July 01, 2012

God Is Green

Author's Note: I wrote this some time ago but it never made it onto the blog. It has now, although it's a bit out of order. Enjoy anyway.


Of all weekends not to be in Dublin, this is the one I'll always regret. Not only is it Paddy's day, it is also the end of the 6 Nations. And not only is it the end of the 6 Nations, Ireland was playing at home, in Lansdowne Stadium. AGAINST ENGLAND! Who were going for the Triple Crown. Now, not knowing much about rugby, but that I like it, I am solid in 2 things. 1- Ireland plays stronger, harder, and more stubbornly against England when England is on Irish soil and 2- If Ireland score first, there is no force on earth that can stop them.

Tonight was no exception.

Ireland 24 England 8

What a glorious night it is going to be in Dublin tonight. I wish I could be there. And to be there under the biggest full moon in 18 years... sigh... I've got to start planning better.

Watching Dublin on the TV, knowing Lansdowne is less than 5 minutes from my home on Herbert Place, brought out such a wave of nostalgia, I nearly wept. Seriously. Tears were nearly shed, before the rugby had even started! I miss Dublin in a way I cannot explain. When I was there last, for Rob's 40th, I felt like myself for the first time since I left Ireland. When I landed, I actually leapt off the plane, so happy to be on Irish soil, and did a little happy dance. I'm sure those behind me thought I was mad, but it was a private moment of rejoicing and 'thank god'-ing and 'never thought I'd be back here again'-ing. Of all places I have lived, and let's just admit, that is a considerable list, Dublin is the one I've mourned the most. Dublin is the one that meant the most. I was happiest there and I am disgruntled that I can no longer live in my home.

Thank you, Bankers of the World.

So I am in England, as near as I can be. And I will always cheer for Ireland. I had no idea how staunchly I held that position until we were discussing it in the office on afternoon. I was asked who I was supporting and without even thinking about it I said: Ireland. I then went on to talk about Irish rugby in terms of 'we' and 'my boys'.

I may have been born in the US but it appears I bleed Green.

Ten Mile Pint

Just another average day in London actually. My friend, Dan, + I decided to go for one of his epic walks. It's been some time since we've done so and it's been a few weeks since I've seen him, so we agreed to take on Richmond Park. I've never been and have heard amazing things. We met in Putney and wandered along what ended up being a 10 mile round trip, ending in BBQ ribs and margaritas at the new Louisana Eating House. Sitting here on Sunday morning, watching it rain, rather large fat drops of water, I feel we couldn't have chosen a better day. London's weather is unpredictable at best, but in this, the wettest spring/early summer on record, sun must be seized. 

Back to our hike. We started in Putney, wandering up to Putney Heath, which looks oh so far away on the map. In reality, it's a 15 minute bus ride or about 25 minutes to walk. Not far at all really. Being able to scale time from a map is a skill that continues to elude me. But we walked on, because it was beautiful and we were discovering some very nice residential streets. 

Then the heath presented itself. I really had very little idea of what an actual heath was until I went to York a few years ago. With Wuthering Heights in my head, I was a bit startled to discover that a heath very strongly resembles the prairie, but not as vast. Clara lives on a heath and it is a beautiful large open space of grass. Putney heath is very similar. How they differ from Richmond Park, another beautiful large open space of grass, I'm unclear. And how that again differs from a Common, no clue.

Putney Heath was lovely. The sun dappled through the leaves. Winds kept us from hearing any traffic. Birds chirped, Dan + I chatted. It was going so very well and we had both remarked on how happy we were to have not spent Saturday in the house, he recovering from the previous night, me doing very little other than reading, when we stumbled upon this:

Can a scene be any more quintessentially British? I'm actually dying to go watch a cricket match but the two people I know who do indeed play have yet to actually indoctrinate me. We watched for a bit, understanding nothing but the lazy day nature of it all and then carried on with our hike. 

A quick detour through the town of Merton brought us to their church, which was open for a craft sale. Not many crafts, to be honest, but the kneeler cushions made such a fantastic display, it deserved a photograph.

I'm unclear if they are standard issue or if I could make my own. That would sort of stake my place in the pew but it also makes it a bit of a challenge upon entering on Sunday. Where did the cleaners move it to this week? Who knows, it could make for a lively congregation.

We left the church and headed for Richmond Park. It was an odd walk. The route took us through a council estate that was a great urban planning failure in the 60s. It was a great idea, housing people in tall apartment blocks surrounded by open parkland, but it did fail to take into account the need to have outdoor space of ones own, where morning coffee can be consumed in pajamas without the neighbors watching. We wandered through, remarking that neither of us would want to be doing this in the dark but during the day it was fine.  And neither of us could understand why this was in a Scenic Walks of London book. None too quickly, we were at the gates to Richmond Park.

That, my friends, is not what I call a park. That is what I call countryside. But it is entirely surrounded by London. I can take the tube there. I knew that it was large, from the map, and I do recall that it is Henry VIII's favored hunting ground, and I further knew that a large colony of deer lived and roamed there, but none of that influenced the sheer vastness of the place in my head. We took a small corner of the park and that alone took us an hour.

We did see the famous deer, admittedly from afar. 

I was very excited, but did muse a bit that stupidly, these deer were far more exciting than the deer back home in Wyoming. Then again, these deer were placidly grazing in the sun while the deer in Wyoming are generally placidly standing on the road while people hurtle toward them a 80 mph in a car. I can appreciate the excitement factor is a bit more entertaining in the first instance. 

Onward we walked, among people on bikes, kids on razors, strollers, and tricycles. People were flying kites, riding horses. This group of ladies serenaded us for a good 5 minutes with strains of Happy Birthday and For She's a Jolly Good Fellow.

 I want a birthday party pony ride! How great would that be? Before the birthday drinks, obviously. Although they were all wearing helmets. Still though, champagne and ponies might lead to trouble. 

Out the Robin Hood Gate of Richmond Park and into Wimbledon Common we went. The common is nearly as large as the park, which wasn't a very exciting prospect at this point. My feet were desperate for a pint and we were only at the 3/4 mark of the trail. A lovely 3/4 mark though.

There is a heron in there somewhere, along with ducks. Just a small little pond to keep things interesting. It does amaze me that this is completely surrounded by urban London. Or perhaps that should be suburban London. Wimbeldon Common has a tube stop as well. And it's only zone 3.

A not-so-quick detour through Putney Vale cemetery, historic but not nearly as atmospheric as Brompton or Highgate Cemeteries, brought us to the last wild portion of the hike. A bit of woods, a bit birds singing, a bit of traffic humming in the back ground. 

Finally, we found the Green Man Pub, the end of our walk.  My feet have never been so happy for a pint.

March 23, 2011


It's such a glorious day in London, I'm actually giddy. Then again, it's been a good day all around, so that might be part of it, but I'm going to focus on the fact that I am swanning around the city with a light jacket and shoes instead of a my parka and knee high boots. (with two pairs of tights and wool socks)

It would seem spring has finally arrived in the UK, but I'm a cynic and I'm prepared for this to be a flash in the pan. But one thing I have learned about living here, is that days like this, with warm sun, pale blue skies, and only the gentlest of breezes, are to be celebrated. Sure, I had this every day in LA, but that's just the problem; they happened so often, one never notices. Its simply business as usual. Which is why I like seasons. I have something to look forward to; something to pine for, as if I were a Bronte sister. Days like today make winter worth it. Days like today give grand hope. And what would life be without hope?

So here I sit, in the garden in west London, sipping a bit of pinot grigio, congratulating myself on having done such good work the past couple of days that I have earned this treat for myself. The neighbors cat is keeping me company and I am due to meet my friend Clara at what will become my favorite wine bar in all of London, as soon as they let me in the damn place. Its very crowded and I've been on 3 separate occasions without any luck in securing a table. Today, I feel, will be my day.

I was in Dublin a few weeks ago, celebrating Rob's 40th. He's the baby of our group, in spite of me not being a day over 29. It was glorious then to be back in the city. I have missed Dublin in a way I cannot express. I actually leapt off the plane and did a happy dance, so excited to be back on Irish soil again. To be back in the city I love, in my favorite of all places in Dublin, Susan's kitchen, and surrounded by friends... it was a bit overwhelming and exceedingly difficult to get back on the plane. But stomping around the city, as I have so many times before, I was struck by the realization that I felt like myself, that I felt at home, for the first time since I left Dublin. But I do wonder, on days like today, if I would feel that tenacity, that loyalty if I were still in Dublin. I'm not immune to the 'grass is always greener' virus, and I do recall that things weren't exactly working as well as I'd hoped at the end there. I was, after all, trying to relocate to London. But that feeling, that lock down of 'this is where you belong'... that's hard to shake. And I don't feel that here in London yet. I wonder that I ever will.

That said, I've had numerous discussion with Suzie and Clara and Eithne about the difficulties of relocating to London. And they all say the same thing: London is the hardest city any of us have ever moved to. 3 of us have lived in New York and let me tell you, Manhattan was a piece of cake compared to London. LA was easier! And those are some tough damn cities! It's a battle, which I've never had to do before. Every day, I gear up to conquer a city, to bend it to my will. It has yet to submit. I'm convinced it will, but damn... This is the hardest I've had to work for something since architecture school. And then all I had to do was show up and not cry. London's made me cry, I won't pretend otherwise, but on days like today, I forgive it. And I realize that Thomas Jefferson was right: anything worth having is worth working for

But today, I revel in the goodness of it all.

December 31, 2010

No Cinderella

It is precisely at times like this one wishes one had married, in any way at all. Hastily. Clandestinely. Scandalously. Richly. Badly. It matters not at the moment.

I've just returned from Crouch End where, once again, I had to stock up on groceries for the next 5 days, as nothing in the whole of Britain will be open until Jan 5th. I am exhausted and I need a nap to recover. A husband to do my bidding would come in handy right about now. So would a Butler, come to think of it. At any rate, the simple act of riding the bus 3 minutes to Crouch End, gathering a few groceries, and then returning on the bus has left me spent. I'm still sick. Which is quite unfair as I actually have a New Year's Eve party to go to this evening and I was really looking forward to it.

The fact that I am sick bothers me, but being sick in a foreign country is particularly wretched. Since the middle of last week, everyone I know in this city has been out of town or country, not to return until tonight. Had I needed help, there would have been no one to call. It's a very vulnerable position to be in but as my sister rightly pointed out, at least I speak the language. Being sick in Sweden wasn't easy. Being sick in France was quite difficult as well. The ability to read gone, I couldn't pick out any medicines for myself and while the pharmacy across the street from the hotel was a godsend, it was another world away as the only French I speak relates to eating and drinking. At least this time, I can speak the language, as long as I can drag my poor ravaged body to the pharmacy. That I managed to do. I am a hero among women.

And here we are, on the eve of the New Year. Most people are buying champagne and vodka and fancy foods they so rarely eat, wishing each other well, asking if there are any resolutions being made. I filled my basket with sinus/cold/flu medicines and foods that take less than 5 minutes to cook with zero effort.When my neighbor asked if I had big plans for the evening, I smiled and wished her well. I didn't have the heart to tell her my highlight was going to be a steam filled bath and then bed before the clock strikes 10. I'm no Cinderella tonight.

So while all you are out celebrating and laughing and starting the year by kissing someone pretty, I plan to celebrate the New Year in my bath tub with a yellow rubber duckie and a cup of Lemsip. It's not your traditional glass of bubbly but that's just fine by me.

Happy New Year all!

October 18, 2010

Random Observations of London Life

There are fireworks in the grocery stores here. Large firework displays, heavily advertised, next to the Halloween candy displays. I find it disturbing to select my produce and my gunpowder in the same section of the store. Perhaps if they moved it to the hardware aisle I'd feel better. Or at least to the seasonal aisle; although that seems to be packed with left over school uniforms and the beginnings of Christmas gear. Still though, gunpowder next to oranges smacks of "dangerous projectile" to me.

Every day on the bus, I pass a sign warning people that Flytipping is illegal and carries a £20,000 fine. It took me a month to work out what fly tipping is and why it is worth a £20,000 fine. Littering only brings a fine of £50-75 (unless I throw a cigarette butt, that seems to be something other than littering). I'm unsure what amount of volume is needed to bring about the £20k fine and I don't plan on finding out.

Cricket is a big sport here. It's a very upper class sport and is most often associated with Yorkshire, a staunchly and proudly blue collar region. No one is posh in Yorkshire. No one. But they play cricket. And the best cricketers come from Yorkshire apparently. Yet no one actually from Yorkshire can tell me why that is. They simply laugh and say: I've no idea. I've never played it. I'm not posh enough.

If I take a friend to dinner at a vegetarian restaurant, I will have to stop to pick up a bottle of wine, since most veggie places don't have liquor licenses. I'm fine with that, what bothers me is non-standardized corkage fees charged for bring a bottle in. One place tells me it's £2 per bottle, one says it's £2 per person, one says £20 per table. This is God's best argument to eat more meat.

They have actual milkmen in London. Little carts come round to the house and deliver milk. And bottled water. And eggs, I think. Those are some talented cows.

Yesterday I passed a sign that said this: New Zebra Crossing Ahead. I wondered what part of the world I was in very briefly. In Wyoming, we have cattle crossings. I've seen signs posted for ducks, horses, deer, and in one place, moose. But those signs are about the animal crossing the road. In London, however, a zebra crossing is a pedestrian crossing. It's called a zebra crossing because they stripe the pavement with white and it ends up looking like a very large, very flat, geometric zebra was run over.

Guy Fawkes night is upon us. This is a holiday celebrated in Ireland and I just find it a bit odd. Guy Fawkes, back in the 1700s, tried to blow up the British Parliment. He placed barrels of gunpowder under the actual chamber where the law makers met. Unfortunately for Mr Fawkes, the fuses failed to ignite and he was arrested and most likely killed. It's called the Gun Powder Plot, I believe. Today, the British commemorate the day by lighting fireworks. It's a celebration of his failure. In Ireland, however, they light fireworks and celebrate that someone tried to blow up Parliment.

October 09, 2010

Flatmate Suzie v3

One evening, shortly after I moved to London, I was on my way home from a fine solo dinner. Nichole + I had been talking about her wanting to come to London and I was thinking how amazing London would be if I had Nichole here with me. I'm no stranger to moving and starting in a new place by myself, but London is a very lonely place without friends, I've realized. Dublin was never like that. In Dublin, in Ireland in general, I could take myself to the pub, order whatever and be chatting away to someone in no time. Even if I were to be lonely in Dublin, company was only half a pint away. London is not like that. Mostly because there are few pubs with stools at the bar. It's all tables all the time here and chatting outside your group doesn't seem the British Way of Doing. Which is fine, it's their country, but as I said, London is a bit lonely without friends. So when Nichole announced her intentions to come to London, I was over the moon. And as I walked home, I was thinking how amazing it would be to have her Oh! Oh! Oh! and Flatmate Suzie in London with me.

Providence is a funny thing. Suzie arrived on Tuesday and will be staying in London for 3 or 4 months. London is about to get a whole lot better.

August 31, 2010

Living the Dream. Not Mine, But Someone's Surely

It is a beautiful night in west London and I am happily sitting in the garden, with a plate of pasta in front of me, a glass of Spanish red wine, and the neighbor’s cats staring patiently, hoping against hope I will drop/share/simply fork over some food. Never gonna happen.

I arrived in London on Easter weekend, to stay in that holy grail of homelessness: a free place to stay for as long as I needed it. A dear friend of a dear friend set it up for me, warning that it was a bit of a construction site at the moment. That, I can handle. That, I grew up in. That was not what I found. Instead, I found the house in the midst of a 20+ year renovation, complete with missing floor boards and broken windows, but without heat or hot water. Or a shower. I was finally living my childhood dream: living in London in the 19th century. I just never imagined it would include polar fleece and a lap top for warmth. I did what any modern heroine would do; I took the first suitable short term lease I could find that didn’t include sharing a room “platonically” with a “gay” man. Instead, I moved into a flat, very conveniently located to the city, sharing with a girl who, as it turns out, dislikes the concepts of sobriety, chastity, and truthfulness. It’s not that she lies out-right, she well and truly believes she has the ability and obsessive need to clean like Monica Gellar. In reality, she’s a 19 year old frat boy who longs to star on Big Brother. Or Glee. Hard to tell. No, her problem with the truth stems from the fact that she thinking something does not make it real and experiencing something once does not make it part of your personality. Alice Cooper’s drummer asked me out one very long summer ago. Doesn’t mean I’m a rock star girlfriend. Well, I am, but that’s another story.

So now, I am subleasing a room in West London from a lovely lesbian couple. It is a nice house. It has a lovely garden. They seem nice. Should it keep going this way, I’d be mighty tempted to stay full time instead of taking up residence in my own flat, which will be ready for my occupancy mid-September. I do love a garden though. On clear nights such as this one. The downside, of course, is that I work in deepest North London and my commute from here is 1 hour 20 minutes. Once I am settled, that will become a 30 minute bus ride. But for now, I take the Piccadilly tube each morning to Camden, and then switch to the Northern Line. 40 minutes later, I arrive at work in North Finchley.

Were it not for the job, it wouldn’t be worth going. Were it not for the co-workers, that is. My job is good, don’t get me wrong. I am part of an amazing interiors studio. Small but very hands-on and I am learning a lot. I like work we’re doing. It’s high, High, HIGH end residential. Our clients are the Donald Trumps and Jackie O’s of London. We clad walls in silk, doors in leather, and think nothing of lining walls with mother of pearl. Open Architectural Digest, Its that sort of work. But the best part of it all is my co-workers. We use a 3-d visualizer, who makes computer models of everything I draw. The senior designer is amazing in many ways, but her memory for detail astounds me. My boss’s PA does a lot of the ordering for us, so she’s well versed in what we’re doing and the best place to source from. And then there is my boss. He’s a former child actor who retired, and smartly used the money to invest in businesses. He runs several, developed much of the East End of London, and has a client list I had to sign a confidentiality waiver to protect. It’s a world I cannot fathom but he, to his credit, is all about family. We work in North Finchley so he is only 15 minutes from home. His father runs the finances. His wife consults on the graphics. And he’d much rather we left at 6 to be with our families than working until 8pm every night. Unless he’s left a deadline too long, that is. He’s a bit chaotic. We’ll see how well we’re getting on in another 6 months.

So for my first 4 months in London, I’d say it’s going well enough. One crazy roommate, two houses from hell, but a decision on where I want to live (Highgate!), a job I enjoy, and a smattering of friends.
Not bad work for me.

August 04, 2010

New Country, New Look

Thoughts? And yes, this means I'm writing again. Just not tonight.

February 05, 2010

It Is Time

It's as close to A Sign as I get in my life.

Pint News

I'll be London bound in mid-March.

January 12, 2010

Never thought I'd See the Day

Pardon the pun, but an interesting story found in the LA Times for your consideration.

Other than that, not much happening here in Sunny California. I'm working a contract job for a small residential firm and really enjoying it. I'd forgotten how much I liked the detailing and that very blurry line between interiors and architecture. My boss is a very likable fellow. The co-workers are a good group. It is only the commute that bothers me but what can you do? One Person Per Car is the unofficial state motto. So I drive and I work and I drive some more. Getting my butt back in shape for an office job!