Friday, August 27, 2010

Ye Olde Englande, Week 6: A Lot of "Agony"

Time yet again for my weekly installment.  Last week was cloudy and grey nearly every day, which will prove to be significant in the details that follow.  It's a long story, but I think it's funny (in its way), so here goes!

Ever since we lived near Regent's Park, I had been really excited to see Into the Woods at Open Air Theatre.  It's been one of my favorite shows for a good many years, and it seemed like an outdoor venue would be the perfect environment for it.  When it finally started playing toward the beginning of August, I found tickets for a night that worked for us and looked forward to a nice evening in the evening cool of the out-of-doors.  Imagine, then, my dismay when, as we exited the tube station and hurried through Regent's Park, it began to rain.  Imagine further, then, my increasing despair when the rain didn't seem to be letting up, and the show was canceled before it had even begun!  The days are getting fewer and fewer, so it was unfortunate that an evening's plans were ruined by the rain which I usually love so well.  Luckily, the theatre has a wonderful weather cancellation policy, and offered tickets to all interested patrons to return another night.
I really loved how they actually were IN the woods, and how the stage was dirt and leaves.

A couple days later, we had a new pair of tickets for the following Tuesday night.  The skies looked clear and cloudless all that day, and we were in our seats with time to spare.  Then, just as the intermission started, light rain began to fall.  Then, as the second act started, heavier rain began to fall.  Then, just as the princes were finishing their reprise of "Agony," an announcer asked the actors to leave the stage, and informed the audience that the show would be placed on hold to see if the weather would let up.  Then, as the audience were filing into the covered dining/bar area, pouring rain started to fall, and we again heard that dreaded announcement of cancellation, again with the option of obtaining return tickets.  This was starting to get a little ridiculous, and those who know me know how I hate to quit watching something halfway through, so I thought about what evenings we had open for the rest of them week and picked one for our return to see the final episode.

Two days later, I was checking forecasts on three different websites, praying I had made the right choice for the night of our return.  Imagine, then, my amazement when, as we exited the tube station again and hurried through Regent's Park again, it began to rain, again!  This time we were arriving considerably later, hoping to just catch the second half.  The park was closed, but we were allowed in, only to find the box office had also closed when the show started.  We decided to wait it out at the entrance until intermission (we could hear Act I coming to a close from within), but a police officer recommended we try to enter through the back way, since the front gates would be closed for the remainder of the evening.  We couldn't seem to find the "back way," but we did find the emergency exit, blocked though it was.  A very nice usher, who might at first have thought I was some kind of transient or madman, or both, heard me out, had a momentary struggle about finding his manager and seeing about the closed box office, then finally just decided to let us on it, with instructions we just be discreet about where we sat, and also with a warning that they expected heavy rain showers to start halfway through the second act.  We figured we might as well give it a try, so we stuck around, and even had better seats this time around.  When "Agony (Reprise)" began, I looked skyward, and sure enough, the rain had begun to fall.  Some of the audience put up their umbrellas and Julie put on her coat, and amazingly, fittingly, while the rain continued throughout the entire second half, it never fell harder than a steady drizzle.  The show was wonderful, the cast was mostly good, the costumes and staging were inventive, and of course the music was excellent.  Success at last!  And in phases!
I guess it's part of the experience to see so much true London rain.  Much thanks to my patient wife for putting up with my persistence (read: obsessiveness) in seeing the show, and much thanks also to unnamed usher for your assistance.

(As ever, check out Julie's blog for other exciting events from last week as our return home fast approaches!)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ye Olde Englande, Week 5: A Lot of Lakes

So, just to keep up with things, I'll give a few highlights from last week and of course refer you to Julie's blog, where she has posted another update about our recent goings-on.

As for me, the highlight for this week was of course our anniversary trip to the Lake District.  We had made plans to try to make our way to Disneyland Paris for this momentous occasion, but due to some unforeseen paperwork issues at the UK border, we were afraid that if we left the country, we might not be allowed back in.  So, England-bound, we decided to visit the picturesque Lake District.
On the walk up to Hill top, Beatrix Potter's home.  It looked like a setting out of Lord of the Rings.

Oh, that Mr. McGregor.  Such a hata.  His face also seems to have been fashioned out of some kind of gourd.

We stayed in a charming Bed & Breakfast in Windermere called the Hillthwaite House, which featured a posh dining area and a wonderful selection of breakfast options in the mornings, which included a Full English Breakfast, complete with black pudding, also known as blood pudding.  (!!!!!)  There were many lakes, but our adventures centralized at the biggest, Lake Windermere.  The town, which reminded me a lot of Park City in style and tourism aspects, was fairly uncrowded and we enjoyed taking our time there.  We did a lot of walking, rode a ferry across Lake Windermere, visited Beatrix Potter's home (parts of which are featured in many of her book illustrations), dipped our feet in the lake, had some amazing ice cream, did a little window shopping, ordered and ate way too much Indian take-away, and watched some movies on TV and from the hotel's DVD selection.  It was a wonderful, two-night stay and we were sad to go back the work the day after we returned to London.
Anyway, as you can surely tell from my previous post, I certainly adore my wife, and this weekend away was the perfect celebration to commemorate and remember the events of last 15 August, which we did in great detail in our conversations throughout the day.  Best year of my life!  (That's right, the best.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Year Ago...

... I married my one and only.  I loved you as much as was humanly possible then, but my capacity to love expands every day I spend with you.
Wife, companion, best friend, confidante, lover, advisor, supporter, you make me a better person by knowing you.  You make me laugh and you make me smile.  You encourage me and you challenge me.  I'm ever learning to be a husband and you are ever patient and understanding.

Here's to one glorious year so far, and to an eternity more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ye Olde Englande, Week 4: A Lot of Revolutionaries

This was a busy and interesting week!  A couple highlights include the following:

As The Wife had never before seen Les Miserables, we were determined to see it at some point during our trip, especially considering it's currently celebrating its 25th year in production.  We found a pretty good deal on tickets, and enjoyed our balcony view of (almost) the entire stage.  The cool thing about seeing shows in London, as opposed to a touring cast, is that you a lot of times will see names and faces you recognize from other cast recordings (I recognized Valjean as the original Chris from Miss Saigon and Javert as the original King Triton from The Little Mermaid as well as a couple other shows).  We both enjoyed it, but I think we both decided that it has its flaws.   It's a little bit too much information and so many characters squeezed into three hours, which leads to less character/relationship development, especially in the second half.  It also seems like if you've seen Les Mis once, you've seen it a hundred times--it's exactly how you picture it every time, and no matter where, you see it.  Still, it has some very good music, and I still felt chills all over during the finale of Act II.  It was also great to catch some local pho at the Vietnamese restaurant across the street.

"One." (as in "Day More")

We also had a great time over the weekend exploring Westminster Abbey (Poets' Corner!) and Oxford.  We have also moved into another (our fourth and last) dwelling place.  It's so deluxe!  It's spacious enough to be comfortable, but small enough that we can get around and find what we need when we're on the go.  And the internet connection is glorious, fast and consistent!  It's very convenient for my work situation.

 Dinner in our new place!
John Locke!  In the Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford!
At the Bridge of Sighs.  Get it?  I kiss her and she sighs.

As ever, see Julie's blog for more details and facebook for plenty of pictures.

More fun things planned for our final weeks!  Stay tuned!

Monday, August 9, 2010

1st Annual (and Probably Only) Graham Regent's Park 5K

Okay, so we did have plans to find an actual 5K for August to continue our at-least-one-5K-a-month goal for this year, but I was kind of afraid that our Saturdays are going to be rather full for the next little while, and I didn't do enough looking around, so we just decided to organize a little 5K of our own.  There is still the chance that we could find one, but just in case...
We took a nice course I had mapped out and run a few mornings around nearby Regent's Park, with great views of the ZSL London Zoo and some of the park's gardens, fountains, ponds and surrounding estates.  With only two participants, we were both sure to rank pretty high overall, or at least in our age groups.  As it happened, Julie ended up placing first overall, with me right behind her (time approx. 30:45).  It was a great outing, and we sealed the deal by having hole-in-the-bread and a bowl of cereal at home after.

(But seriously, the really funny thing here was that as we started our run, we actually did see a big group of runners in the park wearing number bibs, apparently running some kind of organized race.  I kind of kicked myself the whole time that I hadn't checked around more, but then it might have been kind of expensive or maybe not even a 5K or whatever.  Maybe I should have done a little more research, hmm?)

It's crazy to think that we'll be home in plenty of time for our September race!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ye Olde Englande, Week 3: A Lot of Landmarks

Another weekend has already come and gone!  It's crazy to think we've been here for almost three weeks.  This last week was full of adventures and crazy weather, but The Wife of course is working on documenting it all at her blog.  As for me, I have just a couple of highlights I would like to mention here.  The first took place Monday last.

Some people believe that love dies.  Some people believe it never dies.  Sometimes I think that in some cases, it should.  Take, for example, Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest foray into musical theatre, the ill-conceived "standalone" sequel to (love it or hate it) the undeniably ultra-popular The Phantom of the Opera.  Of course, I have listened to the soundtrack for Love Never Dies many times, and had formulated the opinion that it has a few really nice songs and a severely ridiculous story (CliffsNotes version:  Ten years later, Phantom has taken up residence in Coney Island and runs a freakshow/burlesque house/opera stage, is still in love with Christine, tricks her into coming to sing an "aria" he has written, she brings along her now scoundrel husband Raoul and her musically gifted ten-year-old son Gustave, Meg is now a hoochie dancer/who-knows-what-else, not to mention in love with the Phantom, who is suddenly incredibly alluring and in no way threatening, all is unveiled and heaving drama ensues), so some people have wondered why I would put down the required pounds to see this programme.  The answer is manifold.   Julie and I had been talking about the few positives and many negatives to this whole Phantom 2 thing for several months, sure we would never have a chance to see it whether we wanted to or not.  When Julie told me she had been picked to come to London, she broke the news by saying we should go see Love Never Dies... IN LONDON!!!1  So, since we're here, and since it's new, and since it's still featuring the original cast, and since we managed to find discounted tickets, we were glad to see it.  Bottom line:  The story was expectedly ridiculous (some of the characters suffer harshly, particularly Raoul and Meg, all in the name of making the Phantom suddenly and inexplicably appealing), but some of the music was actually rather breath-taking, owing in great part to the actually rather exquisite cast (we both agreed we would love to see this cast in the original, in which evidently they have all played).  The Phantom and Christine's respective solo numbers were particularly jaw-dropping.  Sierra Boggess FTW!  The Wife has posted some videos of their performances of the pieces we loved on her blog, so you should look there to watch them too.

Second, we took a day trip last Saturday to three landmarks.  Under the able guidance of tour guide Celia, we visited Windsor Castle in the morning, which was ornate and elegant.

After a short lunch at a small English restaurant, we visited the one and only Stonehenge!  It was mysterious and a little bit spooky.  It's just so old and there are so many unanswered questions around it.  There's no real way to know its purpose, but it's fun to speculate, and in fact while there I had a sort of epiphany.  All I can say is that God has had temples of some kind in every age and with every civilization.
Finally, we ended up in the charming town of Bath (or, "Bahth"), where we took a tour of the Roman Baths museum, complete with armored Roman Soldier host, had hot chocolate and Bath Buns, visited the Pump Room and even tried the bath water (it was warm and a little metallic).
It was a whirlwind tour of sightseeing, but it was great for the price.  It was hard to choose, but Stonehenge was my favorite.  It just appeared, and there it was.

So there you have it!  From the ridiculous to the sublime.  This week is going to be busy with work projects and one more move, but we are looking forward to the events that are to come.  I enjoy running through Regent's Park every morning, past the London Zoo where I'm almost sure to see some sort of wild animals in their pens, or perhaps where I may be interviewed by a camera crew about my running shoes.  Always something unexpected around here.