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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

We went to Hampton Court Palace for my birthday yesterday.

I loved it.

We did the childrens' audiotour, which is shorter than the adult one (appropriate for me, since my attention span seems to be diminishing with age) and also very funny. The narrator's comments on a huge portrait featuring a pallid, naked King George balanced on a menancing looking dolphin were priceless.

And we walked through the (beautiful) grounds, and went through the maze. They have a sound installation in the maze at the moment; it's very well done. You hear bells and distant laughter and music as you progress through it - definitely adds to the experience. The middle of the maze is disappointing, though. It's just a boring empty space with a sundial and an arbitrary bench. No magic to it at all. I'm hoping that they plan to do something more interesting with it at some stage; last time we visited it was at least green and leafy in the middle.

(Quick book recommendation, for anyone else who likes mazes - Larry's Party, by Carol Shields).

Some pictures from the day ...

Post-cardy shot of the Thames. (The palace is next to the Thames; handy for getting your unwanted wives to the Tower of London by barge.)
Birthday girl by the Thames.
Soph and Em with the swans. They didn't have any bread, so Sophie tried giving a leaf to the swan. It tasted it, and then seemed (understandably) annoyed.
View of the palace.
Ducks and water and trees.
Another one of the grounds; the smooth, straight paths and the shaped trees make a very soothing, elegant picture.
Kids tossing bits of gravel about in some game that Stephen invented. You can see they really benefit from all these visits to places of historical interest.
Nice picture of Emily.
Evidently, some of us haven't entirely shed our primate ancestry.
Carousel in the late afternoon. It gets dark insanely early here; the sun sets before 4pm at the moment.

When we got home, I made my birthday cake. Then we walked down to a local Italian restaurant for dinner. A really nice meal, and a real treat for me, as we haven't eaten out in months. I see why people talk about being sobered up by cold air; after the meal it was quite a shock to the system to step out from a warm, glowing restaurant into the icy cold. The happy red-wine glow dissipated instantaneously. But we drank coffee and ate birthday cake at home, which provided a sugary caffeiney buzz of its own.

All in all, a lovely birthday.

Today has been pleasant too. The kids and I have been pottering around here, though poor Bobs had to go in to work. But I'm glad that, even though he had endure the pain of getting up early, he didn't have that awful really-don't-want-to-go-to-work feeling he used to have in Orlando.

The house smells yummy. Bobby gave me a bread machine for my birthday, and I'm using it for the first time today. And I have a chicken, leek and lentil casserole in the slowcooker. Good winter food.

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