August 2007 Archives

The leftover London story

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So, yes, we've been back for almost a month, and yes, we had a wonderful time... mostly.

The following is a love story ~ if I didn't really love Dr. T., our marriage would definitely not have survived.

On our last Friday in England, we planned to go into London, for our one and only trip into the city during our summer in the UK. We had already left the idyllic Cotswolds, and were heading out from Milton Keynes, home of the World's Greatest Mother-in-Law (TM), and coincidentally ideally situated for getting to London by rail.

Which is, obviously, why we drove.

Now, when we booked our train trip from TIC* to Glasgow for our visit with my gran and the great aunt**, we bought a rail card for all of £20, which saved us more than £100 on the Scottish trip. This card is valid for a year, and entitles us, as a family, to significant discounts on all rail travel in the UK, including, naturally, a one-day round-trip excursion from Milton Keynes to London.

Which is, obviously, why we drove.

[At this point it should be patently obvious that driving to London was not my idea.]

Part of the justification for driving was that Dr. T. had contacted an old friend from his high school days, who now lives in London, and who generously offered to have us park our car in her driveway, and invited us for supper after our day in the city. Since she lives just outside the congestion zone, we wouldn't even have to pay to have our car in the city, and based on her experience, the drive from MK would only be about half an hour. So we could leave MK in the late morning, drop off the car, hop on the tube, spend a leisurely afternoon exploring London, and get fed before the short drive home.

Ha.

We decided it was a good idea to check the route on-line, which is when we discovered that the estimated travel time was closer to an hour, which wasn't a significant difference really, we reasoned, especially since the on-line map program estimates are based on driving at the speed limit. I was a little trepidatious about the fact that the lion's share of the journey was on the M1, i.e., the motorway, i.e., the one form of travel that every Briton I've ever encountered refers to as the only way they will never travel.

But, really, on a Friday mid-morning, long after rush hour and long before weekend traffic, how bad could it be, right?

Ha.

It turns out that since we were taking the motorway, the other drivers got together and decided to initiate us to the joys of motorway travel, which explains the "unprecedented" traffic jam that added two hours to our journey. At least I was right about us not driving at the speed limit.

TWO &$^%^& HOURS.

We had plenty of time to decide whether or not it made sense to leave the motorway at the next exit, since the next exit was several miles away. Fortunately, we had a road atlas in the car with us, thanks to the WGMiL; unfortunately, a crucial stage of the journey took us through St. Albans, which was rather inconveniently located between pages and therefore unreadable. Also, my theory is that St. Albans is the Bermuda Triangle of England.

Suffice it to say that the journey did not take half an hour. We finally arrived, weary and frustrated, at the friend's house at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

Which is when I met the "old" friend, who, as it turns out, is a stunningly beautiful, petite, funny woman with cascading chestnut hair and a PhD in sociology who's now working from home on her book on life in the art world.

And I've just emerged from a hot car after three hours. My hair is unspeakable, and every piece of clothing I'm wearing looks like badly-fitting crepe paper.

Fortunately, despite Dr. T's misgivings, his friend was very understanding when I explained that we would not be joining the family for supper, given that our late arrival had thrown our sightseeing schedule off, to say the least. She escorted us to the tube station (which was, it must be said, very convenient, and on the right line to get us to our initial stop), and we headed off to Southwark. We found a lovely Thames-side pub where we had lunch (lunch!! at 4 o'clock!!), then we strolled over to the Globe, where we spent several literary minutes in the gift shop (the first high point of the day was when Dr. T bought me a t-shirt with this illustration).

By this time, it was after 5 o'clock, so we hopped back on the tube and headed for Trafalgar Square; we finished our tour on Carnaby Street, a.k.a. mecca for shopaholics, where Dr. T. made more inroads in appeasing me by buying me a fancy purse (and in turn, I managed to find a really nice one*** that was ridiculously reduced. I have a talent).

Once we were shopped out (or, more to the point, when the shops closed), we headed back the gorgeous professor's house, where we had tea and ice cream with her and her husband while Colin was entertained by their son. We very deliberately avoided the motorway on the way home, which was a wise decision, but which took us through St. Albans again, where we inevitably got thrown off. We stopped for pizza around 10 o'clock (which, given that lunch was at 4, was not as late as it sounds ~ but 10 o'clock at the Pizza Hut take-away counter in a British village is a great time to see how pub-hopping villagers refuel between stops), and finally crawled through the door, happy to note that it was before midnight!

In retrospect, of course, it's easy to laugh... screw that ~ it's still not funny!!

Small consolation: I have witnesses to the fact that Dr. T has (a) conceded that driving was not the best option and (b) promised that next time, we go by train.

*The idyllic Cotswolds
**Doesn't My Gran and the Great Aunt sound like the title of an interesting book?
***Said purse is viewable on-line, when the web site in question is behaving itself. I'll add a link if/when there is one.

Mindless timewaster: Memes!

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Time for another space-filler ~ this one is modelled on Scattergories, and is stolen from Clare. The idea is that you use the first letter of your first name for each of the following:

Name: Maggie

1. Famous Singer/Band: Moxy Fruvous!!!

2. 4 letter word: Minx, as in “she’s a naughty minx.” I lurve Craig Ferguson.

3. Street: Main

4. Color: Maroon. Also, a good insult in a pinch.

5. Gifts/Presents: Mink. I’m a size 6.

6. Vehicle: Mustang, baby!

7. Things in a Souvenir Shop: Miniatures. Also, possibly, mozzarella, assuming it’s a gift shop in a cheese factory.

8. Boy Name: Marilyn Manson (hee!)

9. Girl Name: Morticia

10. Movie Title: Moulin Rouge

11. Drink: Mojito!!!! Mmmm, minty.

12. Occupation: Mason. I have no idea why that was the first thing that came to mind.

13. Celebrity: Madonna

14. Magazine: Maxim

15. U.S. City: Minneapolis

16. Pro Sports Teams: Manchester United! (I had to work on that one, lest I list the Leafs).

18. Reason for Being Late for Work: Metro interruption

19. Something You Throw Away: Money (ask Dr. T.).

20. Things You Shout: Mother... um, nothing.

21. Cartoon Character: Mickey Mouse.

Why I'm looking forward to school on Monday

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This is what my life was like this past week:

Monday: attend three-hour IT course (the latest Performa course), followed by packing for...

Tuesday: drop kids off at babysitter's, drive to airport, fly to Toronto, collect rental car, drive to Orillia, read at Heather's wedding, attend reception (eat, drink, dance, etc., etc.), help Heather liberate herself from the approximately 2, 364 hairpins that were apparently the back-up system in case her head fell off, crawl into bed around 2:30 a.m.
Bureaucracy

Wednesday (a.k.a. four hours later): repack - this time trying to incorporate the giant martini glass vase I won* - get back in rental car, drive back to Toronto, drop off car, fly back to Montreal, drop Dr. T. off at work, then attend second three-hour IT course.

Thursday: present workshop for colleagues on the wonder that is Moodle.

Friday: attend all-day English Department mini-conference, which includes a workshop on marking and feedback, led by me.

Today: usual weekend routine of preparing menu & accompanying grocery list, laundry, cleaning, etc., along with getting the guest room ready for a visitor who's arriving...

Tomorrow: when Hydro Quebec will be conducting work in our area, which forces them to cut our power between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love learning stuff, and I'm excited about another Performa course, not to mention being reunited with my classmates. Obviously I was thrilled to be asked to participate in Heather & Erich's wedding, and Dr. T and I love weddings because we're too old to go drinking and dancing at clubs anymore. We got the DJ to play 'I Wanna Be Sedated' and danced our asses off. Good time. And winning the cup glass was a hoot. I was so glad to help Heather with her hair and in so doing, actually get some 'just us' time. The Moodle workshop and the mini-conference were both great, and I am so happy that our department is addressing the issue of marking and feedback (in past years we've focused on numerical alignment, rather than the written feedback we give our students). The mini-conference is always great, too, because we get to catch up with each other after a couple of months away from campus, before the teaching starts and our encounters are often 30-second chats in the hallway on the way to class.

But still. Big week.

*The martini glass: this is what happens when an English teacher gets married ~ Heather decided that the beautiful centrepieces, which consisted of giant martini glasses filled with blue glass beads and an arrangement of irises and mini-mums, would go to the person at each table who came up with the best poem. Specifically, this poem had to include the word 'love,' and make reference to one of the products sold at Erich's German meat shop. I kid you not. Our winning entry:

There was a young pair from Orillia

With whom we are very familiar:

She loved Erich first,

Then discovered his wurst...

Just give us the centrepiece, will ya?

This may be the creepiest thing ever

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The Saturday Gazette is the big paper ~ loads of features, and as many flyers and coupon books as they can stuff between the sections. In one such flyer in this morning's paper I came across this:

emmy.jpg

This is 'Tiny Miracle Emmy' and she's a doll. Literally.

I believe my exact words were "ew! ew! ew! ew! ew! ew! ew! ew! ew! ew!" Or something to that effect.

But wait, it gets better.

I went to the website to get the photo of Emmy, and discovered that there's a whole series of these weird collectibles, including this one:

hush.jpg

Now, at first glance there does not appear to be anything significantly different between Exhibits A and B... until you read the description of the second one:

“Hush, Little Baby” is a genuine So Truly Real® “breathing” baby doll, designed by Master Doll Artist Waltraud Hanl. A battery-powered mechanism tucked inside the doll raises and lowers her tiny chest in a lifelike breathing pattern that mimics real life, making her a joy to watch. Gently place your hand on her chest, and you can even feel her breathe—such a comforting sensation!

This baby girl looks and feels so real, from her baby-soft RealTouch™ vinyl skin (our exclusive, patent-pending formula) to her delicate wisps of hand-applied baby hair. She has perfect newborn features, including delicate baby eyelashes and tiny fingernails and toenails. Hold her in your arms, and she feels just like a real infant. She comes to you in delicate floral-print nightgown and matching cap, with ruffled panties and even a little diaper.

Adding to her realism, the “Hush, Little Baby” doll is approximately 18" long. Blanket not included.

Obviously, there's no need for them to include the blanket, since you'll get more than enough baby bedding at the shower.

ew! ew! ew! ew! ew! ew! ew! ew! ew! ew!

Phenomenal

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Explain the following, please:

~ when talking to a colleague on the phone, I noticed I used the Valley Girl "like" and was thereafter unable not to say "like." I could hear it. It hurt my ears. Keep in mind that I am an English teacher. So is my, like, colleague. Ack.

~ my mobile phone plays MP3s, and it was my walking music device for the past winter and spring. Although it was set on "random," it exhibited a definite preference for Tom Petty, Sheryl Crow and No Doubt. My new MP3 player, also set on random, with essentially the same selection of tracks, has yet to play anything from No Doubt, and very little Tom Petty, but played five Stones tracks in 45 minutes this afternoon.

~ fruit flies. Seriously. Where the F*^$% do these little bastards come from, and how to I get rid of them? My house is clean! But leave a glass of wine unattended for three minutes and there's a black cloud of insects over it, apparently paying their last respects to the dozen or so of their compatriots who have thrown themselves into the deep red abyss.

Green green grass

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We're home...

...home to a rainy day, so we don't miss England so much, after all. Thanks, weather people!

...home to a lot of laundry, but a remarkably clean house, thanks to Dr. T., who so thoughtfully scoured the place top to bottom before he left to join us in the UK.

...home to some very thirsty plants.

...home without our cat, who's still away at my mother's summer camp for felines.

...home to our own beds! Not to mention our own kitchen, our own laundry machines (and don't even get me started on English washing machines), our own car, our own Internet set-up, etc., etc.

...home.

We were all sad to leave England, where we spent a wonderful, peaceful, familial month. Colin was particularly upset about leaving - while we were there, he picked up a British inflection and a love of tea; frankly I think he'd adapt faster than the rest of us if we were to relocate. He's born to be British, it seems. Maybe we'll send him to work with Bill Bryson.

We had a better time than I could have imagined - even if I did, in the end, fall off a horse! We were blessed to be there when Marley arrived, and Moor Wood and Milton Keynes really do feel like home, albeit without the aforementioned beds, kitchen, and so on. I will miss being horsey, and I will miss the World's Greatest In-Laws more than I can express.

Having said that, I am also relieved to feel really happy to be home - I've been walking around the house - MY house - with a huge grin on my face all morning. I'm looking forward to being urban again after a month of going country. I'm anxious to get reacquainted with the cat, and to see my parents and my friends - for whom I have chocolate, as added incentive to get together sooner rather than later. I have really enjoyed the culinary expertise of the WGMiL for the past month - as the added two pounds will attest - but I'm looking forward to preparing my own menus and cooking in my own kitchen. I know where everything is!

Oh, and since the vacation is officially over, I can get back into planning my fall courses. I've been predictably remiss in working on work for the past month, but I am genuinely excited about this term's courses, so hi-ho, hi-ho, here we go.

We're home.

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