Tilly & the Wall on SESAME STREET from Team Love on Vimeo.
I can't remember what it feels like to be a child but if this is any indication, it must be like a very powerful hallucinogenic.
PS: Though this post might indicate otherwise, Tilly and the Wall rock. What could be better than a tap dancing drummer?
Last week while in London I needed to pick something up from someone arriving from Cardiff on an early train at Paddington Station. I don't think I've ever been to Paddington before and really my only frame of reference is the bear and his human friend Christopher Robinson.
I love train stations. I love the coming and going, the bustle, the excitement people feel when leaving or arriving somewhere. In Europe many of the train stations have amazing architectural features -- high arched ceilings, ornate glass and iron work -- they are lovely. I also love train travel and have promised myself that on the next journey to London it will be via train instead of the more economic MegaBus, which is just as bad as it sounds.
There used to be a passenger train that went through Regina but was sadly discontinued -- the beautiful old terminal turned into the shell for a casino. There is still train service in Canada and I would absolutely love to travel across the country that way. It would be an amazing way to see the landscape I think -- though strangely expensive.
A few weeks back I bought a Nikon D60 camera with the intention of learning how to use the manual features. This was really the first time I've taken pictures using the manual setting (as opposed to only controlling the shutter speed and aperture). I deleted as many images as I kept and it was really a trail and error process of me adjusting things over and over until they looked OK. I don't think I am a natural photographer but I do enjoy trying.
For the complete Paddington Set click here.
PS: It is sunny in Wales today! Sunshine!!
(Photo above by Those Two )
The recent shopping guide in British Vogue led me to find an amazing bakery in Camden Town called Lola's Kitchen. I love cake! I love cupcakes! I pretty much love anything with any relationship to sugar, especially chocolate. My good friend Friday and her husband are expecting their first baby, a boy, in January and it seemed the perfect excuse for a beautiful Lola's Kitchen creation.
Yesterday, after visiting the midwife, Friday and I make the journey to Lola's. I was skeptical about how easy it would be to find given that street directions in London always confuse me. I am used to the faithful grid system and all the loops and bends over here require a completely new set of navigational skills from those I've grown up with. Despite this, we found it quite easily and enjoyed a nice walk through a part of Camden Town that was filled with beautiful old Victorian apartments and peppered with strange high rises that looked like they were built during the cold war.
Lola's Kitchen the physical space was not what I expected. It is located in the Primrose Hill Workshops, which is an industrial looking barn-like structure on a residential street. There is no fancy bakery with cozy seating and delicacies displayed under long shiny glass counter tops. Instead it is a bit like walking into a sweet smelling car repair shop.
"I can't imagine how they are inspired to make beautiful cakes in a place like this," said my traveling companion.
But oh, they did not disappoint.
First off, the cake was in a bright white box tied with a baby blue ribbon and a little card. The box alone was perfect and square and lovely. All cakes should come in boxes like this. The cake was perfect -- just the right amount of sweet, light airy cake, ample icing... It was heaven.
Happy baby J and B! X
"There and here and here and there/ Funny things are everywhere!" (Dr. Seuss)
Today I spent a rather blustery day wandering around London. The torrential rain of the past few days has ended but it is extremely windy, especially on the South Bank (and yes, even by Saskatchewan standards). I had to meet a person from Cardiff at Paddington Station at 9:30 a.m. and following our brief rendezvous I used the old train station to try to learn the finer manual points of my new Nikon D60 SLR Digital camera (which I splurged on last week). I took loads and load of pictures of every angle of Paddington and by the end was beginning to feel like I at least have a round-about understanding of how to work the aperture and shutter speed.
Feeling buoyed by my technical prowess I wandered down to the South Bank to take in the London Aquarium. I hate zoos. The odd time I've wandered into one I spend my time feeling sorry for the caged animals. Though not put off I have always been fairly ambivalent about aquariums until I saw the movie Closer a few weeks ago. Starring Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Robert and Clive Owen and based on an award-winning play it sounds like a good movie, but sadly it is not. The characters are mostly hateful and stupid and throughout the two hours of the film you get to (painfully) watch them do horrible things to one another. And not in a good Academy Award winning way. So don't waste two hours of your life watching Closer...
The connection between Closer and my fish adventure today is that there is a rather lovely scene in the movie (one of the very few) where Julia Roberts' character is sitting in the London Aquarium watching the fish. It is deep blue and dim and relaxing and I really, really wanted to go after seeing the film. And today I did!
Like a lot of things in a city as old as London, the Aquarium is a little more ramshackle than I expected. Many of the tanks are a little dirty, the water a little bit cloudy... But the main event -- the display featured in Closer -- where the sharks live is amazing and well worth the visit. Sitting in the quiet blue room, watching the fish float, it is easy to feel underwater or at least to want to be swimming (not with the sharks, mind). It was really, really lovely. The catch is that a lot of this would be lost in a crowd so the key is to go at strange times (I was there fairly early in the morning) and off-season. The trade-off was having my hair blown into tangles by the crazy wind bouncing off the Thames.
I took pictures all day today and once I am back in Cardiff on the weekend I'll upload them and post some here and on Flickr. My calves and arches ache but there is something really romantic about spending an afternoon wandering around a city like London on your own. I highly recommend it.
East Indian food is very popular here in the UK. On nearly every corner there is an Indian restaurant of some variety -- some good and some quite grim looking. Most people here are very well-versed in their East Indian food language. Even Chris' nephews (seven and three) probably know the difference between a vindaloo and a madras sauce and can give you the definition of a bhuna.
I happen to really like Indian cuisine and frequented all three or four of the restaurants in Regina. My favorite was India House, preferably for lunch when they had their wonderful buffet of endless steaming curries and pakoras. But as a Canadian, my love pales in comparison to the love the British feel for it and most fervently for one dish in particular ... chicken tikka masala. It doesn't seem to matter where you go from an Indian restaurant, pub or Italian place, there is almost always some version of this dish (usually served with chips or rice) on the menu. Sometimes they forget the chicken and just give you the sauce on the side of fries for dipping.
If you ask Chris or most of his family and friends they will proudly tell you that this 'Indian' delicacy originated in the UK. They say this like it is fact. According to my sources, this fact is not undisputed. Wikipedia lists the following three possibilities,
- A widely reported explanation of the origins of the dish is that it was conceived in Glasgow in the late 1960s, when a customer, who found the traditional chicken tikka too dry, asked for some gravy. The chef supposedly improvised a sauce from tomato soup, yogurt and spices.
- Many restaurants throughout the UK claim to have invented it. The recipe's age is also unproven, with claims ranging from the 1970s back to the 1950s
- At least one source has the dish originating in Delhi in 1947.
- Another theory is that it originated in British India to adapt local dishes to the British palate. A prototype may be Murgh Makhni (butter chicken), a dish from the Punjab region of India.
Tonight is Guy Fawkes night, also known as fireworks night or bonfire night. It is way bigger than Halloween here, so I'm told. It is based around a character at the centre of the plot to blow up the parliament buildings in the early 1600s. To commemorate Fawkes, residents the United Kingdom over set off thousands of dollars in fireworks (I don't know, and pretend they are gun powder going off...) and even occasionally light big bonfires where they burn effigies of Guy Fawkes. Kind of morbid the whole burning people at the stake bit but then again, what do I know. They also seem to love Fawkes in a strange kind of way. I guess it could be compared to how North Americans celebrate Halloween: we are scared of and revile images of monsters and devil, but we love to be frightened by them and to dress our children up like them.
It is only 3:45 p.m. and I can already hear people setting off fireworks. There doesn't seem to be any of the warnings that always surrounds the use of them in Canada. I can remember seeing commercials warning people that fireworks aren't toys and that you would loose your hand if you weren't careful. Not so here. Even Chris' parents and young nephews are getting into the action and setting off a few crackers in the backyard tonight.
And now, the rhyme the little children are singing in the streets:
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I can think of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King
A penny loaf to feed the Pope
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A fagot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah hoorah
And thank goodness!!
On a related note, how embarrassing is this? I did not say that I had family in America, only a few friends. Sigh.
My friend Friday sent me a link to this article on the BBC. Everything in Wales is bilingual -- English and Welsh. Or Welsh and English, depending on who you ask. They take it very seriously here and the occasional gaffe is not always taken lightly (except by cheeky Canadian interlopers).
In English the above sign says, "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only." Of course it is meant to say the same thing in Welsh but instead reads, "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated."
Via the BBC.
Tango Swansea from JP on Vimeo.
Half up winter wonderland ferris wheel, originally uploaded by oladybug0.
'Winter Wonderland' -- Cardiff's attempt at mimicking the season that most Canadians dread. In the above photo you can see a partially erected Ferris wheel that marks the spot that will soon be host to this great seasonal celebration. In addition to the Ferris wheel (an object that they seem to use here to mark every occasion big or small, usually along side a merry-go-round) there will be an ice skating rink, free 'festive' entertainment and an ice bar. At some point they also officially turn on the Christmas lights, which can't be too soon as currently they cover most surfaces in the downtown like natty vines. I have to admit that the pictures here do make it look pretty. I am from the Canadian prairies however, and I can't help but feel a little cynical about a place called 'winter wonderland' that still has lush green leaves on its trees.
Today I enjoyed reading this article about artist Sophie Calle. She is famous for using intimate details of her personal life in her work and recently used an email sent to her by a boyfriend as his way of breaking up with her as fodder:
I received an e-mail telling me it was over. / I didn’t know how to respond. / It was almost as if it hadn’t been meant for me. / It ended with the words, ‘Take care of yourself.’ / And so I did. / I asked 107 women (as well as 2 hand puppets / and a parrot), chosen for their profession or skills, / to interpret this letter: / To analyze it, comment on it, dance it, sing it. / Dissect it. Exhaust it. Understand it for me. / Answer for me. / It was a way of taking the time to break up. / A way of taking care of myself.It's a pretty fine revenge plot to use the bad behaviour of an ex as very public material for your art practice. Remind me not to mess with Sophie Calle.
In addition to catching up on my Google Reader today I've been watching Stephen Fry (a UK television personality) on his cross-country journey of America. I feel such mixed emotions watching it. On one hand it is beautifully shot and makes me feel a little homesick for North America. Like the landscape, the people and the politics are so polarized and there is so much tension between what is the most beautiful and what is the most dangerous about the climate. Occasionally Fry irritates me as he waxes poetic about North America in way that only someone who had never lived there can do. At one point he is interviewing some homeless people who were no doubt equal parts starving, freezing and mentally ill. Instead of really looking at the crises of the homeless in America or questioning the fact that somehow one of the wealthiest countries in the world has such a gap between the rich and poor, Fry goes on about the promise and romance of being a drifter on the open American road. Yes, the homeless man told him it was a choice but for how many is that really true? It made me roll my eyes a little.
Still, when he drove through the golden wheat fields of Kansas I couldn't help but say excitedly, "that's what Saskatchewan looks like, only flatter." There's really no place like home.