Thursday, February 27, 2014

From the Sublime to the Ridiculious

Ben Johnson has a famous quote that runs something like this: "If you are bored with London you are bored with life."  He had a point.  In London you can find a wealth of things to view and to do and they do run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous as the two pictures below illustrate.

The above isw Kensington Street a beautiful and upscale street.          This huge blue chicken is found  in Picadilly Circus and no, I don't have ANY idea why it is there or what it means.

London Bridge.  This is a replacement.  If I remember correctly the "real" one of nursery rhyme fame is now a tourist attraction in Arizona.
The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.  The locals sometimes call it the Insane Asylum since they aren't any more impressed with their government than we are with ours.
Marble Arch.  The arch was originally built near Buckingham Palace but was moved to its current location at the request of Queen Victoria.  One assumes she was not overly fond.
St. Paul's Cathedral designed by Christopher Wren.  Diana and Charles were married here.  Later royal marriages have gone back to the traditional location of Westminster Abbey.  I wonder if there is any connection.
The tower of this London church was the inspiration for the wedding cake of the daughter of a London baker.  Since then the design has caught on.
This hotel in the center of London was the home of Charles De Gaul during WWII and is the hotel of choice for many of the famous and infamous of the world.
A business with a long history proving people have always been a little short of cash.  I am, however, left wondering who decided they are "Pawnbrokers of Distinction."

The Tenacity of Trees

Quite often along the canal path one will see trees that resemble those pictured below.

No, they are not some unusual type you have never seen before.  They are living proof, literally, that nature wants to survive.  That trees want to live.

Periodically, trees along the canal path are "topped" if the powers that be feel they are overhanging the canal too much or if they are deemed to be in danger of toppling.  The plan being that the trees will die and later be removed and cut into firewood by industrious narrow boaters.

The trees, however, do not always go along with the plan.  They have their own agenda and quite stubbornly refuse to go quietly into that long night.

So, they start sending out from the "stump" new growth that morph into new branches and a reincarnation of the tree.

As a result, the above is a common sight.  A sight that always makes me smile.  I love when nature refuses to be killed off by man.  Yeah nature!  Long may these trees live.

Spring is in the Air!

It seems like we may not need an ark after all.  The daily torrential downpours are giving way to periods of sunshine. :)  We still get our usual bit of rain in a day but it is quickly over and not at all torrential.  Yeah!

The hedgerow bushes are flowering and greening out, as you can see.  That first greenery after a long period of nature being asleep and resting is just wonderful to see.  It does my soul good.

The air is full of the sounds of the small songbirds declaring their joy in being alive.  They are often quite brave and stay perched in the hedgerow bushes as we ramble by.  How nice to see the choir up close and personal.
We caught sight of this nest in a tree above the hedgerow.  Will they "remodel and refurbish" for this year or build a new one from scratch?  Either way I am anxious to see the heads of the little ones sticking above the sides. :)

All around the early spring flowers are breaking forth and adding their beautiful riot of color to the prior dreariness.  Have you ever wondered why so many of these early beauties are either purple, white or yellow? 

The last true sign of spring I cannot capture in a picture:  when the sun is shining now you can actually feel its warmth.  In the winter when it is out there is light but no warmth.  Welcome back to the actual warmth.

Here's to the joy and wonder of watching the world awake from its winter's nap.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Where Are We?

We have spent the last day at Handsacre/Armitage on the Trent and Mercy.  They are two small towns that you leave one and enter the other without even being aware of the fact.  We walked into Handsacre from one bridge along the canal and at the next bridge where we decided to rejoin the canal path we left the village of Armitage.  Along the way we had passed a butcher and a baker (no candlestick maker), a post office, a news agent, two pubs, one church, and a small grocery.

Today we are heading for Rugeley.  Originally we had wanted to get to Great Haywood but we are unable due to a lock closing.  But Rugeley has a Morrisons and some charity shops so we are happy enough.

Today is sunny and feels quite nice.  Yesterday was cooler and again windy but that didn't stop us from having an hour plus walk out and about which we quite enjoyed.

We are exploring the possibility of a stay in Ireland once the UK kicks us out.  We had wanted to visit there during our extended stay so this just moved it up in the queue and made the visit a little more extended than we had originally planned.  Will let you know what is finally decided upon since we are also exploring the possibilities of Portugal and Spain.

That is all for now since I am heading topside to enjoy our short trip along the canal. :)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

150 Trees Down Across the Canals

We have been hearing some interesting tales from friends about the weather while we were gone.

 It appears that we missed the mother and father of all wind storms. 

As we all know, Britain is swimming in extra water this winter.  Some people's homes have been continuously flooded since before Christmas, poor things.

The ground, needless to say is saturated with a capital S.

Add to that a storm with sustained winds of 85 mph and the result is trees pulled out by their roots because the muddy ground just can't withstand the pull or push of the wind.

Over 150 of those trees ended up falling across the canals and closing them until crews could get there to remove them.

Even now, as you cruise by you can see where they were plus all the other damage that was done by the wind in the woods in general.

It really makes you understand the strength of Mother Nature.  Awe Inspiring.

As an old commercial used to say, "Don't Mess With Mother Nature!"

Just to Keep Life Interesting

When we were going through customs in London this week we discovered that life had just thrown us a curve ball.  A customs inspector was very emphatic about our situation.  She convinced me to listen without a problem.  I wonder if they teach that voice and facial expression?

It USED to be that you could visit the UK for up to 6 months at a time before having to leave the country and then re-enter (after a very short period if you wanted to do so) to stay for another 6 months.  You could continue doing so over and over if that is what you wanted to do. 

However, Britain is now concerned about its rapidly expanding immigrant population.  Therefore, they are trying to make their borders less porous.  Translation:  you cannot keep entering as a visitor as a way of allowing yourself to reside in the UK without official permission to do so.

NOW, you can only visit the UK for a maximum of 6 months in a 12 month period.  To stay longer, you need a visa.

OK, so we'll get a visa. 

BUT, the category of visa we would be eligible for "Retired Individual of Independent Means" (meaning you can show proof of the monetary means to pay your bills and support yourself without working) is no longer being issued.  Too many people have retired to the UK and then proceeded to make use of the subsidized medical system that they have never paid into.  Now, nobody can do that because they won't let you in.

So, it appears we will have to develop a Plan B for our British adventure.  Dag nag it!  We'll let you know the plan once we have figured it out and stopped saying bad words. :)

I've Missed You

Our trip back to the states is over and we are back in England on the canal boat.  We have actually been here for 4 days but for the first 24 hours we were like zombies from the jet lag and the next 24 hours we weren't much better. :)  After that, the next two days I was busy being a domestic goddess working to get things back in "motion".  Today I decided I could take time and write a post without feeling too much guilt. :)

Every time I travel I promise myself I have learned my lesson and things will be different the next time.  They never are.  I cannot seem to stop myself from over packing and making the suitcases so heavy that lugging them brings out my ugly side.  This trip was no different, either coming or going.  I appear to be a slow learner.  I better get with the program soon before I run out of time. :)

While we were in the states (besides loving on the grandkids) I took advantage of having a UK mailing address for 3 weeks and ordered a couple of things to be there when I returned. 

The first was an order from a company called Approved Foods: think of it as an online UK salvage store.  This was my first order and so far I am quite impressed with the cost and the quality.  I ordered dry milk, bread and roll mix, cold cereal, corn tortillas (I have never even seen these in a regular grocery store, only the flour ones), and a mix to make a meatless chicken flavored loaf.  All told, including factoring in the delivery charge, I saved over 80% off suggested retail price!!  Love it.

As for the other item ordered, it came about because of my ongoing personality conflict with the oven on the boat.  Whatever I cook in there tends to burn since the gas flames that are in the back and heat the oven cavity are ALWAYS on and never even diminish in size.  One especially frustrating day I started researching for an alternative.

I am now the proud owner of a 7L halogen table top oven.  It runs on electricity (saving our needing to purchase propane as often) and cooks things about 1/3 to 1/2 faster than a "normal" oven:  win, win.  So far I have baked bread, butterscotch brownies, cinnamon sugar monkey bread, and coconut macaroons.  Each time I learn a little more about how it works and things are now turning out quite nice.  I store my new oven inside my old oven when not in use.  I didn't want the old oven to feel totally abandoned. :)

Tonight I am cooking Mike and I are delayed Valentine's dinner:  steak, sauted mushrooms, fried apple slices, garlic bread, and a vegetable mash of carrots, rutabaga and parsnips.  For dessert we will have Old Fashioned Whey Lemon Pudding and coconut macaroons.  Yum.

Well, the captain has just called down and it is time for me to open a swing bridge and a few locks.  I'll talk at you again soon.