Broccoli – 1; Cauliflower – 1

At the Slow Food Market    At the Slow Food Market

Although the Italian broccoli won my own taste test, this British cauliflower gets a point for geometric design.

Disappointing Zombie Mob

Niels thinks I’m nuts – the minute I saw information regarding a Thriller flash mob at the London Bridge rail station, I knew I had to be there. Although I never learned the Thriller dance, I have always nursed a secret desire to do the zombie moonwalk with a pack (gaggle? herd? pod?) of other zombies. Unfortunately, the week before the flash mob I cricked my neck, and so was not able to prepare with the help of a YouTube instructional video. If you’ve seen the Thriller video, you will remember that scrunching your ear down to your shoulder several times is a critical move – so the crick in the neck was definitely an obstacle.

A flash mob is a large group of people who gather in one place to perform a quick action, then disperse, similar to the dancers in the T-Mobile adverstisement. Normally, I don’t help big telecommunications companies to advertise, but I love this ad – it was filmed in Liverpool Street Station here in London. The T-Mobile ad was NOT a flashmob, since it was planned out and sponsored by a corporation with big bucks. The whole idea behind flash mobs is to take back commercial space for public expression, even if only for a few minutes. Previous London flash mobs have engaged in pillow fights and disco dancing.

Niels and I went at the allotted time, camera in hand. According to the flash mob website, the train station would only permit the zombies to moonwalk at the outdoor taxi bank. So, we found our way the taxi bank and stood around with a bunch of other rubberneckers and amateur photographers, looking around for zombies. We finally spotted about 10 total, after 20 community police moved us as far away from the station as they could get us – and into a bus lane, with double-decker buses occasionally honking for us to move. Unfortunately, the bus lane was uninspiring, and the zombies never danced, although they did pose for the cameras.

Police, Rubberneckers, or Zombies?

Police, Rubberneckers, or Zombies?

Irritated Bus Driver

Irritated Bus Driver

Zombies Posing for Photos

Not-So-Scary Zombies Posing for Photos

 Boat Trip to Greenwich

Trish, Sam and Niels

Trish, Sam and Niels

On Valentine’s Day, Niels and I met up with Trish, a friend of Niels’s sister, and her 12-year-old son Sam. We had a great time. Started out with Mexican food – I don’t recommend getting Mexican food in London. The most memorable part of the meal was our discussion of ding dong ditch which, according to Sam, is called “knock down Ginger” in the UK. Wonder what happened to poor Ginger?

We then took a boat down the Thames to Greenwich and walked up to the Royal Observatory, where we learned about the race to devise a clock that could keep accurate time on a ship. Because the Brits figured it out first, the Prime Meridian (0 degrees longitude) passes through Greenwich. In addition, on top of the Flamsteed House is a red ball that was used to signal the time to ships on the Thames below. Each day, at 12.55, the ball rises half way up its mast. At 12.58 it rises all the way to the top. And, at 13.00 exactly, the ball falls.

Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London - One of the stops on our boat ride to Greenwich

Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London - one of the stops on our boat ride to Greenwich

Flamsteed House and the Red Ball

Flamsteed House and the Red Ball

View from the Royal Observatory

View from the Royal Observatory

Parliament at Night

Parliament at Night

Not Proper for a Woman?

Finally, the latest news. Gail Trimble – yes, a woman (gasp) – brought home first prize for Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on the University Challenge game show. She scored two-thirds of Corpus Christi’s points, but was criticized by many for “being smug” because, among other things, she often used the words “well done” and “quite” when her team-mates answered correctly. Many speculate that, if she were a man, she would not have been criticized at all.

Unfortunately, the latest news is that her team has now been disqualified because one of her team-mates (who probably didn’t even answer that many questions) was no longer at university during several of the matches, as required by the game show’s rules. Thus, Manchester University has been crowned champion.

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Mind the Gap – WOOF

Those of you who have been to London knew that, sooner or later, this would be the title to one of my blog posts. I mean, how could I resist? For those of you who have not had the pleasure of traveling in London, whenever a trains pulls into a station, a calm recording repeats a monotone “MIND THE GAP” to caution travelers about the gap, no matter how small, between the train and the platform.

Niels and Dogs Waiting for Train

Niels and Dogs Waiting for Train

Last Saturday was an unusually pure sunny day in London, so we decided to take the overground train to Hampstead Heath. Stella didn’t mind the gap one bit, but Rocky? Rocky minded the gap, as in feared it. Although we managed to get him on the train, it was a battle royal, let me tell you, with a whole train load of people watching. At the next stop, a kerfuffle (quite a popular term here, we’ve noticed) ensued when a smaller dog and his human embarked. There was the usual round of friendly sniffing, but when all the dogs sat down, Stella decided she didn’t like that little dog one bit and started to bark in her bossy way. One elderly woman who was sitting and facing us started to laugh, and couldn’t stop, with a huge booming belly laugh. The remaining passengers were not so amused. I managed to get Stella to settle down, but the minute that little dog started staring at us, Stella started up again, and so did the elderly lady. This went on through four train stations.

Girls Running on the Heath

Girls Running on the Heath

We finally had a long muddy walk. Wouldn’t you know, the one day I didn’t wear my wellies we encountered major amounts of mud. For some strange reason I thought we would stick to the paved trails.

Hundreds of teenagers were cross-country racing all over the Heath, covered with mud. Their parents, decked out in jogging paraphernilia, madly dashed between race points to cheer them on. As we ascended Parliament Hill, we found ourselves in the middle of a parental stampede.

Tramping back down Parliament Hill we noticed a forlorn runner sitting in the mud alone, as various walkers passed her by. I guess her parents weren’t there to cheer her on. So, we decided to get muddy and slid down the hill to offer assistance. Hannah needed help, she had twisted her ankle in the mud and was unable to walk. So Niels went off in search of help, and returned with a couple of bobbies.

Eventually, we made our way to a gastropub for lunch and Belgian beer, then scuffled with the gap on our way home. Here are some additional pictures:

Dog Sculpted of Chicken Wire

Dog Sculpted of Chicken Wire

More Shots of the Hounds and Niels

More Shots of the Hounds and Niels

Bono Is in London

I am so bummed right now – I just discovered that U2 is playing a few songs on a downtown London rooftop, and I had no idea! I am a big U2 fan – yes, I know Bono is an egomaniac, but I can’t help it, this is a band I hate to miss when they are in town. I know a few of you will understand my pain. Although the concert is being broadcast on BBC News, the irritating commentators are talking over Bono. Agony!

Dog or Fox?

“There’s a big fox on a lead, there’s a bloody big fox on a lead.” The words of one drunken man to his two drunken mates when he spotted Rocky the other night. You decide which is the fox and which is Rocky. You don’t have to be that drunk to confuse the two:

Fox or Dog?

Fox or Dog?

Dog or Fox?

Dog or Fox?

To See or Not To See

We have a dilemma – should we get tickets to Waiting for Godot? I have never read or seen the play, but I understand it is plotless, just a few men sitting around chatting the entire two hours. Although it doesn’t sound too thrilling, the play is supposedly a literary masterpiece and, more important, two of my favorite British actors are starring – Ian McKellen (of Hogworts) and Patrick Stewart (of the Enterprise). We need your advice – what would you recommend?

To be continued . . . .

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A Squidgy Walk

Ambling Around Hampstead Village

Yesterday I squidged about the village of Hampstead, now a suburb of London, with a walking tour. An enchanting place, with a fascinating history, where many of the hoi polloi live and have lived for some time. Squidgy was the word used by our guide, Peter, to describe the sticky-slidy muck that was our path on the Heath, in the cemetery, and along the “grassy” sidewalks of the 18th century portion of the village (more about the unnecessary use of quotation marks below). Here are some highlights.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

First stop. Wonderful slanty old cemetery, full of snowdrops, which pop up just before spring, crocuses, and daffodils. The snowdrops are blooming, the crocuses are starting to bloom, and the daffodil shoots are on their way – not in flower beds, but in grassy fields, in layers of leaves under bushes and trees, and in the most unlikely places all over London.

Crocuses

Crocuses

Early Daffodils

Early Daffodils

Quite an illustrious set of people buried there, including Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, her sons Peter, George, and Michael, and Evelyn Underhill. The Llewelyn children inspired J.M. Barry to create Peter Pan; they were also part of the du Maurier clan. Sylvia was sister to Gerald, Daphne du Maurier’s father. Peter, George and Michael died tragically, one in World War I, one by drowning, and the last, Peter, who was forever haunted by the specter of Peter Pan, threw himself under a train. Evelyn Underhill, who studied and wrote about Christian mysticism, did not die so tragically (although at the young age of 70).

Dame Judy Dench once resided in a house adjacent to the cemetery.    
Dame Judy Dench's Former Residence

Dame Judy Dench's Former Residence

We then squidged off to the residences and hang-outs of other famous Hampsteadonians, including: Robert Louis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island), Wilkie Collins (author of The Woman in White), John Keats (poet), Ian Fleming (creator of Bond, James Bond), Erno Goldfinger (an architect Ian Fleming disliked, it seems), Sir Ridley Scott (director of Blade Runner), John Harrison (who created a clock that could keep accurate time on ships), Jamie Oliver (television chef), and John Galsworthy (author of the Forsyte Sagas). We passed the studio and home of artist George Romney, whose model, Emma Hamilton, married a Lord, only to die penniless. She became the mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson, but he left her nothing when he died, bequeathing her “to my King and Country, that they will give her ample provision to maintain her rank in life.” Needless to say, King and Country gave her nothing. Poor woman. Here are a few more pictures:
House of Retired Admiral (who shot 12 cannon from the rooftop for every British navel victory and served as inspiration for the Admiral Boom of Mary Poppins

House of retired admiral (who shot 12 cannon from the rooftop for every British navel victory and served as inspiration for the Admiral Boom of Mary Poppins)

Heath trail named after the magistrates who fled to Hampstead to avoid the Great Plague of 1665; no apostrophe included.

Heath trail named after the magistrates who fled to Hampstead to avoid the Great Plague of 1665; no apostrophe included.

The Parish Lock-Up

The Parish Lock-Up

A Pictaresque Shop

A Picturesque Shop

Eliza Doolittle's 'airdresser ('ah, 'ah)

Eliza Doolittle's 'airdresser ('ah, 'ah)

During the walk, I was struck by the epitaph on John Keats‘s grave in Rome (where he succumbed to tuberculosis), as reported by our guide in front of the tavern (now gastropub) where Keats often sipped a pint or two: “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.”

Fishcakes at The Buttery

Burgh House (the Hampstead Museum)

Burgh House (the Hampstead Museum)

I had a scrumptious lunch in the bottom floor cafe of the Hampstead Museum, called The Buttery. Two crisp white rooms with low ceilings, full of warm, inviting light and simple wooden tables adorned with yellow daffodils. I ordered the fishcakes of sea bass, salmon, and prawns with a small salad, followed by a cappuccino.

Several people came in and asked for a pot of tea to take upstairs, requesting a 10% discount because they were playing Scrabble. The waiter explained that they get a discount because they play at the Burgh House every Thursday. Upon discovering that I would be in London for 6 months, he gave me a permanent 10% discount card (there is no way I would even attempt to compete with those expert Scrabblers in order to receive a 10% discount). So, if any of you visit, we will have to lunch at The Buttery. Definitely one for the griffe!

A B-Movie Life

Oh, yes, I forgot the soundtrack. As you may or may not know, I’ve been listening to a long list of 70s hits on my daily walks with the dogs. I’ve never walked while listening to music on an Ipod before, an isolating yet uplifting experience – at certain moments, when the song is just right, I feel like the dogs and I are characters in a movie scene (albeit a boring one). Yesterday, when I first wrote this entry, I couldn’t think of an example – but today, it happened – Hometown Glory, by Adele, came on while I was walking in Old Paddington Cemetery with the dogs. OK, so I listen to other music besides 70s hits (I’m sure many of you are relieved to know that).

Anyway, appropriately enough, Barbra Streisand and one of the BeeGees (I’m not sure which one) serenaded me through my fish cake feast. . . . “And we’ve got nothing to be guilty of, our love is one in a million. . . .” Yes, I still remember all the words to these songs, even though I’m not a gigantic fan of Barbra (the BeeGees are another story, however, although I don’t think the duets with Barbra were their best work). I love how music can summon memories, images, faces, people, moments, seasons, moods, and emotion felt by an entirely different “me” twenty-years earlier. Yet, that other person is still a part of me, and suddenly I am her again, today. This song reminds me of my mother, who often played this tape when we were living in Colorado Springs.

This reminds me of a book I am reading by Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia (Picador, 2007). The book is about the human brain and music – among other things, how we remember music and how music summons long-lost memories. I am especially taken with the story of Clive Wearing, a musicologist who suddenly lost most of his memories and had a memory span of only a few seconds. Can you imagine? Yet, he can sit at a piano and play complex, beloved pieces perfectly, with emotion. So, although he lost most of his past memories and cannot remember anything for more than a few seconds, he retains emotional, musical memory. The extraordinary power of music. See the full story in the New Yorker

Unnecessary Quotation Marks

Yesterday, I discovered a brilliant blog (brilliant to nerds like me) devoted solely to photos of unnecessary quotation marks. Oddly, I had wondered about a set of strange quotation marks I spotted in the Hampstead parish cemetery that same day, before I discovered the blog. So, today I went back and took a photo (took all these photos, actually – I decided to retrace my steps alone to savor the walk) to submit to the blog:
"At Rest" - Or Not?

"At Rest" - Or Not?

There’s More!

I have so much more to report – a failed flash mob, the British term for ding dong ditch, the bad rap that Dickens gave pawnshops, a delightful little bookshop for foodies, and the UK’s amazing fairtrade sensibility. But it is time to retire for the day. 

Check for more tomorrow!

 

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Scrummy Weather

Eating the Queen’s Bon Bons

While planning our trip to the UK, Niels frequently joked that I would spend my days in London eating chocolate bon bons while he slaved away. Yeah, right . . . except, this turned out to be an accurate prediction! 

For my 42nd birthday, poor Niels was too sick to do much of anything because he had inherited the cold I had finally shaken off. So, I decided to join 20 other crazy souls for a freezing “foodies” walking tour of  West London eateries. Unfortunately, we did not step inside a single restaurant or shop, either to warm up or sample a morsel of food, but we heard quite a few entertaining stories. We stood outside the Ritz (THE place for High Tea), White’s gentleman’s club (established in the late 17th century), the restaurant where Alexander Litvinenko may have been poisoned, the recently closed Cafe Royal (where Oscar Wilde held court), the cheese shop Paxton & Whitfield (according to Winston Churchill, “a gentleman only buys his cheese at Paxton & Whitfield”), and Fortnum & Mason (providing the rich and famous fully provisioned “hampers” for the horse races at Ascot).

We also stood outside Prestat, in one of those shiny bright 19th century shopping arcades, and looked longingly at the chocolate truffles in the windows. This is the Queen’s favorite chocolate – the Queen Mum is rumored to have always kept a box of Prestat truffles in the top drawer of her desk. Prestat was granted a Royal Warrant as Purveyors of Chocolates, and therefore is permitted to display the Queen’s coat of arms with the statement, “By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen.” 

Roald Dahl, author of James and the Giant Peach (I loved this book) and the more famous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I didn’t like this one – I felt so sorry for all the kids that disappeared, especially the purple girl, and stressed out each time I saw the movie) was also a big fan. In his book My Uncle Oswald, mischief ensues when the royalty and intelligentsia of Europe (including Freud and Picasso) eat Prestat truffles containing a love potion.

So, of course I had to return to Prestat and try a few truffles myself – and I can report that the Queen has very good taste when it comes to chocolate. I now have a box of them sitting next to my computer, handy for occasional snacks. The Queen Mum had the right idea indeed.

The British Version of a Croque Monsieur

After visiting Prestat, I had lunch in the cafe of a fancy shmancy British restaurant we passed on the walking tour – The Wolseley. The restaurant is in a domed, arched and pillared room with a marble floor; it once housed the first branch of Barclays Bank. I ordered a croque monsieur. Although toasted on very thin, Wonder-like white bread with the crusts cut off, it was delicious.

From Dreary Weather to Tropical

The Barrier in Sunny Weather

The Barrier in Sunny Weather

 After the snow it rained . . . and rained and rained. So much rain, the Thames Barrier had to be closed for the first time in a year to prevent London from being flooded.

Niels was finally feeling up for some sightseeing, and we both needed a break from the dismal weather – so we visited the annual Tropical Extravaganza at Kew Gardens. I felt like I was back among the orchids and anthereums grown by my grandparents in Hawaii. Here are some pictures:

That's Me, Walking Toward the Palm House

That's Me, Walking Toward the Palm House

Top of the Palm House

Top of the Palm House

View from the Top of the Palm House

View from the Top of the Palm House

A Profusion of Orchids

A Profusion of Orchids

Another Orchid

Another Orchid

Anthereums

Anthereums

Large Gifts?

Large Gifts?

The Six Nations

With Niels sick over the weekend, we stayed home and watched a few rugby games of the wildly popular Six Nations (Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy) tournament. England beat Italy, and Wales beat Scotland. Looks to me like a cross between wrestling and football. We learned a whole new vocabulary. For example, in the “scrum,” 8 players from each team all bunch together. Then, the ball is thrown underneath them and, miraculously, the play begins when one team manages to kick (?) the ball out of the scrum to one of the backs on its team.

The Collywobbles and Women Bishops?

The headline in The Times read, “Italians get collywobbles over broccoli.” The Times had previously reported that the British cauliflower was at risk of becoming extinct, as more and more Brits were replacing it with the “bristly upstart” of Italian broccoli. The article offended Italian politicians and gave them the collywobbles (a stomach-ache). One Italian politician responded by claiming that broccoli tastes better than cauliflower. Sorry to say, I have to agree.

Whether women may be ordained as bishops is being debated this week at the General Synod of the Church of England. Apparently, allowing women to become bishops gives many in the venerable Church the collywobbles. I’m sure Henry VIII is turning in his grave, although I suspect that Elizabeth I might have a different view.

Psychogeography of the Soul

Every day The Times prints a literary quotation. I thought I’d end with today’s quotation, from George Eliot’s novel Daniel Deronda, as it brought to mind my previous blog post about psycho-geography: “There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.”

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No More Snow

It is no longer snowing. But before it stopped, London accumulated about 9 inches, the most snow London has had in 18 years.

The Scene at Queens Park

Niels “worked” from home. The buses weren’t running, some of the tube trains weren’t running, and there were all kinds of delays.

We went to Queens Park with the dogs. The rest of the neighborhood had the same idea. Everyone who is anyone came out to play. Parents were out with their kids (schools were closed), dog owners were out with their dogs, kids of all ages were attempting to sled on the dinky little hills, the park wardens were trying to keep order in all the chaos, and a plein air painter was focused on a tree. Screaming, yelling, laughing, crying, occasional thumps as people landed on their rears, barking, wonderful craziness! Snowballs were flying every which way, and of course Stella assumed that they were all intended for her. We had a great time – here are some pictures.

The Small Forest in Queens Park

The Small Forest in Queens Park

Rocky, Stella and Niels

Rocky, Stella and Niels

The Plein Air Painter

The Plein Air Painter

The Biggest Hill in Queens Park

The Biggest Hill in Queens Park

Stella!

Stella!

Stella Digging for a Missed Snowball

Stella Digging for a Missed Snowball

One Way to Transport a Small Child

One Way to Transport a Small Child

Building Snowmen

Snowball Battles

A Street in our Neighborhood

A Street in our Neighborhood

The snow today doesn’t look quite so white! I’m dreading the inevitable muddy paws from future walks in the Park.

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Snow in London

It is snowing! Apparently, this is the coldest winter Londoners have had in 13 years. Great, just in time for us wimpy Californians. But we are thrilled with the snow, which blankets the city with a Colorado-like silence – at least until I hear the overground train whir by.

Television Addictions

I’ve been cooped up in the flat with a bad cold, feeling too awful to even read. So I’ve been watching non-stop television between naps, switching between two addictions. I love the Alibi channel, which only broadcasts British mysteries starring angst-ridden detectives who investigate grisly murders while they fight their own inner demons, such as Prime SuspectWaking the Dead, and Inspector Lynley. No one can do mystery like the British, I’m afraid. (I have this idea that British people often say “I’m afraid” after they have given bad news. Why do I think that? I often catch myself thinking with a British accent and phrases.)

I’m also addicted to Masterchef Goes Large, a reality show starring regular people who think they can cook – rugby players, lawyers, accountants, school teachers – compete for the title of masterchef. I still can’t figure out what they win – maybe a job with a chef?

Alas, The Reading Room is No Longer Used for Reading or Writing

Today I felt well enough to take a short trip to the British Museum. Because Niels has been reading a novel set in ninth century Britain, we took a stroll through the Museum’s only collection not plundered from other peoples by British nobility. We wandered among the jewelry and artifacts created by Britons, Picts, Anglo-Saxons, and others, many of which were buried in large burial mounds, including some artifacts from Sutton Hoo.

I was disappointed to see, however, that the Reading Room is now being used for exhibitions. Guess I won’t be joining the likes of Karl Marx, Bram Stoker, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in penning my brilliant blog there. No worries, I’ll just find myself a cozy pub or two.

The Demise of the Apostrophe in Birmingham

The Birmingham City Council has banned possessive apostrophes from its place signs, as, for example, the King no longer owns Kings Heath. This has caused quite a stir and has especially angered the members of the Apostrophe Protection Society (I kid you not, this is real!). One quote, from the Society’s founder:  “It’s setting a very bad example because teachers all over Birmingham are teaching their children punctuation. Then they see road signs with apostrophes removed.” The horror!

Apparently, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names dropped the possessive apostrophe from place names in 1890, but granted a few exceptions such as Martha’s Vineyard. See the full story in the London Times.

Socialized Health Care

Niels has had a runny nose since he arrived, so he asked his colleagues whether they could recommend any reputable doctors. Duh – they don’t do that here. To obtain medical care, Niels had to go to the “surgery” (the term for doctor’s office) closest to our residence and register for service. Because he is a Finnish citizen, they determined that he was eligible for free health services. European Union nations apparently have reciprocal agreements regarding health care coverage of each others’ citizens.

Search for A Warm Coat, Any Coat

I have been freezing, so last week I went on the hunt for an affordable, long wool coat. I cannot find even an expensive one anywhere, the stores are only selling their spring lines. Never in my life have I longed to throw fashion sense out the window and find one of those long down coats that look like sleeping bags. So, I spent some time hunting for a coat in second-hand clothing stores.

I visited Camden Market – similar to LA’s Melrose Blvd. (between Fairfax and La Brea) on steroids. It is a series of old stables and warehouses converted into independent stalls used to sell everything you can imagine – used clothes, Indian saris, Tibetan prayer flags, hats, socks and punk paraphernalia. Didn’t find a coat, but found a canal right through the middle of Camden Town. Here are some pictures:

Goods from Tibet

Goods from Tibet

Lingerie - Not Quite What I Was Looking For

Lingerie - Not Quite What I Was Looking For

Camden Lock

Camden Lock

The Canal

The Canal

The good news is I eventually found a suitable coat in a vintage store near Hyde Park, just in time for the snow.

A Couple Pictures of from the Hood

The Superbowl is on BBC Channel 1 now – which means it’s my bedtime.  Here are a couple pictures from our neighborhood. 

Niels's Favorite Car - A Citroen DS

Niels's Favorite Car - A Citroen DS

Picturesque Doorways

Picturesque Doorways

I have read this over, and I believe I put all the apostrophes in the correct locations. Please let me know if I failed – don’t want those feisty Apostrophe Protection Society members coming after me.

Cheers! (Cheers means “see ya” or “until later” in Brit-speak).

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A Day in the Life

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”  (Marcel Proust)

Touring Hyde Park

Yesterday Niels and I found a car-for-hire that would take all four of us to the park. The driver apparently throws his trash in the back of his station wagon, where Stella and Rocky were sitting, so Stella had a field day rooting up the trash and eating whatever she could find before I stopped her. We took a long, chilly walk around the Serpentine and over to Kensington Palace. When Elie and Alex come to visit, we definitely have to visit the Princess Diana Memorial Playground (no adults allowed unless they are escorted by kids). Looks amazing, full of pirate ships, teepees, and other imaginative contraptions. 

Niels, Stella and Rocky before Kensington Palace

Niels, Stella and Rocky before Kensington Palace

The Prince Albert Memorial in front of the Royal Albert Hall (how many holes does it take?)

The Prince Albert Memorial in front of the Royal Albert Hall (how many holes does it take?) and a group of European tourists

Cooking Dinner

It is Sunday night in the Smith-Frenzen household.  After “hoovering” the entire flat, which I do about every other day to deal with the dog hair and dirt, I’m enjoying myself sipping some South African wine, listening to my Ipod on Muji cardboard speakers (not the best sound, but I can sing along and drive my downstairs neighbor crazy), and cooking some Lochmuir Scottish salmon from Marks & Spencer. Featured on the Ipod – a mix of Allison Krauss and an A to Z of 70s soft rock hits (from Al Stewart to Todd Rungren, right now “Ventura Highway in the sunshine . . . .” is playing and I am missing California only slightly). Here are some photos of the kitchen and our flat:

Making Dinner

Making Dinner

The Teensy Kitchen

The Teensy Kitchen

The Living Room

The Living Room

Dining Area

Dining Area (with laundry drying in the background)

img_1512

The "Mud Room"

The "Mud Room"

Stella Eating Dinner

Stella Eating Dinner

A Griffe of London

According to John Baxter in his book Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas (HarperCollins 2008) and Dawn Drzal in her review of the book in the New York Times, Parisians construct griffes, “individual and passionately held map[s]” of their “favorite cafes, shops, walks, [and] meeting places.” Griffe literally translates to “claw” in French, and has come to mean an artist’s signature on his/her own creation. Might be fun to construct my own griffe of London, as well as Los Angeles when I return.

I suppose that including other places on the griffe – those that are forbidding, sobering, ugly, or just plain boring, for example – would make it into a personal psychogeography, a concept with which I have always been fascinated. Although it is defined a number of ways, one definition is a pedestrian exploration through dérive, or drift, that “jolts [one] into a new awareness of the . . . landscape.” (Joseph Hart, “A New Way of Walking,” Utne Reader, July/August 2004). It is also defined as a landscape’s effect upon the emotions.

Walkit.com is a great website that provides walking directions from one place to another in London; you plug in the location, and it spits out a map, the distance, time, how many calories you burn at slow, medium, and fast paces, and how much CO2 is avoided.  Very cool.  

The Demise of The Times Book Review

Last Saturday was the last installment of the Saturday book review section, going the way of so many other book review sections. Very sad, especially since I was looking forward to Jeannette Winterson‘s weekly column. But, I can still read her blog.

I still can’t believe I’m here!

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