Friday, May 10, 2013

Bits and bops

Last weekend, we got out to a food festival that had Southbank exponentially more crowded than it usually is on a Saturday. We'd gone rather reluctantly, considering the visitor fatigue Kenz and I were 'suffering' from. Neither of us really wanted to do anything.

However, since the winter had been so miserable, we didn't want to waste a day of sun and mild weather. Even though it's apparent that spring is here, that the weather will be mild for the next few months, and that the sun is regularly making appearances, it's as if we've been conditioned to get out of the house each time the clouds part. And, it's more of a fear thing than an enjoyment thing some days. We're scared the sun'll hide away for another six months and all we'll be left with is wind and pissing rain. So, even if we're dog tired and not in the mood to do anything but sit on the couch, we still pack up and leave the house for a few hours. Of course, you know the story (it's the same for you) - by the end of it, we're happy that we did.

[Side bar: Everyone in London says this winter was particularly bad (too long, too cold, too whatever) when spring comes. And they say we didn't really have a summer when fall comes. Each year. They've said it for the two years we've been here now and I'd bet major money that they'll say it again this coming year. It's analogous to folks in East Tennessee saying, if you don't like the weather, stick around for a few'll change. In fact, I've heard that phrase in Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee. My guess is that people just like saying something they've heard before that qualifies as a complaint without sounding too whiny. I digress...]

The food festival had about 150 different food 'stalls', ranging from farms to butchers to coffee roasters to bakers and on and on. The highlight was a New Zealander putting on 'The Sheep Show' demonstration every hour. He'd trot out all different types of sheep, explain the differences between them, and then put on a sheering demonstration.

Our arrival saw the back of the show

I had no idea there were so many different types of sheep

Pulling out the sheep to get a haircut

Apparently laying them down on their haunches relaxes them

The skin on the sheep will grow 3x in thickness in the first day of being sheered, preventing it from being too cold.

Dude had jokes the whole time.

Apparently there was a street art demonstration in conjunction with the food festival; how those two relate is beyond me, but it was still cool to watch for a bit. 

There's no way to effectively represent the magnitude of people. It wasn't as crowded as the Diamond Jubilee, but it came pretty damn close.

Kenz enjoyed the 'beach' for a bit. Low tide on the Thames isn't the most breathtaking view...

Luckily, I was in need of some new coffee

Imagine me trying to pronounce that in a crowded environment where the attendant could barely hear me...

We signed up for a weekly 'veg box'. More on this later.

The stalls went on for about a quarter mile

Kenz insisted on going into the makeshift petting zoo

She even found a burger truck that served veggie burgers.

Meatsticks for one pound!

You better believe I did

Kenz got the salted caramel & hazelnut, natch

One last swing past the sheep show before leaving

Enjoying the plunder
We revisited our fav lil pizza spot down the road on Sunday. Kenz had to cut my food for me in public. It wouldn't have been as humiliating if we weren't sitting outside, as passers-by looked upon me with a delightful blend of confusion, contempt, and then pity. 

Kenz is always giving me a hard time about being so 'ritualistic' about things. Sure, I may have very specific 'routines' when it comes to showering, dressing, cooking, doing chores, getting ready to leave the house, etc., but, you know, it's just the way I do things! It has helped me keep from losing things (especially time!).

However, many of you know that 'if you spot it, you got it!' Kenz is quick to point out my 'rituals', but hardly ever notices her own. I enjoyed a mild 'victory' while we were eating. Check out those crusts on her plate and tell me she doesn't have a 'way' about eating some pizza...

Every time. Folded crusts, discarded for lack of cheese...
We took a walk down Walworth Road to browse the new Asian food market that had recently opened up. I'd never been in one that was bigger than a hole in the wall, and this one had appeared to be a full-sized grocery store. It was pretty cool walking up and down the aisles and finding things I'd never really seen on sale before.

Salted and preserved duck eggs

Dried baby shirmp

I dunno

Baby cuttlefish
We didn't buy anything, but it's only a matter of time before we do. I know this - when I want some seafood, this'll be where I go. The seafood section was about three times the size of what I've found in most other grocery stores.

I was walking home on Sunday night and got stopped by a bunch of tourists taking pictures. At first I scoffed, but then I realized what I was walking past. It's ridiculous how easily I forget that a regular commute home could have me walking past things like this:

Yup, she's still doing this. I often wonder who will be happier for me to get out of this sling. 

I've been wanting to take a better picture of the Surrey Canal walk since I've found it. I've started running around Burgess Park and down this trail in the past two weeks. It's such a nice respite from the city - reminds me of Raleigh. 

Last year, we could hear the shrieks of a fox outside our window. Owen and Kenz discussed the 'barbed' penises that foxes have and that it was likely the sounds of two foxes mating. We didn't think too much more of it. Granted, we'd seen a fox patrolling the area since we'd moved in, but we had no real way of knowing what the sound was. Well, this week, we saw a baby fox hanging out in the garden behind our building. Maybe they were right?

Foxes in London are like Raccoons in Knoxville and Kangaroos (& rabbits) in Australia. If you grew up in that area, you see them more as a pest than a cute little animal. But, if you're 'not from around here', you'll stop and involuntarily grin when you see one. We've seen the baby fox a few more times this week and each time, Kenz or I will call the other one over to the window to oogle it until it runs away.

Now that the weather has turned, it doesn't get dark until about 8:30 or 9pm. As a result, I've taken to reading and strolling in the park after I'm done with work for the day. When you work from home, it's a good idea to get out of the house for any reason...

I was reading my book for an hour; this couple argued without taking a breath the entire time. I wondered if they just wanted to enjoy the weather while fighting. They were still going at it when I left (and had been since before I showed up)

Burgess Park has outdoor tennis and table tennis.

These were not his ducks! The ducks in the pond have been quite socialized.

The body of water at the other end of the park is too big to be called a pond, too small to be called a lake.

There were about a thousand people out on Monday evening, grilling and picnicking; Monday was a holiday. 

Pretty solid combination
My friend, Greg, was in town on business this week. We had him by for dinner on Wednesday night. It was great to get to catch up with him, hear about his family, and catch him up on what we've been doing as of late. He comes to London on business about once a year - last time he was here, we were in our old place and had only been here for about two months. It gave Kenz and I a moment to reminisce on how much things have changed since we arrived.

My 'under-35' audience will 'get' this next bit; I fear my 'over-35s' may not.

London is hosting the first (of a few, I think) premiere of the 4th season of Arrested Development. For those of you who don't know, the television series is a modern day cult classic which enjoys rabid fandom from a select few (million) who claim it's much better than it actually is (I'm earning haters, I'm sure. Look, fans, I've watched the entire series; I recognize it's good; I'm just not going to put it in the top 3 shows of all time like you do! And I can't even explain what, exactly, I don't like that much about it - I think it may be how self-aware it is. I'm on the record saying that the writing and performances are exceptional, so cut me some slack). The show was cancelled after its 3rd season due to poor ratings. The fans lobbied for its return, in vain, for years. However, now that Netflix has entered the 'original programming' market (and since Arrested Development has sold millions of DVDs), they commissioned a 4th season. It'll be available exclusively on Netflix - every episode available on the same day.

The London premiere event is two days, with two episodes being shown, back-to-back, each day. In celebration of the event, they've got a fixture of the series available for photo-ops right outside the movie theatre: the Bluth Banana Stand.

Despite not being the biggest fan of the show, I took a break from work to get up to Leicester Square yesterday. I was motivated by two factors:

1. The banana stand is only making appearances in London, NYC, and LA. I figured, well, this is what you do when you live in a city like this - you do the things that are only available in this city - otherwise what's the difference between living in London and Knoxville?

2. I really wanted a frozen banana!

The traffic getting there was horrible. It took 40 minutes. With each passing minute, though, my anticipation grew all the more strong. I was stoked for a frozen banana. After exiting the bus, I walked at a much faster pace than I usually do (and I'm pretty strict about walking slowly!). I rounded the corner to Leicester Square to see the mob right outside the banana stand. I'm prepared to wait for at least 20 minutes for a stupid frozen banana, I said to myself, approaching the crowd.

Imagine my disappointment when I realized this was just the set piece. There were no bananas for sale. People were waiting in line to take their picture inside the stand. My mother's words came to mind: I'm so mad I could spit

Back to the veg boxes. When we signed up, we were told that we'd be getting a delivery every Friday, but that we wouldn't find out what time we'd get the delivery until the driver showed up. Well, at 7:30 this morning, the veg man was ringing my doorbell! I guess we're the first on his route from now on...

At the moment, we've opted for two different boxes: Seasons and Mini-fruit & veg
Riverford started about 26 years ago with one man farming for about 30 of his friends. Today, there are multiple farms under the Riverford umbrella, serving over 45K customers. Delivery is free, and the veggies cost roughly the same as they would at the grocery store. What comes in the box will vary depending on the season. Inside each box is a list of recipes for the contents.

It's a pretty sweet deal. There's no contracts, you can change your order (or cancel) weekly. I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I've yet to figure out what the downside is to this whole process. I think much of my reticence is due to the fact that this is simply something new and I fear most new things as a reflex.

The contents of the seasons box

The mini-fruit & veg box
In sum: we're now getting meat (from the other source), fruit, and veggies delivered to our doorstep. Yet another reason to love this city. (yea, I know stuff like this is available in many, many other cities, but I'd never done it before, so I'm crediting London on this one!)

FaceTime update:

MOMA & Tom are back from their five month trip to New Zealand (you can read about it here). Their boat brought them back to Seattle; Kristin, Jamie, and Lucy picked them up.

I think Lucy's going to think we live in the phone


This little one is ADORBZ! She's growing up quite quickly.
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!