Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Come and Gone

Halloween has come and gone and left a lot of candy behind. Unlike in most parts of the country, trick or treating around here is confined to a specific time on October 31, usually between 6 and 8 PM. That used to be the perfect time back before Daylight Savings Time became Practically the Whole Damn Year Around Time, because on October 31 at 6 PM it was just getting dark. Most of the trick or treaters in our neighborhood arrived between 6 and 7, with a sprinkling of some of the older kids showing up between 7 and 8. Now the peak traffic is between 6:30 and 7:30.

As part of an anti-Klan movement in the mid-1920’s, Louisiana has an anti-masking law that forbids the wearing of masks and hoods in public. The law can be suspended by public officials for holidays like Halloween and Mardi Gras, but it can also be invoked to restrict the hours of celebration.

One year, back in the 70’s or 80’s, the then mayor of Baton Rouge got the bright idea to move trick-or-treating to November 1, because there was an LSU home football game on October 31. He was afraid that the police force would be stretched too thin if they had to provide security both for the game and for trick or treaters. This rescheduling not go over well. Many parents decided to let their children trick or treat on Halloween anyway, reasoning that no one was going to bust a six year old for wearing a Cinderella costume. Citizens were unsure whether to prepare to give out candy on Halloween, the next day, or both. The experiment was not repeated.

Nowadays a lot of children don’t wear masks with their costumes anyway. They restrict vision and can be unsafe. I see a lot of children in face paint instead. The limited hours for trick or treating persist anyway, because people like them. You aren’t tied to your house from the time school lets out in the afternoon until the last hardy soul goes home and to bed, and it cuts down on the amount of candy you need to buy and distribute. It also allows time for post trick or treating parties, not to mention homework.

This year we had far fewer visitors than in the past. My husband always buys too much candy, but this year we have two unopened bags plus two half filled bags left. (We liked to open two at a time and give a mix of items.) In my working days leftover Halloween candy went to work with me to be given out as treats or got packed a bit at a time with my husband’s lunch. Now I think a lot of it is going to take up space in the freezer, to cut down on mindless consumption. Better that than taking up space around my waist. 

Friday, October 26, 2012


It’s a story so old it was told back when chariots of iron were the latest military technology. A stranger, usually a traveler, is in town. He is invited to stay by a person who takes the duties of hospitality very seriously. The townspeople suspect the stranger is a spy, an enemy. They demand his host turn him over to the mob.

There is no doubt the host has put himself in danger. In the old stories, the women of the family are used as bargaining chips. In Judges 19, a concubine is sent out to be raped and then murdered by the crowd. In Genesis 19, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the daughters of the house are offered to the crowd, but the offer is turned down. These episodes are often given as examples of how poorly women were treated in the old stories, and I won’t argue that they weren’t, but I think they were also meant to represent the utter sacredness of hospitality, the duty to protect the stranger, no matter what. 

In the movie Argo, the situation is a little different. The kindly host is also a stranger in the land. No one offers a woman to the angry mob, although the host’s housekeeper is in danger if she is found to have known about the strangers’ presence and not told on them. The main focus of Argo is not on the host, his duties and his peril, although that is a strong element, but on the efforts of the strangers’ homeland to get them out of danger. Yet while watching the movie, I couldn’t help thinking that it was a Biblical story set in a Biblical land, because the twin impulses, to  bond with others for our own protection and to defend against them for our own protection, go back that long and even longer.

Argo is set in Iran in 1979-1980, starting with the storming of the US Embassy on November 4. Six employees of the US Consulate are able to escape and eventually make their way to the Canadian Embassy, where they are sheltered in the Canadian ambassador’s home. Given the situation in Iran at the time, the ambassador is putting himself and his wife at risk. Everyone in the house is in danger, and the CIA is called on to come up with a plan to get the six Americans home. The State Department, the CIA and the Canadians agree that giving the six escapees fake identities as Canadians and flying them out on a commercial jet is the best way to extract them, although the idea of giving them bicycles and maps is floated briefly. After rejecting what at first seemed like more plausible plans that had serious flaws, CIA agent Tony Mendez comes up with the idea of staging a fake movie and giving the escapees identities as members of a Canadian film crew.

The movie cuts from scenes of the hostages being taken and their treatment in Iran, to scenes of the CIA and State Department meeting and planning, to scenes in Hollywood with a deft touch. The horror of the situation in Iran is countered with humorous moments in Hollywood often enough to give the audience a break but not lose the overall suspenseful tone of the movie.

The cinematography was tweaked to give the movie a period feel. Not just the costumes and hairstyles, but the whole look of the film was just right for the time. That’s an amazing attention to detail, and it works.

All of the acting was excellent. If you stick around long enough for the credits, you get to see pictures of the actors in character next to passport pictures of the real people they are portraying. It’s astonishing how close the resemblance is.

And there is a resolution at the end of one worrisome point about one of the Iranian characters. I don’t know if it was true to life, but it was an important detail to me.

The only small flaw I can find, and it’s an ongoing complaint of mine, is the number of, let’s not call them “cliches”, but Hollywood conventions that make their way into the script. While Argo is based on a true story, it doesn’t strictly tell the true story. Wired has recently reprinted their 2007 article, which I would recommend reading. I don’t fault Argo for being a fictionalized account of true events. I suspect most viewers, familiar with Hollywood storytelling conventions, can figure out which parts are likely real and which are add-ons. I just think of the old advice given to me in my girlhood years about jewelry: look at what you have on and subtract one piece. I think filmmakers would be do well to adapt that advice to their storytelling conventions: look at how many you have added to the script and subtract one. Some days I have a suspicion that they already do just that and still go overboard. I think the ending of the movie would actually have been stronger if there had been one or two fewer instances of split-second timing.

But then, as long as this story has been told, it has been told with the storytelling conventions of the day. The tokens sent to allies to summon them to avenge a great wrong, as in Judges 19 and as in the story of Troy. The helpless visitors turn out to be gods, as in the story of Baucis and Philomen or angels as in Genesis 19. In our day, there has to be a car chase. Maybe it wouldn’t be a story without it.

It’s a story that will always be told, because like all social species, we need our own kind, and we fear our own kind, but in addition, as humans, we feel the sacred duty of hospitality. It’s a story that will always be told, and Argo tells it particularly well.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


By now, I am sure all of my readers have heard of Ann Coulter’s unfortunate tweet about the third Presidential debate, in which she said, “I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard”.

Her use of the word “retard” drew immediate and vociferous criticism, as one might imagine, including a well thought out letter from Special Olympian John Franklin Stephens.

Like many others, I was repulsed by Coulter’s use of the word “retard”. I think Coulter has every right to her opinion of the president’s intellect. Mocking presidents is a tradition that is pretty much as old as our tradition of having presidents. As I recall, President Obama’s immediate predecessor came in for a lot of it, too. I’m glad to live in a country in which we can mock our leaders. I just agree with those who believe using a word that is hurtful to people who are not in her line of fire is cruel.

But it isn’t her use of the word “retard” that has me most up in arms. What really drew my ire is her using the word “kind”.

Let me see if I can explain what I mean without getting both of my feet in my mouth along with whatever others I can borrow. I am certainly not suggesting that we should be unkind to people with disabilities, cognitive or otherwise. They get enough of that as it is. I like kindness, and think there should be more of it in the world, especially in the sense that I should practice it a lot more than I do.

But there is an underlying tone to phrase “be kind and gentle to the retard” that goes beyond just the use of the word “retard”. It draws a distinction between us of the three digit IQ’s and them, and makes it clear who are the actors and who are the acted upon. We get to choose to be kind. They get to hope we do. And there is something about that distinction that is patronizing, and condescending, and even unkind.

There’s a story I can tell that may explain what I am driving at. Back in my working days, I had a student, B. I worked with B on her language skills off and on from her baby days to her middle school years. B is what used to be called a slow learner. Concepts came hard to her. She needed to be drilled and drilled and drilled in them, but once she finally got them, she got them.

One day we were working on vocabulary. It was late in the day and I was having a hard time explaining what I wanted to explain. I said something snappish. I didn’t know it was going to sound snappish until I heard myself say it (that happens to me a lot), but it did. It was on the tip of my tongue to apologize when B looked at me curiously and asked in a sweet voice, “Are you okay?”

Who me? I’m fine except for that whole feeling about the size of a postage stamp thing I suddenly have going on. “I’m just tired,” I said, “but that was no excuse for me to sound mean. I’m sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

We finished our lesson, and when I returned B to her mom in the waiting room, I told her the story, even though it meant telling on myself. I was proud of B for her skill in dealing with an uncomfortable situation and thought her mom should know. “Yeah, she’s like that,” her mom said proudly.

Some people are like that. You don’t have to be smart or mobile or otherwise “normal” to be kind. Ms. Coulter is not the gatekeeper of kindness to the world, and neither am I (and a good thing, too.) What you do need is to be able to feel like other people, no matter how different from you they are in superficial ways, are part of your tribe, part of your kind.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's a Sign

I have been looking for a winter coat. At the moment, all I have in the way of winter coats are the red down jacket I got on my Antarctic cruise, and a raincoat that is not really a winter coat, but that is perfect for most winter weather in our subtropical clime. It’s a size or so too big on me, however (and so is the Antarctic jacket) with all the weight I’ve lost, and not really suitable for the few really cold days we get, not to mention for winter traveling.

I looked at a few stores when I was at the mall yesterday, but didn’t see anything I liked. I saw a lot of double-breasted coats, but I find them too much trouble and frequently don’t button them correctly. I saw a lot of orange coats, too. I like orange, but when I buy a coat I prefer to get something classic that I can wear for years, since I’m not going to get my money’s worth in a single winter.

As luck would have it, an L.L Bean outerwear catalog arrived for me in the mail, and there on page 27 was exactly what I wanted: a single-breasted three-quarter length polo coat, shown in loden, a color that doesn’t go out of style (or in it, either) easily. True, the coat is a little plain, but could easily be dressed up with a scarf.

In fact, I had a scarf that would have been perfect with it, seeing as how I had bought it years ago for the last loden coat I owned, although that one was mid-calf length and cut like a Russian cavalry officer’s coat, with black trim on the cuffs and collar. I finally had to abandon it when the lining faded to an ugly grayish gold. Apparently I gave away the scarf shortly thereafter, because it was nowhere to be found.

What was to be found was a scarf I had forgotten, a turquoise, gray, black and white print viscose scarf I had bought in Paris two years ago to go with my old blue raincoat. I held it up to the page and tried to decide if it would go with loden, or maybe the navy? I didn’t want navy. After all, I could always buy another scarf, although, alas, not in Paris. 

I gave up trying to decide and turned around and tossed the scarf on the sofa behind me, to be put away later. The sofa is a dark green, more hunter than loden, but equally dark. Against the sofa, the scarf looked gorgeous.

So that settles it. I’m about to become the proud new owner of a three-quarter length, loden polo coat.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Time Travelers

The last day of our London trip we took the train to Greenwich to see the Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory, home of the 0 degree meridian and Greenwich mean time. I am familiar with Greenwich mean time because both Blogger and Flickr keep their daily statistics from midnight to midnight GMT, which means they end their day either 6 PM or 7 PM my time. It was odd being in London for two weeks and having the statistics collected from 1 AM to 1 AM each day, since London was still on Summer Time. Nothing makes me feel so out of whack as trying to figure out what time it is back home.

Before the advent of rail travel, there wasn’t a need for standardized time zones. People used local solar time to set their clocks by. The first attempts to standardize timekeeping were known as Railway Time, since it was used by railway companies using Greenwich Mean Time kept by portable chronometers. 

Now with even faster means of transportation and almost simultaneous worldwide telecommunications, time zones are taken for granted, as are adjustments such as Daylight Savings Time or Summer Time, depending on where you live. I was surprised to find out that even the state of Alaska adopts Daylight Savings Time, but as a merchant explained to me, Alaska is already two hours behind Pacific Standard Time. If they did not adopt Daylight Savings Time, they would be three hours behind, making doing business by phone or internet even harder.

We went to the Maritime Museum first. In addition to giving a history of shipbuilding, it also had displays that gave a history of British colonial expansion, tied to shipping as it was. One of the rooms we went into smelled to me like crab boil. It turned out it had an interactive display that allowed you to guess which spices came from which plants on display.

Cutty Sark, one of the last clippers built before the use of steam

Cutty Sark

Prince Frederick's Barge

Ships' Figureheads

Ships' badges eventually replaced figureheads.

The Royal Observatory was well worth visiting. Neal had a history teacher in high school who used to talk about the “Ooh - ee- ooh” feeling you get from coming in contact with historical sites and artifacts. Her ooh - ee- ooh moment came from seeing tracks in the Rockies left by wagon trains heading west. Mine was seeing William Herschel’s telescope.

View of London from outside the observatory

View of London from outside the observatory

William Herschel's Telescope

William Herschel's Telescope

William Herschel's Telescope

East is east, and west is west.

Straddling the meridian

The Royal Observatory also serves as a listening post for Longplayer. You are supposed to be able to stream Longplayer to your computer. I can't always get it to work, but I am listening now. 

Flowers at Greenwich market

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Day with the Bard, and without Aldgate

Once we returned from the coast, John and I were on our own for two days before flying back home. On Monday, we finally made it to Shakespeare’s Globe, a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, across the Thames and close to its original site. Then we spent some time wandering around the neighborhood before going back to the hotel to rest up before meeting Neal’s friend M at a tapas restaurant.

The reconstruction was the brain child of Sam Wanamaker, an American actor and director who later said if he realized how long it was going to take to accomplish, he probably never would have started. There were no performances going on while we were there but we did get to take a tour and of course, take pictures.

The Theater


Stage, and stalls


Detail of stage canopy



Several times when we were sightseeing along the south bank of the Thames, we found it easier to get back to the hotel by walking across the nearest bridge and wending our way to Leadenhall and then to Aldgate High Street, which intersects Commercial at the corner where our hotel sat, than taking the tube. 

Southwark Cathedral

The Shards, under construction

Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market

That meant walking along Aldgate past St. Botolph Without Aldgate, otherwise known as Aldgate Church. I’ve read enough (bad) historical fiction to know that “without” in this context means “outside of”, but it puzzled my husband. “St. Botolph Without Aldgate? What do they mean ‘without Aldgate’?” I explained that they meant “outside of Aldgate” and opined that Aldgate probably was an actual gate at one time. According to Wikipedia, it was.

Aldgate was the eastern-most gateway through London Wall leading from the City of London to Whitechapel and the East End of London.

I have to admit, though, “St. Botolph Without Aldgate” does sound like a laundry detergent updated to remove some pesky, environmentally hazardous chemical. “Whites not white enough? Try St. Botolph, now without Aldgate.” We never went in the church, but I did take a few pictures outside.

The Non-Pirates of Penzance

Although we spent most of our visit in London, I did want to go to Cornwall, since that was one part of England we didn’t get to see last year on our bus tour. (Of course, seeing Wales had consisted of viewing the scenery as we drove by, but we hadn’t done so much as that for Cornwall.) Back when I was in my early twenties and occasionally read romance novels, it seemed like a good many of them were set in Cornwall, so I wanted to at least get a look at the place.

We decided to take the train from London to Plymouth, where Neal would rent a car and drive us around to see whatever sights we could take in in two days and three nights. (Yes, I know, Plymouth is in Devon, but it was a good jumping off place.) Neal wound up renting us rooms in a bed and breakfast on the edge of Dartmoor, so we spent Saturday sightseeing in Cornwall and Sunday driving around Dartmoor before taking the train back Sunday evening. Not an extensive trip, but it gave Neal ideas for walking tours at another time.

We were told to be at the train an hour before it left. When we got to the track, the conductor waved us on the first carriage and told us to walk through the train to second class. We had a hard time finding seats, which was puzzling since we were so early. Then the train started moving. Turned out we had caught the earlier train. That worked out well because we were able to rent the car, get dinner and get to the B&B before dark.

Neal did quite well driving on the left hand side, but that didn't keep me from wincing every ten minutes or so on the narrow country roads and roundabouts. I think the only way my son will ever drive me around in England again is if I am trussed up in the trunk.

The B&B we stayed at, Overcombe House, was actually on the edge of Dartmoor. It’s a delightful place - beautiful views, an excellent choice of breakfast foods, great bird watching out of the dining room window, a short walk from two pubs, and conveniently placed to get on the road and away.

I had hoped to see St. Michael’s Mount and see it I did, but it turns out the one day the ferry doesn’t run out there is Saturday, the day we were there. Just as well, because it looked as though seeing it properly would have involved more climbing than I could do comfortably. We walked around on the beach and then headed for Penzance, where of course I took pictures.

The next day we drove around the moors and saw some moor ponies and sheep. We tried to visit an old abbey, but it wasn’t open yet when we first got there and we didn’t have time to get back later. That’s okay, it was a good day to be out in the fresh air.

(Click "read more" to see pictures, lots of pictures)

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Several months ago, a reader left a comment on my post about the Louisiana Orphan Train Museum in Opelousas informing me of another point of interest in St. Landry Parish:

The next time you're in the Opelousas area, please visit us at the St. Landry Parish Visitor Information Center, exit 23 on I-49. We're the only "green" visitors center in Louisiana and one of the few in the United States.

Keep up the good work,
Herman Fuselier
St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission

I’ve been meaning to visit, and a recent spell of cool fall weather combined with my husband being out of town for a few days on his new job, made the perfect opportunity for my friend D, who grew up in Opelousas, and I to make a day of it. First a visit to the Visitor Information Center, followed by lunch at Back in Time, the restaurant with the Italian Iced Tea I have written about, and then another trip to the Orphan Train Museum and Le Petite Village, which D had never seen before sounded like the perfect way for two retired ladies to spend a fall day.

The Visitor Information Center was quite easy to find, with both the exit and the road to it being well marked. It is a modern looking building, but it nestles quite well into the landscape. People don’t think of Louisiana as a prairie state, but a good chunk of it is called the Cajun Prairie, and the prairie like character is most obvious in the fall, when the grasses by  the side of the road are tall and golden, sprigged with late autumn flowers in blues and golds. The grounds around the building, planted with native Louisiana plants, are watered by rainwater collected in a cistern and collected by rainchains off the porch.

If you click on the picture, you can read it better.

The cistern. D saw it and said, "My grandmother had one of those." Our guide added, "My mother had one of those."

Inside we were greeted by an enthusiastic staff member who was delighted to show off the building’s features, starting with the beautiful longleaf pine floor salvaged from nearby Washington, Louisiana. You don’t get floor boards that wide any more, probably because our ancestors cut them down with a little too much enthusiasm, but all the more reason to find and reuse them when possible. The floor showed up very well in the natural light streaming through the floor to ceiling windows, reducing the need for electric lighting in the daytime.

More recycling can be found in the artwork: collages and sculptures made from bits and pieces of leftover construction material.

We also got a peek at the insulation materials left visible through a section of the wall: 85% of it is recycled material, including newspaper.

The most obvious green feature as you drive up is the wind turbine on the roof. Alas, there wasn’t a wind when we were there, but power from the turbine is stored in batteries and runs the little kitchenette that serves the meeting room used mostly by the staff but available to the community.

Storing power from the turbine

Naturally, since it is a Visitor Information Center, the staff also let us know all that is going on in the region. It is a busy little parish. There is a Pork Cracklin’ Festival coming up in Port Barre in November, for instance, and we just missed a canoe event on the Bayou Teche. Once I mentioned that my husband loves little country festivals, I found myself with more brochures and flyers than I knew what to do with. The center gets around 300 visitors a month, more in tourist season, and does programs for schools and community groups.

I know that for most of my readers, Louisiana is not exactly a hop, skip and a jump away and even the lure of the Pork Cracklin’ Festival may not be enough to bring you up I-49. But suppose you like music, say blues and jazz music. The New Orleans Jazz Festival runs from the last weekend in April through the first weekend in May. There is also the Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette that last weekend in April, and it’s free. So if you were to plan a trip to Louisiana that took in both music events, you would have a few days free that week between when you could slip up I-49 to Opelousas, where there is a racetrack and casino, and the Visitor’s Center is just one more exit north. What could be a better way to pass a good time, cher?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In the Loop

What with all our traveling, my minor illnesses, and the depressing succession of broken appliances, the most recent being the garbage disposal, we hadn’t been to see a movie for a while. Yesterday my husband suggested we go see Looper. A futuristic movie about a hit man starring Bruce Willis did not sound like a movie I wanted to see, but I didn’t have any better suggestions, and anyway, hubby was paying.

It turned out to be quite a thought provoking movie, a very violent one, but thought provoking. The movie dealt in paradox, the paradox of time travel of course, but also the far more perplexing paradox of doing evil to prevent evil. Specifically the evil is that of killing one person to change the course of history, but there’s also the  paradox of doing evil in presenting mindless violence in a movie in order to get the viewer to think about what violence accomplishes. 

The film’s main character, Joe, is a “looper”. Loopers are hit men who exploit time travel: they are sent victims from the future, when time travel has been invented, to kill and dispose of in their present. The victims are sent to them trussed up like Thanksgiving turkeys, wearing hoods, and with the looper’s payment in silver bars strapped to their persons. The killings take place in a rural field near the world’s most depressing urban area, known merely as the city. When Joe isn’t killing folks out in the cane field, he lives in the city.

“Loopers” get their name from a peculiarity in their contracts: at some point in the future when he will have outlived his usefulness to his boss, the Looper will be sent back to the past to be killed by himself. Payment for this hit is in gold. Killing one’s future self is called “closing the loop”, hence the term “looper”. 

Okay, digression here. Another plot point is that when time travel was invented, it was immediately made illegal, so that the only people who have access to it are criminals. Think about that. Apparently every country in the world has made time travel illegal, and no military or law enforcement agency has access to it, just the bad guys. Does that make any sense to you, Gentle Reader? Because I just don’t see that happening. What I see happening is whole armies going back to refight and refight and refight the wars of the past hoping for a different outcome, until finally the whole planet goes up in smoke, but of course that would be an entirely different movie. (One in which white supremacists in this country go back to the mid-1800’s to refight the War Between the States while a faction in great Britain goes back to the late 1700’s to refight the Revolutionary War. Then something goes wrong and they wind up in the same place at some point in 1830.)

If there is any explanation for why the looper has to be the one to kill himself, I missed it. It seems like it would be easier and cheaper to assign the hit to another looper. I wondered at first if perhaps the script was based on a book that gave a 14 page description of why it had to be done this way that just didn’t make it into the final script, but no, the script does not appear to have been based on other source. As far as I can tell, the only reason for this particular clause in the contract is that otherwise, there wouldn’t be a plot.

Because what happens is that when Old Joe (played by Bruce Willis) is finally picked to die, he manages to fight off his captors, get into the time machine to meet his younger self, and escape him, too. Is there a TV trope that goes “the bad guys never know karate”? Because if there isn’t, there should be. Old Joe is determine to find and kill someone who is going to become a villain called The Rainmaker at some time in the future. Young Joe tries to find and kill Old Joe, because unless he does, Young Joe’s boss is going to have him killed. (Which is why I wonder how it came to be the case that the young loopers have to be the ones to kill of their older selves. If someone else had been the one to botch the kill on Old Joe, there would have been just one manhunt, the one for Old Joe, and it might have been successful. Of course, then there wouldn’t have been a movie.)

Young Joe may not be able to prevent all of Old Joe’s violence, but he can see, in a moment of clarity at the film’s climax, what is going to create the endless loop that leads to the exact end Old Joe is trying to avoid. He closes the loop the one way he knows how. 

I think this is a good movie, but it is, as I said, very violent. If you avoid violent movies on principle or for reasons of taste, I am hesitant to tell you that you should make an exception for this one. It bothers me that I have come to the point that I can see a movie in which people are being killed every few minutes (and the worst violence takes place off screen) and still think of it as a good movie. 

As I said, it is thought provoking.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chinatown, Shopping, and the Aquarium

Chan arrived on Tuesday afternoon, having taken a bus from Leeds, as it was cheaper than the train. She looked the same as ever, but her English had become more British sounding. After she got settled in, we walked to the Tower of London to catch a river tour. I had wanted to do the river tour last year, but there’s a steep slope down to the dock, and it didn’t look like something we could manage safely with the wheelchair. That was a shame, because the tour itself would have been perfect for someone who couldn’t walk.

That night Neal had planned for us to meet at a nearby pub to compete in Trivia Night. It turned out that the pub he had in mind only had trivia on alternate Tuesdays, so he had tried to catch me by text message to tell us to stay on the other side of Tower Bridge where there was another pub. We were almost at his apartment when I saw the messages, but we got all sorted out and managed to get to the new pub, grab the last table, and enter the contest. We did well the first half, but came in third to last in the end. Second to last entitled you to a free bottle of wine - if only I hadn’t corrected an answer my teammates had cooked up while I was in the Ladies’, we would have been second to last.  Oh, well, it was fun.

Wednesday we spent seeing Kew Gardens (more properly, the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew), which I hadn’t been able to see last year, either. While I was taking pictures, my disk ran out of space. Not a problem, I had a spare which I had found when I was packing. What I did not notice was that the spare only had 32 megabytes on it (where did that come from?) I wasn’t able to buy a new one until the next day, so I only got 60 or so pictures from Kew. (I may not be good, but I’m prolific.) That night we went to Chan’s favorite Korean restaurant.

The next day we started at the London Aquarium, then went to Chinatown followed by some shopping at Liberty of London and Selfridges. We only window shopped at Liberty (does anyone really pay 150 pounds for a souvenir Olympic scarf?), but I bought some Christmas ornaments at Selfridge’s. Usually my souvenir shopping consists of buying Christmas ornaments since then I never get home and ask “What am I going to do with this stuff?” We had afternoon tea at the original Bea’s. I could get used to afternoon tea.

Chan was going to stay on a few days with friends of hers in London, but she got a message she was needed back in Leeds to sign for a package, so had to take the bus back. Meantime, we had plans for the weekend with Neal, taking a train to Cornwall.

Along the river tour

Along the river tour

Waterloo Bridge, also known as "the ladies' bridge" because it was built by women workers during WWII

Tower Bridge

Paralympic Logo 

Sculpture at Kew

At the Aquarium

At the Aquarium





View from the top of the bus

John has his own street.

Neal has his own street. I do not have my own street.