Monday, March 3, 2014

Heathrow People Watching

If you want to people watch, you need to fly out of an international hub, like London Heathrow. I had the opportunity to have a 6-hour layover at Heathrow this week. After rechecking my luggage, my first flight was separate from the rest of trip, I crashed for awhile outside security on a convenient bench at a food outlet that was not busy at 7 am. What a shock.

When I decided to go through security in Terminal 3, I found a crush of people waiting in the seating area before the gates. London Heathrow has a nasty habit of not letting you know what gate your plane will be at until 50 minutes before departure. That way everybody is forced to wait by the big screen for their gate to be announced.

Conveniently, for them, quite a few stores have opened around the seating area, just waiting for the bored, or guilty feeling, traveler to stop in. There are stores that will sell you about anything you could want and carry onto a plane. Everything from Harrods to WHSmith Bookshop. Fine dining to cold sandwiches are available, for a price. Forget to buy your significant other a gift? No problem.

And then there are the people, thousands of people, it seems. Every nationality, every skin color, all waiting on the standard uncomfortable airport seating. You name the language, I'm sure it is being spoken somewhere around here.

The reason why is the possible destinations out of Terminal 3. Chicago, Singapore, San Francisco, Miami, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Warsaw, Washington DC, Istanbul, Bangkok, Tokyo, etc. Those actually were the flights listed in order of boarding while I was waiting for Dallas/Ft. Worth to show up.

Business travelers with their briefcases and laptops, kids with their dolls, teenagers with their iPods, even a farmer with his iPad, all waiting for their gate to show up on the big board.

It is easy to spot the traveler who missed his gate being posted at first for they are flying through the crowd trying to get to their gate in time. That is because it is a 20 minute walk from the waiting area to some of the farthest gates.

So if you really want to people watch, just plan a long layover at Heathrow. You will definitely get your wish granted.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hartshorne, UK


We took the train out of London to Leicester, pronounced Lester, in the East Midlands. We got brave and hired a car. Barb was brave enough to drive while I navigated. We left the car park hoping we could bring the car back in one piece.

21 round-a-bouts later we found the town that would be our base for the next couple of days, Ashby de la Zouch. Like much of Europe the origins of the town are a bit fuzzy, happening over 1000 years ago. Ashby, for short, is almost in the exact center of England. It is one of the areas that was controlled by The Lord Hastings in the 1400's. He built a castle and church in town. The church still stands, the castle, not so much.

The main purpose of the visit to the East Midlands was to check out my family's roots. My great grandfather immigrated from Hartshorne, Derbyshire, UK in April 1873 and homesteaded just south of where Barb & I live today.

We were supposed to stay at one of the pubs in Hartshorne, but the night before we left London I got an email that they had a mixup and they were double booked for our room. While not happy, they did find us a replacement room in Ashby, only about 5 miles (and 2 villages) away.

The first night we drove up to the church in Hartshorne, St. Peter's, where my family was baptized, married and buried. We walked around the churchyard, which is almost entirely covered in gravestones, and had almost given up hope when the last stone we looked at as the sun went down was my great great grandmother's, Sarah Pickering.

The next morning we also found the gravestone of her mother Elizabeth Evans.

We went to a historical society in the neighboring town of Swadlincote called The Magic Attic the first night. There were a number of very helpful volunteers working. They looked on one of their databases and discovered that my great grandfather's obituary had been published in the Derby Mercury on November 30, 1893.


We had a great time in Hartshorne and Ashby. It was great to get out into the country away from the big city atmophere of London. We were asked several times "Why did you come here?" They didn't understand why anyone would leave the city to come to a rural area. Little did they know that I live in a much more rural ara and felt happy out there.

Then we had to get back to our car rental agency in Leicester. Luckily the app I downloaded so I could have a map while offline recorded our trip out of Leicester, so"all" I had to do was keep Barb on the little blue line. 

Short story is we made it back and will happily let others drive from now on. We even managed to do this with a minimum of screaming at each other, other than "Watch out for the car from the right" and "Not this left, take the 4th (or 5th) left". Round-a-bout are nuts and even the Brits hate them. 

After a week of loving England we headed off to Germany, Barb's home country and where Cicely is studying for this year. Now she is the tour guide and I am merely along to enjoy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

England 2014

We are in Jolly Old England for a week on holiday. We are having a wonderful time. Below are some of my first impressions and memories.

First misconception is the language. The British speak English, Americans speak American. The words look the same. They may even be pronounced the same, but the meaning may be entirely different. Here there are prams, not baby carriages, highways are carriageways, trunks are boots, hoods are bonnets, gas is petrol, trucks are lorries, subways are tube or Underground, first floor is actually second floor (it goes ground, first, second), etc.  Right off I learned not to look for red Exit signs, instead look for green Way Out signs. And "Mind the Gap" meant watch your step.

The British are even more confused about the metric system than we are. They buy their beer in pints, but their petrol in litres. They measure small things in centimeters, but roads in yards and miles. I don't know about weights, but lorries are weighed in tons, but how much is a ton?

London is a huge town full of people. It is very old and the streets and layout of the town reflect that. You need to remember that when England was settled you walked from village to village. Therefore the towns were close, 1-2 miles between villages. It didn't matter which direction the paths went so you just went straight. There was no planning commission making sure everything would work out in neat straight lines and square blocks.

Fast forward to today and those paths are now streets. The villages have all grown together into one huge metropolis. Streets meander here and there. Every passage is named, even if it is only an alleyway because there will be flats (apartments) located off of it. Streets start and stop for no apparent reason. Building numbers start at 1 and go up the street, Even on one side and odd the other. It doesn't matter that 50 is across the street from 71 or 131.

London is used to visitors from other countries that drive on the other side of the street. Every intersection has the words "Look Right" or "Look Left" painted on the street to remind us where the traffic is coming from, quickly. We have learned to wait for the "Green Man" signal to cross streets, even though many natives cross when they feel like it. London did install many map posts around the business districts for the 2012 Olympics for all the visitors. They are great.

The people of England are very polite. They treat everybody as if they were Royal guests. My goal is to bring some of this niceness back to the States. Even the buses are polite. We saw one bus being towed with the sign "I'm sorry, I'm out of order."

If you are looking for a water fountain to get a drink, just forget about it. Haven't seen one yet. Restrooms are toilets but you go to the loo, not the toilet. Expect toilets to be either upstairs or downstairs, and rather steep stairs at that. Same with kitchens at pubs, never on the same floor as the eating area.

The food has been fantastic. Different than the States, but you need to expect that when traveling. After all why travel if everything stays the same. We have enjoyed the traditional English breakfast of sausage, bacon (ham), eggs (scambled or poached), mushrooms, toast, croissant, orange juice, coffee or tea, and baked beans. Yes baked beans. They are a breakfast item. No idea when and how that started and who was first, Americans with hot dogs or British with breakfast.

Cicely has discovered a rule of affordable restaurants. If the glasses are already on tables covered with linen, we don't need to look at a menu, above our price range. Pubs are more our style. The general rules for pubs are 1. Find your own table, 2. The menus are on the table, 3. Go to the bar, order and pay for your food giving your table number, 4. Enjoy your beer, 5. Repeat.

If you require Bud Light or Coors Lite, forget it. I have seen Budweiser listed at one pub, but never Lite beer. Here you get ales, stouts, ciders or bitters. I've discovered I'm an ale or stout kind of guy. Bitters and ciders no. 

Note about the food. Chips are french fries (actually makes as much sense), a crisp is a potato chip, a biscuit is a cookie. You put mayo on your fries or you may use ketchup. HP sauce is for everything.

Our credit cards are mostly out of date in Europe. We still use swipe cards and the Europeans now use chip cards. Hasn't been a problem, except ours don't work in the automated machines. I have learned to let cashiers know right off that it is a swipe card. The really sharp ones assume they will be swipe once they hear our accent.

And the accent. I love listening to some of the barmaids talk. I wish I had recorded some of them talking to each other. I had a hard time not laughing at them and the terms they used with each other. The British think all Americans sound the same, just like I think all British sound similar. 

They don't understand where Nebraska is, but that's OK, I don't understand where all their counties are either. I just tell them I'm frrom the middle of the States and they nod OK. They are shocked when I tell them how few people live in our area and that Lexington at 10,000 people is a larger town in Nebraska.

Next post will be about our trip to the East Midlands where one branch of my family originated from.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Olympics!!

I have a confession to make: I am a sports junkie! 

I love to watch sports, of all kinds. Football and basketball, of course, but I've been known to spend an hour watching rugby, lacrosse and cricket trying to figure out their rules.

Every two years I get a 2-week fix called the Olympics. I love watching all the sports involved. I admire the athletes who are in the best shape of their lives competing against the the world's best in their sport.

I am not, nor have I ever been, an athlete myself. In high school I could barely walk and chew gum at the same time. But raising two daughters who were athletes gave me an appreciation of the hard work and dedication it takes to be great.

Right now the 2014 Winter Olympics are being held in Sochi, Russia. There are numerous problems and lots of issues swirling around these Olympics, but this is not what I care about. I love the sports and athletes we get to watch compete.

I am amazed how these Olympians make what I would consider impossible look easy. Cross-country skiing for 10 kilometers and then shooting a rifle at 1" targets. How the heck do they hold the gun steady? And the Gold medal went to a 40-year old man? Wow.

The new event called slopestyle skiing is amazing, not only the acrobatics, but the athletes themselves. They are obviously free-spirited indivuals, but they have an attitude that we all need to admire and emulate.

During the finals, one of the women had a horrible crash that broke her helmit. The look of horror on the faces of her competitors showed they were also friends as well. When she was finally able to ski to the bottom they were there to welcome her with hugs.

As each skiier came down with higher and higher scores, the new leader was congratulated by her competitors with high fives and hugs, led by the girl who used to be the leader and now was off the podium.

They recognized talent and great accomplishments, irregardless of their country of origin. This is the true spirit of sport, in my opinion. Do the best you possibly can, trying to beat your opposition. But when the competition is over, recognize and reward those who had a better day than you.



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

This is my favorite holiday of the year. I remember Christmas as a child, waking up my parents at dark:30 and telling them "It's Christmas!!" I was sent back to bed and told to wait until the sun came up. Eventually I would be allowed to wake everyone up (I was the youngest) and distribute the packages under the Christmas tree.

Between Christmas and New Years we would travel to my maternal grandparents at Madrid, Nebraska. I remember getting stuffed into the back seat along with three of my siblings, Jeannine got to sit up front with the parents since she got car sick. All of the Burbank cousins would gather there every Christmas, except the Atkins family who lived in North Carolina. We would play games, mostly 10-point pitch, for hours. Eat good food and then play more games. Great memories were made and lifelong ties formed.

As I got older Christmas was still fun, gathering with family, eating good food and sharing a lot of fun.

When our girls were small we got to experience Christmas through their eyes. Now I know why my parents were always amused during Christmas. It was such a joy to see their excitement.

But the real reason Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year is that this is when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ! He was born as a human, yet was still God. He lived a perfect life, yet was condemned to die on a cross because of mine and your sins. He went to Hell.

But the miraculous thing is He became alive again and now sits in Heaven with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus Christ we know with certainty that we can live in Heaven.

All we have to do is accept Jesus Christ as our Lord. He has done all the work. He has paid the price. This is free to all!! This is the best Christmas gift ever.

Merry Christmas to all of you. I pray that we will all celebrate together in Heaven some day.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Family, Floods and Fun

This past week Barb & I took a few days off and traveled to our neighbor to the west, Colorado. Like usual we combined several missions into one trip.

First off we visited one of Barb's cousins in Fort Collins, more specifically he is a first cousin to her mother. Dick is the youngest of his generation and so is only about 15 years older than we are. Dick retired from John Deere after a career in sales. Dick and his wife Lee lived in many communities around the United States and Austrailia.


Dick & wife Lee hosted us, along with Gus and Zoey, their two German Shepherds. They built their retirement house on an acreage above Fort Collins. Beautiful home and view. Our bedroom was in the basement complete with a king-sized bed and private bathroom.





Wednesday they took us up to Estes Park to view the damage the floods did to the roads and homes along the way. It is amazing how fast they were able to reopen both US 36 through Lyons and US 34 through the Big Thompson canyon. Much has been accomplished, but the crews were still busy cleaning up and trying to get the streams back into the old channels. We could see where stretches of road had been completely rebuilt after the entire roadbed had been washed away. 
 Most disturbing was the damage to homes and other private property. Many homes were no longer habitable due to missing foundations or walls. Water and sewer lines were washed out. Access roads and driveways are just gone. I lost count how many cars we saw that were parked, but no way to move them any more since there was no road left.

























Some of the hardest hit areas are still not open to the public. Dick & Lee have two daughters who live in Jamestown with their husbands. Both couples had to be airlifted to safety via helicopter days after the flash flood through town. One daughter and husband still don't know if their home can be saved. It had 5-6 feet of water, mud and sand through the house. 

The other daughter's house fared better, but the damage to the village is immense. The main road to Jamestown is still heavily damaged. An alternate route is open for an hour each morning and evening for the residents to get in and out, but only those who live there can pass through.

On a happier note we were able to progress on some genealogical research. Both Barb and Dick are descended from the Ferdinand Wollschlager family. Ferdinand and Caroline immigrated to the United States from West Prussia in 1889. Six children accompanied them and they had five more in Wayne County, Nebraska. Barb is a granddaughter of Agnes, third youngest; Dick is a son of Lydia, the second youngest.

One of my hobbies is genealogy. I have an account with Ancestry.com and with their help we found many census documents for their family and even found the ship manifest so we know where and when they arrived in the United States. Now I just need to get everything entered into my database.

Thursday saw us on the move again, but not very far. We traveled eastward to Greeley, Colorado. One of Cicely's high school classmates plays basketball for the Southern Utah (SUU) Thunderbirds. SUU played Northern Colorado in Greeley Thursday night and it was too good of an opportunity to miss. We enjoyed watching Hailey and her teammates go 1-0 in conference. We got to know many of them last year when we went to a couple of games in Cedar City, Utah.

Friday we headed home to finish preparations for Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Still busy

Many of my non-farming friends wonder what I do all winter, since we no longer have any livestock. I think they imagine that I spend all day in the coffee shop. They couldn't be more wrong. 

In fact I rarely find time to go to a coffee shop, winter or summer. This last week is typical winter work week for me, and many other farmers.

I am in the middle of Meeting Season. You may not have heard of this season but it starts after harvest and ends by spring thaw. I will average 3-4 meetings a week during this time. There are days I have 3 meetings a day.

We do have some chores each day. We have 1 dog, Mollie, and several cats and Barb has about 35 laying hens. She sells eggs to several customers besides having eggs for us to enjoy. Like any livestock, they have to fed and watered morning and night.

Saturday found us on the road to attend a wedding in northeast Nebraska. The wedding was at 3 with a dance/reception following. With a 4 hour drive up there that took the whole day. 

Sunday morning we got up in Madison to head back home as Barb was singing in the Lexington Area Chrstmas Concert. This was held both Friday night and Sunday afternoon. It's a great tradtion with over 80 singers from several towns and many churchs combining their talents to honor our Lord's birth. 

Monday morning we again started early to get the morning chores done and then left for Kearney. Every year the Nebraska Farm Bureau has their annual convention during the first or second week of December in Kearney. It is a great time to meet up with the many Farm Bureau friends we have. For more on this you can read my last blog.

Farm Bureau convention concluded with a banquet Tuesday night. Our dog and cats were glad to see us when we got home about 11:30 at night.

Wednesday morning I had Fit Farmers. This is a program our local YMCA started several years ago to encourage us to keep active in the winter and keep those pounds off. It's more fun to do this as a group and then over tea and coffee talk about those who didn't make it that day. We meet 3 times a week. We are always looking for more volunteers to join us. P.S. the nickname is actually Fat Farmers since it fits us better.

Wednesday afternoon I worked in my office, paying bills and generally trying to clear off the papers that built up during harvest.

Wednesday night was at church. Barb cooks suppers Wednesday nights for those attending classes, both youth and adults. She serves 30-40 each week. While she was finishing up the chicken noodle soup I was programming the computer in the Sanctuary. We have a Praise Worship service at 11:00 that has all the liturgy on video screens and all the songs are also videos. I program and run the computer most weeks as part of my sharing of talents.

Thursday morning was another early start. We finished chores and left for Lincoln. I wanted to attend the Lincoln Power Farm Show (more about this in a future post) and Barb had appointments Thursday night and Friday morning in Lincoln as well. 

Friday morning I did my workout in the hotel exercise room since I was missing Fit Farmers, I've got to keep going or it will hurt worse when I get back. After Barb's meeting we hit the road home.

Friday afternoon we stopped at church so I could finish the computer work and Barb could check on the kitchen. Then I needed to stop at my Mom's and write some checks for her.

Saturday morning the Elders at church meet to sack candy to be given out after the Children's Christmas program. 

And so on. Usually by spring I can't wait to get on the tractor and slow down. In some ways it is actually slower in the summer than in the winter.