London weekend continued

I’m keeping the rest of the London weekend travel report shorter, it’s really mostly about sharing pictures.

On Sunday, Bro and I walked the south bank in London, from London Bridge to Westminster. We walked through Borough food market, later stopped for drinks, popped in at the giftshop at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where my brother got my kids fun t-shirts (to be shared later on in this post) and we browsed through a book market.

On Monday morning, I relaxed in my brother’s garden (he lives in the downstairs garden flat and has sole access to that garden), we then went on to Highgate cemetery where some noteworthy people are buried, most famously Karl Marx. It was quite fitting that we should visit his grave on May 1st, Labour Day. Other famous people are buried there as well, like actor Corin Redgrave (who played Anne Eliot’s father in the 1995 Persuasion), sculptor Anna Mahler (also daughter of composer Gustav Mahler), Douglas Adams (author of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), the slab of stone where the lettering has all but faded belongs to actor Ralph Richardson (peer of John Gielgud and other British actors in mid 20th centruy movies). It’s a pity it has become all but illegible, the picture on Wikipedia shows better lettering. I also include pictures of a few other graves that just looked interesting.

After Highgate, my brother and I stopped for a pub meal (too late for lunch, too early for dinner, but it was good!) before he dropped me off at the airport again.

When I got home, the kids got their Shakespeare t-shirts…

It was really wonderful to get away like that and have so much time to catch up with my brother. I’m already looking forward to the next London trip.

A Saturday in London

I had another glorious stay in London this past weekend, visiting with my brother who lives there.

I flew out last Friday evening. It was cloudy but the view from above the clouds was really beautiful. I could already feel the worries in life just disappear into to the background, hidden somewhere underneath the clouds.

I even had the luxury of my brother picking me up from the airport and we spent the rest of the evening catching up.

Bro had plans for Saturday during the day and I asked him how I could best get to ‘Little Venice’ from his place on my own. I had read and heard about it but in all my visits to London, I’d never been and I was curious to see the canal with those famous narrowboats. He suggested that if I didn’t mind a bit of a walk, I could walk there from his house. Regent’s Park is only a 10-15 minute walk from where he lives and from there all I needed to do was follow the canal. And so I did and what a beautiful experience it was! Even more so because the weather was cheerful and sunny that day.

I got to Regent’s Park (passing some villa’s along the way – wow!) and quickly found the path next to the canal. The route was beautiful and made even more special as an occasional narrowboat passed me by. There were also some stately houses along the canal path route, with one such house having the most immaculately mowed lawn I have ever seen in my life. As I came into a more residential area, the narrowboats were moored along the sides of the canal. I eventually got to Little Venice and found that there was a boating festival going on, the 40th IWA Canalway Cavalcade. A moored narrowboat restaurant was serving cream teas, they had a spot for one, and so I jumped at the chance to eat scones, drink tea and just have a wonderful time looking out the window at all the boats (click on images to enlarge).

I walked around after that, watched the boating parade, there was a crafts market and there was music. It was such a glorious afternoon!

At the end of the afternoon I made my way to the westend, to the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue to meet up with my brother. We were going to see the play of To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Matthew Modine.

As we made our way to find a quick bite to eat, we passed by the stage door entrance to The Gielgud, and who should we happen to see but Matthew Modine himself, who had apparently just finished a matinee and was outside talking to some audience members!

We walked on and found a place to get takeaway wok noodles (with duck and veggies for me, and beef and veggies for him) and ate them in the sunshine at a table in the garden/park of a nearby church…

At 7 pm To Kill a Mockingbird started and at the end I even snuck in a picture of the curtain call…

I was so happy to see the play and it was also unexpectedly very funny in places too. The staging was clever and the telling was nicely done from daughter Scout’s point of view. I loved that they kept her as the narrator, Dill was very funny and endearing, and Calpurnia was more vocal about the racism issues than I ever remembered her being in the book. For me the biggest twist was on the issue of empathy and “walking in someone else’s shoes” to understand them. In this play the question arose as to how far empathy should really be extended, something I never really got to that extent from the book. It was all more explicit in this play. Other aspects of the story weren’t even touched upon in the play, which was a bit of a pity but I get it, there is only so much time. The focus seemed to be mostly on the character development of Atticus, which is fine, but I missed some of Jem’s and Scout’s development. Also, Atticus felt a little different, maybe a bit less heroic than he seems in the book. To me that echoes Go Set a Watchman a bit, the follow up from Mockingbird, in which Atticus is more fallible and also shows his own prejudices. As always, food for thought, but also (sadly) this still feels very topical for the world today.

Matthew Modine was a good Atticus, although he couldn’t beat Gregory Peck in that role for me. And really, no adaptation, not even the Peck film, can beat the actual book for me. I thought Anna Mundin made a very good Scout, Ellis Howard was really noteworthy as Dill, Cecilia Noble was good as the no-nonsense Calpurnia and Jason Hughes was really good as creepy Tom Ewell. This is an adaptation of one of my fave books ever. Even though it was somewhat different, I enjoyed it and am so glad I got to see it!

Afterwards, Bro and I wandered to the stage door, and sure enough, Matthew Modine was there again. It was nowhere near as busy as the Richard Armitage stage doors that I’ve been to but there were some fans there and we watched him interact with them. A young girl, maybe 12 years old, was overwhelmed at seeing him (did he do a youth show?) and he was so sweet to her and hugged her. He handed out cards of the play that he had signed himself with a gold pen and Bro insisted I get a picture with him as well, which I did.

That Saturday in London was just such a perfect day. It was filled with such lovely surprises, from the beautiful walk, to the cream tea on a narrowboat, to the boat festival, the lovely takeaway dinner in the sun, to the play and even briefly meeting the star of the play. This one will definitely stick in my memory for a long time.

Finding a little peace again

About two weeks ago I drafted a whole “worry list” post because there was so much to worry about and I was just too busy with too much going on. I ended up not posting it as I didn’t have time to properly edit it, it also just felt too whiny and open to discussion and I didn’t have the energy for discussion.

Now I’m two weeks on, it’s the weekend and things are looking up again. The worry about my son has resolved itself into a new strategy which I hope will make him happier, my mother in law was in hospital but is fine and at home, the market I organized for refugees has been done and dusted and gave me a real boost of positive energy. There was some big tension at work and on Thursday morning (the most difficult day) I happened across this little ad for a shirt that completely summed up my mood that day…

(OK, I don’t drink coffee, but in all other ways this was spot on)

However, things turned out alright in the end. I have for now been able to calm things down somewhat and while it was difficult, I do feel a real sense of accomplishment there. I’m also glad that the worry about my husband is lessening a bit as he is slowly doing better. Other worries do remain (my mother, wanting to move but there are so many ‘buts’ connected to that, work-volunteer work balance, a small health issue of my own that I still have to make an appointment for, etc.) but I guess I can’t do more than take it all one step at a time.

In the midst of all the unrest and turmoil, we try to do and plan some fun things to balance it all out. Mr E and I went to the cinema together last week (Dungeons and Dragons which was quite fun even though we don’t know the game at all) and last weekend, Mr E and I were treated by family (for our birthdays, which were in March and early April) to a trip on a ‘Dinner Train’. It is exactly what it says in the name: you eat a nice dinner while the train you’re on drives around for a little over two hours. I look terribly pale and tired in the one picture but it was a really lovely thing to do.

We have also pre-booked our summer holiday. We will be going to Vienna for 5 days in July (I’ve never been there before). The kids will come with us there and after that Mr E and I will continue on our own to Slovakia for two weeks. We’re doing it all by car, which gives us a lot of flexibility.

Next week will be a short working week (only Monday and Tuesday) as we head into several holidays here. This means I also have time for a little London getaway! Next weekend (Friday evening – Monday afternoon) I will travel to London on my own to visit my brother and to see To Kill a Mockingbird at the theatre with him. No other plans yet for London, it’s all open, but there’s always something nice to do there.

I feel more peace settling over me now than I have in many weeks and that’s a good thing. It also helps that on some days the sun comes out and we can actually sit outside for a bit. Our cat enjoys that too…

Here’s hoping for more calm waters for a while yet.

The week in review

Saturday (March 11th) – Mini me had a sleepover with friends and Junior asked us to vacate the house so he could have a group of 6 friends come over to go out on the town with and then have them stay the night. Mr E and I packed ourselves off to Utrecht, which really was a delight. I’ve been sick again and was just recovering and Mr E had been busy, so we didn’t make any huge plans. Just walked around for bit, had a very nice Greek dinner, walked around some more and ended up in a lovely arthouse filmtheater bar. No movies, just a few drinks and then back to the hotel.

Sunday (March 12th) – Slept in at the hotel, then checked out, went for a lovely lunch, walked around town some more and hit a large bookstore. We don’t have them that large in the town I live in, so much choice! Bought two easy reading books and a book on the history of libraries. Then home again late in the afternoon. Hats off to Junior, the house was looking good, like no one had been around and partied/slept there. Sunday evening my friend came around to stay up with me and watch the Oscars.

Monday (March 13th)– Watched the Oscars which started an hour earlier (so 1 am and not 2 am) than we had anticipated due to daylight savings having just happened in California. It was a bit boring (didn’t think Jimmy Kimmel did so great), but I was stoked for the Everything, Everywhere All At Once wins, i.e. Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis! Would have loved to see Angela Bassett win but I was also very pleased for Jamie. The Brendan Fraser win was also well-deserved. Got to bed at around 5 am and slept. I slept a lot, actually, also after my friend left again, as I was still recovering from being sick.

Tuesday (March 14h)– Back to work again and although I am better, I am definitely not ALL better. Had two new student-assistants that started working at the library last week and needed to first join the one and explain all sorts of things to her and then in the afternoon did the same with the other who was at another location. I was exhausted when I got home and went to bed early, to read and sleep.

Wednesday (March 15th) – Another busy day. I had two very long appointments with two refugees at my refugee council volunteer work. Hoped to be done early but didn’t leave till 3 pm. Was already pooped but needed to go by my mom’s as promised so drove on, helped her with some stuff, chatted and then back home again. That evening, I actually finished a book again for the first time in ages, one of the books I had bought on Sunday. It was an easy romantic book read called Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood about two NASA scientists falling in love and it was fun.

Thursday (March 16th) – Really, really busy day at work with lots of meetings and then at the end of the day even a presentation to give. It was all good, but yeah, pooped again! Spent the evening mindlessly scrolling though social media and catching up on some YouTubers I occasionally follow. Came across this, which I loved and as a cat owner feels so relatable!

Friday (today) – Had the chance to work from home today which is lovely for a change and now that work is done I am typing this. Mr E has traveled to Bruges in Belgium today by train and bus for a Heraldry day there tomorrow and will meet up with people from his “nerd club” as mini me calls them (a Dutch heraldry society that he is a board member of). He’ll be coming home again on Sunday. I need to go get groceries for dinner now.

Tomorrow (Saturday) – we celebrate my younger sister’s 50th birthday. Man, seeing her turn 50 makes me feel even older. It emphasizes how long ago these were taken…

Let the weekend begin!

Little House in the Big Woods (+Hattem)

So, yes, the title of this post is a little misleading as this has nothing to do with the Laura Ingalls Wilder book that I loved reading so much when I was a child…

We have spring break here and about two weeks ago I figured we needed a little getaway as life has been so busy for us with lots to deal with. So, I booked this little low budget cabin in the woods for a little Monday – Friday holiday. Mini me decided to stay at home but Junior has come with us for a day and a night and is heading back home on the train again this evening. For the rest of the week it will be just Mr E and myself in our little house in the big woods that we rented. It’s not quite as isolated as Laura’s house was (the cottage is part of a holiday park) but it’s still small and surrounded by trees and it’s peaceful. Just what we need.

It’s in the north of The Netherlands and yesterday, while driving up, we stopped halfway in the little town of Hattem. Mr E knew it was supposed to be an old town (it even used to be a “Hansestadt” but has never reached the grandeur of Hamburg or Bremen in Germany) and so we stopped there for lunch and a little walk around town. We’d never been before, it really was quite lovely. I also really loved having Junior around. He’s usually off on his own for holidays, so it really feels like a treat having him along now for a bit (click on images to enlarge).

We’ve been lazing away at the little house this morning but will soon start getting our butts into gear to venture out into the world again. Some sightseeing planned and dinner out before we take Junior to the train station this evening. Breaks like this are good for the soul, I’m already feeling it.