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31 January 2014

Views from the week...

On Monday, I attended a meeting at the lower school at 3:30pm, It was an informational meeting for an overnight field trip that Olivia will be going on in March to the Mill on the Brue. (click here for a link) It is an outdoor activity center where the kids get to do all sorts of things - canoeing, hiking, zip-lines - you name it. The girls from Olivia's grade will leave on a Monday morning and return by dinner time on Wednesday.  
The meeting ended at 4pm, but Olivia and Sophia have their drama club after school on Mondays and don't finish until 4:45. The delightful assistant headmistress insisted that I sit in the parlor and wait for them. Then she brought me a cup of tea and the paper to enjoy while I waited. (The Times had an article about a new book in the US, The Happy Wives Club - if you haven't read about it you might find it entertaining).

Krispy Kreme! Sadly, no "hot doughnuts" sign. The girls really enjoyed the doughnut we bought them. Sophia wants to take Krispy Kreme doughnuts in as a treat for her class, on her birthday next week.

Another cider I tried - very good :)

Pigeons are everywhere. Chris calls them "rats with wings". Sophia likes to chase them.

I made this for breakfast one morning.  I had some leftover plain quinoa in the refrigerator. So, I warmed it up in a skillet with a little butter and then topped it with a fried egg and fresh chopped tomato and avocado, and just a sprinkle of my favorite seasoning - Everyday Seasoning from Trader Joes.  I just love that stuff. I put it on almost everything!  I hope that someone will send me some more in a month or so when I run out!

The girls and I saw this rainbow over the Upper School at drop off. It was really gorgeous!

This is the school bus that Olivia and Sophia take from the Upper School to the Lower School each morning.  

This was a restaurant we passed when we were out walking - The Slug and Lettuce.

It is hard to tell from this picture, but this guy is tightrope walking. There were bands stretched between several trees on the Common and he was practicing.

The area that our temporary apartment is in is a busy area called Vauxhall.  The apartment is nice and across the street is a really fancy development and the Thames.  However, the area isn't all that "family-friendly", by American standards.  There is a big bus depot (when they make announcements, we can hear them from inside our apartment). The tube station is a really quick walk, and there is a starbucks and three small chain grocery stores just a minute away. There is also a homeless shelter down the block. I walk past it several times a day. This morning, a very happy, very crazy gentlemen called down to me from an upper story window, "Good Morning Darling".  Then he proceeded to greet my coat and umbrella with equal enthusiasm!  
The billboard I photographed above can be seen from one of our windows.  Don't know who he is, but I should check him out.  There is a huge electronic billboard out another window that is currently advertising the Taylor Swift concerts in town this weekend, among other things.

This brick wall is between the Upper School and the building next door. I wonder what the story is.

Did you read my post about the bicycle riders on the streets in the mornings? It is insane!

This truck cracked me up.

The girls are all learning how to play hockey (called Field Hockey in the US). Georgia played in her first game last week.  She has another game on Saturday morning and Olivia played in her first game this week (I wasn't able to go) and plays in two games next week.
Olivia discovered the importance of wearing a mouth guard when she got hit in the mouth with a ball last week.  She got a busted lip, but was okay otherwise.

The school the girls attend is a private school (although here they call private schools "public schools" and what we would call a public school they call a "state school" - confusing, huh?) and the school is owned by  Lady Colquhoun (pronounced Kahoon), and she is called the Principal, although that doesn't equate to what we consider the Principal of a school in the U.S., as far as I can tell. She is very involved in the school and she came across Georgia in the library one day last week, and was pleased to hear that Georgia just finished reading Little Women.  She even gave her a sticker and note in her "prep diary".  The Prep Diary is a neat little book that each of the girls carries back and forth to school every day. It is similar to the agenda books that some US schools use.  It includes a schedule of school events, and a little calendar blank for each day. The parents and teachers can write notes back and forth to each other and keep track of the students assignments. The teacher looks at it each day to be sure that the parents have initialed the day, and the parents can see the teacher's initials for that day as well.

The girls about died when they saw this sign at a bus stop the first time. They said, "Look! There is a man on a toilet!".  Not exactly what you would see in the US. It is just one of the many signs all around London right now, part of a campaign to keep people from going to A&E (the Emergency Room) for minor complaints.  The white writing you cannot quite read says "Don't go to A&E, go to the pharmacy".  Another sign we have seen from this series says, "A&E won't kiss it and make it better, it is only for real emergencies".  Since they first spotted the toilet sign, they have seen them all over town and always point them out.

See my sad little basil plant?  Sigh. Chris says I have a black thumb. I don't think it is black exactly, maybe just a shade of grey.  I bought the basil plant and brought it home. Chris sighed and said he would give me a week before I killed it.  It has now been here nearly two weeks, but it was having a particularly bad day when I took this picture. Plants need water apparently ;)
It is looking better today though!

You can click on the picture above to make it larger, but basically it is a letter home from the school informing us that they will begin Sex Education in Georgia's class soon. Oh boy. Already? Really? She was like 3 years old just a year or so ago… where did the time go?

Did you see my post on the coffee shop and beauty salon, Sloupe? It is across the street from the Upper School and is a really cool place. I snapped this picture of one of the tables there this week.  I so want to make one like it!!

Bodeans BBQ

I met a couple of American moms from Broomwood Hall and one of them is from Texas. She mentioned eating at Bodeans BBQ and that it was probably as close to American BBQ as we could get in London.

I have been craving some tastes from home, so I talked Chris into taking the girls and I there to eat last Saturday evening.
We walked up the street to the restaurant just as the bottom dropped out of the sky and it started raining hard (surprise, surprise)! We were so close, we didn't bother with umbrellas, we just made a dash for it. We stood dripping inside the door and soaked up the yummy smells as we waited for the host to appear. We were excited by the two empty tables we could see from where we were.  We had investigated online, ahead of time, so we knew that reservations weren't required.  The host appeared and told us it would be a 20-30 minute wait. Um, okay, so what about those empty tables? We asked him and he said there were people waiting ahead of us. Um, okay, so where are they? We couldn't see anyone else waiting, and he directed us to the small bar in the back of the dining room and said we could wait there.  Um, okay, nobody was waiting there either. Well, might as well have a drink while we wait…
Tried this cider. Not my favorite.  

We sat at the bar for at least 10 minutes before the host sat someone at one of the two empty tables and it was another 5 minutes before he sat someone at the second empty table.  About 5 more minutes and a table opened up and he sat us there.  So, our wait was right at 20 minutes. 
I have been doing some reading about some of the differences between the US and UK, and one of the books mentioned that restaurants approach table turnover quite differently. The UK just isn't that concerned with turnover frequency. There could be some perks there, nobody rushing you to finish your meal and leave.  

We were seated at our table at 4:58 pm - no wisecracks about us eating early - we were hungry!!  I noticed on the kids menus that kids eat free with each adult on weeknights and on Saturdays before 5pm. Hot dignity!  We asked our server if they would honor that as it was just after 5pm by the time he strolled by.  He checked with the manager and they said no problem! The kids' meals are 5 pounds each and include dessert - so a good deal even if they weren't free.  

Chris and I decided to share the meal platter for two which included spare ribs, baby back ribs, chicken,  pulled pork, cole slaw and sweet potato fries.  O.M.G. - it was that good.  We demolished it in no time flat!

Sophia's meal was ribs and chips (french fries)

Bon Jovi played on the stereo and football on TVs around the restaurant, but not the football we would have been watching in an American BBQ joint.

We finished off our meal with another cider - much better than the other one.

Overall, the food was great, the atmosphere was good, and the prices reasonable. We will definitely go back!

Deep Tunnels

I passed by an interesting structure one day. Well, actually, I pass by it everyday.  It is round and brick, and there is a sign on it that says "Deep Tunnel Storage To Let".  I wasn't sure what that meant, but it sounded curious. I snapped a picture and then didn't think about it again for a few days.

A few days later, I got to thinking about it, so I googled it.  It was pretty interesting, I thought. There were several of these Deep Tunnels built around London for use as air raid shelters during World War II.

Wikipedia says:
Each shelter consists of a pair of parallel tunnels 16 feet 6 inches (5.03 m) in diameter and 1,200 feet (370 m) long. Each tunnel is subdivided into two decks, and each shelter was designed to hold up to 8,000 people. It was planned that after the war the shelters would be used as part of new express tube lines paralleling parts of the existingNorthern and Central Lines. Existing tube lines typically had 11 feet 8.25 inches (3.56 m) diameter running tunnels and about 21 feet (6.4 m) at stations; thus the shelter tunnels would not have been suitable as platform tunnels and were constructed at stations the new lines would have bypassed. However, they would have been suitable as running tunnels for main-line size trains. 

Ten shelters were planned, but only eight were completed: at Chancery Lane station on the Central Line and Belsize ParkCamden TownGoodge StreetStockwellClapham NorthClapham Common, and Clapham South on the Northern Line. The other two were to be at St. Paul's station on the Central Line and Oval station on the Northern. The working shaft for the shelter at Oval now functions as a ventilation shaft for the station.[1]
The shelters were started in 1940 and completed in 1942. They were originally all used by the government, but as bombing intensified five of them were opened to the public in 1944: Stockwell, Clapham North, Camden Town, Belsize Park and Clapham South. The Goodge Street shelter was used by General Eisenhower, and the Chancery Lane shelter was used as a communications centre.

Post-war use

In 1948 the Clapham South shelter housed immigrants from the West Indies. The MV Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury in 1948 carrying 492 immigrants. London had a severe labour shortage after the war and the Colonial Office had sought to recruit a labour force from Jamaica. An advertisement had appeared in Jamaica's Daily Gleaner on 13 April 1948 offering transport to the UK. The Windrush was quickly filled. As there was no accommodation for the new arrivals, the Colonial Office housed them in the deep-level shelter at Clapham South.

After the war, the Goodge Street shelter continued to be used by the army until the 1950s, and the Chancery Lane shelter was converted into Kingsway telephone exchange, as well as being expanded to serve as a Cold War government shelter.

In popular culture

The Goodge Street shelter appeared in studio mock-up form in the 1968 BBC Doctor Who story The Web of Fear, while the real location appeared as itself in the 1988 feature film Hidden City, written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff.

The Camden Town shelter was used to represent parts of Oval tube station in the 1976 two-part story The Lights of London in the BBC television series Survivors. The director of the second episode was Pennant Roberts, who subsequently directed the 1977 Doctor Who story The Sun Makers, in which the same shelter was used for scenes set in tunnels under Pluto. Roberts subsequently worked on the BBC series Blake's 7, in which the shelter was used to for the interior of the titular artificial planet in the 1980 story Ultraworld, although the episode itself was directed by Vere Lorrimer. The shelter was also used to represent parts of a secret underground facility in the vicinity of Down Street tube station in the 2005 feature film Creep.

The photo that you see above is the Stockwell location, I believe.  The same day that I googled the deep level tunnels, I noticed this one on the corner of Clapham Common, near the Clapham South tube station (the nearest one to the Upper School), on the corner of Nightingale Lane (where the Upper School is located).  

I really found this interesting. If you think it is interesting too and want to read more about them, and see some great historical photographs of the interiors of deep level tunnels - this is a good website to visit -

30 January 2014

An Eye on London...

This past Saturday, we decided the weather was clear and nice enough to go on the London Eye.  We have been wanting to do it since we arrived, but it was closed for annual maintenance right after the new year, and then the weather hasn't always been nice enough to make it worth the cost.
We often see rainy windscreens (windshields) while driving around. On the day I took this photo, it was actually hail!

But on this pretty Saturday, we went to the roof of our apartment and only saw blue skies!

Waiting for the double decker bus

The girls eating treats while waiting for our turn to board


The street performers near the waterfront

After we left The Eye, we wandered down the waterfront to find a street food market we had read about. It was even better than the one in Greenwich. We understand there are tons of these all over London.  We will be doing some good eatin'! :)

What??? No cream? No butter? No eggs?  This I HAVE to try!  I did, and they were phenomenal!

After we filled our bellies with some really delicious treats, we walked over to Waterloo Station and hopped on the tube to Clapham Common.

We grabbed a coffee at the Black Lab Coffee Shop (of course!!) and walked over to one of the playgrounds in Clapham Common.  It seemed like it was all of a sudden that the skies overhead turned really grey, the air turned really cold, and the wind started whipping!  That didn't slow the girls down much though!

I will blog tomorrow about the restaurant we chose in Clapham to eat for dinner… Bodeans BBQ!