Friday, January 21, 2011

From The Sketchbook

I didn't have time to sketch as much as I planned to. It's pretty hard to sketch while shooting photos and video and running up or down Tube station stairs. At least I dusted the cobwebs off the sketchbook and tried to remember which hand to draw with.


Always studying.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Amazingly and surprisingly, one of the movies available on the flight from Heathrow to Houston was the fairly recent release, Inception. A reeeeealy weird mind warping movie. I didn't exactly follow 99% of it, but it was interesting -- something about being able to enter other people's dreams and implant an idea into their sub-conscious, and oh yeah (this is important) you can build anything for your dream world: houses, cities, whatever. You can create things from memories or imagination. And you can plan to have a dream within a dream, or even another level down, a dream within a dream, within a dream. Although, the deeper you go, the more unstable things are.

I mention this only because I think maybe this flight is in the middle of an Inception thingy.

Sitting in an isle seat, in the center section, there was an empty seat between me and the other isle seat of the three-seat section. A stewardess stopped by and said, there's an empty row behind you if you want more room. I thought "Great!" and moved back one row. While watching the movie I noticed that the people to the left and right of me also had a row to themselves. OK, that happens. Not too often, but not unheard of. I dozed off during the movie, but woke up (I think) in time to see the last half and the ending.

Later I got up to walk back to the lavatories, hoping they wouldn't all be occupied. That's when I realized the plane was nearly empty. Empty, at least, by any normal expectations. Other London flights I've been on were always stuffed full. I haven't been on a flight with this percentage of empty seats since flying on Southwest Airlines in the early 70s, when that airline first started flying and they were sending nearly empty flights to Austin and San Antonio several times a day.

Hey, it's a pretty nice way to wrap up a great two week visit to London with Robin.

Oops, gotta go. I think I just saw Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Little walking up the isle and now I have to figure out if they're in my dream or if I'm in theirs. We're over Nova Scotia and I've just got 4 hours and 45 minutes to figure it out. Aargh!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gosh miss, I hate having to explain to you how rude you are...

...but when a lot of people are standing on the train, due to a lack of available seats, it's downright unbelievable that you'd take up an extra seat just for your McDonald's burger and whatever is in the blue bag.

After four or five Tube stops you moved your stuff over closer to you, but that was probably because you saw me taking pictures of you. Oh well, maybe there's a reasonable explanation. Sorry for disturbing your meal.

I return home tomorrow, so that's a wrap on this edition of the England blog. Unless I find some photos or video to post after I get home. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Snapshots from the Hood

Always lots of interesting signage everywhere. The photos above and below are of the same building.

Robin noticed this sign and said she's never tasted fridy, but it must be good if they're advertising it.

A fruit & vegetable stand on Fulham Palace Road, the neighborhood's main street.

Nothing Says "Holy" Like Helvetica. Apparently.

 This is the Twynholm Baptist Church on the corner of the street where our B&B is located. Sign makers must have some sort of Helvetica Special Sale going at all times here. I can understand using Helvetica for generic signage, like for "Post Office," but what's up with using it on churches? 

At least it's size is subtle. Oops, no it's not. You know guys, you could have made the name even larger if you'd hyphenated it and maybe let some of the letters hang out over the edge of the building. 

On the other hand, it does create a hard-to-miss landmark. In fact, I find myself wishing that all buildings were this clearly marked with a street name and number.

One of those weird England things

Robin has been searching all office supply stores for over a year now, and no one here has ever heard of plain ol' manilla folders (see above). The only kind you can buy are the kind that have a metal strip for hanging on the metal rods in a filing cabinet. We might take a screen shot like the one above and carry it into an office supply store and see what they say. It'll probably be something like "Ah yes duckie, those are digital and only found on computers."

Is she: 
(A) spellbound by the colorful display? 
(B) temporarily stunned by the UK cluelessness of the existence of ordinary office folders? 
(C) posing for the photographer who thought it would make a fun shot?

You're right if you guessed C. 
Or B. 
And maybe A, now that I think about it.  

Covent Garden, Apple Store, & Lion King

Covent Garden is an area of London, and also a specific piazza that's full of special shops, street performers (musicians, magicians, etc.), and cafes. Above, a quintet performs for a patio and balcony audience.

These people raise money for charities, visit and entertain at rest homes. Covered with pearl buttons, they're called the Pearly Kings & Queens Society. 

The Apple Store at Covent Garden. Very impressive. Appeared to be the most popular place on the piazza.

Inside the Apple Store. Memo to Steve Jobs: This layout would work well on the Santa Fe Plaza.

Portal and front entrance area of the Apple Store.

From Covent Garden we took the short walk to the Lyceum Theatre to see The Lion King, which has been playing at the Lyceum since 1999. The theatre was rebuilt after a fire destroyed it and re-opened in 1834. It closed in 1986 and opened again in 1996.

Unfortunately they don't allow photos. Now I want to see the original Disney version.

On the way to the Covent Garden Station, around noon, I saw an amazing thing: empty Underground passageways. It looked like Sunday must be a slow day in the subway. 

Empty stairways and passageways.

However, by the time we left the theater the Tube was more crowded than I've seen it so far. People were stacked up so deep waiting for elevators at Convent Station that a Tube employee directed us to the stairs (clue: when a Tube station provides multiple, large elevators, the platform is deep underground). As we walked down the stairs we heard an announcement warning passengers that the stairs were equivalent to a 15-story building (you don't see frail elderly people on the subway, they prefer the bus system -- less walking and climbing). Thankfully, we were going down instead of up. When we got to our Tube platform, the trains were packed to the doors, but we found a less crowed car at the very end of the train. Transportation is a big part of the fun here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

iTubePeople #2

iTubePeople Research Paper #2: people who sat near me on the Tube.

For scientific reasons, I'll try to categorize the various species.

A Sleeper and a Reader.

Three Readers. Although they could also be Studiers. More research needed on these three.

Could be a Worrier or a Psycho. Glad I'm not sitting next to him.

Three Teenagers. Often seen in packs of three or more, as shown here. Their camouflage (called school uniforms) serves as a warning to other iTubePeople. Fortunately, this pack was harmless.

Saturday Summary

We cancelled plans to go to Highgate Cemetery and stayed in most of the day to work on our computers. We did take a mid-afternoon break to try a nice little Italian coffee shop just a block from here. Nice place, good coffee. Better coffee than Starbucks. Closer than Starbucks. Not as crowded as Starbucks.

We decided to have an early dinner at Southern Belle. This sports pub is just several blocks away and claims to have BBQ. I thought I'd give them a chance to test it on a Louisiana/Texas/California BBQ aficionado. But once we got there, the place was packed with local team football fans, watching the game on the big screen (in the background). We decided to just say hi to the dog and leave it for some other night.

On the way home we stopped in the Chancery, just a half-block from our B&B. It's also a sports pub, but wasn't crowded, nice atmosphere, really good chips (french fries) for a snack, and cider. 

This is where you order your cider. Gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling doesn't it?

The picture quality on their TV screens is better than the Southern Belle's giant screen. Both soccer and rugby games are being shown on the three screens. As game time got closer, more customers came in. When Robin comes back from her classes, if she takes a bus from the Tube station to the B&B, the bus lets her off right here. How conveeenient.

Next door to our B&B, a fine example of small back porches.

Tomorrows plan: The landmark Apple Store at Covent Garden, The Lion King at The Lyceum Theatre, and the London Transport Museum (all in the Covent Garden area).

Saturday Morning Fox Visit

These two showed up outside our window minutes after a cat wandered through the small backyard area. They stayed a few minutes and then left. 

Is it just me, or do they look like they're planning something mischievous?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Trip Back to Hammersmith

The trip back to Hammersmith featured the two basic kinds of London train travel: Uncrowded, as shown above as we left Hampton Court, and Crowded, as shown below as we near Hammersmith. Apologies for the blurry photo, but I couldn't move so I just tapped the camera button and hoped something was there.

A Pint of Cider at The Prince of Wales Pub

When we left the Hampton Court Palace we found the Prince of Wales Pub a couple of blocks from the train station and relaxed with a pint of cider before taking the train back to Hammersmith. We met Harvey, the Foxhound-Greyhound mix. He's a regular here. Very nice dog. He and Robin hit it off right away. Should have gotten his pmail address. He's actually the third dog we saw come in during our short visit. I think I'd like this place.

A street in Hampton Court.

Hampton Court Palace

We got a too-late start for our Hampton Court trip, but took off anyway. Several Tube transfers, a train trip, mad dash from the Hampton Court train depot across the river bridge to the front gate and... missed the last entrance time by about ten minutes.

They let us in so we were able to wander around the grounds for about an hour, but we couldn't go inside. It's amazing how uncrowded this place is. When it's closed. And it's raining. And getting dark.   

The Hampton Court Palace entrance. The Gatehouse to the inner court is adorned with an astronomical clock that shows the time, phases of the moon, the month, the quarter of the year, the date, the sun and star sign, and high water at London Bridge measurements -- important information for visitors who came by barge on the Thames River. At low water London Bridge created dangerous rapids. The clock was kind of an early Tudor app.

I didn't get to see the kitchens, but they're famously huge and were capable of feeding King Henry VIII's court of 1000 people. Robin, above, enjoys the solitude.

A fountain in the center of the garden. The shaped trees are Yew trees.

The front of Hampton Court. I can picture Henry saying "Anne, honey, we're home. I mean Catherine... no, make that Jane. No no, Catherine that's right... not the Aragon or Howard Catherine, Parr for God's sake!"

I'll bet I can tell what she's thinking: "We could do this with those Pinon trees in our yard."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Being Here

The Movie. Two minutes of video. A week of memories.

The Scrabble Battle

Robin and her mother are playing Scrabble tonight. No, Pat is not here visiting us. She's at home in California. They're both using a Scrabble app on their iPads, Word for Friends.

When one player has made their play, the other player gets a notification.

Both players can see the same game board, but can see only their own un-played letter tiles.

Thames Path

We worked at our computers all day, then took a late afternoon walk to explore the neighborhood some more. The Thames River is about 10 minutes from here and the Thames Path is a nice pathway for joggers, bikers, and pedestrians. Facing the river are upscale apartments and offices. Even though it was getting dark, there were several rowing teams on the river practicing whatever they do, escorted by a motor boat with someone onboard shouting instructions with a megaphone.

This is either an architect's office or an architecture school. We saw lots of people sitting at computers with architechy-looking stuff on the screens. One of the windows has a nice display of architectural models. This looks like a model for a stadium design.

A smaller pathway that cuts between buildings and leads to the Thames Path contains signs that warn dogs not to start campfires, or something like that. It's not exactly clear.

A jogger. He started running a lot faster when I started chasing him so I could snap this photo.

The River Cafe, on the Thames Path. It's famous, we're told. It's cafeteria style (see all the servers standing at the food stations). They weren't open for another hour, so we put them on the list for lunch some other day. 

Tomorrow we take the Tube to Wimbledon Station, then catch a train to Hampton Court Palace, one of only two remaining palaces that belonged to King Henry VIII (he owned 60 homes/palaces).