Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Overtaken

I had every intention of writing more about my trip to England, but as soon as I got home, my life was overtaken by events.

First, a quick wrap-up of the trip:

I had a brilliant time meeting my favourite author, Elizabeth Chadwick and her friend Alison. EC's DH is gorgeous; her house is beautiful; her garden is amazing; and, her chocolate cake is awe-inspiring (yes; I have my priorities straight). We went to Swaton to see the effigy of Nicholaa de la Haye, but the church was locked and the key holder was not home, so we did not get in. Note that we did not actually do any damage to the church while we were trying. [g]

The rest of the week was spent site-seeing in a very "busy" manner, probably more so than I would normally like, but I did enjoy spending time with Auntie and I do love England. Next year, however, I think we are going to have to eschew the tour and find a holiday cottage instead. The primary reason we didn't do it this time was because I was leery of driving in the UK, but I'm a good driver and I've decided that if I pick up a hire car outside of London, I will be OK.

And now for the events that overtook me when I got home:

DH accepted a new job, and we are moving back to Texas. Seriously!

And it is happening fast; he is starting his new job on Monday, 4 August.

Yikes!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Shacking up at the Savoy???

Time for the second part of my English odyssey!

To my amazement, we arrived early and customs was a breeze. I was met by a cheerfully efficient driver who took my suitcase and trotted off toward the car. I had gone maybe a quarter of the way across the parking lot when I realised that I was breathing like a winded nag. The driver, OTH, who was quite overweight, a good 15 years older than me, and dragging my heavy suitcase, was rapidly pulling away.

Oh my God, I thought, I can't keep up with that chubby little man pulling my case. I probably have a blood clot! I'm going to drop dead in Heathrow parking lot-- I wonder if my travel insurance will pay for shipping my body home.

Fortunately, my sensible side quickly reasserted itself. “You don't have a blood clot, you daft cow. You have 3 hours of a screaming brat on top of very little sleep. Man up and get your ass in the damned car.” And that's what I did.

On my first night in town, I had dinner with MS, SS, and their adorable daughter Jessica, who appeared to enjoy the puppet princess I brought her. It was fortunate for me that she accompanied her parents as I read the sign that said “ look left,” promptly “looked right” and would have walked into traffic if Jessica had not grabbed my hand and stopped me.

Auntie arrived bright and early the next day and we went off to the V&A for a look at whatever we could set our greedy eyes on in the brief time that we had – alas, there is never enough time to do the V&A properly. I had to be physically restrained from hieing off into the textiles collection, never to be heard from again.

We are with this tour group and after the V&A, we had our first dinner with the group. Everyone seemed very nice and they were all chatting politely about other trips they had taken with the tour company. I, of course, have never taken any sort of tour before and I found myself a bit lost for words to describe the kind of holidays I have enjoyed in the past.

I will pick a hotel in a place that I want to go and sort of stick there for a while,” I said.

But what do you DO?” someone asked.

Well ... I can't say exactly ... I look at whatever is around the place that I've chosen. Like with my trip to London – I called it 'shacking up at the Savoy--'” I meant to go on and say that I stayed at the Savoy and went to see everything in easy reach of the hotel. I wanted to know what it was like to be right THERE. That was the point of the trip. But I never got that far because when I uttered the words 'shacking up at the Savoy' there was a collective gasp – as if I had claimed to be shacking up with Harry Potter or something!

The tour guide said something witty about Winston Churchill liking to shack up at the Savoy but, with the exception of Auntie, who knows how awful I am, all the other ladies in the group looked absolutely scandalized. I tried to appear mortified, but I admit that I was secretly delighted – as long as Auntie wasn't offended, then being a bit scandalous is right up my alley.

The next day we visited Kenwood House and Hampstead Heath, and then, joy of joys, we scored tickets for Spamalot. We were packed like sardines on the tube, but it was well worth it. The performance was brilliant!

Yesterday we went to Flatford Mill, and stopped off for evensong in Norwich Cathedral. They had a bunch of visiting bishops on-hand in preparation for the Lambeth conference, which is happening this week. There was supposed to be free tea for everyone afterwards, but it's just as well I had my tea beforehand because I was ejected from evensong on a mobile phone violation – and it wasn't even my phone!

What happened was that I don't have a mobile that works in the UK, so I had given Auntie's number to DH. I was supposed to remind Auntie to turn off that phone before we went into the church. She forgot and I forgot and naturally, DH chose a moment about 1/3 of the way into the service to ring. Auntie dug in her bag for the phone and it took nearly 4 rings for her to get it. It looked like she was having trouble making sure it was off, so I asked if she wanted me to take it away and make sure it was off. She handed it to me, so I slipped out toward the aisle, intending to simply take a side chair, while I examined the phone closely to be sure it was completely off. Suddenly, it began chirping to indicate there was voice mail, and then, while I was trying to shut it down the rest of the way, the damned thing started ringing again – except it doesn't ring; it plays a song. A nearby usher opened the door and said, “Would you like to go outside? PLEASE!” It was not a question.

I went outside – the call was from DH, so I waited out the rest of the service chatting in the arcade. I could still hear the singing although I fear I missed the immortal words of the Bishops of ... somewhere, and ... somewhere else. Oh well. The lawns were pretty.

I am now at The Dales Hotel in Sheringham. Today we checked out the beach at Sheringham; we rode the steam train to Cromer; we looked at the shops at Holt; we went to see the seals at Blakeney Point; we did other things too numerous to mention. I am completely and utterly exhausted. Tomorrow I am off to Nottingham via Norwich.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Wing and a Prayer -- and a Taser Would Have Been Nice

So far, so good. Please be indulgent on spelling & grammar errors -- posting from an internet cafe -- proofing time = $$$!

I made it to the airport hours early, thanks to my extreme paranoia over missed ferries and rush-hour traffic. DH was kind enough to drive me so that I didn't have to deal with public transportation AND paranoia. I'd spent so much time rushing around getting ready, that I only realized when we were nearly to the airport that I hadn't eaten anything all day – I was starving! Of course, that made me wonder what else I'd forgotten – Doh! – earrings. I hadn't planned to bring any fancy jewelry, but I have pierced ears and I meant to bring a pair of earrings. Normally, I would have been wearing them, but nowadays, you can't be sure even something so tiny won't set off the alarm at airport security and get the TSA baboons chattering (and feeling you up), so I pack them now. Except that I didn't.

Still, I was SO early, it wasn't going to be a problem. SeaTac airport has some excellent restaurants in the main terminal and better still, they have a shop there full of things made by local artists. I had plenty of time to get something to eat, and then duck into the artist shop and buy a cute pair of earrings – and better still, I actually had an excuse to buy something in that shop. I normally go in there, look around wistfully, and drag myself away because it's stupid to pay airport prices for anything. However, in this case, airport prices are a bargain when you compare them to what I would pay if I waited till I got to London. Case closed!

So, that was the plan. Check my luggage. Go through security. Get something to eat. Buy some earrings. Oh, and hit the Barnes & Noble for a book or two to read on the plane. I hadn't had chance to get books either. I have some e-books on Lili (EeePC) but the flight is 10 hours and I wasn't sure I would be able to charge Lili on the plane. (I reserved a seat that supposedly had PC power, but you never know).

I checked my one bag with no problem. I went through security with a handbag and a carry-on. My carry-on and I also had no problem. The gibbering idiots who man the TSA station apparently did not like my handbag. They X-rayed it twice and then they upended it into a plastic bin. Fine. It's not like there was any contraband in there. In addition to my wallet, my travelers' cheques, and my passport cover, a couple of stray aspirin and a piece of gum fell out. The fact that they felt they needed to do this isn't an issue – security is security – it's the way that they treat you while they're doing it that's so annoying.

For one thing, they bark orders at your barefooted self.

"Is this your bag ma'am?”

"Step over here, ma'am, you're holding up the rest of the line.”

Well, DUH, I'm holding up the rest of the line. My carry-on bag with my laptop has just gone through and is down at the other end, with my shoes, while you've just dumped the entire contents of my purse into a plastic box 20 feet away. I would like to leave this area with my purse AND my laptop and my shoes, thank you very much, you f***** baboon!

I was finally able to retrieve and reassemble all of my belongings and make my way off to the terminal. The purse dumping incident ruffled my feathers a bit, and I stayed on auto-pilot while I got on the tram to the international terminal. That's when I remembered the international terminal isn't the one with the nifty artist shop, the good restaurants, and the bookstore. The international terminal is really crappy. They have one Burger King, one cocktail lounge, and one coffee shop. They have a newsstand, but no bookstore, and the only other shop in that terminal is the duty free shop. And the doors on the tram slid closed just as I remembered this. Damn!

I had a hamburger at Burger King, although I needn't have – to my surprise, there have been THREE meal services on the flight. I bought three less than arresting novels at the newsstand. And, I found a pair of tolerable earrings at the duty free. It could have been better, but it could have been worse.

The flight itself has been pretty good as well. It isn't full and I lucked into getting a short row of two seats to myself, which meant I was able to put up the arm rest and curl up and sleep for a few hours.

At this point I would like to thank the unnamed physician who answered the call for help with the medical emergency. The repeated requests for assistance made it sound pretty urgent – I wonder if we wouldn't have had to divert to Nova Scotia if you hadn't been here. In any case, I realize you probably won't be compensated, so thank you for interrupting your flight to help.

And on the flip side – no thanks whatsoever to the father who had to be scolded by the flight attendant for allowing your small son to run up and down the aisles of the darkened plane, pressing the flight attendant call buttons and turning on the overhead lights over OTHER PEOPLES' SEATS while you read the Wall Street Journal.

I think most people understand that it's difficult to travel with small children, particularly on such a long flight. They get tired; they get bored. It's tough on them; it's tough on you. Other passengers know this. We don't expect your child to be the model of perfection for 10 hours straight.

We do, however, expect you to pull your head out of your bony ass and tell him to be quiet when he's yelling LA LA LA at the top of his lungs at 3:00 in the morning on a red-eye flight on which EVERY other person is trying to sleep. And we do expect you to attempt to restrain him when he is running – RUNNING – up and down the aisles of the plane, pressing OUR flight attendant call buttons and OUR overhead light buttons!

The flight attendant who asked you to please keep your child in his seat was the soul of restraint. When she pointed out that the seat control panel is not a toy, I wanted to hug her. Your reply, “He is a child. What can I do?” was completely inappropriate. You were lucky you did not say that to me because I would have been happy to tell you what you could do (and I very much doubt that you would have liked it!)

Apparently, the threat of an incident report was sufficient inducement to you to put down the Wall Street Journal. I think you escaped mildly. When I was waiting for the toilet, the woman in the row ahead of me came out – she said she wished she could taser you!

We are over Birmingham now, and starting our descent. Thus endeth part one of my journey.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lie Back and Think of England

Take your dirty mind out of the gutter; I didn't mean it THAT way. I'm thinking of England because I'm leaving for the airport in a little while and I'm going over the last-minute details of what I need to take. I reckon the most important thing I need to take is an attitude adjustment because I have really got into a habit of casting a jaundiced eye on everything to do with travel. That makes me sad because when I was younger, I loved to travel. Now, I REALLY have to want to go somewhere, in order to force myself to make the effort.

So ... as of this minute ... I am on holiday. I am going to have a wonderful trip. Nothing is going to go wrong. The flight will be on-time and uneventful. I will sleep on the plane and when I wake up, I will not look like shit (yeah right). There will be no delay at customs and the car I have arranged to meet me, will be waiting to take me to the Vanderbilt Hotel. I will arrive in time to take a shower before I meet my friends for dinner. Their daughter will like the puppet princess I have packed in my luggage for her. All will be well.

Friday morning, Auntie's uneventful flight will also be on-time and we will have a fun weekend exploring London. It won't hurt that our hotel is across the street from Harrods and the V&A Museum. On Sunday, we'll go on to The Dales hotel in Sheringham for our sojourn in East Anglia. On Tuesday, I will not miss the train, nor be involved in a train crash, when I go to meet my favourite author, Elizabeth Chadwick. When I arrive at her house, I will do my best not to mortally offend her or any of her friends or family. All will be well.

When I visit Sandringham with Auntie, I will not destroy any priceless antiques. All will be well.

On this trip, I will be involved in no auto accidents, no street altercations, no polical demonstrations. In short, it will be a lovely holiday, on which we will visit interesting sites and meet lovely people. All will be well.

I am open to the abundance of the universe.

I'm really bad at this. I'm taking my new EEEPC, now named Lili. Depending on internet access, there may be reports of just how "well" it all is. (g)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Amazon Antitrust Suit - Small Publishers in the Fray!

I just received this from SPAN, and I think it's good news for small publishers -- I've signed the petition already. Amazon are perfectly entitled to do whatever they like with their store -- and we, as publishers, are perfectly entitled to PUSH BACK if we don't like it. Maybe we won't win, but we have just as much right to try to stop them rolling over us as they have to try to force us into using their crappy printing technology.

Go Booklocker!

Go SPAN!

==============
News Release
July 7, 2008

Small Publishers Association
of North America (SPAN)


1618 West Colorado Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
719-475-1726
www.spannet.org

Contact: Scott Flora, Executive Director
scottflora@spannet.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Amazon Throws its Weight Around,
Book Publishers Push Back

Association rallies independent publishers
to support lawsuit against business giant

Colorado Springs, CO, July 7, 2008 — The Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN), a national trade association dedicated to advancing the interests of independent publishers, launched a campaign to generate support for the class action lawsuit Booklocker.com, Inc. vs. Amazon.com, Inc. The SPAN board recently voted to publicly support the lawsuit.

Booklocker.com, Inc., initiated the class action antitrust lawsuit to challenge the legality of Amazon’s new policy requiring print on demand (POD) publishers using the company’s distribution services to print their books using Amazon’s subsidiary BookSurge. The lawsuit states that Amazon is illegally tying the BookSurge printing to Amazon’s distribution services. According to antitrust law, companies generally cannot require a customer to buy one product in order to have access to another distinct product.

Through its campaign, SPAN aims to generate significant public pressure to compel Amazon to reverse its new policy. The campaign is built on two objectives:

  • To collect 10,000 signatures on a petition that will be sent to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
  • To unite 100+ writer and publisher organizations in opposing the policy and supporting the lawsuit

“From the public outcry over the announcement of Amazon’s new POD policy, we have an army of enthusiastic writers and publishers ready for the next step in getting Amazon to change its policy,” said SPAN Executive Director, Scott Flora. “This campaign is the next step.”

SPAN’s campaign is creating support in five primary ways: uniting voices through the petition; writing letters to Amazon; recruiting other organizations; generating press coverage; and passing the word along friends and colleagues.

About SPAN — SPAN is a nonprofit trade association of independent book publishers with more than 1,000 members. The association provides support to authors and independent book publishers through industry news, business benefits, education, and marketing opportunities.

###

For more information about the SPAN campaign and the lawsuit against Amazon visit www.spannet.org/amazonantitrust-home.htm.
To schedule an interview with Scott Flora, please contact Lisa Gilman at 719-475-1726 or lisa@spannet.org.