Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thank you for an amazing last week!

Despite losing a few pictures on my camera card (listen to your friends when they tell you not to transfer photos from a camera that is about to run out of juice), my last week in London was the best ever.

The weather was surprisingly wonderful and warm, and if it did rain, the moisture made everything an even prettier shade of green.

Wednesday was my last day of work. I left a quiet office early, and headed home in the warm afternoon sun. In the evening, I went over to Neil's to have dinner and play a rousing game of Scrabble among my favorites. Neil's wife Joss made delicious Macaroni and Cheese and continued her winning streak. Amber came to visit on Thursday on her way to India. We went on the rounds--Westminster, Buck Palace and some fish and chips. woop! Later it was chocolate scrabble. Technically, I lost, but who really loses when the tiles are edible? Then (Friday) it was time for the all Elgar program performed by the Royal Philharmonic with guest cellist Steven Isserlis playing Elgar's Cello Concerto. From the first milky wonderful lines I was hooked listening to Isserlis and his 200+ year old cello. I couldn't believe I had been hacking away on crummy rental just the week before! We awoke, Saturday, to a beautiful and sunny morning--one of those relax in the back garden until you get a sunburn kind of days--and I ran off to Hyde Park to enjoy some strawberries in the sunshine.

There were a few of us who played frisbee, too. I had a wild throw at some points, but eventually my aim was under control...sort of. That night, my lovely friends threw me a wonderful going away party.

Delicious pasta bolognaise a la Tom, loads of wine, dancing and a private Blisters concert in the shed was everything and more that I could have asked for. I was ecstatic as I climbed into bed and thought about how lucky I was to have met such amazing people. Sunday was such a nice lie-in, and then an afternoon movie at the Covent Garden Odeon: Persepolis. After the film, we walked all the way back to Earl's Court from Leicester Square--I saw the Physic/Psychic Garden (ha!) and Chelsea Bridge at dusk. It was one of those nights when, after you think you've seen enough of a place, you go on a little walk that makes you realize there's so much more and you'll have to come back. And guess what else--Scrabble!

And then it was Monday. Last fully day. And a wonderful one. I met up with everyone from work and we went to lunch at Leon--where we ate on my first day. Later on, I picked my project up from Imperial College (in case you weren't aware, I've also been taking class this entire time), took a stroll through Hyde Park and wandered into Notting Hill, a favorite. The sun that had fought through afternoon clouds was soon replaced by stormy weather. A cold rain bore down on London as I jumped into a bookstore. Tom finally arrived, and we picked out some good reads--Gold, I am a Cat and The Learners, to name a few. Finally, it was time for a drink at the Churchill Arms, a pub I had been meaning to go to upon seeing it four months before.

When we left the pub, this is the sky that greeted us:

Back in Ealing
, we had a delicious dinner and an even better game of Scrabble with Tom, Rich and Andrew. I went to bed sleepy and sad, but still completely happy; I couldn't have asked for a better ending to my English adventure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mousey, Oh Mousey

I don't think I've ever mentioned it in the blog, but my friends over here certainly know that we have a major mouse problem. With six girls living in a flat, it's difficult to keep everything clean. There are dishes out, crumbs everywhere and treats galore for hungry little mice. That's a nice way of saying, I basically live in a dump. When we discovered the rodent dilemma, we bought mouse traps. They didn't really work, so we reported the problem to our resident managers, who put adhesive traps down throughout the kitchen. Sure, we've caught a few, but it's been a sticky mess deciding what to do with them after they land on the paper. Needless to say, we've been struggling. I recently faced the difficult task of taking the "next step." Here's what Kristin, my bunk buddie/London bestie wrote in her blog:

Sarah has just informed me that she killed another mouse last night.

In her words:
i did. yeah, it was sad. i had just gotten into bed when i heard shannon scream. i walked out of the room and could hear the little mouse crying! his leg and the side of his body was stuck to the paper. he kept trying to pull his head up but he just made himself bleed. i felt so bad for him. i didn't know what to do, and i couldn't smash his head with anything, so i stuck in him the toilet and flushed it a couple times. he's in the happy mouse hunting ground now.

How traumatic. I have never been so thankful to be such a sound sleeper.

And, unfortunately, it was not the fatty that ran over my foot the other night, it was a little baby- probably the fatty's baby. Gross.

After drowning it, the girls placed him in a plastic bag and threw him out the window. Our neighbors are going to think it is raining mice- hell, maybe it is.

For those keeping track- the death toll in flat 5 has now reached 4.

I had nightmares for days.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sunday was the Design Museum by Tower Bridge to check out the Brit Insurance awards. There was a giant video screen divided into squares. You could record yourself and apply the video to one block (think Brady Bunch, but the goal is more high-art). Also, no design exhibit would be complete without a Nintendo Wii, but I sucked it up at bowling! I guess I must be out of video game practice, or maybe I was never practiced enough.

After the rain in the morning, the day turned out to be amazing. Cool and sunny, and we walked for a while along the river. It's funny how fishy it smells and how loud it gets. If I closed my eyes I might be in Maine.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I thought you deserved a weekend update

Since it's been amazing so far!

For a refundable deposit and about 20 pounds I got a crummy beginners cello to keep all week. After a few days of scales I was as good as I could get after being out of practice for four months, so I trekked over to West Ealing for a band practice with the Blisters. We jammed on Thursday night, and I took the day off on Friday to do a bit of recording. Playing again was an amazing feeling--I didn't realize how much I missed it, and after yesterday I'm inspired to practice loads this summer. I'll make sure to post the music file when it's mixed!

And then the festivities began for Jack's birthday. 'Twas Soul of the 60s night at the Phoenix Bar, which meant only one thing: I had no choice but to don my hoop earrings and twist and shout my little heart out to the sweet sound of Motown tunes underneath the synthetic light of a glowing discoball. And the birthday boy got his groove on.

Then it was an adventure to down Portobello road with Kristin. It was freezing too, and the smell of mulled wine reminded me of my first time to the markets. Bought some excellent finds, one that made even a few other shoppers jealous. Later on we dropped the cello off near Piccadilly Circus--the shop's next door to one of my favorites, the Nordic Bakery, and I met Tom, Stewart and Olly to shop around in Covent Garden. Even after a rain that area is teeming with quirks. There's even a street called Cucumber Alley. There are loads of skate and vintage shops, and I was hoping to continue my consumer-driven luck from earlier, but nothing really spoke to me.

Sunday was excellent as well. Kristin and I woke up at a decent hour and headed off to the Wellcome Collection. It's a museum of medicine and health, and it's definitely one of the best places I've visited. We saw an exhibit on death. It was beautiful and moving. A photographer and a journalist interviewed dozens of terminally ill patients living in hospices in Germany. Each person was interviewed and photographed, and shortly after their death they were photographed again. The black and white photos were huge, and the contrast between the pictures was extraordinary.

In many of the interviews, patients told of their struggles and how difficult living can be. Many were not afraid of death, they were afraid of the process. Strangely enough, the photos taken after they had died had such a peaceful quality to them. They looked more alive and without pain than they had when they were just getting by.

Other parts of the Wellcome Collection contain ancient prosthetics, paintings, Dolly the Sheep's doo doo, and ancient sex toys! What really struck was how accessible the museum is to everyone, because we all have bodies, and medicine and health is a part of all of our lives. Art, literature and science are intrinsically connected here; artists' works are displayed as a part of an exhibit on obesity. There was a map of the world made out of mosquitoes, as a statement on malaria. There was a poem based on one John Donne had written. It was refreshing to see health through eyes of science so many creative people.

Later on I met up with my pal Rich to go see Bjork play at the Hammersmith Apollo. Our friend Jerry was nice enough to give us his extra free tickets, as long as I could claim them at the box office pretending to be his sister. Somehow, inexplicably, we got in, and Bjork, well, tore the house down. She was amazing and had fantastic guests. The staging had a regal sense about it, and Bjork was her usual unpredictable self. She wore some crazy gold, flat, boxy, wavy dress thing, and played with an all-female brass ensemble from Iceland called the Wonderful Wonder-brass, which we thought was pretty funny. The show was intense and long and totally worth it, and at one point I looked over at Rich. He had his closed, his arms up, and he was singing all of the lyrics to Army of Me while green laser lights flashed through the audience and confetti from the ceiling *.

It was a wild ride, and two hours later Bjork had left us exhausted, exhilarated and ready for some Ben & Jerry's.

*I'd never been to a concert with confetti, and strangely enough I was told by both Rich and Tom that all concerts in England end with confetti. What have I been missing out on!?

Celebrity polar bears!

If Knut wasn't enough for you (and I can always do with seeing more baby polar bears), then check out this clan of snowy white babeskis.

I got a dino!

Along with my squirrel obsession I have an affinity for dinosaurs.

Say hi to Dilly, my new finger-dino-pet!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My office bought two bags of individually-wax-wrapped Babybels, and all save three were eaten.

I thought the days of this famous little, round cheese were over, and then I came to London. Er, I happened to make friends with people who actually indulge in this strange, rubbery and completely unnecessary wonder--and whose stomachs actually forgive them for partaking!

I remember the days of opening my grandparents' fridge, hoping that, among the mini Hershey's bars with almonds, I'd find a few babybels--leftover golden nuggets from Grandad's airplane trips wrapped in red wax. If I found more than one, and I usually did, I'd grab them all, have a seat at Nonnie and Papa's kitchen table, lay them in front of me, and decide which dairy wheel I'd eat first. As I pealed away the wax tab, a delicious and potential heart attack displayed itself in the form of a little white roundel. Yum.

I'm not sure what happened next. After a few years the Babybels either stopped appearing or I simply realized how disgusting they were. In any case, after a night of drinking in London I had my first in years. A poor choice, indeed. One Babybel, coupled with a foot-long pepperoni stick is a deadly combination. You will inevitably suffer from bad breath and indigestion all night. The next morning I thought I had ordered a McDonald's quarter pounder. 

Monday, April 14, 2008

Want to know what's more nerve wracking than arriving in London?


I've tried desperately to push back the thought of my impending departure, but it's nearly impossible to ignore the truth: I fly in two weeks.

Time has moved quickly. I blink and a week has begun and ended. Luckily I haven't squandered my days away, but there's so much more I want to see and too much I want to hang on to.

Yesterday we wandered into a tearoom on the Southbank, and while I was disappointed to find they didn't serve bubble tea, it was a nice surprise to hear an American accent from behind the counter. Whoever he was had been to Kansas City before. I think his comment was "Really good barbecue."

We ate our food for a while. It was fun. The tea was delicious. My orange was even better. I was excited for the Design Museum. I was loving London. And then, over the speaker, I heard, "I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come."

I think it's time to go, said he.

Oh, but it isn't.

Fran + Anntravaganza: The pics

It's impossible to take a bad picture in Paris.

Warm, wonderful, sunny. It was everything I thought Paris to be. Cafes on every corner, with Parisian men in black smoking cigarettes, deep in conversation with their beautiful French girlfriends. Baguettes. Flowers. Miss Antoinette could have been anywhere. France is for the lovers. Paris, je 'taime.

The weather was a wonderful break from the blustery moodiness of the UK. but after a long day, coupled with the shock (we can't read military time) of missing our train home, it was good to be back in lovely London. I'll take unpredictability any day:

Nothing like a springtime snow in Kensington Gardens. Thankfully the flakes stuck for a while--perfect for a lone Frosty!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fran + Anntravaganza

My mom and my grandmother got back to the states on Monday night after a successful five-day trip to visit me in London. We ate too much, drank (maybe too much at times), and had a generally excellent time.

Highlights include and are not limited to:

Tate Modern, Kensington Palace, Nonnie's stories about the Mayan culture, Ann's fascination with the talking elevators, my own discovery of British television (since the tv in our flat doesn't work), missing the last Eurostar train home from Paris, having to stay the night in a Parisian hotel that smelled like curry, a spring snow, and of course, the countless bounding pups in Hyde Park.

Jolly good fun. Photos to come.


This squirrel business is too good...and bizarre.