Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Even Foolish Hearts Can Learn

Way back in the '50s one of my favorite songs was by Joni James..."How Important Can It Be?" If you're too young to recall it the first time it came around, or don't remember it from the movie LA, Confidential, here it sublimely in the shuffle beat style by Joni:

Just a couple of weeks ago I sat trying to look as important as I possibly could at the Geffrye Museum of the Home in London. If you aren't in the mood to dash off to London this summer...perhaps you fear the crush of the Olympic crowds...or you haven't yet fallen in love with one of the world's greatest cities...then take a virtual tour here:

Today I've been sitting on another chair that sometimes makes me feel important...that's the one at my writing desk. I feel pleasantly important when I finish a story, but that isn't always the case. Today I only got half way through and then stalled. I've toyed with this stubborn story for three hours, but it's taking a turn I'd not intended. I'd foolishly set my heart on finishing it today...but it won't cooperate. So I'm putting it to bed for now, and will revisit it another day soon.

Sometimes stories can get unruly. They have to be disciplined by their owners, and shown who really is the important one. Oh, I know. It's them, of course. But shhhhhh....don't let on. If you give your self-important stories half a chance, they'll be sprawling over every chair, sofa, loveseat, bench and ottoman you have in your house. You know them...they move right in and take right over. Except when they don't, like my naughty story today. Perhaps in a day or two it will be more cooperative. Then I can send it out to find a home...and that's what's important.

Even foolish hearts can learn!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rub a Dub Dub...Let's Pop into a Pub!

 Over thirty years ago I wrote a piece, "Posies, Pubs and Poets," for Uncle Jam, an arts and entertainment tabloid, about my first trip to London. In it I quoted a sign in an Edgware Road pub, The King's Head: "This bar is dedicated to those excellent gentlemen who make drinking a pleasure, who reach contentment before capacity, and who, whatever they drink, can take it, hold it, and remain gentlemen."

Just back from England for a week now, this gloomy, chilly Saturday afternoon I already wish I could teleport myself back to London...or the Isle of Wight...for a lazy afternoon of sipping a cider and chatting with old friends and new friendly gentlemen. Instead I have a list as long as a dragon's tail of tasks that need to be completed over the next few days. But none of them seem as tempting or as tasty as just relaxing, unwinding, and ordering an Old Rosie or a Thatchers Gold, and watching the world wander by.

This trip our Road Scholar Dickensian group dined at The George, on Borough High Street, Southwark, a pub frequented by Shakespeare in his day, and Dickens in his, and me in that first 1980 visit. This time I enjoyed steak and kidney pie with my pint of cider. The George is London's only surviving galleried coaching inn. Right around the corner is where Chaucer's pilgrims set out for Canterbury. It stands on the south side of the River Thames near London Bridge, for centuries the only bridge across the river.

 Later that evening we visited The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping, where we gazed out at the Thames and wished for a slightly warmer late spring evening! Fans of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen may remember that Mina Harker pauses in front of this pub and says it brings back memories. She's alluding to the beaching of the Demeter at Whitby in the novel Dracula. In earlier centuries this pub had a reputation as a meeting place for smugglers and villains

On Charing Cross Road in the West End, twice I dropped in at The Porcupine, a pub with a history, as well as great fish and chips. Its website proclaims "The Porcupine has proudly stood its ground since 1725. In years gone by we were a haunt of the freemasons and in 1807 became the meeting place for another group; the 'Lodge of Confidence'. In 1822 a gang of thieves came here for a celebratory drink, after burgling at the house of Lord Ashbrook. They were nabbed after asking the landlord to put their equipment behind the bar for 'safe keeping'!"!!

This has been the third summer in a row that I've headed for England....there's the lure of the University of Cambridge International Summer School, the wonderful theatres of the West End, the ciders of Somerset...and now, my new love, that "obsure little island," the Isle of Wight. Might be back once more next summer! I've read that actor Ian McKellen is buying The Grapes, the pub where young Charles Dickens used to stand on the table and sing to customers. This is the same pub that later became "The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters" in Our Mutual Friend.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Here Comes the Sun: Celebrating the Solstice

Summer begins this afternoon, here in the Northern 4:09 pm (PDT). Somehow the sun has broken through today, after nearly a month of solid rain here in Colville. I'd spent much of June in England, but the rain followed me there, as well, so I splashed through the streets of Newport and Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and splattered through the streets of London, Portsmouth, Broadstairs and Rochester.

Though my sweaters and jeans may have been soggy, my spirits never sagged. What a vacation this was indeed! Not only did I get to see the very room where Charles Dickens was born at One Mile Terrace in Portsmouth, but I also gazed at the house at Gad's Hill Place where he died. Well, at least it's the official recorded place of his death, though rumors abound that he might have died at Slough, as rumors are wont to do.

But that's not all! I also celebrated the Queen's Diamond Jubilee with a country fair and band concert in Kewstoke and viewed her Thames salute at a Chinese restaurant on the Isle of Wight. Her Majesty is a very nice girl, indeed! But not the only English queen I like, so I attended a recreation of Victoria's Jubilee at Osborne House, her winter home on Isle of Wight.

And I soaked up my share of musicals....from a rowdy music hall version of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and a community theatre production of Oliver! to the full scale razzle dazzle of the West End's revival of Singin' in the Rain.

New experiences to write about include:
  1. Girls' night out at The Castle with Heather Bird, longtime friend from Weston-super-Mare, where we befriended two exuberant young lads, one a "caulkhead" (Isle of Wight native) and gravedigger, and the other a "overner" (Englishman mainlander settled on Wight) and VSO demolitions expert. Here I learned that I'm regarded as a "grockle," a term for tourist. We gabbed about Cheech and Chong, the merits of Old Rosie vs. Thatcher Gold cider, and the ghosts that inhabit this most haunted of all the world's islands.
  2. Close encounters on planes. On the journey over I met a man from Wenatchee, WA, who fashions his own bows and arrows and was on his way to hunt long horned cape buffalo outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. On the flight home I met a Unity chaplain who'd fallen in love at a retreat in Scotland that she'd wanted to attend for decades.
  3. Surprises of my Dickensian "The Best of Times" trek for Uncle Jam, and additionally, at publisher Phil Yeh's request, a remembrance of Ray Bradbury, my high school inspiration.
  4. Museums and why they continue to enchant me, whether they're all-inclusive like the Victoria and Albert, or just plain quirky, like the Old Operating Theatre Museum.
Though I've been singing in the rain, now I'm ready to hum in the sunshine...and yes, I'll take advantage of a sunny evening to sow my Weed and Feed on the front lawns!

A final note...George Harrison, too, had tired of the English rain when he wrote his song:

"Here Comes the Sun" was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: 'Sign this' and 'sign that'. Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton's house. The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric's acoustic guitars and wrote "Here Comes the Sun".