The Quest to Finish Stuff!

So I had my *mumble* birthday this spring, and it occurred to me that there is quite a lot I haven’t done.  Namely, finish a few things.

Oh, I’m great at starting projects.  Really.  I’ve spent countless hours reading about various subjects in which I am interested, and I’ve amassed a great deal of crap related to activities surrounding those interests.

You know I’ve spoken about getting sucked into research.  Case in point:  dolls’ houses.  I love them.  I’ve had several as a child.  As an adult, I got interested in historical baby houses and finely crafted minatures not meant for playing.

The cabinet houses and baby houses were specially built for adult collectors; they also served as illustrations of idealized household furnishings and appointments.  Children were not allowed to touch them.

Doll's_house_from_Petronella_de_la_Court_1670-1690 by Typezero

Neither are we, sadly. :P

“Doll’s house from Petronella de la Court 1670-1690” by Typezero – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

While my mini skills are far from masterful, I remembered with fondness decorating my favorite dolls’ house, which my uncle made for me (and which I still have).  I acquired kits and some already assembled houses and room boxes, and a ton of craft supplies and even ready-made miniature furniture, fittings, accessories, etc., and another ton of used ones.  I bought and read many books on the subject.

TIPEnglish dolls’ houses are typically fully enclosed and the front wall or walls opens like a door.  American doll’s houses are backless.

 

I have begun three houses.  I have finished none.

I started knitting a washcloth for my mum (learning how to knit).  I have not finished that.

It’s actually pink.  And pathetic.

It’s actually pink.  And pathetic.

Image:  Elizabeth West

I began writing Secret Book and even traveled to London to look stuff up for it.  It’s not done either.

The actual calendar year is drawing to a close, but I still have a long time before my next birthday, so I’ll go by that.  This is the Year of The Quest to Finish Stuff!

I have many items on my list of crap I always wanted to do.  It’s not quite a bucket list.  So far, I’ve done the Bob Ross painting.  I liked that–it might happen again.

Before my next cake appears, groaning under a *mumble* amount of candles, I vow to finish at least most of the following things.  In no particular order, here they are:

  • The washcloth
  • At least ONE complete dolls’ house and one room box.  That means fully decorated, wired, and furnished; occupants are optional.
  • Four placemats (for desk lunches)–two each for my coworkers that I promised them last year. Oh, and one for myself that I cut out but never sewed.
  • All the books I collected for Secret Book research
  • The rest of the research for Secret Book
  • SECRET BOOK
  • Painting the inside of my crap house
  • Doing something about my crap bathroom

I may add to this list as items come up.  I’d like to publish something this year, either an actual book or in an actual publication that you may purchase.  I’d like to at least begin the sequel to Rose’s Hostage, and I have a doozy of a third-book case for Detectives Pierce and Rossberger to plunge into when they’re done mucking about with Joshua Rose and company.

Bucket items, like swimming in bioluminescent ocean water, looking through a huge observatory telescope, and visiting the Himalayas, will have to wait until I’m flush again.  That could take a while, at this rate.  I’m quite sure it will happen.

We dinoflagellates are excitedly waiting for you. 

We dinoflagellates are excitedly waiting for you.

Image:  Doug Perrine, Alamy / pacsafe.com

Things I Learned While Trying to Paint like Bob Ross

How many of you know who this is?

Image:  Bob Ross Incorporated / Wikipedia.com

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the man in the picture is Bob Ross, an artist who had a public television show called The Joy of Painting that aired all over the US, in Canada, and in Europe.

In this show, Bob would demonstrate a wet-on-wet painting technique in which he created the most amazing landscapes and seascapes merely by smooshing colors around on a canvas wet with liquid white (gesso) using various-sized brushes.

Watch him do this here:

Sadly, Bob is no longer with us, but his legacy lives on in endless reruns of his show, and the sale of painting kits, supplies, and classes where you can learn this technique.  I always wanted to do this.  Last year, I bought a Bob Ross beginner painting kit.

Today, I decided to try it.

I wish I could have filmed it for you–you would have found my experience pretty hilarious.  I used to dabble in painting (badly) and I haven’t done anything like this in many years.  I learned some things today.  Here are some of them.

  • When you buy a kit, open it the day you buy it. Don’t leave it in the closet for six months.   Mine was missing some things.  There was no fan brush (luckily I have one), and the tray had a space for one more tube of paint than it actually contained.
  • You can do this without an easel, though it’s more difficult. I put double-sided tape on a large cutting mat and used it to hold the canvas still.  Then I stood over it and painted.  I didn’t want to buy an easel until I knew if I would do this again.
  • Very, very old oil paints will still be good, if you can get the tube open. I ended up ripping the bottom off an old art kit tube of yellow ochre and another of burnt sienna, since the kit did not provide those colors.  When I finished, I just rolled the end of the tube back up and smashed it down.
  • Phthalo green will stain your brushes, your clothes, your table, and your palette FOR THE REST OF THEIR NATURAL LIVES.
  • I need FAR more odorless paint thinner than the kit provides. Like gallons of it.  Also, I used almost an entire roll of paper towels to clean up my mess.  There has to be a better way.
  • Beating the brush is just as much fun as Bob made it look on TV. I had to do it inside the coffee can that held my thinner, but it still made me laugh just like he used to.

Ready to see the result?  ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE READY?  Okay, here goes!

What’s that thing in the sky?  A UFO.  Hey, it’s my painting--nobody said I couldn’t put that in there!

What’s that thing in the sky? A UFO. Hey, it’s my painting–nobody said I couldn’t put that in there!

Painting and photograph by Elizabeth West

This technique is harder than it looks.  My misty foothills look like crap, especially the ones right above the water.  The first row marches straight across the canvas; real foothills don’t do that.

I had better luck with the water than the sky.  The reflection thing works just as advertised.  I’ll have to try again to get fluffy clouds like the ones Bob made.

Also, the instructions in the kit left out a lot.  I would have been better off cueing up an episode of The Joy of Painting and watching it as I went along.

The evergreen trees were easy, but the paint is so wet you really have to be careful not to muddy up the colors.  When Bob tells you to load the brush full, he means it. Using the palette knife takes a very light touch as well.  It turns out that I’m fairly good at cutting off a little roll of paint, but not so great at actually using it.

Like any new skill, painting this way takes practice.  I think I shall try again.  I like doing this–it’s quick, it’s fun, and I enjoyed creating a happy little world, even if my trees look a little bit pissed off.  Despite the horror of this first attempt, I think Bob would be proud of me for trying.

———-

It’s a day later, and I wanted to add a thought.  The most important thing I’ve learned from this? It doesn’t have to be perfect. Despite my mistakes, people have responded favorably to my lame attempt at art.  I’m happy with the painting, even though it isn’t as good as I’d hoped.  It’s still better than I expected.

And that’s about all we can do.  If our endeavors turn out fabulously, we’re golden. But silver is still pretty nice too.

Book Review! The Watchers, Book Two: Hidden Fire

I’m late with this, but here is my review of the The Watchers, Book Two:  Hidden Fire, the sequel to The Watchers:  Knight of Light, a thrilling YA fantasy by Deirdra Eden!

Continuing the mythology of the Books of Enoch and combining it with the history of the Wars of Scottish Independence, Eden crafts an exciting new adventure for her character.

Deirdra Eden, author of The Watchers series (don’t you just love her hair!?)

Deirdra Eden, author of The Watchers series (don’t you just love her hair!?)

Image: knightess.com / Amazon.com

It is a few years after the events of Knight of Light.  Lady Auriella (Aura) struggles with her duty as England’s Watcher and protector against the court’s perception of her as an eligible, powerless woman.  But Auriella still misses her fiancé Lucas, reported killed in the Crusades, and she cannot fathom taking a suitor.

The threat of Erebus and the Shadow Legion hangs over the kingdom, dismissed by King Henry’s successor Edward and the rest of the nobility.  Auriella knows its power, and the monstrous Shadow Lords keep trying to destroy her at every opportunity, even in her bath.

Somebody shut the freaking door!  You’re letting all the demons in!

Somebody shut the freaking door!  You’re letting all the demons in!

Image: imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net

Even as the Legion draws nearer, the ignorant Edward gives Auriella an impossible assignment in Scotland.  She must obey, even though it means abandoning her responsibility to the kingdom and her reunion with the newly returned Lucas, whom Edward has made his captain of the guard.

Lucas proposes to Auriella and she finally feels comfortable sharing her secret Neviahan identity with him, though he seems averse to it.  Blinding herself to doubt, Auriella sets out on her quest.

Eden’s storytelling continues to thrill.  An attack in Scotland by the dreaded Shadow Wolves chills the blood.  Auriella meets Azrael, Scotland’s mysteriously masked Watcher, when his tiger Baby saves her from the intended assassination.   Azrael and Korban and Orion, his fellow Neviahans with their own powers, puzzle Auriella.  She hasn’t spent much time with her own kind, and she has much to learn.

Azrael’s bullish and forward way disconcerts Auriella, but she finds that without the gift of Starfire–his fire combined with her blood–they cannot hope to defeat Erebus.  Not only that, but her link to him seems deeper than just their shared heritage and powers.  Despite the sensations her fellow warrior ignites in her, Ariella clings to her vision of the future–to return to London, reunite with her beloved Lucas, and save the kingdom from the enemy’s deceit.

Seriously, Auriella?  You didn’t see that coming? 

Seriously, Auriella?  You didn’t see that coming?

Image:  popsugar.com

Will the Neviahans succeed?  What will happen to the unprotected kingdom?  Could King Edward be any more of a jerk?  Find out yourself!

I enjoyed revisiting this world and the characters.  Ruburt the Dwarf, friend to Auriella, returns with wisdom and guidance for her.  No Cassi the pixie, darn it.  Perhaps she will return in a later installment.

Hidden Fire is a bit rougher than the first book (lots of swallowing hard and a few editing mistakes), but the story moves just as quickly.  Eden hints at a more mature romantic relationship for Auriella.  Young adult readers may see themselves in her longings and her struggle to master the huge responsibilities she’s been given–she’s got a lot going on, just like they do.  Growing up is hard, folks.

You can buy Hidden Fire on Amazon.  It’s available in paperback or on Kindle.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free app that will allow you to read books in that format on your computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

———-

Quotes from the book I liked:

“Open your heart and the man you are destined to be with will naturally fill that void.” –Pearl, Hidden Fire

Let’s hope so, Pearl.

“We have to go through hell to get to heaven.” –Azrael, Hidden Fire

Vocabulary – W is an upside-down M

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter W!

Waftage – the state of being wafted, or an old meaning: transportation through water or air.

I experienced major waftage on my recent flight to London. 

Wastrel – a spendthrift, or a foundling waif (abandoned child)

Welkin (Middle English; chiefly literary) The vault of heaven; the sky

Sea of clouds

BEHOLD THE WELKIN.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

Wether – a castrated male sheep; also wool from a previously shorn sheep.

Whey – the liquid that separates from the curd during the cheese-making process.

Whoreson – a bastard (illegitimate); a disliked and unpleasant person.

I shall smite you, contemptible whoreson!  Also, yer mama!

Image: Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky’s duel. Ilya Repin (1844–1930) / Wikimedia Commons

Widdershins – counterclockwise.

The Doctor and Clara watched in horror as the bewitched TARDIS lifted into the air and began to spin widdershins, throwing off sparks like purple lightning.  

Windigo (Ojibwa; others) also wendigo – a Native American cannibalistic spirit.  Stephen King played with this in Pet Sematary.  The word also refers to the transformation of a person who has eaten human flesh.  A psychiatric syndrome specific to this culture occurs when a person is under the delusion that he has become a windigo.

Woollies (British) – slang for woolen garments, particularly a sweater (in British English, a jumper).  I used this word in Secret Book, heh heh.

Woolly wearing a woolly.  :3

Woolly wearing a woolly.  :3 Buy the woolly at the link below.

Image:  hollyandlil.co.uk

Wormery – a container in which worms are kept for study or to make compost.  Find out more about the second use and how to make your own wormery here.

By the way, I learn from these posts as well; I had no idea you could make a wormery until just now.

Writhe (rhymes with tithe) to squirm about as in pain or effort; contort.  Like worms do when you try to pick them up.

Wroth (Middle English) angry.

“Verily, I was wroth to see the condition of the village after its plundering,” the knight said.

Wunderkind (German) “wonder child,” a child prodigy; one who becomes successful when very young.

452px-Mozart_painted_by_Greuze_1763-64

Allegedly, I was very successful at farting.

Image:  Portrait of a boy. Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805).  Wikimedia Commons. Unconfirmed portrait possibly of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Wuthering – the roaring of a strong wind.  See the famous Gothic romance Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brönte; the title is the name of the house in the book.  One could argue that the winds that were the house’s namesake reflect the tumultuous relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff.

Wye – a structure, particularly a railroad track, shaped like a Y.

Also the beautiful Wye Valley in Wales.  Yes, I put this in so I could use this picture that I took at Tintern Abbey.  Read William Wordsworth’s beautiful poem Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798 at this link.

Wye Valley- looking over Tintern Abbey ruins

Photo:  Elizabeth West

That’s all for today, kids.  May your waftage over the Wye land you not in a wormery, and don’t forget your woollies.

Happy Independence Day! Updates

Happy Independence Day!  For me, it’s Not-So-Happy-Wish-I-Were-British Day.  Or at least Wish-I-Were-In-London Day.

I miss this. 

I miss this.

Photograph: Elizabeth West

You might wonder why I’m so attached to England.  When I was a kid, my auntie married an Englishman  and moved to London (they’re divorced now, though she is still there).  This fascinated me–growing up in a small Missouri cow town, I had no concept of foreign places.  Getting Christmas presents from her thrilled.

I corresponded with my step-cousin in high school.  Pen pals were a big thing back then and since we had no internet, we wrote letters.  We sent each other teen magazines and painted nail varnish colo(u)rs on our missives.

Jackie magazine, 9 June 1979.  I had this one, until my mum threw out all my mags and comics while I was at music college.  GAH, MUM!!!

Jackie magazine, 9 June 1979.  I had this one, until my mum threw out all my mags and comics while I was at music college.  GAH, MUM!!!

Image: crazyaboutmagazines.com

When I turned eighteen, my parents’ graduation gift to me was a two-and-a-half week trip to London to visit Auntie, then-Uncle, and cousins.

I fell madly, passionately in love with it.

I wanted to go back, wanted it crazy bad, but it just didn’t happen.  So I tried my best to put it out of my mind.  It didn’t exactly go.  It lurked silently in my system until last year, when unrelated conversations with both European and American friends brought it roaring back to life.  A bit like how the chicken pox virus hangs out in your spine, only to cause shingles later.

I’ve changed a lot since that first visit, in various ways:

  • I’m not as picky. Seriously, my auntie thought I would starve to death; I barely tried any foods.  The last two times, I ate everything that didn’t eat me first.  Including haggis and black pudding.
This is delicious and there is no way I would have touched it back then. 

This is delicious and there is no way I would have touched it back then.

Photograph: Elizabeth West

  • I’m more experienced. At eighteen, I could not have planned an independent trip to Scotland or Wales.  Also, it’s lucky London is such an easy city to get around in.  I was the most clueless, small-town idiot ever and I’m surprised I didn’t get mugged or fall into the Thames.
Me at 18, in Regent’s Park rose garden.  Oh my God, what a dork.  #TBT (yeah, sorry, I know it’s not Thursday)

Me at 18, in Regent’s Park rose garden.  Oh my God, what a dork.  #TBT (yeah, sorry, I know it’s not Thursday)

Photograph by random English person using my camera

  • Technology has caught up. In the 1980s, no one had a smartphone.  Everyone had a London A-Z.  They still sell this marvelous map of the city, because not everyone has a phone (or wants one), but let’s face it; you look like a tourist standing around flipping through it.  And besides, the print has shrunk–oh, sorry, it’s my ancient eyes.  Well, bollocks.
Getting old ain’t for sissies. 

Getting old ain’t for sissies.

Image: imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net

Now everyone has their faces in their phone screens. You pause somewhere to check the directions and it looks like you’re texting or reading email (be careful to watch for phone snatchers, however).  So thank you, Google maps, for helping me blend in and still get around.  An updated A-Z made a great souvenir instead.

I’ve no idea when I will return.  Right now, I feel very much like I did after that first trip, wondering when or if it will happen again, and thinking it’s out of reach.  But I’ve learned one more thing since that time: anything can happen.  Anything at all.

Let’s hope anything does.

———-

UPDATES

  1. Secret Book is becalmed. I’ve slowly realized that it’s a much larger and more involved project than I thought.  The amount of research I still have to do to write convincingly about subjects of which I know nothing staggers me.  I’m still working on it, never fear.  The main priority is still to actually finish the book, but it will be the sketchiest first draft I’ve ever written.  I think that’s part of the problem; I’m headiting too much instead of just writing Blah blah blah check this later like I usually do.
  1. Brian Keene says he is finished critiquing Rose’s Hostage. I hope I get it back now.  I’m still trying to work out a subplot for a sequel.  The book did get a minor rewrite already; I replaced an interrogation scene with a MUCH better version.  It added to the word count, but fuck it.
  1. A friend is beta-reading Tunerville.  She’s my consumer test person; her job is to see if it’s readable.  I’m nervous because I want her to like it.  (She did like Rose’s Hostage.)
  1. I have three queries out on Tunerville at the moment. No word from anyone, but there’s always hope.

That’s all I have today.  Later this week, look for a vocabulary post, and by next weekend, I will post a review of the sequel to Knight of Light for you.

Everybody have a safe and happy Fourth!

A Victory for Love

I am so happy for all my LGBT friends today.  In a history-making decision, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.  This includes every state in the union.  No exceptions.

IT’S ABOUT GODDAMN TIME.

Excited farting rainbows

Despite what the religious right would have you believe, this push for equality had nothing to do with God, or making everybody be gay (you can’t turn people gay; they are or they aren’t), or with forcing churches to perform same-sex weddings.

See, you can’t do the last bit because the Constitution says you can’t. If you make laws that are based on your religion, then you don’t have religious freedom, because you’ve forced everyone to abide by your religion whether they want to or not.  The Founding Fathers wrote the damn thing exactly this way to prevent you doing just that.

What it also says is that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  At the time, people still thought slavery was pretty cool, that women were property and not people, and anyone engaging in “unnatural congress” was either a witch or a criminal (or both) and should immediately be put to death.

But you know, we learned some things between then and now.

No, it’s always and only been about legal marriage. The right to go to a courthouse and obtain a marriage license to wed the person you love.  You can have all the religion you want, but unless you have that piece of paper, you are not legally married and cannot avail yourself of the legal rights and protections that come with that status.  To name a few:

  • Social Security
  • Tax recognition purposes (including gift tax exemptions)
  • Immigration
  • Federal employee benefits
  • Health coverage

And let’s not forget the tragic story of Shane Bitney Crone, whose partner Tom Bridegroom died unexpectedly in an accident.  Tom’s family barred him from attending his funeral.  Shane could do nothing, because the two were not legally married.  From the linked article:

After Bridegroom’s untimely death on May 7, 2011, Crone was barred from attending the funeral and wake, and wasn’t mentioned in the obituary. His experience trying to obtain information from the hospital was similarly unsuccessful.  “To Tom’s family, I no longer existed, and to the government, Tom and I were mere roommates,” Crone notes.

Imagine if the love of your life died, and this happened to you.  Just think about it for a minute.

A friend of mine, Casey F., posted something on Facebook today that I’d like to share with you.  He was talking about the Confederate flag, but he pointed out our government is not supposed to discriminate (bold emphasis mine):

That’s part of our balance of government – the states have a certain amount of authority and the federal government has a certain amount of authority. And (in theory, anyway) the laws the state legislatures and Congress make are made by people we elect to represent us. The exception here is discrimination. Neither branch of government is supposed to make laws that discriminate. And our definition of discrimination is constantly evolving, so our laws must evolve as well…. 
So although the states should and do have the right to make their own laws as their citizens see fit, we are a civilized nation which should not allow discrimination on any level of government. So sometimes the federal government has to step in and say “no, you can’t do that because it isn’t fair to everyone, even if a lot of your citizens think it is.”

Way to go, Casey–you said it much better than I could.  It IS unfair to restrict the rights of citizens based on something they are and can’t help being–like being black.  Or female.  Or gay.

I experienced a mix of feelings today when I heard.  The first, jubilation.  I’m happy for my gay friends and loved ones who can get married now and have full legal status as life partners, same as my straight ones.  I said “YES!” out loud and did fist pumps at my desk when I saw the news.

The second, a little bit of surprise.  I honestly expected this not to pass.  I know, I know, but the justices of the Supreme Court are older, conservative people.  They have a lot of factors influencing their decision–I know courts are supposed to be impartial, but they are human also.  I expected it to go back to the lower court for some kind of weak amendment perhaps stating yes, it’s unfair, but maybe some bits are less unfair than others, and we can still do X but not Y.  As surprises go, this one rocked.

The third, pride.  For the first time in a very long time, I felt proud to be American.  Not fife-and-drum proud, but less embarrassed than usual.  Usually, when I go abroad, I want to hide.  I had actually considered cultivating a British accent so no one would know where I really live.

The guy on the left had a crush on the drum dude, you know.

Image:  The Spirit of ’76 by Archibald MacNeal Willard / Wikipedia.com 

Everybody in my monkeysphere is aware that I want a family and they know I’ve had a terrible time finding the right man.  I joked with them, “Hey, now it’s official; everyone except me is allowed to get married!”   For once, however, I’m not jealous.  The people who fought for their rights, and who ran to the courthouse and got married today have put up with a huge load of shite and they deserve every bit of happiness.  They earned it.

All couples, gay and straight, Christian and not, black and white and every combination, should celebrate this day!  It’s not just a victory for gay people.  It’s a victory for love.

James Horner 1953-2015

James-horner

Photo: Wikipedia

I am gutted.

James Horner, Oscar-winning composer of the scores to Titanic, Avatar, and Braveheart, has died in a plane crash.

Confirmations are coming in from all over the news.  This is a sad day for film and music fans alike.  I was so fortunate to see him in London at the Titanic Live concert.  I’m so glad I went.  I cannot even.  I just CAN. NOT. EVEN.

Your last ride was not in that plane.  Rest in peace, Mr. Horner.  We will miss you very much.

lastshot

British Airways–My New Favorite Airline (not just because it’s British)

So I’m back from England.  With some lovely souvenirs, my research well started, and a cold.

This baby perfectly expresses my feelings about it.  Also, we have the same hairstyle today.   

This baby perfectly expresses my feelings about it.  Also, we have the same hairstyle today.

Image:  Phaitoon / freedigitalphotos.net

Many of my European friends have trouble understanding why Americans don’t travel overseas much.  It’s partly because we have everything we could possibly want to visit right here–oceans, deserts, mountains, forests, you name it.

It’s also because flying overseas is not only expensive, but UNCOMFORTABLE.  And we don’t get the generous time off that Europeans and British people do.  A flight to Europe or the UK takes seven or eight hours.  That’s not counting all the time spent sitting around waiting to board, and flying to a hub because you live in a little tiny place with a little tiny airport.   Just the travel eats up two days of your holiday (there and back again).

Not as comfy as they look.

Not as comfy as they look.

Image:  artur84 / freedigitalphotos.net

Oh, sure, if you’re willing to pony up for a business class or first class seat, you could hang out in the lounge, but most of us don’t have the money for that.  Some airlines let you purchase time in a lounge.  That’s nice if you have a long layover, but if it’s under two hours, I’m thinking it’s not worth it.

For this trip, I did some homework (here, and here) and decided to buy a premium economy ticket on British Airways.  I’ve never flown them before, but they appeared on several lists touting how much better foreign airlines’ premium economy is than the US carriers.  As the Asian airlines and Air France tickets were out of my budgeted amount, I decided to go with BA.

They call their premium economy World Traveller Plus, and along with the fancy name, it does not disappoint.  No matter what, flying anything less than First long-haul is going to suck (and I’m just guessing, since that will probably never happen in my lifetime).  But for a bit more money, BA ensures that it will suck a little less.

To start, you get your own cabin. Yes, they separate you from the rest of the economy ticketholders, something that Delta (God love ‘em) does not do.  The last time I flew to London, I paid for an upgrade to Delta’s PE, and it was no better than cattle class.  All I got were four inches of extra legroom, but my neighbor was still in my lap.

A lot like this. 

A lot like this.

Image:  en.rocketnews.24.com

On BA’s WT+ (I’m not typing it six hundred times), the seats are wider.  WIDER.  There are TWO armrests and you are not jockeying for them, unless your neighbor has very fat elbows or is an asshole.

When you get on the plane, you get juice and a newspaper.  A British newspaper, no less.

JUICE.  OMG.  And you have a little drink tray.  No juggling your glass!

JUICE.  OMG.  And you have a little drink tray.  No juggling your glass!

Photo:  Elizabeth West

The British have a fetish for newspapers; they still read the crap out of them–on the airplane, the tube, etc.  I thought that was cute, until the first time I found myself on a train with a low phone battery and nothing to look at but shoes and silly adverts.

Like this one.

Like this one.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

 Then I found myself diving for people’s abandoned copies of the Metro or the Evening Standard, both of which you can get free at almost every station.  Coming back, they gave me a Daily Mail with a huge picture of Princess Charlotte on the cover.  I left it at work for coworkers to gaze at and someone appropriated it.  Fine by me; they stack up.

A hot towel follows the juice; Delta did this too, but that was the ONLY perk in premium economy.

In the seat back, you’ll find a big touchscreen through which you can access tons of shows and movies.  I watched the first episode of Fargo going over, before my Unisom kicked in and I had to pass out for a while.  I was gutted when I couldn’t find it on the way back–I wanted to finish the first season.  So I watched Interstellar instead, and finished Broadchurch.

Pretty sweet.  Though Interstellar would have been better on my 37” widescreen.

Pretty sweet.  Though Interstellar would have been better on my 37” widescreen.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

Note there are two USB ports for charging your phone or tablet.  You can listen to the shows through the lovely noise-cancelling headphones that come in your amenity pack.

Along with a pretty pillow and a shit blanket. 

Along with a pretty pillow and a shit blanket.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

Seriously, they could do better with the blankets.  I had to steal the extra one on the flight over to keep from freezing.  The best use for an airline pillow is in the small of your back–your own neck pillow is probably more comfy for sleeping, and definitely more sanitary.   But these weren’t too bad.

In the amenity kit, they included a small plastic bag containing a sleep mask, earplugs, a pen, a toothbrush and something I suppose was paste, and SOCKS.  Usually you only get socks in fancy class.

Nice, BA.  Nice.

Nice, BA.  Nice.

Photo: Elizabeth West

I already packed all these things on my own, including an inflatable footrest (that saved my back on the Delta flight, where I had a bulkhead seat and couldn’t use my bag as one). But I didn’t need the latter, because the seats have footrests that go up and down.  There’s not much room under them for your stuff, but the overhead bins are more than generous.

Dinner!

You get a menu with a choice of two entrees.  The food comes from the Club World menu, which is BA’s business class.  It’s airplane food–don’t expect a five-star Michelin experience.  However, they do their best to smarten it up with a real cloth napkin and metal cutlery.

The tray folds out from your armrest–it’s quite sturdy, and because the seats are wider, there’s no elbow whacking when you try to eat.  Lovely.

WT+ Supper

A real glass for the wine, too.

 

Photo: Elizabeth West

Going over, I had a pasta thing with artichoke hearts–in the picture–and it was pretty tasty.  Coming back, I chose the British beef.  Not bad, but the potatoes were quite mushy.  Bleah.  No worries; I had no problem with the rest of the meal.  It probably didn’t help that I had lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food at Heathrow.

Yum yum.  Every scrap of this was utterly delicious.

Yum yum.  Every scrap of this was utterly delicious.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

No matter how nice everything is, few people can sleep comfortably on a long-haul flight when they can’t lie down.  I’m a side sleeper, which doesn’t help.  The Delta flight, with no room to even turn sideways, was torture.  I prepped for this one by bringing my own mask, earplugs, and a packet of Unisom fast-melt tablets.

Thanks to a cabin that wasn’t completely full, enabling me to move to a nearby empty seat and stretch my legs into my own footrest, an extra blanket and my pashmina for warmth and the Unisom, I was able to get enough sleep to prevent a full zombification upon arrival.

Pretty much me last time.

Pretty much me upon arrival last time.

Image:  xfinity.comcast.net

The flight attendants on BA were pleasant and helpful.  I would give them all big fat raises–are you listening, executives?  Seriously, FAs don’t make nearly as much as they should, given all they do for passengers.  Like, you know, being trained to save our asses during an emergency and all that.

Overall, I’d rate my experience in World Traveller Plus with a great big fat A minus.  The minus addresses two things:

  • The shit blankets (I don’t expect much from an airline blanket, so perhaps it’s not a fair rating). I’m really glad I took my pashmina because without it, I would have frozen.
  • WT+ gets Club World food, but we’re not allowed to use the Club World loos. No, we had to go back into Economy (World Traveller on BA) and wait in line along with everyone back there.  Since there are so few people in WT+, I see no issue with us using the CW loos, but that’s up to the flight attendants, I suppose.  One side of my cabin had the rope up and the other didn’t.  If CW passengers didn’t mind, I guess they’d let us use it.

All in all, I’d fly this airline again in a hot minute.  In fact, I’m gutted because they have a sale on right now and I have to book by May 14 in order to take advantage of it, and I don’t have the money.  Arggh!

I did join their Executive Club and received 5,000 Avios points.  I could get more if I could get a BA-branded credit card, but since I can’t get a credit card right now, that’s out.  Oh well, I’ll slowly rack up points, because I’m definitely not ever flying an American carrier overseas again, unless I’m in First.  And maybe not even then.

New favorite airline. 

New favorite airline.

Image:  anglotopia.net

Better Late than Never: A-Z Reflection

atoz [2015] - BANNER - 910

I’m home from England now (dammit), so I have a bit of time to do my reflection post.

This A-Z has been difficult.  Not because I have been traveling, or because I worked remotely while traveling, or even because I didn’t plan a strategy as thoroughly as I did last April.

This happened.

This happened.

Yesterday was such a long day.  My plane left at four, and I went back through several time zones and arrived the same evening at ten.  I had time to finish Broadchurch series two and watch Interstellar on the plane and barely made my connection.

And apparently, jet lag from time traveling makes me clumsy.  I decided to go out and get some groceries after arriving home.  I put my foot down wrongly on the Crumbling Albatross’s deteriorating front steps and tumbled down them, landing half on the pavement and half on the lawn.

I’d post a pic of my gory skinned knee, but it’s pretty gross, so here is an adorable kitten instead. 

I’d post a pic of my gory skinned knee, but it’s pretty gross, so here is an adorable kitten instead.

Image:  pinterest.com

No, it’s been difficult because I’m not organized overall.  Something tells me that it’s time to fall back and regroup.  However, despite the hapless flapping about, I did have some productive moments the last two weeks.

  • I started to get a good sense of the period by reading old newspapers in the British Library. (Also, I’m chuffed as hell that I have a reader’s pass to one of the largest research libraries in the entire world.  I feel so intellectual, heh heh.)
  • I found a market at St. James’ Church on Piccadilly and bought some old coins that Brit Character might have had in his pocket at the time.
The sixpence always makes me think of Paddington.

The sixpence always makes me think of Paddington.

Image: Peggy Fortnum / paddington.com

  • I got to know London a little better–at one point, I just ended up wandering around an area and realized that I could find my way back if I got lost, because I knew roughly where I was in the first place. Plus, I felt more confident there and had less need to plan out every step of every journey.

I think the recent heartbreak had something to do with the disorganization.  But it has mostly passed (mostly).  It’s time to untangle the knot of information I’ve gleaned and try to make something out of it.

Next year, I’d like to do an A-Z similar to the character one.  I’ll be thinking about it in plenty of time.

Z is for Zapped

atoz [2015] - BANNER - 910

IT’S THE END OF THE CHALLENGE!  And I am completely zapped.  I can’t even believe I finished this time.

Again, this kitty perfectly expresses my feelings. 

Once again, this kitty perfectly expresses my feelings.

I’m back in the British Library, reading more newspapers in the Newsroom.  I’m wearing my scarf around me like a shawl; they won’t let you take coats into the reading rooms, and it’s freezing in here.  In fact, it’s been cold this week, and the bank holiday weekend promises to be even cooler.  I forgot to wear a jumper today, too.

That’s not freezing, but it’s not warm either.

That’s not freezing, but it’s not warm either.

Image:  accuweather.com

I’ll probably bail soon and go visit Word on the Water again.  My time here, though short, has been fruitful–I’ve made enough notes on things I can research elsewhere, and I do need to do some field research, and walk around in actual places.

London Transport Museum might be on the agenda as well.  If not this visit, then perhaps another time.  I have a source, a lovely British gentleman I met online through a photos page on Facebook, who has a keen interest in British transport and is from London originally, about the time I’m researching.

We’re not meeting in person this visit, because he lives too far from here, and I have neither the time nor the money to travel outside the city.  But he’s agreed to answer questions via email.

Once I’ve posted this post and possibly the A-Z Reflection, don’t expect to hear from me until I get back.  I’ll have a review of both legs–overnight and not–of my British Airways flights for you, complete with pictures (!).

See you soon.