Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dear Mother Nature

Dear Mother Nature,

Why is it necessary for me to be awake for every single hot flash? What possible evolutionary purpose was served here? Waking up five times a night just to experience what I go through 20 times a day is stupidy. I'm just sayin.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How Childish



This is the senator who put a hold on the proposed Coburn-Obama bill which would have given us the ability to see how our tax money is awarded to government contractors: Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens.

Curiously, Sen. Stevens denies that his hold was "secret," and that he put the hold on the legislation simply because he had some "concerns" that he had communicated to Sen. Coburn which had never been addressed.

Oh, really? According to Andrea Koppel's report on CNN just now, Sen. Coburn's office says that Stevens never voiced any concerns to him and in fact, never even attended any of the meetings where the bill was discussed.

Here's what really seems to be going on, people - look at the last two paragraphs of Ms. Koppel's report:

Last year a proposed $223 million for a "bridge to nowhere" connecting Alaska's Gravina Island -- population 50 -- to the mainland caused a nationwide furor. The allocation was backed by Stevens and fellow Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska, the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The earmarked funding for the bridge was later rescinded by Congress. However, Alaska's overall allocation of federal transportation funds was not decreased, and the state is free to spend the federal dollars to build the bridge if it wishes.
When Coburn tried to block funds for the bridge, he was heavily denounced by Stevens on the Senate floor.

It was apparently nothing but childish payback by Stevens because Sen. Coburn had tried to block funding of Stevens' bridge in Alaska!

SHAME!


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Secret Hold

Someone in the Senate does not want you to know how $2.5 trillion of your money is awarded to contractors, and that someone has ANONYMOUSLY blocked the issue from coming to a vote.

We've got to rat this person(s) out, and that means that the people of Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, New Hampshire, Utah, and West Virginia have work to do: Call your Senators and ask them to officially deny that they were the one(s) who put a secret hold to stop legislation sponsored by Senators Obama and Coburn from ever coming to a vote. Then, go to this website and report what you were told.

Here's what's going on: I first heard about this today while listening to Jack Cafferty on CNN's Situation Room. The relevant portion of the transcript is:

KING: Take care Max. Thank you. Now Jack Cafferty joins us from New York. Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: John, how would you like to pull the curtain back on that secret little world of government contracting? Actually it's not so little.

Legislation introduced by Democrat Senator Barack Obama and Republican Senator Tom Coburn was supposed to do just that, give us a look inside. It would have brought transparency to $2.5 trillion worth of government contracts. You could just go online, see how much, who got the contract, et cetera. The bill did get through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this summer, but a funny thing happened to it on the way to the Senate floor, an unknown senator has put a secret hold on this legislation, which means unless that same unknown senator lifts the hold, this measure will never be voted on.

Nobody knows who did this yet, but there's a Herculean effort underway to try to find out. Someone in the United States Senate doesn't think the public should know how $2.5 trillion of our money is awarded to government contractors. Now there are only 100 weasels in the U.S. Senate, so you'd think they could find out who did this and I hope they do.

Here's the question. Does a single senator have a right to keep $2.5 trillion in government contracts secret from the tax-paying public? Just incredible.

KING: Maybe the secret senator is watching and will send you a note.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I doubt that will happen. I really hope they find out who this is.

KING: We'll keep on it and we'll see what the answers are. Thank you, Jack.

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Wednesday, 8/30 a.m. Update:

The only senators left as suspects on this website are from Alaska, Idaho, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Hmmm... WHO could it be???

The point is not so much that this block has been implemented (this technique has been used in the past for a variety of reasons - it's not the best way to do things, IMO, however), but the point is that this cowardly, sneaky senator has done it ANONYMOUSLY. He has not the intestinal fortitude to let his constituents (and the rest of the country) know that he is responsible from keeping information about their tax money from them. Rat this guy out and put him to shame, and keep screaming until this bill can be put to a vote, people.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fashion Faux Pas

Yesterday I inadvertently went to lunch wearing white pants over black underwear. Good thing I don't live in North Dallas anymore - I might have gotten a ticket.

(Later I asked Tomcat why he didn't say anything. He said he didn't notice. I don't know if that's good or bad.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The 'Hood

It's been two years today since Max died (my ex, who left Maxwell House to us), and tomorrow will mark 25 years since my mother died.

Twenty-six years ago (1980), I was living in the garage apartment out back (Max and I divorced in 1973), and my sister was living in Apt. A, which is now, since Tomcat and I have moved into the house, our living room, dining room, and kitchen.

That year was the worst heatwave on record for Dallas. This year's heatwave, as horrible as it is, does not even come close - it's ranked seventh behind 1980. The highest official temperature was recorded that year - 113. I remember that day vividly. I was working in the concrete canyons downtown at the time, and when I left the office around 5:00 and exited the revolving doors, I was hit with a blast of heat that made me gasp for air. The time-and-temp sign on a nearby bank registered 121 degrees. On one of those days, the air conditioning went out where my mother lived at the time, in an apartment complex a couple of miles away. I went to pick her up immediately to stay the night. I don't remember the statistics, but I do know that a lot of people died that year from heatstroke.

Back then at Maxwell House, everyone stayed indoors in the evening because it was too hot to go out on the patio. It's the same way this year, even though the patio's overgrown and there's no place to sit out there anyway. I have a picture of how it used to look, and some day we'll excavate to uncover the brick pathways and all the slate underneath the vegetation. That's a low priority since we have other things to do first - like update the electrical system, have some foundation work done, and put a new roof on.

The garage apartment where I used to live is now a studio for my friend Grace, the artist, who lives a couple of blocks away. The garage is - or will be - Tomcat's workshop. Grace fell in love with the place when she was looking for a studio because "It's me; it's old and funky and leans to the left." (Grace is a few years younger than I, so of course she can't be old.) The whole building IS leaning, but Tomcat assures me it isn't about to fall down.

I didn't really have a point when I started this post - it's just a day of remembering how things used to be around here. There was an old lady who lived in Apt. D upstairs - which is now our bedroom and "morning kithen." Her name was Nellie. She would watch for me to come home from work sometimes, and when I drove up in the driveway, she'd holler from the back stairs that she had made some "nanner puddin," because she knew that was one of my favorites. What a sweetie, dear old Nellie. Some years later, Nellie moved away - to get married to a 93-year-old man she met at church!

When Max first bought the place, long before I lived in the garage apt., he also had two other houses on the same block - all rental properties filled with rats and roaches. He always referred to it as his "rat-killin business" because that's literally what he did for the first few years - get rid of the rats, the roaches, and the two-legged vermin (mostly druggies) who lived on the block. Little by little he'd evict for nonpayment of rent, clean up and fix up, raise the rent a bit, and screen new tenants. When we'd talk on the phone sometimes, he'd say, "Well, I've got to back to my rat-killin." He'd mow almost all of the lawns on the street, haul the trash, and he'd call the cops every time the low-lifes across the street stood out in the yard drinking and shooting guns into the air. It took a long time, but now the block is clean, quiet, and peaceful.

He sold the other two houses. One was torn down, and the other has been fixed up very nicely by the new owners. The trashy houses across the street are gone and have been replaced with some well-managed condos. This side of the street is a long row of 100-year-old prairie-style houses, and the block has just been included in a new historic district.

Well, I've got to get back to my rat-killin. :)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Let Me Take You Down

Beatles Webcam Helps Foil Burglary

Someone from Dallas was watching a live webcam of Mathew Street (where The Cavern is), saw something suspicious, called the Liverpool police, and foiled a burglary in progress. Way to go!

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Update on previous post:
I'm taking a break now while Tomcat is working on yet another plumbling problem.
Sigh.

Ah, The Weekend

officially started last night with yet another trip to Home Despot for yet another window unit air conditioner, because the one in the bedroom finally bit the dust. It couldn't have held on another few weeks 'til the weather cooled, of course.

Tomcat has already been outside moving garden-type stuff out of the garage and into a shed, and taking the old air conditioner out to the curb. Any outside work has to be done early in the morning because this is going to be another 104-degree day. This is the 45th day of 100+ temps.

Today's project: assemble the bed frame in the guest room (Tom), unpack the stuff that goes in the kitchen adjacent to the guest room (me), and unpack all the other boxes in there that contain junk objects de art and decide where it all goes (me.)

Hope y'all have a restful weekend, too.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Now What?


Astronomers say Pluto is not a planet

Leading astronomers approved historic new planet guidelines Thursday — downsizing Earth's neighborhood from nine principal heavenly bodies to eight by demoting distant Pluto.
After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is — and isn't — a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
Copyright 2006 © Yahoo! Inc.



How can I break this to Scruffybutt?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On Native Soil

On Native Soil will be out on DVD today. It's a documentary about the 9/11 Commission - how it came to be (after a long struggle with the Administration), and its findings. Many important recommendations in the Commission's Report have yet to be implemented.

I watched it last night on Court TV and wept, not just for the tragedy of 9/11 itself, but for the ongoing tragedy of a still misinformed public. According to Bush, we are "safer" now. (This from a man who thinks that the Iraqi war is the "center" of the terrorist movement.) Incredibly, people still believe this.

What about Afghanistan and that guy, oh what's-his-name ... Osama Bin Laden? What if all the resources we've squandered in the Iraqi war had actually gone into fighting Al Qaeda (who was never in Iraq until we got there), and learning from past mistakes as detailed in the Report (such as the same radio links for all first responders).

Just a thought.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Home

It's starting to look and feel like home around here at Maxwell House. At first I felt like I was living in a building, but that's changed. I wonder why that is. What is it that makes a place feel right, feel homey?

It could be the drapes on the windows, the clothes hanging in the closets, the pets underfoot and all that. It could be that we had our first dinner here with good friends (and neighbors) - Grace, the artist, Evets, and their daughter, Stephanie.

Maybe it's that our own unique "vibes" have permeated the place by now, you suppose? Is that what is meant by "home is where the heart is?"

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lots To Do And Here I Sits

What did we used to do before blogging?

I can't remember.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Rolling Brown Outs

Are y'all having those yet? We had a mini-one yesterday. This is day 33 of triple-digit temps.

You know how historians explain that so many women died young because of the un-antiseptic conditions of childbirth? No. That is not why they died young. They died young because of the heat. No air conditioning, plus they were swaddled in layers of clothing and they had to cook over an open flame. Can you imagine? That's my theory, anyway.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dogs Do Slapstick, Too

You know how funny it is in a movie or a sitcom when someone chooses the wrong door and walks into a closet instead?

Scruffybutt does that.

Ever since we've moved, the poor little thing is all confused about which door leads to what. I really do feel sorry for her, but I can't help ROFLMAO!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Can You Put a Plumber on Retainer?

Usually, when Tomcat comes home from work, we kissy-face greet each other, he gives the dogs a treat, we ask each other about our day, and so forth. But yesterday, he comes rushing through the door shouting, "Where's the key to the garage apartment?!" Seems the pipe leading to the toilet had somehow come loose and water was gushing down into the workshop below.

And, of all the cheap plumbing connections in this place, the garage apartment bathroom is the only one without a water shutoff valve. He managed to get the pipe propped up to stop the leak, hopefully long enough for the plumber to come out and fix it.

I called the plumber this morning. One of the guys answered instead of Charlotte, who is on vacation this week. I know most of the guys by name, and Charlotte recognizes my voice when I call. That's because we see and talk to each other so often since moving into Maxwell House.

A couple of weeks ago, they were out here because water was pouring through the downstairs bathroom light fixture and part of the ceiling was falling down. That's because Tomcat tried to install the washing machine upstairs where there used to be a small kitchenette. Something that was supposed to be threaded together was actually welded, and when he tried to wrench it apart, the whole thing broke. Then Tomcat jury-rigged the thing together so we could wash a load of clothes, but water was leaking out everywhere. We were just back from vacation, and REALLY needed some clean clothes. We put buckets under the leaks, but the buckets overflowed during the night.

I have to stop telling the plumbing story here to regale you with the dryer story: After we washed that load of clothes, we put them in our new dryer. After a while, we couldn't figure out why the clothes weren't getting dry. It finally dawned on us that we had a gas dryer. Hahahahaaaaa! We FORGOT that it was gas! How does that happen? Jet lag, that's how. See, we used to have an electric dryer. But, in order to use that in this house, we'd have to have the electrician come out and install a 220 outlet.

Regular readers will remember that the last time we had the electrician out, he took pictures of the fuse boxes with his cell phone to show his supervisor. That's because the electric system is original to the house, i.e., it's a hundred years old.

So, we found a gas dryer on sale. Only we forgot that it was gas when it came time to use it.

So, when the plumber came out to hook up the washer, he also had to hook up the gas dryer. That time, when the plumber left, he said, "Don't let your husband do anything else."

Tomcat said if he hadn't known these people for 20 years, he might have taken offense, but as it was, it was more funny than anything else.

Oh - about that leak in the garage apartment last night - the only reason Tomcat discovered the leak in the first place was because he wanted to store some things in the workshop before he came in the house. What was he going to store? Back issues of Handyman magazine.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Get Back

Gotta get back to writing, now that The Move is over, and we've had our London vacation. No more excuses. Seriously.

My writers' group meets twice a month, and tomorrow is a meeting day. I've been submitting material from my WIP (Work In Progress) a chapter at a time, and getting some constructive feedback. I've been reading and critiquing the other members' WIPs. I've been learning and having a good time, but I haven't been writing.

Pretty soon I'll run out of material and will again face that long scary corridor in the space-time continuum - you know the one: The Unwritten Void. It's not really void, though. To paraphrase Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey, "My God, it's full of words!" All I have to do is organize them into coherent sentences. Right.

Oh yes, it's sort of mapped out already. Story-boarded, like a script, in my Moleskine. But it is still Unwritten.

Well, I guess the best way to get this thing written is to stop farting around with blogposts about writing, switch over to the word processor program, and step boldly into the

V
O
I
D
.
.
.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Wrapping Up

We took several pictures of stuff like this, which reminded us again and again that we were indeed in The Old Country.

The Market Square in Canterbury, where I met the English lady, has its own, ancient, tower, so they put a clock on it. It's that way all over the country, which is one reason we love it. It's wonderful to hear that the "new" wing of something was built in 17-something.


After Canterbury, where Tom visited the Cathedral (I couldn't walk the 200-yd round trip that day to see it), we went on to a little town called Denton ("Home of Happiness" for Rocky Horror Picture Show fans). We had cream tea at the Jackdaw Inn, rumoured to be where Becket's assassins fled to.

About that cream tea. Harumph. The tea sandwiches had, dare I say it, crusts on them, and the clotted cream and jam were in plastic containers with peel-off lids. For all I know, the tea was made with tea bags. Gawd!

"Cream tea" is the correct name for afternoon tea that is served with clotted cream, jam, scones or biscuits (cookies) and/or finger sandwiches. Cream tea, btw, is not the same as high tea. High tea, where meat is served, is not as fancy as cream tea. It evolved as a tea for the working class who needed a more substantial afternoon snack.

Miscellaneous - Here's the "full Monty" picture we took :)


We hope you enjoyed our vacation as much as we did!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Buckingham Palace

Some places didn't allow indoor picture-taking, and Buckingham Palace was one. The 19 State Rooms at the Palace were, well ... stately. I loved the Georgian ambience, seeing the ballroom that Victoria built, looking at original portraits that I had only seen in books before.

Since it's the current Queen's 80th birthday this year, one exhibit was a collection of the gowns she has worn during her reign arranged by color. We do love the Queen, but, as one newspaper reviewer put it, the exhibit showcased "Fifty Years of Un-Fashion." (When we were in London three years ago, we saw an exhibit at Kensington Palace of some of Diana's gowns, which were of course the height of fashion.) I was struck by how tiny the Queen is! Looking at her gowns, I knew I could have a-l-m-o-s-t encircled her waist with my hands. I remember thinking the same thing at the Kensington exhibit, where I saw her wedding dress.

When we left Buckingham Palace, we were obliged to walk a half mile through the gardens before exiting. As you can see, the drought has turned much of the grass brown.





I love this tree - it's Tolkein-ish, isn't it?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Dover

[Whoa! First, everybody head over to Hoss's place and say congratulations on his main squeeze new wife!]

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Here are the famed White Cliffs of Dover. The castle on top was frequented by Winston Churchill during the war, where he would strategize with his advisors and peer across the channel through binoculars. The coast of France is just 18 miles away.

As an aside, I have often wondered how it is that English cuisine (how is that for an oxymoron?) is so awful, yet the best cooking in the western world is just across the channel. How did that happen? Anyway, back to Dover ...

The beach is not sandy, but heavily pebbled. It's very difficult to walk on, and the guide told us that if it weren't for the heat that day, very few people would have been out. She also said it was good luck to take a pebble from Dover home, so that's what we did.

Speaking of our guide, I should have mentioned yesterday in my post about Leeds Castle that she was Scottish, so there was a language barrier. She said that inside the Castle, we would occasionally see a gate in front of a room. The presence of the gate meant that we could not enter the room, BUT it was perfectly all right to ASK the gate to tell us about it. ??? After a moment or two, we realized that she was talking about a "guide," not a "gate." :)


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lady's Castle, "The Loveliest Castle in the World"

Leeds Castle is not in Leeds, but in Kent, nor does it have anything to do with the City of Leeds. It is thought that this "Leeds" is a corruption of "Lady's" or "Ladies'" because the castle was given by various kings and noblemen to various ladies over the centuries. Nine centuries, no less, for it was built by a nephew of William the Conqueror.

Lady Baillie, an American heiress, visited the castle and fell in love with it. She bought it in 1926 and lovingly restored it. It is perfection! When she died in 1974, she left the castle to England.

I spent lots of time in the gardens and the aviary, while Tom spent most of his time inside the castle.

Lady Baillie loved birds. Peacocks roam the grounds - even a white one (which we glimpsed briefly on the way out, but couldn't get a picture of). The aviary houses her favorite bird species, the toucan, as well as lots of parrots. There are even ibis roaming around. I'd never seen those except in pictures of Egyptian statuary. The black swans are descendants of those given to her by Winston Churchill.


Here are some pictures we took while there, but also check out the pictures and information here and here.








Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Interesting Places



(click to enlarge) The Regent's Canal boat ride took us to Camden. The canal was built for commerce only in the late 18th century, and the boats were towed along the river by horses. The horse would walk along the bank on the left, with the boat attached by ropes. There were stables for the horses who worked the river, and the manure was sold to farmers for fertilizer. Now, The Stables house one giant hippie flea market. It was like a time warp, man. For those of you who know Dallas, Tomcat said it was "like Deep Ellum on LSD." I dunno, the Regent might not object if he knew what became of this. He was quite the hedonist.

Another fun place, and one that we visited last time, was the Texas Embassy Cantina, where they have The Best Tex-Mex cuisine we've EVER had! It's a Gene Street restaurant, so again, if you know Dallas, you know that I'm tellin' the truth about the authenticity of the food. The place is near the site of the Embassy before Texas joined the Union.



Because of the Texas-like heat wave in London that week, we were very grateful to find that the authenticity included AIR CONDITIONING, and that they knew what "iced tea" was.

Are you sick of vacation pictures yet?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Laidback London Lifestyle

We could get used to this!

Tomcat reading the morning paper at our favorite coffee and knoshie.

View from our dinner table at a French bistro. We were seated IN an open doorway to catch the breeze.

Some people live in these permanently moored boats on the canal around Regent's Park. Note the gardens on the roofs. (click to enlarge)

Other people wear their cars to work.

Bicycling through London traffic is another option (if you have a death wish, that is.)

Strawberries and cream, some vino ... oh yeah, we could get used to this.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Signs and Wonders

The British insist on driving on the wrong side of the road. But they're considerate enough to paint "Look Left" or "Look Right" on the pavement so the people from the REST OF THE WORLD will be less likely to get run over by a bus.


Then there's the famous "Mind the Gap" signs in the underground stations in case you forget that there is usually a gap between the platform and the train.


There are helpful signs at the tourist attractions, like the one telling you where so-and-so was executed some centuries before.


And then there was this wondrous sign we kept seeing on tube cars and billboards reminding us that discrimination is SO over. Too bad we'll never see anything like that here.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Supplement to Previous Post re: Albertropolis



Here are the Albert Hall and the V&A Museum (click to enlarge.)

Blogger wouldn't let me put all the pics together in one post (grrr).

The Albertropolis


The first site we went to was the Albertropolis: the Albert Memorial in Kensington Park, and the Royal Albert Hall across the street, and the Victoria & Albert Museum nearby. I adore Albert and believe he was one of the greatest "kings" England ever had, even though he never held the title.

The site is probably called the "Albertopolis" tongue-in-cheek because after Albert died, poor old Queen Vic went a little batty and commissioned these things to be built in his honor. Nothing wrong with building things in honor of a Royal, but she ... kinda went overboard.

The Albert Memorial is both hailed and reviled. It's a stunning example of the excessive decoration and absurd sentiments of the Victorian Age. The memorial is absolutely over-the-top. You've got your Albert Himself in gold, no less, you've got your four continents of the then empire (shown: Asia,) you've got your homage to every branch of science known at the time, all topped with saints and angels. An Egyptian pharoah couldn't have asked for more. It is both glorious and dreadful. I love it.










































Saturday, August 05, 2006

"When the Lions Drink"




We took this picture while on a Thames' boat ride. You can see how low the river is now compared to the algae lines further up. The river is now at 75% of its normal level. These lion-head mooring rings line the river walls. There's a saying in Britain that "When the lions drink, London will flood."










Here are a few more pictures from our boat tour:


















Friday, August 04, 2006

You'll Never Get Me Up in One of Those Things



This is called the "London Eye," but Tomcat and I call it the "London Eyesore."

It's 443 feet high, 115 feet taller than Westminster Tower ("Big Ben.") It has 32 "capsules," one for each London burrough. Each capsule holds 25 people. It takes about 30 minutes to make a complete revolution.

From the top, and on a clear day, you can see everything for 25 miles around. (Um, how many clear days are there in London, anyway?)

London has some of the most beautiful architecture in the world, most of it centuries old. Then you come across something uber modern like this. The Anglophile soul feels assaulted.

I don't know whether Prince Charles has made specific comments about the Eye, but he has complained in the past about the super-modern structures going up in London, marring the beauty of this magnificent city. There's nothing wrong with modern architecture, per se, but it just looks silly next to say, a Christopher Wren. (Um, for a prince who appreciates beauty, what's he doing married to what's-her-name?)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

How London-y Can You Get?


I mean, you got yer Big Ben, ubiquitous CCTV pole, red double-decker bus, clouds, tourists taking pictures of themselves ...

A couple of afternoons, it would cloud up, but no rain. Okay, once it sort of spit, but that was all.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Loo-zer



This is from my Tuesday, July 25th Moleskine entry:

"I was beginning to despair of ever being able to successfully flush an English toilet. From the time we arrived on Saturday morning until late Monday afternoon (yesterday), I could not flush any toilet, no matter where we were in London. Not at the hotel (although the hotel manager and Tomcat had no problem with it), not at the Tower, nor at any pub or restaurant.

"Finally yesterday afternoon I had my first success, due to my powers of deductive reasoning. It occurred to me that maybe I wasn't applying enough force to the handle, so I ...

"No. That's not true. What happened was that in a pique of frustration, I used both hands to slam that handle down, and to my elation, that sucker flushed! I couldn't believe it. Brute force was the key, and no one had told me.

"Yessss! I shouted, and came out of the loo a champion at last."

I didn't have that problem when we were there three years ago. How stwange...

London was hot and humid until the last day, when the temp came down from the mid-90s to the mid-70s. July was the hottest month on record for them. They're having a serious drought, too. This just breaks my heart: the BBC said they are losing their oldest trees, and the Parks Service expects the London landscape to be substantially, and permanently, changed. Watering with hoses is banned, so if you want to water anything, you have to carry your watering can out to it. Obvy, there's no way the trees can be saved.

Another thing that was different this trip - seeing London policemen walking around with machine guns. I kid you not. Machine guns, and the police patrolled in pairs wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets. In that heat! Plus, Parliament is surrounded by ugly black barricades. You can't get near it. Ditto No. 10. It's all fenced off and heavily guarded - again, machine guns.

We got to the hotel and found that (1) the lift was broken, and (2) none of the rooms was air-conditioned. This, after having walked at least a mile from the "nearby" Tube station, arriving drenched in sweat and near collapse. Thank god we traveled light, with only carry-on luggage. Tomcat had called the hotel in advance to be sure they had air-conditioned rooms, and they said yes. Here's what happened: there are two Thistle Hotels in Bloomsbury - the Thistle Bloomsbury Park Hotel on Southhampton Row, and the Thistle Bloomsbury Hotel on Bloomsbury Way. I had made the reservations at the un-air-conditioned one, and Tomcat had called the other one. Yes, they let us switch, although we had to upgrade in order to get the A/C. Gawd!

They had power outages here and there - at some of the Tube stations, and a 48-hour one on the West End. Of course, the attractions and the pubs, restaurants, shops, Tube, buses, and cabs are not air-conditioned. Even though there's the drought, signs telling you to drink lots of water were everywhere. We heard many more ambulance sirens this time, and we assume the bulk of those were for heatstroke victims.

By Friday, my arthritis decided not to respond to pain meds anymore, so like last time, I missed out on some of the sights. (Last time, it was swollen legs.) I just wore my bod out walking so much, and we had to start taking cabs. Add that to the hotel room upgrade, and it got a little expensive. Oh, not to mention that this time, you had to pay almost two dollars for every Pound.

If you ask Tomcat how our trip was, he says, "Great!" because that's Tomcat - an optimist. Me? Not so much. I say our trip was "Pretty good, mostly. Considering." :)

He's uploaded the pics we took, and I'll start going through them to see what's blogworthy. I promise to be more focused on the good parts of the trip!

Bloggers Behaving ... ?

Like I said, I was gobsmacked when I got back from London and read all the great stuff my guest bloggers posted. I thank each and every one of you. Really. See? Look:

Hoss, you did me the honor of posting one of your best. It had everything a great b**g post should have - bar bitches tossing coins into belligerent bears' beers while doing it doggy style with out-sourced sports journalists, PLUS the parents had flies on them! You the man.

Pooks, your post reminded me of the zillion times over the past week when I've said I would never, ever try to ride a bicycle in London traffic. Not even in a fit would I think of doing such a thing. If you did an endo there, you would be endoed. As in, endo-yo-life endoed. So if you, perhaps in a fit one day, decide to try it, you must stop endoing that very minute. I mean it. Thanks for blogging about Livestrong, too. That's not advertising; that's smashing!

John's evil twin, Dick, showed up while I was gone and posted a picture of a hippo's ass in place of my photo. Yes, the Dick of Earle actually did that, AND justified it thusly, and I quote, "... it's because I think of her as a graying hippie. (Get it? Hippie?)" unquote. Okay, Dick, there's probably some gray under the blonde that's over the natural red of yesteryear, and I can see where you, being so uptight and all would think that I was a hippie, but a hippo's ASS?! Uncool, man. Like, what were you ON (and can I have some?) The part about the trip to England that JOHN posted was groovy, though.

Dan, I always enjoy hearing about the adventures of Dennis! You are the Master of the Puppet Show. And the moral of this one was spot on: Don't get hit by a truck. May I add: Or a lorry. Or a London cabbie. Or bicyclist. Or mo-ped. Or a motorcycle. Or a skateboarder. Or a pedestrian. It's exhausting just walking down the street over there! Is Canada like that, too? You would think that as obsessive as they are about driving on the wrong side of the street, they would at least make up their minds about which side of the sidewalk to walk on!

Ron, your post was outstanding! And so befitting my Tomcat. I can't wait for him to read it (he has not had the chance to even check his email yet because of all the stuff he had to take care of when he got home - long story.) And speaking of Blair :) Tomcat finally got to sit inside Parliament on their last day - he couldn't do that last time because the Iraq war was starting and Robin Cook was resigning Parliament in protest and the place was packed. Tomcat always says he would love to see Bush try to match the Q&A they have over there. Have you ever seen Blair at one of those? Intelligent, erudite, AWARE OF WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON. Just imagine Bush trying to hold up to that. It's hilarious. And frightening.

Garnie, Thank you for the jokes! Here's my favorite British joke of all time, the one that makes me laugh no matter how many times I hear or think of it, and it's from Monty Python: a guy mispronounces a word, the other guy says, "Don't you know the King's English?" and the first guy says, "Of COURSE the King's English!" Hahahahahhaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Okay, second fave: "There's the Prince!" - "How d'ye know he's the Prince?" - "He hasn't got shit all over him."

Oh my goodness, this was fun. Thanks again, guys. Luv ya.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

We're Baaaaaack

I've just finished reading everyone's posts and comments, and I must say, I-am-gob-SMACKED. You guys are so much fun and such great sports to do this. I'll have comments of my own to post, maybe later today or tomorrow, about what you posted (JOHN), but as of now, my head seems stuffed with shredded paper bags (I hate when that happens.)

In the meantime, I'll be catching up on your blogs and on my email, and share an entry from my Moleskine on Friday, July 28th (Tomcat's birthday) when we went to Canterbury:

I met a lady in the Market. She's 83, lives five minutes away by bicycle - basket on the front, basket on the back. She lost her husband last September. He died in his sleep. She'd only been upstairs for about an hour. When she came back down, he was dead in his chair, the newspaper still in his hands. There was nothing she could have done for him, anyway, even if she'd been there with him, the doctors said.

She has three children who all live in or near Canterbury, and a granddaughter, a child psychologist, who lives in the States.

She told me about being a Line Lady in the war. I believe that's what she called it, Line Lady. The women worked on the production lines while the men went to fight.

It was later, when I was back on the bus, that I realized I had seen Buckingham Palace, the Thames, and the Crown Jewels, but it wasn't until I had met this woman that I had seen England.