Wednesday 28 December 2011

A few more pics...

So, I figured out how to transfer pics from the camera to the computer, sans cord. Apparently, my computer has a little doodah that reads cards. Who knew? That still leaves one or two pics in the camera's memory that will have to wait until I find a cord, but, this is certainly better than nothings!

Oh, btw - Christmas pics are HERE.

And some other pics...

Country Inn...

Winter sunset, looking out over the back 40...

Deer and Windsor Castle.

The road to Windsor Castle...

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Dia del Salud. Oh yeah, and Christmas and Boxing Day

So, I was feeling a bit overfed today, not so surprising, considering that I had two Christmas meals on Christmas Day, not to mention a large meal yesterday (Boxing Day). So yeah, feeling a bit overfed today, so I thought, hmm, let's go for a bike ride and go to the gym. It was a lovely bike ride - 66 miles out to Windsor and back, plus the gym after. Needless to say, I'm feeling a bit tuckered out at the moment. But less overfed (of course, I just ate leftover turkey and am about to go hunt for some pumpkin pie). The pumpkin pie came from Whole Foods, in Kensington. It was about $16 and not very big. Kensington though, is a very rich area full of many Americans. What this means is that it actually has a really good supermarket, selling really good things like pumpkin pie, at many times their real price. Anyway, it was yummy.

Christmas was very nice - got up at a sensible hour, went for a nice run through the (relatively) empty streets. Then the three of us cycled 9 miles out to Chiswick to meet George and Neale (driving in from Slough) for the world's most expensive lunch (something like $130 each). It was actually pretty tasty, but still... Anyway, we went for a post lunch consitutional around St. James' Park after that in the failing light (me with a very nearly failing bladder, not improved by the fact that they had just closed the toilets). Then it was back here for presents and Christmas dinner - a whole traditional extravaganza cooked by Robin. Leonel came over for that, and we finally ate (a whole lot of) food about 10pm (and had a whole lot of mulled wine - also made by Robin). Not a bad day to spend Christmas.

Yesterday, Boxing Day, we went over to Paul and Ali's, along with about 12 other people, for a whole lot more food - didn't get back here until late last night.

So, yeah, a whole lot of food and a whole lot of people. Back to work tomorrow for three days - I'm hoping very much for it to be quiet.

Hmm - new camera doesn't seem to come with a cable that allows me to connect it to the computer. Charming - that means I'll have to wait on those pics. A few from my phone though...

Sometimes I have this dream I am being watched by sheep...

Our little window friend...

Aaahhhh! Alien invasion!!!!!

Martha Stewart, eat your heart out!

Thursday 22 December 2011

A Year!

Wow - it was a year ago today moved across the park into this house. A year ago it was cold and snowing, the roads were iced over, and I had to rescue the stuck van with handfuls of pelletised chickenshit under the tyres. The house was a mountain of boxes (with a Christmas tree bundled up in a corner). I was so tired and so stressed I can actually hardly remember the day. Today, well, the house still needs new doors (I mean, really, who puts doors with frosted glass on bedrooms?), it needs paint and we have yet to figure out what to do with the back yard - oh, and yeah, we still need art on the walls. But - it's had a new kitchen, a second bathroom, new light fixtures, furniture, a summer's worth of mad flower jungle, several parties, and it's actually becoming home. I still can't believe it's been a year.

So, today, the winter solstice, I got up in the pitch black dark, at 7 and went for a nice run as the sun just peeked over the eastern horizon. (Sunrise/sunset: 8:04am - 3:54pm). It was beautiful and warm this morning - oddly warm - almost like a southern California winter's morning. I felt virtuous out on my morning run (sad, I know). I remember a number of years ago, Dad made a comment about how he really liked being up at stupid o'clock in the morning to take the ferry to Seattle, as this let him see the sun rise. I said something oh so clever like as long as the sun was in the sky when I got up, I knew it would be another day, and I didn't need to get up early just to check! (I also hated the Grape Nuts commercial - "morning is your time"). Well, I'm still a zombie when I get up in the morning - I don't function until after I eat my breakfast (bacon, eggs, beans, milk, orange juice and coffee), but yeah, it's kind of nice to actually see the sun come up. Of course, it's a lot easier in December than it is in June (4:43am - 9:22pm).

Anyway - still working on what I want to do when I grow up. I've come across an MSc programme in Geophysical Hazards at University College London - seems to be designed for GIS-y type people (like me!) who are considering a career shift into hazards, which I am. Definitely worth a look.

That's about it for the moment. I do have lots of pics I need to put up - just need to get off my butt and do so!

Morning pastoral, Hackney style...

Then what such?

As they say here, it was a real tailback... (I know- groan).

Wow - not sure how anyone finds anything in that DIY store!

And for today's bad packaging award...

Thursday 8 December 2011

Going Dutch

Or, rather, I have finally figured out how to cycle home from the supermarket with shopping bags hanging from my handlebars. We live about 3/4 of a mile from the supermarket, which isn't so bad, but at night, when the park closes, it's a 1 1/4 mile walk, which is annoying, especially if it's cold, wet and windy, which it is tonight. I was never able to manage to cycle home with the bags hanging from my handlebars - they were too heavy and the swung wildly. Solution? Put the heavy stuff in my backpack and the light stuff hang from the handlebars. Problem solved. Of course, I could get a rack and panniers, and, in fact, I do now own panniers (though not yet a rack), but these are strictly for touring rather than daily use. Putting a rack and panniers on a bike is, as far as I am concerned, the equivalent of buying the minivan. I'm not quite ready for that yet.

Anyway, been thinking more about what I would like to do careerwise. Much as I would love to go back to pure geology, that probably isn't feasible, meaning I should find a way to tie in my GIS skills - build on my career rather than start it over again. I think I'd like to focus on urban hazards, as I've always been drawn to, essentially, people building in stupid places. And - I've always been really interested in our relationship with water - flooding, coasts, etc. This is likely to become a much bigger issue in southern England in the future, as they predict that summer is going to get drier, and the UK ain't got no sensible water policy! Anyway, we'll see...

Tuesday 6 December 2011


So, as per usual, I intended to write all sorts of amazing and astounding things when David and I were driving hither and yon, up and down the West Coast. What did I write? Well, mostly my name on credit card slips. I'm pretty sure that David and I managed to b eef up most of the previously moribund economy of California. Anyway, the trip was way the hell too short - only a week and a half, but we didn't have the vacation days to spare this year. We did learn a very important life lesson though - never ever take an 11 hour flight back and the end of a long day, because it pretty much sucks donkey dong - especially when they can't get either the jetway or the stairs to function properly at Heathrow and keep you on the plane an extra half hour!

So, we flew out to CA on the 18th - pretty much as flawless a flight as possible (for sitting in coach). Last row of the plane - easy potty access, and only David and me in the row. I actually made it through two entire newspapers on the way out, as well as some of my interminably long and boring book on the history of British urban planning. The brief period of time we were in SFO (the rest of that day and the following) we hung out with Heather (from Carleton - she schlepped down from British Columbia for the occasion). It's kind of amazing how huge amounts of time can pass and people don't change (well, except for popping out a kid, which, I suppose, is a slight change). Anyway, we just sort of dropped back into where we'd left off, which is nice - always a mark of a good friendship!

Sunday, David and I took our very swoopy white hybrid Camry (which only averaged a disappointing 35mpg) and headed off to Oregon (stopping to gym on the way - one must have priorities. Oregon was just as brief, but full of family, which is fab. A brief sojourn back through Sacto, a pop back to SFO for Tgiving, Riverside and San Diego. David was very brave and survived at least 75 of my closest relatives. Anyway, I would love to write more about all the fine details, but, to be honest, I'm tired and crabby and my brain feels a little bit like tapioca, so I suppose I will have to go with brief.

So, David and Robin are currently watching some movie on the TV in the next room, which means that I have the attention span of a gnat (very deer in headlights). I suppose more now and to the point is that I have decided to do something with my boring and going nowhere career. This has been brewing for a while, but I should probably say a lot of the catalyst was talking to Dad. Besides realizing that, well, I'm bored and not too excited about talking about what I'm doing jobwise, he made a point, and much as I hate to admit that it was a good one, it was. What's in the way of me doing what I would like to do? Me. So, I suppose it's time for Me to do something about it. Not quite figured out what it is yet, but I know, and I've always known I really need to reconnect to the Earth Sciences. That's where I started, but for sundry reasons - some of them good but most of them fairly sad and pathetic, I keep finding reason after reason that it just won't work. There are a few practicalities to keep in mind - I need to work, I can't go out and become a ballerina or join the circus (I'm really so bad on the trampolines - just wouldn't work), but I've started contacting programs in London having to do with spatial modelling and natural hazards. It would mean some number of years of zero social life, but if I could reconnect my GIS skills to something I really love, well, I'd be happy as a pig in shit. So anyway, some potential changes, and maybe next trip I take I'll actually blog during it! Yeah.

Sunday 13 November 2011

And the solution to a hangover is...

So, last night we had a combined 40th bday party for Robin, a belated bday party for David (as his bday is on 911, so, being that everyone (in America at least, here they, mercifully, don't give a crap) has to put on frownie faces that day, he now has his real bday and his "official bday" - like the Queen. Only problem is we can never figure out when his official bday is, so it's whenever it's most convenient, which is damn convenient). Anyway - we had a party last night with about 12 guys over. There was a lot of alcohol. This being a bunch of homosexuals, we're not talking Bud Lite (though we did have one beer drinker, and there was a fair amount of pear cider downed) - we're talking numerous bottles of champagne, 2 bottles of vodka and a bottle of rum. Not to mention whisky and God only knows what else- lighter fluid maybe. So, our recycling sounds like there are a bunch of alkies living here. We had one person stay the night on the sofa and two in the extra bedroom, and I think I managed to go to bed about 4. Noon came very early, and there may have been some delicateness, though, surprisingly, not that much, all things considered. Fortunately, we'd made a valiant effort on the kitchen last night, and nearly all mess was contained to that room, so there wasn't too much cleanup. Nothing broken either, which isn't bad, considering that someone knocked a full glass of cider into the sink, where there were dirty champagne glasses, and someone else managed to drop a ramacan out of the cupboard onto the tile floor, thinking it was the top of a funny looking glass (rather than two stacked on top of each other). You'd never think that glass could bounce on tile. It's possible there were some arms flapped at that moment in time and several butchness points may have been lost. Anyway, no harm done, save possibly to my friend's ego.

So, today I ran errands in town and went for a little bike ride (my solution to hangover). Robin went to the gym and hung out with a mutual friend (his). And David kept the sofa and the TV occupied (and finally, his). Honestly, I can't do that unless I feel pretty shit-iferous. I have to go outside and do something - even if it's something completly pointless.

Oh yeah - I ripped out quite a lot of the back garden yesterday (as the flowers had mostly died) and put in pansies and verbenas, which are about the only things that will bloom over the winter (unless it gets really cold, in which case they will turn a lovely shade of black). So far though, nothing approaching cold - it's been bizarrely warm, to the point, apparently, where a lot of the plants and animals think it's spring again. I'm sure there is no climate change though... Hmm.

Our "hippo bag" full of crap, being taken away by a crane. Very exciting.

Now kids, this is what happens when you don't wash down there - your ankles glow! (Health and safety alert - Robin is actually wearing underwear).

Party food. The funny thing about a bunch of super health conscious queens is that they start out absolutely avoiding anything vaguely fatty. However, once enough alcohol has been consumed, they seem to go on a fat seeking mission - vacuuming down vast quantities of lard, including the Krispy Kreme donuts that someone brought (which remain untouched until someone opened it, after which the swarming hordes descended).

Random party scene. Unfortunately, the flash on my phone seems to now flash after I actually take the picture, which is a slight problem. Must get new phone and get camera!

Robin and the gayest cake on the planet.

More people and party...

Leonel discovers that I made the drink strong enough to take the enamel off his teeth...

Martin's head seems to have exploded...

Sunday 6 November 2011

Remember, remember, the 5th of November

Yesterday was Guy Fawkes Day, which celebrates and unsuccessful attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605, by, ironically, blowing things up. It's a bit like the 4th on steroids, only, instead of just official fireworks shows (of which there are many), every single person seems to have bought out the arsenal of a small country and decides to blow it up. Every store sells fireworks, stands are set up along the road, and we're not talking just the "safe and sane" fireworks - we're talking cool things that shoot hundreds of feet in the air and blow up. They are everywhere - so much so that the air usually smells like sulfur and gunpowder, and a person walking outside could be forgiven for thinking that there was a war on. We actually have quite a number of fireworks hanging around in the house, but we've never gotten around to actually setting them off - maybe New Year's Eve? It was just David and me last night, and, to be honest, we couldn't be bothered (and last time we set off fireworks from the house - from the roof in our previous place, they ended up in the trees and exploded the flower pot being used as the base). Yay! We we had a very safe and sane night watching The Green Lantern. I think my takeaway line from that was, "Make yourself at home; there's water in the tap", and my takeaway message was that sexy, sporty people are good, and excessively smart or nerdy people are bad. Gosh, it sounds like high school, only with green tights, more muscles, and cool superpowers. And here I was wondering how a Green Lantern goes to the bathroom, what with that skintight green, well, skin, I guess. They really should address these important issues - it's very difficult to suspend disbelief otherwise... Then David stayed up watching the Golden Girls (well, technically, he fell asleep on the sofa watching the Golden Girls, which we have now downloaded most of), and I, being the always sensible one (snort) went to bed.

Today, which was grey and yicky, I went for a nice 57 mile poodle around north London on my bike, and David tried to fix the toilet, only to discover that it uses non-standard parts. I may have had the better day. Generally speaking, I do the outdoor stuff - garden and whatnot, and I leave David to the indoor stuff. I'm very good at taking things apart - not so good at putting them back together, and, as far as I'm concerned, electricity is voodoo magic, best left to professionals (esp British, 240v drives on the left electricity - very scary indeed).

Anyway, back to work tomorrow. Yippy skippy.

Some pics for today:

A field, north of London...

Road- north of London.

Um, yes please? ;-)

Saturday 5 November 2011

Yeah, that's pretty secure...

So, I decided I was going to switch credit cards, for a variety of reasons. I applied for, and received, my new credit card, and was told I had to call the bank to set up telephone and internet banking. Fine. On the phone, I was told that I would receive the instructions and passwords for the two services in the mail about a week later. In fact, I did. I receieved four identical envelopes on the same day. In two of them were my user names. In the other two were my passwords. Hmm - let's see - person gets four identical envelopes from the bank on the same day. I am sure there can't possibly be any relation between them, so I, as the bad fraudster, wouldn't even think to have a look through those four, identical, surely meaningless envelopes.


Wednesday 2 November 2011

The Leisurely Progress of Autumn

So, yeah, it's been hot, cold, balmy, dry, pretty much all over the map the past month. Apparently, we had one of the warmest Octobers ever, and the trees have gotten overly excited about the whole thing. It actually almost resembles a normal autumn in a normal place with normal trees that turn colours, rather than the usual muted shade of blah they tend to go here (though there is still plenty of that). Granted, many of the trees that are turning would probably turn in Florida (liquidambar), but we'll take what we can get!

I worked from home today, as I had to wait for a furniture delivery (how very exciting and very domestic!). I didn't used to like working from home, because I like to keep a very strong separation between work and home (probably from too many years of being a student), but I've come to realise that I actually get a whole lot more done when I'm at home. I suppose part of it is that I feel slightly guilty about not having to schlep into work, so feel like I need to make up for it, but also because I can just sit here with music playing, without the phone ringing and without any distractions. It's like studying - I could never study anywhere with lots of distractions (though somehow I did manage the art of studying in coffeshops, which is probably part of why I now have crap vision). Oh well. Anyway, a productive day was had at home, and I didn't even have to fend of any Jehovah's Witnesses (though I did have to fend off one guy trying to sell fish). Jehovah's Witnesses - we tend to get those on the weekend - not so surprising, given that we live near a Kingdom Hall. I always tell them I'm Jewish and that all my housemates are Jewish too. That usually throws them - I suppose they figure that it's a real religion, and sort of a precursor to their religion (even though it's clearly the WRONG religion), so by the time they recover I've said my goodbye and shut the door. Of course, they always still manage to shove the Watchtower through the mail slot. I try... They always seem to have a small child in the front, handing out the Watchtower. Now if said child was selling Girl Scout cookies, that would be a different story, but, sadly, they don't do that here, and the Watchtower doesn't taste very good. Hmm - apparently, someone walked off and left me running.


Didn't do much exciting over the weekend - David and I looked at rugs at John Lewis (ooh, hold me back), and we walked around and looked at brown/red leaves in Hyde Park (like I said, we take what we can get). Maybe this weekend I will actually manage a bike ride, if the weather isn't crapalicious. It's getting to that time of the year when it's just as likely to be horrible as anything else. That and it's getting darker noticeably earlier every day. The light has done its shift to winter light (very low, evening-like). It just seems to shift one day, as if there is an angle of incidence (I think that's what it was called - can't remember) - anyway, as if there was a certain angle that suddenly, things look all wintery. California really doesn't get it, b/c it's not far north enough, except right around the winter solstice. I do very much like the winter light here though, the deep shadows, that sort of thing. David has said that the low light makes him nauseous. But then, David is a bit of a fruitcake (unlike me).

David at First Out Cafe, which just closed because of CrossRail, which they are building across London. The cafe was here for 25 years and I think I first visited it 16 or 18 years ago. Really good for hearty veggie food (it was a lesbian cafe, so not much meat on the premises). I'll miss it.

Did this man perhaps forget the rest of his car?

First Out Cafe.

Yeah, that was built into the wall of a toilet cubicle, which, incidentally, had frosted glass in the door. Certainly inspires confidence!

David smiles for his proud pumpkin. Unfortunately, we missed most of the Trick or Treaters, as we weren't home early enough, but we did get quite a lot of candy, before David took the rest of it to his work. How dull.

Yeah, I will never be a brain surgeon.

Ruskin Park (next door to us), looking east towards our neighbourhood.

Looking into the centre of Ruskin Park.

Ruskin Park, looking towards central London.

Our street, from Ruskin Park.

Tuesday 25 October 2011


Back at work today, feeling tired and cranky from lack of sleep after a really fantastic weekend visiting Kathleen in Bern. I need to be better at using these breaks to help me to make positive change in my life, rather than coming back and moping around that everything isn’t as perfect as it could be. Anyway, enough whining- I did buy a nice cover for my bicycle, so now I can officially take it on all the European trains (they don’t require it in the UK). Now I just need to start planning European bike trips! Anyway, I wrote out my thoughts as the trip went along, and the pics are HERE.


Currently in a small, propeller driven puddle jumper, somewhere over Belgium. I’m in a row of one, which is fab, right next to the propeller, which is very big and spinning very fast. Definitely seen too many airplane disaster movies. In further proof that we are not flying in the USA (which is obviously much more dangerous), the flight attendant is standing in the cockpit, with the door wide open, having a lovely chat with the pilot, who is blocking out the rising sun with his outstretched hand. Hmm. Anyway, I flew out of London City, which is an absolute joy. It’s a little microdink airport in the Docklands – zero wait and zero hassle. You don’t even have to show your boarding card – just touch it to the gate, which opens automatically to let you go to security. Getting to the airport should be easy as well, but, this being London, very early on a Saturday morning, that never actually happens. So, I was up at 445. Ugh. And, being slow and generally useless at that hour, I missed the 558 bus. I then did something I thought was very clever, which was to take the next bus the other direction, to Brixton, where I could get the Tube. Except, the Victoria Line wasn’t running. Gack – really too tired to be dealing with this! So, it was onto another bus, to the Tube, to another Tube, to the Docklands Light Railway, and then, miraculously, I was only 20 minutes late to the airport. Anyway, all this excitement for a two night visit to Bern to see Kathleen.

Checking out the landscape below, I think, hmm – it would make a fabulous 700 mile bike ride. Hmm.

Oh yeah, it’s always amusing flying foreign airlines – the little things they do differently. Breakfast was some sort of pink yogurty muesli thing with fruit in it – looked a lot like cat barf, but actually tasted nice and a slightly wooden croissant. And, the woman across from me was allowed to fly with her suitcase sitting on the floor, belted in with the seatbelt. Wow.

Just reading a history of planning in GB – I learned that a house, approximately the size of ours, could be bought for £825 in the 1930s. My new bike cost £900. The deposit for the house was £45. Amazing.

OK, I’m convinced I need a camera again. I’ve been using my phone for years with generally good results, but there are, for example, beautiful patterns in the fog below and I can’t turn my phone on to take a picture.

Asshole behind me keeps sneezing. Is it socially acceptable to smother him?

Hmm, flying up to the Alps you really can see how it looks like a smushed up carpet (that’s a scientific term). Gorgeous with fog and autumn leaves. I want a camera!

Funny thought – we took off out of London’s protective blanket of smog. We land in Bern’s protective blanket of fog. Who’s to say which is better?

Sitting on a bench at a school in Bern now, waiting for Kathleen to finish her volleyball game. I spent several hours just wandering, which I love. Bern is such a beautiful city (pics to follow) and very walkable. Every time I go to a German speaking place, I have to say I really appreciate the sense of order. Things are clean and function well. People get upset when the train is a minute late, whereas in England it is considered officially on time if it is less than five minutes late. I realise there is crime and social problems in the German countries, but there is also an overall sense that things should be “just so”. That can cause problems, in itself, for sure (as evidenced by naughty behaviour of the Germans in the past), and I do very much appreciate, for example, the British wackiness that really lacks here. I don’t at all miss the “chav” or “gangsta” culture. But then, I think England has always been essentially held together by string – it’s always been a big mess, yet somehow it works. It somehow managed to take over most of the world, searching, I’m sure, for better cuisine. I’ve always wondered if I could live in a German country, or if I would miss the British absurdity. London is sort of like New York in that it’s a huge mess – nothing ever works properly, everything is always delayed, everything is expensive. Yet, I miss it when I’m away. It’s probably a good place to be.


Well, today was a bit of a whirlwind!

Anyway, I went to the end of Kathleen’s volleyball game yesterday (as mentioned), where I had definite proof that yes, I am a big homosexual. I walked into this gym full of very fit women in very short shorts, whacking the volleyball over the net, running around, shouting, and hugging each other between each hit. If ever there were a hetero wankfest it was that. And my worry? What would I do if the ball came towards me? Sigh.

We all went, last night, after dinner, down the hill to the river to a volleyball/handball event/party at this sort of dance club in the attic of an old industrial building (reminded me of a converted barn). Fortunately, there were English speakers there, because my Schweiz Deutsch is a bit muy crappo. Anyway, a lot of BSing with various people of sundry nationalities, and I had 4 beers, which is about 3 over my recommended intake. I didn’t get to bed until about 230 and didn’t sleep well because of the alcohol.

Needless to say, this morning was a little rough. But, I managed to straggle out of bed (futon) about 10 and we went off for fantastic brunch in a converted old house. It was a buffet, and the thing about me and buffets is that I tend to eat the whole buffet. Moo. So, suitably blobular, we wandered back to Kathleen and Nik’s, via the supermarket at the train station (the only one open in central Bern on Sunday, as they seem to roll up the sidewalks).

I then ran off about 1/100th of bunch along the river, and after, the weather having cleared from morning fog, Kathleen and I took the tram and the funicular up to the top of a 1000 or so foot tall hill at the edge of the city. The views were absolutely magnificent, off towards the Alps and back towards Bern, and, it being late afternoon/early evening and autumn, the sun was low, the colours all shades of red and gold, and the whole thing was, well, pretty damn amazing. I so wish we had something like this in London – I think that if David and I ever leave London, it’s going to be because of this. I’ve come to realize that I really do need my nature – so does David, even move – and we just don’t get it in SE England.


Anyway, we were very brave and climbed to the top of a 70 or so foot tall tower with a see-through metal mesh floor. I had to walk around like a little old lady, clinging desperately to the railings. Then it was back to Nik & Kathleen’s for pumpkin soup (yum) and fab bread, salmon and a surely no-fat cream and sugar and raspberry dessert. I most certainly can’t complain!

Bed early tonight because OMG am I exhausted, and up at 645 tomorrow.


I’m killing time today before heading to the airport. I was up with Kathleen & Nik at 645 and went for a misty, early morning run along the Aare. I wandered some after that, did a short gym workout and purchased a bike cover for taking my bike on European trains. They don’t sell them in the UK, from what I have found, because they aren’t required on British trains.

I took the train then down to meet Kathleen for lunch (sauerkraut and meat – yum!) and have been wandering the past hour in the hills above the town. There are marked trails everywhere, forests, farms and entirely unmarked roads, weaving throughout. Must be a nightmare to find anything in a car!

I’m now sitting atop a hill, overlooking cowfields (and smelling of cowshit). Below is an interesting juxtaposition of civilisation and nature. Gumligen (with two little doodahs over the u), a distant suburb of Bern, fades away into cowfields and forests, behind which, as a jagged white wall, are the peaks of the Alps. Every now and then, a tram or train toodles across the valley, and the sounds are an odd mix of the familiar urban din, church bells (there are a lot of church bells here), cow bells (a lot of those too) and some sort of crickety things. I like Switzerland – it’s cool!

Bern Airport is, hands down, the best airport experience I’ve ever had. Set amongst cowfields at the edge of Bern, it has one terminal, one checkin, one security and one gate. It took approximately ten minutes from entering the building to arriving at the gate. The plane took approximately five minutes to load (a bit leisurely, perhaps, given that there were only about ten people), and then, as the only plane taking off at that particular time, we drove out onto the runway, drove to the end, pulled a U-ey and then seriously hauled ass, taking off in about 64 feet. Of course, the slight down side about being in a little puddle jumper when there is weather moving in is that it bounces about like a cork. Ugh.

Funny moment on the plane – the door to the toilet was stuck, so the flight attendant pulled out a – wait for it – Swiss Army Knife and pried it open. And now she’s up there chatting again with the pilots – cockpit door wide open. If ever there was a demonstration that all the drama about flying is totally, 100% unnecessary, this flight is it!

Oh, and finally, ham for victory!

Sunday 16 October 2011

Good God, it's halfway though October!

So yeah, today was one of those absolutely perfect autumn days when you wake up and think, "hmm, I need to do something outdoorsy today"). So, I finally went for a nice long bike ride on my new bike (63 miles). Robin spent the day wandering around town, and David seems to have kept the couch comfortable. Hmm. I don't honestly know how anyone manages to spend the entire day inside. Anyway, I've been spending a lot of time and effort trying to find a new job. So far, no luck, though I have had several interviews. Apparently I'm not good enough at selling myself. I also need a new suit. I don't know the first thing about suits, and I have managed 38 years so far without being able to tie a tie properly. Sigh - I just want to be able to spend my time in shorts and flip flops.

Hmm - let's see. Last weekend (when David was still in Alabama), Robin and I and a few friends went out clubbing to a leather/rubber club. I used to really enjoy going out, but my nights out are beginning to feel a bit like Eddie and Patsy adventures. So, we all suited and booted (so to speak) - we went out to paint the night red. The venue was very good and there were loads of interesting people there, but, the club being in an old enclosed parking lot (underneath the railroad arches), it didn't actually have any built in plumbing, meaning that they had to bring in portapotties. Well, you put together the combination of hundreds of men, many of them going rather unspeakable things to each other (and completely off their nuts on this, that and the other), and about 10 portapotties, and you have, well, I'm surprised I didn't get cholera (though I suppose that would require that there actually be running water?). Hmm. Anyway, I spent half the night nauseous, Robin was just exhausted, and our friend Leonel was shat upon by a pigeon in the rafters. Tried to convince him it was good luck, but I don't think he was having any of it. So, a great time was had by all! I think I do better sticking with cycling, or perhaps gardening.

Not a lot else, really - just some pics...

Oh wait - I forgot - I actually saw a guy cycling the other day carrying a kitchen sink. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of that...

Ah yeah - the glitz and glamour of Soho! ;-)

The end of summer...

Can't remember the name of the town, but it was cute...

Smiling hay bale... :-)

Affairs guaranteed?

Damn! ;-)

The lovely, and badly named town of Limpsfield...

Cows and house...

South Downs, looking east...

South Downs, looking south.

My kinda road... ;-)

Thursday 29 September 2011

New Toy!

So, I just spent a gargantuan amount of money on a new toy - a new bike to replace my disaster-prone old bike, which I am now going to sell. It's a Cannondale Bad Boy R SLX, which, besides having a really cool name, is actually a super zippy and fun bike. Robin, who also has a (now 3 year old) Cannondale, is salivating, and I can't wait to take it out on a long ride this weekend. Now-just need to clean up old bike, put it on E-Bay, and see how much money I can get out of it (as well as hope that this new bike isn't quite such a Calamity-Jane-Mobile as that which it replaces). Fingers crossed!

Sunday 25 September 2011


So, I went to the supermarket today, and noticed that they were selling rabbit in the meat aisle. Apparently it's bunny season. I thought, hey, why not, so brought home 300g of rabbit (about 1.5 lbs or so). Now I haven't the foggiest idea how to cook up rabbit, but, conveniently, this was already diced up into chunks, so I thought chunks means stir fry! Good God did it stink! I have this Jamaican spice thingie that says it's good on all meat, so I figured, hey, it's meat, so load it up (I wonder why I don't have a Michelin star?). Cooked some veggies to go with it. Finished cooking it and had a taste. Bleh! Quick, spaghetti sauce to the rescue! Safe to say, the bunnies of Great Britain will not be in any danger from me. Oh yeah, I also crunched down on a BB. I wonder if that's good luck or something? Fortunately, I still have all my teeth.

Anyway, I spent this weekend going from bike store to bike store, looking at bikes. What a pain in the behind that is. I've been to twelve stores so far and have yet to actually try a bike, though I'm going to a store tomorrow over lunch that, hopefully, has something that I want! I've had my current bike for 3 1/2 years. In that time I've broken three frames, and have replaced every single part on that bike (save for the cranks, the handlebars and the front derailleur) numerous times. The bike has just attracted bad luck. The latest thing to go wrong, and the final straw, came after I took my bike in b/c the back wheel was going all wonky. Turned out it had cracked in numerous places, which it shouldn't have done, given that it was less than a year old. So, the bike store said they would replace it under warranty. So far so good. However, the one they were supposed to get was back ordered until October, so they got something "just as good". Yeah. I pick up my bike, hoping to not be back there for a while (I am there very frequently), and two miles from the store, there is an almighty bang and my back tire blows right off the rim. Well, as it turns out, in red letters on the side of the rim, it says that the maximum pressure is 60psi. My tires are 120psi. Houston, we have a problem. I didn't read the rim when I left the bike store, as one assumes that they notice these sorts of things. That's it. It is time for a new bike - time to hit the fall sales and quit pouring money into this bike! They are going to be oh so pleased to see me again in the morning.

Last weekend, David and I went off to Brussels for the weekend, both to get out of London, and to see my friend Alex. We got up at the crap of dawn on Saturday (515) to get the train over there, and spent the next two days wandering about. Got back on the Sunday night. It was a nice time, and Brussels is actually a very interesting, and very beautiful city, but OMG I was so tired the whole thing seems a little bit like a blur, and I spent the entire time totally and completely lost. Ah, the stuff that memories are made of (or not, as it might be). And - the Sunday we were there was "car-free Sunday". In the entire city of Brussels (which is not a small city), the only motor powered vehicles allowed were busses, emergency vehicles, taxis and certain cars with permits. It was great! (Only happens once per year, apparently). I wish they would do that here, but my God, the police they would need to get that to work in London!

Pics tomorrow - it's too late now and I have to go make my lunch for tomorrow!

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Yeah, I'm afraid it's autumn...

The trees have that sort of end of summer strained look - like they really aren't entirely sure what to do - perhaps they've stayed around at the party too long? It's getting noticeably darker every day (this happens very quickly at 52 degrees north), the nights are getting a bit nippy and the quality of light is changing. Winter light here is very, well, very high in contrast, as the sun is so low, and there seems to be a particular sun angle where this suddenly starts to happen - it no longer looks summery. This is just now starting to happen. It's easy to forget that while it never actually gets very cold here (as attested to by the numerous palms and eucalyptus), winter is, actually, pretty long - just about as long as Minnesota. David came downstairs a few minutes ago in his big fluffy bathrobe and socks and said it might be time to think about getting a better thermostat, as it's just about time to put the radiators on. Sigh. Funny thing - the work radiators, as with, it seems, most of the official buildings, are turned on on a particular date, regardless of the weather. The result of this is that there are many days where the radiators are on, the air conditioners are on and the windows are open. Now that's government efficiency for you!

David's birthday was on the 11th - we went for pub dinner, which was very nice. We all managed to entirely avoid all the 911 festivities. While I would agree that is good and proper to have some sort of memorial service, I find just about every single that has happened as a result of that awful day entirely revolting and didn't want any part in any official hoopla. Anyway - deep breath...

Not much else exciting. Gotta get my rear wheel re-trued - it's getting all wonky again - like so many other things having to do with my rear. ;-)

The view of London this evening...

Saturday 10 September 2011

Dolly Rocks

Thirty years ago, in the back seat of the carpool car, on the way to third grade, I first heard "9 to 5". I had absolutely no idea what the song was about (in the same way that I thought "Let's get Physical" was about PE class). Not too sure why that song stuck so much, but it's always been one of my absolute favorite songs. I used to wake David up with the song in the morning (as loud as I could play it, of course), and, over the years, I've pretty much never heard a Dolly Parton song I didn't like. Last year, David and went to Dollywood, which, I have to say, was fabulous.

So, Thursday night we all finally went to a Dolly concert - my first ever. In fact, it was only the second concert of any sort I've ever been to. That woman - 65 years old - really knows how to put on a show. Not only can she get out there and belt it out, but my God, is there an instrument she can't play? Piano, dulcimer, harp, saxaphone, recorder, harmonica, guitar and banjo. We sat way up in the nosebleed section of the O2 Arena (the former Millenium Dome) - not even the cheap section either - $135 each, approximately, and we shared binoculars (though there were very large screens to watch as well). Anyway - yeah - I very much recommend a Dolly concert.

The funny thing is here, where there isn't really any sort of cowboy culture, I had no idea what to expect in the audience. I was not disappointed by the number of gay men - lots and lots and lots of them. It was mostly middle aged, slightly frumpy women though. Lots of married couples, lots of oldies. Not so many kids. And wow - talk about a good place to play "Spot the Ethnic Minority" - you've never seen such a bunch of white folks gathered in such a multi-ethnic city! Oh yeah - lots of pink and white fluffy cowboy hats, a few people in full-on Dolly outfits, and one guy in bad Dolly drag, singing "Jolene" in the Tube stop. It was fantastic.

Even lusher - it's amazing what spreading a bunch of chicken shit on flowers will do!

The view from Box Hill, about 25 miles south of London.

The O2 - where we saw Dolly.

Development along the Thames.

Yes, really - Dolly Parton is down there in all that light. I'm sure her aura overwhelmed my lens... ;-)

A bit of the Dolly crowd, after the concert...