Filling Time

It’s almost winter.  It is rainy and windy, and hard to sleep during the storms with all the pine cones pelting the roof above me at night…  My yard looks like a small hurricane blew through, and I am backlogged at least a month in getting all the debris hauled away.  I am limited by the size of my yard waste toter… They empty it every other week, and I have it filled again two hours later.  The yard work makes me happy, but fall is always a little much here…  I might be caught up in January.

It feels dark on these shortest days of the year.  I’m not imagining it; there was a newspaper article saying that a few days ago we experienced the darkest day in three years.  At least the days will start getting longer again next week.

I have been writing; and am now over the 25,000 word mark.  That’s a lot of words.

I have also been purging and organizing my house, doing those things one usually never has time to get to.  There is still much more to be done, but I feel like I am making progress some days.  My paper recycling has been full three weeks in a row.  I took some things to Goodwill.

I have been scheduling maintenance.  The plumber came again to fix the bathtubs; they don’t hold water and the fix he did in June didn’t work.  The cable internet technician spent two hours troubleshooting my internet access; the line from the street is not working properly so they have to replace it.  I have an appointment for my oil change.

I haven’t decorated for Christmas, if you ask I’ll tell you that it doesn’t make sense to make all that mess decorating when I’m trying to organize, purge and clean.  It might be that it isn’t just that.  I still don’t know how I feel about this house; the ambivalence remains.  It isn’t that I look everywhere and see my old life – I think it’s more that there’s almost always only me here.  Maybe it’s both.  I’m trying to sort through that, as I sort through things…

I miss Jeff.  We talk everyday, via text and phone and video chat, but it is a mediocre substitute for being face to face.  We both try to keep busy to make the distance easier.  I consider it a good thing that we miss each other.  That doesn’t always happen in long-distance relationships.

We went on a short hike to a waterfall in October on a warm, sunny day.  It was busy there, but we had fun.  I prefer to just think on that…




London 2018: National Maritime Museum

Day 4, Wednesday, June 27, 2018

After our visit to Queen’s House, we went next door to check out the National Maritime Museum.  We were really on a roll with museum visits that day…

National Maritime Museum Entrance

The Maritime Museum has several interesting exhibits, including a whole wall of figureheads from ships.  It also displays Prince Frederick’s barge, which was designed and built between 1731 and 1732, and is covered with gilded decorations.  That’s right, the barge is covered in 22 carat gold!  A lot of it!  The barge has a walkway so you can see it up close and personal, and I was surprised that there is no wall keeping visitors from touching it.  There is only a sign asking people not to.  England is so different from the United States.

A 22 carat gilded barge from 1732

The museum was pretty interesting overall, but I was a bit disappointed by all of the wasted space in the center of the museum – there was just a big open area with nothing in it.  I suppose they may use that area for events, but it seems a shame that they didn’t fill it with more exhibits.  Perhaps I was just getting a bit tired and museumed out for the day.  I took hardly any photos there, and I’m not sure why, because they did have some interesting exhibits.  I do have the guidebook to look back on though.

After Taryn and I had our fill, we headed outside to sit down under some shade trees for a little while.  Outside, there is a huge replica of Nelson’s HMS Victory in a bottle.  The Victory is the ship that Horatio Nelson died on during the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  If you haven’t heard of Horatio Nelson, he is basically England’s biggest naval hero…

HMS Victory in a giant bottle

It was nice; just sitting down for a while and relaxing.  Sometimes you just need that.  Only for a little while though, because then we were off to see the Prime Meridian!

Me, relaxing


Costs: National Maritime Museum – free, your London Pass will get you a free guidebook.

London 2018: Queen’s House

Day 4, Wednesday, June 27, 2018

After our walk though of the Royal Naval College, we headed over to Queen’s House to check it out.  Queen’s House was designed by the famous architect Inigo Jones in 1616 as an apology from King James I to his wife, Anne of Denmark.  Legend has it that it was a gift from the king, because he swore in front of her after she had accidentally killed one of his favorite dogs during a hunt.  So many questions; I mean how does a woman kill a dog during a hunt, especially since I can’t imagine it was very common for women to be on a hunt in the first place during the period.  What an incredible, “I’m sorry” gift!  All for a few curse words!

Queen’s House Exterior

Unfortunately, Anne died in 1619 before the house was finished and work stopped at that point, until it was eventually given by James’ son Charles I to his wife Henrietta Maria in 1629.  It was finally completed in 1636.  Henrietta didn’t get to use it that long though, because of that pesky English Civil War and the fact that the royal family had to go into exile until 1660.  In 1805 it was gifted to a charity for use as an asylum for the orphans of seamen, and was used for that purpose until 1933.

View of the Naval College from Queen’s House

Since 1934, the building has been owned by the National Maritime Museum as one of the Royal Museums of Greenwich, which uses it to house part of its extensive maritime art collection, as well as many royal portraits.  Sadly the building has been renovated and remodeled over the years and only a few original ceilings and a few wall decorations remain intact.  They did save the Tulip Stairs, the first centrally unsupported stairs in England.  The stone treads lock into one another and the wall.  The tulip banister was probably chosen by Henrietta Maria, and although they look like tulips, experts believe that they are probably lilies, the royal flower.  Even though Queen’s House doesn’t have much of its original architecture, it does have an awesome collection of art!

The Haunted Tulip Stairs

Just so you know, Queen’s House is supposedly haunted…  According to the Queen’s House website, “in 1966 a retired Canadian reverend and his wife visited the Queen’s House. The Rev and Mrs R W Hardy had heard about the famous Tulip staircase and took a photograph. It was not until they developed it once they were back home, that they saw it had also captured the image of a shrouded figure. On closer inspection, the figure appears to be ascending the stairs in pursuit of a second and possibly a third figure.”  I didn’t know this when we visited, but now that I do, I’m sad that we didn’t see the ghost!

It was certainly fun to wander through the galleries, although the layout of the building is quite confusing with the collections of rooms built around a large, open, central space.  I got a little lost in there a few times!  Strangely, every time I got lost I ended up back at the Tulip Stairs… Maybe there is something to that ghost thing…


Costs: Queen’s House – free


London 2018: Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Day 4, Wednesday, June 27, 2018

We continued our tour of Greenwich with a brief walk through of the historic Greenwich Royal Naval College.  The buildings here were built between 1696 and 1712, and were originally the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich, or more generally known as Greenwich Hospital.  The hospital was built on the instructions of Mary II, who was troubled by the lack of care for seamen returning from the Battle of La Hogue.  The chapel and the Painted Hall were both built at this time.

One of the buildings at the Naval College

Eventually the hospital was closed and the site was converted to a naval training center; it served this purpose between 1873 and 1998.  It is now managed by the Greenwich Foundation, which opened the site to the public in 2002, and does a variety of events, movie filming, and other activities there.

The fountain at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich

The Painted Hall is an artistic masterpiece; the work of Sir James Thornhill, between 1707 and 1726.  During this period, the United Kingdom was created, and the murals on the walls and ceilings depict the political change occurring at the time.  Other themes include cultural and scientific achievements, naval accomplishments and commercial enterprises.  The murals and ceilings are currently being restored.

Our visit was a little confusing; the guidebook and the Painted Hall’s website indicated that the site is free to visit. However, when we went in, there was obviously an admission charge of 11 pounds.  We decided not to pay, as we had a lot of other tourist activities we were doing, so we checked out the entryway artwork and exited.  I think that the site is technically closed because of the restoration, but you can choose to have a guided tour of the ceiling, and that is what the admission was for. It would have been nice if the Greenwich Foundation made this more clear.  If you can shed some light on this, please let me know.

One day I would love to see the Painted Hall, in all its restored glory; the art in the entryway was pretty amazing…  In the meantime, you can see photos at the Painted Hall website.

The entry of the Painted Hall

We did walk across the way to the original chapel, which is also an architectural and artistic masterpiece and dates from the time of the hospital.  I love seeing old churches, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. Both the art and the woodwork here are beautiful.


Costs: Old Royal Naval College – Painted Hall – 11 pounds? (not included with London pass), Chapel – free

London 2018: Cutty Sark

Day 4, Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Our original plan was to go back to the City Cruises river cruise and take one more trip over to Greenwich on the River Thames.  We got there at 9:20, but the boat didn’t depart until 10 am and we decided that we didn’t want to wait that long, so we took the Tube and the train to Greenwich instead.

Artsy escalator shot

Once we got to Greenwich, we went to the Cutty Sark Museum.  The Cutty Sark is a sailing ship that was built in 1869 for the tea trade; it was once the fastest sailing ship in the world.  Her maximum logged speed was 17.5 knots, or 20.1 miles per hour.  That was fast back in the day!  However, she was built right as technology was converting over to steam ships, which could travel a lot faster than sailing ships.  There was fierce competition in the tea trade, and the Cutty Sark could not compete with steam ships, so she began carrying wool from Australia back to the UK, as well as other products.

The Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark got her name from the clothing worn by the witch Nannie Dee in Tam o’ Shanter, a 1791 poem by Robert Burns.  A cutty sark is a Scottish term for a short nightgown.  The Cutty Sark’s figurehead is a carving of Nannie Dee holding onto a grey horse’s tail.  In the poem, the witches are chasing Tam, who is fleeing on his horse Maggie.  The common wisdom of the time said that witches couldn’t cross running water, so he fled over the river, but not before Nannie managed to grab Maggie’s tail, which came away in her hand.

You can see a whole collection of contemporary carved figureheads there; they really are beautiful pieces of art!  The figurehead in the photo below is the original from the ship, but her head and arm were lost in a storm in the late 19th century – she was repaired in 1970.  The figurehead that is currently on the bow of the Cutty Sark is a replica.

Figureheads – the Cutty Sark’s is in the top center

The Cutty Sark plied the waters as a merchant ship until 1922, when she was sold and then used for several years as a training ship.  In 1954 she went on public display.  She is one of only three composite construction clipper ships left in the world – meaning she was built with a wooden hull on an iron frame.  One of the other three is in Chile, and is only a beached skeleton now though.  The Cutty Sark is a pretty special ship.  And yes, in case you were wondering, Cutty Sark Whisky is named after this beautiful ship.

The mast of the Cutty Sark


Taryn and Me with the bow

Sadly, some of her original timbers have been destroyed in two fires; one in 2007 while she was being restored and another smaller fire in 2014.  About 50% of her planking had been removed for conservation when the 2007 fire broke out, or it would have been worse, but the fire still did significant damage to the center section of the ship.  The 2007 fire wasn’t thought to be arson, but it is an interesting story of several unfortunate circumstances and various people dropping the ball, as is often the case.

It was a self guided tour, so we wandered around and checked things out – there were guides at various places to answer questions.  It was fun to check out such a beautiful old ship!

Tube Stations: Earl’s Court (hotel) – Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich (Greenwich)
Costs: Cutty Sark – 13.50 pounds (free with London pass)

A Thing…

So… I decided to do a thing.  I have a bit of extra time right now, so what better opportunity is there?

I decided to write a book.  My thought right now is that it will be about my trip, commingled with the last couple years of my life.  The record of my experience; my emotions, my fears, my successes, my failures.  What the trip meant to me, and what the people in my life mean to me.  A memoir, I guess. There will likely be some overlap with this blog, but this blog has always been more about the things I do and see, rather than the emotional experience of it…

I have no idea if it will go anywhere, or be any good, or if it will just collect dust on my hard drive, but I will never know if I don’t write it.

I wrote some pages today.  You have to start somewhere.  Everybody starts somewhere.  Am I just crazy?

London 2018: The Shard

Day 3, Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Growing up near Seattle, I’m no stranger to tall, needle-like buildings that offer a view of the skyline.  The Shard is so much taller than the Space Needle though!

The Shard is designed to look like a shard of glass extending skyward, to a total height of 1,016 feet, and 95 stories.  It is a mixed use building, with residential, office space and a hotel occupying its 95 floors.  We were there to visit The View from The Shard, an open air observation deck and viewing gallery with a cocktail bar, and some of the best views of London.  The View from The Shard occupies floors 68-72, and there is not usable floor space up above that, so you can look straight up and see the architecture of the building and the sky!

Once you pay your admission, access to the observation deck is via a high speed elevator – it would have been cooler if it was a glass elevator with a view, but I guess you can’t have everything.  Then you have to climb a couple of flights of stairs in order to get to the open air observation deck.

Once at the top, the view is incredible, and you can stay as long as you like.  We had a cider, and sat on the AstroTurf and checked out the view.  There are windows on all sides, so you can see all four directions, although the glare of the sun made it a bit difficult for us to see in that direction.  Even the bathrooms had a floor to ceiling window!

My only complaint about The Shard was that I wish there had been more seating on the observation deck.  We had been on our feet all day, and really just wanted to sit down for a few minutes!  Nobody bothered us when we sat on the AstroTurf, but it just felt a little bit weird.

The Shard was expensive, but it was certainly worth it since it was included with the London Pass.  Relaxing with a great view!

On our way home we stopped at a Greene King Tavern pub for a late dinner and a cider.  I had a simple ham and cheese sandwich.  We got back to the hotel at 10:15 – a late night for me!

Tube Stations: London Bridge (near The Shard), Earl’s Court (hotel)
Costs: The Shard – 27.20 pounds (free with London pass), dinner and cider
FitBit Steps: 14,500!