Wednesday, 30 March 2011

You've made your bed

"But what do you do?" I am often asked when I tell people about my wife's high-powered, world-saving job.  What an impertinent question!  As I always used to tell long-suffering, 35-hours-of-lectures-a-week university flatmate engineer Ian - as I sat watching daytime telly in my dressing gown - us theologians are always thinking.  I never understood why he got so angry.

So today I'm going to tell you exactly what I did.  While my wife was out making the aforementioned world a better place, I built us a bed!  I consider this to be a highly masculine thing to do, employing all the subtlety and nuance always associated with DIY.  It also means that we will no longer be sleeping on a Salvation Army purchased mattress, although I'm sure it was a shop second rather than secondhand.

Our new bed is king-sized, and as you would expect an American king is bigger than an English king (and they're the ones who kicked the monarchy out!)  Hannah and I can now sleep without touching each other at all, which to my mind makes for a more healthy and balanced, not to say hygienic, marriage.  The only annoyance is how far I have to stretch to push her when she's snoring.  A small price to pay for my fine piece of craftsman construction.

After that, I baked an apple cake.  Renaissance man?  Leonardo (da Vinci and/or DiCaprio) has got nothing on me.

Watch and learn.

Boo-yah!  Now I feel like a cup of tea, a piece of cake, and a lie down.  Convenient.

Monday, 28 March 2011

New digs

The Davieses are moving up in the world!  Or along a bit, at least.  Three-bedroom flats in our complex don't come up too often, but we managed to nab one and sneakily move in over the weekend.  I'd better tell the apartment managers soon.

Carrying furniture out one door, down some steps, along, up some steps, and in another door went fairly smoothly.  The weather in California is still acting weird (water keeps falling from the sky!) so we had the small challenge of dodging the showers.  With some VERY appreciated help from Shauli and Anat we got it all done.

After that it was just a case of cleaning the old apartment.  "Why don't we ever do this while we're actually living in the place?" I asked Hannah as we worked our way down through the varied strata of dust, fluff, and human hair.  Still, the place scrubbed up nicely and so we wait to see what percentage of our security deposit is returned.

The new flat is very nice too, and clean (for the moment).  It has lots of mirrored wardrobe doors, which means you can be sitting on the toilet and by various prismatic effects look out the kitchen window at the same time.  And everyone out there look in, I suppose.  Our swimming pool view is now at the back rather than the front, and the kitchen faces across the road and at the posh flats opposite which appeals to Hannah's investigative tendencies, shall we say.

But don't take my word for it, come and see for yourself!  You can even have your own bedroom now.

Before.  Nice and tidy, in my opinion.

Shauli employs the "turtle" method of furniture removal.

Tools of the trade.

After!  That La-Z-Boy is a fine piece of furniture.

We did have child labour help as well.  Hey, some things are hard to clean under!

The healthiest place to live

If you need any more proof:

Walnuts are the healthiest nut, say scientists
Walnuts are the healthiest of all the nuts and should be eaten more as part of a healthy diet, US scientists say.

And it's on the BBC, so it's true.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The creature from the blue lagoon

Californians are laughably complaining about the weather being cold at the moment.  They should spend two weeks in England I say, but to be fair there are still some clouds in the sky around here.  Which means that our swimming pool remains shut!  It'll probably open in April, I was told yesterday when I popped into the office, but until then it's out of bounds.

Out of bounds to us humans, that is.  Ducks, however, can sneakily fly over the top of the railings and avail themselves of the facilities rent free!  This is just what a couple did recently, eying up the crystal waters with a shake of their tails.  Not good news for the property managers Gene and Eileen, who responded quickly by releasing an even wilder animal into the pool.

It was something of a shock to see a large orange dinosaur sunning itself down there, but as he seems to be content to drift quietly, and never strays too far from the sides (fear of sinking?) he has not been a problem so far.  The ducks didn't share my opinion, and have not been seen since.  Missing presumed eaten?

Extinct?  No, just chilling.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Kicking the Habit

We are In'n'Out Burger people.  Ever since Jim and Gen introduced us when we were here on holiday, all those long years ago, we've enjoyed their double-doubles, fries, and shakes. After the discovery of the secret menu (recommended link - someone's taken photos of every item available!) and the Biblical references on the cups, our love of the place grew.  Except!  Walnut Creek doesn't have an In'n'Out.  I've heard there's one coming, but...

Instead, last night we tried the town's newest joint, Habit Burger.  The place immediately has two huge selling points: it's on the way home from the gym, and is next door to (soon-to-open) Yogurtland.

The menu is somewhat more extensive than I'n'O's, boasting teriyaki burgers, salads with multiple dressing choices, and malted shakes.  Unfortunately the calorie count for every item is proudly displayed by it, which is a little off-putting but apparently a legal requirement these days.  Californians, they're crazy!

We stayed fairly traditional, with two cheeseburgers as the nutritious heart of the meal, but ordered sweet potato fries (fewer calories than regular fries, despite the added sugar) and a garden salad.  I washed this all down with a vanilla malt.  I can report that it was very tasty, the burgers especially, but the price puts it somewhere between In'n'Out and Counter/Barney's levels.  And, frankly, who can touch the majesty of the neopolitan milkshake?  Our search for the perfect nearby burger continues.

Two cheese charburgers, and don't spare the calories. 

A feast!

Why I have to go to the gym.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Return ticket

We're back on the sunny Californian coast again.  Our plane took off a bit late from Heathrow, but when I asked for a gin and tonic the stewardess inquired whether I wanted a large one.  "It is a long flight," she explained.  This is why we fly British Airways.

So it's been a wonderful couple of weeks in the old country.  Thank you to everyone we've seen, who have all treated us like royalty - practicing for Will & Kate's wedding, no doubt.  We managed to put about 1,500 miles onto the clock of the poor little Corsa we hired, but it was so economical that Chevron saw scant benefit from that.

This week brings the excitement of not having to wear a hat and gloves everywhere, and a move to a new apartment!  We have extra bedrooms now, so all of you who said you'd come out to see us have to keep your promises.  We have a list.

Home sweet home!

Saturday, 19 March 2011


Our minutes this side of the Atlantic are inexorably ticking away, with a 5.30am alarm call tomorrow and a drive to the airport through a probably frosty Sunday morning.  So it was time to stock up on those luxuries that have yet to make it into the Traders Joes of the West Coast.  Cadbury's chocolate (of course), Marmite flavoured crisps, Maltesers, Jelly Babies, all finished off with a cup of tea in Sainsbury's cafe.

What's our luggage allowance again?

Pots, china cups, milk...yes!

Luckily we'll be out of the UK by the time this comes along.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Bourne free

We're back at Hannah's parents, where it rained steadily most of the day.  So of course we went out for a walk into beautiful Bournemouth, wandering down through the historic Victorian Gardens until we got to the shops and the amusements on the pier.  We also enjoyed a lovely cup of tea in Debenham's cafe.  A pot, real milk, boiling water...there are some things about this country that would almost dissuade me from returning to California.  Almost.

It's more impressive in the rain, really...

Bournemouth, one of Britain's premier holiday destinations.

Now this is more like it, although Hannah's claim to have "won" 24p having spent 40p (and feeding all her winnings back into the machine anyway) makes me wonder how quickly all that MBA learning has faded.

Everyone has to admit it in the end!

Now this is a reason to holiday in the UK.  Shakeaway: 150 different flavours of milkshake.  Here I am enjoying a Battenberg cake special.

With the Hammonds

It was another holiday highlight, as we spent today with the fab four of Oliver, Bethany, Jacob and Rebecca (and their parents Katharine and Scott, of course).  What's more, the sky cleared and the English sun shone brightly.  So we went to the beach to see if the sea had thawed.

Another highlight was driving on the newest road in Britain!  The Weymouth Relief Road was opened by Princess Anne herself back in December.  Unfortunately no one had thought to finish it before the opening, but today all work was completed.  After a confusing morning, where signs indicated that the old road was shut before the new one was opened, things got underway at 3pm and we were amongst the first to get lost and be stuck in a traffic jam there (but one that had never existed before!)  And if you think my blog is sad, take a look at this one.

Despite much jelly bean eating, Wii playing, etc. we had to say goodbye all-too-soon.  But I'm sure we can persuade them to invade California again before too long...

Hannah directs a "learn the American states" game.  Indoctrination?

Sisters (with laptops) together.

Fierce debate over flavours.

Shortest (and cheekiest) to tallest.

Oh, alright, another cute photo for you.

Surveying the ocean.

Searching for sea glass on the beach.

England in March: a bit like California.

Rebecca checks the performance of her portfolio.

Happy families!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Once and future king

Glastonbury, site of ancient Avalon, burial place of King Arthur and his queen, where Joseph of Arimathea brought a young Jesus when he was apprenticed to him as a tin merchant (wasn't he a carpenter?)  Yes, indeed, a strange place of converging ley lines, and the only place in the UK that approaches Berkeley levels of hippy outlandishness.

It was an appropriate venue, therefore, to meet Neil, long-time friend, the priest who married us, and a world authority on all things Celtic and mysterious.  We were last here with him on the top of the Tor at 9 minutes past 9 on the 9th day of 9th month 1999 (he was there at 7:07am on 7/7/1977 as well!)  Today was more sedate as we wandered around the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey and enjoyed a ploughman's lunch at a local pub.

Despite the conjunction of all these, we were unable (again!) to win anything on our National Lottery scratchcards, which would have allowed Neil to buy a hut on an Welsh mountain and become the ascetic he's always wanted to be and us to upgrade to business class for our flight home.

Neil (bearded like Merlin himself) and Hannah pay homage at King Arthur's tomb.

An expert tour of Glastonbury Abbey.

Signs of spring!

At the tomb of St Dunstan. He, at least, existed.

Alma mater

Up the A1 and into the wintry wastes of the North today, which were actually lovely and sunny in a spring welcome.  With a few minutes to spare before meeting people for lunch we wandered the ancient cobbled streets of Durham, famous for being the place where Hannah and I met when we were 18 (five or six years ago).

Then it was off to Mat's garage with Goddaughter Charity in tow, to sift through the debris of our past life.  The wheeled vegetable rack was still there, as was the purple fish-shaped bath pillow we have missed SO much since moving away.  Hopefully it's our stuff that gets shipped to the USA rather than Mat's fly-mo and gardening gloves.

Dinner was taken in the Traveler's Rest pub, in the village where we used to live.  The standard of the food has gone way up since we left, and the fish and chips I had (of course) were fantastic.  Due to Mat's heating packing up and his kettle being the only source of warmth, we had a night in the luxury of Alana's house where she even gave up her bed (with electric blanket!) for us.  Greater love hath no one.

Castles, bridges, medieval shops.

Mat, outside the Theology department, taking cake to his students.  The place has gone soft since we were there.

Ah, the cathedral, built in 1093!  Don't have many of these in California.

Harry Weeks, our first baby, who is now big and a fencing champion.

Dad Stuart works through some tricky homework with young David (named after me).

Out at the garage, and Mat lends moral support to the sorting effort.

Goddaughter Charity entertained us with a dramatic reading from Hannah's favourite book growing up.  Ah, Enid Blyton, how I've missed your racist and sexist tales.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Extended family

From Oxford we drove to Cambridge, famous university towns second only to Durham itself. Nearby Ely is the home of John and Laura, who entertained us with fine cuisine and copious wine. On Sunday we extended the family even further my meeting up with cousins Bec (no stranger to California), Vic and Martin, young Harry and newest family member Emily.

Saturday night.  This is how we barbecue in my country.

John plays with Harry - diggers and fire engines, the perenial boys' game.

Emily's reaction on learning she's related to us all.

Later, calmer, three girls having fun together: Becs, Emily and Laura.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Dominus Illuminatio Mea

We kissed goodbye to a super-bouncy Megan early this morning (a less bouncy Ian, and an averagely bouncy Ellen) and drove through the idyllic English countryside to Oxford, where Hannah's sister Rachel is studying at St Hugh's College.  She was quite bouncy too, despite the usual excesses of her student Friday night, and gave us a tour of the justified and ancient institution.

St Hugh's was founded in 1886 by Elizabeth Wordsworth, great-niece of the famous poet, originally intended only for the education of young women.  It is named after Hugh of Avalon, and counts Aung San Suu Kyi amongst its esteemed alumni.  Rachel didn't know any of this, I looked it up on Wikipedia.  It has been polluted by men these days, but still maintains its principles of excellence in all things.  Hence Rachel's presence there.

It was a very pleasant place to walk around, but I was overcome by feelings of needing to hand in essays, and the worry that there were exams that I hadn't revised for just around the corner.  But in other news, Rachel's just been offered a fully-funded PhD at Stony Brook, upstate New York, studying small bits of broken pottery from North-West Kenya for six years!  Start spreading the news, she's leaving today, she wants to be a part of it...

The friendly welcoming face of Oxford.

They don't leave the gardening to the students.

Far too much cleverness concentrated in one place.

St Hugh himself, with a swan - a sign of purity.  So a bit strange for an all-girl's college.

Fitting right in.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Some nicer photos of London

Well, taken with a better camera, anyway...

Looking at Big Ben through the London Eye.

The mother of parliaments!

They're not changing the guard at Buckingham Palace.

St Paul's Cathedral.

The Tate Modern turbine hall, full of ceramic sunflower seeds that you can't walk on.

Britain's only skyscraper, in Canary Wharf where Hannah did her Chevron work.

Frozen yogurt comes to England!  Easier to buy a pot in a supermarket and stand outside for a bit, but there we are.

The ever amazing British Museum.

What do you mean, we stole this stuff? Whatever!