Tall Ships Festival Part I

“A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.”
― Herman Melville

I think that it’s easy for some people to forget that Britain, with all its history and wars and books and world impact…is a group of decently small islands. There isn’t a spot that is more that 70 miles from a coastline throughout the whole of the country, the sea is ever present. Plus through much of recorded history, Britain was covered with bogs and marshes in addition to being crisscrossed by rivers. In other words, boats and ships have been an intrinsic part of British history.

This is especially true in London with its prime spot along the Thames. It has been a major travel and shipping hub for centuries and if you take a look at almost any historical representation of the city, you will see ships depicted as lining the river with masts as thick as as forest. Though the Thames is a lot less crowded these days, it’s fun to get a glimpse of the city’s maritime history, which is why I trotted along to the Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich a few weeks ago.

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A mix of historical presentation and street food, this sort of thing was straight up my alley and I ended up walking nearly six miles along the river to look at the variety of sailing ships moored so that visitors could have a chance to board and get a sense of what this vessels were like. There were also costumed interpreters and amateur naval enthusiasts parading around in clever and wacky get ups as only the British seem to be able to do.

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What most people don’t realize is that most sailing ships were tiny, almost unbelievably small. Explorers and privateers circumnavigated the globe in crafts not much longer than a bus with about as much personal space. As a child I had some idea that ships were solid things but getting to see them up close and personal you realize that they are as much rope as they are beams and are quite literally tied together in a lot of cases. One wrong knot and you’ve lost a major function that could leave you and your entire crew lost at sea.

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At one point, the British navy was virtually populated by kidnapped men and criminals, largely commanded by child officers who had purchased commissions, and funded by a prize system that turned almost everyone into privateers. It was kept in check by a system of legalized brutality and fueled with some of the worst food imaginable with a side of drunkenness. And it was a system that conquered the world, led to some of the most important scientific finds of human history, and kicked off globalization. A complicated history that deserves being better known.

Friday Links (On Vacation, Edition)

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”
~Jane Howard

So long, kids!

In one of those charming twists of fate, this was the google doodle on the day my in-laws flew in, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the buses.

In one of those charming twists of fate, this was the Google doodle on the day my in-laws flew in, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the buses.

Tumblr find of the week.

Joanna Goddard over at A Cup of Jo on her top ten career lessons.

Since I try and eat half of one of these a day, I’m tremendously glad they’re still around.


Last week, the Nomad Games. This week

The title speaks for itself, “8 Ill-Advised Reasons for Getting Married, 1792.”

Well, that’s autumn and winter dinners sorted.

One of my favorite xoVain beauty writers lays it down straight on her personal site.

Call me snarky and reductionist if you’d like, but this rather nails it in my opinion.

Bloomin’ Lovely

“A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting. ”
― Christian Dior

For years now I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect perfume. I wore Coco Mademoiselle for close to a decade and then, quite suddenly, went off it. But I remain dedicated to the somewhat dated idea of signature scents rather than a massive smorgasbord of perfumes to choose from. I simply like smelling familiar to myself and others and find scents to be easy ways to play with identification (I might keep a scent forever, alas for Coco, but I’ll definitely keep it around a long time). Currently I wear a Hermes perfume, Jardin sur la Nil. I picked up over a year ago when I clearly had adventure on the brain and the idea of an olfactory trip up the Nile appealed, and while I’m very fond of it, I admit it’s not The One.

I’m a snob, and I don’t like smelling like wearing very common scents–maybe that’s why I eventually got tired of Coco, come to think of it–but finding unusual perfumes takes time. Luckily I found a shop in Spitalfields that makes the hunt easier. Welcome to Bloom!

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Bloom focuses on promoting lesser known noses and masters and stocks scents that you won’t be able to find elsewhere. Chatting with a shop worker, it seems that they’ve been the first to carry a number of brands and perfumes in the UK, a fact she seemed pretty darn proud of. As well she should be!

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Often I find that perfume counters at malls or department stores all smell the same, a mix of the popular and expensive name brands they carry. Bloom to me never smells the same way twice; and trust me, I make regular pilgrimage. The stock changes regularly enough to create a purely unique bouquet that’s a delight to hang out in.

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When I finally finish of Jardin sur la Nil, I’ve already picked out the runner up for my next perfume from Bloom. It will be months if not another year or two yet, but the shop assistants introduced me to L’Humaniste, a scent inspired by the French Renaissance writer Rabelais (so clearly I need to have it). I’m flirty with deeper, spicy, more cologne-y scents these days and it fits the bill nicely. It may not be the One either, but I’m having a lot of fun looking.

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What do you think about signature scents? A lovely concept? Too old school? Not for you? An article of faith? Tell me all you wear and why!

Friday Links (Gunning for Vacation, Edition)

“After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.”
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

September has been one of the toughest months of my life and I am powering through it for the simple reason that I have my first vacation in over a year coming up next week. I have been working almost daily for over a year now, including weekends and holidays. Occasionally I’ve been able to get a weekend away from my laptop or day off, but they have been rare. And kittens, I’m tired.

I’m also proud. I’ve gone from less than $100 a month to what WOULD be almost a living wage (if, you know, debt weren’t a thing and I didn’t live in one of the most expensive cities on earth) in less than two years. Not all freelancers can do that. But it’s absolutely taken a toll–on my health, my relationships, and my self-care. A lot of working for yourself is finding and keeping a healthy balance and it’s a constant learning curve for me. Long story, short? I’m really excited for my time off.

My in-laws are coming to visit and after a few days in London we are taking the party to the road touring the southwest of England. Updates forthcoming but for the next couple of weeks I’ve been saving up past adventures to keep you entertained. Here are you links and let me know what you’re up to this weekend!

Online friend and really incredible designer Bethany Grow has launched her blogizine, The Collaboreat! As the name suggests, it’s a collaborative travel and food site and it’s already lengthening my list of places to visit and nosh within.

Cambridge updates ahead in particular!

Cambridge updates ahead in particular!

Scotland will not leave the U.K.

New life goal: attend these.

Excellent Youtube video from The Brain Scoop on the history of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. I’ve been pondering on proactive vs. reactive conservation efforts ever since my trip to an urban beekeeping facility in London and learning more about the rapid decline of insect populations in Britain. We humans are responsible for the greatest mass extinction since the last Ice Age. Though a lot of that is fairly recent and related to our quests for more energy and raw materials, the truth is we’ve been negatively affecting other species populations for about 10,000 year total, which is sobering.

Ah, the great expat egg debate. Walk with me, kittens, and learn.

Holy hell. I believe in counseling. THIS is NOT counseling. (Side note, there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful to have been born when and where I was. I recognize exactly how lucky I am. In another century I’d have been burnt at the stake.)

Writing is good for you!

The call for 10 books that changed your life that went around Facebook recently (and that I responded to) was pretty popular and the data miners who work there collated the most popular results. I haven’t read five on this list but need to!

Tumblr find of the week.

I am not well versed in American literature. Past the point of shame and well into the area of laughable. This new list might help.


The 18th century might have been wacky, but I’ve always secretly been in awe of early 19th century headgear, of the Wives and Daughters variety. I would definitely have been burnt at the stake, both for refusing to sport those styles and for shredding my corsets in public.

A nice little update to the old riddle. The fifth graders, they get it!

House Guards and Horses

“It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.”
― Adlai E. Stevenson II

Meandering past Horse Guards Parade in Westminster a couple of weeks ago, we got the unexpected pleasure of seeing the riders and horses put through their paces. The Household Cavalry are made of of some of the most prestigious regiments of the British Army due to the fact that they are members of the Queen’s personal guard. Their history goes back to the 17th century and their museum (housed in the Horse Guards building), which forms the traditional entrance to St. James’s Palace, is well worth seeing if you’re interested in British military history.

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The first hint that something was going on was the sound of hooves on stone.

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The other half of the guards regiment (the Life Guards are in Red, the Royal House Guards and and 1st Dragoon, also called the Blues and Royals, are in the blue. For obvious reasons).

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Of course, the men are only half of the stars of the show.

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I was really impressed to see the riders actually on guard while on horseback. Specifically that the horses were tolerating the hordes of tourists butting up against them to try and get pictures without kicking them straight in the head. I was waiting for some kind of equine disaster, but the training the horses get is impeccable.

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Feminism and Facebook Facepalms

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: “It’s a girl.”
― Shirley Chisholm

Facebook, your standards on acceptable depictions of the female body (as discovered when researching image regulations for a client’s social media posts) trouble me. I think we can all agree that bathroom selfies need to go, but out of the three (of four total) images depicting women, the bottom left image is the one showing the most inappropriate amounts of skin? Really?


Friday Links

Better days are coming. They are called Saturday and Sunday.
~Author Unknown

Another grim week for news. The ranks of ISIS are growing and the NFL’s pathetic standards for behavioral expectations of their players were exposed. Scotland’s voting on independence next week leading to fears of longterm effects for Britain and the EU, people are speculating that Romney will run again (please benevolent universal forces, no!), and Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide.

On the home front, things are better this week. I’m working towards a much needed break here in a couple of weeks, though unfortunately I won’t be able to make it to the States for the funeral. It’s been a largely rewarding but financially frustrating year in a lot of ways. I may have to write a post or two about it. In the meantime, here are your links, kittens, and thanks so much for the lovely comments and emails last week. I really appreciated them.

A London literary map. I need this.

Found the best Twitter feed.

Powerful images of Apartheid South Africa.

Kurdish female fighters standing up to ISIS.

Interesting piece about the rise and decline of the iPod and what role it played in much of our current technical realities. I remember getting an iPod for Christmas one year, it was my big request and I got good use out of it. But I had never really considered its long term impact before this. I still use my iPod, but instead of music it’s mostly stocked with podcasts these days. How about yours?

Kill it with fire!!!

This prank is amazing, and you just know this dog is baffled as to why people are running screeching.

The great mystery solved? Fun fact, I actually live shockingly close to Whitechapel, land of Ripper-hysteria and now Ripper-tourism.

Unexpected photos of Really Big Deal events. And some silly ones. The London Underground shot is equally amazing and scary, not sure I would have trusted the early models (the present day ones can be dubious enough!).