Friday, December 18, 2009

The Season is Upon Us

This morning on first check out the window into the 7:00 AM darkness, there were snowflakes swirling around the streetlights! Soon after we were tromping through the park:

It was a perfect day to do a mad dash around town for last minute Christmas shopping and drink in the atmosphere. Dazzling lights, crowds, outdoor fairs, slippery sidewalks, occasional flurries, hot chocolate on the street corners, carolers here and there. The season is very much upon this town, and it is a great place to be.

But alas, we are bailing out. It is off to India again, but this time with visas. The trip has inflated to grander proportions than the original, aborted version. We'll be two weeks, girls in tow, and a much more elaborate ($$$) itinerary. I will attempt to report along the way.

There - a blog entry, #2 for December (that's double November's output) and the cab is due in 10 minutes. Not sure where the time is going.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A December Morning

This morning I'm awake by 7:00, but the only hint of the new day is the soft murmur of the city coming to life – the dawn still a ways off. Must get the girls up and off to school as Pam is buying seasonal knick-knacks in Germany with her sister Susan and our good friend Kate Ditzler. A few rumbles and bumps indicate life is stirring in the teenage domain upstairs, so I can congratulate myself on having achieved my first objective without even leaving bed. So nothing to do then but brew my morning tea and saddle-up Pudds for her walk.

As we step out there is a faint glow in the eastern sky making silhouettes of the now barren trees in Regent's Park. The frozen puddles from yesterday's rain give way to our footsteps with a satisfying crunch. Trails of steam rising from the grass guide me to the little treasures left by Pudds. Ah, the many benefits of crisp temperature found in the far north...

The run-off from the rain has created a slight but perceptible current in the canal this morning. It has Pudding completely perplexed; she seems to think the drifting flotsam and jetsam are self-propelled life forms. Barking, running back and forth, wagging her tail, etc. Very silly. A pair of joggers stop to share my amusement.

By 8:30 I am packing myself into a seriously jammed Jubilee line train, heading for the Knightsbridge Golf School. This outfit is hidden in the basement of a sumptuous Georgian apartment complex in Lowndes Square, just a stone's throw (or chip shot) from Harvey Nichols. Not sure if they can help me, but the proprietors are a colorful pair of star-struck golf experts, catering to a high brow clientele including actors, royals, and PGA tour players. In fact (or so I'm told) Sean Connery learned to swing a club here before filming the famous golf scene in Goldfinger. Talk about Groovy, Baby!

After 30 minutes of flailing away I've warmed to the point where the fresh air back on the street feels invigorating. The xmas-themed window decor at Harvey Nicks is absolutely fantastic. But alas the rain turns on again, so I duck back into the tube for cover. Emerging in South Kensington, I dash into a small cafe and arm myself with a cappuccino and the Financial Times – I have no umbrella, you see.

Here's an amusing commentary on the unfolding Dubai fiasco that I found in the FT: "When you start building a third island shaped like a palm tree, intending it to be as big and crowded as Manhattan, you are crying out for a sober voice to bark: 'Stop!' But when that island is just one atoll in an artificial archipelago that would reconfigure the Persian Gulf coast into a thicket of trees, a map of the world, a whirling galaxy, a scythe and a sun that looks like a spider, what you need is some corporate restructuring". --Jim Krane

With the showers eventually abating, I stroll over to the Victoria and Albert Museum for a cultural moment. My objective is the Islamic collection, having become interested in (more accurately "somewhat aware of") Islamic art and decor while in Istanbul last weekend. Oh yes, it was Turkey for Thanksgiving for your intrepid Shields family, so let me conclude with some shots:

Sunset over one of the many mosques

Proffering turkish tea did not lead to increased sales with this shrewd bunch

Byzantine cisterns: a place to save water for the inevitable siege

The fantastic Topkapi Palace. This the Harem section, where Tiger would hang-out

Yes Virginia, there really is such a thing as a Whirling Dervish