Monday, 26 March 2012

London with Brandon & The Horseshoe

Cheers Mates,
This week's sack of cack will have a familiar feel.  I went to London again, we had another parent teacher conference and the Better Halves Club met again.  Sack of cack is a reference to a contest prize on a local radio station morning show.  They run a daily contest where they play a one second sound bite of a famous person and the listeners text in their guess.  They also give hints throughout the show so I guess if you listen to them all morning you can guess the person.  I have no idea how you can guess someones identity from a one second sound bite so I think the contest is kind of dumb.  The prize is a grab bag of junk: Milli Vanilli CD (probably a treasure to my high school mate Smitty - jk Smitty enjoy your vacation), a bunch of rubber bands, a half eaten sandwich one time, comic book missing the cover, bottle caps, CD jewel case without CD, etc... you get the idea.  I don't understand why people would play to win a bag of rubbish, maybe it is just the thrill of winning a contest?  Just another "that's different" for me.

In December I applied to the school to be a classroom helper.  I filled out the application, submitted it to the school for them to run their background checks, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  About a month later they approved me so I talked to the school to see when I would be able to help out.  They told me the school doesn't have any open positions now so they would contact me when something became available.  And I am still waiting.  I find it to be strange but it must be one of those "differences".  In the US the schools ask for volunteers and work the people into various roles within the classroom: plan parties, help out on activity days, minor paper grading, recess duties, classroom whatever, etc.  I guess the schools don't need help over here. 

Which brings us to Kalle's parent teacher conference.  Another good report from the teacher.  Similar to Karl's levels assessment Kalle has a set of testing goals to reach by the time she is done with her school next year (end of year six).  Her teacher told us she has met those goals already.  Miss (female teachers are called Miss, male teachers are called Sir) also told us that they will need to challenge her in math next year because the school maths curriculum will not be challenging enough.  Glad to see them recognise it but even still... <insert sigh>.  Pat yourselves on the back Mrs. Smith, Mrs. McMullen and the other Brownsburg teachers.  Y'all are doing a great job.

The Better Halves Club met this week at The Wonky Table (link).  I picked this place for the name mostly.  Three of us showed up.  One was in Indy, our new mother isn't quite up to venturing out yet, and we had a few no shows.  I had a chicken and bacon salad with a local microbrew bitter beer that wasn't very bitter so lunch was pretty good.  I didn't think the food was as good as the last couple but was still tasty.  For all the Yanks like me wonky mainly means shaky or feeble.  Plus I acquired another treasure so bonus!

I had my first UK visitor this weekend, me mate Brandon was here on business and was able to extend his trip to spend the weekend in London so off I go.  Great weather with temperatures in the mid sixties and blinding sunlight, he couldn't have picked a better weekend to see London.  We had a great time checking out the sites and catching up.

We opted to tour London on The Big Bus Tour.  Great way to see the sights but we occasionally couldn't hear the tour guide.  You can see the Wellington Arch in the middle and the Buckingham Palace Gardens are behind the arch. 

A Teresa Robinett pic - not sure of the significance but it is a huge, and I mean huge, horse head balancing on its lips.

All Souls Church (link).  Construction was completed in 1823 and is noted for being the last surviving church designed by architect John Nash per Wiki.

Trafalgar Square (link).  The National gallery is in the background.

Nelson's Column at Trafalgar Square.

Many statues in the Trafalgar Square area.  This one is of the famous General Monty (link).

View of Big Ben and Houses of Parliament from the Westminster Bridge.

View of the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Golden Jubilee Bridge from the Waterloo Bridge as we crossed the River Thames.

The tour bus is a hop on hop off tour so we hopped off at St. Paul's Cathedral.  I went last week with my family and I have to admit I was as impressed with the cathedral this time as I was the first time.  Impressive construction in terms of sheer size and detail work.  You can see last week's post for links about the cathedral.  We were more successful in The Whispering Gallery this time.  By cupping our hands around our mouths and tilting our heads upwards we were about to speak in a normal conversational tone and hear each other as if we were standing next to each other.  Very cool acoustics.

Lookin' good B.  We stopped for lunch at a Young's brewery restaurant by St. Paul's called The Paternoster.  I mention this because we found a beer called Directors (link) that had a little hoppy taste to it.  Brandon agreed with me and some other ex-pats on the beer selection here so he was happy to find the Directors.  We were going to try the Porter but the keg died on us.

After lunch we hopped back on the bus to get to the river cruise tour loading point by the Tower of London.
View of The Tower Bridge.

The funniest part of the day was when B was "blessed from above".  It wasn't so funny that he was hit, the funny part was a sanitation worker saw it and was all excited for him because that is a sign of good luck.  He sure didn't feel lucky at this point.

Under the London Bridge on our river cruise.  Our boat guide was quite funny which is not common with my tour guide experiences over here. 

See the lions heads on the banks?  Per our guide they are used to judge the river water level.  The saying is "If the lions are drinking then London is sinking.  If the lions are ducked then London is...".  He didn't finish the sentence and I won't either but it sure get a big laugh from the boat.

Cleopatra's Needle (link).  Very interesting history on the Wiki link, I recommend reading it.  For the cliff notes version the obelisk dates to 1450 BC (almost 3500 years old!) and was brought to London and erected in 1878 AD.  Also per our guide the error in the erection was only recently noticed.  If you look at the lions they are admiring the obelisk whereas they should be facing away from the obelisk guarding it. 

As you can see the day was so beautiful we stopped for a pint to admire Big Ben and Parliament.  Big Ben looked brilliant (proper use of word not British misuse of word - no offence Brits) in the late afternoon sunlight.  Very impressive tower and building detail.  No I was not double fisting it btw.

Side note on my Tech shirt - on the tour bus a guy asked where I was from because he was from Grand Rapids.  Interesting trivial fact I thought. 

By this time the attractions are closing down so we made our way back to the hotel.  We were grabbing a pint in the hotel pub and debating the merits of looking for Bodean's BBQ (thanks for the info Steve) to watch March Madness when we decided to see if the hotel could find the game and they found it on ESPN Americas.  So we caught the Louisville-Florida game and part of the Syracuse-Ohio State game.  We intended to watch B's alma mater Michigan State play but they didn't make it out of the Sweet Sixteen this year.  Tooooo badddddd (dripping with sarcasm). 

We met an acquaintance of B's there also which was great.  The guy's girlfriend was from Latvia and was surprised that I knew where it was because most people she meets don't know where Latvia is.  I was surprised as well, I just figured that people living here would be less geographically challenged about European countries than US people but I guess not.

After not exactly bursting out of the gates in the morning after a late night Saturday we made our way to the Tower of London on Sunday.  I had heard good things about it and was not disappointed.  Very impressive site with some great attractions.

Sun dial outside the tube (London underground) exit.

The ring around the dial was a chronological time line of London. 

Onto the Tower of London.  You can see the official site here or the Wiki site here. 

Where Henry VI was killed here according to the placard.  Lots of killings in the Tower of London.

Martin Tower, I think the year on the sign is 1240.  One of the impressive parts of the site was the irregular stones used to built the walls and towers.  Impressive how people could build this in the 1200's with the materials available and still have it standing today.  Unlucky B is on the right.  I say unlucky because he wasn't "blessed from above" on Sunday.

Interesting lion trivia.

I took this picture because I always wondered why England had the three lions on their football uniforms.

And now I know why.

After the Marten Tower was the Royal Fusiliers Museum which had a lot of interesting war artifacts.
The picture doesn't capture the barrel length, it was about five feet long.
I have to admit I zipped up my fleece a little here to cover my USA soccer shirt although I did feel a bit of patriotic pride.

Now that's a bayonet.

Interesting wall photos outlining the wars covered in the museum.

The Royal Fusiliers Museum is on the right, the Crown Jewels are on the left.  No pictures inside the Crown Jewels exhibit but WOW was that impressive.  You can read about them here (which includes a photo gallery but not all of the exhibit is pictured).  If I remember correctly there was three rooms of gold plated dishes, silverware, chalices, etc. and two rooms of diamond covered crowns, orbs, wands, etc.  There was a give or take fifteen gallon punch bowl with legs that stood three feet tall that was gold plated.  The dipper was gold plated of course and had a two and a half foot long handle with ornate cup on the end.  Talk about excessive.  Lots and lots of diamonds and gold in those rooms.
This place had the largest ravens I have ever seen.  They stood at least eighteen inches tall.

The Bloody Tower was next.  The Tower housed many prisoners and the more important the prisoner the more comfortable his/her living conditions were.  I have noticed from this and other castle tours that the constantly swaying power struggles and backdoor politics of the time made it difficult to determine who would be in power in the future so prisoners then were not treated as prisoners now.  Unless you were a son of Edward IV (link) in which case you disappeared forever.  Not always good to be heir to the throne. 

The Tower's most famous prisoner.  Kind of coincidentally funny since Brandon lives close to Raleigh in the States.
Sir Walter's study in the tower.

White Tower on the left just inside the picture, tower whose name I forgot on the left, Tower Bridge in the centre and Bloody Tower on the right.

White Tower, houses the armoury exhibits now.

Another Teresa Robinett pic - this one of an armoured horse and rider.
One of the many armour exhibits.  Wouldn't this look great in the house Lor?

Interesting tidbit - William the Conqueror started the site which is now Tower of London.
Memorial to the sailors who have died in WWI.

Many hours after we entered it's time for lunch, then go grab my bag, and then try to squeeze in one more site before I have to catch my train home.  Our choice was Buckingham Palace and we were successful.  You can check out the official site here or the Wiki site here
The Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham.

Teresa scores a hat trick today - the guards clopped by us on their way to the palace.

Buckingham Palace with Victoria Memorial.  Huge building but very plain.  Gates were finely decorated but I didn't take a close up picture.

A good week for my glass collection.    The Fosters glass on the right is in the running for my favourite pub glass although the picture does not show the glass detail very well.  As my sharp eyed readers have seen the most popular type of glass over here is the pint glasses on the left with a logo slapped on them.

I will be taking a couple of weeks off from blogging while are on vacation in the states. We are going to the UP then Indy so we'll see as many people as we can. My apologies if we miss seeing anybody while we are back. Hopefully this heat wave I keep hearing about sticks around for a few more weeks.

And since this will be my last posting of the month I included the final Horseshoe picture.  The Horseshoe is relieved - Manning's divorce went smoothly plus they resigned Reggie Wayne so Luck will have one good receiver left in the stables.

The Relieved Horseshoe

Thanks for listening,


  1. Looks like you had fun, Jay. Nice of you to wander around like a blind man with your family and splurge for the orienteering (HoHo bus) when it's just you. :-)

    Weather this weekend was unbelievable. That will be one of the top 5 weather weekends for the whole year -- trust me.

  2. Just what she said - did you guys plan it? We'll do HoHo next time we are there if the weather is decent. Just to nice of a day to be riding the Tube.