June 18 – Kew Gardens, Among Other Things

Cafe in our neighborhood. Just outside of the sex alley.

Can I borrow this sign and update it for USPS? It’s nice if public services are able to pay for themselves, but expecting them to turn a profit is so deliberately missing the point of SERVICES.

Oh look, another sign you’ll never see at a US funded park. I’m so embarrassed for us.

I feel like this sign is just asking for trouble.

Made it to Kew Gardens today, just in time for the opening of their amazing bee exhibit, The Hive.

The new Hive exhibit was fascinating. And the docents were so enthusiastic! Wish I could show you the bone conductor.
The experience of such unnatural nature was overwhelming (in a good way).

Observation: There’s so much history just lying around the place, they didn’t even bother to have a sign explaining what was up with this crazy tree. “Oh, just another centuries-old tree embedded with part of building and propped up for thirty feet, nbd.”

I can’t help it, I know hereditary wealth and nobility are wrong, but I’m just so tickled by the idea of these gardens. “What a lovely specimen, I shall have it. Put it with the others.”

My favorite tree(s) at Kew was the massive weeping beech. I could feel the bark effervescent beneath my hands, I haven’t wanted to cuddle a tree in years. If there’s ever a bizarre apocalypse wherein air travel is still possible but no one is around to mind, I’m building a tiny house under this tree and living there forever.

This peacock just loved showing off, but couldn’t decide which was his best side. No one was giving him snacks, he just likes being pretty, I guess.

Do you prefer my hair up or down?

Lemon tart for the train ride home.

Lots of time for wandering around this evening. There’s just so much to look at! My back is cooperating really well for this trip, but I’ve learned that once I break 20,000 steps, my feet are done for the day.

Fish and chips for dinner followed by too many cookies. 100% the best store-bought cookies I’ve ever had. Peanut butter, orange and milk chocolate, double chocolate and nuts – luckily I didn’t have to pick. (We ended up going here again before we left the city. Let me tell you, doing Keto back home would be a million times more difficult if I had regular access to this place.)

I even had a little walkabout on my own (am so brave.) Anne directed me to IKnit London, where I got (among other things) two skeins of Wollmeise in “Bob,” a colorway my dad would have loved.

I just can’t believe we’re here! The views from our flat are just ridiculous. This is from the kitchen.

Mom’s room.

Our bedroom.  So many landmarks that I’ve only ever seen on a screen, the Eye, the Shard, the Gherkin – it’s really difficult to close my eyes and sleep.

Today was again super challenging with/for Mom. If we’d known the extent of her limitations, we could have made arrangements – an Uber instead of the roundabout walk from the tube station, a motorized scooter rental – but as it was, she only got to see Kew for about an hour before she was totally wiped out. And I’m an imperfect person, I got impatient. I did my level best to keep it from her, though I imagine it slipped through once or twice. Texting with Michelle helped, though I won’t quote myself here because it seems mean in retrospect.

Mom and I went to the gift shop for lunch while Michael did some more of the Gardens. I have to give her credit, at this point she started basically insisting we leave her, with no hint of passive aggressiveness. Of course I said no way, but we did make our “one attraction per day” plan at this point. After yesterday’s fiasco, Michael had purchased a paper map of our part of London for Mom, where we marked our flat and a few other landmarks and wrote a few notes for other people in case she needed to ask for directions again. We were hesitant to let her go by herself, but it worked out. Michael put her in an Uber again and this time it worked. She ended up having a great evening (after a nap) wandering around Chinatown and talking to natives who were apparently charmed by a tottery American tourist. Hopefully I can be that brave when I am an old woman.



June 17 – Being a Tourist in London!

Riding the bus with my Google maps open so I can name all of the things I’m passing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I have no shame about looking like a tourist. Keeping my valuables in a money pouch will have to be good enough. It’s not like my phone is out of my hands for more than three minutes at a time, anyway.

Today’s entry in London Tourism was the Tower of London, including Beefeater tour guide and intermittent rain. Like our tour guide Dickie Dover said, all of this history could be ours if we’d just paid our taxes.

What’s better than seeing the Tower Bridge? Seeing a friend you’ve known on the Internet for twelve years who just happens to be in the city at the same time. It was so great to see Sha for a few hours! I’m so grateful she made the effort to come hang with us.

Michael helped me get a picture of my Ancient Wall shawl in front of an actual ancient Roman wall built between the years 190 and 225. Yes, I selected this specific pattern for this exact photo opportunity. What’s your point?

We went for Indian food – it was just okay – and wandered around a bit, openly gawking at all of the landmarks/street names/shops that I recognize from three decades of consumption of British pop culture.

Ended a great day with tea and tiramisu and people watching in Soho.

Mom’s physical capability is not what we thought it would be. She’s not able to walk quickly enough to get on an escalator, so taking the tube places isn’t an option most of the time. Pedestrian traffic moves quickly here, so I worry about her getting knocked over. She tires easily and we aren’t able to do a lot of sightseeing before she’s done in.

Today she was done at the Tower before we were, so Michael called her an Uber to get her back for a rest. He put her in the car, and talked to the driver, made sure he knew to drop her at the corner one door down from our building. We didn’t hear from her for over an hour. I texted a bunch and just as I was starting to wonder how to word a request for help to the police, she texted me back – she’d gotten out of the Uber at the right spot, but, confused, had walked right past our building. She walked around lost for nearly two hours – she asked for directions a couple of times, but mispronounced our street and was directed the wrong way. I was able to figure out where she was based on signs she could see, but she hadn’t sprung for any international data, so I couldn’t send her a map to get her home. The texts I sent her from there were slightly nuts, but they got the job done. “Stand on the sidewalk. Put (cafe) on your right, (pub) on your left. Walk in that direction for # of blocks. Turn here. You will pass streets in this order: (name, name, name, etc.) Stop and ask for help if you see a street name you don’t recognize.” As soon as I’d given as much detail as I could, we got on the tube (no reception) to try and intercept her. And it was a good thing we did. Michael and I are booking it down Berwick toward the flat and we catch sight of her a block ahead. Just in front of the building. That she walked right past. She was so tired and overwhelmed she wasn’t even looking at her surroundings. If we hadn’t stopped what we were doing to come check on her, gods know where she would have ended up.

So we’re readjusting our expectations for this trip. We’ll do one big tourist thing in the morning with her, then get her some lunch and settled back at the flat while we go do some people watching in the evening. It’s not what we planned, but it’ll be okay.

[Note: above was written nearly four months after the fact. I wasn’t nearly as sanguine at the time, but distance has helped a lot. She did her best, we did our best, and we had a great time, even if it wasn’t the time we had imagined.]

June 16 – First Day in London!

Sitting with mom at Victoria Station, waiting for Michael (aka my hero) to fetch our Oyster cards and the keys to our flat. Even just looking at the signs is making me giggle – so many things I’ve read/heard about! There’s a W.H. Smith’s twenty yards from me, what?!
We took a bus to the flat (since Victoria Station didn’t have any elevators to get to the tube and mom can’t do escalators). I’m completely unconcerned with the fact that I look like a tourist, because I am a tourist and there’s no hiding my giant eyes and open mouth. We got mom settled and headed back out to see a little bit before fatigue hit us again.

I am a big fan of the mass transit in the Twin Cities, but I had No Idea what was possible.
He’s having too much fun to be in focus. He planned several of our trips specifically so he could visit different tube stations and get pictures of their signs. (But taking pictures of signs of stations we only passed through would be cheating. Apparently.)
Just eating fish and chips at Leicester Square, nbd. (I’m lying, it’s a very bd.)  Of course this was our first meal in London, what did you expect?
Gelato rose from Amorino, one of Michael’s required stops on this trip. I don’t really have any “must see” landmarks, I just want to See London. The people watching is A++ here. Is it bad that I just want to ride the bus and See Things?

June 15 – Iceland!

(Note from Future Chelsea: I’m going to experiment here and try to consolidate the raft of vacation pictures into a few super-posts instead of a scattered basket of one at a time.)

Thanks to Michael’s epic super planning (and, incidentally, going to work all the time and making the monies), we got to fulfill a lifelong dream for my mom and take her to London for a week! The trip was not without its challenges, but even with the unexpected difficulties, it was such a privilege. So much fun, so many fascinating sights, and thanks to Instagram I won’t lose all my memories right away! We definitely plan to go back in a few years. I wonder how much time one would have to spend in London to feel like they had seen everything they wanted to…


As you might be able to tell, this is not London. We were supposed to have a three hour layover in Reykjavik, but our flight from MSP left two hours late. The flight attendants assured us they’d hold the connection for us, but despite the fact that we were off the plane before the connection even left the gate, by the time we got through passport control, our plane was long gone. Michael is awesome, though, and walked right up to the service desk and got us taken care of.

Perhaps because Icelandair’s parent company is responsible for most of the tourism industry in Iceland, they treated us unbelievably well while we were there. At a US airport, I would have felt lucky to get a room in an adjacent airport hotel for the night, and more likely expected a patch of the terminal floor for a nap and a coupon for a Subway sandwich. Instead, we got two very nice hotel rooms, multi-course meals at very nice restaurants, and the long bus ride from the airport into Reykjavik was paid for as well. My rough estimate puts the pile of vouchers around nine hundred dollars.
Regrettably, I was too busy staring at the landscape to get any pictures of our drive into the city. The surrounding countryside was beautiful in a very unearthly way. Dark black dirt and what seemed like only four types of plant – a short grass, a shorter grass, lichens, and purple lupines. Mountains in the distance. Craggy shore, tiny houses, crevasses and far-off steam plumes.
We got mom installed in her room, dropped off our bags, and went to look around the city. Four days before the solstice and it’s still pretty chilly. I was kind of freaked out from the change of plans (and probably from the fatigue), but I found yarn, one block from our hotel! Everything’s going to be fine.
From our hotel window. We’re right on the main street of downtown Reykjavik. Iceland wasn’t even on my short list of “places I’d like to travel someday,” but it definitely is now.
We had our complimentary three-course lunch at CenterHotel Thingholt’s Ísafold Restaurant and then went for a wander. Following the glinting green cube in the distance took us down to the Harpa Concert Hall, a giant convention center on Faxa Bay.
This wasn’t the plan but I’m not sorry it happened. Thanks to the friendly Scottish woman who offered to take our picture. (I’m actually impressed at how swollen my ankles got on the plane, so I feel the need to point it out here. Apologies. Go back to looking at the lovely mountains.)
We went back to the hotel for a nap and then back out again. Mom was too tired to do any exploring after our dinner at SKÝ Restaurant (I remember that the food was delicious, but honestly was hard-pressed to pay much attention – the view of the bay from the 8th floor was taking up the bulk of my brain.) (I do remember there was skyr with berries, at least.), so we took her back and did a little more exploring.
I love that we got this opportunity. Unfortunately, between the evening flight and the jet lag and the adrenaline, we did eventually have to give in and go back to the hotel. I wanted to look at this street art show, and visit the Hallgrímskirkja, but I was stumbling and slurring my words by the time we got back up to the main street. To be fair, everyone in the city seemed a tiny bit drunk from the unending daylight, but I am always weak in the face of sleep.
I think we settled for four hours of sleep. It never got dark, of course, but I slept like an angel. I remember being awakened by some guys singing in the street around 3 o’clock in the morning – based on the accent, they were Icelandic but singing an American song. I remember smiling as I turned over to go back to sleep, looking forward to telling Michael about it, but by the time the alarm went off I’d forgotten what the song was.
Farewell, unexpected hotel. You were a delightful surprise.
Waiting for our shuttle to the airport, looking at the bay and the few people actually out on the street at four o’clock in the morning. I suspect Icelanders don’t get a lot of sleep in the summer, but they’re relatively cheerful about it.
Delicious airport breakfast. I’ve since noticed a few different kinds of skyr (which is a kind of cheese, not the yogurt it disguises itself as) at Target, but nothing like as good as what we had while we were there. I shall not discuss here what turned into a very poor experience at Keflavik Airport – suffice it to say we made it out and onto our 22-hours late connection after a great and unexpected adventure.
random photo

Random Rant

I found this in my drafts folder, text from a comment I left on a friend’s blog a couple of years ago. Do you have free-floating hostility at the patriarchy today? Enjoy some spicy rage on behalf of someone else. No context required – if you’re a woman, you live in the context.

It’s YOUR body. Why on this Earth are we convinced that some random dickhead’s desire to do to it as he likes trumps our desire for him to stay the fuck away??

Asswipes like this guy know exactly how to slowly push back your boundaries, get you in situations where you second-guess yourself, blame yourself. It’s called “grooming,” getting you to do the hard work of convincing *yourself* he’s harmless, instead of having to do it himself. (Classic child-molester behavior, as well as that of generally handsy creeps everywhere.)

Don’t say “I’m sorry” when you tell him you don’t like to be touched. You have nothing to apologise for, and that just reinforces his (and maybe the dim others around) belief that you feel you’re being unreasonable. “I prefer not to be touched.” He can’t claim to be confused, he can’t act hurt that you’re being bitchy. You could even soften it with a “It’s a cultural thing,” if you feel the need. But it’s not. It’s a “human beings have a right to say what happens to their bodies, and, NEWS FLASH, DILHOLE, WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS” thing.

If you feel up to it, you’d be doing womankind a service if you went back to AB and told him the “you attract trouble” comment wasn’t helpful, though he was probably just trying to fill in words in an awkward conversation. You guys are friendly, and hearing this from a friend might make a difference with other women he works with (not to mention other men he works with). He said “Well, this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened to you.” What he obviously doesn’t understand is that this isn’t the first time it has happened to EVERY WOMAN, EVERYWHERE. He doesn’t hear about it because we are socialized and shamed into telling ourselves it’s no big deal, we’re overreacting, we must be doing something to encourage it. SILENCE = DEATH.

Fuckwad has done this before, likely worse, and he’ll do it again. Because he knows he can get away with it; he knows that 90% of the time, his victims will punish themselves. Things might be more relaxed in Western countries, but dudes don’t touch ladies who they aren’t close friends with, outside of handshakes and (in certain situations) goodbye hugs. Watch; in movies and tv, inappropriate-shoulder-rubbing is a standard “This Guy Is A Creep” flag.

And Western dudes aren’t (always) morons; they know that other countries are more conservative, and keep their hands to themselves, if they aren’t deliberately victimizing. In some douchey circles, there is a stereotype of Eastern women being meek and pliant, and they’ll take advantage of this, counting on the likelihood of your keeping quiet about it.

It’s hard to be in the vanguard of women who start pushing back against this bullshit. It was hard for our mothers and grandmothers who had to yell “No, we aren’t sluts if we want to wear pants. No, we aren’t unwomanly if we want to work outside the home. No, we aren’t crazy if we want to motherfucking vote.” They fought to get out into the world, now it’s our turn to fight to make that world safer for us.


June 14, 2016 at 06:13PM

For future reference a big round bucket bag isn’t the worst option for a carry on bag, but next time I’m definitely splurging on something with wheels. Standing in line at Passport Control for two hours was a bit rough on the spine.

June 13, 2016 at 03:06PM

Mom wasn’t much interested in meeting my friends, but we did connect with a few of them. Retail therapy (and being proactive about protecting my phone in London) is helping distract me from The Feelings.