Born in October, Aged 32 Years

Birthday Scotch - 32 Years

I celebrated my 32nd birthday with my 5-year standing tradition: drink a glass of Scotch that was aged longer than I’ve been alive. This sounded like a very good idea when I was 27, but it gets surprisingly expensive as I get older. I was impressed that I was able to find a 30-year old Scotch in Los Angeles airport on my 30th birthday, even if it was US$250. Fortunately this is one thing that’s become cheaper since I moved to the UK.

Sylvia and I were planning to go away this weekend to celebrate my birthday but that’s been pre-empted by a 2-week business trip to California. We’re still thinking of getting to Scotland however; hopefully we’ll be able to make our planned trip to Inverness the last weekend in October. So, unlikely my 29th birthday, I wasn’t going to have the luxury of purchasing my Scotch in Scotland.

So, I picked up a bottle at local Whiskey shop in London. This year I chose a 32-year old Speyside from Convalmore Distillery; admittedly, a distillery I had never heard of. As it turns out, Convalmore closed in 1985, with this particular Scotch being distilled in 1975 (one of 202 bottles from cask #4246). This bottle was a great purchase as it turned out to be a nice, smooth Scotch with a slightly smokey aftertaste. It reminds me of my daily cups of Taiwanese Lapsang Suchong. An excellent topper to my 32nd.

eurostar is down

a freight train flips, a fire breaks out in the chunnel and no surprise the eurostar is shut down for a few days.  Glad I wasn’t on that train.  I was on it a few days earlier coming back from Brussels and have to say if I was to be evacuated by foot through the tunnels, I would not be pleased.  Even the 20 minutes in the tunnel at train speeds makes me nervous.  <shudder>

Another Year in the UK

September 10th has come which marks another year (a total of two years) since I arrived in the UK. It’s been really great so far and Sylvia and I are still loving it here.

We haven’t been very good about updating our blog lately, probably because we’ve both been living hectic schedules. We went back to Toronto for Lindsay & Kynan Bridge’s wedding in August. I then went directly to San Francisco for a tradeshow and then back to the UK just long enough to pack and meet Sylvia to head to Tallinn, Estonia for the August Bank Holiday:

The Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia

We also spent one day in Helsinki, Findland and instead of taking the ferry from Tallinn we finally got to tick off something we’ve been meaning to do for a while: ride in a helicopter!

Copterline Helicopter

We then used some of Sylvia’s points on the Eurostar from her regular trips to Brussels and visited Paris last weekend.

Sylvia in a Paris Cafe

Of course, for all the good photos you need to add Sylvia to your FaceBook – she doesn’t get around to posting photos on the Britlog much these days! :)

Of course, this year was another great year of travel. This year I’ve been out of the country for about 140 days – about half of that for business travel. For business I ended up in the US, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Korea. Surprisingly I was able to go the whole year without going to Japan, which is fine by me (I’m not a fan of seafood, but I do miss the Kobe beef). Sadly – to save on travel costs – my trips were on a mish-mash of different airlines, including several trips on the now-defunct Oasis Airlines, so I’m probably the most travelled person in the world with no decent status on any airlines. I’m hoping to fix that in the coming year.

For personal trips Sylvia and I went to Estonia, Finland, the Czech Republic, France, Morocco, Poland, Greece, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and a few spots in the British Isles including a weekend in Northern Ireland. Of course, I also went to Switzerland (Geneva) to see the Large Hadron Collider at CERN – which just went online this week and hasn’t destroyed the Earth yet. We still haven’t seen nearly enough of the UK however; I’d like to get up to see Edinburgh for my birthday (I have to find some 32-year old scotch!) but October isn’t exactly the best time to be going to Scotland …

All in all a pretty good year. We just recently signed on for another year in our house in London (which reminds me – I hate estate agents) so I guess we’ll be here for another year. Now it’s time to get ready for the long nights of the British winter.

Olympic Fever

I spent most of last week back in Canada for my best friend’s wedding (strangely not at all like the movie). Whilst (enjoy that Jaime!) back in Toronto I watched quite a bit of the olympics. Now back in the UK I realise how good Olympic coverage is in Canada. In Toronto I can watch the Canadian coverage, the French-Canadian coverage and American coverage.

Here? I have minimal British coverage. No joke, we have 37 channels and only ONE has the Olympics, BBC1. And it’s mostly talk show format in which several dolled up ‘journalists’ lounge around a couch discussing results, not showing results. Come on UK, you’re 3rd in the medal standing surely you can do better to promote your athletes.

The best part? At 8pm coverage ends because Eastenders is on!!

weekend observations

Another weekend in London.  Cultural learnings?  London runs some very good clubs.  We went to Gallery (owned by the Ministry of Sound) to see Christopher Lawrence spin on Friday.  Things better than Toronto clubs: 24 hour drinking license, snack truck on premises (toasted cheese sandwiches?! brilliant!).  Dancing to hard trance in a hot room does make people hungry.

Saturday I had lunch with a friend in a Maida Vale, a new (to me) neighbourhood.  It’s only within a few blocks of run down Edgeware Road, so it’s a surprising little pocket of niceness.  A bit of walk later I was in Nottinghill at my old stand by Kitchen and Pantry.  I haven’t been in a while but that day it was like romper room exploded in there.  I’m sorry K&P, I think we might need to break up.  I can’t enjoy my travel mag with bumper to bumper prams of screaming babies.

Since the weather is now amazing, I take a much much longer walk and later end up in Earls Court.  It’s been a few hours of walking, so i grabbed a bus down to Putney – sorry south londoners, this is just so far! I don’t care if you’re still tecnically zone 2, it’s bloody suburbua as far as I’m concerned. Nice river views though.  I note Saturday seems to be a day of minor judgements and several mental appologies.

Sunday, my London observation for the day is that the city does in fact do brunch.  I spent the first year here missing brunch and wondering how the city could exist without it.  Turns out it is in fact here, in full force.  We met our favourite Kiwis for brunch in Soho.  As we leave I notice that as the gay capital of London, Soho draws a very pretty crowd of boys brunching together.

ps. canadians, hope you’re enjoying Civic Holiday weekend, it’s  chilled down again here.

Better know-a neighbourhood: Mayfair … continued…

The weather has turned.  It was just 1 day after Lindsay headed back to Canada that London burst into summer.  The sun is out, the weather is warm and on any given day of the week at almost any given time there are people out drinking on the patio (patio = sidewalk here).  Maybe my memory is fuzzy, but I don’t recall this many people in Toronto outside with beer in hand on say, a Monday.  But here, people drink like there’s no tomorrow, which truthfully, based on weather patterns is pretty accurate.  It may be 27 and blue skies today, but tomorrow it could just as well be pissing rain and 12.

I’ve continued my lunch tim exploration of Mayfair.  Last week I went to see the Drawing Blank Exhibit by Bob Dylan:

Interesting work, reminiscent of Degas.  I think he should stick with singing.
Later that I week I went to Sotheby’s to a proper auction.  There, paddle in hand, I sat and watched people with seemingly nothing else to do with 5000 pounds on a Wednesday at 2pm then bid on Rare and Vintage Wines.  It was exciting for the first 10 minutes.  The auctioneer sputtered out bids at gunfire pace, 4 people sat in a row perpendicular to me taking orders from telephones, and my fellow attendees, clutching their pens, carefully took notes of each lots final price.  After that it got a bit monotonous.  The excitment of holding a bidding paddle quickly faded so instead I choose to study the people around me and guess what their lives were like that warranted purchasing 36 bottles of 1991 red wine from chateux somewhere-snooty.   Surely a few of these people were in the restaurant business.  Otherwise, just how many dinner parties can you have before you get the reputation of serving that SAME wine.  Maybe they were shop owners? 

Then the lots of champagne came around, and my ears perked up.  Fresh from my trip to Reims I studied what was on offer.  16 bottles of a 1986 vintage.  Not bad.  3 magnums from 2001.  Magnum!  I snickered to myself.  I’ll never forget magnum now.

Did I bid?  no.  As tempting as it is to join in the fun and raise my paddle too, at 2,400 pounds I can’t really afford my bluff to be called!

 

 

A Mockery of our National Anthem

No, not “Oh, Canada!”, “Hockey Night in Canada.”

As you may have heard, Canada’s most important theme song went through a bit of a controversy recently. After CBC refused to pay the $2 million requested by the royalty owner, CBC/TSN picked up the “perpetual royalties” to save the song. To any Canadian reading you understand that this was really big news in Canada: after many decades Hockey Night in Canada on CBC is going to to have to get a new theme song!!!

Being the resourceful people they are, CBC decided to run a contest for the new “Hockey Night” theme song. Great idea, until the part where they decided that entries could be submitted on the Internet and voted upon by people online.

Which bring us to SomethingAwful.com – the people who brought you “All Your Base Is Belong To Us,” among other Internet memes. Nothing good can come of this.

Enter “Hockey Scores,” the brilliant theme created by one of the SomethingAwful message board members. A fine mix of animal sounds an crying babies described as “A beautiful theme encompassing the heart of hockey.” Go ahead, listen to “Hockey Scores” here. Here’s the original thread about it at SomethingAwful.

So, of course, the  monkeys over at SomethingAwful go over to the CBC anthem site and vote it up, and it’s currently the highest rated entry with almost 100,000 views.

It was temporarily removed from CBC’s site (I guess somebody though it was a joke? no way), but was put back after vicious oposition from Internet netizens and protest videos on YouTube.

But it gets better: last week CBC television ran a news piece about the anthem contest and featured the “Hockey Scores” composer:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYeQCyTQFGA]

I don’t know how he managed to keep a straight face through this interview. “If you think this is one big joke, you’re wrong.” Pure comedy gold.

Thankfully CBC were smart enought to state in advance the anthem content is not a popularity contest: their judges will choose the winning theme.

Day 2 work stressfree (almost)

Interesting thing today was a lunch time pilates class in Soho (sorry mayfair, your expensive real estate make your classes too expensive).  Instructor was sufficiently militant.  I liked it.

Post work was dinner at a gastro pub with Paul and Linda.  Today is their last day in London, it went by fast!

Better know-a neighbourhood: Mayfair

With the big project over, work is definitely stress free (well for me, others not so much).  Which leaves me time to finally get to know my neighbourhood.  Mayfair isn’t just about fancy shops and high priced tailors, no you can also spend your money at one of the many art galleries too.  Today at lunch I went to the James Hyman Gallery to check out an exhibit of Linda McCartney’s photography.

It was actually very good work:

When did July sneak up?

The past few months have gone by far too quickly. Work has dominated my life for most of that time, but thankfully the big project is over (for now). So, aside from cheese on on Saturday it’s been a great weekend in the city. Friday evening I met Paul and Linda at Blackfriars for a pint in a traditional pub. The weather was good so they got to experience the British habit of drinking outside the pub in the ‘garden area’. Translation: sidewalk. I also took them to Wagamamas, a London institution and then to a classic british pub: Ye Olde Chesire Cheese. A pub since the 1500’s it has a solid classic british ambiance. And, if it’s good enough for the likes of Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, then it’s good enough for me and my guests!

Saturday was the cheese shop, then a wander through the Pride festivities and some shopping in Soho.  Later (possibly inspired by Wimbledon)  I ventured south of the river (gasp!) to meet some coworkers for a doubles match.  All I’ll say is that I’m rusty, and in need for a few more practices before I attempt that again.  Penny, my kiwi coworker and I had dinner near the courts in a nice part of Clapham.  I can see why so many people our age live here, it’s quite nice, but a bit too subruban for my tastes (sorry Adrienne!).  And then later still, after a change of clothes, I met Penny at the Absolut Ice Bar.  Surprising to me, only 15 minutes of our 4 hours there were in the ice bar.  Something about health and safety?    My carbon footprint didn’t feel to good either.  (did I just say carbon footprint??  Wow, this entry just screams mid 2000’s).

 

 Today, the weather turned on us (again).  After brunch at the Wolesley I actually had to buy a sweater, I was that chilled.  And it stayed that way most of the day.  I stayed in doors at various shops and department stores, elsewhere in Hyde Park Paul and Linda were at the outdoor O2 concert festival, probably soaking wet, but probably quite content with listening to Ben Harper live.

I finished my weekend with a trip out to Angel to the trusty old Tinderbox coffee shop.  There I read most of this weeks Time Out London magazine so I think i’m up to speed on what’s happening in the city this week.  Hopefully now that I am long-hours-at-work free, I’ll be able to enjoy some of these things.  At least I hope.

Being Canadian

Sylvia and I were in Canada this weekend for my cousin Jeremy’s wedding. On the road down to Windsor we stopped at a good ol’ Canadian service station for a snack.

A Tim Horton’s medium double double and box of 10 Timbits.

Tim Horton\'s outside of Wendy\'s in Canada

Very Canadian. Though I was reminded that Tim Horton’s coffee is crap.

I also went to Canadian Tire to buy some duct tape.

Canadian TIre

And now we’re drinking Bloody Ceasers. Pretty authentic weekend.

One of these days I’m going to lose it!

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As part of my very long daily commute from London to Cambridge (by the way, Brits LOVE talking about commuting for some reason), I cycle from the Cambridge station into my office. A nice 15 minute ride through the centre of town.

Cycling is really popular in Cambridge. It seem that there are about one – maybe two – billion bicycles at Cambridge station (the photo only shows one lot). It’s quite difficult to find a spot to lock my bike sometimes so in the evenings I put it wherever I can and then run to catch my train back to London. Many times – especially after it’s been a while – I forget where I parked. This makes for a fun game of “find the bike” in the mornings.

In the mornings you’ll often see some sorry souls, dressed up in full bike gear, pacing up and down the rows at Cambridge station trying to find their cycle. Unfortunately bikes sometimes get stolen, so the worst people to watch are the ones who have been there for a while as it slowly sinks in that their bike is no longer there (and that’s why I lock mine with two different locks).

This morning I was one of those sorry people wandering for 5 minutes. I had been travelling for a few days so I couldn’t quite remember where I’d locked up my bike in my hurried rush on Friday night. I did find my nike in the end, but one of these days I know how it’s going to go:

  • after a long business trip I’ll come back to Cambridge and start pacing down the isles.
  • after about 20 minutes of searching and cursing I’ll give up
  • the next weekend I’ll buy a new bicycle
  • and then some day I’ll be pacing the aisles, looking for my new bike, and I’ll see my old bike, parked right where I left it just a few months prior.

Then I’ll really lose it.

London Elects

London Elects

Being good Commonwealth citizens and residents of the United Kingdom, Sylvia and I are eligible to vote. So we tried some good old fashioned X-drawing on for size today as we cast our ballots for the London mayoral election. The polls close in 3 minutes. Let’s see if our horse comes in!

Olympic torch protest

With the snow on Sunday morning I was in no mood to head out to see the Olympic torch relay first hand.  (I shouldn’t lie, even if the weather was balmy,  the liklihood of me going is slim to none). 
Instead I stayed in most of the day and ventured out once for a coffee at the french cafe in St. Pancras station.  As I was leaving the cafe I saw quite a few protesters milling about, and outside they were in full force marching laps around the train station.

 

It took me a minute to clue in that they were protesting the torch as it was on it’s way to Paris via the Eurostar.
Compared to Paris, the protests in London were quite tame, only 30 some odd arrests. 

Stupid British Confectionary #1: Yorkie

I found myself esurient today so I sallied forth and infiltrated the local corner shop in search of some confectionary to easy the hunger pangs. I came across a display that I had seen a few times since coming to the UK: that of a British chocolate bar called “Yorkie” with a rather stupid tagline of “It’s not for girls!”

Yorkie Display

Yorkie!

For those who know me, they know I tend to be attracted to stupid local foods and drinks, which is why I have Pocari Sweat powder at my desk at work and used to stock my bar with Brennivín. So of course I coudln’t resist the attraction of trying a new local product with a stereotypically British name of “Yorkie” for only 55p.

Yorkie Bar

The Yorkie in all its glory

 

Next to the “It’s not for girls!” tagline I also noticed that it contains 18% of an adult’s GDA of Calories. Good thing I skipped breakfast this morning, otherwise I’d feel like I’m being unhealthy.

 

But before consumption, I just had to know the back story Рwhy is Yorkie just for guys? Is it full of beer and foodball? Does it scratch its privates in public? Is it afraid of commitment? The Nestl̩ Yorkie site has this to say:

The ‘Not For Girls’ campaign theme for Yorkie uses humour, which resonates with today’s British male and simply states that Yorkie is positioning itself as a chocolate bar for men who need a satisfying hunger buster. With five solid chunks of chocolate, it’s a man sized eat!

It also mentioned that “Advertising reflected this with macho imagery – lorry drivers who take it one chunk at a time.” I can tell you from experience that lorry drivers in the UK are insane, so I can see how they want to take it “one chunk at a time.” They certainly drive like their aim is to take one chunk out of every pedestrian.

 

After being suitably educated, I cracked open the Yorkie:

 

Yorkie Chocolate

 

So how is it? Well, like many local foods that haven’t cracked the larger market, it kinda sucks. It’s just cheap milk chocolate in a chunky bar. Somehow I doubt that today’s British men are resonating at the idea of cheap milk chocolate in bar form. Furthermore, it did not “bust my hunger” as Nestlé claims, as I still needed a proper lunch only a half hour later. But perhaps I’m just not man enough for a Yorkie: while I often enjoy sitting on the couch and drinking beer, I’m not watching football when I do it.

In the end I think I discovered why Yorkie is “not for girls!” Most women aren’t stupid enough to waste 55p on bad quality milk chocolate. Blech. I would ask Nestlé for my 55p back but I know I would just blow it on their “Raisin & Biscuit” Yorkie.

Dear London Underground: Why, oh why, 2 black lines?!

From wikipedia:

[The Northern Line] carries more passengers per year than any other Underground line; 206,734,000 passengers per annum. The Northern line has two routes through Central London and two to the north, making it one of the more complex lines on the system.

I may have been here for just over a year, but I made a rookie mistake this morning. After the precious Victoria Line became suspended I got off at Euston and took the wrong branch of the Northern Line, and ended up going 30 minutes out of my way. The infuriating thing is that at Euston, both lines go south! Come on London underground, did you run out of colours?! Why two black Northern Lines?!! You’ve still got the likes of charteuse and magenta to colour in our little map.

That’s one…

March 12th. One year.
In many ways, a year already? And in many other ways, only a year?

1 year
2 different flats
2 different jobs
4 new umbrellas
9 countries
17 visitors

You know it’s been a year when tube names don’t make you giggle anymore and you acknowledge that there is a level of rain that must be achieved before bothering to take out your umbrella. I now like my beer as an ale, medium colour, kind of flat and kind of warm. My skim milk latte is called a skinny latte, my cream is soured, not sour.

Here are some more thoughts, in a list.

Things I can’t beleive I ever lived without:

1. Towel rack warmers

2. The Tube. Love it, hate it, spend loads and loads of time complaining about it, but at the end of the day I still love the sheer amount of possibilities and the extensivness of the network.

3. Cheap flights to “the continent”. Most flights were on the god awful services of Ryan Air, but i still keep coming back for more because, well, I just can’t resist the travel.

4. Sunday Roast. And Sunday afternoon in the pub for that matter.

5. Pomegranates. Seeds removed from the peel, neatly packaged with a little plastic spoon? If this existed in Canada, I never saw it.

6. Weekends in England (Bath, Cotswalds, Oxford, Brighton, Leeds Castle, Canterbury, Windsor Castle, and that’s only half of the recommended day trips)

Things I miss:

1. Family and friends, obviously.
But in one year our visitors (for work or pleasure) were: my parents, Jason’s parents, Jason’s brother John, Scott, Dave and Kasia (thanks again for crawling on your hands and knees looking for my cats under parked cars, kings cross isn’t the cleanest, that will never be fogotten), Lindsay & Kynan, both Cerniks, all the Oxford ex coworkers: Jaime, Claire, Mike, and Shelly.
Lots of visitors makes it that much easier.

2. Having any sort of pedestrian rights. In London, they are non existent. In fact, I would say vehicles speed up when they see you crossing the street.

3. Closet space

4. Brunch (because I apparently I can’t help it. Everyone’s working for their breakfast

5. A credit rating. 500 pounds credit card limit is a cruel, cruel joke.

6. Owning property

7. Walking to work

What’s coming up for the next year? Lots of travel of course, new things to love and hate, and hopefully more visitors! And maybe some more cheese. It’s been a while…

It’s turned a bit cold

The BBC may say 9C, but it’s turned chilly here in London.  I’ve had to retire my spring trench coat for a bit, dust off the old winter wool coat and even have soup for lunch! I wasn’t alone on the soup idea, Itsu a Japanesse noodel house in Mayfair (a chain I think) was packed with chilly Londoners.  Mind you, some of the girls in line clearly don’t dress for the weather.  Skinny jeans and flat shoes with no socks?!  No wonder your teeth are chattering.  And judging by the fashion jeans, I’d say they work in one the shops on nearby Regent Street not Bond Street.  No, Bond Street girls probably wouldn’t be allowed to wear jeans.  With rents of $1,504 psf (latest figures!) you’d better believe they’re too posh for jeans!

And a Very Happy St. Davids Day to you!

Welcome to cultural learnings from living in Lodon.
What’s St. Davids Day you say?
Exactly my thoughts.
Explained to me by my friend, the girlfriend of a Welsh man, “it’s like St. Patrick’s day, but Welsh” . So basically a piss up in a Welsh pub where they serve Welsh beer, have daffodils all around (the national flower), play Welsh music and have lots and lots of singing. Boy do the Welsh love to sing. And to the untrained ear it doesn’t even sound like separate words, more like slurred chords. Even the English songs are tough to make out. Have a listen:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3NmBjjjhuw]
Bless their patriotic pride! Especially Paul who belted every song out.

By the way, biggest lesson I learned: Tom Jones is Welsh!

LoL – Day 4

Turns out a life of leisure is hard work! I need my rest!
I start my day around 10:30

By noon I’ve dragged myself out to Marylebone High Street for what was supposed to be breakfast but given the time, lunch.
Marylebone High Street by the way is one of my favourite high streets in London. The shops are a bit too poncey (Madonna does live in this neighbourhood after all) but aesthetically it’s quite pleasing.

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My plan for the afternoon is really just to go visit the National Portrait Gallery. But I strategically map out my walking route to hit up a few other stops. First stop the Timothy Taylor Gallery:
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I’m not sure where the name of that exhibit comes from, there is no mouse, no bird and no sausage to be seen. Instead there are mixed media art works (mostly canvas with some splotches of paint with a few loose buttons and threads glued on).

Over in Soho I’m curious to see Carnaby Street and the near by Berwick Street Market:

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As for the market? Quite mangy. Maybe 7 stalls all selling limp looking produce. Yuck. As if this place made it into one of my guidebooks! But the street did take me past all the seedy parts of Soho Londoners talk about:

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I’ll be honest. I’m pretty sure my craving for the portrait gallery came from watching an episode of The Colbert Report the night before where Steven manages to convince the American National Portrait Gallery to hang up his portrait (above a water fountain beside the toilets). Regardless of my motives, this was a great gallery. Although there sure are a lot of British people hanging up in that gallery that I have no clue about! The Beatles, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, and Richard Branson? No problem. But some BBC news presenter from the 1960’s? Um, no.

A few hours later I cut through the Convent Garden Market, stopped at a tea shop and then followed the signs to the British Museum.
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Having never been to the British Museum I was completely blown away! Seriously, this is THE museum to visit in London. I actually came in only to scope out the ticket situation for the Terracotta Warriors exhibit which has been sold out for months. I want to line up Monday morning for the small batch of same day tickets that are released each day, so this visit was purely reconnaissance. It was supposed to be a 5 minute stop on my way home to figure out where to line up and how many old people will I need to elbow, but out of the corner of my eye I spotted the Egyptian room…

An hour and a half later I headed home and then out again for drinks with Kerwin (I left Jason at home to enjoy his eye infection and probably a birthday party for Mips). Kerwin came to Kings Cross to meet me so I took him to Camino, a very cool wine bar in a converted brick warehouse that makes you think Kings Cross isn’t that bad.
I think i fooled him.

Happy 7th Birthday MIPS!

MIPS Chillin’ Out

Today, January 23rd, is MIPS‘ birthday. He was born around 5PM (EST) on January 23rd, 2001, on the floor of my condo in Toronto. True to his name even today, MIPS is still proficient in Millions of Irritations Per Second with his incessant whining to go outside and play. Also celebrating birthdays this day are MIPS’ brother Placenta Head and his sisters Princess Noki and Rogue. Sadly his brother Cletus never made it as he was stillborn, but that’s fine–we never liked him anyway.

I’ve put together the following video of MIPS’ early years (including a few shots of his mom Tinrib and his siblings). The soundtrack features the classic song “My Toque’s Too Tight” from Drool Puddy’s HundredFootKeepOff (most surprising part – somebody is actually selling a copy of my highschool band’s album after 13 years).

Enjoy:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpavRTEPIZs]

Please use the comments section to suggest what activities and/or food MIPS should indulge in to celebrate his big 7th.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MIPS!

LofL – Day 3

Day 3 starts with our continued education in the UK’s National Health Care system. After registering yesterday with a GP we’re told that we have to wait until we’re in the system to use their services. But with Jason’s eyes still blood shot red, we head off to a walk in clinic. My seeing eye dog duties continue.

Later I’m in Notting Hill having some morning coffee and doing some reading. Can you tell this is a wifi hot spot?

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There are 4 laptops in this shot alone, and I spotted 3 others at the other end of the coffee shop. With an old school paper book I’m a bit out of place.

I head down the street towards the Queensway where I meet Adrienne for lunch. We have mexican, and I forget to take a picture. It’s quite nice to meet up with friends for lunch. In a city the size of London you generally you don’t work anywhere near your friends. I suppose the same can be said for Toronto (downtown vs. say Richmond Hill) but when I was at York & Adelaide I knew quite a few people all in the financial core within walking distance to me. Perhaps, the difference comes from having more friends in Toronto and the larger pool to choose from working in my favour. Anyway, here in London I have Jenny up at Paddington, Adrienne in Notting Hill, Kaila and Kerwin in The City, Heather, Jeff and Andrew in Mayfair, Dan in Canary Wharf and my ex-colleagues at Victoria. Oh and a husband in Cambridge! So it’s nice to visit a few while I can.

After lunch, Adrienne begrudgingly heads back to work and I head into Hyde Park with plans to go visit the Serpentine Gallery. After yesterdays repetitive assault of rain I’m relieved to be getting a bit of sun. Nice January weather eh?

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The Serpentine Gallery is much smaller than I expected. On right now is an exhibit about British artist Anthony McCall and includes 3 of his light installation exhibition exhibits from the 1970s. These were truly amazing. I only managed to get one photo before the phota-nazi police scolded me:

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Basically the artist uses light from a projection screen and smoke screens to make giant dynamic cone like shapes. If you stand inside the projection you feel like you’re in the heart of a monochromatic nebula … until some visitor pops their head into the light, cutting through the cone. It’s a fascinating experience. And I’m doing a terrible job of describing it.

Taking Exhibition Road south I pass the Science Museum and that Natural History Museum – I’ll save these for another day when Jason can come with me. Instead I choose the Victoria and Albert Museum of Art and Design. The building alone is worth a visit as is the giant glass sculpture in the main lobby:

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I could probably spend a day or two in this museum; it’s absolutely huge. But I focus most my efforts on the Islamic Art Exhibit. After visiting Kuala Lumpur’s Museum of Islamic Art I’ve grown a fondness for this style (and 3 prints that I purchased there that Jason accidently trashed in our move to the UK and threw out because he just assumed it was Ikea junk. Yes, Jas, this will be just like “that Thanksgiving”. You won’t stop hearing about that until i go senile)

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Up next, my half ass attempt at house wife duties.

Lady of Leisure – Day 2

Some sort of bizarre eye infection proves what happens in Vegas clearly doesn’t stay in Vegas. So Day 2 starts with taking Jason to the chemist (= pharmacy in Canadian) for some eye rinse. For this errand, my services were needed essentially as a seeing eye dog. Without contacts Jason’s peripheral vision is quite limited and in a city where bus drivers speed up at the sight of pedestrians, it’s best that I’m there for road crossings. I got breakfast out of it though and proof that on a Monday morning it’s really just old people out at restaurants:

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A bit later I was at Westminster’s equivalent of the YMCA for a swim. Seems 11am is the prime time for school kids using the pool (I’m guessing it’s schools that don’t have their own on-site pools?) and mom and tots having lessons. This all translated into a fairly empty lane of swimming my laps, but a change room that sounded like Romper Room and smelled like a Diaper Genie.

Next it was lunch in The City with Kaila and Heather:

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With my lunch dates heading back to work, I headed across the Millennium Bridge and went to the Tate Modern. I’m a day late to see The Louise Bourgeois exhibit, it closed yesterday. But having seen her Maman sculpture (the giant spider) in Ottawa last year I was more amused to watch it being disassembled by cranes:

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Inside the main event is Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth, better known to London as “the crack”.

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I’ll spare you the discussion on it’s representation of racial separation (read about it on wikipedia if you’re curious).

After crawling around the floor myself and making my own conclusions I spent the next while watching other people. After it initially opened enough people fell into the crack that it hit the press, and they now have warning signs. So I was curious to see what other people do:

The majority take pictures:

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… but people also like to get in and get a close up look:
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.. and many do the straddle walk, although one lad in this trio decided to take a call as well:

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Overall, symbolism or not, it’s quite interesting. As for the rest of the Tate Modern the exhibits are quite good. The museum itself is surprisingly small given it’s a converted power plant.

I next made my way back to Belgravia to pick up 3 batik prints that we had framed. We bought these in Malaysia and of course spent exponentially more money getting them pressed and framed than on the actual print. Hulling the 3 large frames back home on the tube, I contemplate the strange things I’ve transported on the tube. Just last week I went up to zone 3 to buy a new vacuum cleaner and carted that giant box home. I’m sure the tube staff have seen all sorts of weird things.

Back up at Kings Cross Jason and I went to register ourselves at our local NHS doctors office (which the Brits like to call a surgery even though no operations take place, silly, silly) Yes, this is something we should have done when we first arrived but until this eye infection we haven’t really had a reason.
They gave us some forms and a little pee cup to bring back – filled – when we have our new patient exam in a few days. I’m going to assume (and hope) that the pee cup isn’t just a Kings Cross thing.

Lady of Leisure

With Friday being my last day of work I am now officially a Lady of Leisure. Well, for the next 2 weeks at least.

What does the life of leisure in London involve?

* A solid sleep in (or lie in as the Brits say).
* A trip to the Columbia Road flower markets for some fresh (and cheap) orchids.

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* An afternoon visit to the Photographers Gallery to take in 3 very strange exhibits (the weirdest really was the Seeing is Believing exhibit. Think Dr. Venkman from Ghostbusters doing pseudo science on paranormal behaviours except in the 1940’s and photographing it all)

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* Dim sum in Chinatown with a husband you haven’t seen in 2 weeks
* fussing with cool gadgets at the enormous Apple Store (because coming from MacWorld Jason hasn’t seen enough Apple products)

Stay tuned for the rest of the weeks activities. There are loads of touristy things I haven’t done. My friend Dave who was here in September has seen more of London than I have! It’s time to catch up.