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.

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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.

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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.

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Travel Memories: Good Times

Thank goodness it’s May. April was a tough month for us. We received one piece of bad news after another. You know that saying, “When it rains, it pours.” That’s been our life lately. I won’t burden you with our troubles, but I will say no one died, no one is sick, no one is getting divorced, and no one lost their job. Saying that makes me feel a ton better. Things aren’t that bad. However, I will say that we’re stressed, frustrated, and tired. At least we have each to lean on to get through this. That always helps. And I won’t lie, I could use a drink. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

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The Albion

A few weeks ago we were out and about enjoying a lovely sunny day in London. However, a football match that we wanted to watch was about to start so we started searching for a pub that would have the game on. That’s how we discovered The Albion, near Blackfriars Bridge.

The bartender, a friendly Canadian, greeted us with a smile and a cold cider. The cider tasted good on a warm day. The game hadn’t started yet so we were able to find a table in front of a large TV screen.

I’m the type of person that’s always hungry and since we were going to be there for the entire match I decided to order some bangers and mash. The Better Half ordered some chicken wings and hummus. The food was decent and hit the spot.

Soon more people straggled in. By the end of the game, many people were standing to watch. It wasn’t overly crowded but I was glad that we arrived in time for a table.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the pub. It was just the right size to watch a game with a crowd. Not too big or small. And the staff was excellent. I would go back if the opportunity arises.

This weekend Liverpool plays Chelsea. This is a big match. Liverpool is ahead of Chelsea by five points and if Liverpool wins they have a decent shot of staying in first. Keep your fingers crossed for us, unless you’re Chelsea or Man City fans. I understand.

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Review: The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

I’ve been slacking quite a bit on the reading aspect of my 50 year challenge. I started the year off well and then hit a wall. Part of the problem was I started reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau. It turned out to be the wrong book. I read at night to unwind and Walden is not the type of book that helps me unwind. Usually I hate to set a book aside, especially when I like it, but I needed to since I wasn’t reading for this challenge.

I picked up The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. I hadn’t heard of this novel before moving to London and last year when I was in a bookshop in Bath I stumbled upon a decent used copy so I purchased it. This novel is about Mr. Verloc, who is a secret agent. Mr. Verloc’s employers want him to make a statement by destroying a building. The secret agent sets out to blow up the Greenwich Observatory and everything goes wrong. Drastically wrong.

When the novel was first released in 1907, the action in the story takes place in 1886, it didn’t fare too well. In fact, during Conrad’s lifetime the sales picked up some, but not a whole lot. Today many think The Secret Agent is one of his best novels.

Personally I can see why it didn’t sell all that well when it was first released. For me the issue is that Conrad understands human nature. There’s a reason why I hate watching the news since each evening there are stories about how humans can be so deplorable. This novel demonstrates this. Conrad wrote at a time when terrorism was on the rise and maybe the public wasn’t ready for such an honest portrayal of terrorism and anarchism. Today terrorism is such a constant in our lives, however it doesn’t make the subject matter easier.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the novel. I did on a certain level. It’s the type of work that really makes you stop and think. It also made me cringe. I didn’t like many of the characters in the novel and I’m pretty sure we aren’t meant to like them. And the descriptions of life in London are difficult to read.

I noticed on Wikipedia that Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, was a huge fan of Conrad’s novel. He identified with the Professor, who is an anarchist who specializes in explosives. Kaczynski asked his family to read The Secret Agent so they could understand him. After his arrest the FBI learned that Kaczynski actually used Conrad, including different variations, as an alias.

Would I recommend this novel to others? Yes and no. It’s a difficult novel to read due to the subject matter. However, it is insightful. It’s hard to avoid all things that are ugly and maybe we shouldn’t. This novel is referred to a lot and if you’re curious to know why, then I say give it a go.

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Wooohooo! A four day weekend!

Happy Friday! I know technically it isn’t Friday, but we have a four-day weekend starting tomorrow. Initially we wanted to go out of town for the Easter holiday and many of you offered suggestions of places we should go. However, life conspired against us and we’re staying in London, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Last weekend we had a great sports weekend. On Sunday we made our way to the Walkabout near the Temple tube stop to watch some of the London marathon. This joint is a massive Australian bar that caters to sports. We sat inside and watched the progress of the race and then hopped outside to cheer on the runners. We had to take turns since we didn’t want to give up our table.

Then we stayed to watch the Liverpool v. Man City game. We’re Liverpool fans and currently Liverpool is at the top of the table. I was mighty nervous about the game last Sunday. Man City is a tough team to beat and lately they’ve been on fire. It was fun watching this match with a large group. When Liverpool scored the winning goal late in the second half everyone cheered.

I want to wish all of you who celebrate a Happy Easter. I won’t be on the computer much, if at all, over the next four days. See ya Tuesday!

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Travel Memories: Relaxation

I hope all of you had a wonderful week. I’ve been feeling super lazy lately, hence this post. I’m not sure what our weekend plans are yet, but I have a feeling I won’t be too inspired to do much. Have a fantastic weekend and if you get a chance, relax a little.

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The Old Thameside Pub

This past Saturday we had beautiful weather, which put me in the mood to wander along the Thames. Wandering makes me thirsty. We’ve been by this pub, The Old Thameside, on many occasions but never stopped for a drink.

Not every pub has its own superhero!

Not every pub has its own superhero!

Luckily we found a group leaving a table and I moved in quickly. This pub is always crowded. It’s near London Bridge and not too far away is Borough Market and Clink prison. I love that name: Clink. Right behind the pub is the remains of Winchester Palace and next to the pub is a replica of The Golden Hind. The original belonged to Sir Francis Drake. The pub used to be an old spice warehouse.

A horrible shot of the Golden Hind

A horrible shot of the Golden Hind

Some of you may not care about the history. Here are the views and I should note I was too lazy to stand for better photos.

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And for others, the beer was plentiful. They had a wide selection of real ales. I had two half pints. The first was called Ice Breaker. It was okay, but a bit too hoppy for me. The second, No. 8 Cherry Pale was wonderful. I would have that one again. I’d probably pass on Ice Breaker, however, I’m glad I tried it.

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We didn’t eat there, unless you count sharing a small bowl of pistachios. In case you ever go to the pub with me, here’s a warning. I may slap your hand away from the nuts. Just ask The Better Half. After an hour, the temperature dropped a little so we sought out a different pub. Check back next week.

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If you can handle crowds, this pub is worth a visit. So if you find yourself near the Clink (hopefully not in it) hop on in. On a warm day, the view is great.

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Movie Review: American Graffiti

American Graffiti, released in 1973, is a coming of age film. I was surprised that George Lucas was the director and co-writer. I associate him with Star Wars, not coming of age. Well maybe coming of age, but in space. I’m learning from my movie project that I don’t know a whole lot about the movie business. Now I’m paying attention to directors, producers, and writers and not just with movies on this list. Only time will tell if I learn anything.

This film includes so many talented actors at a young age. The cast includes: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, and Suzanne Somers has a small role. In case you missed her, she’s the blond in the T-bird.

I read that the film only cost $775,000 to make (that doesn’t sound cheap to me) but when it was released it was a hit and has made more than $200 million. Now that’s a profit! It didn’t happen overnight, but still impressive.

Its set in Modesto, California in 1962 and it’s about a culture I really know nothing about. During my teen years, I didn’t cruise my town and listen to rock and roll. Some of you may wonder what I did do. To be honest, I was a quiet teen. I read a lot and watched movies.

There are several stories occurring in the film. It’s more like short character studies that come together in the end—mostly. It starts off slow and stays that way for most of the film. There’s some tension, a little action, but it still comes across subtly.

At first I wasn’t sure what to think of the film. Like I said, I couldn’t relate to the culture. I grew up in the 80s. But I love characters and this film has many of them. Once I got past the whole, “What’s this about? They just keep driving up and down the road” feeling, I settled into the movie.

What did the boys think:

I'm so bored

I’m so bored

Indiana Jones looks so young!

Indiana Jones looks so young!

It was nominated for Best Picture, but The Sting won, which isn’t on my top 100 list. As for me, I give it a thumbs up. If you watch it, be patient. It sucks you in slowly.

Up next: Sullivan’s Travels. I’m having issues tracking down a copy.

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