Heading Home

Our time here in the UK is coming to an earlier-than-anticipated end. The backstory:

Peggy was asked to come over here and "stabilize" the UK office as it had been foundering and losing key personnel, which she did in June. She did such a good job and was asked to stay on longer to now run the UK office and eventually hire her replacement. She accomplished both in relatively short order, leaving her to transition back to the job she was doing in Boulder. Then the buyout came.

Her (now previous) company UBC was acquired by a company called Medco Health Solutions, and accompanying the buyout was the obligatory restructuring. One of the results of this restructuring was a redefined role for Peggy, one that was largely US-based and requiring time to be spent in meetings with US colleagues and clients (which would then require a lot of US travel.)

So rather than try to keep up with the transatlantic travel and try to work US hours while on UK time, we decided to explore the possibility of returning early to address both professional and personal concerns. A few exploratory emails and phone calls later and it was settled... we'd returning to the US in late-December.

To be sure, there will be things we'll miss by leaving early (that's a post for another day.) But when you start looking at what day-to-day life would be like for all of us here and Peggy working (in some manner) there, the choice was pretty simple.

The countdown is on... liftoff is in T-minus 21 days.


Chloe Goes to Bollywood

Chloe's "Bollywood Hip Hop" dance recital took place last night in the school gym, and she was awesome. Given the genre, I couldn't tell you what the songs were that she danced to, but I can tell you that girl danced her Taj Mahal off.

I did take video of the performance but I don't have the right gear here to upload any clips. I do have so-so pictures from the performance that you can view. [They're not the greatest, admittedly, as I was trying to take them while at the same time hold the video camera still.]


Netball Anyone?

Chloe participated in her first Netball game today. It's a game we Schrammels never heard of prior to Chloe joining her school, but apparently it's a popular game for females in many of the Commonwealth nations.

"What is netball?" you may be asking. It's often described as being similar to basketball. However, after researching it online, watching clips of netball games online, seeing it a bit on TV and watching Chloe's game, I think that is over reaching. My impression -- and Peggy shares this with me -- is that besides there being a ball, a thing with a net and players wearing footwear, there are few similarities with the sport we know as basketball. In fact, we would consider netball to be more of an activity, like scrapbooking or gardening. Here is a link to a game played by "advanced" players... by way of comparison, though, let me say that the game played by Chloe and her 7- to 8-year old teammates wasn't disproportionately worse in terms of skill, athleticism or general "sporty-ness," even given this was their first game. But back to Chloe's game...

For her first kick at this can (read: playing a game she wasn't so familiar with and only practiced once a week for a couple of weeks,) Chloe played well in her position of Goalkeeper. She prevented several passes from reaching the other team's Goalscorer and made some timely passes to try and get the ball up court. Unfortunately, her teammates were keen on passing the ball "east-west" and not "north-south" and inevitably the action came back into Chloe's area of action. Final score: 10-ish to 1.


What do "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and English Rugby Have in Common?

Apparently something, for the chorus of it was sung quite a bit this afternoon during the match, er "fixture", against Australia.

[I did do some digging around, and there is an explanation why that verse is sung at the matches... read here.]

Anywho, me and just over 80,000 people attended the game and, had Australia's kicker made more of his penalty kicks, would have witnessed a close contest. Alas, he did not, and England came out the victor, 35-18.

Even though I didn't grasp everything that was going on, I did gain a better understanding of the rules and actions of the players, like why it's perfectly legal to blast into a guy who is on top of the "ruck" (the mound of players that forms once someone is tackled.) Here are a couple other tidbits for you:
- the game is played in two 40-minute halves, and only in rare instances does the clock stop. Even if someone gets hurt, play continues and the medical staff come out on the field with the game still going on to attend to the player. If the player plays a position that is involved in formations like a scrum or a line out (that "throw in" play in rugby), the clock will stop.
- One might think that given it's rough nature, rugby (the "rugby union" variety) is traditionally a "blue-collar man's sport," but it's not so. (Football/soccer and "rugby league" are historically considered the sports for that cohort. Granted, things have changed as footballers make money hand over fist. Pro rugby players do OK, but make nowhere near what a footballer makes.) Rugby is a "gentleman's game," a "proper game." So much so that certain expectations extend to the fans in attendance as well... expectations that one just wouldn't see at any event put on by any of the 4 major professional sports in the US. For example, during this match, England was called for a penalty and Australia decided to go for a penalty kick. Someone from the Australian team brings out the tee, hands it to the kicker, he sets it up however he wants, and then steps back a la an NFL placekicker. And he stands there probably for a good 30 seconds before making his approach to kick the ball. During this 30 seconds, a decent-sized chorus of whistles (euro for "boo") rain down on him. After the attempt (he missed), the PA announcer comes on and basically mildly admonishes the crowd for not extending a courtesy to the Australian kicker they would have extended to the English one. And his message his accompanied by a similarly worded message on the large screens as well. These messages didn't have immediate effect as the whistles happened again at the next penalty kick (he missed that one too.) The same PA announcement and big screen messages were played. Eventually, towards the end of the match, there were few if any whistles aimed at the Australian kicker.


A Not-So-Mean Time in Greenwich

Mark (another AHD who has daughters at the same school as Chloe) and I made our way over to Greenwich this morning to check out the Royal Observatory and see the Prime Meridian, where East meets West (longitudinally speaking.)

"Why a midweek visit?" one may ask. I had an interest in seeing it, and am the only one in this family with such an interest. So it was just better for everyone this way. There's nothing concrete planned, but I suspect there will be more of such excursions and blog posts over the next 8+ months. Anywho...

A good bit of the exhibition space at the Royal Observatory was devoted to -- in both terms of the need for, and the instruments used to determine -- the Prime Meridian (or that imaginary yet arbitrary line that runs between the poles and separates East from West.) In a nutshell, it came about largely due to maritime concerns... ship captains had ways to determine their North/South latitude (e.g. by measuring the angle above the horizon of the sun at 12 noon) but were stumped about how to determine their East/West location.

Solving the "longitude problem" became the quest for many over many decades. One "solution" that was offered involved the Powder of Sympathy, and the theory goes like this: this Powder was to have amazing healing powers. Those who believed in felt it could cure wounds from afar by being applied to the knife which had caused the wound or to bandages which had been used to dress it, rather than to the wound itself. With that as the foundation, believers in this powder thought all ships should carry on board a dog, and all dogs should be wounded by the same knife. Everyday, someone back in London was to dip this knife in the Powder of Sympathy at 12 noon, causing the dogs aboard the ships -- wherever they may be -- to instantaneously yelp. This time market would let the captains know it was 12 noon in London and, when compared to their local time, allow the captains to calculate their longitude.

Eventually (and obviously), a solution to the longitude problem was found (and surprisingly, it didn't involve maiming dogs), and it came about largely due to a £20,000 prize Parliament dangled out there in the early 1700s.

(Pictures, top to bottom: Left foot in the West, right foot in the East; view of London from the Royal Observatory with Central London highrises on the far left, the highrises of the Docklands in the center back, and the National Maritime Museum in the center foreground.)


Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder, treason and plot,
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:

By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

Hip hip hoorah!

Perhaps because of my American bias, but when I first heard that Guy Fawkes Day was a day about a guy who tried to blow up Parliament, my initial suspicion was that it was a day of honor, celebrating the attempt by and of life of Mr. Fawkes.

Well, I have quickly come to learn that is not at all true. In fact, the day is widely (and reportedly wildly) celebrated by throwing an effigy of the chap on a bonfire. Bonfires aren't easy to construct in metro London any more, so recent developments in the celebration include fireworks.

We'll be heading to a bonfire and fireworks event tomorrow night to see the spectacle up close.

For more reading on Guy Fawkes and bonfires and whatnot, click here.


Winter Kit

Today is the first day after midterm break, so it is also the first day on which the Old Vicarage girls are required to wear their winter uniforms. Here's Chloe in hers: