The Tower of London and the British Museum (England Part 7)

The Tower of London fits several categories – palace, prison, site of the royal mint, and the royal menagerie. It is the home of the royal wardrobe and the crown jewels. History tells us that on June 2, 1953, a 62-gun salute was fired from the Tower Wharf when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in nearby Westminster Abbey. That salute is repeated every year on that date. Of course, it was repeated at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

View of The Tower of London, which is a fortress, prison, palace, etc.

It was not uncommon for gifts of exotic animals to be given to royalty. The Tower of London was home to apes, elephants, lions, and even a polar bear.

Being a birder and a Baltimore native (Edgar Allan Poe spent much of his life there and yes, that’s where the football team’s name came from), I was fascinated by the ravens at the Tower of London. I also like a good, weird story. And it seems pretty strange to me that Charles II would have insisted that the security of the crown would lie in ravens living at the Tower. But I suppose silly to one person is just superstition to another.

I didn’t want to leave without seeing the famous ravens. Glad we saw them, because if they were not there, it could have been catastrophic.

A guide explained that Charles II insisted that they be protected, and that the kingdom would fall if less than six ravens resided at the Tower. “If the ravens leave the tower, the kingdom will fall.”

If you’ve seen The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock, you know birds can cause quite a lot of trouble. This was the case for the king’s unfortunate astronomer John Flamsteed. The flock (called an unkindness) was always in the way of his work, so eventually they kept six with a few spares and everyone lived happily ever after. The guide also explained that they keep the spares, just in case, for national security. I love their names – Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Erin, Poppy, Georgie, Branwen, and Edgar.

The big draw to the Tower for me was seeing the crown jewels. When we got inside and I could almost see the jewels, I asked a rather stupid question to a docent and got more information than I could have imagined. I asked about the sceptre. Was it only a symbol of the kingdom or could it be used as a weapon? (It’s fun to push up against that saying that there are no stupid questions.)

The docent informed me that it is solely a symbol of the kingdom – the crown. There are several and whenever Parliament is in session, a sceptre representing the crown is there. “So,” she informed me, “whenever Boris Johnson is lying to Parliament, he is essentially lying right to the Queen’s face.” That was the first of several clues as to the sentiment of the Brits to their former Prime Minister. It was rather shocking to me to have that said within the walls of the Tower of London. Bad form. But interesting.

Handsome grandsons waiting with us to see the crown jewels.

The British Museum

The collections that are on display at the British Museum reflect the enormity of the British Empire. This was the most diverse museum of our trip. Several display descriptions included the word “hoard,” which suggested to my mind bands of marauders bringing the goods back to the King. I had to tame my active imagination by reminding myself that a hoard is simply a collection. Many things were gifted, but I did not delve into where the artifacts came from. I simply enjoyed viewing them.

The Lewis Chessmen – part of a hoard found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in the year 1831.

I took this picture specifically for my granddaughter, Ella, who is a huge Marvel fan.

There was an extensive Egyptian display.

The Rosetta Stone, discovered in July 1799

Bob Anderson with The Gayer-Anderson Cat – bronze with silver plaque and gold jewelry, around 600 BC, possibly from Saqqara – just because we’re Andersons

Marble statue of a boy, the so-called ‘spinario’ (thorn-puller) – Hellenistic, about 200 – 100 BC

This statue is a fitting end to my England posts. You have to take care of your feet! Thank you for coming along with me. Cheerio!

At No Time Did My Fingers Leave My Hands

I continue with PT on my shoulder. I have gained a lot of range of motion but I am not where I want to be yet It’s been six months. When I walk through the doors at my PT center, I feel like Norm from Cheers. Everybody knows my name.

Fred and Jo have been caring for me well and I will miss them if I ever get to stop going to PT. They are very cheery. No matter how much they make me wince, they keep on smiling.

Every time I go, Jo has written a new joke of the day or riddle on the whiteboard. Today’s was, “how do you tie a knot in a string while holding one end in each hand without letting go?”

I have literally been practicing to respond to this riddle all of my life. I told her that my dad is a magician and I know how to do it. She said she did, too, and demonstrated. It was not elegant like my dad taught me.

“Let the magician’s daughter show you how it’s done,” I said. I took her rope and made my dad proud. Voilà!

Fred was entranced. He had to know how to do it. I showed them several times, just like my dad always did. Then one at a time, I handed them the rope and watched them fail. This was the most fun I ever had at PT!

I took pity on Fred. He kept coming up to me and asking me to show him one more time. He interrupted my pulley workout, my weights. and my stretches. Finally, I did it in slow motion, and before long Fred, too, was ever so clumsily tying a knot in the rope. He was so proud. I told him now he needed to practice. “Give me 10 reps,” I said. “Maybe you’ll master this before I’m released from here forever.”

There are some bright spots in these PT days after all!

Home – What a Beautiful Word

They say you can’t go home again. I don’t know who they are or why they don’t want me to go home. They aren’t the boss of me!

I was born and raised in Maryland. The two houses I lived in are still there, and when I drive past them I know in my head they aren’t my home. But my heart still keeps a piece of them. The first house is occupied by a lovely woman who let us go in and look around during a trip a dozen years ago. This house was probably built in the 1930s. I lived there until I was five, but since my grandparents lived across the street from it, I remember it well – at least the outside.

Bob and I moved to Florida in 1976, and it definitely is home. I can’t think of another place where I would rather live, but there are a few things that tug at me when it comes to Maryland – or should I say bite at my toes, get under my fingernails, and make me reach for a mallet. And those things are connected with summer, so when Bob and I decided to take a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina, to celebrate his retirement with our entire clan, it was only natural that I asked if he and I could pop up to the Maryland area for dinner on our way home. After all, we were halfway there!

Bob was game! What better way to both celebrate his retirement and get some rest, after a week of 18 of us together in the same house, than a road trip for a steamed crab feast. (Side note: if you’ve followed me for a while, you may know that I am directionally challenged. True, I will make a face if you tell me to go east toward a destination when you could have simply said – turn right! And, I am aware that Maryland and Virginia are not on the way home to Florida, but sometimes one simply must take the scenic route if only for gastronomic reasons.)

After nine hours on the road, we landed in Williamsburg, Virginia. Again, I know this is not Maryland, but this destination seemed close enough to our longed-for crab feast. When I was a kid, blue crabs were easy to come by. We were confident we would have no trouble locating some. We were wrong.

Suddenly, I was lamenting choosing Virginia over tried-and-true Maryland. Maryland had never let me down in the crab department. I kept seeing “Virginia is For Lovers” signs, and just scoffed at them. I am a steamed-crab lover. Where were they, Virginia? Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And, yes, Virginia, you have some powerful historic sites and beautiful mountains and beaches. Yes, Virginia, Chincoteague Island was interesting as are the wild ponies who live there. But, where are the crabs?

Chincoteague Island was on my bucket list. It’s part of the Virginia Eastern Shore, which is just south (catch that) of the Maryland Eastern Shore. There should have been crabs for sale everywhere. The Chesapeake Bay is right there! We went over it, under it, and around it, thanks to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. But there were no streets lined with crabs – no signs pointing to crabs. It was heartbreaking.

Thankfully, Virginia, you did have internet service, and that’s how we found Edwards Seafood in Onley, Virginia. Onley was the only place we found the illusive steamed blue crabs. Well, I did find a crazy restaurant that said we could get 3 for $18. I was almost desperate enough to do it, too, but the woman on the other end of the phone had an accent that didn’t sound like their crabs were going to be steamed with Old Bay seasoning. Yeah, she quickly answered me when I asked, “Yes, we have Old Bay. Yes, we cook them just like you like them – 3 for $18.” Something seemed fishy, so we kept looking.

We pulled up to Edwards Seafood just ten minutes before they closed. It wasn’t a restaurant – it was a seafood market. They knew how to steam crabs though, and soon we were headed back to Williamsburg with a dozen and a half of those delectable, messy crustaceans with their familiar Old Bay fragrance wafting through our car. By that time, if you added it all up, we had traveled approximately 13 hours over 2 days for our dinner. Worth it!

For the next couple of hours we picked crabs, drank diet coke, and made a huge mess of the condo we were staying in. Crab picking is far from tidy work. We spread plastic trash bags over the table and moved the trash can to within reach. It was sublime. At that moment, the worlds of “home” collided. We had Maryland-style steamed crabs, even if we were in Virginia. We had just spent a week with all our kids and grandkids. We stood on the balcony and watched as the fireflies played at dusk. Memories of my childhood intersected with the joy of having spent a week with our family. Soon we would return to Florida, but at that moment I had my husband there with me and we clinked our crabs together in a toast to the past, present, and future.

We exchanged idioms about home, including the ever famous, “Home is where you hang your hat.” True, I reminded Bob, but you know I don’t wear many hats because I have a ginormous head and those hats I wear I don’t hang. I think home is where you hang your heart.”

My heart has been hanging right next to this guy for going on 46 years. Happy Retirement, Bob! Where shall we go to dinner next?

The Importance of Play

My North Carolina grandchildren popped in for a few days in September. Before they arrived we had had an abundance of rain and the pool water was spilling over the edge. They fixed that for us in a matter of moments without us having to do a thing. I love to watch them and my local grandkids (their cousins) playing together. No one is safe from getting wet when they’re around.

Getting rained on is a nice break from the pool.

One of their favorite pool games is categories. One person is “it” and everyone else waits on the opposite side of the pool for a category to be called. Each person secretly chooses something from that category and when that name is called, they try to swim to touch the opposite side without being detected and tagged. Categories range from colors to Disney princesses to Marvel Superheroes.

As we watched, my daughter Dena commented that there should be an adult form of the game. Perhaps the person who is it would yell out, types of wine or places you’d like to travel or part of your body that is currently hurting. I’d love to have my neighbors hear the words, merlot or cabernet sauvignon being shouted from my backyard. It might be even more fun to have them hear sciatica or lower back.

We are a big game playing family, but you don’t have to like games to enjoy some play time. Doing a jigsaw puzzle might be more your cup of tea. Or maybe a tea tasting is your cup of tea. Perhaps you’d enjoy viewing sports together if you’d rather watch something than physically play. You could try Bob’s and my favorite game. That’s the one where I change something insignificant in the house and see if he can figure out what I did. You can imagine how much he loves that!

Board games and puzzles have had quite the resurgence during COVID. They provide great times of interaction and don’t involve a screen. Of course, video games can be fun, too. Bob and I have enjoyed video games for as long as I can remember. I was first introduced to PacMan back around 1981. Our good friend and pastor innocently introduced us to it and our lives have never been the same. (Thankfully, this is not the only influence he has had and still has on us. Thanks, Danny!)

Prior to that, there was Pong or Space Invaders. Child’s play! PacMan had a catchy tune and I immediately was hooked. One day soon after Danny introduced this to us, I ventured to the mall with our two kids – a toddler and a six-month oldish baby. There was a game room there. How had I never noticed that! I blew through a bunch of quarters with a baby on my hip and a toddler mesmerized by the sights and sounds. It was amazing.

Soon we discovered that we could have a gaming console in our very own home. Then, if I wanted, I could practice while the kids were taking a nap! I could beat Bob! Well, I wasn’t that obsessed. Close though. When Nintendo introduced Tetris, we were hooked. Then came Dr. Mario, which was a lot like Tetris only with cute Mario characters. When we would put our children to bed at night, Bob and I would play. I think even now when they hear the music they drift off to sleep. 

We took a decade or so off when our Nintendo died. We would blow on the cartridge or smack the top of the console, but alas, game over. Then one day our son said he was taking his Wii to the game store to trade for an xBox. He told us Wii had Dr. Mario. Our hearts leapt for joy and we traded him right then and there for car insurance money. Score.

Fast forward to now – 2020. Bob and I have that same Wii and we regularly play Dr. Mario. I tell myself it is good for my hand-eye coordination. Don’t spoil that for me!


Survivor Finale – Spoiler Alert!!!

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Sacred TV time. That statement is wrong on so many levels, except that is how I “view” my Survivor television watching. Survivor is my absolute favorite TV show. My kids know this. Some of them watch the show, too; so last Wednesday night when Bob and I sat down to watch the finale an hour and fifteen minutes after the scheduled time, I texted my kids to let them know we were just then starting. I couldn’t risk a kink in my plan to find out who the sole survivor would be from watching the show, not from my kids lack of knowledge that we were watching delayed. (more…)

This is What We’ve Been Training For

We just spent two days in Zion National Park in beautiful Utah. This is our first stop in the region. We are doing the Big Five National Parks – that is Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capital Reef, and Canyonlands. So far, I think Zion is going to be tough to beat. Its Navajo sandstone cliffs with their brilliant vermillion color contrasted against the green Aspen trees and the brilliant blue sky, well, it takes your breath away. 

The other thing that takes your breath away is the hiking. I have been training for literally days for this trip. I would have started earlier but #1 I hurt my foot in the end of January, and #2 I hate training. After dropping a plastic bin on the top of my foot back in January, it took a while before I could wear a shoe comfortably. This was the perfect excuse for sitting around. I should have thought of that years ago. But as this trip started sneaking up on us, I knew I needed to strap on a pair (of shoes) and get out there and walk. So, Bob and I did a 5K. Actually, I think we threw an extra K in just getting to and from the finish line. I was able to complete the walk with no pain so I was encouraged.

If you have ever been to Orlando you will remember that hills are pretty hard to find. I think that’s because they moved them all to Utah. They were waiting for us, and they were not smooth. They believe in rocks out here. I guess that’s why they call it the Rocky Mountain Region

My Latest Obsession

I think I’m getting closer to truly joining the twenty-first century – not too bad considering we’re only about 15 years into it.  Why, as recently as Saturday while I was shopping in Home Goods a needy shopper asked me about bed skirts and did I think they could be found there.  Or, she wondered, perhaps she should try Target or JC Penney.  My reply came so quickly and spontaneously that it took me by surprise – Amazon.

IMG_0140Amazon is now my go-to place for all my shopping obsessions, which are usually weird, come inexplicably and consume too much of my much-needed brain power.  Obviously I will continue to frequent brick and mortar establishments, but you can’t beat the convenience of sitting at your computer, drinking a cup of coffee, and ordering a case of lip balm.

It was lip balm that taught me the value of this gas-saving, frustration avoiding method of shopping, which all of my kids swear by.  I had purchased Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Ultra Moisturizing Lip Balm many times at Target.  I love the way it dispenses soothing moisture as it glides across dry lips and love the oval shape of the tube.  Plus, it’s inexpensive (if you don’t count the gasoline cost involved in covering the tri-county area in search of it).

Every time I’d go in a Target, CVS, Walgreens, or even out of desperation Walmart, I would look for it to no avail.  So I broke down and went on Amazon and there it was!  Nothing compares to the joy of looking in my linen closet and seeing a case all lined up.  Even thinking about it makes me utter a happy little sigh.

The last time I had a weird obsession that involved ordering online, I think Amazon was mainly a place to get books.  I had to go straight to the source to get my Heinz India Relish, which by the way, I can now find on Amazon.  Now that we are empty-nesters, I’m not sure it’s a good idea for me to buy this by the case.  Unless someone out there wants to go in on it with me.  Any takers?


Winter Can Be Sneaky (Europe Part 7)

We were enjoying our car ride back to our resort in Pongau, near Salzburg, after a lovely day touring the castles of King Ludwig II in Bavaria.  By the time we got in our car, we noticed the weather had cooled and the wind had picked up.  Off in the distance we could see cloud cover begin to cloak the tops of the Alps.  I figured it might be snowing up there.

The scenery was unbelievable.  My mouth pretty much hung open the entire trip.  We were happy.  Bob, my husband, was enjoying driving along the mountain roads.  (Side note – If you ever go on a trip to Europe and plan on renting a car, consider asking Bob to come along and chauffeur.  He is amazing.)

I was getting cold.  I touched the glass on the window and knew the temperature had dropped.  The indicator on the dashboard read an external temperature of 11 degrees.  (Double the Celsius temperate and add 30 to give you the fahrenheit.  That meant it was 52 outside.)  Not bad, but cooler than earlier.  I watched as the temperature dropped to 9.  Then 8.  Quickly it was 2 degrees.


Soon we encountered a few snow flurries.  How exciting!  My first Austrian snow.  It looked a lot like the snow we have in the U.S. except the flakes were enormous.  They looked like they could have been cut out of paper.  Now the temperature was zero (double that and add 30 – you get 30).

We were winding through the Alps.  It was getting dark.  The flurries had turned into a snow storm.  This Florida girl was not liking it.

We were about 45 minutes from our resort when the snow started accumulating on the windshield and the road.  The temperature held at zero.  The speed limit was around 80 kph, not that we were going that fast.  At one point a car in front of us stopped and Bob had to swerve around him to avoid a collision.  I think the other driver must have skidded and panicked.  We pressed on.


We were heading down the mountain so we figured we would be driving out of the snow, but no.  It was picking up and now it was totally dark.  We were so thankful to pull into the parking garage at our resort and sleep safe and sound in a warm bed.

The view from our balcony April 22 in St. Johann at Pongau, Austria.

The view from our balcony April 22 in St. Johann at Pongau, Austria.

The next morning was beautiful and the weather had warmed up.  We could see the beautiful new dusting of snow on the roofs and trees.  The server at the cafe told us winter had decided to come back but it was gone again.  What a difference a day makes.


Thank you, God, for Red Lights

I was heading to my son’s house to stay with my grandsons for a few days.  It had been a busy morning and I left my home an hour later than I had planned.  I needed to be there by 2:30 to receive the boys from the school bus, and I had to stop at Costco for gas.  It was 2:05 when I finished filling up.  There was plenty of time, except I needed four things from inside the store – four things that were just steps away.  If I could be in and out in 10 minutes, I would just make it in time to get the boys.  Of course, getting in and out of Costco in ten minutes would be a major miracle.  I was up for a miracle.

I was back in the car at 2:18; that was thirteen minutes, which was a major accomplishment for me but only a minor miracle.  As I drove down SR436 I prayed that I would get to their home before they would.  I knew it was tight.  I felt like God was saying, “Trust me.  Be at peace.”

That meant that I didn’t need to give in to anxiety and wouldn’t need to go 80 mph when I got on I-4.  I was at peace.  (The thought of a delay due to getting pulled over by the police occasionally crept into my mind.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.)

file4281249501933 (1)I met one green light after another.  I thanked God for the green lights.  I knew he was using them to get me there on time.  Then I came to a red light.  I thought about the boys.  God gave me peace.  He didn’t say I would get every light green.  He only told me to trust him.  That meant that even if they had to wait for me, he was caring for them.  So, I thanked God for the red light.  After all, he was in charge of that, too.

I pulled into their neighborhood and had to go through the security gate, where three trucks were lined in front of me.  I sat there waiting as a school bus rolled by me.  One of the trucks went through and another school bus passed.

Finally I got through the gate, it felt like it took forever, but it was only about four minutes.  I turned onto their street and there were the boys – one house away from their home.  I would have beaten them home if they hadn’t broken into a run when they saw me.  I am amazed at how God cares for his children.  He gave me just the right amount of green and red lights to get me there in a timely manner, but most of all he gave me peace that I could trust him with every detail.  I just love that.