Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Another Saturday with the Boys

Saturday was the second day I spent with The Lukestar and Maximus. I'll probably be doing this for the next dew weeks until Jim feels OK about coping on his own with his knee. I got there early and we all sat and watched some TV until we woke up properly. After constant nagging from Luke, we prepared some goodie bags for Max's birthday party next Sunday and then flopped back on our seats again.
Debbie had warned me that they were banned from using the Wii since they refused to listen when being spoken to, and the ban was for a month, but she said I could cave in if I wanted. Well, Luke worked on me pretty well for about 10 minutes and I caved in.
 Max and I were happy to watch for a while. I was conserving my energy since I realized that soon we'd be heading outdoors for some physical activities. Yep, 20 minutes later, Luke decreed that we head outside for some fresh air as there was 'no weather indoors'. We trundled outside and they both rumbled up and down the pavement on scooters while I laid on the grass and took photos, just waiting for the command to commence a hockey game.
It came soon enough and once again I ended up with the invisible goalie as a partner. Luke and Max took great delight in announcing how poorly my partner had played last week and how they were sure to win again this week. The puck flew back and forth and surprisingly my goal line gradually got further and further away while theirs got closer and closer so that at one point it was actually in front of my feet. On my announcing this unfair advantage, it was determined that a break was due and we headed back into the house.
 This is Max's turtle impersonation.
After lunch we retired to the back yard where it was time to blow bubbles. Well, Luke and I blew bubbles and poor Max tried...
 and tried again...
and again...
 and again...
until finally, a bubble!
Luke looking very skilled at his bubble blowing.
There was also time in the afternoon to do some coloring and painting and later, Luke insisted that his 'rock toy' be brought indoors.
This was a plastic toy with a base containing waterways which had to be filled with water. There were also compartments that we filled with gravel and small rocks. Little tugs boats were filled with their cargo and floated around the course until they were emptied by crane into a waiting truck which then poured its load onto the kitchen floor. I'm pretty sure Luke was pulling a fast one by saying he could play with this indoors, but I spent a very enjoyable half hour playing alongside him until I realized who would be left to clear the whole thing up. Sigh... 
See you next week boys.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Goodbye Infirmary

On Sunday morning, a small group of us went to say farewell to the DC Infirmary. It's being razed to the ground to make way for a metro garage so we wanted to snatch a few last shots to help preserve the building.
 We had to hunt for an entry point so Steve thoughtfully punched a way in for us.
 This prayer still hung on the wall along with jokes cut from newspapers, notices and photos. It seemed sad to think they would disappear forever smashed by a wrecking ball into a pile of rubble.
 We silently walked through corridors and past rooms, many of which had asbestos abatement posters up and areas cordoned off with sheets of plastic.
We walked into the theater area which had also been emptied since our last visit.
Steve found a box of fluorescent light bulbs so we promptly started a light saber fight, not breaking any of course, while Barb photographed us fooling around.
 The morgue was surprisingly intact but all the doors were shut so we had to open them for photos. Note the claw marks on the door left by a previous visitor to insinuate someone had fought their way out.
The labs still had bottles and flasks lying around and occasionally we would come across patients' belongings.
I really liked the decay and symmetry of these flues.
 There was a lot more damage and broken glass than last time, but being a big fan of glass, I welcomed the photo opportunities this presented.
After spending most of the day there excepting lunch break when we left then returned, we decided to leave as dusk approached. Retracing our steps down corridors, we slowly headed back to the exit. As we passed one long window, we glanced out and stared directly at a security guard. He saw us and we moved fast. Steve ran ahead of the window since he was closer to the wall there, while the rest of us ducked back. Not wanting to peer out and be seen again, we decided to go a different way but Steve had to rejoin the rest of us. I couldn't believe it when he threw himself to the floor and started hunching towards us like a commando. He was pretty grubby when he stood up.
We continued to head out discussing what we would say to the guard once we met up with him, but were amazed to see no sign of him as we walked towards the car. We were lucky and realized it. It was a great way to end our visit but we all looked wistfully over our shoulders as we left the hospital, knowing we wouldn't see it standing again.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Day with Luke & Max

On Saturday, I arrived at Debbie's for a day of babysitting my little friends since Jim is incapacitated due to a hand & knee injury. We immediately got dressed and started the first round of activities with a session on the Wii and a tantrum from Max. It was then decided by them that my next duty would be to act as a climbing frame and thinking quickly I managed to escape from a long bout of that ordeal by letting them use my old Panasonic camera.
 It soon became apparent that I had 2 budding photographers in my midst and they both produced some amazing results of themselves and of things around the house. The remote controls and my bum became prime subjects so I suggested they move further afield to capture more interesting results.
We then moved outside since it was so warm and I then had to run up and down the street to monitor their activities on various vehicles, because naturally, everything in the garage had to come out to ensure that all was in working order. Guess who had to put it all away...
It was then decided that a game of hockey was in order. Because the sides were uneven, I was allocated an invisible goalie to help me play against them. Max took great delight in constantly informing me that my team member wasn't very good as he let so many pucks slide by.
After what felt like hours, we returned inside the house for some more Wii, and then Luke thought that Play Doh should be next on the schedule. Out came the bags of pots, utensils and clay followed by a silence as intense concentration took over. I was asked to make a shark but my result was sneered upon by Luke and it was announced that Dad made the best sharks. I rose to the challenge and within 15 minutes had a batch of stonking sharks. I asked who made the best sharks and was completely chuffed to bits when two fists pointed their forefingers at me. Yay!
My chest puffed with pride when they cried out in unison, "No!" at the thought of their sharks being mashed back into pots as we I cleared away. They each selected their favorite three and trudged them up to their bedrooms.
I've uploaded their photos to my Flickr site so they now have a folder to themselves. I'm looking after them again this Saturday. Won't be long before they can use a DSLR!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lunch at Great Falls, MD

With all the rain we've had lately, Steve and I decided to check out Great Falls as the water had risen dramatically in the rivers. We walked along a favorite creek of mine on our way there and indeed the water was gushing along its course.
A picture of Steve taking a picture.
We first drove to the Virginia side of Great Falls but once we reached the gate, we were informed by a ranger that the park was closed as the rising riving was considered a danger. I could see waves crashing over the river bank in the distance. Undaunted, we turned around and headed for the Maryland side. We met a guy who informed us that we'd probably have better luck parking at the Old Angler's Inn and hiking from there. We followed his advice and set off along the path with a fine drizzle of rain accompanying us most of the way.
 The scenery was beautiful as we walked along with the raging river on one side and the silent old canal on the other. 
The dampness seemed to accentuate the green lichen on the rocks and they seemed almost alien with their vibrancy.
 We passed an old mill house and around the corner came to a closed path. A warden stood guard by yellow tape that prevented anyone walking further. Frustrated that we could hear the roar of the river and see nothing, we turned around and started retracing our steps. But as soon as we were out of sight of the ranger, we cut through the woods to the river bank. Clambering over rocks, across sodden ground and through briers, we were determined to see Great Falls.
We climbed down to the bank and could at last see the Falls, albeit from a distance, but we had completed our mission. The water had definitely risen so that spray from the force of the waves crashing over the rocks was clearly visible. It was wonderful to just watch the power of the river. With our curiosity sated, we finally walked back the 2 miles to the car and decided to warm up in the pub.
The Old Angler's Inn was almost empty because of the foul weather. This inn is usually packed during finer days so I was glad to be able to visit it for the first time without feeling crowded. The fire was blazing and comfy leather sofas with throws added to the cozy atmosphere. We looked at the menu and plumped for calamari and oysters followed by beef and brie sandwiches washed down with Newcastle Brown Ale. Steve chatted to the waiter about the best whiskey in the world which apparently is Johnnie Walker's Blue Label. After a quick discussion, we decided to go all out and have a glass each. Our waiter quoted $40 a glass but agreed to drop to $35. With great aplomb, he brought forth a brand new box, unwrapped the cellophane and pulled the oak cork with a resounding plop.
Here's Steve obviously relishing the moment before his first taste. It was pure nectar. We sat like cheshire cats grinning across the tops of our glasses and savoring every sip. We eventually finished our lunch and left the almost dreamy world of the pub. I think that I can honestly say that was the best lunch I've had since I've lived in America. Thanks Steve!

Friday, March 12, 2010

An Evening on Miss Ann

Last night Barb and I went down to DC for a Happy Hour aboard the Miss Ann. a friend of mine lives in the marina aboard a boat and every week, a boat will host the happy hour. I've met and befriended some wonderful people down there and love the relaxed atmosphere.
My only camera was the iPhone so none of these images are masterpieces :(.
Tim had sent me the web page for Miss Ann and the boat looked gorgeous; I was thrilled to be invited aboard.
The interior was extremely comfortable and welcoming with plenty of highly varnished wood, relaxing sofas and armchairs everywhere and a couple of open deck areas.
 Everyone brought food and drink to share and Tim cooked up pounds of sausages on the BBQ outside. It was a lovely Spring evening enabling us to enjoy some time on top of the boat watching the lights twinkle from the banks of the Potomac and the illuminated monuments.
Travis turned up with Jess having just colored his hair green for St Patrick's Day activities. It looked really good! They will be hosting the Cherry Blossom party along with some neighboring boats in April and I wondered would it be pink hair for that night? That would warrant bringing the DSLR!
I was very excited when Tim took us downstairs to view the engine room. There were 2 Detriot Diesel 12 cylinder engines with around 450 horsepower each and 2 generators. The room and machinery were immaculate.
The door on the left is the engine room door and at the other end of the boat was this awesome hallway which made me feel that we were on a submarine. The crew quarters were down here.
All too soon we had to leave to drive back to Virginia and grab a few hours sleep before work the next day. The evening had flown past too quickly but at least there was the consolation that there would be other such evenings. Roll on April!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First Hike of the Year, Bethesda MD

Sunday was a beautiful Spring day so Barb, Steve and I set out for our first hike of the year. We were supposed to meet a group but directions were vague and we ended up going it alone. We went to Westmoreland Hills Park in Bethesda and hit the trail at a brisk pace.
Barb made a comment about me acting like a dog just released from its leash and she was pretty close! I was so full of energy and couldn't determine whether it was brought on by my new diet and fitness regime or the lovely sunny day.
I was delighted to see clumps of snowdrops scattered on the floor of the woodland. These flowers are prevalent in England and are always the first flowers of the year to bloom in the wild. We left the track and joined the Capital Crescent Trail which was still covered in areas by snow and ice.
We walked through the dampness of the Dalecarlia Bridge, built in 1910, and spied some pieces of paper taped to the side of the entrance about 7ft up.
It was the poem, 'How Do I love Thee' by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  I couldn't identify the top poem and had to assume it was written by the person who had put it on the wall. There was no explanation for why these was here but it was obvious that they were meant to be there for a while since they were protected by plastic sleeves.
We continued along the path and then dropped down onto the C&O Canal Towpath. We came across a boatyard which was being cleared up after the snow storm. Fallen trees and debris littered the ground and the edge of the Potomac River.
There were plenty of kayaks waiting for Memorial Day when they'd be put in the water. I was so tempted to take one out but the freezing water and lack of a paddle thwarted that fleeting notion.
We also saw this huge buoy chained to a tree and wondered what on earth it was doing there. It was unable to float as the base was punctured with holes yet someone was making a strong effort to keep it in its place as the chain had 5 padlocks on it. I thought it would look great on my patio but quickly realized that an unnoticed getaway was an impossibility.
After mulling around, we decided to head back once we'd come to a mutual agreement that beer should be next on the agenda. 
We route marched back towards the car reckoning that we'd probably hiked about 6 miles which wasn't a poor start for the season. Heading to Glover Park, D.C. we found a pizza pub which served us with a superb pizza and beers. An excellent end to a hike!