Wednesday, 25 April 2007

"Higher Ground" - Stevie Wonder, 1973

May I share a few more exterior photos of our house? (I promise that some interior ones will follow, when we're a little bit more settled!)

First of all, there's that Clematis "Montana" on the top of "Tahiti" in the corner of the garden. Now that it's in full bloom, we've discovered that the vine has crept up into some of the surrounding trees...quite high in the trees, as a matter of fact. I've never seen a clematis vine so assertive!!!

Here are some photos. The color/colour isn't quite right -- in real life, the flowers are pale pink. And as always, you can click on any of the photos for a full-sized version.

Here's the clematis covering "Tahiti" in the NE corner of our back seen from one of the upstairs bedrooms. I took this, and all of the other photos, this afternoon.

A little closer...but from the same upstairs window.

A close-up view of the beautiful vine!

I'm not sure whether you can see it or not...but over the years, the clematis has grown high into the tree in the background!

Any chance that you can see the clematis up in the tree(s)?

Changing topics a's our proximity to the village primary school's playground...this is part of the school's fence on the western side of our garden. We love the sound of the children playing. It's the sound of "life"!

Now, shifting to a view out of one of the front upstairs bedrooms -- our guest room -- we discovered that we actually have a small view of the village church from the window!

And last but not least, does anybody know what kind of plant produces a flower like this? It just started blooming in the garden. It's beautiful --- but I don't have a clue what it is!


Friday, 20 April 2007

"Two Sitting Ducks" - Danielson, 2006

I got into the Oxford office early this morning...before 8am. There was only one car in the "car park" behind the office, which (unfortunately) is the view that my office-mate Gavin and I have out our office windows.

But I got a little bonus this morning.

There, sitting on the tarmac, were two ducks. We're on the southern edge of central Oxford. There's no water around us, although the Oxford Canal and the Thames River (known as the Isis River as it flows through Oxford) aren't too far away. I don't know why in the world these two chose to hang out in such a weird location. And they looked very comfortable, too. I've seen a duck or ducks back there before, but it's been a long time.

Of course, once another car came into the lot about 15 minutes later, they both quickly flew away. But for a few moments, anyway, my usual mundane view was anything but!

And I had grabbed my camera just in time, too,...

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

Taken with the maximum amount of optical zoom.

This one was taken with the maximum amount of digital zoom, so it's a little grainy.

Have a great weekend, everybody!


Thursday, 19 April 2007

"Shades of Gray" - Robert Earl Keen, 1997

As regular Lord Celery readers know, I use song titles as the titles of my blog entries. The song titles relate to the subject matter of the individual posting. Today, it's not the title itself which is important; it's the entire song which relates to today's anniversary.

The 19th of April 1995, 12 years ago today, the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was bombed by home-grown American terrorists. Robert Earl Keen's song "Shades of Gray", released two years later on his CD "Picnic", tells the story of some less-than-upstanding young men who were at first thought to be involved in the bombing. But they weren't. They were, as Keen describes them, just some "sorry kids". John and I had listened to the song many times before he suddenly realized what the song was actually about.

The Murrah Building bombing was one of those "I remember where I was when..." moments in my life. I was sitting at my desk in downtown Houston, with CNN running all day on a small television on the credenza behind me. I remember the first reports of some kind of explosion being heard in downtown Oklahoma City. I also remember, even more strongly, seeing the first live images (from a local news helicopter) of the Murrah Building with its entire front half blown away. I remember feeling stunned...and physically sick.

One of my lifelong friends, Charlotte, and her husband Jim were living just outside Oklahoma City at the time. I also remember feeling so relieved to hear from her that they were both safe and all right..although they certainly knew many people whose lives will never be the same again after that day.

Although I'm an Okie, I was born in Tulsa and lived there only until I was about 12 years old. I have really never known Oklahoma City very well. As a kid, my only visit was to go to a Western theme park called Frontier City. As an adult, I made several trips there to attend oil industry functions or meetings. I have always remembered, with a smile, that there are working oil wells on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol there. But I feel that I know and understand the people of Oklahoma City. They are mostly decent, nice, God-fearing, hardworking, law-abiding honest folks. OKC is one of the quintessential Midwest American cities. Horrible terrorist events aren't supposed to happen in places like that.

During John's first and only (so far) visit to Oklahoma in the fall of 2002, a few months before I moved from Houston to England, we went to the museum and memorial to the Murrah Building bombing in downtown OKC. It was an exceptionally moving experience. I am so glad that we had the opportunity to go.

Let's all spend a few moments today remembering those who died in and around the Murrah Building 12 years ago today...and the families and friends who still grieve for all of the victims of that terrible event.


Wednesday, 18 April 2007

"In the Garden of the Eternal Optimist" - Pete Malinverni, 2006

There are loads of photos to come of our new home. But given the semi-chaotic conditions within the house, as we have only been in for about a week now, I thought I might start with a few outdoor shots.

One of the joys of our new home is the "back garden", as it's called here in the UK. The previous owner -- an elderly woman, who died last year -- was obviously a keen gardener. We saw a lot of promise when we first went into the back garden back in January, when we made our quick decision to try to buy this house. But we didn't know what surprises were to come!

Firstly, here are a couple of views (not good photos, sadly, because it was raining that morning) of the back garden when I first saw it last January. Our offer to buy the house was accepted a few days after this first viewing, by the way.

As usual, you can click on any of the photos for a larger version!

This was the NE corner of the garden, featuring a curious little shelter in the corner which John and I nicknamed "Tahiti". It had a thatched-type roof. We assumed that there was nothing growing back there. We laughed at it initially...and had no idea how much we'd come to appreciate it!

And this view was looking toward the NW from outside the kitchen door. The bricked "patio" is just outside the sliding-glass doors off the back of the living room. Again, remember this was taken last January.

Now, let's move ahead to this week. I'll first show you four shots of the garden that I took on Tuesday evening, while doing a little weeding.

Here's an example of the fascinating assortment of plants which are appearing in the beds around the patio! The color is beautiful, and we've done nothing at all in this area of the garden.

From the rear of the garden, I'm now looking north toward the patio doors at the back of the house. (Those are the vertical blinds, at the end of our living room, that can be seen on the left side of the photo under the archway.)

And this is what "Tahiti" looks like now....with our teakwood chairs and table under it and with the clematis coming to life on what we thought was a dead roof! (I think this is a "Montana" variety clematis.) So those woody stems are the base of what's obviously a very well-established vine! Around this part of northern Oxfordshire, these pale pink flowers are among the earliest clematis to bloom. This is the very best spot in the garden to sit in the late-afternoon/early-evening sun.

A close-up of the clematis flowers on the top of "Tahiti". The actual shade of pink is a little richer than this photo shows.

Finally, here are a series of views from one of the rear upstairs bedroom windows. I took these early this morning, before work, to show you a panorama of the view of the same garden. The views from this particular window -- which will be "John's room" -- are my favorites from the house....especially (and unfortunately you can't really tell from these photos) because you can see the surrounding fields in the distance.

Looking west. Over the wall, next to us, is the playground for the village primary school.

Rotating the camera slightly to the right, so looking more northerly.

Looking more NE. There's "Tahiti" in the corner of the garden, and you can see that even more of the clematis flowers have opened since the other photo was taken!

Here's a vertical image of the eastern edge of the garden, to complete the panorama. Our new bird table has become very popular with the large number of birds in the area!

Photos of the interior will be posted when we've gotten things a little more organized!


Sunday, 15 April 2007

"She's About A Mover" - Sir Douglas Quintet, 1965

Sorry for the days of silence. It's been CRAZY around here. But John and I are all moved. Can you hear the sigh of relief?

We are far from being settled, but at least all of our belongings are in just one house now!

Let me give you an idea of the recent timeline....

Saturday the 7th -- fridge, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer were all delivered...but the dishwasher and dryer were damaged and will need to be redelivered

Tuesday the 10th -- all of the blinds were installed in our house

Wednesday the 11th -- carpeting was installed (but only starting around 11am that day), while packing was underway at the house I've been renting

Thursday the 12th -- moving day...and the dishwasher was replaced (moving-in finished at about 1:30pm, and the dishwasher arrived just after 2pm)

Friday the 13th -- dryer was replaced, and the house we moved out of was cleaned

Saturday the 14th -- first day with no appointments!

I'll resume writing when I can. But meanwhile, here's a photo of a very tired couple happily posing this afternoon in front of their first home together...

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

We have a livable bedroom and living room, and the kitchen only has a few boxes in it. So given that we've only been in the house a few days, we're doing all right. And can you believe that in the midst of all of this, we've had NO RAIN AT ALL...and remember THIS IS ENGLAND!!! I just can't believe our good fortune!

More as I can...and John will be posting a series of moving-out and moving-in photos on Smugmug soon, and I'll post a link here.


Thursday, 5 April 2007

"You Were Only Teasing Me" - Ernest Tubb, somewhere between 1940 and 1952

Keith Richards is such comical guy. He says he was only teasing with that story about sniffing his father's ashes.

Somebody stop me from choking from all this laughter...


PS I notice that my friend Vikki has blogged about the retraction, too...although once again, she's beaten me by a day!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

"Is There Any Place Within Me (That Can Contain You)?" - Maharold Peoples, 1998

Keith Richards has undoubtedly snorted quite a variety of substances during his turbulent life.

Now, he's been kind enough to share with the world that one of those items was some of his dead father's ashes.

Thanks so very much for confiding in all of us, Keith...


Tuesday, 3 April 2007

"I Can't Sing" - LaRue, 2001

I was in Boswells department store in Oxford during my lunch break today.

As I was looking for something (which I never found), I overheard the following exchange between two bored-looking clerks standing behind the counter -- and, by the way, Young Man #1 was British while Young Man #2 was American:

Young Man #1: Why are you working here?

Young Man #2: Well, because I couldn't ever get a band together.

YM #1: I didn't know you're a musician.

YM #2: know....I'm really not.

I always had this dream of having a band. A really good band. You know, with really good vocals...harmonies and everything. It was my dream.

YM #1: Why didn't you do it?

YM #2: Well...erm....because I can't sing for s**t. And I started trying to find friends that could sing. I figured surely some of them could sing. But I discovered that none of my friends can sing for s**t either.

YM #1: Oh.

And at that point, I chuckled to myself and headed back to the office.


Monday, 2 April 2007

"Don't Cry For Me Argentina" - Julie Covington, 1976

I heard on the news this morning that today is the 25th anniversary of the start of the war, between Britain and Argentina, over the Falkland Islands (or Islas Malvinas). BBC News have a special section on their website covering the history of the conflict.

Hearing of the anniversary really brought back memories to me. In 1982, I was working for Elf in Houston. There were only two of us in the office there, so my boss Nicolas and I worked in two adjacent offices in a downtown Houston corporate suite -- an office setup where many of our administrative services were provided for us. Among the other tenants were a Scottish man and an Argentinean. And we -- my charming French boss and I -- were working between their offices. It was indeed a very strange situation for an young American woman. I learned more about current events and world politics than I had bargained for when I joined the French oil company's American office the previous year!

Much to the relief of the woman who ran the corporate suite, armed conflict never broke out in her offices during that time period. (I think about Aurise often, and I hope she's ok. She was always wonderful to Nicolas and me.)

Seriously, though, I'm sure this day brings back really awful memories for many people in both the UK and Argentina. Meanwhile, we have a deepening international crisis building between Britain and Iran regarding the unlawful detention of 15 British military personnel seized in Iraqi waters. I hope everyone keeps a cool head...and that the 14 men and one woman get to come home to their loved ones sooner rather than later.

And my last thought for this posting is that it would have been my father's 87th birthday today. He died back in 1987, but he's certainly still being missed by lots of us.