June 18th, 2010 by carolyn

Flashback to March: Grey cloudy drizzle and wearing warm coats (oh wait, not that different from this week).  But actually, one of the great things about March was Mehreen came to visit.  She spent a week in Scotland and England visiting her friend in Edinburgh and us.  I love having visitors from home because it’s so nice to share our life here and our neighborhood with old friends.

Mehreen started her trip in Edinburgh and then we all meet up in York (halfway between Edinburgh and London) for an overnight visit.  Matt and I took the train (2 hour express trip) up to York Friday night and we met up with the crew.  We had a great day in York.  First, we visted the York Mininster which is one of the biggest churches in Europe.

We climbed all the steps to the roof.  Here are Kate, Mehreen and I checking out the view from the top.
York is a beautiful town with super old rambling streets like the Shambles and Whip-ma-whop-ma gate, historical buildings, a medieval wall surrounding the city, a meandering river and of course Matt’s favorite part – the train museum.

The Shambles                                                 The River and wall
shambles.JPG     wall.JPG

Little streets                                                            Old streets
whip.JPG     gate.jpg
The wall and the town                                  The National Railway Museum

wallpeople.JPG     trains.JPG

We ended a full day of touring with some excellent Chinese food.  Here is a shot of the whole group:


The next morning we got up to take the express train back to London and have a few days to show Mehreen around our neck of the woods.


We did lots of neighborhood walking around Islington and Hackney and introduced Mehreen to two of our favorite markets. First stop, Columbia Road Flower Market followed by an obligatory sunday roast

columbiard1.jpg      columbiard2.jpg
And then Spitalfields Market where we made some purchases – a coat and travel backpack – with Mehreen’s support
spitalfields1.jpg    spitalfieds2.jpg

Thanks for coming to visit Mehreen!

ACE Awards

June 17th, 2010 by carolyn

Last Thursday night I (Carolyn) went to the refurbished Stoke Newington Town Hall for the Ace Awards.  The Ace Awards was a 20’s themed work event (our version of the Oscars as my colleague called it).  The night was organized to recognize staff through a variety of awards including my colleagues who were nominated for Best Sustainable Project.  Congrats to H and A on their nomination:


I was really impressed with the lengths people went to get into the 20’s theme.  Tons of flapper dresses and zoot suits.  Some people could really rock the charleston!

dressup2.JPG     dancing.JPG
It was a nice evening to highlight the contributions of staff and enjoy a night out with the team.  Here is a view of the Town Hall from the outside:


World Cup 2010 From Abroad

June 13th, 2010 by matt

Now, I don’t know how many of you are aware in the US, but there’s this soccer tournament called the World Cup that’s a big deal :-D. Being in England for one of them is a very exciting prospect for me, as I always enjoyed soccer (and played it until I was 18). This year, everyone has been feeling pretty optimistic for England’s chances this year, which had even more potential for fun and excitement here. So what’s happened so far?

Well, first of all, not only did the US end up in the same draw as England, but their first match would be against each other. Now, being American, I have to support the US team as long as they hang around in the tournament. But, being in England, I want to see a country that cares about their team (not just the ones who made the trip to South
Africa) do well, especially if I had the chance to see it ‘first hand’.

The big night arrived and we made plans to have a nice mix of Brits and Americans and decided our local was a good choice for it as it’s big, has plenty of TVs (when they choose to have them on) and usually had a pretty non-belligerent crowd in case we had a need to cheer against the English squad.

The match was, from my standpoint exciting. England came out quick which made it look like it was going to be a painful experience. But the US showed themselves to be up to the challenge and was making a go of it. Then we got a gift from Robert Green and the pub went silent. While we were quite pleased to see things evened up, when the ball sneaked past Green, we all felt the pain England fans felt. But, in the end, a tie is a tie.

Our favourite reaction from the press we’ve seen so far has come from the BBC when an announcer mentioned that the English squad was behind Green 100%. Which, in retrospect (and I’m paraphrasing), is probably a very good place to be. 🙂

Here would be a couple of (not so) exciting photos of our night out:


Just a view of a TV, the match, some flags and the nice art on the walls of our local pub.


Ben, myself and Dave (Dave came all the way to England just to watch the match! Really! 🙂 )

A couple of other observations:

  • Serbia and Algeria looked awful today. Here’s hoping the US and England have no problem with them in the next couple of rounds as they really need wins to make sure they can advance
  • The vuvuzelas are a tad irritating. I always love the background noise of the chanting fans and they just drown them out. I think, a little softer or not so constant, they might have their charm, but after 6 matches listening/watching the World Cup, the novelty has worn off.
  • Tim Howard was excellent. There was nothing he was going to do to stop Gerrard’s goal and the rest of the match, he was rock solid. I hope the reports of him having tests after Hesky slid into him are either false or show he’s ok to keep playing on.
  • Poor Australia. 🙂

A “New” Train Line in London

June 6th, 2010 by matt

London has a pretty good public transport system. What it lacks in modernity, it makes up for in thoroughness. Observe this system map (for a larger image, check this out):


It’s a bit of a spider-web of lines (some of them on this map are commuter rail links, but they run frequently enough to fit as rapid transit) and, being very very old, a bit creaky. However, in anticipation of their hosting the Olympics in 2012, they’ve needed to make some improvements. Since the big events will all being taking place in East London, a section of the city that has been horribly neglected in terms of fast rail links, they’ve embarked on an effort to modernize the Silverlink (former North London Line) and the East London Line into something called the London Overground. It’s mostly rail lines that are cut but not covered or elevated lines, so it’s not really the Underground and the operation of it seems a bit of a mess, so it doesn’t fall into the London Underground piece of it.

Well, a major piece of it, the merging of the East London Line into the London Overground made some big moves in the last couple of weeks when it reopened for service, going all the way down to West Croydon  and up to Dalston (where it will eventually link to the rest of the Overground network via Canonbury — our home station!). I had my first chance to take it today. Seems like they’ve done a nice job. The new trains are lovely and it seems to run about every 7 minutes, not great for London transport standards, but a damn sight better than the current London Overground service of twice an hour on Sundays. Here would be a northbound train coming into Hoxton Station with the City in the background. It was good fun! And yes, I’m a rail geek. 🙂