Archive | April, 2013

What American 5th graders want to know about London

24 Apr

The other day my mom asked me if I’d be willing to speak to her fifth grade class about what it’s like living in London. So thanks to the magic of FaceTime, I was able to video chat with a classroom of students halfway across the world today. One by one they got in the “hot seat” in front of the school’s iPad and asked me their questions.

“Have you seen Big Ben?” The first girl asked.

“Yes,” I said, but as a trained journalist I know nobody likes a one-word answer, so I tried to elaborate, adding that I could walk there from my flat in comfortable shoes.

Another student asked me about the weather — a proper British question. Then someone asked me to do my best British accent, while another wanted to see what the money looked like, so I held up notes and coins to the camera.

Then two girls approached the hot seat together.

“We just wanted to tell you that there’s a boy here who thinks you’re cute,” they said. I smiled as the whole class erupted into laughter and oohs as the girls named the boy.

“Ouch, you called him out!” I said.

“That’s all we wanted to say,” the girls said with a giggle, and returned to their seats.

A few of the students had been to London before and asked about any recent changes. One asked me if Jaffa Cakes were any good. Another student asked me about high speed trains. (Is that a thing in London? I talked about the EuroStar to Paris, but bullet trains always make me think of Asia, not Europe. But in a country that only has Amtrak (and it takes 9 hours and 42 minutes to go from Cincinnati to Chicago), I guess any train seems fast.)

The time went by pretty quickly and I hope I was able to entertain the kids and teach them a little about another country. As my mom was about to end the session, a boy popped up behind her.

“I just wanted to say one more thing — fifth grade’s crazy!” he shouted. And then everyone laughed and my 15 minutes of fame as the “cute” Londoner were over. Now it’s time to get back to work and start the laundry (maybe I should have shared that fun British fact: my washing machine is in my kitchen and the dryer is in the bathroom.)

Where does the time go? Does anyone know?

21 Apr

When I was growing up my parents used to always play this “Eternal Love” compilation CD in the car. I think they either got it for free or from the dollar bin, but it was quality. One of my favorite songs on it was “Where Does the Time Go” by Julia Fordham. I never got what she was singing in the beginning though.

“If I could have a pound for every moment I’ve spent worrying

On all the little things in life that frankly there’s no hurrying

Then I would be a rich girl, I wanna be a rich girl soon”

“How would she be a rich girl?” I used to wonder. “Wouldn’t she just be a fat girl with all those extra pounds?”

…And then I moved to the UK and suddenly it all makes sense. Although I feel like in the US the saying is often, “If I had a nickel,” although perhaps it has evolved to a dollar, thanks to inflation. (Still, that song is from 1989, so a 1989 pound was worth quite a lot. Surely she’s a rich girl now).

Where was I going with this… oh yes, where does the time go?! It seems like only yesterday my friend was here — I haven’t even had a chance to post about Paris yet — and now my parents are coming next weekend. I had to make a To Do List of everything that I need to accomplish before Saturday. It ranges from the not fun — clean bathrooms and wash the kitchen floor (which involves scrubbing on my hands and knees, yuck) — to watch “Sound of Music.” (Because we’re going on the “Sound of Music” tour in Salzburg and how foolish would I seem if I hadn’t watched it recently?!) I also need to finish a painting I’ve been working on and bake muffins, not to mention do some extra work since I’ll be essentially taking two weeks off. I guess my To Do list isn’t too bad after all, although everything takes time, which I never seem to have enough of lately. I don’t even have time to properly finish this post, so baby pandas on a slide:
panda slide

Oh squiggly line on my camera lens, I see you there, lurking on the periphery of my photograph

9 Apr

As you know, I’ve been experimenting with photography, adjusting aperture and shutter speed and trying to take photos that aren’t the same photos every other tourist takes. I worried so much about the inner workings of my camera that I didn’t realize there was a smudge on my lens until I uploaded all of my photos from my friend’s visit.

DSLR lesson #17: A smudge on your lens won’t show up on your viewfinder so you probably shouldn’t wait until the end of your trip to look at your photos on the computer. Also, take care of your lenses and check for smudges often. Otherwise your nice photo will have an unintended focal point:

parliament smudge

That squiggly line made an appearance in the majority of my photos, some more noticeable than others. I couldn’t help but think of Stewie’s poem:

stewie oh squiggly line

I got tickets for my friend and I to go to a live taping of “Loose Women,” the UK’s version of “The View.” I’d seen the show once, but mostly just wanted to experience being in a live audience. But apparently they are serious when they say they overissue tickets, because they cut the queue right in front of us and turned us away. We weren’t too bummed because we didn’t recognize any of the guests, plus it gave us the opportunity to walk along the South Bank and take photos when it wasn’t raining.

london bank

london artsy

london eye photo

Squiggly line photobomb!

london red

The kids were amazed by this gold guy, but I’ve seen enough episodes of “Breaking the Magician’s Code” to guess how he does this. What I really want to see is how he sets up — what time does he have to arrive and leave so no one sees his secret?

london gold guy

Then we went to the Tower of London, the iconic tourist destination, although I cringe every time I hand over the equivalent of $30 for a ticket. They tack on an extra pound or so as a “donation” and make you explicitly state “without the donation” so you sound like an A-hole cheapo, but come on! The astronomical ticket price is already blatantly taking advantage of tourists, doesn’t some of that admission go towards upkeep anyway?

tower of london tour

We took the free beefeater tour, which is always a laugh and informative.

beefeater tour

The Tower ravens are slightly terrifying and look fake.

tower of london raven

london raven

Editing fun:

tower raven

london tower bridge

I like photos that contrast old and new — as the tallest building in London and western Europe, the Shard always looks out of place:

tower london shard

The Queen’s House (currently the home of the Resident Governor of the Tower of London):

queens house

A little cropping and editing turns it into a whole new photo:

queens house guard

I see you there, squiggly line…

shard black white

The Tower has some of the best views of Tower Bridge.

tower bridge

Those are my best photos from London — Paris I may have to split into multiple posts (which I will hopefully be able to post before my parents visit at the end of the month, and I have a whole new slew of photos to edit and upload!)