Posted in England, Travel

Old Blighty – Part 6 (Cute Kids Edition)

We said farewell to John, Pauline and York and returned to London. We took a day trip to Aylesbury and visited Rachel and her two sons, Thomas and Samuel. (Rachel is Alex’s daughter – We’d met up with Alex in Norwich a few days prior).

It was a lovely, warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. We sat in Rachel’s back garden, sipped wine, and barbecued all manner of meat and fish. Here’s Rachel and Samuel:

We also met Rachel’s good friend, Emma.

I didn’t get a decent photo of Emma, so in the spirit of sisterhood, she here remains a woman of mystery. She’s bubbly and kind, and very witty as well. We had a great time.

More of the lads. This is Thomas:

Samuel helped set the table:

But play was the order of the day:

Posted in England, Travel

Old Blighty – Part 5

On to York. We were met at the railway station by our friends, John and Pauline.

My dad and John managed to down the entire bottle of Jack Daniels that we brought as a gift that first night (with not a sip for yours truly). Note to self: Next time, bring two bottles.

John’s a bit of a WWII buff. He took us to Eden Camp. It’s quite extensive and informative.

Here’s John and my dad at Eden Camp:

And again, with a tank (sorry, I’ve forgotten what John said about the tank):

We also went to the National Railway Museum, which happens to be in York. A few detail shots from royal rail engines (which pull royal rail carriages):

We didn’t tool around York proper (though I have several times before). John has a younger brother, Simon. Simon has a new girlfriend, and the girlfriend’s sister owns a pub. I’m going to lose a blogger stripe right now because I don’t know the name of the pub, even though we went there and had a pint. Pauline was taken aback that I had a pint…to her mind, men have pints and women have white wine or shandy.

My one shot of York at night:

I’ll be back when I get the name of the dang pub.

Posted in Issues

Memorial Day 2008

I have to admit that I have a bit of whiplash this Memorial Day. I woke up, watched John McCain on CNN, then went to two events.

First, I attended the City of Pasadena’s Memorial Day event in the aptly named Memorial Park. Memorial Park has been so named for the last 100+ years. A statue commemorating a fallen Civil War Union soldier was installed there in 1906 (you can see a photo here). The Pasadena Public Library used to be at the site; it moved to the present location with the construction of the Civic Center area in the 1920’s.

With deep apologies for the poor quality of this photo:

(Duh. It’s Pasadena, The media are here.) You can just make out Mayor Bogaard in the upper left hand corner (fourth from left, gray jacket) shaking hands with Teresa Lamb-Simpson, one of Adam Schiff’s field reps. To the left of them is Interim CM Melekian (on the far left) shaking hands with James Maddox of the Vietnam Veterans of America, who helped organize the event. The five white banners on the stage commemorate the five residents of Pasadena who died in Iraq/Afghanistan in the past year. It was a heartfelt, if brief, commemoration.

It got me to thinking about not just the dead soldiers, but the ones who return to us with a part of themselves dead. Perhaps it’s that permanent sense of loss that comes from losing a fellow soldier, or the trauma of war itself that irrevocably changes a person.

I then went over to All Saints Church for an event called ‘The Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative’ (you have to scroll down to May 26 to read about it). I liked the inter-faith nature of the event. It was an opportunity to air theological questions along the lines of “How much do we create God in our own image to suit our purposes?” and “If we are made in God’s likeness, why are we so terrible to one another?” Clearly, this event was not designed to hash these things out, but at least they received some air time.

While Abraham and God received top billing throughout the proceedings, not much mention was made of Sarah or Hagar. Now there’s a story—grief, infertility, jealousy, cynicism. The story of Abraham’s family is very human and messy indeed.

Note that Charleton Heston never played Abraham, only Moses. George C. Scott played Abraham (no doubt with his usual grittiness) in John Huston’s The Bible: In the Beginning… which I don’t think I’ve seen but my namesake Ava Gardener plays that conniving bitch Sarah (well, I imagine that’s what Hagar would say). Sarah’s got her version of the story too.

And thus we are completely off topic with Memorial Day.

The upshot of the whole thing for me was feeling like I have commemorated Memorial Day from both ends of the political spectrum (hence the whiplash). Plenty of talk about sacrifice and the importance of peace at both events, but each coming from a particular political starting point. In these high stakes times, it seems that none of us can escape our own politics for one day to honor the dead.

After all, we’re only human.

* – * – * – *

PS – Anyone know the whereabouts of Pasadena’s peripatetic Vietnam Vets Memorial?

PPS – Highlight of my television viewing weekend? No, not The Recount – though I will watch it eventually. No, it was the Truman episodes of the American Experience series The Presidents. Narrated by Jason Robards, no less. En serio, people, my American history education is sorely lacking, especially WWII and beyond. When you aren’t sure about the difference between MacArthur and McCarthy, you’re in trouble. But their onomatopoeia isn’t entirely out of line with their politics.

Posted in Food & Drink

Tamale Connection

Going to be in the Pasadena, CA area this Memorial Day weekend? Planning to barbecue one day, but not sure about what to eat the other two days?

My friend Adela is selling tamales on Saturday and Sunday. Her mom makes ’em from scratch, and Adela delivers them to your door. Call her at 626-243-6760.

Posted in England, Travel

Travel in England: Logistics (Old Blighty – Part 4)

Just a few logistical things from the trip that may help you if you’re planning to go to England and want to save a little money.

I am a fan of Frommer’s. I used the England 2008 book and this book by Pauline Frommer.

1. If you plan to travel by train around the country (and I suggest that you do), plan ahead. Train tickets are much less expensive in advance. I went from London to Norwich for 6 pounds (12 bucks), Norwich to York for 12 pounds (double it for dollars) and York to London for 10 pounds (ditto). It takes 3 hours to drive from York to London, and 2 hours on the train. Here’s the web site you need.

2. Getting from Heathrow to central London: Yes, you’re tired after flying. There’s an expensive option for you. But if you want to save money, and you aren’t traveling with the red behemoth (yes, I was), take the tube from Heathrow to London. There are lots of stops, but you’ll be too zoned out to care. You’ll also be blissed out with the knowledge that you paid 7 pounds for an all-day, all-zone travel card (tube and bus) that you can use after you drop your stuff off at the hotel (or wherever). If you’ll be in London for a few days, consider a 3-day pass.

3. The infamous Terminal 5: After the initial bumps, it seems to be running smoothly. Arriving there was simple, and it’s easy to get to the tube.

Departing from Terminal 5: Check in is easy, but note which gate you will be departing from. We departed from a B gate, which means a trip on a train after going through security. It doesn’t take long, but factor it in since British Airways closes the doors 20 minutes before the flight takes off.

Terminal 5 is a giant mall. Bleech.

A friendly face in Terminal 5:

4. Riding the bus in London can be slow, but you see more. The first thing we did was hop on the #15 bus from Marble Arch. We ended up at St. Paul’s Cathedral and walked right into a choral evensong. Lovely.

5. Frommer’s says that cheap eats in London can be had via chain restaurants. I concur. Lucky for us, Tyburn of Wetherspoon was right across the street from where we stayed. Full English breakfast for cheap. Cheap affordable drinks at the end of the day.

No self-respecting American tourist would ever go to Cheers in London. Except self-respecting tourists who are stretching their money like me. We happened to go for happy hour (4:00 – 7:30 pm) – drinks are half price and there are several nice food options (read: inexpensive dinner).

Out of time. Bye for now.

Posted in Travel

Old Blighty (Part Three)

We left Norwich by train and hurtled through familiar scenery…Breckland, Thetford Forest, Brandon, even the spot where the train tracks cross the road that goes from Lakenheath to Feltwell. My junior high was in Feltwell, and I used the bus ride from Lakenheath to finish homework. (Aeriel view of the area.)

These photos are quite blurry, thanks to the fast moving train and smudgy windows. But this is what it looks like where I grew up.

Thetford Forest.

I saw a couple of jets from RAF Lakenheath, and caught one of them in the photo below (represented in classic black-smudge-at-the-top-of-the-frame fashion).

The train made a stop in Ely. Here’s a snap of Ely Cathedral, famous for its octagonal tower.

Next time I’m over, I plan to spend a bit of time in Ely.

The train continued to Peterborough, and there we changed trains for York. Peterborough, btw, has a booming economy (growing faster than the rest of England) and is home to many Italian, Indian, Pakistani and more recently Eastern European immigrants.

Still to come: John, Pauline and York.

Extra credit:

You can read about The Fens here.

Exactly where I used to live…9 Cedar Close, Lakenheath.  (See the house with the round pool in the back yard near the road?  That’s where my friend Missy lived.  If you go north from Missy’s house, that was my house.  The left side of the duplex.  I used to watch the sun set behind that farm across the road.  God, I love Google.)

Posted in Travel

Borrego Springs

I have to interrupt the Old Blighty series (Part 1, Part 2) to point out Christopher Reynolds’ outstanding article in today’s Los Angeles Times, A Bid to Make the Desert Boom (that’s the print edition title) May 19, 2008.

Developer Gregory Perlman has been buying up parcels of land and struggling resorts Borrego Valley, CA. He bought one of our favorite places, La Casa del Zorro. La Casa is the grand ole dame resort of the Borrego Valley. We have been fortunate to stay there while The Scout has been working.

Imagine our surprise when we visited La Casa del Zorro’s website this morning. We clicked on the tab marked “Location” and THERE IS A PICTURE OF ZABRISKIE POINT, which is in Death Valley. Also, if you’re on the “photos” page, go to “location” (over to the right) and you’ll see it again.

For reference: Here’s one of The Scout’s shots of Zabriskie Point, Death Valley (located approximately 360 miles from the Borrego Valley):

Perlman claims in the Times’ article to be “very, very particular” about details. Hmmm. Selling Borrego Valley by using a picture of Death Valley is a major mistake. Surely this false advertising is not intentional???

Previous posts on this topic:

Font’s Point, Anza Borrego – The money shot, courtesy of The Scout

Font’s Point – More Scouty goodness

Anza Borrego Desert State Park (a photo from S22 – click to biggify)

Related article:

The Plight of Anza-Borrego’s Desert Bighorn Sheep by Mark Jorgensen (Superintendent of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Posted in England, Travel

Old Blighty (Part Two)

Popping by to share more photos.

Piccadilly Circus, London. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer neon.

My dad grew up in western Pennsylvania. An avid reader, he pored over Washington Irving’s Sketchbook and dreamed he would one day go to England. He finally did as a 20-year old GI in the Air Force. The year was 1951, and Britain was trying to recover from WWII. Rationing was still on. In 1952, Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne. My dad was in London and saw the coronation parade. (Great collection of photos here.)

Years later, my dad got a job working for DODDS and our family moved to England. He spent 11 more years there. In 1977, we saw the Queen’s Silver Jubilee parade.

This trip was almost certainly his last trip to Old Blighty. The best part is that we were able to see some of our very good friends. We left London and headed for Norwich.

Meet Alex (in the brown skirt). Alex and her husband Phillip (recently deceased) have been friends since the mid 1970’s. Sadly, the other photo I have of Alex doesn’t look like Alex, so I shan’t post it.

We spent time with Alex wandering around Norwich’s market.

Mushy peas, anyone?

I’m told “Wincy” is brushed flannel.

Apparently a popular export item.

We visited the USAAF 2nd Air Division Memorial Library (of the 8th Air Force) at the Norwich Forum. During WWII, the east of England was dotted with airfields, many built to accommodate American aircraft. The library “…is a unique “living memorial” to nearly 7000 American airmen who were killed while stationed in East Anglia during World War Two.”

The librarian heard my American patter and invited me to sign the guest book. Other signers had been stationed at those airfields. I just (humbly) put “Former resident, RAF Lakenheath.”

FFTK* Jimmy Stewart was a USAAF colonel and pilot during WWII stationed in East Anglia. According to IMDB, one of his sergeants was Walter Matthau.

An all-too-brief afternoon in Norwich ends with a train ride to York via Peterborough. More on all that to follow.

*Fun Fact to Know

Posted in England, Travel

Old Blighty (Part One)

I’m back, and I’ve ever so much to say! First of all, London felt like slipping my hand into an old, comfortable leather glove. I mean it felt familiar despite my long absence from it. I did live in London for a couple of summers a long time ago. Apart from a year living in Cambridge, the rest of the time I lived in England (six years total back in *gasp* the 1970’s), was out in the boonies in the countryside. See sample image below (taken from the train somewhere between Thetford and Ely:

I’ll no doubt slip into British English whilst writing during the next few days. The Brit way of speaking is different to ours, and it expedites one’s journey when one converses as the locals do. I realise I risk sounding like an insufferable snob. Do bear with me.

Oxford Street, London. I’m a big fan of Marks and Spencer (or Marks and Sparks as it is sometimes known). It’s a nostalgia thing. When I was a kid at RAF Lakenheath, it was a big treat to go to the Marks and Spencer in Bury St. Edmunds.

The Marks and Spencer’s (aerial view here) in Oxford Street, known as Pantheon Store.

One doesn’t plan one’s travel photos, but I’ve ended up with a sequence of mannequins:

Man resting with mannequins in Marks and Spencer.

Employees with mannequin, Liberty of London (with apologies; it’s a bit dark).

Fox’s in Covent Garden, purveyor of theatre make-up and wigs.

I was traveling with my 77 year-old father, who is not well and had some difficulty moving around. We took it slow and rode the bus a lot (avoiding the stairs involved with riding the Tube).

London is a heaving mass of urbanity, a very fast moving place. We walked like a floating stick stuck in the fast moving river, waters of people moving round us post haste.

Regent Street. Not a particularly good example of what I just said.

A Prius on Regent Street. Price to register a Prius (per year): 15 pounds. No nasty congestion charge either. Price to register an SUV type vehicle (per year): approx. 950 pounds.

A few more snaps of London:

Bobbies and their gear.

Narrow misses a daily event on Oxford Street.

The interior of Liberty of London. I love to pop in just to see the architecture.

Rugs in Liberty.

Bacon, egg and sausage butty. A veritable salt-lick but reasonably priced at Tyburn of Wetherspoon.

I went to the Tate Modern and headed first for the 7th floor cafe. Talk about a room with a view…

That’s the Millenium Bridge in the foreground.

One can always tell when the Olympics are in the offing—the presence of construction cranes dotting the skyline.

More Old Blighty tomorrow. I’m knackered. So nice to see you again.