Day tripping to the Cotswolds

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The cream stone and cutesy buildings of the Cotswolds

We joined a Meetup.com group for a day trip to the Cotswolds yesterday.  The Meetup had collectively rented a bus for the two-hour trip out, which may sound weird, but given that the trains are SO EXPENSIVE here- Concord flights are cheaper per mile on some routes– a £20/per person bus ride was a screaming deal. I’d wanted to see the Cotswolds for some time, so we were off at (ugh) 7:30am Saturday morning.

The Cotswolds are…how shall I explain…a region of veddy British, Beatrix-Potter-precious villages, all made from cream Cotswolds stone. The British love their Cotswolds. Visiting them is a bit like going back in time to the glory days of Englishness, when all that mattered was tea and pip-pip jolly good mate and colonizing 90% of the globe into the British Empire.  However, outside of Britain, the Cotswolds aren’t very well-known. Before I emigrated, I’d heard of the most famous town, Bath, but that was it.

Our first stop was the Broadway Tower, a peculiar British vanity project from 1799. It’s a tower. Built in the middle of a field. On a hill. Essentially, some bored, rich English chick wanted to know if this tower could be seen from her house. Yep, sure can.  And they’re quite proud of this tower, because it’s the second highest viewpoint in the Cotswolds. (Those of us from mountainous regions snickered quietly and derisively.)

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The random Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds, correctly classified as a “folly”

By the way, in that photo, my hair isn’t in a ponytail. It’s being blown straight back by the most bone-chilling August wind I’ve ever experienced. In fact, we’d chosen this trip in August so as to enjoy a lovely summer’s day in the English countryside. However, apparently there are no such days in the Cotswolds- the wind shrieks and the rain pours just about year-round. How lovely. I was wet. And cold. In fucking August. Them’s fightin’ words.

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Nobody is moving Matt’s cheese

Over the course of the twelve-hour day, we visited the preciously-named villages of Mickleton, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Nauton, Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughter, Kingham, and Snotsby-upon-Scrotum (that last one is a joke). But know what’s NOT a joke village name? Dicks Mount, Suffolk; Crotch Crescent, Oxford; and the piece de resistance, Fudgepack upon Humber, Humberside. (side note: I must visit that place.)

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Bourton-on-the-Water, where everyone sells ice cream, but only until 5pm on Saturday evening, then go the f**k away

So with that many towns on the itinerary, each visit was a very rushed forty-five minutes.  But after the first few villages, I began to realize that a short hour in each was more than enough.  Why?  Well…in my opinion, you kind of have to be British to dig the Cotswolds. They’re beautiful, don’t get me wrong…but as with most charming British places, they’ve been given over to cars, overcrowding, and serious tourist trappiness. I mean, if you want a kitschy tea room, each village has about ten of them, out of fifteen total businesses. And those other businesses, without fail, sell tourist trinkets, fudge, cheese, ice cream, or beer. There’s nothing to suggest real life goes on in these towns; no theaters, no community centers, no sidewalks, no groceries, no laundrettes….just rows and rows of identical cutesy houses and stone tourist shops.

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Me and my piggie friend enjoy a locally-made Cotswold cider by the roaring fireplace. IN AUGUST.

Once upon a time, these were sweet thriving villages, but today, the only inhabitants are working the tourist trade, retirees, or worst of all, Über-rich Londoners with their second “country home” and a Ferrari in the cottage’s driveway. Gag. (I have a colleague who grew up in the Cotswolds, and now that I’ve been, I can’t figure out what he did to stave off boredom, aside from heavy drinking and biding his time until he turned eighteen and could flee to London.)

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Apparently it’s a rule that all cottages must be named…so we claim this one.

There is literally nothing going on but the constant influx of tourists in their cars, and the cars also contribute to the overall ruining of the traditional village feel. So while the Brits may ooh and aah over the Cotswolds and their countryside views, they have nothing on the rolling wineland hills of Tuscany, Provence, Portugal, even Napa (also: NO WINE). And unlike the Cotswolds, many of these adorable villages have banned cars- because as I had noticed, it’s pretty fucking hard to feel like you’re experiencing a historic region when you’re constantly getting nearly run over by a 4×4 in a medieval alleyway.

There is history here, though it seems to be quietly getting crushed under the weight of all those tea shops and parking lots. I found some very cool pubs with both historical and literary importance: The Bell Inn in Moreton-in-Marsh, J.R.R. Tolkien’s inspiration for The Prancing Pony in “The Lord of the Rings,” and The Porch House in Stow-on-the-Wold, which claims to be Britain’s oldest pub, from 947 AD. Now, I’ve been around Europe enough to take that claim with a grain of salt– like the ten different places in Spain which all claim to have THE Holy Grail- but in the spirit of international cooperation I will choose to believe this claim.

Overall, while it wasn’t really my cup of tea (pun intended), I’m glad we took the time to see the Cotswolds. Because now, when I am told by Brits how amazing this place is, I can resist the urge to book a weekender trip there, only to be slowly lulled into a coma of boredom, interrupted only by yet another tea shop offering me afternoon tea at £10 a pop.

Next weekend: LYON!!

Random acronymania

I am only writing this because I’m easily mesmerized by the vagaries of the English language. That, and Fiona’s little nugget of informational crack has lodged itself in the trivia-hoarder portion of my brain, and is holding the rest of my cognitive capacity hostage until I address it properly. So that said….
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There’s a term here in the UK to designate someone who is upper class, highly educated, snobbish, etcetera….it’s called “posh.” The Queen is posh. So is ex-Prime Minister David Cameron (he’s also a weaselly fucktard, but that’s another post).  It’s just a word that I’d never given much thought to, until Fiona woke me to this most awesome fact: “Posh” is not a word. It’s an acronym. (And fuck you, because yes, that is awesome.) According to her (and who am I to doubt Fiona, really*), “POSH” refers to wealthy Brits who would sail to the USA, and had enough cash to pay for the southern exposure cabins both to and from America…they had cabins that were “Port Out, Starboard Home.”

So my reptilian brain has been noodling on the question…what other words are not actually words, but acronyms? And this is what I have come up with:

  1. Wharf. This one is thanks to Miss Kristin, who informed me to my great delight (as I live right off a Wharf Street, and am constantly reminding Matt of this fact) that WHARF is an acronym for “Ware House Along the River Front.”
  2. Scuba. I learned this was an acronym for “Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus” from the infamous “Stage Fright” episode of Family Ties. (and I apparently was not the only one so educated.)
  3. Taser. Our friend Trevvie works for a company that makes them, and I now know it stands for Thomas A Swift’s Electric Rifle.
  4. Canola oil. This, no shit, stands for Canada Oil Low Acid. And all along I’d been looking for the canola plant….
  5. Care package. Originating after World War II, Cooperative for American Remittances packages were sent from the US to European recipients.
  6. Aga. This is a word I never heard until I moved to the UK- it’s a type of stove. But apparently it stands for Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator, or “The Gas Accumulator Company” in Swedish. Huh. Things I never need to think about once I move back to the US. Just sayin’.
  7. Base jumping. I had thought it meant parachuting from a, well, base. But “BASE”stands for  the four types of platforms that you can jump from: Building, Antenna, Span, or Earth.
  8. Pakistan. This is an acronym of the five British northern Indian kingdoms that comprised the new country of Pakistan: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and, providing the final few letters, Baluchistan.
  9. And my personal favorite, being a gym rat: Buff. I used to date a navy man who informed me that this is a military slang term for airplanes, meaning “Big Ugly Fat Fuckers.” Awesome.

And now my OCD is done. Ta-da!

*Note: The Oxford Dictionary, however, is one to argue with Princess Fiona. Apparently there is no evidence to back this acronym origin up, AND it wasn’t sailings to and from America- it was to and from India. But I’m already done typing this blog, so fuck it, let’s just go with Fiona’s explanation.

Hydrated wanderings

For the first time in a  very long time, Matt had to work a sunny summer Saturday. This meant that I was on my own, and given that I’ve not spent much time by myself, or exploring London on foot, I decided to take advantage of the sunshine and head to the West End for a street festival at The Seven Dials.

The Seven Dials is a neighborhood nearby Covent Garden, featuring a massive sundial in a roundabout, and seven streets spoking off the sundial. Back in the day, it was a bit skeevy- Charles Dickens mentions it as a good place to get shanked in one of his books. These days, it’s filled with upmarket, mainly independently owned, shops and cafes. But today is their once-per-year Spotlight Festival, which features that unicorn of London: FREE THINGS. So obviously this was the destination of my three-mile walk.

I set off from my neighborhood, and given that I was in no hurry, and hoping to find new and interesting things along the way, I took a route that cut through a part of St. John’s Street that I had never seen. My office building in on St. John’s Street, so I spend a LOT of time there. However, this being London, there are no broad swaths of boulevards neatly aligning the streets. Instead, St. John’s Street is intermittently broken up by large historical buildings, and continues on the other side. But as I walked by this segmented end of St. John’s Street, I saw this:

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St. John’s Priory, built way back in the 11th century…and right on my office’s street. Who knew.

I literally stopped in the middle of my street crossing and stared. My exact thought was, “Holy fuck, that’s a castle shoved into the intersection.” So I wandered over to check it out. Turns out, this is the original Priory of St. John, built in the 11th century. While part of the Priory was burned down in the Middle Ages, this is still a building that has been standing for a THOUSAND years. The Priory is now a museum and events venue, and the docent at the desk was more than pleased to allow me to roam the museum and learn the history of the Priory. The Knights of St. John specialize in healing the sick, and in the  modern day are known for their ambulance services. But here is the cool part, the everything-in-Europe-is-connected part; in the 15th century, these Knights expanded to Malta, and became the famous Knights Of Malta. And as we learned when we visited Malta back in April, the rent in Malta was one falcon per year to the king (Yes! As in “The Maltese Falcon”!). They flourished there until Napoleon forced a surrender in the 18th century. But this Priory where the Knights were established several hundred years earlier.

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The St. John’s Priory Museum; the external wall forms the Museum’s entrance

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Inside the amazing Priory

Aside from that, there is so much mind-blowing history here: Thirty of Shakespeare’s plays were licensed here; in the 18th century, the Priory gate functioned as a pub where Charles Dickens would come to write. And no one seems to think any of this is amazing…in fact, in the right-hand side of the entrance is a hipster microbrew pub, and as you can see in the exterior photo, a parking lot. Crazy.

About thirty minutes later, I arrived at the Seven Dials in the midst of the Spotlight Festival. I had cleverly made notes, gleaned from the Festival’s website, of which shops were offering which freebies. Walking down one of the seven passages, I immediately claimed my free gin and tonic at an eyeglasses shop (yes please!) and chocolate macarons at an upscale BDSM sex shop. Fun! There were also street performers, street artists making art out of fruit (?), and sales galore.

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Citrus-based street art at the Spotlight Festival

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Holy shit! This was free!! I walk into a shitty sk8er boi store, and someone shoves a Peroni in my hand. Whee!

Best of all, there was a Prosecco truck…giving away Prosecco on tap. For free. This is so not-London I could have fallen over and died from not-Britishness. Though note that the Brits aren’t very schooled in this sort of freebie-fest unfortunately; with the exception of the eyeglasses shop, most other vendors would have the free beers, wines, or cocktails out in full view, but refuse to OFFER them (side note: OFFERING the free thing is probably the most important part of the “giving away a free thing” transaction). So I would say, “may I have a beer?” and get either a side-eye, or an “oh! Sure, I guess” response, as if this were not the entire point of my visiting your little shop. Duh.

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The Spotlight Festival, as seen from my free glass of Prosecco

I will add here that I did buy some items from the shops, so I wasn’t a complete freeloader. But I am happy to say that my purchases were well hydrated with a flute of Prosecco, two beers, and a gin and tonic. Hic.

I headed back home around 4pm, and went in search of Blue Plaques. In London, if someone famous lived, worked, or died in a building, the neighborhood can request a Blue Plaque to commemorate that person. I love randomly looking up, and seeing that perhaps Karl Marx lived in what is now a Starbucks. But today I may have found the coup de grace….the piece de resistance….the plaque of uber-awesomeness. This plaque commemorates Priss Fotheringham, who was considered the borough’s “second best whore” due to her ability to stand on her head, and allow her patrons to shove the sum total of forty shillings up her hoo-hah.

I shall add my editorial opinion that a party trick like that should rank one as the BEST whore, but nonetheless, she made quite a pile of cash, then unsurprisingly died of syphilis. Wouldn’t we all.

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Oh London, you and your cheeky sense of humor….

My glee at this completely vulgar plaque was considerably dimmed when I Googled Priss’s plaque later in the day, and found out that while she and her twat-tastics tricks were real, the plaque itself was put up as a humorous art display. The London Councils had put a two-year moratorium on new Blue Plaques in 2013 due to austerity, so an artist from the “English Hedonists Society” took it upon herself to put up some amusing plaques commemorating interesting London women. Well poop.

My final wandering en route back home was to follow a sign that has been BUGGING ME AND TAUNTING ME since we moved here: The sign pointing to Charles Dickens’ home. Yes, Charles Dickens spent a lot of time in my neighborhood…scholars believe that Bob Cratchit’s family was envisioned to live essentially on my block, back when Angel was the ‘hood. So there is a lot of his life here, and I’ve tried to follow this fucking sign for over a year to his home/museum (as has Angie), with zero luck. It’s become a running gag that this museum doesn’t actually exist. Turns out, it’s quite a long walk off the main signposted street, and no directionals are posted to ensure you haven’t just walked right by it. But I finally found it! They wanted £12 entry, to which I of course said hells no, but browsing the gift shop and the outdoor signage is free- so there, Chuck.

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HA! I FOUND IT, ANGIE!!!!!!

So that’s one more Blue Plaque for my collection. Huzzah!!!

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Alice in Office-land

My office has expanded into the building across the street, and they continued the whimsical meeting room decor in the new building that is so creative in the original building. However, this conference room took my by surprise.

I’d never been to this particular meeting room, and I was arriving fifteen minutes late to a full room, meeting in progress. I burst into the room, but was stopped in my tracks by the unexpected theme of the room. The room’s name is “Time For Tea.”

I blurted the exact words “This looks like a fucking Mad Tea Party.”

To which one of my colleagues dryly replied, “That’s because it is a Mad Tea Party.” (I’m pretty sure he added a “duh” and an eye roll, too.) As if, you know, this is completely to be expected in corporate London:

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The Mad Tea Party Room

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Merrily having a mad meeting

I don’t think my colleagues are aware of my Alice fixation, but obviously I could barely concentrate in this meeting because I WAS AT THE MAD TEA PARTY!!!!!!

The room has floral wallpaper, THRONES for chairs, teapots on the ceiling, a painted-on lace tablecloth, and lots of clocks that don’t tell the same time….which in a corporate meeting room is obviously handy.

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Teapots and teacups on the ceiling as light fixtures

Yes, you are seeing that correctly- those are real cups, saucers, and teapots repurposed into lighting fixtures (I had to manhandle them to see if they were real). My Alice obsession was in fucking overload.

But then it all went to shit…because I noticed the wall had a massive typo, and I went from Alice-obsessing to spelling-obsessing.

Why can’t the English teach their children how to spell????

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I don’t think I was very useful in that meeting.

This is why I can’t have nice things

So I was given control over a £6,000 budget for my company’s London chapter of a professional women’s networking group. How exciting for me! I’ve never done anything financially-related for work, much less been in control of a budget. I had to restrain myself from hopping on the next flight to Vegas, and puttin’ it all on red (note: I didn’t actually do this. Not today, at least.).

So with the budget, and its attendant line items approved, I promptly set about to fuck things up.

Fuckup #1:

I signed a contract committing my company to a sponsorship for a convention. Oops, I’m not allowed to sign contracts on behalf of my company. I’d like to personally thank our Legal department for unfucking this one for me.

Fuckup #2:

I was given a cost estimate of about £4,000 for the sponsorship and admissions for this convention. I duly put this line item on the budget. Imagine my surprise to find out that in the UK, estimates are not given with VAT added. VAT is 20%. I just blew up my £4,000 bill by £800. Oops. Someone’s not getting free T-shirts.

Fuckup #3:

The sponsorship deal I signed (then unsigned, then had resigned, but we’ve covered that) was to sponsor a room at the convention. This room is designated as a “quiet room,” where attendees can check email and take a break. Sounds good, right? But you know what question I didn’t ask when I signed (then unsigned, then had resigned, but again, we’ve covered that)? This question: “IS THE ROOM FURNISHED?”  Because hello, the answer is NO. So now we have to rent furniture, get the furniture there, and get the furniture moved in and then back out. And in case you were wondering, all of this is not free. This is not even close to free. In fact, if this were any more not-free, I’d also be required to rent a small child to stand behind me and kick me for fucking up so hugely.

Luckily, I do work with some clever people, one of whom mentioned that we have very nice Crate & Barrel-style patio furniture on our building’s terrace that probably wouldn’t be used in October (let’s face it, it was barely used in JULY), and we might be able to port that over. So perhaps one major fuckup is mitigated.

But I’m sure I’ll make more!!!

In the meantime, I will be in a supply closet somewhere setting fire to Post-It notes or perhaps in the kitchen, microwaving all the forks.

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Kind of a perfect summer weekend

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Boozy Saturday picnic at Islington Green

The sun was out all weekend in London, which in itself is a small miracle. But we didn’t have any real plans for the weekend beyond soaking up some sun, and as a result ended up with a nearly perfect idyllic summer weekend.

On Saturday morning, after our gym workout, we headed to Islington Green for a day-long picnic. We basically just marinated in the sunshine with ciders, strawberries, a baguette, and pate. I got a good book read and a nice nap. What else can you ask from a lazy summer Saturday?

In the evening, we walked up the Regent’s Canal towpath to the Rosemary Branch pub, which has a tiny pub theater tucked in the back. This quiet little pub theater, with just fifty seats, once had Charlie Chaplin amongst its performers. But tonight, they were performing a weird interactive/immersive satire called “Losers.” Tit4Twat_Theatre_-_2016-08-07_20.24.20

The best I can describe this play is: Four millennials are desperately trying to get cast on any reality TV show, with no luck. So they created their own reality show called “Winners,” and we are the audience test-viewing it. So we as the audience are in the show too, playing….well, the audience.

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Whee free train tickets to a weekend in York!!

We had handheld voting keypads, and it was great fun to vote on which cast member deserved to get stapled (yes, that happened), and which should eat cat food (also happened). I thought it was hilarious. I shall be returning to this pub.

Today we had no agenda beyond strolling to King’s Cross Station in the sunshine, to cash in some free train vouchers for a weekender trip to York in September (wheeee can’t wait!!). We decided to continue walking westbound on the Regent’s Canal towpath, all the way to Regent’s Park. It was a glorious day in the park, and given that Regent’s Park is one of the elegant Royal Parks, it only made sense to stop for afternoon tea in the Park’s outdoor garden cafe.

 

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Enjoy afternoon tea in the park? Why yes please!

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Lovely Regent’s Park in the summer sunshine

All told, it was an eight-mile stroll.

Then I took a nap.

Who’d-a thunk these would be cheaper

We’ve officially given up trying to keep our teeny 600 square foot space clean on our own. I realize how pathetic that sounds, but yes, we surrendered to the soot of London and Hazel Grace’s endless shedding, and hired a housecleaner to come in every other week.

We had resisted this step, because it seems ridiculous to pay someone to clean such a small space that theoretically should be easy enough to clean ourselves (though in my defense I live with a smelly cat and a male housemate, just sayin’). But I was in a pub with a friend who has a flatshare with two other roommates, and he mentioned that he needed to find a new housecleaner. I was a bit surprised- since when do roommates, all of whom are presumably not financially able to live individually, able to afford housecleaning??  And that’s when I discovered that housecleaner prices in London are laughably cheap. Like, I literally snickered when I got a bunch of cleaners’ bids. Matt, being of the Great British Manual Labor Class (as it was later known in the restaurant industry) was justifiably horrified at the obvious lack of living wage being offered. My only theory is that England has such a culture of servants, that housecleaning is considered a basic necessity- and is priced accordingly. Other than that, I got nuthin’.

But hey, if you can’t beat ’em (or, overpay ’em), hire ’em!! Our cleaner started this week, and thus far he seems to be eking out a victory against the piles of Hazel Grace fur she’s got stored up around the mews. (She does work so hard at that.)

But all this got me thinking: What else in London is weirdly cheap? I came up with this list, which even I found surprising.

  1. Housecleaning. We paid about $45 and hour for a cleaner back home, which seemed fair. Here, prices hover at barely £11 per hour (about $15, thank you Brexit). In fact, one cleaner bid £13 per hour, and added an almost apologetic note for her “high prices.” Snicker.
  2. Contact lenses. Imagine Matt’s surprise when a $60-$75 box of lenses cost just £15 (about $20) here. Imagine my glee on not giving a fuck, since I’ve had LASIK. Hah.
  3. Haircuts. I avoided getting my hair cut for nearly eighteen months, but not because of my inherent cheapness. I have curly hair!! It’s difficult and scary!! Finding a new stylist is like shopping for a new boyfriend- it takes time, and there are too many possible horrific endings. But I searched through a bunch of recommendations, and found someone I really liked. What’s funny is everyone who recommended him said essentially, “He’s really great…but the price is just too high.”  His prices are barely £60 (about $80), which as an American expecting to pay $90-$150 for a salon visit, made me giggle. Apparently most people pay £20 (about $26), which to me is like trusting a 5-cent sushi bar, but with longer-lasting consequences.
  4. Bell peppers. This one is weird. In the US, $1 per pepper is a sale price. Here, a three-pack, year-round, is about 85 pence (around $1.10, or 35 cents a pepper). No one has been able to explain to me why these are so dirt cheap. Also, Brits seem to have no fucking idea how to cook or serve them properly, so there’s that.
  5. Cell phone service. Seriously, Brits are shocked when they hear how much Americans pay for cell phone service. Most people use Pay As You Go, but if you don’t, a monthly fee for unlimited texting, 5gb of data, and some phone calling time (I have no idea, I never actually CALL anyone, I’m not even sure my phone can dial) is about £15.
  6. Theater tickets. You may have noticed we go to the theater A LOT. A seat in Seattle, even in a small local theater, will run $25 minimum- and big Broadway shows are around $50. Here, since there are over fifty theaters in the West End, they just want butts in seats. We pay an average of £15 per ticket, though we’ve paid as little as zero- as in, please come to our show we’ll even pay for your seat– to as high as £60, but only because in-laws were in town and balked at the cheap seats.🙂 (Also note that West End tickets are FREE if you are the kind of person who sidles up to the smokers outside at intermission, then simply walks back in with them and finds an empty seat for the second act. I’m not necessarily saying I’m this kind of person, but I am saying that you can see 50% of a show for 0% of the price.)

Granted, none of this makes up for the £9 glasses of shit house wine in pubs, or the 50% higher rent and standard of living costs in London, but I’m just gonna marvel at these small victories for now, and watch the Brexit sink the pound sterling even lower.

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Things I’ve learned in the last week

It’s been an umm, educational week. I suppose it’s good to know there’s always an endless supply of things to learn, amirite?

On that note…this week I learned:

  1. I am not allowed to sign contracts on behalf of my employer. This was something I learned after I signed a contract on behalf of my employer. I got to have an emergency meeting with Legal to essentially unfuck what I’d so cheerfully fucked up. All in a day’s work!
  2. One must be British to find “The BFG” interesting. Or entertaining.
  3. We saw an absolutely smashing, amazing, move-me-to-tears one-woman show based on the life and music of Edith Piaf. Seriously, I haven’t wept at a performance since seeing the Bolshoi Ballet dance “Swan Lake.”  But I realized that whether you are happy or heartbroken, or just need music to type by,  “La Vie en Rose” is one of the most perfect f**king songs ever written.  Damn, I could weep now.
  4. It is actually possible to live in country that expects a maximum of ONE WEEK of summer per year. And they’re OK with it. For the love of jeebus, WE DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY
  5. Despite their reputation for being witty, clever folk, puns are a dying are art here. Case in point: I am in line for Starbucks.  I order an espresso.

    Barista: Should I leave room for cream?
    Me: No, I really doubt Eric Clapton can fit in there!
    Barista: <blank stare>

    Comedy gold. Just sayin’.

  6. Parts of “Oliver Twist” actually took place across the street from my office. Seriously. I have stared out the window at the Angel Pub for eighteen months now, and who knew that it’s featured in not only “Oliver Twist,” but on the UK Monopoly board…it even has its own Wikipedia page. This city never fails to amaze me.
  7. Greengages are delicious. Why have I never seen or eaten one before? Is there a greengage conspiracy in the US to prevent these little fruity joys from getting in my belly??  WTF?

 

This could be the weirdest thing I’ve ever paid to see

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We went back to the Wonderground last night for a burlesque cabaret titled “The Black Cat Hotel.” I was expecting the regular entourage of striptease, cheesy comedy, and maybe some music.

Know what I didn’t expect?

I didn’t expect to pay £10 to watch a man, dressed up as a pig, shove scissors up his nose.

Oh, and then he lit himself on fire.

There was a tap dancing cellist, too. I fucking love this city sometimes.

 
 
 
 

(seriously, the pig-guy with the scissors is in that video)

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Feeding my Alice obsession

I love “Alice In Wonderland.” And I don’t just mean I like the books; I love everything about the weirdness of Wonderland, the characters, and the nutty poetry. Given that London is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice’s publication, there are a lot of Alice-related events going on. I’ve dragged Matt to an Alice costume exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum; an illustration exhibition at The British Library; we’ve gone all the way to Oxford to see where Professor Charles Dogson, aka Lewis Carroll, spied on the headmaster’s daughter Alice and told her silly stories (he did other things too, but that’s a different blog post); we even attended a weird interactive Wonderland experience in an underground abandoned Tube station.

Tonight my Alice obsession got even weirder!!  We went to an interactive Alice In Wonderland performance…in a graveyard. Yes, two of my favorite flavors- literature and taphophilia– together at last.

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Abney Park Cemetery

The performance was held at Abney Park Cemetery in Hackney, a thirty-minute bus ride from our flat. Unlike American cemeteries, this is a tumble-down, unkempt Victorian cemetery remade into a community park. And they do plays in the summer!! So we spent ninety bizarre minutes chasing Alice around a cemetery at twilight, encountering a Mad Tea Party, a poetry-reciting contest between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and presiding as jury over Alice’s trial for stealing the Queen’s tarts. OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!!!!!!!!

No photos were allowed, so this lovely cemetery shot is all I got. Use your imagination. It was fucking weird.