Thursday, 29 March 2007

Photos: London -- Greenwich & Canary Wharf

I'm staying in Greenwich right now, as I'm running a 2-day class in London's Canary Wharf area again this week. When I got here yesterday afternoon, I had some daylight time to walk around and take some photos. Those -- plus two from Canary Wharf this morning -- have been posted in a new album on my Smugmug pages online. Rather than post some of them here on Lord Celery, here's the link to the album.

I'll try to get them annotated in the next day or so.


Tuesday, 27 March 2007

"Can't Find My Way" - Lynn Frances Anderson, 2005

The morning fog was much worse in Oxfordshire today (see yesterday's entry). I figure that as I drove to the park and ride lot this morning, I could only see about 3 car lengths ahead of me and around me. I wish I could have stopped and taken a few photos, but I didn't have the time.

But to give you a feeling for the conditions early this morning, take a look at these local "fog photos" that John took around our village last December (and you can click on each photo for a larger image)...

That second photo is the turn I have to make onto the "A" road which leads to the park and ride lot and then eventually to Oxford itself. This morning, as I sat there at that T-junction, I couldn't even see those buildings on the right side of the photo!

I was certainly glad that my little Audi has great fog lights...and that I feel much more alert today than I did yesterday.

But I had to chuckle as I listened to today's weather forecast on BBC Radio Five Live. The weather lady said that the day would start out "misty, foggy and murky"; but once the fog burned off, we'll have a "cracking day".

Funny...we never had "cracking days" in Houston!


Monday, 26 March 2007

"Blank Expression" - Specials, 2002

I don't know why I have had so much trouble waking up this morning. Maybe it's because we changed over to British Summer Time yesterday, so it's pitch black again at 5:30am. That's what time I get up when I'm driving myself into the Oxford park and ride that I use. (If I leave home after 7am, I can't be sure to get to the office in Oxford by 8am.) It seemed horrendously early this morning.

Then there was the fog. Thick, pea-soup fog. Stereotypical English fog.

And of course, it's "Monday". That didn't help, either.

I just felt like most of my brain remained asleep. I even wondered if I was ok to drive.

As usual, I got off the park and ride bus on the north side of the Oxford city centre and began my walk south to the office. If I maintain a fast pace, I can get to the office in 12 minutes. If I stroll, it takes about 15 minutes. I was listening to my iPod. I was thinking about how much I wished I felt more alert. And then I began to think about something from the past.

Years ago, when my friend Bill and I worked for Texaco in Houston, we were both young, eager, and also probably more idealistic. We, and our colleague Penny (whom I referred to in a Lord Celery piece last year) used to, admittedly, make quite a lot of noise when we worked together in one little office. Our trading boss referred to us as "enthusiastic young people".

Bill and I used to talk about the expressionless faces we saw on the elevator in the old Texaco Building on Rusk. People looked tired...or bored...or just fed up with the world. "When we get to be middle-aged, we won't look like or act like that." we used to proudly proclaim.

Well, the last time I saw Bill, in late-December, he's still full of the same old wacky "Bill" spirit. I usually am, too. But I'm not sure it showed on my face this morning.

I'm going to spend the balance of the day trying my very best to not look like those blank-faced folks from the old Texaco building in Houston. I am not that old or that tired yet. And I'm a long way from being bored with life!


Sunday, 25 March 2007

"Look Through Any Window" - Hollies, 1965

On Friday, the course I taught was in a very interesting room in a major oil company's Canary Wharf offices. I thought you might enjoy seeing a bit of the room and the view from the windows. It's rare that I get to teach in a room this nice.

However, the downside is that London's Canary Wharf area could be a modern business district anywhere in the world. It's more interesting to see a "London" view when I'm teaching in London.


Thursday, 22 March 2007

"Half Face Cat" - Sean O'Hogan, 1990

I'm in London tonight-- well, really in Greenwich -- as I'm working in Canary Wharf tomorrow. Because I can't think of anything particularly interesting to write tonight and because John has written something very interesting on his blog, I refer you to his latest offering: Deal or No Deal (aka Schrodinger's Cash).

I'll be back when I think of something equally brainy to write about!

(As if...!)


Tuesday, 20 March 2007

"Keys to the World" - Richard Ashcroft, 2006

Don't you just love the look of British house keys? They look so old-fashioned to American eyes!

Update on our house...

-- the interior painting is almost finished

-- the old carpeting will be removed and disposed of tomorrow

-- the new carpeting has been ordered and hopefully can be installed the first week of April, at the latest

-- the measurement for all of the window coverings (mini-blinds and vertical blinds) will be done Wednesday morning, and the materials/fabrics have already been chosen -- and hopefully everything can be installed around the same time the carpeting goes in

-- the kitchen appliances will all be delivered on the 7th of April

-- our furniture and items we can't move ourselves will be moved either the 11th or 12th of April

-- except for the kitchen and bathrooms, all of the light fixtures need to be changed -- but we can live with the existing ones until we have a chance to select and install new ones

John and I are very excited, as it's already beginning to look like our house!


Monday, 19 March 2007

"Bullets In The Wall" - Frank Lenz, 2006

If I were Phil Spector, I believe I'd try a little harder to not look so bizarre as my murder trial is about to begin.

Perhaps he's planning to claim insanity?

This is such a long way from the famous "Wall of Sound" days...


Listening to: The Trews, "Den of Thieves" (see Auditory Cortex article)

Sunday, 18 March 2007

"Louie Louie" - Kingsmen, 1963

Congratulations to McLaren racing team's Lewis Hamilton for finishing his very first Formula One race in third place! Today's Australian Grand Prix, held in Melbourne, was the first of the 2007 season...and the first in a long time without Michael Schumacher.

John and I have been a little less interested in F1 since Juan Pablo Montoya left to become a stock car racer. I think we now have a new driver to support!


Friday, 16 March 2007

"Little Red Nose" - Otis Gibbs, 2003

This is one of my favorite days of the year in Britain. It's "Red Nose Day"!

I was completely unaware of Red Nose Day -- and the charity "Comic Relief" -- until I moved to the UK. According to their website, the first Red Nose Day was in 1988.

I won't bother to explain the charity, since you can read all about it (and how they use the funds they raise) within the links I've given you above.

Today, there's special programming all over the BBC, both on television and on the radio. Lots of organizations all over the UK will be doing fun things for charity. People are wearing their plastic red noses. (I'm not...although I'm wearing a red sweater ["jumper" in British English] today, to at least be a little festive!)

I've been looking forward to tonight's Red Nose Day television for weeks now. There will be lots of comedy programming...including parodies of serious TV shows. It's always loads of fun, and of course it's for a great cause!

So for my British readers, please open your hearts and donate generously to Comic Relief!


Thursday, 15 March 2007

"New Brown Clouds" - Frank Zappa, 1972

Have you heard the story about the discovery of a new species of big cat in Asia? Meet the Bornean clouded leopard.

What a cool use of modern DNA analysis!


Wednesday, 14 March 2007

"(Ain't It) Funny How Time Slips Away" - Billy Walker, 1961

My long-time friend Bill sent me an e-mail today from the Houston area, with a note saying, "How old do you feel now?". The e-mail had this photo embedded in it...

(Click on the image for a larger version.)

And for those of you who are young or didn't grow up in the States...or perhaps just need some help identifying who these guys are...the caption says that this is Eddie Haskell, the Beave, and Wally Cleaver.

Good Lord....

Bill, the answer to your question is the song I've used as the title to this posting.

And it's really not so funny, either...


Tuesday, 13 March 2007

"Look Through Any Window" - Hollies, 1965

There's a little shop being renovated not too far from my office, on St Aldates in Oxford. I took a phone-digi this morning of a little cartoon that has been drawn on the cardboard in one of the windows....

(Click on the image for a larger version.)



Sunday, 11 March 2007

"Good Friends" - Livingstone Taylor, 1970

When we went over to the new house yesterday with John's mum Anne, an envelope with our names on it had come through our letterbox. It was from our friends Cindy and Andre, who live in a nearby village.

(Click on the image for a larger version.)

Thanks so much! That was a very thoughtful thing to do for us! It's our first card at the new house.


Friday, 9 March 2007

"We've Only Just Begun" - Carpenters, 1970

Well, we're homeowners!

All of the monies flowed as they should have, and we picked up the keys to our home at noon at the estate agent's office in Banbury! The agents gave us a bottle of champagne to celebrate. We stopped for a bite of lunch on the way back to the car.

So, we still had out bottle of champagne with us when we went into McDonald's. (And by the way, we don't go to McDonald's very often; we go there occasionally as a treat!) John commented that the situation summed us up as a couple. McDonald's...along with a bottle of champagne! (And no, we didn't crack the bottle open with our burgers!)

Here's John during lunch (taken with my phone, so the quality isn't the great)...

(Click on this -- and any other images -- for a larger version.)

Then we headed for the house. John took a few photos to mark the special day...

Here's the front of the house...with my car in the driveway, for the very first time!

And here I am in the back garden!

Finally, here's photo taken in the living room, showing the view out to the back garden. (That's one of my favorite things about the house...the view of the garden from both the living room and the kitchen.)

That's it for now. Tomorrow, John's mum is driving over from Swindon to come take a look. I can hardly wait to take "Mom" on a tour!

Have a great weekend, everybody!


Thursday, 8 March 2007

"Red Headed Stranger" - Willie Nelson, 2002

On my way to the office this morning, I saw this lying on the pavement ("sidewalk", to my American readers) at Carfax in Oxford....

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

I couldn't help but wonder who belonged to that gaudy red wig...and why it was abandoned...


Tuesday, 6 March 2007

"Not As It Seems" - Khoiba, 2005

I laughed out loud in the bathroom this morning, listening to a news item on BBC Radio Five Live's "Breakfast" show.

Shelagh Fogarty began telling listeners about an upcoming costume auction. What she said was something like..."Obi-Wan Kenobi's brown cloak and uniforms from 'Dad's Army' will be soon be going under the hammer."


I thought I was hearing things. Obviously, Shelagh's sidekick Nicky did a double-take, too, asking if that was really what was on the script. She said yes...and then a few moment's later, after loads of laughter from the entire "Breakfast" team, she realized that there was some punctuation missing from the statement.

The news item was intended to read like this: "Obi-Wan Kenobi's brown cloak [comma] and uniforms from 'Dad's Army' [comma] will soon be going under the hammer."

What a difference a couple of commas can make!

And for those of you who aren't familiar with "Dad's Army", it was a late-60's/early-70's UK sitcom about the misadventures of a local English voluntary defense group (known as the Home Guard) during World War II. I would guess it remains one of the most popular UK sitcoms of all time.

This led to one Five Live listener e-mailing this to the program:

"Luke, Captain Mainwaring is your father."


Monday, 5 March 2007

"She's the One" - World Party, 1997

OK...I admit it...I love singing competition programs on TV. And I especially enjoy "American Idol". We see it here on ITV in the UK, only a few days after the shows air in the States.

After last week's performances, I'm already making my call for this year's American Idol. Without question, it'll be Melinda Doolittle.

Her performance of "My Funny Valentine" literally sent chills up and down my spine. It was one of the most stunning renditions of a song I have ever heard! So not only does the woman have a fabulous voice, she has an incredible way with song interpretation as well.

I know very little about her, apart from the fact that's she's from Tennessee. Checking a few resources on the web, it appears she's been a background/session singer for some time now. It's time for you to step up into the spotlight, girl!

I'm on the lookout for an MP3 of her performance of "My Funny Valentine". It will instantly join the ranks of other all-time favorites on my iPod!

By the way, last year John and I picked out Taylor Hicks as our favorite from the moment he auditioned. This year, I didn't have any strong feelings during the audition stages...except perhaps a curiosity about Sundance Head . (Thanks to my friend Claudia, I've learned that Sundance is the son of singer Roy Head, who had a big US hit with his song "Treat Her Nice" back in 1965. Claudia tells me that Roy is still out there performing, too.) But last week's performance by Melinda has completely won me over, and I'm willing to call the 2007 winner right now.


Sunday, 4 March 2007

"Our House" - Crosby Stills & Nash, 1970

I've been dying to write about something for weeks now but was afraid to, in case something fell through. But now I believe it's safe to tell you what's been going on with us since January!

Regular readers of this blog have sometimes seen photos of the great house I leased when I first settled into this part of Oxfordshire. And when John and I got married, he moved in here with me. It's a barn conversion and therefore very, very charming and full of character. But it's a little small for the two of us...especially given that we aren't kids and have a lot of "stuff" between us (although John would no doubt argue that most of the "stuff" is mine...!)

The owner of the house had thought he might sell it, and we would have had a decision to make whether to buy it or something a bit more spacious. However, soon after we got back from our trip to Texas in late-December/early-January, he advised us that he wants to move back into the house himself when my current lease expires in April.

So our househunting began.

Within a few days of starting to look, one of our favorite neighbors told us that a house very nearby (in the same fact, even on the same side of the village we're already in!) was on the market. I was teaching in London at the time, so John arranged to go see it. He thought it was a good prospect. He arranged for us both to go back the morning after I got back from London. And the very next day, we got into a bit of a bidding war with a couple of other potential buyers...but John's skillful negotiations eventually won us the deal!

One big advantage we had was that we have no "chain" -- in other words, we had nothing to sell before we were able to buy. John had sold his Hertfordshire home last year, and of course I was renting over here. The seller is the estate of a deceased woman; she died last November, after living in the house for several years. The estate's executor appreciated our chain-less position as well as the fact we have timing flexibility -- in fact, getting the house several weeks before we needed to move in would enable us to be able to replace carpeting, get the house repainted, get minor repairs done, etc., etc. before moving in. So the sellers accepted our offer. This all happened within about week of hearing that the house was for the very end of January.

Getting through a house-buying procedure in England isn't as straight-forward as it is in the States, and only when "contract exchange" has occurred is the deal itself really done. And that only happened last week.

If any of you are interested, from this link you can read through the steps toward what's called "completion" here. Our completion date is this coming Friday -- that's the day that all the monies flow and we get the keys!

So now I'm confident enough to share our purchase with my readers...and you can click on any of the images for a larger version.

Our new home. It's on a lovely little a small development containing around a dozen houses. They are about 12 years old.

In comparision, here's a shot (from February '03...the morning we first met the home leasing agent) of the barn conversion I've been in since April '03. My part of the building is right in the middle of the photo, and you can see the village's parish church in the background.


Here's part of the kitchen in our new home...and by the way, we'll be changing the color of the paint!

Now, many of you have commented about the beautiful kitchen in the barn conversion I've been leasing...and here's a reminder of the difference, as here's a shot I took last Thanksgiving...

We will definitely miss that lovely kitchen!


The view from the front of our new home. While very nice, let'e compare it to the view we've had from the barn conversion....


And last but not least, here's a photo to give you an idea where we'll be located in the village in the new house. This is a shot from the end of our cul-du-sac, and that's the same parish church in the background. So you can see that the house's location is just terrific!

There will be a lot of things about our current home that we'll miss. However, we're buying a terrific home which has more space and more features which are better for our lifestyle. And we didn't have to leave this lovely village, which we love more and more every single day!

I'll keep all of you updated as we take possession on Friday, start our redecorating, and eventually move in! John and I will finally have a real home of our own, a home which will truly be ours! And you can imagine how excited we are!



Saturday, 3 March 2007

"Rescue Me" - Fontella Bass, 1965

Last night, John and I watched a program on one of the BBC television channels which included a feature about a speciality animal rescue team in England. I wish I could find a link to the program, but I've looked and just can't.

During the show, they mentioned that they practice on animal mannequins which they source through an American company called Rescue Critters...including, by the way, a full-sized horse mannequin. What an interesting company...and website! (John and I wondered, though, how many new "hits" their site might have gotten during and just after last night's program!!!)

I guess I'd never thought about the need for an animal mannequin. I'll bet my friend Krista, who is a Houston veterinarian, knows all about this, though. I'll send her a note and ask her!

By the way, looking at the Rescue Critters site, I note that they also sell big floor pillows called "Cowches". Take a look. They are very funny, and part of the profit supposedly goes to a cow sanctuary. Here's the designer's own website.


Thursday, 1 March 2007

"Taking the Easy Way Out" - Steve Hackett, 1983

When I started this posting today at lunchtime, I thought about writing about the biggest news story in England right now...what appears to be contamination of some kind in unbranded petrol (i.e., gasoline) being sold in parts of England by major supermarket chains. But I'm just feeling too lazy to do that today.

So, after reading today's entry from one of my favorite bloggers, Lynnequist, I'm going to cheat and piggyback off her posting. She's found an article in the UK's "The Guardian" newspaper which contrasts what makes people laugh in America versus in the UK. I found it very interesting, and maybe some of you will also. It's called "What Are You Laughing At".

Meanwhile, perhaps I'll update you on the petrol story once those in-the-know sort out what's gone wrong. I'm just glad I buy my petrol from branded stations. And my little Audi's oxygen sensors should be glad, too.


PS. And to any Welsh readers out there....Happy Saint David's Day!