London Stuff: This one is in honor of Mom'n'Tom, who will be arriving in London via train in June. I was trying to explain to them that they didn't have to worry about what station they'd arrive at - that all the trains from Southampton come to the same London station (Waterloo). Alas, areas served by London's major railway stations.
Let's warm up with some pre-visitor photos, shall we? And a quick heads up: with over 200 photos in this week's post, I may go light on the text. Of course, I often think I'll go light on the text...
Anyway, I got out for a few strolls in Burgess Park two weekends ago:
|I saw a dog skating with his owner.|
|Lots of folks maxing and relaxing.|
|And this nerdy bird.|
Kenz spent her time, two weeks ago, making some more bronze casts of knots:
And dremeling the fragments off her chair before bringing it into the school.
Two Sundays ago, Owen, Celia, and I went out to see Jonny Greenwood and the London Symphony Orchestra perform a variety of music at the Barbican. Jonny opened with a solo number and the LSO finished with a piece of their own, but the real treat was in between: everyone got on stage and played a suite from the Greenwood-composed score for There Will Be Blood (one of my fav movies and scores). The three of us brought along Amy, one of C's friends who used to live in London but has since returned to Australia. She came in for their wedding and it turned out to be good timing; Kenz decided to stay home and do schoolwork, so the extra ticket didn't go to waste. The Barbican is one of the classiest venues in all of London. I feel like I'm on the set of Mad Men every time I'm there.
The show and company were both fantastic, but we all had to rush home afterward. We knew we had a big week in store for us.
Papo arrived on Monday morning. You may remember him from my trip to Miami/Guatemala back in February of 2013. Being a camp friend, Papo admires Owen as much as I do and didn't miss the chance to fly over for the wedding festivities. But, of course, if you're going to come this far, you may as well take a few extra days to see the city.
Lucky for everyone, work schedules allowed Owen, Papo, and I to spend most of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday together, strolling around the city, eating yummy food, seeing plays, and listening to Papo rib us about how much better America is than England. In short, it was epic + glorious (glepic? eporious?).
Well, I say lucky for everyone, but Celia and Kenz had to spend the entire week at work. Celia taught and Kenz toiled away in the studio.
|Four hours of sleep on the plane is all this guy needs!|
|Papo monologues on the virtues of frozen water (and bemoans the lack of it in the UK).|
|"Ice, man. It's like a portable air conditioner."|
|We saw actual Mormons in front of The Book of Mormon (folks were getting pictures with them).|
|We stopped by Johnny Cupcakes.|
|We stopped by Horseguards Parade|
|Papo wasn't intimidated by HRH's guards|
Owen had made dinner reservations for us at St. John - a restaurant that specializes in 'nose to tail' eating. We feasted:
- Gull's eggs
- Duck heart
- Grilled octopus
- Pork skin
- Bone Marrow
- Smoked herron, bacon, mash
- Sausage, snail, and chickpea stew
- Roast chicken, trotter, and broad beans
Despite ourselves, we couldn't do dessert. It was stunningly outrageous.
|GULL EGG YOLK!|
|We spent the rest of the week shouting GULL'S EGGS randomly.|
|While walking dinner off, Papo leaned over, looked at this, and asked, "Is that art or trash?" I wept for Kenz.|
The next day, Papo and I had a homemade full English breakfast (appropriately photographed and posted to his favorite social media site) before heading out the the Hunterian Museum.
|The Hunterian is a collection of the history of surgery, essentially. It's both frightening and strangely interesting at the same time.|
Afterward, we went for a stroll toward the British Museum. Since we were in no rush, we stopped off at a design exhibition I'd seen on Reddit. None of us knew what to expect once we walked in the door, but were quickly impressed by the massive scale model of London.
|There was no way to get the entire model into one photograph.|
|Models of future buildings (some have already begun construction).|
|This building is under construction at Elephant & Castle; I pass by it several times per week.|
We eventually made it to the British Museum to "see all the things England stole from the world."
|Papo, fronting like he's not impressed.|
|The running commentary from these two was equal parts embarrassing and hilarious. I thought we were going to get kicked out.|
|Ducks were loving it.|
|Papo imagined what the conversation must've been like before researchers decided to open the first sarcophagus: "OK, are we all sure we're going to do this? Like, everyone is in on this, right? Cuz there's no turning back."|
We eventually left and walked south, crossing the Thames, toward the Globe Theatre. Papo and I had tickets for the revival Lucy Bailey's of now-infamous staging of Titus Andronicus.
|We saw a commercial being filmed along the way.|
|Owen departed once we went in for the show.|
I won't say much about the show (you're not here for theatre reviews, after all), but I will say both of us were transported, transfixed, and very nearly horrified. It was smashing; two thumbs up.
|Pre-show; the pit is still filling up.|
|Papo in his gentleman's seat, looking gentlemanly.|
|I snuck a pic during one of the more intense moments. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the story.|
|Late night family time.|
|Kenz found out, on Tuesday, that her chair bears weight!|
Papo and I got out for some early afternoon touring before meeting up with Owen. I took him to see George, The National Gallery, and some street performers beforehand.
|Again, fronting, acting unimpressed.|
Wednesday turned out to be a back-to-back theatre day. Filled with enthusiasm from the prior evening's performance, Papo wanted to catch Owen and Amy as they attended the matinee of 1984. We stopped at the TKTS booth to see if they had any deals on. They did. And we got tickets for later that night - to see The Woman in Black with Owen as well. It was shaping up to be quite a day of culture.
Between shows, we strolled around with Owen as he picked up some final gifts for those helping out with the wedding. And, of course, banter was had.
|Debating the merits of biltong vs. beef jerky.|
|Debating the merits of various types of cheese.|
|Debating the merits of various types of cheeseburgers.|
|Debating the merits of flatcaps.|
|Debating the merits of gelato.|
|We retired the day with the fright-fest that is The Woman in Black. Papo and Owen were both quite impressed with the performances, even if they didn't jump and scream like I did.|
Nancy arrived on Thursday morning. You may remember her from countless FaceTime pictures posted to this blog. Being a camp friend, Nancy admires Owen as much as I do and didn't miss the chance to fly over for the wedding festivities. But, of course, if you're going to come this far, you may as well take a few extra days to see the city.
Luckily for all of us, Owen wasn't leaving London until Thursday afternoon (the wedding was outside London - we'll get there). He came over for some brunch and a good old fashioned hangout before Nancy, Papo, and I went out to do some more exploring. Owen and I share Nancy (and Anna, who couldn't make it) as our adoptive little sister(s). The two of us used to take leave from camp and stay at the Ruckers' house, watching old camp videos until late into the night. That whole fam damily is awesome. More on that in October.
|Nancy is the best cheeser in the game.|
|Nancy went to jump on Owen, but he'd just "done a fart."|
|Bye, Owen! See you tomorrow!|
The second order of the day was to make it down to Camberwell College of Art so that the visitors could see what Kenz has been up to for the past year. Both Papo and Nancy instigated the trip - each of them familiar (and interested) in her work.
|I think Kenz welcomed the few moments' respite.|
|Showing them the rope chair.|
|Explaining the bronze casting process.|
|Papo was intrigued.|
|The plaster cracked on this one.|
We left and headed out to the city's biggest shopping mall to get me some new clothes for the wedding. I haven't had to wear dress clothes in over a year so all my old stuff didn't fit. I probably should've done this before the two of them came to visit, but, honestly, Papo and Nancy are the world's best shopping team. Nancy provides the needed 'woman's touch' and Papo is my consigliere. They made the process as painless as it could've been.
|Nancy: "Look - moss moustaches...mosstaches."|
|Papo never misses an opportunity to check out cufflinks. He's the best-dressed man I know.|
After finishing at Selfridges, the three of us were ready for a really good meal. We'd skipped lunch and were perfectly happy being among the early birds at Sticks'n'Sushi (Kenz's fav sushi spot). The three of us spent damn near two hours there, eating and chatting. It was a treat to have two camp besties around a London dinner table with me, sharing camp stories (without having to explain the context to anyone else).
|Nancy Rucker: Queen of North Carolina|
|And we went in, sharing everything.|
|The three of us debated the merits of folding styles.|
An avid reader of the blog, Nancy knew exactly what she wanted to do on Friday morning. In fact, she said if she didn't get to do anything else, she'd be happy if we only made it to Borough Market. So, the three of us had a slow morning, sans breakfast, and headed out just as the market was opening, complete with healthy appetites.
|Papo had ingeniously figured out a way to store his gum in the Oyster Card holster.|
|Borough Market without the foot traffic is like what I imagine strolling around the halls of Heaven to be.|
|We made a full lap around the entire market, testing samples before pulling the trigger on any food decisions.|
|The two of them were an absolute joy to follow around. Each of them wanted to take the entire market home in their carry-on luggage.|
|Nancy opted for the flat white from Monmouth and a cornish pasty from the pie lady.|
|Papo and I had bigger plans: roast pork and crackle sandwich with applesauce.|
|Wild game sausage on a stick.|
|And a duck sandwich. The two of us split everything, gloriously.|
|And, last but not least, vanilla bean custard-filled doughnuts from Bread Ahead. The best doughnuts in the world!|
|To eat this is to experience proof of a loving God.|
The two of them had both been to London before and were more interested in marketgoing than historical landmarks. I took them up to Camden Lock, the markets, Regent's Canal, and through Regent's Park.
|Buying kitsch for folks back home.|
|Following Papo around a market is better than watching your favorite Sunday night television drama.|
|He'll offer to take pictures for tourists.|
|He'll haggle with vendors, even if he's not that interested in the product.|
|Nancy, just as fun, will walk all day, not stopping, until she finds the one vendor she loves...|
|...and then stay there for ages, trying everything on.|
Kenz made it home by 5:30, packed, and the four of us were off to catch the 'Oxford Tube' - a coach bus for commuters between the two cities. We got off at the fourth stop, Lewknor, and were picked up by Owen and Celia. They brought us a few miles over to the next village, Sydenham, where Celia grew up. The little one-horse village is where Owen and Celia were to be married the next day. We spent the evening at Celia's mom's house, eating dinner along with Amy, C's mom, sister, brother-in-law, and Owen's parents. It was as awesome.
|We were the loud Americans on the bus.|
|The Beverly Hillbillies have arrived!|
|O&C took us by the chapel before dinner. Tell me that's not the most gorgeous little village chapel!|
|Checking into our hotel moments before the hotel staff went home for bed; no, there was no night clerk. It's a small town.|
|Our hotel: The Lambert Arms|
We met up with Owen and his parents for brunch at the pub across the street before the wedding.
|Owen cleans up well.|
|Little ketchup pail!|
|Nearly every decoration was made by hand.|
|We hung outside for about half an hour as folks arrived for the ceremony.|
|Fixing a boutonnière.|
The ceremony was as adorable as this village, this chapel, and these celebrants are. Friends delivered readings, family sang and played instruments, folks cried, etc. You know how it goes.
|Bride and groom, immediately after having been showered with flower petals.|
|They missed their flower petal moment, but were still excited to get to throw them, albeit a bit late.|
There were, essentially, two receptions. The first was at the neighboring church hall. Coffee, tea, champagne, and the most massive, diverse array of cakes I've ever seen (all homemade by various friends, family, and village folk). I ate more cake in that hall than I'd eaten in the previous two months combined. Again, awesome.
|Giving speeches and a toast.|
After the first reception, everyone strolled down the street for some fete games and a second reception under the largest teepee known to the UK (in a generous neighbor's back yard).
|With the beautiful bride.|
|We may have caused some traffic problems on our way.|
|We didn't give a damn. It was a party!|
|The teepee was like a clown car; the outside may not look that big, but it fit 100+ inside it!|
|Looking from the dance floor toward the fire pit & bar area.|
|Just getting started|
|On the way to the back yard (yea, the teepee was in the side yard!).|
|Human fruit machine|
|Splat the Rat|
|The coconut shy|
|Before we'd even begun the games, Nancy spilled her Pimm's. We saw 6 spills that night.|
|Kenz loved the garden.|
|Celia helps set up for the fete games (the prize wagon corresponded to the human fruit machine).|
|The background to our games.|
|It took a minute for everything to get warmed up, but once it did, GAME ON!|
|Massive table of prizes at the Tombola table (draw three numbers - if any of them end in a 0 or 5, you win a prize!).|
|Pull the (imaginary) lever to see if you win a prize at the human fruit machine (complete with sound effects!).|
|Five beanbags to knock three coconuts off the stand at the coconut shy!|
|Buttons made it up for the festivities and made not a peep in the church! The city dog was LOVING the countryside.|
|All the locals knew to wear wellies.|
|Two oranges and an apple - NO WIN FOR YOU!|
|Kenz never wins anything!|
|But not today!|
|Onya side bag! Useful!|
|One person drops the rat down the pipe - the other tries to splat it!|
Once games were had, it was time to mosey back toward the teepee for food. I took a moment to admire the roasted hog.
|And they had a separate entree for the veggies in the crowd (which were many).|
|Nance is not a veggie.|
|There was fruit & creme, meringue, cupcakes, and wedding cake. And, yes, we'd eaten cake three hours prior. Don't judge.|
My phone died by this point, so I had to steal Kenz's for the rest of the evening. Her camera isn't as good as mine. It didn't matter too much, because we spent most of the rest of the evening either by the fire pit (it was cold and rainy by the nighttime) or out on the dance floor, as folks at a wedding are wont to do.
|Papo owns all dance floors, even those he's not currently on. Folks just pay him rent.|
|Celia's marathon sign.|
|The girls, making their own dance floor.|
|C&O's getaway car.|
All in all, a charming, fantastic event. We arrived for brunch at 12:30pm and didn't get on the bus back to the hotel until 12:30am. I think everyone had a good night's sleep after that.
Lucky for us, C&O spent the night at the Lambert Arms on Saturday night, so we got to eat breakfast with them before we headed back to London and they went to Iceland for their honeymoon.
|I think we all would've been happy if breakfast lasted multiple hours. Alas, all good things must come to an end.|
|Yea, this is the street the Lambert Arms is on.|
|Waiting for the bus back to London.|
|At least it was a pretty day.|
Once back in London, Kenz went straight to the hospital. Not only does she have a stress-induced rash, but she also found out she has tendonitis and tenosynovitis in her hand. Essentially, she's potentially torn the muscle sheath around her thumb and forearm and has been relegated to a splint for a few weeks. With only a few days left to finish the instillation of her degree show, you can imagine it didn't do wonders for the stress rash. More on that later.
While Kenz was doing that, we went to Brick Lane. Why? Because Nancy and Papo love themselves some markets!
|It's easy to spot that watermelon hat among the crowd.|
|Yea, Nance found more fascinators.|
|Stretching. I think Papo and I walked about 25 miles in a week.|
Later that evening, the three of us (after checking in on Kenz, who was disappointed but happy to stay on the couch) went to feed the ducks in Burgess Park.
|The whole neighborhood was out BBQing.|
|Nance ain't scared to play with the neighborhood dog.|
|We finished the evening with dinner at La Luna.|
Papo departed on Monday morning at the buttcrack of dawn. Once Nancy rallied, we went on an epic stroll that started on Westminster Bridge and went all the way over to London Bridge.
|Houses of Parliament|
|The Mall/Buckingham Palace|
|St. James's Palace|
|Covent Garden Market|
|St. Paul's Cathedral|
|A depressingly empty Borough Market (we checked on the doughnuts again).|
|London Bridge, looking at Tower Bridge.|
By the time our hours-long stroll came to an end, the rain had started. We opted to go home, hang, and help Kenz rather than buy cheap tickets to a play (Nance is good like that). Luckily, the rain held out until the very moment it was time to get on the bus.
|She got some sugar-roasted nuts for the bus ride home.|
|I made her go to the grocery store with me...|
|...but we left with sweet popcorn, so it wasn't all that bad.|
|Helping scrape plaster off bronze knots.|
|Nance broke out the dremel for detail work (note the eye protection).|
|Good times were had.|
Nance's final wish was to visit Kaspa's on Walworth road because who on Earth doesn't love the idea of an entire restaurant devoted to dessert? Show me that person and I will give them directions to the highway.
|It's a party at Kaspa's. Every day.|
|Bendy straws just for water!|
|Even the milkshake we brought home for Kenz wasn't enough to cheer her up.|
So, today was the final day for Kenz to finish her installation. I'd been unable to help this week due to work deadlines, but finally made it out to help her today. She was short on help, everyone scurrying around to finish their own work, and desperately needed someone with two working hands (despite being told not to use her right hand, you'll see in a few of these pictures that she hasn't followed those directions quite well - it's hard for her to delegate).
Somehow, the two of us finished hanging her rope (and bronze casts as fixtures at the bends of the rope) by the 'hard out' at 5pm. She's still not happy with it and will spend Monday morning tinkering around for a few hours before her assessment, but, essentially, MCKENZIE IS FINISHED WITH HER FREAKING DEGREE!
It'll be all fun and games from here on out - she'll relax (and finally sleep) this weekend and coming week. Maybe she'll even give her wrist some time to heal. Then, on the 14th, her show will start. We'll be hosting folks who have travelled far and wide to make it to her show and she'll still have her graduation ceremony to go to. But, for now, the woman is FINISHED!
Kudos, Kenz! You've earned a break!
|All of this sprawl is extending from the chair at the other end of the hallway.|
|This took the two of us just over three hours of nothing but rapid, intense work.|
|5pm, gotta leave!|
I'll have better pictures once the show is on, but below is the best panorama I could get today. I look forward to getting you some better pictures in two weeks' time.
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend.
|Congratulations, you two.|