Wednesday, 24 March 2010

London, Hoorah!

Since Lois' flight left this morning, and she needed to be at Heathrow for half 7 in the morning, we decided to go spend the night.  Booked into the Comfort Inn at Heathrow.  Not a hotel we'd recommend, we discovered, but that wasn't the point!  The point was to play in London in the afternoon and not kill ourselves getting her to the airport in the morning.

Anyway . . . we got around the M25, and checked into the hotel.  It was mid-afternoon, so we weren't entirely sure we really wanted to spend the money to go into London.  But, I decided that it was worth it to spend the afternoon playing, instead of just sitting in the hotel.  After all, if we were just going to sit and "do nothing" we could have stayed at my house til evening, and been more comfortable.  So, we went in!  I'd been really wanting to go to the Barbican to see the little zebra finch sound scape "art" instillation.  Yeah . . . that was fun!  I particularly wanted to go with Lois, since she's one of the few people who will appreciate it in the same way as me.  Unfortunately, no photography was allowed, but here's the youtube video promoting it:



Oh boy was that fun!  If you're in/around London, we'd totally recommend going.  It's only on til the middle/end of May, though!  So, you'd better hurry.

After we left the Barbican, we were trying to figure out how to walk from there to the Museum of London.  They're very close to each other, but it's a bit tricky to get from one to the other in the most direct line.  We figured out that, you actually have to go up to the "Highwalk" area!  This is a network of raised sidewalk sort of things connecting a bunch of the City of London (as opposed to "Greater London") buildings together, above traffic level.  The whole area is a network of quiet nooks, private gardens and waterscapes.  A total hidden gem in the heart of London.


The museum was fun, and a total recommendation for anyone traveling through London.  I've been before, but it's quite large, so it's worth more than one visit.  Especially since come May, it's going to be opening a new exhibit.  They've been working on it for 3 years, so it's probably going to be quite something!  (Besides, it's FREE!)

After the museum, we went to Victoria Station for a "traditional" dinner.  When we lived in London together, we lived near Victoria Station, and we'd go to this restaurant, Garfunkles, there.  There's nothing special about the restaurant itself, but, we enjoyed remembering living in London together.  That was a magical summer :-)

By the time we got back to the hotel, Lois had a headache.  So, we just chilled for a couple hours, watching "Mock the Week", "QI" and "Would I Lie to You?" - 3 BBC productions that are all very funny.  Mock the Week is a comic show about current events.  Would I Lie to You is a bluffing game where celebrities read off pre-prepared cards, and the other team (also celebs) have to decide if it's true or false.  Kind of like the game "2 Truths and a Lie", if you've ever played that.  QI, though, is my favourite!  It stands for "Quite Interesting" and it's a quiz show hosted by Stephen Fry.  Yeah.  You can imagine from there.  It's really funny, and (surprise!) quite interesting.

Took Lois to the airport this morning.  Very sad to see her go, but it was so wonderful to have her here.  I'm really grateful that Grandma sent her over for the week.  It was the perfect present.

I'd specifically asked at the front desk about check-out time (told 11.00 am) because, if possible, I wanted to avoid the whole driving in Rush Hour thing.  Not exactly fun.  Left the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, and took Lois off to the airport. Got back to the hotel and discovered that my bag (which I'd left in the room) was not there, and the room was being cleaned!  Ummm..... what's going on?!?  The front desk had the room listed as being empty!  And that I'd checked out.  Ummm.... no.  So, I made them find my bag (had my laptop in it!!!) and let me back into the room, since I'd not checked out!  Anyway, not impressed.  Like I said before, not a hotel I'd recommend.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

I just have to say.... I've LOVED having my sister here this week.  It was seriously the best possible birthday surprise I could have gotten.  I'd even said, when asked what I wanted for my birthday, that the only thing I wanted was her, here!  I didn't think it was possible then.  I'm so impressed with her powers of manipulation.  Grandma thought up the idea and payed for it.  Very kind of her.  And Lois did all the leg work to make it happen, including Facebook stalking my friends!  And, the whole week before she came she'd been giving little hints..... "So, Adele, Can I take you to Nando's for your birthdy?"  (Nando's being one of my favourite places to eat.  Peri-Peri chicken... um!)  Then saying she'd call me on my mobile, and we'd eat "together".  Ha ha... or, she'd just finished cleaning up the house (turns out it was in preperation for leaving that evening) and I jokingly say, "Great, you can come do mine next!"  She says, "I'll do it tomorrow!"  Ha ha ha ha... She thinks she's funny.  She made all sorts of comments like that!

Anyway, here's to 31!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Acting Like Animals

So, with Lois visiting, I wanted to do something kind of fun. I had thought of going down to Clacton and enjoying the coast.  Or, doing something else locally, but outdoors, since it was a sunny morning.  Had checked out Visit SouthEast England to get some ideas, and one of them was "Amazon World", which is a Zoo on the Isle of Wight.  So, I thought, Colchester has a Zoo!  We can go there!  Colchester's Zoo is great!!  So . . . after we had some lunch, Lois and I ran up to the Zoo.  The weather went a little sad on us, with a bit of rain before we headed out.  Fortunately, we didn't have any problems with the rain while we were out.  It was chilly, though.  But, the cool weather, Friday mid-day and March all kept the crowds down.  So we didn't have to fight to see any of the animals.  And, they were doing a lot, because it was cool!  Way fun.  We had excellent timing, too.  Without even trying :D  We just turned up and it was the right time!  Our two favourite activities:

Feeding the Elephant!
Feeding the Giraffes!
video

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

I Have The Best Sister Ever . . . But She's TOTALLY FIRED!!!

Oh. My. Goodness.



Oh. My. Goodness!!!!!




Oh. My. Goodness!!!!!!!!!!!




So, my friend asked me to come round to help her make her daughter's dress.


THERE WAS NO DRESS!

I got there, and my friend was off "dropping her son off at rugby." Uhhh huh. Well, she was, but that's not the whole story. She pulls into the drive and comes into the house and asks me to roll out the pizza dough, before we got started on the dress. Yep. Sure. Not a problem. I did that, and then she took me into the dining room and said, "Here's the dress!!!" Ummm..... there was no dress. Her daughter was standing there, with a camera. I'm looking at her daughter thinking....... something is clearly up. What's the punchline? What am I missing. And then, my gaze shifted, two inches to the left.






TO MY SISTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





The punk! she'd arranged to fly to England for my BIRTHDAY next week!!!! Rotten thing!!!! I jumped and screamed and couldn't speak, hugged my friend, who said .... "You shouldn't be hugging me, you should be hugging HER!" Hugged my sister, and burst into tears. Lois said, "See? I TOLD you she'd cry!!!!"

She's here for a whole WEEK! Yeay!!!!!!


The Video:
video 

Monday, 15 March 2010

Underground Blues

I had a traumatic weekend:  Lost my car keys, house keys, mobile phone and ipod (it's only a nano).  Thought I'd been pick pocketted, because they were all in the same pocket.  Was obviously distressed to discover them missing (especially the keys!) at 1.00 in the morning!  I was on my way home from London and started looking for my car keys (car was parked on the street, near the station - free parking on the weekends, but residents only Mon-Fri.)  No car keys.  No house keys!!!  The phone and ipod were secondary.  Anyway, walked home from the station, and had to wake my poor (lovely!) neighbour to get my spare key (SOOOOO sorry, D, if you're reading this!  And, THANK YOU for letting me in!) at 1.30 in the morning.  Thought, well . . . maybe I should ring the phone, on the off chance that they hadn't been stolen, but lost.  So, I dialled my mobile, and *shock* someone answered!  The manager for Charlotte St Blues (http://www.charlottestblues.com - go, if you're in London!) had found them - house keys, car keys, phone and ipod (but, no ipod headphones, for some reason) - and he would put them in the safe for me to collect!  Yeay!!!  Of course, I still didn't have car keys, but at least I knew where they WERE!

Not having keys was a bit challenging for Sunday.  Not only did I have to go to Chelmsford (30 minute drive) for church, but also, my car was in a weekend-only parking area!  So, my lovely neighbour came to my rescue AGAIN and helped me get back to my car and try my 'sudo' spare key.  Turns out, it will open the doors, and release the wheel lock, but it doesn't have an immobiliser chip (anti-theft device), so it won't turn the engine over.  Drat.  Ok, so came home and called the AA (Automotive Association).  They sent a recovery vehicle, and the man was SO nice and helpful.  Seriously made a stressful situation much easier.  He came to my house, gave me a lift BACK to my car, then hooked my car up to the tow-bar, and I steered whilst he towed me home.  Then, he parked the car in my drive!  And, he made total sure that I'd be ok, that if I needed to replace the keys I had a way to do that, or to get the keys back . . . really great.  I totally recommend them as a company!

So, still had the problem of getting to church.  Fortunately, Chelmsford Ward shares a chapel, and they're on the afternoon schedule at the moment.  I've never been so grateful for 2.00 church in my life!  Had a think, who do I know who'd be driving from Colchester to Chelmsford . . . umm . . . no one.  Ok.  What about Ipswich?  (Colchester's about 1/2 way between the two cities)  Ah!  2 of the Stake YW Presidency are in Ipswich (they're sisters.  Like, blood related. ) They're friends.  I can ring them!  And, G and H came to my rescue!  I called them my Damsels in Shining Armour!  They also get a total thumbs up from me.

Right, so what does this all have to do with Underground and Blues?  Well, I had to go back to London today to collect my keys.  And in the Underground there was a fantastic busker.  He was playing this crazy instrament (no idea what it is) and the music he was playing!  Oooh!  WHERE were my bluse friends when I needed them?!?  Cruel and unusual punishmenet to have me find such a fantastic bit of Blues Culture and NO ONE TO SHARE IT WITH!  Asked if I could take his photo, and he said, "Please do!"  He totally made my day!  :D

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Letter from Santiago East Mission Pesident's Wife

Here's another amazingly spiritual experience to do with the Chilean Earthquake.  This one is from the Santiago East Mission President's wife. Again, it's been passed through the mission network.

Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2010 23:48:27 -0700
From: *****@ourldsfamily.com
To: *****@msn.com
Subject: Santiago East Mission President's message

"Dear Everyone,

"I am writing to let you all know how very grateful we are for your
prayers, concern, and love. Please keep praying! We need the Lord's help
and guidance in order to do all He would have us do to learn what He
would have us learn from this earth quake tragedy, and to minister in
the way He would have us minister. During the past few days, we have
witnessed many events which serve to remind us that the Lord is in
charge and that as missionaries and members of His church, The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are performing His work, and as
President Monson teaches, "When we are on the Lord's errand, we are
entitled to His help." I want to share with you a few miracles that will
help you to understand our profound feelings of gratitude.

"When we were set apart for this calling, Elder Scott of the counsel of
the twelve apostles taught us many important lessons. He spoke from
personal experience when he was a Mission President in Argentina. One
message that he shared with us is this: "At times, during your mission,
you will be awakened in the middle of the night or the early morning
hours with thoughts of specific things you should do for certain
missionaries. Do not ignore these thoughts. They are promptings from the
Holy Ghost who will communicate with you in the stillness of the night
or the peace of the early morning hours. He will speak to you then
because that is when you are still enough to hear." Elder Scott further
instructed us to keep a notebook beside our bed so that we could record
these precious promptings. He said that by the next morning, we would be
likely to forget the promptings if we didn't write them down.

"We have been astonished at the fulfillment of Elder Scott's prophetic
words. We have received many promptings in the exact manner that Elder
Scott described. We are so thankful that Elder Scott taught us how to
recognize and act upon these precious promptings. Had he not taught us,
we may not have given these promptings the attention they require.

"Nearly two and one half weeks ago, I was awakened at around 4:00 AM by
just such a prompting. I did not hear a voice, but the thought was as
clear as if it had been in the form of spoken words: "There is going to
be an earthquake. Prepare your missionaries." I sat up in bed and
immediately remembered Elder Scott's counsel. That morning I told Larry
what had happened. He immediately set to work organizing our
missionaries to prepare for an earthquake.

"In talking with our office missionaries to arrange for them to put
together a list of everything we would need to prepare...in both Spanish
and English...we discovered that the Lord had also let two of our office
missionaries know of the possibility of an earthquake (in the form of
dreams) and the need to prepare our mission. We set a goal and arranged
our schedule so that we could visit every apartment in the mission to
check for safety and to review with our missionaries what to do in case
of an earth quake. What a wonderful experience we have had as we have
met with them and shared scriptures with them about being spiritually
and physically prepared. "...if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear" (D&C
38:30). We instructed every missionary to have a "go-bag" (36 hour kit).
We reviewed our emergency action plan with them of where to go and what
to do if they had phone service and in case they did not. We gave
everyone a paper with all instructions in English and Spanish, and we
reminded them that "this life is the time to prepare to meet God" (Alma
34:32-34). We shared with them our thoughts and feelings about the need
for spiritual and physical safety. Some of them became frightened and
asked us if we knew something they didn't know. We smiled and repeated
"...if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." We didn't want to unduly
alarm them, but we did want to impress upon them the need to be
prepared. We tearfully reminded them of our recent transfer conference
where we had shared our feelings about our dear Elder McKay Burrows who
was unexpectedly called home in January while serving his mission in
Romania...how he was prepared in every way to meet God. We reissued our
challenge to "be prepared" in every way. Then we knelt with them in
their apartment and dedicated each apartment, asking for a blessing of
safety and security to be upon every apartment.

"When the earthquake came, we were prepared. We did not experience the
panic that many felt. We knew we were prepared. Because of the words of
the Lord's chosen Apostle, Elder Scott, we had listened and heeded the
quiet, but clear promptings of the Holy Ghost. We were blessed with
peace in the midst of chaos. We learned an important lesson: our
preparation helped us to avoid panic and fear, but the Lord, in His
wisdom, allowed us to experience enough discomfort to know that He has
all power. He is in charge. We are nothing without Him. We are dependent
upon Him for every breath we take. Only He can save us from death and
destruction. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is our perfect
example. If we follow Him, we will be saved through obedience to the
laws and ordinances of His Gospel.
As the earthquake became more violent, the mission home groaned and
wailed. The power died, so the whole city was black. The windows made a
hideous screeching sound, and flying objects banged against swaying
walls. The printer/fax machine, books, book ends, and fifty-pound
television burst from the entertainment center and crashed to the floor,
cabinets emptied, drawers flew open, the refrigerator moved, water
sloshed out of the toilets, the floor jolted up and down as we ran
across it trying to hold onto the walls to keep from falling down, and
the piano toppled over like a small toy. As we made our way to the back
yard, I remember thinking, "God is all-powerful. He is our only refuge
from this horrible mess." I prayed and prayed for Him to still the
earth. When we reached the back yard, we watched in terror. By the light
of the moon we could see the swimming pool water form giant waves and
crash out onto the rocks. House and car alarms screamed into the
night...some from being crushed by falling debris and others I guess
from the bizarre movement of the earth. I am not sure if the intense
rumbling sounds came from the earth itself or from everything else that
was shaking so violently. Finally, it stopped. When the calm came, we
had to sit down because our legs were weak and unstable. My legs stayed
wobbly all day and night yesterday. Today the muscles in my legs hurt
like I ran a marathon. The aftershocks have been extremely unsettling.
Each one begins like the one last night started. We just close our eyes
and wait to see if it escalates or dies down. I have never experienced
anything like this!

We were awakened this morning by a very strong after shock. Larry jumped
out of bed and yelled, "Welcome to another glorious day in Chile!" We
just had to laugh. We moved a mattress into the floor in our bedroom and
made Landon sleep in our room. He was in his room with the door locked
the night before and we couldn't wake him up. He never locks his door,
but he was playing a joke on Larry because every morning Larry wakes him
at 5:30 AM for seminary by tickling him unmercifully. So Landon had
decided to stop him. When we couldn't open his door, in the middle of
the quake, we thought he was trapped, so we screamed and banged. Landon
thought that everything was falling off the walls because we were
banging so hard on the door. I think we scared him more than the
earthquake did!

Today, we attended a strong ward where Larry was invited to speak. The
entire chapel and beyond was filled. People were so humble and so
teachable. Larry taught the importance of doing the small things. He
taught about Jesus Christ and the opportunity we have to love one
another and to share what we have with others. It was a great blessing
for us to be with these beautiful Chilean people. Some have lost their
homes...or at least parts of their homes. But they are strong and they
want to serve the Lord. He taught of the scripture in Luke 21:11,13
which says, "and great earthquakes shall be in divers places...and it
shall turn to you for a testimony." He also welcomed the sweet young
woman who was in the congregation with the missionaries...her first time
attending church...and then he invited her to be baptized from the
pulpit. He asked her to please invite us to her baptism, and she said,
"I will." The Lord always knows what His people need. Landon was reading
in Alma 15:17 today. He said, Mom listen to this. This is what is
happening here in Chile just like in happened in Ammonihah. The people
were humbled and "checked as to the pride of their hearts and began to
humble themselves before God, watching and praying continually that they
might be delivered from Satan, and from death, and from destruction."

Our hearts are filled to the brim with gratitude for all of the
blessings we have received in the Chile Santiago East Mission. We see
miracles every day. In the midst of great pain and suffering, we can
always find our Savior. He stands with His arms open, pleading for all
of us to humble ourselves and come unto Him. He loves us. He invites us
to accept His gift...the atonement. He invites us to repent. He wants us
to love one another and to serve one another. He wants us to bring our
families and those we love to Him. We can do it. We can do all that He
asks, no matter how difficult it may seem. "With God all things are
possible"

OK, sorry this is so long. I will end now. We are having a devotional
tomorrow for all of our missionaries to talk about the last week of
Christ's life in preparation for Easter. We want to remind our
missionaries to teach and preach with increased vigor and animo of
Christ. Last Monday in our office meeting, Larry suddenly stopped in the
middle, and said, "During the prayer, I had a very strong impression
that March 2010 is going to be our best baptizing month we have ever had
in this mission." Now we know why he received that feeling. We are going
to prepare to bring many souls to the waters of baptism in March. Please
continue to pray for us and for the people of Chile. Please pray for the
missionaries to have strength and courage to do all that is being
required of them, even in difficult times.

We are so thankful that the tsunami did not turn out badly in Hawaii.
Who would ever think that an earthquake in Chile could threaten the
shores of Hawaii? Thankfully, the Lord is in charge. He is the one to
whom we must turn for refuge from every storm. He has the power to save us.

Con mucho amor,

President Larry and Sister Lisa Laycock