  So Matt, when are you bringing the lovely wife over for that beer (and free accommodation) we owe you?

Yesterday I had the most fun wandering to Leicester Square to have lunch with Drew and Janita after my morning job search.  I stopped at Piccadilly Circus to help some tourists get a few good shots of themselves and I wandered through the famous Foyles bookstore.  Wow.  It’s like a university bookstore on steroids.  (Credit belongs to Emily on that phrase!)

Last night I made a very tasty vegetarian Sheperd’s Pie and green beans on the side.  (Eric are you listening?  Yes, Donna, you could make it for your meat-eaters, too.)  This is a good one, but remember measuring is for wussies.  Unless you are baking.

This recipe goes out to all of those non-cookers in the world who just throw stuff in and figure it out as they go.

Basically you need:

  • 9×9 square baking dish
  • Quorn mince/Morningstar Farms Mince, or other ground beef sub (like lentils)
  • 4 good sized potatoes, Idaho or similar (brown)
  • peas and carrots (canned or frozen, but drained)
  • corn kernels, optional (drained)
  • Vegetable broth (use the cheat, I don’t care)
  • Gravy (cheatfor real.  it’s ok.)
  • Herbs de Provence (It contains rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme, and sometimes lavender flowers and other herbs, and I will look the other way if you just make your own little assortment, but Donna, I think I left mine with you.)
  • garlic (powdered or minced)
  • salt and pepper
  • butter
  • chip dip, sour cream, or whatever kind of milk is normally in your fridge
  • shredded cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees.  Whatever.  Line 9×9 baking dish with foil for easy clean-up if you are into that kind of thing.

Peel the potatoes and chop them up.  Cook them in gently boiling, salted water.  While the potatoes are cooking, “saute” the other veggies in a shallow puddle of veggie broth until broth is absorbed/evaporated.  (If veggies cook before broth disappears, drain). Set veggies aside for a moment.  I don’t know, use a bowl or a plate – whatever.

Heat or make your gravy in the frying pan.  You did already have that out, right?  Well, anyway, add garlic, salt, pepper, and lots of Herbs de Provence to your gravy until it tastes right.  Add in your mince.  Heat through and add drained veggies – mixture should be less firm than meatloaf but not as runny as sloppy joes.  Just eyeball your proportions; only you know how tolerant you and your picky/non-picky family are.  (Keep an eye on those potatoes…)  Spread this mixture in the bottom of your pan.

Drain potatoes once cooked.  Mash with butter and dip/milk/spices+milk, use your imagination.  A little garlic never hurt anyone.  I said a little, Gina.  Spread potatoes on top of first layer in your baking dish.

sheperds pie one

Place in the oven until mashed potato peaks turn a golden color or until you are so hungry that you can’t stand it.  If you want, you can sprinkle some cheese on top.

sheperds pie two

On the Waterfront

For some reason, what’s hot in London theatre at the moment includes two plays set in New York (centering around the dock workers) near the same time.  We had the opportunity to see a fabulous revitalization of A View From the Bridge, and Tuesday night made our way to the Theatre Royal Haymarket for On the Waterfront.  It is a gorgeous traditional London theatre complete with marble and ornate chandeliers.

While Steven Burkoff’s stage adaption of On the Waterfront does showcase a group of talented actors, a compelling style and interpretation, as well as a having a similar feel to a graphic novel, there is something a bit disjointed about this production.  The slow motion scenes which are so cleverly used in a few instances may be a bit overused and tend to become a bit awkward.

Credit should be given for the obvious efforts being made to entertain and challenge the audience through a very artistic presentation of a well known film.  The actors came across as absolutely committed, unfortunately the production still felt a bit forced.  The romance was not entirely believable.  At times anger and shouting covered lines and did not give a wide enough range to convince us of the darkest truth.  The mob wasn’t quite a formidable as may have been intended.  The ending, well…  It dissipated into a slow motion sequence rather being strongly punctuated–the triumphant moment losing its glory and fading directly into the cast’s bows.

I am still impressed with the amount of work that went into this production and I keenly wish for its success.  Perhaps with the remainder of the run, the details will fall into place.

Added to the list of things I’d like to see: Waiting for Godot, starring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.  Handsome and strange all in one show.  Nice.

One Lump or Two?

Sky News is predicting snow, sleet, biting winds, and the breaking news is an update regarding the fires that were set in Australia.  If only we could have maneuvered the weather systems to take rain to Australia before these fires spread…  I am still struggling to understand exactly why the two individuals reportedly in custody would have started the fire.  It’s insane.  It really puts things in perspective.

Yesterday began as most Mondays do; I started new searches on my favorite job search websites and sent CVs to several recruiters.  My friend Janita, who asked to be named as the most spectacular person in all of London, contacted me to offer introductions to two contacts which might be of some help as I continue to rearrange my CV and search for placement.

My lovely American ex-pat buddies invited me to lunch at The Place Below, a vegetarian restaurant in a Norman crypt of St. Mary Le Bow church in Cheapside.  The food is quite good and the unusual setting creates an interestingly wonderful and haunting atmosphere.  Although I enjoyed the restaurant, I totally dug the company.  I also appreciated the encouragement and perspective.  

To follow lunch, the ladies went for tea at Costa.  Don’t let the name fool you, this chain coffee shop still serves tea the way it should be served.

costa tea one

costa tea two

It’s Not a Cold, It’s Aliens

There is nothing like having good friends to cure a rainy gray disposition and the rearranging-my-CV-again blues.  Tune in tomorrow for the full report.

On Sunday Drew and I wandered down to Tottenham Court Road to visit an electronics store when Drew remembered a great restaurant he wanted me to try.  We wandered through the little neighborhoods on the south side of Oxford Street, eventually landing at Vitaorganic.  It’s a fabulously simple concept; a bar full of food free from animal products, sugar, gluten, or preservatives/chemicals as well as full range of fresh fruit smoothies and lattes.  With a wonderfully earthy feel, the restaurant feels almost communal.  We sampled several items, including the green curry, vegan stroganoff, and vegetable biryani.  The food is priced fairly for the quality and is sure to please most palates, vegan or otherwise.  Brownie points for Drew.  No, literally, I made him brownies.

Vitaorganic

After lunch, we wandered through China town, enjoying the lanterns strung over the streets and peeking in every bakery window.  We continued on to Soho to find a couple more delicious looking sweets in bakery windows at Amato and Maison Bertaux.  For some reason I’ve got bakery on the brain…  Perhaps I will get up the nerve to send them my CV.

Just when we thought the adventure was over and we were beginning to make our way toward home, a gentleman stopped us on a busy sidewalk to offer a free stress test.  Unfortunately, at the end of the stress test they handed us a pamphlet on Dianetics; luckily there was a bin nearby.  Run, Gina.

To wrap up the week and prepare for a new beginning we snuggled in for a slightly (ok, “slightly” is relative–I liked it) cheesy flick, The Devil Wears Prada.  Ah, Miranda, I do miss you.  And Emily, too.  Now that I have gone off to be a writer, I hope that you will manage not to eat your new assistants alive.  That’s all.

B Lush. MMmmmm, Yes, Please Do.

What a strange few days I have had! The things which have given me such a fit before have started to become more comical and I think I feel a bit braver. Something has come over me that feels similar to armor, but with a sense of humor booster built in.

They must have flagged my account at the bank after all of the complaints I have made; now, every time I go in they are determined to get me “sorted out”. Unfortunately, though my faith in truth and fair play is strong, I may have lost the energy to play their game. I will dig deep in my pocket next week to see what is left for them.

In lighter and certainly more fragrant news, there is a beautiful rose on my desk and the office smells like warm porridge with maple syrup. (In case you aren’t sure, it’s a lovely, comforting smell.) Ah, the scent of a Friday exploration… But before we dive in to that I’ll catch you up.

On Thursday, my temporary neighbor knocked on my door; she and her husband are here from Italy to attend a wedding. She needed scissors to cut the wrapping paper for the wedding gift, then she came back for a pen and lastly for a plastic shopping bag to protect the gift from the rain. I was pleased to have all three! Before she left the last time she invited me for coffee the next (Friday) morning with herself and her husband. When Drew came home he insisted that I take the entire day Friday to do something for myself, like have a massage. I felt a bit strange by the waves in my routine. Human contact and day to myself?! At first I wasn’t sure how to act. And I felt a lot of pressure to do something really magnificent, but I couldn’t think of that quintessential experience that would provide the renewal for which Drew was hoping.

Breakfast with our neighbors turned out to be a lovely way to start my morning! I found out that the husband is an American ex-pat who was born in Italy. The couple still lives in Florence. They are interested in American politics and have a very familiar feel. Both intelligent, they entertained me with their general views on things and insight into what America looks like to someone from Europe. I hope that they have a lovely visit and enjoy the city.

After breakfast I walked a familiar route through Chancery Lane, Holborn, and Covent Garden stopping in the stores that I had passed so often wondering what was inside. My destination was ultimately the Lush store in Covent Garden. You may remember that I have mentioned it once before. I can’t remember if I was at first too busy or too intimidated to enter, but my curiosity had finally gotten the better of me.

Walking into a Lush store is nothing like walking into the cosmetics section at your local department store and it’s really not like going into a Bath and Body Works or Body Shop store either. I’d say it feels a bit more like walking into the best smelling earthy neighborhood deli you’ve ever seen. Huge soap cakes are marked (and sold by weight) like huge wheels of cheese. All of the ingredients are clearly listed, except for perfume ingredients, which are rumored to come later this year. Almost 90% of the products are vegan, handmade, and a great emphasis is placed on sustainable packaging. There is even a shampoo cake that is package free; you can use a tin to carry and keep it in, but you reuse it. Even their little yellow bags are meant to be thrown on your compost pile. It cautions customers to get permission before throwing it on their neighbor’s compost pile in the case that they don’t have their own…

I was lucky to meet three absolutely lovely and knowledgeable staff members. Lush staffers are trained very well to understand how the skin absorbs what we lather on it, the internal processes related to the absorption, and the skin conditions that commonly plague discerning cosmetic customers – in addition to having a great appreciation for the product. After several demonstrations I was pretty well sold on the products. I think the most fun area of the store, though, has to be what I call the salad bar. It’s where the preservative free products are kept on ice. The samples are in aluminum mixing bowls just like the tuna salad filling at the the deli, except they look more like chocolate ice cream and creamy avocado dip that you wouldn’t mind eating rather than smearing on your face!

I inquired about vegan make-up products in casual conversation only to find out the Lush’s sister store B carries a complete line. And there happens to “B” one right next door. With a few soap samples in my purse, I headed to B to explore and see what other interesting things I might learn and intriguing people I might meet.

B is almost the opposite of Lush in terms of in-store feel. It gives the impression of being back stage at a fashion shoot, not that I have ever experienced that scene… Although the make-up is a sustainable product, the store, its products, and the range of colors feel quite glamorous. In the store I met a host of colorful characters. I had a short conversation with a lovely young vegan who is currently blogging about the positive effects of modified diets on breast cancer. She has been personally affected by breast cancer in her family and has a genuine interest in the ways in which we may be able to naturally enhance medical treatment – and in some cases, prevent the onset of disease. I also had the pleasure of meeting a model from Amsterdam who has relocated to London to pursue a career in make-up artistry, not that modeling is completely out of the question forever… It was another fantastic conversation revolving around a view of life, the universe, and everything from someone having a vastly different perspective from my own – a rare gift that I have now been given twice in one day.

I wandered through the crowds along the busy Piccadilly and Oxford circuses, stopping as I pleased. Mainly I hunted for more comfortable shoes to wear to an interview and boots to keep my feet dry on wet weather days. Besides, it would be nice to have something a little nicer to wear to the theatre. Although I returned home with only eyeshadow and a few soap samples, I felt pretty accomplished.  When Drew came home with a gorgeous long stem rose, I was pretty sure I had accidentally travelled to  a parallel universe where being an unemployed stay-at-home wife is not a burden, but a luxury.  I will try to remember to take everyone’s advice and consider that point of view more often from now on.

The Caveman is Among Us

 

defendingthecaveman

Defending the Caveman, the one man show starring well loved Australian comedian Mark Little, is a witty exploration of gender roles and social opinion.  Upon entering the theatre you are welcomed into Mark’s slightly cave-ish living room, complete with cave paintings and Flintstones style furniture.  Mark’s spear is ready at hand–beside the remote.

As Mark entered the stage it was hard to tell if he was a character in the show or the host about to announce the show–and I got feeling he didn’t like his shirt.  Although opening night may have started slowly, the audience soon grew comfortable with a stage show that crossed over into stand up comedy.  Mark found a groove and got comfortable.  Moments later laughter erupted as we started to identify with the scenarios plaguing Mark and his wife Cath.  Hunters vs. gathers and negotiation vs. cooperation were common themes.  Writer Rob Becker has obviously done his homework on the subject; the humor is based in anthropological study, the philosophy of gender, and real day to day life.

It’s a great laugh.  It’s easy to relate to.  And there is never a better time to laugh about what makes us different than right now.

Seeing this play reminded me of something I had read recently.  Isn’t that funny how you come across something new and then you start seeing it everywhere?!  My favorite philosopher, Ken Wilber, has some great things to say about gender roles and feminism.

“…we can learn to value the differences between the male and female value spheres.  Those differences, even according to the radical feminists, appear to be here for good — but we can learn to value them with more equal emphasis.  How to do so is one of things we might want to talk about.”  

(1996, A Brief History of Everything)
ken wilber

 

It’s a Piece of Cake to Bake a Pretty Cake

Sky news claims that 7 million London based workers stayed home from work yesterday and another 2 million played hooky today due to the worst snowy weather London has seen in 18 years.  Drew managed to walk to work this morning.  Living close to work has its benefits and its drawbacks…  I must say, though, I would have gone if I had the choice myself.  The grass is always greener on the other side.

Tomorrow, when I’ve gone through all the job vacancies relevant to my skills and work history, I think I’ll start calling bakeries.  My sister asked why I couldn’t make a living making cupcakes or decorating cakes.  It was funny at first; I am cake snob who knows I don’t have any real marketable skill in this area.  But then I gave it another moment in my head.  Why couldn’t I work for a bakery anyway?  Someone has to assist the decorator right?!  Someone bakes the cakes, takes the orders, and cleans up at night.  Why couldn’t that be me?  Brilliant.  You’ll be fat when you leave London.

Our First London Snow Day

The snow has been pretty steadily falling overnight and throughout the day though the flakes do vary in size and the wind gusts come and go.  We’ve seen gently drifting ski vacation snow.  Then, there have been moments of blustery snow.  Mostly it has just been a constant dreamy downfall.

clerkenwell snow

clerkenwell snow 2

clerkenwell snow 3

clerkenwell snow 4

Unfortunately, on my trip outside I discovered how really treacherous the conditions are.  I slipped down to the grocery to grab a few necessities and found some school children pushing snow off a second story ledge onto unsuspecting passersby.  Don’t worry, some kind gent was urging them down…

It is odd to witness the news reports of the city nearly shutting completely down.  The buses aren’t running and only two tubes lines are, one with severe delays/partial service.  Drew got to take a snow day and work from home again.  This I find to be especially lovely.  It’s nice to have a co-worker!  And he’ll have three home made meals two days in a row.  What’s that about?!

So, when one is absolutely fed up perusing vacancies and sick to death of rearranging their own CV, what does one do for a break?  I find that this site is great waste of time: CakeWrecks. I mean that in the most sincere way; it just happens to sound sarcastic and funny.  I can’t stop laughing.  Seriously, I am a total cake snob.  I mean, I love cake, but I recognize that baking, formulating the perfect icing, cake decorating, and cake sculpting are distinct skills each in their own right.  I don’t have any bones with a cake made at a discount store or one purchased at a local grocery store; I have had perfectly lovely cakes from these establishments.  (The Publix in Smyrna, TN, actually made me two delectable vegan cakes for our going away party in October!)  However, operating within your scope of expertise is key.  I’ll let Jen (at CakeWrecks) do the rest of the talking on that subject.

A Lazy London Sunday

I would like to say that we went to the Chinese New Year Parade at Trafalgar Square this afternoon or to the fireworks display in Leicester Square this evening.  There was another cool event on my calendar that looked like an inexplicable mix of dance and art exhibit.  Unfortunately, I have finally admitted that I am fighting a cold.  So instead of those awesome things we could have done I went for some cough syrup.  

Veno’s Honey & Lemon Tickly Coughs seems to provide at least a moderate and immediate relief of porcupine-in-throat type symptoms.  It tastes pretty wicked, but a few hours of relief is worth it.  Hit me again.  Every 2-3 hours.

That’s it folks.  That is our amazing day so far.  Ok well, it hasn’t been quite that uneventful.  We watched Back to the Future II, I made an awesome lunch out of leftovers, and we saw some snow flurries.

Later, I might do the dishes and take a shower.  There will probably not be photos of that.

Even though I am in danger of telling you something you already know, I feel compelled to tell you that black bean enchilada filling tastes great as quesadilla filling as well, whether you use real or faux cheese.  Top with things like salsa, sour cream (again, real or soy, whatever), jalapenos, or black olives.  MMMmmmm.

afternoon flurries


Snow Comes to London Town from Drew Huddleston on Vimeo.

night snow
night snow 2

 

Of Bridges Burned

While Drew was busy today, I joined Emily and Kerry for a walking tour of the area near St. Paul’s Cathedral, on the south side of the City of London.  Apparently Emily has become friends with some credentialed London tour guides, Keith and Gordon, whom I had the pleasure of meeting.  It is amazing the amount of history they have stored under their hats!  These gentlemen surely have very full social calendars; they know the whole city by heart as well as most of what there is to do.  Keith gave us plenty more information than I could ever remember about the buildings in the area that had been destroyed and rebuilt, whether due to bombings or refurbishment requirements.

keith

tour statue

st. pauls

stationers

We ended our walking tour at the Museum of London.  Though it looks rather unimpressive from the outside, it houses a fantastic amount of information on the history of the city as well as precious artifacts.  The collection of exhibitions are well presented and inviting.  Currently, the museum is undergoing refurbishment on the lower level to accommodate for exciting new features.  I wouldn’t mind visiting the Museum again, less tired, less snotty, and less frozen.

Although the headache was quite prominent by this time, the night was still very young.  The walking tour group headed to the Sir John Oldcastle pub; Drew joined our group there.  Drew and I celebrated our first beer of 2009 and enjoyed a curry.

curry

We met a few more of our group and were privileged with more information about events around the city and additional bits of history before moving along to our final destination.

The Slaughtered Lamb, in Clerkenwell, is a nice place to enjoy a drink, a hot pub meal, and live music in a part of town that is rather quiet on the weekends.  Trusting the expertise of our new dear friends, we are able to recommend the chips, but can only give three stars to the fish due to it’s low crunch factor.  The portions are healthy, and the atmosphere isn’t bad, but crunch is a rather important factor to this group.

I know you are wondering how we stumbled upon The Slaughtered Lamb.  Upon the urging of Kassi Thomas, and seeing how the venue happened to be in my neighborhood, it felt right to be at Levi Weaver’s show – despite the low grade fever, exhaustion, headache, and runny nose.  It was well worth the late night to say the least.

levi weaver

If Bob Dylan, Thom Yorke, and Coldplay had a baby I think they would name him Levi Weaver.  And I hope my saying so doesn’t offend Levi at all…  Armed with a pick, a haunting voice, a drummer, a borrowed guitar, two loop pedals (one of which may have fried mid-Of Bridges Burned), a harmonica that was missing early in the set and later returned by mic b (Mike B.), and a borrowed violin bow, Levi won my heart.  It might have taken a lot less, but I think it was the fried equipment and mislaid instruments that made the night so special.  It was cause for conversation that tied us all intimately into the performance – even to the very last note of Which Drink.  Kassi Thomas’ name did come up, in fact, and Levi spoke sweetly of my dear friend.  That’s good; I’d hate to get all redneck in public.  Under the lights.  On stage.  Like the time I was on Springer.

The lyrics are haunting and intelligently crafted, riding on a voice that lifts up one of your heartstrings in an unexpected way, and sneaks in.  If you aren’t convinced by the recordings you can find on his site, I would beg you to give it another listen live.  Experiencing his candor, wit, and spirit enhances the mere poetic vibrations – which are lovely on their own – and creates a tangible connection to the universal themes of love, loss, and the peace that only comes with hope.

Freaky Friday

I have no idea how to get off the phone with a Londoner.  There is a long string of “brilliant, excellent, absolutely fine, cheers, of course, lovely, just brilliant, tomorrow then, cheers, brilliant, wonderful…”  What can I say to let them know I understand that we are done talking and that we both intend to hang up?  It might be another of the world’s greatest mysteries.

This week I have felt quite like I live here.  We’ve have been to the theatre twice.  I took a train journey out of town and back without any anxiety; I even confidently marched myself to the information desk to confirm the station where I would make the change.  Tomorrow I have planned a day of sightseeing with friends and an evening of live music recommended by the famous Cookeville based music critic, Kassi Thomas.  I am guessing that Sunday might be a nice, lazy day.

My friend Virginia made brussels sprouts for us at Thanksgiving–and made a brussels sprouts lover out of me.  Before that meal I had never made them myself.  Since then, however, I have made them at least four times.  Tonight I made a new version that sounded good to my scratchy throat.  We are going to call them Agave Lemon Brussels Sprouts.  MMmmmm.

 

Agave Lemon Brussels Sprouts

1 pound brussels sprouts, washed

vegetable broth

agave nectar/honey

lemon juice

salt

pepper

olive oil or soy butter (optional)

 

First, mix a couple tablespoons each agave nectar or honey and lemon juice.  Set aside.  Cut fresh, washed brussels sprouts in half (top to bottom) and saute them in a frying pan with your choice of oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper.  Sprouts will turn a golden color on the cut side when they are ready for the next step.  If you prefer to leave out the oil, skip ahead a little…  Add enough vegetable broth to cover the bottom of the pan and continue to cook until the brussels sprouts are the texture you like.  Then, turn off the heat and add sweet lemon sauce.  Stir to coat.  Serve.

Just so you know, they are super tasty without the agave lemon sauce….

What was most amazing about my day was that Drew came back home about five minutes after he had left for work.  He decided to work from home as part of an agreement he and his boss had made.  It was nice to have a workmate.  He did actually have to work, but we had lunch together and he kept me company while I coughed and sneezed on my computer.  Isn’t that romantic?

La Cage aux Folles (and an Interview)

Along the river, near the North end of the Hungerford Bridge, the Playhouse Theatre is home to an extended run of the critically acclaimed La Cage aux Folles.

la cage

lobby

beads

stage

Some of you are likely to have seen the film version which starred Robin Williams (The Birdcage), but I can promise that Graham Norton is stunning in his interpretation of Albin. Stephen Pacey (Georges) and Stuart Neal (Jean-Michelle) are fabulous – and pitch perfect. It is hard to say who steals the show; the competition between the characters involved in the central plot are juxtaposed against the awesome presence of Les Cagelles, a troupe of superbly talented performers. Of course, Jason Pennycooke (Jacob) tickled me to death with his impeccable delivery of cleverly orchestrated comedy.

The creative team are to be commended for their role in creating a campy, tacky, over-the-top experience that was at the same time dazzling – and heartwarmingly familiar.   Productions like these are labor intensive; it appeared that the audience truly appreciated the attention to each detail.

So, what would I consider the highlights? The sentiment, the dancing, the singing, the glitter and feathers, the beach balls in the audience, a ripple into the splits (not just once, but twice), feeling like a participant, and the eyelashes. Who could forget the mascara?

I hear you asking about the interview as well. I very much like the company and the people on the team. The journey to the little town was rather uneventful; if only I had a change of clothes and a little sunlight, I might have enjoyed lunch at The Marlow Donkey and taking photographs for you. Unfortunately, it was dark and rainy – my first interview on a rainy day, in fact. And I still haven’t figured out how to deal with five inch heals, long pants, and trekking across England without carrying a rather unprofessional looking bag. I think it’s time to get some ballet flats and have all of my pants hemmed. Some casual boots would also come in handy when I finally get the job.   Who’s coming to shop with me?

A View From the Bridge

I met Drew at his office and he grabbed a quick slice of pizza as we headed to the Duke of York’s Theatre.  It seemed quite the appropriate thing to do on our way to a play set in New York.  The theatre itself was the first proper English looking theatre I had yet been in…

pizza one

pizza two

marquis

Arthur Miller, who is well known for works like All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and The Crucible, tells twisted tales of the great American dream gone wrong.  A View From the Bridge certainly delivers all the hidden sin and guilt one would expect.  I would not have been nearly as uncomfortable had the performance not been so good.  The truth is that the set was just eerie enough and dark in the right way, the lighting cast all the right shadows, and the characters cut through the fourth wall.  I was delighted to see who were playing the leads; Ken Stott, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Hayley Atwell delivered an all star performance.  [For some reason it was really exciting to me that we unknowingly stumbled upon a show featuring an actress from my favorite US tv drama (Without a Trace) and one of our favorite films (The Abyss).]

I was convinced by the costumes, the accents, and the street scene that I was sitting around that kitchen table, 50 years in the past–a witness to a conversation and a fly on the wall as the story unfolded.  

The attention to detail was evidenced by the sound of the train that could be heard ever so often rumbling by outside the flat where most of the play took place.  It was like distant thunder, an ominous reminder of the of the coming storm.  Director Lindsay Posner really does deserve credit for this stunning production.  This was two and half hours of anxiety that I am thankful I had the opportunity to endure.

On a completely separate note, we sat next to a couple from Philadelphia who told us that they visit every year in January and we sat behind a group of students from Virginia who were taking a class on the arts in London.  One of the students was from Franklin.  Small world.

Do You Still Need Someone to Play the Lead Tree?

My heart is achy (the good kind of sore, like you have the day after a 7 hour dance rehearsal) as I attempt to put a punctuation mark on the end of this week and begin a new sentence again.  As hard as it was to hear the recruiters tell me that I had not been a successful candidate for this position and that, I know that the lows are necessary; there’s always down before there is up.  I did get a couple positive bits of news in the sea of “no”.  I still have an interview Wednesday, and some serious interest expressed from two other, very reputable, organizations.  Best of all, I received the compliments and praise of two people whom I dearly love and admire–with perfect timing.  And I was reminded that sometimes I need people more than they need me.  It’s beautiful, really.

We’ve made two lovely new friends, Emily and Kerry, through a colleague of Drew’s (thanks Todd!).  They are ex-pats who have both previously lived in London and recently come back for more of the big wild city.  Spending time with Emily and Kerry might be a good kick in the pants for me.  They are both familiar with the city and can suggest an infinite list of fun things to do.  I am inspired by their story.

Emily planned a Saturday afternoon adventure for the four of us.  We met near the Green Park Station and walked to White Cube gallery in Mason’s Yard.  (We were looking for the Testori gallery, but it was closed.)  I am not sure what to say about the Miroslaw Balk exhibition inside, entitled ‘Nothere’, but you might find it interesting.  Perhaps if I knew more about Polish history or current events I might have connected with the meaning without picking up the leaflet.

We also visited Hamiltons to see Richard Caldicott’s ‘New Work’.  It is amazing how something as simple as stack of cups can become such an intriguing piece of art.  I don’t think I would mind having one of these pieces in my home.  That’s why I need a job.

For lunch we stopped at Eat Thai.  That’s what you do there, in case you were wondering.  I know the name is a bit ambiguous, but I’ll talk you through it when you are here to visit.  We can recommend the Sweet Corn Cakes, Green Curry–though I can’t remember what the dish we had was called, and the Jungle Curry.

Today started as a lazy, rainy, grey day.  It was a great excuse for “from scratch” pancakes.  I quite enjoy them with the preserves Drew’s mom sent home with us– instead of syrup!  

The weather stayed pretty dismal all day, but we shook off the chill to a hot new song, at a video shoot for an up and coming London artist.  The sets were constructed inside different rooms of an old warehouse tucked in an alley about two or three miles from our flat. 

video shoot

The warehouse is a home for old props; it’s a naturally fun place to stage a music video!  I can’t wait for the next one…  I think I’ll volunteer to make tea for the crew and if I am lucky, they’ll let me.

Blue. Blue Seven.

  1. I am married to my best friend.
  2. I can afford food, clothing, and shelter.
  3. I have marketable skills and an education.
  4. I live in London, a place where many people may never even have the chance to visit.
  5. This week there is evidence that more Americans feel hopeful.

Although it isn’t always the most fun to live through emotionally taxing moments, they really can turn into the funniest stories.  I hope that you get some enjoyment out of it when I rant and rave about a day’s crazy events because somehow Drew and I manage to laugh ourselves off the couch about it.  And…  I would like to think I grow a little bit each time my eyes well up with tears (yes, we all know that’s not the rarity it should be) or some idiot troublesome, but lovely, individual makes my heart race.

So, what’s with the list?  On days that present challenges, making a Top Five list becomes a lifeline.

Yesterday started nicely enough.  While making a trip to the office supply store (or heaven, as I like to call it) and the grocery, I found a small street market that I had never seen before, right around the corner from our flat.  This market on Whitecross Street boasted several ethnic food booths–and others with random wares for sale.  I also found a vegetarian restaurant of a more permanent variety, called Carnevale, that has vegan cuisine on the menu daily.  The restaurant appears to have pretty limited hours, so I might just have to try it alone.

whitecross market

carnevale

carnevale menu

After my spirits had been lifted by this new experience, I happily returned to my flat for lunch.  While I was submitting an online application my computer screen went black.  I was nervous.  Then I noticed I was sitting in the dark; I looked up to see if the people across the street were still working.  The whole office building across the street was in darkness and workers had left their desks, like I had, to look out the windows at the city employees tearing up the water lines below us.  I am sure we were all thinking that someone down there must have accidentally cut the power on our street.  As I was watching the people in the building across the street, those people started to notice me as well.  One at a time–from different floors and different sections of windows–people started to wave excitedly and smile.  For some strange reason it thrilled me to be so warmly greeted.  And I smiled and waved back.  Before I could get the camera to capture the warm waving workers, the lights had come back on and they began returning to their desks with cups of tea.  And just like that the magic moment passed.

water works

gullivers house

Over my own cup of hot tea, I took a moment to peruse our Barclays online bank statement.  A very fishy charge in the amount of £74.99 appeared on the account.  I don’t know where to begin telling this bit of the story.  I’ve already filled you in on the ordeal of starting our account.  Then, I am sure I mentioned the trouble regarding the debit card I requested.  It seems that I remember also filling you in on the debit card I requested three more times.  Did I also tell you about the the time I found out I wasn’t eligible for a debit card like Drew’s?

Short back story on this new edition of “bank error”:

On a Friday in November Drew made a purchase.

Immediately after purchase Drew did some research and realized he had been lied to.  He called to request a refund but the phone number is invalid.

Drew immediately went to Barclays to dispute the charge and cancel his debit card.

Barclays refunded the money ($74.99) immediately, pending investigation.

Barclays sent Drew paperwork to fill out; he got through most it.  However, signing the document signifies that the cardholder did not provide banking information to the company presenting the item for payment.  I took the form to a Barclays branch to ask a member of staff how to properly complete the form.  The rep recommended that Drew leave the rest of the form blank (don’t sign it) as it does not apply to him; send it in without a signature.  Although this sounds like complete crap to me, what information do I have to argue?  I mailed the form as we were heading to airport for our Christmas holiday.  The form said that if we didn’t mail it back within 14 days, the bank would assume the money should be debited from our account.

Yesterday I see that the charge reappeared on our account.  (That’s grocery money.)

Drew requested that I investigate the situation.  The problems with this were that 1) Drew made the purchase, 2) Most Barclays advisors don’t listen very carefully to what customers are saying, 3) Most Barclays advisors I have dealt with say whatever they need to say to get you out of their own hair and into that of some other department outside the building, 4) Barclays Card Services, Branch Staff, and Online Banking department do not communicate well with one another, 5) There are fundamental flaws in the electronically generated communication with the customer and between departments, 6) Gaps in time make diagnosing a problem difficult, 7) Bank staff in all departments are trained to expect fraud and suspicious activity, 8 ) I have witnessed that many customers requesting help can be rude, emotionally charged, ill-prepared, uninformed (like me, not always our fault), disorganized, and talking on a mobile phone in the bank–so, the advisors are harried before I get to them, 9) It’s London; London is busy.  They don’t have time to deal with me, 10) I just might be that suspicious person they have been trained to catch in action.

Although I felt strongly that our dispute paperwork had been filled out incorrectly (or not to Barclays’ satisfaction), resulting in the charge reappearing on our account, I headed to the branch with the nicest advisors I had yet found in this fair city to find out what I could do to rectify the situation.  I am not sure what I expected them to say.  However, I was prepared with the printed statement, my account numbers, a well thought out explanation, and my passport.

After briefly explaining the situation to the young bank advisor she asked for my account information.  Then, she spit out a bunch of gibberish.  It went kind of like this:

Me: We’ve disputed a charge on our account, but it has shown back up again.  I am afraid we may have incorrectly filled out the dispute paperwork or missed some step in the process to clearing it all up.  I’d like to find out why this charge has been assessed to my account at this time and how I go about clearing it up for good.

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Sort code?

Me: 111112

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Account Number?

Me: 11111112

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Hmmm…  Blue.  Blue seven.

Me: That doesn’t make any sense.  Are you sure you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor:  Blue seven. (This is where a smile should have come into play.  Blank stare.)

Me: Seriously, after all of the misinformation I have received I can barely stand here and accept that “blue seven” is the answer.

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Since it was Andrew Huddleston that made the purchase in question, and not yourself, you are not authorised in the first place to investigate this charge on your account.  You have no power here.  Be gone, before someone drops a house on you, too!

If you are an ex-pat who has stumbled across this blog entry in your research on which bank to choose, I hope our misadventures, at least, are helpful to you.  As for me, I feel like I might be a few centimeters taller.  There is also a creepy warm feeling in my chest and throat (like heartburn) seeming to suggest that if someone mentions Barclays within the next few weeks I might catch fire.

 

What if the Mightiest Word is Love?

On this historic day it is still wonderful to be in London informally representing the country that has ushered in great change which will effect us on a global scale.  It is regrettable, however, to be so far from you who are celebrating–or at least witnessing–the changing of the guards.  Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in today as the 44th President of the United States.  Forgive me for stating the obvious or if I seem overly dramatic; this blog entry is really for my children.

President Obama is our first African American president.  He has been compared to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr…. and Aretha Franklin sang at his inauguration.  He delivered a speech that may not be remembered as one overflowing with catchy phrases, but he genuinely seemed to address the nation and the world with a message of love, peace, and cooperation.  He expressed the enormity of the tasks that lay ahead for him as president, especially in the midst of a global economic recession.

I have hope that Obama really will reach across party lines to effect policy change that will more likely reflect the needs and wishes of more Americans.  I have hope that our foreign relations will vastly improve and that we will bring soldiers home.  More than anything, though, I hope that more Americans will pay attention.

I fully appreciate the commission of the poem Praise song for the day, written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander.  I was also moved by Jon Williams’ arrangement of Air and Simple Gifts as performed by cellist Yo Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, Gabriela Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill.

Perhaps the best Inauguration story is the one I saw on the news this morning about Obama’s evening visit to the Lincoln Memorial with his family.

Whatever your views personal political views, I hope you too have hope for the future.

What Day is it?

On Sunday Drew and I decided to wander down Brick Lane. It’s famous for the groups that have historically lived in the area, the Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine offered every few feet, and the vintage shops and street market. The significance of Brick Lane’s history has been featured in novels and films. I had hoped to get some really great photos, but it was so packed that we were wedged in a moving stream of people that made taking photos a real pain. I did, however, search for photos that might capture our experience. These are borrowed from 2camels.com.

brick lane one

brick lane two

brick lane three

brick lane four

brick lane five

So, what’s on the news in London today? The economy, Obama’s upcoming inauguration, government policies proposed to increase bank lending, unemployment, and which stars have been nominated for various film awards are on the top of the list. One topic that is quite hot at the moment, though, is the third runway proposed for the Heathrow airport. Think: construction of I-840 plus carbon emissions and large communities where the runway is set to go. We’ll keep you updated regarding how likely you might be to experience topless antics on your trip to visit…

Today was another brave day for CV re-writes and recruiter phone calls. The job interview on the books has been rescheduled for next Wednesday. Yes, seriously. That’s what I said: Dang, Gina!

Can’t Stop Thinking About You

Today I walked a mile to my favorite grocery store to find out that it had closed early on Friday for a weekend of refurbishment.  The Grand Re-Opening on Monday won’t be in time to get the groceries I need today.  No bother, there are plenty of grocery stores in the area, I just thought my favorite store might happen to have the specific brand of deodorant on my list.  It’s funny how attached you become to a simple thing like your favorite deodorant, but really, it’s a big deal.

There is a steady, heavy rain this evening (blown in by some strong winds by the sound of things at the moment).  I do hope that lasts through the night.  I could use some slept-right-through-the-rain sleep.  I’ve been just a tiny bit grumpy today.  Today was the first SCGC Field Day I have not attended since 1994.  I might miss it more than I anticipated, but who’s keeping a list?

Although today was strictly for volunteering for my favorite organization and cleaning, I did happen to notice something strange while I was ironing this evening.  Channels seem to repeat the same cycle of programs at least twice in a day like HBO or regular radio in the states.  It’s one more strange little fact to stick in my hat.

Tonight I made sugar free vegan chocolate cupcakes.  I’ll let you know how they taste tomorrow.  I might just go have one now with a cup of tea and an episode of Battlestar Galactica.  Yeah, we are the nerdiest people you know.

Is it That Late Already?

Sadly, I feel that there is very little news to report.  I have rearranged my CV so many times, and written so many covering letters, I am quite tired of myself.  I have lost count of the number of jobs about which I have contacted recruiters–or the numbers of recruiters I have contacted to be considered for potentially suitable roles.  There are a handful of positions I am seriously pursuing and I have an interview on Thursday.  Whew!  Being unemployed is a lot of work.

 

I have managed to keep the laundry at bay and cook meals that didn’t get scraped out the window or into the bin.  I also had lunch with Drew and Janita on Thursday at Wagamama. (I think I might compare it to Pei Wei, though it’s not quite the same.)  After lunch Janita and I inadvertently led Drew to an arcade in search of caffeine after our meal.  At least I got to show Drew my favorite store in London–Octopus.  Who needs any of this stuff?  And why do I want it so badly anyway?

octopus
 

What I didn’t do today was prepare the magic notebook, pack a contest survival bag, or copy an insane number of cds for a Field Day performance.  I did, however, let my thoughts drift off to those crazy folks who are doing those things.

Stuck in a Lift

stuck in a lift (elevator)

So yeah, they (whoever they are) mean it when they say “4 Person Maximum” on the elevator sign.

Today my coworker, Janita, and I were heading to a client planning meeting at their offices with a couple of peeps from one of our partner companies. We had met these two at their offices first to just compare notes and make sure we were all on the same page before we headed to meet with our client, but Janita and I left about five minutes before the other two peeps because we wanted to walk at a bit more leisurely pace.

So Janita and I are walking to the client’s office and make it there about 2 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start and amazingly enough our peeps from the partner company are walking in the door to the building as we round the corner. We were able to catch up and they let us into the building in time to join them and another person on the lift (bringing us to 5 peeps counting the 2 of us, 2 dudes and 3 gals).

Now let me pause here for a moment to say said client’s office is on the 3rd floor of this building, but for those Americans amongst our readers that means the 4th floor as what we call the 1st floor is called the ground floor here and what we call the 2nd is the 1st. That being said, we prefer to take the elevator after having hiked a mile in 15 minutes.

So back to the story – our three friends quickly pop into the elevator followed by Janita at which point I decide I want to take the stairs as things are looking tight in this small elevator (guessing here but I would say it was 4ft square – not much larger than a phone booth). After telling the group my intentions to take the stairs they insist we can all squeeze into the lift and they are all more than willing to do so.

I step into the lift closing the door behind me (yup, it is so small it doesn’t even have typical elevator doors) and watch as the button is pressed for the 3rd floor. It is at this moment my eyes veer up to the top of the control panel and see the sign, “4 Person Maximum or 300kg.” I knew things were going to be bad.

The lift started to rise. Slowly. Very, slowly. The elevator was the little engine that couldn’t. It tried its darnedest for about 30 seconds before giving up. It managed to lift us about a foot and a half off the ground and sat there – immobile. Our little dumbwaiter had become a prison.

Of course as this was happening we were all saying to each other, “Yeah, four people but we don’t weight 300kg.” Little did they know Drew here had been hitting the peanut butter balls over the holidays and was rockin’ 83kg himself. Even the ladies were at least 60kg each so there was no hope. It was at this point someone made the first of many wisecracks about “no one had better fart.” That is when the laughter started.

We were all strangely loving this – Janita even said she always wanted to be stuck in a lift. I of course saw nothing but laughs at the fact that we all got ourselves stuck in a tight, cramped little shoebox of an elevator. It got hot enough to steam up the mirrors and started to smell a bit like B.O., but thankfully everyone had showered and remembered their deodorant or it would have been really bad.

While trying to escape our pathetic prison we managed to pry the inner doors open hoping we might simply push open the outer door and hop out–and seeing as we were a terrifying two feet off the ground we thought it might work. Of course the outside door was locked shut as part of a safety measure to ensure no one stepped into the shaft when the lift wasn’t there. Funny enough though, while we had the inner doors open we were enlightened to discover we were not the first to find ourselves in this situation. At least three groups before us had been in a similar situation as they had left dates on the cement floor between the ground floor and the first floor. We of course felt obligated to add our info as well.

I also don’t want to forget our client – they were kind enough to try and entertain us through the doors. They brought down a radio and started playing some Brittany Spears, at which point we all lovingly started calling them all sorts of names as even prisoners at Gitmo are not tortured in such a fashion. They also tried to bring us some water but hadn’t considered how they would get it through the door.

So after 40 minutes of sweating, stripping, laughing, and smelling some stank cheese biscuit, we were finally rescued by a mechanic. Amazingly, had it been labelled, the latch to release the outer door was actually within our reach just outside our sight behind a corner.

I share all of this to say, READ THE SIGNS. And respect them, or else you too might find yourself stuck in cramped quarters with some stank cheese.

Where There’s a Will, There Something Good To Watch

This evening in Leicester Square the critically acclaimed 7 pounds premiered at the Empire Cinema.  Crowds were already camped out when Drew passed through to go to the office today.  Drew attempted on his way home this evening to get a picture of Will Smith on the red carpet, but the lighting was poor.

Lucky for us, we got to see this movie with David, Cynthia, and Jeffrey while we were home over the holidays.  It turned out that night that David enjoyed the Olive Garden despite his reservations about trying new things and none of the boys were caught crying.

Hit Me!

Hit Me! The Life and Rhymes of Ian Dury is a play wonderfully written by Jeff Merrifield, and well carried by Jud Charlton (playing Ian Dury) and Josh Darcy (playing Fred Rowe). There isn’t much of a storyline or a plot, but you don’t really notice until it’s over. The play is more of a study, and a celebration, of Ian’s life as told by the man who may have known him best of all.   Several of Dury’s best known hits are performed in the show, cleverly intertwined into the backstory exchanged by the two actors. Although there may have been more c***s and f***s than all the other words added together, the story seemed to have the ring of authenticity.

The play is written cleverly, sharing intimate details of Dury’s life while also capturing him at three distinct stages of his career. I was thankful for the comic relief in the second half, perhaps owing to the heavy subjects addressed in the first.

The characters were accessible–tangible even. At times the audience became a third character in the play, sometimes as a friend on the listening end of a conversation and often as the audience member of one of those memorable Ian Dury and the Blockheads shows. Ian Dury fans were definitely in attendance; they sang along, they danced, they laughed at all the right moments and clapped the loudest. They also had a hard time moving away from the bar to their seat before the show started and after the intermission (or “interval” as may be used the universally used term in London). It is understandable that these live music lovers may have felt a little out of place in a theatre seat. It is interesting to note that the Leicester Square Theatre used to be a live music venue, which I understand, hosted Ian Dury in his day.

The set was cleverly designed, and the lighting design helped transport the actors and audience between locations. I did appreciate the attention to detail taken in costume design and the time it must have taken to put all the hats back in place after each show…

We were told at the interval that Fred Rowe was actually sitting in front of us with Ian Dury’s children, though it was unknown if all of his children were in attendance. They looked like a handsome bunch, but I didn’t have the nerve to ask them what they thought of the show–if Drew hadn’t been with me I might have. But I know how I embarrass him when I talk to strangers…

Keep in mind that I am no theatre critic. I am sure there are plenty of good ones out there, but the chances that you will know how wrong or right I am are slim. So, take my word for it. It was fabulous.

All You Need is Love and Chocolate Chip Cookies

While we were in Nashville for the Christmas holidays I took a trip Whole Foods for vegan chocolate chips. I was disappointed that the shelf had far fewer bags on it than I had intended to buy, but we will manage to ration them until May–or until someone visits. The point of the story is that during this season in London, the sun doesn’t rise until approximately 8:03 am. It is rainy. Finding a job is stressful. The laundry takes forever to dry. My floors are dirty. (Vegan) Chocolate chip cookies, in moderation of course, get me ready to face another day.

I did manage to make a healthy dinner before we dove into the barely-out-of-the-oven cookies. Drew and I have declared my yummy stir fry our first Huddleston family recipe. It’s the one that will keep my kids (and their friends) at my house on Friday nights. It’s the one that other parents will call me for because their kids keep talking about it.

I am truly sorry that there is nothing really exciting to report, but I am glad to tell you that I learned a valuable job hunting tip. Resumes, which are commonly used in the US, are meant to be short while CVs are meant to provide more information. I thought it was just the type of information that was different. I was wrong. A recruiter told me that all that rubbish I was fed in the states about a one page resume doesn’t apply in the UK. He said two pages are more the standard here. Not to worry. Expanding will be a breeze! That’s just one more thing I didn’t know I didn’t know about, you know?

Happy Field Day week–to those of you who know what in the world I am talking about! My thoughts will certainly be with the SCGC this weekend. I miss you all.

Reconsider Everything

While walking through Green Park today on our way to take photos of Buckingham Palace, I heard a terrible commotion in the distance.  It sounded like someone giving a heated speech to a noisy and responsive crowd–like you see in old history films.  A detour down Piccadilly towards Piccadilly Arcade led us to the source of the disruption.  A very large crowd was marching, followed by many police (on foot, in several police vans, and on motorcycles), with a loudspeaker in the middle.  A man’s voice could be heard shouting and sometimes chanting things like “Gaza is a killing field”–and the crowd would repeat most of what he said.  Their bright orange signs read “ONLY KINLAFAH WILL LIBERATE PALESTINE”, “STOP ISRAELI TERRORISM”, and MUSLIM ARMIES MUST DEFEND GAZA”.  Although I was at first intrigued by the crowd and the police that allowed them their peaceful demonstration, my heart quickly began breaking at the sight.  As usual, I have no interest in a debate; I just feel great concern for the human lives for which these voices rang out and I am at the same time conflicted over the issue of violence to bring about peace.  Isn’t that like spanking your children because they hit someone?  I don’t mean to suggest that Gaza should not be allowed to defend itself, it just seems that these two peoples will not be satisfied with peace.  It appears that peace is not what either truly desires…

demonstration one

demonstration two

I didn’t wake up this morning hoping for something so big to blog about, nor do I consider myself to be knowledgeable enough to speak about this issue itself.  However, my brain translated this incident into a representative event.  Drew and I are living in a very big, very diverse, city.  We are closer to world events than we have ever been.  Our children may someday appreciate that we were witnesses to events like these and may learn an appreciation for our place in the global society from our example–that is, once we gain our own footing.  And I also ache for the children on the shoulders of the parents in that crowd, learning very deep anger, to support violence, and prejudice at such a young age.  I also must be thankful that we live in a place where we may all peacefully express our views on the Queen’s doorstep.

Before the deep thinking began, we slept late and headed to our neighborhood Pizza Express for lunch.  I was anxious to get photos of a quintessentially British site before you all got bored and Buckingham Palace seemed like the very best stop.

Buckingham Palace

new do at the palace

green park gate

After the camera ran out of juice and we explored the grounds, we headed toward the London Eye, Big Ben, and the houses of Parliament.  We’ll have to make that trip again with two batteries fully charged and more light left in the day.

After dinner we finally unpacked and started laundry.  Yes, my London housewife life is now back in full swing.

Yesterday was very pleasant, though bitter cold outside.  We slept late, got haircuts at ESHK, ate lunch, began planning for the website upgrades, walked to Islington, ate dinner at Yo! Sushi, and saw “The Spirit” at the Vue Cinema.  If you like films made in the style of graphic novels (that’s sort of like a more grown-up version of a comic book, mom), you might really like this movie.

drews new hair

website wall

website wall two

I am very excited about our new website.  And there is no better way to demonstrate excitement than by hanging brightly colored Post-Its.

Leaving Nashvegas

The collection of mail on our doorstep is a testament to the great length of time we were afforded with family and friends.

Mail pile

We didn’t come close to seeing everyone on the list, but we wore ourselves out trying.  Since our last post we saw two more beautiful (and growing) children and their parents and I was able to connect with an Aunt and Uncle from Lincoln County.  Even though it was firstly a vacation, we still had loose relocation ends to tie up and there will be more to follow–for quite some time, I suspect. I am thankful for the room and board we received as well as the warm welcome. It was great to be in a familiar place among familiar faces. Although leaving a second time was harder than the first, it is nice to be back in our frozen flat; these little radiators will take some time to warm the place back to a normal temperature. Thank God for blankets and hair dryers.

Blog topics are a jumble in my brain today and I apologize for the somewhat random order or lack thereof… Mainly, you need to know that Continental Airlines treated us like gold. A string of unfortunate events was in store for us on our trip home, but the staff seemed to do everything they could to provide the best service possible. Our first flight out of Nashville was anticipated to be cancelled due to terrible weather in New Jersey so the Continental staff had already flagged us for another flight prior to our arrival to the airport. We left later than anticipated but in plenty of time for our international flight out of Newark, which was only delayed by thirty minutes. Of course, once the plane had pulled away from the gate we were called back because several people who removed themselves from the plane may have left luggage on board and this is a huge security no-no. Once we were clear, we were in the air. The flight was estimated at 5 hours and 55 minutes; I am not sure if this was due to flying with the Jetstream rather than against or that we were flying at night with less air traffic. I can assure you that storms over the ocean are bumpy. Whoa and Dang, Gina.

Top Five Reasons to Fly Continental:

  • More options for special meals, vegan meals available on most flights
  • You can sleep through the landing
  • Professional crew members
  • On demand entertainment with a wide range of choices and your own screen
  • One pass membership points (please share your miles with us if you’ll never use them)

We had no trouble with re-entry and breathed sigh of relief once we had collected our last bag from the baggage claim area. The journey home on the tube was long. Fortunately, after the stairs we had to battle to get to our station, we only had to roll our stuff about a block and half to our flat. I was thankful, again, that we chose the flat with the lift. A trip to the grocery store, a shower, dinner, and snuggling completed the night. Poor Drew went to work today. I would like to say that I dusted, did a load of laundry, landed a job, and unpacked our suitcases. Unfortunately, that would be a big fat lie. I did manage to make appointments to have our wigs busted tomorrow, go to the bank, go the grocery, wash dishes, cook dinner, wash dinner dishes, clean the tea pot, water the plants, answer an email, surf job openings, watch an episode of Ugly Betty and My Name is Earl, and write a blog entry. Lucky you.

When you tuned into the news this morning, I wonder if you heard the same headlines; what we got was this:

     

It’s all disturbing, don’t get me wrong, but I am quite conflicted about the Designer Baby. The prospects of saving future generations of women from breast and cervical cancer are beautiful ideas, but manual, purposeful genetic selection is more than unnerving. I do not have any interest in starting a debate but I do desperately hope for some clarity. At what point do we consider how this choice ripples the ocean? Gattaca anyone?

(Speaking of everything, I am officially a fan of Ken Wilbur. This man inspires me and I am just getting started. If you are the least bit interested in philosophy, written in layspeak, please get a copy of A Brief History of Everything. I am working through it and feel the need to keep pen and paper very close as I read.)

While we were out this evening, we found that we were under a gorgeous London moon. It really is great to be here.

Charterhouse

And on winter nights like these, we do have a freezer. I am not sure what this little box outside our flat door is for, but it hides dessert rather well until after dinner.

Freezer

What are we doing now? Well, we are enjoying some quality time on the internet, I am having a cup of tea, and we shall snuggle again soon. Please don’t forget us. 2009 is a great year to visit London.

…and That’s Why They Call it a Clock/Radio-

-because it has both.

I noticed a few weeks back that my hair was suddenly a different color.  It had a darker, almost ashy sheen.  I wasn’t the only one that noticed, either.  Everyone that noticed seemed to think it was a nice change.  Though I did wonder what had brought about a sudden change in my hair color, I couldn’t link it to my styling foam or the wicked awful hair spray I bought.  Then, I started to consider the air and water quality in London.  After showering in Tennessee, and styling with and without heat or product, I think I have finally discovered the culprit.  I have many well-placed white and grey hairs all over my head.  Ah, relocation to a foreign country!  Once again I am able to draw a parallel between the physical symptoms of moving (and being out of work) to the emotional journey we’re on.  I have scared quite a few hairs white, but it seems to work for me.

The Christmas and New Year’s holidays have passed; I held babies and saw friends.  I was honored at a rehearsal of the Aspire Winter Guard by being asked to choreograph about 30 seconds of dance for their opening statement.   It was a thrilling addition to my visit home.  I have made vegan cupcakes and chocolate covered peanut butter balls.  I have been gifted a secret family recipe–to be used in times of severe home sickness.  There have been firsts (and maybe lasts) on this trip home.  I am renewed and I think I am ready to conquer my next challenge.