ELEVATION: The Tour Diary ("For my sanity and your entertainment," M.) - Page 4
Let's see. The last time I was out here in Jolly Ol' England, Jurassic Park was tearing up the box office, a really cool Irish band was touring Europe, and the most compelling reasons I had for returning home after 10 months were a sprained ligament and a total lack of funds.
The irony of it all!
Well, one thing has changed. Princess Diana won't be stalking me this time around. It's unfortunate I won't have the pleasure of that experience again.
Anyway, here's the latest, Live from Stokenchurch!
I've settled in quickly to the new surroundings. Settled in, at least, by my definition. Once the backpack was dumped at the hotel/suite/apartment/flat, I considered myself settled in - and ready to hit the road!
Speaking of hitting the road...
Being in a bit of a haze this morning, I took a wrong turn on my way to work, wound up on the highway and got lost. It was great!
The unexpected journey took me deep into the countryside - and through a terrific little village called Henley on Thames. Having rambled on down the road, I ultimately had to stop at a gas station in some other tiny little village and get directions back to Stokenchurch.
I told the attendant I was lost, to which he replied, "That makes two of us." He then asked an old mechanic to help me find my way. The bloke rattled off directions that basically entailed stuff like following the carriageway through Nettlebed, then through the roundabout and turn in the village at the sign for Watlington, follow that as it winds through the country and goes under the M40, then follow the signs to Stokenchurch. I drove through lots of narrow village streets and roads so tight, only traffic in one direction could pass at a time. Thankfully, there were no injuries to report.
(Just for clarification: I am a male, and if I didn't have to get to work and wasn't already late, I wouldn't have stopped and wouldn't have asked for directions. I would've kept driving until I ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere, which would have left me to walking to my destination accompanied by nothing more than my trusty CD player and 100 quid. Oh yeah. I would've found my way on my own - and without a map, thank you very much!)
The really amusing thing is, the office is just down the road from the apartment I'm staying at.
Anyway, I've adjusted fairly quickly to my new surroundings. Monday was a little rough to get through, but yesterday I was pretty much good to go. I went up to Oxford last night for dinner, was taken to a great little pub in the country on Monday evening (when you call Guinness the "nectar of the gods" out here, people bless you!), and had a few pints in London on Sunday.
That London jaunt was a "quick" trip solely for the purpose of wearing myself out - and staying awake through the day - in order to adjust to the time shift, having arrived around 10:45 in the morning. (Yeah, and I even got to pick up the latest U2 CD/Limited Edition DVD singles for Elevation, fancy that!) By chance, I met up with Alvar Baldarrama, a Tools consultant/teleworker from San Antonio, when I arrived at the hotel on Sunday and joined him on his trip into the city.
One of the first happy recollections was to see the "Look Left" and "Look Right" warnings painted on the streets at the crosswalks, obviously placed there to prevent foreigners from becoming street pizza.
While in a pub near Trafalgar Square, we wound up hanging out with these women from somewhere out in the country. These were no spring chickens, and while they could drink themselves to embarrassment (and did), some of them had never been to London before! They kept yammerin' about how they just got out of My Fair Lady and how "luvverly" it was. OK. Whatever. Glad you had a nice time...
As for the office, it's in the country and there are cows grazing outside the back window. The people have been very friendly and I'm having a really good time on that front. I've even picked up on a bit of a morning routine already for my breakfast. They have a vending machine that makes the coffee, no coins required! So, I grab a cappuccino, a bag of Mini Crinklin Cheddars ("The Crinkled Compact Snack"), and a pack of Cadbury's milk chocolate. Mmmmm.... nothing like nutrition to get the engine goin' in the morn'.
Oh yeah... and now for the real news. It just so happened the BBC had a story about the "latest" big show on the West End: My Fair Lady! And it even co-stars Jonathan Pryce, one of my favorite actors, instantly making it a must-see in my book. I checked out Ticketmaster only to find the show sold out until October. BUT, over on the side of the screen was a notice about a new lot of U2 tickets available! This boy's going on August 18 and 22 - "warm up" shows for Slane! Woo-hoo! It'll be a special hoot for me. The shows are at Earls Court, right behind my old flat!
So, for the all-important stats: Pints of Guinness So Far: 6. Will work on that.
U2 Concerts Anticipated: 4. Awesome!
U2 Concerts / Elevation Tour Total Thru Leg 2: 10 (Finally Reached Double Digits!)
Damage done to my Visa card: Priceless.
Well, it's time for some grub. Hopefully I'll be able to find Henley on Thames again for a nice dinner at a little pub!
Let's squash those rumors about the American accent in England. No sooner did I get home last night than the phone rang. Odd, I thought. Nobody should know this number - because even I don't know it!
The girl on the other end apparently was talking with another girl. I said, "Hello" and she greeted me. HER accent actually sounded kind of fake and I was trying to figure out who was calling - I was certain they were friends trying to "wind me up" as they say.
She then asked if I was an American. I said, Yeah.
"That's too bad," she said. "I was going to tell you how you could get a free trip to Las Vegas, but since you're an American, PISS OFF!"
She abruptly hung up and I don't think she heard me say, "Oh, OK, I'll do that."
Anyway... Had my first pints of "Guinness Extra Cold" last night at The Hogshead in High Wycombe. It's the Guinness I've grown to love... but extra cold! The coolness was quite refreshing and the shamrock etched into the foamy head was well done. And the folks at The Hogshead (a trendy pub/restaurant chain catering to us younger folks) were great, preparing a terrific creamy chicken pasta dinner for me after the kitchen had just closed. (Well, I had been sitting around soaking it all up with a Guinness, not realizing the kitchen closed at 9.)
Yeah. They roll the sidewalks up early around here. All the shops close by 6, the supermarkets by 10. The real frustration is not being able to get my hands on a copy of The London Times or Time Out London from "way out" here in the country! (That is, all of 30 miles northwest of London.)
Brazil is one of my all-time favorite movies (starring Jonathan Pryce, an actor I've mentioned previously and now on the West End in My Fair Lady). Some people have commented you need to be totally wasted to appreciate the movie's off-the-wall vision. I'd disagree. And, after living in London, I grew to appreciate the movie even more (that shouldn't be taken as an insult; it's directed by Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam).
Anyway, in the music business there are things fondly referred to as "Spinal Tap moments," when funny things go wrong during a concert, for example. Well, while in London over the weekend, I stumbled on a couple "Brazil moments."
One was arriving by tube to the Westminster station. It's been remodeled during my absence, looking futuristic with its grey-toned curved and pocked walls. And now there's a glass wall along the edge of the station, keeping people from falling onto the tracks in front of the slick new trains. Well, at Westminster on this one occasion, the train doors opened, but the station's glass doors did not. It was kinda funny watching guys fight with the door, trying to pry it open. (Which they were able to do before the train took off again.)
The other Brazil thing occurred to me while driving home from Cheltenham. British radio stations, it seems to me, tone down the programming on Sunday evenings to mostly talk and classical music. Kind of simmer-down programming to head into the work week. Yet, during the week, it's virtually nonstop dance mixes... Hmmm... Maybe I'm wrong...
Then there are all those "quality of life" gadgets, like the self-cleaning public loo, the soap/wash/dry machine (for hands) in the Cheltenham public loo, and the cappuccino/coffee/tea vending machine at the office. All this gadgetry means one thing: There's more that can break down.
If you don't get what I'm talkin' about, that's fine... It'll all make sense after you rent the Criterion DVD edition of Brazil.