My Country Tis of Thee

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Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.Source


And so it is on this Fourth of July in the year 2012 that I find myself, an American citizen, residing in the land from which our forefathers sought their independence.

236 years ago a bunch of men and women fought to establish a new country, away from the oppression of an overbearing king.

A challenging fight for a worthy goal.

Their victory and the resulting independence is so enduring that two centuries later I can get on an airplane, fly for ten hours, and stand here, on the Thames river, and celebrate my freedom.

It’s both ironic and a little bit alienating.

The drafters of the Declaration could never have imagined.

I’d sing the Star Spangled Banner, but these sodding Brits might remind me that our country’s anthem is set to the tune of a British pub song.

I’d sing “My Country Tis of Thee” but that’s just “God Save the Queen” to this lot.

How about God Bless America? Nah, Kate Smith ruined that one for me.

I suppose what I’ll do to mark the day is simply get up from my bed, go to work (it’s not a holiday here) and do my best. I might even quaff a beer and wish I was at a bbq enjoying a sunny summer day rather than another depressing rainy English day.

And next week when I return home to the shores of California, I’ll carry a small smile.

Because I think to truly understand and appreciate my country, I have to leave it every once in a while.

Happy Independence Day, America! May you all eat too many hot dogs and have an extra bowl of homemade ice cream for me.




The river Thames as seen from the Westminster Bridge



Photo Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Photo taken with an iPhone4s and the Camera+ app.




What Does it Mean?

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While wandering the streets and pathways in another country, I always keep my eyes out for street signs.

Sometimes simple graphic depictions say things words cannot.

But this one has me stumped.





No blue dots?

No blues?

No blue color a’tall?

No blue marbles?

No bluing in my laundry?

No blue skying (for those marketing types)?

What?! What do the Brits got against the color blue?

Gah!

I showed this to The Good Man who is seriously a lot smarter than me and he told me it means no stopping (this sign is near a roadway).

How in the utter hell am I supposed to get no stopping from a blue dot with a red slash through it?

Now that I know what it is supposed to mean, this damn sign torments me.

I have to see it every day. It’s located on the path that leads to the bus stop where I catch a public shuttle bus. Every morning and evening I commute with the locals on the bus.

It’s a popular route and most of the time I can’t get a seat, so I stand and hang on to a hand strap.

This isn’t much of a problem, the trip only takes about fifteen minutes.

However.

These traffic roundabouts that British civil engineers seem to liberally scatter about make standing on a bus pretty challenging.

I am a rather sturdy girl but even I am not immune to powerful centrifugal forces. The bus drivers hit the multitude of roundabouts at considerable speed.

On the plus side, I’m building muscles in my upper body as I cling to the hand strap for dear life. My feet keep leaving the ground like Gilligan in a hurricane.

Whoooooaaaa!

Thus ends today’s “things that are weird about England” lecture.

I hope we’ve all learned something.



Photo Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license found in the right column of this page. Photo taken with an iPhone4s and the Camera+ app.



Calling on London

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Just a few snaps from this past weekend. On Sunday I got up all my courage and and went into London all by my little lonesome to have a look around. I just did the touristy thing but it was TOTALLY worth it.

Here’s a few shots from the day. All taken with my iPhone4s and the Camera+ app.

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From Paddington Station comes a statue of Paddington Bear. It’s an adorable little statue, so very endearing.

I had to do a bit of a close crop on this shot because The Most Oblivious Woman In The World was sitting on the base of the statue shoving sushi in her maw. There were plenty of empty seats around and a group of us wanting to take photos of the little bear, but she refused to move.

Ah well.

He is a rather handsome little bear, isn’t he?



Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth


After riding the train into Paddington station and befriending the bear, I caught the tube from Paddington to Westminster. As I came up from the underground, I saw a really pretty sunny London day. Then I saw a whole lot of people facing me snapping away at cameras. I vogued a little bit until I realized the lenses were all pointing skyward.

So I turned around.

And saw this.

Whoa! It’s the Elizabeth Tower which contains the bell called Big Ben. Let me say this, ol’ Ben sure has a pretty sound. At the top of the hour and at every quarter hour the bell rings out.

So delightful.



Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth


From there I wandered around and walked among the buildings, admiring history.

Behind Parliament there is a little park that borders the Thames. While strolling there, a local (a security guard, actually) pointed out this little feature to me.

It’s a carving into the stone at the perimeter of Parliament.

It’s a high water mark showing the highest the Thames has ever been. The date is January 1881. Let me tell you this…the mark is pretty damn high. Scary to think what the flooding must have been like back then.

I was pretty intrigued by the carving both from a historical perspective and with a morbid point of view.

Yes, the photo is crooked. That’s because to get the shot I had to put the phone on the ground and the ground is quite uneven.

I think the tilt gives it character.



Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth


And finally….here is a naughty little gargoyle hanging off of Westminster Abbey. There are thousands of these little guys, all different. I liked the rude faces most of all. I understand that the imps with tongues out are actually downspouts for water. I think they are hilarious.

Obviously, this one has been run through an Instagram filter. This was shared on Twitter and Facebook too, earlier today.



Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth



All photos Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone4s and the Camera+ app.



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