Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the twenty-six day of Christmas...

...I enjoyed a full fledged cold...but after a day in bed, meds, and sleep, I pulled it together for yet another Christmas show, Christmas with the Rat Pack.

An interesting and thoroughly charming show featuring Old Blue Eyes, Dino, and Sammy circa the 1960s at the Sands Casino in Las Vegas (this was when the guys were filming the original Ocean's Eleven by day and putting on a Las Vegas show by night).  Sure, it was three guys impersonating the trio but the routines were straight of the Rat Pack's show from that time. Add Christmas cheer, Christmas melodies, and a rolling bar cart, and you have a Christmas martini...stirred, not shaken.

On the twenty-fifth day of Christmas...

...we celebrated the most joyous of days with dear friends, our favorite foods, and the knowledge of the true meaning of Christmas.

Thanks, Cyn and Paul for a lovely day.

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On the twenty-fourth day of Christmas...

...we partook of a "double - feature".  First stop:  the English National Ballet's production of The Nutcracker (as the reviewer wrote...."Dr. Suess-like" characters), but still quite entertaining.  And those ENO theater seats were VERY comfortable.

The lunch break between shows included a burger and fries (you can take the girl out of Texas but not Texas out of the girl).  To be fair, we had tried to get Tex-Mex at our local haunt close to Trafalgar Square but it was closed on Christmas Eve Day.  No worries...I can do the burger/fries routine any day....

Next stop:  a brief walk throught the Christmas fun-fair at Leicester Square...

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then on to the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.  It was the quintessential German Christmas Market (and we felt oddly comforted by that somehow).  After an hour of walking about, and having an obligatory mug of hot cider....

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we then proceeded to the second show of the day, the Royal Albert Hall's Christmas Eve Candleight Carols service. 

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All your favorite Christmas Carols (many of them to the tunes of UK carols, not the US versions, so that through us a bit), candlelight, lots of guys dressed up in powdered wigs and sporting "Mozart-like" clothes. Still...a lovely evening.  The Hachie Gal was clearly an extra instrument in this orchestra as by now, the nose blowing of the cold was taking on epic proportions.  Could have been a tuba in the orchestra.

Next stop:  Christmas Eve and the opening of the presents.  We had a little help.

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The best gift the Budman and I received this year was this little yellow kitty making it to Christmas!  She can still move when she wants to.

On the twenty-third day of Christmas...

...we had a bit more of a leisurely day, preparing our foodstuffs for the Texas Christmas Day foods, finishing our Christmas wrapping, and taking in another show...Misanthrope.

Sadly, we left at intermission.  Partly it was that Hachie Gal now had a cold that was in full swing and partly because...well...the Moliere adpatation starring Kiera Knightley among others was a bit of bust.

We weren't the only ones leaving at the intermission either.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On the twenty second day of Christmas...

... we returned to the scene(s) of the crime from the previous night:  Westfield Shopping Center and Riverside Theatre.

First stop....the Budman and I had to finish OUR Christmas shopping for each other.  Check!

Second stop:   Riverside Theatre, to see Simon Callow (the guy from Four Weddings and a Funeral, that danced in a kilt and died of a stroke....but not because he danced in a kilt) in 2 one act plays entitled Mr. Chops and Dr.Marigold....written by the king of Christmas literature, Charles Dickens.


Apparently, Dickens took to writing a Christmas short story each year, publishing it, and often reading these stories to his adoring public.  Technically, these short stories were later turned into plays, but however their origin, they represent what the Christmas season is all about...people might be different, look different, have different life experiences, but in the end, people really want the the same basic things....to love and be loved. If you are not familiar with these stories, as I was not either, it is well worth locating them for a Christmas read.

Our seats were outstanding, especially given the seats were open seating.   We found ourselves on the third row, smack dab in the middle, and looking Simon Callow square in the eye.

To quote his FWAF character, "Bravo!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On the twenty-first day of Christmas...

... we embraced the beast known as "Westfield Shopping Mall" in Hammersmith (west London). For those of you who know me, mall shopping has never been my forte...even in Texas, as I have always preferred boutique shopping. However, given it was snowing again in London, the Budman and I had not yet finished our Christmas shopping for one another, and we had yet to have the Westfield experience, we took the 94 bus about 20 minutes east to check it out in person.

What can I say...I had this strange feeling I was in NorthPark????

After a few hours of retail therapy, next stop: Riverside Theater (think Inwood Theater meets the Dallas Theatre Center). As Cyn, Paul, Budman, and I slushed through the Christmas weather, it was more like a "Rainy Christmas" than a "White Christmas", but I'll take it.

While technically not MY personal Christmas movie favorite (that would be Holiday Inn - what else?), there is something about seeing a classic movie in a movie theatre. Apparently, a few others thought the same thing because there was a respectable audience attendance on a wintery London night.

Monday, December 21, 2009

On the twentieth day of Christmas...

...the Christmas show extravanga continued...this time at the Royal Albert Hall! BTW, is there really a bad seat in this house? I love this theater, having been six times this year for something or other. Today, we braved the cold (yes...it is VERY cold in London right now) to see the RAH's production of White Christmas.

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Not the songs from the Christmas movie classic, but a 2 hour musical foray of all the good old Christmas standards: I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas, The Twelve Days of Christmas (with the obligatory audience participation - our section was the "six geese of laying" - visualize a Chuck Berry dance move and you have it about right), Jingle Bells and Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty the Snowman, Silver Bells, Winter Wonderland, Santa Baby, Have Yourself Merry Little Christmas, All I Want for Christmas is You (a.k.a. the Mariah Carey version) and more.

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You can't take any orchestra too seriously when they are wearing Santa hats .

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Pure sacchrin, an immense crowd-pleaser and totally enjoyable. I am there next year. Although, we gotta learn the words to the most often sung UK Christmas songs: Merry Christmas Everybody and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. The place went wild...no guitar smashing but everybody singing at the top of their lungs and dancing in the aisles. There surely were a few hips thrown out of sockets.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

On the nineteenth day of Christmas...

...the Budman and I toured the exquisite Osterley House in west London. Open for the weekends during the Christmas season, the house was decked in Christmas finery reminiscient of an earlier day. A VERY cold day, and still smarting from the snowfall of earlier in the week, we made the trek through Osterley Park to see the house.

This house has quite a history, residing in the same family for centuries until the Duke of Jersey bequeathed it to the National Trust in 1947.

Osterley House from a distance.

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Osterley House in the snow.

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Ducks on a frozen pond....ice skating.

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Interior of Osterley House.

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On the eighteenth day of Christmas...

...Christmas vacation BEGINS.

On the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth days of Christmas...

... the holiday team lunches #2, 3, and 4 took place. Technically, these were lunches including slightly different participants but even so, I am always up for an excuse for a party.

Lunch 2 saw us trek to our "new" home (effective April 2010) in Bracknell (45 minutes south of Stockley Park) to lunch with HR colleagues. Thanks Jan for coordinating - great seeing Richard, Cyn, Christina, Andrew, and Andrea!

Lunch 3, courtesy of Ken, consisted of a Thai lunch at the Hut...YES! Merry Christmas Ken, Debs, Christina T (as well as Cyn and Christina R - my compatriots at all 4 lunches). A most welcome break from traditional culinary Christmas fare.

Lunch 4 culminated with lunch with the Scot himself, Alistair, as well as the rest of the Stockley HR crew. We also enjoyed an afternoon lunch amidst snowfall...once again.

Best laid plans: I had meant to capture each lunch with a photographic remembrance but sadly, left the camera in my purse each time. Thanks, Cyn, for the pics from Team Lunch #4.

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On the fourteenth day of Christmas...

...I took a day off

On the thirteenth day of Christmas...

....we celebrated Christmas with M&M before they headed back to the US for Christmas with the families.  They will represent the London contigency this year since the Budman and I are staying in London during the holidays.  Yes, we will miss seeing family and friends, but we will also enjoy seeing the city during this festive time of year and getting a little R&R.  Plus, sleeping in our own bed for the next 2-3 weeks is quite appealing.

So, after concluding dinner, the Budman and I headed alone (Mike was ill so they opted out of iceskating) to catch an evening skating session at Somerset House.  Somerset House is a spectacular neo-classical building in the heart of London, sitting between the Strand and the River Thames. During the winter months, an iceskating rink appears for Londoners.

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What's this history of this place?  Here it is: When Henry VIII died in 1547, his son, Edward VI, was still too young to ascend the throne. Edward Seymour, the boy's ambitious and successful uncle, seized this opportunity and had himself created Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset. The new Duke and Protector, "desirous of possessing a residence suitable to his high rank", was determined to build himself a palace. The Duke already owned land on a prime site between the Thames and the Strand; an important thoroughfare linking the Tower of London to the east and the Palace of Whitehall and Westminster to the west. It was here that he began building his great mansion, Somerset House, in 1547. However, clearing the site required the demolition of a number of existing churches and chapels. By 1551 Somerset House was virtually complete, having cost over £10,000 to build.

Although he had commissioned one of the most influential buildings of the English Renaissance, the Duke had little opportunity to enjoy Somerset House. In 1551, his opponents had him arrested again and tried for the much more serious crime of treason. This time there was no escape. The Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector of England, was executed on Tower Hill in January 1552. From there, Somerset House passed into the hands of the Crown including:

*  Elizabeth I lived here during the months leading up to her asecnsion to the throne
*  Both James I as well as Charles I gave Somerset House to their queens for their own private use
*  During the Civil War, Somerset House was used as quarters for General Fairfax who commanded the Parliamentary Army
*  Oliver Cromwell's body lie in state here

Many architects' hands touched this building, evolving it throughout the centuries; finally, a new Somerset House was built on this site and reflects the architecture we see today. 

Makes me wonder, what would English Royalty make of the fact that it is home to an iceskating rink during the holidays?  We sure enjoyed it.

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