Tuesday, 31 July 2007

"Time Has Come Today" - Chambers Brothers, 1967

I'm back in Greenwich this evening, as I'm running a training class in Canary Wharf again tomorrow. This one is a short trip, as I'll be back home tomorrow night.

I'm so glad the course wasn't last week, as I'm honestly not sure I could have gotten from home to London and back easily. But this afternoon, it was no problem at all. I certainly saw a lot of water in fields during my train journey from Banbury to London's Marylebone station. But I saw no serious flooding. And as this week's forecast is for "fine and dry weather", we're all hoping that we'll never see flooding like last week's for a long time.

Once I'd gotten to the Novotel Hotel here in Greenwich, I decided to take a little walk to enjoy the weather -- plus I needed a few things at the nearby Boots pharmacy before tomorrow's class.

I ended up walking with a couple of women from Toronto who had gotten off at the wrong Docklands Light Railway stop and were lost. They were headed for the Royal Observatory, so I walked them to the area of Greenwich near the Cutty Sark where there's a tourist information office. I knew vaguely where they should be going but thought it better that an expert give them directions. They were delightful ladies. And I was surprised and pleased that they noticed that the necklace I was wearing was a Canadian ammolite stone. I'd bought it in Calgary a few years ago. No one here ever knows what it is (they usually think it's an opal), so that pleased me enormously that somebody recognized what it is! And they, of course, clearly enjoyed seeing something so Canadian so far from their home...although, to be fair, Alberta is a long way from Ontario!

So once I'd run my errand, I headed back here to the hotel. I've prepared all of the materials for tomorrow. I've watched the news (including local "London" news rather than the "BBC Oxford" news we get in Oxfordshire), "EastEnders", and now I'm watching something about the wedding of Charles & Diana back in 1981. 1981???? Yikes...!

Anyway, I thought Lord Celery's readers might enjoy a few photos before I shut down the laptop for the night.

Click on any of the photos for a full-sized version.

The Novotel Hotel is right on Greenwich High Road, and here's the view this evening out my window. Greenwich is a beautiful place!

Here's another, closer view of Greenwich from my window.

This is the first time that I've been able to see the top of the Royal Observatory from a room here in this hotel! This is where the ladies of Toronto were headed. And you can clearly see the red "time ball".

I just couldn't resist this shot of such a symbol of London!


Monday, 30 July 2007

"Spice of Life" - Everything But the Girl, 1984

John's mum Anne has been to Bulgaria to visit John's sister Claire and her family. She brought back a couple of Bulgarian gifts for us. One of them is especially fascinating.

Have you ever seen a jar of spices that's been so beautifully designed? (And, as usual, you can click on each photo for a full-sized version.)


Friday, 27 July 2007

"Wordsmith" - Pivot, 2006

On my way into my Oxford office this morning, this poster caught my eye...

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

Only in a super-brainy city like Oxford would you find a hip hop artist named "Dr. Syntax"!

(Not to be too nitpicky here...but the person who wrote the copy for the poster doesn't know how to punctuate the word "Oxford" when it's being used as a possessive!)


Thursday, 26 July 2007

"What's a Little More Rain" - Ray Hood, 2000

My colleague Richard -- see yesterday's post for two of his photos -- went outside this afternoon to take some more photos of the Thames near our office. Personally, I'm not sure that the river levels are much, if any, lower than yesterday. But at least the situation seems to have stabilized.

Here are a few of Richard's new photos. You can click on any of them for a full-sized version.

The Head of the River pub (which I photographed yesterday) is on the right of this photo...and Folly Bridge is in the background.

This is part of the grounds of Christ Church, now covered by the Thames.

Richard wasn't wearing the right footwear to wade through the river water which has invaded the the towpath.

I guess it's a good thing that Christ Church put out the "no mooring" sign in this area, given its current condition...

To me, this is one of the worst-looking shots. It appears that it wouldn't take too much more water in the river for these buildings to become flooded.

Thanks so much, Richard, for sharing these with me so that I could put them on Lord Celery this evening!


"A Child with a Toy" - Lou Rawls, 1967

I'd like to promote a very good cause today.

One of the early connections I made when I began blogging in 2005 was Gnightgirl, and I try to read her blog "This Just In" every day (well, most days, anyway...I mean well). Among many other things, she's the mother of a young soldier in Iraq.

Through her son Brian, she's implementing an idea called "Toys For Troops" -- sending toys over to soldiers in Iraq so that the soldiers can give them to Iraqi children. The positive reaction to her idea has been just amazing.

And Toys For Troops even has its own blog, with updates on what's going on.

Please help Lori with this terrific project, if you feel so inclined!


PS The level of the Thames through Oxford is no longer rising, but there's more rain on the way...so I'll keep you advised.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

"Deep River" - American spiritual (year unknown)

Many of have probably read or heard that parts of England are suffering from really terrible flooding. We got an enormous amount of rain in Central and parts of Southeast England last Friday, Oxfordshire included. Flooding from various rivers has had devastating effects. Worst hit have been parts of Gloucestershire, although conditions are getting worse now in Oxfordshire as well.

For those who are concerned, John and I are absolutely fine. Apart from some water on our patio (which drained quickly when the rain slowed down), we had no problems at all. One of the advantages of living in our North Oxfordshire village is that it's on very high ground.

But starting during the night Sunday, the city of Oxford began having some serious problems. The rivers Cherwell and Thames (the latter called the Isis as it flows through Oxford) were both sending water through the city at a furious pace. And the office where I work isn't far from the Thames.

Our office was open on Monday morning but closed about midday, for fear the Thames might overflow. We were closed completely yesterday. The Thames was supposed to crest yesterday. It didn't. We reopened the office today but left mid-afternoon, because all of the road closures in the area (west and south of the office) are making "commuting" difficult.

So while the Thames hasn't affected us yet, it still could -- especially since the forecast for the coming days is for even more rain.

I thought I'd share a few photos for Lord Celery's readers...and, as usual, you can click on any of them for a full-sized version. These were all taken today.

As I walked toward our office on St Aldates this morning, I could see that the road ahead was closed. The closure is at Folly Bridge, which is over the Thames. Once the road goes south over the bridge, it turns into Abingdon Road. There is a lot of flooding along the road...and in the town of Abingdon as well.

The Head of the River pub, on the northeast end of Folly Bridge.

Here's the river, next to the Head of the River's property. That's the highest I've ever seen the Thames in this location, and it's flowing so fast it almost looks wild.

Looking west down the river from Folly Bridge.

Another view of the river. From this shot, maybe you can get a better idea of the swift movement of the water. (This and the next photo were taken today by my office colleague Richard. Thanks, Richard!)

And Richard took this great photo of the Folly Bridge from the towpath along the river. The water is very high, as you can see.

That's our office building in the left center of the photo...a photo taken from the north end of Folly Bridge. You're looking north up St Aldates. You can see how close we are to the river, in the event it were to overflow its banks. And for those of you who know Oxford, that's the tower of Christ Church up St Aldates in the distance.

Meanwhile, on my way home this afternoon, I pulled off the A4260 at the Jolly Boatman pub, just north of the village of Kidlington, to see what the Oxford Canal looked like upstream of Oxford. Although higher than normal, it's not at threatening levels at all.

As viewed from the little pedestrian bridge, shown in the previous photo, here's a view of the canal looking north. The pub is on the left.

And here's the view south (toward Kidlington and Oxford) from the same bridge. You can see narrowboats moored all along the banks of the canal.

If any of you would like to follow this story, there are two good sources of information on the web -- The Oxford Mail and BBC Oxford.
Meanwhile, please send good thoughts to those whose lives have been so badly affected since last Friday.


Thursday, 19 July 2007

"Fixing a Hole" - Beatles, 1967

That's the first thing that came to mind when I read the news today about the steam pipe explosion in Manhattan -- except that rather than the hole Paul wrote about "where the rain gets in", it was a hole where the steam bellowed out!

Sadly, one person has been killed during yesterday's explosion on Lexington Avenue, near Grand Central Station. That's my old "stomping ground" in Manhattan. I know those streets well. And I can only imagine the terror felt by the people who saw and heard what happened during yesterday's evening commuting hours. I'm sure they were horrified that it was another act of terrorism.

Who among us haven't felt a certain amount of discomfort watching steam bellow from the streets of New York? I'm never quite sure what the source of some of the visible stream is, but maybe this article will help you as much as it has helped me.


Wednesday, 18 July 2007

"Room With a View" - Carolyn Dawn Johnson, 2001

I was back in London again Monday and Tuesday, staying in Greenwich and teaching in one of the massive office buildings in Canary Wharf. When I arrived on the 33rd floor training room where the course was being held, my jaw dropped at the view. I thought I would share it with Lord Celery's readers as well!

You can click on any of the photos for a full-sized view.

Here's a view to the south, with The O2 (formerly called the Millennium Dome) in the middle of the photo.

Closer view of the O2, at one of the big bends of the River Thames.

Closer view, just to the south of the building where I was training.

Looking southwest down the Thames.

Another view to the SW.

In the middle of the photo is the area around London's ExCeL Centre.

And here's a closer view of the Thames Barrier, in the almost spooky lighting we had on Tuesday morning.


Wednesday, 11 July 2007

"Brand-New Life" - Young Marble Giants, 2007

Are any of you interested in a new life?

If so, perhaps the Scottish island of Fetlar, in the Shetlands, might be just what you're looking for.

Take a look at this article on the section of the BBC's website for their TV program "The One Show". It looks like it would be a wonderful opportunity for a family. However, perhaps the best candidates for the slower pace of life offered in Fetlar would be older adults; and, of course, that wouldn't help keep the local primary school open.

Meanwhile, I'm in London again for one night. But although I'll be teaching tomorrow in bustling Canary Wharf, tonight I'm staying in beautiful (and a bit quieter) Greenwich. Here's a photo taken from my hotel room window when I got in this afternoon.

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


Monday, 9 July 2007

"Puppy Love" - Paul Anka, 1960

Five years ago today, in Houston, I held my little buddy Mac while he was put to sleep. Any of you who have had a similar experience with a beloved pet will know how devastating it is...even if you know in your heart that it's the correct thing to do.

John and I still miss him terribly. All of the Westies I've ever met are characters, but Mac was truly a one-of-a-kind companion. We'll have a toast to him tonight with our favorite single-malt.

I'm sure he'd approve!


Sunday, 8 July 2007

"One for the Vine" - Genesis, 1976

John and I finally had the chance to plant some vines today...vines which we bought a week or so ago and just hadn't had the opportunity to put in the ground until today.

I've always wanted to try growing Virginia Creeper. Throughout my life, I've admired the vivid reds produced by the vine in the autumn, as the leaves change color. When I first moved to Oxfordshire, I noticed a lot of Virginia Creeper, so I know it grows well here.

We have a chain link fence all the way down the west side of our property, as on the other side is the village's primary school. Behind the fence is a taller wooden fence that's on the school property. Most of the fence line is covered with plants or vines already. But behind the garage, there's a stretch of the fence with nothing growing on it. We're hoping the vines will take, because I think that the color will show from the front of the house as well...that's how high the fence is. I think it could be stunning!

So here are the two vines that we planted this afternoon...

For my UK-based readers, the vine on the left is Jeremy, and his brother Tim is on the right. And if it turns out that the one on the right is creepier, then we'll switch the names around.

Oh...speaking of vines....a little farther down from Jeremy and Tim, a vine is growing over the fence from the schoolyard side. I've never seen anything quite like it. It has pretty purple flowers and clusters of green grape-like "berries". Do any of you recognize what this is?


Wednesday, 4 July 2007

"Declaration of Independence" - Conflict, 2007

What a terrific Independence Day gift to BBC reporter Alan Johnston! After over 100 days in captivity, he was released by his "Army of Islam" captors in the early hours of this morning! I am so delighted to be able to remove my little Alan Johnston banner from Lord Celery this evening!

Meanwhile, I've worked today here in London. None of my students today even realized that it's an important holiday in the US. I've gotten a Hallmark e-card from John, an e-mail from my friends Carole & Bill, and a hand-delivered greeting card back at home from somebody (John wants me to open it when I get home tomorrow evening, so I don't know yet who it's from). Of course, those have been very much appreciated. But it still doesn't feel like "The Fourth" to me.

Actually, here's the closest that I've gotten to my home country today...

I discovered America Street this evening, a few blocks behind my Southwark-area hotel!

Happy Fourth of July to all of my American friends and family!

Sunday, 1 July 2007

"London Town" - The Pretty Things, 1965

I'm in London tonight. More specifically, I'm sort of in the "Southwark" section -- although maybe it's actually "Borough". I'm not sure. I'm south of the Thames, and just south of the Tate Modern museum. My venue for the next four days is about a 15+ minute walk away. I know that because I already did a "reccie" (as I've heard the British describe a "reconnaissance" trip) to find out where I need to be at 8am tomorrow.

The trip between the train station in NW London and here was interesting. There were lots more police in Marylebone Station than there were the last time I came into London (just two weeks ago). My taxi driver said that his taxi was searched from time to time before he picked me up at the station this afternoon. And on the way to the hotel, we saw several vehicles (on the streets) being searched by police. The authorities are certainly out in force, after the events of the past two days.

And my Chiltern Railways train went right by Wembley Stadium on the trip into London, too, as the Concert for Diana was kicking off. I wonder if any of you are watching it right now?

Would you like to see some photos I took this afternoon, once I arrived in London? Click on any of the photos for a full-sized version.

Here's my venue for tomorrow -- on Borough High Street.

Here's a snapshot to the north on Borough High Street this afternoon. This is a part of London I just don't know at all -- but I'm sure I'll be getting to know it better over the next four days!

The white building in the center of my photo is my hotel.

I don't have a very good view straight out in front of my hotel window, do I?

Here's a slightly better view...to the east, down Southwark Street, out of my hotel window.

Please send good vibes for my classes this week...and I'll write more when I can.