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How is it mid-November already?

17 Nov

Is it just me, or does the time between the end of August and Thanksgiving go by in about 10 minutes? I swear we were just getting back from our summer holiday, and now I’m looking at the massive amount of Christmas presents I’ve purchased over the past few weeks and am wondering how I’m going to fit them all in my suitcase when I head back to the U.S. on Tuesday. I’m seriously contemplating not packing any clothing — I have a closet full of sweaters at my parents’, and we already have plans to hit the outlet mall on Black Friday. The only thing I need to bring is running clothes for the Thanksgiving 10K. I keep checking the Thanksgiving Day forecast for Cincinnati hoping for it to warm up. It has changed from snow to rain to sun, so we’re headed in the right direction, but my body is definitely not used to running in freezing temperatures. A PR would be nice, but I’m not sure I’ve trained enough for one, so I may have to settle with just finishing.

I was hoping to fit in one more West End show before my trip back, but I couldn’t manage to score lottery tickets to see Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones) in Venus in Fur and didn’t want to see it badly enough to queue for day seats. I only managed 3 day seat queues this year, which is impressive considering I saw 16 shows. I finally got out of the 9 shows a year slump! 16 is a nice even number to go out on, and is setting the bar high for next year. And while I may be done with London shows for 2017, I’m not done with theatre for the year — my friend and I got tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago next month! We’ll see if it lives up to the hype (and believe me, at the insane ticket price and the non-stop “OMG HAMILTON!!” on social media, my expectations are sky high).

As per tradition, I walked around Oxford Street yesterday to take in all the Christmas lights. It’s the same display they had last year (and possibly every year), which is beautiful, but like most things in life, would be even more beautiful if there weren’t so many people everywhere. I was particularly intrigued by the conversation this couple walking next to me was having.

“Look how impressive this is now, just imagine how it will look once they turn the lights on!” the guy said to his girlfriend.

I did not take any photos of the Oxford Street lights, so I’ll post one from Time Out.

oxford st lights

That’s what the street looked like. As the American saying goes, “It was lit up like the 4th of July.” From the stores to the hanging bulbs above the street, the whole area was awash in light. No bulb remained unlit.

What was he talking about?!

He kept repeating it too. “It’s gonna look so cool with all the lights on!”

“All the lights are on, you nitwit!” I wanted to shout.

Perhaps he was confusing Oxford Street with Regent Street. Oxford Street turned their lights on on November 7, while Regent Street waited until yesterday. I walked down Regent Street in the early evening yesterday and the lights weren’t on yet, and it was very obvious to tell. I’m not sure what additional lights he was hoping would be turned on on Oxford Street. He certainly needed to turn on the light in his head.

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I’m getting old and may be losing my mind

30 Oct

pug sleepingI completely forgot about the time change yesterday. I don’t mean I woke up, saw the time on my phone and clock were different and got confused, I mean I woke up, went about my day as normal, and it was only when we were at lunch with friends and one of them mentioned the time change that I found out about it.

“You mean I lost an hour of sleep without even knowing it?” I exclaimed.

“No. You got an extra hour of sleep without knowing it,” our friend clarified.

When I lamented my misstep to my mom over text, she said I’m either getting old or lead a relaxing life with no time restrictions. It’s probably a bit of both. Though it’s because my phone and Fitbit automatically adjusted that I didn’t realize the change, and was not an hour early to lunch. Back in the day there were always a handful of people who showed up an hour late or early to church or other events on the Sunday after the time change. Now, thanks to technology, we can completely forget about the time change and not be all that affected.

I am getting old, though. The other day I had a “senior moment” in Tesco. I brought my shopping trolley because I was planning on buying some heavy items. I wheeled it around the store in one hand, and wheeled a shopping basket in the other. When it was time to checkout, I got in the queue and figured I should remove my tote bag from my trolley to make it easier to pack. Then panic struck. Where was my trolley? It was gone. I was only wheeling my shopping basket. Had I even brought it with me? Yes, I remembered wheeling it into the store. But where did it go? I jumped out of the queue and ran through every aisle. Luckily even the bigger Tesco Metros are still tiny compared to an American supermarket, and I only had to gaze down 4 aisles before I saw my trolley abandoned by the bananas. I had absolutely no recollection of leaving it there. Aren’t I too young for “sometimers” moments? The only thing I can think is that muscle memory kicked in — since I wheeled the trolley all the way to the store, my body was used to wheeling something behind me in one hand, so when I wheeled my shopping basket around, that felt like the trolley. It does feel unnatural to wheel things in each hand, which is what I have to do with a trolley and basket.

If getting older means experiencing more and more of these moments, I am not looking forward to it!

Another day seat queue character

13 Oct

ink play londonOf the record-breaking(!) 14 shows I’ve seen in London this year, I surprisingly only got day seats for 2 of them. So I was due for a good queue.

I decided to see Ink, a new play about Rupert Murdoch and The Sun newspaper, because I feel like I don’t know enough about the London newspaper scene, and it was a transfer from the Almeida Theatre, and every Almeida West End transfer I’ve seen has been nothing short of phenomenal.

The play has been getting rave reviews, but it doesn’t seem to be extraordinarily popular, so I arrived at the theatre 30 minutes before the box office opened. There were only a handful of people queuing. I proceeded to kill time on my phone until the character arrived. Every day seat queue seems to have a character.

This one was a full-blooded New Yorker who would have been a prime contestant on a Buzzfeed “Homeless Man or Aging Hippie?” quiz. He wore a tie-dye Bob Dylan T-shirt, an “Impeach Trump” button on his hat, had a scraggly beard and walked with a cane. And he was a talker, as only Americans can be. Every once in a while queuers will strike up conversation, but most keep to their phones, books, magazines, or even use their laptop whilst standing up like the guy in front of me. But this character wanted to talk and he didn’t particularly care who wanted to listen. The Australian woman in front of him wasn’t biting, so he tried the man next to me. He was properly British, giving polite responses and appeasing the character, but I could tell he’d much rather be reading the magazine in his hand.

“So how does this work?” the character asked to no one in particular. I wanted to say, “What do you mean how does this work? Are you so New York that you just saw a line of people and decided you must queue?” (Wait, New Yorkers don’t say “queue” or even “wait in line.” They wait “on line.” And yes, that scene about New Yorkers waiting on line from The Gilmore Girls reboot is still fresh in my mind.) He lamented about how he must have an aisle seat, but doesn’t want to spend too much money. Eventually I couldn’t handle it anymore and had to jump in.

“Front row day seats are £15,” I said. And just like that I was roped in. Luckily the box office doors had just opened, but there was only one window and each transaction seemed to last 5 minutes, so I had plenty of time to hear about why I absolutely must see Bob Dylan live, what it was like to see Anthony Hopkins play King Leer at the National Theatre back in 1986, and how badly the Bengals are playing this year. By the time we got to U.S. politics, it was my turn to buy my ticket.

“See you later, Cincinnati!” the character called out after me when I left. I smiled, thinking I would never see the guy again, but sure enough there he was on the aisle, 3 seats away from me at the matinee. Though he didn’t seem to recognize me with makeup on and my hair down as I crawled over him to get to my seat, so the poor English guy next to him had to hear all about his thoughts on how Rupert Murdoch ruined the New York Post.

At the interval I jumped up to use the ladies room, but because I was sitting front row center and there was little leg room, I wasn’t able to bolt there first like I normally do. So I had to queue. There were only 4 stalls, so naturally it was a long queue. In fact, it somehow became two queues, as women poured in from both sides. An outspoken American (of course!) devised a plan.

“We will merge just like we’re on the highway,” she announced. “One person from this line, then one person from your line.” Everyone within earshot agreed, and for a while the merging technique worked surprisingly well. Until a lady from the other queue got talking with her back to us, and so no one from her queue was moving, so my queue slowly became the main queue. An American woman 5 people behind me apparently did not see this occur, and jumped in front of the woman behind me.

“I’m sorry, what are you doing?” the British woman behind me asked her politely.

“We’re merging, isn’t that what we’re doing?” The American woman said, rather hostilely.

“Yes, we were, but you were behind me. We’ve all been waiting much longer than you have.” She smiled and continued to be incredibly polite. The American woman realized her mistake, but in typical American fashion, was not about to admit it. She jumped back a few people in the queue.

“Is this OK?” she said with an attitude. The British lady smiled again. “As long as you’re behind me.”

“Whatever” the American woman muttered under her breath.

It would be hard to make up a more stereotypical exchange between the two cultures if I tried!

Besides that little bathroom kerfuffle, the show was excellent. My seat was so good I had fake money thrown at me (of course I saved one of the notes!) and was even splattered a bit with ink. (It was only when I got home that I realized it was on my face. Good thing I was wearing dark colors!) The world of London newspapers during the 1960s is a fascinating one, but watching the show made me glad I’m no longer in that industry.

London’s latest protest

9 Oct

On Saturday morning we went out for our usual run through the Royal Parks. Starting from the minute we stepped outside we noticed an increased police presence. As we got to Hyde Park it was hard to ignore — there were officers, horses and police cars everywhere.

“Is it some kind of protest?” Stephen asked me, and I tried to google it on my phone. Googling “Protest in London today” only brought up results of past protests, ranging from Muslims against ISIS to Harry Potter fans against the construction outside the Palace Theatre. I’m not exaggerating when I say Londoners really like to protest.

We noticed large groups of people walking towards Park Lane and Piccadilly, which is where we guessed the protest had to be happening. Except they were mostly middle-aged, balding, white men, which — if I may racially profile — are not the usual protesting demographic.

“Are they skinheads?” I asked rhetorically with trepidation. That would explain the excessive police presence.

Our curiosity got the best of us and we approached a police officer who was standing on the corner.

“What’s going on?” Stephen asked him.

“There’s a protest,” the officer replied. “Which way are you guys going?”

“Into the park,” we said, and he told us we’d be fine then. But we couldn’t end the conversation there, we needed answers.

“What kind of protest is it?” Stephen asked.

“Football fans,” the officer replied, pausing, then smirking slightly. “Protesting against terrorism.”

We couldn’t help but laugh at the seemingly randomness of it, but the protest was no laughing matter — the Football Lads Alliance (because of course they have an official name, and of course it has the word “Lads” in it) drew a crowd of 30,000+ supporters who marched through the streets of London. I’m guessing the police were out in droves because the group reportedly has some ties to some far right and racist movements, plus with that many people you can never be too careful. From what I read, though, the demonstration was peaceful aside from some heated words exchanged with counter-protestors.

…Just another weekend in central London!

football lads association march london

Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

One year later

18 Sep

Exactly a year ago today I ran 13.1 miles. I remember the overwhelming sense of accomplishment I felt immediately after finishing the half marathon, followed quickly by an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, then — after a big meal and a nap — an overwhelming sense of pain. I thought I’d never be able to walk, run or use the toilet pain-free again, and yet eventually the achiness vanished… along with my long distance running motivation.

Yesterday I struggled through our usual 4 miles. Who knew taking two weeks off running and fueling your body with gelato, gnocchi and truffle oil could be detrimental? I foolishly brought my running gear on holiday too, not even realizing that none of our accommodations had gyms. We did manage to rent bikes one day and cycle around the beautiful walls of Lucca, Italy.

lucca bike rental.pngAnd one day we managed to seemingly walk the entirety of Budapest, logging 21,324 steps and 9.3 miles on my Fitbit. But now it’s time to get back on track. The Cincinnati Thanksgiving 10K is just over 2 months away. It’d be nice to get another PR, but realistically it’d just be nice to actually run 6 miles again without stopping.

Though as I reflect on my experience training for and running the Richmond Half, I wonder if I have another one in me. Should I keep trying to get into the Royal Parks Half, or sign up for a different one in England… or Cincinnati. And even crazier — if I miraculously am allotted a spot in the full London marathon, should I give it a go? For the moment I should probably focus on acing that 10K and running a mile without stopping, wheezing or catching a Pokemon. But the race bug really is contagious!

London salon struggles

29 Aug

I went to a new hair salon for my highlights the other day. In the U.S. I’ve had the same stylist for almost 10 years (and before that I went to her colleague for almost 10 years!), but in London I can’t seem to find one I like. I thought I found one, but her salon is in a sketchy neighborhood (the police came in during my appointment once to talk about the break-in the previous night), and she was a bit flaky with last-minute cancellations and double bookings. So I found another salon near our new flat. The trainee did a great job for a good price, but on my second visit I mistakenly booked just parting highlights, which I understood would be just the roots on top that show. But apparently parting just means only the front of your head, so I had awkward dark roots in the back and was too embarrassed to say anything because I got exactly what I asked for and paid for. So my solution was just to never show my face there again.

So it was back to Treatwell (a Groupon-like site just for beauty services). The other day I found a salon with decent reviews offering 50% off a full head of highlights for new customers (making it even cheaper than I pay in Kentucky!). The place seemed nice and my stylist was friendly without being chatty. I sat and read magazines while he did my foils. And then I sat. And sat. My Kentucky stylist and about half the salons I’ve been to in London put me under the dryer while the bleach works its magic. It seems to be a point of contention among stylists, and this guy was not about it — I don’t think his salon even had a dryer you sit under. He made a big deal about how bad it was for your hair, though I’m not sure I’ve noticed a difference. He seemed to know his stuff, though, so I trusted him. And sat some more. For some reason, my natural dark brown hair takes forever to turn blonde without the help of heat. I had flashbacks of a previous salon trip in which I sat for an hour with the foils on, only to walk out with slightly orange hair. I lamented this to the stylist after he checked on me for the sixth time.

“Don’t worry, I am not letting you walk out of here with orange hair!” he said.

“But am I ever going to walk out of here?” I wanted to reply, because I had been there close to 3 hours and was starting to forget what life outside of that salon chair was like.

He finally removed the foils and applied a toner, which is a purple solution that is supposed to tone down any brassiness (which is probably what the other stylist should have done to remove the orangey look.) I asked him how long to leave a toning shampoo on, because I use one once a week and can’t really tell if it’s making a difference and was wondering if it was because I wasn’t leaving it on long enough — the label warns that it can turn your hair purple. He said 5 minutes, which is definitely longer than I’m used to, and he worked the toner into my hair and let it sit. Then we walked over to the styling chair, and he decided the minute he turned the blow dryer on was the perfect time to ask me my thoughts on Trump. Is that the equivalent of a dentist trying to make conversation with his hands in your mouth? Obamacare is hard to explain on its own — I’ll admit I don’t fully understand it, but it’s nearly impossible to discuss over the roaring sound of a dryer.

He noticed my roots were still a little brassy looking, so he decided to wash it with the toner again, leaving it on even longer this time. Then it was back to blow drying and Trump talk while I wondered if I’d ever be able to eat the emergency protein bar I had packed in my bag — I had not planned on spending my entire afternoon at this place!

He complimented how good the highlights had turned out, and it seemed like they really had — they were not orange or only covering half my head, which is more than I can say from past experiences. I thanked him, took his card, and walked home, tucking into the protein bar like I had never eaten before.

Since I always seem to let my dark roots grow out way longer than I should, it’s always a bit of a shock when my hair is back to completely blonde. It takes a few glances in the mirror to get used to. That night I was washing my hands in the bathroom with the better light when my hair caught my eye. It didn’t look different because it was blonder. It looked different because it was purpler.

Yes, the toner turned my hair purple. A very faint purple, like a lilac or silver that is actually all the rage now, but definitely purple.

I rocked it for a day, then washed my hair with the clarifying shampoo I got in my Birchbox, which I read on Google would help. The purple is much less noticeable now, if at all.

My next highlights will definitely be done in the U.S. though, under the dryer and all, then maybe enough time will have passed and I can show my face at that other salon again, because I’m definitely not going back to a place that makes me sit for 3 1/2 hours to turn my hair purple.

mizore shirayuki purple hair

What’s that smell?

21 Aug

On Friday night Stephen and I decided to drive out to our friends’ house to surprise their son with a birthday cake. But first we had to go to Chinatown to pick up a cake, because everyone knows Chinatown has the best cake (OK, maybe not everyone, but now at least you know). I admittedly don’t go out at night very much in London, partially because I’m slightly afraid of getting mugged or harassed, but mostly because I’m an old soul who’d rather just stay in and watch Netflix. It was interesting seeing Chinatown at night — all the same shops and restaurants were still open and it was as buzzing as ever. In fact, it was so crowded that I wasn’t watching where I was walking and stepped in a puddle, splashing water up on my leg.

The cake shop we intended on visiting was just closing up shop, so we made our way to our second choice. The woman behind the counter was quite curt, refusing to help us until she had rung up everyone in the queue, even those who had come in after us. Finally she boxed up our cake, then made a beeline for the toilet.

“Oh my god I think she crapped herself!” Stephen said. That would explain her grumpy mood and the horrid smell that seemed to be intermingled with the sweet smell of cake and buns in the shop.
“At least she didn’t touch the cake,” I replied, and we walked back to the car.

As we pulled out of the parking spot, I smelled something horrid — could the poo particles really have penetrated the cake? I wondered. I bent down to smell the cake resting between my legs on the floor.

“I think it’s the plastic bag she put the cake box in,” I said, holding it closer to my nose. It was plausible for a plastic bag to just smell like a mix of pee and vomit, right? I removed the cake from the bag and gave the bag a good sniff.

“Wait, I don’t think it’s the bag,” I said. I brought the cake box up to my nose and held it up to Stephen at the stoplight.

“It smells like strawberry cake, it can’t be the cake either,” I said. What could be creating such a vile smell?

And then I remembered. The puddle. My shoes. My leg and jeans. The Chinatown puddle I had stepped in had not been filled with water — it had been filled with “garbage juice,” which was surely tainted with hobo pee and drunk person vomit. It made me want to vomit too.

We pulled into a petrol station to fill up and I ran to the bathroom to try to clean my leg and shoes. The only problem was the petrol station bathroom actually smelled worse than the puddle I stepped in, so I couldn’t really tell if I was making any progress and just wanted to get out of there.

When we arrived at our friends’ house, I quickly removed my shoes by the door, wished their son happy birthday, and made a beeline for the bathroom.

“Renee stepped in vomit!” Stephen proudly declared. Not how I like to make an entrance, but I was not about to correct him with “garbage juice.” I scrubbed the leg of my jeans with hand soap, then sprayed the ever-loving crap out of my leg and foot with the “home fragrance” I found on the shelf. We ended up having a nice night after that and the cake was delicious. I did smell strongly of orange blossom the entire time, but that’s 100 times better than eau du tramp  (or eau de toilette in the most literal sense!).

inbetweeners tramp shoes

My shoes rode in the trunk/boot on the way home, and after a good scrubbing now smell like Tesco Super Concentrated Non Bio Liquid Detergent. I’m just hoping one of these days they’ll fully dry!