Posted by: carpefeline | February 2, 2015

Catching A Volcano Dream

first view

first view

first time past the fissure

first time past the fissure

As a child, I had two dreams that persisted: after the ballerina phase, cowgirl phase, and circus entertainer phase. I would be a vet or I would be a volcanologist!  Animals are so cool & wonderful.  And who possibly couldn’t love the glory and power of nature with a volcanic eruption (baring that anybody would get hurt which never occurred to me as a small child!)  These two dreams stayed with me – well, just about forever because they are still there. Needless to say, my life took a completely different path from either one, I became neither, but I don’t regret the path I took. Just a smidgen of “if only”.

I do love animals and do get to play with them, pet them, interact with them as often as possible such as going to Paradise Wildlife Park in England to sit with the meerkats or feed the lions. But the volcanologist part has eluded me. Couldn’t afford to go see Mt. St. Helen’s when it blew, couldn’t get to Italy for their frequent episodes nor even Hawaii kept eluding me at the times when it had spectacular eruptions. The money, the timing, the whatever, just didn’t ever line up for me.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to re-visit Iceland with a group of women. My last visit to Iceland was at a time when nothing was happening geologically or volcano-wise. This time, I really hadn’t been paying much attention to what was happening in the country with regards to volcanoes so was rather surprised when our guide told us that there was a current eruption going on in the highlands. The Bardarbunga caldera.  OMG. is it my time?? Is it my chance?? Thank goodness, the lady in charge of our group is so nice and generous and gracious that she had no problem with me wanting to leave the group for a quick run to the volcano. Our guide then started working out how to make this happen for me.

hot fissure, throwing up lava

                                                                                               hot fissure, throwing up lava

lava pot

My first choice would be to take a helicopter flight over the fissure. HA! that was going to cost about 1200 pounds! In spite of being a life long dream, there was the money thing again. No way I could justify that for just me. But he found out there is also a plane flight where they just sell window seats and they cruise back and forth over the lava field and the erupting fissure so each side has equal opportunity to see the eruption. That works for me.

The plan was for a taxi pickup from our sightseeing point during the day, a ride into Reykjavik, onto the plane for the viewing and finally a taxi ride to meet the group back at the hotel. The plan was offered to the group but I was the only taker. Guess I am the only one with the lingering vulcanology dream.

Our group got to Gullfoss – the wide waterfall of beauty and glory, even with the rivers looking quite frozen!  But no taxi.  Our guide and our bus driver kept calling and talking to someone and finally our bus driver says follow me.  I figure the taxi is somewhere in the back of the parking lot but nope – we climb on the bus and he drives the bus back down the hill and the 7 miles or so back to the geyser viewing area.  We just came from there but somehow the taxi had decided to wait for me there!  Nothing like making a huge bus negotiate the snowy roads for one passenger!

I ask the bus driver one final time – “He knows where to take me, right?” and the bus driver assures me that he does.  So I hop out and try to get into the taxi but the driver can’t get the door open!  Should have been a warning!  We both wrestle with the door a few minutes – the bus being on the way back up the hill by now for the rest of the group – and finally get it open.  I’m in and seat belted and we are away.

Driving calmly along for about 40 minutes when the taxi driver turns and asks what time is my flight?  He had to ask me three times because he had a gravely, mumbling voice.  Later my guide even said he was hard to understand.  I told him 3:15 and suddenly we are going much faster along the road.  Then he turns to me and says, where is the flight?  OMG!  HE doesn’t know!  I don’t know!   They said that he knew!  So now he is driving much faster along the snowy roads plus dialing his cell phone to find out where he is supposed to take me.  My guide and bus driver at the other end are having a hard time understanding him and keeping the connection going but he finally figures out where I am to go.  Someone calls the airline and tells them I am on the way.

hot spots breaking throughlava breaking through the crust

We are truly speeding along the road, passing every car in front of us when feasibly possible to do so and occasionally NOT feasible to do so.  I am determined not to look at my watch and not to look out the front window but I am also wondering if I will survive this ride!  I hope he doesn’t hit an icy patch as he passes a car, goes around a corner, over a bridge or anything.

Finally we reach the outskirts of Reykjavik and I look at my watch and it is 3:15!  OMG again!  this is the time I am supposed to be leaving!  The airline has my credit card number so whether I am on the plane or not, I am probably paying for it.  My heart truly sinks to the floor as I expect I have just lost a lot of money and a chance to see an erupting volcano.  We continue into the city though, barely keeping still at the few stop lights that were red.  Then he screeches and slides around a corner and I see a plane on the runway, a small plane that looks like just about the right size to fly over a volcano.  POOOOOOOHHHH!  I figure that’s my plane.  But I get the money out the pay the taxi and start gathering up my stuff so I can at least take a different taxi back to the hotel so I can quietly sob into my scarf!

We screech to a stop in front of the terminal and he jumps out and runs around to my door to open it.  A lady comes out the front door and says Volcano? and I nod.  I throw the money at the driver as she grabs my arm and we run through the airport!  She hands me a small ticket which is my boarding pass and yells GATE 3! and points.  I run out the back door and down the walkway to gate 3 where a man comes out and says “relax and enjoy it” and I run to the plane and clamber up the stairs.  THEY WAITED FOR ME!!!  Of all the things I expected to happen, having an airline wait for me for this adventure was never in my realm of possibilities.

It is Iceland Air and a much bigger plane than I expected.  It probably holds 44 passengers or so.  But for the volcano flights, they only sell window seats.    I had expected to sit in my seat and at every other pass, I would see the eruption.  BUT there were only 10 people on the plane!  Glory BE!  Not only had I made it, we were all going to be able to move from side to side to see each and every time we passed the fissure.

lava flowlava flows

It was about a 30 – 40 minute flight from Reykjavik to the lava field.  That time was spent getting my breath back and my heart to start beating normally again plus listening to our guide who was on the plane to explain everything to us and enhance our voyage.  There were a mix of English speakers on the plane and Icelanders and most with regular cameras but one gentleman with such a lens that I immediately got “lens envy” for it.  Of course with a lens the size of a small suitcase and no tripod, I have no idea how his photos came out but he seemed quite pleased at the end.

Finally we near the eruption site.  All of us are looking back and forth, not sure which side will come up first.  It’s my side!  I won the first toss!  We see a massive black lava field first and then a bright glow comes into view with a huge ash and smoke plume leading away from it.  As we get closer, we can see rivers of lava flowing away from this fissure with pockets of hotter lava mixed in the flow.  OH I am in heaven!  It is so much more than I expected and hoped for to see.

Since we are overhead, it is quite difficult to see spouts of flame and gasses but after several passes over the fissure, I could see them and could tell when the magma was boiling up to the top of the fissure crater where it was all escaping from the earth.    The plane makes its first pass and turns for the second pass.  We all move to the other side of the plane.  I’m sure the pilots must be used to this because we must have caused an imbalance in the weight distribution for flying.

Another pass and another move to the opposite side of the plane.  I start noticing other things.  The plume extends all the way across the lava field and thins as it disappears into the distance.  The plane never, ever crosses through the ash plume.   The lava field is spread over many acres and while it looks quite solid, there is no snow on it anywhere and at various times, we can see tiny hot spots as the lava breaks through the surface.  At the edges of the field, the snow slowly builds as it moves away from the field.  There are places in the lava field where there is steam and smoke escaping.  The lava rivers are moving out but one looks very much like it is flowing back into the ground and back under the black crust.  This seems to be the case as one pass there are a few red spots, the next pass even more, and by the fourth pass over this one site, the lava has broken through the crust “downstream” from where it went back into the ground and is starting to flow again on the surface.  Oh wow!  I call it “seeing a lava river being born”.  works for me.

Since there were only 10 of us and we made roughly 10 passes over the field and fissure and lava rivers, each of us was given the opportunity to go stand behind the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit and look out the window at their view.  How magnificent is that!  I can tell you that it is truly fantastic and just brilliant!  My husband made the comments that my photos from the cockpit were not as great as some from just out the windows.  Yes, probably true since I would have been leaning over the pilot and the controls to put my camera as close to the window as I was in the back of the plane and I think he wouldn’t have liked that.  But the view from the cockpit was just a dream.

lava field from the cockpit

More passes and watching the lava bubble and pop and jump in the fissure and watch it flow into the channels it had already made and watch it move through the field.  What an opportunity that finally I have been able to see an eruption AND it was one where no one was hurt and no property damaged.  Even better than  my childhood dream!

Finally it was time to continue back to Reykjavik.  Our guide came around to show us the various facts regarding this volcano and how it compared to past ones, whether it will keep going or not and such.  She also had a piece of lava from the field below us.  Mighty sharp with crystals embedded in it.  It was so sharp it was hard to find a place to hold it plus it was heavy.  Don’t think they get much pumice here.  This eruption caused the biggest earthquake swarm they have ever had and the amount of lava in the first three months of the eruption was equal to the amount of lava that produced the island of Surtsey back in the 70’s which took 3 1/2 years!

Like most people, I am never satisfied with one dream being realized.  Now I have a larger and more fervent desire to see more eruptions AND from the side views where I can see how high the lava is shooting.  We were under 2000′ above the eruption but my next adventure has got to be a helicopter so I can get closer – much, much closer.

lava fissure

Posted by: carpefeline | March 11, 2014

Frikkin Fire Drills and False Alarms

I am probably doomed to perish in a fire.  Gosh I certainly hope not but it definitely could be a possibility.  I have no idea how fast a fire moves or how long you can manage before the smoke overcomes you.  AND unfortunately, I have been in SOOOO Many dang frikkin fire drills and alarms that I have become inured to their importance.

Maybe 10 years ago or so, twice, (different hotels, different states, different cats, different times), I was in a hotel with my daughter’s cat and with my two cats..  Someone pulled the fire alarm when I was with my daughters cat and it was during the day so I was able to quickly grab him and stuff him in a carrier.  BUT on my way out the door, I also grabbed my computer and my purse.  Went outside and sat on the bench in front of the door until the fire department came and cleared the alarm.  The second time with cats, I was on the fourth floor and it was the middle of the night.  The cats were sleeping on the bed with me when someone pulled the alarm.  The noise is so loud and tumultuous and ear splitting plus a bright red light whirling in the room that the cats immediate dove for cover under the KING SIZED BED.   I was not leaving without my cats (although I know that one is supposed to do so but my cats are family!).  Took me probably 5 minutes to corral them and get them stuffed into a carrier and that involved throwing the mattress and springs onto the floor so I could reach them under the bed.  This alarm truly terrified me at the time because it was the middle of the night.  I do remember I called the front desk and they assured me they were looking into the matter but I had best vacate my room.  Again, I grabbed my computer and purse and trotted down the flights of stairs and shivered in the cold morning air because I had forgotten to put on a jacket.  At least I was sleeping in pajamas at the time.

Of course both of these were alarms and not drills but still, I didn’t get out as fast as I could, I took my time to get my cats and my most important possessions.  My bad.  One other fire alarm was in Singapore.  No cats at the time but we lived on the 33rd floor.  That is a LONG way down the stairs.  Probably took us 15 minutes or more as people were coming out on each floor to join the procession plus some flats had stored their bicycles and grills and such on the stairs.  They bad!   Plus my hubby wanted to stop on the floors where we had friends and made sure they were not in their apartments but we figured they were ahead of us on the stairs.  This is the ONLY time there was actually a reason for the alarm being pulled and it was some of our friends where the wife had caught a skillet on fire and there was a lot of smoke in their apartment but her husband had put out the small stove fire before the alarm was pulled.  She ran and pulled the alarm because she was a nutter.

And one time in the Science Museum in London.  We’re on the top floor when there is a fire alarm.  This was mid winter when it was actually quite cold.  By the time we reached the ground floor, personnel was stationed at all stairs and they would not let anyone retrieve their coats so I’m outside in 2 degree C weather, with a wind, and no coat.  AND they had to wait for the fire brigade to come and clear the alarm before we could go back inside to get our coats.   I no longer check my coat when I go somewhere unless it is just a jacket that I could do without for an hour or so.

In a very crowded theatre watching We Will Rock You.  In the middle of a song, the performers stopped singing and left the stage.  OMG.  Then the “Safety Curtain” descends and we had never seen that happen before.  No one in the audience knew what was happening so everyone just sat there for maybe 2 or 3 minutes.  There was no smoke or heat or alarms.  Finally staff opened all the exit doors and started shouting for people to leave the theatre.  A disgruntled employee had pulled an alarm backstage but we never heard it at all.  So out into the cold (with my coat this time) and wait for the fire brigade again to come and clear the theatre and 45 minutes later, we get back in to see the rest of the show.

There have been a couple of other hotels where the alarms have been pulled and I have exited at my leisure, making sure I have my important stuff.  And there have been drills, so many drills.  Work place drills, hotel drills, restaurant drills, gym drills, store drills and others.  Usually there is a sign or an employee will mention that a drill is being held at such and such a time and please cooperate and exit as quickly as possible.   Never any smoke, never any heat, never any problem with calmly getting up and walking out with my stuff.  apparently my stuff is quite important to me!

Yesterday I was in an unannounced drill and it was only a partial drill at that!  I was at the gym and you might recall that I hate going to the gym.  Any excuse not to go.  But I was there and walking fast on the treadmill and watching Chuck on my iPod.  I think I heard something going off but I wasn’t paying any attention as I was focused on Chuck and his cornucopia of problems with being a secret computer nerd spy.   Suddenly a lady jumps up on the treadmill next to me and taps me which was quite startling but she shouts “Fire Alarm”.  I took out my earplugs and yep, it was going off quite loudly.  I think I didn’t pay any attention to it because the music is usually way too loud so I must turn up my iPod as well.  I “emergency stopped” the treadmill, gathered my iPod and walked out.  People are leaving the gym and walking down the stairs but I detoured into the ladies locker room and got my purse and my coat and my keys.  Yep, stuff is definitely important to me.  But no smoke, no fire, no shouting, no running.  Some poor ladies are in the shower, some are half dressed, some are totally nude, and they are not really hurrying so I meandered out as well and when I got to the front of the hotel where my gym is located, it appeared that the only people involved in the drill were the people at the gym and the people at Starbucks and the pub.  There wasn’t a single person out there who I would have counted as a hotel guest or hotel staff.  No housekeepers, who have a distinctive uniform or front desk staff who also have a distinctive uniform.   Everyone was dressed in gym attire or swimsuits and surely, at the time of day that this happened, one would have expected to get some executives over for lunch in their suits, or at least one or two hotels guests dressed nicer than sweaty T-shirts and trainers.   And it was a drill because no fire brigade showed up to check the alarm.  Once outside, it was less than 3 minutes before we were allowed back inside.  The Starbucks staff appeared to be the only employees outside with the gym attendees.    The end run of this drill was that I went back in to get my gym bag and then went home to do my errands. Didn’t even want to take a shower there in case they figured we hadn’t responded quickly enough and wanted to do it again.

So I have become lackadaisical with fire alarms and fire drills.  No experience with the real thing – thank goodness – but then that gives me no frame of reference for how much time I really do have to get out.   I am probably doomed.

Posted by: carpefeline | March 4, 2014

Bumper People and Eerie Stations

Last weekend we had dinner and a play in town and did the pin balling from local map to local map to find where we needed to go.  This weekend it was much worse and not quite so easy.  We had tickets to see The Full Monty and also to have dinner at the Spaghetti House before the show, one of the pre-theatre dinner packages.

Started out badly.  We arrived at the train station and found a parking place without a problem but when we got to the window to purchase our tickets, the train times had been changed from the usual times we were familiar with and counting on.  dang. when did that happen.  Had I purchased the tickets on line like I usually do, might have discovered that, BUT after last weekend when the trains were delayed and we had to find another way home, we were told to go back to our original station to get our refund – hence we were getting today’s tickets at the station so that we could also get our refund.  Nope, didn’t happen.  So now we are without our refund from the prior week and we are also going to be quite late for our 6 p.m. dinner reservation.  We called the restaurant and told them we would be there at 6:30.

Our train should have gotten us to Waterloo at 6:20 but it arrived at 6:30.  Still we figured we could make the restaurant in about 10 minutes.  Just not to be this evening.  Not quite sure if it was rugby or football but the Tube was full of fans going to Leicester Square and a good many of them were already well into stages of inebriation plus wildly enthusiastic about their teams and a good deal of shouting and cheering and singing.  Exiting at Leicester Square proved to be an experience in bumper people rather than bumper cars.  It was so crowded that we were bumping everyone next to us as we struggled towards the exit.   It was the kind of crowd that had anyone fallen down, they would have stayed down as people wouldn’t have been able to find them underneath the feet.

Finally we burst into the open and there is a drunken crowd of about 50 people clustered around the map.  It is now 7:40 p.m.  We can’t even get close to the map and we can’t remember which way to go so we just turn and walk down the street to try and get out of the crowd and find another map.  Nope, not to be.  Hubby pulls out his phone and speaks in the address and it points off in a direction so we walk along its path.  Tonight is the night that the phone GPS plays tricks on us.  twice we walked around the block in a circle trying to find the right street.  And finally I realize we have to give up totally on the restaurant because it is now 7 p.m. and our play starts at 7:30.  I tell hubby to put the theatre into the GPS and it takes us in a total different direction.  huh?  the restuarant and theatre were supposedly close together.  Oh well, we head back towards the tube station and again are bumping our way through the crowds that are still there and surging out of the tube and go a couple of blocks and there is the theatre.  Wow, had we just turned the other direction when we came out, we might have made it to the restuarnt in time to eat!   Across the street from the theatre is an Eat so we dash in there to get a sandwich and drink and couple of cookies.  Into the theatre for our seats and we share a sandwich and our cookies before the play begins and that was our dinner!

Lovely play, enjoyed it immensely and then when it is over, we struggle through the crowds back to Leicester Square Station.  There are even more people in the streets now. We’ve never seen it this crowded.  There are police stationed at each exit/entrance to Leicester Square Tube Station and they are blocking the entrances and telling people to go around the corner.  We do but the queue to go into the station is so thick that we decide we will just walk until we find another station or a cab, whichever comes first.

Unfortunately, we have to “swim upstream” against a very solid mass of shouting fans and drunken fans and theatre buffs.  A policeman at one of the entrances tells us to walk up the street to find Tottenham Court Tube Station and we can get back to Waterloo from there.  One would think that as we got a block or two away from this tube station that the crowds might lessen but there were too many like minded people heading for Tottenham Court tube station so we strolled up the street as it was impossible to get around the people and stride out.  Finally we get to the Tottenham Court Tube Station and the first entrance is closed.  We’re thinking it still might be a taxi then but when we walk around the corner, there are people going into the station so we do also but at the bottom of the stairs just around the corner, the crowd grows into a large lump of humanity that is shuffling towards the entrance gates and now we are stuck as there are too many people behind us to turn around and make an escape.

Amazingly enough, when we finally go through the turnstiles, it opens up and there is still a crowd but not so bad as some people peel off to go on the Bakerloo line and we go towards the Northern line.  We walk down to the platform and it is heaving at the beginning as the fans who are still drunk and cheering are getting to the platform and just standing there waiting for the subway.  We push and shove and bumper our way through this knot of people and walk to the far end of the platform where there are only a few people and WHEW at last we are out of the crowds.

The train comes and there are very few people in our car so we have seats.  An announcement is made that the train will NOT be stopping at Leicester Square due to the station being closed due to overcrowding.  Wow.  have never heard of this happening before.  Glad we left that station.  As we roll through that station though, they have totally cleared it out and not a single person is on the platform at all, not even a tube worker.  rather eerie.  Charing Cross might have taken up some of the slack but it was surprisingly sparse as well.  Embankment is closed for their escalator repair anyway so another eerie station as we pass the empty platform.

Finally Waterloo and as we are riding the escalator up to the train station, we hear an announcement that says “Victoria Line is currently running slow due to a person under the train, No other lines are experiencing delays”.  Say WHAT???  I turned to my hubby and he heard the same thing so I didn’t “mis-hear” it.  Wow.  Entirely too many people on the tracks these weeks.

Unfortunately, we have about 1/2 hour to wait for our train and it isn’t a fast train either, stopping numerous times before reaching our destination.  So we stand and watch the board so we can make a dash for the correct platform when it is listed and also we are watching to make sure there aren’t any delays like last week that turned into an all night stoppage.  We know from experience that the trains leaving from about 11 p.m. to a bit past midnight are almost always full as people are going home from a night in the city.  And tonight there are all these football or rugby fans who are roaming the station, now very drunk and either maudlin-ly sad or ridiculously happy but either side is still shouting and cheering and singing.

Finally we get a track number and we rapidly walk to the gates.  We skip the first couple of cars and get on where the first class car is located.  It is next to the toilet but experience has taught us that usually, USUALLY,  these seats are left to the end before they fill, if at all but other cars without the first class section, are usually quite full and people are standing until they get as far out as Farnborough or Fleet.   Well, tonight was an exception to that rule as has been most of the travel evening.  By the time the train left, our coach was quite full with a queue for the toilet.   In the group of people left standing without seats was a group of football fans who were fairly well lit with liquor including one friend who couldn’t really stand, being that intoxicated.  Luckily his friends got him into the toilet by requesting to jump the queue and everyone agreed because we all thought he was going to hurl on someone otherwise.  Then his friends took him off to the end and sat him on the floor.  Some nights, my hubby can sleep on the train going home but not tonight.  Rowdy and loud but polite in that the fans stayed within their group and didn’t bother anyone else on the train, other than falling over on occasion when the train hit a curve.

So an interesting evening where nothing went as planned from the very start, a very entertaining play, a missed dinner engagement, bumper people game up and down the street and through the tube stations, and drunken train companions all the way home.  Geez, I just LOVE London!!!!

Posted by: carpefeline | February 3, 2014

Beer Book #2

Last year we started taking the labels off the different beers my husband drinks and putting them into a book.  Very sorry that I didn’t think to date it at the start but we probably began somewhere around March or April or maybe later.  There are so many different beers here (England) that I’m really sorry we didn’t think to start when we first moved here or we’d be into book 3 by now or maybe even book 4.

Anyway, we have started book #2 now.  There are 198 labels in book #1 and would have been 200 labels except when I started I put a couple of “front and back” labels for the same beer on separate pages, hence 198, not 200.

Each beer is one that my husband has drank.  It doesn’t count if he doesn’t drink it and so friends cannot send us labels.  We have some from our holidays too in a couple of different countries but they are so much harder to get as I can’t always haul the bottle away from the restaurant to soak off the label.  Still I managed it in the Faroe Islands and in Santorini.  What fun.  I am probably enjoying it more than my husband but at least he is the one who gets to drink all the beer.  And sometimes they have been less than stellar examples of the fine art of brewing.  But he downs them all with grace and humor and a wonderful husband’s need to keep his wife happy with her little enterprise.  LOL.

So on with Beer Book #2.  We will keep it up wherever we go now.  Wow, can you imagine how many labels and books we would have now had we started saving them 40 years ago????  We’d have all kinds of home brews and micro brews and probably a bunch of defunct beers as well in our books.  Everyone must have a hobby and this is one of ours.  He drinks the beer, I soak off the labels and past them in the book.  Partnership in a marriage is a wonderful thing.

Posted by: carpefeline | February 2, 2014

Fine Dining at Costco and Tesco

It’s been a great boon to have Costco open in Farnborough.  So much easier to go buy things in bulk that we have no place to store in our little English kitchen but still it is so much fun to go and wander around and image that some day again we might have a freezer big enough to actually buy some meat and put it all in the freezer to use before it gets freezer burned.  But not the topic of the day.

We tend to hit Costco a lot more often when my daughter is in town because you can buy certain vegetables in bags that are ready to cook.  No messing around with the cleaning and tossing of the leaves and such that is not edible.  We like to time it so that we hit Costco when most of the samples are out on view and ready for tasting.  Yum.  For awhile, we were missing it each time, just getting a single bite of something, IF we were lucky.  But our last three visits, we have hit the gold mine, so to speak.  There have been tables set up all over the place with something to eat at each one.  Usually, we manage to hit the dessert/pudding samples first.   That established a pattern in that if we liked it, we probably bought it.  Usually we don’t buy anything else because they come in containers too big for us.  But we have managed to buy: sticky toffee pudding cake, chocolate croissants, and we almost bought last week’s yummy: bakewell cherry tarts (where we both got 1/4 of a tart each to taste!).  Then we go on to the other taste treats and have had things such as:  noddles, lasagna, sushi, soups, fish sticks, cheese, sausage (we bought that), crisps, chips, bread, spreads and dips, salami, and several different kinds of sauces, some of which we bought.

On occasion, we have had a mouthful of something nasty.  We try to be polite and head for the next trash bin before we spit it out or throw it away.  Once, it was too nasty to do that and the poor lady had to see us take this thing out of our mouth (into the napkin at least) and toss it in her bin.  Wow, her bin was full too.  Maybe they don’t get to choose what they are displaying because not many people liked her taste sample.  That day, we also had to immediately head back to the dessert table and get another sample of the sticky toffee pudding cake to get the yucky taste out of our mouths.

Our last three visits, the taste treats have been my lunch.  By the time we get to the checkout, I am full and have no need to go home and fix lunch.  What a bargain!  And a couple of times, we moved on to Tesco!  More dining out.

Tesco, Meadows, store has a taste kitchen.  We were first approached several months ago to stop and do a taste comparison for them.  They take you to the kitchen, you park your shopping trolley outside the door (it’s in the back of the store), go in and sit at a computer and they give you two samples to try.  You judge them on appearance, texture, smell, and taste.  Since our first time, we have been approached about 5 times to do the taste comparison.  Each time we have agreed.  In fact, I think you can walk up to the taste kitchen and tell them you’d like to do a taste comparison and if they are working that day, I think they will let you – although we haven’t tried that yet.

Anyway, we have tried: rice and beans, cake, biscuits, creamed corn, and I forget the last one.  Usually one is pretty tasty and the other is pretty yuck.  Hopefully you will get the yuck first so you can eat the entire second sample and have a nice taste to leave the store.  Once we got the yuck last and it was hard to get that taste out of our mouths.  We opened something as soon as we got to the car to gobble it down and erase the yuck.

Anyway, it is fun to dine out at such posh establishments as Costco and Tesco.  Hoping to continue our eating experiences at both places.

Posted by: carpefeline | January 26, 2014

Changing Light Bulbs by Moving Furniture

Our rental house has a “big room” which is the garage that was made into a living room.  It’s a wonderful room and where we spend a good deal of time.  It has a very high ceiling and around the room are lights at what would be a “roof” level were it still a garage.  These lights are controlled by 3 separate switches, 3 on a switch.  We rarely have them all on at once because I think we could suntan if they were all running.  Changing the light bulbs in any of  them is a chore, adventure, hard task, difficult, etc. and you get the picture.  So unless more than one is out in a set of three, we just ignore it.  Very chagrined last week that all three lights in our favorite set had burned out.  Dang.  That really meant that we were going to have to change some light bulbs.

We got our ladder and standing on the top rung, we can just about reach the light to take off the cover and then reach in and take off the glass cover over the bulb and then pull out the bulb.  This is all by feel.  As this particular light series has a switch on either side of the room, we couldn’t tell if it was on or off.  We thought off.   Blast but we were wrong after I got a second small shock.  So hubby fixed that problem by just flipping the breaker.

We fiddled and fiddled and fiddled and fiddled and there was just no way we could get the blasted new bulb into this light socket.  Totally by feel and stretched to the limit wasn’t working.   It is way too complicated, albeit a lovely fixture and quite stunning a decor, but way too complicated to continue to try and fit in the light bulb by feel only plus we had to do three of them.  So the ladder is out.  If we stand on the buffet which was a bit taller than the fourth ladder rung, it might be enough to see and reach.  So we dragged the buffet over to under the first light and I climbed up on top of the buffet.  It put me a bit closer but not enough to see over the edge and into the light socket.

Next step of course is putting a footstool on top of the buffet and climbing onto the footstool.  YEA!  Tall enough now and I can see into the light socket.  Fiddle and fiddle and a few more fiddles and I get the light bulb into the socket and we check it by flipping the breaker again and turning on the switch.  Yes, it works.  Two more to go.

Now we have to move the sofa and the two end tables so we can move the buffet to the next light.  Back up onto the sofa, step onto the buffet, step onto the foot stool and yes, I can reach this one too and it doesn’t take very long to change the light bulb on this one.  For the last one, we have to move the recliner and some baskets, move the buffet over a bit further, step back up onto the sofa, onto the buffet and onto the foot stool and viola!  Light bulb changing is a snap once you can reach it and see it.

Took us 45 minutes of messing around with the ladder and trying to reach and do it all by feel and didn’t change a single bulb.  Took us 20 minutes of moving furniture to change all three of them.  Did not rearrange the furniture but then put it all back the way it was as it was in the best arrangement for our lighting situation.  We did find several missing cat toys under the various furniture pieces.  Ahh, always a good weekend when hard to do chores are finished and completed.

Posted by: carpefeline | January 24, 2014

Possession of the Bench

We actually belong to a gym and even use it several times a week.  And for anyone who know us, who would have ever thought that would happen?    That aside, we pack up our gear in a gym bag and haul off to the gym in Farnborough.  The point was to find somewhere close to where my husband works so that he could come over at lunch time and workout.  It has been working beautifully for us.  And even though he is gone this week on a business trip, my daughter and I have gone to the gym (her more than me) and performed our homage to the  various machines.

I always finish before her so I trudged down the stairs to the ladies locker room.  Some days it is quite hard to find a locker because this particular establishment rewards their employees with free locker space so only about 1/2 of the lockers are available for the general paying members – ever.   And on a day when there are classes, it is really a grind to find an open locker.  OK, off my soapbox about the lack of locker space and onto my soapbox about the ladies who locker!

As I round the corner, there is a women who has a locker about 5 over from me and she is in the process of taking everything out of her locker and putting it on the bench.  In the locker room sections (two sections), there are three benches in front of the rows of lockers.  obviously if a lot of people are there, the benches are not enough for everyone but she and I were the only two people in the room at the time.  She took out her coat, her backpack, her purse, her towel, her bathroom bag of goodies and another backpack and proceeded to strew them across the entire bench except for a small space at my end of about 5″ in width, not quite wide enough to put my gym bag on it without it hanging over the edge.  She had just come into the locker room after doing a spinning class because she was shouting to another lady in the other section of the locker room about it.  She still has to take a shower so why is her coat and backpack already out of her locker and taking up space on the bench?????

I took out my gym bag to change and get my towel and shower bag of goodies.  Obviously she can see me, obviously she can see that I have very little room at the end of the bench but she moves nothing.  All her stuff stays spread across the bench.  I quickly get ready for a shower and move to that area, putting my gym back and such back in my locker because I’m not going to leave it out when I can’t see it.  I figure when I come back from my shower, I’ll have a bit more room because I’ll get back before she is done with her shower.

Boy was I wrong.  I come back from the shower and her stuff is still all over the bench.  Coat, purse, two backpacks, and other loose items.  She just went to the shower and left it all on the bench, even her purse.  OMG.  Why?  I don’t get it.  One, I’d never leave my purse out in the open no matter where I am because what if some nice looking granny type lady is actually a thief?  OR what if I was a thief??   I could have easily gotten into her purse and taken anything by the time she came back from the shower.  And two, it’s just so rude to take up almost the whole bench when it’s obvious that other people are there and need space also.

As I walked back to the bench, there was another women pulling things out of her locker and very carefully putting them on the end of the bench so now I have no room.  OK, I pulled out my gym bag and just put it on the floor.  I am adaptable.  The second woman was kind enough to move her things to the middle bench which was close to her but inconvenient for me to have moved.  I thanked her and by now the first lady was back and getting into her stuff and ignoring both of us as if we are invisible. She must have been deaf too in spite of her talking over the lockers earlier.  She totally missed my thank you to the second woman for moving her stuff.

I quickly moved my makeup bag onto the shelf in front of the mirror.  If she is going to be a bench hog, then I am going to grab the closest makeup mirror and stand in front of it.  She had to go to a different mirror and I am honestly surprised that she didn’t say something to me about it because I got a very, very, ugly look from her.

I had finished getting dressed, makeup on face, damp towels and dirty clothes packed away in my gym bag and heading for the door.  My daughter came into the locker room.  She informed me that she was almost dressed and ready to come out as well before that lady finished up and packed up her stuff and relinquished the bench.  AND the entire time, she was also putting stuff in and out of her locker  Wow.

So how does someone bring so much stuff to a gym that they need a locker and a bench to handle it all?  Does no one think about how you can put your purse and coat into the locker first and they will be out of the way so you don’t need to move them until you are ready to leave?  Do the people at this gym feel that they pay more than anyone else so the locker and the benches are there for their own personal use?  Are these Brits so rude that they just never learned to share anything in a public place?  I am hoping it is not the last because I have met many Brits who will give up their seats to me or help me carry things up and down stairs or to the car, who give me directions when I am lost and so forth and so on.  Is it just this particular club that has women who won’t share benches?  I am not sure of the answer but she is not the only one there that does this.  Maybe they got something written into their contract that says they don’t have to share benches and can hog the locker space and the mirror space and the benches.  I’ll never know but should you run into me at a club, I will share the space with you.  You won’t have to ask me at all, I’ll make room for you.  That’s the kind of person I am, I share and I help others.

Posted by: carpefeline | January 22, 2014

One of the “I” Countries & Maintaining Reputations

Am quite ashamed to admit that I forgot where my husband was this week!  That has never happened before.  In my defense, he’s been taking more than the usual amount of business trips and so far, never at a time when I could tag along – worse luck for me.  Most of his trips have been to Italy and while I have been there many times, I love going there so I’ve been quite peeved that he happened to “mention” going on this next trip after I already had committed to various things.  Ah well, next time.

So last week he was in Italy.  My husband is quite the pizza connoisseur.  Thus, we have pizza in every single country we have ever visited.  Sometimes this has been to our delight and sometimes this has been to our dismay.  But we must maintain his reputation for trying pizzas everywhere, no matter how far from Italy or how far from any kind of mainstream food sources.  And he always calls me on his business trips when I am not along for the ride so he called me on Tuesday night and one of the first things he said was “I’m maintaining my reputation”.  I knew right away that he was referring to the pizza reputation but I responded with “You’ve already had pizza in Italy so you didn’t have to do it again!”.  OMG.  He’s not in Italy this week.  He’s in India!!  I knew this, I really, really did but we’ve been so busy trying to have our belated Christmas and then getting him back from Italy last Thursday and ready to go to India on Monday that it just slipped out of my mouth.  Boy, was he amused.

We have been in India before and tried the pizza there so he actually didn’t need to have pizza again but we do love it and that’s one reason we always try it.  So he didn’t mind trying it again.
Anyway, his pizza reputation is intact, my geography reputation – if I ever had one – is shattered.  And I must remember to keep my “I” countries in order and which week goes with which “I” country.

Posted by: carpefeline | January 22, 2014

3 day Anti-Climatic Christmas

We held off on having our Christmas holiday and gift giving this year as we waited for our daughter to be able to come and join us.  As she works in Africa on a rotational basis, she was due to come to see us on Jan 15 so our plans were to have Christmas the weekend of the 18Th and 19Th, not quite a month after the real deal.  Presents were all bought and ready, but we were going to wait to decorate until that weekend.

Part of this reasoning was due to her cat.  Yes, how silly to plan things around a cat but her cat and our two cats are all family members too and it is fun to watch their reactions to different things.  Her cat has never had a Christmas tree.  As he is incredibly smart and curious and oddly clumsy, we figured he’d just go nuts over the Christmas tree and fully expected him to climb into it and bat things off of it and just generally do mayhem, which we planned to control by keeping doors closed if necessary and watching carefully – with the camera of course.

So our daughter arrives on time.  As luck would have it, my husband was out of town on a business trip and got back late on Thursday night so we had planned to put up the tree on Thursday but couldn’t.  Friday night, everyone was just too tired by the time the usual shopping had been done and hubby home for work and all.  Finally Saturday, we managed to pull everything out of the attic/loft and get the tree put up in the living room.

All the cats were milling around it didn’t take long for our two cats to go “oh yea, we remember this – not much going on that is for us” and they promptly went somewhere warm and went to sleep.  My daughter’s cat was interested in the proceedings.  He wandered underneath the tree a couple of times, stretched up into it once and then sat down beside it to watch and see what was happening.  As we expected a great deal of interest, we took care to only pull out the ornaments that were not breakable and the few breakable ones we got out, we put closer to the top of the tree to protect them.

The entire time we are decorating, her cat is just sitting and watching.  With so little reaction, we even finally put a few breakable glass ornaments on the bottom and nada, nothing.  Then we pulled out the tinsel garland.  Surely he will take interest in this because he loves tinsel and loves to eat it!  But as we are winding it around the tree, he is not even watching now, preferring to look out in the garden as there are squirrels out there.

The tree is decorated and the lights are on and the cats are totally ignoring the entire thing.  How anti-climatic!  We had expected a much bigger response, a much bigger interest, a lot more laughs and yelling and shouting and such but he was just not interested.  Presents go under the tree and the most he does is walk around them and take a sniff here and there.  Wow, did we ever call this one wrong.

Too late for actual opening of presents so we waited until around noon the next day to open our presents.  All cats were present and the best thing, they thought, were a few empty boxes.  Again, no interest in the tree or the ornaments or the tinsel.  But it was a very nice Christmas for us, present wise and companion wise and we had a good time.

Next day, Monday, my husband is off on another business trip so I take all the ornaments off the tree and pack away everything  for next year.  no cats even bother to come watch this dismantling of our 3 day Christmas.  No batting of the ornaments, no climbing the tree, no fighting the tinsel, no eating the papers, nothing.   My daughter’s cat is very smart and clever though.  Could he be waiting for next year because the others told him it usually lasts much longer and he can do a lot more damage then?  who knows.

Posted by: carpefeline | January 20, 2014

The Agony of Being Mangosteen-less

We lived in Singapore way back in the mid-90’s.  At that time, we were bold and adventurous (and I believe we still are in MOST categories) so we tried most every type of food that came our way.  My hubby and I both learned to love a lot of the “exotic” fruits of Southeast Asia which includes but is not limited to: lychees, rambutans, star fruit, dragon fruit, mangosteens, passion fruit and others. And in the true spirit of adventure and culture immersion, we tried everything, including jackfruit and durian.  Didn’t really like jackfruit much but durian – OMG.  For those in the know, durian smells like the back end of a weeks old dead dog thrown into a never-cleaned overflowing outhouse.  It is so bad that it is banned from subways and buses in Singapore.  Walk into any market and you can tell if they stock durian or not.  Yep, that bad and yet we still gave it a go because oddly enough, it is loved by many in Southeast Asia and they swear by it’s sweet taste.  We tried the durian ice cream and the durian creme puffs (on different days as it took awhile to work up our courage again).  Held our noses, held our breath and nope, nothing worked to kill the stench that flows into the back of the mouth and made us gag so durian is definitely a thing we will never eat again, probably.

However, we did like and love a good many of the other fruits.  My absolute favorite is the mangosteen which is a small ball of hard purple (and it is also banned in some hotels because it will stain their towels).  You push on it until it breaks open and inside is some lovely, tasty white flesh – sometimes with some seeds and sometimes not.  I learned that I can easily eat a dozen of these things at a single setting.  Love, love, love mangosteens.  So it was with great disappointment that I learned it is incredibly hard to find mangosteens in most countries outside of Asia.  I guess that it does not travel well.

Fast forward past several years without mangosteens then our first year here, my first visit to Borough Market and I discovered one fruit and vegetable stall that had mangosteens in stock.  OMG again!  Hallelujah!  Yippee!  I cleaned them out of their entire stock that first day.  Oops, OMG a third time.  Yikes.  the price is somewhat way, way, way, way higher than anywhere when you can buy them closer to the source.  OUCH.  I think I paid 3 or 4 pounds each!  But I love them so much that I didn’t care.  And very sad to say, I didn’t share either.  By the time my husband got home that day, the mangosteens were just a happy tummy memory.

Luckily I don’t live in London and don’t get to go to Borough Market that often or our grocery budget would be way out of hand, but every time I do, I have found the mangosteens again and bought all I could carry or all I had money to get.  Then one day I discovered that you could also get mangosteens at some of the markets in Chinatown, close to Leicester Square.  Much cheaper but also much less in quality.  Sometimes a mangosteen is sold past it’s prime and the white flesh inside is brown and yucky and almost every mangosteen I bought in Chinatown was either in this condition or very close to it.  So no longer do I consider Chinatown to be a place to find good mangosteens – back to Borough Market whenever I can.

Last Thursday, my daughter and I headed to London as she still had a few Christmas presents to buy (yes, we just had Christmas as she didn’t get here until this week) and I headed to Borough Market to my fruit and veggie stall to get my fix of mangosteens.  I walked through, walked through again, went through a bit faster looking desperately all around me and then went very slowly through checking bin by bin and no mangosteens!!!  Surely I’ve just missed them and they have moved them somewhere else.  There was the dragon fruit, the star fruit, the lychees, and other good exotic fruit but I was not seeing my purple passion!  I went up to the clerk and asked and he informed me that they had sold out of mangosteens the day before.  Oh No.  I had based my entire trip and my day on getting to Borough and getting those little purple balls of glory.  Someone else has decided to hoard mangosteens.  Some evil person got there before me and stole my wonderful fruit.  Some nasty, evil, devious, evil and triply evil person took them all.  I was bereft, crestfallen, depressed, glum, and sad.  Yes, mangosteens are that good.

No plans to go into London for probably the next month or so.  drat it all.  I will go again though and if they are out again, I may have to try Chinatown again and if they are bad again, I may have to fly to Singapore, just for mangosteens.  Some say that the durian is the king of fruit but I think it is the lowly, lovely mangosteen.   And please stay away from Borough Market if you plan to try them.  get some in Chinatown again, or better yet, don’t get any.  Leave them for me, a true enthusiast and affection-ado of the mangosteen.

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