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Archive for March, 2015


March 24th, 2015 at 11:10 am

Hej is Swedish for hello! I spent, and I do mean spent, last weekend in Stockholm. Why Stockholm? My grandparents were Swedish, I grew up with my grandmother speaking Swedish, and I though, after my adventures with students in Iceland that I should go. I shopped hard to find the right flight and hotel, preferrably leaving from Heathrow. It all came in for under $400 with the airport transport and a great central hotel with breakfast as I heard (rightly) how expensive Stockholm is.

I had a marvelous time; it was very fun to wander around the Old Town, look at all the cool Swedish design, and sample excellent seafood. I was glad I planned carefully as things were indeed staggeringly expensive, but I found great places and things to do that didn't kill the budget. There was a great museum on Scandi living called the Nordiske Museet on one of the small islands that make up Stockholm. Next door was another huge museum containing the reconstructed 1628 ship that sank in Stockholm harbor 20 minutes after sailing. Everyone was lovely and friendly and spoke English in response to my faltering Swedish. And I have a Scandi surname which everyone commented on, so I got to talk with lots of people--nice for chatty me when traveling solo.

Got back to London at 9:30 on Sunday night feeling like I'd been gone weeks. DH and DD here in a couple of days! I spent more than I'd planned on gifts, but it was so lovely. Yesterday I went to another gallery with students, then stayed on to go to the John Singer Sargent show at the NPG. Very interesting but came home exhausted after days on my feet. Only two weeks of classes left, but with Easter Monday off, that's only three days after tomorrow since I teach two days a week.

My editing work for the d--m textbook publisher has still not been paid, and I'm getting pretty hacked off. My contact forgot to invoice them, but said they screwed up. They owe me $2500 which better show up soon. Sitting in my sunny flat before my afternoon meeting, and really again feeling so blessed and so lucky to have this time.

Finally, a little spending!

March 10th, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Although Marylebone Market was nowhere to be found when I got there, I did have a nice walk there. Apparently the market is only during the summer. I haven't been in that neck of the concrete for a long time, and it is very exclusive with great design stores and a branch of my favorite Daunt Books. But again, I spent nothing. How is that possible? Even yesterday I brought coffee to school, then shepherded my War and Lit class to the Churchill War Rooms for which they paid 13 GBP, and because we're Imperial War Museum members, it was free for me.

Since the Iceland trip is coming up in two days, I'm trying to eat the contents of my fridge with much success. Although I seem to be surviving on roast vegetables and sweet potatoes, it's nice food.

But skyping with DD yesterday she insists she's outgrown all her yoga pants and leggings--but LandsEnd has no black ones until June. I like LandsEnd, but sure wish they had staples always in stock. So I ordered her two pairs from and a pair of jeans--with free shipping and a promotional code it was around $40. And today I purchased two tickets to the Highgate Cemetery tour for when DH arrives. Aren't we wild livers?

Grading papers all morning, but off to a meeting in 20 minutes. If I can manage it, I'll walk there.

Saturday Strolls

March 8th, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Trying to keep up with which London neighborhood is currently cool is too much for my middle-aged self, but someone told me all the junk from Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane has now moved to Walthamstowe. So I dutifully went there yesterday, and it indeed was full of junk. It is apparently the longest market in the UK, but triumphantly, though I sampled many things, I walked away with nothing.
Then on to hipster haven at Spitalfields which also left me yawning. I did ooh at Shad Thames shops, then on to more high-end shopping. I haven't been to Fortnum and Mason in years--but it was so incredibly crowded in there, I gave up after 15 minutes. Salt beef seems to have swept the country in the last few years so I stuck my head into the salt beef bagel places in the East End and again at Selfridges--sampled some, sampled Truman beer, Italian orange Easter cake, and very high- test chocolate. I have to say, it was all a feast for eyes, but my only purchases were the Evelyn Waugh novel I'm teaching next week (free with my Waterstone's card!) and a coffee (free with my Costa points. ) I even got 1p back from Waterstone's so was entertained, fed, and happy while making 1p.

Off to Marylebone Market now....

The Day After

March 6th, 2015 at 09:11 pm

I've been home most of the day with a pen in hand, writing comments on papers. One class down, about one and a half to go. Some won't need extensive comments, but some will. I wish the shoemaker's elves would come and finish them up.

So why the day after? Yesterday was spectacular, at least in my geek universe. I got up early and queued for day tickets at the National Theatre to see Ralph Fiennes in a Shaw play. We got tickets for 15 GBP, so I was thrilled. I camped out in a sunny spot on the Southbank and corrected more papers, then a hike over the river through Embankment Gardens to the tube back. After lunch and more grading, I went for a special tour of Parliament with three other faculty. A Labour MP took us to his office (small--but the view!) then all through Parliament itself--including the underground chapel, the river terrace etc. What a treat. He spent hours and hours with us.

Then I walked down to the Embankment again and to the theatre. I had a quick sandwich and cup of coffee and settled in for a long but fabulous play. Rather than hopping right on the tube home, I walked with a colleague across the river to Trafalgar Square to see the new sculpture, then through Leicester Square and finally back to Tottenham Court Road for the tube home. I was exhilarated and so happy--What a beautiful day. Of course today, I am exhausted. Nothing like grading papers to put you to sleep. All of that joy for 20 GBP--15 for the ticket, and 5 for dinner.

Another Very Good Day

March 4th, 2015 at 09:05 pm

My first class went on a long walk today through all the Bloomsbury squares. Now we've been here for six weeks; a person would think they might have discovered them before? They're a two-minute walk away. But it was fun to show them where Virginia Woolf lived, and Yeats, and Dickens, and a host of others.

My other class also went well, and I had been a bit grumbly about students who have been a little lax. Yet when I left, my most trying student said, "Don't leave. We like your classes best." I went home with a big smile on my face.

I spent nothing until I went grocery shopping this evening, when I spent 20 GBP. I had a voucher for double loyalty points, so stocked up on things I'll need soon like more coffee, bottled water for upcoming trips, and laundry soap. I'm a bit pleased as I've managed to wean myself off half and half in my coffee and switch to whole milk. Perhaps I'll get it down to 2 percent someday, but think I must be saving some fat and calories.

I have a huge pile of grading since last night was theatre night. "Once," the musical we saw was very good, and my colleague bought me a drink which you could have on the stage! Very fun.

Long Lists of Plans

March 2nd, 2015 at 09:37 pm

Since I doubt I will be back in London with this much time in front of me for years, I spent much of Friday rambling in Hampstead Heath. It was sunny and glorious. There was even some hardy soul swimming in one of the ponds.

I bought a couple of cheap travel guides in the Oxfam shop, walked all the way down to Swiss Cottage tube station, then did some grocery shopping. I fell seriously short of my goal of funding three weeks shopping with my Nectar (loyalty card) points. But I did have enough for a single week's shopping, which I will cash in on soon.

After endless hours comparing travel sites and deciding against Ryanair flights, I've pushed back my Sweden jaunt for a couple weeks. I can get a decent timed flight on a decent airline, two nights in a downtown Stockholm hotel with airport transfers for under $400. The hotel includes breakfast. I've been a little worried about Swedish prices, but have been doing some serious reading on where to eat well and cheap(ish). I grew up with a Swedish grandmother and really feel drawn there. I'm very excited.

And the next month is full of many other joys--I'm trying to pence pinch a bit to help justify all these joys. I brought my own coffee today which is a rarity in London. Although travel mugs are for sale, you never see someone transporting coffee. And decent coffee is over $3 with even the university machine-made swill at $2. The fancy-pants grocery offers free coffee with their loyalty card so in the four-hour gap between my second and third class, I went over there for a cup. This coupled with my packed lunch maybe saved me 8-10 GBP today. Well, maybe as I usually bring my own lunch.

Tomorrow my office buddy is taking me out to lunch as I took her to dinner in November when she came to talk to our students. I also have a free theatre ticket to "Once,"so that should be fab. Another day in paradise.