May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

England, Jolly Friends, Old Friends, New Friends

Toilet good enough for a Queen

On the way from China to Europe

Les and Hans, our host
Great view out Han's Window
Tower Bridge by Night

A walk in the 'hood

Bread, Butter, Jam, Coffee and HANS
Hans and Les
Whoa!  Paella!

Markets in the 'hood
June 6—After getting “Oyster Cards” to cover our transport around London, we made our way to our new couch in London.  Hans gave us wonderful directions, and so we got there minutes before he did and welcomed him home.  His building was finished 6 months ago, so it was spanking clean and white and had a spectacular view of some of the most iconic new architecture in central London.  We went out to a nice Indian restaurant and then took a stroll along the Thames by the famous bridges and past the Jubilee Market until jet lag took a toll on me.  I was shaking with cold; no doubt my body clock had quieted for sleep, and I had been so used to the Chinese heat!  Hans’ (our couch-surfing host) bed was a welcome sight. He lives in an amazing place with a perfect view of some of the most iconic buildings of central London, including "the Shard" taking shape in the center.
June 7—Les and I went down the street for some fish-n-chips, and ended up ordering doners and eating them in the backspace for the kitchen folks to eat.  It was cool to watch the man at the counter teach boys, who came in for a sausage, arithmetic skills.  Strange though, Les bit his tongue pretty badly and within 10 seconds, I dislocated and popped back in my jaw.  We both finished the meal in pain.  Weird!  That’s never happened to me before
June 8—Hans gave us a walking tour of his neighborhood ending near to the markets to this fantastic coffee spot with a bowl of bread in the middle of the table and butter and jam available.  Strangers gathered around this table in the tiny venue and broke bread together. 
 Hans took us to his favorite cheese spot and I bought some fruit that looked like tangerines in the market.  The crowded stalls had everything from meats to veggies to full meals including the biggest wok of paella I’ve ever seen. 

Sue, Melvyn, Ben
Melvyn Sue
I enjoyed this sentiment
 The rest of the day, we worked on blogs and computing until it was time to travel to meet our second couch host.  We met Melvyn at a pub in Soho with another surfer named Ben.  I hadn’t had much to eat, so I was starting to slur my words after one pint.  We made our way to High Barnet (the last stop on the Northern Line) and walked about 20 minutes to Melvyn’s place.  It was still decorated from a block party they had in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee: flags flying, banners, posters and symbols of the matriarchy.  Apparently it was a huge gathering.  We met Melvin’s black cat Charlie, whose presence is known all through the house with fur and odor.  Towels still wet from the last surfers hung in the nice bathroom attached to the room; downstairs in the back was a quaint garden with bamboo and roses planted.  Famished, we dropped off our things and went to a local pub/restaurant for some excellent food. 
Poo-Flinger Reunion

Missing Laura and Michael and Craig and Rebecca

Jessica "The Saucy Blonde"

Windy Wonky Bridge

Les at the Globe: End of the Shakespeare Festival Schedule
June 9—It was the day for the “Poo Flingers Reunion” that Les has been planning since we left France at Namua’s farm.  We scoped out the area for somewhere to eat, bought a bright orange flower for each Jessica and Laura who were our comrades at the farm near Perpignan last August and September, and posted ourselves at the London Bridge tube entrance.  Dear Jessica showed up, but Laura never got the specific message as to where to come, so it was a trio instead of a quartet for this day.  Sorely missed was Michael, who remains in Australia.  We ate and caught up and rekindled our friendships.  We lingered in a plaza, took photos near the Globe Theater, bought supermarket sandwiches and sale fruit for dinner, and strolled across the “wonky” bridge (a pedestrian bridge across the Thames that used to wobble too much before it was reinforced).  I loved hearing about Jessica’s passion for reading and her desire to write—maybe in the music genre.
Jess and Less
Pina Bausch's "Nur Du" Scene

Barbican Theater to see Wuppertal Dance Theatre!
Pina Bausch's Wuppertal Dance Theatre Set
Late night home, changed by Tanztheater

I was very excited about going to see the Wuppertal Dance Theater  (Pina Bausch’s–RIP—Company) who is putting on 10 pieces, each one reflecting on a different city in the world.  We stood in line to see if Jessica could get a seat from a no-show, and she got in!  We saw “Nur Du (only you)”, a reflection on Los Angeles and California.  The stage was filled with enormous Sequoia trees.  As reviewer Liz Hoggard said, “All her favourite tropes are here — frocks, fire, screaming, breasts, curtains of hair…. Once again Bausch mines the nature of human sexual desire. Lovers flirt and fight, preen and wail. The women are drop-dead glamorous but never objectified. Because in Bausch , men are just as emotional and self-obsessed.  The soundtrack (everything from Duke Ellington to Indian flute music) drives the narrative. At times the company is a giant chorus line, ironing, shining shoes, braiding hair. A delicate girl climbs along a bridge of hands; a man scales a giant tree; a woman pours water into a plastic bag over her lover’s head. It’s brutally funny. But then there will be a moment of pure dance, where a soloist swops and flops across the stage, limbs like india-rubber.”  I’ve always wanted to see her work live, and to see the performers who have worked years with her was a real treat!  The long show kept us out until 1AM including the ~1-hour commute back home. 

Poo-Flingers Three
Oxford Laura with Her Majesty and Les
We love London in a small way
June 10—Through the magic of electronics and social media, we were able to contact Laura and meet for a short while in London.  Poo Flingers Association Reunion part 2!  We had another great day reminiscing about our farm life and learning about each other’s aspirations and journeys.  I loved how she was connecting maths with food web science.  We ended up at a little tearoom where we enjoyed clotted cream and jam on our scones.  I had a nice chamomile tea with red berries in it.  We took pictures of us with London tourist stuff.  Silly.  Departing sadly, we went north to meet Melvyn for a bite and a beer.  We ate good falafel at a place that had the greasiest floor; I could dance like James Brown!  We went down the street to a lively pub with a footie game on, a rock band in the back room and plenty of draughts to choose.  I think Melvyn wanted to drink more, but I was bushed, so we made our way home.

Waiting for toast at breakfast
Bridges made into apartment patios

June 11—We were packed and ready by 8AM.  We walked ½ way to the metro and stopped for a bite to eat where lots of old women with their grocery carts serving as walkers came in for tea.  Onwards in the rain to our new hostel, situated nicely in downtown London.  There, we met my old dear friend from my days in Logan, Utah Charlie.  It has been 18 years since I saw him, and he seems the same gentle soul I used to know.  London truly has been a city for reuniting and meeting anew.
June 12—Les and I imagined the “Toast-Making Olympic Event” at breakfast that was set up on the pool table in the bar below the hostel.  We gave points for testing how done was the toast, how they plucked it from the toaster, the way they put it on the plate, and the best was how they waited.  It was hilarious.  I guess you had to be there….

Sleeping Venus by Paul Delvaux
Calder!  Doesn't it look like the one at school?
These were posts.  The artist carved away the tree shape underneath
Salvador Dali's work at the Tate
 The day was full of art.  We had some of the best coffee ever at a place by the Tate Modern Museum NEXT to Starbucks.  She said they were Italian and they just opened; then she gave us a free cannoli.  Then perused the artwork in the Tate.  We saw mostly surreal and abstract art.  We saw work by Dali, Kandinsky, Klee, and others.  One of my favorites was looking at some tree trunks and short branches, then reading that the artist carved them based on where the knots and such were out of a large beam of wood.  When sculptures talk about letting the material tell them where to cut, this is really an obvious example!  We sat and watched strange documentaries of small bottom-of-the-sea life: seahorse life cycle, the sex life of an octopus, “witch dance” of mollusks and how special clams mate.  There were vast rooms with minimalist art in them, and smaller spaces with very famous surrealist pieces.  It was great to see close up and personal.  One very exciting thing was a huge time line of modern art!  I enjoyed seeing the whole evolution in one place—I love it when I can see the whole picture and the details at once.
Star Struck at the Globe Theater

Warm up act before Henry V
Unusual Water Fountain
The Globe Audience
The Globe calling us to attention
After this was the most anticipated event of London: Henry V at the Globe
Les at the Globe Theatre
Typical Alleyway
Theatre.  Wow.  Les and I had a little brie and cranberry sandwich and found our perfect seats!  Les glowed while the warm-up band played and our narrator began the play.  We loved the evening in the model of the historical site, and wandered the streets on the way back to our centrally located Dover Castle Hotel. 
June 13—We spent the day on a nice bus to Edinburgh….

The "Wonky Bridge"

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