The French Open, Maya Angelou, and the Leinster Arms

I’m not sure how these three are related to be honest, but I’m discussing all of them in this post.

Now that I have some time, I can share about our travels this past summer. For the past three years we’ve gone to Paris in May for the French Open. We usually spend three days there and visit the Open on one of those days. And each year the weather has been on the chilly side, but manageable. This year it rained off and on when we were at Roland Garros. Even though it rained, we still had an enjoyable time and it was rather amusing watching the grounds crew covering and uncovering the court. I noticed when I got back from our trip I didn’t take as many pictures as the two previous years. Maybe that’s a good thing. I remember observing a lot more this last time and not just clicking away randomly with my camera.

Here are some photos:

Around this time I was listening to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This autobiography is a wonderful, albeit emotional book. I know some have questioned the authenticity of her autobiographies since she changed parts of her own story more than once. As a historian I find this fascinating. And this is why history professors tell us never to rely solely on one source especially if the source is the subject of your study. But the variations in a person’s memory are quite telling. I should note that I haven’t delved too deeply into the aspects she changed. I do plan on reading the rest of her works and maybe I’ll be able to spot some inconsistencies. The author narrated the audio book and it was delightful to listen to her gravelly voice and sometimes Angelou would sing. Even with her soothing voice, this is a difficult book to listen to. She touched on many emotional subjects, including being raped at a young age. And her depictions of her life in the South made me shake my head a lot in frustration and anger. If you plan on reading/listening to this I highly recommend the audio book narrated by the author. It really adds to the whole experience.

I’m narrowing in on 100 books from my 1001 list. Granted that still leaves 901 books on the list I need to read. However, reaching 100 sounds like a major victory to me.

A few nights ago we met up with a friend at the Leinster Arms pub located in Lancaster Gate. It was such a lovely evening to sit outside so please excuse the absence of interior photos. The weather is getting chillier and if it’s pleasant enough to be outside I will opt to be outside each and every time. I sampled a gin drink that was slightly tart, but still refreshing. This pub is near Hyde Park and the people watching kept us entertained most of the evening. Have a great week everyone!

Posted in Books, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

New York City and a Blog Change

I’m back from my trip and I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. This year has been quite chaotic with good and bad and I haven’t been blogging as much as I normally do. When I first started this blog my intention was to post something every single day. Unfortunately I can’t keep to that schedule these days. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this blog and how to keep it going.

I do know I want to continue since I enjoy the interaction with other bloggers. Right now my solution is to post once a week. Before each post covered only one subject. Now I’m going to include more in each one so a post might have news about a book or movie from my lists, travel photos, and hopefully a pub visit. They will probably include more photos and less description.

As for now, here are some photos from our most recent trip to NYC. We were super busy including meeting wonderful friends, seeing Cabaret, going to a Yankees Game, three days of tennis, and visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Have a lovely weekend folks and if you have any questions/suggestions about the new blog format, don’t be shy. I always love to hear what you think.

 

One last thing. I published my latest novel, Confessions From a Coffee Shop. Currently the e-book is on sale for $0.99 cents. Sale ends on September 16th. Pop over to my writing blog if you want to find out more.

Posted in Travel, Travel Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

It’s that time again

I look forward to August every year. Many years ago we started a tradition of going to the US Open. I can’t remember exactly how many years we’ve gone and I never get tired of it. And it’s time once again. New York here I come! Have a great couple of weeks everyone and I’ll see ya when I get back.

Not everyone is happy to see the luggage out.

Not everyone is happy to see the luggage out.

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Having a blast this summer

I know I’ve been absent from the blogosphere lately and I thought I would check in and say hello. This summer has been wonderful and full of fun events. Last weekend we went to the races at Newmarket. It was my first time attending horse races in England and it was an interesting and exciting experience. We couldn’t have asked for better weather and our friends prepared a wonderful picnic.

Not only have we been super busy having a blast this summer, I’ve been busy getting my third novel ready for publication. It’ll be released in September. I’m looking for tour hosts who are willing to post a spotlight, review (free review copy provided), or an excerpt of Confessions From A Coffee Shop. The tour runs from September 9th – 30th. If you would like to participate, leave me a comment below or send me an email: tbmarkinson@gmail.com

I hope everyone is well. And soon our nice weather will be gone and I’m sure I’ll be blogging more. Lots to catch up on, including a trip to Trieste, Vienna, and Berlin.

Posted in Everyday life, London | Tagged , , , , , | 67 Comments

I have a wonderful problem

The weather has been amazing this summer in London. So amazing I haven’t been on the computer really and have been outside as much as possible. It makes blogging hard, but I hope all of you forgive me. It’s a shame not to enjoy summer days in my opinion. I’ll try to get back to a regular blogging schedule, but can’t make any promises as long as the weather stays like this. Here are some photos I took last week along the Thames.

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My internet dilemma and why I’ve been absent for a month

Wow! It’s been a month since I’ve posted here. I never intended to take a month off. The last time I wrote I mentioned that we moved into our new flat and that the internet would be hooked up while we were away on holiday.

That’s how it was supposed to happen. Instead this is what occurred.

A technician was scheduled to activate our phone line on June 23. The person staying with the boys waited for five hours, but the technician never arrived.

I didn’t find out until I returned from our trip. I called our service provider on June 30th and asked them to send another technician. They said there was no need since the tech was able to activate the line from outside.

I asked, “Why isn’t my internet working if the line was activated?”

He asked if I had a dial tone. I informed him that I didn’t have a phone for the land line. We both have cell phones and don’t need a land line.

There was a pause. Then the guy said he’d test our phone line from there. It came back as active. Then he ran a test for our internet. He then said the issue was our filter and he would put a replacement in the post and it would arrive in three to five business days.

The new filter arrived on July 5th. Still no internet.

I called the company the following Monday. I had to go through the whole history again and then I asked for a tech to be sent to activate the phone line. The person asked if I had a dial tone. I said I didn’t have a phone since we had two cell phones. Another pause.

Then the person said they can’t send a tech until they diagnose the issue on their end. I said they weren’t good at that since they already said it was the filter and that wasn’t the case. The person ran more tests. This time she said I needed a new router. The warranty I had for my router just ended so I would have to pay for a new one.

I did since I didn’t have much of a choice. It arrived two days later. Still no internet.

I called my company again and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t in a good mood from the start. The woman wasn’t in a good mood either and started yelling at me right off when I said my internet wasn’t working. She said, “I see in your file you just received a new router. Don’t call and say your internet isn’t working. Call and say I just received a new router. I had to waste my time to read your file.”

Wow, I’m really sorry I wasted her time and didn’t know the proper procedure. She ran a test on the new router and then she asked if I had a dial tone on my phone. If she read my file she should have known I didn’t have a land line phone. I explained.

I asked for a tech to come to the flat to fix the issue. She refused. In fact, she refused to do anything else until I purchased a phone and tested the dial tone. Now I was fairly certain the line had never been activated. Part of me wanted to lie and say I didn’t have a dial tone. But I’m not a good liar. Not even on the phone.

This started an argument. I dropped an F-bomb. I was told not to swear at her. In my defense I said I didn’t want to buy an effing phone. I know it’s not nice to swear, but if the woman knew how many F-bombs I held back she may have forgiven the one I let slip out. I apologized.

She kept saying “Go to Tesco and get one. They’re only five quid.”

It wasn’t the money. I don’t like being told I have to buy something I don’t want. And it’s not just five quid. Not only did they waste my time, but each phone that’s made uses resources. I’m not the biggest environmentalist on the planet, but I don’t like buying things I know I won’t use. It’s a waste of resources.

I asked to speak to the woman’s supervisor. I was put on hold for several minutes and then the woman informed me that every supervisor was in a meeting, but they would call me back. I said don’t bother. She asked when I’d buy the phone and she would call me to see how it went. I said I wasn’t buying a phone and I needed to talk to my partner about cancelling our account.

I did call the better half and asked if it was possible to borrow a phone. It was.

Guess what. No dial tone!

I called the company the next day and informed them that we didn’t have a dial tone. The gentleman on the phone asked if I hooked up the phone properly. I haven’t used an old fashion phone in a while, but they aren’t that complicated. I said yes. Then he asked if the phone was actually plugged in. I told him I could see the time and date on the display so I was fairly certain the issue wasn’t my phone but their line.

Finally he agreed to send a tech to the house. The very next day. I was shocked by that.

The tech arrived. He said, “Oh, yeah, this line has never been activated.” Within thirty minutes, I had internet. I thanked the tech profusely and he said it happens all the time.

So that’s why I’ve been absent for the past month.

Miles was thrilled with all the extra walks during this time.

Miles was thrilled with all the extra walks during this time.

Posted in Life | Tagged , | 77 Comments

The good and the bad

The good news, we are moved into our new flat. The last few weeks have flown by. Yesterday we were running a few errands and the better half said, “It feels like all we’ve done lately is move from one task to the next. I need a break.”

So here’s some more good news, in a few days, we’re leaving for a much needed holiday. We didn’t plan on the moving right before going away for ten days. Luckily the boys have seemed to settle into the new flat.

Currently we don’t have Internet in the new flat. That was one of the tasks that got put on the back burner since we both forgot how much of a rigmarole it is to have an active phone line installed and then to have our service provider to take the time to flip the switch on their end. It can take weeks. But as I said, it won’t matter much since we’ll be gone.

I do miss visiting with all of you. I appreciate all the comments and well wishes about the move. You guys are the best. When we return, hopefully things will be back to normal. Take care everyone and I hope you have a marvelous couple of weeks.

Here are some random photos of Miles, including his train ride to the new place. As it turns out, Miles loves taking the train. Atticus insisted on taking a cab.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , | 26 Comments

Travel Memories: I want to be far away

I had high hopes for 2014. I knew I would be editing and then releasing a new novel. We had some trips planned. And the first few weeks of 2014 started off with a bang, with a visit from some very good friends. Then things took a turn. Both of us struggled with our health. Then the better half suffered an injury. Soon after that, my knee started acting up. Then I took a spill and injured the other knee. Finally, both of us were on the mend. Just in time to do our taxes. Tax season is never fun.

Spring arrived and the seemingly endless rain actually came to an end. When the sun started appearing both of us felt a sense of relief. We looked forward to our long weekend in Paris and then a longer trip mid-June.

Everything was coming together.

Until we got the letter. The letter that said our landlord decided to sell the flat we are currently living in and we had 60 days to get out. When we moved here a little over 6 months ago the plan was to stay for a couple of years. Obviously that didn’t work out. So now we are scrambling to get ready for another move. I hate moving. This past weekend we didn’t stop moving once, packing boxes, sorting things that we can donate, and organizing. I’m exhausted. We’ll be in Paris this weekend. When we get back we have a few days to move. Soon after that, we have another trip. Hopefully we can get settled before the second trip.

Both of the boys can sense something is going on and they aren’t happy. I wish all of us could get away. Some place far where we wouldn’t have to think about reality. How about Botswana? I’m behind on visiting blogs. My apologies. Once things settle down, I hope to check in on all of you.

Posted in Travel Photos | Tagged , , | 90 Comments

The Manor Bar and Grill

Recently we stumbled upon The Manor Bar and Grill on Tooting High Street. Prepare yourself for a really awful photo. The front looks much more inviting than my photo shows.

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We didn’t plan on hopping into a pub that day, but when I spied it, I decided, why not. It was a Friday afternoon and the place was nearly empty. That didn’t bother us one bit.

Before we left our flat, I had lunch, but like I’ve said before, I’m usually hungry. So I ordered the lightly crisp chilli squid and some skinny fries. The squid was delicious and fresh. The fries were tasty. It was a somewhat warm day so I enjoyed a cider with my snack.

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Before leaving I noticed that they had desserts. When I pointed to the chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream the better half didn’t say anything and went to the bar and ordered another round of drinks and my dessert.

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The other day, we were in the same neighborhood and we popped into The Manor again. This time I sampled the Rebellion IPA crafted by The Marlow Brewery, but skipped having food. Not sure why, but I think I had a reason. The IPA had a nutty and fruit flavor and to be honest, went down easily. I was expecting it to have a stronger hoppy taste and was glad it didn’t. Here comes another horrible photo.

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Each time we’ve been there, we’ve enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere. We haven’t been there in the evenings so I’m not sure how crowded it gets. If you’re in the area during the afternoon, I highly recommend it. And the chocolate fondant was pretty darn good.

We have an extremely busy weekend planned so the chances of us finding a new pub this weekend is pretty much nil. Oh well, I have a few more I haven’t reviewed yet. Have a marvelous weekend. See you next week.

Posted in Pub of the Week | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments

Book Review: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Many years ago I read Ethan Frome and fell in love with Edith Wharton’s writing style. Last year I read and loved The Age of Innocence. Just recently I finished The House of Mirth and I have to say wow. Out of the three, this is my favorite. She has a few more books on my 1001 list so my favorite might change but I’m not sure how.

Here’s the Goodreads synopsis for The House of Mirth:

First published in 1905,  The House of Mirth  shocked the New York society it so deftly chronicles, portraying the moral, social, and economic restraints on a woman who dared to claim the privileges of marriage without assuming the responsibilities. Lily Bart, beautiful, witty, and sophisticated, is accepted by “old money” and courted by the growing tribe of nouveaux riches. But as she nears 30, her foothold becomes precarious; a poor girl with expensive tastes, she needs a husband to preserve her social standing and to maintain her life in the luxury she has come to expect. While many have sought her, something—fastidiousness or integrity—prevents her from making a “suitable” match.

Recently I review Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent and I wrote that he really understands human nature. Wharton’s strength is her portrayal of society, especially from a woman’s point of view. The Secret Agent was difficult to read due the violent subject matter. The House of Mirth is difficult on a different level. It shows the difficulties of being a woman. The main character, Lily Bart, doesn’t always make the wisest choice. At times I cheered for her and other times I was cursing her decisions. However, Wharton deftly shows that the men in the novel could be just as foolish and yet they escape from their situations almost unscathed. Not so for Lily. The novel was published in 1905 and one may think that times have drastically changed. From my point of view they haven’t. Yes women have more rights. Yet, views of women haven’t changed that much. For instance a powerful man is viewed as successful. A powerful woman is more often than not labeled a bitch. If a man is promiscuous he’s considered a ladies’ man. If a woman is promiscuous, she’s a slut. I think you get my point.

I don’t mean to imply that reading this novel will make you want hit the streets and protest. Well you may. For me, though, I thought it was a beautiful story. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen to Lily. I hoped for the best, but felt dread until the final page. It’s not a thriller by any means, but it hooked me. I finished the story over a week ago and have spent much time thinking about it. While I was reading it, I wasn’t focusing solely on the treatment of women. Since finishing it, I keep thinking of scenes and relating them to today. It’s depressing that things really haven’t changed all that much. I love books that linger and I have a suspicion that I’ll reread this novel again in the future. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Granted it’s not the most uplifting book, however, it’s such an insightful look into American society.

And I think I’ll stick with Wharton for at least one more book. Up next, a reread of Ethan Frome. I haven’t read this in over 20 years.

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments