Saturday, September 30, 2006

Party Prep

Tonight I am throwing a party. My kitchen smells of garlic, onions and Cajun spice. I was surprised to see Okra in the market at Kingston, but there it was. Good thing too! I had been talking about the jambalaya that I make and my friends wanted to try it.

I guess, tonight's party is a party without a reason, but then when have I ever needed a reason to have a party? I love having my friends over and entertaining. The reception thing was a ruse anyway. It was an excuse to have people over. Let's drop all pretense, it was time for me to entertain again anyway. So, the stated reason for the party is hereby nullified. I would love it if my friends to make it, but their presence or the lack thereof is not going to dictate whether I have fun tonight or not. The people I know to be my friends will be here. The others would be an nice accompaniment but when it comes right down to it are nonessential.

Though the stated reason for the party is likely to be a moot point here it is: we (the friends I know will be in attendance and I) have some friends (? Are they friends still? I guess time will tell.) who recently finalized their civil partnership. We offered to throw this party as a kind-of reception for their recent nuptials. Unfortunately, none of us have heard from them in over a week and so we doubt that the happy couple will be in attendance.

Furthermore, since I have not heard back from a few of the people I have invited, I have no firm count of how many people will be in attendance. I have the sinking suspicion that (in my unerring ability to cook for an army) I will be eating leftovers for a week.

I have made a big pot of red beans and rice and the crock-pot is steaming away full of jambalaya. One of my colleagues who is over from the states has run up to the store to get some makings for pico de gallo his recipe sounds good. I'll have to wait to try it.

This morning I was awakened around dawn by the sound of thunder. There was a pretty fierce storm blowing. Well, so much for the concept of being able to get out and cut the grass in the garden. The day has been beautiful for short patches here and there and I got the last of my party prep in and made my long-circuit ride before the rain set in to stay.

The house is ready for however many guests actually arrive, which should be happening within the hour. With everything in place, I suppose I should shower and make myself presentable to receive company.

I hope that wherever you are, you are making the most of your day!

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

Friday, September 29, 2006


ob ser va tion Pronunciation [ob-zur-vey-shuhn]

1. an act or instance of noticing or perceiving.
2. an act or instance of regarding attentively or watching.
3. the faculty or habit of observing or noticing.
4. notice: to escape a person's observation.
5. an act or instance of viewing or noting a fact or occurrence for some scientific or other special purpose: the observation of blood pressure under stress.
6. the information or record secured by such an act.
7. something that is learned in the course of observing things: My observation is that such clouds mean a storm.
8. a remark, comment, or statement based on what one has noticed or observed.
9. the condition of being observed.
10. Navigation.
a. the measurement of the altitude or azimuth of a heavenly body for navigational purposes.
b. the information obtained by such a measurement.
11. Obsolete. observance, as of the law.


[Origin: 1350–1400; ME ~L observātiōn- (s. of observātiō), equiv. to observāt(us) (ptp. of observāre to observe) + -iōn- -ion]

The act of noticing or perceiving... What Fun! I especially enjoy observing people in those moments when they think (or at least hope) there is nobody around to observe them. Like the guy sitting on the train who (as disgusting as it is) picks his nose thinking nobody can see him do it.

Or last night in the Sainsbury's when I was getting vegetables to make some Jambalaya for this weekend. A man (and apparently not a vagrant- he was dressed fairly nicely) picked a lovely peach out of the pile cast a glance over at the service desk, and ate the peach; leaving the pit on the floor in front of the display.

Or as I was leaving the store and a kid was skateboarding on the opposite side of the street, by the old post office, and chatting with a friend. He turned and called to his friend "he watch this." Though what it was that he wanted his friend to watch has been lost to everyone. Because as he was saying "this" he it the bottom step of the old post office and toppled over ear first into walk.

You can't get much more entertaining than that, or can you?

On the way back home with my groceries in the messenger sack slung over my shoulder, I was riding in the rain down Maple Road when this young lady (huddled under her umbrella) turned and started across the road (ten feet short of the zebra crossing) and stepped right into my path. There was on-coming traffic and a taxi about to overtake me so I came to a halt, skidding on the wet pavement.

She looked up sheepishly at me, and then looked at the zebra crossing. She tucked herself under her umbrella and took the three steps to the crossing and crossed the street legally. I was so astonished that I just stood and watched. Had I been that black cab instead of a cyclist, I probably could not have stopped in time.

This morning, with the rain over the streets dry, the air is clear and I am writing up my observations. Observation one: We all do dumb things. Observation two: You can never assume that you are unobserved. (You can only hope!)

I hope that wherever you are today, you are unobserved in the dumb things that you will inevitably do today!

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

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Frosty Morning

It is mornings like this that really take me back!

There has been a light drizzle and the air has that chill in it telling you that cold air is on its way down from Canada (or wherever it is that they import their cold air from here in the UK... Scotland, I suppose). When I was in college, mornings like this were the perfect opportunity to put on my sweatshirt and watch the rain fall with the windows open and a cup of coffee.

Of course, this usually annoyed my roommate, but I did it anyway. It is the kind of weather that back in Miami would cause all the old ladies to start making plans to get the furs out of the refrigerated vaults that they are stored in for ten months every year.

I remember one particular morning like this back in my college days. The youth group of which I was a part had gone on retreat to a conference center that was little more than an old orange grove that had gone bust. Some cleaver investor had bough the house, the grounds, and the out-buildings and had turned it into a rustic retreat. (I wonder if this place is still there. It wasn't that far from the train station in Sanford...)

Anyway, for some reason I was unable to sleep that particular morning and the only people stirring were me and the staff of the conference center. I donned my jeans, a pair of deck shoes, and a UCF sweatshirt and headed down to the main floor. Passing through reception I was greeted cheerfully by the night manager who offered me a cup of coffee.

Coffee in hand, I headed out to the veranda. (This place was built in what I think of as the old - pre-air-conditioning - Florida style; huge screen windows which could be covered with glass panes in the winter, enormous wooden shutters to cover them in the storm season, pine floors, high ceilings and best of all, an enormous porch that wrapped around all four sides of the building.) I headed out to a chair on the eastern side of the building and looked over the lawn to the groves and the blue-gray sky beyond.

The sunrise was a dazzling display of reds and ambers and purples. Oblivious to me, the sunrise, the chill in the air, the drizzle (that was really more of a palpable mist than a rain) and seemingly everything but the grass it was contentedly nibbling, a deer came grazing through the high grasses at the edge of the grove. It was the best part of the day.

But my reveries are taking place a long way from an idyllic lawn in central Florida in the early 80s. It is the mid 00s (...we have yet to come up with a name for this decade... how about the "Ooze?") and I am sitting at my kitchen counter in the corporate house in London; looking at the same kind of rain. The air has that same feeling. I know that while I will probably not see any deer on my ride to work (which should start soon) it is not unheard of for me to see a fox or two at this time of the morning.

But, I guess I should put down the PDA, get into the office and get on with my day. One can only spend so much time woolgathering.

I hope that wherever you are today is memorable for you.

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I'm sorry for the brevity of today's post (and yesterday's for that matter...) I have been really busy and have not observed that much. It's a cop-out, but it is my cop-out!

I hope that wherever you are today, you have the time to stop and smell the roses!

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

Happy Birthday to my cousin Charles

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Surprising Sight

In the nearly two years I have been coming over here, I have never, ever seen what I saw yesterday while riding at lunchtime. While passing the crown court in Kingston I saw Barristers (or perhaps they were judges) who can tell? It was a bunch of guys in black graduation style gowns with purple shawls and fancy powdered wigs.

It was worth a second look. Too bad I had no camera with me.

I hope that wherever you are today, you see something new!

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

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday, Monday

All-in-all, it was a very relaxing weekend. There are some things I wish I had gotten a chance to do, but aren't there always? This week will be every bit as harried and rushed as the last and the workload will be as heavy, but at the week's end I will be ready to enjoy another great weekend.

Not a lot to report on the weekend that I haven't already said, so I guess I should pack my computer and get into the office. It is still dark out, but now that the equinox has passed, the mornings will stay dark later. My ride to the office will be a cold and dark one but at least it is not raining.

I hope that wherever you are this morning, you have a cool day!

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

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Another Gorgeous Fall Day

I have to say, the dinner last night was magnificent. I am going to have to ride a few extra miles today day to work off the Bread Pudding with Bailey's and Clotted Cream we had for dessert! (YUM!!!)

After dinner we sat out by the Chimnea and chatted by the fire until nearly midnight. This morning, my clothing all smells of wood smoke and I am going to have to pop it into the wash before I wear it out in public again. But it was a lovely evening.

This morning I was awakened by the sound of a drumming, pouring rain. It was a lovely sight. There were a few thunderclaps as well. This morning, turned into this afternoon, and the skies have cleared, the roads have dried and I am itching to get out there and ride. (I may be able to restrain myself long enough to give my chain a good cleaning and lube before I go, but that is about all that I want to have delay me. As a matter of fact, I do not know why I am still sitting here, farting around at this damn keyboard!

I should be outside enjoying the day while I still can!

I hope wherever you are today, your day is one you can get out in and enjoy!!

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

Saturday, September 23, 2006

With friends like mine...

What a glorious day for a ride! I am having a wonderful weekend, and I owe a debt of thanks to my friends for it!

I should be testing right now. We are under a tight deadline. My work ethic tells me I should be working. But, after a long and hard week at the office, I decided (after being goaded by one of my coworkers) to take the weekend off. The person (whom I consider to be a friend) chastised me for spending as many hours as I do at the office, and then thanked me for helping to keep the task timeline close. She then told me not to work this weekend and suggested a couple pubs I should try-out this weekend.

I promised her that I would not work this weekend and would try out a pub or two from her list. (Though, to be honest, I did spend a couple hours this morning on stuff that needs to be done, but detracts from the main thrust of my stay here.)

My friend, Terry, also challenged me last night. As I was leaving the pub he and Angie said that I looked tired and that I should take care of myself. Terry challenged me to stay abed all morning. I almost made it. I slept in 'til 08:30 and tried to get back to sleep but just couldn't so I reached for a book on the nightstand and read in bed for a couple hours.

It was raining this morning so I figured I could get my paperwork from the office out of my way and then, if it got nice, I could go for a ride. I popped downstairs to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and plowed into the work had to do on my computer.

By eleven, the skies had cleared, the day had become cool and clear and I decided it was time for a ride. And what a lovely day for it too! The breezes were light, just enough to keep the air moving, not enough to keep me from riding. I went the long and circuitous route to Richmond Park. Then, after riding a bit around the park, I took out a book and read under a tree.

It was a lovely, lovely day. This evening, I am headed over to Terry and Angie's place to have dinner and drinks. It will probably be a great end to a great day (dinner with the Bs of Molesey is always an event! Terry is a fantastic chef!)

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

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

Friday, September 22, 2006

Own It!

There is a joke over here about Americans. Apparently, there are those of us who come over here and are embarrassed about being from a country (mis)ruled by the lot currently inhabiting (inhibiting?) the upper echelons of the administrative branch of the government. So embarrassed, are they, in fact that they lie and say they are from Canada. I am not one of those, it doesn't overly trouble me that you call the president a wanker. I happen to agree.

The other night, I was at a function where I was introduced to, and had a nice chat with, some people who were obviously not from here. During the course of the conversation I tried to place the accent but was not quite able to. So finally, I broke down and just asked them where they were from.

"Toronto." Said one of them.

"C'mon" I replied, finally getting to use the joke (which is not really that much of a joke) for myself! "Where are you from really? Buffalo? Your secret is safe, I won't tell anyone."

"No, really!" Protested the other, "I'm from Barry originally, but have been living in Mississauga for the last twelve years!"

"Good cover!" I said, not missing a beat. "Coming up with names of places is a nice touch! I'll have to try that. But really, I know the administration is corrupt and the president is embarrassing but is it so bad that you have to claim you're from Canada? Eh?"

"No, really, we are!" their protests continued.

"Oh, come on, own it!" I said. "I have! He may play fast and loose with the laws, nut they are our laws that he is bending. He be a religious zealot who lets his personal beliefs drive his decisions. He may trying to do what he perceives as being 'good' in total disregard that it would run afoul of the law. But he is after all our lying conniving, backward buffoon! Own it! Embrace it! Love it!"

By this point, they had caught on that I have heard more than once (LOTS MORE THAN ONCE!) that the president is a total wanker. They realized that I was playing with them.

"So what part of Canada do you claim to be from?" the first asked.

"Kelowna, British Columbia. I like the Okanagan Valley." I said a bit sheepishly.

We all had a good laugh and ordered another round. If you can't laugh at yourself, you can always laugh at your elected officials!

I hope that wherever you are today, you have something to laugh about. (Or at least something to laugh at!)

Don Bergquist - 22 September 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Sympathetic Face

There is a scene in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that came to mind last night as I made my way home from the gaming night in Central London. It had been a good evening at the pub. I played two new games, both of which I failed to win (second place on one of them, third on the other) and I was late leaving for my train.

The last train that connected to my train home came as I was entering the station so I ran down the platform at London Bridge station to make the train. I sat down in the train and made a note in my PDA to record the money that I had spent in the pub when the gentleman sitting across the aisle from me said something I almost completely failed to catch.

"Excuse me?" I said looking-up from Pocket Quicken for a moment.

"I've never seen anyone take their glasses off to use their computer." he repeated "I put mine on to see."

What ensued was a discussion (mostly on his part) as to how he was an investment banker who was having a rough day because his firm was being sold to an American firm. From his descriptions of the day he had had, it was a pretty rough one! He moved-over to my side of the train during his monologue and it became apparent that after his day he had stopped off in one of the pubs that ring London Bridge station for a pint or three. It was more or less at this point that I was reminded of that scene that goes something like this:

Arthur Dent: "Why is it that everyone I meet wants to tell me their life story?"
Birdman of Brontitol: "Well, my man, you have such a sympathetic face."

Perhaps that is it! If not, then I have no idea why people seem to have this compulsion to come up to me and talk! Strangers, just seem to come up to me in the streets and talk to me. I'm fairly certain that this is not a universal thing. Most of my mates here, when I talk to them, say that this sort of thing never happens to them.

But there I was, on the train to Waterloo East being treated to the story of how this drunk banker had issues at home and at work. What could I do? I couldn't just ignore him. (I know this... I tried for a short while.) We parted at the station, he wished me a good life and we went our separate ways.

That is until he sat down next to me on my train to Surbiton! I was then treated to a twenty-minute reprise of the last train trip. This time, however, there was a new verse to the old song. This one was why the Sarbanes-Oxley laws are no longer necessary!

Oh well, I did my public service. To all of the rest of the passengers on last night's late train from London Waterloo to Surbiton: "You're Welcome! You were spared the gin-soaked soliloquy." All I can say is I hope my banker friend from the train last night is having a better day today than yesterday!I hope that wherever you are this morning you are having a great day too!

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cycling as a Panacea

Is there nothing that a good, long bike ride can't make seem better? (Well, hemorrhoids or a broken leg, I suppose, but there is nothing better after a long, hard day at the office than a bike ride!)

Last night, I left the office after a long (14 hours) hard day of software testing and needed to clear my mind. I wanted the cool, clear air of a September evening to make everything alright. I took the fifteen-mile route I reserve for times when I really need to think about something other than the office. And think of other things I did!

For example, on my way up the hill into Berrylands, I was thinking "Gee! This is a long and steep hill!"

On the way from Berrylands into Kingston upon Thames I was thinking "Gee, it is fun riding down this long and steep hill. Much more fun than riding up it was!"

On the way through Kingston and into Richmond I was thinking (as I usually do) "Gee, there are an awful lot of wankers licensed to drive automobiles in the UK." and "That tosser almost ran me off the road!"

On my way along the towpath I was thinking the same thing I do whenever I ride the towpath in the dark: "I really should not ride this towpath at night, there are far too many potholes to dodge by the light of a bicycle headlamp."

Oh, and on the towpath I had a new thought: "Hmmm... I wonder if I would be justified just running over all these wankers who are running along the tow path well after dark who are carrying no lights and wearing black!"

When I got home after a nice ninety-minute ride, I was feeling much better. This morning I have a bunch more testing to do so I had best head into the office. It's a good thing that there is little that a good, long bike ride can't make seem better. I wonder, could I teach all the software to ride bicycles.... Hmmm...

I hope that wherever you are today, it is smooth cycling and down hill in both directions!

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Quiz Night

Last night I participated in my first ever British Pub Quiz. All-in-all, it was quite fun!

The team I was on (The Refugees - The Name Foreigners and Don didn't appeal to anyone but me for some reason. But I digress...)was comprised of Angie, Kevin, Terry and me. It was a pretty good team and we played well.

For those of you who have never been to a Pub Quiz, it is kind-of like a game show where the whole pub participates; a really big game of Trivial Pursuits. The way they play the quiz in The Olde Toy is to have six rounds and a table quiz. The table quiz can be worked on before/between the regular rounds and is comprised of questions in some kind of theme. Last night's theme was colorful names.

The six rounds are also themed and contain ten questions each. We used our joker (to double the points we scored in the round) on the first round, a general knowledge set. This turned-out to be fortuitous as it was the round we scored the highest on.

I am sure we will be back in a couple weeks for another quiz night. Why not, we weren't really being competitive... we were there to have fun. (Those of you, by siblings and cousins, who have competed against me at Charades, will have trouble accepting that statement at face value, but we were! My team will back me up on this one! We were playing to have fun...)

The fact that of the six-or-eight teams that were playing we came in second, made it all the more fun. We really did have a good time. But it was a later than I expected it to run. It was hard saying goodbye to the pillows this morning! Still, all-in-all, I am looking forward to the next time!

I hope that wherever you are today you have something you are looking forward to.

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

Monday, September 18, 2006


I was recently chatting with my nephew about this and that via email and he mentioned that his professor had suggested they do their research the "old fashioned way" by which, apparently he meant without using the internet but by going to the library and looking things up in the card catalogue. (Do libraries still have card catalogues? Mine uses a Google search of an website that contains XML file entries for each book in the collection.)

Ah, I am glad to hear that he is enjoying his grad classes. I have often thought I might enjoy going to grad school but have never had the time to do so. I still want to do so some day but not if it means going back to the card catalog. My nephew confided that he hadn't used a card catalogue since he was in grade school and how it made him feel old.

GRADE SCHOOL! He last used them in Grade School?!?!? Now who feels old? I remember when my college installed its first computerized card catalogue. I preferred the card catalogue for the longest time because it was quicker than using the database that the library had! Hey, I even had to learn two filing systems that way (Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress!)

But to show what an old-timer I am, I remember the very day that I became jaded to technology. When I started with my company, we had a policy that if you didn't get your broadcast log for the next day and there was no way for you to produce it, we'd produce one for you in Memphis and ship it to you either by same-day air freight or by putting one of our staff on a plane to hand it to you at the airport.

One of the coolest things ever was the invention of the FAX machine! No more flying logs. Much later, we started sending them via email attached as PDF Files. A few years back, I was assisting a client who was down and had no log. I produced a PDF for them and asked what email address they wanted it sent to. They asked me to FAX it to them. I said that I was not sure that we had anything so antiquated as a FAX machine. It is amazing how quickly we become jaded! What will it be next? The microwave does not cook easily and quickly enough?

I hope that wherever you are today, you are having a great day and that you are not too jaded to enjoy it!

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

Happy Birthday to my cousin Theodore

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Summer? Spring? Winter?

There is a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which the narrator states:
Autumn changed into Winter; Winter changed into Spring; Spring changed back into Autumn and Autumn gave Winter and Spring a miss and went straight on into Summer. Until one day...

Last summer I would have understood this passage differently than I do now. Last summer seemed non-existent here so I was okay with it but when I walked through The Wilderness and noted that there were Crocuses blooming, I thought to myself: "Whoa! That was a quick winter!"

I have no idea what the deal is, but there are crocuses blooming all over the place. Asking around, I am told that no, this is not normal. There was a house I passed this afternoon on my bicycle ride that had a whole cluster of crocuses sprouting from a gap in the bricks atop their wall. (Had I only had my cameras, I would have a picture of them here today!)

I do not know what is going on. I would expect to see daisies and other summer flowers in The Wilderness this time of year. Not that I mind seeing crocuses. I love them, but does that mean that my allergies are about to explode again? Good thing I have plenty of my allergy medications!

I hope that wherever you are today you are surprised by the beauty around you!

Don Bergquist - 17 September 2006 - Hampton Court, Middlesex, UK

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I took a new route today on my bike! It was fun but I think I will reserve it for times when I really feel the need for a challenge.

I start by heading into Surbiton and along Victoria Road past the train station I then wend my way along more-or-less parallel to the railroad tracks and into Tolworth. Then, turning north, I head into Kingston.

This is where the challenge starts, the road over to Kingston Upon Thames is a long, slow climb which gains perhaps 75 to 100 feet in elevation over a half a mile or so. The treat that this earns me is a nice long slow slope down a curvy lane that winds down into Kingston proper.

I then re-join my normal route, across the river, Hampton Wick, Teddington, Hampton, etc. The little detour adds a couple miles to my route but it is a lovely couple of miles and is quite enjoyable.

And as I was bad this weekend (Curry one night, Grilled Cheese and chips another) I felt I needed all the extra miles I could get.

I hope that wherever you are today, you have an excellent weekend.

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

Friday, September 15, 2006 which I rant on the media...

In my continuing series of things I would rather not hear about at all but cause a surfeit of embarrassment when I have to explain to people the "American Mindset," I turn my attention today to the media. Let's face it! Some of the tastes of the American public are inscrutable. Some of things I have been hearing about over here though, well, I am at a loss.

Say it isn't so!

My friends told me about this one (I don't as a general rule) read the London Times so I wouldn’t have known that the 09/11 Commission Report has been turned into a graphic novel! Has America's morbid fascination with the events of that tragic day finally gripped even those of us too lazy to read an actual book?

I had to check this out for myself. There on the London Times Website was the awful truth on display.

Out of morbid curiosity, I followed the link to the site and was treated to a gory rendition of the events of that day. This thing is every bit as horrid as it seems it may be. There are pictures of blood flying out of mouths as people fist fight aboard the doomed planes, balloons filled with awful dialogue and yes, even sound affect words emblazoned across some of the pictures.

I can only surmise that the reason that this was done was because our president wouldn't be able to understand the report otherwise.

Your Bent Is Showing

On the topic of 09/11...

I see that ABC Television has at least added disclaimers to the horrid bit of political tripe they decided to air called "The Path to 9/11." I believe that perhaps ABC has forgotten its claim to be apolitical when it refused to air the Michael Moore Film "Fahrenheit 09/11" because it didn't whish to take part in a partisan political issue.

Excuse me? The buzz is that this mini-series was little more than a thinly veiled slur on Clinton, the Clinton White House and anyone who has ever said anything even vaguely complimentary about the Clintons. While the film apparently stopped short of depicting Clinton actually ASKING Osama Bin Laden to attack us, it must have come close to it. After all Rush Limbaugh and his vacuum sculled ditto-heads actively defended it!

I gather that this is one political debate that ABC had no compunction against joining into.

Come Again?

This story comes to me via the BBC this morning. Apparently, CBS has sunk to a new low. The latest season of Survivor (which as far as I can tell is still popular because it continues to pander to the basest interests of its viewers) has hit a new low; dividing its teams into racial groups of Asians, Mexicans, African Americans and Caucasians.

The BBC showed the proper distain for the idea and theorized that it may lead to the perception that it is designed to play up on racial tensions and further the goals of racists. I see it as just another season of an already horrible show that I have no intention of ever watching. As I have said about this show in the past, I could care less (I guess) I just don't want to go to the effort of trying to.

I hope that wherever you are today, you are having a great day!

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

Thursday, September 14, 2006


As if I have ever cared whether other people agree with me or not, it is good to see that even the right wing pundits; those mouthpieces of the administration are finally starting to see just how dangerous and cavalier this administration has been for the last five years!

Doug McIntyre, of KABC radio in Los Angeles has issued an apology to the American people for his support of Bush. It is a little late, but better late than never. On his show, he described Bush as the worst two term president, perhaps the worst president period that the US has ever elected. In of my favorite lines in the piece is when he describes Bush in the following passage:

"After five years of carefully watching George W. Bush I’ve reached the conclusion he’s either grossly incompetent, or a hand puppet for a gaggle of detached theorists with their own private view of how the world works. Or both."
It is reassuring to note that even those who supported the president in every ill-conceived action he has taken are starting to regret it. Unfortunately, the damage has been done. Having lived abroad for much of the last year has given me a far better perspective on how Americans are perceived. The comment I most frequently have gotten ("Your president is a wanker!") has the unspoken, underlying implication: "...and so are you for electing and following him."

The truth is, I didn't! Neither did a majority of the population of the US. This president was elected because of rampant apathy amongst the electorate that allowed the neo-conservative right to hijack the electoral process. People wake up! Get active! VOTE! Until you do it will get worse not better! You who do not take an action (or rather choose to disenfranchise yourselves) are not just hurting yourself! You deserve Bush as your president! But would you please quit pissing in the punch bowl for the rest of us?

Which is not to say that the alternative in either of the last two elections were that great either! I'd have rather gnawed on concertina wire than to have either Kerry or Bush as the president right now, but as there was none handy and there was such low turn-out, the one who was better at mobilizing their core won.

Unfortunately, Douglas Adams was correct when he postulated (in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) that:

"People are the problem. Anyone who is capable of getting themselves elected to public office should, under no circumstances be allowed to actually hold that office. Anybody who wants to be president is by definition unfit to be president."

I know that there are those of you who may stumble across this who do not know me and who will think when reading this: "Hey! He is abroad, he should not be bad-mouthing his country, his president, and his government while abroad and during a time of war!"

To those of you who do hold this opinion, I can only say, that little thing that the Bush administration would have you believe does not apply any longer; you know, The Constitution; is still alive and in play. The first amendment there of states that I have the right to criticize whomever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want. It is therefore my right, no! It is my duty to agree that the president is, indeed, as has been observed, a wanker. A world class wanker! A reckless, dangerous, deceitful wanker.

There are just 859 days until this president leaves office. Unless...

I hope that wherever you are today, you have something to look forward to!

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

Happy Birthday to my step-brother's wife Suzette

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wankerism Run Amuck

I know that it seems that all I ever do is complain about the drivers over here. (Well it would if that is the only entries that you ever read...) But I have to do it again! What the hell is wrong with some people? Three times today I have had somebody act like an absolute and total tosser as I rode my bike on the clearly marked bicycle lanes.

The first time was as I was riding east in the cycle lane along The Portsmouth Road into Kingston. I was riding along and the driver of a trade van swung into my lane from the on-coming traffic lane to pass a car that was parked obstructing his lane.

Trouble is, that in doing so, he (White Van Man) not only obstructed the eastbound traffic lane but also the entire bicycle lane. Now, I could understand this had he then decided to get back into his lane. But as there was another car about ten yards behind me also obstructing his lane, he decided to pass them both without getting back into his own lane.

I came to a stop and waited for him to get back into his lane and he yelled at me through his windscreen. Traffic stopped behind both sides of our little Mexican Standoff. (Though being that we are in London, I guess this would be a British Standoff.) Eventually, he did return to his lane, allow the traffic that had queued behind us to pass in our lanes and then he (presumably) went on his way.

The second time that someone was a wanker to me was as I was riding down Victoria avenue (again, well within the marked bicycle lane) this prig comes up behind me and noisily screeches his brakes. He then gunned his engine, and then (with an unnecessary surfeit of noise) passes me, wildly slewing into the approaching traffic lanes in the process.

The first of these two incidents I have to ascribe to being an asshole and a buffoon, too lazy to turn the wheel and get back into his own lane for the thirty yards between the two cars in his lane. The second, I can only ascribe to being either a yob or a completely incompetent driver.

The last, is creditable to children trying to be funny. On this one, I was riding back to the office along St. Leonard's road when these two kids (don't ask me why they weren't in school!) decided to cross the street. One of them (without looking) stepped off the curb into my path. I swerved to the right to miss him and he ran in front of me. I dodged to the left to miss him and the second one decides now is the time to step off the curb. I applied the brakes and stopped to allow them to cross the street. The laughed, said "sorry, geezer" and slouched along their merry way.

I guess it could be worse. I could have been run off the road at any point this afternoon.

I hope that wherever you are today, you have something you can be thankful for!

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

In a Fog

It is a lovely day here in London! The weathercast yesterday was slightly inaccurate. It called for rain all day. Well, it didn't actually rain at all where I was nor anywhere that I rode through this morning. There was no mud on the paths; which is not to say that the roads and the paths are dry.

Anybody with dry skin would love it here today! NOTHING is dry! The humidity that should have precipitated as rain yesterday sank to ground level and condensed. There is a thick blanket of fog covering everything this morning. It is a cool, foggy morning.

I love riding in this weather, but now that I am at the office, the result of riding through all that fog is that I am sitting here a bit on the soggy side. And what, with the humidity being so high, I will probably not dry out until noon!

Oh well putting a positive spin on it, I think of it as a spa treatment. People pay for things like this!

I hope wherever you are today, you can put a positive spin on things.

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

Happy Birthday to my cousin Michael

Happy Birthday to my cousin Sylvie

Monday, September 11, 2006


The party is over, the beer taps are dry, the pub is closed.

It is sad, I admit, but the party was a good one and we gave the old pub a good send-off. The gang all started gathering around the beer garden early (about 17:00) and enjoyed the ambiance of the place for one last time for the next couple months.

After the sun set and the temperatures started dropping, we took up residence in one of the rooms. The entertainment for the evening came from telling jokes, sharing stories, and enjoying the camaraderie.

There were some sad moments, the most touching was when the little girl (that I have written of before) realized that it was time for her to go home and she would not be coming back to this pub again the way it is. She expressed what I think many of us were thinking. She bawled! She was sobbing about how it would no longer be "her pub" and how she would miss all her friends.

We all assured her that we would be going to the pub across the road and that we would see her often. Even the bar staff, who she really has taken a fancy to, assured her that they would see her often. She was tearful as her mummy carried her to the car.

She may have a point, who can say what the pub will be like when it re-opens? In eight weeks' time what changes can take place is anybody's guess. I look forward with great anticipation the day I can report the results of the refurbishment to you. For now, though. I can only say "Cheers!"

I hope that wherever you are today, you have something to look forward to!

Don Bergquist - 11 September 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Last Day

I don't want to think about this! My pub is closing for the next couple months for refurbishment. Sure, my friends will be going to the pub across the road from The King's Arms, but the problem is that it won't be the same.

The best thing to do, I guess, would be get busy, enjoy the day, have a drink or two with my friends tonight for the big "Closing Party" tonight and then see what happens tomorrow.

There are a lot of things that I can do today, I have to mow the back lawn, take a bike ride, do a little shopping, and do some laundry. That should keep me busy and move the imminent closing of my pub off my mind.

I hope wherever you are today, you have something to keep you occupied.

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

Happy Birthday to my cousin Michael

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Moon Rise

One of the reasons I bought a long-focus lens (400mm) was that I wanted to be able to take pictures of the moon with some detail. This picture is not a bad one, but I learned a lesson last evening. Take "Full Moon Shots" the day before the full moon actually happens.

This shot is an okay one, and I like the lighting effects, but the problem with taking this shot was that the sunset was already fading by the time the moon was high enough to see it. This means that the difference between the lighting in the foreground and the background give me a hard choice; either get the detail of the moon and allow for no detail in the foreground (there are a couple examples of this at the link above) or get detail in the foreground and allow the moon to become washed-out and without detail. It's not what I really was trying for, but I do like this shot.

It has been a lovely day! I went for a bike ride, did some stuff around the house and had a nice quiet afternoon. This afternoon, I am headed into town to spend some time with a book in one of the parks. It should be a lovely afternoon for it. The day is hot, sunny, and still.

I hope that wherever you are, today, you are having a great, relaxing, day!

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

Friday, September 08, 2006

Aromatic Stimuli

I have read in the past that the sense of smell is the most powerful stimulus to memory. I have heard a number of reasons for this including the theory that it is one of the older senses (evolutionarily speaking) and that there are more receptors involved in that sense than in any of the others. I have no idea if this is true, but I do know that just catching a waft of a scent can trigger a flood of memories. As happened last night in the churchyard...

On the last leg of my ride last evening, I decided to cut back through the village and take the footpath through the churchyard. It was a pleasant, a bit on the chilly-side evening an the sun was not quite ready to set. I figured that I had plenty of time to make it in the evening light before the churchyard gets too dangerous to ride through.

The grass had been mown yesterday so the smell of fresh-cut grass was powerful. I caught a whiff of the grass and had to stop. I just wanted to hop off my bicycle and roll in the lawn. I have always loved the smell of freshly cut grass! (I was able fight the urge, but at that moment, I did understand Saga's penchant for rolling in things she finds to be aromatically pleasing. I just wish that some of those things were a little less disgusting!)

It was mostly the smell of the grass, but that combined with the chill in the air and the late afternoon sun shining down on the clapboard siding of the church building set off a powerful wave of nostalgia. There was only one place that we got that particular mix of mown grass and cool, chilly light of a late summer afternoon: Minnesota.

Until the first time I worked for my uncle on the family homestead, I had never actually understood that it got hot and stayed hot in Minnesota. It seemed that every time we went, the air would be hot and humid in the afternoons and then we would go upstairs to bed and would have to pile on the quilts and blankets. The old iron beds, their springs creaking as we moved on the bed, looking like miniature mountains of linen.

During the day we would play in the yard of Grandma and Grandpa's house in town (we'd stalk each other through the garden or go down to the rail line and play balance beam on the tracks) or go out to the farm (and watch the work being done out in the fields) and then as the night fell we'd put on our sweaters and watch the last of the lightening bugs fly over the lawn.

On days when we had some allowance money left, we'd go down to the main street (a couple blocks away) and spend our money on the crap in Wally Block's store. There was always something interesting to buy at Block's. There was last year's Halloween candy, smoke bombs, dime store toys, army surplus clothing and other assorted junk. Actually, I enjoyed Block's store well into adulthood (yes, for those of you who doubt that I have actually entered adulthood, I do occasionally admit to it) when I realized that some of that "junk" was actually a pretty interesting collection of antiques.

I stood in the middle of the churchyard for a good five minutes smelling the grass and remembering Minnesota until it occurred to me that it would look strange for someone to come along and see me just standing there astride my bicycle head thrown back, eyes closed breathing deeply. So I remounted the bicycle and rode home.

I hope that wherever you are today, your day is filled with pleasant memories, new or old.

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

Thursday, September 07, 2006


There is lots of activity of late at my favorite pub. The King's Arms is officially closing on Sunday at second bell. They will be closed until early November for refurbishment and re-opening as The King's Arms Pub and Hotel.

When it is all said and done, there will be nine rooms to let upstairs and the pub will have a new dining room. They are re-doing the whole downstairs to make it look nicer and they are finally going to lose the brass lamp that is placed so inconveniently at the corner of the bar where it obstructs the view of the seat next to you if you happen to be sitting near the end of the bar.

I have been hearing about these plans for the past two years and it is only that the pub (even though it has been through tons of changes over the years) is still considered to be a historic building and as such, they have had to jump through a number of hoops to get the permits to start construction.

So Sunday is the big send-off. Then it will be two months until I can once again meet-up with friends in The King's Arms. Good luck to the staff of the pub and I hope that the build-out goes with out a hitch. See you in November!

I hope your day, wherever it finds you, goes off without a hitch!

Don Bergquist - 07 September 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I had no idea that the evening would come with a floor show. Well, not so much a floor show as a platform show. When I set-out at 17:00 for town, I had no idea that instead of going to my normal Wednesday night Game Night at Bunch Of Grapes, I'd be watching the local entertainment in Kidbrooke.

It started when trying to make a transfer at Waterloo East, a station I have only been through a couple times. I am not yet terribly familiar with how that particular station works. Figuring I needed assistance, I asked one of the station personnel to assist me.

"Can you direct me to the next train to London Bridge Station?" I asked

The guy politely explained where the monitors were and then, referring to that monitor, informed me that that the next train to leave platform A (the one I was currently standing on) would stop at London Bridge. "It's the next stop, mate, you can't miss it!"

I looked at the monitor he was pointing out. I could, now that it was explained to me, make perfect sense of the system. For, although, it was not immediately obvious, it was pretty straight-forward once you recognized it for what it was. As he finished explaining, the train pulled into the station. I thanked the gentleman for his assistance and boarded the train.

Imagine my surprise, when the train sped right through the station at London Bridge. I was apparently not the only person on the train that had been "helped' by the guy in the uniform. For as we were flying past the platform I wanted to be standing on a woman came up to me and touched me on the arm. "Doesn't this train stop here?" she asked.

"I had thought it did, since I was told this train would take me here." I replied.

"No," the guy standing across the aisle from me said. "The next stop for this train is Kidbrooke."

"Where is that?" I asked as the woman picked-up her mobile to cancel an appointment she was now going to miss.

"About twenty minutes away." Said the man and returned to reading his paper.

His information was confirmed as we passed through the next station at New Cross, and the ones at St. Johns, Lewisham and Blackheath. So, I exited the train here at Kidbrooke and crossed to the westbound platform. I learned from the signs above the track that the next train that would stop where I wanted to be was an hour away.

Great! It's a good thing I brought my PDA with me. I sat down and worked a crossword puzzle. Since then I have been trying to ignore the domestic squabble that has been going on across the track on the eastbound platform. Apparently, he has been calling her a "slag" all the way to the station from their flat and she has been yelling at him that he is a "tosser" and a "prig." The conversation has ranged all the way from how she cannot believe that he slept with some woman (I assume) whom she considers to be a whore of some kind or another, and how he thinks that if she is so upset about it she should go and sleep with a black man. (I fail to see the connection here, but apparently that connection was made back at their home.)

This dialogue had been raging for about thirty minutes when it finally reached a new low. He threatened to kill her and she threatened to kill him. He had run across the bridge connecting the two platforms and was yelling at her from this platform when the train to Victoria came. A brief intermission whilst the few people on the platform headed to Victoria boarded and the diatribe entered act two.

The big surprises in act two included the excitement of watching her, in what I increasingly became convinced was a state of some inebriation, jump off the platform onto the tracks and cross to the westbound platform (all the while being egged on by him to touch the third rail). Also there was the introduction of a new plot twist: the argument that if she didn't want him to go out and sleep with some floozy she wouldn’t have smoked all his dope.

The other big plot twist in act two was the introduction of some new characters. The local constabulary made their appearance and carted the couple off and the entertainment of the evening came to an end. All this and I still have five minutes to wait for the next train. I don't think I am going to make it to game night! I guess I'll do another crossword puzzle.

I hope wherever you are today, you have an entertaining day!

Don Bergquist - 06 September 2006 - Kidbrooke, Greenwich, UK

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Comfort Foods

There are comfort foods that I have discovered are completely beyond my reach over here in the UK. I can come close on some where substitution is possible. For example, even though Colby and Longhorn cheeses are unavailable, it is possible to make nachos using cheddar (proper English cheddar from Cheddar itself) if you ad some Red Leicester to it. Some I can't have because the constituent ingredients are flat unavailable. (Just try and find a triscuit over here!)

Some can be made, but it just seems wrong to do so. Jambalaya is something I have made, but it just didn't seem right eating it so far from the bayous. And Soul Food is right out! Sure, it's easy to find oxtails and beef necks, but it is just so far from the cotton fields that severely overcooked vegetables just seem out of place.

But there are others that are just a breeze to make and work well. Once such comfort food I made myself for breakfast this weekend. It was cold and rainy when I got back from my ride on Saturday; I wasn't able to call my family in the states so I did the next best thing. I fixed myself a mess of Hunter's Eggs.

For those of you unaware of this particular thing, I do not blame you. My siblings and I have never been fully sure if this was a creation of our dad or if it really was an old recipe that someone really made-up. (Though in later years, a restaurant chain called "Denny's" - fitting for that is dad's name - started serving something similar that they call a "Skillet Breakfast." - Hmmm...)

For my British friends, imagine that the waiter has dropped the Full-English Breakfast on the way to the table. For everyone else, it is a concoction of mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, bacon and/or sausage which has been fried-up together in a pan and then stuck together with scrambled eggs. (Oh, a note for the Brits: we do leave the tinned beans off our version of the Full English.) Optionally, cheese can be added to the top when served.

I made mine with some scraps of Brie I had left over in the fridge and a lovely whole-grain bread that they bake at the local bakery. It was yummy and just the thing to get me through a cold, rainy morning!

I only mention it because sitting here and looking out my office window, the day is dawning a bit dark and drear. I have heard that it will be in the eighties today, but looking outside today, I just can't believe it!

I hope wherever you are, it is a lovely, comfortable morning for you.

Don Bergquist - 05 September 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Monday, September 04, 2006

Monday Again

It is bright and early Monday morning. The skies are coloring and it is almost time for me to hit the bike and get into the office. It has been a wonderful weekend and now it is time for me to get back to the real world.

You can feel the lateness of summer in the air. It is still humid, but the mornings have taken on a definite chill. The sunrise is getting later each morning as we run-down the clock on the season. Soon I'll be packing away my aloha shirts for the year and making sure I have enough long-sleeve shirts and long pants to wear to the office.

And by "Pants" I mean the things that American mean when they say the word. Those apparel pieces which are appropriately worn as the outside layer of clothing on the lower half of the body. Strangely, when I say "pants" here everybody thinks, for some odd reason, I am referring to my "underwear."

Oh they back-up this strange obsession with some lame excuse about how they "invented the language" or something like that, but I think they are just obsessed with undergarments.

It is the outerwear that I am more interested in. I took stock of my clothing this weekend and went shopping for clothing. That which I found that was not ungodly expensive was slightly too small for me to actually wear. This is a good thing. A few months ago, the same clothing would have been ludicrously too small for me to wear. The diet is working!

I hope that wherever you are today, things are working for you too!

Don Bergquist - 04 September 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Kingston Carnival

There is a lot of difference between Kingston (upon Thames, the one I can ride my bicycle to) and Kingston, Jamaica. For one thing, there are five time zones between them, for another; there is an ocean between them.

But for all their differences, they have a lot of similarities as well. They both are uh... named "Kingston." Uh, they are both located on islands... I know that there must be something I am missing. Oh, yes. They both have a carnival.

You may remember my writing about Molesey Carnival a few weeks back. Kingston Carnival is much more like the one you might see in Jamaica. It has the garish costumes and the floats. But it is far less well promoted. Had I not been riding through Kingston on my ride when it was being held this weekend I would have had no idea it was going on. It's not like they could have promoted by, oh, I don't know, actually telling anybody about it or anything like that.

The crowd was a bit ad-hock in nature. I saw very few cameras. That may be because it was raining this morning and I didn't carry my cameras because of the rain; perhaps other people had the same idea. I really should get a waterproof camera bag for my little camera so I can go back to carrying one even when it is wet out.

The carnival was fun. I stayed for an hour but I had to get back to the house. I am meeting-up with friends this afternoon at the pub. They sounded a little worse-for-the wear from last night's party. Today it is a bit of the hair of the dog at the King's Arms so that tomorrow, we can get back to being respected and productive members of society.

I hope that wherever you are today, you've had a blast!

Don Bergquist - 03 September 2006 - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey, UK

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Waiting for the Van

I tell you what; deliveries have certainly gotten less romantic since the days in which The Music Man is set. I am waiting on the Sainsbury's van to deliver some stuff I ordered yesterday off their internet shopping site. I can't imagine the entire population of the Cholmley Villas gathering in the street singing "Oh-oh, the Sainsbury's wagon is a' comin' down the street! Oh! Please let it be for me!"

This weekend, the house population will double as a colleague of mine is coming from the states. He will be here for the next month doing some training at a client sight. The Delivery Van is deliving supplies for the house; detergents for the dishwasher and clothing washing machine, paper towels, cleaning fluids, etc. I will be doing some light cleaning so that my colleague doesn’t arrive to a dirty house.

Now, its not as if I am a slob or anything, but when I live alone, it has been known for me to let things slide for a couple days. I haven't run the dishwasher for a couple days, for instance, because I don't like to run it until it is full. I'll run it this afternoon when I go out so that we have a complete load of clean dishes and there is nothing dirty.

It is supposed to be cool, rainy and windy all day. After the van comes, I will be going for a bike ride, I hope that the drizzle lets up. I need the ride.

I hope wherever you are, the weather is conducive to your weekend plans!

Don Bergquist - 02 September 206 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Friday, September 01, 2006

Strange Bedfellows

Editor's Note: The following is a faithful recreation of facts. Any personal affront taken by the reader by any comment made by the author (directly or by implication) is therefore the reader's own personal problem. If a frank discussion of the strange juxtaposition that some people seem to have between their political views and their personal iconography (or a rash generalization here and there) is likely to offend, please do not read today's screed. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Yesterday at lunch I saw something incredible. So incredible, in fact, that you may have trouble believing it. A lorry cut me off at the roundabout on Summer Road. Now, as this is not anything to write home about, you may ask yourself why I am, in fact, writing home about it. Well, it was the mixed message that the lorry was sending. My eye was caught by the stars and bars proudly displayed in the front window.

Yes, the Stars and Bars! THE STARS and BARS! That's right, the battle flag of the Confederate States of America during the War Between the States. I have no idea what the reason for having the confederate battle flag on display in the London suburbs may be, but there it was! I am pretty sure that whatever it means it cannot have the same meaning over here as it would back home. The driver of the Lorry was a young black man; wearing a pink tee-shirt that sported a purple triangle. Hmmm...

Now, I'm not saying that the person displaying the flag may have wanted to rethink their position, but I have a strong suspicion that the guy driving the lorry didn't ascribe to the "values" that the flag represents. I know, you're thinking that perhaps the guy was from the south. Not unless he was from the south of England.

When he opened his mouth and screamed at the car that tried to get around him as he was trying to maneuver through the roundabout into a different road, well, let's just say that no self-respecting southerner I know would ever call someone a "Tosser" in such a definitely un-American accent.

His mate was definitely not American either. (Or he was doing the best fake accent I have ever heard!) The epithet he was using for the driver of the car was "Wanker."

Now I am not saying that the all southerners are homophobic and racist, I'm not even implying that all of the ones that I know are homophobic and racist, I am merely saying that there is a really good chance that if you pass a car that displays that symbol in the states, you're likely to find it being driven by someone who... Well lest just say someone that the driver of the lorry would not likely be inviting down to his local for a pint.

Now, I'm the last person to judge someone (Or if I am not the very last, I have at least done it as recently as a few lines back up this page.) but I would say that one should be more careful of the symbols one wishes to proudly display. They say a lot about you - whether you want them to or not!

I hope that wherever you are today you are showing your best face to the world!

Don Bergquist - 01 September 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK