London Snapshots


This is a purely self-indulgent post.  I have five million more pictures of London just sitting on my computer and it seems a pity not to share them, or so it appears to me.  If I am being honest, I wish I was back in London right now and this gives me an excuse to dream a bit.  I hope you enjoy my completely random selection of photographs.



The pictures above are all from Greenwich.  We love wandering through the park there and when you get to the top, up by the Greenwich Observatory, there are some great views of London.  There is also a nice Oxfam bookshop in Greenwich so I wasn't book deprived during this outing which we all know is the most important consideration.

Millennium Bridge and St Paul's

St. Paul's, the Millennium Bridge, five million professional photographers.  I felt like a fraud, snapped a few photos and moved on.

London--the Thames


And now more gardens, and flowers, and empty benches.  I seem to have a thing for photographing empty benches.




garden--water feature


Do you ever debate with yourself whether you would live in the city or the country if you had your choice?  I do all the time because I like to complicate my life with completely unnecessary conundrums.  I think the city is wonderful because of the cultural opportunities and the restaurants and the public transport and...the list just goes on and on.  But then the country, with the peace and the quiet and the lack of people.  I think I need a flat in London and a cozy cottage in the countryside and I will split my time between the two.  I'm so glad we have that settled.

London Underground


I have said it before and I will say it again. London just makes me happy.  And pictures of London also make me happy.  Now if there was just some way to acquire that London flat...

Happiness Is A Few New Books

books- Dorothy Dunnett

Isn't that a picture of happiness right there?  The last in the series came in the mail today.  I have just started book number two.  I see Dorothy Dunnett wrote another series as well.  Should I be stockpiling that too?  New to me authors do make me happy.

Book--Antonia Fraser

I found this at the library book saleroom.  I snatched it up since it ties in so well with the Lymond Chronicles.  The time period is not one I am very familiar with and I realized that my knowledge of the life of Mary Queen of Scots is extremely limited.  She is one of those historical characters I feel like I am very familiar with but then when I really think about it, I realize I am abysmally ignorant.  Hopefully, this book will fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge.  Maybe I need to expand my nonfiction reading beyond the social history of WWII.  Though to feed that addiction I did buy one more book.

Book--Norman Longmate

Norman Longmate wrote one of the most fascinating books I have read about the time period, How We Lived Then. It was very readable and very detailed.  I am hoping this one lives up to my expectations.  If you notice on the cover, the Daily Telegraph says it is "full of sad, funny and harrowing anecdotes." That is what I find so interesting.  It isn't the war or the bombs themselves or the politics, it is the people's lives.  It is what they did and how they coped.

The internet has a lot to answer for.  In the past, it was never so easy to feed my book addiction.  I seem absolutely incapable of only buying a book or two.

Memories Are Made Of This

a walk in the woods

The smell of molasses cookies fresh out of the oven.

The words you say over and over.  "Shut the door.  Have you done your homework? It's time for bed."

The feel of Lego bricks and Matchbox cars under your feet.  If there is one left on the floor your feet are guaranteed to find it in the dark and when you yell in pain you will wake the baby.

The words of the board book you read over and over, so often you can still recite it now years later.

The pudgy hands starfished against your leg and the toothy grin you see when you bend down.

The smell of crayons and Play-doh and sunscreen.  Always the sunscreen.

The hours spent listening to conversations about video games and Pokemon and which stuffed animal is the cutest. Definitely the bunny, it's always the bunny.

The realization that you used to kiss those size thirteen feet back when they were little and cute and...not stinky.

The tricycle, the training wheels, and then the wavering progress down the road, precariously balanced, just as you think you will be running behind that bike for the rest of your life.

The first day of school, complete with tears, (yours, not theirs) and then the slow realization that this peace and quiet thing is kind of nice.

The first time your child cries "but we always do it that way" and you realize you have family traditions.

The three vacations in a row where a child threw up in the hotel room.

 The surgeries.

 The child who wandered away in the mall and was missing long enough to cause major panic.

The smell of baby powder and baby shampoo.

"Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?"

The first time they won't hold your hand to cross the street.

The knock-knock jokes that are told over and over.  Heaven forbid you don't laugh every single time.

The vacations in upstate New York with campfires, hikes on dirt roads, and long days by the pond.

The first time you realize you are having a real adult conversation with your child.  One that isn't about Pokemon or stuffed animals.  They are growing up.

The times you realize you sound just like your own parents.  Did those words really just come out of your mouth?

The good and the bad.  The funny and the sad.  The cute and the annoying. The big, important things and the everyday activities.  The things that make you a family.

Memories are made of this.

A Day Out--Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village

Childhood memories are a form of time travel.  They can take you back to the time and place and person you once were.  I grew up going to Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum in Massachusetts.  I have such happy memories of my visits there as a child. Of the sun beating down on us as we walked the dirt roads, scuffing our feet and watching the dust swirl around our toes.  Of hanging over the split rail fences watching the lambs mill around their mothers.  Of standing in the kitchens listening to my mom discuss cooking techniques with the costumed interpreters.  Of eating fat ginger cookies from the bake house.  Of lying flat on the little bridge across the stream looking for minnows.  Of watching as the blacksmith pumped the bellows and listening to the ring of his hammer and then the hiss of the steam as he plunged metal into water to cool it. When I walk through the doors of Sturbridge Village I become that little girl again.

I promised my daughter that if she didn't miss much school this year I would let her take a day off and we would do something fun.  She picked Sturbridge Village.  My children have the same happy memories associated with it that I have.  My son has missed too much school to take a day off and my husband couldn't take a day either so it was just my daughter and me.  I don't know which of us was more excited about the day.

Old Sturbridge Village--lambs

Old Sturbridge Village--lambs

Old Sturbridge Village--lambs

Our first stop was the lambs.  My daughter loves animals and this is what she was most excited about.  We timed our visit just right. There were a lot of lambs scattered all around the village and they were absolutely adorable.  I think my daughter could have stood there all day watching them.  I finally dragged her away to visit a few of the houses.

Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village

The interpreters are always happy to answer questions and just make the visit interesting.  One thing I appreciate about OSV is that the experience stays the same.  Exhibits may change slightly but the village I take my children to visit is the same as the one I visited myself.  I am always afraid that somehow, in their bid to keep up with society and in order to attract more visitors, they will do horrible things like put interactive screens in the houses.  The appeal of museums like this is that they put you in the picture.  When you walk through them it is possible to feel like you live in the village, that you too will be working in the garden or plowing the field or milking the cow.  I am glad they don't do anything to take away from that feeling of immediacy.

Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village

The little red farmhouse pictured at the top of this post was always my favorite place in the village.  I used to imagine living in it with the fields all around me and the stream down the hill.  The kitchen is always in use and I love seeing the food they make and the recipe books they use to do so.  The interpreters are very knowledgeable and always happy to talk.


We also had to make a stop at the blacksmith's shop.  This was always my son's favorite. He would sit and watch the blacksmith at work and chat to him for as long as we would let him.  When he found out we were going to OSV he made me promise we would all go back over the summer so he could visit the blacksmith.  My son is at a technical high school and is taking machine shop.  I wonder if his fascination with working with metal started when he was little and had to be dragged out of the blacksmith's shop.

Old Sturbridge Village--blacksmith

Sturbridge Village is quintessential old New England.  The buildings are original and have been moved on location and restored to their former condition.  The scenery is picture perfect.  There are a lot of paths and trails you can walk.

Old Sturbridge Village--covered bridge

Old Sturbridge Village--covered bridge

Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village

It is not just the childhood memories that are a form of time travel, Old Sturbridge Village is as well.  It takes you back to a slower, quieter time.  A time with its own problems and its own struggles but also its own joy and its own beauty.

Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village--potter

Old Sturbridge Village

One important part of any visit to OSV is a walk down the hill to the stream.  It is vital that you sit on the little bridge, listen to the blackbirds and swifts in the meadow, and then play a few games of Pooh sticks.

Old Sturbridge Village

Old Sturbridge Village

My childhood and my children's become merged at Sturbridge Village.  Is is me or my daughter agonizing about which flavor of candy stick to buy?  Is it me or my son sitting on the fence watching the cattle?  Sometimes I feel that if I could just turn my head quickly enough I would see her, that little girl I used to be, ponytails flapping as I run, red sneakers covered with dust, headed for the stream or the farm or the covered bridge.  But now I turn my head and see another little girl, with a braid bouncing on her back and grey converse covered with dust, headed for the stream.  She grins at me and starts collecting sticks.  She is determined to win at Pooh sticks.  I grin back and start collecting them too.  For a moment, I can almost feel the swish of my ponytails as I turn my head.

A New Book Obsession And Some Old Favorites

spring blooms

I read The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett last week.

I think I have a new addiction.  Why on earth have I never read these before?

There are six books in the series and I currently have all the remaining ones in my online cart.  I am sure before the end of the day I will have pushed "purchase."

To be honest, I wasn't sure what I thought about the book at first.  I don't know much about the history of the time period and I felt continually confused by events, characters, and motivations.  Eventually, I got so caught up in the story it didn't matter that I was occasionally a bit befuddled.  Then I got to the end and it all just galloped forward at a breathless dash with me desperately trying to keep up.  I do think I will end up reading it again just to get things clearer in my head and I am sure there are sections that will read completely differently now that I know the end.

Persuasion--Jane Austen

I found this beautiful copy of Persuasion at the library saleroom.  I already own a copy of Persuasion but it is my favorite Austen (depending on the day and my mood) and it was only fifty cents.  I couldn't leave it behind.  Besides, it is just so pretty.

I never used to be seduced by gorgeous covers.  It was the words that did it for me, but lately, I find myself picking up books because of how they look.  I think Persephone Books is to blame for that.  I fell in love with their dove-grey covers and that was the beginning of the end.

I have also been rereading the Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMasters Bujold.  My son loves them and I have been slowly buying the ones he is missing.  As they show up in the mail I am rereading them.  So much fun. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance came in the mail yesterday but unfortunately, my son got hold of it before I could. If you like science fiction, space opera type books go read them right now.  Yes, I realize we made quite the literary jump from Austen to midget, egocentric space commanders. (Aren't you intrigued?  Go.  Read.)   That is the joy of being a book lover.  There is always something new and different.

I picked up a Miss Silver mystery by Patricia Wentworth.  Lisa at TBR 313 reviews them regularly and they sound like fun.  I think it is possible I read one or two years and years ago but if I did I have no real recollection of them. The library book sale only had one, The Ivory Dagger, so I grabbed it.  It looks like it should be a nice escape from reality.

It is Sunday afternoon as I am writing this.  We went out for a nice lunch as a family.  My husband and son are watching the 1960 version of The Time Machine.  My husband has been revisiting all his favorite old movies and educating our son about them at the same time.  My son is slightly horrified at the paltry special effects but is enjoying them nonetheless. I would say it is a nice father-son bonding experience except that expression makes me cringe so I will just say it is good fun.  My daughter is watching a movie on her tablet.  She doesn't like any movie that is even slightly intense so that rules out her father's beloved old science fiction films.

a girl and her bear

I am going to enjoy the peace and quiet.  I'll curl up on the couch and finish my book.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll place a book order.  After all, I do need to know what happens next in Francis Crawford of Lymond's life, don't I?

A Day Out--Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

On the last full day of our trip to London we took the train to Bletchley.  It was an easy trip from Euston station, under an hour and only 16 GBP for a return ticket.  Bletchley Park is clearly marked and you can walk to it in under 5 minutes from the train station.

Bletchley Park was the site of top-secret code breaking during WWII.  The codebreakers regularly cracked codes of the Axis powers including the German Enigma.  Their work is credited with shortening the war by two to four years.  The movie, The Imitation Game has helped to bring the work of these men and women into focus for many.  I actually have not seen the movie but I am very interested in the time period and thought it would make a nice day trip out of London.  It was truly fascinating.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

The amount of information available and the number of buildings to tour is a bit overwhelming.  We spent a number of hours at Bletchley Park and still did not see close to everything.  We just eventually reached the stage where we were not really taking in information.  You know that stage in a museum when it all becomes a bit of a blur even though it is all interesting?  Your ticket is good for a year so if we lived nearby (if only!) I would definitely go back and see the sections we missed or hurried through.

The first section we went through was a museum of enigma machines, displays about various code-breakers, a section on Alan Turing, and a demonstration of the Turing-Welchman Bombe. The Bombe is a device that was used to help codebreakers detect the staring positions for the Enigma machines.  It is huge, scarily complex, and very impressive.

Bletchley Park

The mansion itself is beautiful.  Many of the rooms are set up the way they would have been during the war.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

There is a section about The Imitation Game since some of it was filmed on location.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

There are a number of huts with even more information.  They are set up so you feel like you just walked in while the workers are gone for a minute.  There is a sweater on the back of a chair, a purse on the table, an umbrella leaning against the wall.   I liked the way these touches make it feel very immediate and real.  Some of the rooms  have video projections of people working and talking which contributes to the feeling of being immersed in the moment.  I particularly liked the experience in the hut where the WRNS ran the Bombe machine.  The video was of two of the WRNS discussing their work and their feelings about it, supposedly while the machines ran and phone calls came in.  That kind of thing can feel very fake if done poorly.  This was done well and contributed to the experience.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

There are several coffee shops on the grounds.  In one of them I had a very nice piece of Victoria sponge cake.  I stole a few bites of my husband's lemon drizzle cake and that was quite tasty as well. We didn't have the best weather on this day.  You can see the skies are grey and gloomy and the pictures are a bit dark but it didn't start raining until we got back into London.

I heartily recommend a trip to Bletchley Park.  I don't think you have to be particularly interested in WWII to find it enthralling.  My  husband has no overwhelming interest in that time period and he enjoyed the day.

Finally, here are two quotes that were written on the walls inside the mansion.  They aren't the best pictures but I like the sentiments so I am putting them in anyway.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park