Friday, 27 August 2010

Week in Review Part 2 - The rest of the story...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, so first off – ANNOUNCEMENT: there will be NO blog after tonight until Tuesday, 7 September. Why you ask? Because Team Taylor is heading to the Med for some fun in the sun in…wait for it…wait for it…CROATIA, BABY!!!!! We’ve got stops in Bosnia and Montenegro as well, but Croatia is the primary destination. We are SO excited!

But enough of that, I owe you the rest of the week in review, and so let’s kick that off:

Wednesday: The triumphant return of the AFD

So Wednesday was a GREAT day in the office – steadily productive, with plenty crossed off the list. Also, I finished another book – “The Junior Officer’s Reading Club.” I must confess that, for the first 200 or so pages, I was not terribly impressed. Some of his insights were well written, and his obscure references to various works of literature were sharp as well (he is an Oxford man, after all). But in truth, there just wasn’t much substance to the book. The last half of it, however, was blisteringly well paced, very introspective, and provided amazing insights into life on the front line of Afghanistan. Hitman – this guy might not be Marcus Luttrell, but he’s pretty bad ass.

Regardless, after 2 straight books about war in Afghanistan (and 3 of the last five largely focused on Afghanistan -= The Kite Runner), I was in DESPERATE need of something light and fluffy. I found that in the form of “A Land of 2 Halves – An accidental tour of New Zealand.” T-bone and Wild Wallaby – you simply HAVE to read this. You will CACKLE on every page.

The workout that day was great – 45 minutes on the bike, followed by a solid 5K. My legs weren’t as tired as Tuesday, so I was quite pleased.

Jenny and I had a salad at home, digging into cheese from the Garlic festival (the Pickled Cheese and the Blueberry Cheese – that stuff should be illegal) and managing the first AFD in awhile. All in all, a very good night.

Thursday: Normalcy – a rare concept

Again, another great and productive day at work, but Muffin Puffin and I were starting to show signs of being on the go too much. For starters, the last 2 weekends have been conducted at LIGHT SPEED, and the last 2 weeks of work for Muffin Puffin have been simply OUT OF CONTROL. That girl has worked NON-STOP, grinding away on the trains, at home during dinner, and then well into the night. I think it was only the thought of vacation (and my undying love and devotion, of course) that kept her going.

I logged 45 on the bike that night, digging into the new book and trying to burn calories in advance of the eating that I knew was imminent. Something tells me that, if history’s any indicator, I should have biked for another 13 hours straight…

The evening was good, as I finally got to Skype with MOMMA!!!!!! We chatted for about 45 minutes, and it was great. Mum – it had been TOO LONG. In addition, we started packing and JT got her UK taxes submitted, something else that had been hanging over her head and felt GUUUUUUUUUUUD to get rid of. We tackled a final salad (AFD included) before calling it a night around 12:30. And whilst that bed time is pretty normal for us, the start time on Friday – 6 AM – was NOT typically.

Friday: O, Happy Day

So today’s been great – my to-do list for the day and the week is scratched out, the things to look out for next week are noted, and I am FINALLY ready for vacation (Insert everyone I work with, the Granville 6, and the Hairless Wonder all saying in unison “You are ALWAYS on vacation”).

The workout was good - 35 minutes on the bike (23.5 km) and then 3km on the treadmill in about 17 minutes. I think I could have done more, but I was bloody EXHAUSTED from the 5+ hours of sleep. And considering that we have a 3:15 AM WAKE UP CALL TOMORROW for a 4:40 train to the airport, I think you can appreciate how guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud tomorrow night's sleep is going to be...

Oh, and one last thing - new GREATEST SONG EVER in the gym today. I'm pretty sure it's called "Put your hands up for Detroit" because, well, here are the words:

"Put your hands up"

(wait 5 seconds)

"Put your hands up"

(wait another 5 seconds)

"Put your hands up"

( another 5 seconds here)

"Put your hands up for Detroit"

THAT'S IT. NOTHING MORE. DONEZO. Really? REALLY? At least the "Do I look like a slut" song rhymed and had more than ONE PHRASE. I mean, to be fair, at the end he says, "I love this city" (which, incidentally, is a sure fire sign that he's never actually BEEN to Detroit -sorry Pooh, Smith, and Nicole). WHO SIGNS THESE PEOPLE TO A RECORD DEAL?

As I type this, my bags are packed and we are about to order Indian (From the DOOT, baby!!!). I mean, come on - nothing says go to bed early and rest easy like a pound of lamb covered in curry with enough chili pepper to melt lead. Best of all, when we hit the sack tonight, the third AFD in a row will be realized. However, that is all the quarter I can give my body as VACATION IS HERE, BABY!!!!!!!

Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat with you in just over a week!


Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Catching up part 1 - the week in review...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother country! It's another wet one here in the Smoke, which further affirms my conclusion that summer is over and fall has arrived. More disconcerting is the grim reality that winter is probably only 2 weeks away. Oh well, that's what keeps the place green, right?

Okay, plenty to catch you up on, so let's get right into the week in a nutshell ("No, baby - this is me in a nutshell" - for you OSC).

Monday: More than ever, it feels like home...

So Monday was a full day in the office up in Chester, cranking away at work and attending call after call after call. It went so fast, in fact, that I didn't actually do what I had promised myself I would do - take 30 minutes to walk the grounds a final time, watch how the sun clips the Welsh Mountains in the distance, the brilliant light catching the perfectly manicured grounds around the fountain and the front of Phase 1. I didn't take 10 minutes to walk the office, reading all the phrases along the way about how "Complacency is devastating" or "Opportunity is missed by most people because it looks like work." Lastly, I didn't make the last walk through the phases, remembering how many times I made the trek to the "Field of Dreams."

Perhaps it was for the best, as getting caught up in the moment protects you from dwelling on any sadness that threatens to creep in. However, as we took the ride out of Phase 1 (courtesy of the lovely Kristen Henderson) and headed back into Chester, both Jenny and I couldn't help but feel a twinge of sadness that we were saying goodbye to this hallowed ground that had been our place of employment and livelihood for 6 months in 2007. And as we rolled into the city, riding through familiar streets and realizing we still knew the route home and to the station, the feeling only intensified.

Lastly, as we pulled up to the train station, said goodbye to Kristen, caught a final picture with the rhino (Yazz - he's almost as cool as Big Elvis at Bills...), and then walked to the entryway to the station, we turned for a last look. Granted, all you can see from the station are 2 pubs (The Town Crier and The Waiting Room), but it wasn't about seeing the wall or the Grosvenor or Harkers or the Chester Clock (second most photographed clock in all of England - I'll let you figure out #1), it's about breathing the air a final time, taking in the memories of miles run along the canal, pints drank at Harker's, and friends that you will always, always have in the North country. I don't know when we'll be back to Chester, but I do know that we'll return. And now, more than ever, and perhaps even more than when we left in 2007, I can say that, when I think of the walled city, it feels like home.

The train ride, despite arriving late, was uneventful, and I skipped the AFD for a free glass of wine. O-vino - you had me begged - a consultant at heart NEVER skips on the free booze. As he came round, your words rang in my ears and I couldn't help but think of Wyatt's line from Tombstone: "Yeah, I'm an oak all right, doc." And Mom - don't panic - it was just one (and it was really, really teeny...).

We sacked out that night, happy to be back in our own beds and conscious that we were just 4 days shy of vacation.

Tuesday - An all around Arinso reunion

So Tuesday was a great one. For starters, it was uber-productive. Secondly, after being absent from the blog for almost a year (to the day in fact), we met up with Money Penny! We went to Byron (that's right, Hitman - I am LOYAL, baby), where Owain, Muffin Puffin, Money Penny, and I consumed FABULOUS burgers whilst Lisa (who is skinny as a rail, which is crazy because she never really had any weight to lose) explained to us about life in the British Virgin Islands. Let me give you the highlights:

1. You cannot eat any fish around the island. The reef has poisonous algae, and it will kill you. All fish you eat is frozen and flown in from Indonesia.

2. There are 2 restaurants on the island - NONE in the main city. In fact, there is nothing IN the main city. It is called Road Town because, well, there is a road there. THAT'S IT.

3. The only thing to eat is chicken. You fry it. You grill it then fry it. Or you smoke it then fry it. No matter what - that bird will be fried before you put it in your mouth. They KNOW what healthy is...

4. Lisa cannot get home without putting the car in 4-wheel drive. Even in 4-wheel drive she couldn't get to her house last week because a tree fell across the drive way. How did local services remove it? WITH A MACHETE. AWESOME.

Needless to say, the stories were HILARIOUS, and it was a great (but WAY too fast) hour. I got a great workout in at the end of the day, logging 45 minutes on the bike and doing a 5K. It wasn't my best effort, but I was pleased that I kept it under 9 minutes a mile.

In the evening, Team Taylor rolled to King's Cross - St. Pancras, where we marched over to a bar called the Fellow. There, we did the UNTHINKABLE - said goodbye to the Prime Minister and his family! That's right, folks - the Carter's are officially out the door on Sunday - Hong Kong bound! Guys, we'll be thinking of you (since you won't let us pray for you... :-)).

We spent the night chatting with the Carters (minus Grace, of course) and meeting some of their friends, Trevor and Jason proving to be who we spent the most time with - those guys were GREAT. All in all, it was a GREAT night. We packed it in around 10, happy in the knowledge that we'll see them later this year on the flight home! Safe travels!

I figure we can cover off the rest of the week tomorrow, so I'll say goodbye for now.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Chester Part 2...

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, we're still cranking through the Chester recap, so let's get down to business. We'll just cover Sunday today, and then tomorrow I'll give you a catch-up blog for the week.
Sunday: 2 out of 3 in the books – the “Girls” take on Snowden

So Sunday appeared a bit earlier than we’d hoped, and by that I mean TEAM TAYLOR WAS EXHAUSTED. Granted, we’d done (I think) a great job of pacing ourselves, but the fact remained that we’d been at it ALL DAY on Saturday and bagged less than 7 hours of sleep before heading off to tackle THE SECOND HIGHEST MOUNTAIN IN THE UK. Rough and tumble, baby – that’s all I’m sayin’…

And then, at 9:45 AM, Alison “The Biology Bullet” wheels up to the house, complete with Lady Catherine in tow. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, the Dollywaggon crew was together again! Granted, we were 3 shy this time, but we definitely had enough of a quorum to make an assault on the summit. 10 minutes later, gear was stowed and we were en route to Snowdonia National Park and the 2nd of the 3 peaks for Team Taylor: Mt. Snowden.

The drive over was SIMPLY GORGEOUS. Honestly, all we EVER hear from folks is how Snowden, Skafell Pike, and Ben Nevis are ALWAYS covered in fog and being lashed by rain. However, thanks to a minor miracle from God, we’ve had AMAZING weather at both of the peaks we’ve attacked. You just wouldn’t have believed the clear skies and sun shine on the drive into Wales and to the park.

As we turned into the park, however, the skies got noticeably darker. Feeling something ominous (as this place really did look like something out of Lord of the Rings – I think I said “Cirith Ungol” about 470 times), we rolled toward the trailhead, at which point Alison says, “So normally you can’t get into the parking lot, but there is a pull out near by that’s never failed me.” Hmmmm….

True to form, the parking lot was PACKED. What Alison DIDN’T say, however, was that her pull out (or “lay by” as she called it) was OVER A MILE AWAY STRAIGHT DOWN THE SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN WITH NO PATH OR SIDEWALK. Translation, we drove down a 13% gradient for a mile, parked the car, loaded the gear, and turned around, conscious that we’d officially added 2 miles to the walk.

By itself, that was no big deal. The bigger issue was when Catharine said, “Has anyone seen my shoes?” SILENCE. And upon further review, we realized that Cath’s shoes were sitting side-by-side by Alison’s table at home. That’s right – she was gonna have to go up in quasi-sandals. Good times…

The walk up was the “Minor’s trail,” which took us past many GORGEOUS lakes and an abandoned mine (shocking, huh). I must confess, it was one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL hikes I’ve ever done (Dad – picture “beauty beyond” and multiple it by 10) – every step took you around a new corner and new view, and the scenery was just breathtaking. Plus, given that it’s a fairly worn path (there’s a train to the top), you could walk without having to watch your steps.

And it was in a moment of reflection like this that we rounded a corner and heard Lailey say, “That’s it – Snowden.” MAN – it was SOMETHING OUT OF A MOVIE. Shiny green patches set against hard, black stone, with a sharp pinnacle at the top cloaked in a thin veil of cloud. I was pretty sure I could see Gandalf on the summit – he must have just pitched the Balrog into the water before me.

And whilst this was an AWESOME image, it also revealed an important fact – we were at the ABSOLUTE BOTTOM of the mountain, and there were no switchbacks in sight. What does our trail leader, Miss Lailey say? “Yes, so at this point it gets a bit short and sharp.” Truer words were NEVER spoken.

The next mile was steeper than an Afghani goat trail, which wasn’t too disheartening until a little 5 year old boy WHIPPED past me like he was on a slip-n-slide. I mean, did I EVER have that kind of energy (Mom – don’t answer that. It was the all the cokes that Nanny gave me! Insert picture of me running up and down the hallway at Nan’s house here – always gotta touch the white door)?

All the same, that trail led us to a ridge with SPECTACULAR views, and then just another 10 minutes saw us to the summit – which was COVERED IN CLOUD. That’s right – the entire walk had been WIDE open, but the last 50 meters was a bloody WHITE OUT. However, that didn’t stop 2/3’s of the population of the UK from gathering on the summit stone for a picture. It was like a druid convention desperate to kiss Stonehenge (minus the torches and gray robes, of course).

We spent some time at the top (there’s a cafĂ© there), sipping hot chocolate, resting, and taking in the SPECTACULAR views (you could see the ocean from there – it was awesome). After about 40 minutes, however, it was time to make the ascent back down.

We took the Pyg Pass down, which was every bit as AMAZING and completed a 7.5 mile circuit that I will ALWAYS remember as one of the best hikes of my entire life. As always, we took a beating on the way down, but MAN was it spectacular, with unbelievable vistas around every corner.

After that, it was the journey back to the car and then the 1.5 hour drive back to Chester, finally arriving back in town at 8:30. And how did the summit team celebrate their achievement? They way you celebrate ANY summit, of course – INDIAN, BABY!!!! And not just any Indian – buffet at Asian Fusion (Fizzy – it’s the one RIGHT beside that classy joint known as….Revolution). We sat down and tucked right in, KILLING some grub. And best of all – they had BENGLA ON DRAFT! Finally!

We said by to the girls about 10 PM and then rolled into our B & B for the night, furnished by Lord’s good friends Pal and Hillary. However, the day wasn’t over ,as well rolled well into the night chatting with them about everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING). From religion to gun control to language training to travel in the states to GREAT new music, we hit it all (check out Mumford and Sons or Ra Ra Riot if you’re lookin’ for some great new tunes – QUALITY music). Finally, around 1 AM, I called it a night. After all, Monday was a callin’…
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Chester Part 1...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country – what a weekend! We had SUCH a blast up in Chester, so let’s get you right into the mix:

Thursday: Quick run, quick ride, and a rhino in rhinestones

The work day was good, as always, and I was able to squeeze in a run (and a shower, fret not!) before catching the train up to Chester. I ran a 5K for time on the treadmill, turning in a 24:30. Honestly, whilst it’s nowhere near close to some of my best times, it’s the fastest I’ve logged a 5K in 2010 and certainly a good feeling for me. I ran for time twice last week, both turning in times I was pleased with. Now let’s hope we can keep the weight off (no comments Dinger – pregnant wookie my ass…) and keep grinding the seconds down.

The train up to Chester was good, although I couldn’t really focus on my book. Truth be told, it was an exhausting week, and I just wanted to listen to some music and tune out. My muffin puffin, however, was an ANIMAL, working for 2 straight hours on hierarchy maintenance (insert Hitman and Big Cat saying, “Sam – why can’t you be a little more like your wife and actually DO something for a change).

Lord G picked us up at the station, where we were greeted by…wait for it…wait for it – an Elvis Rhino! Yazz – tell me that doesn’t warm your heart? There are currently 70 Rhino’s in Chester right now, each one decorated and sponsored by a company. They are going to be auctioned off in September to raise cash for rhinos in the wild. Hitman – I need to chat with you about securing another air crate – after all, I’m planning to buy three…

We met Mr. Goodyer’s lady Melissa and rolled back to the Station House on Station Lane, where we chatted for a bit before crashing at the PHAT PAD we were staying at around half twelve (that would be 12:30 AM to my US readers).

Friday: Timmy T with Curry? I must be in Heaven!

So Friday morning was the triumphant return to the Chester Business Park. There, glistening on the hill and shining more brightly than Wayne Manor outside Gotham City, sat the pinnacle of European Credit Commerce – MBNA Phase 1. It looked just as I remembered – fountain running and all. Only this time someone else was driving vs. Sammy spinning all over the parking lot in his diesel propelled Sherman Tank.

It was SO GREAT to see everyone, and we spent the first few minutes catching up with folks before settling in to the day’s activities. I caught Fish & Chips with Lord and worked away until about 5:30, at which point we rolled back to the house to drop off our bags. And THAT, my dear friends, is when things got interesting…

So we show up, key in hand, walk to the door, and insert the key that has CLEARLY WORKED Thursday night and Friday morning into the lock. NOTHING. No turn. No twist. No fit. NOTHING. To Mark’s credit, he’s VERY calm. And then the rain comes…

So Mark and I spend the next 20 minutes trying to BREAK INTO this house. This includes checking every window and trying to put little sticks through the key holes in an effort to knock the locks open. I am now FIRMLY convinced that I need to be an upright citizen for the rest of my days, as between my inability to break into houses and my propensity for failing those anti-money laundering tests, clearly I SUCK at crime.

Ultimately a lock smith was required, who came out and informed us that the house had an ILLEGAL LOCK on it which was going to break at some point. Rather inconveniently for us, it chose Friday as the day to depart for the afterlife. Oh well, at least we eventually got in, by virtue of a locksmith with a BIG hammer.

And on a side note, what is interesting is that Mark called the guy, said he was house-sitting but couldn’t get in, and the locksmith showed up and opened the door – NO QUESTIONS ASKED. Can you imagine if you tried to pull that stunt in the states? Price – just let me know when you’re going on vacation again – I need a nice bike…

Once it was all ultimately sorted, we rolled over to a pub called the Nag’s head. This joint was GREAT – a pub turned Thai joint that still served…wait for it….wait for it…TIMMY TAYLOR LANDLORD, BABY!!!!!! Curry and Timmy – could life get any better?

We spent the evening there with some of Mark’s hockey (field not ice) mates, chatting about everything and carrying on like the proper jokers we are. We then rolled over to the Bird in Hand, a local country pub near to the house, where I had (of course!) a final ceremonial Cheshire Cat, followed by a new brewery – Tatson’s. I am happy to report that they make a VERY fine ale. We then headed back to the house and crashed, as we knew there was a BIG day on the horizon…

Saturday: Gamblin’ with the Guv’nah

Saturday morning started the way you hope all of them will – with someone else cookin’ breakfast and makin’ coffee! We rolled downstairs to find Mark and Melissa prepping the coffee and the food, which included a new first for Sammy – his fist ever “dippy egg!”

So, a little back story on this – a common breakfast meal in the UK is “chucky eggs and soldiers.” However, truth be told I never really had ANY IDEA what that meant. I mean, come on – what the HELL is a chucky egg?

Well, as fate would have it, it’s a hard boiled egg that you cut the top off and then dip slices of bread (the soldiers) into. I had heard this called differently before – the famous “dippy egg.” Granted, when I said that, Goodyer looked at me and said,” Dippy Egg? Are you 4 years old?” all the same, it was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuud. Check out muffin puffin in action.

After that, it was over to the city, where we entered the palace of Guv’nah Andrew Harwood. Andrew is another mate and work colleague of ours, and he and his gal Jo invited us over for a pre-race drink. And so, an hour before game time, the six of us were toasting champagne and GORGING on the spread of olives, pizza, pasties, and quiche laid out before us. I was back in proper American (Yank) fashion, eating everything not bolted to the ground. After all, my body knew what was coming on Sunday, and it was DESPERATE to store up some energy.

Their place was GREAT, complete with a view of the canal and the 14,000 ducks and swans that inhabit the waters. They came round a few times during our stay, as Andrew tends to enjoy feeding the critters (as Jo put it: “He’s fed me once today – he’s fed them FOUR!”).

Of course, there was a slight hiccup during our stay. As we were about to depart, I decided to run to the bathroom. The main bathroom was at the top of the stairs, and as I entered, I noticed there was some tile flooring boxed up and some of the woodwork missing around the toilet. Not thinking much of this, I preceded to do what I needed to do (#1, mind you), finishing and reaching for the handle, only to realize suddenly that the handle wasn’t actually a handle. In fact, the handle was nowhere to be seen. You know what else was nowhere to be seen? RUNNING WATER. That’s right – out of 3 options in the condo, Taylor had picked the ONE JOHN that was broken. Harwood was gracious about it. Personally, I would have thrown me over the balcony.

And then, tweed “geography teacher” sportscoat on, Harwood in his tie, Lord in his sports coat, and our women smokin’ hot, we rolled to the featured event of the day – The Chester Races. Thanks to some fancy footwork by Harwood, we’d secured County Stand seats, which were WAY nicer than the seats Puma, Muffin, and I occupied in 2007. And as we queued to get into the track, I gotta tell ya – the people watching was FAAAAAAAAAAAAANTASTIC.

Picture TONS of blokes in their finest suits, complete with ladies on their arms clad in ALL MANNER of dresses – the hats, the shoes, and the dresses (or noticeable lack thereof) was more exciting than the Bulls Gap Street Festival, Speed Street, and London’s Rubber Ball all rolled together. Add in all the hen parties, regulars with their serious looks and determined to make “serious money,” and a veritable OCEAN of humanity (it was a sellout), and you’ve got a recipe for a guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud afternoon.

We rolled into the track just in time to place bets on the first race. It should be noted that Jo liked the name of the 33/1 long shot “Great Charm.” The conversation went something like this:

Jo: “Andrew – I like that one. Let’s put 5 quid on it.”

Andrew: “No – that is a long shot in a race with many favorites. It has no chance.”

Jo: “How about just 3 quid?”

Andrew: “Don’t do that – you would absolutely be throwing your money away.”

2 minutes later, Great Charm is in the winner’s circle and Jo is telling Andrew that he’ll be funding her next shopping spree…it was AWESOME.

After that race, we walked through the underground tunnel, popping out on the infield, known as the Paddock. We spent the rest of the day there, drinking Pimm’s & Lemonade (the girls) and going through more than a few pints (the boys). I particularly liked when Harwood, having observed the crowd’s at the bar, suggested that “it would be far more efficient if we doubled up and had 2 pints at a time (Mum – you’ll be happy to know that I only opted for 1…).

The races themselves were BRILLIANT. JT was EN FUEGO. Seriously – this gal won THREE RACES IN A ROW, including hitting Cosmic Moon for an 85 quid win! She did so good, in fact, that she canceled me out, and I didn’t win SQUAT. In fact, the only time I ever collected money ALL DAY was when one of my horses scratched and I got a refund. But hey – as our pastor said, “Our sorrows are halved and our joys doubled.” Way to go, Pumpkin!

Once the races were over, we rolled back to Harwood’s to DEMOLISH the rest of the food before rolling over to the second featured event of the evening – a party at one of Mark’s mate’s houses. And let me tell you – this was some guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud eatin’…

So Mark’s buddy DL has this GREAT house near downtown. Even better, his wife is AMONG THE GREATEST CHEFS EVER. Before we walked in, Mark said, “I expect there will be some food here.” About 2 seconds later, I walked into a kitchen containing enough food to feed the Red Army for a month – WOW. Needless to say, I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuved me some Chicken Kebabs (the sticky toffee pudding and white chocolate cheesecake – BOTH slices I had – were also delish).

The funniest moment was when I entered and responded to some random question, only to hear 2 ladies across the table speaking about me in whispered tones. The phrase “I think I detect a colonial accent there” was definitely heard. Bond. Sam Bond.

We stayed there until almost midnight, and it was GREAT. Good food, good people, plenty of laughs, good food…a PERFECT day in Chester.
I think that's enough for tonight. We'll pick up the rest of it tomorrow.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

And then he put a gun in my hand and I felt human again...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country! That's right - AFD for this guy, and I'm FINALLY feeling human again. Seriously - the first half of the day was ROUGH, but a walk along the river at lunch made me feel better. Throw in a salad for some nutrients and then 30 minutes on the bike, and you have a recipe for getting (slowly) back to normal. Regardless, tomorrow will DEFINITELY be another AFD.

Okay, so first off - ANNOUNCEMENT - there will be NO BLOG until next Monday. Why, you ask? Because the Taylors are headin' up North to CHESTER, BABY!!! That's right - Team Taylor is visiting the hollowed ground of "Shot Tower Close" for a series of crazy endeavors (which I can't name now, of course - you'll have to check the blog on Monday!). We can't WAIT!

So this evening's featured event was an unexpected one - a show at the National Theater. The National Theater, located on the South Bank, is actually a HUGE, sprawling complex of 3 different theaters, and it's REALLY cool inside. It's so big, in fact, that we had to walk up SIX FLIGHTS OF STAIRS to get to our theater (the Olivier). I mean, check out the fake "lawn party" before the show. They were blasting music, had deck chairs over the astro turf, and there were bars and restaurants ALL OVER this place.

We went to see the show "Welcome to Thebes," which turned out to be a retelling of "Antigone." Rice - Mrs. Ware would have been SO PROUD of me - I still remembered that bloody play and all that Sophocles foolishness.

Simply put, the show was FABULOUS - brilliantly acted, VERY well staged, tightly paced, well-blended humor, drama, and music - TRULY impressive. In addition the the Antigone theme, it is also a commentary on war torn countries and their dependence on the West to help them rebuild (and what they might have to sacrifice in the process of securing support).
The theater was HUGE, and the stage it's self simply massive. I am SO GLAD we went. And best of all? Tix were TEN QUID and we had PERFECT seats. I think we'll probably make another show there before we head home. Talk about a hidden gem!

Okay, as it's now 11 and we're just sitting down to dinner (with packing still to go), I am going to sign off.

That's all the news that's fit to print. Chat Monday. Everyone have a great weekend!


Sam and Jenny

Sammy's finest hour - vomiting on the Tube...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond. I have no lie to tell - it's late and I'm hurtin', but I'm dedicated to my readership and, well, quite frankly, this is my penance.

So today was a great day at work, with a good workout as well (26km in 46 minutes). I also started "The Junior Officer's Reading Club", which I'm quite enjoying so far (but will definitely be my last war book for awhile).

The festivities began AFTER work about 6 PM, when I met Lord, a colleague of his named Rachel, Brother John, and the Welshman for brews at the Music Factory. The first 2 or 3 went down easy, and then Lord left to catch his train. With Owain and Rachel departing shortly thereafter (she'd just arrived this morning), John looked at me and said, "Do you want one more?" Well, the answer was YES - FOUR MORE TIMES.

All was fine (at least I thought) until I got on that Tube. It went something like this:

"The next stop is - Canada Water. Change for London Overground." (Sammy feels kind of weird)

"The next stop is - Bermondsey." (Sammy thinks this feels a lot like Rosenheim - only hotter)

"The next stop is - London Bri..." (Sammy burps...and it's more than a burp)

Dude across from me: "WHOA." (Sammy promptly gets off at the next station)

So I start walking the FOUR MILES home, and I call Jenny along the way and say, "Don't worry - I'll be home before 11." Her response: "Um, it's already 11:15." Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight...

So bottom line - Grolsch, Honeydew, no food, and a sweaty Jubilee Line is NOT the solution to all of life's problems.

That being said, I had a great night chatting with John, and I have no regrets. It really was a blast, man - let's just add some food next time!

And the best part? I alread know that the workout tomorrow is really, REALLY gonna suck...

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Mom and Dad - I'm really an okay kid! Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Monday, 16 August 2010

As you from crimes would pardon'd be, let your indulgence set me free...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. We're back in the Smoke! Today was a busy (and crazy) one, as today all the HR peeps from another building in London came to join us and moved into Canary Wharf. Basically, that means that our floor went from having 3 people (Owain, Lisa, and me) to about 90, which means the noise, chaos, and overall feel of the place has changed DRAMATICALLY. But don't worry, all my work peeps that know me - I'll still shave once a day, continue cussing like a sailor, wearing the same clothes for weeks at a time, and wearing the "Go" hat whilst standing during conference calls. These newcomers can't break me...but I guess they can file a claim with AR...

On the exercise front, I logged a 5 miler today, coming in at 41:35 on the treadmill. It felt really good, and I probably had 1-2 more miles in me had a moved at a slower pace. It's coming back! And for that matter, so is the appetite, as I'm becoming a ravenous beast these days. In fact, as I type this, muffin puffin is slicing some pickled cheese from the Isle of Wight - Yuuuuuuummaaaaaaaaaah.
The featured event of the evening was another London "to-do" - a show at the Old Vic. This theater, where Kevin Spacey is the resident Artistic Director, is a GORGEOUS place, and currently they are playing host to the "Bridge Project," a series where the same cast does 2 different Shakespeare shows on alternating nights. Directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes and sponsored by my employer, I was really looking forward to this.

The theater is BEAUTIFUL inside, and the energy was high for this production of "The Tempest" (my favorite Shakespeare show). However, I must confess that it was less than stellar. In fact, I would argue that it is the second worst show we've seen in London (behind "Blood Brothers"). The flow was off, the special effects lacked, the volume was rocky, and all in all it was nowhere near as good as the college production I saw at UNC. But hey, it was still a chance to see a show at the Old Vic, and I am glad I had the experience.

Lastly, I finished "Lone Survivor" tonight (a recommendation from Hitman). I will say that you have to have a strong stomach and enjoy war literature, but it was an amazing and compelling read. Say what you will - that guy is BAD ASS.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 15 August 2010

She's got a ticket to Ryde...and it includes gorgeous scenery, two fights, 80's rock, and all the garlic you can eat...

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after an AMAZING WEEKEND in the south of the Mother Country. The Isle of Wight - WOW - we had SO much fun that I don't even know where to start. Not every story was the picture of happiness, but sometimes those make for the best blog material. In fact, as I sit here preparing to type, I have so many anecdotes running through my head that I don't know where to start. But, given all that we saw, I guess I'll just start at the beginning...
Friday: Another shot at European "Tex-Mex" and proof you can sleep on a bed with no mattress...
So we caught the train down to Portsmouth, and it was GREAT. We had a table, I got to do plenty of reading, and we arrived in Portsmouth Harbor JUST in time to catch the Wightlink Ferry to IoW AN HOUR AHEAD OF SCHEDULE! We just scampered off the train platform and right onto the boat. This is the part where I confess I am AMAZED at how easy travel has become and Jeny rolls her eyes like (but is SO cute doing it).
It was raining on the crossing, but you could still see the big Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth (looks just like the top of the Burj al-Arab Hotel in Dubai). The crossing itself is VERY quick - about 20 minutes on a fast catamaran, carrying you across a narrow channel called the Solent.
We arrived at the town of Ryde (where our hotel was for the weekend) and stepped onto the Pierhead (second largest in Britain) to find a downpour of monsoon proportions. However, by the time we'd pulled out the umbrellas, it has already slackened considerably. As we stepped out, we realized that the ENTIRE SKY was blue (complete with sunlight STREAMING THROUGH THE HEAVENS) except for the JET BLACK CLOUD directly above us (Charlie Brown style).
All the same, we made the ~20 minute walk through the town (WAY bigger than I expected), climbing the hill and finally arriving at the Abingdon Lodge. There, our man Dennis gave us the tour and showed us to our room, which was SO CUTE until I laid on the bed. Seriously, how do i say this - THERE WAS NO MATTRESS. WE were sleeping on SPRINGS with basically an egg crate above them. We're not talking Futon-style here. We are talking "bed of nails with a sweaty Indian dude walking over you" style - NOT cool. Luckily there wasn't a sweaty Indian there - that would have made it awkward...
We got out and about shortly thereafter, wandering down the high street and looking for food. Our wanderings took us to the water, where we beheld a GORGEOUS sunset. Our ramblings ALSO took us down to the hovercraft pier, where I lived out every kid's G.I.Joe fantasy and watched these GINORMOUS hovercraft blast off and skid across the water. DUDE - it was EXTRA AWESOME - even the part where they threw about 90 tons of brine salt and sand in our faces. I thought of that as a souvenir...
After that, both starving we considered options for dinner. We'd made the stroll down the entire high street and the esplanade, but nothing had truly caught our eye. But then, in tune as only soul mates are, we immediately decided on the place to eat - DOS AMIGOS TEX-MEX, BABY!!!!!
So seriously - this was HILARIOUS. Billed as a "taste of Mexico right in the Isle of Wight," it featured such truly authentic dishes as:

1. BBQ pork ribs....what?

2. Jambalaya - really?

3. Surf & Turf - okay...


Ultimately, howevr, the pull of the ribs was too strong, and I picked that. Jenny actually did get a Mexican dish (quesadillas), but when the server brought out the food, she walked up and said," Who had the kwazzies?" I'M NOT KIDDING. SHE CALLED IT A KWAZZIE!!!!! She followed up with "Someone ordered Kwazziedilahs, right?" Luckily JT and I combined brain power and figured out what she was talking about. But hey, regardless they were good!
Oh, and did I mention that we had a bucket of...wait for it...wait for it...CORONA, BABY!!!! Check us out - MILES away from ordinary- literally.
After that, we rolled over to another "truly British" joint - Kasbah, billing itself as "a taste of the Med in the Isle of Wight." Not sure how "Med" it was, especially given that there were statues of BUDDHA evrywhere. But hey, we sat there, had a bottle of wine, and watched this couple make out and fuss at each other for an hour straight. And did I mention we were the only folks not doing shots?
After that, we went home and got in bed, only to have me make the mistake of turning on the TV. What was on? RANSOM, baby! It was Jimmy Shaker Day! Consequently, Muffin Puffin and I were up until 1, watching the movie and trying to avoid the springs digging into my back. Needless to say, it was a LATE night but a GREAT first day.

Saturday: Beauty, Buses, Brawls, and Beers
So we popped up this morning around 8:15 and made our way down for brekkie about 8:30. There, we had a quick Full English before being out and about at 9:05 - good job us!
The first stop on the tour was the bus stations, where we caught the #9 to Newport and then the #7 to Alum Bay and the top tourist attraction on the island - a formation of jagged chalk cliffs called The Needles.
So a little bit about getting around on IoW. THE INFRASTRUCTURE IS BRUTAL. However, there are all of these convenient double-decker buses that can take you around, saving you the stress of driving or biking (aka SUICIDE). But either way you cut it, there is NO denying the fact that is is TWO HOURS from Ryde to Alum Bay, and all the while all these low hanging branches are practically SMASHING IN the top of the bus. It was like a scene out of movie, where the aliens are trying to claw their way in from the top. I actually lost 42% of my hearing on the drive over.
The drive was worth it, however, as the Needles and surrounding area were BEAUTIFUL. Needles Park, however, was less than stellar. Before you get to the cliffs and the sands there, you have to pass through this GOAT RODEO of an amusement park, complete with:
1. A Glass-blowing demonstration

2. A Rock candy making demonstration

3. A 9 hole "Jurassic golf" course (putt-putt, obviously)

4. A Carousel that Churchill probably rode on as a kid

We elected to NOT go down the "thrilling chair lift" but walked to the beach instead (it took about 35 seconds). And once we got there, I was THRILLED we'd made the journey. The Needles were gorgeous, but the highlight was really the sand cliffs, as there were 22 different colors of sand along the cliffs, comprising 90 million years of earth's history. And so we hopped a boat (the Needles Pleasure Cruise) to sail out to the Chalk rocks and then get some GREAT views of the sand on the way back in. We also walked around the area, climbing on the chalk rocks and getting some GREAT photos.

We left the Needles and got back on a bus bound for Newport. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is where the first "adventure" of the day took place...

So, we climb to the top level and notice 2 seats near the back. Behind us are 2 other cats, looking a little rough, but whatever. In front of us are about 20 kids, all French, who are (to be fair) rather loud. But again, I thought nothing of this. First mistake.

No sooner have we started driving then the guy behind me yells to the kids, "COULD YOU SHUT UP!" He then says under his breath (but we can hear) "This does my head in. I have a gun in my pocket, and I'm going to shoot everyone on here."

Well, he didn't have a gun (thankfully), but he did stand up, yell at the students, yell at the teacher, and then crash into me on the way back to his seat. No sooner had he sat down before his buddy pulled Jenny's hair (yes, that's right - PULLED HER HAIR) and FLIPPED MY EAR. I mean really? REALLY? The last time my ear was flipped was THIRD GRADE. But rather than fight two strung out dudes on the second floor of a bus in a foreign country. Jenny and I got up and moved to the front. We thought about going downstairs, but wanted to stay up. SECOND mistake.

TWO MINUTES LATER, the French teacher runs downstairs. Thirty seconds later - the bus stops. Thirty seconds later, the bus driver comes up and orders the thugs off the bus. And just when the first thug gets up to leave, the French teacher goes BAT SHIT CRAZY and starts kicking and swinging at the thug. Chaos ensues, but finally the first guy leaves. The second guy is so strung out that he just passes out and CRASHES on the floor. He is summarily drug off the bus, basically face first. Good times at the goat rodeo. But the rest of the trip was uneventful!

We connected in Newport and caught another bus to the TRUE highlight of the day - THE ISLE OF WIGHT ANNUAL GARLIC FESTIVAL. That's right - I can't make this stuff up. We are talking a festival devoted to ALL things garlic. In truth, there was more than garlic there, but let me paint the scene:
1. Fire eaters blasting out flames like something from Eragon
2. Sam and Jenny splitting a Garlic Beer -that's right - GARLIC BEER (it was guuuuuuuuud)
3. Consuming block after block of cheese for samples, including Marmite Cheese, Blueberry Cheese, Whiskey Cheese, and roughly 10,000 others
4. Sitting in the grass listening to CRAZY ASS English folk music, drinking beer from the Island Brewery (Wight Gold, Wight Knight, and Yachtsman's Ale - all VERY good).
We spent about 2 hours there, and it was a BLAST - totally random, but a BLAST. And best of all - we bought 5 cheeses for the return home. Oh, and we bought pickled chili garlic (SO GUUUUUUUUUUUD). Let's just say I ain't worried about Edward Cullen attacking me anytime soon.
After that, my perfect puffin figured out the best bus for us to jump, and we caught the open top Island Breezer. The ride was great, even after the driver said, "If you're up top, please watch out, especially if you're sitting on the left side (where we were). 10 seconds later, a tree that looked like an Ent came sweeping over the seats. Jenny put it best: "that was like a scene from Harry Potter!"
After that, it was to The Crown Bar to watch Chelsea DEMOLISH WBA. Welcome to the big league, boys. To quote Brother Morgan: "Fret not, WBA - your season starts next week."
After that, we strolled back down to Kasbah, where we had a few tapas and ANOTHER pint, enjoying some GREAT people watching and good food. And then, we went to the final highlight of the evening: King Lud for 80's ROCK!
So this place was GREAT. We rolled in about 8:45, got a table, and 15 minutes later the music kicked off. We then spent the next THREE AND A HALF HOURS singing hits like, "Don't Stop Believin'", "You Give Love a Bad Name," and even "SWEET HOME ALABAMA!!!!!"
There were 2 gals beside us, Carol and Karen, and they were GREAT. They couldn't believe we knew all the words, but we told them this was basically the sound track to every single wedding in America. Also, these ladies were being hit on ALL night. I mean, the boys on IoW DO NOT stop (give 'em credit for persistence). Of course, some of this persistence led to the SECOND FIGHT OF THE DAY in front of us, which rocked our table. At this point, I was just happy to still be alive.
After that, we passed out at 1 (AGAIN), but this time I slept like a log - bed of nails or not.
Sunday: Royalty, Ryde Castle, and Relaxation
Suffice it to say, the Taylors missed English Breakfast this morning. However, we did get up about 9:30 and out the door around 10:15. We strolled down the high street to Joe's cafe, where we CRUSHED an omelet, Eggs Benedict, and a Sausage sandwich. This place was guuuuuuuuuuuuud. And the craziest part? Our server was American? She had fallen in love with an Englishman back in '01 and had moved to the Mother Country 8 years ago. Staci - she's from Brooklyn, which probably makes her (more or less) a Bombers fan - but I didn't offer her the t-shirt because, well, I'm going to use it as a rag for CLEANING SEWERS. Just kidding, puppy paws...
After a great brekkie, we caught the bus to Osborne House, the vacation home of Victoria and Albert. I gotta tell ya, we had NO IDEA what we were getting into, but this place turned out to be GREAT! We spent about 2.5 hours in the house and on the grounds, which were GORGEOUS and had a TERRIFIC view of the Solent. It was really an unexpected treat!
After that, it was back to Ryde, where we had a pint and a snack at Ryde Castle after watching the CONSUMMATE ENGLISH SPORT - LAWN BOWLING. Seriously - I had never seen it in action, and it was CLASSIC. It's really bowling meets shuffleboard meets bacci ball, and it was GREAT people watching.
We then hopped the catamaran, crossed the water, hopped the train, and rolled home, skipping dinner (since we were already at 30,000 calories for the weekend) and passing out around 9:30.
All in all, it was a crazy but GREAT weekend, and I wouldn't have changed a second of it.
Okay, that's (mercifully) all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Since VA gave me a complex, I just went to get fat...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, so first off - ANNOUNCEMENT: there will be NO BLOG until Monday. Why, you ask? Because the Taylors are taking off this weekend to...wait for it...wait for it...The Isle of Wight! (Insert EVERY American reading this saying "Where the hell is the Isle of Wight?" - don't worry - until last year, we didn't know either).

So today was a great day - very productive at work (at this point, Hitman probably just thinks I'm managing expectations - EXCEEDS, EXCEEDS, BABY!!!), and I got a light workout in (30 min on the bike and weights). I feel I should comment that, whilst riding the bike, I got truly exhausted. This caused a moral dilemma, as I'm currently reading a book about Navy SEAL training, andI know that those jokers would NOT have wound the dial back down. However, I am NOT the toughest man on earth, and I finished the last 6 minutes on an easy gear (Price - is this where I should introduce "Be a Tool" as my new motto?).

I found all this acceptable until I came home tonight and VA (whom I THOUGHT was a loyal follower) had posted a comment from last night's blog. You all can check it, but VA basically told me I was weak as Tap Water. Oh, my fragile ego...

How did I cope? I did what any White Goodman would have done - EAT INDIAN AT THE DOOT, BABY!!! And we're not talking just curry - we're talking multiple pints, a starter, and a GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD main (Lamb Tikka Pathia, BABY!!!). Puffin went for a creamy dish, and it was simpl delish! VA - when I am on "The Biggest Loser," I'm going to blame you...just sayin'.. :-)

We're now back at the flat, where I'm working on the last American beer in my fridge (Abita Restoration Pale Ale, courtesy of Brother Bruce Townsend). And honestly, just because I think it's a neat feature on Google, let me say the name "JOHN OGAS." Brother John, hope you're doing well - inside of a year until Vegas!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat Monday! Have a great weekend!


Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Three Lions roar back...barely...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Another AFD tonight, and (mercifully) another quiet night in.

The work day was great - another perfect combination of productivity and interaction - so no complaints there. Also, both muffin puffin and I got to work out. She rolled through 2000m in the pool while I hit up two-third's of a sprint triathlon - 25km on the bike and 5km on the treadmill. I will say that, whilst the pasta was a big help on the bike, I was EXHAUSTED by the time I started the 5K (which made it a LONG 28:30). All the same, it was a great workout, and I sure didn't feel guilty consuming some cheese tonight!

I got home about 8:45 to find perfect pumpkin already preparing salad, so I just set the table (meaning grabbed 2 folks, 2 vitamins, and 2 napkins) and tucked in to my grub! Thanks, pookles!

Also, congrats to England for beating Hungary tonight in their first match since the World Cup. It was a little tense there (and I was pretty sure Capello was gonna be CANNED if they'd lost - friendly or no) for a bit, but the Three Lions prevailed and acquitted themselves nicely. Puma - I think it only appropriate to start singing "Stevie Gerr-ard, Gerr-ard, Gerr-ard..."

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Slandered all over the Queen City!!!!

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT (but wet) day in the Mother Country. It was another super productive one today, and best of all, I slayed a dragon. After a week and a half of SOLID reading at every free moment, Sammy finished "The World Is Flat."
This is one that had been haunting me for years, nipping at my heels ever since Nik Patel first mentioned it on LoanSolutions. It weaseled its way into my life further when KJ bought it for me as a Christmas present (I did request it, for the record, as I knew that I would require the help of an enabler to put it on my bookshelf and begin the countdown to confrontation). And finally, knowing that I would have a year with nothing but cricket, rugby, and Coronation Street on the telly, I shipped it over to the UK, determined to fight to the death.

At just under 570 pages, it was a big book, focused largely on economic growth in the developing world and its impact on the developed world (with a focus on the potential impact to America). And whilst it was well written, I am glad that it's over. Friedman does make some great points, but I will say that his political views (easy Hitman and Big Cat - he's a Dem like me) are a bit over the top at times; in addition, I would say that he has a tendency for oversimplification (insert someone I work with making a "kettle and pot" reference here). X - I know that I recommended it to you, but that was at page 376. Having finished it, I'm not sure that I would still suggest you pick up a copy.

More importantly - I HAVE BEEN SLANDERED IN CHARLOTTE!!! That's right, my dear readers, I have recently learned of a conspiracy to post images of Sam Taylor all over bars in the Charlotte area. And since we all know that I don't condone drinking alcohol or intoxication in any way, shape, or form, I would ask that, should any of you see any of the vandals featured in the below photo, please report them to a member of homeland security. As for the image of my face, well...that will be the calling card that you're too late...

Aside from such despicable behavior, the work day was great. I logged 30 min on the bike and 15 on the treadmill, and it honestly felt pretty good! I was afraid I'd be dragging (I hit the gym this morning, just 12 hours after the Monday night workout), but I've had enough fuel in the last 4 days to propel me.
Tonight we welcomed back Staci and Steve from Paris, where all reports indicate that they had a blast (minus, well, 2 VERY small, minor incidents. Kluttz, don't worry - what you'll hear from them NEVER happens...EVER). We grabbed a last (and SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUD) dinner at Demartino's Italian, where Puffin and I SCARFED down some lasagna and rigatoni (fat free, of course). They are headed back home tomorrow - safe travels guys! We had a blast hanging with you! Next time we'll try to get in TWO rounds of Spades...

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Sam and Jenny

Monday, 9 August 2010

This is honestly how those cats from "Lost in Space" must have felt...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Well, at least I think it was a great day, but I was in a bloody fog for the start of it. For starters, I HAD TROUBLE SLEEPING LAST NIGHT. HOW ON EARTH IS THAT POSSIBLE?!?!? Muffin Puffin, of course, did not. In fact, she made "the noise" about 35 seconds after her head hitting the pillow. I mean, could she be any cuter? I just hope the kids take after her (no Jan and Alice - that was NOT a hint - knock on wood).

So today I left the flat only to realize that I'd left my wedding band beside the shower. I calmly went back upstairs, nodding to the receptionist as I passed, collected the ring, and exited the building. Ten steps away from the building, I realized that I had ALSO forgotten my word ID. I then turned around, said quite a few words you wouldn't normally hear during a Sunday sermon, nodded less politely to the receptionist, and stormed back up to collect my badge. On the way back down, he simply said, "And just think - it's only Monday." Good times..

That being said the work day was good. I finally had a salad, and my body was so excited to see vitamins and minerals again that I perked up in the afternoon. I then got 45 minutes in on the bike (26 km) before showering at the gym, hitting the grocery store, and coming home.

Tonight was an AFD (THANK GOODNESS), a tasty (and smaller) salad, and all the fruit I could consume strawberries and mangoes). I am hoping that, after this day off, light workout, and overdose of fruit, I might get back to normal tomorrow. Regardless, I have learned that Sammy is NOT the man of yesteryear. WOW...

But on a lighter note - check out our god-daughter playing peekabo. Hey - at least she knows to go to places that Rice would NEVER think to look...someone call Social Services! Just kidding, brother - that shot is a CLASSIC.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


(A recuperating) Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A weekend with TOO many possible blog titles...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a simply REDONKULOUS AND FANTASTIC weekend in the Mother Country. How is it already Sunday night? I feel like I'm in a time warp. Then again, that might be the detox I'm in today. But I get ahead of myself (don't worry - I didn't leave Jenny to eat by herself with total strangers this go-around) - let's pick up with Saturday afternoon.

So first and foremost - HAIRLESS WONDER AND OLD SCHOOL COOL - I AM SORRY FOR THE IMAGES YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE. Please hide your families, as I wouldn't want them scarred for life at the picture you're about to see. I really don't know what else to do but say that I love you guys and promise you this only happened because MY WIFE SOLD ME OUT. That's right, folks - that's me writhing in agony as the material burns my skin. Why, you ask? BECAUSE I'M WEARING FILTHY YANKEES GEAR!!!! You see - my wife told Staci that I would be "totally fine" with that joke and wearing it around. Because I love her, I wore it. However, the layers of skin and blisters are still peeling, and the wounds are fresh...Staci - it should be noted that you have no idea how happy this image will make my buddy Rice.

All the same, I was comforted by an AMAZING lunch at Ozer. However, clearly Team Taylor has left their mark on that place, as THEY NO LONGER HAVE THE "PAY WHAT YOU THINK IT'S WORTH" breakfast. The coffee is no longer free either, for that matter. But hey, for 5 quid - I'm in for a full English.
After Ozer, we rolled down Regent to Piccadilly, where we hit the usual sites, including Big Ben. Seeing the GORGEOUS white, puffy clouds, Staci and Steve asked: "Should we do the Eye today?" And Sam Taylor, the virtual prophet and future Buddha, replied: "Of course you should. You'll get clouds, but it won't rain today."

Ten minutes later, we walk into the ticket office, they purchase their TIMED ENTRY tickets, and we walk out to gray clouds that would have made Moses worry. In fact, it started POURING just when they were supposed to queue. However, we confirmed we could "show up late," and we strolled Southbank for a bit, waiting for it to clear. En route, we found THE GREATEST street performer we've EVER seen. You give this guy a pound, and he poses you in some RIDICULOUS ways and holds the pose for AWHILE. Check out Steve and I layin' this guy out! Don't mess with this? I am Disco Redneck Anti-Jeter Thunder!!!

The weather did improve, and so they did the loop while Jenny and I wandered around. After their "flight," we walked through St. James Park, where we arrived at Buckingham Palace in time for THE STRONGEST RAIN STORM I HAVE SEEN IN OUR 2.5 YEARS IN THE UK. Seriously - this was a Hurricane. Picture the last scene in "Matrix: Revolutions" and triple it. WOW. And the best part? Sammy, in his infinite wisdom, did NOT bring his umbrella.

The result was Sam and Steve in the Glassblower (Old School - same one we took the Tavares clan too - they still love children) bathroom WITH NO SHIRTS ON wringing out the water over the sink. I laugh and say, "Dude, if someone walks in here right now, they are going to think Brokeback vacation." Steve laughs as well, and two seconds later a dude walks OUT of the stall who's been in there the whole time. CLASSIC.

Dinner that night was a GREAT Italian joint in St. Christopher's place, where we KILLED some pasta and 2 bottles of wine. We then crossed off a big to-do for us - St. Christopher's Cellar Bar at the Fract! It was AWESOME - we had the whole joint to ourselves, so we killed 2 bottles of Pig in a Poke - SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. That would be red wine in case anyone's curious...

We then came home, killed ANOTHER bottle, and then got into the spirits. I went with just vodka and tonic, but Muffin thought it wise to try her special "peach soda" that's been sitting in the Fridge since about 1973. So imagine everyone's surprise when the wonderfully sweet and fresh peach soda curdled in the glass and settled at the bottom of the cup like cement (which is, incidentally, what it looked and tasted like). All the same, we played ONE ROUND OF SPADES for FOUR HOURS before finally wrappng up after 4 AM. Yeah...let's just say I now know that you always want to play your "little puppy paws" before your "shovels" in this game. Good times.

Today we woke up looking like ZOMBIES. However, we did rally to "tray uh bahrun." That's right - we had Byron Burgers! Hitman - you'll be happy to know that Perfect Pumpkin thinks Frankie's still reigns. I, however, remain firmly convinced that Byron is now the premier burger. I will say, however, that NO ONE can hang with the milkshake I got (Oreo). It was probably 5 gallons of ice cream with 9 bags of Oreo - and I ate EVERY SINGLE BIT OF IT. Oh, and did I mention that we got 2 orders of chips, 2 orders of mac n' cheese, and an order of onion rings to go with it? Two words: CHUUUUUUUUUUUBBY BUUUUUUUUUUUUNNY!!!!!!

After that, Staci and Steve rolled to the Tower of London whilst Muffin and I wandered around like the living dead. We ultimately ended up at the Tate Modern, where Jenny and I walked through the newest exhibits of utter DONKEY TRASH they had on display. And whilst there was some REAL crap this go-around, the two most BIZARRE items to note:

1. A photo of 3 different women, 1 hour, 1 day, and 1 week after giving birth - TOTALLY NAKED. Dude, I saw a LOT that I really, really just don't know how to process.

2. The "bird blood feather" woman from Haiti who filmed herself drinking and bathing in blood (naked, of course) before rolling around in sawdust and feathers until finally standing up to show that she had become a bird. I mean really? REALLY? SERENITY NOW!!!!
We then met back up with our compatriots and wandered through some of the Southbank highlights before popping into St. Pauls for a bit (during the final service of the day) and then wandering into Covent Garden. Once there, we had a drink (THE BEST Porterhouse Red in MONTHS) at the Porterhouse before hopping the Tube home. I will say that, for anyone else around on a Sunday, it's MUCH easier to get a seat in there AND they always do traditional Irish folk music - and it is QUALITY.
We ended up having dinner at "The George," where we ALL opted for salads - and they were all SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. Throw in one last pint of Staropramen, warm goat's cheese, and a playlist that included "War," "Return of the Mack," and "We don't have to take our clothes off," and you have a FANTASTIC end to the weekend.
And so here we are back at the flat, EXHAUSTED, stuffed, bloated, swollen, and quite possibly still drunk, trying to figure out a) how we'll fare at work tomorrow and b) how Staci and Steve are going to catch that 8:55 AM train to Paris. Ladies and gentlemen - I am NOT 20 anymore...

It was SO MUCH FUN this weekend. And even if I can't say that my batteries are recharged, I have NO COMPLAINTS. S & S - safe travels in the City of Lights. Enjoy the light cheese and live snails!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 7 August 2010

"Fermentation may have been a greater discovery than fire..."


And a good Saturday morning to you all from across the Pond after a FABULOUS FRIDAY in the Mother Country. Yesterday was, simply put, EVERYTHING I thought it could be. What did we do yesterday, do you ask? Team Taylor (no - not the one that owns a BBQ joint in Denver) made a repeat visit to the Mecca of all things liquid bread: THE GREAT BRITISH BEER FESTIVAL!!!! In a word - WOW...So seriously, the day started off GREAT, as we met a certain Welshman (he will remain anonymous due to the nature of this corporate function, but let's call him, oh, I don't know...O-vino...) for a "proper Friday English breakfast" at the Wollseley.

So this place was UBER POSH PUMA, and it was AWESOME. The interior was something out of a Bond movie, and the coffee was served in real China - so cool! And the best part, Sammy put down FRIED DUCK EGGS OVER HAGGIS & FRIED BREAD! Seriously - there is no better eatin' the the world (except the OPH in the Queen City, of course), and we CHOWED DOWN. We left there about 11:30, catching the Tube for the featured event of the day at Earl's Court. And let me tell you, dear readership, it DID NOT disappoint.

Picture 450 ales from around Britain, 99% of which you have NEVER heard of. Picture a posse of 8 donkeys wandering around for EIGHT HOURS within these hallowed walls, consuming 3rd pints of anything and everything. Picture Sam Taylor playing a bar game where he thought he'd won a pint glass because he's bowled a strike, only to find out that there were just NINE PINS at the end of the lane, meaning he needed one more pin for a win. Not realizing this, however, Taylor jokingly chucked the ball down the lane and it skipped over all the pins. The result? Sammy got a consolation prize instead - a tap cover. O-vino had the right idea - I'm going to make it my beltbuckle. Make way for the Dam Buster baby!!!!

There were some AMAZING brews and some utter DONKEY TRASH. The best drink of the day was New Calendonian's "Mexican Bandit," followed by "Blond Bombshell" and then "Deception." Other honorable mentions were Titanic Brewing's "Iceberg," Marston's "Forty-Niner," Without a doubt the worst I tried all day was the Fox Grizzly (like drinking battery acid - wait, like drinking WARM, FLAT battery acid), and the worst for Perfect Pumpkin was DEFINITELY some bat shit from Italy that tasted like PURE FORMALDIHYDE. WOW - we summarily dumped BOTH of those out.

It should be noted that, at one point in the evening, the girls got into toffee vodka shots. However, they all held up like true warriors. And honestly - who doesn't love those cowgirl hats?
Food within was GREAT, as we took down some nice Cornish pasties and even some PIG SCRATCHIN'S!!!!!! Translation - PORK RINDS!!!!! Warf - I couldn't help but think of Big Monday and Big Wednesday our Freshman year, me taking down a bag of Pork Rinds every night on that white chair (which dad later stole from the dumpster - details...).

Dinner last night was...well, where else? THE DOOT, BABY!!!! Lamb Tikka Pathia. It was SO GOOD, and a perfect ending to the day.

BTW - if you guys want a GREAT laugh, PLEASE go to YouTube and check out "iPhone4 vs. HTC Evo." It's the one that's about 3:29, with 2 "Hello Kitty" looking figures - PRICELESS. It is just HILARIOUS.

Okay, Sammy's need a shower because he looks like he's been shot out of a cannon. We've got another BIG DAY in front of us!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Sam and Jenny & Staci and Steve