Sunday, 24 December 2006

"Christmas Eve" - John Mock, 2005

The fog has finally lifted here in England! Here's the view from our upstairs bedroom this afternoon...

(Click on the photo for a full-sized image.)

Now although it's not sunny here, at least we can see more than a few feet in front of us!

Tomorrow, John and I are driving up to the English Midlands to spend Christmas Day with his mum and his brother and sister-in-law, but we'll come back home tomorrow night. We have some packing to do on Boxing Day, as we're off to the States for about 10 days on the 27th. So Lord Celery might be quiet for a few days, but I promise I'll try to send a few blog entries from the road!



Saturday, 23 December 2006

"Christmas Birds" - Francis Doughty, 2000

Yesterday morning, before going into my office in Oxford, I made a stop in Oxford's famous old Covered Market. I thought my blog readers might enjoy viewing some of the items available for sale in great abundance at Christmastime in England...some of which I had never seen on display before. Within the market, there are several butchers, fishmongers, bakeries, and fruit & vegetable sellers.

The more squeamish of you might want to avoid the following. Personally I love to walk through the market any time of year...but especially during what we Americans call "The Holidays".

Here's your tour...and, as usual, click on any of the images for a full-sized version.

Merry Christmas Eve eve to all of you!


Friday, 22 December 2006

"Four Years Ago" - Keno, 2005

Four years ago this morning. I had just arrived at London's Gatwick Airport as a new UK resident, with a shiny new 5-year work permit. Here I am a few days later, in front of my temporary flat in Oxford.

Wow...the adventure was only beginning!


Thursday, 21 December 2006

"Village Green Preservation Society" - Kinks, 1968

"We are the Village Green Preservation Society
...God save little shops, china cups and virginity.
...Preserving the old ways from being abused.
Protecting the new ways for me and for you.
What more can we do.
God save the Village Green."

Thanks, Ray Davies, for that classic song! But as I listened to it back in 1968, when it was originally released, I had no idea that the lyrics would become so meaningful in my life!

As a follow-up to my entry yesterday about the fog in England, I submit the following photos...only a small assortment of many wonderful images that John captured yesterday in and around the house we're living in. We're in a lovely village in northern Oxfordshire. And as I mentioned yesterday, it looked especially beautiful yesterday in the frozen fog.

So here goes...and the first is of the converted farm building we live in. Our "cottage" is at the end of one of the buildings, in the left center of the photo (with the car parked out front). The other photos were taken in and around the village.

(Click on any of the images for a full-sized version.)

If you look closely at that last one, you'll see John reflected in the gold Christmas ornament!

Hope you've enjoyed the little tour of our village!


Wednesday, 20 December 2006

"Morning Fog" - Bill Anschell, 2006

"Frozen Fog" would be a more appropriate title, but I don't believe there's actually a song with that name.

This morning, as my friend Cindy and I drove from north Oxfordshire to the Oxford Park and Ride lot we use to commute into Oxford, we drove through thick, frozen fog. The temperature ranged from just below freezing down to about 29 deg F along the way, but luckily the road surface was ok to drive on.

I wish so much that I could have photographed the beauty of the morning. But it was just too dark for a decent photo. Had I managed, Lord Celery's readers would see the almost-spooky beauty of the weather we experienced.

The best I can do is post a photo I just shot from my Oxford office window. The view isn't very good, but at least you'll get an idea of the reduced visibility.

(Click on the image for a full-sized version.)

Also, this is a good opportunity to give Lord Celery's readers the links to a couple of very interesting local webcams.

The first is the Oxford webcam, located right in the city centre on top of Carfax Tower. It updates about every 5 minutes.

The second is the Banbury webcam. Banbury is a market town in north Oxfordshire, just a few miles north of where John and I live. This cam is particularly interesting, as (when it's working) it updates every second! You can see the traffic moving in the roundabout at the Banbury Cross, right in the middle of the town.

Time for another cup of tea. I'm still chilly, despite being in the office over an hour!


Tuesday, 19 December 2006

"The King of Rock 'n' Roll" - Prefab Sprout, 1988

I don't know why it has happened today, in particular. I'm feeling nostalgic for the small town where I spent my formative growing-up years -- Salem, Illinois. I've written about Salem before, and I'm sure I will again. I have strong feelings about the town and my friends there.

While eating my sandwich at lunchtime, I surfed over to the website of Salem's local radio station, WJBD. According to my father, who was friendly with some of the folks who ran the station, the call letters stand for William Jennings Bryan Davidson.

William Jennings Bryan was a Salem native. Maybe someday I'll write a Lord Celery item just about him...but I'm not in the mood to do that today! And Bryan Davidson was, at least at that time, the radio station's owner. Clever naming, huh? (I found a website which mentions the Salem radio station's history, but I notice it doesn't verify my father's story about the origin of the WJBD call letters.)

One thing I vividly remember about first moving to Salem from the small city of Tulsa, Oklahoma was the difference in the quality of local radio. My father used to love to listen to the on-air news reports on WJBD. Because at that time the local paper didn't publish seven days a week, local radio took up the slack by broadcasting all sorts of sad, bizarre, funny, and trival reports on-air. Daddy and I used to laugh at the reports about somebody's "sore toe (that was getting better)", divorce petitions which had been filed, who'd had a traffic accident...and where...and exactly what any injuries were, school lunch menus for all the local schools, etc. Nope. This wasn't Tulsa anymore. This was small-town Midwest America!

(I've just noticed that the Salem school menus are now posted online at the "Salem Times-Commoner" website. Especially for my UK and non-US readers, take a look at a sample of American school menus here.) what's the subject of this blog entry, then? Well, during my lunchtime reading today, I took a quick look at the obits on the WJBD website. The following excerpt of one of the death notices caught my eye and made me smile. Even though I didn't know the woman at all, I'll bet I would have liked her...and her son and fiancee, too, for caring enough to add such a touching comment to the usual perfunctory notice.

"Carolyn Foster, age 64, of Flora, formerly of Clay City, died Monday at the Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. She was a homemaker and a big Elvis fan. Survivors include a son John Foster Jr and fiancee Minby Hill of Salem."


Monday, 18 December 2006

"Mouths of Babes" - Smashing Pumpkins, 1996

Heard on the Park and Ride bus from Oxford this afternoon...

Two mums with three children between them. Talking about their Christmas shopping. The kids talking about all the presents they are expecting to get next week. Young as they were, I was hearing about iPod Nanos, game consoles and mobile phones...among other things.

One of the mums, aware that nearby riders were hearing the childrens' chatter, said to them, "Now, you must not forget the true meaning of Christmas! What is Christmas really all about, then?"

One of the kids thought for a second and then said...."Father Christmas?".


Monday, 11 December 2006

"Amazing" - George Michael, 2004

Last night was BBC's "Sports Personality of the Year" broadcast, on TV on BBC 1 and on radio on BBC Radio 5. The surprise winner was 25-year-old Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Anne and Major Mark Phillips, for her equestrian talents...and her many awards in the sport. She took a full one-third of the public vote!

The coolest part was that her mother won the very same award back in 1971. According to the BBC, this is the first time that two members of the same family have each won this award.

But I'm a little peeved at the BBC today. They stole my idea!

You see, Zara Phillips was obviously very surprised to have won the award last night. It was an impressive list of fellow nominees. She clearly hadn't prepared an acceptance speech. And John and I chuckled when she repeated the word "amazing" at least 6 times during her thank-you speech.

So my brain had already come up with George Michael's "Amazing" as the title of today's Lord Celery item. I felt very proud of myself for thinking of that particular song. And it didn't consciously happen either. The song just start playing in my head at bedtime last night.

Lo and behold, this morning on BBC Radio 5, while describing last night's events, they played none other than George Michael's "Amazing" as their background music!

"Darn!", I thought. I wonder if anybody reading Lord Celery will believe that I thought of that myself!



Sunday, 10 December 2006

"Arrivederchi Roma" - Perry Como, 1958

Well, Very Nice Man, I am actually blogging from home...even though it relates to last week's trip to Italy. I'll start talking about life in the UK again this week.

The trip back to England Thursday night was fine...although by the time we got home from Heathrow and got to sleep, it was about 3am. I feel like I've spent the entire weekend recovering. At least last week's courses were the final days of teaching for me for 2006.

One final photo from the trip to Rome last week. I thought you might enjoy seeing the decoration that was on our afternoon coffee and tea tray at the hotel on Thursday. I'd never thought of using dry pasta as a decoration! SO Italian, huh?

And by the way, that apricot tart, on the right side of the photo, was absolutely delicious! I would have brought the rest of it home to John if I had thought it would survive the security screening.

OK...back to normal life-in-the-office now until we shut down for Christmas!


Monday, 4 December 2006

"Autumn in Rome" - Peggy Lee, 1964

Hello from Rome...well, the suburbs of Rome anyway!

I arrived safely late yesterday afternoon...only about an hour late, despite really terrible weather in England Sunday morning.

Undoubtedly I had the world's grumpiest taxi driver from Fiumicino Airport to the hotel here in Parco Dei Medici. Maybe he was hoping for a fare all the way into the city center of Rome. I don't know. He also had a dreadful cough, so maybe he just felt bad. But he was a grump.

Anyway, once I got here and settled into my basic business-hotel room, I went down to the front desk to see if it was possible to set up my training room Sunday night. It was. A handsome young man named Andreas helped me. He looks like a young John Travolta. Sadly, though, he speaks very little English. So a lot of gesturing was required to explain what I needed, and we also had to resort to his calling the front desk for an interpreter at one point. Still, he was very helpful, and I have to admit that I guess I'm becoming "one of those middle-aged women" who enjoy the company of charming young men! (That's why I married you, John!!!)

Oh and it was amusing that apparently the hotel staff are referring to me as "Senora Oxford"!

So, sadly, I'm outside Rome proper and won't get into the city at all. But I thought Lord Celery's readers might get a kick out of a few digital photos taken here in the hotel, using my mobile phone...although they aren't of high quality.

(Click on any of the images for a larger version.)

Firstly, I LOVE Italian pasta...and even in a business hotel like this one, the pasta is as good as I've ever had. Last night's was the intriguing "Pear & Cheese Ribbons with Walnuts and Truffle Sauce". I'll have it again before I leave. (This was room service, by the way. I'm always too inhibited to eat in a restaurant alone when I'm travelling to teach.)

Here's my glorious view of "Rome" from my hotel room window this morning. Sad, huh? It could be any office complex anywhere in the world...

The view isn't much better from the room in the hotel where I'm running the courses. Nice palm tree, though! (Cindy & Andre, note the blue Fiat in the middle of the photo!)

I'm SURE this is a bit hard to read. Let me explain. All of the business suites in this Holiday Inn are named after philosophers. Our room is the "Sala Seneca". On the wall, there is a framed quote from Seneca. According to one of my Italian students. it means something like -- The gladiator controls the outcome in the arena.

And tonight -- once again via room service -- was the best lasagne I've ever eaten!

So goodnight from Italy...and perhaps I'll post again before I return to England late on Thursday night.