Travel Journal: Newark, Notthinghamshire

March 15, 2006 at 10:50 pm 6 comments

Excerpts from my personal journals from a trip to Newark, Notthinghamshire in the United Kingdom.  This trip took place January of 2005.

January 22, 2005
U.S. Airways
Flight 4173

My fourth trip to Europe has begun.  Right now I’m flying from Roanoke, VA to Charlotte, NC.

That in itself is a victory.  We had snow yesterday & today & most flights in and out of Roanoke were cancelled.

I believe I flew in winter before– I remember Dad and I were at Buffalo, NY.  So we might have had winter weather when we flew– but I don’t remember it.

This is the first time I can recall flying in a snowstorm.  It was a weird feeling as we taxied down the runway and it was completely white.

Don’t worry, the meaningful runways were plowed and salted.  Actually I felt sorry for the snow plows.  They were constantly plowing a couple of runways.  All afternoon they plowed to make sure incremental accumulation was scurried away.  They were doing all that work for just three (from what I can tell) planes– two arrivals and one departure.

But I suppose I should not complain– it’s my safety being assured by their efforts.

When I traveled to Europe for work in 2001– I recall being surprised when I found myself missing Sean.  I didn’t expect to.

3-4 years makes a difference.  This time around I got a little melancoly – I had a lump in my throat and a couple of tears threatened to take over my eyes, just thinking about leaving Sean.

I have a scapegoat!  In a recent entry I discussed the phrase “cell” phone.  This might be a case there a mobile phone is a cell, a prison.

It’s that damn text messaging.  I’ve grown so accustomed to it.  My cell phone won’t work overseas – so I will not be able to make daily calls to Sean and even worse, I can’t text message!

I’ve had a handful of business trips in 2004 and Sean had at least one.  Each of those times, we were able to use text messaging to keep in touch.

Knowing I won’t have text ability on this trip leaves me feeling a little naked, a little alone.

Well, it’s not fully the cell phone’s fault (just like it’s not a gun’s fault someone got shot).

I remember I had that same feeling twice in 2001:

  1. When I left the internet cafe the first day

  2. When I finished up all my stationary.

This related to ANOTHER journal entry from a while back.  I proposed technology makes us lonely.  Even though it increased the ease and opportunities of communication it also significantly altered our expectations.  We expect things to be instant and immediately readable.  It’s caused us to have patience for little else.

These latest trips I’ve been taking — it feels like they aren’t real — they feel like a dream.  Why?  Because I have no anxiety.  It still doesn’t feel like a trip if I don’t have a horrid ado in my head for weeks beforehand.

Ah well, you know what?  I’d rather have the worry-free trips!🙂

Man, after takeoff– Roanoke covered with snow was just so beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful.

I do not think God could look down at our snowy land and doubt his creation.  It is just so gorgeous.

Driving to the airport had its good views too.  I passed a mountain that contained bare trees – so you could see the snow covered ground and the contrasting dark bark.  But there were large patches of evergreens.  The evergreens’ boughs caught a lot of the snow- so those sections would appear more dense and white than the others.  It was just lovely.

Well we are 50 miles from Charlotte, I best be going.

23 Jan 2005
London King’s Cross
Rail Station
17:48

Today I spent most of the day with Jason Pitt.  We ate lunch at a Turkish restaurant and then we went geocaching at Greenwich Park.

Get this– one of the caches was right on 00 00.000 E – it was right on the Greenwich Mean Line!

Vicky at Greenwich Park

Jason Pitt was crucial to both finds.  The first one, I was ready to climb up a very thick bush to go after a piece of trash!  The second one, the GPS misled me.  I was searching the wrong bench, rubbish bin and leafy bush.  It was Jason who contradicted the GPS saying, “Well that spot is so much better.”  We took a look and sure enough there it was.

Most things in Europe are smaller than they are in the wasteful U.S.  Geocaches follow suit.  Both containers [we found] were too small for me to put our travel bug (a plastic hamburger) in.  So I will take it back to the U.S. with me.

It is not as cold here as I expected.  No snow – a tiny remnant in a field that we flew over is the only I’ve seen.  It’s all perspective though – Jason thought it was very cold.  Though there were some people who didn’t think it was even chilly.  Jason and I were passed by three runners in shorts.  I also saw some people playing tennis in short sleeves AND shorts.  It’s definitely not that warm!

Jason & I disagreed about a couple of other things.  As we drove through the city Jason would comment how ugly a certain section was – but I thought it was still pretty.

Jason Pitt, Chauffer 

We also disagreed on trains.  I commented on how much I love the trains here.

“Here?” Jason asked, “the British trains?!  You mean the European trains.”

I corrected him- I was talking about the British trains.

He told me to wait until I got a really old train that was late & such.

Well– he may have gotten his wish.  I was trying to make a 17:30 train.  I bought my ticket but could not find the train, so I asked someone.  It turns out some of the track is being engineered so they didn’t have the 17:30 departure anymore.  Instead I have to take a 19:00 – not only that but because of construction I have to get off at one station and take a bus to the next station, then recatch the train and continue on to Newark.  What fun!

I had a mini-geocache mishap.  Jason and I were trying to find one near the deer enclosure.  We got really close according to the GPS, but when we consulted a map, we saw we were exactly on the wrong corner of the park.  It turned out I never changed the coordinates from WEST to EAST.  Hehe- bad habit.  One thing that’s cool is this is one of the very few places in the world where that mistake would not be caught [sooner]!  If E & W were confused in the States, you’d know something was off when you looked at the distance.  But when you are around 00 00.000 – the distance looks reasonable.  The difference between 37.808 E and 37.808 W is a lot different than 00.413 E and 00.413 W.

They have rhododendrums here!  And one of them was blooming – in January!  I also saw what looked like early daffodils poking through the soil and I think I saw some chrysanthia blooming too.  There were a number of other pink, white and purple flowers blooming which I can’t identify.

Jason stopped at a bathroom in the park.  It was quite an ornate building.  The weather vane on top of the steeple had a little tiny brass sail ship on it.  I took a picture- it reminded me of [Becky and Vic].  Vic got a big sailship model for Christmas.  He said, “I’m going to put it on such and such shelf.”  To which Becky replied, “You most certainly will not!”

Bathroom

I’m surprised I’m still up and going.  I don’t think I got much sleep on the plane last night.  It’s hard to say– I had no access to a clock so I couldn’t tell how long I was snoozing.  It’s funny – I felt like I couldn’t tell if I had got enough sleep unless I had a watch.  Really it shouldn’t matter about time one bit.  We should let our bodies tell us if we got enough sleep, not our watches.

Turkish food is quite good– Very much like Greek food.  Jason and I got a mixture plate – where  they bring all sorts of dishes to [sample].  Some of the Greek-like items were stuffed grape leaves, falafel and hummus.  They also had a delicious potato salad, great “broad” beans and a pretty good chicken dish.  One more dish I didn’t adore or hate was some kind of chopped parsley.

Well hopefully I’m able to board my train shortly – I’m going to run to the TOILET (that’s what the sign says!) now.

24 Jan 2005
Room 17
The Grange Hotel
Newark, Notthinghamshire

Today was my first day on site […].  It went well– some parts were slow going, but in the end I think we made great progress towards the migration.  It was a long day too.  We started around 8 AM and left the plant at 8:00 PM.

Yesterday my commut to Newark was quite an adventure.  I boarded the train and sat in a car with two friendly old ladies and two helpful young women.  I sat at a table and got my book out to read.  Suddenly out of no where a group of six rowdy men show up and seat themselves around me at the table.

Just like Uncle Mark and Uncle Chuck changed the whole dynamic of the EuroStar car, these men did the same.

Actually their presence was quite invigorating and amusing.  The only thing I regret is not being able to understand their accents.  Sometimes their statements did not even sound like English.  Almost everything I understood I had to have them repeat numerous times.  It made me feel like I was a pest – or stupid.

Though I suppose if they were annoyed they could have stopped talking to me.

Last night I figured these men were from Scotland or something – their accents were so thick.  Today my companions [on site] said they think they are “Geordies” — they say the men of Northern England sound like that.

It turns out the men & a lot of other fellow passengers just came from a football (soccer) game.  Their team lost, but boy were they in good spirits!

Perhaps the booze helped- they had a least two plastic bags full of alcohol which they ingested on the train.

They were very hospitable to strangers — they offered me a “can” (even though they obviously had “bottles”) multiple times.  They kept insisting – they must have thought my declines were merely polite.

A lot of singing was to be had.  When the men found out I was from Virginia they burst into a loud rendition of John Denver’s “Country Roads”.  They must have had eight or nine men singing.

Take me home, take me home, to the place where I below, West Virginia, country roads, Take me home.

It was quite impressive- they knew the song better than I.

Later when I was trying to describe where I lived I mentioned Tennesee.  They burst out into a song about my ex being in Texas and then something about Tennesee.

I wonder if they knew a song for each state.

I can’t stress enough how difficult it was for me to understand their accents.

When I told them I didn’t drink, one man whose accent was even more indistinguishable than the others, asked me if I lived in Babbelbell.

I must have had that poor man repeat himself about five or six times before I deciphered his question.

He wanted to know if I lived in the “Bible Belt”.

When I told them I used to drink and I gave it up– they said a lot of sentences involving the name “Barney Gumble”

These men did get quite crude.  None of their statements really bothered me, but I did feel uneasy not knowing what they were saying and laughing about.

Some communication errors fed the crudeness.  One man asked me who I married.  I thought he asked when I got married.

“April,” I said and a huge uproar erupted.  I couldn’t tell what got them so reved up and then I heard the word “Lesbian”.  They thought I married a woman!

I corrected them.

“Oh no.  I married a man.  His name is Sean.”

An even bigger uproar occured.  Turns out a quiet plump man in their group– his name is Sean. 🙂

One man pointed to his butt and said, “You call this fanny, ight?”

I agreed.  Then he pointed to the other side of his pelvis.

“What do you call this side?”

I struggled with which slang to use.  Luckily I did not have to make the unenviable choice between pussy, twat and the links.

Another member of the group enthusiastically answered for me.

“CUNT!!!”

Hehe- I told him he was correct.

Now there was a statement made that I could understand loud and clear.  It shattered a misconception of mine and the statement still bothers me today.

I’ve always heard that racism is predominantly an American problem.  In fact, a lot of the black men who fought in WWII were quite struck by the freedoms and equality they experienced in Europe.

When the men sat next to me, I had [had] a book out I was preparing to read.  They of course inquired.  The book was George Jackson’s “Soledad Brother.”

When they asked what it was about, I explained – embarassed to describe my country’s despicable attitudes.  “They are letters he wrote in prison before he was killed.”

“Was he killed because he was black?”

“Yes,” I admitted.

“Was he thrown in jail because he was black?”

“Yes” I said and tried to explain this happened nearly 4 decades ago.

“So if I had ginger hair & pink skin, would it be okay to kill me?”

“No,” I said, thinking here comes the lecture.  I also noted the guy speaking could have hair that can be described as ginger.

The man looked me and said, “So if I had black skin and pubes on my head, is it okay to kill me?”

“No,” I said.  The man’s word choice hadn’t prepared me.  I still was surprised by his next statement.

He looked me straight in the eye and I think this was the only time on the commute where the group wasn’t smiling or laughing.  He looked straight at me and said:

“Why are you defending the black man?” Meanwhile another member of the group used the term “pube head”

I gave a simple answer without hesitation.

“Because they are people too.”

The men were easily distracted and soon the conversation had moved on to whether or not I was wet enough to require a plumber.

But the altercation – it made my heart sink.  It made me realize that even though people are polite and friendly to me, mankind is just a horrid, horrid group of organisms.  It shattered my whole belief that Europe had superior attitudes to the U.S., especially on race relations.

And it just made my stomach turn to think about Sean’s reaction.

It just – it just really disappointed me.

Well- don’t think the evening was ruined – there were still some more interesting parts.  When we got off the train and got on the bus, [that] was interesting.  There was quite a crowd going the “Way Out” up the stairs.  People were packed against each other and pushing – quite like a rock concert. 

And of course they were singing.  Once we caught site of the buses some cops were annoncing on bull horns that “absolutely no alcohol on the bus!”

The crowds’ response?  A song.  It was to the tune of “Dance Then”, a hymn sung at Easter.  The words are a little less religious:

Drink, drink, whereever I may be
We are drunk and disorderly

The whole affair just reeked of Brian Vandervort- he would have thrived on it.

25 Jan 2005

Well I’m not getting anywhere near the amount of writing time as I expected.

This was day two of my on-site work and the third night in a row where it is 9:30 PM before I get to my room.

Today we pretty much did test sheets.  Test sheets in a sterile, quiet room – for the most part, the only sound was the old Windows NT machine struggling to access it’s harddrive.  Needless to day – it was a struggle to stay awake.

And now I’m still tired and I’m torn.  Do I stay up and write or do I get the rest I believe my body needs.  I think I will ultimately choose sleep, but first a few tidbits.

Today was the first time I heard an actual French person say, “Oh la la.”  Anthony did it twice!  It was quite a fitting expletive.

I had a slight disappointment today.  When I finally got email access near the end of the day – Sean had sent me a few emails here and there.  I replied and sent him additional emails, but he never got back to me while I was online.

I guess I just missed a near real-time interaction.  I miss him.  I miss the dogs.  I’m still having a good time — I just have a better appreciation of home this trip than my previous trips abroad.

Well, I’m going to catch some rest.

26 Jan 2005

Ugh– didn’t even get back to the hotel until after 10:30 PM err… I mean 22:30.

Desperate Housewives has made it over here – I’ll have to tell the Vandervorts.

27 Jan 2005
21:23

Yay!  Made it back to my room by 21:00– it was an early night!🙂

Morning View from Hotel

I’m watching Fahrenheit 9/11 on the BBC 4.  Before the opening credits there was already a falsity!

They were talking about Bush’s Inauguration and how no President ever saw such a poor reception at his parade.  But other presidents received poor receptions as well.

How do I know?

Last weekend, Sean and I watched a marathon of “The Presidents” on the History Channel.  They did details on each of the American Presidents.

I can’t remember who it was, but there was one election that was very close and a number of votes weren’t adequately counted.  The President was called all sorts of names and [was] up against a lot of resistence.  I don’t remember all the names, but one was:

“Your Fraudulency”

So it is funny – we Americans get up and arms thinking we’re seeing something new, when in fact – History Repeats Itself.

I haven’t gotten to see much of Newark, but I have a lot of bikes. 

In the mornings, we’ve passed high-school aged children on their bicycles heading off to school.  I saw a woman on her bike walking her dog.  Bicyclists wear reflective gear at night as they share the road.  And I’ve seen evidence that people bike to work.  [The plant], for example has their car park and in between two sections they have a long 3-sided roofed building.  Inside– tons of bicycles.  This morning I saw a woman in a purple work suit – a dress shirt, a jacket and a skirt, riding her bike past [the plant].

My great aunt Maisey used to ride her bike to work every day.  I bet that was quite nice.  It looks pleasant here.

I had a Kids in the Hall CD by Bruce McCullough.  He’s Canadian and I remember one thing that stuck out was the way he pronounced “progress.”  It had a long “o”– so it sounded different than our pronounciation.

Well I learned this week the U.K. has the same pronounciation.  In fact, “program” and “process” share the same long “o”

But guess what– “project” is pronounced just the way we do.

I heard Alan and Neville both use that pronounciation today.  When I inquired about it, Alan shrugged, “I guess I’ve been around Americans a lot.”

But he didn’t realize I heard Neville say it that way too.  Anyway, still a mystery to me.

Last night at dinner I pointed out something (Alan, Neville, Anthony) hadn’t thought about before.

Because people in the U.K. drive on the left some other little things are different as well.  On Sunday, I noticed that people walked up stairs on the left and down the stairs on the left as well.  In the U.S. we tend towards the right — so when I naturally moved to the right — suddenly I was in everyone’s way!

As soon as I said that Anthony (from France) confirmed the occurence.  Then Neville and Alan thought about it and realized it was true.  They never thought about it before.

Alan and I had a long conversation on Monday night about different American shows and movies.  It is impressive all our shows and movies that make it out here.  Alan said it is frustrating at times.  They get the shows on a delay, you see.  So they get these shows they think are wonderful, only to discover they have already been cancelled and no new episodes will be coming about.  They get addicted and then there is no hope for a fix.

On Tuesday night I briefly turned on the TV.  A show somewhat reminiscent of The Daily Show was on.  It was a fake news show.  Most of the opening segments was making fun of Bush and the U.S. one way or another.

The third “headline” a man read, “In Florida, the U.S. believes Al Qaeda is training piranhas.”

The screen flashed to footage of a fisherman in a John boat suddenly getting attacked by a couple of fish jumping into the boat.  A recorded laugh track broke out in riots.

You know– that fifteen second bit bothered me somewhat.  My first thought was “Let’s see you get attacked the way we were, let’s see you laugh then.”

But you know — I don’t know if that is what is really bothering me.  Between all our TV shows, our DVDs, our politics, I wonder.

Is our only purpose to them to provide entertainment?

Are we the jesters to the entire world?

Well back to movies and TV.  The other night at dinner we spoke about dogs, a topic I just loved to hear.  Anyway I mentioned a chihuahua.  [They weren’t familiar with the breed, so I described it.] “Like the Taco Bell dog!” I said without a second thought.  It was only after a sentence or two that I realized they may not have the Taco Bell dog here, so I asked.

“Taco Bell hasn’t made it quite here yet,” Alan said, “But we know what it is from the movies.”

First off- it didn’t even dawn on me that there was no Taco Bell here (They have KFC here– it would stand to reason they’d have Taco Bell as well).  Second off- isn’t that a riot?  They know about Taco Bell from movies – most notably Demolition Man.

Alan also pointed out that they didn’t have Wendy’s here either, but knew what it was.

I haven’t figured out the heater in my room.  I’ve tried turning the knob every which way, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

As a result, it gets very chilly in my room at night.  Each night when I turn out the light I curl up and try to image Sean and the dogs cuddled around me keeping me warm.

It must help – I’ve fallen asleep very promptly.

Now there is some warmth in my room that brings me exquisite comfort.  There is a special type of header in the bathroom.  It is called a “towel warmer”

Towel Warmer

The name is pretty self explanatory – like “sweet tea”.  The towels hang on this heater and are warm and ready for your use.  It is such a divine concept.  I absolutely love it.

You get out of the hot shower and wrap yourself in fluffy, dry warmth!

The last couple of days, I’ve hung my clothes on there.  It isn’t as nice as the heated towels, but still nice.

The shower’s labels could use some calibration.  First there is a dial that lets you pick the water temperature.  Around the dial are [a series of ]colored circles that describe the temperature — blue and red of course.

Now I like hot showers so I started way on the red side of the circles. Way too hot.  I kept moving it counterclockwise and again and again until I found a warmth that my skin could tolerate.  The dial ended up on a blue circle – not even one of the border blue circles!  It was 3 circles down!

Secondly you can choose the strength of the water pressure.  There choices – Low, Medium, High.  In addition you could choose between “Power” and “Low Flow”.

I kept the shower on “Power” and “High.”  Man– I can’t fathon what “Low” would be like– the water was barely noticeable on High!

(Reminds me of a trip with the Vandervorts where we had low water pressure – Brian told Jodi to hold on to something.  She braced herself to a washcloth ring– only to find out he was joking!)

Well it is 22:35 — I should try to get some rest.

29 Jan 2005

I’m at Gate 19 in the South Terminal.  That South is significant.  I got off at the North Terminal which was incorrect.  Luckily it all worked out – I’m safe at the gate waiting for the plane to board.  I even had time to do some shopping.  My purchases were all of a same species– sweets!  I got a lot of chocolates and then some shortbread biscuits.  The other night I had a shortbreat biscuit with dessert — it was divine — barely sweet so you craved more.  I wonder if that is why the desserts here are so good.  It isn’t overly sweet so a little bit can go a long ways.

Speaking of sweet– across the Trent river from Newark is a sugar factory.  It is in full production mode right now and like a paper company, it makes [its presence] known via various odors.

It could sort of smell good – but it was mostly sickening.  Pauline grew up in Newark.  She said most people hate the smell, but she loves it — it reminds her of her childhood.  So scents pull up strong memories here as well.

This is an interesting tidbit– guess where their sugar comes from!  They don’t have ready access to sugar cane like us.  So their sugar comes from

BEETS!

That factory across the river was boiling beets.  Apparently, they boil and boil and eventually all that is left is sugar.

No wonder the factory stunk up downtown Newark so much.

And it’s no wonder why Sean wasn’t enthralled with London!  He hates beets!

The sugar factory also made a perception difference between me and my colleagues obvious.

Yesterday afternoon, Anthony and I went up to the IT department to say our goodbyes.  Like [a number of other companies, they] had very low cubicles.  As a result, everyone had access to the windows.

“What pretty windows!” I exclaimed, nothing all the quaint red roof houses.

“Pretty?!?” Neville exclaimed.  He’s always the blunt one, “It’s quite disgusting.”

Another guy added that all they had was a view of the sugar plant- it loomed behind all the small houses I was admiring.  The plant, as can be expected, was emitting a great deal of steam and smoke.

I guess if you are familiar with the sites it would be ugly – especially compared to John’s Creek Mountain that can been see from [my company].  But to me, it was still a novelty and brought me fascination.

Jason Pitt said I wore rose coloured glasses because I was in another country.

Last night I saw a hilarious comedian by the name of Ricky Gervais.  He had a ~1 1/2 hour special on “Animals”.  It was probably the best stand up comedy special I’ve seen in years.  Very well done – I’m going to see if he is available in the states.

One bit I liked was him talking about cable.  His cable was more endowed than the cable I had in all my hotels.  He had 95 channels (me I had 4 in The Grange and 15 in the Holiday Inn).

“It’s all rubbish,” he said, but then noted that he liked the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.

“Sharks and Nazis,” he said, “Ask me anything!  I know it now!”

Since the theme of the show was “Animals”– he elaborated on the sharks and how they can feel the slightest motion in the water and how they could smell the slightest human excrement for up to a mile.

“A mile!” he exclaimed, “Sharks would have found Anne Frank like that!” and he snapped his fingers.

It’s not necessarily a funny subject, Anne Frank and the Holocaust, but Ricky Gervais pulled it off.

[The company] has a taxi service that’s run by an ex-employee. … [He] “went redundant” a few years ago … I believe that is the equivalent of our “laid off.”

Anyway, [this man] drove me to my hotel in Gatwick last night.  The journey was very long — nearly three hours.  If the railway isn’t under construction it takes at least 45 minutes less to take the trains.

Nonetheless there were some neat things about the car ride — I got to learn a little about their highway system.  [We] listened to 80’s music and played radio trivia on BBC R2 together.  (Another thing Vandervort would like – 80’s music).  I got to see the speed cameras Alan and Neville were talking about earlier this week.  I got to see the U.K. country side.  And finally, I got to go through my first U.K. tollbooth.

… 

A few CCS Christmas parties ago, Melanie showed up looking stunning.  This was when her hair was long and it was delicately curled at the ends.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said, “Usually my hair never behaves, but today it came out perfectly!”

I had a similiar experience this week with my eye make-up.  It looked stunning and professional every day.  I don’t know why– it just worked out like that.

This week was the 60th Anniversary of the Auschwitz Liberation.  They had a variety of programs on the BBC as well as related news reports.  One morning the news provided a shocking statistic:

65% of “Under 35s” have not heard of Auschwitz.

Could that really be true??? I wonder if the same statistic in the U.S. is as grave a number.

The news mentioned that Prince Harry’s costume choice of a Nazi uniform reflected how little the new generations know about the Holocaust genocides.

It just — it just seems like something everyone would be taught about.

I ate very, very well in the U.K.  And because I was traveling, I treated myself to plenty of desserts.  I must have gained some weight this week.  My room in The Grange had a scale present.  It offered two measurements – stones and kilograms.  Luckily, I can’t read either!🙂

It did not take long before my hosts learned about my tastes.  We had a catered meal Monday – Thursday for lunch.  One of the selections was set aside just for me — QUICHE!!!

On Wednesday morning for breakfast, Anthony handed me a cinnamon roll.

“You like this,” he said, “Very sweet!”

He was correct– I like it very much so!

Let’s go back to the my car ride yesterday and the speed cameras.  [My escort] pointed out one that was charred and burnt.

“Someone set it afire!”, [he] said, “I guess they didn’t like it!” Hehe

I went into a music store today and they had a whole section for Country/Western music.  The section was labeled “Roots.”  Country Western was also playing at The Grange on Monday night.  I don’t know why that surprised me, but it did.  I guess I assumed Country Western was more of a niche taste and would be confined to sections of America.  I assumed wrong!

One thing I really like about the U.K. is how bottled water is so readily available.  The first working day, Pauline gave me a big bottle of water.  The label prominently said, “Stillwater” which made me think of Stillwater Mining.  I was all set to save the bottle, thinking it to be a novelty.  But guess what.  “Stillwater” isn’t a brand — it is a common product description.

You typically have two water choices – Still or Sparkling.  Every night at dinner, I’d ask for water.

 “Still or Sparkling?” they’d ask.

By the last day I finally got into the groove.  I’d ask for Still water right off the bat.

The chocolates over here are so good.  Neville, the blunt one again, commented on American chocolate Wednesday night at dinner, “That Hershey’s stuff is disgusting!”

Alan concurred.  His department has a practice similiar to [our department] regarding goodies.  They have a special table where people will bring in foods and desserts and items from trips and everyone helps themselves.

Someone bought little Hershey’s from America.  Alan said it stayed there for months and months, no one liked it.

The thing is — I have to agree with them.  Hershey’s was great before I was exposed to the other chocolates of the world.  If I’m going to eat a chocolate bar and take on all those calories and carbs, I’d rather it be a good one, not filled with preservatives.

I got to see a little bit of downtown Newark yesterday.  It was brief but will make due.Market

Newark Plaque

Pauline took me through the town centre.  I saw the castle (in the daylight), the church, the town hall and where Anthony used to live.  Friday is a market day – so a number of vendors were set up in tents in front of the town hall.  It was raining, but the plaza was still full.  They were selling all sorts of things from foods to fabrics.

Well I’m going to take a break — Monk is on!

29 Jan 2005

We’re nearing our destination, I believe — they handed out customs forms.  About an hour ago- it was covered with snow!  It’s been so far a lucky trip for me.  A lot of the airports in the U.S. have been closing or facing significant delays because of the snow.  I am grateful that as of yet, I’ve been only mildly effected by our winter.

The U.K.’s winter is pretty mild.  Newark rarely gets now and all week the temperatures were in the 40s (Fahrenheit).  But it was amusing for me to hear the others talk about how frigid and nippy it was– when to me it was pretty warm.

Well– I did not get a sweet tea I was completely satisfied with, but I think I stumbled on the components to do so.

Monday night at supper I ordered “breakfast tea.”  It arrived in a little tiny ceramic tea pot accompanied by a bowl of light and dark sugar cubes.  The tea was very hot so the sugar melted quickly.  It tasted slightly different and it was warm, but it was pretty close to my beloved sweet tea.

On Thursday I got clever– I ordered breakfast tea again and then I asked for a glass of ice.  I planned to mix it while it was hot and then pour it over the ice.

I was thwarted by a well-meaning gentleman.  “Ice tea? Is that what you want?” I nodded and that’s what he brought me– only unsweet!  Rats– it would have been perfect.

Tonight I plan to definitely have sweet tea – I’m thinking Sub Station tea will be very refreshing.

Even on this flight to North Carolina they don’t have sweet tea.  Oh well, it’ll make tnoight’s all the more special.

You know– I used to think brewed sweet tea was invented by my grandmother.  She made a pitcher of ice tea every night for supper.  I was always so impressed how she put the sugar in while the tea was hot– so you didn’t have to stir constantly, with the ice cubes clinking against the glass, to get it to dissolve.

I really thought that was her innovation– but I believe it is done all through the South.  Her mother probably taught her as I plan to teach my children (once I can get it right– all my batches so far have been unsatisfactory).

I have another Neville blunt story – one that I appreciate very much so.  One Wednesday evening we tried to go to ZiiZiis- me, Alan, Neville and Anthony.

We walk in and the whole restaurant in deserted except for one occupied table.

“Table for four,” Anthony asked.

“It’ll be a forty-five minute wait,” the hostess/bartender told us.

I looked at the surplus of vacant tables but was too timid to say anything.  Neville didn’t have that issue.

“What?!?” he said loudly, “There’s one table!”

That night we just walked down the street to a different Italian restaurant.  Il Castello, I believe it was called.

Almost to Charlotte – I’m gonna go.

January 29, 2005

Well my travel luck ran out.  I’m writing from a Holiday Inn in Charlotte.  All flights to Roanoke were cancelled today.

I had a sense when we landed.  Looking out ther window I could see a large queue of planes waiting to take off.  Two weird machines were setup on the runway spraying the departing planes with steam or hot water or something.  I assume that’s a de-icer.  I knew I was in for some kind of inconvenience.  As my spirits sank, I rested my forehead against the cabin window looking at the hopeless lines.

Sure enough my flight was cancelled.  I did thing about renting a car, but I played it safe and rebooked a flight for tomorrow and got a hotel.

I was terribly sad.  I thought tonight I would be with my dogs and my husband.  It was quite a disappointment to know for sure I would not be home.

But it turned out okay.  The Holiday Inn I’m staying out is really nice – an atrium, a restaurant AND an exercise room.  Oh yeah and more than 15 channels on the TV!

This afternoon I went to the gym – it was my first exercise in like two weeks.

Tonight I ate at a buffer at the restaurant.  You should have seen me when I saw the buffet.  My eyes seriously lit up – I was like a kid at Christmas!  Corn, green beans, ham, vegetarian lasagna.  Although I ate extremely well in Europe- it was wonderful to see American, American South, cuisine.

AND– they had sweet tea!

I wolfed down everything and went through four glasses of sweet tea.  It is good to be back– even if I’m not in my house.

Well– I’m about dead.  It’s about midnight as far as my body’s concerned.

January 30, 2005

5:30 in the morning and I’m wide awake.  Guess my body, despite any jet lag, is still on European time.  I guess it makes sense – I went to bed about 12:00 – 1:00 European (U.K.) time and now it is nearly 11:00 AM.  So my body got lots of sleep.  I guess I just figured jet lag would play a bigger role.

I have another thing Vandervort would appreciate.  My hotel is right across the street from a gentleman’s club – a strip joint!!!

Eric Goad, at work, is going to out do me for long-distance business travel.  He’ll be traveling to Taiwan in April.  They mentioned it at the quarterly meeting the other week.  Someone asked from the audience, “How many times have you been on a plane?”

Eric answered, “That would be zero!”

So his first flight is going to be a grueling one– all the way to Asia!

My grandmother Sawyer’s first flight was on her honeymoon.  She flew from Pittsburgh to Hershey, Pennsylvania.  It’s a short flight, but I imagine still quite stressful — Can you imagine going through a wedding (a disapproved wedding at that) and then taking your first plane trip?  As Anthony would say – Oh la la.

At the beginning of this trip I met a lady who lived in Germany for a few years.  Her first flight ever was from Tampa to Germany – with her three young children.  Can you imagine that?  Not only is your first flight a long one overseas — but you have three children to comfort and look after too.

Well– I admire the bravery of all three individuals.  At the same time, I am thankful that I had had my first flight long ago.  A short one and I was accompanied by my grandmother Lib.

Speaking of Lib, one of Pauline’s granddaughters is named Libby.  My heart melted when I heard that.  Lib and Libby is a name of the past in the U.S. it seems.  There is a character named Libby on TV– but that show takes place in the 1930’s!

It’s little things like that, that make it feel like a visit to Newark is a visit to the U.S. of the past.  The names are similiar to our grandparents.  The activities (bicycling riding to work and school) are similiar to our grandparents as well.  The politeness, the drinks, the food– I felt like I got to see firsthand how my grandparents lived in their day.

One thing I didn’t care for much this time around was the meal speeds.  Every night we went to supper and every night it took some time– I would say it was a minimum of a two hour commitment for dinner.  When you’ve worked so late and your body is so tired, watching those precious seconds of your possible alone time tick away – it’s saddening.

Maybe that was the true appeal of the buffet last night!  I had the ability to get food, ingest it, pay the bill– all within twenty minutes!

But again the food and the company was wonderful– it was just sad I didn’t get more time to write and relax in front of the TV.

By the way– my beloved Law and Order came on last night!  I must have fallen asleep ten minutes in, but it was a nice reunion, however brief it was.

When I was riding in the taxi [to Gatwick and the driver] was giving me an inventory of the whereabouts of Muslims, I thought briefly, “There is where it began.”  It being an attitude of superiority.  A drive to “civilize” all cultures that differed from ours.  The urge to conquer and demean.

George Jackson told his mother that black males were bred to be obedient, subserviant, weak-willed, timid and scared.

Is it possible that the caucasians were bred to be the way we are?  If so– it may have started centuries before Columbus even dreamed of sailing the Atlantic.

I think I’m going to go now– perhaps I can convince my body to take a “nap”.

Jan 30, 2005

I’m at the gate now and so far so good– all the screens are reporting my flight is on time.  If I didn’t have the screens to tell me otherwise- I would think I wouldn’t be able to get out.

There was an ice storm last night and all the trees and grass are coated with icicles.  At the airport, the weather looks foggy and moist.  In fact I passed a plane on the way to my gate whose wings were lined with icicles!  I took a picture.

Hopeless Air Travel

The roads seemed fine– or at least our shuttle driver thought so.  He was whizzing down the roads at 60 MPH — it actually made me feel uneasy the way he was driving.

At one point we passed over a bridge and there on the hillside off the road surrounded by disheveled dirt was another hotel shuttle that had run off the road.  The passengers were transferring their luggage to a nearby taxi on the shoulder.

Now I kid you not — as we passed that spectacle, our driver got a perplexed tone and said, “Now how would you do that???”

I didn’t say anything, but I have a good idea how a hotel shuttle can end up on the side of the road!

On Friday night, I saw an interesting commercial on the BBC.  It was for AOL… also known as “America Online”🙂

One thing I found momentarily troubling at times is how thin the British paper money is.  When you are quickly scanning your pocket with your hand to ensure your possessions are still present – it feels like a lot less than it is.

Numerous times I thought I had lost some money, only to pull out my pockets and find it was all present.  I think two British bills feel roughly equivalent to one U.S. dollar.

Today, anticipating seeing my husband for the first time in a week, I blow dried my hair and put on eye makeup.  It is with sadness I note my streak of perfect eye makeup application is over.  Idon’t look nearly as good as I did through the week.

Friday when were in downtown Newark, I got a chance to buy some postcards.  Even though Newark is a small town we found some actual Newark postcards.  They were reproductions of paintings that someone did of the different landmarks including:

  • The town hall

  • The building [I was working in]!

  • The castle – 11th century castle

  • The building ZiiZiis was in (our lunch venue on Friday)

I bought two extras which I plan to keep for myself.

I want to talk a little about the building [I was working in].  The postcard depicted it from 100 years ago – so it looks a little different.

What [the organization] did was preserve the historic building while expanding its capacity for their use.  They built newer buildings around the historic one and formed a courtyard.

I entered that courtyard every morning and it was such an impressive feeling to walk in and look up at the clock and sky.

Most mornings this past week I was dead tired, but everytime I entered the courtyard I was invigorated and felt so alive.

Gatwick airport had a special area for ski pickup.  I guess they get a lot of skiers traveling.  I wonder if airports in Colorado have a similiar setup.

I was thinking last night I might ask Grandma if he’d make me a luggage tag.  When I went to college Grandma gave me a wool blanket that was labeled with my name.  With her sewing machine she is able to make letters and numbers.  I thought it might be nice if she did that and I used it as a luggage tag.  Maybe use snaps to attach it.  If we use bright or unique fabrics it would make the bag readily identifiable as well.

Airports and airplanes and trains are a sedative to me.  My body is predispositioned to sleep on them.  So even if I got more than enough sleep (such as I did last night) my body falls into a trance mode– preparing itself for the flight.  I feel like if I wanted to, I could fall asleep right now.  I think I’ll go work on some crosswords — as I do not wish to fall asleep right now!🙂

Jan 30, 2005

Well- my skepticism was well founded.  I’m still in the airport.  Our plane is here, but the crew isn’t– they are still at Tri-City airport about 30 minutes away.  They haven’t left yet because of the fog here.  What fun.

Jan 31, 2005

Home– finally!

After a three hour delay our flight to Roanoke was cancelled.  And guess what!  There was only one other flight to Roanoke that day and it was all filled up.

Well, I teamed up with three other ladies and we rented a car and drove home.

Rental Car to the Rescue

We were all complete strangers, but pulled together for a common cause– getting home.

We had Marion the ER nurse, Vicky the software developer, Eileen the insurance agent … and Lead the brash psychology student.  We were from different generations and different backgrounds.  It is like we had our own little episode of “The View” in this light blue Ford Taurus.

The trip went by very quickly – we were full of talk – even Marion who got up at 5 in the morning to catch a flight from Atlanta.

One thing both Huey Newton and George Jackson write about is conquering “waiting” while in jail.  They always occupy themselves – planning social changes, exercising, reading, writing letters.  They purge impatience from their personas.

I would like to think I have a good groundwork to support a similiar philosophy.  But- this airport experience taught me I’ll still have a struggle.  I don’t like waiting.  I can certainly hold my own and entertain myself and be productive.  But still I get aggravated and restless.  I want to be at the next step.

Waiting for an uncertain flight is challenge enough.  Can you imagine waiting for an indefinite jail term?  Year after year, [parole] board after board, not knowing if you’ll be found to be rehabilitated?

That would be a wait that is beyond my capacity.  I have the utmost admiration for Huey Newton and George Jackson and all the forgotten prisoners who were dealt that hand.

Quick flashback to Europe.  On the motorways I noticed some interesting signs.  As we passed exits little icons would indicate the presence of food, petrol or lodging like we have here in the states.  There is a unique addition for the U.K.  They have a designated graphic to depict the presence of castles!

I think Henry may have forgotten me while I was gone.  When I came in through the garage door last night he came into the living room, saw me and then immediately crouched like he was scared.  Then for the next half and hour or so he was timid and shy.  How weird.

Maybe he thought I was a ghost!

Entry filed under: Airport Delay, Becky and Vic L, Geocaching, George Jackson, Henry, Hershey Kisses, Jason P, Journal Excerpt, Malcolm X, Melanie White, Racism, Ricky Gervais, Sean, Towel Warmer, Travel, Turkish Food, United Kingdom. Tags: .

Letter to Lansing City Council Word 2003 Header and Footer Field Refresh for Multiple Section Documents

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joe Strothers  |  June 6, 2007 at 3:56 am

    Is Jason Pitt your friends real name? I know a Jason Pitt too.

    Reply
  • 2. tgaw  |  June 6, 2007 at 7:32 am

    Yes– he is originally from Australia

    Reply
  • 3. poli  |  December 3, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    nice pictures….is newark big town?and so special like i think?

    Reply
  • 4. Fred Salati  |  May 3, 2008 at 6:43 am

    Vicky, It is great that you appreciate towel warmers. In America they exists in the same way but electric at only 60 watts. It looks the same if not better and made of stainless steel in different finishes. Not as you often see in England out of mild steel. This comes out of Atlanta Georgia, not far away from you http://www.ambatowelwarmers.com Give them a call and I”ll make sure you are given the best deal ever! Mention me. All the best on your trips………Fred …

    Reply
  • 5. Honeymoon First Flight  |  May 26, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    That’s crazy about the honeymoon travel being the first flight! Like reading your stuff, thanks!

    Reply
  • 6. Mark Williams  |  July 15, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Dear sir/mm
    My name is Mark Williams and i need to order some Towel Warmer and may i know the price and types you have now and what is the method of payment do you accept. I hope to hear from you soon.
    Best Regard
    Mark Williams

    Reply

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