Friday, December 19, 2008

Flora London Marathon Update

The marathon training officially began this week...not that I have not been running all along but the training regimen is now being strictly adhered too. As I did for the Paris Marathon, I will provide the daily updates for those with an interest.

London Marathon Training: Week 1 of 19
Today’s target run: 30 minute run

So, while the training is ramping up, the fundraising has stalled. So...anyone out there who might be interested in a small but very important contribution to my sponsoring charity, London Guide Dogs, but has not had a chance to provide a financial contribution, please click on the link in the right hand side of this blog page.

I would be honored!

UK Christmas observations

Given work and the move, Christmas has snuck up on us in London…usually, by this time of year in Germany, we had been to 8-10 Christmas markets, raised a few glasses of gluwhein, and eaten a couple of bratwursts, and done all things “Frohe Weihnachten”.

So what holiday experiences have we had in the UK? Short answer: Well, not too much. Oh well, there is always next year. I have observed a few things about Christmas traditions in the UK that are at the forefront of my mind.

#1: I need a Christmas “pud” (sp?, and pronounced PUHD). Translated, someone wants a Christmas plum pudding. OK, I still have not tasted one of these. Maybe I can pick one up at Sainsbury’s while watching the finale of Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday night.

A corollary to the Christmas pudding: Mince pies are big deals here.

#2: Christmas trees are put up a bit later than what we see in the States. People really only began to purchase their trees and don them with ornaments last week / weekend. Next year, being we are in the |new and improved” house, we will have a place for a tree and all those lovely German ornaments. For now, I am tree-less so I must get refueled on Christmas trees “Texas style” over the next couple of weeks while at home.

#3 – What’s a Christmas Panto? Short for pantomime, it is a family style Christmas play that all cities big and small put on. Plays/musicals for the Christmas pantos include Aladdin, Mother Goose, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, etc. Not necessarily Christmas themes but always beloved family shows.

A visit to the pantomime is as much a part of Christmas as decorating the tree and giving presents. Apparently, Pantomime Dames, Horses and Cows, terrible jokes, and out of work television personalities are all a part of the event….Some even run post Christmas so maybe we will take one in and report back.

#4 – Happy Christmas! So instead of saying “Merry Christmas” or singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, change that to “Happy Christmas”. It’s cute but old habits are hard to break.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The boxes should tell you everything you need to know...

Contrary to what these pictures portray, we are settling nicely into the new house in London. This was what my last two weekends have consisted of....emptying boxes, none of these fun little Christmas events in London. If we can get settled in reasonably well before the holidays commence, we will have considered it all worth the extra effort.

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Santa baby

It’s been a topsy-turvy few weeks at the house health-wise. Not only have the Budman and I both been ill multiple times with a cold and sore throat (I am on my fourth bout, the Budman on his second), even Gracie and Ginger have developed a full blown cold, complete with sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes, and general fatigue.

A Saturday morning vet run resulted in our current vet (but not for much longer) informing us, “Yes, they have colds but it is nothing serious.” No antibiotics were given, no real guidance on the matter provided. Just “take them home and let the cold run its course.”. Now, I am not a vet, but I figured that something could be done to at least make their little lives a bit more comfortable. I mean, after all, humans at least have Kleenex, cough medicine, and decongestants, but our girls were prescribed the “tough it out” regimen. I thought it was a bit weird and too holistic, it just made the Budman angry, and we vowed we would be selecting a new vet.

Fast forward to Monday evening about 11 pm. We had not seen Gracie for a couple of hours but we suspected she was resting comfortably. As we turned off the TV and lights and prepared for bed, she rounded the corner breathing so hard that we were not certain she was going to be able to walk up the stairs on her own. A quick call to an emergency 24 hour vet clinic resulted in a mad dash to Ealing to have “Girlfriend” checked out.

After a review of the initial diagnosis (which was correct), we were advised that she should have been placed on a course of antibiotics (which she was not). She was also given anti-inflammatory drugs to help her breathing which will continue for two more days if Gracie’s parents can get her to ingest them.

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Suffice to say, we met a lovely French vet who seemed to have the requisite technical expertise and felines bedside manner….So our new vet has been selected.

As for Ginger (a.k.a. Sweet Kitty), her cold has subsided, and she is back to her little feisty self. I can also add that she is now back to hauling her “Santa Baby” all over the house. Baby is brought up the stairs, then down the stairs, into the living room, into the kitchen, then down into the basement, and the cycle repeats itself. Ginger carries this little guy in her mouth and when she apparently gets tired of the exercise or shifts mental gears, she simply drops Santa Baby wherever…on the stairs, on the shower tub mat, or on a rug…head up, head down, face up, face down. And the movement of Santa Baby is usually proceeded by a little guttural noise that we cannot quite make out. We can quite surmise why Santa baby (and Ginger) are always on the move, but there must be something rattling around in Sweet Kitty’s little brain that makes this important.

It just makes me laugh (but I don’t laugh in front of Ginger).

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Monday, December 15, 2008


In keeping with the previous post, we had a super time a couple of weeks ago with friends from Waxahachie/Midlothian who are living in Prague and came for a quick UK Invasion visit. Being the second annual Christmas Travel Spectacular (as we were in Prague for the holidays last year), Larry and Jackie (a.k.a. Prague-a-tholians - a mix between Prague and Midlothian where they are living today/hail from originally, respectively) arrived in London on a rainy weekend. We even took in Kew Gardens during the weekend, and "thah the-ah-tah" ...heck, a little rain never stopped anyone.

And how about that Texas BBQ????

A soggy but lovely Kew Gardens: First, the Palm Houses.

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A view of one of the Palm Houses from the Tree-top walkway.

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Larry opts out of the tree-top walk...too high.

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Japanese Gardens in Kew Gardens. OK, so I can't resist the "Leaning Pisa" sight-gag.

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Larry, in a more "appropriate" shot of the Japanese Pagoda....

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Holly in the Holly Walk in Kew Gardens. Clever, huh?

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Departing view....

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We also took in a trip to the British Museum ..."it indeed had not lost its charm".

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And finally, the "creme-de-la-creme", the first Advent Sunday service at St. Paul's Cathedral. If angels in heaven sing anything like this, man...what a treat we have waiting for us.

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College buddies

One of the great side benefits of living in London is that it is both an "end" travel destination as well as a "gateway" to other places. As such, the Budman and I have been the wonderful recipients of many visits from friends and family who either are coming to London for business or pleasure OR enroute to somewhere else.

In yet another such meeting, we had dinner a couple of weeks ago with college friends who were in London celebrating a 25th wedding anniversary. As if that is not enough to stop us dead in our tracks, it occurred to us that we had known each other for 30 years.

Time stops for no man.


Friday, December 12, 2008

wailing and gnashing of teeth

You would have thought a long time friend had passed some ways, I guess it did. In the UK anyway, people think with the recent "passing" of Woolworth's UK they have lost an institution. No buyer was found for the chain, so it will fade away through liquidation.


Now, when was the last time YOU were in a Woolworth's in the US, let alone be able to find one? So you say, "no big deal". But what if it was Target?

OK, now you feel a little of the UK shopper's pain....

Recent theater forays

Lest you think the Budman and Hachie Gal are "all work and no play" kind of people, we have taken in a number of shows in November and December that have had big names and been popular plays. Theater in London is as they say..."an embarrassment of riches".

In no order,

(1) Checkov's Ivanov with Kenneth Branaugh
Review: Stage acting does not get much better than Branaugh. Good ensemble cast including one of the actresses from Notting Hill. Great costumes and clever set. 3 out of 4 thumbs up.

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(2) Joan Dideon's A Year of Magical Thinking with Vanessa Redgrave
Review: A one woman play that held us riveted in our seats. Two hours of theater that went by in a blink of an eye. She was FAB-U-LOUS! Read the book if you have not already done so. 5 out of 4 thumbs up.

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(3) Calendar Girls
Review: Stage adaptation of the film by the same name. Cute, charming, and added bonus was seeing the play with our Prague/Midlothian buddies, Larry and Jackie Koch. 3 1/2 out of 4 thumbs up.


(4) Socrates' Oedipus with Ralph Fiennes
Review: OK, you gotta be in the mood for a play that was written in 432 BC, that has the main character killing his father, marrying his mother, and who ultimately gouges his eyes out. Who can dismiss the Fiennes legend? Sadly, a little too heavy for the mood we were in but it was undeniably intense. Maybe a bit of over-acting????? High marks for the revolving set, and the wonderful Greek Chorus, although it seemed everyone held their coughing until the greek lamenting began and then let 'em rip. A generous 3 out of 4 thumbs up.


We are on theater sabbatical for the next 3 weeks, and then Twelfth Night with Derek Jacobi., we're cooking with gas!

First neighbor

Continuing with the good karma, we have met our first neighbor...82 year old Maureen from next door. She has lived on the street for 15 years...according to her, it is good neighborhood, although "not too friendly". We'd never know because Maureen invited us in for tea and mince pies at our first meeting.


Initial views

Boxes are moved in and mostly unloaded, appliances all work, Sky satellite is up and running....I am feeling the good karma (thank heavens).

So, this weekend will be spent tweaking the new to follow but a few to tide you over. Here are the "empty house" shots, although you will note the Budman perusing the layout in some of the photos.

Layout? 1 large living / dining area, separate kitchen, utility room (wow!), rear and side gardens, 4 bedrooms, separate dressing room, and three full baths...all spread over three floors. And as they say here...all in nice nick (sp?)

Ah...Home Sweet Home.

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