Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Shopping In York

Good Lord, can someone roll me to the nearest gym please, I'm fit to burst. The festive over-indulgence has already taken it's toll. Forget starting afresh in the new year, it will be nothing but salad for me tomorrow I think.

It's hard to believe I've been away from New York for 9-days already. Time flies when you are laying around watching festive television and scoffing mince pies eh. I've really been a bit of a lazy arse since I've been up at my parents' place in Yorkshire, but starting tomorrow I am hoping to actually use one of the 4 fitness DVDs I brought with me. Yes FOUR, highly optimistic of me eh given I haven't so much as cracked the box on a single one of them.

Anyway no visit home would be complete without a trip into York, which is where my mother, nephew and I went on Thursday last week to do a bit of last minute Christmas shopping.

York is a walled city in the north of England, about 210 miles from London, founded by the Romans in 71AD or thereabouts as the legionary fortress of Eboracum. The city sits at the meeting point of the Foss and Ouse rivers and was a centre of world importance with the Emperor Septimius Severus governing the Roman Empire from the city between 208 and his death in 211 AD, however by 400AD the city lay abandoned owing to frequent flooding, a problem the city still deals with today as can be seen in this photo via the BBC.

The river Ouse could not be more aptly named since ooze it certainly does after heavy rainfall. Do you see what I did there? Ghosts of Roman soldiers are still said to haunt the Treasurers House in Minster Yard.

On November 1st, 866AD York, as it is now known, but Jorvik as it came to be known at the time, was captured by the Vikings when a huge armada of Danish pirates, sailed up the Ouse and seized Eorforwick - as it was then known - under the leadership of Ivar the Boneless - love the monicker. Apparently Ivar was known for his gangling frame - and his brothers Halfdan Ragnarsson (Halfdene) and Ubbe Ragnarsson (Hubba).

In 876 the Vikings made York their capital. The conquest lasted until 954 when the last Viking ruler, the equally colourfully monikered Eric Bloodaxe, the deposed King of Norway, was driven out by the English King Eadred. In between the Vikings had doubled the size of the town and turned it into one of the greatest trading ports in Northern Europe.
Sadly whenever I meet new people in New York they always ask me which part of London I am from. Eyeroll. Seriously that's like asking your average American which part of New York they're from. The last time I looked the UK has a population of almost 62-million while London has a population of just over 7.5-million. Imagine that, a whole 54.5-million Brits do not live in London. Gasp!!

Sarcasm aside I am amused by the reaction I receive from New Yorkers when I start to list cities they may have heard of that are close to where I am from: Wakefield is probably the closest, then Leeds - "oh yes, the who live from Leeds" is the reaction I get from people of a certain age - and finally York, which is some 30 miles north east of where I grew up.

"York???" they always respond completely puzzled, "what a weird name."

"Um...yes York, you know, like New York, but without the 'new' bit. York is the city that this city, NEW YORK, is named after. York!!"


I give up!!

Among other things York is well known for its Minster, built in 1154 AD and is one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe alongside Cologne Cathedral in Germany and also The Shambles, a historic street lined with timber framed buildings dating as far back as the Fourteenth Century and voted the most picturesque street in Britain in 2010.

It was freezing when we drove up the A1 to York on Thursday, cold enough for the Foss river to have developed a layer of ice.

Queuing up to shop for 'fine fodder' at The Hairy Fig, a fabulous delicatessen located at 39 Fossgate.

Many of the street names in York end with gate - Coppergate, Jubbergate, Stonegate etc etc - which is the Viking word for street - I'm not entirely sure what a 'jubber' is - and is further evidence of York as a Viking settlement, however I'd never in my life - and I've been visiting York for some 30-some years now - come across Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate until this visit and I had my suspicions that it was a made up name, but apparently not. According to this 49 second BBC video it was where people were punished by being whipped.

Looking along Low Petersgate from Kings Square. York Minster can be seen in the background and in the foreground there are remnants of the UK's recent snowfall.

For me no visit to York would be complete without a hot mocha - not very British I know - and a Fat Rascal at the renowned Betty's Tea Rooms on St Helen's Square. Mmmmmmmmm!!!!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Shape up Britain!!!

Good Lord it's travel chaos in England at the moment. I was really lucky to fly in when I did, arriving at Heathrow at 9.30am on Friday morning, since as of Friday night the vast majority of flights out were cancelled and people have been sleeping overnight in the terminals. The Eurostar train service from St Pancras has also been affected with people waiting in freezing conditions for trains delayed for up to 8hours. People are understandably miserable!!

Tomorrow I am supposed to take the train north to Yorkshire to be with my family for the festive season, but I've just learned that severe damage to overhead power lines as a result of temperatures dropping to -15C has caused 'havoc' on the East Coast train line with 100s of passengers stuck on trains and no service north of Peterborough. Ugh!!

Chances are Miles and B may well have a guest for Christmas this year :-)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Checking Out The Jelly Babies

Much as I love lounging around Miles' flat drinking copious cups of tea while watching cinematic gems such as Kindergarten Cop and the snow flurries outside I feel like I am missing an opportunity to see how the city's changed since I was here last year and should be out and about exploring, so earlier today Miles and I forced ourselves to go out and took a walk up Kensington High Street, through Hyde Park and along Bayswater Rd to see the Jelly Baby sculpture at Marble Arch at the top end of Oxford St.

On the way we walked through the Kensington Palace Gardens at the west side of Hyde Park and designed by Henry Wise and Charles Bridgeman. The Round Pond at was almost completely frozen over except for a small area at one side where the swans paddled and pigeons pottered about seemingly unconcerned with the cold, unlike myself who was absolutely freezing. Seriously my hands were so cold inside my thick shearling gloves that I thought they were in danger of falling off. I need some of those gel hand warmer sachet things that you pop in the microwave to heat and then inside your gloves. I wonder where I can get some of those.

We continued along the carriage way past the Italian Gardens stand at the northwestern end of the Serpentine Lake. Miles took a great photo of this building with all the pigeons you can see squatting on the roof suddenly flew off in our direction. I'll post it if I remember to get it from him, it's a great shot, he was very proud.

Picturesque trees along Bayswater Road, or the A40 as it's less romantically known

Ta da Jelly Babies!!!

The details are vague, but as far as I can tell, in the run up to the 2012 olympics, Westminster Council is hosting the City Of Sculpture Festival from....well I am not sure, there are very few details online, which I feel is a huge mistake if it's actually happening now, because if the festival is up and running I would have loved to see a map of all the participating exhibits so I could walk around and check them out, but can I find one, no!! However what I definitely do know is that Mauro Perucchetti's Jelly Baby family is part of the shennanigans. Apparently Lorenzo Quinn's Vroom Vroom will also be part of the festival and will be exhibited along Park Lane somewhere, although as far as I can tell from the Halcyon Gallery website it's currently installed in Valencia.

Fun though the jelly babies are I thought this 30 feet high 6-tonne bronze horse head sculpture - Horse At Water I believe it's called - by Nic Fiddian-Green, which is directly across the street was absolutely stunning and definitely worth the walk in the freezing cold.

Christmas Tree, Berkeley Square, London

Is there an actual tree under all those lights do you think?

Light heavy though this tree is, I loved the way it lit up quiet Berkeley (pronounced Bark-lay in English) Square in ritzy Mayfair, a few blocks away from the absolute chaos of the Christmas shoppers on Oxford St.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A Good Day!!

So according to the horoscopes read out on Z100 on Thursday morning my day - for Gemini - was supposedly a 10!!

A ten!! Hurrah!! I never get a 10!! It's usually a 4 or a 5, so a 10 is marvellous news. Not that I believe all that guff of course :-)

To be honest the day felt like anything but a 10, I was completely exhausted after a fitful night worrying about packing for my trip home. I flew to the UK for the Christmas break on Thursday night and while I slept soundly from 11.30pm-3.30am on Wednesday after 3.30pm I kept waking up with a start remembering something I'd forgotten to pack.

"I'll pack it in the morning," said the half of my conscience that knew I needed a good night's sleep
"You'll get up and pack it now or you'll forget" said the other half of my conscience that likes to channel my mother
"Okay, okay, stop nagging, I'll do it now for God's sake!!"

And that was my beauty sleep shot for the night, because once I got up to retrieve the one item I'd forgotten about the floodgates opened and I couldn't manage to quiet my mind from worrying about whether I'd packed everything I needed, so I was up and down every 30-45 minutes or so retrieving various plug adaptors or going out of my tiny sleep deprived mind for 10minutes looking for my passport and green-card, which of course turned out to be under my nose all along, on the dining table where I'd put it with a pile of important documents - flight booking references and the like - that I needed to remember to take with me. I'd go back to bed in between and try and will myself back to sleep using various relaxation techniques, but my brain just wouldn't co-operate and come 5am I gave up and got ready for my last day of work in 2010!!! The last day in work for the year, bliss, I guess that's a good enough reason the day is a 10, although when I heard my day would be a 10, I was kind of hoping to run across the Creative Cutie* one last time in the cafeteria. Sadly it was not to be, although in hindsight I suppose it's a plus that I didn't, because I looked a fright after my lack of sleep. I did make an effort with my hair and make-up, but what with the dark circles under my eyes and the strange little bumps** on my forehead that are not entirely contributing to my allure, the hair and make up was kind of a lipstick on a pig situation if I am honest.

I did have a good celeb spot at the airport, Jake Gyllenhaal being escorted through the terminal by an airline employee. He passed within about 2 feet of me and when our eyes met he gave me a worried look and ducked his head. Yeah, don't worry Jakey, I'm not about to run up and ask for an autograph or a photo, I'm a nonchalant New Yorker for goodness sake, although perhaps experience of supposedly nonchalant New Yorkers have taught him we are often anything but, because when I texted two friends to inform them of the sighting they both responded excitedly "JAKE GYLLENHAAL, he's on my list." Well look out ladies of New York, because he's in the area and let me tell you he looks just as cute in real life as he does on the telly!!

Unfortunately my airline connections couldn't come through on an upgrade to business class on my overnight flight to London - oooh the bliss of a fully flat bed after my sleepless night - but at least I was able to be moved
from my seat in the middle to an aisle seat, so that's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick eh!! Sitting in seat 44D pre-take-off I kept hoping that one of the flight attendants would come hurrying over and say "I'm sorry madam, there's been a terrible mistake" and whisk me off to business class, but sadly that wasn't meant to be and I was stuck in economy a row in front of the red-headed Felix and his ill-behaved siblings, however since the middle two seats of the central row of 4 were unoccupied myself and my row buddy in 44G did get to enjoy the benefit of the old 'Croydon upgrade' and I managed a smidgen of sleep.

We landed in London right on time and I was at Miles' place come 11.30am and enjoying a disco nap an hour later. I later learned that bad weather had forced the cancellation of many flights into Heathrow and the airport was chaos, so I was lucky to have slipped into the UK when I did. I guess the day was a 10 after all.

It's snowing quite heavily today which has scuppered my plans to head down to Kent to visit a friend as the trains are up the spout, so I am enjoying cosying up on the sofa at Miles' place, drinking copious cups of tea - I usually only drink 2 cups of tea a day in New York, but as soon as I step foot on UK soil I drink hot milky tea on the hour every hour. There's something about being in the mother country which turns me into a total tea-face.

Snow on Miles' balcony

*Now that the paranoia over him staring at me has abated I am starting to see his appeal more and more which is just typical now that he is no longer showing any interest. Men!! Bad timing is the story of my life. Unfortunately there aren't really any opportunities to reverse that situation since our work lives don't intersect at all. In my line of the advertising business it's rare that I encounter creatives of his ilk, art directors that focus on above the line channels. Oh well!!

**I am optimistically assuming the bumps are as a result of an allergic reaction to the new hat I have been wearing, since I didn't have them pre-hat, but there's a nagging little voice in the back of my head that says 'are you SURE its not bed bugs in your hat?'.

Raging paranoia??

Perhaps, but there's nary a day goes by in New York without some infestation scare. It's gotten so bad that I am afraid to go to the cinema as there have been numerous reports of outbreaks at the larger complexes.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Tis The Silly Season!!

Brrr!!! Its cold in New York today my darlings, the temperature indicator on NY1 News declared it to be 22F (-6C) when I left the apartment at 6.45am this morning, although with wind chill it apparently feels like 7F (-14C), with scattered snow showers and 20mph winds. Lovely!! It’s cold enough to slap the hangover right out of you I'll tell you that for nothing. It took me a good 20minutes before I could feel my face when I arrived in the office after the 10minute walk from the subway.

Soooo it was the company Christmas, sorry Holiday, party last night and oooh dear, I am most definitely feeling less than brilliant this morning - if memory serves I do believe I congratulated the CEO for a marvellous party as I gathered my belongings from the coat check last night. Gulp, I REALLY hope that’s all I said, especially with Agency layoffs rumoured in January - although today's haggardness is less about the amount of wine consumed (lots) and more to do with the fact that I woke up at 4.45am this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. Ugh!! This is happening to me more and more when I drink which is definitely one good reason to give up the booze. I feel quite bright and breezy now, but come 11am I’ll probably crash. Anyway since some eejit had scheduled an 8am call with China this morning – seriously, the day after the Christmas party??? C’mon now people!! – I gave up on trying to go back to sleep and got dressed for work. Bizarrely there were already two other people in the office when I arrived at 7.30am, which most definitely wasn’t the case after last week’s client team party – a Mad Men themed cocktail party at the Madison Club Lounge at the Roosevelt Hotel, good Lord they were large martinis – when there wasn’t a soul across our side of the floor until about 9.30am - there's usually something to the tune of 150 people - and I had one of those moments where I thought ‘is it Saturday?’

The creative cutie was in attendance last night, so I am glad to see he is still gainfully employed by the agency. I was kind of hoping that fortified by alcohol perhaps our eyes would meet across the bar and I’d get a Christmas snog under the mistletoe, but sadly that wasn’t meant to be. In fact I didn’t even merit so much as a second glance. Pah!! Long gone are the days when he would stare at me longingly at me from the ping pong table.

Cold creative cutie, cold!!!


Well never mind, I hear that Ryan Reynolds is back on the market.

Friday, 3 December 2010

...And here I am worrying about my muffintop

I heard about this story on the radio this morning. Here's the report from Oklahoma's Can you imagine being so large that you can shoplift jeans and FOUR PAIRS OF BOOTS in your fat folds? Unbelievable!!
Police in Edmond say two women used their belly fat to hide more than 26-hundred dollars worth of merchandise.

It happened in Edmond, where police arrested 28-year-old Ailene Brown and 37-year-old Shmeco Thomas after loss prevention officers at TJ Maxx allegedly discovered the crime.

"These two individuals were actually concealing them in areas of their body where excess skin was -- under neath their chest area, up around the armpits and things of that nature. They were concealing large items."

Some of those items included a wallet and gloves as well as three pairs of jeans and four pairs of boots!

Officers say they also found a knife in Brown's purse. They believe she was using it to cut the security tags off items.

The duo was arrested for shoplifting and felony charges are expected to be filed against them.
Hells bells!!