Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Shayne's Day #75: The one with the british kids

Quick update about my teaching situation. I started at Southbank International School last week and it has been the ride of a lifetime. On Wednesday, I went in for an orientation and spent the day in a second grade classroom. On Friday, I subbed for the first time and ended up in first grade. And today, I went back for my second supply teaching job and was in third grade. Southbank has been absolutely wonderful so far and I am over the moon about the small quaint campus and incredible staff. I have met truly fabulous people and look forward to working with them. They have all been so helpful and welcoming and I am really happy to be at Southbank. Now, onto the kids! Brace yourself because now that I am working with british youngsters - the stories are about to get real good!

Basically, each class has 8-15 kids. Small yes, but it's because the school is located in an old house so the rooms themselves are super tiny. Eight seems like a really small class, but in a tiny coat closet, those personalities get real big, real fast. So far each class has consisted of about 1/3 American students, 1/3 British students, and 1/3 Multi-cultural kiddos (I have had some from Germany, Spain, Denmark, South Africa, The Netherlands, and India). So, the population is incredible and diverse! If I could just get them to listen long enough to start a good discussion - the diverse group would be money!

Instead, I try to get a kid's attention, and he turns away. I move their behavior clip and they laugh. I try to play a fun game and they throw things. Basically, if I imagine my three toughest 5th graders from earlier this year (I am not going to name name's, but some of you know who kept me awake at night!) and multiply them across the entire school, that is what I have dealt with so far. Actually, thinking back, I can't imagine that even my toughest kiddo's were ever as naughty as some of the students I had today. Seriously - no exaggeration. But, just like all things british, I am embracing every moment and going directly to laughter when things get tough. Just because it's different doesn't mean it's bad. And certainly, I can learn from this! I can imagine myself in two years, sitting in an interview back in the states, and saying, "Yes, after this...I can do anything!"

So, here it is...my top ten kid moment list from my first three days in the classroom:

10. 3rd grade: Girl is at the front doing the calendar routine and boy raises his hand. He says to her, "Excuse me, could you please pull your jeans up? I can see your thong." No one laughs, she doesn't get embarrassed - she simply pulls her pants up and moves on. I am sitting there thinking, "That 8 year old just said thong, that 8 year old just said thong..."

9. 2nd grade: Boy says to me, "So Ms. Shayne, you are from the states. I have technically been to the states, but it was Alaska. My dad says Alaska is really more like it's own country and I agree. If Alaska is separated from America by an entire county, it probably has its own cultural thing going on." I ask, "Well, what about Hawaii?" Boy says, "No, they are separated by water. Not much happens over water." I think, "Huh - valid point."

8. 2nd grade: We are working on creating maps which lay out the city they are designing. Girl says, "I know our teacher told us that all roads should lead to the center of the city, but I think all roads should lead to Harod's." Boy responds, "Yeah, my mom would agree, but I think all roads should lead to McDonalds."

7. 2nd grade: We are working in small math groups counting money. The kids are using menus to plan out what they would order, adding up the prices, and figuring how much change they would get back from a 20 pounder. One boy thinks outloud, "Ok, I have picked my starter, my main, and my dessert. Should I order that with a pint of beer or cider?"

6. 1st grade: The kids are free-playing during Friday Fun...sorry, that's wrong and I was corrected about 30 times. Here it's Fun Friday - please forgive me. Ok, so I say, "Boys, why don't you go pick a game? I see Guess Who, Checkers, Chess, and Go Fish." They boys walk over, select the Chess board and set it up. I watch them waiting, waiting, waiting. I say, "Are you going to play?" One boy says no, "We are just trying to look busy so you will stop bothering us."

5. 3rd grade: I am doing a read aloud and tell the kids they can either sit in their chairs or on the carpet. One boy hops up on top of the table and lays down. I say, "You need to get down and choose a chair or the carpet." He says, "Oh, no thank you, I am going to stay here." At least he was polite right?

4. 2nd grade: I am out on recess duty and four little girls who I know walk up to me. One is in tears. Another one says, "Ms. Shayne, we are supposed to be practicing for the talent show, but SHE (points to the one in tears) says I am being too mean and she doesn't want to do it anymore. I say, "Well, let's have a re-group, take a break, and talk through it." Mean girl says, "No, we CAN'T take a break. If SHE drops out and we can't practice, then it will ruin our talent show chances FOR LIFE!!!" Mean girl storms away, little girl cries harder.

3. 5th grade: (OHHH - 5th grade!): So I am sitting in the room waiting for the 3rd graders to get back from technology and I hear the 5th graders working on a project in the hallway. One of them says, "Hey, have you heard that song Friday?" (yes, yes - we know it went viral in the states like months ago - but, it's just getting popular here). The girl starts singing, "Sittin' in the front seat, chillin' in the back seat, what seat should I take?" The boy says, "I came up with my own words, check it out. Peeing in the front seat, peeing in the back seat, in which seat should I pee?" I bury my face in my hands.

2. 5th grade: Continued from #3 - but, this one deserves it's own countdown number.....The next boy says, "No, no, no, I have a better one. Humping in the front seat, humping in the back seat, which friend should I hump?" I go from burying my face to hitting my forehead on the desk. All I can think is, "If one of my 5th graders ever said hump, I would have fallen over dead." When I told Jake this story he said, "At least they didn't say f#$@ing in the front seat..."

1. On my way home: I am walking down the street and I see three women sitting outside of Starbucks. One of them has a two-year-old and she is trying to get him to sit and eat a brownie. She is screaming, "SIT DOWN - SIT DOWN NOW!" The baby, with a binky in his mouth, shakes his head 'no' and walks away. The mother throws up her hands and goes back to talking with her friends. I remind myself: 1. This is why the 5th graders said 'humping,' 2. There is nothing you can do in one day to really make an impact, 3. Don't lose sleep over the kids you supply teach for, 4. Go home, have a glass of wine, do a craft, chillax, and thank your husband for the opportunity to be just a sub!

Lesson Learned: When the kids say, "No," - just throw my hands up and walk away :)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Shayne's Day #68: The one with the computer nemesis

Last Tuesday was, from start to finish, a day to remember. It all started two weeks ago when I went to the doctor with a bad chest infection. When I was there, I discovered that, in order to receive free national healthcare, we needed to be registered with our local GP (for those of you lost like I was, that's a General Practitioner). So, I paid out of pocket and the receptionist, Deborah, scheduled me for an appointment to come back and get registered. I wrote down the appointment time for 10AM on the following Tuesday and she gave me an appointment card.

Ok, so flash forward to earlier this week. On Monday, I realized the appointment card said that my appointment was at 10:50AM. I called Deborah and she said that in their books my appointment was scheduled at 10:50, but in fact 10 worked better. She said she would change it and I should come the following day at 10. Perfect! I walked through the doors at 10AM on the dot, checked in, and was informed by Deborah that my appointment was not until 10:50. I took a minute to gather myself and realized that I should have seen this coming.
I said, "Well, I spoke to you yesterday and you told me to come at 10."
Deborah responded, "Oh right! Well, I must have forgotten to change it, so you will have to wait."

Not wanting to cause a fuss, I took a seat and got out my book.
Sidenote: I have learned to NEVER leave home without my book. Whether on a tube, a bus, or in a doctors office - I find myself waiting A LOT!

So, there I sat in the lobby right in front of my new friend Deborah. I read for a bit, did some people watching, read a bit more, then I noticed a computer against the wall. The screen was flashing, "Enter your name." I went back up to Deborah and asked, "Was I supposed to sign in on that computer?" She said no, that the computer was used for something else and told me to wait. An HOUR later, Deborah called me to the desk.
DRUMROLL PLEASE.....this is where it gets good!

I walked up to the desk and was told to go over to the computer against the wall, follow the prompts, and answer the questions. Mind you, this computer had sat VACANT for the entire hour I was in the lobby. I walked over, filled out my name, pushed enter, and entered the following information:
1. Male or Female?
2. Birthday
3. Height
4. Weight
5. Does cancer run in your family?
6. Does heart disease run in your family?
7. Do you have any food allergies?
8. Have you had surgery recently?
After a total of 82 seconds on the computer, I was prompted to 'submit' my responses and see the receptionist. I walked back over to my BFF, Deborah, and let her know I was done.
She said, "Oh, ok great! Now we can make an appointment for you to see the doctor."

I needed to take another second to gather myself.
I said, "I thought this WAS my appointment."
She explained, "Today was just the computer portion of your registration. We need to let them process and then you can come back next week for your actual wellness check."

Going through my mind was:
* "I just waited FOR AN HOUR to answer 8 questions on a computer that has been EMPTY since I arrived!"

But instead, I calmly asked, "Deborah, why would you have me wait for an hour to do those 8 questions?"
She responded, "Well, you needed to wait until I had a minute to push the start button."
Again....gathered oneself.
Then I asked, "Deborah, why can't I see a doctor today?"
Deborah explained that I needed to wait for the computer answers to process.
I asked how long that would take and Deborah responded with, "There is no way of knowing." Gather self...gather self...gather self!
I left the doctor's office just absolutely laughing in frustration. We are far enough into our blog for you to laugh along with me. "REALLY!?!"

After the doctor's office I needed a reminder about why I loved London. I headed over to the Tate: Britain and, sure enough, found myself in love with this city once again. This museum is a branch of the Tate Modern, but houses art from many different eras.

Here were my museum highlights:
1. Walking into the first gallery to find a wall-sized work done in pencil script. As I got closer and started reading, I realized it was the entire screenplay of 'Top Gun' (TOP GUN!!!) written in pencil. I made sure to find my top 3 favorite scenes (click on these: one, two, three) and took lots of photos. I knew that most people wouldn't believe me when I told them about this!

2. Randomly entering a gallery just as an 'art talk' was starting. It was about the piece, 'Merry-Go-Round,' by Mark Gertler. It was free, lasted 45 minutes, and was awesome!

3. Heading into an installation piece called 'Coral Reef,' by Mike Nelson. At first I thought I had made a wrong turn on my way into the exhibit because it felt more like a haunted house than fine art. I am not kidding: creaky doors, holes in the walls, and dark corridors. At one point I entered a room to find a clown mask and machete gun on a counter. I kept telling myself, "If someone was going to jump out with a chain saw, they would have HAD to tell me prior to going in."
I have only ever been inside three haunted houses. The first was when I was a kid and I BEGGED to go. I ended up convulsing in tears and threw up at the exit. The second was at Six Flags Magic Mountain with Suzanne, Chase, Eric, Joey, and Amanda. They convinced me to go in and I spent the entire time clinging to Joey with closed eyes. When I opened my eyes at the end and saw one of the gory dead guys, I peed. My last and final attempt was in the auditorium of my high school. Again, the same friends convinced me to go and I told myself that I knew all of the people inside and that the proceeds were going to a good cause. When Matt (my friend mind you) came at me with a fake chain saw at the end, I shoved him to the ground, flew out the exit and toppled face first into the street. With blood gushing from my knees, I knew that would be my last time inside of a haunted house. The closest thing I have come to going inside of another one was at Six Flags (what is it with that place!) last year with Jake and his family. His little brother wanted to go inside the haunted house and I explained that I would just wait outside. Jake said, "You can do it, I'm right here!" I explained to him that he didn't understand and that I do not do haunted houses. Out on the street just outside of the attraction (where I THOUGHT I was safe) a bloody clown with an axe approached us. I began clawing at Jake's neck, buried my face inside of shirt, and started absolutely screaming. Jake said, "Ok, well now I get it!"
So, needless to say, this art installation at the Tate: Britain was not for me. I put on my brave face, snapped some super quick photos, and got the heck out. When I was reading about the exhibit after I left, I learned that the artist was trying to convey the terrifying experience that 'forgotten people' have in prisons and POW camps. Loneliness - achieved. Fear - achieved. Suicide - considered. Artist - successful.

I came home after the museum in a hurry since I had a skype date with my mom. I got to our flat JUST in time and found myself locked out. After the doctor's computer of doom and my Rocky Horror museum adventure, this was the end to a PERFECT day :)

Lessons Learned: 1) If you need to sign up for free health care in the UK, you should take a week off of work, 2. Just because the sign says 'museum' does not mean you aren't walking into a scene from 'Night of the Living Dead,' 3. When you leave the house, bring your keys. Thank you to my knight in shining armor who came to save the day!

* Wall sized 'Top Gun' screenplay

* 'Top Gun' close up

* The haunted museum

* Cool installation with a giant chandelier that's bulbs flashed the morse code

Monday, 23 May 2011

Day #66: The one with the college analogy

We were out with the gang on Friday night and Carly said something to me that made me smile, then laugh, then ponder. She said, "London is like college, but you have money." Now, the college part - totally agree! I don't know about the money part...perhaps when I can finally start working!

Sidenote: Currently, I don't have a job, nor do I even have a debit or credit card. Jake called late last week and asked, "Hey hon, the next time you spend 1,100 pounds, it would be so great if you could just check with me first." What a sweetheart! And, for the sake of saving face, I must add here that I would NEVER spend 1,100 pounds on anything besides a house, car, or vacation and I would NEVER do so without talking to my husband first. However, as it turns out, somebody had no problem spending 1,100 of OUR pounds at the London version of Speaker City. So, thanks to that joker, I am sans plastic in my wallet until Natwest sorts out that situation.

Ok, back to the college analogy. If we eliminate the part about the money, I must agree whole-heartedly with Carly. Below are the SAT worthy college/London analogies I could come up with to prove her point. Enjoy!

London : 2011-2013 :: Tucson : 2000-2005
(No, we weren't in school for 5 yrs, but I felt like I needed to cover the full Singleton reign at UofA.)

Wilber Wildcat : UofA :: Big Ben : London
(Hey, we all need a mascot right?)

Friends : London :: Pi Phi Bid Day : Shayne
Friends : London :: Brotherhood of La Paz dorms : Jake
(Similar to the first day of college, everyone here is looking to meet people too! Many of the friends we have met are Expats - minus George and Sophie of course - and they love to travel just like us. We have made great friends - fast!)

Dorm room space : College :: Flat space : London
(Just like in college, we are having to get real creative about how we store things in our flat. We are talking under the bed space saver bags, Ikea organizers galore, and making the most of every available nook and cranny. Yesterday, we made a closet for Jake in our living room! Hidden behind two decorative curtains, you will find a highly organized garment rack complete with suits, shoes, and even a file cabinet for important documents. PS: I JUST learned that it is a 'garment' rack and not 'garmet' rack when I had to do some research for spell check - WOW!)

2:00AM : UofA :: 12:00AM : London
(Ok, so the bars don't close as late here, but we have found ourselves closing a few places down and staying till last call. That is energy we haven't had since Tucson!)

* George, Mike, and Jake took their chances on a pub slot as we played Quarters at a nearby table last Friday night.

Hyde Park Football : Sundays in London :: Indoor Hockey : Sundays in Tucson
(Granted, I don't get to play football like I did indoor hockey, but I am hoping to soon add roller derby to the list of recreational sports played by the Singletons)

Thursdays : London Happy-Hour :: Thursdays : Tucson 80's band at O'Malley's
(1. If you look closely in the video link it is highly possible that you will see us in that crowd and 2. Weeknight happy hours are back! Just like in college, it is not uncommon for us to go out an have a little bit of weeknight enjoyment. Here are some photos of this past Thursday at The Mitre in Notting Hill. This was Stuart and Kate's going away drinks - tear! - and everyone came out to wish them well as they head back to the states.

* Back Row: Tim, Jake P., Jake, Lou
* Front Row: Pramit, Stuart, and Mike
The boys gave Stuart at Hyde Park football jersey as a going away gift.

* Back Row: Lou, Stuart, Jake, Jake P., Pramit, Tim
* Front Row: Erin, Shayne, and Mike

* Erin, Shayne, Carly, and Mandy

Free-for-all Fridays : London :: Free-for-all Fridays : College
(As most of you know, Jake and I really went out of our way to avoid Friday classes in Tucson. I am pretty sure that it is for this reason that I ended up taking a class about primates in summer school. However, VERY WORTH IT! I know that Free-for-all-Fridays here in London won't last forever, but this past one sure was great. Sophie and I went on a Royal London Free Tour in the afternoon and then headed over to Gordon's Wine Bar for some girl time. Carly and the boys met us a little bit later for some serious Friday fun!

* Sophie and I in front of St. James' Palace

Vino and Cheese : Gordon's :: Sicilian Whores and Dirt Fries : Dirtbags
(Dirtbags was our favorite bar and hangout in Tucson and Gordon's is quickly becoming one of our fave London spots. It seemed that the Jakes needed this slice of gouda as much as we needed a basket of Dirt Fries at 2AM on most Friday nights at UofA.

* Nothing says love like a slab of gouda!

Art school : U of A :: Painting for fun : London
(Hmmm, not sure if that analogy worked very well. Let me sum it up...I'm painting again! It has been wonderful to have the time to bust out some acrylics and go to town.)

The One with All 10 Seasons : The Money Pit :: The One with All 10 Seasons : The Dusty Rose
(The Dusty Rose was the name of our house at UofA and you know the name of our flat here. Let's just say, we watched A LOT of 'Friends' at The Dusty Rose and find ourselves doing the same here at The Money Pit. In college, we didn't have a lot of channels, and what do you know, we don't here in London either. Shout out to The One with All Ten Seasons DVD box set - thanks Mom!)

Wacky moments : College :: Memories : London
(In college, random stuff happened everyday! From getting held up at gunpoint to racing down the road with swimming goggles in the rain - memories were made by the hour. Here, the same thing seems to be happening. From outrageous trips to Ikea on the bus to standing on top of the world in Salisbury - it seems we are going to 'graduate' from London with some classic moments and memories to share.)

Lesson Learned: 1) Carly was right...London is a lot like college! Maybe in two years we will move back home with masters degrees in reading maps, British English, and organization 101.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Day #60: The one with the derby

Ok, first we need to set the stage. Every good movie comes with a theme song and every good blog comes with a theme too. The theme for this blog is BAD ASS CHICKS ROCK! So, to get in the proper mind set, click on the music video link, get off your couch, jump around, shake your hair around, fist pump till you put a hole in the ceiling, and watch this video. When you are TOTALLY PUMPED UP and find yourself wishing that you were a BAD ASS CHICK, read on. Video Link.

Are you BAD ASS CHICKING it now? Is your heart beating fast? Are you ready to CONQUER THE WORLD? If so, we have done our job. You are now in the proper state of mind to read about the ROCKING LONDON ROLLER DERBYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!! Prepare yourself for lot's of capital letters in this blog because.... ROLLER GIRLS RUUUUUUULE! (If reading that last line made you think, "O'Doyle Rules!" you are one of us!)

Saturday night was huge in the Singleton family house hold. Remember that we're coming off of a 5AM party from the night before. So, we woke up, got some Red Bull and put on our game faces. Our only regret was that we did not leave the house in fish nets and ripped denim, because, let us tell you, when we arrived at a run down/hollowed out warehouse in the outskirts of London, we were both wishing we were sporting ROCKER WEAR!

*No, we did not wear these to roller derby, but they are still in our closet and could have been busted out had we known!

We arrived at the warehouse to find a vacated space with a bar, taped off ring, and about 200 people standing around the taped off area. We welcome you to: The Underground London Roller Derby.....ROOOOCK OOONNNNN!!!!!!

We quickly found Anna, Victor, and Jake P. and claimed our spots around the ring. In the middle, ready to rumble, were the most bad ass chicks we had ever seen! First in the area: Harbour Grudges VS Sufra Jets (WOMEN RULE!!!).

Let us break down the next two hours for you:

* Shayne runs to get a few beers (she knew she would want a couple and didn't want to have to wait in line and miss the action)

* Jake reaches into Shayne's purse to get his pre-mixed Screw Driver in a Fanta bottle (we figured underground warehouse + sneak in your own alcohol = underground awesomeness!)

* Eyes get huge as we take in the women (tough, athletic, wearing skimpy little uniforms, tats everywhere, hair tussled, war paint all over - it was pretty hot (we BOTH agreed!)

* Eyes get 'huger' as we watch these women shove off the starting block with crazy, daring speed

* Eyes get 'hugest' as watch these women shove each other over, face first, onto the cement

* Eyes get covered as first girl gets seriously hurt

* We scramble to learn the rules: Pivot leads pack, Jammer passes pack, Jammer scores points

* Shayne decides her team is the Sufra Jets (bad ass chicks, turquoise as a team color, team captain's name is Grievous Bodily Charm - she is SET!)

* Shayne decides she is going to try out and join a team

* Jake is screaming at the top of his lungs and jumping up and down

* Sufra Jets lose, Shayne cries, Shayne buys a Sufra Jet's T-shirt (Jake P. suggested she buy a generic London Rollergirls shirt, Shayne compares this to buying a shirt for the NFL - COPOUT!)

* The Ultraviolent Femmes VS Steam Rollers begins

* Jake P. gets the hots for Kamikaze Kitten: Jammer for the Femmes

* We scream, we yell, we jump, we high five

* Ultraviolent Femmes lose, Jake P. cries

* Jake P. gets a photo with Kamikaze - he is STOKED!

* We agree we are going to the finals match in a few weeks

* We end up at London Rollergirls after party

This night was amazing! And yes, ended up at the after party with all of the teams and coaches. We spent a few hours watching video highlights from the OUTRAGEOUS season and trying to get up the courage to actually talk with one of these BAD ASS CHICKS! None of us actually did, but we all agreed that NEXT TIME....WE TOTALLY WOULD! When we weren't encouraging each other to talk to Katy Peril, Ninjette, or Spooky Von Strange, we were trying to come up with Shayne's Rollergirl name for next season. We haven't come up with one yet, but if you can think of a RAD one, let us know!

So there you have it - ROOOLLLLEEEERRR DDEEEERRRBBBYYYY!!!!!!! It was huge, it was awesome, and WE WILL BE BACK!!!! We would like you to end on this video clip! If you weren't pumped before, strap on your seat belt, cause this video ROCKS!

Lesson Learned: RLR DRBY 4 EVA!

* Kamikaze Kitten is hugging Jake P. in the distance! This is a very happy moment for him. You can see her in the neon green :)

Jake P., Jake, Anna, Victor, and Shayne (We are all wishing we were tough enough to strap on some skates!)

* The roller girl cheerios performing between bouts...AAAAAMAZING!

* Shayne's Sufra Jets are in the turquoise. GO JETS!!!!!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Shayne's Day #59: The one with the fingerprints

Two weeks before we left for London, both Jake and I needed to get our fingerprints taken in order to obtain our work visas. I was in Phoenix and he was in San Diego. So, we googled 'fingerprinting offices' and were given a list of about 100 places in each state that took fingerprints. I called the one closest to my mom's house in Phoenix and made an appointment for the next day. Badda bing - Badda boom. I arrived to the office and waited behind 10 people in a barricaded queue much like a Disneyland line. Within 5 minutes all 10 of us were escorted one by one to a big room where an attendant quickly took our prints and sent them off. At the desk I asked a few questions about obtaining a visa in the UK. The lady didn't know the answers, so she did some research and found what I needed. With 20 minutes of arriving at the office, I had my prints, paid 20 bucks, and I was back in my car singing to that week's 'Glee' hits. One week later, we had our visas. Easy as good ol' American apple pie!

When I started researching the possibility of supply teaching here, I was informed I needed to obtain fingerprints for a U.S. FBI background check. I told everyone that I had just had them taken for my visa, but it didn't matter. So, I googled 'fingerprinting offices' thinking the experience would be the same. But, Scotland Yard kept coming up. I couldn't believe that there was only ONE place in this entire city that took fingerprints, but sure enough that was what it seemed. So, I called Scotland Yard and they informed me that they were REALLY busy (No shit! You are the ONLY ones who take fingerprints in a city with 8 million people) and that the next appointment was about a month away. Laughing, I booked an appointment just in case. Jake did not believe me when I told him there was only one place to go. He said, "You need to research this! There is NO way!" So, he did some research and found a few places that seemed to offer the service, only to find that when he clicked the link, they all rerouted him back to the Scotland Yard. He did, however, notice that there was small print that said you could do your own fingerprints if need be. We thought, "Hey, we can do this! We'll save some money and have fingerprints by tomorrow!" So, I went down to our local stationery store the next morning and purchased some ink.

The next day while Jake was at work, I sat down to take my prints yo! (Yes, I realize this makes me sound either really tough or like a serial killer). After about 2 minutes I had permanent ink on every finger, up my arm, and even some smudged on my face. After scrubbing my fingers with nail polish remover, I emailed Jake and let him know I was going to need some back up. He printed another fingerprint card and that night, we went for round two. Here is how this went:
* Jake tries - he can do it - yay Jake!
* I try - smudges everywhere.
* Jake says, "I don't understand why this is so difficult?"
* Jake shows me again, I try again, black splats all over the card.
* Jake tries to hold my finger and roll it with me - success.
* We try finger number 2 - splat.
* We move to the top of the fridge (remember our fridge is really small) thinking a higher level surface will help.
* We smudge permanent ink ALL OVER the top of the fridge - fridge is ruined.
* I am mad.
* Jake is frustrated.
* We try again, success!
* Finger 2 - success!
* Finger 3 - success!
* Finger 4 - Spppllllaaaaat in a crazy line across the page. We learn the hard way that my gimp finger just doesn't move like the rest of them. The weakling strikes again!
* We look at each other and realize there is a reason that they have services to help with this process.
* We are both covered in ink, the kitchen is covered in ink, and we decide to prioritize peace within our household over waiting for the Scottland Yard.
* We take a shower in nail polish remover.

Needless to say, I kept the appointment at Scotland Yard. So, fast forward one month...Today was my appointment! I arrived at Scotland Yard a little bit early and found a massive building absolutely surrounded in policemen. It honestly looked like a high security prison. I checked in with the cop outside the 'Visitor Entrance' door and he asked to see my passport (I wasn't even in the building yet). He found my name on a list and let me through door number one. I got through the door and was met by another cop (I could still SEE cop #1 from where I was standing) who asked to see my passport (I was thinking, "Ok, I haven't killed anyone since I was outside!"). Cop #2 led me to a metal detector where my purse was searched. I had to remove my sweater and send everything down the belt. It seemed we were on red alert today. I went through the metal detectors and found cop #3 on the other side. Sure enough, cop #3 needed to see my passport too! Yes, if you are counting, that is three cops so far who have done the same thing, all of whom were still in my line of sight. I was told to head inside and find the receptionist. So, I sauntered through the glass doors and am simply stunned by the noisy scene in front of me. There was a mob of 20+ people all trying to get to the front of the receptionist desk. I looked around to see if this was some type of an emergency. But, the 15 cops standing around were acting like this was a common scene. I observed that this was literally a free-for-all push to get to the one receptionist behind the desk. No joke. There was no line, no barricades, just ridiculous pushing and shouting. It was a mad house. I was in the epicenter of the municipal police department in the city of London and wished that I had a whistle, a plan, and group of bodyguards to back me up. Apparently, all of these people had waited for a month too and they were pissed!

So, I finally got real aggressive and fought my way to the front where I, once again, needed to show my passport (that's four). The lady found my name on a list and gave me a visitor's badge. I waited in the lobby for another 10 minutes. Finally, a lady came out and called my name: Cheyyne Singglon. The lady didn't speak English. Fab. As we walked, I tried to make small talk - that didn't work out so well. She just smiled and nodded the whole way. She took me through about 8 hallways, through a rotating door, and finally, we arrived at a door that said 'fingerprinting.' Guess what, she asked to see my passport (that's five). I went in and found myself in a shoeboxed sized room with three government employees. There was one lady who took my name and wrote it in a guest book, BY HAND! It felt like some B&B sign-in sheet from the 1700's. Next, I was sent to another lady about 2.5 feet away who collected 63 POUNDS (yes, you heard correctly), IN CASH, and deposited it into a ziplock bag. High school bake sale anyone? Finally, lady number 3 was fingerprint lady. Her first comment, "Oh, so you're clearly American. We don't have an American card." She said this is a whiney voice as she wiggled her head back and forth - it was like playground taunting, "I know you are, but what am I." She used a brayer (literally, the kind I used for printmaking with my kindergartners) and rolled ink onto the top of her desk...HER DESK! She dabbed my fingers in one by one and smashed them all over this card. When she got to gimpy finger number four, she looked at me with a scowl, and said in her whiney sing-song, "Well, this finger doesn't move well does it?" I tried to explain my glass incident and she just grunted.

Side note: The whole time I am in here, I am the ONLY one getting fingerprinted. There was a 3:1 ratio going on, 4:1 if you count the lady who walked me from the lobby and was just standing by the door. And, the entire time my prints were being taken, the employees were trying to bully the ESL (English as a Second Language) employee into trading days off.

They would say, "You will trade with me next Monday right?" and she would respond with, "I no trade."

Then lady number 1 would try, "Why can't you work my shift on Monday? I NEED it off!" and the ESL lady would say, "I no trade!"

Finally, lady number 3 (the bratty one) said, "Will you just call down and ask if I can have the day off." Basically, "Will you just do my dirty work?" Of course, ESL responded with, "I no trade!"

At the end, I tried to ask a question about how to ship the prints to the states and bratty lady number three just said, "Look, we take prints, that's all we do."

After 30 minutes, I was escorted back out to the mob in the lobby, where I again had to shove people down to return my badge. When I got to the front, they needed to match my badge with my passport (that's six) before I could turn it in.

When I got outside, all I could think was, "Damn that Scotland Yard!" Comically enough, there were about 20 tourists out front with cameras and camcorders photographing the outside of the building. It seemed this hell hole was famous! I quickly realized why security was so high! If tourists saw the mob inside and photographed it, this country would be overthrown within minutes! If the hub of the police force was organized like that, I'm not thinking that our 85 year old queen would be able to do much! I mean, really!

Ok, now let's review the important stats from THIS paragraph:
1. One month out for the next appointment
2. 63 pounds in cash
3. Life flashing before my eyes in a lobby mob
4. 4:1 employee ratio
5. OH YEAH, I almost forgot - I will have the results in a mere 16-18 weeks. In 4-5 months, my prints will be cleared.

Lessons the Scotland Yard SHOULD learn: 1) The reason we are so "busy" is because we take one person's fingerprints every hour, 2) We should not pay someone to sit at a desk and hold a bake sale collections ziplock, 3) The lobby of our building is not the Japanese Subway. We should use Shayne's 63 pounds to buy some barricades!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Day #57: The one with the 'TH' sound

Upon landing in London 57 days ago, we have been corrected time and time again on our pronunciation of words.  We are not talking about lingo or lexicon like a stove being called a hob.  We are talking about the way in which the same word is spoken aloud.  We have placed these verbage differences into three main categories.
1.  British vs. American accents:  This is the most mild of all the lingual differences. This category comprises words that merely 'sound' british, but the word itself is the same.  Think of this as the "Harry Potter" difference.  When watching a Potter movie, you understand everything that is said, but you know that the person saying it is from the UK.
2.  Local letter pronunciation: The words in this category are pronounced in such a way as a result of their local origin and how letters in that language are pronounced differently.  For example, in Spanish (like, Spain Spanish), the 'C,' 'Z,' 'S' sound is pronounced as a, 'TH.'  This makes words like Barcelona sound like Barthelona or cerveza sound like cervetha.  As this is lingual variation, one can completely understand how said pronunciation came to pass.  We will be coming back to category two later in the blog.
3.  What the hell? :  This category is as it sounds.  There are some words here in the UK that seem to have no logical basis in the way they are pronounced.  Letters are added, ignored, and moved around, and then we find ourselves being corrected.  Here are some shining examples of the 'What the hell?' category:
* Derby being pronounced darby
* Aluminum to alumenium
* Bourough to Burra
* Retard to Ratard (ok, ok, this one was American, but TOTALLY worth mentioning)
 This is the category that has forced us to ask ourselves, "Is that man actually speaking English?"

So, let's travel back to category #2 - 'Local letter pronunciation.'  The comedy of this category began almost immediately upon our arrival.  As Jake Plumer planned his trip to Ibiza, the island off the coast of Spain, George (our resident British local) got the biggest kick out of correcting his pronunciation.  Apparently, Ibiza is pronounced Ibitha!  So, this became quite the joke and a source of fabulous comedy.  When Jake was on is trip, you can imagine our laughter when we got a text saying, "Ibitha ith awethome!"

The mid-word 'th' sound comedy continued when Margaret went on an interview for an artist management company.  The man who owns the company and interviewed her is named Athole.  That's right folks, Athole!  If you aren't laughing yet, say his name outloud.....oh, yes - there it is - incessant giggling.  No, this is not a local letter pronunciation for someone named Azole (which, technically speaking, isn't much better).  To further fuel our fire, Athole sat through the entire interview with blood dripping down his cheek.  We will let you know whether or not Margaret accepts the position working for the bloody Athole.

On Friday night, we went to Bodean's BBQ for dinner with George, Sophie, Carly, Mike, Jake P., and Permeet.  The food was delicious and the night was great!  We went out for a few drinks afterwards and ended up back at Carly and Mike's house.  As most of you know, our favorite card game is Asshole and we played it all the time in college and in San Diego (little shout out there to the SDSC!).  Mike, Carly, and Jake P. also love the game, so it was decided to teach Sophie and George.  We found it ironic that we were teaching ATHOLE to the guy who originally coined IBITHA!  Trying to decide the rules to this game was almost as confusing as trying to have a conversation with a "what the hell" category speaker!  It was amazing.  ALL of us seemed to have different versions of Athole....that's what she said. This might be the most 'out of our element' we have felt since arriving here!  Different food we expected, different accents we expected, but THIS...THIS was unheard of!  We were forced to have to overcome adversity and accept change head-on  :)  There was, however, one new rule that we must admit was kind of cool (in an effort not to bore our readers who don't play the game -SDSC, we will teach you in November!).  The night was a true success and, being that we didn't get home until 5AM, it's safe to say we had a great time.

Lethon Learned:  If you can't underthand thomeone in the UK, jutht have them write down what they want to thay!  Ith's eathier that way.

Jake, Jake, Pramit (we've been spelling it wrong up until now), and Mike outside of Bodean's BBQ - YUM!

Sophie, Shayne, and Carly inside of pub #1

Jake P, Jake, George, Sophie, Pramit, Carly, and Mike playing games.
The Jake's start to get ridiculous!

See previous caption.

Shayne SOLVED a rubik's cube from Prague.

Coming home at 5AM - you can't see it, but the sun is starting to rise behind us.  Amazing!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Day #52: The one with all the trains

You are all probably thinking, “What’s the deal with the 10 day gap in the number of days?”  No, we did not forget how to count, but it turns out keeping up a daily blog has been quite the undertaking.  It’s not that we don’t love writing about our adventures and we absolutely want to keep you all up to date on what’s going on across the pond.  However, if a few days go by and we don’t have a chance to blog, the days get backed up, the writing becomes stressful, and Shayne freaks out.  Basically, here is the routine:  Shayne tries to write during the day but doesn’t feel funny.  She waits for Jake to get home to add comic relief to the post.  Jake gets home from work, we catch up, have dinner, crawl into bed.  We relax, read and JUST as we are about to turn out the lights, Shayne says, “Want to blog?”  Timing not perfect.

Here’s the deal people.  If we are going to maintain the level of post that you have become accustomed to, then we are going to need to space these puppies out a little.  And, to be honest, some of our days just aren’t that exciting.  Sure, there is usually a great Jizdanky story, or maybe a cute mouse at a bar, and we will still pass along the highlights; but sometimes it’s just spreadsheets and tube rides.  Snoozer-ific.   We will maintain the naming convention of each post, so you can still track our progress, but each post will probably span a few days.  Who knows, we might even ditch you for a whole week.  But know that we will come back with a vengeance and leave you wanting more.  Much like you anxiously await the release of the next movie/book in your favorite series (Hunger Games movie anyone?).  Roll with us on this analogy train for a minute (Choo choo!)……

The third movie in your favorite series leaves you with a massive cliff hanger.  You leave the theatre with your heart thumping and fingers still buttery from the delicious popcorn.  You race home, and immediately google the release date of movie #4 (as your fingers slip across the keys and salt gets stuck between letters J and K).  The anxious excitement fuels you in the days to come, now get excited…because we are about to be your fuel.  Climb on board for the suspense train.

Now you may be thinking.  Which train am I on?  The analogy train? The suspense train?  Or you may be asking yourself…why didn’t they just wash their hands when they went to the bathroom after the movie?  Or, how did all that butter not get all over the steering wheel?  There’s no way that there would be sufficient butter coverage left for a slippage incident.  Well, you’ve got us.  There are no trains, and our hands are butter free.  But the thought we would like to leave you with, is that you will be anxiously awaiting our next posts.  Or so we like to think.

Now on to the recap of the last 10 days.  This is going to go quick, so hold on tight.  We are about to board the catch-up train (woot woot!).  Ok, just had to throw one more train reference in there.  We will attempt to do the ten highlights…of the last then days…in ten seconds!  Mind you, to help us accomplish this heroic goal, you must read really fast!  Before we get started, here’s to Joey and his ten second abilities!  To make this fun, feel free to time yourself.  We have left out all fluffy details to assist you. Ok, here we go. READY – SET - READ:

1)    Shayne got a job! – Supply teaching, Southbank International School, private school, mostly American families, SUPER exciting!
2)    Briefly attended Renaissance St Pancras Hotel grand opening gala - Complete open bar, heavy apps, fashion show, red carpet, press at door, super cool.
3)     Lou’s 30th birthday garden extravaganza.
4)    Dinner at Tyabba with Barge (that’s Ben and Margaret)
5)    Shayne found an art store – THREE stories!
6)    Jake (and Shayne) might get to go Paris next week for work – stay tuned and cross your finger!
7)    Jake took on a starring role as quarterback of the ‘Gold squad’ of the HPAFL (Hyde Park American Football League)
8)    Attempted to cook Laura’s famous enchiladas for Jake P. – not too shabby!
9)    House is almost totally set up – YAY!
10) Going to roller derby this weekend!

Ok – did you do it, did you do it?  Ten highlights…of the last then days…in ten seconds?  Make sure to let us know.  We actually are not sure if it was even possible.  We did not attempt it ourselves. 

Lessons Learned: 1) Blogging everyday is really hard, 2) There are a lot of trains, 3) Reading really quickly can be difficult. 

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Day #41 & #42: The one with the Bath

Let's just say this morning started off much more pleasantly than the one before.  With Will and Kate off to their honeymoon, we were able to get back to our normal routine.  The hotel Le Mecure, offered a full English style buffet breakfast and, to make it more amazing, they gave us a 2 for 1 coupon - how could we turn that down?  We had a delicious meal and went back to the room to pack our belongings.  We headed over to the train station to await our departure to the glorious town of Bath.  

The walk to the train station was brisk; however, we certainly weren't sprinting.  Our overall body temperature had more to do with the 80 degree weather than the 25 min. trip to the station.  We were looking forward to getting in our seats and taking a load off.  Much to our surprise, our car was not what you could call 'refreshing.'  What genius train conductor thought that flipping on the central heat was a good idea in that weather?  The vents were blowing hard and Jake's hair was tussling in the blasting heated blow-dryer that was our car.  Fun.

After a short hour we arrived in Bath and journeyed through the ancient city toward our hotel.  Now, we usually try to find smaller local hotels to further enhance the traveling experience.  For this trip we found a small little place in the heart of city center.  You may have heard of it, there are a few other locations! But let us tell you...this was the most quaint and authentic Best Western that you could find.  So it wasn't exactly the local flare we were hoping for, but the price was right, and the location was fantastic.  They didn't call it the Best Western Abbey Hotel for nothing.  It was literally at the base of one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city.  It would do just fine.  We dropped off our bags, and were off to see all that Bath had to offer.

We didn't have a top 10 list for Bath, but there were a few key landmarks in the city that were 'must see' attractions. Some of these included:
Jolly's - The oldest department store in the entire world (it even beat out Harrod's).
Sally Lunn's Bun House - The oldest house in the city, and maker of the world famous Bath Bun.  Do click on the video from the link for a brief snippet.
Royal Crescent - An architectural anomaly, complete with all three styles of greek columns.  Let's hear it for the Doric (woot woot!).
Pulteney Bridge - This bridge spans the river Avon, sans Mute Swans (yes, the same river Avon from our nature walk in Salisbury), and is one of the 4 bridges in the world with shops lining the full span on both sides.

After taking in a few of the sights and sounds, it was time for the main show.  The abbey was only open for visitor viewing from 1:30-2:30 so, of course, we were waiting at the door at 1:30 SHARP.  Yes, we know that you are all surprised that we were on time, but WE WERE, and were 2 of the first 10 people in the door.  Another amazing example of the time, care, and love that went into early gothic architecture. No matter how many times we walk into one of these cathedrals, they all leave us speechless and astounded.  Not only are the buildings massive, huge, and ornate, but it's mind-boggling to think that they built these structures with medieval tools.  A church has been on this particular site since 675 AD and the current structure was constructed in the 12th century.  By far the crowning jewel of this particular abbey was the ceiling!  WOW!

After that, we went next door.  Honestly, all of 25 feet from the abbey, was one of the largest Roman bath complexes in all the world.  This museum was so special because it was built on the site of the baths.  Basically, they built a structure that allowed you to walk through the bath houses, see the actual stones and pools, but explore the objects, history, and culture of the bath houses as well.  The bubbling hot spring, which was originally thought to be a gift from the gods, still bubbles up through the water today.  Perhaps not sent from a glowing female god in a toga, but still a pretty awe-inspiring natural wonder.  The bath houses, for sure, are the most touristy landmark we have been to since arriving in the UK.  But, on a positive note, they offer free self-guided audio tours to everyone.  Therefore, while travelers wanting to get the first glimpse of something can be pushy and lack the acknowledgment of personal space, the museum was at least quiet while people listened to, "#47: Hear about the life of a Roman citizen in 65AD!"  

Fun Fact:  In the early days of the Roman baths, men and women would bathe together in the nude.  Something tells us this wouldn't fly at the local Y.M.C.A these days.  We will let you dwell on this idea.  Enjoy.  

What trip to a natural hot-spring would be complete without sampling the natural water?  On our way out of the museum we swung by the hot spring tasting fountain and got to try our first (and probably last) sip of pure underground H2O.  This, however, is a nice way of saying, warm, metal, dirt muck.  Yum!

After a few hours in the bath house, an ancient Roman dining experience only seemed suitable...so, we had Spanish tapas!  Ole!  While it may not have been Roman inspired, it was certainly a nice change of pace and we were glad to add some new and different flavors to our palate.  As great as fried cod and chips are, nothing says 'yum' like a little spicy sauce.

After our dinner on toothpicks, we walked down the road to find a pub.  What do you know, we had some luck!  The Pig and Fiddle - yes, you heard correctly - beckoned us from down the road.  We walked in, ordered a couple of pints, and saw a magical mirage gleaming in the back.  That's right readers, an American dart board awaited us in all of its black, green, and red felt glory.  Victory.  While Shayne worked on her form, Jake kicked her ass.  Boom.  We could add details to this 3 hour long tournament, but let's just say Shayne chalked up more holes in the wall than victories on the board.  Nostalgic - yes.  Competitive - Shayne would like to think so.  Great night in Bath - for sure.  

We went and visited the Best Western for a few hours while we slept.  We got up for yet another bus ride back to the city.  Although we couldn't call it another, "Bus ride of doom,"  as previously described - buses just aren't our thing.  We arrived back in London, hung out for a few hours, and splurged on McDonald's for dinner.  It was a good ol' American meal after a bloody great British weekend.  Cheers!

Lessons Learned:  1) The Romans were kind of perverted (by perverted we mean: great at conquering foreign lands, not so great at private bathing), 2) Jake is really good at darts.   
Shayne in front of Sally Lunn's bun house.

 The ornate door at the Bath Abbey.

We're ready for a plunge!  

Jake said, "This is how the romans would have lounged!"

Notice the audio tour guide still clutched in Shayne's hand.  "Never let go...never let go."

Hot spring water from the fountain in the background.  It sure looks clean, but tasted like mud. 

In front of the royal crescent.


Shayne showing her tough dart face. Jake was so intimated.

The Bath Abbey at night.  Gorgeous!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Day #40: The one with the bus ride of doom

Let us lay it out for you.
* Friday = pub for 12 hours (you fill in the blanks about our state)
* Friday night = well, technically Saturday morning = bed at 3AM
* The real Saturday morning = alarm at 5:30AM (shower, get dressed, finish packing, and go online to finish setting up our insurance through Jake's work - so glad we waiting till now for this one!) and bus departure at 7:00 am. Classic Singleton.

We generally don't do well on buses to begin with. After a mere 10 minutes we are pretty rumbly in our tumbly and if either of us even tries to read, you can forget about it! Therefore, this morning was bordering sheer hell. We took full responsibility for our state and admitted it could have been avoided, but man was it fun. Wedding day - worth it! Let's hear it for Will and Kate everybody!

So, we boarded the bus at 7:00AM on the dot (not a minute to spare and sweaty from the run...late again) and, of course, did not have much in the way of seat choices. We went to the back of the bus where there were two seats relatively near one another and sat down. Within minutes, Shayne realized they were sitting in the jizdenky section and decided to move toward the front. Jake, on the other hand, decided he shouldn't get too far from the bathroom. On his priority list, easy bathroom access beat out the jizdenkies by a landslide. With eyes closed and fingers crossed, we made it the 1.5 hours to no-where-land England for our bus transfer. Shayne downed two bags of crisps to help settle her stomach and Jake almost laid down on the bus station floor. We were really a vision and you would have all been proud to know us. On the next leg of our journey, we at least had seats next to each other and made it to Salisbury, England by 10:30AM.

We found our hotel,
Le Mercure White Hart, checked in and left our stuff there. As we exited the hotel Jake asked, "So, what's on our plan for today?" Up to this point, Shayne had decided to leave out the small detail that she had signed us up for a tour to climb to the top of the tallest church spire in all of England. Literally, it's in Guiness. Jake responded as he pounded down four tums, "Oh...well, isn't that lovely!"

Along with the spire tour, Shayne had created a Top 10 Salisbury To-Do list which included:
* Attending the choral evensong at Salisbury Cathedral: A must do!
* Walk along the paths to Old Sarum - the original city center dating back to over 5,000 years ago: A must do!
* Go bird watching on the outer banks of the River Avon: Probably not a Singleton family front runner!

As our stomachs settled we explored what might be the cutest town in all the world. Tucked away in rural England, we knew we had found a diamond in the rough. We watched an amazing string quartet as they played Irish music in the middle of the cobble stone street and walked through a huge outdoor market. Remnants of the town's Middle Ages foundation were everywhere and it was not uncommon to see a building from 1217. No need for an art museum here. Every tiny street was filled with fabulous architecture and surprises around every corner.

We decided to find somewhere to grab lunch and acknowledged greasy pub food might be in order. The New Inn was our pub of choice (probably because the building was from the 1300's for sure) and figured it would be a dark and dingy little place for some grub. Quite the contrary! When we walked through the wooden creaking interior, and out the back door, we found ourselves in a majestic secret garden. It was gorgeous, sunny, quaint, and most definitely had magical little gnomes hiding in the foliage. We leisurely ate lunch and gathered steam for what we knew would be an Everest-like climb.

We arrived at Salisbury Cathedral in absolute awe. The outside alone was stunning and massive and the inside had vaulted ceilings that practically reached the heavens. It was gorgeous. Totally, gorgeous. For our art/architecture/history buffs, here is a little more information on one of the most incredible cathedrals we have ever seen! We met our tour guide, Wendy, who gave us a little background on this sacred site. She informed us that we would in fact be climbing to the top of the tallest cathedral in all of Great Britain. We were actually given safety information cards! This felt like skydiving and we wondered if we would be receiving parachutes just in case. After much ado, we put our things in a locker (this step confirmed that our climb would be no joke!) and began the ascent.

We basically climbed up five tiers of the cathedral, the first tier putting us at eye level with the vaulted ceilings (the tallest point that anyone inside the cathedral could see). We climbed another tier and ended up inside the roof looking down on the top of the vaulted domes. Wendy stopped along the way, allowed us to catch our breath, and told us more about the cathedral. The higher we got, the smaller the areas became. The walls began as solid brick blocks and we watched as they slowly turned to webs of wooden beams, exposed planks, and little passageways we had to snake through. We were in the bell tower when the hour hit 3:00 and got to watch the bells swing as the the ear-pounding gongs filled the air. After that...we continued up. We were shown the oldest working clock (1386 AD) which was housed on the 4th level of the cathedral. And up we climbed. The final staircase was a wooden, exposed, spiral that went up the remainder of the tower. It took every ounce of courage for Shayne to put one foot in front of the other. In the spire rooftop, Wendy informed us that the tower leaned 29 inches off-center because of the massive gusts of wind that have beat against it for hundreds of years. She also said that when the wind blows, the spire will sway 8 inches in any direction. We were both thinking, "Watch, today will be the day (after 900 years), that this thing throws in the towel and collapses!" But, instead of worrying, we walked through the final, outside door and into the heavens. This experience left us both speechless. We found ourselves looking out over England with clouds practically at eye-level. It was inspiring and beautiful and worth every wooden stair. We marveled at it all.

After descending the 350+ stairs we toured the rest of the cathedral and went to see the Magna Carta that was also housed in the cathedral. We went back to the hotel, freshened up, and returned back to the cathedral to witness the evensong choral performance at 5:30. We wanted to see a little bit of the country side before the sun went down (it stays dark till about 9 here) and found a little path that followed the River Avon.

We wrapped through trees, over bridges, and found ourselves amongst quiet beauty in the middle of nowhere. We followed a family of ducks down part of the river and watched as the mother wrangled in her babies. We sat on a bench for awhile and looked out at the water. To the right we heard a deafening smack on the water and looked up to see a massive swan RUNNING on the surface of the river with wings out-stretched for 5 or 6 feet. This was like something out of a National Geographic magazine. We continued down the river and saw a pair of white ducks leisurely paddling through the water. We found an entire group of swans a little further on and tried to get as close as we could. When the largest one started clicking it's tongue and bustling it's feathers we got out of there fast. Don't know the last time you have seen a wild swan up close, but those things are HUGE! We ended up in the bushes trying to capture the gorgeous birds on film - we considered sending our footage to the Planet Earth TV series for them to use in their next video montage. It was at this point that Jake looked at Shayne and said, "Oh my God, do you realize we are bird watching - Top 10 Salisbury list...check!" Laughing we talked about the one thing we said we had no interest in. Here we were, practically camouflaged in branches, becoming one with the Aves (that is the scientific name for birds - we feel we have graduated to this level). In fact, we might look up all of the top bird watching sites in England and do a pilgrimage. We just ordered a new poster to get prepared. Notice that Mute Swan is on the list. We are so ahead of the game! James Audubon totally spent time here.

We continued down the path and found a meadow full of sheep and lambs. Wheat fields swayed in the evening breeze and, out of nowhere, the path dead-ended into an old mill. The place had been transformed into a little restaurant and bar so we sat outside, drank a few glasses of champagne (yes, we jumped back on the wagon), and watched the sunset over the river.

Lessons Learned: 1) Buses and booze don't mix, 2) Salisbury rocks, 3) Swans are big.

The New Inn pub where we had lunch.

Out in the secret garden - check out that tall spire in the distance!

In front of the Salisbury Cathedral.

The massive vaulted ceilings.

Climbing one of the staircases to get up to the spire.

Deep inside the roof, the stone blocks became wooden scaffolding. The coolest part of this tour was seeing the infrastructure of these astounding works of art.

One small step at a time...


Looking out on one of the balconyes on the top of the spire.

The Cathedral nave below us.

Jake outside in the cloisters.

We named this house Vincent. Look at how small the doors were in the Middle Ages!

On our nature/bird watching walk.

Salisbury Cathedral in the distance.

You can see the swan down the river. That is the one that walked on water! We didn't even know swans did that.

Trumpet of the swans!

Shayne's favorite!

The little lambs. You should have seen them leaping. SO cute.

The Old Mill restaurant hidden outside of Salisbury. Totally gorgeous.