Thursday, February 26, 2009

London Walks

The past two days, I've been going touring with London Walks. They are inexpensive guided walking tours of just about any part of London. Tuesday I went on a tour of the areas near St. James Park and Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park. I've been to these areas many times, so most of it wasn't new to me. However, there were two special things that happened. The first was that we actually saw the Queen! I admit that we were across the street and half a block away, but still, we caught a glimpse of her getting out of her car and walking up the pavement. The occasion was the unveiling of a statue of the late Queen Mother. The other special thing was that we went up into the Wellington Arch. Views of London from there are pretty spectacular, as you can see. I don't have any photos of the Queen, she was too far away.

It was chilly and misting, so not a very nice day to walk. After the tour, I went to Covent Gardens, ate lunch, and wandered around. The vendors were selling new stuff, not antiques that day, so it wasn't very interesting to me. I bought a magnet in the shape of a t-shirt that says 'I Love London'. It was much cheaper than buying the t-shirt and won't take up as much room, either.

Yeserday, I went up to Hampstead for another London Walk. This was a really good walk. Hamstead has many Victorian buildings and a lot of history. It's on a hill from where one could see London, in the old days. Today there are too many buildings in the way, of course. The village was at one time a spa resort, but the mineral wells dried up, so none of the spa buildings remain. There are, however, many interesting old buildings and a cemetery where John Constable is buried. In fact many writers and artists lived in Hampstead over the years - Bram Stoker, H.G.Wells, Ian Fleming, among others. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. He provided far more information than I could absorb, but then that's always the case.

More photos of these walks can be found on flickr at

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Portobello Road

Saturday, Kate, Sarah, Olivia and I went to Portobello Road, the largest antique/flea market in London. Alex and Geoff stayed home, which was a good thing. Geoff would have hated the crowds and we would have probably lost Alex many times. We got there about mid-morning and the place was already teeming with people. Although the streets were theoretically open to traffic, there were so many people that they filled the streets as well as the pavements (sidewalks). See first photo. I got Olivia to pose next to a little animated figure of a clock repairman. (2nd photo). We wandered along, popping into interesting stores and stopping at many of the booths that lined the road. I think the flea market stretch is a couple of miles long.

We went into some of the antique markets along the street and actually bought a few items. Most of the good antiques are way beyond my price range, but it's still fun to look. The booth in the third photo above sold old uniforms.

My daughter, who really doesn't like antiques, bought a little tin box with a pretty picture on it and some interesting buttons. She also looked longingly at all the lovely old fabric and oriental rugs. Olivia bought a hat to replace one that was recently lost. I can't remember if Sarah bought anything - I think not. She hangs onto her money. I bought a wonderful piece of pink and yellow art glass (probably from the '50s), a glass giraffe, a necklace with red and black beads, and a set of salt and pepper shakers that are miniature red telephone booths. They will look very good in my kitchen. None of these things are antique, of course, although the art glass is collectible.


First photo on the left is a store just outside the market. Middle photo is a bakery stall in the market. Photo on right is taken through a shop window. The car is only a half car with pizzas protruding out the windows. Good pizza too, although the bite I had was too spicy hot for me.

All in all, we had a fun day, but I don't think I will ever go back. Camden Market is really better for flea market stuff and since it is open during the week, it is less crowded. Covent Gardens also has antiques and flea market stuff, so perhaps I will drop by there next week. I plan to go into London several times, since Kate will be working.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Doing things with kids

Yesterday we all (except my dear son-in-law who was at work) went to the Museum of London in - London, of course. A friend on Kate's and her daughter (people I also know) went with us. This being a school holiday week, the museum was teeming with kids. The noise level was astonishing! Luckily for me, I had been there twice before, so I could just browse through, reading information when I was especially interested and skipping the parts I didn't care about. The only photos I took were of interesting pieces of old pottery, but I won't show them because I realize that not everyone has my fixation on pottery! We ate a picnic lunch at the museum (inside, as it was nippy outside) and came home for tea. Bought fish and chips from the local fish shop for dinner. I love fish and chips and always have to have it once when I'm in England.

This morning, Kate and I and the kids went to a place in Guilford that was a combination of an ice skating rink and a huge area devoted to water fun. There were three big water slides, a wave pool, two regular swimming pools, a diving pool, several areas with shallow water and fountains and suchlike for little kids and two hot tubs with spouts of bubbles. After sitting in those hot tubs and standing under some other water spouts, I felt almost as good as if I'd had a massage! I even went down one of the water slides - on a huge yellow tube. This is a real first for me, as I am not comfortable with heights and NEVER go down water slides. It was fun, actually, although I did not go for a second time.

Now we are at home. Kate is sewing, the kids are watching Igor on a DVD and I'm on the computer. I guess I'll go read the Washington Post online now. I like to stay in touch, more or less, with news from the US. And I enjoy the comics and the crossword puzzle!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pictures after all

My brilliant daughter has figured out how to put my photos on her computer - using the memory card from my camera. (This would not work on her old computer or on mine, but does on her new one.) So here are a few photos from my excursion on Friday. I took a number of photos of just the heads of the statues in the sculpture hall because faces are what I am interested in. I make ceramic 'masks' or faces and many of my ideas come from pictures. It was amusing to note that the heroic men were carrying swords, shields and sometimes helmets, but were otherwise stark naked! Pretty risky battle behavior, I think. So here (on the left) is a lovely lady, who is actually dressed.

This group of figures(to the right) is interesting to me because there is a mask in the grouping.

On the left is a glass vase that I admired.

Some other glass pieces that I particularly liked are below
As you can see, I like glass pieces that resemble pottery. I guess that's because I'm a potter.

I loved this bull, isn't he gorgeous? And next to the bull is an actual piece of pottery from the Islamic display section of the museum.

As you can tell, I'm still having trouble putting my photos where I want them on the blog. Kate has figured out what some of my problems are, but you will just have to put up with too much blank space in places.

Out and about

I went into London as planned to the V&A museum. Unfortunately, they STILL don't have the pottery exhibit open. The people at the info desk said it's been closed about 10 years, but would reopen in Sept. 09. I guess I'll have to wait a while before I see that wonderful exhibit - darn! However, I still enjoyed the museum. I saw all the beautiful glass - I especially like the modern things. There was a special exhibit of coronation clothing from several of the Russian Tsars. Amazing what decorated clothing those men wore! Even their guardsmen and servants wore beautiful things for the coronations. The V&A also has clothing of several centuries on exhibit. Lots of lovely dresses, but the underwear women wore looks pretty uncomfortable. I'll stick to modern casual clothes, thank you!

I also looked at sculpture, of which they have a great deal. The corridor with sculpture is one that leads to many other areas of the museum. I had lots of opportunity to look at the pieces, as I must have walked thru that hall 4 or 5 times. Finally I went through the jewelry exhibit. Again, I prefer the modern pieces, but it's all very impressive. Unfortunately, I have no photos that I can put up now because I forgot the bring the cord that connects my camera to a computer. Kate's cord is different, so I can't use it. When I get home, I'll try to remember to put up some of the highlights of the trip, or perhaps I'll just put them into my flickr pages and direct folks to look there. For the time being, you'll just have to use your imagination.

This week we will be going to another museum in London - the Museum of London. I've been there before. It has a great section on the fire of London and lots of other history connected to the city. I don't know what else we are doing this week (the kids are off school), except a shopping trip to buy them Christmas presents from me. This afternoon, the kids have dental checkups and I will be poking around in the charity shops in Wimbledon. Should be fun for me.

Friday, February 13, 2009

In Merrie Olde England

I was a lot less tired than usual on this trip, which was very nice. I never get much sleep on the plane coming over because (a) they serve dinner at 10 pm and don't turn the lights down until almost 11 and (b) airplane seats are not the most comfortable beds in the world and (c) there is often a crying baby or a coughing person or some other distraction that keeps me awake. This time I had 2 seats to myself, so I could spread out a bit, but there was a woman a couple of rows back who coughed and coughed and coughed. I kept thinking, 'I sure hope I don't catch her cold!'. Anyway, I felt pretty good Wednesday morning when Kate came to pick me up and I actually stayed up until bedtime that night. I've been getting in a lot of walking - accompanying the kids to school and back and yesterday, I walked from school over the the high street in Worcester Park and poked around in all the charity shops and other interesting stores. There is a shop called 'Broadway Bargains' which is like an old-fashioned version of a dollar store. It had a little bit of just about everything - buttons, fabric, toys, kitchen stuff, pencils, pens, paper, used paperback book, etc. Not like anything I've ever seen in the US.

Today I'm heading into London to visit my favorite museum - the Victoria and Albert. I will see wonderful pottery and glass, and musical instruments and clothing from several centuries, and much more. I love the place! It isn't overwhelming like the British Museum, but has as much as I can see in one day.

It's cold here and there were a few snowflakes last night, but today is just dreary looking. However, Wednesday and yesterday we had sunny all morning and so I can't complain. Of course, it was in the 60s when I left Maryland, so it is quite a change!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

if it's not one thing it's another

These last few months seem to be breakdown time for my possessions. You've already heard all about my car problems and now a bit about my heat pump. This unit is only 3 years old and has worked perfectly up until about a week or so ago. I noticed it was frosting up on the outside of the condenser (or whatever it's called) located under the deck. When I finally went out to try to scrap off the frost, I found not just frost but ICE - as thick as my pinkie finger - filling nearly every slit in the metal cover around the unit. I tried to scrap it off and nearly got frostbite before I stopped. Then I tried to melt it using a hair dryer. That was an exercise in futility and rather funny, or would have been if I hadn't been worried about the unit by this time. Note: hairdryers aren't strong enough to melt very much ice. So I called BGE Home (they actually took calls on a Saturday) and they came out yesterday. The repairman had a bit of trouble finding out what the problem was, because it was so unusual. One vital electrical connection was not functioning because DUST HAD GOTTEN INTO THE CONNECTION!! Can you believe that? I asked him if I should dust inside the closet where the heat pump's fan and electric stuff is. He laughed and said "No" that it was just a freak kind of thing and not likely to happen again. (I was relieved, as I had thought that maybe a mouse had gnawed the wires. I did have a mouse a few months ago, but he is dead and gone now.) I had to carry about 8 buckets of hot water downstairs to be poured into the outside unit to melt the frost built up on the inside of the casing. However, all is well now. The BGE person was very nice and knowledgeable and gave me some pointers on the unit - things I had not been told before. So all's well that ends well. Maybe my electric bill won't be so high in the future!

Now, my refrigerator is making a loud thump when it shuts off (or maybe when it comes on?). I figure it's the next thing to go. And my computer is 8 years old, so it could go at any time. My radio makes an odd noise when I turn it on. (Sometimes I think I'm the only thing functioning correctly in this house!) Life is just full of all these lovely little potential problems, isn't it? Our ancestors had a much more simple life - no appliances to go bad. Of course their lives were short and rather inconvenient. I am very attached to all the conveniences in my house, even when they become inconveniences, so I'm glad I live in the 21st century.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

the world of blogging is amazing

I just discovered something quite interesting and surprising (at least to me). I was reading my profile and discovered that from there I could find MANY other bloggers who might have something in common with me. Probably all of you who are long-time bloggers already know about this. What I did was to click on the active links that had been automatically created in my profile. I tried 'retired' and found that there are over 28,000 retired bloggers. Not surprising, as I suspect retired folks have more time to blog. On the other hand, it means that there are many computer users in the older generation. We are not all dinosaurs! I also tried my home, Laurel, MD. That was the surprise - 498 bloggers in Laurel. I flipped through the first 150 entries, just looking to see what kind of f0lks were blogging. Not much information available on many, but I did find one other retired woman about my age. Her blogs are very interesting and I'll start reading them, when I get back from England. She and I have some things in common, so who knows? We might become friends. I already have a couple of women whom I consider my friends, although we have never met except online. You can never have too many friends. Take care friends and stay warm! (It's 15F this morning here on the East Coast.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

snowing again

Today we have a dusting of snow with more falling. Still, we aren't supposed to get much - maybe a couple of inches. And, the temperature is above freezing, so the snow has been melting on the sidewalks and streets. Just very pretty, especially if one is sitting inside in a warm house, watching the flakes come down! Kate, in London, has been enjoying a bit more snow than we have here. London got 4 inches and schools have been closed for two days. Both she and the kids have been enjoying the unexpected holiday. Check out her blogs for snow photos and all the sewing she has gotten done.

I can't say I have been particularly productive, although I too did some sewing the other day. Yes, I actually managed to thread my sewing machine and produced two pillow covers - the kind that can be easily slipped on and off. I like to change the throw pillows in the living room often, so have an assortment of removable covers. (Storing covers takes up much less space than storing pillows!) The best part of this recent sewing is that I discovered why I was having so much trouble threading the machine. It was a really stupid thing, but then I'm a bit stupid when it comes to my new sewing machine. Now, if I could just get the threader to work! Luckily, I can see well enough to actually thread my machine by hand. Perhaps I'll even do some more sewing soon. I have been planning to finish making cushions for the dining room chairs (one is done) for about 3 years. I bought the material ages ago and made one cushion and then just never did the others. (Of course, most of the time, I'm the only person sitting on the chairs and I only need one cushion, so.......)

Speaking of accomplishments, yesterday I took a number of ceramic creations to the studio to be fired. Eventually, I will post photos of them here and on flickr, but probably not real soon. If I pick them up before the weekend, I'll have time to take photos and upload them, otherwise it will have to wait until I return from England in March. (You will notice I did not offer photos of my sewing. If I ever do anything that could be considered quilting or other creative fabric use, then I'll show it. But, don't hold your breath! LOL)