Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Night In Uxbridge

I haven't left the flat for two days, trying to recover from a nasty cold in time for the Paris trip on Thursday. Feeling much better, Robin, Maria, and I walked to Uxbridge town centre and met Wally (coming back from spending the day at the Brunel campus) at the Metropolitan for dinner. A special 2-for-1 deal, £6.45.

A visitor popped in for a tuna fish snack just before we left.

Wally and Marie walk hand in hand down as side street... or has she been abducted by an ET alien?! 

Trains arriving and departing Uxbridge Station, through guard rails at street level.

Uxbridge Station from a sidewalk/street overpass. 

Wally and Robin dash across the street. Still haven't gotten used to traffic coming from the opposite direction. No problem for Robin though, with those snazzy high-top tennis shoes.

Paris Countdown

In preparation for our side trip to Paris, I've been researching various sights and museums that we want to see. In addition to the Crazy Horse show and dinner, and the Cézanne exhibit at the Musée du Luxombourg, I've penciled in a tour of the Paris catacombs, the Paris sewer (sure to be a gut-wrenching experience), the Musée d'orsay (formerly a train station), Musée du Montmartre, Musée Rodin, Cafe Procope (former clientele: Victor Hugo, Napolean, Benjamin Franklin), the Apple Store next to the Louvre, and if time permits, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and who knows what else.

I really doubt this trip can compete with the trip to Murphys in Killarney, Ireland next month, but I'll be open minded about it.

Speaking of catacombs, the catacombs under Paris are part of an extensive system of tunnels that had been used as stone quarries for centuries. In the late 1700s, cemeteries became so crowded and unsanitary that the government condemned many of the inner city graveyards, dug up the graves and moved the bones to a section of the quarries, now known as the catacombs. The remains of about 6 million people are there.

Beyond the catacombs, the underground tunnels cover vast areas. Only certain parts are open to visitors, although some people, called cataphiles, explore the underground world on their own, illegally. More on that later.

A wall of human bones in the catacombs. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Short Side Trip

From London, Paris is a 2.5 hour train ride. Reason enough to hop on over there next Thursday, returning Monday. I've never been under the English channel before. Sounds fun.

I've made reservations for the Cézanne exhibit at the Musee du Luxombourg, and a dinner/show combination at the Crazy Horse cabaret. From what I understand, Crazy Horse is a wholesome place with lots of good entertainers. Naked maybe, but good. 

Our Paris apartment is in Montmarte, the area where lots of famous artists lived and partied and painted. There's a plaza in this part of town, Place du Tertre, that's so overrun with artists you have to beat them off you to keep from buying an unwanted portrait of yourself. Really fun stuff. Naked entertainers and rabid packs of artists. What a great city.

When booking reservations for the Cézanne exhibit, the Musee du Luxombourg web site was in French. I could have had Google translate it for me, but decided this was a good time to test the translation app on my iPhone, Word Lens. I held the phone up to the laptop and the app, although not perfect, translated well enough that I was able to navigate through several pages of ticket ordering chaos.

Word Lens at work.

Tomorrow morning we take a 8:00 train to St. Pancras/Kings Cross stations (Harry Potter's magic train left from platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross). Robin says there's a luggage trolley embedded half in the wall there. So Harry Potter. Now it has been moved to the front of the station, so maybe we'll grab a shot of some young wizards going off to school.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Miscellaneous Photos

A pint and a half pint of cider, after a few sips. I'm not a drinker, just an appreciator of pub tradition.

It's hard to walk past the Uxbridge station without grabbing one more photo.

The lighting fixture design in our flat is what I'd call "Post Modern Alcatraz." I mean that in a good way.

Flatmate Maria works on genealogy projects.

Drawing Spirited Bodies

I've signed up with The Drawing Theatre (a part of the London Drawing organization) to participate in their first event of 2012: The Drawing Theatre - With Spirited Bodies.

They invite "a cast of up to 30 models to create a progressive day-long scene, morphing and moving throughout the day. Prepare to leave your regular life drawing class at the door." 

Sounds interesting. 

Another quote:
"The sessions are a result of a six year creative life drawing program facilitated by London Drawing at Tate Modern and combine elements of performance and movement, light and sound to create an unforgettable drawing experience which aims to re-invent the traditional concept of life drawing."

Two years ago I participated in a drawing session at Tate Modern, also run by London Drawing. A typical pose was 10 - 30 seconds. After 4 hours I had one drawing worth saving and dozens of unfinished drawings made up of 2 or 3 strokes. But it was a memorable experience, partly because I got to hang out in Tate Modern after hours.

This drawing session takes place at the Battersea Arts Centre. 

"Using low-fi experimental drawing materials and techniques, participants explore the human figure in hidden spaces and beautiful architecture, turning inspiration into drawings, collages and 3D drawings."

I'm not exactly sure what I've signed up for here, but I'll find out February 11, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., while Robin is doing research at the British Library. 

Meanwhile, to prepare, I'm drawing spirited bodies in our apartment.

No, Robin's knee has not moved down close to her ankle. These things just happen with "spirited -bodies" drawings.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Still At The Queens Head

A lonely pea was waiting at our table. Not many blogs deliver this kind of photo documentary drama. Yeah, I know, there's a good reason for that.

Nachos, or what must pass for nachos around here. I know they're nachos, because the chips are nacho-flavored chips. Brilliant!

Robin savors the view of the historic St. Margarets Church across the street.

At The Queens Head

Afternoon break at Queens Head pub. Ann Boleyn's head to be specific, which had recently been removed when this pub opened. So sentimental, these Brits.

The main difference between the pub then and now: Wi-Fi.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Some Wednesday Photos

The walk to Robin's night class on the Brunel campus takes us past this DayCare next to a major road. It's after school hours and a fox wanders nonchalantly through the school yard. Where's Winston when you need him?

If you wait too long to trim tree branches from the school yard fence, they're really hard to remove. 

Signage in the UK can be confusing. But some symbology is universal and the message is clear no matter where you're from. This sign, for example, that means "Run Children! A UFO has landed!" 

We grabbed a quick bite for dinner in The Hub (the Brunel campus pub) before Robin's class. We got to see probably the world's worst pool players. 

The community garden we walk by every day is looking pretty good in the sections that aren't being ignored for the winter.

The overpass near our flat. The Metropolitan Line heads towards London's tube stations.

A side-street shortcut to the grocery store.

A splash of color. 

Late night Shakespeare stuff. Or maybe a Words With Friends game with her mother. Probably both.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Wonder Of It All

This drizzly morning, flatmate Maria and I took a walk in the rain to catch a bus to a second-hand store to buy four sturdy wooden chairs that will replace the four super-flimsy metal folding chairs that we're currently using. By "using" I actually mean "avoiding-like-the-London-plague." Especially after seeing one fold up in an unintentional way with Wally in it. Delivery is scheduled for Friday.

After whipping the chair project into shape we journeyed across the road to the Wonder Cafe for breakfast. It's a local favorite, meaning locals within a stone's throw. And the service is fast. "Your food often arrives at the table before you do" according to a local's endorsement. 

The food photo below should convince our ChicaGourmets foodie friends, Jim and Don, to put the Wonder Cafe on their "must experience" list. 

The Wonder Cafe. I wonder where that name comes from.  

I wonder if anyone who sees this display actually says "Wow, that looks good! And it's normal!" 
(And don't forget... it's fast!)

I wonder why it's not very busy, being a local favorite and all. We got lucky, I guess.

A customer at the order counter. I wonder if he's normal.

I'm starting to realize this place has the perfect name. 

Branding genius! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Save The Date: Birthday Party!

I'm at least part Scots-Irish, my birthday is St. Patrick's Day (March 17), and I've never been to Ireland.

Ergo, we're having a birthday party on March 17 at Murphy's Bar in Killarney, Ireland. 

Robin and I will be staying in a double room, upstairs over the bar, for four nights, from March 15 
through March 18, returning to London on the 19th.

Family and friends welcome. Strangers are welcome too, since it's a pub. If you can find Killarney, you'll probably find Murphy's. Go the center of town. Look for a yellow, green, red, and blue building. 

Details later. 

Murphys includes Murphys Bar, Squires Bar, Lord Kenmares Restaurant, and upstairs accommodations.

In Memory of Robin's 102 Year-Old Grandmother

Photo taken in December 2011

Pauline Elizabeth Williams. Died January 22, 2012, age 102

Pauline Elizabeth was born on January 5, 1910, in Greenfield, Indiana, to Chauncy and Lula Gardner. In 1921, when Pauline was 12 years old (and a tomboy), her mother and father, two younger sisters, Grandpa Catt, Aunt Cora and Uncle Charley, and three cousins piled into three Model T Fords and made their slow way to Bell, California, near Los Angeles. It took six weeks to cross the country because the cars kept breaking down and mechanics were not always available. Gas cost 17 cents a gallon. Pauline was the only person brave enough to drive with Grandpa Catt, who used the sides of the mountains to slow down his car (this is probably where Pauline got her lifelong habit of fast driving). Pauline learned much later that the reason for the move was that her father was half Cherokee and he needed to get away from constant discrimination.

At 15 years old, Pauline met Wilford Williams at the Bell Friends Church. They dated for two years, married in 1927, then moved to Bakersfield, later to Berkeley, then to 610 Spokane Avenue in Albany, California, where they bought a brand-new home for $1500 and worried about paying that mortgage. By the time Pauline was 22 years old, she had a two-year-old, a one-year-old, and twins, all boys. She was proud of saying that they were all in bed by 6 p.m. every night, although there are many stories of naked boys running down the sidewalk, playing traffic cop in the street, nearly getting run over by trains, and getting locked in the trunks of cars.

Pauline and Wilford formed a group of friends that met almost every week to play cards, have dinner, or just chat. Pauline was part of the mothers' Twin Club, a sewing club, and helped plan most church socials. She played the piano and organ at the Friends Church in Berkeley. She worked at Union Oil during WWII and retired from Cutter Laboratory in 1975, then volunteered at Alta Bates Hospital gift shop for 15 years, and at Tele-Care for another 18 years. She is proud to have traveled to 13 countries and 43 states. She lived in the house on Spokane Avenue for 71 years, and every year hosted a Christmas Eve feast for her ever-growing family. One might stop by the house and find her on the roof fixing a leaky patch at age 76 or mowing the lawn at age 83. 

Pauline's second hip fracture at age 97 forced her to stop driving, and she moved in with her son Lloyd in Pittsburg, California (and for the next several years she constantly insisted that she wanted her driver's license back). No one remembers Pauline ever driving at the speed limit or below. At the age of 101, she complained that she needed to find a new doctor because this one couldn't find the reason why she was often tired.  

Pauline lived through the deaths of her husband Wilford, her sons Gerald, Merwyn, and Floyd, daughters-in-law Lyla and Jean, three sisters (Vivian, Frances, and Juanita), and her oldest grandchild, Jeffrey. She is survived by her son Lloyd and daughters-in-law Pat, Rita, and Janice, 15 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren, and 4 great-great-grandchildren. Pauline wanted to be remembered as a very active person who helped others. She was in excellent health and mind until her very last days and passed away peacefully. 

May we all be so blessed.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Comments Are Now Turned On

If you'd like to leave a comment, I've activated that feature.

A friend or two thought it would be fun, and I agree.

Meanwhile, thanks for any comments that you add. 


Winston The Bloodhound thanks you also. I'll pass along any bloodhound comments to him.

Morning in Marlow With Winston

Oxford friends Lynn, Neal, and Winston The Bloodhound picked us up this morning for a drive to Marlow, a beautiful small town on the Thames River (56.75 miles to London, as the Thames flows).

When I asked how far back Marlow goes, Neal said "All the way." That's a long way back.

Winston The Bloodhound. Five years old. He was raised as a hunting dog, part of a pack of 21 bloodhounds. Winston would disappear on hunts, failing to return with the other 20 dogs. The trainers would eventually find him at neighboring farms, having tea with the residents. So he had to be adopted or put down. Neal and Lynn rescued him and he's now living the life of a retired scholar in Oxford. 

This church in Marlow, next to the Thames, dates back to the 12th century. Amazing what you can do if you use stone and stone masons, instead of the mud & straw adobe brick technique that was popular in the Santa Fe area at the same time. Stone seems so much more... what's the word... permanent.

Robin, Lynn, and Neal read a T.S. Eliot quote carved in stone.

Time past and time 
What might have been
and what has been
Point to one end which is always

Green and gold cemetery colors.

Neal and Winston experience the sights and smells of Marlow.

The bike/river trail through town winds through narrow passageways.

A bench along the river, in memory of Olive and Twig Branch. There's something sappy about this, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

The river has locks for boats that want to navigate up or downstream where water levels differ. The wheel opens the lock gates.

One of the locks on the river.

People who live on the river can hop in their boat and go all the way to London. Just like they have for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. In 2010 the foundations of a large timber structure were found on the shores of the Thames in London (south of Vauxhall Bridge), dated to 4500 BC.

Winston does the bloodhound thing in the church cemetery.

Lynn and Neal drove us back to Uxbridge and let Winston out of the car before heading back home to Oxford. When they tried to coax him back into the car he resisted, then rolled over on his back for a tummy rub. What a Sweetie Pie. No wonder he didn't want to kill foxes or whatever he was supposed to hunt. He's a lover, not a killer.