Monday, January 28, 2008


Yesterday was my first Sunday back at Woking United Reformed Church. It wasn't quite the welcome I received earlier this month from my home church of over 15 years (Havenwood Presbyterian Church (USA)), but I was warmly greeted by many familiar faces.

Our guest preacher was Richard Jones, Southern and Eastern England's representative for BibleLands - an independent UK based Christian charity serving the needs of the poor, vulnerable, and disadvantaged in the lands of the Bible, regardless of their faith or nationality. With around 50 Overseas Partners in Israel and the Occupied Territories, Lebanon, and Egypt, the focus is on education, health, and community development. (Check out for more information.)

It was interesting to hear about all the wonderful things this organization (that I had never heard of before) is doing. One of the many tragic stories was that of the 15,000 people who live in the rubbish dump at Ezbet el Nakhl in Cairo, Egypt. Thanks to the Salaam Centre - started by the Coptic Orthodox Church - many of Cairo's poorest inhabitants now receive medical and social services.

I also learned that the coins people toss in a small basket after our service each week don't go toward the coffee, tea, and squash (a sweetened fruit drink) that are served next to it. Rather, this money supports 2 children through the Al Kafa'at Foundation, one of BibleLands' Overseas Partners in Beirut, Lebanon. Our 6 year old boy has multiple physical disabilities, and our 12 year old girl is autistic. Neither one of them would be receiving an education or health care without sponsorship.

Days like yesterday certainly put my own life back in proper perspective....

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Completing the Triangle

Just thought I'd say a few more words about the triangular piece of land I mentioned yesterday. I'm standing at the southern point, facing away from Blockbuster Video. To my left is Mountside Place. The car is on Heathside Road, but you can't see our old flat because it is even further to the left. (Kind of like me....)


To my right is The Sovereigns - formerly a hotel, but still serving food and drink.


Moving on to the northwest point, this is the main road (A320) that leads toward the town centre. It passes under Victoria Arch and the train tracks. We can get into town just as easily via the pedestrian subway that runs under the train station, since we live roughly equidistant to both.


Finally, here I am at the northeastern point, looking at The Exchange. You can't see our new flat either, because it is hidden behind the blue part of the building. (But still on the left....)


Friday, January 25, 2008

Close, Closer, Closest

Close - I'm standing in the middle of the A320 (Guildford Road), looking north toward Woking's town centre. Just past the parked white van on the right is Mountside Place, which is where we used to live. Although it is situated on the corner of Guildford and Heathside Roads, access to all of the flats is from Heathside. The brick building with white trim just beyond it is the Surrey Police Station, home of the Dumpy Bins! (See "a tale of two views" from 10 January.) The cream coloured building with chimney on the left is The Sovereigns. (See "Happy New Year!" from 2 December.) Even without an internet connection, it remains one of Dave's favourite pubs - perhaps because of the 2 fireplaces....


Closer - On the far right you can see the front of a car on Heathside Road. That is the direction our old flat faced, with a great view of the police station (and those Dumpy Bins!) across the street. All of the cars that are heading toward me are on a section of road appropriately named Station Approach. If you were to head that direction, you would soon pass our new flat on your right, and end up at...the train station!


Closest - Yes, that really is a Blockbuster Video store! It is located at the southern point of a large triangle of buildings. And for reference (again), our old flat is right by that southern point, while our new flat is right by the northeastern point.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heathrow Adventures

On 17 January, Dave's airplane from Heathrow pulled out of the gate right on time at 12:20. It was almost to the front of the takeoff queue when BA 38 crash landed at 12:42. Dave then got to sit on the runway for the next 2 hours. Upon arriving in Baltimore, he only made his connecting flight to Cleveland for several reasons: 1. He didn't wait to retrieve his luggage. 2. It was a short (but brisk!) walk to Gate D10. 3. The security line was short. 4. The connecting flight was 20 minutes behind schedule. Dave boarded the plane, the doors were closed behind him, and off they went. We thought we'd have at least an hour to spend together at the airport between flights, but instead we had less than 5 minutes.

On 21 January, I landed at Heathrow ahead of schedule. When we decided back in November to extend our stay, Dave had been in contact with the Home Office to make any necessary arrangements, so we thought we were all set. Apparently not, because I was stopped at Border and Immigration Control. After being photographed, fingerprinted, and detained for over 7 hours, I was given temporary admission for 2 weeks. Once Dave returns on Monday, hopefully we can get everything sorted out. Who knew that flying could be so much fun!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And then there was 1

Last Thursday, Dave flew to Cleveland for the CWRU Science Fiction Movie Marathon (a beloved tradition of his for about 30 years) and a visit with his parents. This was his first ride on the shuttle bus between Woking and Heathrow, and it left Chris here on his own for the weekend. I returned from Baltimore on Monday. (Erin drove back to school on Saturday and Sunday, staying overnight in NJ with Aunt Sue to break up the trip. Erin seems to be getting over the mono - finally - but is still not 100%.) Not surprisingly, Chris had managed just fine for those few days, and the flat was in good shape after its 3 weeks of "man time."


As I've mentioned before, the bus pulls in right outside the train station. This allows people to easily continue their journey by train, or retrieve their vehicle from a nearby car park. In our case, it was just a short walk back to our first flat, and it is now an even shorter walk back to our second flat.


Taken from the bus stand, you can see our building (the blue and white one), and even the window to the master bedroom (third floor of the white part, first one on the left). The windows to Chris' bedroom and the lounge (living room, dining room, office) are blocked by the brown office building, which is also what we see from our other lounge window that faces it.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Final Flashback

Okay, this is my last look back at August. We closed out that month with the Woking Summer Festival, which I wrote about in my September post entitled Just Another Weekend. At that time I mentioned the Surrey Pipe Band...


...and the Punch and Judy show...


...but I failed to show pictures of either one. I also didn't tell you about the vintage car show that included Field Marshal Montgomery's Rolls Royce - the first private car to land with Allied Forces on D-Day.



Nor did I show what a beautiful walk home it was along the Basingstoke Canal towpath.


I've had fun reviewing my 2007 photos, and choosing a few more to share. Soon I'll be back in Woking, with days that are currently warmer but shorter than those in Baltimore. And then I'll start taking pictures for my 2008 portfolio!

Friday, January 18, 2008

St Paul's Cathedral

August was certainly warmer than January, but it was not always sunny. I arrived in the country with a long list of London churches to visit, and I started with St Paul's Cathedral. From Waterloo Station, it's a nice walk along the South Bank before crossing the Millennium Footbridge.


And this is the scene with which you are greeted. Whenever possible, I take a guided tour and/or climb the tower of a cathedral. The views from the Stone Gallery (just below the dome) are great, and the views from the Golden Gallery (just above the dome) are even better!


Even on a cloudy day you can see far to the west...


...and to the east.


Admission prices and photo policies vary widely among cathedrals. In this case, I have only my memories of the interior. And only after exiting did I finally get to admire the front!


St Paul's is often described as Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece. But he designed over 50 City churches after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Some were rather ordinary, while others were almost as spectacular as St Paul's. (I'm partial to the ones with domes.) And to the best of my knowledge and belief, by the end of the fall I had visited all of those that were still standing and open to the public. What will I do now? Never fear - I'm still working my way through a list of recommended cathedrals that are just a day trip from London....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Greenwich in August

Dave just sent all of our 2007 pictures from his computer in London to my computer in Baltimore. (Thanks, Dave!) Isn't technology wonderful? I decided that I'd try to shake off the January doldrums by looking back at some of our summer adventures, while looking forward to the warmer and longer days that are on their way again...but not soon enough.

Our very first trip into London was the first Sunday in August. (That was also the one and only time we drove in.) It was the hottest day of the summer (27 C / 81 F), and I only wished it had been even warmer! As suggested by those in the know, we traveled between Westminster and Greenwich by boat. Here Dave and I are standing in both the western and eastern hemispheres, with the red line behind us marking the Prime Meridian.


After our visit to the Royal Observatory, we soaked up a beautiful view. (Lots of people soaked up the sun that day too!) The buildings at the bottom of the hill were designed by Sir Christopher Wren. They first housed Greenwich Hospital until 1869, and then the Royal Naval College until 1998. Across the River Thames is Canary Wharf.


We also got nice water views of many major attractions that day. I particularly liked those of the Tower of London...


...and the London Eye, both of which we would visit later that month!


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2 for a fiver?

what worried about how chris and i are fairing at meal time? seeing as to how stir-fry veg was on sale 3 for 2 quid, chris and i have been splitting our meals between stir-fry with various sauces and a variety of indian concoctions. last week we followed this up with nightly viewing of hugh's chicken run on itv4.
the rather interesting show was all about the life of the 2 for a fiver chicken. lately we have turned to watching reruns of dr. who, a bit more light hearted :)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

a tale of two views

it's a sad sad thursday here in woking (yea it might rain too). i used to look forward to thursdays as each week out of my 'office' window i would get to watch ... 'the dumpy bins guy'!

here he is getting rid of the surrey police department's worst.

i particularly liked the way he managed the bins such that the automatic gate never closed while he was performing his task, which was, of course, to dump the bins!!

i still remember one week when a replacement driver came and got it all wrong. tried to back the entire truck in through the gate. stopped up both lanes of traffic. took forever. you get the idea.

alas, from my new window, i get to look at mostly empty offices (the 6 january post includes the corner of the building). this is much less interesting than the goings on behind the surrey police station! perhaps later this spring i'll wander over, bring lunch, make it kind of an occasion.... well back to work.

past posts that you might also be interested in

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Martian

One of the books I checked out of the library yesterday was The War of the Worlds (1898), by H.G. Wells. He lived in Woking (on Maybury Road, just north of and parallel to the train tracks) when he wrote the story, and much of the novel's action takes place in this general area. In fact, the first Martian cylinder landed on nearby Horsell Common! In honour of the 100th anniversary of publication, The Martian was built in 1998. Here is a closeup of Erin and Chris trying to open the alien pod, but to no avail.


This photo gives you a better view of the pod, as well as the Martian itself. I decided in the fall that this was the perfect setting for our 2007 Christmas card picture, but then I had to wait for Erin to return to actually take it. The horizontal shot was the winner, and the vertical shot was the runner up. Procrastinator that I am (and cheap), cards didn't go in the mail until I was back in the States in January. I wonder what new excuse I'll have for being late in 2008?


Just for good measure, here are a few more shots I took earlier in the month. It was sunny that day!



Some of you know how apprehensive I was about this temporary relocation. And Erin and I are glad to currently be home. But I'm also looking forward to my return to Woking. This time it will be a reunion with familiar surroundings, new friends, and - most importantly - Dave and Chris!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

It's the Little Things

It's been great catching up with people back home. The near record temperatures around 70 degrees F (21 C) haven't been too bad either! I spent the first day or so trying to flush the toilet from the right side of the tank rather than the left. But driving on the right came back immediately, especially since I only drove on the left for a week. I've been to my favorite stores (Mars for food and Target for supplies) well after the early closing hours in Woking, and I've picked up a few books at my library. Which inanimate objects have I missed the most? Definitely my full size washer and my separate full size dryer! Which thoughts have surprised me the most? My sudden desire for a smaller house and fewer possessions. I tried to donate blood today, but failed the iron test by about my largest margin ever. Apparently drinking tea (my new English habit) has a negative effect, because the tannins decrease iron absorption. Here I thought I was good to go because the restriction on living in the UK for 3 months or less only applies between the years 1980 and 1996. Total time in Europe cannot exceed 5 years, but I've got a ways to go there. So run out in my place to give the gift of life if you can! (And I'll cut back on that tea....)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Flat with a View

Location, Location, Location. Our old flat was within an easy walk of school, the train station, church, and the amenities of town. That's why we chose the new flat as well. Looking right from our balcony, you can see the south entrance to the station. It's also where the buses that shuttle between Woking and Heathrow arrive (and depart!) every 30 minutes.


Looking left, you can see the trains themselves. The one on the left is heading into London. There is frequent high speed service into Waterloo Station with a journey time of only 27 minutes. (We ventured into London by rental car soon after we moved here. It was a quiet Sunday morning (thus no congestion charge and free parking), but we drove for over an hour. Never again....) The train on the right is heading out to Basingstoke, and then continuing in any number of different directions. Our trips that way have included Oxford, Salisbury, and Winchester.


The first year after Dave and I got married, our apartment backed up to the Rapid in Cleveland, as well as a commercial train line. These trains are much quieter! So we're looking forward to the view from our new flat. But I'm sure Dave already misses our old flat and the Dumpy Bins guy....

Saturday, January 5, 2008

of snow and sun

does it snow in woking? .... yes! ... well ... er ... a ... kind of ...
the little white spots in the following picture are not my dandruff, but the flash bouncing off of (and probably melting) the winter's first (and perhaps only?) snow!

and thanks to well cleaned windows across the street, the next morning it appeared as though the sun was streaming in through our north facing window!

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Tale of Two Flats

A quick reminder, now that Dave and I will be writing from both sides of the Atlantic for the next few weeks: If the sentences start with capital letters, it's from me. If not, it's from Dave.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." To make a very long story very short, we spent most of November weighing the pros and cons of extending our stay, and the pros finally won out. Unfortunately, one of the cons was that we had to find a new place to live for the next six months. This is the outside of Mountside Place. It contains 21 units, and ours was #19. (If you want an inside tour, go back to the August postings.) The slanted window in the corner is the kitchen, as is the small window to its left. Further left are the 2 windows of the master bedroom where Chris settled in, while to the right of the kitchen are the 2 windows of the living area. Our bedroom window (also slanted) is hidden, but you can see the corner of the slanted roof peeking out just past the living area.


This is a view from the slanted kitchen window. See the blue building? It contains our new flat. Thus, hauling all of our stuff on foot from one place to the other was not nearly as hard as it could have been.


We actually live in the white part of the building on the 3rd of 4 floors. All the way to the left you see the balcony to our living area. Moving right is Chris' bedroom window, and then ours. This flat is much smaller yet more expensive than our first one. And designed primarily for corporate and executive lets, Dave has aptly described it as more of a sterile hotel suite than a home with character. But the rental market is still a hot one in Woking, and this was our best option, so we took it. As always, visitors are welcome. Just be prepared for very close quarters!


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

and then there were 2

first the where's waldo challenge - this makes the third in a theme. identify the theme and find the other two entries ....

well judy and erin headed back to the states today. that leaves chris and i in the new flat (now the bachelor pad!) we are already planning lots of curries, bad movies, and of course grunting (picture tim taylor).

here they are about to board the bus. do check out the fine woking football club scarf that judy is sporting!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Trafalgar Square is out. The River Thames is in. Thus, if you decide to brave London for New Year's Eve, that's where you want to be. We were standing on Westminster Bridge watching and listening to Big Ben as it sounded midnight. We were then treated to a spectacular display of fireworks that shot up from the Thames and out from the Eye. Here's hoping that 2007 was good to you, and that 2008 brings more of the same!