Tonight, one of the dreams of English majors came true:  I saw a Shakespearean play at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.  The show was sold out, but the Globe has a neat little system.  At 6:00 pm, you may begin to “queue” beside the door for the 7:30 performance.  You can then wait to see if any tickets are returned and, if they are, you may purchase them.  As ticketholders arrive for the performance, they offer tickets they won’t be using to the people in the queue, beginning at the front of the line.

Tonight’s play was A Midsummer Night’s Dream–a comedy, for any non-Shakespeare fans who might be reading this.  We got seats in the topmost (third) tier.  As we were going in, the usher asked us if we didn’t want to rent cushions.  We asked if we’d need them and she said the seats are boards.  We rented cushions and it was a good decision.

The play was hilarious!  It was like a modern National Lampoon version of Shakespeare’s play.  About 95 percent was Shakespeare’s original dialogue, but there were some updated lines like “Let’s play some Bon Jovi” following a line about having some music.  Even Ted, who was only attending to support my desire to do so, laughed aloud frequently and smiled for almost the entire three hours–it was that funny!

Queued for tickets to the performance. (I'm in the light blue jacket near the front of the line.

Queued for tickets to the performance.  (I’m in the light blue jacket near the front of the line.)

 

The Pit and the stage.

The Pit (no seats–you have to stand) and the stage.

 

We were in the second section in the top area.

We were in the second section in the top area.

Yes, the play was a wee bit naughty.

Yes, the play was a wee bit naughty.

 

Bad news of the day:  In spite of the fact that we clearly had the (really cool) red-light electronic “Do not disturb” sign lit outside our door, we were awakened at 10:00 am by a phone call to ask us if everything was satisfactory.  It was, until the phone call woke us!  Then, around 1:00 pm, the maid knocked on the door to ask if we wanted her to clean.  No, we wanted to be undisturbed.  And besides, there’s a green electronic light outside the door that says “Make up room” if that’s what you want, and ours was not lit.  What’s the point of the “Do not disturb” sign if you’re going to be disturbed anyway?  In spite of the interruptions, Ted slept 16 hours and I woke up a little sooner.  We both feel more like humans than zombies today, which is a nice change from yesterday.

Since it was 5:00 pm by the time we were showered and dressed, we had dinner and then walked around for a little over two hours (6.5 miles).  Tonight we saw the theater district and Piccadilly Circus.  We didn’t know what to expect, but you always hear about Piccadilly Circus, so we wanted to see it.  Apparently, “circus” means “intersection of many streets” because we also saw Oxford Circus and it was a similar intersection.  Piccadilly Circus had a paved plaza in the center with street performers and a fountain with steps for people to sit on.  Other than that, it was just a busy intersection of six streets.

We are staying right downtown, so the streets are busy and the traffic is loud.  Along the Thames, you can go down stairs from the street level and walk on the Thames Path, which is designated for pedestrians and goes under the intersections, thus avoiding crossing the busy streets.  It’s much quieter there, but there’s definitely a “pedestrian pace” to be maintained–and it’s not a leisurely stroll!  The downtown Londoners are all apparently on a mission and need to get there fast!  We walk pretty fast (3.25-3.75 mph, depending on our mood), but we are constantly being passed by the natives.  We assume the (relatively) slower walkers are tourists like us.

Tomorrow should be a more normal-feeling day, since we’ve slept off our jet lag.

The red, double-decker buses really are everywhere.

The red, double-decker buses really are everywhere. “The Book of Mormon” just opened in the theater here.

 

All the British flags hung on this street made it a pretty sight--in spite of the construction vehicles.

All the British flags hung on this street made it a pretty sight–in spite of the construction vehicles.

 

On our way to Piccadilly Circus, we saw the M&Ms World store. Cute!

On our way to Piccadilly Circus, we saw the M&Ms World store. Cute!

We knew our hotel room was not going to be available until after 3:00 pm today and that we’d have a long, tired day.  We checked in at the front desk, had them stash our luggage in their storeroom, and then spoke with the representative of the land tour group to get the details for that trip.  We’ll be getting a city tour of London with the tour group Friday morning and then we take off for other destinations on Saturday morning.  The lady told us we’ll have a 6:15 am wake-up call on Saturday and, because it’s a weekend, breakfast will be later:  at 7:00 am.  She is obviously unaware that I am not conscious before 11:00 am.

Our hotel is right in downtown London, so while we waited for our room, we went out hunting for lunch and then walked around (7+ miles on the pedometer) scouting things out for tomorrow.  We’ll enjoy everything more tomorrow after we sleep tonight!  We had spaghetti at a bona fide Italian restaurant (family operated and speaking Italian) just three blocks from our hotel.

Tomorrow we’ll get serious about sightseeing.  For now, we’ve been awake for 32 hours and we’re going to sleep for a long, long time.

Big Ben. We heard it chime 12:00 pm--the maximum number of bell strikes.

Big Ben. We heard it chime 12:00 pm–the maximum number of bell strikes.

 

Parliament. It's a huge building. We might see if we can get inside tomorrow.

Parliament on the Thames.  It’s a huge building. We might see if we can get inside tomorrow.

 

The London Eye. As big as it is, the St. Louis World's Fair had a significantly bigger Observation Wheel with cars as big as city buses.

The London Eye. As big as it is, the St. Louis World’s Fair had a significantly bigger Observation Wheel with cars as big as city buses.

 

Kari picked us up at 10:30 (with Paul’s Donuts) for our flight and we had enough time to eat our lunch at the airport without feeling rushed before we boarded the plane for Atlanta.  Of course, it’s summer, so thunderstorms fired up in Tennessee and in northern Alabama and Mississippi.  Instead of taking the diagonal route from St. Louis to Atlanta, we had to fly along the Mississippi River until we were south of the storms (we saw the big anvil clouds from the plane) and then turn left to Atlanta.  This added about a half hour to our flight time.

Our layover allowed plenty of time for the storm delay and for a snack before boarding the plane to London.  (The flight included dinner, but we knew that with a 7:30 pm take-off, we’d be lucky to be eating by 9:00.)  Flying along with us were at least 100 band members from a Columbus, WI high school (just north of Madison).  Their jackets proclaimed them to be the “Wisconsin Ambassadors of Music” and they were going on a European tour.  One of them told me that when they arrived in London, they’d be going to the London Eye, to Parliament, and to a production of Jersey Boys.  I didn’t get the actual concert performance information from him, but the kids looked like they were ready for a good time.

We arrived in London around 8:30 am local time (2:30 am CDT) without more than a few minutes of sleep on the plane.  After a rainy week, it was a beautiful day and we saw England from the air.  It took us two minutes (we timed it) to get through customs, and then 25 minutes to get our luggage.

Let the European vacation begin!

England from the air. It doesn't look like the U.S.A.

England from the air. It doesn’t look like the U.S.A.

 

The doorman at our hotel. We was wearing an honest-to-goodness bowler hat and looked like he played in "Mary Poppins." So very, very British!

The doorman at our hotel. He was wearing an honest-to-goodness bowler hat and looked like he was performing in “Mary Poppins.”  So very, very British!

After nearly a year of planning and anticipation, it’s finally time to take our European vacation.  We packed our 25-inch suitcases and our 15-inch carry-on duffel bags today and were pleasantly surprised to see that we have room to spare, even with 15 days’ worth of clothes plus a half dozen dinner outfits.  (The dinner dress code is “casually elegant”–a contradiction in terms if you ask me.)  The suitcases weigh in at 45 pounds, so we’re comfortably under the 50-pound limit.  A woman on our cruise last summer who was traveling for six weeks told me she was getting very tired of wearing the same outfits repeatedly.  I think we’re at risk for the same feeling. 

Kari and her kids are taking us to the airport tomorrow morning, including a Paul’s Donuts stop.  What a great send-off!

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Our house was the first one built in our plat of the subdivision.  As a result, the early morning sounds of construction were very familiar to us, with houses being built all around ours.  Now, 37 years later, it sounds much the same because many of our neighbors’ roofs are being replaced due to the hail damage from last month’s storm.  Fortunately, our roof is less than four years old and wasn’t damaged.  We’ll be in Europe for the next six weeks, so most of the repair work should be finished by the time we return.  We won’t miss the sounds of all the nail guns.  Been there, done that.

As usual, I’m reading a book.  The hero has just taken the heroine away with him and confesses that “If I’d had to, I would have wrapped you in bailing wire and carried you off.”

Obviously, the author, the editor, and the spell-checker are unaware that hay bales are held together with baling wire.  Aarrgghh!!  I hate coming across stupid stuff like this in the middle of a good plot!

This is our eighth consecutive day with temperatures in the 90s, so a cold potato salad and deviled eggs sounded like good components for dinner tonight.  That reminded me that we use more mustard in the summer than in the winter, so I checked for a spare mustard in the pantry, only to discover that it expired last year.  It made sense then to check the expiration date on the mustard in the refrigerator.  Uh-oh!  It expired 18 months ago.  ?

As a result of those revelations, Ted and I thought maybe we should check some other items in the pantry before we leave on our European trip.  It was unbelievable!  We found quite a few things that expired between 2011 and 2015, and even one that expired in 2009!  Apparently, we don’t need to keep our pantry as well stocked as we thought.  We purged all the expired items, replaced a few, and decided to hold off on buying replacements for the rest until the current box is nearly gone.

Most of the expired items were dry foods–rice, pudding, graham cracker crumbs, Jell-O, cake mixes, etc.  I don’t think any of them would have killed us if we used them, but if they’ve been sitting unopened on the shelf for one to seven years past their expiration dates, a fresh product is probably a good idea.

A boxful of expired rejects

A boxful of expired rejects

A tour of the Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate factory was included as part of Teddy’s birthday gift.  Today we had the opportunity to take the tour and then (oh, happy day!) to browse in the gift (i.e., candy) shop.  Teddy’s friend, Cash, came with us, so Ted and I were treated to an entertaining and very imaginative conversation on the half-hour drive back and forth.  For example, the boys invented a new language and decided that all words with a “bl” would be included in the new language.

CCC is a fair trade business and makes and melts its own chocolate.  Having toured other chocolate factories, I was personally disappointed in the tour because it covered so little of the process.  It was a small tour group (us and two other families), and we basically stood in one corner of the factory floor while the tour guide talked.  She didn’t speak very loudly and she didn’t always talk facing the group, so I didn’t get much out of the tour.  I learned that:  (1) CCC uses cornstarch instead of something else for some reason; (2) every piece of candy has two layers of chocolate on the bottom; and (3) the top of each piece of candy is decorated by hand.  The remainder of the 20-minute spiel was fill-in-the-blank because I couldn’t hear it.

The boys, however, had no previous chocolate factory tour experience and were very happy when the tour guide gave each member of the group a piece of peanut butter and marshmallow candy.  And then we hit the gift shop.  Ted and I bought each of the boys (and ourselves) a few pieces of candy.  At $24.95 per pound, it wasn’t really kid-priced.

We closed out the afternoon with another entertaining discussion in the back seat on our way home.  A memorable  thread from this conversation was “I see a dead body” immediately followed by “I see a treat.”  It wasn’t clear to Ted or to me whether the dead body and the treat were the same thing or not.  It’s always fun to hang out with kids.

Test and Cash looking in the candy kitchen window

Teddy  and Cash looking in the candy kitchen window

 

Watching the peanut butter candy get its chocolate coating

Watching the peanut butter candy get its chocolate coating

 

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Forty-seven years ago today, Ted and I were married on a beautiful Wisconsin summer day.  One of our wedding gifts was an anniversary candle from the florist.  The enclosed note suggested that we burn the candle every year on our anniversary, and promised that the candle would still burn brightly at our fiftieth anniversary party.

We’ve burned the candle every year.  It’s a little less than half its original size, and I’ve had to move the decorative flowers downward over the years, but it looks like it will definitely be around for our fiftieth anniversary.  

The best things that ever happened to me were meeting Ted and marrying him.  Happy anniversary, Honey.

This afternoon, Ted went to visit his friend, David, who lives in a senior apartment complex in south St. Louis.  Ted started visiting David about five years ago as a volunteer for Senior Connections.  Over time, he and David have become good friends.  All was well until Ted was nearly home.  Suddenly, a red light flashed on his dashboard and the car started slowing down.  Luckily, he was near an exit from the freeway, so he turned and managed to go a few miles before the engine died a mile-and-a-half from our house.  As a result, we had an unexpected event this afternoon.  To be continued on Monday, when the service stations are open again.

Follow-up note:  The words “oil” and “manifold” came up in the diagnosis.  I don’t pretend to understand what the problem was.  Apparently all is well again and, with a far-less-than-expected cost for the repair, we are back to two operating cars.

Sick Prius

While we were in Wisconsin, I heard some unique sounds that told me I was home again.  The first sound of home came when a lady reached for something, missed it, and let out an “oop.”  (Similar to the use of “oops” elsewhere in the country.)  That might not look unusual in print, but in Wisconsin-speak, it’s pronounced like the o’s in “took.”  (Try it:  oop.)

The second instance occurred when another lady was having trouble finding what she needed on her computer and asked me to “Wait a minute while I futz around with this.”  I think I used “futz” once in Missouri.  A person who heard me asked in a shocked tone, “What did you say?!”  I explained, and she said she’d never heard that.  To avoid being misunderstood for using high-level profanity, I’ve abstained from using “futz” for many years.

It’s always fun to go home.  If only I’d heard someone ask where to find the bubbler.

To (hopefully) bring a close to the ongoing saga of Schroeder vs. PNC Bank, I checked our credit rating with each of the three big credit score companies last week.  All is well, so I’m satisfied with the result of my efforts.  I am, however, still a little resentful that PNC didn’t simply correct their failure to file our paperwork, choosing instead to file a $50 lien against our house and report us as delinquent to the credit score companies.  Would you believe that $50 reported delinquency took 125 points off our credit rating?!

After eight weeks of being nice and trying to work things out with PNC, on February 16, I reported them to the Federal Reserve, to the Missouri Attorney General, and to the Channel 4 investigative reporter.  Channel 4 responded within an hour, the Fed responded in three business days, and the Missouri Attorney General sent us a letter on May 18 (very timely–not!) to say they had forwarded my complaint to PNC and were awaiting a response.

PNC had already met the Fed’s deadline for action on April 11, so the Attorney General’s action reached PNC more than a month after official resolution of the problem.  This apparently irritated Andrea, the PNC Executive Client Relations Representative in Pittsburgh.  Today we received a letter from her with copies of:  her February 29 response to us saying she is happy to correct PNC’s error for us; her April 11 response to the Fed describing how her mess will be cleaned up; and her May 27 response regarding the Attorney General’s investigation.  

The May 27 letter includes the phrases “PNC previously responded to your complaint,” “I have enclosed copies,” and “Thank you for allowing me to clarify.”  The letter is very polite, but obviously has an undertone of disgruntlement.  Well, too bad, so sad.  I can’t help it the Attorney General took so long, and I was pretty frustrated myself for the eight weeks I tried to play nice with PNC.  How does it feel to be on my end, Andrea?

Yesterday, as we were driving back from LaCrosse, WI, we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for a snack.  I think the last time I had a Dunkin’ Donut was while I was in college.  Not much has changed, except that the company has become more environmentally conscientious.  Or has it?  The paper towel dispenser is right beside the air dryer which has a message telling the user that it is better for the environment than paper towels.  I guess it’s a “you choose” situation for the user.  Either way, Paul’s Donuts wins by a landslide.

 

Today I saw the foot surgeon for my last post-operative visit.  The stress fracture is completely healed, the remaining swelling is very slight, and I am good to go with no restrictions and no hammer toes.  The doctor told me to go home and put on a pair of “regular” shoes, so I did–for the first time since March 3rd.

Sitting poolside in matching footwear

Sitting poolside in matching, non-athletic footwear

I love to swim.  When I was a kid, my friends and I swam daily in a local pond.  As I was swimming my laps today, I was thinking about how swimming is the only athletic activity I can do with competence and good form.  As a child, I was usually the last or the second last one picked for any team sports activities, and I tell people that I’m best at cheering for other athletes.  (I tried out for cheerleading in high school but I didn’t make that team either.)

I took swimming lessons at a nearby lake (they’re everywhere in Wisconsin) for a number of years while I was growing up, and I can do every stroke except the butterfly.  The back crawl is my best stroke; the breast stroke is my weakest.  I even earned a lifesaving certificate when I was sixteen.  The final exam took place in a lake and required “saving” an overweight middle-aged woman who seriously fought to get away.

The larger high schools in our area had swimming pools and swim teams, but I attended a small high school (300+ students) and our school district didn’t have that kind of money.  If it had, I might have been able to make the team.  On the other hand, doing a competitive back crawl might have resulted in rotator cuff problems later in my life.  We’ll never know, but I’m glad we have a swimming pool in our back yard where I can swim laps for five to six months a year.

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