Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Weekend adventures

Hey everyone!

This past weekend, we went down to London. I had a production meeting with a friend whose short film I am producing. After that we went shopping then headed to Phil's hometown of Leigh-on-Sea. Phil's Stepmother, Mel, made us an incredibly good meal of ham, mashed potatoes, and kale. I'm not a big fan of ham but the way she cooked it was fantastic. She said that all she did was boil it in Coca-Cola. I never would have thought of that!


On Sunday, Phil's dad drove us to Hockley where Liza
(whose bachelorette party we attended in Wales) got married. Well, she didn't exactly get married. Her husband is french so they got married in France, had their reception in Nottingham on Friday then had a blessing at St. Peter & St. Paul's church in Hockley on Sunday. As you can see
from the picture, the church was amazing! It's this tiny little thing out in the middle of nowhere at the end of church road.

They have a habit in England of naming streets after landmarks or the shape of the road for example my old street was Ramsdale Crescent and it was shaped like a crescent moon. I think this practice is a pretty good idea cause it helps you find things easier. Or it would if they had street signs! I can't tell you how many times I've passed a road I needed because I didn't know it was the road I needed because it had no freaking street sign! It's incredibly frustrating! You'll all see when you come to visit me (hint hint).

Anyway, I digress. The blessing was so sweet and so romantic with the acceptation of the bride's nephew getting a little cranky but who could blame an adorable two year old dressed up in a suit for wanting to run around. One of the cutest things about it was the gigantic
bee that was flying around. The extremely good humored priest stopped the ceremony for a moment with an exclamtion of "we welcome all of God's creatures here including bees" and tried half heartedly to shoo it out. I spoke with the priest after and when he brought up the reformation the bee flew out between us. I guess he wasn't one for a history lesson.

I asked the Priest, Father Jeffrey, what denomination the church was because it seemed to me that the ceremony was Catholic. I gat a very interesting answer. He said that the church was Anglican Catholic. I never thought that sort of church could be possible. It turns out that the church was 700 years old! unbelievable! It was originally Catholic but during the Reformation, it was forced to become Anglican (Church of England). It kept its Catholic roots however and is about to take the pope's invitation to become fully Catholic. Out of curiosity, I looked it up and found this article about that invitation from the pope:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8323607.stm

I hadn't heard about that till Father Jeffrey told me about it. It kinda made me excited that my Church and the Church of Phil's country were mending fences in a big way. The priest showed me a plaque with the names of all the Vickers that the church has seen and explained to me that Vicars own the church and live there which is most of the difference between them and Catholic priests according to him. The coolest thing about it is that the first Vicar was Geoffrey and he, Jeffery would be the last since they are becoming Catholic. There's a bit of symmetry for you!

Well that's about it for now. This weekend we're going to Edinburgh, Scotland. It will be my second time but that won't stop me from taking lots more pictures and posting them right here. I hope all of you are well and I look forward to hearing what you think about that church and its story!

Love from afar,

~Em

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Perspective

Hey everyone. I know I haven't written in awhile and I'm sorry about that. You may be disappointed with this entry because it doesn't have any shiny pictures or tales of new adventures but it does have a little of my American soul in it.

Today I went to see a movie. Phil has signed both of us up for a pass that lets us see all the films we want to at the theater for less than the cost of two a month. I went to see a film that I wasn't expecting much from but was shocked beyond belief.

I figured I could use my pass to go see all the chick flicks that Phil wouldn't have any interest in seeing while he was at work. Today I started with Remember Me. I know you're thinking "Not that Rob Patterson crap". I wasn't expecting anything profound, I just wanted to pass some time outside of my flat. I had no idea what it was about going into the film and I'll tell you right now that you may not want to read on if you plan on seeing it and don't want the surprise spoiled.

I remember sitting down at the beginning of the film and thinking happily to myself that I was going to get my American fix (by that I mean hear the accent, see some of the landscape, culture, etc.). I got way more than I bargained for. It turned out that it was a nine eleven film and it doesn't even give you a clue until the very end at which point I promptly burst into tears and started sobbing.

I don't cry at chick flicks. I don't and I feel like Nicholas Sparks and Allen Coulter took a cheap shot. Well cheap shot or not, it sent tears running from my eyes like there was a fire and they didn't want to get evaporated. It totally took me by surprise and I just couldn't stop. I had to run past the janitor with my hand over my nose hiding the water works after everyone else had left the theater. Thanks goodness I went to see the movie alone!

No, I didn't know anyone who died in 9/11 and I obviously wasn't there but we all were. We all felt the blow that day and this movie took me back there and put me in that classroom at Providence High School where I watched it all on the news in tears then just like I was at the end of this movie.

Its something that will never leave me, an American, no matter what country I travel to and seeing that film and feeling all those feelings again made long for people who understand. I miss feeling that togetherness and the bond of a common culture with a common past.

I didn't write this as a 'woe is me' cry. I wrote this because I'm hollow with homesickness and needed to let it out. Nine years ago a tradgedy brought Americans together. Remembering from a country so far away is intensely sobering and I couldn't keep it inside.

Thanks for listening everyone. I promise a far more upbeat entry next week. I miss and love you all!!!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Wild Wild Wales Part Tres: "Wild West Murder Mystery "


Howdy Ya'll!

My name's Minnie Money and I will be your narrator for the evening. I was witness to the unfortunate events that took place at the Poker tournament in the youth hostel in Wales-I MEAN the saloon in Deadwood.

The night started out with a gathering of strangers for a post tournament meal (the tournament was just part of the story and never actually took place). We had fantastic fajitas with tons of fixins. Everyone pitched in to help make the lovely meal and everyone pitched in to devour it after we were costumed up.

After we stuffed ourselves silly, we were all given name tags with our character's name on it. As you can see, I didn't have a place for mine so I had to improvise. We were also given $500 of fake money. i didn't have a place for that either so I used the paper clip that was holding it together to attach it to my dress. That is what you see poking out. This dress was bought for a formal dinner I attended with Phil where he (among others) were honored for having been at Games Workshop for ten years. I was excited when I found out I could wear it again for a murder mystery party!

So anyway, we were also given envelopes with our objectives. Inside was a piece of paper telling us what we were to achieve and possibly whether we were the murderer or not. The objectives were simple enough. One of mine was to tell my "Dad" Montgomery Money (who was played by a woman and can be seen here) that I missed him while he was away in Tennessee. Another of my objections was to let Mitch Maverick (Phil's Character) that it was over between us because I saw Holly Hickok coming out of his room the night before. I had a lot of fun pretending to be mad at him while winking at him across the table.

We had about half an hour to go around and accomplish all of our objectives. Actually I think it was more like an hour but everyone was drinking so nobody noticed. All of the sudden we hear a pop (coming from one of the many party poppers placed around the table) and found out that Mitch Maverick was murdered!!

This Picture doesn't show his death, but it does show Phil in full costume. I found him the tie at a costume shop :-)

After Phil's character was killed, he had to assume the new character of Federal marshal Dalton assigned to find the murderer and the rest of us got new envelopes with new objectives. One of mine was to accuse Mitch's gambling partner Clay of the murder. That was fun. After another hour of running around trying to find the murderer before anyone else did, we were all asked to vote on who we thought it was. We also voted on best dressed and best acting. This guy (so sorry I forgot his name) won best acting although he kept doing Columbo impressions which in my opinion broke character but he was so funny, nobody cared. Here he is asking Phil if he did the 'Moider'.

In the end is was my very own 'Pa who killed Mitch over a business deal gone bad. Who woulda thunk it?

That wraps up our Wild Wild Wales experience. I will leave you with these last two shots. One of us leaving the next morning. That's Clara flashing the rock on from the other side of the car. It just highlights the amazing time we had.

The other is the last shot of the ocean that I took from the car as we drove away. If it wasn't for the reflection in the window and the early spring cool weather you would think it was the perfect summer day.






Well, thank you all for reading and you come back no, ya hear? (Too much? Even though I can't stand clich├Ęs, I just couldn't resist)

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Wild Wild Wales Part Dos: "Explorers on a Mission"

Hey Friends and Family!

Here I am, sitting in my kitchen sipping on some chai tea and typing the next installment to the Wild Wild Wales series. I'm also hangover as hell. The English really love their St. Patrick's day. Or maybe its just me that loves it. I was the only one at the pub with a green and white dress, green knee high socks, green necklace, and green sparkly eye shadow. What can I say? I love to celebrate!

Anyway, St. Patrick's day is not what I am writing about tonight. Tonight I'm writing about our amazing hike in Pembrokeshire National Park. I didn't realize until we were leaving that the Hostel was in a National Park which I think is pretty darn cool!
So, we started our hike at the front door of our hostel and walked up the path you can barely see to the right of the stone wall in the distance. It wound between these really cool leafless trees at the very base of the hill. I really liked these trees for some reason. I asked Phil to turn around and got this great shot of him:



We continued on the path and it opened up right at the base of the hill. It appeared that the path was winding around the hill and would take a gradual rise up the side of it. While we were walking, Phil noticed that there were several little paths that led away from the main one and straight up to the top. Or so we thought. Phil was very tempted to try one and asked me what I thought. I told him that if he did I would follow.

We took off along the next one we came to and by little path, I mean this thing was about three inches wide with ankle high sticker bushes on either side. Once we get about ten feet in, we realize that these are sheep paths. We had passed a flock grazing at the bottom of the hill just after the trees. I took this shot of them before leaving the main path. Notice the ocean in the top left hand corner. The land past it is an island. So beautiful!

I'm guessing these paths were theirs and its their poop I had to step over or accidentally in over and over again but hey, I'm a trooper. Because the paths kept winding erratically into each other or back down, we had to follow a few but we eventually got to the part of the hill where the rocks started. I took a few pictures along to way to show the progression up the hill and I really liked this one.
So we climbed up the first bit of rocks and the feeling was exhilarating! We saw Becky, Clara, and Bonnie coming up the long way and I got a couple of shots of them climbing the rocks. We climbed to the very top after they rejoined us and here's where I got the most amazing pictures since I went to Hawaii. I don't want to bore you with all of them so I'll try and pick one. Here it is.

If you look closely, you can see Phil's elbow in the lower right corner. This is a view of the coastline behind and to the north of the hill. While we were up there, we saw a group or wild horses galloping through the countryside. My camera had stopped working at that point for some reason but Phil got a great shot.

So I know I said I would only include one more shot from the top but I can't resist putting this one in cause its my favorite, hands down (what does that expression mean anyway?)! I am totally framing this one!
After we saw the horses and climbed down, we took another path to this amazing private cove with a white sand beach which is very rare in the UK. Most beaches are pebble beaches. It really made me happy to run along the sand and hear the waves crashing. We also got to see a tiny little waterfall over the edge of the small cliff we climbed down to get to the cove. Here's a shot of the cove from above:
While we were down there we got a surprise visit from a little seal who was so cute. He just popped his head up and Bonnie yelled "Seal!" and I hear "Snail!" and I was all "why is she excited about a snail?". Then I looked and saw it was a seal and it was so exciting. I waved at it and it looked at me. We totally had a moment.

After we left the private cove, we hiked to the public beach. The path we took led up the cliff and followed the edge all the way around the coast, it was breath taking! While I was on that cliff, I hit a rare spot of cell phone reception and got a call from my Grandma. I had just enough time to tell her I was on a cliff over looking the ocean before the call dropped. Not the best place to lose a call but those of you who know Norma won't be surprised to hear she wasn't phased or thought anything of it when I called her back. She's made of stronger stuff, that one.
Anyway, the public beach was also white sands and that made me very very happy. We ate lunch and drank hot chocolate at the little cafe there. Liza and Cathryn met us there and we decided to hike into town. I got a great shot of the hill from halfway into town that shows how incredibly far we walked but that shot was taken on Phil's camera because I mistakenly thought my batteries had died when in fact my camera was just shutting off for no reason. Nice, huh?

Well, at least it worked for the Murder Mystery party later that night which will be the topic of convo for Wild Wild Wales Part Tres! I know you're on the edge of your seat with excitement but barre with me a few more days. These things take longer to make then they look.
One last tid bit for this installment in the Wild Wild Wales series is what went down in town. St. David's has a beautiful cathedral and the ruins of the Bishop's Mansion were really cool looking from the outside. Those closed 40 minutes before we got to town but we did see the Cathedral. I tried to go give shopping in (oddly enough) the gift shop but that was closed. So we went to a pub instead for Bailey's hot chocolate. Yum!

Stay tuned for the next episode of "WILD WILD WALES!". In the meantime, I shall leave you with this hand painted digital photograph that isn't really hand painted but does depict the town of St. David's Wales in the distance complete with the added bonus of a view the hostel we stayed in and the sheep who's stuff I...well, anyway. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Wild Wild Wales Part Uno: "The Journey and the Hostel"


Hi, Family and Friends!

I have decided to break up my entry on the Wild West Murder Mystery bachelorette party in Wales because of the immense amount of pictures we took (you wanted pictures Leah and boy are you getting them! I wouldn't have taken so many amazing pictures if it wasn't for you so genuinely thank you for the suggestion). I sorted through almost 100 today and those were just the pictures I took. Phil took some great ones too.
I hate having to narrow it down but I have and I've divided them into three installments. I promise that I will get better at this and not inundate all of you with photos in the future, but for now get ready to see some kick ass shots! Part Uno will be called "The Journey and the Hostel".

Phil only knew the bachelorette (Liza), her sister, and one other person attending this party and I didn't know anyone. Liza arranged for us to ride down with her friends Becky, Bonnie, and Clara. The journey started with Phil and I catching a bus to Beeston where we would meet everyone. We get to Beeston and are told by Becky that she's not quite done packing yet, so Phil and I went into the pub across the street from the bus stop for a pint.
Yes, the Pub is called 'Nags head & Plough'. For some reason, England is overflowing with pubs named for someone or something's head. Phil told me that it is a tradition that dates back to when they would hang heads on the walls as trophies. Not all of the heads were strictly animal. Some bars are named for human head trophies. Crazy, huh? This particular pub had a lot of funny signs on the wall like this one:


It looks like Phil doesn't find that sign
amusing, but I do! Maybe he's mentally filing away the knowledge
that I read that sign. Or maybe he just doesn't know I'm taking a picture.

Before long, Bonnie showed up
and helped us put our things in the
boot which is what the English(and New Zealanders) call the trunk of a car. It was nearly dark when we set off from the pub, so there's not much to say about the ride down until we stopped for dinner at the White Hart Inn Pub in Llanddarog, Wales.

Don't let the quaint outer appearance fool you.
This self professed 'Best Pub in Wales' was just foaming at the mouth with character.

(no really, check out the site:
http://www.thebestpubinwales.co.uk/)

All around the outside there were sculptures of greek gods and fish and lots of other random stuff including a very odd playground. After Phil had a peak inside while we were getting out of the car, he wispered loudly "Its a bit weird inside". My thoughts were "inside?".

He wasn't wrong either. We were greeted at the door by a mini zoo. There was a large birdcage with about four parakeets in it, a larger birdcage with two Parrots in it, one of which was pink (the picture of that didn't turn out so great), two hamster cages with a hamster each in them, and last but not least a fish tank with the biggest Koi I've ever seen outside of a fish pond.

It just kept getting stranger (but cool strange, not creepy strange) from there!
There were jars hanging from the ceiling and all kinds of random stuff on the walls. In fact, this place redefined the word random for me. Everywhere we looked we saw something cool.


Yeah, I don't think there's anything I can say about this place that these pictures don't already. We spent about an hour and a half here eating and having a drink (all except our fearless driver, Becky of course). Then we were on the road again for another hour and a half.

We arrived in St. Davids, Wales around half past midnight. We were told via text that only two of the girls were in town already and that they had the keys to the hostel. After a very loud cell phone conversation, we tracked them down. They had gotten incredibly drunk at a local pub and apparently one of the locals was grabbing their boobs and another one was following them around. They said the boob grabber was a bit off but then a third local said it was fine so they weren't too bothered by it or something. GREAT first impression! We finally got the keys and headed towards the hostel.

We get there and its pitch black outside. There are a few lights on at the hostel but no signs of life. We try the keys at one of the building. No dice. We try them at another building. No dice. By this time I am tired and cold and all I want to do is put down my things and get warm. So of course I start to get a little grumpy. We finally find a door that opens with the keys, and its the main office. NOT the sleeping quarters. Anyway, we finally get the sleeping quarters open and all the beds are bunk beds. I am SO happy at this point.

Everyone else starts to arrive and I try to shake off my bad mood. We all start to drink and get to know each other and there's talk about walking down to the beach which sounds great but cold and far away. Drinking after the long trip and after I was already tired sent me over the edge so I went to bed the earliest.

It wasn't until we woke up in the morning that we got a good look at where we were (wow, that's a lot of 'w's and 'e's). Check out this amazing set up:

This is the living quarters with the kitchen attached (out of frame):

This is the main building:

This is another building someone said might be another living quarters:


And this is the Mountain behind the Youth Hostel!

Along with some other building I'm guessing is for storage.

So, that's it for this installment of Wild Wild Wales. Next time I'll write about climbing that mountain (which is really more like a big rocky hill since we tackled it in less than an hour but still a mean feat) and also our hike to two different beaches then town. Of course, there will be plenty more pictures but feel free to let me know what you think about these ones.

Thanks for listening, uh reading, or looking, or whatever!

Monday, 8 March 2010

The First Post (Tourist Weekend)

Hello friends and family!

My incredibly beautiful and abnormally talented sister suggested I start this blog to keep people up to date on the shenanigans I'm getting into in England. So sis, this first one's for you!

Its a lovely Monday morning in Nottingham. The sun is shining which is welcome though unusual but it is still freezing outside. Literally. It is exactly zero degrees Celsius which is 32 degrees Fahrenheit which is exactly freezing. I'm holding out hope that the sunshine means warm weather soon.

So Phil and I had a fantastic weekend! It started with drinks at our friend James Fox's house on Friday. I brought up poker as a means of occupying our time and proceeded to teach the boys how to play hold 'em. They pretty much knew how to play, just not how to deal. The first hand had five cards in each payer's hands. From there, I proceeded to teach them five card draw with suicide kings and one eyed jacks wild. After that, we played Phil's version of five card draw and we finished up the night with Pocahontas which is a game of poker that is best known by its appearance in Almost Famous.

On Saturday, we returned to James Fox's to retrieve something I left there (I can hear all of your subconsciouses collectively sigh 'that's so Emily'). Since we were the the area, Phil suggested going to see the Sneinton windmill which sounds somewhat lame but I really enjoyed it. The windmill was built by a baker whose son grew up to discover a mathematical formula that changed the way scientists understand and work with magnets and electricity.

There was a little museum there that had a bunch of displays that explained magnets and electricity to kids so of course Phil and I wandered around turning cranks and making magnets dance. The windmill itself was incredibly old and we climbed as far up as we could but the only view we got was through a tiny dusty window. I still had fun being chased by Phil up the very narrow, incredibly steep, and questionably crafted staircases.


We headed back to Phil's for a rest then went out for drinks with Phil's housemate Andy and his wonderful American girlfriend Tracy (who is just visiting unfortunately). Andy's motorcycle friends were there and the plan was for all of us to go see the crazies but only we four had bought advanced tickets. We got there a little late and had terrible seats but the film was SCARETASTIC!!! At one point Phil got up to use the restroom and I begged him to stay so I had an arm to grab. I was only half serious.

Yesterday we went to Nottingham Castle which isn't really a castle but the site of a castle that was torn down long ago and now is host to a museum. We've been there before but had never really looked around or gone inside the museum (or at lease I had never gone in the museum). IT was basically what you would expect from a museum about a castle that used to be where the museum is now, but I really enjoyed looking at the exhibits and seeing the dress that the sheriff of Nottingham's wife wore (for the record, I AM a girl). You know, I never knew that Robin Hood cut off the sheriff's head. Crazy!

After the castle, Phil and I had a pint at the pub around the corner then I went to church. Bad idea! I'll never have a pint before church again. I had to run out after the homily. The restroom was in a different building and the usher gave me the key but wasn't very clear on which door it unlocked. I tried two doors before I found the right one but still made it back before communion.

I went to my young adult church group after which the organizers like to call YAG. It makes me giggle a little. One of the members gave a talk on what its like to grow up half Iranian and half polish. She also talked about the misconceptions of Islam and her parent's decision to raise her and her sister christian. I thought it was really cool that her father's family were perfectly fine with her sister and her being raised christian. Their only concern was that they be good people.

Ok, so I realize that this is getting to be a very long blog, so I'll bring it to an end shortly. I just want to close it by saying I had a great weekend being an American tourist and seeing some of the sights that people living here don't normally go to see. I'm also really happy that I have found someone that I can be a tourist with. When I was living in LA, I only got to see these kinds of things when people came to visit. I like getting out and going for walks through parks or picnics on castle grounds or visits to museums. With the exception of the walks through parks, these aren't things you typically do on your own. I mean, I would but I'm not typical. Anyway, I'm grateful that I've found someone who challenges me and encourages me to have new experiences and see new things.

This coming weekend we will be going to Wales for a wild west themed murder mystery hen party (Bachelorette party). Think the movie Clue but staring young John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Check out the flier below! I'll let you all know how it went next week (hopefully with pictures!)



Cheers!



~Em