Wednesday, March 31, 2010

There's no place like home...

...even though it's snowing at the moment. Last week I was in England and June was busting out all over the place. Below is a picture of the daffodils blooming on the banks of the river Cam while my best buddy Sandor and I went punting.

Sandor is the big brother I never had. I've known him for almost 10 years and we have this funny tradition that we always go to Cambridge when I'm in the UK. We generally go punting, and then to Evensong at King's, and sometimes wind down with a coffee and CD perusal at Borders, but now that all the Borders bookshops in the UK have gone out of business, that part didn't happen. Sigh.

Now I'm back in my cozy mountains, the week before Easter, and it's snowing. At least I have a good reason to drink the leftover peppermint hot chocolate from Christmas. I've spent the last two days since we got back putzing around, getting the house back in order, and generally getting comfy at home again while catching up on some sleep.

Whilst puttering, I was catching up on one of my favorite podcasts, In Our Time. Melvyn Bragg may not be the most energetic guy in radio, but dang, he's brilliant. The episode I just listened to was on Boudica, who used to be known as Bodicea, but I guess that's changed recently. She is this amazing, mythical (and possibly real) woman who led tribes of Britons against the Romans in AD 60-61. She sacked Colchester, Roman London, and St. Albans where she was finally defeated. Throughout the centuries she's been used by Queens like Elizabeth I to show the strength and power of the British.

Speaking of British History, I've been spending a lot of time reading the Henry III Fine Rolls Project - a giant list of concessions, payments and petitions to the King from 1216-1272. It's a little window into what people wanted from their King, and just the type of admin-type of work that was done on a day to day basis. For example, on 16 November 1226, the Sherriff of Leicestershire was ordered to answer the king for a forfeiture of 10 pounds in which Robert Butler fell by judgement of his county court for the unjust vexation he made against the abbot of Croxton, Oh what I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall in that meeting. It blows my mind to think that 800 years ago people were just going about their business the same way we are today. We tend to think of people eight centuries ago as foreigners, aliens, not people we'd have much in common with. But I think we would have a lot to talk about with those folks, and the juicy gossip of whatever Robert Butler said about the abbott of Croxton.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Weird day today. I passed out last night at 10, and then woke up at 4. Then I was awake until 8 and went back to sleep until 11. I don't like sleeping until 11, but I prefer sleep to not sleeping. Then we left for Victoria so J could catch his flight to Amsterdam. We're having a little separate vacation now while he visits friends in Amsterdam and Sweden. I'd have been going with him, but I left it too late to buy my tickets, and the BA strike has made it impossible. So I saw him off, and am enjoying the extra time in London.

I walked from Victoria to Westminster Abbey and played tourist. I don't think I've ever taken a picture of Westminster Abbey before. I've always felt self-conscious about being an American and never wanted to look like a tourist.

Then a walk through St. James' Park, which is my second-favorite park in London, after the Hampstead Heath. The birds were out playing.

Afterwards I wandered up to Picadilly, and had fun in book heaven at Waterstones - five floors of books...ahhhhh, comfort. Then through Soho, eating a sandwich at Golden Square, and then some shopping. I was blown away by the fact that Borders has closed in the UK. It's made me very sad - I've spent hours and hours in the stores on Oxford Street and Charing Cross road. I had a quiet evening in the flat, took a lovely bath, and then we watched the Tottenham/Fulham match. I should be writing right now, but watching Road Wars (the UK COPS equivalent) is much more appealing.


Tuesday we went to Bath, which is famous for two things: 1) Jane Austen spent a lot of time there, and 2) the Roman baths. It rained, so we didn't do much but try to stay dry. We did, however, seek sanctuary in the Abbey. And I loved the train trip. I love everything about train trips in the UK. I love getting to the station early and getting lunch from Upper Crust. I love getting magazines at WH Smith. I love getting a treat at Boots. The whole thing is just too wonderful for words.

Above is the vaulted ceiling with flying buttresses and everything like that in the Abbey. Below is the organ, which is just spectacular. I like smaller abbey's like this one - Westminster is just too crowded and you can't get a good look around at everything, and it's also expensive. I'm happy puttering around Bath Abbey for a few hours instead.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Perfect London Day

Samuel Johnson said that when you tire of London, you tire of life. And I agree. I had a completely perfect London day today - did just about everything I'd want to do if I only had one day here.

The morning started out perfectly - sunlight streaming through the windows, and the sounds of Sandor puttering around in the kitchen, and then when he left, a bath and ClassicFM. A side note - I love listening to ClassicFM at home online, but it's annoying with the time difference - in the morning when I want perky and peppy music, they're doing the stress-free-evening-commute music. Nice to have it at the right time of day.

Then some time spent wandering around Covent Garden, exploring alleyways, and eating at nando's chicken. Which is ridiculously hip, but not so much so that I was afraid of it. Then we moseyed back to the National Gallery and took in some art. Original Da Vinci's, Titian, etc. But first, a visit to the crypt of St. Martin's in the Field, because J was so weirded out about a restaurant in a crypt.

We played around in Soho, shopping - J bought trendy shoes and a camera, I bought a new cell phone from Orange and some products from Boots - I always load up on Boots products to take home - it makes me feel exotic to use products from England. We walked up and down Oxford Street, and up to Bedford Square for a peaceful walk. Then I got asked for directions by some tourists. They wanted to go to the British Museum, and it reminded me that the British Museum is really quite nice, so we went and checked out some ancient sculptures.

Then a bus back to Oxford Circus where we met up with my ex-violin-teacher Mark, and got dinner at Wagamama's. I also love Wagamama's. I'm so predictable. For the past ten years I've been going to Wagamamas and getting the number 43. I really should expand my horizons, but I haven't yet. Sandor arrived in Soho and we met up where he was eating dinner with the lovely Anna-Louisa, who is one of my new favorite people. Fortified with hot chocolate, we headed to the arcade to play Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero.

So my day had everything a perfect day in London should have. Good friends, good food, culture, history, good walks, shopping, waiting for busses, and the random rain shower.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A journey of a thousand miles...

To be filed under "This blows my mind": It took me, door to door, 15 hours to get from my house to Sandor's bathtub. How freaking crazy is that? Planes continually blow my mind.

So we're in the UK. It's my celebratory "I finished the Introduction Leader's Program" trip. I'm now an official Introduction Leader for Landmark Education, so if anybody wants to know more about the Landmark Forum, I'm the girl to ask. I reached the final milestone on Thursday night, and am honored to be part of such an amazing body of people. Introduction Leaders are some of the most awesome people I've ever met, and I'm so proud to be joining the ranks. I never thought this would be possible - I never thought that I would be able to do what was required of me to reach this - to break myself up and go through what I had to go through - and now that I've been able to achieve it, I know that the world is my oyster.

I had given up playing the Introduction Leader's game last saturday. I told everyone I wasn't interested in it any longer, and then I had an insight into how I'm always so confused about everything, and how that's the story of my life, but that there's also a big payoff there in that I never need to take responsibility for my actions and decisions. So I made a commitment and put myself out there, and said I'd be an IL by Friday night. And I did what I had to do, even in the face of no agreement, and made it happen. If I could make that happen in six days, I can make anything happen.

So I'm now in my own Renaissance. I am creating myself with my word. I am giving my word to things, making promises that call me to be bigger than I know myself, and going after things with gumption.

Random activities for the day: I watched Up in the Air, and The Informant on the plane, and still slept for about three hours. If you watched The Informant, and didn't listen to the This American Life that inspired it, you should do so now. Truth is stranger than fiction. When we got back to Sandor's, I immediately took a bath, and then slept for 2 hours. Then we met up with Sandor's friend John, and got sushi at Ukai. On tomorrow's agenda: a non-boozy night out in Soho.

I'm happy and content and life is good.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The calm after the storm

I'm having an incredibly peaceful end to an also-pretty-peaceful week. Hubby is gone for the weekend, so I'm having girls time. Just me and the kitties. We're rocking out to Owl City, and, when feeling schmaltzy, Peter Cetera. We're making popcorn and watching chick movies and playing video games. Seriously, it's heaven. To add to the fun, it's snowing, and I've got a fire going. Seriously, what else do I need?

I was up in san mateo at the office sunday night through wednesday. I got super lucky and rented a car that had a sunroof. Part of me really wants to buy a new car with a sunroof now. Monday I was in an all day focus group in san jose for a vendor. That evening I wanted to do something fun, so I took myself out on a date. I plan good dates. Especially when I'm the only person I have to think about.

To start with I drove myself - with the roof open and Lady Gaga blaring - to the Albany Sauna. It's a spa type of place that rents hot tubs - and it's super cheap - like $22/hour. And the best part is that, while you get a private room with your hot tub, there's no roof, so you get to feel the breeze while you're in the tub. It's awesome. I have a little bit of a history with that place. 14 years ago I took a road trip to California and met up with this guy I'd been talking to online. He wasn't really a boyfriend in that we didn't date. But we kind of messed around, the way you do in college, and he took me to the Albany Sauna. I remember thinking it was super-cool, but even with as much time as I spend in the bay area, I haven't been back. So I took myself there and got a hot tub and had a blissful time.

After that I went into the city to City Lights bookstore. That's another place I've been meaning to go for, like, ever, and just got lazy. I'm saying a giant FU to laziness these days. It's nice. So I went to bask in a literary landmark. I bought a book of poetry - I'm not a big poetry reader - I don't like pausing long enough to read and absorb a poem. It's good practice for me to slow down.

I've decided to take myself out on more dates.

There's a skunk outside eating the food I put out for the feral cats, but I'm not shooing him away because it's snowing, and if he's brave/hungry enough to come out scavenging for food in this weather, he deserves whatever's out there.

So next I'm going to work on my nanowrimo book, and then my podcast. Must do my podcast this weekend for sure.

And I'm going to england in 2 weeks. Life is good.