Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hearing the adhan after curry -- another slice of London life

My sister INGER and I took the Circle Line to Aldgate Station this morning so we could stroll down BRICK LANE.
The center of the BANGLADESHI community in LONDON, it was largely devoid of the tourists that otherwise fill the streets and the Underground trains.
After we browsed the nearby Spitalfields Market, we reversed our travels and walked to 89 Fieldgate Road and TAYYABS -- one of London's most celebrated places to get CURRY.
We dined on fabulous SOUTH ASIAN food -- saag alou (creamed spinach with potato), karahi chicken, a couple of veg samosas and two orders of scrumptious tandoori nan.
It was absolutely delicious.
When we left the packed restaurant, we heard the adhan -- the Islamic call to prayer -- for the nearby LONDON ISLAMIC CENTRE.
It was a great moment that unveiled yet another aspect of London life.
Soon, we'll be getting back on the Tube to head for Westminster and the NEW YEAR'S EVE FIREWORKS.
Happy New Year everybody!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A busy day in Covent Garden

Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Rafael have scored and MANCHESTER UNITED lead WIGAN, 3-0, at half time of the PREMIER LEAGUE match on BBC RADIO 5 LIVE.
I am listening to the match as we relax in the flat, following a busy day in LONDON.
INGER and I spent the day in the area of COVENT GARDEN.
Here are a few of the highlights:
1. Neal's Yard Remedies was one of the first UK shops to promote aromatherapy. While browsing the essential oils, I spied the following small sign:
"Myrrh. Blends well with frankincense."
You know, I have read that somewhere before...
2. The London Transport Museum (pictured) presents the story of travel in the capital, from horse-drawn omnibuses to the most modern tube train car.
3. Hope & Greenwood's in Russell Street is a shop specializing in traditional British sweets, such as jazzies, sugar mice and sherbet lemon. If you visit London, you should visit.
4. If you stumble upon the Lamb & Flag pub in Rose Street, do stop in for a pint and lunch. The historic pub is located on a "street" that isn't even really an alley. I ate a sausage and fried onion sandwich that was terrific.
5. Neal's Yard Dairy is a traditional cheese shop, filled with huge rounds of cheese and staffed by cheesemongers wearing aprons and matching caps. We purchased Keen's cheddar, Gorwydd Caerphilly and a West Country cheese called Finn.
We're going to eat the cheeses with bread for dinner tomorrow night, after our visit to the LONDON EYE but before returning to the Thames for the fireworks.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Who knew tying my shoe could be such a thrill?

What a day.
I strolled across the ABBEY ROAD zebra crossing in honor of THE BEATLES, danced a panda dance when prompted at "ALADDIN," London's top-rated pantomime and popped in to the BRITISH MUSEUM to have a look at the ROSETTA STONE.
My proudest moment, however, occurred with the simple act of TYING MY LEFT SHOE.
Well, I didn't tell the entire story:
I tied my left shoe sitting in the ENGLAND DRESSING ROOM at LORD'S CRICKET GROUND (don't worry, the England cricketers are in South Africa on a tour).
Imagine Fenway Park crossed with the Baseball Hall of Fame, and even that combination pales in comparison with Lord's.
INGER and I enjoyed a guided tour of it this morning.
Lord's is the home of cricket, the sport that captivates millions around the world, from India to Jamaica and from Australia and South Africa to England.
"It's the mecca of cricket," BRIAN LARA once said of Lord's, where officials maintain the laws of the game, first played more than 400 years ago.
The tour group, including Australians, South Africans and only a pair of Americans (that would be us), sat round the visitor's dressing room as well as the home dressing room. Top players are a superstitious lot, our tour guide informed us, and he went round the room, telling us all which top overseas players traditionally changed at our seats.
The Australian Justin Langer changed where my sister sat.
The aforementioned West Indies legend Lara (think Barry Bonds without the taint of steroids) sat at my spot.
I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I was to learn that fact.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Two minutes of sheer joy at Brisbane Road

We enjoyed two minutes of sheer joy this afternoon, followed by about 31 minutes of "oh, dear.."
By "we," I mean supporters of LEYTON ORIENT.
The O's fell to SOUTHEND, 2-1, at Brisbane Road today, and my sister INGER and I were among the 5,680 in attendance.
After slurping BOVRIL and eating my STEAK AND KIDNEY PIE, we watched a goalless first half notable for Orient's tentativeness on the ball.
The second half began promising more of the same, until Orient's Adam Chambers opened the scoring in the 57th minute.
We shouted ourselves hoarse in the North Stand.
The warm glow didn't last long.
The Southend supporters in the East Stand were able to cheer two minutes later, when Adam Barrett sent the ball past Orient goalkeeper Jamie Jones.
The O's didn't look likely to reclaim the lead, and Alan McCormack scored Southend's second in the 74th minute -- the ball seemed to trickle over the line for the goal.
By the end of the match, there was a dreadful feeling that the Southend supporters were correct when they sang: "This is why you're going down."
Inger and I stumbled upon the pub we wanted to find -- THE COACH & HORSES -- as we walked back down Leyton High Road to the tube station.
We downed a pint, and bloke playing snooker asked me what I thought of Orient's chairman, Barry Hearn.
I wish I could say that sort of thing happens all the time at home.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"... and after we watched the Iranian protest march, we shopped at Tesco's"

It's been a busy first day in LONDON, but it's not over yet.
My predawn arrival thrilled me. Our Delta flight flew into the capital from the southeast, and I recognized a succession of landmarks from the air:
1. The Canary Wharf development.
2. Tower Bridge.
3. The London Eye.
4. Big Ben's illuminated clock face.
5. Wembley Stadium.
After spending an *eternity* in the queue for passport control, I hopped on the Heathrow Express to PADDINGTON and hailed a cab to 58 CHEPSTOW VILLAS, the flat where we are staying.
My sister INGER showed me around the neighborhood this afternoon. We walked along the shops on Portobello Road (pictured), as well as those around Notting Hill Gate.
I wanted to feed the swans in KENSINGTON GARDENS, but I didn't have any bread crumbs. We rested at THE CHURCHILL ARMS, an Irish pub in Kensington Church Road.
Arsenal played Aston Villa on the pub television, and the place erupted when Cesc Fabregas scored the first of his two goals in a 3-0 Gunners win.
Now, we're preparing for our fancy dinner at Corrigan's Mayfair, while listening to Hull City v. Manchester United on BBC Radio 5 Live.
I may never leave.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"... and a partridge in a salad"

We'll be celebrating the birthday of my sister INGER in fine style this weekend, with a dinner at CORRIGAN'S MAYFAIR, a celebrated restaurant located about 2 1/2 blocks west of the American Embassy on Upper Grosvenor Street, LONDON.
We'll be celebrating, but I am not sure what exactly I'll be eating.

Inger forwarded me a menu, and I have never heard of half the items.

"Steamed brill?" (Turns out it's a flat fish.)

"Grilled langoustines?" (Some people call them " Norway lobsters.")

"Marinated ceps?" (Unfancy name: "Mushroom salad.")

The menu items I can identify make me blink in a "did-I-read-that-right?" style.

"Oxtail ravioli?"

"Grouse pie for two?"
"Braised pork cheeks?"
"Salad of partridge?"
"Saddle of wild rabbit?"

As I read the menu, I began to feel:

1) Like the simple country folk I probably am.

2) A bit crestfallen. What is there to eat here?

Then I read:

"Roast cod, Jerusalem artichokes, red wine --" ahh... "-- and bone marrow." Errr...

Perhaps I should just skip right to the dessert menu and the black figs and port with mulled wine sorbet.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'll be searching for you, P.G. Wodehouse

I really only want to find one item when I peruse the shops in LONDON (in a few days).
I want to find a collection of P.G. WODEHOUSE stories in relatively good shape.
That's because the collection of Wodehouse stories I have owned since adolescence is in relatively bad shape.
Whole sections of the paperback "THE MOST OF P.G. WODEHOUSE" have separated from the binding and there's an inch-long tear on the front cover.
This wouldn't matter, except these stories helped fuel the ANGLOPHILE tendencies that are sending me to the U.K. in the first place.
The Drones Club, Mr. Mulliner, Ukridge, Lord Emsworth and even Jeeves stories are included in these stories. You remember "JEEVES AND WOOSTER" on PBS, don't you? It starred a pre-"House" Hugh Laurie and a pre-Twitter celebrity Stephen Fry.
If I don't find anything else during the next couple weeks, I want to find a Wodehouse collection.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

England faces travel chaos and "Operation Stack"

Travel chaos continues in the UNITED KINGDOM, a mere week before I travel there.
Today's news involves northern FRANCE as much as the U.K.

More than 2,000 people have been evacuated from four Eurostar trains that were trapped in the CHANNEL TUNNEL for up to 16 hours after breaking down due to the cold weather.
Storms that struck southeastern England yesterday have now impacted France. Motorists are warned to avoid the M20 MOTORWAY, where authorities have initiated "OPERATION STACK."
Kent Police and Port of Dover authorities declare an "Operation Stack" situation when lorries must be parked the closed motorway when the Channel Tunnel, English Channel or Dover ports are blocked by bad weather or industrial action.

The motorway could be closed for days.

I wonder how it will be when I arrive in LONDON?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Spare us the gritters with a week and a day to go!

I leave for LONDON in a week and a day, so I am keeping my eye on a pair of forecasts for BOXING DAY.
ACCUWEATHER predicts "a morning flurry; otherwise, cold with low clouds."
I can live with that.
Across the pond,
THE WEATHER OUTLOOK suggests "an increasing risk of snowfall, especially in northern and eastern areas."
In case you haven't heard, heavy snow today has closed schools, slowed road travel and cancelled flights in portions of the U.K. Gatwick and Luton airports were both closed for periods, while Heathrow remained open but with about 70 cancelled flights.
A week and a day to go, and I am crossing fingers and toes -- please, no bad weather!
Spare us the

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Getting started with your Oyster card

"Your Oyster card is loaded with pay as you go credit and is ready to be used on the bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and some National Rail routes (check with the train operator before traveling). When you have used up the credit, simply top up your Oyster card."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Listening in to a nation's day

Here's a way to prepare for a trip to the UNITED KINGDOM:
Listen to BBC RADIO 5 LIVE online while cleaning the kitchen.
That's what I did this morning.
The time difference meant I was listening to afternoon news on the station.
I heard about travel problems in central London -- High Holborn was closed both ways because of a building fire at a restaurant between A5200 Gray's Inn Road and A4200 Kingsway -- near the Chancery Lane Tube station.
I also heard about a new documentary that shows -- in high definition -- a komodo dragon attacking a water buffalo -- an animal 10 times its size.
I also heard about the controversy surrounding Saturday night's broadcast of X-FACTOR, in which judge Danii Minogue (Kylie's B-list celebrity sister) attempted to make a joke about the sexuality of contestant Danyl Johnson. The joke backfired horribly, generating headlines in the newspapers and stories on the radio.
I felt like I was listening in to a nation's day.

The experience will surely give me some context during my trip. It also helped give me a clean kitchen!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The journalists' cathedral

I am reading about FLEET STREET today.
It would be fun during my LONDON trip to visit ST. BRIDE'S CHURCH -- "the journalists' and printers' cathedral."
The church boasts the largest spire of the churches designed by SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN. It is said to have influenced the traditional, tiered wedding cake.
Situated behind the former Reuters building on the site of the 16th century press of WYNKYN DE WORDE, the church also includes a small museum.
The museum includes information on the Daily Courant -- Britain's first daily newspaper -- and the Universal Daily Register -- the forerunner of THE TIMES.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The "hideous" symbol of greed I simply must see

Lunch time.
Eating cooked carrots.
I am actually reading about CENTRE POINT, one of the earliest -- and most controversial -- London skyscrapers.
Located almost directly above TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD TUBE STATION, Centre Point was completed in the MAGICAL YEAR OF 1966 as speculative office space by the property developer, Harry Hyams.
The Rough Guide refers to the building as "hideous," noting that Hyams "kept it famously empty for more than a decade, a profit-making exercise whose cynicism transcended even the London norms of the time."
The tower is now a Grade II listed building, meaning it has been designated as "being of special architectural, historical or cultural significance."
I am certain that -- at 32 floors tall -- I am bound to see it when my sister and I visit London later this year.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No. 430, King's Road, Chelsea

For all its history -- King's Road derives its name from its function as a private road used by Charles II -- I would like to walk it solely to find one address.
No. 430 King's Road for several decades has been the site of VIVIENNE WESTWOOD'S fashion outlet -- successively known as Let it Rock, Sex, Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die, Seditionaries or most recently, World's End -- and in 1975-77, in particular, it provided the epicenter of the BRITISH PUNK ROCK EXPLOSION.
It was, after all, the original gathering place for the musicians (more likely non-musicians!) who would form the SEX PISTOLS.
It's just a clothes shop, now.
But it's historic enough -- even for the legendary King's Road.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Little details adding to excitement

It's cold, it's raining, I'm preparing to watch a Premier League football match on television and -- finally -- I feel the excitement building for my upcoming trip to LONDON.
It has probably helped that I finished reading "BRICK LANE" by MONICA ALI.
The fine novel provides a different view of London life -- that of the immigrant seemingly stuck in a council estate.
Now, I have switched to reading "THE ROUGH GUIDE TO LONDON," which is full of intricate details of the capital.
Additionally, it has probably helped that I have been watching the two seasons of the original, British version of "THE OFFICE" on DVD the past few nights.
The series broke such ground, influencing film and television in the U.K. as well as here. It really is a quality TV show.
The football on television helps, too.
To sum up: Little life details are helping to build my anticipation for London.
Brilliant, innnit?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Monument to stubbornness

I just read in "THE ROUGH GUIDE TO LONDON" about an architectural oddity that must be one of the great monument's to man's stubbornness.
Located along MILE END ROAD is a former department store -- a neoclassical building topped by a central domed tower built by THOMAS WICKHAM.
The perfect facade is interrupted, however, by a small, two-story shop that once housed a Jewish watchmaker named SPIEGELHALTER.
Spiegelhalter and Wickham were in dispute, so the latter -- a Gentile -- was forced to build his department store around the existing watchmaker's shop.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Whatever you do, don't say "SOUTH-WARK"

I don't want to appear too much of a tourist when I visit LONDON later this year.
That's why I am honing my pronunciation of certain place names.
I already knew that
KEIGHLY up in the north of the country is actually pronounced "KEETH-lee," and even many non-Anglophiles know LEICESTER is pronounced "LEHS-ster."
Those two examples, however, cannot prepare one to know how to pronounce
LEIGH. Is it "LEETH?" Is it "LEH?"
It's neither. It's
So why do the English pronounce
I haven't got a clue.
Everyone knows
READING is "RED-DING," like the town in California.
Did you know the Norfolk town of
HAPPISBURGH is actually pronounced "HAZE-burr?"
Hmm! Is that a fact?
Truthfully, there appears to be no rhyme nor reason to the pronunciation of English place names. I suppose they can say the words any way they wish. They did invent the language, after all.
SOUTHWARK? Yeah. The area of London pictured is actually pronounced "SUH-thik."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

London's streets in novel, song and mind

Whitehall... Oxford Street... Portobello Road...
LONDON seems like a collection of famous roadways.
I hope to grace as many as I can come December.
Park Lane... King's Road... Kensington High Street...
Part of my preparations for London include developing the proper mindset.
I intend to begin some of those particular preparations today, by briefly abandoning "THE ROUGH GUIDE TO LONDON" to read the MONICA ALI novel, BRICK LANE.
Named after a street in the East End heart of London's Bangladeshi community, the novel follows the exploits of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi woman who moves to London at the age of 18 to marry an older man.
How will this help me prepare for London?
I feel the need to get London in my brain and heart.
That's why I am currently listening to EDDY GRANT.
One of the British reggae musician's most famous songs -- reaching No. 2 on the charts on both sides of the Atlantic -- is "ELECTRIC AVENUE."
That's right. It's named after another London street.
Electric Avenue is one of the primary thoroughfares in Brixton. Built in the 1880s, Electric Avenue's early adoption of electric lighting gave the roadway its name.
The street is at the heart of the eclectic Brixton Market, and affirms my contention that London is a collection of famous streets.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The "Empire Windrush" and reggae before London

My friend Bekah travels later this month to JAMAICA for her honeymoon, so I made her a CD mix of some of my favorite reggae.
I am doing the same for myself, but instead of the Caribbean, I am going to LONDON in December.
Don't be. Tonight, I am reading about June 22, 1948, when the former troopship, "EMPIRE WINDRUSH," arrived at Tilbury Docks from Jamaica, with 482 Caribbeans on board.
Britain was beginning the slow recovery from war in 1948, and Caribbean immigrants provided much of the labor for the efforts.
Shocked by the climate and not welcomed as warmly as possible, most of the Empire Windrush passengers endured, and in doing so, altered the fabric of modern Britain.
The musical scene was altered as well -- Trinidadian calypso star Lord Kitchener serenaded reporters on the dockside with "London is The Place For Me."
See? It makes perfect sense for me to listen to reggae as I prepare to visit London.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A glimpse of Londinium

Now that I have finally secured "THE ROUGH GUIDE TO LONDON" -- thanks! -- I feel like I can finally begin mental preparations for my DECEMBER trip to the English capital.
So, why am I reading about LONDINIUM?
I decided that before I delved into the various sights and locales of London, I would spend some time investigating its lengthy history.
It was about 50 AD when the ROMANS decided to establish a permanent military camp near a fordable point in the THAMES, and Londinium was born.
Londinium enjoyed its greatest prosperity, the "Rough Guide" authors note, between 80 AD and 120 AD. Londinium grew into the Empire's fifth largest city north of the Alps.
The foundations of a Roman amphitheatre -- dating from about 120 AD -- can be seen near the GUILDHALL ART GALLERY in the City.
I want to try to track it down during my trip. Then, I can say I glimpsed Londinium.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some perspective into the football violence

Writing in 1981's "THE SOCCER TRIBE," author DESMOND MORRIS noted the difference between street violence and violence on the FOOTBALL terraces, while arguing that the mistaken public perception of an inherent danger in attending matches:
"Most forms of ordinary street violence occur erratically and without warning, often late at night in dark alleyways. By contrast, trouble on the terraces takes place at set times with a huge crowd watching and under the eyes of both press and police. Nobody would deny that in rare cases there are savagely violent moments, but the way these are sometimes reported makes it sound as though they are a common occurrence."
The irony, in light of last night's mayhem at the WEST HAM v. MILLWALL London derby, is that soccer violence *was* much more common when Morris wrote his book.
British football has fostered such a trouble-free environment, that last night's scenes both shock and recall the vicious scenes of yesteryear.
Neither Morris nor I condoned the violence. The point is to put it into perspective (as I am doing, months from visiting LONDON).
You need look no farther than June 2009 in Los Angeles -- when Lakers fans rioted outside the Staples Center -- to see that sports and violence often intertwine among supporters.
There is no need for knee-jerk reactions or for panic: I simply wish efforts to eradicate such violence will continue -- on both sides of the Atlantic -- so that true sports fans can enjoy themselves.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Panto is on the schedule!

I have another date to write in the calendar.
Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009.
My sister and I have tickets to the HACKNEY EMPIRE ("Home of London's No. 1 Pantomime!") production of "ALADDIN."
The show is at 7 p.m., and we will be sitting in Row E, Seats 15 and 16.
PANTOMIME is a musical-comedy theatrical production usually performed during the Christmas-New Year season.
The shows typically include songs and dancing, slapstick comedy and audience participation.
The show will be a great introduction to a traditional English winter!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Will it rain today? Will it ever!

I have added a link to the right-hand side of the blog.
WILL IT RAIN TODAY? offers real-time, rain radar information from the METEOGROUP, Europe's largest private weather company.
A joke could probably be made that the answer to the Web site's question-based title is probably always "yes."
It is currently raining in CARDIFF, thankfully saving the shell-shocked ENGLAND cricket team from additional embarrassment against AUSTRALIA.
I'll be checking this site in earnest once the departure date of my trip arrives!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

TMS is my connection... for cricket on the radio!

Nothing fills this Anglophile's heart with as much glee as listening to CRICKET on the radio.
There is something oddly mesmerizing about this slow-paced game that lasts all day and breaks for lunch and tea.
I first heard cricket on the radio while vacationing in Holland as a lad (as they say).
We were passing one of those canals that sit above the road -- so that all you could see were the sails of the sailboats -- and, after tuning the radio to a language we could understand, we found a cricket broadcast.
Only, it wasn't really a language we could understand.
Bowlers were claiming "lbw" and batsmen were going for four at "deep square leg."
I was immediately and permanently fascinated.
Des Moines-born humorist Bill Bryson provided the following observations on cricket:
"After years of patient study (and with cricket there can be no other kind) I have decided that there is nothing wrong with the game that the introduction of golf carts wouldn't fix in a hurry. It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. I don't wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as players -- more if they are moderately restless. It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning.
"Imagine a form of baseball in which the pitcher, after each delivery, collects the ball from the catcher and walks slowly with it to center field; and that there, after a minute's pause to collect himself, he turns and runs full tilt toward the pitcher's mound before hurling the ball at the ankles of a man who stands before him wearing a riding hat, heavy gloves of the sort used to to handle radio-active isotopes, and a mattress strapped to each leg. Imagine moreover that if this batsman fails to hit the ball in a way that heartens him sufficiently to try to waddle 40 feet with mattress's strapped to his legs, he is under no formal compunction to run; he may stand there all day, and, as a rule, does. If by some miracle he is coaxed into making a misstroke that leads to his being put out, all the fielders throw up their arms in triumph and have a hug. Then tea is called and every one retires happily to a distant pavilion to fortify for the next siege. Now imagine all this going on for so long that by the time the match concludes autumn has crept in and all your library books are overdue. There you have cricket."
This morning, I have been listening to BBC RADIO'S TEST MATCH SPECIAL online to the first day of the Ashes Test, the biennial series between England and Australia.
ricket will be a distant memory by the time I arrive in England in December, so I must get my fix while I can.
Now, then, if I could only get my hands on some Pimm's -- tut-tut and all that.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Grand - Pony + Score + Fiver = Grand

From the MTV Guide to England:
"If you want something to go with your new mockney cockney lingo, how's about a bit of money slang? Londoners seem to love giving nicknames to piles of cash. You're probably already using the words TENNER and FIVER, and may well know a QUID means £1, a GRAND means £1,000 and a SCORE is £20, but what about a TON, meaning £100? And a PONY being £25? Or a MONKEY being £500? Then there's also the new NIFTY, meaning £50. And the old SMACKER for £1, from the smack the £1 notes used to make as they were slapped down on the bar."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The fixture list is revealed!

Yesterday's release of the ENGLISH FOOTBALL FIXTURE LIST caught my attention -- there are matches scheduled for MONDAY, DEC. 28, when we will be in LONDON! I would love to see a match. Association football is easily my favorite sport!
The Monday matches are as follows (as always with English sport, the home team is listed first):
Premier League --
* Chelsea v. Fulham
* Tottenham v. West Ham
Championship --
(All three London clubs are away that day)
League One --
* Brentford v. Charlton
Leyton Orient v. Southend
Millwall v. Bristol Rovers
League Two --
Barnet v. Northhampton
Dagenham & Redbridge v. Cheltenham
(* = London derby)
Any of these matches would be really fun to see, particularly the London derbies, although any of these matches would be a special opportunity.
A non-Premier League match could actually provide more enjoyment than a top-flight encounter.
At a lesser cost the lower league match would offer a glimpse of a more "old-fashioned" football game, before money from Russian oil barons and United Arab Emirates' sheiks began pouring into the upper echelon of the sport.

As an example, BRENTFORD v. CHARLTON would be really fun to witness.
Brentford's ground, GRIFFIN PARK (pictured), is situated in a predominantly residential area in western London and is famous for having a pub at all four corners.
Football and a pub? It doesn't get much more English than that!
(Note: For irony's sake, take a look at the "Qatar Airways" sponsorship signs on the roof of Griffin Park. Now, what was I saying about United Arab Emirates' money pouring into English sport?)

Monday, June 15, 2009

58 Chepstow Villas, London, W11 2QX

My sister INGER has paid a deposit on a flat for us when we visit LONDON at the end of this year.
The flat, at 58 CHEPSTOW VILLAS, LONDON, W11 2QX, is a pink Victorian building that wouldn't look out of place in my sister's city of residence, SAN FRANCISCO.
I have been studying the location on my London maps.
The flat is located in BAYSWATER, not far at all from PORTOBELLO ROAD.
I have also discovered:
1. The nearest tube station is NOTTING HILL GATE.
2. The nearest pub (according to the excellent Web site, FANCYAPINT) appears to be WALMER CASTLE, WESTBOURNE GROVE (home to Thai food, too).
3. The nearest football ground is LOFTUS ROAD (home of QUEENS PARK RANGERS) -- 2.3 miles. The nearest Premier League football ground is STAMFORD BRIDGE (home of CHELSEA) -- 3 miles.
I've got some more research to do, obviously, but at least I have the basics of pub and football covered!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Brick Lane. I want to go there.

"What do you want to see in London?"
My sister INGER asked me this question not long ago.
It's a trick question, of course.
What DON'T I want to see?
Off the top of my head:
1. I want to see a FOOTBALL match (but our December-January visit occurs during the traditional time of the THIRD ROUND OF THE FA CUP, complicating that aim).
2. I want to gaze at the THAMES while strolling across the MILLENNIUM BRIDGE. 3. I want to browse the BRICK LANE MARKET as early as possible on a Sunday morning.
Located at the northern end of Brick Lane and along Cheshire Street in East London, the Brick Lane Market operates every Sunday from around 4 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Almost anything you can imagine can be found at the market.
I don't really want to buy anything there (unless I find some RETRO FOOTBALL or VINTAGE REGGAE items), I just want to see it.
Well, that's three things I want to see.
I think there's only about 3,000,000 more.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I've waited 30 years. What's another 202 days?

I have been waiting to go to LONDON for at least 30 years.
I know it's been at least that long, because I hold in my hands the AA BOOK OF BRITISH TOWNS, a first-edition guidebook I purchase new in 1979 -- when I was 13 years old.
I have spent countless hours enraptured by the book's contents. So much so, that three strips of duct tape hold it together -- the original binding long ago consigned to history.
I have been to THE NETHERLANDS, CANADA, MEXICO and about HALF THE UNITED STATES since I purchased this book, but never London.
Thanks to my sister INGER, the long wait to visit England's capital ends this December. She is true world traveler, and she wants to celebrate her 40th birthday in London.
I am fortunate enough to tag along.
On this blog, I intend to chronicle my trip. Before we leave, I will also occasionally detail my preparations.
I think I will start my preparations where they really began -- with a 30-year-old book of mine.