Sunday, December 31, 2006

Yule Blog: New Year's Eve (Feast of the Holy Family)

New Year's Eve in Thames Ditton

My year is coming to a close in the same way it opened. I am with friends in the United Kingdom. My assignment will continue until the end of the fiscal year (30 June 2007) and there is talk of having me relocate over here on a more permanent basis.

We will have to see what the new year holds. Whatever it holds, I'll document is here to share with you, my family and friends.

I leave this year with a wish that wherever you are, you have a safe New Year celebration and a happy and prosperous time in the year to come!

Don Bergquist - 31 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Birthday to my Neice, Theresa

Happy Birthday, Cousin Marin!

Yule Blog: Feast of St. Anysia

Saga and I went to the park today.

This is exciting only because for the first time ever, Saga went to the park in her new trailer. I found the trailer online at a pet supply store. There were a number of things about it that I do not care for. For example, it is wide enough that it can only come into the house through one door. There are a couple screws that I could not remove because they had been driven into the frame beyond the point where they still had threads so I could not fit the fenders that are supposed to be over the wheels. But they are not really necessary, I suppose.

Saga took to it immediately and enjoyed the ride around through Kingston and into the park. She was excited to get out when we got there. Good thing I had left her lead on, the first thing she wanted to do was to chase after the wildlife.

My mate, Kevin, told me that as she was a foreign dog, she could probably get away with one slip. She could get to try and herd the deer once. After that, she would be in trouble.
I'm happy to report that there was no deer herding activity going on. She was the perfect lady! (Well, she didn't herd any deer, she really wasn't a perfect lady!

There is this fantastic old fallen tree by the Leg-Of-Mutton Pond that I wanted her to pose on. She was a bit troublesome to work with, but then as W. C. Fields observed: "Never work with children or animals!"

I was able to get a couple of pictures of her that came out good. I cannot wait to make this trip again. Perhaps when she gets a bit more used to going to the park with Daddy she'll be a bit calmer model.

She was wonderful while in the trailer, only having to be told a couple times not to claw at the net closures. She did receive a lot of greetings from the people we passed. She seemed right in her element as the children in the park pointed and said "Oh! Look at the pretty doggy!" (Have I mentioned how much she loves getting compliments?

I hope wherever you are today, this penultimate day of 2006 has been a great one for you!

Don Bergquist - 30 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Friday, December 29, 2006

Yule Blog: Feast of St. Sapiens the Wise

It's far nicer here than there!

The weather reports are that Denver is under another severe weather alert again today. Just this time last week, the city was being assaulted by a blizzard that shutdown the airport, dumped four-feet of snow on my deck and caused the governor to call a state of emergency.

According to the weather channel, the high temperature back home today is supposed to crest around 25° and the snow will be falling between 1"-2" per hour until sunrise and continuing to fall, though less intensely for most of the day! (Please remember that as I sit here in London writing this, it is around 23:00 back home in Denver and the sunrise is a good eight hours away.

By contrast, it is a lovely day here. The temperatures are going to fall off a bit from yesterday's highs in the mid-fifties, to crest in the mid-forties today; that's about thirteen Celsius. It has been foggy for the past few days but dry. Today they are predicting it to start raining.

Yesterday, I got notice that there was a package for me at the post office. I took a ride into the Kingston/Surbiton Mail Delivery center to collect the package that was too big to slip through the letterbox. It was a nice ride to a part of town I haven't been to before. Unfortunately, I seem to have picked-up a nail or a piece of glass in my bike tire.

This morning I have a flat! Drat! My bike shop closes on Christmas while the proprietor goes off on a three-week holiday! I'm gonna have to find another bike shop! Quick!

I hope wherever you are, the weather is beautiful and there's air in your tires!

Don Bergquist - 29 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy Birthday to the Bitch I Live With!

It is (apparently) rare that I admit to having made mistakes. But to prove it is not true that I never admit mistakes (who do you think I am, George Bush?) I will freely admit to having made a mistake as of late.

My memories are foggy of my days back in Memphis. It could be all the time I was spending in the office getting ready for Y2K. Or, perhaps it was all that alcohol that was busily trying to keep away from my roommates by selflessly drinking it myself. Whatever the reason, I remember Saga being born on Christmas Eve. I was reminded today by my dear friend, Kelly, that Saga (and her littermates) were actually born on the 28th.

Okay, I was wrong.

Saga, happy Birthday! Extra carrots for you today at dinner!

I hope wherever you are, you'll remember the birthdays of those who are important to you.

Don Bergquist - 28 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Yule Blog: Feast of the Holy Innocents

On the way into the office I took the long bike route. I really need this if I am going to recover from the party food I have been subsisting on for most of the past week. I feel like some sort of experiment gone awry. (I gorge myself for science so you don't have to!)

I did take a major step toward returning to normal mode this morning. I went to the 'fridge and discarded all the party food that was in there. (Most of it was beyond saving at this time anyway, but it was still in there.)

All the time that I was cleaning-out the refrigerator I was hearing the voice of my mother: "Don't waste that food, young man. There are starving children in Asia that would kill for that food!" (Can anyone find me an envelope to send this stuff to Asia?)

I've decided that there is no reason for me to buy anything but good, healthy, Weight Watchers-approved foods. I am going to be good… really!

I hope that wherever you are today, you're being good! (Or if not, I hope that you're at least enjoying yourself!)

Don Bergquist - 28 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Yule Blog: Feast of St. John

It was back to work for me today! After all this party food and socializing, it was nice to roll into the office at 06:00 and sit alone in a dark office, working on testing software. A small island of normalcy in a sea of festivities.

There is one place that I want to avoid at all cost today and I have been pretty successful doing so! That place is anywhere that even remotely resembles a shopping mall! How lucky am I that this is a work day, then?

At lunch time, I did go near a mall, but that was just to head into town and go to the bank. You see, I have taken one step closer to allowing myself to relocate here. (…should that be in the cards for the New Year!) I have opened a bank account. My thoughts are drawn to a line from A Place For My Stuff by George Carlin: "Supply lines are getting longer and harder to maintain."

I now have my first ever foreign bank account. How exciting is that? (And I'm not even using it as a tax dodge!)

This evening, I assembled Saga's bike Trailer and took it for a short test run. It is going to take a little bit of trying to get used to having it behind me. I cannot turn as sharply. But then, that's the same as having a trailer behind a car or a tractor. Saga and I watched some television after that and now, I am finishing this blog entry so I can head up to bed.

I hope wherever you are today, you've had an excellent day!

Don Bergquist - 27 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Yule Blog: Boxing Day (Feast of St. Stephen)

Ah! What a lovely day! My fears that Saga would, in some way, misbehave were unfounded. She was an angel all day. She loved going to the pub and hanging-out. She lay on the couch with the wrinklies as we opened presents. Terry's and Angie's parents all loved (or seemed to) having her to pet.

She watched in interest as each present was unwrapped and we tossed the wrappings aside. Periodically she would sniff at something on of her fellow couch residents would unwrap, just on the off-chance that it was edible and not headed her way!

The whole day was perfect, the meal was fabulous but if I don't put on more than a few pounds from that meal, then the laws of physics have been repealed! The meal was described as a five-course affair. I stopped counting at the first cheese board. I opted out of one or two of the courses because it was too much! Terry and Angie outdid themselves.
We had a fish course that was a lovely prawn on a bed of deviled crab! That was followed by a roast turkey with two kinds of dressing and four vegetables. Then there was a lovely traditional flaming Christmas pudding followed by a baked camembert. We then had liquors and Belgian truffles. Coffee and cordials were followed by a selection of cheeses.

Without a doubt, I needed the ride this morning! I got the bike out around sunrise this morning and did my twenty-mile route to get some of those calories off! It was a bit chilly but dry and otherwise not bad for riding!

This afternoon, I am giving Saga a break and letting her take some alone time. I'll be riding up to the pub for a Boxing Day Dinner at the pub. There are going to be a large group of us celebrating Boxing Day with a traditional pub dinner. (Just what I need, more food!)

There has certainly been a surfeit of things to satisfy me this Christmas Season! I hope that wherever you are this Christmas Season, there is no dearth of things for you to do with your friends and family!

Don Bergquist - 26 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

For those of you who didn't get my card via the mail, the following is the Christmas Letter you would have receive with it. It is reproduced here almost directly quoted from that letter. It is a brief recap of the year that is now coming to a close. To all a Merry Christmas and a good night!


Another year come and gone again! Can you believe it? It hardly seems possible that it has already been a year but then, that may be because I am writing this letter the week before Thanksgiving. My year has been a hectic one.

About this time last year I approached a friend of mine who leads the Quality Assurance team for my company. I was not getting a lot of work from my manager and asked if she had anything that I could do to make myself busy whilst awaiting an assignment from my actual boss. I thought it would end there. But in Mid-December she got back to me and asked if I would mind going to London for a while to do some testing.

Now let me see, hmmm... do I want to go to London? "How soon do you need me there?" was my immediate response. The original eight-week assignment became twelve, became six months, became well, I am writing this year's Christmas letter from Thames Ditton.
I've had a wonderful year over here. I have great friends on this side of the pond who invited me along to a number of great times. We rang-in the New Year at The King's Arms in Hampton Court. It was a blast! There was plenty of music, camaraderie and conversation. (Oh, and I think there was also a good amount of alcohol...)

In January, I took my first trip across the channel to Europe. (Well, under the channel, actually!) Angie, Terry and I went to Oostende, Belgium for the weekend to attend the closing of a bar that a friend of theirs ran. It was a blast and a real eye-opener. Belgian beer for breakfast... Yum!

In February my team from the US came over for a while to help-out with the testing. It was an experience and I got to show them around. This was also the first time I ever went down to Brighton. What a cool little amusement park there!

March came along and we had a lovely spring! The crocuses and daffodils and wisteria were all over The Wilderness and Bushy Park was a joy to ride my bicycle through. Better to ride through then around, as March was when some total idiot in Teddington decided to run me off the road. A bit of road rash and (knock wood) that is all the worst that I have experienced, traffic wise.

April! Ah April! April was when the allergies started to manifest. I've had a little hay-fever since I moved out of Florida. It was pretty bad in Tennessee; it was really bad in Colorado. But both those combined are as nothing to the onslaught of suffering my sinuses set out on me over here. It was so bad I had to go into the NHS clinic one day. When I got back to Colorado, I saw an allergist and he said that I was correct that the lack of air conditioning over here was probably a big reason my allergies were so bad over here.


In late April/early May I returned home and spent a couple weeks at my place in Lakewood. I was also able to make it up to Minnesota to see Dad and Flo during this visit. It was good getting to see them, but on the way home, I got caught in a heavy spring snowstorm and had to hole-up for the night in Rosebud, South Dakota. Well, if you haven't ever had to spend the beautiful town or Rosebud, you do not know what you're missing! (I can't say I recommend it, though.) The best way to see Rosebud (in my humble opinion) is through the window of a car moving at least sixty-five miles per hour. (Don't blink, you'll miss it!)
In June, it was more of the same. Testing, testing, and more testing! My year had fallen into a nice rhythm. I would get up early, ride my bike for a nice leisurely circuit around the two bridges in my area that cross the Thames on my way into the office. When the weather was nice, I'd go for a ride at lunch as well. Three-a-day was the plan for the day while the days were long.

July had a lot going on. First, I had an Independence Day Party for my friends over here. Have you any idea how hard it was for me to find the correct food? It is next to impossible to find Bratwurst!

Then there was the Molesey Regatta. My friends over here started telling me about this one back in January and I was really looking forward to it. What a blast! The weather was perfect, the food was really excellent and the Pimms cocktails were cold and plentiful! Apparently, there was also some kind of a boat race or something going on. I'm told we were somewhere near the river.

At the end of July/beginning of August, my parents came for a visit. For Dad it was his first trip to the UK. For Flo, it was her first trip in forty years. Using Thames Ditton as a base of operations, we went everywhere that I could think of taking them.

Thanks to some really good friends I have made over here, there was no lack of things to do. I got tickets to some of the local attractions, and a guided tour of Central London which included seeing the changing of the guard from inside the gates at Buckingham Palace.

In September, I was asked to come back to London for a "Long-Term" stay. So, on my way to London, I was able to make a stop in Florida to visit with my family and friends living in South Florida. The house has really come a long way since the last time I was there. (It was a bit weird learning to drive on the right again, but I did so without incident.)

October came around and it suddenly dawned on me that I have wasted an opportunity! I am within spitting-distance of Gold Premier status on the airline I have flown to London five times this year. If I can make gold before I go home, there is a good chance I will be upgraded to business class on the trip. So I looked on the Northwest Airlines website and found a couple flights that I could take on the cheap. This would also add countries to my repertoire.

On Halloween, some colleagues of mine had come over to the UK from the states and we took a ghost tour that walked us around Central London. It was good and entertaining, but the best bit was when they had to close the pub we where having pre-tour dinner and drinks in because someone had left a bag behind.

The first weekend in November, I took a quick trip over to Amsterdam, the second weekend, a quick trip to Copenhagen. The weather in both cities decided to be uncooperative when I was there and so there are no pictures of my trips. The fact that they were really just to get the air miles, though, means I don't really mind.

So, here I sit. I'll be leaving at the end of the week to head back to Florida to meet-up with my family for a Thanksgiving/25th Anniversary celebration. Twenty-five years ago this month I was in School at UCF (in Orlando) when Dad and Flo got married. This year we're celebrating by going to Disney.

In December, I'm headed back here to London where I will be until the end of June. (...unless the schedule changes once again...)

There has been some talk of my relocating on a permanent basis to the UK. That would be cool, but there are a number of practical issues with it. (Like is it practical for me to move to the UK?) Well, that's a problem to be resolved in the new year.

I hope wherever you find yourself today or throughout your year, I hope that the year is a happy and healthy one for you and your loved ones!




As indicated in the letter, I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my family in Florida. It was excellent. I did get to see some old friends at UCF when I was there. I had a wonderful time in the two weeks I was back in the US (if it was a bit stressful) and am now back in the UK busy, happy and with Saga (as you will probably get tired of reading here in my blog).

I hope that this Christmas is a merry one for you and your family. I wish you happiness, plenty and peacy in this holiday season and in the year to come!


Don Bergquist - 25 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Yule Blog: Christmas Day

It's my first Christmas in the United Kingdom and it is a lovely morning! Well, it is a bit overcast, actually, but the temperature is nice and it is not raining.

There's lots to do today so I have to get Saga ready to travel. My friends, Terry and Angie have invited me over to their house for Christmas day. We're going to have brunch and then do something so traditional that I probably needn't say it. We're going to pop into the pub for a pint.

Later we'll have Christmas dinner and open presents. I am wondering how Saga will take to this all. She will be in a room with lots of strangers and lots of activity. She did well last evening when we went over for Christmas Eve, but there was little activity and everybody was petting her and telling her things she wanted to hear:

"Here's a little Ham, Saga" and "Oh, you’re such a pretty girl!" and "Do you want a cookie?"

(Saga isn't spoiled, she KNOWS herself to be the most important being in all of creation!)

Well, I'd better be getting ready to motor! Terry should be calling on me any time now.

I hope that wherever you are today, you're having a Merry Christmas!

Don Bergquist - 25 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey UK

Sunday, December 24, 2006

An Open Christmas Card

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps. And now it appears on my blog. Merry Christmas!


"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

"VIRGINIA O'HANLON.
"115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."



VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest man that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank GOD! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Don Bergquist - 24 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my Cousin, Elizabeth

Happy Birthday to my Cousin, Abigail

Yule Blog: Christmas Eve

At forty-four, I am still learning to see the world in new ways. This evening, I learned to celebrate Christmas Eve in the traditional English fashion. It was a lovely evening!

Saga and I, after n afternoon of running last minute errands while the shops are still open, went to Terry and Angie's for dinner. I drove Kevin's car back to Molesey for him this evening. He had left it parked in my forecourt after the party last night. It really worked out well. It gave me the way to get myself, Saga, and the gifts for our friends to Molesey and it saved Kevin the trip back here to get the car this morning.

It was a lovely dinner with Terry, Angie, their parents: Mavis, Beryl, and John and a treat for Saga. Saga was treated to a little ham while we ate ham, chips, coleslaw, chutneys and jams, a lovely dark brown bread, and pickled onions. Once the dinner was done and cleared away, we called for a car and headed down to our local.

I am informed that Christmas Eve in the pub is another English tradition. Unfortunately, our favorite pub decided to close early. When we arrived, the pub had just about ten people in it. The bar manager decided to close at 21:00 so the second bell rang at five-to-nine. As we all discussed later, the view the pub took was a bit myopic. There were a fairly constant stream of people trying to come in once the bells had rung. Oh well!

The King's Arms closed; we headed on foot over to The Albion across the river in East Molesey. The place was packed! We had to stand for a short while using the balustrade around one of the bar floors as a table until half a table over by one of the fireplaces came open. Shortly thereafter, a full table back by the balustrade came up and we could all sit at the table.

Saga was in Dog Heaven for the evening. Everybody who came by the table (well, everybody worth writing about) stopped to pet her and tell her what a lovely girl she is. No attitude problem there, she happens to agree with them! "Yeah, I'm a pretty puppy! So? What of it? If you don't have a Saga Snack, give me one more pat, a compliment or two and move along! Clear the way for people with food!"

We stayed in the pub until around midnight and then the noise and the crowds were about as much as we could take. Even Saga reached her limit of people stopping by and telling her how beautiful she was.

We took the car home and, after a brief stop outside to assure that Saga still owns the back garden, Saga snuggled into her kennel for her "long winter's nap." She'd dream of sugarplums, I am certain, if she only knew what they were. Santa Paws will come some time this evening, and he must be even better than Father Christmas at evading notice. Saga lets me know when stray leaves blow against the windows. What chance does Santa Paws have at getting down the chimney, crossing the kitchen, leaving her gift under the tree, and getting back up the chimney without Saga telling me we have an actual intruder?

I guess he will just have to work at it!

Well, it's well after midnight and I imagine that Father Christmas must be sitting on the roof about now wondering when the heck I am going to get to bed so that he can pop down the chimney. (He has coal to deliver at #8 Cholmley Villas!) So, I had best wrap this up and get to bed!

Wherever you are, I hope your dreams tonight are of mistletoe, the food, the family, and the reason for this celebratory season! Merry Christmas!

Don Bergquist - 24 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dedication

The other day as I left for lunch I saw a couple people who are dedicated to their hobby of fishing. The day in question was cold! A wet, bitterly biting cold held most of the united kingdom under its spell. (Coincidently, it was also the day that my home in Denver got over two feet of snow. As my Aunt Jen wrote in an email that day: "2 feet of snow or fog.....hmmm (both your homes are in the news today)") Yes, both of my homes were in the news. Denver because of the blizzard, London because the local airports were all closed due to the fog! But I digress…

The day was bitterly cold and foggy; the kind of day one finds oneself desirous of nothing more than staying in bed the duvet pulled tightly from toes to nose. Unfortunately, I had work to do and had to be in the office.

When I left for lunch, I was treated to the sight of a couple fishermen in the Thames. Anchored by the completely empty riverside terrace at Ye Olde Swann were a couple people way too into sitting in the water! Sitting wrapped in their parkas and sipping their coffee, these two were obviously doing something they love. Either that, were doing it on a bet or they were escaped mental patients. (This last is possible. I have been told that my enjoyment of all literature and humor British is bordering on manic. The boat they are in is called the Ford Prefect; named for one of the main characters in The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.)

They were still there an hour later. Heathrow can not get airplanes into the air because of the miserable weather but these two can enjoy spending who-knows-how-long outside. That's dedication!

I hope that wherever you are today, you're doing something you're dedicated to!

Don Bergquist - 23 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Editor's Note:
To those of you who are wondering. The temperature when this picture was taken was reported as -0.5c. Granted that is Celsius (the c following the temperature stands for "Communist" because it was the Communists who invented this temperature scale.)


For those of us who are food old-fashioned Americans, that would be about 31°. For those of you reading this from Minnesota, it may not seem that cold; a fine spring day. Remember that for the locals that is COLD! For those of you in Miami, think somewhere in the fifties… they think this is that cold!

Christmas Eve Eve

As this is the first time I have spent Christmas away from the family, away from home, and abroad I felt it deserved additional entries in my blog to commemorate the events of the holidays. Think of this as a Holiday Weblog or a Yule Blog!

The holiday season started last night with a dinner party over in East Molesey at a friend's place. We had a lovely dinner: Cottage Pie, English Peas and Baked Beans. Yum! Unfortunately, I had spent a full day at work by noon and then had the last shopping for this evening's party to finish so I was completely knackered and had to leave shortly after dessert.

This morning, I got up late. I slept in until Saga came up to the second floor to tell me it was time for her to go and chase whatever it was that was in the back garden. I let her out, made coffee and inventoried the contents of the cupboard. There were a couple things I needed still. (Why is it even if I have a list, I always forget something at the store?)

So I wouldn't get worn-out before the end of the party, I then took a nap. Unfortunately, I got up later than I had hoped and was still putting out the party snacks when people started to arrive. Oh well!

It was a good turn-out; most of the usual suspects showed-up: Terry and Angie, Angie's Parents, John and Beryl, Kevin, John and Debbie and their daughter, Jennifer, and Joe and Sue all joined me and Saga to celebrate the holidays! Saga made out light a bandit! She was able (Somehow) to convince everyone that Daddy doesn't feed her enough and get party treats "accidentally" dropped on the floor.

The last of the guests left some time after ten and I was left with enough energy to get most of the washing-up done before sitting down to upload these photographs and write tonight's Yule Blog entry. But the night is catching-up with me. I should end this and get to bed.

Oh! And continuing a tradition I started a while back and reporting the alcohol consumption at my parties: Not counting the two-litres of Mulled Wine that we started-out with, the following were is the tally of alcohol consumed at my Christmas Eve Eve party as tallied from the bottles to be added to the recycling bin this morning:

Wine, Read - 5 bottles; Wine, White - 2.5 Bottles, Leffe Blonde 1 1.5 Litre bottle and one 12-oz Bottle; Hot Bier (a wonderful beverage that Terry brought which ended-up mostly on the other guests when it exploded) 1 Litre, Assorted British Ales - 12 Pint Bottles, 2 Pint Cans; Pilsner - 5 12-oz Bottles and a bottle of something called Kriek that someone brought that I have never heard of.

I hope that your holidays (Whichever holidays they are and wherever you are) are wonderful!

Don Bergquist - 23 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Friday, December 22, 2006

Season Greetings!

I wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday. Unfortunately, the brain trust in my legal department thought that it may expose me to liability. They insisted that I run my holiday wishes past them for approval. The message I sent them was:

"Here is wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"

The following is how my lawyer re-wrote my sentiment.



(Happy Holidays: Legally Speaking)

By continuing to read this greeting, you are accepting these terms.

"Please accept, with no obligation, express or implied, our best wishes for an environmentally-conscious, socially-responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, or within the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or not practiced at all at the wish of the recipient, and a fiscally-successful, personally-fulfilling, and medically-uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally-accepted calendar year 2006, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make the US great (not to imply that the US is necessarily greater than any other country), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, or choice of computer platform of the recipient."

"This greeting is subject to immediate withdrawal at the sole discretion of the sender. It is freely transferable provided the transferor makes no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the sender to actually implement any of the wishes for her/him or others, and is void where prohibited by law. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the sender."

Happy Birthday to my Cousin, Rebecca

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas in the Shops

The shops here are all now in full Christmas mode.

I went into the Marks & Spencer in Kingston this past week looking for something that I needed for the house and was pleased to find that the shop was not a complete mob scene!

At the best of times I dislike shopping. At Christmas time I detest it with a passion! Christmas shopping combines two things that I cannot stand (crowds and shopping) into one thing that I truly cannot stand. As a friend of mine used to put it:

"I'd rather be dragged naked through a cactus patch full of rusty tacks and broken glass with my lips super-glued to the tailpipe of a 1957 Greyhound Bus than go into a mall at Christmas time!"

The shops here in Kingston are a bit of a different story. Yes, there are still crowds, but they tend to be purpose driven. They are getting where they need to be, getting the things they need and getting out. They don't spend hours blocking me from doing what I need to do. And when they do get to the tills, they are not there in thronging masses which outnumber the entire population of South Dakota.

But I digress.

I went into the M&S to get a couple things I needed for the house and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get in and get out in a mater of minutes. Why is it that I can do that here and never seem to be able to do that back home?

Hmmm… I may have to re-think my revulsion to Christmas Shopping.

I hope wherever you are, you have had a wonderful experience today!

Don Bergquist - 21 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas in the Village

By contrast, the village I live in is much more sedate. It is also far older.

There are a few houses that have decided to decorate, but very few. In the next few days I will make an effort to get out with my cameras and post-up some shots of the decorations around here.

There is a tree in the roundabout on the high street. And most of the businesses that fly flags during the year have replaced the flagpoles in their stanchions with small Christmas trees. It is really quite festive. (…and no mythical characters had to be harmed in the decorating of Thames Ditton!)

Last evening as I left the office I noticed that a few of the houses on Boyle Farm Island (the small residential island in the Thames right behind the office) have festooned the trees on either side of the bridge leading over the slip with colored lanterns.

I can see why the festive decoration with lights started. Although it was only 16:00 when I left to help someone carry a parcel to their car in the car park down by the river, it was full-on dark out! The festive lights do a little to help alleviate the Seasonal Affective Disorder!

Well, that's it for today.

I hope that wherever you are, your season is shaping up to be bright and happy!

Don Bergquist - 20 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas in Slough

Almost immediately upon arriving in the UK back in 2004 I discovered that while preference for specific words and phrases vary from place-to-place, bad taste is universal.

In December 2004 I took a side-trip from my business trip to go to Stonehenge with a colleague. On the way back we found ourselves in Slough. At the risk of offending the residents, this is the most thoroughly horrible little town I have yet seen in the United Kingdom. It is horrible because it is dingy, cramped, and lacking any sort of character. That is to say any sort of character other than that of being monotonous and horrible!

The houses are all these horrid little pre-fab constructs from some time in the late fifties or early sixties. This, by the way, also appears to be the last time anybody bothered to work on the roads of Slough. Oh, and so as to not completely insult the residents, you may want to pronounce the name properly. It is Slough; as in the beginning of the word slouch, or the sound you might make if you drop a bowling ball on your foot.

The drab, gray monotony of the town was broken only by the occasional traffic light and by the one house that we saw decorated for Christmas. The house, otherwise identical to every other house in the tract, was garishly displaying a Christmas display to rival those of the tackiest homes in the states.

It boasted a complete nativity scene with the magi, holy family and assorted farm animals, frosty the snowman, sleigh and reindeer, and of course, multiple Santa Clauses. If you can put aside the confused theology for the moment (I was unaware that Frosty the Snowman was at the birth of Christ) the effect was really quite staggering. Oh, did I mention that Slough, like most other towns I have visited here in the UK has practically no front yard space for the houses. The entire display was arrayed vertically across the face of the house.

The visible means of support of the various characters made it look as if Santa was trying to hang himself (Themselves? There were two, after all!) It was almost as if Santa, realizing that he was in Slough decided that he could take it no longer and decided to shuffle off this mortal coil. His twin, the holy family, Frosty and several of the barnyard animals seem to have decided he was right and followed suit.

It was all such a tragic and senseless waste of human, elfish, snow-based and barnyard life. They were only a matter of a few hundred yards from the M4 Motorway and freedom from being in Slough. Tragic! Truly tragic! Oh! The humanity of it all!

I hope that wherever you are today, the holiday season has not left you with the desire to snuff it!

Don Bergquist - 19 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my Cousin, Christine

Monday, December 18, 2006

The War on Christmas!

It is Christmas Eve week here in the UK. They are gearing-up for the holiday. This will be my first Christmas in the United Kingdom, so I hope that by giving you my commentary, you will get the feeling that you have been here.

To start, I have to tell you that they have a different outlook on the holiday than we do. For one thing, it is Christmas and Boxing Day that are the big holidays over here. Not Christmas Eve and Christmas as in the US. Also, there are not as many people who have festooned their yards with tacky and/or gaudy displays.

I have ridden the streets of the village and few of the houses have external displays at all. Most of the displays that can be seen from the street are actually inside. They are set-up in the peoples lounges or dining rooms and visible through the windows. There are a few garish displays externally, and I'll talk about some of them in the week to come.

There is one other thing that most of the people over here don't quite appreciate. That is the separation of church and state and why the battle seems to wage every year at this time. I tried explaining it to a few people. But the best example I could provide was from the Daily Show on Comedy Central a couple years ago.

In her report Samantha Bee made the following observation. Last year, Bill O'Reilley falsely insinuated that it was timely. In an amazingly nice bit of Sophistry, he introduced this clip this way:

Christmas is here again at Macy's. Predictably, the opponents of public displays of Christmas continue to put forth counterparts on "Secular Central" -- I mean, comedy Central. They said this:

(He then played the following clip.)
SAMANTHA BEE, "THE DAILY SHOW" CORRESPONDENT: Christmas is the only religious holiday that's also a federal holiday. That way, Christians can go to their services and everyone else can stay home and reflect on the true meaning of separation of church and state.


The fact that we have this clash over what everyone has to agree is a religious holiday is extraordinary! They can't get it over here. Seen from across the ocean, I have a bit of a hard time myself.

Ah Well!

I hope that wherever you are, you have the ability to enjoy (or not enjoy) the holiday season as you see fit!

Don Bergquist - 18 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sailing the Thames

Today has been another great day! My friend and I took the boat trip down to Greenwich. It was a nice day on the river. I'm home now and about to head out with Saga to the pub.

There were a few really funny moments on the cruise. (The staff on the boat were a riot with their running commentary.) The best and funniest commentary was when we were passing a building in the docklands.

"That building," The captain said "has housed the likes of …" and here he named a number of minor celebrities that I have no idea even now who they are or what they are famous for. Apparently neither did the rest of the crowd as they remained silent throughout the list.

"The American pop star, Cher," he continued. "used to live in this building too. She moved out about six months ago. She got tired of me pointing out that she lived in that building." He paused a moment for affect and then continued. "She now lives at #7 Esher Road, the Shoals Oxfordshire"

General laughter broke out. The only people I could see who hadn't appreciated it were sitting right in front of me. They were a couple from Florida over on holiday. We had chatted briefly earlier in the cruise when I recognized their accents. "That must be a local reference." She leaned into her husband and said softly.

"No." I said. "It's an address." They looked at me uncomprehending.

"She got mad that he was telling people she lived in that building." I continued. "So he is now giving the address that she has (supposedly) moved to. It's a joke."

She chuckled. A minute later, she leaned in and started explaining it to her husband. She was still trying to explain the humor in it a few minutes later.

We laughed! They were funnier than the joke was! Wherever they are today, I hope she succeeded in explaining it to him.

Wherever you are today, I hope you have something you can laugh at!

Don Bergquist - 17 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A lovely afternoon!

It is just after six and I have just returned from a trip up into London.

I have a friend in town for a while who wanted me to show him what I have been enjoying whilst I have been in the UK. Where does one start?

We started at a pub called The Wellington, which is just across the street from the Waterloo Rail Station. (It has to suck if you are French and have just come in from Paris on the EuroStar to be reminded of the defeat.)

We then took a walking tour around some of the more famous places in central London (At least we stopped at those I could remember how to get to: St. Paul's Cathedral, Blackfriar's, Grayfriar's, the Old Bailey, etc.) After sunset we parted at Waterloo, I went home to meet with some friends for drinks at the pub (and to feed Saga) he returned to the home he is staying in.

It was a lovely day! The sun shone, the temperatures remained moderate and the rain of the past few days was nowhere to be seen.

I hope wherever you are today, your day has been a pleasant one!

Don Bergquist - 16 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my Cousin, Craig

Friday, December 15, 2006

Running Late This Morning - Party Last Night

Sorry for the brevity of today's post. I am already behind schedule and it is only 05:45!

Last night the Client Services team here at the office went for their Christmas dinner. I was out later than I should have been on a "School Night!" It was a good time. We went to The Greek Vine in Claygate. What a riot!

The restaurant is run by some Greek expatriates and the food and atmosphere are wonderful! They really plat-up the Greek-ness of the place! They have pretty good music (though it does get a bit loud and raucous) and the wait staff are prone to suddenly grab the patrons and start dancing with them suddenly.

There is plenty plate smashing and gregarious Greek greetings as you walk into the place. I guess my first comment on the place is the most appropriate: What a hoot!

There was this one woman at a table in the next room that pulled my focus a number of times over the evening. For reasons I cannot fathom, every time I happened to glance in her direction she was staring at me. It was pretty creepy. The other thing about her is that she seemed totally out of place in the surroundings.

Have you ever seen Cabaret? She would have made a perfect extra for any of the scenes at the Kit Kat Klub! She had that look of the '30s flapper: the pasted down hair, the clingy tube-like dress, the feather in her hair. (Okay, I am making-up the part about the feather, but she was definitely an anachronism! Her dress and hairstyle would have been far more apt in the '30 than they are today.)

Anyway, I guess it could have all be a matter of perception. Today she is probably telling her friends that this weird guy in a leather waistcoat had stared at her all evening. (Though she really was intent on her staring every time I happened to glance over. And you know how it is! If you think someone is staring at you it is hard not to look over and see if it is true. You can almost feel her eyes boring holes into you.)

The times I was looking at her she was not eating, not drinking, not interacting with the people at her table. She was sometimes smoking, sometimes not. She was just staring. I know, you are thinking that I am making this up and that it was all in my head. I had only one drink last night so I wasn't drunk enough to have completely conjured this up. She was definitely staring. Her eyes and head followed me as I walked out to get a breath of fresh air around ten and she was staring at the door when I opened it a few minutes later.

It was a bit creepy. I mentioned it to the person next to me. They couldn't figure-out who I was talking about. But then, I was at the end of the table and I had an unobstructed view of the next room. Perhaps she just couldn't see the staring lady.

Anyway, I had meant to just say that I had a lovely time at the party last night but stayed later than I had intended to do and so got up later than I wanted to today. As it is, it is now past time for me to get posting this and get to the office.

I hope that wherever you are today you'll have a wonderful day!

Don Bergquist - 15 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Morning Music

This morning on my bike ride into the office my MP3 player clicked over to an album I haven’t heard in the longest time! What memories! There are a number of things that strongly evoke an emotional memory response; tastes, smells, and music are three of the strongest for me.

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass were playing. I purposely elongated my ride, taking a turn down a wrong street in the village, to give me a few extra minutes so that I could hear the end of "So What's New?" before having to get into the office.

My parents had all the Herb Alpert albums when I was growing up and I can remember sitting listening to the albums in the living room on evenings when there was nothing good on the television.

Not that I remember watching all that much television, there were the standards of course, we had to watch Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney. But I really remember listening to those albums.

We had an old console stereo system that sat for years in the living room, just inside the front door, to the right of the coat closet. It was a huge thing, one side folded open to display the record player, the other to show the radio controls. Either end was a built-in stereo speaker with gold cloth grilles with fleck of gold foil entwined in the fabric. The center had doors that concealed the storage for the LPs. That is they would have had we ever been able to actually store all the LPs that my parents had in the center area!

At the holidays, mother would decorate the top of the console with little Christmas-y knickknacks and Christmas cards from relatives. The rest of the year, as is common with any horizontal surface in a household that has four children, the stereo became a collection point for the various detritus from the day; school books, sweaters, jackets, and other assorted odds-and-ends tended to collect in gravity defying configurations on the top of the stereo.

Strange, the things you remember! In later years, my parents erected a room divider between the living room and the dining room that had shelves for storage of knickknacks, dishes, and a compact stereo unit. The old console stereo moved to the south wall of my parents bedroom where it stayed for the rest of our residency in the house on SW 122nd Avenue. Oddly enough, it served exactly the same purpose in their bedroom that it had in the foyer: collecting a ponderous pile of proportions impossible to convey. Suffice it to say that it was the nearest thing to a mountain that part of South Florida could boast!

Well, I'm in the office now, but am going to put on my recordings of Herb Alpert again to listen to the entire album now. It just won't be the same without the pops and hisses. I wonder if I could devise a method of adding realistic pops and hisses back to MP3 files (preferably as a digital affects filter that one can turn on and off so as to not permanently affect the recording on the file itself) so as to make the listening experience even more nostalgic! Hmmm...

I hope that wherever you are today, your day is filled with making or enjoying memories. (...or, indeed, both!)

Don Bergquist - 14 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wind, Weight, Whatever

Riding my bike in London is a lot like riding my bike in Colorado. Sure, there are no hills here; that is to say none of any note! But just as those hills in Colorado keep me honest, pedaling all the time - coasting as little as possible - London has the wind that serves the same purpose.

You'd think that after a year of living here I'd learn to accept it as a fact of life and just move on. But it never fails to amaze me how the wind never seems to be at my back be at my back here! I know that it isn't the same for everyone. There are a lot of people in the park and in the paths that I pass going the opposite direction. And it doesn’t seem to matter that I make fairly frequent turns. Shortly after I shift direction, so does the wind!

What gives? I guess I could, if I wanted some entertainment, piss off other riders by finding one who is going the opposite direction of me and once they pass me turn around and follow them for a while so that they have the wind in their face instead of their back.

Oh well, I should probably look at this philosophically. I need the extra work to burn off all the calories from the last couple weeks. Thanksgiving dinner was excellent. My sister really outdid herself with the selection of the menu, variety of the choices and the sheer mass of food that was laid out. Then there was all the stress of trying to get ready to come back on a short notice.

Now that I am back I am trying to lose the weight I know I put back on! (I am not really dreading Weight Watchers weigh-in this week. I know I put on a few pounds. I am just hoping it is not too much of a gain!) And of course, the Christmas party season is getting into full swing. Ah! What challenges life throws our way!

I hope whatever your challenges today, they are ones that, if not easy to cope with, at least present you with pleasant alternatives!

Don Bergquist - 13 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday

It is a good morning. I am getting back into the swing of things, getting to the office early, riding my bike after work. It is a good thing I had the chance to get to REI when I was at home and get some wet/cold weather riding gear.

Tomorrow I will get to the pub and go to game night again. It is almost as if I were a native. As the holidays approach, I am glad to know that I have finished my Christmas shopping and my Christmas mailing. I will be having a party for my friends over here in a couple weeks for the holidays but my preparations for the holidays are as done as they are going to be.

I have decided that I need to get down to the bike shop and see if I can find a real large basket for my bicycle. I do not really want to have Saga running along with me as I ride, but would like to make sure she can come with me if I want to go somewhere. That would also make our trips to the pub a bit easier on both of us. From her entry yesterday morning, I gather she doesn't really like walking to the pub with me.

Well, I need to get to the office and get to work so I had best post this and get going. I hope that wherever you are today, you have a great day!

Don Bergquist - 12 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my Cousin, Emily

Happy Birthday to my Nephew, Eric

Happy Birthday to my Cousin, Chantell

Monday, December 11, 2006

Memoir of a Pub Dog

Editor's Note:

This morning’s blog entry is the memoir of a pub dog as written by our guest blogger, Saga.

The food guy (the big goofy looking guy who keeps referring to himself as "Daddy") took me down to the place he keeps calling the "Pub" last night. It is pretty nice at the "Pub." Too bad that the food guy wants to walk there every evening... It is cold and windy as we walk there. Too bad he doesn’t let us get into one of those ride-in machines. There are cars all over the place here and he never lets us get into any of them!

The visit to the "Pub" was pretty fun last night. The food guy had his friends there and they kept feeding me carrots. Yum! He had a couple friends there who smelled like cat. Interesting! There were also some other dogs at the "Pub" last night. They kept coming up to me and trying to socialize, but I was more interested in protecting my cookies and carrots than in being social with the other dogs.

Later on, the food guy finally let us get into one of those ride-in machines. We came back to the big house where my kennel is and I was able to curl-up and rest. It's pretty cool, though that the food guy is taking me to places where all the food guys hang-out! Perhaps we'll go again tonight!

I hope that wherever you are, there are carrots and cookies falling from the tables all around you today!

Saga Bergquist - 11 December 2006 - The Big House in the Cold, Wet Place

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday in the Park

It is a pretty good day. A bit cold, but it is pretty nice.

The rain stopped some time yesterday evening and I was able to take Saga for a walk to the pub. She was much more sedate this time. She met Debbie, John and Jennifer last night. She walked to the pub with me with no problem. And once there, she was well behaved and enjoyed meeting my friends. I think Saga will adjust well to being a pub-going dog. She knows how to pick her mark already. Last night she approached Jennifer, begged for crisps until Jennifer, even though she is skittish around dogs, acquiesced, and gave her some crisps.

After a nice, relaxing morning and a late breakfast, I had a 15-mile ride this afternoon and then put together some stew for dinner. This evening I think Saga and I will head down to the pub for a pint before dinner.

I hope that wherever you are today, you have time to visit with friends.

Don Bergquist - 10 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Slug Mode

What a Hoot!

The party lasted until midnight. Then, a bunch of us came back to The Villa for a nightcap. I failed to recognize what time I finally went upstairs to bed, but it was late… or rather early this morning.

I awoke around nine and decided promptly to take Saga outside and then take a nap. Awake again at ten, I've spent much of the morning either reading my email or watching television. It is raining out, cold and windy. I think it is a specially good day to spend the day inside and curled-up with the dog and a book.

It is going to be a good day to do nothing much.

I hope wherever you are today you have the opportunity to take time for yourself.

Don Bergquist - 09 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my Step-Mom, Flo

Friday, December 08, 2006

Saga's First Pub Night

Had I tried, I do not think I could have picked a worse night Saga to the pub culture. Saga arrived yesterday at Heathrow and my friend Terry and I went down to Her Majesty's Animal Reception Center to get her. The day had been pretty cold and dreary all day.

Around 13:00, right after lunch, I got the call that she was clear to enter the country and I could come and get her. We met her at one of the out buildings of Heathrow. She was incredibly happy to see me. She was also happy not to be in the company of strangers any longer!


We made our way back to The Villa. The weather had caused problems on all the roads and a trip that should have taken around thirty minutes took more than an hour. At attention, and watching everything that was going on outside the car the entire way, Saga sat in my lap most of the way. Upon arrival, Saga took off exploring the ground floor and smelling everything that she came across. I've set her kennel-up in the back vestibule; behind the dining room, so that she can have a place that she feels is her own. She immediately went into the kennel and took a nap.

At about 16:15 I tried getting a cab to take us to the King's Arms around 17:00 - They said that it wouldn't be ready until half five. So I decided to walk it. It had stopped raining. Unfortunately, the rain and wind built-up again when we where half-way there. The winds, never calm yesterday, at one point ripped my umbrella from my hands and blew it into the Mole River.

Saga kept looking at me accusingly. "Why are you making me walk all this way in a downpour in a strange land? And why is it dark when it should be mid-afternoon?" We eventually arrived, windblown and dripping, at the pub. We took a table by the radiator and Saga snuggled-up to me, more interested in the carrots I was feeding her than in my friends.

After a while, I called a cab to take us home. Saga, when we arrived went straight to her kennel. She slept the night through and met me eagerly this morning. She is probably still in her as I write this.

Tonight, the company is having its Christmas Party so she will not be dragged to the pub tonight. She'll have the chance to rest and get acclimated.

I hope that wherever you are today, you have the time to spend it with some of your friends!

Don Bergquist - 08 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Morning (Again)

It is just after 05:00 and I am sitting in the living room at The Villa filing my post. I was awakened about half an hour ago by the rain pounding on the windows. There was no message from Mary so I have to assume that Saga got onto the plane last night in Miami. Today is going to be a bit busy.

I have to be in the office around six so that I can get a few things finished and get my PC to the IT department. They have to rebuild the operating system (My work PC, not my new laptop...) because it has not worked correctly since the registry got corrupted a few weeks ago.

I will be leaving the office around 11:30 because Saga arrives this morning at 10:00. James Cargo Transportation has told me that showing-up less than two hours after her arrival would be a waste of my time so we're planning on being there some time around noon or one. (Depends on the call that I'm placing this morning from the office.)

I also have a number of reports to file, so what am I doing sitting here? I've got a lot to do today. Thanks to all who have helped me get Saga over here! I'm really looking forward to having her over. I have got to get moving now, though!

I hope wherever you are today, you get something you have been waiting for!

Don Bergquist - 07 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Arrival

The sun rose to my right this morning. The sunrise from eight miles up is not terribly dramatic; the horizon turns into a red-orange line and then to yellow-gold, and finally, green-blue. The sun then appears.

I was able to see it because I was awake. Grrr!

I don’t sleep well on planes. Even though I was in a half-empty plane, it was not possible for me to get to sleep. I tried for a couple hours and then gave-up and read. But, getting through passport control and customs was a breeze.

I got off the plane behind what looked like a garage rock band. (All of them wearing cliché black tee-shirts and dark glasses and carrying guitar cases.) Once the passage way opened to a point I could walk at a normal pace, I passed them. As I did, I heard one of them say (and yes, they were Americans) "I guess he is in more of a hurry than the rest of us."

I made no comment though there was plenty I could have said: "In which issue of The Michelin Guide did you find sauntering through Gatwick arrivals listed?" or "No, it's just uncomfortable to shuffle along at that pace." or even "Apparently so!"

My response was to just ignore it and keep walking at a pace that kept me passing people right and left. I was glad that I did because I was fifth in line when I arrived at passport control. The rockers were, when they entered the queue, about six stanchions over. I never saw them again. My bags were on the carousel when I was waived through and the whole process took me less then half an hour.

I've now schlepped my bags to my room in The Villa and am getting a quick bite before heading into the office. It will be a short day. I'm knackered!

I hope wherever you are, you're able to breeze through your day today!

Don Bergquist - 06 December 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

This is Why I went to Copenhagen!

It is just after 16:00 and we are crossing the boarder between Colorado and Kansas. At least that is what the captain just said. It all looks like a dreary, flat expanse of prairie land below us. The snow from a couple days ago is still trying desperately to hold-out for the next cold snap and it looks as if it may make it.

The flight attendant has just brought me my second Gin and Tonic of the flight and asked if there was anything else she could do to make my flight more comfortable. "Nothing that I can think of..." was my response. Oh, yes. I am sitting in the first class cabin of Northwest Airlines flight 1220 bound for Detroit. This is the first leg of my trip back to the UK.

Going to Copenhagen last month left my frequent flier balance at a level high enough to bring my frequent flyer status to "GOLD" so the airline has (at no charge) upgraded my seat to First Class. (Score!) The flight to London is far more pleasurable with a little pampering on the part of the airline!

I heard from my sister just as I was getting to the airport that the vet in Miami completed Saga's paperwork for the USDA incorrectly so Mary had to have it sent back. "This may delay Saga's departure." She told me.

They corrected and resubmitted the paperwork and it is now all sorted-out. Saga flies tomorrow. In addition, apparent, Saga now (at least on paper) belongs to Mary.

I assured her that I would take good care of "her" dog when Saga made it to London and that she (Saga) would be well cared for. This did cause me about five minutes of worry, but as I learned in my Dale Carnegie classes, there is no real need to worry about things that you have no control over.

Besides, I had more to worry about that I could do things about. The bags I packed, while in combination were within my allowance, they were, over the limit individually. I had to move a bottle of shampoo (to shift one-and-a-half pounds) from one bag to the other. Luckily, I am flying in First Class... Were it otherwise, my bags would be over the limit for checking and I would owe the airline an extra $50.00 to bring them with me.

Well, that G&T isn't going to drink itself. I guess I had best save this, put away my laptop and get back to reading and enjoying the comforts of First Class! I'll post this from London when I land tomorrow.

I hope that wherever you are today, you're going in style!

Don Bergquist - 05 December 2006 - NWA 1220, Somewhere over Kansas

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Day in the Office

Today I have a couple things I have to be in the office for. It is the first day in six months that I have actually been in the office. it is just after 06:00 and I am here waiting for the people I need to see to come in.

I feel a little like I'm in that dream that everyone has in college; you know, the one where you show-up for class and it is the final exam and you haven't been to class in weeks! (Not only did I have this nightmare in school, it did actually happen to me once. But that is a story for another time.)

After work this afternoon, I have a few more errands to run and a couple things I have to get done before I head back to the UK tomorrow. I cannot wait until Saga walks out of Heathrow with me on Thursday afternoon! This past week has been exceedingly stressful!

I hope that wherever you are today, you are having a (relatively) stress-free day!

Don Bergquist - 04 December 2006 - Denver, Colorado

Happy Birthday to my Sister-In-Law, Helen

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Reconnecting with Friends

What a lovely evening. I have such great friends!

Amy put together a lovely dinner (jambalaya) and the conversation, catching-up with Chris and Amy, Scott and Polly and their families was really a treat! We sat-up and chatted well into the evening. I am glad that they had a guestroom to offer, it freed me to chat and drink wine with them as long as they wanted to last night.

This morning, I was up late (by my standards). It was just after 06:30 so I headed home to get stuff done that I needed to do. Not the least of which was to finish uploading the blog entries that I have been writing for the last week.

Later-on this morning, I am having brunch with my friend, Lynne and then lunch with my friend Chip. So, yes... I have a busy day today. I'm sorry that today's entry was a bit short, but I am glad to finally have caught-up on my postings.

The best part of my weekend has been reconnecting with my friends. I hope that wherever you are today, you have had a chance to connect with your friends!

Don Bergquist - 03 December 2006 - Lakewood, Colorado

Saturday, December 02, 2006

...Like a Chicken with Its Head Chopped Off

So much for the plan! I have about a dozen things left to do on my personal list of things I need to have done this weekend! Perhaps that is why I awoke this morning at 01:30 and was unable to get back to sleep!

On top of all the errands I had to run, I was asked by a friend to take some pictures for her to use on her Christmas Letter and Cards. (I think this picure of her dogs came out really well...) After that, I had to run out to the grocery stores to do a bit of shopping for my friends back in the UK. I also have some other errands that I need to do to get the house ready for me to leave it for the next few months, get some last minute Christmas Shopping (and shipping) done, and get my dry cleaning so that I can pack the trip. Those were the high points, but there were many more things on the list.

Let me just say that I finished all that I could today. There are still an uncomfortably large number of things left on my list, but I am so stressed over what I have done and whether it is done correctly, that I am in need of just relaxing, chilling, and having a break from the stress for a while.

This evening I have been invited to go over to a friend's place for dinner. I am looking forward to seeing them again. I haven't seen these friends in a year... as a matter of fact; almost exactly a year ago I took pictures for them for their Christmas Letter!

I am looking forward to seeing them again. I am making myself a promise not to even think about all that I have left on my list again until tomorrow! (A little constructive, recreational, avoidance of the problem.)

I hope wherever you are today, you have a wonderful day and your stress level is manageable!

Don Bergquist - 02 December 2006 - Lakewood, Colorado.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Running Around...

Last night I had Chinese with the Chins! It has been so long since I had what I consider to be "good" Chinese food. There are okay Chinese restaurants in the UK, but none that are worth writing home about! The China Jade restaurant here in Denver, however, is really excellent. It was good to see my friends (my voluntary extended family) again. We had a lovely meal and good conversation until it was time for me to get home and get some rest, I have lots to do that I knew I had to have completed by this evening.

So, this morning I was out the door early because I had to be at the courthouse by eight. I have been summonsed for Jury Duty. You can tell that the same people who designed the military had a hand in designing the legal system. It was a morning of frustration and waste!

I arrived at the courthouse, as directed, at 08:00 and, sipping my second cup of coffee as I went, walked over to the information desk to ask where I was to report. "We're not quite ready for you yet." The officer behind the bullet proof glass informed me. "Take a seat over there and when we are ready, we'll have you go outside and enter through the metal detector." As he spoke, he indicated a small waiting area with a number of people aimlessly milling about in it (over his left shoulder) and also the metal detector that I had just passed through to get into the courthouse.

Fifteen minutes later, they had us all go outside into the snow and queue-up and wait. By 08:30 I was back in the building and had been pointed toward the courtroom I was to wait in. Once there, I was presented with a small notebook with Jury instructions.

The rest of the morning was pretty boring. I sat there for about ninety minutes while waiting for the judge to start things up; waiting as the clerk of the court called off juror numbers (breathing a sigh of relief each time the juror number didn’t match my own) and listening to the lame excuses others used to get out of sitting on the jury.

To add to the frustration, the defendant in the case was a Korean lady who, apparently, spoke little-or-no English Every time the judge said anything, the translator leaned over and spoke for three-to-five minutes (presumably explain what was going on) bringing the proceedings to a crashing halt.

Luckily, I didn’t get seated and was able to get out of the courthouse around noon. I've spent the rest of the afternoon trying to finish all the stuff I need to do to bring Saga with me to the UK. It has been a highly frustrating day, trying to get info I need and to get it off in time to be with Saga when they need it there.

It's now just after five and I have time to breathe. I have done all I can today and all I can do is not think about it until there is something (anything) more I can do about it. I tell you, I am really going try and relax tonight. I think I'll pop a movie into the player, make myself a hot toddy and snuggle in the covers in front of the television for a few hours.

I hope wherever you are, the day has gone smoothly.

Don Bergquist - 01 December 2006 - Lakewood, Colorado

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Still Running

Today my schedule includes Dentist and Allergist appointments. (I can vaguely remember a time when I could predict that I would be at home long enough not to have to schedule all my medical appointments in a single week!)

I have finished most of the stuff I need to for me... I have a couple things I still need to finish for Saga. This is really starting to get stressful. I am seeing this huge wall rushing at me. I want to get everything done. I need to get it done before I head out to the UK on Tuesday. I will be so damn glad to see Saga in Heathrow this time next week.

Tat one thought keeps me going! I don't see the list of things that I have left to do getting any shorter. I just see this deadline approaching like an on-coming bus. It reminds me of something a comedian (sorry, I can't remember who) who had the observation:

"Those people who go to the beach and hold-up a sea shell to their ear and say stupid things like 'I can hear the ocean.' what are they thinking? No shit! It's ten feet that way! What, do you walk into the street, pick-up a hubcap and hold it to your ear? 'Hey! I can hear a bus!' [Whomp!]"

Well, I had better get to it! I have only today and Monday to get things finished and there is so much more left to do!

I hope wherever you are today, you will have a great (stress-free) day!

Don Bergquist - 30 November 2006 - Lakewood, Colorado

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Paperwork Hell

Today I have been in paperwork hell!

I have been working on catching-up on the email that I have fallen behind on while being on holiday, and working on getting Saga's paperwork all put together. I cannot believe how much there is to do before I can get Saga to the UK!

What massive hurdles to jump. I am so glad that I have help. Even so, this is a gargantuan task. To continue my mythology references of the other day, I'm beginning to think that cleaning the Augean Stables would have been less of a task than this.

Oh, and to top it all off, my week here has become one day shorter! I have been summonsed to serve Jury Duty on Friday.

Arrgh! Oh, and have I mentioned the snow? It started spitting snow yesterday at around noon. By sundown it was really coming down. At eight, when I went to take out the garbage, there was about five inches of snow on my deck.

This morning, I looked out and decided that I would never be able to get out. Good thing I got most of my errands run yesterday. I'll be glad when this melts off tomorrow.

Wherever you are, I hope that the stumbling blocks in your way are small enough to be easily navigated!

Don Bergquist - 29 November 2006 - Lakewood, Colorado

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gotta Run!

I have two doctor appointments today: Ophthalmologist and General Practitioner

After that I have got a number of things on my to-do list. I can't even stop to think this morning!

I hope wherever you are today, you have a schedule a bit more relaxed than mine!

Don Bergquist - 28 November 2006 - Lakewood, Florida

Monday, November 27, 2006

Flying Home

Here I sit, in the departure lounge of the Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL) waiting for my flight home to Denver. There is a free wireless network here in the lounge, or at least they claim there is. My PCs say that they can see it, but the signal is too weak for me to actually connect to it.

It has already been a busy day! I got up and dressed fairly early and got a bite of breakfast. Over my second cup of coffee, I started-up my PC and checked my email. I've already gotten some work done on getting the paperwork together so that I can send Saga to the UK.

That is beginning to look like it will be a bear of a task... Sisyphus, I think I can commiserate.

Well, we'll be boarding soon, I should really re-pack my PC so that I can get home.

I hope that wherever you are, your day is going well!

Don Bergquist - 27 November 2006 - Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Idiots, Alligator Alley and Tackiness

This afternoon Mary, Saga and I drove back to her house in Weston. The trip was fairly uneventful, the traffic was heavy and one idiot kept passing us, getting in the slower lane and dropping back. Eventually, he'd try and get back in front of us only to get back in the slow lane and drop back again. We had no idea what this was all about.

But the prize for the stupidest, bonehead move of the afternoon goes to the driver of the Winnebago ("caravan" to my UK readers) who, upon entering Alligator Alley (that stretch of I-75 between Hollywood and Naples) decided that they had to get immediately (without delay, cutting off all the faster traffic) into the passing lane, doing 45 miles-per-hour. He very nearly had our car in the back bedroom of the mobile home!

All idiots aside, it was a nice drive. We got a bit of a downpour driving across the alley. It wasn't much of a storm, but there was some good lightning. We arrived in Weston around eight. My nephew's neighbors have been busy for the past few days. I do not believe that I have seen so many tacky Christmas displays in the space of one block before. My god! These are half-million dollar homes!

Not since I first visited Graceland (Elvis's residence south of Memphis, TN) have I seen such graphic proof that money cannot buy taste!

Tomorrow I fly home to Lakewood. The Weather channel tells me that it is cold, but nice out. I hope the flight is good.

I hope wherever you are today, you've had a great day!

Don Bergquist - 26 November 2006 - Weston, Florida

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Arts Festival

This morning Mary, Corey, Sarah and I all went to the Arts Festival in Ybor City.

I enjoy getting out and seeing the stuff that people do. Even if I am not interested in the medium it is interesting to see what people are offering. There are things at these events that often leave me wondering why anyone would think it was art.

Wads of paper at one stand... what's up with that? I mean, sure, they were pretty colors, but were they art?

There was one stall that was selling something that my friends and I made years ago. We thought they were best used for disk bags for Frisbee Golf. Today, someone is selling them as purses. The items? Simple! Take a pair of jeans cut the legs off making them into shorts, sew the leg openings closed, and use strips from the cut-off legs for a shoulder-strap. The "artists" selling these, have updated them with buttons, glitter glue and a zipper closure.

There were lots of jewelry stalls, and a couple food stalls.

We had a pleasant morning wandering the stalls and then returned home to play a few more hands of cribbage before my niece had to leave for Gainesville.

I hope wherever you are today, you've had a pleasant day with family.

Don Bergquist - 25 November 2006 - Apollo Beach, Florida

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday Shopping

In that I am about to head back to the UK, I decided a while back that I wanted to have my own PC there so that I don't need to write my blog entries all on my PDA. There is nothing wrong with doing it on my PDA, but it is a bit slower than having a full-sized PC and it also means that I still have to add pictures to my posts after I have uploaded them.

It would also be nice to be able to play a computer game or scan the internet at home without having to schlep the work laptop home. So I (reluctantly) joined the masses celebrating that tradition of the American public: Black Friday Shopping.

It was not a spur of the moment decision, I had done some research online on pricing. But there was nothing too good there. I did get a pretty good deal on a new laptop at Best Buy, but it further confirmed that I hate shopping and even more, I hate shopping at Christmas time!

It was a mob scene. I was up at 04:45 to go to the store and my brother-in-law and I left around 06:00; glad that we hadn't left at 05:00 when the store actually opened, we made it to the store when the line to get in was only fifty-yards-long. It only took a few minutes to get in and inside it was a mob scene. I made a bee-line to the computer department, tried to get the attention of a staff-member, and upon finding-out that the one that was on-sale was sold-out, I picked another that was still a pretty good deal.

The entire transaction took less than thirty-minutes. I was lucky enough to get into a line with only one other person ahead of me. The only noteworthy event was the salesperson chasing me down as I was trying to navigate the weird traffic pattern that they had set-up to handle the clouds. On my way to the register, the salesman came over to me and called:

"Excuse me, sir. You can't walk around with that until you have paid for it." Understand, now... I have been gone from the computer department less than a couple minutes and was making constant and fairly rapid progress toward the check-out stands.

I looked at him incredulously, looked at the stanchion maze that they had set-up, looked at the registers (ten feet away but across the empty queues) and said "I'm not allowed to carry it to the till myself?"

He gave me a kind of sheepish look and said "Oh, yeah! I guess we've messed-up the traffic patter. Sorry." And then he moved off.

Even though the enter venture took me less than an hour, it was not something I want to repeat! I HATE shopping at Christmas time! That done; I was able to go home and start playing with it. My family will be heading-out some time today and hopefully, I'll get some time to play cribbage before they do!

I hope that wherever you are, the unpleasant things you had to do today were at least over quickly!

Don Bergquist - 24 November 2006 - Apollo Beach, Florida

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving with the Bergquists

The day was a riot! In every sense of the word!

My family, being my family, got up early (for some of us, this means before noon!) and converged on Mary's place. While the turkeys were cooking, we had time for numerous rounds of cribbage, and to swim in the pool.

This is what I miss about Thanksgiving in Florida. Being able to go to the beach or the pool while the turkey is roasting! It is in the blood! That and being dragged by Dad to see Miami Hurricanes (or some other college team) play football whilst mom whipped-up the feast.

Mary really outdid herself with the menu for the day. Knowing the food orgy that was to follow, we snacked for lunch on Crab Rangoons, the last of the selection of cheeses that I had had brought back with me from the UK, and other light tidbits. (Pickeled Herring! An absolute must!)

While my siblings and I wrangled the range, my nieces worked on the table setting. The table had an anniversary theme since it is both my parents 25th, and Mary and Corey's anniversary as well this week. The sounds and the smells were vintage Bergquist Thanksgiving!

The clanking of pots and pans (and almost constant dish washing) in the kitchen was joined by punctuated choruses of "Who wants to play cards?" and "When do we eat?" and "Can I help?" and "Stir that, it'll burn!"

My siblings and I all cooked and preped the food while the young-uns helped get the table set. (And/or stayed out of underfoot...)

The table was laid out with my grandmother's china (that my sister has added-on to since she inherited it) and my brother-in-law's silver. The food, which was a collaborative effort was plentiful.

The organization of the dishes was a collaborative effort as well, Helen and Allyn went out to the patio and polished the silver while Mary, Elizabeth, and Sara washed and dried the china. It was truly a production line effort.

Mary's Menu

Soup Course
Lobster Bisque

Salad Course
Bacon and Pecan Vinaigrette Salad

Main Dish and Sides
Roast Turkey
Stuffing (savory bread with sausage and mushrooms)
Mashed Red Potatoes topped with Mushrooms and Rosemary
Steamed Broccoli
Cranberry/Spice sauce mold
Candied Yams

And of course Dessert
Banana Cream Pie
Key Lime Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Peppermint Icebox Cake


...and it was lovely!

We all pitched-in on the clean-up and then later-on, over coffee, we had a lovely white-cake to celebrate Dad and Flo's Silver Anniversary.

It was absolutely lovely! But, to put this in a way that my friends back in the UK would understand, I'm knackered! Completely and utterly knackered! I wish I had a pint and a place to put-up my feet. Failing that, I think I am going to finish my coffee and go into bed.

I hope wherever you are, you've had an excellent day with friends and family.

Don Bergquist - 23 November 2006 - Apollo Beach, Florida

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Alma Mater

I got the chance yesterday to visit the University of Central Florida for the first time in years. I had planned on visiting the campus bookstore on this trip anyway because I wanted to get a new UCF sweatshirt. I want something warm and casual to wear around the house... My old UCF sweatshirt, being purchased back in the '90s, the last time I was on campus, is getting a bit threadbare.

The fact that an old friend from college started emailing me a month ago didn’t enter into my desire to visit the campus. Really!

I spent yesterday afternoon having lunch and then touring the newer parts of the campus with her and seeing the sights. Wow! How much the campus has changed! When I started in the early '80s, the campus had perhaps a dozen buildings on it and housing for about 400 students on campus. I cannot guess how many students can be housed there now. But I am informed as of this fall's enrolment figures, it is the largest university in Florida.


Looking at it in Google Earth later on, I cannot believe how the campus has grown! I guess I can, I have to; I've seen it!

Today, I am starting to help Mary with the cooking chores. Tomorrow is the big Thanksgiving feast with all the Bergquists at the same table for the first time in years. There is a lot of cooking to do! It is at times like this when I am reminded of the line Gene Wilder (as Willie Wonka) speaks in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: "So much time, so little to do. No! Wait a minute. Strike that; reverse it."

I hope wherever you are today, your day is filled with pleasant anticipation of things to come and memories of what has been!

Don Bergquist - 22 November 2006 - Apollo Beach, Florida

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Anniversary Musings

It is 05:00 in St Petersburg, 10:00 in London. I am awake though, nobody else in the house is. I have heard stirrings from Fritz but, though we chatted briefly earlier, he has drifted off again. I decided that since I am still operating on Greenwich Mean Time, it was time for me to get-up and write a blog entry.

Today is the twenty-first of November. By my calculation, two years ago (right about now, as a matter of fact) I was landing at Gatwick International Airport in the UK for the first time. My first blog entry was dated 21 November 2004. So much has changed over the past two years.

I’ve been spending more and longer times in the UK of late and it looks as if it is possible that I may be asked to move there on a more permanent basis. I am of two minds on that one. I have a made some really good friends in the UK and have really a really good time being in the UK.

But I also have some really good friends (not to mention my family, to whom I am very close) back here in the states. Well, as my friend and one time mentor Ruth (Dr. Roose!) used to say: “I’ll just have to jump off that bridge when I come to it.”

I haven’t been (and may never be) offered the option of moving to the UK, but it is interesting to consider how it may play-out were it to happen.

There have been so many interesting things to report over the past two years here in the annals of my weblog and I hope that everyone is enjoying reading it as much as I am enjoying writing them. It has been two good years. I hope that there will be many more. And if they are not in the UK, they will be somewhere. If you’re enjoying my blog, please post a comment or send me an email at the appropriate link below.

Well, the house is stirring. I need to spend some time with my friends while I can. Have a great day!

I hope that wherever you are today you have a great day and have some milestone to celebrate.

Don Bergquist - 21 November 2006 - St. Petersburg, Florida USA