Sunday, July 31, 2005

I'm Dog Tired

dock dog
dock dog,
originally uploaded by gail on the web.
I started to go through my hundreds (!) of photos of the weekend thus far, but gave up because my eyes refuse to stay open any longer. My friend Michael from Germany phoned this morning at a crazy hour -- 06:43 -- because he thought I was in Pennsylvania, where it is EST and only 6 hours behind Western Europe. It wouldn't make any difference except I went to bed after 2am, and I was staying in a room with three others who were fast asleep. Under the circumstances and it being Saturday an' all, any ring is unwelcome at 06:43.

Photos are from my fam trip to Nanaimo and Sweden's entry tonight in the fireworks competition that is the HSBC Celebration of Light. I went straight from one to the other.

This post brought to you by the dock dog, eagerly awaiting the ferry to Newcastle Island this morning. This dog looks weekend-ready!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

HSBC Celebration of Light Fireworks - Canada

HSBC Celebration of Light Fireworks - Canada
I'll be the first to admit it -- I'm a bit of a technophile. Who else would be at a cafe, uploading photos to Flickr minutes before leaving for a trip? (And taking a computer along in the first place?)

*sheepishly raises hand*

The fireworks photo set is here, by the way:

Celebration of Light - Canada

Realaworld (also in Vandigicam, but I haven't met him yet) took some fantastic shots from the Burrard Bridge. Go check out his set. Go!

Last Wednesday afternoon I was thinking about shooting the fireworks from the Burrard Bridge. I've walked across it many times on the way home, admiring the view of English Bay and imagining how great the photos would be from such a vantage point. I recall last summer thinking 'OK this is the year I'll shoot from the bridge', unaware at the time that it would be my last year to watch the fireworks from my Beach Avenue apartment. In the end I watched the first night of fireworks (China) on the roof of my friend's place near Stanley Park, with a steller view of the fireworks barge. I think those were my best fireworks shots ever, even with the camera being hand-held.

This year my first idea was to shoot in four different locations, starting with the Burrard Bridge. Then on Wednesday afternoon I thought, hey -- why not get Vandigicam people together for a picnic at Kits Point? For some reason, I had it in my head that there was a lighthouse we could use as a meeting place, and I searched all through Flickr in vain for a pic so people could locate it. Then I had to hurry off to meet Lana in Richmond, so I crossed my fingers that my memory wasn't playing tricks on me and that little beacon of light I'd been living across for nearly eight years was indeed a lighthouse.

When I arrived at Kits Point from the aquabus, however, the lighthouse turned out to be a beacon on a rusty white frame structure. Hardly a lighthouse at all! Despite my glorified definition, people still managed to get there and we had a fine time of it, picnicking and relaxing and socialising before the fireworks.

It was Canada's night to let our pyromaniacs shine, and I must say this year's effort was a far cry better than the last outing in 2003. China and the Czech Republic walked all over Canada, whose display was kiboshed by technical difficulties, as I recall. They pulled up their collective socks this year with song selection, choosing the theme "Jazz in the Sky" and using different eras to accompany the fireworks, featuring classic Louis Armstrong -- "What a Wonderful World" -- and a modern version of "Summertime" by Peter Gabriel.

- - - - - - - back to the present - - - - - - - - - - -

At the moment I'm at the Painted Turtle Guesthouse in Nanaimo, BC, thanks to Harbour Lynx and the tourism industry people in Nanaimo who organised this fam trip to promote central Vancouver Island. It's been a full evening, and tomorrow will be even busier, with a morning activity followed by a lunch at a fine dining restaurant followed by an afternoon activity.

There's a martini lounge directly beneath me which I have a voucher for, but I'm thinking I should call it a night since the activities begin rather early tomorrow. I also forgot my USB cable, so no uploading tonight!

I signed up on the fam trip too late to get on the scenic flight with Baxter Air -- they only take six people! phooey! -- but I'll be on Newcastle Island in the morning and Gabriola Island in the afternoon.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Seeing Red: Rachael's Red Series

Rachael's Red Series

Rachael's Red Series
Rachael's birthday was on Tuesday, so in the afternoon we (being Rachael, Pidge, Richard, and I) went for a photowalk through Chinatown, shooting with the theme of RED.

Hendrik, who was in Edinburgh that day, also participated in the red-themed photowalk, taking some amazing shots around the city. Seeing his Edinburgh photos brought back memories, I tell you. Edinburgh was my home for 18 months before moving on to Glasgow, where the people are more 'shoot-from-the-hip', if you get my drift.

Seeing Red in Edinburgh - Hendrik
Seeing Red - Rachael
Red Tuesday - Richard
Goddess Spiral's Birthday - Pidge
Rachael's Red Series* - me

Later that day, two groups of us dined at Sala Thai: Rachael's birthday gathering, and a group of six I organised for one of those rare let's-catch-up-over-nosh sessions. Something we hadn't done since December, when David was visiting and I wanted them to meet him. It was funny because when Rachael's friends sang 'Happy Birthday' to her, we turned into a little cheering section at our end of the restaurant.

I wanted Rachael and Vicky to meet, because they'll both be photographers at my Vancouver wedding reception. All I have to do is get Ben to meet both of them. Which reminds me: now's about the time I should start a wedding website, with all the details as they unfold.

*argh, I discovered too late that I uploaded the wrong photos to Flickr... I'd recently downloaded iPhoto 5.0.3 and it had a problem with photo rotation. So I downloaded the fixed update, 5.0.4, but when I re-imported the photos this of course deleted my Photoshop corrections like cropping and colour correction. Grrrr.... if I'd noticed earlier, I would've deleted them, re-modified, then re-uploaded. Alas.

Onwards, Upwards

That's how I feel at the moment, chipping away steadily at my 'To Do' list and making progress. It's a good feeling.

This photo brought to you by somebody's leg, on the Granville Skytrain station escalator.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Illuminares 2005

Illuminares 2005
I finally have all my lantern festival photos uploaded to Flickr:

Illuminares 2005

This was my first and probably last Illuminares festival, and I'm really glad I made an effort to attend. Even when I used to live off Commercial Drive, I always thought 'next time'...

I told a friend that living in one place for long (in my case, more than a few years) makes me complacent, and in terms of annual events this holds quite true. Despite the fact I was a full-time working student for a few of those years, when I cast my mind back to the years when I was working and living downtown, I didn't take in as much as I should've. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have one last summer in Vancouver to visit as many festivals and activities and sites of local colour as I can cram into these days. (No thanks to USCIS, but many thanks to David!)

As festivals go, Illuminares is a standout, I have to say. If you've never been to a lantern festival, get yourself to one, because it's a hotbed of creativity and community spirit. It's also beautiful and magical and you'll have pleasant dreams afterwards.

ADDITION: Thursday, July 28

For the inside scoop on how some of those funky lanterns came to be, check out Rainbowk's LJ post on the crafting of the lantern hats.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Woo-hoo! I'm going on a free trip to Nanaimo!

Another fam(iliarisation) trip with Hostelling International, but this time a whole 24 hours, all-expenses paid trip to Nanaimo with HarbourLynx, the fast passenger-only ferry. It includes transportation, accommodation, meals, and excursion(s)!

I found out about it late through another infodesk volunteer and didn't hold much hope I could get in, because there's only space for 50 people between all the tourism organisations (including the main Info Centre). Lucky me!

More details later...

Weekend Postmortem

So, how was your weekend? I think I need a weekend from the weekend, if you know what I mean.

The weather in Vancouver was nothing short of summery goodness, and I got a bit too much of that yesterday -- I came away with a bit of a sunburn. I didn't really notice it until late last night, feeling itchy-scratchy on my arms and neck. Come to think of it, I should be so lucky I didn't roast to a crisp as I was at the New Westminster Show and Shine car show for probably 4.5 hours or so, and most of that time was spent under full-strength summer rays. Needless to say, I was engrossed in photo-taking, evidence to go online later.

maiden fair
I'm still uploading photos from the Illuminares festival at Trout Lake from Saturday night, which was a gorgeous display of sights, lights, and sound, but a photographic challenge for my Canon A80 and no tripod. Photos thus far can be found here. The good weather beckoned the crowds, and I bumped into a few Vandigicammers there, notably jmv and his sister jankochan. There was also a Tzatziki-spotting. I thought I'd bump into the large Vandigicam group somewhere around the lake, but I was snap-happy all evening, absorbed, and not there long before it got dark. Apparently Ciao's phone was on the fritz, so I wasn't able to reach him. Next thing I knew the fireworks went off over the lake, it was 11 o'clock, and I was getting chilled so time to head home.

It was a long day: volunteering at the hostel from 9-12 with Elena (a feisty Czech lady masquerading as a senior citizen, what a sweetheart), a quick lunch with Eliza before crashing hard for a much-needed nap before the annual HI BBQ at Jericho, then hoofing it east to Trout Lake to try and catch a dance performance by one of the Vandigicam people.

I was at the BBQ longer than I'd expected to be, and amazingly I didn't even take any photos. By the time I got there I was ready to eat a picnic table, and made several rounds to the buffet. The guys standing at the BBQs should've given me a frequent flyer card, or just handed me the tongs. I *love* HI for being so good to their volunteers -- every year we eat like kings. I was in a deep food coma from the sheer gluttony at the BBQ, which probably accounted for the seemingly slow trip to the Broadway Skytrain station.

Slept like a rock (do rocks sleep?) on Saturday night; yesterday morning came all too quickly. The plan was to meet Cliff and other Vandigicam people at the New Westminster Show and Shine at 11ish, but I arrived closer to 12:30 and found myself surrounded by a bevy of classic cars just begging to have their photos taken. I'm no car buff, but I appreciate good design in all things, and automobiles are no exception. I also had an ulterior motive for visiting the car show: to see if I could find a classic car for the reception on October 8. The next question was, could I rent it?

I FOUND IT! A 1942 Cadillac Imperial limousine, in original condition.

I just spoke to the owner, Alan Cruickshank, who privately owns 27 classic cars. This automobile belonged to the governor of California at the time, and Mrs. Cruickshank told me yesterday that they have no plans to restore it -- a paint job would be $10,000! She said they don't want it to be a business; I got the impression they are just car collectors who rent them out to pay for maintenance costs. It sounds like the bulk of the rentals are for films -- Robert de Niro is in their car's photo album! (I think that was a big selling point with me!)

There were a few other cars I liked at the show (photos to be uploaded to Flickr later today), but this one was my favourite. They also have a similar 1940 Cadillac limo, but I don't think we'll need it. Which is good, because it's booked that day -- for a film, I think he said. One reason why I like this car is because it doesn't look like a limousine, it just looks like a vintage car. I've never seen one like it, and he said there are only four of them around -- two down south and one in Pennsylvania! Maybe if I can track it down, we can use it! (Ah, if only that were likely...)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Friday Night Bus Sing-a-long

this is an audio post - click to play

As heard on the #17 Downtown bus travelling north along the Granville Street Bridge. Sorry for the lousy quality, I recorded it using the voice memo option on my mobile phone.

Friday, July 22, 2005

BigBus Around Vancouver, Rodin at the VAG

Amazingly, I was on a tourist bus trip around Vancouver all morning yesterday and didn't take a single photo. It was another fam trip through Hostelling International -- a tour bus company just opened up, so they wanted us to know about them.

It was a gorgeous day yesterday, so being driven around on the city and sitting on the upper level was worth getting up early-ish for. Afterwards, HI bought us lunch at Taco del Mar, another one of the great things they do for volunteers.

One errand that did require photos was to get some shots of an apartment buildings some friends are interested in renting downtown. I sent them, but I think I'm a little late as it looks like they've already left North Carolina in their U-Haul and are driving west.

Then Eliza and I ran some other errands before meeting her cousin at the Vancouver Art Gallery, where we took in a lecture on the current Rodin exhibit.

Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession

While we were at VAG, I popped into their store as I'm a big fan of museum stores in general, especially at places like MoMA. David and I are both enthusiastic patrons of the arts, and we like art books and objects that have strong design elements. We spend a fair amount of time browsing, and I usually end up dropping the kind of money in museum shops I wouldn't care to spend anywhere else.

It occurred to me that VAG might be able to do a wedding registry, so I made some inquiries at the desk. They seemed very accommodating and said while they don't have a registry option in place, all I'd have to do is make a list of things I like, and people could come in and choose things from the list. I took a business card and I'll phone later, when they aren't as busy. Thursday nights are by donation, so the place gets mobbed. I'll return on a quieter day.

Family Dinner

Silly Boy!
Silly Boy!,
originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Grampa supervising Megan
Grampa supervising Megan,
originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.
With my dad, Allan, Cheryl, and all five kids on Wednesday. I always leave a big tip to make up for the big mess we leave.

magical coconut drink

magical coconut drink
I scrape out the fresh coconut from the inside and it becomes dessert, too. See, magic!

I love coconut, but not the dried stuff. I like it fresh, in ice cream (which we also had this evening), and young coconut as a drink. For some reason coconut and chocolate together hold little or no appeal (eg. Bounty chocolate bars). Weird, that.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Digger, Guardian of the Sidewalk

Digger, Guardian of the Sidewalk
face-offDigger, Guardian of the SidewalkDigger, Guardian of the SidewalkDigger, Guardian of the SidewalkDigger, Guardian of the SidewalkDigger, Guardian of the SidewalkDigger, Guardian of the SidewalkDigger, Guardian of the SidewalkDigger, Guardian of the SidewalkDigger, Guardian of the Sidewalk

Digger has got to be the most fearless cat ever. He lies down on the sidewalk and watches people, dogs, and cars go by, completely unfazed. Most cats, when approached by dogs, take off. Not Digger -- he sniffs them as if he's just another dog. His fur doesn't stand on end, and he even seems to LIKE dogs.

Eliza says she's never seen Digger run anywhere. Even when crossing the street, he just strolls along. Digger OWNS this neighbourhood.

Can It Get Any Cuter Than This?

titt ut
titt ut,
originally uploaded by Cia L.
I think not.

(Click on it and check out the rest of the photoset.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Aberthau House and the florist

Aberthau House
Aberthau House,
originally uploaded by gail on the web.
So I went this morning to a meeting point to go on a fam(iliarisation) trip through my hostelling volunteer work, and it turns out it's tomorrow instead of today (in the infodesk book it said today). Oh well, c'est la vie.

On the way home I stopped by a florist near where I used to work on Hornby Street many moons ago. We discussed the venue, my style preferences, colours, etc.

As you can see, Aberthau House is a Tudor heritage mansion with dark wood interior. It's a bit of a decorating challenge. I also know almost diddly-squat about flora.

The good news is what I do like is widely available here: callas lily bouquets for Eliza and me, and (cut) anthuriums, which I'd like as accent pieces in a few places around Aberthau House. Whenever I see lots of flowers, I think of funerals. Simple is always best.

I've Been Shot!

Ciao got me -- big-time -- in this photo from last Wednesday's BBQ for Striatic. Don't ask me what I'm looking at! I don't know!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

A very long-overdue Cheap Tuesday found Eliza, Kristin, Manu, and me at Tinseltown to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I vaguely recall seeing the original 1971 film adaptation of Dahl's book, with Gene Wilder. But I barely remember any of it.

This film, however, has some show-stopping one-liners from the expression-filled, makeup-friendly face of Johnny Depp.

I don't want to spoil the film for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, but if you're familiar at all with Tim Burton's work you likely won't be disappointed.

It's dark, twisted fun.

And I'll never look at squirrels the same way again.

Scary Photo of the Day

It's difficult to judge who's looking more awry in this photo -- Courtney Love or Pamela Anderson?

(I've mentioned that e-online's Fashion Police is my net-reading guilty pleasure, haven't I?)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Face-to-face With A Faceful of Collagen

On Saturday Eliza and I went shopping at Pacific Centre and encountered our very first collagen-injection victim. It was a scary, scary sight to behold.

It took us by surprise, really. Our elevator mistakenly went up to street level at Pacific Centre rather than down to the parkade. A woman who had most likely emerged from Holt Renfrew stepped in, a tad startled to see us.

"Why did you come up instead of down?" she asked, puzzled.

I thought there was something odd about her face, but I couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was. I tried not to stare at her while the elevator made its way down, picking up some others on the floor we just came from. The first impression that came to mind was: high-maintenance lady. She just had that.... high-maintenance look about her.

I took a glimpse at Eliza, who was looking down. I snuck in a sidelong glance at the woman's mouth. It was puffy, inflated to the point where it was smooth and swollen at the edges instead of gathered (for lack of a better word), with tiny lines. When she spoke, she looked strange. I thought her speech was affected. Then it dawned on me.

Collagen injection! *violin screeches from a Grade B horror movie* Eeeeeeeeeeek!!!!!!!

Seriously, if someone who has NEVER seen the effects of a collagen injection can recognise it on sight, then it's probably TOO MUCH.

And if it looks like someone punched you in the mouth, it's TOO MUCH.

And if it affects your speech? It's TOO MUCH.

And if it makes other people in the elevator want to reach out and poke it to see if it squishes over to the other side? It's TOO MUCH.

If you want people to look at your lips, then this is certainly one expensive way to do it.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Melissa's Dress

Thursday was a busy day: I met Lana for lunch, we went to Michael's (an arts and crafts store) to scope out decorating ideas, and I made it to the bridal shop before it closed so we could do the dress-length alterations (now that I have the shoes). That was before dinner at a Vietnamese noodle house, Rachael's artshow, and Vandigicam's after-show libations.

While we were at the bridal shop, Eliza bought TWO more dresses, and I bought Melissa an ivory dress. We got great deals, of course -- both of Eliza's dress for $100 each and Melissa's for $50 (more than 50% off tag price for all). In this lighting, the dress looks white, but it is indeed the same colour as my dress.

Melissa was the flower girl in her Auntie Ally's wedding last year in June, and her dress is still in good nick, but it's white, so I thought I'd get her an ivory one. I was told she was the consummate flower girl, and she's very excited to have another opportunity. She can't wait to go shopping for shoes with Eliza!

Flag Shop on 4th Avenue

Photography Artshow: Hands by Rachael Ashe

Artshow: Hands - Rachael Ashe
The Artist Currently Known as Goddess Spiral

Rachael (Goddess Spiral on Flickr) hosted an artshow at the Wicked Cafe on Thursday.

Hands - by Rachael Ashe

The Wicked Cafe filled up quickly, then a musician and her entourage showed up, sending the rest of us outside.

I don't think Brad, the owner of the Wicked Cafe, imagined the place getting quite this full. But then, Vandigicam has really grown the past couple of months. Rachael's exhibit is the first in a series, so next time I hope no musicians are scheduled one hour into the artshow opening -- the cafe is too small to accommodate both events!

As is our custom, we headed for another venue -- this time the Granville Island Hotel, where we took over a couple of tables. Even though Vandigicam is billed as a Flickr photo group, there are times when it's purely a social occasion and there's not a camera in sight, believe it or not.

Photoset here: Wicked Cafe Artshow, followed by libations at the Granville Island Hotel

If you're local to the area, do go check out Rachael's photographs -- they'll be on display for at least a month, I'm told.

What You WON'T See Me Doing in September

originally uploaded by birdw0rks.
A photo of a hen party in Dublin's Temple Bar area by Birdw0rks, one of my favourite NY Flickrati.

I visited Temple Bar in Dublin a couple of years ago. I can imagine this scene there.

Let me put the idea to rest NOW that I would ever be party to such pre-wedding shenanigans. In Dublin, anyway, ha!

Nah, not anywhere. I'm not the 'hen party'-ing kind. I'll probably have a little soirée in Vancouver with friends before I leave, but that's about it.

Read Birdw0rks' accompanying post here:

I Don't Fancy His Much

Friday, July 15, 2005

I Bought My Wedding Shoes

I bought the dress on Tuesday, and I wondered whether I would be as lucky with the shoes.

Eliza first took me to her favourite store, Holt Renfrew, which is like the Canadian version of Saks Fifth Avenue. High-end. I didn't think I would get anything there, but Eliza did! Surprise, surprise... she's 'The Shoe Aficionado' I mentioned yesterday. Her shoes cost nearly as much as my wedding dress.

We found this pair at the next shop we went into. They're like the ones I wore to Lucy's wedding last year in England, except they are NOT pink, and wide enough for my feet. The ones I wore last year had to be taken to the cobbler in Wolverhampton for stretching. I didn't think I would wear pointy-toed shoes again, but these are surprisingly comfortable. I think the problem wearing sling-backs last year was the elastic strap -- these ones have more support. The bows are low-key as well. I was thinking of removing them, but that might ruin the fabric.

The best thing about the shoes, though, was the price: $60!

Flickr Indigestion?

(Click to enlarge.)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Vandigicam BBQ for Striatic

(This is a fly-by posting. I'm off to go shoe shopping with The Shoe Aficionado.)

Striatic, of Flickr fame, rolled into town to begin the Canadian segment of his Striatic Does America Roadshow. (Click at left for larger images.)

Last night the Vandigicam group threw a BBQ and grilled meat in his honour.

He's a vegetarian.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I Bought My Wedding Dress

... and it was PAINLESS.

Yesterday I jumped on a bus to East Hastings near Boundary Road to browse for a wedding dress. This is something I've been dreading for a while, but I decided to bite the bullet and continue my productive streak.

Since I returned from Toronto, I've been getting lots done. In fact, I've accomplished more since Friday than I have in the first six weeks before I went to Toronto. My 'to do' list was growing out of control, and now it's finally getting tackled.

I feel different, too, more energy and more motivation. Maybe the pace of Canada's largest city lit a fire under me, I don't know. In fact, I even finished my TAXES on Monday, something I'd been needing to finish for a long time but 'hadn't gotten around to it'. It's my largest return to date, which probably accounted for me getting my arse in gear: money!

The Medieval Dress
The Medieval Dress,
originally uploaded by formerly TaGurit.
Just to be clear, this is NOT the dress. But, it is a style I wanted to use as a guide. Generally, I knew I wanted:
  • (chiffon) sleeves
  • empire waist
  • no train
  • lighter material
  • ivory
  • NOT poofy
But, I also knew MOST wedding dresses are not like this. I was seriously considering renting a dress, too, but then I thought of how much of a hassle this might be, eg., Eliza picking it up in Vancouver, taking it to Pennsylvania, bringing it back, wearing it in Vancouver, etc. I'd probably have to pay through the nose for extra drycleaning and keeping it for more than a week, too.

I walked into the first shop. They mostly ignored me, which is what I wanted, and why I dressed more like a student. The dresses were heavy with beadwork and trains and either very 'princessy' or 'frumpy-flashy'. I'm 33. I'm too old for that Cinderella tiara fantasy (not that it was ever a childhood fantasy, anyway). I'm too young to resort to Las Vegas glitz on my chest (which is not me, anyway). The only dress I liked wasn't even bridal, it was a bridesmaid's dress. Very simple, Vera Wang-ish, if you know what I mean. I made a mental bookmark of it.

On to shop #2. I had to ring a doorbell and take off my shoes. The dresses were wrapped in protective drycleaning bag plastic. Most of them were too ornate. I talked to the owner about what I liked, and I soon got the impression I wouldn't find it there. I saw the same dress I liked in shop #1, but in a different colour. I couldn't even try it on because she said all the samples only come in a size 10, which I'm not.

Shop #3. I was starting to wonder if my list was more unrealistic than I'd imagined. I could budge on probably every item (I wasn't even adamant about white OR ivory, but definitely ivory over white), but I would only compromise if the style was in keeping with our Art Nouveau theme of organic shapes. The owner encouraged me to step outside of my parameters.

OK, that was an understatement: we locked horns over my parameters. She thought the empire waist would make me look pregnant. She wanted me to try a two-piece. I pooh-poohed the dresses with heavy beadwork and busy designs.

"Plain," I said. "It has to be plain."

I rejected nearly every one of her suggestions, stubbornly sticking to my guns about the empire waist. Finally, she gave up.

"Nevermind, my opinion doesn't count," she muttered. "I'm only telling you from experience."

I ignored her, as I do most salespeople. She found two dresses, and the one that looked more 'bridal' and less 'bridesmaid' was the one I ended up buying. After I put it on, she admitted I was right -- about the colour AND the empire waist cut. There you go.

I phoned Eliza.

"I need a second opinion."

She fought rush hour traffic to get there by 6 o'clock, when the store closed. The woman said her lease was up at the end of July, and she wasn't renewing it. She wanted to spend more time with her kids, she said. Everything in the shop had to go, and everything was 50-70% off, and negotiable.

I bought an $830 wedding dress for $400. We also found a dress for Eliza, which was slashed down to $100. Both dresses are being altered for $50. I can't believe we bought BOTH with alterations, for $550.

I budged on the train -- it has a train. There are buttons that continue all the way down the train, and it would be a shame to cut it off. I was going to lop off the train to make a veil with the organza overlay, but the buttons get in the way. So she's going to make a bustle for it so I can put it up. I'm also getting her to take OUT the crinoline, so it's NOT poofy. The material is heavier (another compromise), so it'll hang nicely.

I also budged on the sleeves. It doesn't have any, but it's neither low-cut in the front or back. The design on the front is very low-key and it continues to the back. I took a couple of photos of the dress, but I'm not going to post them here. I'm just e-mailing the photos around. When I go back after the alterations I'll take a photo of the back, which I neglected to do yesterday.

While excited about our deal, Eliza is disappointed that the dress-shopping was over so quickly.

"That's it?" she asked. She wanted this to be an experience, but I then reminded her that there's still the matter of shoes and accessories. I'll bet it takes longer to find my shoes than it took to find the dress. But the last time I went shoe shopping with Eliza, we managed to find two pairs, so maybe we'll be lucky this time, too.


A clipping from this blog when I was in London last year.

I finally heard back from my friend George -- he's the last person I'd been waiting to hear from since Friday. I couldn't find his mobile number in my address book, and I only had an e-mail address. I was getting a little anxious, since it's been five days since I wrote.

He was apparently at work already when it all happened. An excerpt from his e-mail:

"... I work close to these sights [sic] but my neighbohood seemed unphased by the whole incident. it was business as usual. my life was uninterrupted by the events and was just as shocked as the whole world when i saw the images on tv..."

Londoners have been accustomed to bomb threats from years of IRA activity. The first time I went to London in February of 1993 I was in the middle of TWO bomb scares in THREE DAYS. 'Business as usual' seems a harsh way to live, but the skin must thicken if you make London your home.


February 2, 1993

Arrived at Heathrow Airport from a long flight -- Bangkok, Thailand via Sofia, Bulgaria. It was a SMOKING flight, too, and I was sitting in the smoking section beside a German fellow who was especially excited to come away from Bangkok with a carton of Camels WITHOUT FILTERS.

"You can't get these in Germany!" he said enthusiastically, puffing himself into a cloud of Camel smoke. Did I mention it was a long flight?

I was perhaps the last person to get to Passport Control/U.K. Immigration. I was alone. I had next to zero in cash. I had no credit card. My only ties to the U.K. were rather flimsy ones, at best.* I had only a one-year open-return ticket to Bangkok with Balkan Airlines.

*ding*ding*ding*red flag*ding*ding*ding*

I was interrogated, needless to say. For more than two hours. I was finally released after they confiscated my address book and phoned some of the U.K. numbers.**

I was exhausted. But relieved. I went to catch the tube to central London, where I'd found a cheap place to stay.

BOMB SCARE #1. Tube stations immediately shut down, everyone evacuated, forced to catch buses. Chaos, with everyone trying to get on the buses or catch taxis. It was nighttime, and all I could remember was a blur of faces going in every direction. If I hadn't been interrogated, I would've passed Hammersmith station before they shut it down. It took me a long, long time to get to Gloucester station.

Fast-forward two days.

BOMB SCARE #2. I was having dinner in Piccadilly Circus with a guy from Durban, South Africa. We were chatting about universities. Suddenly we were told to get out of the restaurant. When we went out the door, it was eerie -- all of Piccadilly Circus, which is usually teeming with people, was completely deserted.

I went to live in Scotland shortly after that. Not for this reason, but the strong cultural connections did make Scotland a relatively 'safer' place to be in terms of IRA activity.

The following month, March 1993, a bomb exploded in a busy shopping centre in Warrington, Cheshire, killing at least one child and injuring dozens of people. I remember this clearly -- it was just before (British) Mother's Day.

March 20, 1993

A month after that an IRA bomb went off in London, wrecking Liverpool Street station and nearby churches.

April 24, 1993

Those news stories show a chilling timeline of IRA terrorist activity from the 1970s to 2000s, not just around London but other large cities like Manchester. Terrorist activity is not ever something one would like to ignore, but after many years of terrorist threats and realities such as this, it should be less surprising to people why Londoners might express a more subdued reaction to last Thursday than expected.

* Long story.
** If it wasn't for one contact, I probably would have been deported back to Thailand. And then I would've been -- as they say -- really stuffed.

You're Only Six Once

want some?
want some?,
originally uploaded by gail on the web.

Melissa turned six years old on Saturday.


It's hard to believe,
but it's true,
the Sweet Baboo
is no longer two...

(she'll soon be DRIVING...!)

On Sunday I went to visit Melissa. We filled the wading pool and splashed around in the sunshine, chit-chatting in a rare moment of one-on-one.

"How do you like being six?" I asked Melissa.

She fished out a bug from the pool with her digging claw and paused for a moment to consider her answer.

Very earnestly, she said: "I don't know, Auntie Gail. This is my first time to be six."