Wednesday, 30 March 2011

"What Will It Be Like" - Merle Haggard, 1999

Yesterday, I got a return email from my long-time friend Joel in Houston. He's one of the funniest people I have ever known. As part of his email, he's mused a little about John's and my future. I think it's worth sharing...

Years down the road I can see you as the beautifully eccentric couple living in your nice village. Lord John will be resplendent in his Persian slippers, fez and Hudson's Bay blanket coat, smoking his calabash while walking the town square with his sword cane with the walrus tusk scrimshaw. You will be at his side, fashionably attired in a well-worn southwestern poncho with a large Navaho concho belt around your Robertson tartan skirt and sporting a wide brimmed straw sombrero with a turkey feather in the hatband, wearing your Birkenstocks and leaning on your Scottish walking stick with Robert Burns' head carved on the handle. Perhaps a small Indonesian bag will be around your shoulder carrying your iPad10 and your iPod 200g...maybe even a small wand made of elder wood will be in the bag, and you'll use it to point out interesting sights to the local children who flock to the "lady from Texas".

Now that's some imagination, isn't it? And I like it!


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

"El Numero Uno" - R.D.N. Norteno, 2008

Last night, John and I filled out the 2011 UK Census. It's the first time in my life that I've been counted in a country outside the US.

We could have submitted our information online. But we figured it would be just our luck that our broadband would go down at a critical time. So we took the traditional approach and used the paper form.

"Person 1" is the one who fills out the paperwork. The other members of the household are "Person 2", "Person 3", etc. John decided I should be "Person 1".

That was my reward for having the best handwriting!


PS By the way, for any of you who have wondered about the mysterious Question 17 ("This question is intentionally left blank."), the answer is in this article from The Mail Online!

Monday, 28 March 2011

"Now It's My Turn" - Betty Carter, 1988

Last week, John and I had a good laugh about a question asked on "The Weakest Link".

The question was something like this: Despite the name, in which US state would you find the Sierra Nevada Mountains?

The contestant answered: Canada

Today, I had an appointment with a new contact lens specialist at an Oxford optician's office. Like me, she didn't have a British accent.

I was so sure of where she was from that I asked her, "So, what part of Australia are you from?"

Her answer?

"New Zealand"


Sunday, 27 March 2011

"You've Really Got a Hold on Me" - The Miracles, 1962

As I wrote yesterday, John and I went to see Rumer last night at Oxford's beautiful New Theatre. And she certainly didn't disappoint! I'm not a very good concert/gig reviewer, but I'll do my best here.

I expected her voice to be as beautiful (or even more beautiful) live. And it was. I expected her to have a terrific backing band and singers. And she did. I expected a good mix of her own songs and covers. And there was.

In fact, it was her choice of covers which made the show even more special. John and I both absolutely loved her version of David Wiffen's "Driving Wheel" (sometimes called "Lost My Driving Wheel")! Rumer proved that she can sing country-rock, that's for sure, and the song could be in the repertoire of Robert Earl Keen! "Goodbye Girl" and "Sara Smile" were excellent, too. I was happily surprised when the band played the opening chords of a favorite of mine, "You've Really Got a Hold on Me", and Rumer seemed so comfortable with R&B as well.

But my favorite cover - and a song I didn't know before last night - was her version of Gil Scott-Heron's "Lady Day and John Coltrane", which she did as the second encore! (And I've just bought the CD featuring his original version of this song.) It showcased Rumer's talents as well as those of the band and singers up on stage with her.

Rumer's stage presence is so charmingly understated and natural. I hope that some record-company "image consultant" doesn't try to alter her quiet reserve on stage. I felt that she made a strong connection with the audience; she spoke just enough, and her beautiful smile was contagious. Both John and I thought that her glorious voice got stronger and stronger as the show progressed...something that her cover of "Alfie" really showcased.

Did I cry during "Slow", as I'd predicted yesterday? Yes I did. But I cried more during "Aretha"...and during "Thankful". The lyrics to the latter got to me, down deep, even more when I heard Rumer perform the song only yards from where we were sitting.

I chose Smokey's song as the title to this blog post because it says everything about how I feel having seen Rumer live. She does indeed really have a hold on me.

And it would be remiss to not mention the opening act, The Golden Retrievers. Ahead of last night's show, I had bought their four-song EP on iTunes. John and I listened to the songs a lot last week. The article that I linked already talks about the comparisons to Bread, CSN, and James Taylor. As I listened to them last night, I couldn't help but think about early Eagles, with David Gates as the lead singer (odd as that might sound)! My favorite of their songs was "Four Track Tapes", a song about why people keep chugging away in the music business. I haven't heard such a great song about that topic since Chuck Coleman's charming "Brian Played Guitar"!


Saturday, 26 March 2011

"Can U Wait That Long" - Shakespear's Sister, 2005

The long wait is finally over. John and I are off to see Rumer at Oxford's New Theatre tonight. It's been a very long time since I've been so excited about seeing a recording artist "live"!

Some time during the spring of 2010, I first heard Rumer's "Slow" on the radio at the office. Leave it to my favorite BBC Radio 2 DJ Ken Bruce to be the one to play the song. I distinctly remember looking over at the digital radio, sitting on a table next to my desk, to see what the song was. My first thought had been that it was a previously-unreleased Carpenters' song. The singer of "Slow" sounded so much like Karen Carpenter. But the production sounded too modern to be a 70s song, and the song was (to me, anyway) more sophisticated than something Karen and Richard would have done.

I also remember Googling "Rumer" and finding that its the performing name of a London-based singer/songwriter named Sarah Joyce.

Little by little, I began hearing more of her work and learning more about her. I introduced her music to lots of people, both in the UK and in the US. "Slow" was the song of the summer of 2010 to me.

Finally September came, and Rumer's first CD "Seasons of My Soul" was released. I loved her own songs even more than the covers. Her music had really dug into my heart and soul. And she has such an interesting life story.

Thanks to Rumer's website, some time late last year there was a pre-sale for tickets to her 2011 UK tour. I got two tickets for the Oxford show in the third row -- outstanding! The 26h of March seemed like AGES away.

But the day has finally arrived, and tonight I'll hear "Slow" being performed just in front of me. I expect to burst into tears when that happens. I probably won't be the only person in the audience to do so either.


Friday, 25 March 2011

"A Long Way to Go" - Gary P Nunn, 1996

Yesterday morning, John and I were in the Outpatients section of Banbury's Horton Hospital. He was due to see the hand consultant there about his injured little finger. We had a rather long wait for the appointment, so I couldn't help but listen and watch what was going on around us. And sitting near Outpatients Reception made that all the more interesting.

At one point, an elderly couple approached the receptionist. I couldn't hear what they asked but certainly could hear her response. She gave the couple directions to the "Cardiac Investigations" department, which sounded like a complicated trip. She apologized that it was such a long walk from Outpatients Reception.

John heard her too. We decided that perhaps the walking distance is actually part of the cardiac investigation. If you can survive the walk over there, then your heart is probably ok.

Ahhhh...the joys of the NHS!


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

"Questions 67 and 68" - Chicago, 1969

Six year ago today, John asked me to marry him. It was early in the morning, and we were in the Sheraton Suites on the West Loop in Houston. He said it was appropriate to propose in Houston, as that’s where I was living when we met back in 1995. It was a ringless, impromptu proposal, which made it even more special to me.

That was such a wonderful day…although unfortunately John was feeling under-the-weather. We were in the US on holiday/vacation (British English/American English). John’s mum Anne had come over with us. She’s a terrific travelling companion.

We didn’t immediately tell Anne that we were engaged. The three of us met my friend Krista for lunch in Sugarland. We toured around Houston during the afternoon, as it was Anne’s first trip to the city. And in the evening, we went to Brenner’s Steakhouse for dinner. And that’s when we told Anne that we were getting married. Anybody who has ever had dinner there knows that it’s a special place, so that seemed appropriate for our big announcement.

The next stop on our US trip was New Mexico. In one of my favorite spots in the entire world, the mountain village of Cloudcroft, we had planned quite a reunion dinner. My brother and his girlfriend Marcella were driving over from the Las Cruces area to be there. And my long-time friends Carole and Bill were in the area and were coming to Cloudcroft to see us. Aunt Blanche was coming too, as she only lived across the valley in Ruidoso.

We were all around a long dinner table at Rebecca’s restaurant at the Lodge in Cloudcroft when I casually said that John had asked me to marry him, a few days ago, while we were in Houston. Noise immediately erupted from the table, the likes of which Rebecca’s probably hadn’t heard very often. There was screaming, laughing, and crying – and Bill practically leapt across the table to hug John and me!

What I remember the most, though, was what happened when the noise died down. As it went quiet, Aunt Blanche calmly asked, “WELL? What did you say?”

It was the line of the trip…well, after “Will you marry me?”, of course!

Happy Engagement Anniversary, John! I love you SO much!!!


Sunday, 20 March 2011

"Words" - The Bee Gees, 1989

I started thinking this morning that hearing certain words/phrases on the TV or radio can tell me immediately where in the world I am located (assuming that I'm ignoring accents, I mean).

Here are three examples...

If the weather for the days ahead is being described as "misty and murky" or "settled" (versus "unsettled"), then I'm in the UK.

If the announcer says, " long have ya'll been in business?", then I'm in Texas.

And if the morning TV traffic reporter says that the city is "stall and collision free", then I'm in Calgary, Alberta, Canada!


Saturday, 19 March 2011

"A Time to Hear (Who's Listening)" - Art of Noise, 2006

Something remarkable was happening at my house this afternoon.

It was a beautiful almost-spring day here in the UK. I was outdoors, sweeping up winter debris and sprucing up the potted plants around the house. And I was listening to the radio that I had brought outside with me.

Sounds pretty ordinary to you, maybe? Well, what made the scene remarkable was what I was listening to...and the radio I was using.

I have a new Pure battery-powered indoor/outdoor internet radio. And I was listening to KGSR in Austin, Texas. And what made the experience even more special was that SXSW is going on right now, and I was listening to live performances that KGSR was hosting from the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin.

How cool is that?


Friday, 18 March 2011

"Come On Hot Dog" - Superconductor, 1993

I was listening to the news on BBC One this morning - very early this morning - and one of the stories was about Prince William's visit to Christchurch, New Zealand.

I could have sworn that I heard the Prince say, "The Queen sends hot dogs and good wishes."

Hot dogs????

Of course the Queen didn't really send hot dogs to the people of Christchurch. She had sent "her thoughts".

But take a look at the graphic below (and I hope you can read the text):

What do you think? Maybe Eleanor actually did introduce the British Royals to the joys of the all-American hot dog. And now the current Queen wants to share them with the citizens of New Zealand, to help cheer them up after their recent disaster. Maybe?


Thursday, 17 March 2011

"How Sweet It Is..." - Marvin Gaye, 1964

I've been a fan of See's Candies for a long time. But I only recently found out about their special St Patrick's Day treats.

I can't say that they look very appealing. Can anybody who has tasted one confirm or deny my opinion?


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

"Strange Brew" - Cream, 1967

As Lord Celery's readers surely know, tomorrow is St Patrick's Day.

Pico's Mex-Mex restaurant in Houston is one of my favorite places to eat when I'm back in town. I could kill for their crabmeat and shrimp enchiladas sometimes! But I don't think I've ever eaten there on the 17th of March.

Yesterday, I got an email from Pico's, featuring their special foods and drinks for "El Dia de San Patricio". Take a look at some of the offerings...and you can click on the image to see a full-sized version, to make it easier to read.

I have a few questions. Since when is sauerkraut considered to be Irish? And who in their right mind would order one of those strange drinks - green margaritas or the combination of creme de menthe + agave + lime? Yuck.

DO let me know if you go to Pico's tomorrow night, please, and tell me that I'm being overly picky here!


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

"Yellow" - Coldplay, 2000

The color that signals the arrival of spring for me is yellow. And the plant that most represents spring? You might think I'm going to blog about daffodils this evening. But I'm not. I want to write about the lovely forsythia.

Ever since I was a little girl, I've always enjoyed the cheery "yellowness" that forsythia bushes provide when we need it the most, just as spring begins. Both of my grandmothers were keen gardeners, and both had forsythia bushes in their yards. But since I've been living in the UK, I appreciate the plant even more. You see, after a long, dark British wintertime, the sight of the yellow flowers of the forsythia make me feel like the world is being bathed in new sunlight.

About a year and a half ago, I bought two forsythia plants for our home. One is in a big pot out front, next to our garage. It has buds on it but isn't yet blooming.

The other forsythia is planted in the ground. During a moment of inspiration, I decided to plant it in our back garden, directly across from the back door. I was hoping that the sight of those yellow blossoms, from the kitchen, would make me smile.

They do and they are. Take a look at the young forsythia, brightening our indoor world...and you can click on each photo for a full-sized view.

You can see the forsythia through the blinds on the back door.

And although it's a young bush, it's still really beautiful.

It's just a pity that the forsythia is boring the rest of the year. Apart from early spring, it's just a uninspiring shrub with green leaves. But for me, that's more than offset by its beauty this time of year.


Friday, 11 March 2011

"Very Important People" - Gus Gus, 1999

Because John's broken finger is still healing, he isn't supposed to be driving. So on the days that I don't work, I've been driving him back and forth to one of Oxford's park and ride lots to catch a shuttle bus to work.

Last Thursday morning, I watched as the 700 bus he was on left the park and ride terminal area and headed out for the various Oxford hospital areas it services. It was a double-decker bus with a movie ad strip running down the side.

The ad was for a film called "The Dispensables". As the bus and its passengers pulled out, I couldn't help but think that the title on the bus was completely wrong as a label for the bus.

That bus was full of people who aren't dispensable. Far from it. Besides my own husband, there were other husbands plus wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and friends on that bus. The people on the bus were VIPS, not dispensables.


Monday, 7 March 2011

"Looking for a Friend" - Jerry Leger, 2008

We have a clear container of jelly beans on our kitchen counter. Over the weekend, I was surprised to see a ladybug (or ladybird, as they are called here in the UK) sitting on the top of the container. I don't recall seeing them indoors all that often.

I couldn't help but wonder perhaps he/she was looking at those jellybeans, thinking they might be a collection of colorful potential friends.


Friday, 4 March 2011

"Nobody Knows What's Going On In My Mind But Me" - Chiffons, 1966

Here's a little example of the way my brain works.

John and I did our weekly grocery shop yesterday afternoon, after his appointment at the Fracture Clinic at the Banbury hospital. (He broke a finger last weekend.) We thought we'd gotten everything on this list, but we'd missed something.

Both of us remembered early this morning that we'd forgotten bread yesterday. As I was going to make a stop at a supermarket this morning anyway, after dropping John off for his bus, it wasn't a big deal. But I didn't want to forget to add bread to today's shopping list. And that list was already in the car, in the shopping basket.

I realized about 15 minutes later that I was "soundtracking" the song "Baby I'm-A Want You" in my head, as I got ready to go. The song just played and played and played; for the life of me, I couldn't think why. I don't even like the song very much. And it kept playing, even as I was driving John to his bus pick-up point.

Then, as I pulled into the park and ride lot to let John out, he reminded me one last time to not forget the bread.

Bread. Good Lord. That's why the song! My brain was playing me a Bread song to remind me to buy bread!

Folks, this kind of stuff happens to me all the time.


Wednesday, 2 March 2011

"Plymouth Rock" - Pilgrims, 2000

The graphic above was on Google's search page yesterday.

OK, fess up here. How many of you -- like John and me -- took a look at that graphic yesterday and immediately wondered what the first of March had to do with pilgrims?

Happy belated St David's Day to my Welsh readers.


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

"Stranger on a Train" - Boomhauer, 2011

About a month ago, I went over to London to run a one-day seminar for one of our clients. I travelled by train; so after class ended for the day, I headed back London's Marylebone Station.

I think it's so interesting to people-watch on public transportation. On this particular journey, I became intrigued by an elderly man who was sitting diagonally across the train's aisle from me.

This gentleman had boarded the Birmingham-bound train right at the last moment, literally just before we began moving. He was dressed in a trendy way, I thought, in his leather jacket and jeans. He was wearing what the British would call "trainers"...what we Americans call tennis or athletic shoes. He just looked interesting to me, and I wondered what had brought him to London.

The most intriguing thing about this man, though, was the small black case he was carrying along with a battered old leather briefcase. As soon as I spotted the little case -- when he placed it in the overhead storage rack -- I began to wonder what was in it. I finally narrowed it down to one of two possibilities: a folding pool cue or a small musical instrument.

I had already dreamed up quite an elaborate story relating to pool or billiards when I got my answer. About halfway to Banbury (the first stop on this "fast" service), he rifled through his old briefcase. Out came a musical score.

Sigh. That was the end of my fantasy. But I still found him interesting and wondered what sort of musician he is.

Maybe I'll see him again sometime, as he also left the train at Banbury.