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April 2007

March 2007

Springtime in London

Regent's Park, north London
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

After a pretty mild winter, spring has arrived in London. The daffodils are blooming. The trees are budding.  Londoners have pulled out their t-shirts and miniskirts from the backs of their closets.  It's been in the low 60s/high 50s all week. Sadly, it's not going to last. Temperatures are forecast to fall to just 40F (5 celsius) by Monday. But at least we'll have a nice sunny St. Patrick's Day!

That said, the Two Crabs are NOT happy about the early spring. That's because the Two Crabs and friends are getting psyched up for their upcoming ski trip to Meribel in the French Alps. The weather has been rather crappy there lately (too warm, no snow). But the good news is our London cold snap will move down to France next week. The temperatures in Meribel will fall from 50 to 25, with a foot of new snow forecast for Monday. Woo hoo!

Click on the Flickr icon to see more London springtime photos taken yesterday in St. Regent's park.


Strangest charity campaign ever

Lenny_2 Every few months in the US, people are encouraged to wear certain articles of clothing to bring attention to various causes. In October, for example, Americans are asked to wear pink on a certain day and donate money to fight breast cancer. On other days, people are asked to wear jeans to work. Nothing too outlandish.

The same days are set aside in the UK, but nothing as silly as "Red Nose Day."  This Friday, 16 March, Britons are encouraged to wear foam red clown noses. It's part of Comic Relief campaign to raise funds for charities in Britain and Africa.  Students are urged to wear funny hats, big ties, big shoes, and even pajamas to school (the usual British school uniform requirement is waived on Friday). 

And unless you are an American or living under a rock, there's no excuse to not know about Red Nose Day. The event has been bashed into our brains on British television, radio, Tube ads, newspapers, magazines and store displays encouraging shoppers to pay 2 Quid for a foam nose that probably cost about 2 Pence to make by some 5-year-old kid in Bangladesh.  The ads all feature various smiling and attractive British celebrities wearing the obligatory Red Nose, as if to say: "They're doing it! Why aren't you? You pathetic prat!" (BritSpeak for idiot).

Midlandslaunch06 I, for one, will NOT be wearing the Red Nose.  Call me a party-pooper, but there is NO WAY i'm going out in public with a nose bigger than the giant honker I was born with.  Reminds me of that Seinfeld episode, where Kramer refused to wear the AIDS ribbon. Nope. Won't do it.  I will not wear the clown nose.   First of all, clowns scare me.  Second, I fail to see how wearing a foam red nose will save a starving child in Ethiopia. I'd rather hand over my £2 to a poor kid in East London.  And how much money was spent on this huge ad campaign? I bet that cash could have built quite a few schools and clinics in Africa...or inner city London.

Doh. My bad...

An alert reader has kindly pointed out a huge glaring error in our last blog entry.

The UK will spring forward to BST (British Summer Time) at 2 a.m. on March 25...NOT April 1 as was printed in my desktop calendar for which I paid 1 Quid at "Pound Planet."  The date was, however, printed accurately on our £5 Paris calendar purchased at Borders Books. I guess the old adage is true: you get what you pay for!

On another matter: Apologies for the lack of updates to this blog lately. The Two Crabs have both been swamped with work. I have my first byline in this Friday's issue of a certain best-selling celebrity U.S. magazine. Woo hoo! 

And the second reason for a lack of posts is, frankly, the crabs are suffering from a bad case of spring fever!  Yup. Springtime has arrived in London. The daffodils are in full bloom. The trees are budding. The Thames River seagulls are singing and crapping on our window sills.  The weather over the past three days has been sunny with temperatures in the low 60s!   Bring it on!

"When it's three o'clock in New York, it's still 1938 in London" -- Bette Midler

On Saturday night, New York and London will be only four hours apart.  That's because -- for reasons that defy logic -- the U.S. is switching to Daylight Savings Time on March 11, two weeks earlier than normal. Europe will catch up when we "spring forward" on April 1.  But that means that for two weeks, the USA will be one hour closer to the rest of Planet Earth. When it's 12 o'clock in Washington DC (Eastern Standard Time), it will be just 4 p.m. in London (Greenwich Mean Time.). And when it's noon in Los Angeles (Pacific Standard Time), it will be 7 p.m. Londontime.   

Here's a bit of trivia for ya:  The inventor of Daylight Savings Time was a Briton named William Willett. His great-great grandson is Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, whose biggest hit was a song named "Clocks"!  (Everything I've ever learned, I've learned from Wikipedia).

Way up here in northern Europe, our days are already getting quite long, but on the wrong end.  The sun is already shining bright as day by SIX in the bloody morning!   And it certainly doesn't help that our bedroom faces East. The Two Crabs are looking forward to springing forward, if only to catch up on our sleep!   

As for the evening, the sun is now setting over London at 6:00 p.m., and it gets pitch-dark by about 6:30 p.m. In about three months, the sun will be setting closer to 9:30 p.m.!  Yup, I think we're ready for summer already.  I think the Queen should give us some sort of reward for having survived a second dreary winter in London!

Rhetorical questions of the day

Why is every other British woman between the ages of 18-35 named "Sarah"???
(Pronounced "SAHR-ahhhh" here.)

And why do Brits insist on referring to women over the age of 18 as "girls"? I'm not just talking about in everyday speech. I talking newspapers, adverts, even the police. Just last week there was a poster in the Tube from the police seeking identification of a missing woman. It contained a security camera photograph of the woman and stated she was 28 years old. Above her photo, in giant 72-point type, the headline read: "HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GIRL?"

R.I.P. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace: 2004-2007

Deanesmay226starbuck1 Posted without comment, because I'm still too fracking speechless after Sunday's heartbreaking, emotional episode of "Battlestar Galactica." 

Yes, I'm a fracking geek.

UPDATE: Ok here's my theory. Starbuck is a Cylon. She'll be back in the Season 4 premiere. Alternate theory: STARBUCK, not Laura Roslin, is the chosen one who will lead her people to salvation.

Americans buy British icons

93578537_9fc8a2785d Two of London's most well-known tourist attractions -- Madame Tussauds and the London Eye -- are now in the back pockets of New World colonists. 

The American investment group Blackstone paid $2 billion for the chain of wax museums and the giant London ferris wheel.  Blackstone already owns Sea Life aquariums and the Danish theme park chain Legoland. Americans also get Alton Towers, the largest amusement park in the UK located just outside London, and the chain of cheesy Dungeon attractions found in just about every major European city, like the London Dungeon.  This new deal makes Blackstone the second-largest theme park operator in the world, after Disney. 

Besides London, Madame Tussauds already has locations in New York, Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Amsterdam. Two new ones will open soon in Hollywood and Washington, D.C.

Since living in London, we've been to the London Eye about 6 or 7 times, because every tourist who comes into town wants to ride the wheel!  We should get some sort of locals discount for all the pounds we've forked over to them.  Mr. Crab has been Madame Tussauds once. I was pleasantly surprised; it wasn't as cheezy as I thought it would be. Some of it was downright cool, like being able to touch the statues. Every girl was posing for pictures kissing the Brad Pitt wax figure, and every guy was posing with their hands on Jennifer Lopez's bum (above). 

Cardiff: Welsh for "Land Where Umbrellas Go to Die"

This headline and photograph best summarizes our weekend trip to Cardiff, capital of Wales. I can't recall the last time I was in a city that was SO wet and SO windy.   One drunk Welshman told us a local saying about the Welsh weather:  "Wales keeps the rain so we can drown the Englishmen away!"


We took a coach (long-distance bus) from London to Cardiff. Our first long bus trip in Europe. Total time 3 hours, and just £8 ($15) per person, one-way, about 1/3 the price and 10 minutes shorter than a train for the same journey. Saturday was actually turned out to be a nice day. We managed to hit the big tourist sites including Cardiff Castle, a beautiful park behind the castle, saw a rowing race, wandered through small downtown pedestrian zone and finished off the evening with dinner at Cardiff Bay, which reminded us of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, only much much smaller.  We stayed in a cute B&B about 15 minutes walk from downtown called the Lincoln House. Nice rooms and traditional Welsh breakfast (which is the exact same thing as an English Breakfast). On Sunday we hit the Cardiff National Museum and a few pubs.

On Sunday, we woke up to the sound of rain. And "rain" is an understatement. We're talking about pouring SHEETS of water that were coming down at 45 degree angles.  It rained this way for the ENTIRE day.  We had to check out of our B&B by 11am so there was nothing we could do but suck it up and drive on.

I HATE rain. My tolerance for rain has improved since we moved to London, but nothing prepared us for Welsh rain. It rained the ENTIRE day. No breaks. Even worse, we were not properly dressed for the weather. Instead of wearing a waterproof ski jacket or parka like locals, we were wearing jeans and wool coats that soaked up water like sponges. It SUCKED!  At one point, we had to walk 20 minutes in a torrential downpour from Cardiff central to Cardiff Bay.  And our umbrellas -- which we got free from the Evening Standard newspaper -- were absolutely worthless. They kept turning inside-out and finally the little metal arms snapped off, one by one.

Mosaic7041195_1 As the sun began to set, it briefly stopped raining. By this point, our umbrellas were done for. Practically every trash can in Cardiff was stuffed with dead "Brollys". We took a cab back to our hotel, retrieved our luggage, took another cab to the train station and got out of dodge on the last train to London.

Cardiff was a neat little town to visit, but unless you are a duck, I would not recommend living there or staying longer than two days. 

Click on the FLICKR icon at the top-right to see all our photos!

Wales or Bust

800pxflag_of_wales_2svg The Two Crabs are taking a weekend trip to Cardiff, capital of Wales. It's our first trip to the western principality of Wales, one of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom (the others being England, Scotland and Northern Ireland). 

Wales is home to such celebrities as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Charlotte Church. Woo hoo!  Photos and full report TK!

Incidentally, yesterday was St. David's Day, honoring the patron saint of Wales. Happy St. David day! 

Right: The Welsh flag. According to legend, the red dragon was the battle standard of King Arthur.



Mccartneylarge From Mr. Crab:  My second London celebrity encounter story in as many days:  Today, I took a leak next to Paul McCartney!

Early this morning, I received a call from one of my clients, asking me to go cover a court hearing in the Paul McCartney-Heather Mills divorce case.

Acrimonious is an understatement to the McCartney's marriage woes. Both Paul and Heather have been waging their battles in the press, making some wild accusations ever since they split last May. 

The case was being heard behind closed doors at the Royal Court of Justice, more commonly known as "The High Court." in central London.  The complex contains nearly 100 courtrooms spread out over several buildings. McCartney's nor Mills' names did not appear on any of the daily dockets which are posted at the door, informing the public what trials are taking place that day.  But the courtroom and docket number had been leaked that morning.

When I got to the courtroom entrance about 10:30am, there were already 5 reporters milling about. The hearing was closed to the public, so this was as far as we could go. Paul came in first, smiled and said "good morning" to the press. Heather came in a few steps behind him, not looking happy at all.   

Peering through the glass doors, we cold see Heather and Paul, sitting less than 10 feet from each other on the same bench, flanked by lawyers and facing the judge. Outside, more reporters showed up, and we spent the next 90 minutes basically just staring at the door, occasionally getting shooed away by the court usher (BritSpeak for "bailiff").   At about noon, it appeared to be all over.

Sir Paul was smiling, shaking hands with his lawyers, looking very upbeat.  He walked out of the room, past us media whores, and through a side door.  "Where does that go?" I asked a reporter.  "The Gents." (BritSpeak for men's room).  "I dare you to follow him," said the reporter. None of the other guys were making a move. Why not? It's just a toilet.

I ran out and headed to the tiny loo. When I opened the door, Sir Paul was finishing up doing his business at one of the two urinals in the room. I walked up next to him and took the urinal to his left, not saying a word. When he finished his business, he walked over to the sink, which was just over my shoulder. Finally I got the courage and, from the urinal, I muttered something stupid like, "Oh! Sir Paul! How's it going?"  His revealing, exclusive response: "Hiya. I'm alright."  He ran his wet fingers through his hair, dried his hands and walked out.

And before you dirty buggers ask: NO, I did not glance down at the Beatle's bits!