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March 2007

February 2007

Our first London celebrity story

Damon Albarn of Blur
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

I'm always jealous when friends and coworkers tell us they saw so-and-so walking down the street of London.  One of my coworkers saw Rod Stewart at Harrods on the second day he was in the UK.  Another coworker sees Madonna on her bike regularly. Another dude lives a block from Boy George.  Sure, I've seen plenty of celebrities like Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Craig, Daniel Radcliffe, and Queen Elizabeth. But those were all in prearranged settings like movie premieres and press conferences.

Last night, after 18 months in London, we saw our first celebrity in the "wild": Damon Albarn. He's best known as the lead singer of Blur (famous for "Song Number Two", aka "The Woo-Hoo Song").  Most recently, he became the co-creator of the virtual band, Gorillaz. And last month, he released a new concept album called "The Good, the Bad and the Queen" with Paul Simonon of The Clash and Verge guitarist Simon Tong.

On the spur of the moment last night, the Two Crabs decided to venture to west London to check out a club called Harlem Soul Food, which specializes in USA southern comfort food. We were going to check out an American expat country singer named Cheyne Pride and the Tenderhearts. 

The bar is divided into two floors, a main street level bar, and a tiny dark basement room with a small bar used for live music.  When we got there, we spotted Cheyne and introduced ourselves. Sadly, she said, her band had been bumped. By whom, we asked?  Oh, just some guy from a little band called Blur!

Damon Albarn then proceeded to jam on a Melodica wind piano with about 10 other people, one of whom was an African fellow in this photo. I forget his name, but he is known as the Jimmy Hendrix of whatever that instrument is called that he was playing. Another guy with lightening fingers played a mandolin. And a Spanish dude played bass. Cheyne's band members joined in with guitars and percussion. 

It was crazy mad, free-form, fun. I can't even describe the music. It was like improv jazz mixed with Spanish, Greek and African sounds. 

Of all the times NOT to have my camera!  Hence, this crappy shot taken with my crappy camera phone.  PS: Do not, under any circumstance, ever purchase the Motorola L6 mobile phone. It's RUBBISH!

Running with Scissor Sisters

From Mr. Crab:  In my increasingly frustrating attempt to lose 10 pounds by the end of March for our big ski trip, I've started jogging again. This is not an easy pastime for me because, quite frankly, I find jogging to be the absolute most boring form of exercise in the universe. I'd rather watch paint dry. Or grass grow. Or water boil. Or endure a visit to the dentist. Or an hour of the Bill O'Reilly show. You get my drift. Yet for other people like my sister in Paris, or my friend Laura in Virginia, running is a pleasure. I wish I had the same feeling. Bottom line: I hate running.

And if there's anything I hate more than running, it's running in bad weather. It's been raining in London all week, a typical British winter day. Luckily it hasn't been very cold -- low 50s F today --  but the drizzle made it feel colder.  Combine that with a slight hangover, and I had zero motivation to run today. But I bit the bullet, strapped on my dusty "trainers" (BritSpeak for sneakers) and hit the pavement, tearing down the sidewalk with my iPod and in hand, blaring the Scissor Sisters!

I set a goal for myself to run all the way from our flat in north London to the Thames River without stopping. A distance of 1.72 miles as the crow flies, but more like 2.25 miles on the road. Not that far. But have you ever run in the city? Against vehicle and pedestrian traffic? In the rain?  It wasn't as easy as it sounds. And since it's been so long since I've jogged, those 2 miles felt more like 5. By the time I got to St. Paul's Cathedral -- dodging camera-totting tourists and well-suited bankers -- I was "knackered". (BritSpeak for dead tired. Although originally, "knackered" meant you were worn out after a long night of sex!  But now it just means you're tired, perhaps in need of a "kip," BritSpeak for a nap).

Vlstjohnsgate When I got a glimpse of the river, I did a 180 and headed back to Angel.  I made a slight detour to run through Smithfield Market, the largest wholesale meat market in London and also the site where William "Braveheart" Wallace was disemboweled, drawn & quartered. But when I came out of the market, I somehow made a wrong turn and ended up on a side road named St. John Lane instead of the road I wanted, St. John Street. That's when I saw what looked like a small castle in the middle of a block of modern office buildings. I was "gobsmacked!" (BritSpeak for shocked, surprised, speechless).

I stopped running and strolled over to this beautiful ancient ruin to examine it further. It turns out to be St. John's Gate (pictured). According to Wikipedia, the gate was built in 1504 and was once the entrance to a priory that housed the Knights Hospitalier. The Knights were a Catholic military order founded in 1070 whose mission was to protect pilgrims traveling from London to Jerusalem during the Crusades. They were a brother organization to the better-known Knights Templar, who built Templar Church in London and whose history has spawned a slew of conspiracy theories, books and films like "The Da Vinci Code".   St. John's Gate also houses a small museum to the Knights Hospitalier and its offshoot, St. John Ambulance.

Eighteen months living in London and I had never seen this magnificent structure! We still have so much to explore in our own town. And I probably never would have seen St. John's Gate if I had not gone jogging today. 

I think I'm going to keep up with this jogging thing.

A Day in the Life of Two Crabs: Feb. 26, 2007 - 8:00 a.m.

A Day in the Life: 24 Feb 2007
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

A photographic essay of one lazy London Saturday in February. We never ventured more than 5 blocks from our home the entire day!   Today's weather forecast: 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11 Celsius) and morning rain showers, followed by periods of sun.

08:00:  Wakey-Wakey!

12:12 p.m.

A Day in the Life: 24 Feb 2007
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

EDVI is short for Edward the Sixth, a local gay pub.  The owners don't have much gay pride, because their rainbow flags are all tattered, dirty and wrapped around the flagpoles. They've been that way for at least a year now.  Until recently, you could look inside the pub from the sidewalk, but the pub has recently installed tinted windows for privacy.