Monday, June 29, 2009

The Rest of the Story

I have been a baaaad blogger, and it sucks, because I really do have a lot to tell. I just don't have time to sit down and tell it. I need to get back into this.

First, a little history lesson. When we were visiting the Tower of London, we heard the story of the only time the Tower has ever been invaded. This was by an angry mob in 1381. They were cheesed off about a tax hike and were intent on finding someone who represented the privileged classes to pick on. They encountered poor old Simon of Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was hiding in there, dragged him out and murdered him in a not-very-nice way. They have some cute little shoebox dioramas in the Tower that depict it: dusty-looking fake grass; little dolls all chopping and hacking at a tiny, prone figure; smears of fake blood. It looked like a really stellar elementary school social studies project.

So we're standing there looking at the diorama, and Simon says that he knows what happened to Simon Sudbury's head. I guess that, after his murder, it was taken back to his hometown church. He became a saint and the head was revered as a relic. Simon's dad grew up in Sudbury, and his grandfather was the rector of the church there. He used to entertain Simon and his little brother by unlocking and opening the box containing Simon Sudbury's 14th century skull. I could tell by the look on Nate's face that he was wishing that his great-grandpa were alive today.

Now, I'll tell another story, this one about our good friend, A. We have been friends with A. since we moved to Salt Lake many years ago. This is a relationship so well-worn that he and I often just sit reading the paper and drinking coffee without talking at all. He only lives a couple of blocks away, so he is always coming over to hang out, making me roll my eyes with his awful puns. You know, the utterly taken-for-granted type of friend who picks things out of the pan while you are cooking.

He was over here a couple days before we left on vacation, but the day we flew out, burned somehow. As soon as we got back, his wife called to tell us that he had been in a medically induced coma at the University Hospital Burn ICU for the past couple of weeks. Third degree burns on 63% of his body. I went straight over to their house and his wife and I sat at the kitchen table with a box of Kleenex between us. I asked her what happened, and she said she didn't know. He was outside and must have caught fire somehow. She told me that he ran inside and upstairs, and climbed into the shower. That's where she found him, with his skin falling off. What was he doing, I asked? She says she doesn't know. She said that, after she found him, she called a friend, and the friend drove A. to the hospital.

I wish I could just accept this at face value. But there are some things that are not hanging together for me. Why did she call the friend and not 911? Why can't she figure out what happened to him? You would think there would be a smoking gun of some sort. The lawnmower out on the drive. The grill with its propane unhooked. A can of paint-thinner spilled on the garage floor. A matchstick! A lighter! A live wire? I guess it's beside the point. Right? After all, the only thing that matters is whether he is going to live or not. So why do I feel like I need the rest of the story?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside...

Today, we took the kids over to Brighton to see the sights and to practice battling the crowds for a place on the sidewalk in preparation for tomorrow's journey to London.

FIL dropped us off at Angmering station this morning, and we took the train, in order to avoid parking in Brighton. I guess that, if you get stuck in the pricier parking lots, you aren't allowed to leave until you spin straw into gold. The trains are all so...shiny...compared to how they were when I lived here in the '80s. And automated. The doors slide shut without benefit of a guard to walk down the platform and slam each one like they used to. Of course, the old fashioned approach does prevent the mishap we witnessed today, when two mothers boarded with toddlers and strollers. Well, not the toddlers, actually. Somehow, the mothers boarded with their strollers and left the toddlers on the platform just long enough for the doors to slide shut and the train to glide away from the station. The next several minutes were memorable for all of us in the car, especially the guard, whose only comment was, "Strooth, strooth, strooth..."

Here we are at Brighton station. Quite a bit bigger than Angmering. The kids were impressed. They haven't seen London Victoria yet.

We visited the Brighton Pavilion. So, as I understand it, George IV (so we're talking beginning of the 19th century) was a bit of a party animal. He liked the scene at Brighton and bought a little house down there, so he could carouse out of sight of George III. One thing led to another, and he had an addition built onto the house, and then another, and then a couple more. The result was this.

His tastes ran to the exotic. I guess you could say this is the Taj Mahal of Sussex. The interior in incredible. I couldn't take my own pictures, of course, but I found some images.It actually is restored to its former glory, and the rooms really look like this. Here is a photo of the kitchen as it looks today. Even the kitchen got palm tree pillars. Loads of copperware in there. I was dazzled by the many pudding molds available to his majesty. The kids were even more impressed, though, as Simon told them that those were the king's sand toys.
His niece, Victoria, was not so stuck on Brighton. Whereas George IV liked to be out among the townspeople, Victoria thought that Brighton was somewhat trashy for a royal vacation spot. This is the only property of the crown ever to have been put on the real estate market. Can you imagine trying to sell the thing? Well, nowdays the Sultan of Dubai would buy it, but back then the only taker was the city of Brighton. So it was a hospital, a civic center, a tea house, etc... until it was a huge restoration challenge. Now a triumph, although there is always scaffolding to be found on some part of the building.
OK, down to the pier we go.

First, a moment of sympathy for the old west pier. I have been watching it slowly return to nature for years now. Soon, it will just topple into the sea.

The kids loved these dumb coin-push games. I don't know how to describe them, except to say that they are designed to give you just enough of a return on your coin input to keep you additively playing. I admit that I became caught up in the thrill myself.

But my big moment was playing the Diving Dolphin game. Years ago, when I worked at the carnival in Littlehampton, I ran a game almost totally identical to this, called the Kentucky Derby. You know the game where you roll balls up the ramp, they fall through holes and make your horse gallop across the booth? That was my summer job. Same thing here, only with dolphins. Well, and at five times the price it was in 1987. Sara and I payed two games. She kicked my ass both times.
I'd better not ramble on any more. Si was lurking for awhile, wanting the computer. Now he has turned out the light and gone to bed.We are off to London first thing in the morning. More photos when I get back. By the way, am I the only person who gets really frustrated when putting photos on my blog? Each one loads at the very top of the entry and has to be dragged into place. They should fix that. Humph.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Best Of Britain

Whew! It has not been that easy to find time to post, and I have loads of pictures and adventures to relay. We have visited castles and ruins, the Downs and the shore. Lots of bicycling and exploring. Now that I am getting my jet-lag under control and can stay up past 8:00 PM, I will try to post most days. Tonight, I do want to dedicate some time to things I like and don't like about England. Or maybe these things are unique to MIL and FIL. I need to hang out with Brits that are not psycho, so I will know.

Shall we start with my in-laws? NOT my favorite part of England. Nate gets up off the sofa, and MIL has to go over there and straighten the cushions. I come in for a minute and lay my purse and jacket across the chair, and I will return five minutes later to find the purse stuck in a cupboard ("where it's safe") (from whom?) and my jacket hung in my bedroom closet upstairs.

She has finally agreed to allow me to prepare a meal. I asked her about what she and FIL might like to eat and told her I would go to the farmer's market in the morning. She told me that she had already bought all the ingredients needed for me to make spaghetti.

There is a fearful symmetry in this house. Observe.

The whole house is like that. While we were out today, she had a little tidy-up and arranged all of our stuff to make it symmetrical. This includes tidying the bathroom windowsill so that Simon and I each have a nicely delineated area. See how she's lined up everything on a little tray? Of course, this afforded her the opportunity to go through all my toiletries. I notice that my pills have been moved to the forefront. I'll bet she wants me to know that she knows all my dirty little drug secrets. How boring if she were to discover that she's looking at vitamins and Ibuprofen.

Other random observances of life in England.... I like the electric kettle. It heats as well as the one I have at home, and it has this blue light.

I like bread bags. The British are good at maximizing space. Of course, this works better when the shelves are set back a little from the cupboard door.

I don't like all the ridiculous security measures. This is an interior door. Every night, we have to exit this room, so MIL can close the door, latch the door, lock the door with a key and pull a drape across it.

I am not able to photograph water pressure, but if I could... It generally takes three tries to flush the toilet. If I am showering and Si turns on the bathroom tap, the shower stops entirely. While we are talking about plumbing, let's discuss the taps.

Now, 20 years ago, when I lived in England, "mixing taps" were almost unheard of. You had two taps, hot and cold; and to wash your face, you filled a basin. And that was fine. Now you can see that we have hot and cold water coming out of one tap - sort of. This is the cold water coming out. See how it comes out of the right side of the tap? If I were to show you the hot water, it would be coming out of the left side of the tap. This means that, if you turn on a little of each and put your hands under the tap your hands will scaldfreezescaldfreeze. So, you fill a basin.

I do not like window treatment overkill. Is this England, or is this my MIL? Of course, England wouldn't be England without the ubiquitous lace curtains. But lace curtains plus blinds plus drapes? Every window in the house is the same. MIL goes all around the house at exactly 8:00 PM (or whenever sunset occurs) and closes every blind and every drape.

I like airing cupboards. I think the real reason for these is that many Brits dry their laundry on the line, and there isn't enough time between rain showers to get he wash actually dry. [BTW, I like the clotheslines, too. MIL has one of the umbrella variety that folds up for storage in the garage. ] So the half-dried wash retreats to the airing cupboard to finish drying. That unit in there makes the whole cupboard very warm. Also a great place to hang damp towels. Except, I invariably finish my shower, look for my towel, am unable to find it on the rail and remember that damn, it's in the fucking airing cupboard.

I like BBC Question Time! This comes on after the evening news. Tonight, the show was aired in Birmingham. The local leaders, party representatives and the Member of Parliament take questions and address the issues of their constituents on national TV. Won't find THAT in the States!
Si is downstairs right now, watching the end of it. The kids are fast asleep, and I am dying to get to bed myself. More to come. It's a cliffhanger here in Rustington, West Sussex. WILL I be able to make spaghetti, using the sauce from a jar that my MIL has supplied for me? WILL the entire Diggins family manage not to bring up the whole breast cancer thing for our entire visit? So far, they have not mentioned it or even hinted at it. Lovely! Maybe it never happened. I imagined the whole thing. Will we be able to stand the suspense as the hours pass tomorrow, awaiting the blessed arrival of their other set of grandchildren? ("Are you excited to see your cousins? Are you excited to see your cousins? See that street corner right there? Do you know that your cousin Holly once stood on that corner and waved to us? Do you think you'll enjoy seeing your cousin? I'm sure she'll tell you all about the time she touched that exact same crayon you are touching right now!")
All this and more in the next installment!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thanksgiving This Year

Five years ago, Simon appeared in an indie movie written and directed by a friend of ours, Topher Horman. Finally, we got to see it at a one-time-only screening at the Tower Theater tonight, so all the glitterati were there.

Corinne and Moira. Corinne plays the barista who says, "It's Mochaccino man!"

Moira and Robert. Robert designed and made cool, authentic-looking labels and graphics.

Here's Simon, his arm candy and his entourage. Si plays "The Heart Attack", manifestation of purest evil. A mere touch from his finger means certain death. In the film, he kills our friend Dolores. Pretty fun to watch Dolores die on screen, finally, watching her rehearse it at dinner parties.

Here's the trailer. Love the fedora! He was pretty effective as the essence of evil; he even creeped some of his fellow actors out. One time, I was at a shoot where they needed extras (And I appear, for a nanosecond! I'm famous now.) and the kids were getting tired, so I waved to Si, got his attention, and called out to him that I was taking the kids home. That I'd see him later. I overheard one actor say to another, "He's married? Holy shit! Isn't she scared to turn her back on him?"

Off to England first thing in the morning, so I had better get to bed. I'll try to post every couple of days while we're staying with MIL and FIL. They always make for good blog-fodder. Pip pip! Cheerio!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Allergies and Irritants

I don't suffer from allergies, but Si sure does. Tonight's thunderstorm is blowing a lot of pollen around, I guess. Sniiiiff...sniiiiiff...sniiiiiiff. It is soft but almost rhythmic. I feel a plaintive wail building. I'm stifling the urge to scream, "Blow your g****mn nose!" Annoying creature.

It has been a day filled with minor irritants, magnified by a dose of PMS and the addition of an excruciating 60 ccs to my tissue expander. It was the last "fill", thank God. Dr. Perfect is delighted. "OK! That gets you to 390 ccs!" I know, I know. I can feel every last one of them.

It hasn't been a really horrible day, but I'll be glad to draw a line under it.
  1. I'm tired. I was up until 3 AM last night/this morning, doing work stuff that needs to be squared away so I can go on vacation at the end of the week. The alarm clock was merciless this morning.
  2. The car spent the weekend at the garage because the "Check Engine" light was on. It is still on.
  3. I have called the newspaper three times in the last couple of days, trying to place a vacation hold. The Salt Lake Tribune has one of those sickly sweet cyber-receptionists to answer the phone and invite you to say simple phrases like "vacation hold", "Diggins", "June 4". Now, I enunciate for a living. I'm an ESL teacher, for Pete's sake! So why is it that I get the "clackity-clack" of the pretend person doing pretend data entry on a pretend keyboard, followed by, "I'm sorry. We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please call again later." She does sound truly regretful.
  4. Of the six students with whom I need to speak, only two of them still have the phone number they had at the beginning of term.
  5. The numbering and outlining functionality on my computer at work is being totally disobedient.
  6. My lunch leaked into my tote bag, which now smells powerfully of chili sauce.
  7. Why is it that, every day, when I say, "Time to pick up your toys and get ready for bed." I have to listen to the same old s***? "Nathan, I am not picking up those Lincoln Logs. YOU got those out." "I did not, you giant fart-face." "MOM! Nate called me a giant fart-face..."
  8. Why is it that Nate waits to go poop until the last...possible...second, resulting in a sprint to the bathroom (squeezing his butt-cheeks together with his hands), skid mark in his undies, skid mark on the toilet seat, annoyed parent?
  9. I drove all the way out to Draper and waited 20 minutes to see Dr. Leather-Loafer, to be told that he was at the hospital and wouldn't be back for half-an-hour. Just as I finish scheduling a new appointment and am heading out the door, he comes dashing in as if pursued by the hounds of hell. "Sorry! I'm here! I'm here!" Geeze, he acts as though I was about to take a knife to the receptionist.
  10. I have realized that our peas will be perfect for picking and eating at the exact time we leave for England.
  11. The nurse was telling me about my second surgery, which is scheduled for July 2. It will be in-patient when I had envisioned a minor, out-patient thing. Of course both sides, instead of the one side. Drains again. And she warned me about the pain. "Remember, we've been stretching the tissue on your left side to accommodate the reconstruction, so it's your right side that is really going to be killing you." Neato. I AM excited to get this surgery over. I can't wait to get The Turtle out of there. But I'm nervous, dreading the return to pain and inactivity, etc...
  12. I didn't think to take any Ibuprofen with me to my appointment, so by the time I got home this afternoon, I headed straight to the Hateful Sofa to mean and groan.
  13. And finally, I tried a new quick bread recipe tonight (Maple Walnut! Sounds good, huh? It sank a bit in the middle. Kind if a maple walnut dugout canoe . OK, I am really overreacting this time. It is kind of a trough, but just a little. And it is yummy.

How about you out in the Blogospere? Feel like grousing about your day?