Save the London Book Barge! and NaNoWriMo whatever; I’ve lost track now

Remember this?

The book barge, Word on the Water.  Step inside (watch your head) and discover a nice selection of used books. 

The London book barge, Word on the Water.  Step inside (watch your head) and discover a nice selection of used books.

Word on the Water needs our help!  They put in for a permanent tender at Paddington Station, and the Canal and River Trust of London awarded the place instead to a large corporation who wanted to put a coffee boat there.  Seriously.  Like there aren’t any coffee shops anywhere near Paddington (there are a zillion coffee shops in London).

Matt Zitron has written an impassioned plea in a HuffPo article about it.  Read it; I’ll wait.

Done?  Please consider signing the petition, even if you’re not a Londoner.  If you are, don’t let big business kill the little places that give London its charm. Bookshops are in the business of selling dreams, and we all need a little of that.  Plus, a floating bookstore is the height of cool and these people are very nice.  Thank you.

——–

Okay, now that I’m off my soapbox, I have completely lost track of NaNoWriMo.  I’m hanging on by a thread here!

Secret Book is coming along; however, there is NO way I’m going to be finished by the end of the month.  I expect to reach the NaNo 50,000-word goal, but it is not going to be done until I’m done.  Probably not until Christmas, actually.

And I still have a metric ton of research to do.  It’s not a problem.  I have time.  Right now, all I want to do is finish the damn thing.

In Tunerville news, I sent off a submission copy.  Since that will take approximately three months for them to review it (if they do), and I forgot to enclose the SASE for my rejection (sigh), I’ll probably never know if they even looked at it.  So back to the queries.

In Rose’s Hostage news, there is no news.  Sorry to disappoint you (and me!).  Brian did say he was putting a manuscript in the mail; let’s hope it was mine.

Now I must leave you, as I need to finish one scene and begin another that I didn’t have time to do at lunch today.  Go read a book (and sign that petition!).

Some Thoughts about God and Tunerville

No NaNoWriMo tonight.  I’m about to make an unsolicited submission of Tunerville in its entirety, and something a friend on Google+ said got me thinking.

On the cusp of this activity, and given that Tunerville relies quite heavily on the concept of God (no, it’s not Christian fiction), I wanted to clear up a few things.

My friend said that you can see, hear, and touch happy gay couples and their families, which proves they’re real, and that the religious people might want to remember that there isn’t any conclusive proof of God.

Since quite a few of my friends on that forum (and some IRL) are atheists and I am not, I just wanted to put in

TWO CENTS

Image:  Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here’s what I think people don’t understand about God and this whole thing.  Faith, by its definition, is a belief in things not seen.  It doesn’t demand proof.  It doesn’t have to.  It’s not science.

When people see something that contradicts their faith, like happy gay families with well-adjusted children, they can’t reconcile it in their heads with what they’ve been taught.  It sets up cognitive dissonance.  That is a state in which the mind can’t reconcile two things with each other.  In short, the happy gay couple and their well-adjusted kids hurts their brains.  And they get defensive.

The captcha for this photo was Wicked Guitar Solo.  If that wasn’t God trying to say something ironic, I don’t know what is. 

The captcha for downloading this photo was “Wicked Guitar Solo.”  If that wasn’t God trying to be ironic, I don’t know what is.

Image:  stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To deal with this, the people either have to change the way they think about their faith and their beliefs, or they can condemn and dismiss what they’re seeing.  It’s WAAAAAAY easier to dismiss something than it is to change your entire outlook, so that’s what people do.  And to prove to themselves that they are right in their faith, they castigate those they have condemned and dismissed.  They punish and persecute, because they think they are right.  They’re not, but you can’t convince them of that because they have decided they don’t want to be convinced.

The best you can do is practice tolerance and acceptance.  You’re modeling it to them not just by accepting that gay people exist, this is a thing, it’s fine and natural and that is life and whatever.  You also model it by tolerating them.

Yes, you heard me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying you should tolerate discrimination, hate crimes, rudeness, or behavior like that.  But you have to remember, these people are operating in a haze of stuff they’ve most likely been spoon-fed since babyhood.   If they’ve come to it later in life, it’s probably due to a huge shift in their paradigm because of something unpleasant or life-changing, and they’re clinging to it with all their might because fuck that shitty thing that happened; if I follow Jesus, maybe it won’t happen to me again.

I was raised Roman Catholic, and I grew up in a town full of Baptists and Methodists.  The Methodists and some of the other offshoot churches didn’t care much what we were up to down at old St. Mary’s, but the Baptists were convinced we didn’t have our ducks in a row, and it was their God-given duty to get us to follow the right path.

I grew up hearing the following:

  • Bead squeezer
  • Fish eater (it was my fault we didn’t have pizza on Fridays in the school cafeteria)
  • You’re not going to Heaven because you’re not saved
  • You weren’t baptized right (you gotta be dunked; that trickle on your tiny baby head wasn’t good enough)
  • You worship statues (what the–?? It’s art, people)
  • You shouldn’t be praying to Mary; you should be praying to God
Well, all righty then.  I’ll just be over here, giving birth to Saviors.

Well, all righty then.  I’ll just be over here, giving birth to saviors.

Image:  Sassoferrato –Jungfrun i bön (1640-1650). National Gallery, London/Wikipedia

Not one time can I ever remember giving a crap what these people were doing at their churches.  I did go to other services with some of my friends–a Lutheran one, a Methodist wedding, and assorted other denominational variations.

For a short while in middle school, I had a friend named Val who was Pentecostal (what people called “holy rollers”).  We went to their church one evening during a sleepover at her house.  Having grown up in the Catholic Church, where you sit the hell down and shut up and don’t speak unless you’re giving responses and by God you better not poke your brother with the liturgy book during the homily and DON’T DROP THE HOST, that was weird.

People waving their hands, standing up, letting the Spirit move them, or maybe they had ants in their pants, I didn’t know.  Yelling “Amen!” and “Praise Jesus, YAASS!”  I just sat there with my eyes the size of bus tires waiting for it to be over.

None of this, thankfully.

None of this, thankfully.

Image:  Shelley Mays/Gannett/usatoday.com

I had to admit; I thought it was kind of cool that they felt that strongly about their religion.  My friend and her mother were absolutely convinced they had the line on Jesus.  But the best part was they never tried to make me believe what they did. 

Val never came to church with me because they moved away, but I bet Mass would have been just as weird to her.  But see, I could tolerate them and even be friends with them because they tolerated me, even though I was different to them.  And that’s what getting along is all about.

Some of my atheist friends think God is a delusion.  I don’t care if they believe in him or not.  However, I don’t like hearing that I’m delusional or whatever because I do.  They’d squawk like hell if I said they were going to burn because they didn’t.  I deserve the same courtesy, thank you.  Most of my friends are pretty good about it.  If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be friends with them, not because they didn’t believe in God, but because that shit is annoying.

As for the religious right, in my opinion, God doesn’t give a flying rat’s ass if people are gay, straight, black, white, purple, green, or tattooed.  If he did, no one would be gay, there wouldn’t be gay animals, and if you put one drop of ink on your body, you would burst into flames.  Not happening–he doesn’t care.

A GOD AND CHRIST

Images:  jahsonic.tumblr.com / Wikipedia

If God exists, and I think he does (and not just because I grew up with that concept), I think Buddy Christ is much more accurate than a judge-y, Zeus-like figure shooting fire and brimstone at all the sinners.  But whether your concept is one or the other, or none, I’m not going to judge you.  I think you’re wrong to hurt people over it, and I’ll fight like hell to keep you from doing that, because it’s stupid. So is some of the old-fashioned junk the Catholic Church teaches, which is why I don’t go to church anymore, and why I think Pope Francis is a total badass for trying to make changes.

Now my friend who said there is no proof of God is quite right about the hypocrisy of the situation.  If you can’t see, hear, or touch God, how do you know he wants you to persecute gay people?  Because it’s written in a book?  Prove that God wrote the book.

You can’t.

It’s a matter of faith.

Just because you don’t believe in God doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t mean I’m delusional for thinking he does.  Atheists and Christians alike need to remember that before you can change someone’s mind, you have to understand why they think the way they do.  While you’re doing this, you might just learn something–if you’re paying attention.

If you can’t convince them, then let it go and find some common ground, because all the fighting is getting really fucking old.

So if you get to read Tunerville (and I hope you do), remember that.  I’m not telling you what to think; I’m only telling you a story based on what I think.  I hope you are entertained by it.  That’s all it’s there for.

NaNoWriMo 2014 – Baby it’s cold outside

Brr, it’s cold in here.  The weather has turned.  Autumn is segueing into winter.  Though I’m enjoying the Wearing of the Scarves (all six of the ones I bought in the UK, though not at once), I’m not liking the frigid wind much.  Poor little Psycho Kitty is going to need her space blanket insulation much sooner than I thought.

This happened during the polar vortex last year.

This happened during the polar vortex last year.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

I’d do it tonight, but she’s ensconced in her doghouse and I don’t want to haul her out to wrap it.  She didn’t emerge when I checked on her earlier, a sign that she’s not comfortable outside it.  It’s somewhat warmer in there, and she has a fluffy bed and a wrap round it, so she’ll be fine for now.

NaNoWriMo news:  word count is 1,821 today, and I am counting the 289 I wrote previously and plugged into this scene where they belong.

As for the Universe, I’m still mad at it.  I completely understand what it’s like to be this person right now.

Kinda wishing I had her powers, too. 

Kinda wishing I had her powers, too.

Image:  tvdinnerandamovie.com

So the book is coming along despite the ridiculousness that is my life.  I finished correcting Tunerville, I have a very nice cover letter written for its submission to Imprint-of-Big-Publisher, and I actually slept all the way through last night without waking up.

Keep your fingers crossed for my submission. I have a feeling the books will be just the spell I need.  Let’s hope for a good outcome.  Magic always has a price, as you know.

Image:  enchantedbyfilm.tumblr.com/

NaNoWriMo 2014 – Remember remember, the Fifth of November.

Gunpowder, treason, and plot.

bonfirenight

Image: theschoolrun.com

It’s Guy Fawkes Night in England, otherwise known as Bonfire Night.  Read about it here because I’m too tired to explain it to you.

Speaking of plot, the Universe took the big shit on me today, and I channeled my pain into three scenes for Secret Book that I was going to save, but they demanded my attention tonight.  I have not eaten and I have cried my eyes out and I can barely see, but there they are.

5,218 words.

Good night.

NaNoWriMo Day 1 – I was supposed to be doing what?!

Goddamn it, I’m tired.  Good thing I already wrote 46% of my NaNoWriMo obligation.

Tonight, my Doctor Who meetup group went to a Harry Potter pub quiz at our favorite mobile eatery.  Outside.  It is about 40 degrees. That’s Fahrenheit; Celsius would be about 4.

Which felt accurate. 

Which felt accurate.

Image:  Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m still not warmed up entirely, despite two helpings of hot butterbeer (don’t ask me what was in it, but it was delicious) and climbing under two blankets.

So I’m rereading my outline.  My life is about to get very antisocial, and I needed to spend some time with my friends before I actually step through the dark and scary wardrobe and come out in the landscape of Main Character 1’s mind.  Writing stories with hugely emotional characters makes me wish even more that I had someone to ground me when I leave their heads.

Well, there we go then.

Well, there we go then.

Image:  buzzfeed.com

I think it best to write most of that person’s scenes first, as much as I can, and then get into Main Character 2’s head, where things are a little lighter.

In the meantime, I found a place I might be able to submit Tunerville unsolicited, so I’ve been doing another hard copy edit.  It’s so much fun lugging around a giant binder full of paper.  I’d love for someone to say, “I want to read your book!” and then I can watch his/her face when I thump down that huge pile of wood pulp and say, “Here!”  Muwahaha.

“I don’t understand--I pictured it like this.”

“I don’t understand–I pictured it like this.”

Image:  vertda/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s an ugly process, but that’s the way it goes.

NaNoWriMo 2014 – Secret Book Begins!

I must be nuts to do NaNoWriMo again, but here it goes!  On November 1, I will plunge headfirst into Secret Book and I won’t be out again until the end of the month.  It worked for Tunerville, so I reckon it will work for this book as well.

As I mentioned before, I have a complete outline (one that actually makes sense).  At the end of it, I should have a very rough but workable draft.

If I survive, that is.

If I survive, that is.

Image:  Deb/On the Flip Side…Baking *damn that meatloaf at the link looks good*

In no particular order, I’ve been doing these things to get ready.

Watching all the TV shows I got behind on during my holiday

 I may have to skip Season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.DI’m so behind there’s no way I’ll get caught up.  Since I just got a spanking new 4G phone, perhaps I can sneak it at lunchtime.  Or watch an episode a night until I’m done.

But I’m also behind on Once Upon a Time (though not by as much), and I missed The Walking Dead on Sunday night.  Truly a first-world problem, having all these great shows.  If I get caught up, I can spare an hour or two here and there to watch.

Preparing all the digital resources I will need

This includes making playlists, which I’ve already done, and syncing them across my devices so no matter if I’m at home or writing on my lunch at work I can plug in and create.  Music helps me evoke emotion in my writing, and this particular work is very much tied to one composer.

Maestro.  :3

Maestro.  <3 <3 <3

Image:  ludovicoeinaudi.com

Cleaning the damn house

Meant to do that on Sunday; didn’t get it done.  Urp.  I think I should spend some time every night this week doing some clearing up.  I wish I could hire someone to come in once a week whilst I do this—then I could use that time for writing instead.

Letting everyone know I’ll be AWOL for a bit

As much as I need fun breaks, I will have to bail on some things I want to do.  Don’t take it personally.  It’s the book.

Oh, you go ahead.  I’ll just be over in the corner angsting over my pages. 

Oh, you go ahead.  I’ll just be over in the corner angsting over my pages.

Image:  stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is extremely difficult to find a subtle picture on that website.

See?

See?

Image:  imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

That includes you, my lovely readers.  I’m not sure if I’ll be blogging every day like I did last time.  Depending on how it is going, I might only post once or twice a week and give you updates.  When I’m writing well, I sometimes blow right past my bedtime.

Working out my time management strategy

I refuse to stop working out, and I still have a holiday skating show to do, so time management will be key here.  I cannot spend eight hours surfing the Internet (noooo!).  I’ll have to work every spare moment that I have.

I’ve included a small widget called Picometer at the upper right corner of the main blog page, right below the header, to show my word count.  It’s set at NaNo’s 50,000 word default.  Since I’ve already started Secret Book, so far I have 23,187 words.

manatee30

Image:  calmingmanatee.com

I got the widget at http://www.writertopia.com/toolbox –it’s just a small bit of HTML.  Many thanks go to the designer.  It’s set now at the number of words I’m starting with, so if you care, you can check my progress even when I’m not posting.  I promise I’ll update it every day.

My lunch hour is almost over, so back to my actual, paying work I must go.  If any of you are participating in NaNoWriMo, please put a link in the comments so I can follow you as well.

Happy Halloween!

 I don’t know what it is either.  Just smile and nod and back away slowly. 

I don’t know what it is either.  Just smile and nod and back away slowly.

 Image:  supakitmod/FreeDigitalPhotos.net  

 

The Saga of Secret Book Begins!

It’s been a week since I returned from invading the U.K.  I finally took the British money out of my purse, but I left my Oyster card and tube map in it.  I’m not removing them.  Nope, not gonna do it.  You see, I’m planning to go back in April for a London meetup of my online community, so I will need these things.  Plus, I like to take them out and look at them from time to time; makes me feel less angsty about leaving.

I miss it.  :(

*sigh* I even miss the slow-ass District line….

*sigh* I even miss the slow-ass District line….

Photo:  Elizabeth West

I still hear the tube announcements in my head.  “The next station is…Turnham Green.  Change here for the District line train to Richmond.”  “The next station is…Earl’s Court.  Change for the Piccadilly line train to Cockfosters.”  (That will always and forever be funny.)

Just kidding; I’m sure it’s a lovely place.    

Just kidding; I’m sure it’s a lovely place.

Image:  Lillo Montalto Monella / thefirstpint.co.uk

Now that I’m back, I have three things to do:

  1. Continue working out to maintain weight loss caused by traipsing around Cardiff and London. In fact, ramp it up; I can’t walk outside much longer before it turns nasty.
  2. Work.  (The bills didn’t go on holiday, more’s the pity.)
  3. Finish Secret Book.

In fact, to finish it, I’m planning to use the NaNoWriMo concept again, just as I did with Tunerville.  I won’t formally join in, since I’ve already started it (and that is against the rules), but doing it got me through the book last time.  I’ve completely outlined Secret Book and I think what I have is workable, so there won’t be any plot deconstruction.

Just building…building…and more building. 

Just building…building…and more building.

Image:  Worakit Sirijinda/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As for the research, I can finish it later.  The main thing I want to do now is get the story down.  There will doubtless be tons of rewriting anyway, so it can wait.  I’d like to build in a few days for more scouting around in London anyway.

If I don’t post much, don’t be surprised–I might blog intermittently during this book, because it will take more concentration than Tunerville.  I had that one in my head so long that it just kind of fell out.  This one is different.

  • It’s more literary than the others.
  • It tackles some settings and time periods I know little about.
  • The timeline is longer.

I can’t talk about it yet, but bear with me.  You know I will, when the time is right.

Britain 2014–Home and Reflections

Photographs © Elizabeth West unless otherwise indicated

After the Airport Saga From Hell, I’m home.

Someone had a medical emergency on the plane whilst we were boarding, and we left Heathrow an hour late.  By the time I got to Atlanta, went through Immigration (they have kiosks now; it’s brilliant.  So much easier.), collected my checked bag (WTF, they don’t even look at it again—why can’t it just go on through?  It’s already been accepted at Heathrow!), turned in the bag again, and ran to my gate, my connection was gone.  There were no other flights to my dinky airport on any other airline that night.

That’s what I get for living in Mayberry. 

That’s what I get for living in Mayberry.

Image: mayberry.wikia.com

Delta gave me a hotel voucher.  I had to drag my overstuffed carry-ons through Hartsfeld-Jackson Airport in search of the ground transportation and the hotel shuttle.  I was so tired of carrying my souvenir duffel and my shoulders were so screamingly painful that I ended up dragging it behind me on the floor like a dog on a leash.

Yeah, my bag didn’t want to go for a walk either.

Image:  timeout.com 

I finally found ground transport, and I spent the night at Country Inn.  The next morning, I got to the gate for the plane to my city.  We had to wait ten minutes for maintenance.  Then we boarded.  We sat there for fifteen minutes before the pilot came on the intercom:  “Folks, we’re having a mechanical issue and you’re all going to have to return to the terminal while we try to find another plane.”

Everybody groaned.

After another hour in the terminal, we re-boarded and took off.  FINALLY!  I figured my bag, which probably had gone on without me, might be lost, but I had to wait until I got to MyCity Airport to know for sure.  It turned out that they had held it back and it was on the plane with me.  One cab ride later and I was home.

Then I went to work for three hours.  Then I went home again and crashed.

Now here we are.  My hotly anticipated holiday is over, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  I debated somewhat whether to post this or not.  It almost sounds like I’m whinging (whining), but I suppose it’s valuable to remember that things aren’t always perfect.

Some of this I wrote before I left, and corrections are in brackets (parentheses).

Things that have changed since the last time I was in the U.K.:

  • The red phone booths. I saw two of them the day I went to BBC.  That was it.  I did see a black one, but I was afraid to step into it, in case it went down to Knockturn Alley.
  • Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a red post box either. Dammit!  (Correction:  I did see one in Kingston.)
  • The iconic sound of British sirens (warning: turn down sound before clicking). They sound like American ones now.  I only heard one like this.  How sad.  It doesn’t sound like London without them, just a city.
But some things still look the same. 

But some things still look the same.

Things I wish had been different:

  • I wish I’d met someone. I didn’t.  I wonder if I ever will.  Even traveling 4,000 miles from where I live, I can’t get it right.
  • I wish I had had more time. Or didn’t have to leave.
  • I wish I hadn’t started packing so early. I ended up OVER-packing and had to lug all that crap back.  It was tempting to donate all my clothes, including the gorgeous black dress I got at Macy’s and packed just in case and never wore, and just take back what I bought.  In the end, I left a few things behind to donate and some stuff my family member will ship to me.
  • I wish I’d gone out at night by myself. In the U.S., I’ve done it and either been shunned or harassed.  I just don’t do it anymore, and I dislike sitting by myself in a room full of people who are with their friends.

It might have been different—but it might not have.  Maybe I was afraid it wouldn’t.  Nothing is worse than going out and sitting at the bar alone and feeling like a blowsy hag and getting hit on by fat old rummies.

Things I’ll especially remember:

  • The moment Welsh appeared on the signs when I approached Cardiff on the train.
  • How good Welsh cakes are, especially when you eat them in the deserted remains of a medieval abbey.
Really—just look at it. 

Really—just look at it.

  • Gazing down from the top deck of the bus.
  • The excitement of using your Oyster for the first time and knowing that you can go anywhere in London.
  • Smooshing up next to strangers on the tube at peak time–and everyone just does it.  Without even thinking about it.  Now you know why no one likes to make eye contact there.  No personal space equals an expansion of mental space.

It didn’t bother me to do this, nor did it bother me to share tables at crowded pubs and restaurants with strangers.  You just sit and eat your meal and don’t look at each other.  I’m so used to being ignored everywhere I go that London was absolutely no different.

  • How easy it was to assimilate.  At first, I found it amusing that people read the paper (an actual paper!) on the tube or the bus.  By the end of my holiday, I was swooping down on abandoned copies of the Metro and the Evening Standard on the carriage.

And the day I went to BBC, I got off the tube at Warren Street Station, looked at the sky, and got my brolly (umbrella) out of my purse automatically without even thinking about it.  Twenty seconds later, it rained.

  • Tying my scarf in a knot or doing the European loop to keep the wind from blowing it off me.
  • Wearing a scarf in the first place.  I don’t normally do that, though I will probably continue after this holiday, especially since I have a couple of new ones I really like.  (Yep; I’m wearing one of my Primark scarves right now.)

My online community is having a meetup in London in the spring, and I’m itching to go back.  Despite some disappointment, I can’t stay away.

Can you blame me?  Ah, London.  You’re silly, sophisticated, noisy, quiet, crowded, lonely, happy, melancholy, old, new, ugly, beautiful, backward, and progressive.  And I love you.

See you soon.

Pretty tree--Hammersmith, London

London, Final Day–Maids of Honour and Ham House

Photographs © Elizabeth West unless otherwise indicated

12 October

My last day in the U.K.  *sob*

The family member with whom I have been staying and I spent our time in Richmond today, visiting some local landmarks.  I took a lot of pictures and I don’t have room for them all here, but I’ll try to show you some of the most interesting.

First, we went for brunch at The Original Maids of Honour on Kew Road, where they have been baking their little namesake cakes since Tudor times from a closely guarded recipe.  It is said that Henry VIII loved them so much he locked up the recipe.  He certainly looks as though he ate way too many of them.

The bakery / café. 

The bakery / café.

The maids of honour.  Damn, they were good.  Flaky pastry, with a little custardy center.   Om nom nom. 

The maids of honour.  Damn, they were good.  Flaky pastry, with a little custardy center.   Om nom nom.  (Those things in the cup are sugar cubes for the tea.)

Somebody is watching us eat and I think he’s hoping we toss one up at him. 

Somebody is watching us eat and I think he’s hoping we toss one up at him.

After we ate, we went up to Ham House, a fabulous example of seventeenth-century aristocratic life and architecture, on the banks of the River Thames in Richmond.  Home to the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale, the house is one of the most haunted in Britain.

From the National Trust website, because I’m too lazy to type this out and I still have to pack:

This rare and atmospheric 17th-century house sits on the banks of the River Thames in Richmond. It is the creation of the tenacious Duchess of Lauderdale and her husband, the Duke, who together transformed Ham into one of the grandest Stuart houses in England.

Ham House is internationally recognised for its superb collection of paintings, furniture and textiles, largely acquired 400 years ago. Some of our unique objects include a rare Chinese teapot, said to have been used by the Duchess herself, and the exotic ivory cabinet. The house is reputed to be one of the most haunted in Britain. Some visitors have reported the ghostly aroma of the sweet Virginia pipe tobacco that the Duke smoked after meals in the dining room.

The house is a National Trust property, and I have a membership in the Royal Oak Foundation (Americans supporting the National Trust), so I got in free.  Sweet!  The guidebook cost me £4.50, however.  Oh well.

You walk through on your own, though there are volunteers here and there to tell you a bit more about some of the rooms.  Here’s a taste of this fabulous estate.  I apologize for the low light in many of the pictures–it was a very cloudy day, and they keep the curtains shut in many rooms to preserve the furnishings and artwork.

Ham House from the front.  Majestic, is it not? 

Ham House from the front.  Majestic, is it not?

The North Drawing Room.

The North Drawing Room.

The Marble Dining Room. 

The Marble Dining Room.

The Queen’s Bedchamber.

The Queen’s Bedchamber.

Portrait over the fireplace in the Queen’s Bedchamber.  Check out the creepy kid on the right.  Someone needs to keep an eye on him. 

Portrait over the fireplace in the Queen’s Bedchamber.  Check out the creepy kid on the right.  Someone needs to keep an eye on him.

Ham House from the rear.  Still majestic. 

Ham House from the rear.  Still majestic.

The Topiary!  Family member smelled the Duke’s pipe tobacco out here on a previous visit, and I thought I might have caught a whiff, but she told me about it beforehand, so it might have been my imagination. 

The Topiary!  Family member smelled the Duke’s pipe tobacco out here on a previous visit, and I thought I might have caught a whiff, but she told me about it beforehand, so it might have been my imagination.

Ham House from the Topiary.  I think I like this view best. 

Ham House from the Topiary.  I think I like this view best.

Below stairs was where the servants worked.  The National Trust has commemorated some of them, by putting their names and drawings of what they might have looked like on the walls of their workplace.  This was nice, because most of those people passed into complete obscurity, and as myself and another visitor agreed, they worked so very hard.

Mary Hobley, scullery maid. 

Mary Hobley, scullery maid.

Mrs.  Henderson, the Duchess’s lady-in-waiting, and Talbot, a page boy.

Mrs.  Henderson, the Duchess’s lady-in-waiting, and Talbot, a page boy.

William Averill, the butler.  It was through his scrutiny the food passed from the kitchen through the Buttery, before going into the dining room.  I’m sure he was very exacting. 

William Averill, the butler.  It was through his scrutiny the food passed from the kitchen through the Buttery, before going into the dining room.  I’m sure he was very exacting.

The kitchen was an exquisite example of the Stuart period.  The staff had produced coriander and aniseseed biscuits (cookies) from a seventeenth-century recipe, and they put out samples.  They were good.

I love this long table where they worked. 

I love this long table where they worked.

Here is a shot of the storage they used.  No kitchen cabinets back then–they stored everything right there on open shelves.  This would persist up through the Victorian era.

Dishes and implements.

Dishes and implements.

In the beer cellar, we were able to sample Moorish Ale in tiny pottery shot cups, an ale made from a 300-year-old recipe and available to buy in the gift shop.  It is like the ale the residents of Ham House would have drunk in their day.  I sampled it.  It was very nice, without that bitter aftertaste you notice with some brews.

Some flasks in the beer cellar.

Some flasks in the beer cellar.

Some beer barrels in the beer cellar (I’m sure these were fake, just for effect.)

Some beer barrels (casks?) in the beer cellar (I’m sure these were fake, just for effect.)

There was much more to see, and I heartily recommend a visit to Ham House if you’re in London and swing out toward Richmond.  It’s quite an interesting place.

I must leave you now, because I need to pack.  It’s time to figure out how to cram everything I purchased into my suitcase and the extra bag I brought, and weigh it, and see if I can ditch some things I brought and didn’t wear that don’t fit.  They can be donated to charity shops (thrift stores that benefit charities–I bought a scarf from an RSPCA one in Chepstow).

I’ll be back in a couple of days with a reflection post.  Until then, enjoy the pictures whilst I beg the Universe to let me come back sooner rather than later.  Good night.

London–Hampstead Heath and Keats House Poetry

Photographs © Elizabeth West unless otherwise indicated

11 October

Today there were adventures of a different sort.  The District and London Overground tube lines were closed from Earl’s Court to Richmond Station, so I had to take a South West train from Kingston Station downtown.  You can use your Oyster on those trains, thanks to some intense negotiations in 2009 or 2010 (I cannot remember which).

South West Trains was apparently the last commuter service to get on board with Oysterizing itself so commuters from Greater London didn’t have to buy separate tickets to change over.  They look like regular trains, with the seats facing front and back, but then they have all the grab bars like the tube and you use Oyster to get to the platform, just like an Underground station.

 You still have to do this.  (Photo taken at Belsize Park Station in Hampstead)

You still have to do this.  (Photo taken at Belsize Park Station in Hampstead)

I took a train to Waterloo Station, and from there, hopped the Northern Line to Hampstead.  This is a very desirable neighborhood in North London, and one I probably won’t ever be able to afford, unless the gods decide to smile on me and stop kicking me in the arse.

My goal was threefold:

  • To visit Hampstead Heath (aka The Heath), a huge park that has been set aside since roughly 986.
  • To see Keats House (home of poet John Keats), and listen to a poetry reading there.
  • To walk around the neighborhood a bit, as a character in Secret Book might reside there.

I found the park with no problem, thanks to Google (I’ve given up on the London A-Z; it’s too hard to thumb through a book whilst standing on a street corner and it attracts too much attention.  It’s much easier to play with your phone, because everybody does that.

Behold--the entrance plaque to Hampstead Heath on Spaniard Road.

Behold–the entrance plaque to Hampstead Heath on Spaniard Road.

Here is a view of Central London from atop a hill in the Heath (it’s not the famous Parliament Hill view).

View of Central London from Hampstead Heath

That little pointy thing at the right of the space is the top of the Gherkin.  I love the Gherkin.  I look for it around town all the time.

This is the Gherkin, otherwise known as 30 St Mary Axe (the address) for you folks who don’t know.  It’s a large office building that resembles a gigantic pickle.

30_St_Mary_Axe_from_Leadenhall_Street

Image:  Aurielen Guichard / via Wikipedia.com

This road leads in from where the plaque is.  There are several ways in and out of the park. 

This road leads in from where the plaque is.  There are several ways in and out of the park.

I walked down this road and saw numerous paths leading in many directions.  It tempted me to wander as far as I could, but I had got a late start in the morning, and it took a good hour-and-a-half to get up there, and I didn’t want to miss the poetry reading.  So I wandered down to a little grove of trees.

I saw this about halfway there.  No clue what it was or is; perhaps storage for maintenance items.  Love the mossy roof.

I saw this about halfway there.  No clue what it was or is; perhaps storage for maintenance items.  Love the mossy roof.

Except for the paths, the park appears unmaintained, though I know it isn’t–the City of London cares for it.  So you get quite a lot of forest-y bits.

And ponds like this.  Some of them are for swimming (though it was too cold to do that today). 

And ponds like this.  Some of them are for swimming (though it was too cold to do that today).

Dotted about the area are benches with commemorative messages on them.  I don’t know who Tina Gamp was, but she loved the Heath.  I can’t fault her for that.  Bless her, I sat there thinking about how she might have enjoyed the same view.

A very nice place to rest your feet.

A very nice place to rest your feet.

You can’t hear much traffic within the park.  In fact, once you get to an area where there are few or no people, you barely know you are in a huge city at all.  Quiet dominates, except for the birds and the sound of wind rustling the trees.

Pretty view from Tina’s bench.

Pretty view from Tina’s bench.

This area smelled forest-y, damp, and woodsy.  Earth, leaves, and the musty scent of old wood from the big logs and fallen trees lying about.  I love that smell–I used to play in the woods as a child, near where I grew up.

After a sit, I got up and walked a bit further in and came to a playground.  It occurred to me that I should exit the park instead of trying to walk through it if I were going to make it to the poetry reading in time.  I consulted Google again, but it got wonky at that point, so I walked down the hill on East Heath Road NW3 until I found a circus (no, really).  A park ranger sat in a little Rover vehicle near the entrance, and I asked her how to get to the John Keats house.  She very kindly gave me directions.

Right next door to Keats House is a little library, and they were having a book sale today.  I peeked in but didn’t see anything I wanted.  That’s probably a good thing, since the empty duffel bag I brought with me will already be full.

Keats House, Hampstead, London

Keats House, Hampstead, London

Here the Romantic poet John Keats resided from 1818 to 1820, with his friend Charles Brown. He wrote some of his best-known poetry there.  The house is a well-restored Regency period home.  I was particularly taken with the kitchens downstairs (I did not take pictures, though I could have–I just didn’t feel like it, sorry).  You can read more about the poet’s time in the house, including his famous Ode to a Nightingale, at this link.

The reading I attended was not of Keats’s poetry, but that of Dylan Thomas, the famous Welsh poet who wrote these immortal lines:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Find the rest of the poem here.

The reading commemorated the centenary of Thomas’s birth.  The Keats House Poetry Ambassadors group read several of Thomas’s best-known poems, and two selections from his play Under Milkwood.  I thought they did very well.  One of the most interesting things for me, listening, was hearing their varied accents and how they sounded with the poetry.

One of the readers said to a friend, “It’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon.” I couldn’t have agreed more.

After the reading and my tour had concluded, I walked down Haverstock Hill toward the shopping district and Belsize Park Station to catch the tube.  I didn’t know this, but it’s one of the few stations with a very deep air raid shelter under it.  To get to the platforms, you walk down this incredible spiral staircase.  At the top, they warn you with a sign:  This staircase has 219 steps. 

I walked down most of the way by myself, which actually creeped me out a little.  As you can see, the stairwell is more than a little Silent Hill.

Note to self:  don't think of Pyramid Head whilst traversing such places.  >_<

Note to self: don’t think of Pyramid Head whilst traversing such places. >_<

Down and down and down, until finally I could hear the trains rumbling underfoot, and I came out at the end.  I rode the Northern Line back to Waterloo and on to Kingston Station and home.  I wish I could have wandered round Hampstead a bit more, but I saw enough to convince me that it will work for my Secret Book purposes.  I’ll just have to come back if needed, heh heh.

Tomorrow is my last day.

Nooooooo!

Nooooooo!

We’ll be going to the Original Maids of Honour to partake of the little cakes so loved by Henry VIII, and on to Ham House in Richmond, where I can finally make use of my Royal Oak Foundation membership card (free admission, woo!).  It’s on the list of most haunted places in Britain, so I’ll be on the alert for ghostly phenomena.  Since nothing happened on the Llandaff Ghost Walk, I hope I’m not disappointed this time.