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29 March 2007 @ 06:04 pm
we're moving to Bayswater, land of ever receding facades. The drama today was meeting some of the new neighbors, hoping they would share their internet access with us. That would spare us an 18 month contract with a provider, when we only need 4 to 6 months. Over here on Back Church Lane, where the youngsters and those with not as much cash live, it was fairly easy to make such a connection...actually M3inkie made it, so for me it was effortless. Some of our new neighbors in Bayswater were home at 2:30 today, when we knocked, and we began the process. Wish us more good luck.

It's been fun over here, in the homeland of Cockneyspeak, youth and immigrants (who are really everywhere in London). And we look forward to Bayswater, a neighborhood everyone speaks well off and where new adventure beckons. It'll be nice to live in two new neighborhoods during this time in London. Lucky us.
20 March 2007 @ 03:15 pm
den Haag, on a sunny afternoon in early spring, the Dutch ride the streets on their bicycles, women in high heels, men in trenchcoats (the air is still cool), talking on cellphones, steering with one hand. Thin bricks make up both the building walls and the street paving. Gleaming window shutters shine of bright Dutch enamel, multipane leaded windows open to the day. Everyone you encounter seems comfortable, meets your eye with direct, confident gaze. Antiek shops contain pewter, handblown glass, blue & white porcelain, paintings of naval scenes. There's no difficulty figuring out how things work here; they work as you would expect them to. Although do remember, these are bike lanes you're walking in. But the cyclists swing around you, without even ringing their bells. An extremely comfortable city. Yes...gezellig...I understand it now. Too short a visit.

Home to London and walking up King Edward Street we come upon a statue, inscribed "Rowland Hill. He founded uniform penny postage. 1840" For those with no stamp collecting experience, he was responsible for the Penny Black, the first postage stamp in the world (English, of course), thereby making possible both stamp collecting and postage due charges. Rowland stands on his pedestal, looking across the street at the new office tower being constructed. He is flanked by two bright red London postboxes, suitable and appropriate companions as he stands there motionless, gazing into the future.

Then we continue on to St Bartholomew the Great church, graphically sided with black flints. Existing here since 1123, it shares the neighborhood with the Halls of several Worshipful Companies. There's Farmers Hall, Fletchers Hall and...Information Technologists Hall? Oh yes, I discover, granted its charter from the Lord Mayor in 1992, it is the 100th of the Livery Companies to be formed. Does the livery include pocket protectors? I wonder but fail to pursue the answer.

I'm learning my way around the city more each day, discovering that neighborhoods I've heard of all my life are much smaller than I imagine their fame would imply. Three or four blocks and I'm through them. Covent Garden, Soho, Bloomsbury, the Strand, Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Limehouse, all are much smaller than I would have thought. A map begins to form in my mind...this after 15 or 20 visits here. In the past I took the Tube and popped up here and there, but now we're walking and taking the buses. We carry my mom's iconic old map with us but consult it less and less often. We're becoming not locals but, at least, familiars.
04 March 2007 @ 10:24 pm
So, in all my recent recital of wanderings, I neglected to talk about the stuff of London. Cobbles, ironwork, reamy seedy glass, raw quartersawn oak floors of Kenwood House, chimneypots, canalboats, rubblewalls,crests, stonecarving, stuff and stuff, made in centuries past and still working and evoking the makers for me, who does care. I love it.
04 March 2007 @ 10:08 pm
Walked over Tower Bridge Friday morn to Bermondsey Market. It huddles now in a much smaller space as new construction goes up over it, when finished the market will huddle under the new building which is to be built on the site. It will be on posts, leaving a sort of square within and underneath it. Not much to delight in there. But the good old handmade stuff still surfaces in the market.

Then we wandered back to the river, poked around Shad Thames (east of the bridge) and crossed back over to get coffee at Pauls by the Tower. Glorious blue sky, bright sun, high fishscales, cumulus rolling fast underneath, me with my sunglasses on. I sat there thinking of how the clouds made me think of the weather rolling over mesas in the Southwest, thinking of how Mark suggested another walk soon (after30+ years!) "maybe around Moab" and delightful future possibilities arose. And spun and rolled in my head. A pleasant reverie.

Saturday we went to look at a flat in Holland Park. Left the tube at Notting Hill Gate and walked east past the commercial district there, for a few blocks. Abruptly the shops ended and we were in Holland Park, rows of lovely white houses, with occassional pleasant shops reminiscent of Marylebone. A nice neighborhood, even though the flat we saw was a disappointment. On the way back stopped into the Park, heard woodpeckers, then saw them. Lots of birdsong, dense layers of it which I've missed here in London, save the ravens' rude boorish cries. Thoughts of dear home swelled within me. Ah.

Today to Finchley Road to actually meet Sheila, who M3inkie has corresponded with before about rentals and enjoyed enough to want to get to know. Tea and a chat at the Hungarian patisserie, then a pleasant, leisurely walk in the rain up the hill, through Hampstead and across Spaniard's Road to Kenwood House where we looked at the paintings and, surprise, came upon a Vermeer, such fun and so unexpected. Then wandered, usually lost, south and east through the wet muck paths across Hampstead Heath, on to the tube at Swiss Cottage, heading for dinner at Hardy's, but our hopes were dashed. The joint was dark. So on to a fine Italian dinner on the High Street, where we were entranced by the 17 month old charmer next to us. Shades of our first visit here together in 1988. Reveries. Ah.

Dear friends, thinking of you all.
Current Mood: content, but not settled
15 February 2007 @ 09:41 pm
Visited Colin today. Upstairs on the doubledecker, Bishopsgate, Thames Street, Southwark Bridge, Elephant & Castle, Lambeth Castle, Battersea Power Station, off the bus and then lost...for a moment, and then down the street to his place. He looks great. We're all a little grayer. In the small work niche I inhabit in this world, he's the only other person I can talk shop to directly with complete understanding, and I think perhaps that holds for him too. It's always a pleasure. He knows where he lives and carries no cant, nor needs any. Great fellow.

His shop was full of Indian stonework, mediaeval statues, one wonderfully intact basalt Egyptian figure and an absurd (because so unlikely) marble Indian gazebo cut from the same stone as the Taj Mahal. Descendants of the family that made the Taj are still working and are cutting anew the two missing pieces for him. What a world, teenier and tinier all the time.

We discussed some potential projects he has that we may get to work together on. It's been ten or eleven years since we met in Los Angeles, planning for the Miho in Kyoto, and I'm delighted that we may get to enjoy working together again. Ah, but our time now is too short, too much to be said: kids, travels, jokes. He gets us a cab, we rush off to Berkeley Square, to the Bank of Ireland.

It's another world from Battersea Power Station. I was overdressed there and am underdressed here. Sartorially, I just can't ever win, try as I might. Ignoring my putative shabbiness, Hannah helps us get an ATM card and a Maestro card on our pounds account. Hurrah, no more punitive surcharges from our US cards any longer. We now have European identities. We ain't never going back.
Current Location: England, but an Irishman.
Current Mood: Better every day.
Current Music: It's on the tip of my tongue, I can't get it out of my mind.
14 February 2007 @ 06:36 pm
The loft is grand, but we needed some amenities so we walked and trained and walked to Ikea, away to the east from our start in East London. I haven't been to Ikea in years. It was great to see the way they've held to their original goals of good-looking & cheap, as every other retailer races upmarket after bigger profits. We bought two reading lamps for one pound fifty each, an apparently undamaged wicker chair from the bargain bin for eleven pounds and an excellent heavy metal teflon frying pan for seven pounds. Also tons of other stuff. We staggered to the train carrying huge blue sacks full of the unassembled fruit of Swedish design consistency.

We got home, opened a bottle of wine, pulled out the screwdrivers and went to work.
Current Mood: Resting after the harvest.
Current Music: The washer endlessly turning.
Much delayed but inevitable, our arrival Saturday into Heathrow. The coffee shops have changed, I'd rather Costa than Starbucks, but I needed the caffeine. I don't delight in flying. Still exhausted but now coffee-fueled we dragged our bags to the curb (kerb?).

The cab ride across the city in the damp gray (grey?) morning was finally familiar and a small excitement began to flicker in my tired head. We'll live in a neighbo(u)rhood that was warehouses and dock enterprises, the haunt of Jack the Ripper and Dr. Fu Manchu, and now supports financial workers, asian immigrants and hipsters. Curry houses and music clubs. Gilbert and George have lived their unchanging lives here for many years. A reasonable, not unfamiliar sort of urban life for we who spent some good time in the Lower East Side and Soho/Tribeca. We want to try city life again for a while and this'll sure do.

Into the loft, out to buy some food, wander by St. Katherine's Dock, formerly a real dock...now posh waterside living for Merrills, Bears, and Morgans. Luckily their moneyed presence attracted a really good food store to the area. We'll benefit by a shorter walk and fancier groceries. The loft is clean, fresh, quiet and there's minimal street noise...we're on a bit of a side street. Finally, kindly gathered up by sleep.

Sunday, make a list of what we need, make our way up to the street market in Brick Lane to find and bargain. We have some success (towels, a vase, flowers and good old carbon steel bonehandled tableknives), see other good stuff to perhaps return for later (two Stanley #10's!) and then lunch at the Hookah Lounge. More wandering... over to Spitalfields, pursuing a great steeple to find a stunning Hawksmoor church underneath it, then home to dinner. We have no Internet and the phone here has no ringer. We can only call out. We begin to feel isolated.

Monday we take Devin's cellphone out to get it a number and buy it some time. The English phone system permits different ways to access it; long term contracts or pay as you go...five pounds at a time or two hundred pounds at a time. We get a number attached to the phone, put ten pounds in and we're on our way.

Then we go off to the Giant Mall City at Canary Wharf...past Limehouse and just before Billingsgate. Shades of the OOH ESS A. Consumption is the cause, the purpose and the existence of this place. It's a familiar, but necessary, bore to a NorteAmericano. We find a cheap new phone with a ringer and a cheap coffee maker (and other stuff) and head home, where I clean the coffee maker and proceed to crack the carafe. Curses. But, later that evening, through M3inkie's gumption and the kindness of strangers, we acquire Internet access. Calloo callay. We're both up clacking till two.

Tuesday we're up late, return the broken carafe for a new one, breakfast on great french pastry and coffees at Paul's (an old friend we feel from breakfasts at the Paul's in Marylebone, but now franchised and fully dressed in clever graphics at Canary Wharf) and return home. Again out and up to Brick Lane to the fabric shops to buy a bolster so we can sit up in bed, then home for dinner and this post. I call Colin (who does in England and Europe what Benchmark does in USA), reconnect, and hear some of his great stories. I'm fond of him and don't keep in touch properly. The next few months will be fun. We arrange a visit Thursday and to use his shop over the weekend to build the table and storage we need in our room. I guess now we're in London.
Current Location: Backchurch Lane
Current Mood: Okay...yeah, okay.
22 October 2006 @ 04:33 pm
First time out, hope the wind is at my back.