Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bank Holiday Washout

Since Jason and I had been traveling quite a lot lately and I'm leaving to go to New York tomorrow, we decided to take a pass on the second May bank holiday. Not to mention that the weather across almost all of Europe was forecasted to be absolute shite...

So the majority of the long weekend was spent on the sofa in cozy Juicy Couture watching Audrey Hepburn movies and Food TV. And eating. I don't know how he does it but we'll have what appear (to my eye at least) to be hundreds of raw ingredients, none of which actually go together and I'll announce that I'm a tad peckish and Jason will disappear into the kitchen, only to emerge ten minutes later with bruschetta or cheese biscuits or cinnamon butter puff pastry. My mouth says "thank you" but my thighs say "screw you and your superior cooking skills".

Anyway, we did manage to eek out one nice day from the weekend so we took advantage of it and daytripped out to Salisbury. Where the main attraction is, wait for it, a cathedral. Try to hide the shock. (It is, however, the tallest spire in England which I guess is saying something when you think about how many spires there are in England. It also houses one of the last remaining copies of the Magna Carta and the oldest clock in the world. Not bad.)

The cloisters...


View of the cathedral from across the water pastures. I don't know exactly what a "water pasture" is. There was water. And there were pastures. I never thought the 'tween shall meet...

Then we decided to head over to the next town - Wilton. Because our book spoke so highly of it. There were apparently "more antique shops than you can shake a stick at". But you know what there actually was in Wilton? This:

Absolutely shagging nothing. That's what. Eh... you win some you lose some.

So after a quick pint at a pub, it was back to Kondon for us. I kove train trips. I kike to read and kisten to my iPod.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Are you talkin' to me??

A couple of years ago on a trip back to Raleigh, I was buying a shirt at The Limited and the girl ringing me up took a look at my Coach handbag and said "Nice bag.  Bet it was expensive."  I just stood there.  What in the world are you supposed to say to something like that?  Finally, I said "Well, it was a treat."  She comes back with "Wish I could afford treats like that." Silly me. I thought the first comment was impossible to reply to.  

Later, I was telling Jason about it and saying how I was so offended by the whole encounter and am I crazy or is that not incredibly rude?!?  He agreed that it was incredibly rude and  gave me the perfect response:  "Well, I work (1) very hard to be able to afford nice things."  It's not aggressive, but it firmly puts the offender in her place and (unless she's thick as London fog) lets her know that it's not really an appropriate thing to say.  Especially to a paying customer.

If only I could have remembered all this on Wednesday when I was assaulted outside Selfridges while waiting for a bus.

A lady sidles up to me and makes a seemingly innocent comment about needing a bus to Victoria.  I, trying to be the ever-helpful Londoner, look over, smile and say "Number 73". Apparently this is an open invitation to a lecture on luxury goods and classist society.  

She runs a hand over my Louis Vuitton bag and says... 
"That's a nice bag."  
"Thanks."  
"Is it one of the real ones?"   
"Yes." 
"It must have been really expensive."
"It was a gift from my husband so I don't know."
"Well, they're all expensive."
"I suppose."
"I think it's nice they have the fake ones because it gives people who can't afford them a chance to have something nice"
"They're not nice.  They're illegal.  They're either stolen or produced in sweatshops and the sales of them fund organized crime."
"Well, that's easy for you to say.  You rich people can buy whatever you want."
"Just because someone can afford a designer bag doesn't mean they're rich."
"I know this brand of bags are at least 500 pounds and if you can pay 500 pounds for a bag, then you're rich, lady."
I choose to ignore this particularly stupid observation.  Yet she continues.
"And anyway, why's a rich lady like you taking a bus? Can't you afford a chauffeured car?"
"Everyone in London takes public transport."
This is where she starts to go off the rails.
"None of the rich people live in London anyway, except maybe Chelsea.  They all live out in places like Hampstead and (get this) Richmond 2."

Believe me, I knew better than to open my mouth at this point and even though she was still flapping her yapper, I promptly put in my earbuds and switched on my iPod.  Who knows what other verbal diarrhea she spewed while I was listening to Jack Johnson.  

What I would really like to know is this: When did it become okay to comment on people's belongings and the cost thereof?  Where have manners and common courtesy gone?  To the way of ladies wearing hats and gloves I imagine.  Relegated to the pages of vintage issues of Vogue and Good Housekeeping.  Tragic.

1 I pointed out to Jason that I'm actually not "working hard" at the moment but he reminded me that I was the breadwinner at one point in time.  I graduated a couple of years before him and, with my job at Tommy Hilfiger, was the sole source of income there for a while.  Some time after that, I had a ludicrously overpaid job as an inside sales rep for a tech company.  So, I suppose he's right...

2 To be fair, LondonTown.com does actually describe Richmond upon Thames as a "fabulously wealthy suburb".  But that doesn't mean everyone who lives here is fabulously wealthy.  Sure, Mick Jagger has a place up the street from us.  And Pete Townshend lives a few doors up from there.  But I guarantee you that they own their entire building and don't rent a flat at the top of one like we do.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Slander

Jason just said to me:

"You're high.  You're doped up on Skittles!"

Well, I never!

The fashion mistress is back in.

Dear Women of London, 

Clearly my last letter needed a second paragraph - regarding seasonally appropriate dressing.  This morning on the tube I was sitting in between two of you.  The one on my left was wearing flip-flops, a denim cut-off skirt and tank top.  The one on my right was wearing knee-high suede boots, opaque tights, a wool skirt, a wool pea-coat, a scarf and gloves.  Dressed in ballet flats, jeans, a light cotton navy boat-neck sweater and a 3/4 length sleeve jacket in blue ticking stripe, I was the only life raft in a sea of inappropriateness.  

How can two women in the same city wake up and interpret "high of 66 degrees" in two totally opposite ways???  Ladies, there is a middle ground.  And I desperately urge you to find it.  Layer.  Wear bright colored shoes.  Embrace the cotton sweater.  French Connection has some particularly good transitional items right now.  Whistles is also doing a great job with their "not winter, not quite a solid spring yet either" collection.  Banana Republic is a pro at this.  Get out there.  Experience the joy of a whole new category of shopping.  Please.  The fashion mistress would like a day off.

XOXO, 
Heather

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

No respect

I don't know why I bother scolding Elwin when he jumps up on stuff. I walked into the kitchen to refill my coffee and was stopped dead in my tracks. Brazen as anything and didn't even flinch when I came around the corner.

"Wat? I likes yur nice red tabulcloth. Is from Willyum-Sonomuh rite? Mmm, yes... u has exselunt exculint good taste in kichin acksessories."

At least he had the decency to try to look ashamed.

"I's so ashamed of my akshuns. I's vry bad kitteh. Iz she still lukin at me? How long do I haf to sit like dis an try to luk ashamed?"

Monday, May 19, 2008

Once upon a time...

...there was a very nice cloud and a very mean cloud.


Make up your mind, London.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

One person's crazy is another's genius

For a gal like me, who loves all things fashion and Sex and the City, meeting Patricia Field ranks pretty high. Yes, that Patricia Field. Totally kooky -- nay, bat-shit crazy -- but fabulous in that she's-incredibly-creative-and-doesn't-care-what-other-people-think kind of way. So you have to love her for that. She who started the huge flower pin craze, she who re-introduced 80's ghetto fabulous with the gold "Carrie" necklace (which went on to become a SATC character in its own right)...

In honor of the SATC movie release, she designed four limited edition Diet Coke bottles exclusively for Selfridges and was in-store yesterday to sign them. So, although I generally do my best to avoid Oxford Street at all costs, I braved the crowds with Geo.


Look Beth! It's the elusive pyjama dress! I can pretty much guarantee you'll see it again when I step off that plane at JFK in a couple of weeks...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The fashion mistress is in.

I'm sitting in Starbucks on a dodgy wireless connection and I felt compelled to post an open letter to the women of London:

Dear Women of London, 

It is May.  Mid-May.  PUT AWAY YOUR BOOTS.  Yes, I know today is the first day in many that the weather has been less-than-ideal.  But that does not mean you get to whip out your boots like that spat of 70-80 degree days never happened.  There are other options.  It's not as though it's either sandals or boots.  This time of year is exactly why ballet flats exist.  Get thee to a shoe store and discover the plethora of options that await you.

XOXO,
Heather

P.S.   There is but one exception to this rule:  Hunter wellies.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Skyrockets in flight

A-aa-aaa-afternoon delight! Not that kind of delight. Get your mind out of the gutter. This kind of delight:

Yesterday I spent the afternoon sitting on the green - reading, writing, sipping a frappuccino and people watching.

I think I'm finally re-acclimated to temperatures at this level. The day after we got back from Sweden last week, it was an absolutely beautiful day and I decided to head out to the green for the afternoon. I knew the weather forecast had said something like 77 degrees but when I was getting ready, I couldn't fathom going out in just a tee and three-quarter length cargos so I grabbed a cardigan to put in my bag "just in case". In what kind of world does someone think 77 degrees does not equal a cotton sundress???

I'll tell you. In a world where it's overcast and chilly two-thirds of the year. In a world where there was no summer last year. In a world where I had multiple cotton sundresses from last year with the tags still on because I wasn't able to wear them.

Who knows if this will stick around or not? One cannot worry oneself with such trivia in times like these. One had just better get out there and take advantage of it while one can.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Who's that girl?

Well, last Thursday I got a hankerin' (yes, a hankerin') to whack off my hair so I called to make an appointment immediately before I lost my nerve as I so often do when it comes to my beloved locks. I came home from the appointment and emailed a few of my girls and the general response was something like this:

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? SEND A PICTURE!!!!!!!!! OMG!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!!!!! I DEMAND A PHOTO IMMEDIATELY, IF NOT SOONER.

And because I am lazy on Fridays (and most other days ending in the letter "y", but that's another story), I didn't send a picture. But I promised to do something blogworthy over the weekend and post the picture then. But I didn't do anything particularly blogworthy (except have a lovely three-hour, cider-fueld lunch with Suze and Phil, of which there are no photos) so I failed them all.

So, here I am, enjoying the first iced cider of the season...


Also, allergies? You win.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The trouble with Britain's Next Top Model...

...is that when they start yelling and fighting, I can't understand a damn thing they're saying.

Perhaps Living TV should consider subtitles for it's viewers in the expat community?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Valkommen...

...to my official Sweden post, resplendent with pictures! That last entry, whilst mildly entertaining, was a total cop-out and I'm here to redeem myself.

I don't know why, but our first stop in every city always seems to be to the main square - for food. I was particularly excited about the one in Gamla Stan, Stockholm as it was called "Stortorget". My eyes automatically see "Store Target", then rapidly switch to "Target Store". (Just kidding. I didn't really think there was a Target in Stockholm. But a girl can dream, no?)

I only posted this photo because I thought it was funny how my arms look so long compared to my torso because they're in the forefront of the photo. Just imagine my arms hanging round about my shins. Give it a minute. You'll laugh.

After a good bit of walking around and getting our bearings, we stopped for a beer. A Kwak, to be exact. Two of them, to be precise. And little did we know they would bring them out in a dual holder. And little did I know that every time I would try to take a sip, Jason would say "Kwak Kwak" (like a duck) and make me snort.

Remember the mythical beast, champagneicorn? Well, this is its cousin, Kwakicorn.

That Kwak goes straight to my head. Next thing I knew, I was making racy double-entendres of bar names. Well, they're just asking for it, calling themselves Kok Bar, right???

The shyest bagpiper ever. He wasn't busking (there was no little cup or hat for change) and he certainly wasn't giving a free concert as he was literally facing into a corner. He abruptly stopped and left when his mobile rang. Very odd, that.

For the remainder of the afternoon, we simply strolled around the harbour area and relaxed on the grassy banks.

This boat, called af Chapman, was built in England in 1888 as a freight vessel, came to Sweden in 1915, served as a school until 1934 and is now a youth hostel. Quite a history!

Day two dawned bright and warm. Clearly, this put me in a good mood. Ride 'em, cowgirl!

We took a little boat over to the island of Djurgarden...



...where there was no shortage of things to do. Too many decisions. My head hurts.

Amusement park? No thank you. (What kind of amusement park doesn't have a ferris wheel? Don't they know that ferris wheel = wheeeee!?)

So we headed to Skansen, the open air museum with lots of original houses and farm dwellings from all over Sweden. (Also sort of a zoo. More on that later.) This is an old church from the 1700's.

The viewing tower, Bredablick.

Now, maybe I'm the only one here but I had no idea peacocks had the ability to do whatever this one did to get up in this tree (climb? fly??). Also, they make a horrific sound. Horrific! This one poor kid who was so fascinated by the peacock started screaming when the thing began howling.

Then. My favorite. The bears. Or more specifically, the bear cubs. Cutest things EVER! The three of them were born last month and were so clumsy and precious. We stayed there watching them play for about 30 minutes.

It's really too bad they'll grow up and maul your face off, huh?

This red windmill was half covered in scaffolding (Expedia? We're so totally on to your little game.) but I managed some tricky photography to crop it out.

Surprise! A beer break! (What? You mean you're not surprised??)

And then to the Vasamuseet. I can't tell you anything about this that could ever prepare you for it. I could tell you how shockingly massive the boat is. You'd still stand there slack-jawed at the enormity of it. I could tell you how the detail of the carvings is amazing. You'd still be stunned.
Just a bit of history from our travel guide: After a maiden voyage of only 4,265 feet in calm weather, Vasa capsized in Stockholm's harbour in August 1628 about 330 feet off the southernmost tip of Djurgarden. It wasn't until 1956 that Vasa was rediscovered by a marine archaeologist .

I seriously cannot recommend this enough. I personally wasn't that excited about going but Jason was looking forward to it so of course I was happy to do it. But when we walked in, I was hooked.

And back outside to enjoy more sunshine by the water...

Life simply does not get better than this. Water lapping at the dock, a strong cappuccino, sunshine on my face, a cosy blanket to keep the breezes off my arms...

...sun sparkling on the water...

...and sailboats docked under blue skies. If this doesn't make you relaxed, you should seek therapy.

Jason was fascinated by the fishermen. I was more worried about the cloud of impending doom hanging over the harbour. (I needn't have been concerned - although there were a few ominous looking clouds over the course of the weekend, it never rained.)

Monday started off with some souvenir shopping for our nieces. These wooden painted horses are kind of the national symbol of Sweden.

And then we set off on a walk through Sodermalm. This part of the neighborhood is really arty and lined with gallery after gallery. So we weren't exactly surprised to see this painted bin. I think if more trash bins were like this, people would be delighted to put their rubbish in them instead of strewing it in the streets.

A cute little residential street...

This is me lashing out at Jason for making me take a photo.

Then of course he made me do a proper one. However, between the way my bag cuts across me and my weird posture, I think I look about 5 months pregnant. Nice pot there. I think I was cuter when I was faking picking my nose.

Monteliusvagen was the name of the little pedestrian path that ran alongside the hill, giving lovely views of the city.

Extreme walking tours. Not for the faint of heart.

After cutting out early and heading back to the hotel for our massages, we came back to Gamla Stan for a stroll and dinner. This is Marten Trotzigs Grand, the narrowest street in the city - only three feet wide.

The towers of Mariaberget as seen from Gamla Stan.

And dinner... We decided to do a traditional Swedish restaurant and both got meat. You can't very well go to Sweden and not eat Swedish meatballs, can you? We had been imitating the Swedish Chef from the Muppets all weekend for crying out loud. Hor dee dorrden herrfen gurrfen. Horrn derr steer mrrrr bork bork bork! Dee beensey bounceey burgerrr.

And Jason got reindeer! This recalls to mind a favorite childhood song... You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. But do you recalllll, the most famous entree of alllll? Rudolph the medium rare grilled fillet of reindeer. Had a very tasty sauce. And if you ever ate him, you would totally agree! Wait, ummm, that's not exactly how it went, is it?

Hej da, Stockholm.