Monthly Archives: June 2009

Wicked Lucky, redeux

Today was a girls’ day out. After a weekend with my family (whom I adore, but stress me out and keep me constantly busy), it was nice to have some me time.

Months ago we bought tickets to see Wicked. Even though I’d just seen it on Thursday with my bff, I loved it so much, I couldn’t wait to see it again. This is not a new phenomenom with me. I once loved a university performance of Romeo and Juliet so much that I went to see it two nights in a row. I won’t lie, it helped that Romeo was drop dead gorgeous, but mostly, I loved the concept for the show and how well it was acted (it was set in 1970’s Ireland with the conflict being between the Protestants and the Catholics–the street fight opened with a bomb going off on stage).

Everything about Wicked was so amazing that I was thrilled to see it again, but especially thrilled to share it with two of my friends who have also been involed in musical theater. One of my friends saw the show a few years ago in Chicago and really liked it. She also happens to be the one with the musical theater degree. So even though I was blown away by the vocals in the show (and while I may not have enough talent to sing for a living, I have enough to recognize really amazing singing when I hear it), I was worried she might be a little more nonplussed. I felt I might have built it up or that with her extensive theater knowledge she might have felt let down.

I didn’t say much about the show, only that I thought both leads were fantastic (with an extra nod to Elphaba), I thought they’d love the staging and that Fiyero was hot. I think I may have stressed this a wee bit.

Luckily, we were all impressed by it. We get glancing at each other with huge smiles. At intermission, one of my friends pointed out the goose bumps “Defying Gravity” had given her. I was happy because I had matching ones.

I was, however, surprised that at the break they were not as impressed with Fiyero. They all agreed he had a good voice, but thought he was just ok looking. I was appalled! Granted, the skin tight khaki pants in “Dancing Through Life” aren’t super flattering, but as I’ve said in earlier posts, they remind me of Mal from Firefly, so I was ok with them. I shook my head, thinking them crazy, and got back in my seat (we were in two different rows).

After the show we decided to grab a bite to eat downtown. We saw a Scottish place up ahead and decided on it. When we got closer though, it appeared to be closed. We stood across the street trying to decide what to do. One of them suggested a pizza place directly behind us. I glanced over and sitting in the patio section were Fiyero and the Wizard. I casually turned to them, and told them if they wanted a closer look at the cast, to turn around. They tried to get me to ask for his autograph. I wanted to, I really did, but I was far too shy to go ask him.

Now, for anyone who knows me, this last statement sounds ridiculous. I am usually courageous. I don’t generally care what others think of me and making a fool of myself isn’t something that keeps me up at night. In high school, whenver someone new came to school, I tromped right up, stuck out my hand and asked who the heck they were. Today though, all my usual bravado was gone. I think it may have something to do with the fact that I find him really, really cute, and I tend to lose my nerve around cute boys.

Luckily one of my friends is far braver. She grabbed a program and walked over. She got both of their autographs and I got the courage to follow her. She told them I wanted a picture with them (and I did) and sure enough, they put their arms around me and we posed. It was awesome!

They were polite and didn’t seem bothered by us at all. The fact that one of them had a sharpee on him and they were sitting outside on a very busy street kind of made me think they might have wanted to be recognized, at least a little. Still, it made my day. And when we finally got to the place we ate at, they all agreed that up close he is quite attractive–in the balcony it’s hard to make out facial features.

Although I love my husband dearly, I have to admit I have a little theatrical crush. These are harmless, of course, as even if I did manage to cross his path and he somehow declared his love for me on the spot, I’d probably be too tongue tied to move with 10 feet of him.

However, I do have to say that Colin Donell, is officially in my top 5. I may even get my list laminated!

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The allure of the London stage

globe_forestSince the whole reason I went to London in the first place was to actually see a few of Shakespeare’s plays performed, I suppose it’s only fitting that I devote at least one blog entry to the actual plays I saw while there.

First off, there is a lot of Shakespeare in London. Now, that probably shouldn’t be a surprise as it is basically the birthplace of his plays. Of course there’d be more performances there than probably anywhere else in the world. Plus, he’s been dead a long time now, so there are no royalties involved in performances. That probably doesn’t matter nearly as much to the big theaters with full houses every night, but I’m not going to lie, when I directed, a big draw to Shakespeare was not having to spend a couple hundred dollars on scripts and royalties (especially because my drama department got no school funding, everything we spent we earned through ticket sales and fundraising).

These, of course, aren’t the real reasons his plays have endured. They have endured because they are beautifully written pieces of human comedy and tragedy that people can relate to, at least in some small way. While our lives may not be as tragic as Romeo and Juliet’s, we’ve all had that adolecent passion, and most have wanted to be with someone that either family or friends don’t approve of. Although we may not have fallen into the rages of Othello, we’ve all had false friends who have lied to us and made us mistrust, either ourselves or others. While I personally have never dressed up as a boy and longed to reveal myself to the guy I’m mad about, I have disguised who I am in so many other ways to win people’s approval. I think these are some of the reasons for his universal appeal.

But as usual, I digress. The London theatre is alive and Shakespeare is thriving. I was a bit surprised to see that in addition to the two plays currently being performed at the Globe, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, All’s Well That Ends Well, The Winter’s Tale, Two Gentleman of Verona and two plays that are adaptations/medley’s of his works are all going on. And that’s just  right now. That doesn’t count the plays that have already run this summer or will run later on in the year. These are being performed in old traditional theatres, the big wooden “O” and even in parks.

In addition to the number of his plays being performed, Shakespeare appears to have a bit of a celebrity following. Jude Law is currently playing Hamlet in London (and tickets have been sold out for months–I tried to get some before I knew he was the star). Ethan Hawke is playing  Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale. In that same performance is Sinead Cussak (in V for Vendetta, Eastern Promises and my favorite I Capture the Castle) as Paulina, Rebecca Hall as Hermione, Josh Hamilton as Polixenes and it is directed by Sam Mendes of American Beauty fame.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I did get to see three performances while I was in London. The first one was The Winter’s Tale. It was at the Old Vic theatre, which gets an A for theatre ambiance and a D for actual theatre comfort. We were in the second to last seat in the balcony and while the theatre was still small enough that the seats gave us a good view, the intimacy of the theatre meant we were also close to our neighbors…very close. The seats were fairly well tiered for viewing (although I did have to switch with my husband because a tall man sat in front of me), but the backs of the seats came up to about my mid back. There was no leg room at all and the seats were so old that the cushions definitely weren’t cushioning anything. And mine made the most horrid screaching sound anytime I moved.

The play itself was pretty darn good. Even my husband, who is not a huge fan of Shakespeare, was quite impressed. The first half of the play was filled with passion and sorrow. Since this is one of the plays I haven’t read yet, I was almost convinced it might be a tragedy. Afterall, there were two deaths, an abandoned baby left to die and a king banished. Pretty heavy stuff for a comedy. The second act though, was full of cheer and a really good clown played by Ethan Hawke. I have to admit, Hawke surprised me. I saw his verion of Hamlet (from 2000) and did not care for it. I thought he over acted the part and played Hamlet far more angry than tormented, betrayed and crazy. As the already over the top Autolycus, he was great. I actually didn’t know he was in the play when we bought the tickets. When he came out on stage, it really looked like him and I kept wondering to myself. My husband leaned over to me at one point and said he thought it was Hawke. I told him I thought it was too. Then he mentioned he’d seen Hawke’s name on the playbill, so I knew I was right.

The performance did include a very bawdy dance with women sporting giant balloon breasts and men with giant penises tied round their waists. The men made quite a show of going after the “breasts” and one character popped a rival’s for spite. One of the girls decided to give her fella a balloon handjob, and in retaliation, the girl with the deflated bossom, pushed her aside, dropped to her knees and tried to pleasure his balloon orally. She manged to bite it and pop it though, which left him a bit sad. Now, I get that Shakespeare was quite dirty and more than a little bawdy (and often delight in pointing it out to my kids), but even I felt this went on too long and was a bit gratuitous. The play was so good without it and it felt a bit modern and tacked on.

I was also proud of myself for spotting Paul Jesson who’d been on Rome. I left the theatre that evening truly excited about Shakespeare in London!

The next day we caught a matinee of As You Like It at the Globe. This is one of his plays I’d already read, but had never seen performed (I have the movie with Bryce Dallas Howard DVR’d but wasn’t entranced by it, so I haven’t finished it yet). We had great seats. We were in the center of the first tier of seats (ground level, but above the actual groundlings in the yard). With a cushion, the seats were far comfier than the Old Vic. This particular production, utilized the audience extensively. The actors spent a great deal of time in the yard, on platforms and stairs that jutted into the yard and even in the stands and balcony. Jaques actually appeared up in the top balcony, talking to the audience during one scene. In another he was lounging on the wall of my section, within a few feet of me, carrying on a conversation with the actors on stage. Touchstone was hysterical–I loved his little jester on a stick.touchstoneThe stage was transformed for this play. Long pillars of wood were added to give it more of a forest like appearance. Even the usual “marble-like” columns that stand in the front of the stage were done over to look like trees. The acting was great. Jack Laskey made a great Orlando. globe_orlandoHe was funny and pathetically in love. Naomi Frederick did a great job of trying to be manly and not revealing herself to Orlando, and yet nearly revealing herself at every turn. I loved the scene where Orlando is supposed to be “marring” the trees with his bad verses about his love for Rosalind. The director decided to drop leaflets of verse from the top of the theatre when Orlando threw his pages to the wind. The yard was a flutter of parchment and it really showed just how in love Orlando was.

Despite having very few lines cut (and clocking in at about 3 hours), my husband raved about it. I too, really enjoyed it. I was feeling great about Shakespeare in London.

Then came Romeo and Juliet. Now, this is probably his most well-known work (thanks to English teachers), and I’ve read it/taught it about a dozen times. I’ve also seen it performed about as many times (including it’s first run at the Globe). I’d heard through the grapevine that it wasn’t a great performance, but I decided to give it a chance. I was terribly disappointed. The performance was sub par. globe_randj

Adetomiwa Edun’s Romeo was far too mirthful throughout most of the play. Now, I know I’m not an expert (although I do fancy myself fairly well-versed on this play), but the only scene Romeo should really be mirthful in is his exchange with Mercutio after he’s met Juiet (when he calls Mercutio a goose). Even the balcony scene isn’t entirely mirthful. He’s nervous she won’t be as in love with him. He teases a little, but it’s not what I would call merry. Edun was too happy. And too frenetic. He was all over the stage. I felt like I was watching a production for people with ADHD. What’s worse than his mirth though, was the lack of passion just about every character showed. The only spark of passion I saw came from Capulet when he yelled at Juliet “to hang, beg, starve in the street.” The audience stopped and clapped at his exit (the only time they did until the end) because it was the one spark of real emotional outpouring in the play.

While R&J isn’t my favorite tragedy, I was more than a little dismayed that I’d seen more passion and been moved nearly to tears by a community theater performance I’d seen 10 years ago than I was by a rather high budget production at the Globe. It did remind me though that just because Shakespeare provided some gorgeous words and rich characters, the stage is a fickle thing. In the hands of one director and a group of actors it can be awe inspiring. In the hands of another it is tedious and painful to watch. My husband was particularly disappointed because he knew this story (he hadn’t known the other two) and had been so distracted by the performances that he didn’t even want to follow the story. He just wanted it to be over. As did I.

It was a bit of a bummer to leave London with that play on our minds. I’m hoping that as I get ready to embark on trips to DC (for King Lear), Canada (for Julius Ceasar and McBeth) and North Carolina (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) the productions will remind me of  WT and ASYLI.

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Let’s just call it quirky

For as long as I can remember, I have had a love for things British. I’m not actually sure if it started when my father first introduced me to Dr. Who or if it was after seeing my first episode of The Tomorrow People on Nickelodeon. At that point I’m pretty sure all I knew about the Brits were that they had cool accents and supernatural powers. I was hooked.

At different periods of my childhood, I became obsessed with different British things. For awhile it was tea and crumpets (although I usually just ate English muffins and called them crumpets since I wasn’t quite sure what a crumpet was. I had one for the first time in college–yummy). Then it was British stories like Mary Poppins (read the series), Alice in Wonderland and every Dr. Who novel my dad had. Then I went through a stage where I refused to speak unless I did it with a British accent. I’m sure my folks loved that one. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them very frankly: British.

So when I first had the chance to take students on an international trip, it’s no real shock I decided on London. It’s also probably no real shock given my love for speaking in accents of any sort (and my habit of picking them up fairly quickly) that after only a few days I found myself drifting into old habits and pronouncing things in a very British way (I snapped out of it the second I got back on American soil).

However, despite my longing to be British as a child (and let’s face it, well into my adult years), after my recent trip across the pond, I was once again reminded that I am definitely not British and no amount of tube mastery, accent mimickery or cute semi-trendy t-shirts can mask this fact. Not that I did anything horribly touristy to give myself away. I was fairly good about blending in (see my last post where I got asked directions), but after a week, I realized London is just quirky enough that I might not be able to be British after all.

In many ways, London is like any big American city (LA, Chicago, NY). The lack of a real language barier makes it easier to forget you are in a foreign country. Even their currency is similar…they have penny, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent pieces, which is pretty close. They eat a lot of the same foods. They have many of the same stores. However, there are lots of little things, that make London (and probably all of England) just a little “quirky” to my American sensibilities.

For example:

-After our first attempt to find a cinema (we found it, but it only had one movie playing and it wasn’t one we’d even heard of), we were tired. We found a “farmer’s market” and took a look. No produce was being sold, but there were three different places to eat. We decided to stop for a drink at one, only to be turned away because they could only serve drinks with food. Since I’m from a country that introduced me to drinking without eating (thank you Chi Chi’s half price margarita Tuesday), this was quirky to me.

-When we went to the cinema (they don’t say movies or theater), the ticket seller asked us where we wanted to sit. We didn’t quite know what he meant. He offered us “premium seats” for a few pounds more, but as the movie was already 20 pounds (about $35), we said no and took the standard seats. Then he rattled off what seemed to be a row number. We said “sure” and took our tickets. Turns out, that the British cinema takes its cue from the actual theatres: you get assigned seats. Now, this might not be too bad, except that in a theater of probably a dozen people, he sat us directly next to someone else. Why? I wanted to get up and move, but didn’t know if that would be rude or I might get in trouble for moving my seat, so I stayed. It was awkward. And, well, quirky.

-One really positive quirk (in my opinion) is that theatres allow not only ice cream, candy and soda to be consumed in your seat as the play is unfolding, but also liquor. It’s nice at intermission to see the ushers get out big tubs of ice cream and offer up tiny tubs of mint chocolate chip (even if it isn’t irredescent green).

-Hotels often have separate hot and cold faucets. Now, that doesn’t sound too bad when you first hear it. In practice though, there are not only two different faucets to turn on, but two separate streams of water. It is impossible to get warm water unless you fill the sink and actually mix up your own warm water. This meant that every time I wanted to wash my hands, I either froze them or burned them. Kind of makes one not want to wash, which makes me wonder how many don’t.

-Bacon is ham. Sure, they have two different foods that they call bacon and ham, but they are basically the same thing. Anytime you order bacon, you get ham, even on a BLT.

-Which leads to another quirk, mayonnaise. They put the stuff on EVERYTHING. They have pizzas with mayonnaise on them. Baked potatoes with tuna and mayonnaise (they call them jacket potatoes). The Greek place we had lunch one day didn’t offer tzatziki sauce to dip the souvlaki in, but it did offer a lemon mayonnaise, which by the way, tasted like, well mayonnaise. The only thing they did not put mayonnaise on was my BLT, which, oddly, is the one thing I really love mayonnaise on. Of course, I also like it as  BLT, not an HLT.

-The ketchup, despite coming in a bottle that looks identical to the ones in America, is sweet, not salty. Now, I didn’t get fries (called chips) often while in London, but the few times I did, I couldn’t figure out why they tasted odd to me. It wasn’t until my husband pointed it out that I realized the problem. My fries tasted sweet and while I adore most of my foods sweet, it turns out I don’t like my ketchup that way.

-Just like in the states, McDonald’s has specialty burgers. I adremember once when I was a kid and lived in the Chicagoland area, they offered a McJordan burger. While I never ate one, my dad liked them and would get them from time to time. While in London, we noticed McDonald’s also had specialty burgers, only they were based on big American cities. There were four burgers running throughout the summer: Chicago, LA, New York and Atlanta. Though I lived outside of Chicago for nearly 10 years of my life, I cannot for the life of me, figure out what made the burger a “Chicago” burger. While I didn’t eat one (I refused to eat fast food over there), it simply looked like a bacon cheeseburger on a cheesybun. Last time I checked, Chicago wasn’t known for it’s famous cheeses.

-Finally, it seems the Brits don’t care much about copyright infringement. disneyI saw these ice cream/hot dog trucks all over the city. Now, while I was growing up in Southern California, Disney sued a local preschool for using its characters on the classroom walls. Here are vans with poorly drawn characters covering them all over one of the largest cities in the world, and no one bats an eye. Not that I care. I like Disney and all, but don’t care if ice cream vendors use them to hawk their wares. It’s just, well, quirky.

So while I feel pretty at home in London in a lot of ways, it’s just quirky enough that I realize I am not home. It did make me very happy to get home, and I certainly loved my McDonald’s fries with salty ketchup on the LONG car ride back to my place.

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Look how British I am

In addition to all the fun I had on my trip to England, I also have some acomplishments I’m really proud of.

-I climbed the 139 steps at the Covent Garden tube station. I’ll be honest, this was sort of an accidental choice. I didn’t see the sign with the number of steps until I had already passed the really crowded lines for the lifts and had my foot on the first one. Now, for people in shape 139 steps may not seem like much, but I am far from it, and that many steps, in a circular pattern, definitely winded me. I made it to the top, just barely, but I did manage to pass up a teenage girl who weighed at least 40 pounds less than me. Yeah for me.

-I took sips of every different beer my husband drank without wincing or making any sort of face. I am not a beer person, but as England is known for its pubs, I figured I might as well partake, even if it was only in sip form.

-I was allowed to use the archives at the Globe theatre. They only let serious scholars in and my application was taken. globeAs part of my research, I had access to every production the Globe has ever done at the tip of my fingers. Each night of every show was taped, and from multiple angles, so I got to see three different perspectives of the same show. I also got to read every single press release, including many articles by scholars talking about inaccuracies in the shows. I also got to peruse the the costume bible and prompt book, where I found out that one costume for one actress cost 3,300 pounds, and that was back in 1997. And I worried when I spent $30 on a handmade “Elizabethean” dress for a performance of Much Ado I directed.

-I ate steak and ale pie and washed it down with a pint in a pub. And I liked it!

-I gave tube directions to a native Londoner late one night. It turns out I am actually somewhat of a tube savant. No matter where we needed to get, I had no trouble finding it as long as underground transport was in use. Above ground things got murky sometimes, but that is the fault of the city designers–the same road has three or four name changes within six blocks.

-I made it from this quaint little garden to a restaurant and back to the tubegarden despite being amazingly soused after drinking three, count them three, free glasses of champagne-part of a bottle given to us by a friend of my mother-in-law’s.

-Avoided jet lag both on arrival and return. I have a feeling this may be connected to my amazing healing powers, but have no concrete proof. All I know is that with only a small nap (after being up for something like 24 hours), I made it through the evening–true only until 10 pm, and woke up the next morning totally refreshed. On the way home, I woke up at 4 am (and couldn’t go back to sleep) and made it through a flight, a two hour drive to my folks’ and then another three hour drive back home, without even a nap.

-Despite being really tired and knowing there was almost no chance we’d get in, I still decided to give it the old college try and findegg the “egg” building. I was amazingly hungry, but I was a trooper and just kept going. We got there, found out we could not go in, and then walked around looking for a good place to take pics from. Then we got to eat!

-Found an actual cinema using only the tube stop listed in the newspaper. It was several blocks away and I had no actual address, but I found it!

-Did not kill the annoying couple or their two small children who cried/screamed through 6 of the 8 hours we were on the plane on the way home (which is why I got no sleep).

-Made it eight days without seeing my son (except in picture form) and managed to only incredibly miss him!

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Notes from Across the Pond, II

In my last post, I started the chronical of my trip to London last week. I left off before one of the biggest events of my trip: researching at the Globe archives.

That’s right, on Wednesday, my husband and I parted ways for the morning. He headed off to the Natural History Museum. I jumped on the tube and headed back to the Globe, once again walking down the water front. river_walkSince I was in London as part of a fellowship to study Shakespeare, one of my main goals was to go through some of the Globe’s archives. I’d already been on the tour and seen the displays a few years ago when I visited with students, but I’d never been behind the scenes to study. I was supposed to meet my husband back at our hotel at 1:30 so we could have lunch, but I was so caught up in my research that I didn’t make it there until almost an hour later. Oops! He called the Globe looking for me and they were very apologetic, blaming themselves for offering me more and more goodies to comb over.

Later that night we decided to walk through Soho. During lunch one day, we’d struck up a conversation with a fellow American. What started as a simple comment about the weather turned in to an hour long conversation about some of his favorite areas of the city as well as a not so brief history of his life (he was Jewish, originally from New York and one half of the small number of gay couples actually legally married in California). He was a riot and based on his suggestion, my husband really wanted to see Soho. I’d seen it before, so it wasn’t too new for me. We did see some licensed sex shops, lots of gay clubs, several arcades, a few clandestine casinos, more trash than usual and possibly the biggest high heeled shoe in the world. It was part of the display for Priscilla Queen of the Desert, at one of the local theatres. 

Since our evening was wide open, we once again decided to look for a cinema. This time I was smart and skipped the concierge. Instead I found a newspaper, looked up the movie and found a place fairly close to a tube stop. We headed out and saw Terminator Salvation. I knew going in it wouldn’t be a great movie, but it had Christian Bale in it, so I was game. The plot may have had some holes and some of the dialogue may have been over the top, but even a post apocolyptic Bale is HOT!

Thursday was another day at the Globe. We decided to take our time and do a longer walk, getting off at Westminster. This time we saw Big Ben, Parliment and the London Eye on our way to the Globe. We also saw several interesting street performers, including a guy with his face painted like a dalmation and his head inside a pet carrier and this guy lizard_guywho also had a tiny lizard baby dressed identically to him. They were connected by some wires and when he hit a button, the baby lizard started peddling in tandem. This time we caught a performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Globe.

After the show we were invited to a posh hotel not to far from our own by a friend of my mother-in-law’s (she manages the place). She wanted us to come have a free bottle of champagne in their gardens. Since we couldn’t turn down free booze, we went and spent a few hours there!

Our last real day in the city was Friday. In the morning we headed over to the Tower of London. Ever since I first saw The Tudors on my free preview weekend of Showtime, I’ve revived my interest in Henry VIII. Since he was Elizabeth’s dad and she was one of Shakespeare’s monarchs, I thought it would be cool to go see the royal armory, which is currently featuring several of his suits of armor. When we got there, the lines were huge and it was 17 pounds each to get in. Since we’d both seen it before (including two of Henry’s suits–one before and one after he became so rotund), we decided to skip the actual tower and head to the gift shop instead.

My husband was obsessed with a building our Jewish friend had told us about. I don’t recall the name of it, but it’s kind of shaped like a giant egg. I’d seen it on previous trips, but didn’t know it was considered the most energy efficient building in the country (it may even be in the world). Apparently it’s won all sorts of awards or something. Once I pointed it out to my husband from across the water, he wanted to find it and possibly go up in it. So, after we didn’t go to the tower, we went searching for it. It didn’t take too long before we’d found it. Unfortunately, all of our walking was for naught…it’s not open to the public.

After that we headed to the National Portrait Gallery. We spent an hour or so wandering through the ages, looking at works by some of my favorite painters like Monet, Degas and Seurat. Next, we went back to the National History Museum. We hadn’t really gotten my son anything in the way of a present yet, and my husband remembered all the dinosaur items there. We went only with the intention of getting him a roaring dinosaur head on a stick, but my husband was so excited about all the great things he’d seen there that I had him show me some of the highlights, including the really cool gem room where I saw these cool opals opalsand a really neat collection of over 250 diamonds in every range of color that turned even more colors when exposed to black lights.

As if all this wasn’t enough for one day, we headed back over to Covent Garden for some last minute shopping and hanging out in order to avoid rush hour on the tube. While there we found a neat little church I’d never been in before. I’m not sure why I was so surprised to find it. One side of the church does look out into the big market place in Covent Garden. I guess it’s because there is so much else to look at there, that we’d overlooked it. We found a small alley leading in. The actual church itself was pretty. What I noticed right off though, were the markers of famous people who’d been buried there. The names included Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward and Vivien Leigh. Pretty cool. The garden outside was also lovely. I sat on a memorial bench with a placard that read “There sleeps Titania,” which considering my reason for being in London was pretty cool. I also got to see these pretty flowers. yellow_flowersWhich was quite nice.

Well, once again I find myself over 1100 words and not quite done, so I guess that means yet another blog to my story…tomorrow that is.

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Notes from Across the Pond

I’ve been incommunicado to most of the world for the last week or so. As part of a fellowship, I got to spend the last week in London, exploring the city and most importantly, taking in the theatre.

This was not my first trip to the city. As a teacher I’ve had the opportunity to go two other times (both for free) through tour companies. Of course, those times I had  groups of 14-18 year olds and just about every minute of my day planned for me (including meals), so this was a very different experience. I didn’t have to do a frantic head count every time I got on the tube. There was no listening to whining about how much we’d walked and how tired anyone was. I didn’t have to collect and carry anyone else’s passport to keep them from dropping them in O’Hare*. And most importantly, no discussions about why it’s not a good idea to invite people you’ve just met who have knives to group dinners.

It was pretty relaxing with just my husband and me. It was also a bit odd. We had so much time on our hands, that I wasn’t always quite sure what to do. The last three times I’ve been overseas, I’ve had so much of my time scheduled, that it never really occurred to me to think about what I wanted to do. This trip, we only had two activities planned: two shows at the Globe,w hich only took up about 6 hours of the 169 we had there.

We filled a lot of our free time just walking around. Each day we decided what area of the city we wanted to see, jumped on the tube to get to the fringe of that area, and started walking.

Saturday we were pretty tired as we’d been up for close to 24 hours, but our hotel room wasn’t ready for several hours, so we hit my favorite shopping spot, Covent Garden. I bought a bag of treacle toffee and a few little trinkets for friends. We listened to some street musicians, watched several people painted in silver doing some sort of mime show (much to the crowd’s delight) and found some grub. We didn’t do much aside from walk around. I was lucky I could buy our tube tickets. My brain was so hazy and my tongue so tied, I couldn’t form the words for what I wanted to buy!

Sunday we hit Oxford Road, probably the most famous shopping area in the city. There are blocks and blocks of stores. Huge department stores like Selfridges, Marks and Spencer, Debenhams and House of Fraser. Every store had huge display windows with tempting wares. The only problem was that at 9 am, none of the stores were open. The earliest any of them opened their doors was 11:30, and that was for a preview, the tills didn’t open until noon. After walking from one end of the district to the other, it was barely 10 and the only place to while away the time was Starbucks. Now, I’m pretty anti-Starbucks, so we headed back to our room.

We did make it back to look in some of the stores. Selfridges is one of those huge stores that actually has lots of smaller stores in it. Lots of upscale retailers like Tiffany & Co, Louis Vutton and Godiva have small areas in the store set up to hawk their wares. We were drawn to one called Vom Fass. I was drawn in by all the cool looking bottles full of liquid. I think my husband might have been more drawn to the pyramid of whiskey casks against the wall. Vom Fass specializes in speciality liquors, vinegars and oils. The cool thing about them is that they let you sample anything you want. I tried some tasty things, like blood orange vodka and mango lime vodka. My husband tasted some tequila and some whiskey. I also have a real weakness for balsamic vinegar, so I had to try their pomegranite version.oil It was GREAT! Since I liked it so much, the sales associate mixed me up an even better treat, the vinegar mixed with their pistachio oil. FANTASTIC! Before we knew it, we had to have some.

Monday we found the National Science Museum. Now, I’m not usually a big science person, but my husband has a degree in biology, so it was something I knew he’d like. To avoid the crowd, we headed to the top of the museum and decided to work our way down. The first thing we found were “space shuttles” promising virtual reality rides. Since the museum was free, we popped in the two pounds and got on a space roller coaster. Although it could have been really cheesy, it was great fun! simulatorWe spent the rest of the afternoon reading about early medical practices, looking at a cross section of an airplane and playing in the hands on science areas. Each floor had large sections of science discovery. I felt like a little kid again making sound waves vibrate water, building a bridge (which did, as it claimed and held me up) and creating a light video by bending rainbows. Sure, I had to wait sort of patiently while the actual kids ran between the activities, but it was worth it.

That night we also got tickets to see The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare.**

Tuesday found us at the theater again, after a long walk down the Thames from Embankment to just short of Mansion House, at the Globe. On our way we saw a really cool skate park. graffitiAt first my husband was amazed that the cops hadn’t done anything about it. But considering London is the most closely watched city, with CCTV cameras everywhere (including the skate park), he realized this was done for artistic reasons. And it was pretty cool to look at. Tuesday night was also the first night we went looking for a movie theater. Unfortunately, the concierge completely mislead us (yes, we were listening and following his map, but there was no theater). We did find a nice bar during happy hour though, so we settled for people watching and polishing off a few drinks. I had a pear belini. Yum!

I know I still have a few days to cover, but this is already over 1100 words and I’m getting sleepy. Not quite jet lagged, but not back on real time yet either. Tune in tomorrow for more of my trip across the pond.

*Yes, one of my girls dropped hers after security. She had no idea she’d done it. Luckily I looked back to see what was keeping her (she was late for everything on the trip) and saw her drop it. I grabbed it up and kept it until we hit customs to come home.

**I’ll write about the plays themselves in another post.

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London calling

So I’ve been cleared for take-off. I mean that in a very literal sense as my husband and I set off for London on Friday, and at my post op appointment this week, the doc said I was good to go.

Well, those might not have been his exact words, but I do know he did not mention my recovery (it’ll be two weeks tomorrow) as “freakish,”* but rather, excellent. He was very happy with the progress I’ve made. I gave up pain killers after a week, have been up and walking (although slowly at first) and have had little pain from the surgery and so far none of my pre-surgery gallbladder issues.

It’s been nice not waking up nauseated or getting sudden, inexplicable stomach cramps and having to rush for the bathroom. I could get used to this.

Although, I’ll admit I was a bit worried the surgery might be useless. My doc reminded me that my symptoms weren’t classic gallbladder and while it was low functioning, it was kind of on the bubble. He thought the surgery would probably fix things, but I could tell he wasn’t completely convinced. I guess the pathology report backed everything up. My gallbladder was chronically inflamed, so getting it out was good and probably will solve things. The fact that I didn’t let it go too long is probably why I didn’t have as many symptoms (or as horribly bad) as my bff. Thankfully all her pain made me look into mine sooner.

I was also a tad bit worried about the possibility of blood clots, since the flight to London is 8 hours or so, but he told me not to worry. I’ve been doing so well that as long as I get up and move every now and again, I’ll be fine. He’s not at all concerned with clots.

This makes me happy, as I’ve got 8 days in London, including two shows at the Globe planned (As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet). The London junket is actually part of a fellowship to study Shakespeare, which I’m pretty darn excited about. It’s the fourth grant I’ve written and recieved in the last year and by far the most exciting (others were for technology and books). My mother-in-law helped set up the trip and in addition to our shows we are staying in a 4 star hotel (for amazingly little) and having a complimentary bottle of champagne in the gardens of a really ritzy hotel. Other than that, I’m going to just take it at a leisurely pace.

I do get to explore the Globe archives and that is very exciting to me. They have every production ever done at the theater on DVD, so I can watch anything I want. Kind of cool, huh?

My only real concern is that we’ll be away from our son for 8 days. That’s going to be tough. He’ll be staying with my folks and while they adore him, it’s been a long time since they’ve had such a little guy around. I’ll be calling every day (although not for long at 99 cents a minute). I know they’ll do everything they can for him, but I worry he won’t be on his regular schedule, or in his own bed. I know he’ll miss us.

Last year when we went away for four days, the day we got in he just about climbed out of my aunt’s lap and launched himself at us upon our return. He would not stop clinging to me, even to give my husband a kiss.

I’ll be odd not to read him stories, or sing him songs or kiss him before he goes to bed. I think it will be good for my husband and I to have some grown up time alone, but I’ve just gotten so used to being a mom.

*My bff, who had the same surgery, is still having issues after six months. When she complained to her doctor and mentioned my seemingly smooth recovery, she claims her doc said my recovery was freakish. Although she admitted that may have been a kindness to make hers seem a little less, well, freakish. I blame her inferior red-headed genes.


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