Monday, March 28, 2005

Home Again! Home Again! Jiggety-Jig!

I believe I have mentioned that I love to go to the United Kingdom. I do not want any of the wonderful people that I have met there to, for a moment, believe that I am less than thrilled to see them when I am there or that the time I get to spend over there is not wonderful. But the truth is that I love getting home and spending time here.

My old friends, my home, my car, and my dog are all here. As much as I love going across the Atlantic to the home of the Full English Breakfast, it is nice to wake up, brew coffee, check my email, and take the dog for an early morning walk in the park. I mean really nice! There is nothing like the reaction I get from Saga when I come through the door after a trip.

That is not to say that I want all my friends from the pub to act like Saga; jump up, wag their tales, whimper with utter joy, and cover me in kisses when I walk through the door. (Well, okay, a couple of you maybe… but you'll have to guess who you are!)

I arrived late last night. It was a lovely night. There were a sky full of stars, and it was a warm and placid night. The clemency of the weather almost made-up for the fact that my plane was late and that my luggage was delayed. I got back home and schlepped the luggage in; threw a pair of jeans and a shirt in the laundry for today and collapsed. It was then that Saga decided to let me know that she had to go out. We took a long, starlit march through the park. She wanted to go play with the coyotes. I think not!

Oh well, It is time for me to get to work.

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 28-March-2005 – Lakewood, Colorado

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter!

There are advantages to showing-up at the airport really early! I arrived at the counter about three hours before my flight this morning and was told that because the flight was overbooked, they had only center seats for me on the flight. The woman behind the counted took one look at me and said that she could probably do better and handed me a boarding pass but told me to check at the counter when I got there.

I got there and there was another boarding pass waiting. They bumped me up to executive class plus. It is not quite business class, but it is quite nice here!

I have my own video screen with games on it… not that I am planning on taking advantage of that. I have three books with me for the flight. I have a wider seat… they are six across in this area instead of nine across in coach. But the best part is that I have a good three inches more leg room than I would have back behind the blue curtain! I walked back there (doing a circuit walk of the plane to stretch my legs) a while back and it is exactly as I remember it from my trip to the UK.

Well, I finished one of the books I brought with me and am sure I will finish the second somewhere along the southern coast of Greenland. I think I may watch one of the movie offerings when they start again. Ninety minutes down, seven hours to go!

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 27-March-2005 – Somewhere over the Atlantic

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Dr. Who

Yes, the cult classic is back!

Some friends from the pub invited me into Richmond to watch the premier this evening with them. Never the one to show-up empty handed, I brought some cheeses, some crackers, and some bread. It was a lovely evening.

We chatted for a while, about old music, old episodes of Dr. Who and American television. It was wonderful. Around 19:00, we turned on the Television to watch the show. It is more compact than the old episodes I remember. The show this evening had the entire problem resolved in 45 minutes as opposed to the old four-part episodes with cliffhangers at the end of the first three and the wrap-up on the fourth week.

I like it. The TARDIS is updated and the reaction when Rose walks into it for the first time is, perhaps, the best acted reaction that I have ever seen. Where as most side-kicks look around in awe when they first walk in, Rose walked in, did a wonderful double-take; she then backed out of the TARDIS in terror, ran around the callbox outside telegraphing beautifully how perplexed she was that it was bigger on the inside then on the outside. She runs back in only when being chased by a creature.

Afterward we talked about our thoughts on the new Doctor and how the updates played. It was late when I headed home. My host graciously offered to walk me to the bus stop but I am independent, and with the light rain that is now falling, I thanked him for the offer and we parted on the walk outside his home.

I am now on the bus for the 45-minute ride back to Hampton Court a noisy altercation was occurring at the last stop and a (Drunk? Stoned? Just fricking obnoxious?) person just stormed onto the bus. She flipped off her (Friend? Lover? Enemy? John?) person who she was arguing with and then stomped to the back of the bus where she has been sitting and kicking things noisily. The elderly couple across the aisle and I keep exchanging glances… What next?

Well, I guess I will sign-off now. I am on my way back to the hotel to pack. The time changes to GMT Summer Time tonight so I lose an hour this weekend. I lose another next weekend in Denver! Isn't travel fun?

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 26-March-2005 – Somewhere along the Thames, United Kingdom

Friday, March 25, 2005

Bank Holiday

Today is a bank holiday here in the UK. It is Good Friday.

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are! I have been up since 06:00 (because I am in the habit now) and have worked on some paperwork and documentation that I needed to complete before returning.

It is almost noon so I am thinking of taking off and heading over to The Kings Arms for a bite of lunch and then head into town for some sight seeing. It is my last weekend in the UK and I need to do something to celebrate and to make the memories last.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – 25-March-2005 – Hampton Court, United Kingdom

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Curry Dinner

There are three things I have learned this trip.

1) It is obligatory to have at least one curry dinner whilst in England.
2) All curry is not created equal.
3) The pictures taken in low light by my PDA leave something to be desired.

On the last issue, the food looks much more appetizing than it appears in the pictures at the link above. Also, I do not appear that pasty usually. Oh, and you can tell how off the pictures are… the shirt I am wearing in this picture and the picture that is currently in my profile (to the right).

Dinner at The Rose

That being said, last night I had my obligatory curry dinner at The Rose here in Thames Ditton. I am told that curry is now the number one ethnic food in the UK. It is rapidly replacing meat pies (such as steak and kidney pie) as the national dish.

The conversation was good, we talked very little business and had a good time. The curry itself, sad to say, was uninspiring. It was all good, but the dish spiced with chili was not very spicy, the one that was in the cream sauce was a bit too sweet, and the one that was based on lamb was a bit greasy. Good thing the conversation was sparkling… it saved the meal.

Tomorrow is a bank holiday here. I will be going to the palace for a tour this weekend and then packing for my return trip and watching Dr. Who on Saturday. I will post my entries upon return to the states next week. Have a great weekend!

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 24-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sunset Over the Thames

Last night as I was entering the palace grounds on my way home to the hotel, I chanced to look behind me (up the Thames) and noticed that the sun had come from behind the clouds. It was a nice sunset. Unfortunately, all I had with me was my PDA which takes fair but not really good pictures.

Sunset Over the Thames

It puts me in mind of the fact that tomorrow is the last day I will be here testing on the current project. We have had great luck on the testing and the project is due to be finished on-time. Since Friday is a holiday here I will not be able to post an entry after tomorrow’s until I return home. I will, however, write them and load them up as soon as I can. So keep checking back.

It will be a good weekend here. There is a bank holiday on both Friday and Monday so we will be having a long weekend. There is a fun faire being held at the palace grounds (ell, actually in a park across the street from the palace but…) in Hampton Court, and I am going to be visiting the palace again on Friday or Saturday.

Saturday night I have been invited over to the home of one of my friends from the pub to watch the first episode of the new Dr. Who series that is starting on BBC 1, and when I return to my hotel afterward it is to pack and prepare to head to the airport.

It has been a productive trip but I am looking forward to getting home. I wonder if Saga has missed me…

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 23-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Motorways

It is raining and miserable today. It is good to note that people here drive no better in the rain than people everywhere else that I have lived. I have no idea why a little water falling from the sky seems to completely flummox some people. Do they forget how to drive? Or is it, perhaps, that they think that with the rain falling nobody will see the stupid things that they do?

I guess that this tirade was rough-on by my trip to Basingstoke this morning. I had a morning full of meetings to attend in our office in Basingstoke, a trip, I am led to understand should have taken us about half the time we actually took to get there. The traffic on the A309 from Thames Ditton to Hampton Court Palace was bumper-to-bumper and absolutely crawled. We turned south on the A309 at Hampton Court and went to the A3 motorway to head east into Basingstoke. Once on the motorway, it was a fairly easy trip, but getting to the motorway was a real trial.

I did, however, learn some interesting things this week about the motorways. They are approximately the same age as the Interstate system in the United States and contrary to the theory that I had developed last year on my first visit here, there is some rhyme or reason to the striping on the motorways. It is not as intuitive (I believe) than the striping on US highways, but it is, nonetheless, there. Here is a brief primer of what I have learned:

1) The striping between lanes going the same direction (the white lines on US Highways) is narrower than the striping between lanes going in opposite directions.

2) The striping that runs between lanes going in opposite directions is thick.

3) Like in the US, where there are two lines between lanes present, you cannot cross the line if there is a solid line on your side of the double set.

4) The length and frequency of the lines between lanes has a meaning. If the lines are close together and long, you are meant to give way (yield to the opposite lane) when crossing the line. If they are far apart and short, they are only an indication that you have two lanes and that they are both headed the same direction.

So, all you foreigners out there, be sure to bring a ruler with you if you plan on driving over here… you’ll need it!

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 22-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Monday, March 21, 2005

Staying Up Late

This weekend, my friend the publican and his wife had their going away party. I think that it is partly because I am in the wrong time zone and party because I was up discussing politics, but for some reason I was up ‘til well after 01:00 each evening this weekend. Even last night I was up late… this is so unlike me. Luckily, I slept like the dead when I did get to bed so I was able to recover and keep going.

I do remember when I could stay up ‘til all hours every night. In the early days of my career, I remember being in the television studio until the wee-small hours. But then, I guess I got to go home and sleep all day when I did that!

I did a lot of walking this weekend. Looking for a book to read on the plane, and looking around London. It was fun but tiring. My trip here is now half over and I am beginning to realize that to do all the things I want to do I will have to burn the candle at both ends.

By the way, for those of you who are Dr. Who fans, There is a new series of Dr. Who starting this Saturday. You know I’ll be watching BBC this Saturday night!

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 21-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Bushy Park

Two days could not be more different! (I guess they could, but it was a better start to the piece if I practice a bit of exaggeration. )

A Tropical Path in the Woodland Gardens

The day dawned a bit cold and overcast. Not actually cold enough to want to wear a jacket, but cold enough to want to wear a sweatshirt as I took my morning walk. The overcast does have its advantages, though. It is perfec lighting for some portraiture. Of course, my portraits will be of the flora in the gardens, but still...

Today I visited a secret of the people in the know. A hidden treasure right in the middle of Surrey! Last night at the pub, one of my acquaintances suggested that I go to the Woodland Gardens in Bushy Park. The hotel I am staying in (at least the main building of it) backs onto Bushy Park. The Mews (where my room is) actually backs onto The Wilderness.

He gave me directions and suggested that I go early (before the crowds… not that it was ever really crowded.) So right after breakfast this morning, I grabbed my cameras and headed over to the park and sought-out the woodland gardens. What a find!

There are lovely wooded paths that wind through woodlands under planted with daffodils; gnarled and knotted trees that remind me of mangroves (although they are not growing in knee-deep water) and the biggest surprise of all, a walk through what is essentially, a tropical garden. Be sure to follow the link and see all the pictures from this lovely corner of Surrey!

I took pictures of the Palmettos and Spanish Bayonets, the Azaleas, and the Primroses. There are also animals; ducks, foxes, pheasants, and swans. I hope you can enjoy the pictures and get a feeling of the gardens. But, let’s keep this a secret! I would hate to have everyone know about this place. It would ruin it to be packed.

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 20-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Walking to Work

I decided today to take you to work with me. I know that there is a slight problem with this in that you cannot actually walk to work with me, but I have a solution! I am going to take a picture every hundred steps along the way from my hotel, the Lion Gate Hotel in Hampton Court, to the offices of Harris Corporation in the Ferry Works, Thames Ditton.

Ferry Works at Thames Ditton

In the pictures (at the link above) you will see a number of shots taken along the way to the office. When I set-out, I had intended to take a picture every 100 steps. Unfortunately, I think I forgot to take one every 100 steps and I got distracted going through The Wilderness and wanted to take some pictures.

Today was absolutely gorgeous! It was bright and sunny and about sixty-five. The outside tables at the King’s Arms pub were already full as I walked past it on the way through the Lion Gate.

I stopped to take a picture of the tracks as they cross summer road because I liked the way the disappeared off into the distance. It was a busy day at the sport ground with a bunch of the local kids playing soccer or rugby or something.

That being said, it is off to the office.

On the way to the office we start-out crossing the yard at The Mews at the Lion Gate Inn in Hampton Court. The day is sunny and warm and the sky is absolutely blue and clear. Rounding the wall around The Mews courtyard, we get to the Lion Gate. I took a number of pictures of the columns and the gate before entering The Wilderness.

By the way, you’ll notice in a number of these pictures some vignetting. Unfortunately, this is caused by the inclusion of three filters that I had on the front of the camera. I should have taken one of them off, but I didn’t see the vignetting as I was taking the pictures. Oh well.
As mentioned, I decided to take some time and some pictures in The Wilderness before continuing on to the office so there are a number of pictures of the daffodils and other flowers in the garden. I also took a number of self portraits. I am not really happy with any of them, but I decided when I started this blog that I would upload all the photos I am taking – even the bad ones – so that you could see the process of taking pictures the way I do. Having tarried a while, I continue south, through the tilting yard and past the castle itself.

Spring in Bloom

I am assuming that the ball-shaped foreign vegetation growing high in some of the trees on the palace grounds is mistletoe.

Exiting the castle grounds on the south side, I walk along the Thames River for a short piece, and then turn left and walk along the A309 though East Molesey to Summer Road. This stretch is a bit the longest, most boring stretch of the walk.

Once on Summer Road, I head east back toward the Thames and into the village of Thames Ditton. I walk past the narrow street with too many cars parked on them and up to the Ferry Works, where the office is located. The Ferry Works is in an old factory that at the turn of the last century was in the business of making parts for the ferries that ran all up-and-down the Thames. There is a cool view of the roofline that shows the serrated line of the roof with the huge banks of windows.

On the way back, I spotted something that took me aback. If this is what it appears to be, it is the largest Spanish Bayonet that I have ever seen! I had not expected to see tropical plants in England; I had thought this was a temperate climate rather than a tropical one. Well, it is lunchtime and I am off to the pub for a bight and then into Surbiton for some shopping. More on this gorgeous weekend tomorrow.

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 19-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Friday, March 18, 2005

A Fine Spring Day

It is a fine spring day in the United Kingdom. At least it is in my little corner of it!
At lunch time, I strolled across Thames Ditton along the church walk and admired the beauty of the daffodils and the crocuses in the church yard. They spring from everywhere! Headstones sprout out of patches of yellow, white and purple. The graves take on a festive rather than an oppressive feel. It is vastly different than that foggy evening that I almost killed myself on the statuary overhanging the path.

Spring Time in the Church Yard

…and speaking of statuary, I have to impart the wisdom I gained today at lunch. Out of the mouths of babes!

I took the long way through the church walk to the Village Bakery to get a bacon and brie sandwich on a grilled baguette. (Yum! Grilled cheese made with Brie!) It being a nice day, I was in no particular hurry to return to the office, so rather than heading straight back to the office along the main road, I took the church walk back as well and decided to eat in the memorial garden.

This was, apparently, also the day that the local kindergarten decided to have their Easter Egg Hunt! The church walk was packed with munchkin-sized children all gathered around an occasional adult headed for the memorial garden. It was at this point that I leaned an interesting fact. The children were filing past two-by-two, holding hands so that nobody could wander off unnoticed. As one of the couplets in the line passed me, a little curly-headed brunette child wearing an actual red riding hood (yes, just like in all the children’s books) was telling her companion child that “When you die, you become a statue.”

“A what?” asked her teacher who would have been just outside of comfortable hearing range.

“A statue.” Responded the little girl. “That is why there are so many statues in the church yard.”

The teacher could stifle her chuckles only a bit better than I could. I was still chuckling as I entered the memorial garden. Here I dug-out the sandwich and soda that I had brought for lunch. About a minute later, the entire class entered the yard.

The memorial garden is a beautiful, walled-in space that is incredibly tranquil. I went there a couple times in the fall, when I was last here. I can see that it is a far nicer place to pass a lunch hour on such a fine spring day.

The children were darling! They each had half of a paper Easter Egg clutched in their little hand. On a signal from one of the teachers, they ran around the garden looking for the half of the egg that matched the one they carried. It was obvious that this concept was a bit advanced for a couple of the children. More than one of them fled back past me on the walk to show their teacher that they had “found their egg” even though it was so obvious that they had the wrong half of the egg that I could spot it from across the garden where I sat.

One or two of the children approached me and asked it I was sitting on their Easter Egg. When I responded that I wasn’t, their teacher admonished them to not bug me and allow me to eat my lunch. After finishing my lunch, I went back to the office to get my PDA and take some pictures of this fine day in the garden. It was a beautiful lunch hour. I am hoping the fair weather holds.

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are! Don Bergquist – 18-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Tourists and Travelers

It's hard not to have a concept of what a tourist is when you grow-up in South Florida. Tourists are those annoying strangers who do not have the foggiest notion of how to drive, navigate, or speak so they can be understood. They generally have no idea how to behave in (what passes for) polite society in Miami. Didn’t they have mothers? This misbehaving in public was something that my mother would never tolerate. When we were growing up we would behave because we knew there would be hell to pay if we didn’t behave in public. Even if Mom wasn’t there when we acted-up, she’d find out and we’d have to answer to mother eventually.

It is not hard to imagine what the tourists must think of those of us lucky enough to live in a tourist Mecca. Those who are not envious of us for getting to live in paradise must think we're hopelessly provincial for believing that this hot, humid, swampy home of the flying cockroach called the "Palmetto Bug" is paradise! This also gives one some insight into what the locals must be thinking about you when you're the tourist.

It's this last lesson that has guided my behavior during my travels on business. For the majority of the last fifteen years, I've been a business traveler. I comfort myself by remembering that there is a difference between a tourist and a business traveler. If you doubt me, take a look around the next time you're at the airport. You’ll be able to tell the business travelers from the tourist at a glance. The business travelers are the ones that are at home in their element. They are doing one of two things; working or relaxing. The tourists are not as comfortable in this environment. They are either excited to get to their destination or regretting that they have to leave. They tend to sit there wishing that the plane were at the gate, or boarding, or taking off… The business traveler accepts the fact that the travel schedule is more-or-less a work of fiction and is intended only as a basic guess as to when (and if) you might be traveling.

Granted, the business traveler is not faultless. Some are inconsiderate bastards who think they have a right to carry the whole of their belongings onto airplanes. They shove six or seven of their carry-on bags into the overhead bins so that nobody else has room, they put their computer cases in the seats that seem to be empty (because they were when they got on the plane) and then act put-out that they have to move their crap when the occupant of that seat makes it onto the plane… but these are not the business travelers that I want to consider. I am certain that these idiots have their own private circle of Hell prepared for them… one which is hopefully somewhere out on the tarmac at Chicago O’Hare perhaps.

The other place that you will immediately be able to tell the business traveler (the nice ones at least) from the tourist is in a restaurant. The business traveler is there to eat. The tourist is there to “experience the local flavor.” Now, that is not to say that the business traveler doesn’t appreciate the regional differences between place A and place B, it means only that this is not the primary reason he left place A for place B. It is either this reason or just the fact that I have witnessed the bad behavior of so many tourists that leads me to try and be cool at all times when not at home.

The reason for this entry in my blog was that the subject of feeling out of one’s element was the topic of discussion at the pub last night. One of the patrons picked-up on my being an American and noted that until I had spoken to him (and he heard the accent) he’d had no idea that I was a foreigner. He said the he could usually spot a foreigner at a hundred paces because they usually seemed so out of their element.

I guess that this makes me feel good to seem so comfortable in my surroundings. On my last visit I witnessed (what I considered to be) the reason for the “Ugly American” stereotype when a family from New England came into the pub and spend most of the time complaining about this and that. They even complained (albeit mildly) at the fact that the first pub they entered upon arriving in the UK was entirely full of Americans. (It’s true. The two women working at the time were both expatriates, and I was there on business from the states. Until the locals started showing up a bit later on, there was nobody in the pub but the publican who was not from the United States. ) It was embarrassing but I am informed that the Americans are nice compared to the French or the Germans.

I heard a good observation during the conversation at the pub last night; the difference between a tourist and a business traveler is that the tourist expects to have a great time when they are traveling. They think it is their right to have a good time and they're often disappointed. Thebusiness traveler, on the other hand, travels and if they have a good time, they consider it a bonus. For this reason, tourists are a pain in the ass and business travelers are a pleasure to deal with. I think this may be an oversimplification, but I hope that I am a business traveler (by this definition) even when I am on vacation. I think this is the way to travel… it is the experience you are after! Good or bad you can take something away from every experience so when you travel.

For those of you who act like the tourists as defined by the gang at the pub remember, you may have to answer to your mother some day so behave yourself!

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 17-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Small World

You've probably heard it said that it's a small world. I'm here to tell you that it's all a matter of perspective. As someone who has not yet lost the crick in my back from trying to sleep through a ten-hour flight to get here, I can say that I think it is a fairly large world. Small plane, large world!

But when the planets from the solar system get together on the celestial playground Earth might tower over that wimp, Mercury, and let's not even talk about Pluto! Why, even that kid next door, Mars, could take him no problem. But just go and tell those big brothers and there will be trouble. The big kids from the neighborhood on the other side of the asteroid tracks show up, and we'd better have a care! Heck, even Neptune could take on all the kids from our block (and send our twin sister, Venus running home in tears) with one ring tied behind his back!

While imagining some grand celestial playground is fun, I'm fairly certain that most people who use that expression are using it in its more figurative sense as an expression of surprise at a seemingly chance meeting under unexpected circumstances; such as the meeting that happened yesterday at lunch in a small restaurant here in Thames Ditton.

Thames Ditton is small! As I have noted before, it is a small hamlet (…or is it village? Apparently there is a distinction that I am not quite clear on…) about half-an-hour to forty-five minutes south and west of London by train. You can walk across Thames Ditton in ten minutes. (I know… I have!) Were you to live here it would be pretty likely that you would know a goodly portion of the village population; by site if not by name. The United States by contrast, is big. About 3.5 million square miles with a population approaching three billion people… It would take considerably more than ten minutes to walk across – even at a relatively narrow part. And you can just forget about knowing everybody!

That is why I found it strange when, at lunch yesterday, the owner of the restaurant (who recognized me from my last trip here) absolutely lit up when she saw me and welcomed me back. She then offered to introduce me to an American couple eating in the restaurant at the same time.

“This is Mark and Bev.” She said, introducing the couple. “They’re from the states too; South Carolina. Do you know each other?”

Here’s the weird part. I of course would have had a better chance of hitting the Power Ball last week (Which I haven’t checked yet so who knows!) than of having known these randomly selected South Carolinians, but the connection was there! Their first question whether I was the man from the American couple living on the island in the Thames behind the Ferry Works. (My office is in the Ferry Works. If you look at the pictures taken from my office window last month showing the Thames, the footbridge goes from the mainland on the right to the island on the left.) Later in our chat, they said that they were from Mount Pleasant. Well, they said Charleston, but when I asked “What part? I have friends who live in the historic district.” They admitted that it was actually Mount Pleasant, across the harbor. I admitted of knowing the area, having a client that I once visited there on business and passing through it each year on my way to my friends’ Beach House at Debordieu Colony.

“We know Debbie-Dew!” they exclaimed.

I explained where my friends from Charleston live, just by the Harris Teeter near the downtown area. They explained that they had lived on Wentworth Street which is in that general area until they had their children and had to move to a bigger house. My friends live on Wentworth! They did not know the Colonel and his wife, but they apparently lived within a couple blocks of each other for a couple years.

My point, I guess is that it is strange and inexplicable how two random people who happen to be in this country for completely different reasons can meet by chance, coming from such a large and diverse place as the United States, and end-up having such a chance common bond. I guess it is a small world after all!

I’m almost afraid to meet the American couple that is living on the island in the Thames that is right outside my office window. They might be my parents or something equally strange and inexplicable.

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 16-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Hobbiton Hilton

While in this area of the world, I have been staying at The Lion Gate Inn, an old hotel located at the north gate to the grounds of Hampton Court Castle. The gate and the inn are named for the two great stone lions adorning the huge wrought iron gates. The lions crouch imposingly atop the ornate concrete pylons from which the gates hang.

The hotel is a nice one, do not get me wrong! I prefer it because it is nice, clean, the breakfast is tasty, and the rate is more reasonable than some in the surrounding area. I get to walk across the grounds of Hampton Court Palace on my way to the office each morning, and my favorite pub is right next-door.

The rooms, however, are a bit small, which is what has earned it the moniker of “the Hobbiton Hilton” among the set of coworkers of mine that have stayed there. I had an excellent room last time (number twenty, in the Mews) that made it nearly impossible to appreciate the humor. Had I not been offered the room that we all joke about, I would not have understood it.

You see, like many of the guesthouses in the area, the rooms were not originally en-suite. The norm was to rent a room and go down the hall to a common bathroom to use the facilities. The more upscale travelers (and the Americans) however, insist on having their bathroom en suite so the hotel has retrofitted a number of the rooms. In some cases, this called for tucking the bathrooms into convenient alcoves under the adjacent stairways, or removing a room between two other rooms to convert it into two bathrooms and a storage closet. In other places, they simply framed-out a box within the room itself, added the requisite plumbing, tiled the closet, and viola! En suite room!

This means that a number of the rooms tend toward the small side. But, if like me, you use a hotel room to store stuff and to sleep; occasionally doing a little work on weekends, you don’t really need huge sweeping expanses of hotel room. It is not as if I am planning on throwing parties or anything.

Contrary to the lines that I use to capitalize on the reputation of the place for comedic value, I have never really

  • Accidntally broken a window by sticking the key too far into the lock on the door…
  • Had use the bathroom for its intended purpose by standing outside the hotel and sticking what-ever I wanted to wash in the bathroom window…
  • Had to leave the room to change my mind...
  • Hidden my luggage by leaving it behind one of the two quarks that serve as nightstands…

I prefer to think of the room as cozy. The hotel has an annex across the street called “The Mews.”

mew n.

  1. A cage for hawks, especially when molting.
  2. A secret place; a hideaway.
  3. mews (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
  • A group of buildings originally containing private stables, often converted into residential apartments.
  • A small street, alley, or courtyard on which such buildings stand.

This is the part of the hotel I prefer. The notorious room, the one that we all joke about is in the main building. To find it (you will be told it is on the second floor) you go up three and a half floors. It is then tucked away behind a small curtained doorway off the landing between floors.

The room has a full bed that consumes approximately 90% of the room. There is a writing desk that is best suited to writing on stationary no larger than the average business card. There is a chair but it is probably there for show, it is hard to get it out from under the desk without moving the bed, and it is more comfortable to sit on the bed when using the desk.

The bathroom has a shower that appears to have been manufactured by the people who make water part attractions. Anybody using it would look like Augustus Gloop getting sucked up the chocolate tube in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There is a basin in the room but you would have to stand in the shower to use it. I have been in a Winnebago with a larger bathroom.

If you should ever stay here (and seriously, I do recommend this hotel!) ask for a room in The Mews. I have not yet been disappointed. They are also really nice people who take care of their guests!

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 15-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Monday, March 14, 2005

Overheard Conversations

“London looks just like Cincinnati!” I actually heard this statement made the yesterday. Of course when I heard it we were still sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow and we hadn’t been there more than fifteen minutes. The person who said it was a little girl (perhaps no more than eight-or-nine) that had just awoken from a nap. She put her seat upright and opened the shade to look outside. All that I could see out the window were planes and airport buildings. I guess from that perspective, London looks very similar to Cincinnati.

It is this tendency to compare things at a very superficial level that led Dave Barry in his book, “The Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need” By Dave Barry, to explain how you can travel all over the world and never feel like you have left your home city: “Never Go Outside Your Hotel.” Apparently this is one of the cardinal things every travel should learn. I think it is a sad piece of advice and one that I would never take, had I taken this advice I would never had learned how homogenous the American populace is.

Apparently, there is a day of class time that is dedicated to the teaching of the American culture here in the UK. (Oops! Have I just generalized the entire UK to a single conversation overheard this morning on my way to work? Shame on me!)

There was a game that I remember playing when I was young, I think it was called “The State Game” or “The Game of the States” or something like that. It contained a map of the US (with the non-contiguous states inset into the pacific off of Baja California) on which each of the states had a commodity, a career, and some third symbol (perhaps food, I cannot remember) inscribed. The game, as near as I can remember taught children that the main commodity of Florida was Citrus, while the main commodity of Pennsylvania was steel, and the main commodity of Texas was Oil. The career symbol portrayed the predominate profession associated with each state, there was a little bank over New York, a little movie studio over California, and a little guy driving a tractor over Iowa. I can’t remember the third symbol, if I am right about it being food, I guess it had a bratwurst over Wisconsin, a Lobster over Maine, and oh, I don’t know, SPAM over Hawaii. The point is that the game was one big generalization after another. Playing it one was led to believe that everybody in Florida was a Citrus Farmer, everybody in Pennsylvania had steel mills in their back yard, and everybody in Hawaii had a dozen cans of SPAM in their pantry. (No, wait! I think this last statement may be true… According to the SPAM Museum exhibit, Hawaii eats three times more SPAM than any other state!) Any way…

I think that the teachers at this kid’s school must have taken their curriculums directly from “States-O-Rama” or whatever it was called. As I was walking to the office this morning, a group of three young boys all wearing the school uniform of the same school (same colors on the caps, same ties, etc.) were talking about prep work that they had done for a test that was apparently coming up today. They were talking about who had prepped for which unit. Apparently, the important things to remember about the United States are:

1) We invented the hotdog bun
2) We were the first to have commercial radio stations and
3) The most popular vacation Destination in the US is Disney World

What caught my attention was when one little boy asked the others if they had “Done the United States yet.”

“Yeah, last Thursday.” was the nonchalant reply. “Hotdog buns were invented in New York, 1860; 1920 – First commercial broadcast was, uh, a channel in Pennsylvania, I think, a baseball match; and 1973 – Disney opens in Orlando. I did South America on Friday. I think I am going to do okay on the test…”

I guess I'd really have a reason to be offended if I was from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, or some South American Country starting with a "D." Then I would only be part of a continent that was able to be studied in one single day!

About this time, they walked out of eavesdropping range. I hope that they do not ask the Year that Walt Disney World opened on this test. The poor kid will get it wrong. I remember them celebrating their quarter-century in 1996 which would mean that the park opened in ’71 not ’73. I do not remember what year it opened, but I do remember passing it on vacations as a kid as it was under construction. Oh well, I guess I had best post this and get to work.

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 14-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Wilderness

To the northern side of the Hampton Court Castle, there is a beautiful garden known as “The Wilderness.” I assume that this is to distinguish it from the formal gardens just to the east of there. The Wilderness is divided into a number of irregular triangular lawns with trees and hedges throughout, but there are no two triangles that are of the same size and proportion.

I have just arrived in the United Kingdom this morning and this is the first place that I have come to spend time. It is a bit on the cool side, perhaps 35-degrees, but it is sunny and cloudless out. It looks like it may cloud up a bit later, but right now it is lovely.

I was told that this area was called the wilderness but did not really appreciate the reason for it until I returned to the United Kingdom this morning. It was a wonderful surprise to find that I had arrived while The Wilderness was awash with color. I have long known about “naturalizing” a lawn, but until now I have never really understood its full potential.

I am sitting on a bench writing this taking in the beauty of the scene. The lawns are, as you can see, absolutely exploding with color. They have been under-planted with thousands of bulbs, crocuses, daffodils, astors, and snow drops. I am inspired… I have to do this to my lawn! I am not sure how the homeowners’ association will feel about it, but it is easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission!

You may wonder why I am sitting on a park bench writing this, given that it is cold. Well, my hotel room was not ready, (after traveling for the last fourteen hours and having the flight attendant spill a pot of coffee on me, I’d really love to get a shower!) and before noon there is nothing open here on a Sunday. So, here I sit. I guess I could go see if the King’s Arms is open yet.

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 13-March-2005 – Hampton Court Castle, United Kingdom

Naturalizing Gone Mad

The colors of Spring in The Wilderness.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

A Beautiful Morning in Colorado

The mountains as seen from the parking at the airport.

Flying East

I've always found that the biggest problem with jet lag was encountered on the trip east. The rapid and extreme change of time zone is, for me, far more off-putting when it makes me miss the sunrise. All of my life I've been an early riser, so the early hours of the day culminatinating in the glory of a spectacular sunrise is the perfect start of the day for me.

More-often-than-not these days, those early hours are largely spent driving to the train station, and the golden glory of the sunrise is basked in (albeit briefly) over the top of the computer on my desk. But still I get to... experience (if not exactly enjoy)... my favorite hours of the day.

This weekend, I am flying east in a big way. I get to fly back to London on business again. I have been up for a couple hours and am writing this in the early hours of the morning. When Saga and I went out earlier, it was cool, crisp and completely clear. The stars were ablaze and I am certain it will be a wonderful day for those of you who are not planning on spending the bulk of it on a plane somewhere.

I’ll take a couple pictures of the morning before I get on the plane so that you can see how beautiful it is here in Lakewood.

I hope you have a wonderful day where you are!

Don Bergquist – 12-March-2005 – Lakewood, Colorado

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The new office and Guestroom is open!

New Office and Guestroom

I have been busy for the last couple weeks trying to get ready for the guest season.

Those of you who have been to my place will know the problem with my having an office and a guest room; they are the same room. My office furniture was too big and bulky, the guestroom seemed to be cramped and cluttered. I couldn't really have guests and have them be comfortable.

Although I like the comedienne who said her guest room was small, but large enough that when her parents came to visit, they could be comfortable, so she was making it smaller, I have never felt this was acceptable. I suppose it is the background of hospitality of the Midwesterners. I love having company over!

To start with I replaced all my big and bulky stuff with the Scandinavian shelving units (pictured above - more pictures at the link attached) and moved all my audio-video and computer equipment onto the shelves. There is a nice extended shelf to my right (as I sit writing this) that makes a wonderful place to work with my laptop when I have to work from home. It sure beats working at the dining room table; I have a door so I can shut the dog out and get work done uninterrupted by Saga!

In a move that proves that (at least some) behavior is not genetically inherited, I painted the wall behind the shelving unit to a contrasting color. It is a dark green that matches the color of the futon and the sheets for the guestroom. I say that this is something that proves the break between genetics and behavior because it is something that my father would have never done.

The house I grew-up in (in Miami) was the same color inside-and-out for nearly twenty years. Every wall was a disgusting color of light green called "Ming Turquoise." It is a pale green about the color of a melted McDonald's Shamrock Shake. That is, every room but the kitchen (every wall was white), and my parents' room (every wall was powder blue) were this color. The standing joke was that Dad got a really good deal on the paint. It was when I was in high school that it was made clear that other colors of paint existed.

I stayed behind and painted the house while my parents went on vacation that year. (I had a job that summer and did not want to go to Juniper Springs… Funny, now that I have a real job, I think about going to Juniper Springs on a weekly basis… but I digress.)

So my parents went on vacation and I painted. One room beige, one yellow, one a nice sky blue. This was also when I discovered that the story about cheap paint could not be right. I moved the furniture in my parents' room and discovered huge patches of two walls (hidden behind the larger pieces of furniture) had NEVER been painted! They were still the bare concrete block construction of the house. Two gallons of paint were not enough to get that room even.
To this day I cannot stand two things: 1) Painting, 2) Ming Turquoise!

Well, I guess I should close this out. To my friends and family, just one more note: The new guest room is open. Come-on by!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 06, March, 2005