Birthday Cake Again?

Elizabeth & Margaret Celebrating Cousin Wally's Birthday

September is a birthday filled month for me and if I had an opportunity to eat cake every time there was a birthday this month I’d need to diet through October to make up for it. My birthday on the 10th begins the potential cake fest and my sister Margaret’s birthday today ends it.

Our September celebrations feel like bookends with some significant volumes on the shelf in between. My daughter and husband make up the most important middle part for me with their birthdays falling halfway through and near the end, but Margaret’s big day completes it.

Never in all the years we were separated did I not think of her and it makes me happy to know that I can connect with her for a proper birthday greeting today.

We’ve spent years supporting each other in different ways and the bookend analogy seems right. Margaret was one of the people who helped keep me sane during my unplanned summer in Atlanta and it was no surprise that she rallied to help me when I needed her artistic design and savvy computer skills. I was desperate for online sales materials including flyers I could print while I was trying to sell my house in Atlanta and she put together a lovely website on very short notice.

Additionally, she modified the website and flyers several times as my price shifted, and when it wouldn’t move fast enough to suit my time frame, she turned the website into one designed to attract renters.

Last year I had the good fortune to spend the month of September with her traveling to Paris for a week and having my 50th birthday during our week in London. The rest of the month we traveled around Cornwall and finished with her birthday and a special cake just before she flew home to Alaska where she lives with her husband and their two boys.

Margaret & Elizabeth - London - September 2010

Happy Birthday, Margaret … I think I’ve got room tonight for one last piece of cake.


To London And Back Again

Remember when I said I was taking the slow train to London to see my friend David earlier this week … well I’m back. I actually came home three days ago, but I’ve been working so hard on a new project that I am just now getting back to my blog to share some of the photos from my trip.

David met me at Paddington Station and after dropping my one little bag at the hotel we began our walk around London.

London’s City Hall is the lopsided looking building above.

I can never get enough photographs of Tower Bridge, especially at night.

I took this shot of David photographing the Tower of London. I like the way he’s right where the walls come together to make a triangle.

After taking about 20 photos trying to get catch the cupid at Piccadilly Circus, I gave up and decided that this one would have to do.

This is the Sofitel St James where my friend David graciously shared his suite which was named after the first actor to receive a knighthood, Henry Irving.

This shot of Trafalgar Square is a little different and you can see Big Ben in the background to the right.

David is in the background of this photo looking as if he can’t decide what to have for brunch. I went straight to my favorite area, the dessert table. Despite wanting a little nibble of everything, I went with an apple muffin with big apple chunks. That means I can count it as fruit … right?

I was attracted to this statue because of the bird on the shoulder and the shadow it cast. I was glad I took the photo as it gave me a chance to see what Edith Cavell did with her life. Take a look if you have a minute.

The cafe in the crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

I was a little shocked to see the trash behind The Queen’s guards near St James Park.

I love this view of the London Eye from St James Park.

Someone was passing out peanuts to the squirrels in the park and the one below got a bit close thinking I had a nut for him.

This was taken at Roast, a restaurant David took me to for a yummy late lunch.

This was my lunch of mashed potatoes, applesauce, and pork belly. Mmm!

We were on our way to the theatre where we had a date with some red shoes when I snapped this one.

This was a fish stall in an open air market. It was pretty fishy even in the open air.

We had dinner of dim sum a this beautiful restaurant before making our way to the theatre. We were off to see The Wizard!

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s newest show was in its second night of previews … does it look familiar to anyone?

This was the last bit of my trip home. I had to change trains at Plymouth and when I got on I found an unusual non-paying rider in the seat across from me.

Taking The Slow Train To London

Okay, so it’s not really all that slow and I don’t mind at all because my ticket price (bought in advance) was a great deal, and I’m seated at a table with a power source for my computer. I’m taking the little netbook with me that John and I carried all over New Zealand so I can get some writing done while I’m riding.

It will be my first train trip alone since moving to the UK, but I expect it to go smoothly. We’re about four hours by car from London and the slow train takes about the same amount of time when you factor in a few stops along the way. There’s an express train if you are in a hurry, but I’ll be there in time for lunch and that’s good enough for my pocketbook.

My imagination tends to go wild when I ride the train thinking about all the people who have traveled the rails before me. One of the bloggers I read did a few posts on traveling by train in the 1940’s and has some photographs that you may find as interesting as I did if you’d care to make the trip over to her place here. She’s an American like me, who fell in love with a man far from home and now lives in the UK.

I’m off to London this morning to spend a few days with David, my dear friend and former next door neighbor. You may remember he came to visit for a few days last summer with his partner Steven. David takes amazing photographs so I’m sure it will be one big photo shoot for the two of us. I never feel as if I’ve had enough time with him since leaving Atlanta and I’m looking forward to long conversations and adding to a memory box that already has some sweet memories of good times together.



Traveling Light To London – Packing The Essentials

London Skyline From The London Eye

This Monday I will be traveling by train to London to spend a view days with my friend David who came for a visit last summer with his partner Steven. He invites me to join him every time he comes London and I’ve not been able to before now. To get in the mood for my temporary transition from a country mouse to a city one, I’m posting a few pictures from my last trip to London.

These were taken last September when my sister came to visit and John joined us in London for my big birthday. I loved his present of a Canon G11 which is able to isolate accent colors when you shoot in black and white mode. This camera is definitely one of the essentials I’m packing for my trip.

This is another shot from the London Eye. If you want to get a look at London from the air, this is well worth the cost of the ride.

Artists like the one you see here, always amaze me.

Be sure you double-click on this picture to see the man on the pier. I didn’t see him when I took the photograph, but thought he added something to it when I saw him later while editing the image.

This shot reminded me a bit of photographs I’ve seen of Venice even though it’s the Thames and that’s not a gondola.

This is the bag I am taking for a three-day trip. It’s actually an old leather briefcase-handbag I used to use for work. Even though I’m pretty good at packing light, this maybe an interesting challenge as it’s not very big and a bit narrow. I’ll let you know once I get it packed.

My Experience With A Fearless Fox In London

You hear about urban foxes living in London and sometimes you see shocking news stories about fearless fox attacks like the one last June that went after twin girls who were sleeping in their beds. You may have seen video footage as I have like the one shown here, but despite all that it can be hard to imagine them roaming the London streets.

That changed for me last month when John and I spotted one after leaving my sister Margaret at her London hotel for the evening. We had just dropped her off after my day-long birthday celebration and were walking past a small hotel with cars parked in a partially open garage when I spotted the bold one you see on the roof of a car.

London Fox 2010

I took about 20 photographs while using the flash with little to no response from the fox.

We were standing on the sidewalk about 20 feet away and I was more nervous than the fox seemed to be.

In this shot you can see the fox just before he or she decides to move along.

After standing up and having a slow stretch, the fox walks down the front of the car and goes off through the garage in search of perhaps … a late night snack.

This photo taken the next morning shows the distance from the sidewalk to the car. While doing research for this post, I discovered an article citing a report released a few days ago that said in March of last year, 11 Penguins at the London Zoo had been killed by fox who had managed to get into their enclosure.

Before the attack on the twin girls last June, I would not have thought much about the possible danger of having them around, but I was reminded by the articles I read that they are still wild animals even if some of them like the one we encountered do not seem wild at a glance.

Public Displays Of Affection – When Is It Too Much?

While in London last month with my sister, we had a walk along the Thames after John arrived on my birthday. With only two days left on our visit, John took us on a walking tour to some of the places we had not managed to see during our time in London. We saw and photographed a great many interesting places and things on our walk, but the couple below turned out to be the oddest of the day for me.


Public Affection On London Street


As we turned from the river and went down a nearby street, I was surprised to see a couple about my age having what was clearly an intimate moment in a public place, in the middle of the afternoon. My sister Margaret and I had been walking with our cameras in hand the whole day and as we approached and they did not move, I could not help but snap a photo or two.

This slightly blurry one gives you another look at just how absorbed they were in their connection. Her eyes were closed and he seemed  to be talking to her as we passed, but softly with words that only she could hear.

I took this image after I looked back and saw that their position had not changed.

Immediately after that, a couple walked by and I caught their expression just after they had given the couple a surprised look. I wish I could have gotten their initial expression especially that of the woman who looked rather shocked to see this private moment happening within a few feet of her.

When I turned back for a last look, I half expected to see they might have moved apart, but they were still there behaving as if the world was not passing by. John and I discussed it later and thought that perhaps they might have been having an affair and had no time to go to a place to carry on privately.

I don’t think of myself as a prude, but I do think that some things should be done without the benefit of an audience. What about you …would this have caught you off guard as it did me or would it have not even rated a second glance on your internal shock meter?

For the record, I asked John this morning what he thought and he said he was amused rather than shocked and thought the couple were as he put it, ” … probably grabbing a quick snog because he had to go home to his wife.” If that is so then my blogging about it may not be the best thing for the couple, but a good one for a wife who might need a better understanding of her husband’s latest project at work.


Last Night Of The Proms 2010 – Hyde Park

I know The Last Night of the Proms is more than just a big patriotic sing-a-long, but for this American it was a dream night that I had imagined being a part of since first becoming aware of it several years ago. If you’ve ever had an opportunity to be in a mass of 30,000 flag-waving people singing in unison, you will know exactly what I mean.

Even though I tried to watch with an eye for detail so I might retell my experience, I found myself singing loudly along with the rest of the people gathered in Hyde Park and focused more on what I was feeling and less on observing others. Knowing that this night was part of the plan for my birthday week in London, I had brought back two American flags from my last US visit to wave in what I knew would be a sea mostly Union Jack and English colors. Flags from other countries were represented in spots and I even saw Confederate flag with what looked like Elvis’s face superimposed over its center.

Rarely does an experience deliver the excitement one imagines it will, but being in Hyde Park on September 11, 2010 did that and more. In addition to fun, I had a chance to see up close how some Brits celebrate their love of music with an opportunity to dress up in some wildly patriotic outfits along with a few folks in more traditional formal attire. The Last Night of the Proms ends a two month series of concerts at The Royal Albert Hall and include Proms in the Park on the last evening. It is on this final night that gestures get grander and people show a side that makes you wistfully happy to be part the singing crowd regardless of your nationality.

Some people dress up but don’t seem to want their picture taken. Oops!

The flag tribute in the photo above to the NYC Firefighters was a touching memorial to those who died on September 11, 2001

I like NY shirt on the man in the photo above.

I snapped a couple of photographs with this group and after giving them a quick look at my images, I showed the man who is giving me a thumb’s up how to adjust his Canon G11 so he might pick up an accent color like I was doing for my images that night. I love this cool feature on the G11. It turns out that I gave a little tutorial to a man who spends a fair amount of time in front of the camera instead of behind it. You can see more of Mike Brewer here.

Even though ” No Glass” signs were posted and bags were checked, we saw quite a few folks breaking the rules.

Dancing was happening everywhere with all ages and throughout the evening.

This was an American artist from New York, but I’m afraid I cannot remember her name. Feel free to help me out and I will go back and add it. (Big thanks to Pete who left Nell Bryden’s name in a comment … see more about Nell here)

Check out the Confederate flag with Elvis. Someone told me in our hotel that rooms were full because of the Proms, the Pope’s visit, and Elvis.  It seems they were expecting them ( The Pope & Elvis, though not together)  later in Hyde Park.

Vibram Five Fingers

I wore my ” Monkey Feet ” to the Proms.

Margaret taking in the scenery as things were getting started.

Click on this one to see the field of flags.

John’s eldest daughter took this with her new iPhone. He still looks pretty tan from his channel sailing a few weeks ago.

The fireworks gave a nice finish to things after a less than rousing version of, ” God Save The Queen.”  Do have a look and listen to at least two of our group sings so you can get a feel for how it felt to be there.  Rule Britannia and Land of Hope & Glory ” are just two from the evening, but they will give you a chance to see what I’m raving about.

Day One – Elizabeth Turns Fifty

Infant Elizabeth With Dad

Fifty years ago today I made my way into the world at 2:02 am. Born two weeks before I was due, I was rooted out of the womb early when my mother’s doctor suggested I looked big enough to deliver and as he was going on vacation, an earlier delivery might work better for them both.

The photo above is one of the earliest I have of my newborn self and my dad happens to be holding me. I’ve no time to write this morning as Margaret and I are off to meet up with John for some fun around London, but I did want to say thank you for the sweet birthday comments you’ve left over the last 9 days.

I’ll be back in a day or two after I recover from our London journey with loads more stories and photos. See you then.

Day Four – Elizabeth & Margaret See Buckingham Palace From The Outside – In

My dad would have been really tickled (chuffed, excited) to know that his girls paid a visit to The Queen’s home in London. If you remember from an earlier post, my dad liked the combination of Elizabeth and Margaret and chose our names accordingly. I think it must have been because he grew up in a time when he saw more images of The Queen and her sister together especially since she was born only about eight years before him. I wish I had asked more questions about his reasons before he died.

I feel sure The Queen never even thinks about all the strangers trouping through her grand and glittery State Rooms, but I certainly had a few thoughts while viewing this spectacular part of the palace which is open each year for viewing during the summer.

I have some interesting insights into our visit yesterday along with some funny bits too which I will talk more about in a later post. I promise not to to share all the photos though because it turns out that Margaret shoots as many as I do. Between us I think we both ended the visit to Buck House with a combination of over 700 images. I’m including only a couple of mine from yesterday along with an image I took towards the end of our day when our tourist fatigue was beginning to show.

Elizabeth & Margaret Taking A Break

Day Five – London’s Covent Garden Where Some People Go To Connect

Elizabeth Harper - Mac Store Covent Garden -London 2010

After arriving early yesterday in London, Margaret and I spent a short time figuring out a few transportation details and made our way to Covent Garden to see the impressive new 3-story Apple/Mac store and to check our email.

Most people would probably head for a more famous and historical destination like the Tower of London, but with a week of exploration before us we thought a quick email check and Facebook update (mine) was the thing to do first. We had an impromptu photo shoot outside the store later after noting a few things inside that we both coveted.

She took this creative snap of me on her new ( the very latest ) iPhone which is way cooler than the antique one (the first one released) that I still use. She has a cool app that can make images look a variety of ways and I chose one that made my photograph look old and a bit dated which seemed appropriate for a place where people have gathered for hundreds of years. Of course, I mean Covent Garden silly … not the Mac store.

So there I am with my Macbook in hand, coming to you almost live from London.

A quick note before we begin our adventures for today, I am able to check in from time to time so please leave a message or comment if you’d like especially with any last minute things we should not miss on our trip. I printed out all of your suggestions from this previous post and have it with me now.

Thanks again to each of you who took time to share some of your own London experiences and I want to add that do I intend to respond (after London) to the very kind comments you have been leaving me over the last few days especially those from this tender post. I’ll be back later tomorrow with Day Four in the countdown towards my big birthday and likely some stories about today.