Saturday, April 30, 2005

British Library, King's Cross, & St. Pancras

My eldest daughter, J2, is attending a dance lesson class in central London. So every Saturday we have to take her there at 1:30PM and come back for her by 5:30PM. I don't want to hang around there for 4 hours and I certainly don't want to go home and come back again for her. What to do? Well, explore London of course! We've gone to the 'big smoke' countless of times but there are still pockets that I haven't explored.

Last weekend me and J3 just walked around the vicinity of where J2 was dancing. The walk was not that far but I was feeling so fatigued on the way back due to the heavy backpack I'm carrying. Feels like a ton. It must have been with all the 'abubots' of J3 crammed in there. Anyway, just about a block away is the British Library. I seem to remember some controversy surrounding it during its inaguration. Can't quite recall what it was. That afternoon it was a sparsely populated place. We just got to view the main reception lobby and their small museum of showcase pieces in their collection. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed.

Among the impressive items they have in the John Ritblat Gallery are the Magna Carta, Shakespeare's first collection of his plays circa 1623, Codex Sinaiticus - earliest New Testament manuscript in Greek, Gutenberg Bible, da Vinci's notebook (not code), handwritten lyrics and notes of the Beatles, among other things. They also have another gallery where they show how book making and publishing evolved. Very educational, indeed. We did not go in the inner sanctum of the library because you have to register and provide documents, etc. to be given access.

Avoiding lots of hassles so we kept putting one foot in front of the other which led us outside to St. Pancras train station that was only a few metres away. Currently it's closed for renovation. Of all the trains stations here this is my favourite - a classic Victorian Gothic Revival building. Beautiful and majestic. You might find its sight familiar due to it being used in Harry Potter 2 movie when Harry and Ron rode the flying car. And right beside St.Pancras is its ugly sister, the King's Cross train station. Low, squat, very functional, unelaborate mass of concrete, steel, and glass. Roads and subways (pedestrian underpasses) are being built and renovated so there are loads of scaffolding and contruction palaver about, which made it even uglier. Despite this, it's famous for its non-existent 9 3/4 platform - you know from the Harry Potter books. We were tempted to go in and see if they made anything special between platform 9 and 10.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

AWOL Pellet

The dreaded thing happened, my youngest daughter's favourite beanie baby Pellet (which I blogged here before) disappeared. It has been misplaced before but we always manage to find it for J3. Though this time we turned the house inside out we still couldn't find the fake hamster. My guess is it fell off the car the last time J3 brought her. Poor J3 was crying and whimpering for more than 2 days running especially during bedtime when she would always ask, "Where is Pellet?" After 2 days, I couldn't take it any longer I decided to look for another Pellet from the shops. Problem is, that model was released last 2000 and they don't make them anymore. I thought of giving J3 a different substitute like a beanie dog or cat. But Pellet is what she was crying for. Good thing I remembered eBay has lots of beanie baby resellers. After ordering one , soon enough it came through the post. You could just imagine J3's joy when she opened the envelope. Now they're together again day and night. She even takes pictures of it (see pic above). I'm even considering buying another one in case this Pellet goes missing again.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Deep Breathing

Feeling of tiredness and exhaustion often takes over me from the early evenings onwards even if I am just puttering around the house. Stress is the main culprit coupled with fatigue or plain overwork. When it comes, I usually catch myself sort of holding my breath in my upper chest area and I am often doing shallow breathing. This causes me to expend unnecessary efforts to keep things in that upper area. It’s no surprise then that tiredness soon set in. Typically my lower ribcage will ache and pain in the whole of my torso will follow. I analysed what I was doing and thought that one of the things I definitely have to change is my breathing.

I called on an old friend who mentioned to me before the benefits of deep breathing. He extolled the benefits of it such as – stress reducer, tension reliever, and promotes good functioning of our internal organs through the proper oxygenation of our blood – among other things. The following deep breathing exercises he passed on to me. Undoubtedly it helped me a lot in relieving tiredness and stress even if I only do it once in a while in a day (well actually should be ideally done all the time). Once I start noticing the beginning of exhaustion I do deep breathing which more often than not starts to reverse the state of things at the time.

* How to do deep breathing:
  1. Sit up straight or stand with your spine straight. Relax.
  2. Inhale by starting to fill up your lower lungs. Your belly should expand. This is breathing with your diaphragm.
  3. Next fill up your upper lungs. You should see your chest area expand. DO NOT raise your shoulder while you do this. The chest will expand naturally (and your shoulders slightly rise) as you inhale. Fill up your lungs to the max that you can until you feel like bursting. These 2 stages of inhaling should be done in one continuous motion.
  4. Exhale air from the upper lungs slowly.
  5. Then expel air from the lower lungs completely by contracting abdominal muscles.

You can start doing the above in the count of 3: breathe in to the count of 3, pause to the count of 3, exhale to the count of 3, pause again to the count of 3. Once you get the hang of it increase count to 4 then to 5.

There are some very informative websites complete with illustrations on how to do this. Click here, here, and here for more info.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Strange and Funny Names 1

I've been living here in the UK for quite awhile and even in the first few months I was struck by how strong the influence of language to their culture. It's no wonder that in such a small country, with everyone more or less speaking the same language, you can find a lot of different accents depending not just on the region but also on the socio-economic level they're in. In just one city alone, London for example, you find so many variations of the English accent. This language-centric trait is also reflected in their love of the written word which accounts for their rich literary heritage and their first-rate theatrical traditions. But for me, the most intriguing and interesting consequence would be the use in everyday colloquial terms. Often when travelling all over the country I would delight or laugh out loud at the strange and funny names I encounter.

With this post I hope to chronicle via pictures all the weird, bizzarre, or sometimes hilarious names not only here in UK but from all over the world. Mind you these are authentic and not at all 'photo enhanced'.

Let's start with something that even an NHS hospital tried to rename as a 'Spotted Richard':

As you would have guessed, Spotted Dick (or Spotted Dog) is not some man's private parts with a bad case of chicken pox. But a suet-based steamed dessert (pudding) with raisins (the spots) and served with custard.

Faggots are not some un-PC name for a maligned member of the society but meatballs made of pork liver, bread, and spices. Welsh in origin though I think some English counties would contest that.