Saturday, December 24, 2005

Father Christmas is coming tonight!

It's Christmas Eve and Marshall and I are so excited we will hardly be able to sleep! Why? I'm telling you why! Father Christmas is coming to London Town!

I have been over all the British Christmas catalogues and I'm pretty sure I know what I want. I didn't get a chance to send off a letter to Father Christmas this year (he does not live the same place as Santa! He lives in a disused Underground station off the Aldywch) but I am pretty sure he reads my blog regularily just to make certain if I am naughty or nice, not only in my blogging but in my real life. Anyway, F.C., here's my Chrimble list for 2006:
  1. An assortment of excellent British cold cereals including Weetabix, Scotch Oats and Nestle's Coco Shreddies
  2. An unlimited seven day Oystercard
  3. Chelsea F.C. 2006 Top Trumps cards
  4. Cadbury Flake
  5. For Toga the Penguin to return home safely
  6. Ant or Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway Board Game
  7. The Keira Knightley 2006 Calendar
  8. Wensleydale cheese
  9. A Boots gift card
  10. The new Beano Annual
  11. For Billy Mack's "Christmas is All Around" to be the Christmas #1 top single
  12. Wallace and Gromit soap-on-a-rope
  13. Peace on Earth
  14. Good will to all
  15. and a pink baby pig!
Marshall adds: "And a pony, please, Father Cwismas?"

Photos: Christmas Eve in Kensington

Catch up on a lovely bright crisp Christmas Eve with my new photos of my day out and about in Kensington today: just click here!

Now I know how many Christmas carols it takes to fill the Albert Hall

I don't see any holes in it, do you?This Christmas Eve afternoon we went to the amazing Royal Albert Hall to see and hear their Carols by Candlelight concert. It was, if your excuse the London slang, dead brill.

There was an orchestra and chorus and a conductor all dressed up in the period of Mozart playing traditional religious and secular (thank you word-of-the-day calendar!) Christmas carols, some of which we got to sing along with! The announcer/conductor was very pleasant and funny (he told a hilarious elf joke*) and he was very good at getting us all to sing along very loudly. In fact, there was a special competition to see who could sing "Good King Wenceslas" the loudest of all the audience members and I won and the prize was that I got to go up on stage and beat the kettle drum during the next carol! Boom boom boom I went! Everyone in the Mozart Festival Orchestra agreed I was v. good at it!**

There were also readings from A Christmas Carol and the story of Jesus's birth from the Bible, a special guest appearance by Father Christmas and we sat in a very special box in the second tier. And had Coca-Colas at the interval! All in all it was a very special Christmas treat and very good value for money.

Add to that: we had a lovely Christmas luncheon at Maggie Jones's just off Kensington Church Street just before. It was good solid hearty English food: among us we had onion soup, prawn cocktail, turkey and stuffing, pork roast with mash, new potatoes, veg and bread, and hooray! wonderful bread and butter pudding with custard and apple crumple with fresh cream. It was definitely the nicest Christmas Eve day ever.

*An elf is driving down the highway and he's knitting while he's driving. A police car pulls up alongside the elf and the police constable yells "Pull over!" The elf leans out the window and says, "No, it's a scarf."

**Editor's note: Certain events in this blog entry exist only in Mister Bull's imagination.

Do they know it's Christmas?

A serious post here for just a moment, everyone.

Tomorrow is Christmas, and I'm in a lovely posh hotel and you're in your home or the home of a friend or family, and we're likely going to have a delicious Christmas dinner tomorrow.

No preaching: just remember there are people who don't have that, not just at Christmas but all year 'round.

If you're in the US, consider donating to The Salvation Army. If you're in the UK, to Crisis or StreetSmart.

As a great man once said: "It's Christmas 1984 and there are more starving folk on our planet than ever before." It's 2005 and that hasn't changed. Do what you can to help change it for future Christmases and for future all-year-rounds.

Friday, December 23, 2005

More photos, more fun!

See my Jubilee Line Extension excursion and shopping trip along Regents Street photos here! Go on! Do it!

The sort of day a trainspotter could appreciate

Talk about good timing!

Go ahead! Talk about good timing. Talk among yourself. I'll be right here waiting.

Okay, done? Good. 'Coz that's 'xactly what John and I had today on our trainspotting, stations-hopping tour of the Jubilee Line Tube Extension. Ever since we got some amazing books on the Jubilee Line Extension that stretched it from ending in central London to all the way out past the East End and beyond, and the fantastic modern British architecture of some of its stations, we've both been dying to take an excursion to check 'em out!

But what did I find on the web the week before we came to London? That the Jubilee Line would be closed (for necessary maintenance) from December 26 through December 31! Aieee! Would we miss it? Would we never see the Jubilee Line extension?

(Wow, we are Underground geeks, aren't we?)

Anyway, the good timing part is that we could still take our trip today while the line's still open! Hooray! Or, as they say here in London, hoorah! So we bundled up in our anoraks with our tube maps and camera and headed out down the Jubilee Line.

I'll spare you all the details (because they are probably less than interesting to non-Underground geeks) but I had a dead brilliant time and very much enjoyed seeing the new modern stations, especially Canada Water and Canary Wharf. There was a shopping mall at Canary Wharf where we did some Christmas shopping, and then finished off the day with an excursion to Regent Street and Oxford Street where we could hardly move there were so many people! I'm not kidding you! It's really true! Wow, these people take their Christmas shopping serious!!!

Anyway, I'm all set for Christmas (shh! Don't tell Olivia that I got her Sainsbury's play food!) and had a wonderful day on the Underground. You can see all my photos from the day coming up soon in my next blog entry. And the Jubilee Line Extension? For those of you who love the Underground, I highly recommend it. Just don't come on a day when they have it closed for repair, okay?!?

My holiday snaps are back from the chemist's!

John tells me that back in his day, waaaay back when in the early 1990s when he would come to London on holiday, he would take his camera film to Boots the Chemist and have them develop his photographs (or, as they like to call them here, your 'snaps') overnight so he could see if he had been taking good photos.

Well, those days are gone! Over! Done! Finito! Now thanks to the magic of digital photography, you can see my photos right away! Aren't you excited!

Anyway, you can see some of the photos from my first couple days in London here. See how simple I make it for you, Bully-fans?

The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots

Click here for another, much shorter play about the death of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Mary, Mary, quite Stuarty.

Last night we went to the theatre in London to see an excellent play called Mary Stuart at the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury. It was a little confusing at first because I thought it was about the woman who writes these books. I kept sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for King Arthur and Merlin to stroll on stage! Imagine my surprise when they didn't!

Then I got a little confused and thought it might have something to do with Patrick Stewart or maybe Jackie Stewart. I wouldn't mind seeing a theatre play based on the life of Jackie Stewart! Maybe they would have real race cars running around on the stage! That would be brilliant! Vroom vroom!

At the interval I went out to the lobby and bought myself a chocolate ice with a little plastic spoon and also decided to spend some of my pounds and pence on a theater programme. That was a very smart move! It told me all about Mary Stuart, who was the Scots sister of Queen Elizabeth*, and how Queen Elizabeth put her in jail. Boo! Boo on you, Queen Elizabeth! When I see you do your annual Christmas address on the television on Christmas Day, I will be sure to boo and hiss you.

At the end there was a very sad bit when Queen Elizabeth (boooo!) had Mary Stuart's head chopped off. I was very alarmed and could barely keep from shouting out at the stage but then at the end of the play Mary Stuart came out with everyone else and held Queen Elizabeth's hand and they all took a bow. I'm glad they made up at the end after all. Also, it's good that they didn't chop her head off because then they would need a new actress every night (and twice on matinee days).

Anyways, it was a fun night out at the theatre, and the chocolate ice was delicious.

*Even though she did not talk in a Scots accent, like Scotty or Jackie Stewart.

A friendly warning to American publishers following British trends


From today's edition of The Wharf London newspaper, an article about Christmas sales:
"Books Etc. has been doing a roaring trade, with weekends busier than ever before. But the bottom may have finally dropped out of the Sudoku market, with sales of books falling off the festive radar."

Have you seen this penguin?

Here is the sad news that is on the telly right now in London: someone stole a baby penguin from the Isle of Wight!

I don't know why anyone would steal a penguin! Maybe they thought it was quite cute and wanted to hug it a lot. Don't hug it too hard! This penguin needs its mama to hug him, not you, Mister Penguin-napper! Bring him back or phone the police to tell them where he is right away!

Police constables are asking you to be on the lookout for Toga or for someone who looks like they might have stolen a penguin. If you see them, dial 999 to get the police if you are in England...or if you are in the US, dial the operator and tell them to connect you with Tony Blair. He will make certain the proper authorities are alerted. Be sure to say "Thank you, Mister Blair!"

Anyone who would steal a penguin is a very, very bad or foolish person. I would not like it if anyone stole me away from Brooklyn. Don't steal penguins! It's not cool and it won't make you look like a tough guy!

Covent Garden is not a garden. The Churchill Arms are not arms.

Hope you enjoyed the photos! Here's what we did on our second day (yesterday) out and about in London.

We all bought three day Travelcards to ride on the Tube to Covent Garden. (I had wanted to get an Oystercard, because they sound fun and delicious, until John pointed out to me that not only do you need to be a London resident to use one to its fullest potential, it does in fact have nothing to do with oysters or indeed any sort of shellfish at all. Confusing!) Now, if you know a thing or two about me and John, you know we both love the London Underground. It's fun and easy to use and best of all much more clean than the new York City subway, especially the F train. Why, I would go as far as to say I would eat off the floor of the Underground. (Note: this is not an actual offer to eat off the ground in the Tube).

I got out my little tube-spottting notebook and carefully marked down the color of the Tube lines we took (yellow for the Circle Line, change at Gloucester Road to blue for the Piccadilly Line). Remember the following if you ever step on the London Underground:
  • Mind the doors.
  • Mind the gap.
  • Remember you need to put your ticket in the slot at the end of your ride, not just the beginning!
Covent Garden is a very lovely and busy shopping center (or, as they say over here, centre). It was especially busy because everyone was doing their Christmas shopping! I did some myself (shh! Don't tell Camilla!) at the London Transport Museum Gift Shop and the fabulous Thornton's Toffee Store. There were many exciting events going on: there were jugglers, buskers, a crafts show, a carousel (which Olivia went on twice!, and Father Christmas was there! I stood in line for quite some time to sit on his lap. When I finally climbed up onto his lap he said "Ho ho ho!" and I said "Hi hi hi!" Then he asked me: "What's your name, little boy?" I fixed him with a very stern stare and lifted up his whiskers a little bit. "I think you would know, Father Christmas!" I told him. So I guess that was not the real Father Christmas but one of his helpers, and not an exceptional one at that. I bet the real Father Christmas, working vigorously in his elf-laden underground lair in an abandoned London Tube station, would remember my name. I just hope he remembers that I am in London in a hotel for Christmas and not in Brooklyn. PS: I would like some British cereal to add to my collection, please, Father Christmas.

Laden down with shopping bags full of lovely Christmas items, we went to the Stock Pot on Old Compton Street, home of the 70p Coke and a pretty good omelette. Our waitress was very kind and helpful although she looked overworked. I hope someone like Colin Firth comes and rescues her from her daily waitress life! Maybe on Christmas Eve. I think I saw a movie about that once.

Then we walked up Charing Cross Road, home of many famous bookstores, including possibly the most famous of them all, Foyles Bookshop. It's not the largest bookshop in London (anymore!) but it is certainly one of the best. I could spend hours in here, and luckily we did spend quite a bit of time (and pounds and pence!) in Foyles. Here is a pretty accurate representation of how excited I was during my time in Foyles:

ME: (running through the aisles excitedly, arms above my head, squealing happily) WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
STORE CLERK: Excuse me, little stuffed sir. May I be of any assistance?
ME: (looking up) Yes, thank you very much. Where are your books on trains and buses?
STORE CLERK: First floor, sir. Right up the staircase or into the lift.
ME: Thank you. (running for the staircase) WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Needless to say, I got a bit overexcited and had to go back to the hotel to have a quiet lie down for a while before we went to dinner.

Which was at the beautiful Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street. This is one of my favorite (or, p'raps I should say, "favourite") pubs in London. It is very busy and loud and fun in the main bar but step in the back and you are in a lovely little resturant that serves good inexpensive Thai food. The entire place is decorated with butterflies as the owner is quite a famous butterfly collector. Bully recommends this highly; two hooves up! Next time you're in London, stop by, have a pint and a pad thai, and tell them I sent you. They will say, "The little stuffed bloke? Hey's a right old chap, that one is."

Later we went to the theatre to see a fascinating and occasionally bewildering play about Mary, Queen of Scots. I'll tell you more about that later.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Three thousand words about London.

A very wise man once told me that "every picture has a story," so even though I just got in quite late from a wonderful day out and about in London and I won't have time to do a full-fledged blog entry (I'll fill in the details later, promise!), here are three photos, each worth about one thousand words, just to show you what a brilliant (or, as they say here, "brill") time I am having here in London:

Here I am at the Covent Garden Underground station. I love riding the Underground. I am very glad the trains are not on strike here!

Which postcards shall I pick to send to all my friends back home?

Here are my very good friends Camilla and Olivia (The Number One Little Bully Fan) strolling through Covent Garden. You can tell how fun it is by Olivia's jaunty pace!

Many more photos (I promise) and more intensive London-blogging soon!

A short but excellent first day in London.

Hullo hullo hullo everyone! It's me, Bully, in London. How are you? I'm not only fine, I'm in London!

Ahem! Sorry 'bout that. Please excuse me for being so excited, but I'm having such a brilliant time here I can hardly control myself! As I promised last night, here's my blog entry on my first day here, but first let me fill you in on the website to keep up on all my fantastic London photos. Bookmark it today, check it semi-frequently (at least every day or so!), and tell all your discriminating, intelligent friends that if they're not checking in every other day at the least they are missing a lot of cool photos!

Okay, public service announcement over.

We all arrived in London at noon-ish local time. It was a long plane ride but luckily I was able to snooze through most of it. It is easier to sleep when you are in a backpack stowed away in the overhead baggage compartment. We all showed our passports to the British man at passport control as we entered the country. I'd been very worried about that part. I was led to believe that they would quiz you on aspects of British history and culture before they let you in the country so I have been studying my Simon Schama books and watching episodes of Monty Python. But all they want to know is where you are going to stay and how long you are going to be there! It was a bit disappointing because I was all ready to perform the Fish-Slapping Dance. He did suggest (with a hearty chuckle) that we would be very welcome if we spent a lot of money in London's shops and put a lot of weak US dollars into the UK economy. Before I could explain to the customs agent how I had been saving my dimes for such a long time and turning them into pounds and pence for my London holiday John dragged me away and we are off to the shuttle bus!

It is very warm here in London: cloudy all day but in the mid-fifties. I did not need a winter coat at all! It has not yet rained either. I don't think we will have a white Christmas.

We checked into the lovely Copthorne Tara Hotel in beautiful Kensington. After a yummy lunch of sandwiches from Boots right up the street, we all took a nap before venturing out into London. I thought I would be too excited to sleep but I was snoring in seconds. Plane travel takes a lot out of you. I am not certain what jet lag really is but it makes me kinda sleepy.

As I said briefly last night, we met Christine, Jonas and little Olivia (yay! I love Olivia) for dinner at the fabulous Pizza Express in Earl's Court. Then we walked around Kensington and went home to bed. If you're reading that and think "Well, that doesn't sound like a very exciting day," well, then you are wrong as a very wrong-headed person because it was an excellent day in London. I know I have many more adventures to come and this was a good way to roll into it.

Now we are off to free continental breakfast!. I was a little worried about this description but John tells me that "continental" does not mean in this case a heavily-accented European guy in a striped shirt smoking a little black cigarette and fingering a waxed mustache. He tells me there will be cereal (wow!) and buns (hooray!) and tea (excellent!). I'm anxious to go downstairs and find out.

Then, we are going to Covent Garden. As I understand it, there are no peas and carrots in this garden but rather a dazzling array of stores. That's my kind of garden! Off I go into London...I'll blog at you later!

London by night

Everyone else is asleep in our hotel room but I'm so excited I can't sleep!

I got up and looked out the window for a long time. I can see a lot of London from the window. Over there is the Albert Hall. Look, I can see the London Eye and the Battersea Power Station. There is not as much light to the city as there is to New York so it is very quiet and relaxing. I can't believe I'm really here!

The last tube train of the night pulls into High Street Kensington station right below me. The tracks rattle for a while and then are quiet.

Good night, everybody. Good night, London! I'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

London! London! London!

Hooray! We have arrived in London and are having a wonderful, Londerful time! I still have a little jetlag from sleeping in the overhead compartment of the airplane (which is not the best place from which to see the in-flight movie!), so we did not do anything too amazing today (but isn't just being in London amazing enough on its own? Yes! Yes, it is!)

Our hotel is very nice and crammed to the gills to Japanese beauty school students. They are very giggly (the girls) or too mod and cool to giggle (the boys). John and I took a walk via the famous "sneaky way" in back of the High Street Kensington tube station (I cannot wait to ride on the Underground!). We went to Boots and got mayonnaisey sandwiches and crisps and Lilt and Cadbury bars for lunch and then took a nap which I did not think I needed but boy howdy! Did I! I was very sleepy. Marshall said later that I was really sawing some logs! When we woke up it was time for dinner and we went to Pizza Express where I had a whole pizza all by myself! (You wouldn't guess it, but pizza tastes so much better in London!)

I have not had a chance to take any photos yet so I haven't really started my proper photoblogging, but I hope to take lots of photos tomorrow. We are going shopping in Covent Garden! I have brought all my pounds and pence for English Christmas gifts so I hope that everything is not sold out already. Do you hear that, people of London? Save some prezzies for me to buy!

In the meantime, enjoy this fine photo (above) of the last time I came to London. This photo contains 1) me and 2) pigeons in Trafalgar Square. I am not wearing my mackintosh only because of the pigeons...but it didn't hurt.

Blog at you tomorrow, London and Bully fans!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I'm off to London!

Hi hi hi everyone! I'm at the airport now waiting for my plane to take us to London for Christmas! Hooray! This is going to be the best Christmas ever! I am so excited I cannot sit in my little plastic chair waiting to board the plane so I've been running in all the airport shops and checking them out.

I'm 'specially interested in the "Duty Free Shop." this is where it gets a little weird...apparently there is no duty on the items you buy in this store! While I have always been a little stuffed bull who believes in doing his duty, I find it interesting that you can buy items without doing so!

Giant Toberlone!
I had my eye on a Duty Free Giant Toberlone that looked both yummy and large but i talked myself out of it because I am trying to budget my pounds and pence for London and didn't want to spend so much money right away. The shop clerk told me that it was duty free and as I looked like a young bull with a very good eye for value I could not afford to pass this oppotunity up! I looked at him very sternly and said no thank you! Despite no duty it was my sworn duty to save some money for London.

So I am waiting for the plane and I am very hungry for yummy delicious Swiss chocolate and nougat, but I feel proud of myself.

More later in London!