Friday, June 29, 2012

The Netherlands

I have a blog post on my Europe 2012 blog about Leiden:

I'm speaking today and probably won't be in here, but wanted to let anyone who would like more photos know that most days deposits into photobucket are available to peruse (some are boring, some are inexplicable to anyone but me, but some are good) and they're linked on the schedule here:

This photo is from a playground we went to yesterday with other home ed families. There was a system of wooden aqueducts in a sandbox with a water pump up top. There are lots of other photos here

Where I'm speaking

Today we went to a large playground, across the street from the school where the presentations will be tomorrow. We went to the school after classes were over to set up for Saturday.

That's what the biggest space looks like empty. At any given time, some of the adults and most of the children will be outside that window or in a playground down to the right.

I'm going to try to sleep extra long because my leg is hurting and I want to be alert and I'm falling asleep, even though it's not 10:00 pm yet. It's still bright outside, but I'm not so bright inside. :-)

Leiden, in the Netherlands

This is my third day in Leiden, in the Netherlands. I'm having so much fun I don't have time to make web posts, but if you want to look at the photos I've taken, the links are below. Some will make obvious sense and some won't, but they're for me. ­čśŐ If you enjoy some of them, you're welcome to it.

Walking around Leiden

Julie and Adam are staying in a houseboat, and the photos are the walk from Rippy's house there, and then down to the old part of Leiden and the market, and back to the house. The stairs are steep and spooky and exciting.

The house boat

We went on a canal tour, so some of the photos are of the bridges. There are lots of little drawbridges and others on the smaller canals that they had to lower the roof of the bridge to get under, and there's a video of that.

The windmill is a reconstruction of someone's dad's windmill.

There are bikes everywhere, and all permutations of extra-riders and cargo bikes.

I took photos from the only hill in Leiden. They built a hill for a fortress/tower, and there are arrow slits in the bottom part, and a walkway up top.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There's a light...

My favorite part of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the one verse of "There's a Light" where Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien, the composer) sings
The darkness must go down the river of nights dreaming
Flow morphia slow, let the sun and light come streaming
Into my life, into my life.
During that verse, there is a zoom to a close-up of him in a window in a tower. I can't find an image to include here, and I'm not home with my DVD and big TV to get an image. If you've seen it, you remember, though. And yesterday I was there.

Click to enlarge:


In the foreground of the more distant shot is a fairy ring on the ground. The closeup above is of some of the mushrooms. They weren't up all the way around, but very clearly in a few places, and the ring did show.

We've had smaller fairy rings in our front yard. They're natural, but it's easy to see how they gave way to superstitious tales and fears that something had happened overnight that could have been a threat to the security of people who had been sleeping.

I wish I had measured it. I think it was over six feet across though; maybe eight feet. Wikipedia talks about smaller ones and larger ones here, and with google image you can see lots of them. I was glad to be able to show it to Adam.

A note on the UK Rocky Horror fan site says, of the building's use as a set:

Actually it's now a prestige hotel, although at the time of filming The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Oakley Court was a dilapidated shell. The crew had to work around buckets catching the rainwater from the holes in the roof and tread carefully on the old rotting timbers. It is said that most of the cast caught very bad colds during filming. *

We were there for afternoon tea. Nice place!

There are framed posters and such from other movies filmed there, back in the day between it being a nice home and being a luxury hotel. Mostly monster movies.


wikipedia says...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

English peas

My mom always called peas "English peas." That was to distinguish them from black-eyed peas, which were the default peas in Texas when she was growing up.

Yesterday at a big Tesco grocery store, I saw a full array of peas, in England, which confirms that they are English peas:

Also, frozen—which is what Julie bought.
A dollar is 64p, 65p thee days, so everything there seems to be less than a dollar except the one in the upper right.

Some other exotic groceries:

They have a Mexican food section now, but the tortillas are very thin and like "wraps," not like substantial bread. They're closer to egg roll wraps than northern New Mexico's hearty tortillas.

But one of the things on that shelf was a twice-removed abomination. They have jars of chopped green jalape├▒os and of red jalape├▒o. This is in a vague new place between wrong and odd.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Smells and a blasted tree

I've smelled lots of interesting smells lately, but there have been three reports, scattered, in a very short time.

Holly Dodd, on Twitter, June 22:

Wonder what smells like pancakes.
Bea Marshall, on Twitter, June 23:
The loos in Costa at the O2 arena smell like a brand new car with leather seats!
Me, in person, to Julie and Adam in the Ashford public parking structure:
That stairway smells like an old filling station bathroom on a highway in Texas.

Nice that the best smell of the three was a coffee-shop toilet.

This tree didn't have a scent, but it's really impressive. It's on the edge of the Lime Tree Park in Northolt, which is in Ealing, which is in the suburbs of London. I was there Thursday, June 21.

It's not on a path, nor in the main part of the park, but the mower-person had mowed up around it so pedestrians could get in there under it. The ground was muddy, so I walked carefully.

It seemed perfectly round, and was an oak tree. The trunk is huge.

Much of the trunk was dead. It had been struck by lightning long ago, and the center of the trunk had been burned out, but the tree had recovered and was still stable and beautiful.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dinosaur, Castle and Airplane

From Legoland yesterday we could see Windsor Castle and 'the Windsor Eye' (a ferris wheel in the town of Windsor). Because we were in a place where towns and buildings were made in miniature, they just didn't seem so real. :-)

The first photo has a dinosaur, a castle and an airplane all in one photo. You can't get that every day.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Moats, these days

The old tower of Windsor Castle is surrounded by much more "Windsor Castle" now—and outside all those walls are real guards with real machine guns.

So the moat has been made into a beautiful garden.

When it was a watery moat, for however long, it was creating some very rich "topsoil" (then bottomsoil), no doubt.

The castle's "chapel" is a full-sized freestanding church, but it does seem small in proportion to the castle and its grounds. Wikipedia says "It is both a royal peculiar and the chapel of the Order of the Garter."

I love terminology like "a royal peculiar." The only photos I took were of this peculiar (yet familiar, because I've seen him in books) guy:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Big Flush, Little Flush

We need these in the U.S. All that business about putting a brick in the tank to save water, or having smaller flushes doesn't solve the problem of occasionally (and not always) needing a big flush!

I first saw one last summer in Scotland, at Bruce and Bernie's house.

In May, I saw one in the airport in San Francisco, and there were directions on the inside of the stall door. It was the first time I had seen urination "officially" referred to as "Number 1" and the other the other number. Theirs was to lift the handle up for a small flush, and push it down for a large one.

Abbi Traaseth said she saw one in Atlanta somewhere (airport, maybe).

In France, last week, they were everywhere, with different sorts of large and small presses, but all clearly obvious even to a child, who wouldn't be able to read directions or think long about whether to lift the handle up or press it down.

I've seen quite a few of them here in the UK now, too, and some of them just allow for holding the handle down harder for a longer flush.

I'll bring other images if I come back across them.
It might not seem like a big deal to some people reading here, but my whole life we've been made to feel guilty for flushing toilets, and for not flushing toilets--for toilets being dirty, for toilets being wasteful. And none of those go-to-the-moon engineers could figure out a variable flush!?

Monday, June 18, 2012

St. George and the Dragon and a Butcher

The narrator was a Santa puppet, because... just because:

George defeated the dragon...

...who was restored by the doctor...

Who put drops of healing potion on him and said:

A drop on the head,
A drop on the heart,
Jump up, me boy,
And do your part.

Ditto, later, for the Turk, who had threatened to kill St. George with "a sword, or something scimitar" (funnier spoken comically, in context and with an English accent).

These traditional arts will die out, so I'm glad to have seen this and to have the electronic means to share it. Here is most of the intro:

The crowd continued to grow, as the play progressed. The cordless mic, though, was starting to cut out worse and worse, and I didn't stay for the Grand Finale.

Another type of showmanship is something I first saw near Beverley at a carboot in the summer of the year 2000. A butcher, selling meat out in public from the side of a truck created for the purpose, and he was auctioning it. This guy wasn't auctioning, but he was certainly selling the heck out of it with carnival-style banter, and I collected some to share with you. This was Saturday, June 16, in Staines.

There were three ox tails (long and hanging up) and I didn't ask where the rest of the oxen were. There were pigs' feet (legs) and the rest of the pig was accounted for.

Julie bought sausages, and we had bangers and mash Sunday night.

She also got cut steak or pork (I was standing back) and after it was packaged and I had stopped the camera, they saw one more slice still on the counter, and the comedy routine of adding that to her packet involved the butcher with the microphone saying "You've got to watch out for that one, love—he's on day release. He goes back in before dark." (Or something to that effect...)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Detained by immigration

I posted this on facebook last night. Anyone so inclined and facebook enabled can read the comments there. (direct link)

I'm in the UK, back from France. I've been in the UK for several hours, so what I really mean to say is that I'm no longer being detained by immigration. Fingerprints, photographs.... eeeyikes. There are ambiguous questions in the world. Have all your itinerary with you ON PAPER when traveling, especially your return-to-home-country flight info, and if they say "do you have any money" they don't mean cash. Charge cards count

Once they have you tagged, any little hesitation or fumble is evidence that you're a danger to national security. What I did for a living wasn't a clear answer (should have said "I'm a writer" I guess, but because I don't make a living writing, it seems somewhat false as "an occupation"), whether I had a mobile phone (yes, but it's not here, and it doesn't work in Europe)...

I'll be better prepared when I come back from The Netherlands. And having changed planes in Amsterdam once (coming back from India ac couple of years ago), I know that they have mind-reading profilers, so they'll know I'm honest. I prefer mind-reading to ambiguous questions.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Saturday, June 09, 2012


June 9, 2012: I have been to Lyon and back. I have some photos uploading, but I'm too tired to write about it. Lyon is big and beautiful.

If you want to read about it while I'm asleep, here:

Two big rivers come together there and we got to cross both of them. Claire grew up there so she knew cool things to show me, and even though we weren't there long, I saw lots.

Good night.

If you have facebook, here is one video of a street band in Lyon, and what I saw walking up toward them, and around where they were, a bit.

Turtle to Ride (Turtles and a swan's ass)

A riding-turtle, in Nyon, on Lake Geneva (which they call here "Lake Lemán"):

When they show swans, it's always graceful, dignified poses, but between swan-beauty photo-shoots, they do this:

Maybe the impressive thing about swans is that they can stay so white and clean.

Those photos are from Thursday, June 7, after we were back from Yvoire but were still in Nyon.

The title is half a Beatles reference ("She's got a turtle to ride..." you know the one) and half the theme song from the TV show:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Turtles and a swan's ass
Turtle Power!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Yvoire and two boats

Passenger ferries sail from Yvoire in France on Lac L├ęman to Nyon in Switzerland." (more where that quote came from) This map shows four ferry routes. We were the short one, across the smallest point.
On Thursday, June 7, we drove to Nyon and because the sun had taken its sweet time coming up, so I took my sweet time waking up, and we didn't rush, by the time we got to Nyon, the next ferry would only give us an hour and some of time to see Yvoire. I had no idea how late in the day it was. :-) We thought of waiting until the next day, but the kids had never been on a boat, and I figured I was going to get to take enough pictures in an hour.

It was fun! The first ferry was smallish and fast. There were only eight people on the whole thing. Two older couples and us. We had a picnic lunch, and they had tables, so we ate and the kids could run around.

The medieval town was small. There were two intact gates (which were probably the only two gates, unless there was a smaller gate into the main castle, which I don't guess was still standing anyway. There was no gate on the side where the water was. One to the west (the first two images, from the inside and the outside) and then one to the southwest, nearer to the church and the castle:

There were lots of old buildings, though, and some more like 200 years old, but they were almost all tourist shops, which was okay with me. I liked the doorways and stairs and rooflines.

An internet page had already told me the church tower was mid-19th century, but the lower main part of the church was early. Expansions have made it mostly replaced parts, but it's nice. It seemed quite current and active. Here's their tourism site:

On the way back, we rode on a larger steam boat with two enclosed sidewheels. There are several steam boats and formerly-steam-powered boats on the lake, apparently. This one was named Savoie.

Here is more about this particular boat. If you go to the full collection of photos from June 7, those before and after the boats are just-whatever from the drive there, or in Nyon, or the drive back to Claire's.