29 September 2007

The Most Terrifying Live Theatre Experience in the World!

Last night Andrew and I went to see the a play called The Woman in Black. I had seen ads for it when I was buying out tickets to Fiddler on the Roof for last weekend, and I thought it looked interesting. I had never heard of, though. So then I got an email from lastminute.com saying that tickets for it were on sale, and I cracked up at the ad, which called the play, “the most terrifying live theatre experience in the world...” On an off-chance, though, my co-worker Babs (a guy from Nigeria), mentioned the play and that I should go see it because it was really good. Then I mentioned it to some other co-workers, who all said it was really scary and really good and to definitely go and see it. I was sceptical; I couldn’t see how a play could be that frightening, but I asked Andrew if he wanted to go, to which he of course replied yes because he loves theatre. I bought the tickets, and we headed to the Fortune Theatre in the West End theatre district Friday night for the production.It started off rather slow, but the second half was much better. The story is your typical English ghost story. It sounds just like an M.R. James story, though the play was adapted from a novel by Susan Hill. I wouldn’t be surprised if it really were the most terrifying live theatre experience in the world; as I said before, I just don’t think the stage is capable of producing proper horror stories, and there aren’t that many scary plays out there. I have to admit, though, that I jumped more than a few times! Ghosts walked down the aisles from behind us and caught me by surprise. However, at other times I think it was other audience members’ screams that startled me more than anything that was going on the play!

25 September 2007

One year!

I cannot believe that it has been one year already. One year ago today, Andrew and I got off the plane and stepped onto British soil (or concrete, rather) for the first time. It’s really gone by so quickly.

To celebrate, I’m going to give you a quick recap over our first year in London…

Homes: two
Chelsea Bridge Wharf (six months)
Fulham (six months)

Trips: eight (counting Italy as one trip)
Dublin – October 2006 (one week)
Birmingham / Cullman, Alabama – December 2006 and January 2007
Bruges, Belgium – January 2007 (weekend with the Beards and the Noris)
Amsterdam, Netherlands – March 2007 (weekend with the Triefenbachs and Kevin Mitchell and friends)
Venice, Italy – May 2007 (three days with Andrew’s parents)
Florence, Italy – May 2007 (two days with Andrew’s parents)
Rome, Italy – June 2007 (four days with Andrew’s parents)
Paris, France – July 2007 (weekend)
Birmingham / Cullman, Alabama – August 2007 (Andrew, one week; Kel, weekend)
Cairo, Egypt – August 2007 (weekend)
Birmingham, Alabama – September 2007 (just Andrew, weekend)

Andrew’s business travels: eight countries, countless trips…
Paris, France
Düsseldorf, Germany
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Miami, Florida
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Cairo, Egypt
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Nairobi, Kenya
Atlanta, Georgia

New friends: Too many to name!
At least fifty

Shows we've seen: four (McD, you'll kill me because we really haven't taken enough advantage of this!)
Les Miserables (with Copelands from Dothan, Alabama)
Comedy show in Clapham (with Noris, Wysss, and Katy)
Comedy show in Camden (Kel with the Wysss and friends and Noris)
Fiddler on the Roof

Clubs started: two
London Ladies Bookclub
London Chapter of the University of Alabama Alumni Association

Doctors visits: approximately six, but none serious (knock on wood!)
Andrew’s hand from playing football – November 2006
I cut my finger slicing cheese – January 2007
Hadley’s sickness after eating snow – February 2007
Andrew’s cold – March 2007
Kelly’s hay fever – May and June 2007
Andrew’s travelers' sickness – September 2007

Mom's birthdays missed: TWO!
Yes, we both missed our mothers' birthdays this year... :(

Special day trips: seven (I’m probably forgetting some.)
Chelsea football game – November 2007 (with Andrew’s coworker, Nigel)
High tea with the girls in London – January 2007 (Kel with Beth Nori, Katy Triefenbach, and Jill Beard)
Canterbury, England – February 2007 (with the Beards)
“I’m not a plastic bag!” hunt – March 2007 (Kel with Beth Nori and Geo Wyss)
England cricket game – July 2007 (with Andrew’s coworker, Nigel)
Bomb threatened day at the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf – August 2007 (Kel with the Triefenbachs) NEVER GO THERE!!!
Hever Castle in Kent – September 2007 (Kel with the Bookclub)

Job interviews: too many!
Willis Insurance (2)
VMA Group (recruitment agency)
Nestlé (2)
Hudson (recruitment agency (2)
JFL (recruitment agency)
Inspired Selection (recruitment agency)
British Airways Authorities
Direct Line Insurance
The Law Society of England and Wales

Visitors: four (not counting those who didn’t come to London) PLEASE COME SEE US SOON!
Kip and Erica Copeland from Dothan, Alabama – October 2006
Kip and Erica Copeland from Dothan, Alabama – December 2006
Jodi Caughron from Birmingham, Alabama in Amsterdam, Netherlands – March 2007
Michelle Kiel from Birmingham, Alabama – April 2007
Andrew’s parents from Birmingham, Alabama in Venice, Florence, and Rome, Italy – May and June 2007
Tommy Cotton and Adelle from Birmingham, Alabama – June 2007
Misty and Mark Sable from Houston, Texas – July 2007

Transport for London tube strikes: one (MISERABLE!)
September 2007

I just want to let everyone know how much we’ve appreciated everyone’s love, support, and understanding throughout the past year. Being here has been a truly amazing experience. Almost every day, as I’m riding the tube to work and walking past Temple Church and Dickens’s Essex Street and the Royal Courts of Justice, I still look around in awe, wondering how a little girl from Cullman, Alabama, ended up here. Andrew and I, while wandering together on one of our weekend trips or doing something really fun here in London, will still stop and say to one another, “What an amazing life we lead!” It’s still a little unbelievable to us that we’ve ended up here and are doing what we’re doing and seeing what we’re seeing.

I do hope that in the next year, many of you will come to London and experience it with us!

And on that note, our plans:

Trips: five on the agenda through the end of the year!
Birmingham, Alabama – October 2007 (just Kel, weekend)
Florence, Italy – October 2007 (weekend with Kel’s parents)
Amsterdam, Netherlands – October and November 2007 (Andrew for work every week)
Barcelona, Spain – November 2007 (Andrew, week for work; Kel, weekend)
Birmingham, Alabama – December 2007 (Merry Christmas!!)

Shows: three that we know of so far!The Woman in Black (play) - September 2007
Ray La Montagne (concert) - November 2007
Mary Poppins (musical) - November 2007

Cheers, y'all!

22 September 2007

Our First Wedding Anniversary

For our first anniversary, Andrew flew in from the States on Friday, and he managed to bring back both halves of the top tier of our wedding cake. Although slightly grossed out by the fact that the cake is an entire year old, he and I wanted to carry out the tradition. Our cake has been chilling out for the year in Andrew's brother Neal's freezer back in Birmingham. It just happened that Andrew was sent to training in Atlanta, Georgia, the week before our anniversary, so he was able to stop by Birmingham while he was in the States and pick it up. During his week of training, he had the Hilton keep in their freezer for him, and the day before he left to come back to London, he had them open it up, cut it in half, and wrap up each half separately. He put one on his checked baggage and the other in his carry-on in hopes that one would make it with all the restrictions. He had no trouble, however, and both pieces made it!

Once we found out that Bama wouldn't be kicking off until 12:45am our time, I went to lastminute.com and got us tickets to Fiddler on the Roof at the Savoy Theatre. Our seats ended up being third row center! The play was amazing.

Afterward, we came home and ate our year-old cake, which actually tasted okay, then we put on our jammies and stayed up to watch the game. Well, okay, I barely make it past kickoff before falling asleep, but Andrew woke me up when we tied, and I saw the overtime. So disappointing!

For our anniversary, we had decided not to get each other gifts, but to instead buy a TomTom satellite navigation system together so that we can use it to get around London and to rent the StreetCar for day trips! Andrew, however, went behind my back and got me "just a little something", which ended up being a brand new ipod nano! It's so cute; it looks like a little green frog, and I love it. For those of you who don't know, he got me an ipod for Christmas last year, but by the end of May, it had gotten swiped from my purse at some point riding the tube. I am much more careful with my stuff now, needless to say!

After one year, Andrew and I are still going strong. I love you, Andrew, and I couldn't be happier!

21 September 2007

Some recent tidbits...

Watching the Bama games

Andrew and I can’t get most of the Bama games over here, so we have to settle for watching them online. Now Andrew has bought the cables, and we can hook up our computer to play on the television. He also set up a Slingbox for us at his parent’s house in the States, so we can watch the games that are on TV in the States over here, as well. ROLL TIDE, BABY!

Belly-dancing, again

I don’t know what it is about me, but for some reason the belly-dancers at restaurants here in London like to call me out and make me dance. We went to Cous Cous Darma on Fulham Road with the Frasers, Kevin Mitchell, Lisa, and the Triefenbachs recently, and there was a belly-dancer there. She made me get up and dance twice, and Jeremy and Kevin got up and broke it down with her, as well!

Spook huntin’ with Katy

So Katy found this old abandoned hospital near her house, and she I went and checked it out. It was so cool: all boarded up, so we couldn’t see what was inside, but wandering around the site, we ran across another building that didn’t have fencing all around it. We were able to look in some of the windows and through the keyhole in the front. We discovered that, although the building is disused and boarded up, the electricity is on! Through the keyhole, all you can see is a long corridor with red carpeting, just like in a horror movie, and the lights were on! We’re convinced it’s being used for shady purposes. We also wandered over into Putney Green, where Katy and Jeremy ran across an old, overgrown cemetery.

Jeremy’s birthday

Jeremy is our oldest friend, and I don’t mean that we’ve known him the longest! Katy cooked a wonderful dinner and an amazing cake that was so moist and delicious! Unfortunately, it didn’t look as good as it tasted…

The great kitten hunt

After one of the recent bookclub meetings, Katy took me to a bad section of London without telling me where we were going or why. I thought we were going to a book store or something. We got lost, and Katy kept calling someone to get directions. Since it was starting to get a little late in the evening, and everything closes early on Sundays, I finally made Katy tell me where we were going. To pick out a kitten! When we arrived at this dark flat, we waited in a room with no lights but a television on. We were taken downstairs and directed into the dining room where there were kittens scattered all about underneath the table. Katy picked up the first one that came to her, while I crawled around and picked up the other seven kittens – all at one time. After choosing a new family member, Katy and I headed back to her house to introduce her to Katy’s husband Jeremy and Abby, the cat they already owned, who apparently had no idea they were getting a new kitten! I can attest that Jeremy was less than pleased initially, but who could resist this face for long?

Hever Castle

Our bookclub recently read Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, and we took a day trip to Hever Castle, the Boleyn’s summer home. Unfortunately, the timing was bad, and the only ones of us who could go were Katy, Heather Sanger, and me. Because there were so few of us, Katy offered to drive, and it was really a nice, perfect day. We picnicked in the gardens and just enjoyed the crisp, autumn weather. It was really beautiful. The gardens were gorgeous! Grandma would have loved them…

These are some photos from the garden maze. Unfortunately, what we saw when we arrived at the center was kind of disappointing (as you can see...)!

These are some pictures of a doll house they had set up in the museum.

And this is the actual castle...

Andrew's travels

Finally, Andrew is rolling off the GM project. At first, he enjoyed getting to go to exotic, out-of-the-ordinary places like the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt, but after a while it really wore on us: on him being all alone out there and feeling like he was missing out on all the fun stuff (mentioned above), and on me, not getting to see the one person I really wanted to see! I think the GM project has been good for his career, and it did get us a relatively free trip Cairo, which has been one of my favorite trips so far, but I am so glad that he's finally coming home! Granted, he will still be travelling, as soon as he gets back, in fact, but he'll be heading back to Amsterdam to work on Tommy Hilfiger again. Amsterdam is only a 45-minute plane ride away, so he can leave out early Monday morning and gets back Thursday evening for the whole weekend. Also, I can easily go see him in Amsterdam on the weekend, on the company, without missing any work.

Singing at the piano bar

We love going to the piano bar at High Street Kensington. It's always so much fun!

This picture’s for you, Jeremy. When you’re out of town, Katy wears this sign to keep guys from hitting on her!

(The sign reads, "Reserved.")

05 September 2007

Union agrees to end Tube strike

[copied from the BBC]

Union leaders have agreed to end the crippling Tube strike which caused misery for commuters in London.

Officials accepted an offer, after peace talks with management, that has ended the current stoppage, which had been planned to last 72 hours.

Millions were left facing chaos after 2,300 Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) members walked out on Monday.

Although the strike has been suspended, commuters were warned there will still be delays on Wednesday morning.

Transport for London (TfL) said it had clarified assurances on jobs and pensions during nine hours of talks, which broke up at about 2300 BST on Tuesday.

The union said it was waiting for the outcome of a meeting with pension trustees on Wednesday but the strike would be suspended.

Union officials will meet again on Friday before deciding whether to press ahead with a second 72-hour strike next Monday.

A spokesman for TfL said: "We are pleased the RMT has suspended its strike action at Metronet following the clarification of all jobs and pensions issues.

"We will now work to provide the best possible Tube service on Wednesday.

"However as the strike was suspended so late this evening it will take time for us to restore a full service on all Underground lines tomorrow (Wednesday).

"Passengers should check before they travel to see how Tube services are running.

"Our staff will be available to provide travel advice and assistance on Wednesday."

The strike, sparked in the wake of the collapse of maintenance firm Metronet, had closed two-thirds of the Tube network and affected 10 lines.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown described the walkout as "wholly unjustifiable."

The union launched the strike amid fears jobs could be lost and pensions affected by Metronet's collapse.

Nine lines were shut by the walkout, which began at 1800 BST on Monday.

They are the Bakerloo, Central, Victoria, Circle, District, East London, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, and Waterloo & City.

The Piccadilly line has been suspended between Rayners Lane and Uxbridge.

Only the Jubilee and Northern lines are operating a full service.

They are maintained by another firm along with the Piccadilly line.

04 September 2007

Tube strike causes travel chaos

[copied from the BBC]

Millions of commuters in London faced rush-hour misery as Tube workers continued a 72-hour walkout over pensions and jobs.

The strike by the RMT union, in a row following the collapse of maintenance firm Metronet, has closed two-thirds of the Tube network and affected 10 lines.

London Underground managers said services may not return to normal before Friday morning.

Talks aimed at ending the strike will be held later, the RMT announced.

The 10 lines affected by the industrial walk out, which began at 1800 BST on Monday, are the Bakerloo, Central, Victoria, Circle, District, East London, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Waterloo & City and Piccadilly.

Only the Jubilee and Northern lines are operating a full service.

They are maintained by another firm along with the Piccadilly line, which is partly suspended due to the strike.

At Victoria station metal gates blocked the entrance to the Tube, and posters informed passengers that the Victoria, District and Circle lines were closed.

Severe disruption

Long queues built up at the stands and some people were forced to let two full buses go past before they could get a seat.

Adrian Wells, 57, an accountant from Sutton, Surrey, said: "I've had to get three trains and two buses this morning to get to work - it's ludicrous, I'm already tired.

"I'm not surprised at this strike - they're such a militant union, it's what you'd expect."

He added: "I suppose I might understand if they were doing this because something had been imposed on them but this is about taking pre-emptive action, which ultimately is mucking up people's lives across London."

Unions have been seeking guarantees there will be no job losses, forced transfers or cuts in pensions as a result of Metronet's collapse in July, when it went into administration.

A spokesman for Transport for London (TfL) said: "The disruption across the network last night was severe and totally unacceptable.

"We share Londoners' view that this disruption is intolerable, as it serves no purpose."

He added: "The RMT have been given cast iron guarantees that no staff will lose jobs, pensions or be transferred as a result of Metronet's collapse.

"The other unions have accepted these guarantees. The RMT have ignored them, harming Londoners and their union."

The strike went ahead despite appeals by Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who branded it one of the most "purposeless" ever called.

Two other unions, Unite and the TSSA, decided not to walk out after being given assurances.

But the TSSA said its 360 members would take part in a second 72-hour stoppage planned for next Monday if a matter concerning pensions was not resolved.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said he had received only "qualified assurances" covering the period of administration.

A TfL spokesman said all three Tube unions had received all the assurances they were seeking. TfL released a letter it sent to Mr Crow which outlines those promises.

Striking RMT members will lobby the Department for Transport on Tuesday as part of the union's campaign for Tube maintenance work to be brought back in house.

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