The new month is here so my facial hair style was picked at the last minute then changed at the last second. The style was going to be the Chipper Jones. I am not much of a baseball fan and don't follow the Braves but Chipper is retiring this month after 19 years in the bigs with some impressive statistics (stats from Wiki). Career .303 batter, most career RBIs by a third baseman, second most career RBIs for a switch hitter, 8 time All Star, 1999 NL MVP and numerous other awards/stats plus he was the first overall selection of his draft and played third for most of his career. Impressive career worthy of its own facial hair I thought. Then Miguel Cabrera wins the baseball Triple Crown for my home team Tigers. He batted a .330 average with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs while leading the Tigers to the Division Title. First Triple Crown in 45 years after The Yaz last accomplished the feat for the Red Sox. According to a Yahoo News story he is the 15th Triple Crown winner in the history of baseball. The story also says there have been 23 perfect games and 15 unassisted triple plays in the history of baseball to give a little historical context. Pretty elite company if I say so myself. Maybe the best part of him was when the Tigers signed star first baseman Prince Fielder in the offseason forcing Cabrera to switch to third base Cabrera responded by voluntarily losing weight to improve his flexibility and working extra on his fielding instead of moping or complaining.
The Triple Crown - Miggy for MVP! And assist to Dan Stine - you da man Dan!
Now to dampen the mood. We have had an expensive last couple of weeks. My car needed some parts (spark plugs, air filter, hatch opening/closing rams, front tires) and its yearly garage inspection (requirement to renew the road tax disc later this month and insurance next month), Lori's car needed oil, the clothes dryer needs a new drain pump, we had a Brownsburg house issue that required a service call, and Lori showed up a day late to take her driving test. She rescheduled the test for next week but had to pay the fee again in order to schedule the test. Not a good stretch for a cheapskate like me.
The Better Halves Club met at Repton Tea Rooms this week. I had called to make a reservation on Monday for our Tuesday lunch and was put into voice mail so I left my reservation details. Fast forward to the car park Tuesday and Sarah is standing there telling us that the new posted-in-the-window winter hours are closed Monday and Tuesday. Oops - lets not change the website or the voice mail message, we'll just put a sign in the window. I would make this my Dan Stine complaint but it is so common over here I almost didn't mention it. So the four of us went down the road to The Bulls Head and had fun catching up and listening to Laverne and Shirley banter for a couple of hours. I had a different pizza this time, I forget the name (Chicago maybe?) but it had shredded duck, chili peppers, leek, rocket (some kind of leafed grass lettuce thing they have here), cheese and tomato sauce on their standard thin crust. Very good although I didn't bring my camera so no pic. Sorry Dana.
On Thursday I had the pleasure of accompanying Kalle's class on a field trip to Eden Camp (link) as part of their WWII studies. Eden Camp is north of York for the locals. It is a WWII POW camp that has been turned into a museum mostly about WWII but also had a small section for post-WWII wars and some tanks, planes, guns and other machinery on display. I had never heard of it before and was pleasantly surprised at how much info they had packed into the smallish camp. I had a great time although I wasn't able to read/see as much as I would have wanted since I was chaperoning. I had four rag-a-muffins in my group and we walked with Kalle's teacher who had five rag-a-muffins in her group. It was a very informative museum, maybe we will combine that with another site or two this winter when its time to get out of the house for an overnight trip. I love learning about the World Wars over here, it is such a different perspective than ours. It also led to the Auntie "B" Word of the Week - cagoule. Kalle's teacher from last year told me to bring our cagoules on the trip. I brought mine but Kalle opted not to bring hers. Fortunately we didn't need them. (Hope you are recovering quickly Auntie "B" - I'm sure Uncle Fran misses your "guidance and encouragement" around the house.)
I'll include a few pictures but none of the students as child protection laws here prevent images of kids at school functions from being shown on the internet. I didn't even capture a fraction of the small but first class museum with my pics but here's a sample of what I snapped.
Strip cartoons were used to boost troop morale. I didn't capture the cartoon just on the right but Jane does strip down to nothing and she is shown in her "glory".
A Ration Book that shows how the quantities were crossed out week by week when the supplies were picked up. An eye opening rationing picture is below.
In the cities that were being bombed it was common for people to sleep under tables. It was called a Morrison shelter (thanks Kal) and was used by people who didn't have the space or money to buy/build an outside bomb shelter. The guy on the right is part of the bombing clean up brigade.
Messenger pigeon carriers.
Infant gas mask. Scary. Gas masks were required to be carried by all civilians at some point during the war. There was a display in this section that showed young girls jumping rope and they all had their gas mask boxes hanging on their shoulders. Such a different perspective from a country that was constantly in fear of being invaded.
Every military museum needs a howitzer.
This section was about The Blitz (The Blitz is also known as the Battle of Britain, this was when Germany started bombing raids in Britain in 1940 to soften up the Brits in order to invade Britain but Britain showed their mettle and gave better than they got forcing Hitler to abandon his invasion plan). A couple of students turned around and went back out the entrance in this section. The lights were off, the air sirens were blaring, it was smoky, "people" crushed in the "bombing" were moaning. Each scene in here was about bomb damage to houses and businesses. This was a slightly scary and very somber exhibit that felt almost real.
Another section was on the war's effect on businesses. This business is closed because all the males are off fighting the war.
Talk about making sacrifices. The middle red patty was jam/jelly, the upper right meat is bacon, and I forget what the bottom right square was supposed to be.
There was also a section on women's changing roles during the war. Here's a mixed sex crew working on an airplane.
The Women's Land Army. With all of the men off fighting many, many women moved to the country to work the farms to feed the nation.
One of the many Allied spies, we saw him in Paris if you remember that post.
And we join WWI as the President Wilson picture gives away. FDR was President for the greater majority of WWII for the non-history buffs.
Close up of the above picture. A concise history reminder for the non-history buffs.
There was also a section for post-WWII wars. I didn't stop to read here but I am guessing it reads a little differently than what we saw in Northern Ireland this summer.
Concrete and wooden/sand bag air raid shelters.
Having the Yanks in town wasn't all good. There was also a snippet in this section that read that some Brits didn't like the American GI's in town because they drank all their beer and stole all their women. Not sure about the women but I'm guessing they didn't enjoy the beer so the Brits had a small victory there. From the picture on the left mostly cut off - that is of a few coloured American soldiers in uniform walking down the street that read that some Brits weren't used to seeing so many coloured men in uniform and found the sight discomforting.
Bank notes and coins for Lori as we collect notes/coins from our travels. Overall the museums was very good and we will try to get back this winter.
On a funny side note for school; one of Kalle's classmates is from Jamaica. He joined her class late last year and is still acclimating to the weather here it appears. Temps have been in the 50's F (low teens C) this week and one day both the boy and his father were wearing puffy down winter jackets and chooks while everyone else is wearing trousers (Brit word for American pants) and a light fall jacket. I guess it is a little colder here than in Jamaica.
For the non Yoopers from urbandictionary.com - a chook is "[a] word used in Upper Michigan, which refers to a knit cap sometimes referred to as a watch cap. It can also refer to any knit caps worn in cool weather. It is a Yooper dialect word which has no correct or standard spelling. Could be spelled chuk. It is from the French Canadian word, toque, which means the same thing. The Quebecois pronunciation is much like chook. The Anglo Canadians pronounce it toke, or took."
On another side note from school; Karl unintentionally embarrassed his maths teacher in class. He told the teacher the quadratic formula from memory (x equals negative b plus minus the square root of b squared minus four a c all over two a) and the maths teacher had to look it up to check him. He said the teacher's face was really red. I asked him if any of his classmates knew it and he replied that none of them had heard of it before or even knew what a quadratic was. (There's your second Word of the Week Auntie "B" - quadratic.) I don't have it memorised myself anymore but I don't teach middle school math either. This is the same teacher who had them "learn" their 7's multiplication table last week. The frustrating part is that his school ranked in the top 400 schools in the UK based upon GCSE exam results in 2010 so it is a highly thought of school. FYI for the Yanks - the GCSE exams are taken by secondary school students here that want to go to college, similar to the ACT and SAT exams in America if I understand them correctly. I'm not sure where Brownsburg ranks in the US but I do know their math program is a few years ahead of John Port's - kudos to you Brownsburg.
Carol Seppanen Book Update - I finished The Castle by Franz Kafka, 280 pages. Wow, what a confusing and intensely introspective look into the human mind. In the book's introduction it says Kafka has a convoluted mind which is spot on the mark. His themes of The Man being omnipowerful no matter the situation and a person's total lack of hope in improving their situation in life really weighed on me as I waded deeper into the book. Kind of a depressing read. Plus the conversations between the characters delve so deep into the twisted whys/whos/hows of what people are thinking that it was hard for me to maintain focus at times. Kafka has a way of turning a simple decision into a three page minutely detailed explanation of every possible outcome based upon how every affected person may react based upon their station in life while factoring in all of their insecurities and considering any possible external influence which was usually the invisible weight of The Man. Then the character suddenly reverses course and explains in excruciatingly long sentences how they can't possibly be correct in their thinking because they can't possibly be right because of their low class status and how much they really don't know about life. He really must have had a tortured mind in real life if his books are a commentary on his life. Or maybe I am just easily confused. Either way I think I am good on Kafka books now. I liked The Trial better than The Castle for what it is worth. Next up is James Joyce's Ulysses.
On Saturday we went to the Twycross Zoo (link) with the Frey's, you can read Steve's take on the trip here. We were debating going to a travelling carnival in Nottingham or go down to Coventry when they called and asked if we wanted to go to the zoo. Since Lori and the kids haven't been to a zoo in a while they all voted for the zoo. Zoos are okay for me but I don't like to go as often as the rest of the family. They have been bugging me to find a zoo for a few months now so this timing was really good. The Twycross Zoo was pretty good, they had a lot of primates (they are the self described World Primate Centre) with some exotic (to me) animals along with the standard elephants, birds, leopard, etc. Our timing was not very good for picture opportunities; the sun was still rising so some exhibits were blindingly back lit, some of the lazier animals were sleeping in on us, and some of the glass still had the morning condensation on it. Not only were the good photo opportunities rare, a lot of the photos I did take had reflections in them or the animals moved at the last second. Kind of frustrating but here's my pics. Enjoy.
The group about to enter the zoo. Kuk is guarding the back trail as usual.
The stylin' Meerkats were first up on the tour.
Chilean Flamingos - reminded me of the annoying pink plastic ones in peoples yards. Steve said the theme song for Miami Vice started playing in his head when he saw them.
Some kind of puffy chested pelican I think.
A Kirk's dik-dik. Looked like a cross between a deer and a rabbit to me. According to Wiki they are from Africa.
A Black tufted-ear marmoset. One of the many pics ruined by reflections. Tough day for pictures. According to Wiki they are from Brazil. We were also treated to the Howler Monkeys raising a racket but I couldn't get a good picture of them.
The Chimpanzees each had their own water bottles. This guy looks eerily old man human.
Ring-tailed lemur performance art. Here they are figuratively asleep...
And one is awake. Such style.
A Capybara - Nicole learned about these in geography and said they were the worlds largest rodent. According to Wiki they are from South America. They were about the size of a medium sized pig.
A Lowland tapir. According to Wiki they are from South America. They were about the size of a miniature pony.
Vicugnas. According to Wiki they are from South America.
A pack of Patagonian maras. According to Wiki they are from Argentina.
Another terrible reflection pic - this of a Diana monkey. Check out the long tail. According to Wiki they are from West Africa.
A Silver-cheeked hornbill. Check out the double beak look. According to Wiki they are from East Africa.
Steve taking a picture of the kids on the way out, I am guessing this pic of the kids will be on his blog so I hurridely snapped him taking it. Kind of a picture behind the picture idea.
And after the zoo we drove to the Burton-on-Trent driving office that Lori will be taking her driving test at next week since she skipped this week's test. Nice one Lori. The interesting part of her acclimating herself to the Burton streets was driving by a car that just had its drivers side mirror hit. We drove by this guy quizzically holding the mirror cover in his hands and the mirror still attached to the car was badly mangled. The streets here aren't much smaller than US streets but the parking is rare so people park on the curbs, sidewalks, lawns, fire hydrants, etc. which makes the streets smaller. Consequently when cars are parked along the road it is typical to turn in their mirror which this guy had not done. That'll learn him.
I've also attended a couple local Rotary Club meetings. Lori keeps telling me I need to get out more (my time lately has been spent planning Christmas vacations, upcoming weekend trips, and Bob and Lona's month of adventure so I have been inside a lot) so after some searching and reflection I decided to check out the local Rotary Club as a way to get involved in the local community and possibly help out some worthy causes. I know that we are only here a short time but Rotary Club memberships are internationally transferable so if I like what they are doing here I can get involved in my Brownsburg chapter when we return. Not much to report so far as I've only attended a few dinners but I'll post an update once/if I get more involved in the club.
Thanks for listening,