Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Wintery Chill

The weather this past week or so has been amazing. In the 60s, balmy, sunny ... the very definition of Indian Summer (except significantly later than the norm). Everyone knew that it was just a brief reprieve before real winter set in. I saw masses of Scantily-clad (aka wearing t-shirts) people doing yardwork, walking their dogs, and putting up Christmas lights.

I've heard rumblings that this would end soon, but I had chosen not to 1) listen or 2) check. I didn't really want to know when it would be over. I just wanted to enjoy it while it lasted.

Well, it's over. Or on it's way out. It's still in the 60s here, but the rain has begun to fall, and the crepuscular sky at 3 o'clock in the afternoon assures me that there's plenty more on the way.

Can you believe we had several days where we didn't have to scrub Beckett's muddy feet every time he came inside? Or that I didn't have to steel myself to get out of the warm bed in the morning, and face the frigid air?

It's my turn to walk Beckett this afternoon, and even if it's raining I'll try to appreciate the warm air. It'll probably be the last time I venture out without being completely bundled until March or so. I've put off the bad weather news for as long as possible, but it's time to face the chill winter wind.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Suggestion Box

In response to yesterday's self-congratulatory post, Bob left a comment suggesting I post about hating it when people suggest topics. The many layers of irony in the fact that I'm now writing a post based on Bob's suggestion is enough to make my head explode.

I actually don't mind it when people suggest topics. Sometimes I'm stumped. Sometimes, my brain don't work so good. Sometimes, I'd rather have someone else come up with the ideas. You be the "idea person" and I'll be the grunt who actually writes about this fabulous concept.

It does bother, I'll admit, when people generously give me ideas ... and then tell me exactly how to write about it, though. The conversation goes something like this:
Friend: "Hey! I know what you should write about. You should write about cheesy Christmas movies."
Me: "That's a great idea! I think I'll just do that."
Friend: "Yeah, it would be great! And you could even do a countdown of the best/worst Christmas cheese. Maybe you should even call the entry 'Christmas cheese' ... and you can talk about the best-known quotes from those movies ... maybe you should even do a comparison of the animated movies vs. live action. There's a lot there, you know."
[long pause]
Me: "Thanks. I'll think about it."

I'm always open to ideas. But if you actually outline the whole entry and have lots of specific details that should be included ... then get your own damn blog!

p.s. Thanks for the idea, Bob:)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Happy Anniversary!

You won't believe this, but somehow in the midst of the car stealing/recovering and Thanksgiving .... the anniversary of A Right Gapesnest slipped by. I wrote the first entry on November 21, 2005.

Can you believe this blog's been around for a whole year? Or perhaps—and probably more likely—you can hardly believe it's only been a year. It's become so important to your well-being and feelings of fulfillment that you shudder to think of a world without A Right Gapesnest. It's too terrible to even contemplate.

But never fear! ARG (ha! I like it:) is around to stay ... at least for the foreseeable future. Which is approximately the next week (I don't like to plan too far ahead). Of course, the problem now is that all of the entries I'm coming up with ... I already wrote about last year. (Cheesy Christmas movies, music, commercials, etc. have all been covered.) This has never happened before! I'm so witty and insightful that I have probably already said EVERYTHING there is to say about this time of year.

And yet, for the sake of my readers, I'll do my best to think of something to complain about.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fiona Lives!!!!

I must say that, except in the most extreme cases, I'm not a fan of multiple exclamation points. But this deserves it!!!!

Yesterday Keith had a dentist appointment, so he got home earlier than usual. He called me at work to say there was a message on the machine from an impound lot, saying they had my car and I could come pick it up. The message said that it "wasn't in bad shape," but I had no idea what that meant. I mean, certainly an impound lot worker's idea of "bad shape" could possibly be somewhat skewed.

I called the number they left, which was for the city's impound office, and started writing furiously. We had to go one place to pay the tow fee and fill out paperwork. Then we needed to go to the impound lot to actually pick up the car.

I called the specific impound lot next: they said the battery was dead and it would probably need gas, but I would be able to drive it off the lot. Again, I was concerned that their definition of "driveable" and mine would not quite meet.

From this point on, I'm just a bundle of nerves. Excited and anxious. What would the car look like? How would it drive? Was it being found a good thing or a bad thing? Would I want to even drive it home from the impound lot, or would it be too weird/creepy knowing that the last person to drive it was the car thief?

At the impound office, we were behind two people in line. The first was dispatched quickly; I knew the second one would be trouble when I heard the officer say, "Well I have to issue you a citation for false plates" and the man started to argue with him. But eventually we took care of the paperwork and headed over to the impound lot.

By this point, I felt jittery. I didn't want to see the car, but I also wanted to get it over with. In the office at the impound lot, the worker asked whether Keith and I knew how to start an ignitionless car with a screwdriver. The blank looks on our faces told him "no," so he sent out a worker to jump the car and help us get it started.

Keith and I walked toward the numbered spot with a gas can. We could finally spot the car: it was the moment of truth. We walked up to the car and Keith started to put the gas in while I inspected it inside and out.

I can't adequately describe the relief and amazement I felt when I looked the car over and saw NOTHING wrong. All of the windows were intact, I didn't see any dents or scrapes on the outside (although it was dark, so that may change), and the interior looked fine. They'd dumped out the contents of my glove compartment and stolen the iPod charger and CD converter. Fine, take them!

All of my mix tapes were there. Not that I was thinking they would be a hot resale commodity, but I assumed everything in the car would be gone/trashed. Even the Adam Dunn baseball card was still intact. My garage door opener was in its usual place, and the ignition they'd removed was on the floor of the car.

All this was amazing and good, but there was still one more moment of truth to come: the drive home. The impound lot worker jumped the car, Keith finished pouring in the gas, and the worker started the car with a screwdriver, making sure to show Keith how it was done. (Yes, Keith can now steal cars! But only if someone punches out the ignition for him.) Keith and I got in, and I drove him back to his car on the other side of the lot. Keith got in his car, and we drove home.

It still felt like my car. It didn't smell very good (I had the windows open most of the way), and the glove compartment contents were all over the floor. I still tried to put the key in the ignition when I got it and take it out when we got home--that was a reminder that things were not quite right. Not that I ever really forgot ... but it did feel like my car.

The whole drive home, I was in shock. I couldn't believe I was sitting in my car, driving it along the same streets where I'd driven it countless times before. But just a week ago, I had walked out of work and it was gone. In a moment, I'd lost a car. And just like that, it felt like out-of-the-blue, I'd gotten it back again.

Of course, the saga isn't over yet. Insurance still needs to look at it and estimate the damages and it needs to get repaired ... plus I need to buy a parking pass and park in a fenced-in lot so this never happens again! But I have my car back, which is something I never thought I'd be able to say.

I have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2006

By a Roaring Fire

This afternoon, I get to leave work early. (A whole half-hour!) Even more exciting, I'm leaving early because the chimneysweep is coming to check out our fireplace.

By this evening, Keith and I could be comfortably snuggled on the loveseat, in front of a roaring fire. Of course, this won't happen for several reasons. Primarily, we haven't actually bought any firewood yet. And just as importantly, we haven't purchased a firescreen to keep the kitten from trying to grab the pretty, dancing flames.

But our lack of preparedness isn't really important. What is important is that we have a fireplace, and will get to use it soonish. We had a fireplace in our first apartment together. When we signed the lease, I thought of the fireplace as a nice extra, but who would really use it? I was surprised by how much we did use it, and how much I missed it in our next apartment. I'm really looking forward to having one again.

Since it's ours, I guess we'll actually have to take into consideration the cleaning costs, and how much creosote builds up on the chimney walls ... but that won't happen until we buy firewood and a firescreen. All in good time.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fiona: RIP

Okay, I was torn about whether I should blog on this topic or not. But I finally decided I should because I wanted to warn you all not to be like me. (Shocking, isn't it!)

On Wednesday, my car was stolen from outside work. I parked on the side street next to the building at 8:00 am, and when I left the building to go home, my car simply wasn't there. I thought at first it had been towed ... but it hadn't.

It's been a long week. There's a lot of feelings associated with getting your car stolen—anger, fear, vulnerability, irritation—just to name a few. I know that I'm lucky because 1) I never keep anything in my car, so there wasn't an additional loss, and 2) I didn't see anything, and I wasn't personally threatened.

I know that I don't work in the best neighborhood. BUT I thought my car was safe because it was as basic as you could get. Four wheels, a frame, and some seats. I had a factory-issue TAPE deck. No power steering, no power windows .... I thought there was absolutely nothing they'd want the car for.

The police officer to whom I gave the report was of the opinion that it was some juveniles who stole it because—apparently—the Neon has a plastic steering column that's easy to get into. They stole it because it was there and they could, and probably rode around in it for a while, maybe committed some crimes, and then were probably going to dump it.

I thought my car would never get stolen because it wouldn't get a lot for resale and there were no parts worth stripping out of it. I've decided it's because I'm such a goal-oriented person, I stupidly assumed that thieves would need a reason to steal something that I need, take good care of, and took several years of payments to rightfully own.

I was wrong, and I just don't want anyone else I know to make the same mistake. If you have a nice vehicle, it could be stolen to be sold or stripped. Or if you have a purely functional car, like my little 2000 Neon (aka Fiona), it may be stolen just because. So I want everyone to know that objects you hold near and dear are considered by others to be a disposable commodity, used for a few hours and tossed away. Not a good thing to think about, but I'd rather you hear it from me than experience it yourselves.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Back to the Drawing Board

Way back when .... before our trip to the UK ... I made 5 copies of the first 3 chapters of my book manuscript. I bundled them up, along with lovingly-prepared query letters, and sent them off to 5 carefully chosen agents whom I thought might be convinced to represent my work.

Upon return from the UK, I already had two rejected copies waiting for me. Since then, I've received one more. So in theory, there's two agents out there who are still considering my work.

However, I've decided it's time to start working on the next book. I need to read through the last manuscript one more time as a whole, tidy up any loose ends or inconsistencies ... but it's basically finished. It's not perfect, but I've reached my revising limit.

So I don't want to just sit around and wait for it to get rejected many, many, many times. I've decided to start brainstorming and working on the next manuscript. Which is exciting and scary at the same time.

Once your rough draft of a book is done, your main characters and chain of events is pretty much set. You can change a few things here and there, but the story as a whole probably isn't going to change very radically. And every time you chose an aspect of your characters' personalities or a situation they'd encounter, that meant there were numerous other personality traits and situations you'd never be able to use.

So I'm excited to start again with a clean slate. The brainstorming is the fun part, where anything is possible. It's the actual writing, dealing with a blank page, that is intimidating me again.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Running Is Hazardous

Last week, Beckett and I were running before work. Since time change, it hasn't been as dark. When we start out, it's still pretty dark. But by the time we're finished, it's light out. Before—and again soon, I'm sure—it was dark to start and finish.

So last week we were running, and it was light enough to see where we were going. We were running on a path near a lake, and Beckett must have smelled/seen something good over by the lake, because he kept looking over that way and straining at the leash.

In fact he was so intent on his prey that .... he ran into a tree. Right, straight into it. No attempt to swerve or stop. We were running along, and suddenly I hear his head bonk against a very sizeable tree trunk.

I immediately stopped to see if he was alright. He simply shook it off and wanted to keep going—pretend it never happened. Once I knew he was alright, I laughed to myself for the rest of the run. He actually ran into a tree! I'm sure this isn't what people have in mind when they say that pets are good for your health, but I definitely enjoyed it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sinister Tourists

In Dublin, it was "The Walk Macabre." In Savannah, GA and York it was simply a "Ghost Walk" and in London, it was called "Sinister London."

Wherever we go, we like to take tours that explore the seamier side of human nature and the occult. Is this weird? There's always plenty of people on the tours, so it can't be all that strange.

I think London's tour is better than most. It just has such an amazingly rich, gruesome history. From public hangings to the plague to modern gangsters, a lot of people have died in London in very unpleasant ways. And we got to hear all about it from a very knowledgeable, London born-and-bred tour guide.

Even better, with it being somewhat the off-season in late October, Keith and I had our own personal tour, since no one else had signed up. It did mean that I was chastised once for my wandering attention, but at least I got to hear what he was saying!

My sister Amy mentioned that there's a tour you can take in Cleveland, visiting places important in the Torso Murders. My immediate reaction is interest and a thrill of excitement. But maybe it would be a bad thing to learn about the sinister side of the place where you live and work?

Friday, November 10, 2006


And finally, we arrived in London. We took our suitcases to the last hotel, knowing that the next time we packed them, it would be to go home. We arrived late Friday morning, and set out to explore after a quick perusal of the room.

Firstly, in honor of Keith's sole previous experience in London, we went to Euston Station. When I was living in England, Keith came to visit for a week after Christmas. It's a long, entertaining story full of crazy antics and strange coincidences, but the short version is that Keith was only in London for a little over a day (we were supposed to be there for two). In those roughly 36 hours, he probably spent 16 at Euston train station, 10 sleeping, 5 traveling around, and possibly 5 hours in the city. On a Sunday afternoon when everything's closed anyway. It was not a good trip.

Ever since then, we've sworn that the next time we were in the UK, we would go back to London so Keith could actually see more of it than the inside of Euston. And yet, it seemed fitting to start by traipsing to Euston. Keith showed me where he sat on the ground waiting for me, and a security guard thought he was a homeless guy and tried to kick him out. And the food court where he ate all his meals the first day, and the courtesy phone when I called from Birmingham to tell him I was stranded .... it was a great trip down memory lane.

Even better was leaving the train station and actually walking around the city! I think we had a nice mix of standard touristy destinations (London Eye, the Tower, Trafalgar Square), and things off the beaten path (wagamama, Greenwich, Sir John Soane's Museum). I'm not exactly sure whether to consider Greenwich off the beaten path, though. It felt far from London, but it was filled with pushy Asian tourists. NOT that I'm making a broad statement about Asian people in general. I'm just saying that if I'm standing in the middle of a room and reading an exhibit, I prefer not to be elbow-to-elbow with a complete stranger.

For me, London is a different experience from the rest of the UK because I feel like I have very little personal connection there. I mean, that is where I started and ended my volunteer year, and we went there several times for retreats ... I don't know why. I don't know if it's because it's so big, or maybe because I didn't do much touring of the city until the very end of my time in the UK, it still feels impersonal to me.

Some people like the facelessness of London. Faceless in that there's so many different nationalities and cultures meeting in the city, it's difficult to talk about London without getting into pluralities and exceptions to any rule. This is not a bad thing. But I guess I prefer a city that's a little smaller. That offers plenty of arts and culture, but also feels like it has a local identity and roots.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Weather

This may sound crazy, but I'm glad it rained while we were in the UK.

There was some sun, and the weather was good for the wedding, but I'm glad that we got to experience some gray, drizzly days. Otherwise it wouldn't be a very British holiday, would it? And I had also packed my umbrella, so I felt smug and justified in using the valuable suitcase space.

Of course, British people are known for their ability to discuss the weather for inordinate lengths of time. Plus, everyone talks about weather in the days leading up to a wedding. So that was probably the prime topic of discussion our entire stay in Scotland. That and people asking us whether we could understand the accent, which is a somewhat ironic question.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Curry and Bowling

After being real live tourists in York, seeing the sights and staying in an actual hotel, plus several days of riding on the trains, we were ready for a break. Because we were in Doncaster to see Jacqui, a former pupil at St. Vincent's, and meet her fiance Adam, we didn't feel the need to be running around all day.

Jacqui and Adam met us at the train station in Doncaster and took us to their house. Jacqui made me a cuppa and we had a nice long chat before we did anything else. I'd never met Adam before, so it was great to meet him and get to know him.

It was just a nice, regular day. I could see living there, and getting together with Adam and Jacqui for dinner and a movie. That night, we went 10-pin bowling (aka "bowling"). I lost, which is the norm. The bowling shoes were normal bowling shoes, except that Keith and I had no idea what size our feet would be in Europe. We had to hand over our regular shoes for the worker to judge.

After bowling, we went back to the house and played a music trivia game on the Playstation and ordered a curry. We talked, I ate too much, we talked trash during the game .... it was just a great, relaxing day. I only wish we could have spent more time in Doncaster. The next night we could have gone to see a film and stopped by the chippie on the way home. And the night after that ...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We Had to Visit at least One Church

So we couldn't travel through the UK without visiting at least one old, impressive church. This is the interior of York Minster Cathedral in—of all places—York.

Our day in York was nice because it was the one place on the trip that I'd not been before and had been wanting to go. True—I'd never been to Doncaster before. But we weren't really there as tourists—we just hung out with Jacqui and Adam.

York in general and the church in particular was old and impressive. You can still walk along part of the wall from the original walled city. The Shambles is a street of crooked houses still standing from medieval times.

The cathedral had amazing detailed carvings throughout, from the lofty ceilings to the feet of the pews. We took a free tour that lasted an hour or so, and although there was so much more to see, my brain had pretty much shut off. I can only take in so much grandeur and delicate details before I'm overwhelmed. So we paid extra to walk up approximately a million steps to the roof of the cathedral, overlooking the city and surrounding countryside. A good contrast to the intricate interior.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Few Truths about Train Rides

My friends! We have been talking about this trip for a long time. For many more days than the trip lasted, actually. To jump right onto the train references ... I'm running out of steam. But there's still so much more to be said! So I'll try to keep this thing chugging along for one more week, and then we'll move onto holiday driving, Christmas cheese, and the like.

I really, really like riding on trains. Probably because it feels somewhat exotic, since I never get the opportunity in America. But I like the predictability of it, too. The timetables and updates and everyone getting places efficiently.

Since reading the Harry Potter books, trains also remind me of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Although I've not yet seen anyone in a wizard's robe yet. But there's still time...

The thing is, even though I like trains, I have a tendency to fall asleep while in passive motion. If I'm not driving or moving under my own power, travel makes me sleepy. I had big plans for our train rides on this trip—writing postcards, journal entries, reading .... hardly any of it came to pass because, once we were moving, my eyelids were suddenly heavy.

And yet, that brings me to another enjoyable facet of train rides: the voice that pleasantly announces your approach to every station, so if you fall asleep on the train you won't miss your stop. Somehow, they managed to achieve just the right volume level so that it's not blaring, but never fails to rouse you from your refreshing train nap.

Keith and I have looked into taking train rides in America, but they're too expensive and they take too long. It's hard to justify spending 12 hours to get to Chicago when our car will get us there in 6, and that's including a dinner stop at a restaurant of our choosing.

So I'll probably have to wait until our next trip to England before I can nap on the train again, buy a Chunky kit kat from the meal car, and watch the landscape roll by until (3 minutes later), I fall asleep.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Flying Visit to Liverpool

When planning our trip, I was somewhat torn. Did I want to visit all of the places I'd been? After Elaine's wedding, we'd only have about a week, and it may be a smaller country than the U.S., but there's still much, much more than you could ever cover in 7 short days.

I decided to spend a day in Liverpool because I did want to revisit the school where I had volunteered. Many of the same people were still working there, and some of the students were even still there. Looking older, but recognizable as kids I'd worked with.

I'm glad that we stopped in at the school, but it was a difficult visit. Enrollment has gone down, and no one's exactly sure what the future holds. The next time I visit the UK, St. Vincent's may or may not be there, and definitely all of the kids I knew will have moved on.

Walking from the bus stop to the school, it almost felt like time had stopped. Like I was going to work and, after the school day was over, I'd be heading back to our house and on with the routine of life in Liverpool.

Out of the whole trip, this was when I felt saddest, as I had feared on the way over. Sad that my time in Liverpool is just a memory, when all the buildings and the people are still there. Disbelieving that once I had made a life in a different country, and worried that I would never have the courage/opportunity to do something like that again.

In Liverpool, visiting the school was nearly all we had time for. After the visit, Keith and I caught the bus back into town and called Elaine's Uncle Martin, who had kindly offered to put us up for the night. He and his daughters picked us up from the train station and whisked us out to their house for dinner (chicken this time—not Yorkshire pudding) and a relaxing evening watching footie on the tellie.

All in all, we probably spent a total of maybe 2 hours in the city centre, and that's being generous. I'm still undecided about whether I wish we could have spent more time there. Anything we did would probably be a trip down memory lane, as opposed to something new. But it still seemed like short shrift. Hopefully, we'll be able to revisit in 2008, when Liverpool will be European Capital of Culture. And maybe by then it will be a mix of old and new, instead of just me revisiting the past.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I Really Must Go to Florida.

Everyone in the UK has been to Florida. And half of them have also been to LA.

For many of the people I spoke to, this is their only experience of America. Disneyland, palm trees, sandy beaches. This is not the America I know.

I have never been to Florida. Never been to Disney Land or Disney World. And I think I could go my while life without ever going to those places because, as most of you already know, I hate people. And the places have a lot of people.

I don't mean you, dear readers. I mean I hate people I don't know. The people that cut in line, and talk loudly on their phones, and take up two parking spots just for the hell of it. The people that you'd probably find a lot of at theme parks.

And yet, I feel like I have to go to Florida at least once, even if we skip Disney World. Because I'm curious about what people see when they visit. If this is the only place in the U.S. that the Brits visit, what is their impression of our country?

Obviously, it's a warmer and sunnier place than Ohio. But what else is its great allure? Maybe someday I'll make it to Florida, and I can ask all of the Brits staying in our hotel to explain it to me.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Just the Facts

Right. So, I decided to be wild and crazy and not write my descriptions of the trip in chronological order. It just felt too constricting. And I'm glad I'm doing it that way; it makes each day a little more exciting. (Yes, I know. I need to get out more.)

But I thought that, as we're about midway through the trip blog entries, you might like a refresher on exactly what happened when. So below is a brief itinerary with a ton of links, so you can learn as much (or as little) as you'd like about the places we visited.

Saturday, October 14: Arrived in Glasgow
Sunday, October 15: Visited Tenement House and Willow Tea Rooms, shopped at Primark
Monday, October 16: Elaine and David's wedding
Tuesday, October 17: Went to St. Vincent's School in Liverpool
Wednesday, October 18: Visited York Minster in York
Thursday, October 19: Visited Jacqui and Adam in Doncaster; shopped in Primark (again)
Friday, October 20: Headed to London. Checked into our hotel, went to the London Eye, Middle Temple Hall, wandered through Sir John Soane's Museum, and on the Sinister London tour
Saturday, October 21: Lunch at wagamama, Cabinet War Rooms, stopped by the Tower of London, saw a show in the evening
Sunday, October 22: Went to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, wandered past Buckingham Palace and got soaked in the rain; Thought about going to the National Gallery, but went back to the hotel to dry out and watch "Trust Me ... I'm a Beauty Therapist" instead; headed back to Leicester Square for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Delicious! (And you can only have Yorkshire pudding and fish and chips so many times in 10 days)
Monday, October 23: Flew home

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lazy Day in Glasgow

We arrived in Glasgow on Saturday morning. We managed to stay awake all day Saturday and then slept 13 hours Saturday night. Waking up around 11 o'clock Sunday morning, I would hesitate to call us "refreshed" but at least we were close to adapted to the time zone.

It was our only day for sightseeing in Glasgow, but we didn't really see too many sights. Firstly, I'd failed to take into account that many things are closed of a Sunday in the UK, so some of the things we'd planned on seeing were closed or had reduced hours.

Mostly we just wandered around town. We took the train in, which made us feel somewhat self-sufficient since we'd been personally escorted from one place to the next since our arrival. From the train station, we wandered down the main shopping streets (Buchanan and Sauciehall) and up toward the Glasgow School of Art.

Or at least, that's where we were meant to be headed. At George Square I got turned around and somehow we started walking Southeast, when we needed to be going Northeast. Keith didn't let this state of affairs continue for long, however, before he sneaked a furtive glance at a map in our tourist book, righted our direction, and piloted us safely to the Tenement House.

In the guide book, the Tenement House is described as a step back in time, to the WWII era in which this apartment was kept by its owner until she passed away in the 70s. It appealed to me for both historical reasons and for the voyeurism aspect—that someone had left their earlier life intact, and we could view it. I thought it would be something like those shows of OCD people who have 20 years of newspaper stacked ceiling-high with only narrow aisles between.

But it was actually just an old apartment. It was small—a bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom. And pretty simple. We wandered around for maybe 15 minutes, shrugged our shoulders, and left. The accompanying museum on the ground floor of the building did give a little bit more of the voyeurism I was seeking, displaying letters and rent books and the like. It was alright, but I came away a bit underwhelmed. Maybe it was just the remnants of jet lag.

Actually, I was a bit underwhelmed at our next stop, too: the Willow Tea Rooms. I knew they'd been designed by Rennie Mackintosh, whose work I greatly admire. And I had never gotten to eat there during other visits, so I was really looking forward to it. But once there we found out that the original ones had been knocked down and this new version was created in the 1990s. And, like the Tenement House, the restaurant was much smaller than I expected.

I know, I know—you'll say it's because I'm an American used to Biggie-sized meals and McMansions. But really, it wasn't even the whole upstairs of a shop! Just sort of a walkway around the walls, with the middle part being open to look down into the shop. Small tables, small menu, and we sat waiting for ages for the bill, because we couldn't remember if the waitress brings the bill to you or if you go to the counter and pay.

Eventually Keith sorted it out and we wandered back to the train station, with me popping into shops here and there. We made it back on the train and into Cleland in time for a lovely Yorkshire pudding dinner.

I'm trying to decide if I regret not doing more in Glasgow. But I think it was probably just the lazy kind of day that we needed. To get our bearings at the beginning of the trip, rest up after the flight and before the wedding.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Prime Place for a Meridian

Every day during the trip was different. A wonderful, exciting adventure, if you will. But even so, our trip to Greenwich stands out in my mind as a particularly unique, memorable day.

Although just south of the Thames and accessible with a Zone 2 Underground pass, Greenwich felt miles away from London. When we arrived on Sunday morning, the air was cool and humid. Behind the National Maritime Museum was an expansive, grassy lawn. A trail through the lawn led up the side of a hill, to the Royal Observatory. All across the lawn, people were walking with babies or dogs or both. The entire scene felt very serene.

The Observatory was somehow quaint and modern all at the same time. Just a museum now, due to the horrific light pollution that is the London metropolis, the displays ranged from the first clock to keep correct time on the high seas to the most modern timepieces. I had never truly considered how difficult it was to get everyone on the same time schedule. Back in the day, "local time" meant the church clock in your village, which may be running slower or faster than that in the next village over. Usually I rail against the tyranny of time and my lack of it. But this gave me an appreciation for the development of time-telling technology.

I think what struck me the most about the creation of the Prime Meridian was the arbitrariness of it. Hey! We need a way to define longitude in a concrete way for the entire world. So we need a starting point, like the equivalent of the equator. How .... about ... here! And the Prime Meridian was born. Ah, the joys of a vast and dominating empire! To bend time and geography to your iron will and inimitable spirit.