Wednesday, January 14, 2009

September 18, 2004, continued

Yesterday, (Friday) we had a group tour of Westminster Abbey during which our tour guide danced on Darwin’s grave. That wasn’t the highlight, but I thought it was worth mentioning. You’ll have to do the tour yourselves some day; it’s political and church history, art and architecture appreciation, symbology, religion, and lots more rolled into one. Fascinating and exhausting.

For lunch, Kate and I got lost again and stumbled upon a Korean restaurant where we ate our weight in delicious food and then browsed around in a huge, independent bookstore. In the afternoon, my creative writing class went to the Sherlock Holmes museum for inspiration.

It was okay, but I probably would have enjoyed it more had I not been so exhausted from the morning and weighed down by bulgogi, rice, miso soup and kimchee.

On the way home, I experienced my first frustration with the tube. The line I needed to take was shut down for a “police incident,” and I was forced to do some creative detouring.

Last night I decided to stay in to catch up on my sleep. I think I’m ready for another fun-filled week. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Love from London,


September 18, 2004

Hi, all,

The last three days have been busy around here. On Wednesday morning I spent three hours walking around the Charing Cross area and browsing in old book shops. Exhausting but fun, fun, fun.

Early Wednesday evening Patrick (one of the Maryland students) and I spent another five hours getting lost and found in the city. Our wanderings led (as they usually do) to interesting places. At one point we stumbled upon a park, decided to go in, discovered a restaurant with a heated (yes, it’s finally getting chilly here) patio and had a half pint and a bowl of chips. We thought we were in Jubilee Park, but the hostess told us it was St. James Park.

This is really funny if you look at a map of London, because they are on opposite sides of the river. Some time later, we turned a corner to find the Westminster clock tower looming and dramatically lighted just as Big Ben chimed the half hour.

While walking up some street, we heard swishing noises and whistles, turned to look down the street, and were faced with hundreds of rollerbladers traveling en masse.

In between all that, we went to Trafalgar Square and the real Jubilee Park (home of the Eye),
crossing the Thames twice.

Thursday Dr. Hall took both of his science classes by coach to Oxford. We had five hours in town; it wasn’t nearly enough time. Exploring Christ’s Church College (see photo)...

--A little aside here. In order to get this photo, I had to go into the center of the quad, ignoring temporary barriers and production assistants (I really didn't see them, as I was drawn to this fountain), because the latest Harry Potter movie was being filmed. Yikes. Now, where was I?--

Exploring Christ’s Church College could easily have filled it, but my group stayed on the go. We visited the botanical garden, a couple of book stores, the museum, and Pembroke College as well. Tara wanted to see the last, because she read that Lewis Carroll was inspired by its gardens. It was closed to the public, but posing as potential students allowed us access. In our defense, we did pick up some admissions information while we were snooping around.

Finally, we stopped in at a punk pub for a drink before gathering for the return trip.

That night it was back to Imperial College for a drink, then laundry, etc.

--to be continued

September 14, 2004

Hi all,

Well, it has begun for me. Last night I went to the first class in my Brit Lit course. Initially, I signed up for a course on Shakespeare, but the prof. and the focus changed over the summer. As it turns out, the class is on 19th century Brit Lit. More specifically, we are focused on London, sex and anxiety through the eyes of Victorian era writers. I'm psyched. The prof is enthusiastic, capable and communicative. We are reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Great Expectations, Dracula and several poems, essays, interviews, and newspaper articles (such as those covering the White Chapel Murders) as well as taking field trips around London to explore some of the places about which we are reading. Oh, if only all my classes were lit classes!

Today is homework day. This week it includes a trip back to the London Museum to complete a module on science, reading ahead in culture; lit, and writing a short, descriptive piece for creative writing. I'd like to also fit in a trip to a local church where there is scheduled a talk on social and political justice and micro loans to women in third-world countries.

More soon.

Love from London,


This is not a metaphor

I have a really old vacuum cleaner. It's a canister style vac and has seen better days. Over the years I've owned lots of vacuum cleaners. All but this one were uprights. Several were bag-less. All of them crapped out eventually.

This one just keeps going. The hose cracked, was shortened, and cracked again. It was repaired with plastic and zip ties. It cracked again. It was covered end to end with duct tape. I can't remember now why I just didn't buy a new hose. Are they out of production? Was it too expensive? No matter. The duct tape is doing a fine job of holding everything together, the motor produces a mighty suck, and the retractable cord mechanism still reels it all the way in.

Truth be told, through it all, it's always been my favorite. And I can tell the truth, because vacuum cleaners aren't sensitive. I'm allowed to have a favorite. I bought the others because they were new and different, or because a guy with an English accent made them sound sexy. Or because the last new, different, sexy one had broken. This one I keep and keep coming back to because it works.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What I've been up to (but, wait, there's more)

Christmas quilts continued. I told you. Nuts.

A sparkly table runner for Jim & Cindy:

A Christmas gift table runner for Bill & Maggie:

A (large) lap quilt for Chuck the senior:

Another over-sized lap quilt. This one for Emma Louise (Grandma):

There are another five. Pictures pending.

What I've been up to (for the girls)

Christmas quilts continued.

For Emma, who loves stuffed animals, a cuddly flannel quilt.

For Kim, a hand-quilted table topper to match her decor.

And for Maddie, who loves to read, a quilt with panels from the old Dick & Jane primers and pieced gingham.

What I've been up to (for the boys)

I don't know what possessed me. Sometime in October I got the brilliant idea to quilt for everyone on my Christmas list. Sewing around the clock produced the following:

This is Zach's quilt. I chose a hipster palette and a simple pattern.

Josh is into graphic design. This is his quilt:
Ben loves pattern. This one should keep him busy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

September 13, 2004, Part II

Hi, all,

Change of plans. I know I wrote that I was going to go to the half price ticket office for tonight's performance, but checked my school schedule and discovered that I have class from 6-9 tonight. Went down anyway just to get out. Leicester Square was already hopping at 10:15 am as the lucky stiffs who can attend the theater tonight were queuing up for tickets. We went on a walkabout through China Town and Leicester and Piccadilly Squares. Duck is very popular here judging by the number we saw hanging in restaurant windows. Yum, can't wait for some of that on a pancake with sauce and spring onion. We comparison shopped Dim Sum and found a reasonably priced place to try some time.

The big Swiss clock in P Square is always wrong. Please note the correct time on my watch in the bottom right corner. Not very good advertising for Swiss clockworks. Let's hope they do better when it comes to taking care of money.

We stopped in at a Kabob shop for lunch. Avoid the lamb. Trust me on this. The camera timer went off just as I discovered I should have done.

On the way back to the tube station we ran into these guys on scooters. Not sure what that was about, but they were friendly enough and waved when they spotted us. I think Kate got a better picture of them. If so, I'll forward it on later. All that and back at home by 12:30. More soon.

Love from London,


September 13, 2004

Hello from London,

Last I wrote, I was headed off to a festival. As it turns out, we were a day early but had fun anyway and went back Sunday. Kate and I arrived in Banglatown at noon when the festival was scheduled to kick off. Lucky us. By the time we left at 2:30, there were so many people in the area we couldn't control where we were walking! We did find some very good curry to eat. I thought I didn't like curry; I was wrong.

We were also back in that neighborhood today, because as we were wandering
around on Saturday we found a very inexpensive fry shop. Lunch today was fish and chips for 1/3 the price of the same in our neighborhood. Greasy, delicious.

Before we accidentally met up (odd to run into someone you know while out in a strange city), I spent some time this morning in Harrod's. It's the most extravagant department store in the world. The food halls are incredible. The display cases have butter carvings of Pavarotti among others. One hall is dedicated to meats, one to cheeses, one to chocolate and the like, one to fruits and get the idea. Weirdly though, when I went to the ladies “Luxury Toilet”; it wasn't so luxurious. Hmm. The perfume hall is huge. There are at least 75 black-clad perfume girls swarming around trying to spray everyone. I didn't make it through the entire store, but I will go back to check out the pet and toy departments at least. I'll probably wait until December though, because their decorations and displays are supposed to be fantastic.

Before we went for lunch, Kate and I went down to Christie's auction house to thumb through catalogs of upcoming sales and check out the preview rooms. Beautiful clocks and furniture were on display today. I will try to get back there for an auction while I'm here.

What all this doesn't tell you is that I must be walking 5-10 miles a day. We take the tube to the general area where we think we need to be, but Kate and I have a habit of getting lost. We have learned to embrace our lostness, though, because we have run across some really incredible sights. I am enclosing a couple of photos of one of our stumbling-down-an-alleyway shortcuts (don't worry, it is remarkably safe in this city,
and we don't do this alone).

September 10, 2004

Hi all,

Last Sunday Kensington Garden was full of people enjoying the scorching 80ยบ F temperatures, running, walking, reading, napping, sunbathing, playing sport. On one of the winding trails, I found the statue of Peter Pan; I've attached a photo of it to this email. It is difficult to see in the photo that the animals surrounding its base have been worn smooth by many little hands, but the bronze there is lighter, and the details have become a little fuzzy. It's lovely.

We've been in London for 10 days and it was only yesterday that we experienced our first rain. It was a light rain that lasted only half an hour. This weekend is supposed to be the first with fall-like weather, but so far this morning it is sunny and warm. It looks like a good day for the Curry Festival and River Race. I should have some good shots to send of those. Hope all is well where you are. Love from London, Robin

September 4, 2004

Okay. Saturday night. We closed down the local pub. That’s not saying much, because last call is 11pm. Met lots of interesting people from all over (the U.S., the U.K., Jordan, etc.). Loads of fun and good beer. Some went on to SoHo, but the more sensible of us are home. Unbelievably, the weather is still perfect. I continue to carry my umbrella everywhere, because I’m deluded enough to believe it is keeping the rain at bay. Everyone here is fretting over not bringing enough summer clothes. Attached is a picture of some of us at the Imperial College pub. The diehard soccer fans are not present as they are inside watching the game.

Love to you all,


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

September 2, 2004

Hi, all,

Wow, it’s great to feel human again. Seems like I overcame the jetlag pretty quickly by following the plan; stay up as long as possible on day 1 and sleep all night. When we checked in yesterday, I got really lucky. I’m one of very few with a private room, bath included. The only downside is my room is on the 5th floor, and the elevator only goes to 4. Good thing I found a strong, young Brit to help with my bags yesterday. Although I packed as lightly as possible, 4 months away requires some stuff. I’ve already found the best buy in town: a cup of white, sweet coffee for 30p. Hurray for vending machines.

Walked miles yesterday trying to get my bearings. We are really close to a lot.

Haven’t made it to the park yet, but that’s on the agenda today between an arranged city tour complements of FIE this morning and an orientation session this afternoon. Later a group of us is going out to take advantage of our tube cards and soak up some atmosphere. Speaking of atmosphere, the weather has been gorgeous since we arrived. Yesterday was sunny and warm, and today promises much of the same. I’ll be carrying my umbrella, though; one never knows.

Okay. Time to get downstairs for that tour.

My love to you all.


London Diary Wordle

If you haven't tried this, you must. wordle

Old stuff

So. A few years ago I spent a semester in London. While I was there, I took photos almost every day and sent emails to a bunch of folks back home. Sort of a public diary. Blogging wasn't so accessible back then.

Anyway, people liked the emails. I liked writing them. I have trouble keeping up with files, what with all my computer mishaps. Some of the originals are lost to the ether. I'm going to post the ones I still have here, so I'll know where they are.

The titles will be the original dates of the emails.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Hi, all,

So. Yesterday I went to see a patient who lives on a ranch. Her house is surrounded by a fenced yard, and there are various large fenced pens on the property. This week several of the sheep lambed in the bitter cold. Since the barn is rather far from the house, and the family were worried about coyotes taking the wee ones, several of the lambs spent the night in the enclosed porch of the house. The next morning some of the mamas refused their lambs, so they are having to be bottle fed, but the two moms in the photo are taking care of two each.

So cute, but that's not really why I'm writing. No. This is a warning. While I was taking pictures of the lambs, two emus who were outside of the yard near my car were stalking me. At first I thought, "Ah, bless. Aren't they cute."

Then I tried to leave.

The garden gate opens out. When I tried to leave the yard, one of the emus lay down in front of the gate effectively blocking my path. I started nudging it with the gate, and as it stood, it started stamping its HUGE feet. I flashed back to one of those nature programs and remembered that these birds can do some terrible damage with those feet. I must say I was a little scared. But then I remembered what a friend who raises emus--which he keeps behind a tall fence--once told us: if you make yourself appear bigger than the bird, it will back off. Easier said than done as this bird was at least six feet tall. Anyway, I had my visit bag with me, so I raised it over my head and nudged the gate open enough to slip through. This bird was not intimidated, and it swung its head around bringing its beak within six inches of my face. Yikes. I was afraid to turn my back on it, so I did a little backwards shuffle around my car to the driver's side door, the bird keeping pace. The door, of course, was locked, and as I fumbled for the keys--this required that I drop the bag and look small again--the bird leaned against the door. While I was opening it, he was stepping back to avoid being knocked down, but he kept his head above the top of the door (and above my head). Once I got in I felt pretty safe until he and I discovered at the same moment that I had left the window down about six inches.

Okay. I did manage to get the car started and the window up without losing an eye or anything, but I think the stress hormones may have caused some permanent damage.

So now the warning: I know it will be difficult, but stay away from emus.

Love from Spring Branch,


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim:

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Diary of a Mad Chicken

Diary of a mad chicken:

Due to Dixie's continuing vertigo and impaired depth perception, you'll have to settle for my version of events.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Out of quarantine but still in protective custody. Dixie is allowed free time on the patio to interact with the other chickens with minimal supervision. That means we check on her occasionally to make sure she isn't being pecked to death. After about an hour, Chuck looks outside and screams, "(Expletive)! We have a chicken in the pool!"

Sure enough, Dixie is doing the chicken paddle in the middle of the pool. Chuck runs to the edge, squats down, and starts calling her. "Here Dixie...Follow the sound of my voice...That's right...Keep coming...Follow my voice." I'll be damned if she doesn't follow the sound of his voice all the way to the edge of the pool to be scooped out. She spends the next hour wrapped in a towel shivering and crying but comes out of it okay. No harm, no fowl death.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Continues with more heavily supervised visits with other chickens. These encounters require diligent human supervision with frequent intervention, as the others chickens will threaten and peck causing Dixie to squawk and spin around in circles.

I'm sitting out on Bette's bench drinking a beer and watching the chickens. I notice that three of the new teenagers are starting to get little buds on their legs. Crap. Three more roosters. Double crap, Dixie has the same buds.

Apparently Jim was onto something when he suggested the name Lowell.

Thursday, October 2. 2008

Dixie (hard to think of her/him as anything but now) is rapidly outgrowing and more rapidly beginning to resent the rabbit cage. At about 10:00 a.m., Vic decides that she (he, dammit) will be happier hanging out under the bench and tree while all the other chickens are in the back four. When she goes to check on Dixie about an hour later, he is gone. Gone without a trace. Not one feather left behind.

Being terribly upset, Vic calls Chuck who rushes home from work to try and figure out what happened to Dixie. They search the property. They try to get Small to track her (him, dammit). They stand very still and listen very carefully trying to hear a faint cheep. Nothing.

Chuck spends the afternoon composing a fairy tale to tell me when I get home. That happens at 4:00 and we have this exchange:

Chuck: Dixie went to lunch and fell in with a bad crowd and hasn't come back.
Me: What do you mean? Where is she?
Chuck: Well...We don't know?
Me: Did someone EAT her for lunch?
Chuck: Maybe.
Me: Who? Was it one of the dogs?
Chuck: No. We looked everywhere. There's no sign. No feathers or anything.
Me: (Looking out into the pasture at something distant and white) Did you look over there? Is that her?
Chuck: No. That's a rock.

So, I go into the house and Vic and I are talking about it when she looks up and sees Chuck walking across the pasture holding Dixie.

He found him calmly standing in the shade under a tree.

Holy crap.

Love from Spring Branch,