Learning London: A day of cream tea and BauBax testing


Soho at Christmas–but it is lit this way year round!

Aongus and I aim to make the most of every free day we have in London. I’m back at Gatwick now, flying to a speaking engagement in Dublin, and reflecting on the past 24 hours.

After work yesterday (7PM Friday), we met in Covent Garden. First strolling aimlessly, for the purpose of exercise and air, we found ourselves in Soho when Aongus’ hunger pangs won out. We stopped in for Dim Sum at the Golden Phoenix restaurant on Gerrard Street, London W1D 6JE, in the heart of China Town.

Aiming to try new things as often as possible, we thus enjoyed our first dinner on Gerrard Street. The custard-filled buns at the Golden Phoenix were particularly delicious; we will skip ordering a saucy dish next time and stick to the dumplings!


Cream tea for two at Harrod’s

Today (Saturday morning) we awoke for a trip to Kensington via the London underground. I’d booked cream tea for two at Harrod’s. The store and its surrounding streets had a festive holiday feel.

After tea, we browsed and even made a small purchase (but not Italian luxury furniture, unfortunately!).

In our photos of furniture-testing, you’ll see Aongus trying out his new BauBax 2.0 travel jacket. In a recent Kick Starter campaign, I had ordered us matching bomber jackets. Today we donned these early Christmas presents, and Aongus is delighted with his. I’m an architect and I am quite detail-oriented, so although I’m happy with several of the innovative features, I am not entirely satisfied with the overall product–at least not in the medium size for women.


Harrods interior stair. The building is a-maze-ing.

It seems to me they tested the BauBax 2.0 design on the large size for men. Several of the features promised–most notably the interior iPad pocket–are too small in the version for ladies. My iPad is a few millimeters too long to fit, and they now say the ladies version will only fit an “iPad mini” which I have not found to be a useful tool. Nevertheless, there’s still a pocket for the iPad pencil. Not too useful if you can’t bring your iPad! It’s important to have pockets when Ryanair won’t allow baggage aboard without add-on fees. I like to travel with as few bags as possible!

So, while the garment does have several nice design features, the final product appears to have been rushed out of the factory. Many of the seams and details in mine are of poor quality. I’ll need to bring it to a tailor to remedy its shortfalls, and I’ll not buy clothing online again.


Giving an Italian recliner and a BauBax 2.0 bomber jacket a test run

I guess it boils down to the fact that when it comes to buying cars, computers, and clothes, I’m not an Innovator according to Rodger’s Adoption model–those folks bought the BauBax 1.0 on Kickstarter. I’m also not completely comfortable as an Early Adopter, as I’ve ended up with second-iteration products that still needed some refinement–including this BauBax 2.0 and a 2004 Nissan 350Z.

I really loved my Z car but it, and its 2003 and 2004 siblings, came out of the factory without its tires balanced! They didn’t realize that tire-balancing issue until they’d rolled 14 months or so of these two-seat sports cars out of showrooms. Tires started failing at 16k miles and had to be replaced. So now I know definitively–I need to wait for v3.0. Just be an Early Innovator and enjoy the benefits of having a refined design rather than a cutting-edge showpiece.

I am, however, very happy with the smile on Aongus’ face and the fact that he says the shape of the jacket is flattering. Fortunately, with time and use, I’m beginning to identify which pockets can fit which items–which doesn’t exactly align with the BauBax info sheets that we studied meticulously–but I’m finding systems that work for me.


Comptior on Exhibition Rd

So as you see from Aongus’ reclined testing position at Harrod’s furniture showrooms, we rested a bit on some cozy chairs, identifying ideal options for our future. After discussing chair designs with a furniture rep, we viewed some women’s fashions. We enjoy seeing the bizarre clothing designs on offer here and at Harvey Nichols, but we quickly had our fill and headed out and down to the street.


Enjoying a chicken tagine

Following a zesty Lebanese tagine at Comptior on Exhibition Road–a cafe we had previously enjoyed with my cousin Kaitlin–we headed over to the Victoria and Albert Museum to absorb some art and history. We particularly enjoyed the stained glass and the new section for photography. You’ll see photos of the building and also from the Buddist, metalwork, and photography sections.


Cameras on exhibit in the V&A’s new photography section

The sun had set and there wasn’t much time before my flight to Dublin, so we dashed to the South Kensington tube station and jumped onto a District line train.

We said a quick but heartfelt “goodbye and see you Friday” as I disembarked at Victoria Station and climbed the stairs to the National Rail station on the ground floor. Despite construction works around Gatwick that delayed the train 15 minutes, I arrived and cleared security with plenty of time for a browse at Dixon’s and a healthy salad from Pret before I hit the runway–putting my travel jacket to work.

Ciao, Britain. See your other side on Tuesday!

Another Norman Rockwell Christmas at Kitty Lee and Glen’s

Introducing my Massie grandparents — Layton (Pa) and Lillian (Ma) Massie.  They are my Dad’s parents, and they used to live in Staunton, Virginia.

Although Ma and Pa are no longer with us, most of their kids and grandkids (as well as their great grand kids and their great great grandkid) gather at my aunt Kitty Lee’s home each year to celebrate Christmas.

I enjoy this outing and the chance to catch up with Kitty Lee and Glen (who live in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley), as well as my Dad and the rest of the Massie tribe.

This is the way we’ve celebrated Massie Christmas since the mid-90s.  Before that, we’d all gather at my grandparents’ cozy bungalow at 414 High Street in downtown Staunton, Virginia.

The pictures below were taken December 22-24, 2012.

More Studio Fun

We're going to move the awning up and add signage. (The sign is not there yet.  I PhotoShop-ed in a version to see what it might look like.  The sign will have to be approved by the Downtown Design Review committee.)

We’re going to move the awning up and add signage that looks something like this.

Dave’s studio is in the building at the back of the courtyard (in the top photo). In addition to designing and renovating the inside of the building, we also need to figure out how to use his courtyard well.

I PhotoShop-ed a sign onto the photo to see what that could look like.  In honor of the movie, I’ve used Helvetica font here.  (Please note:  No sign is installed yet.  The design Dave selects will have to be approved by the Downtown Design Review committee before we can do that.  It is likely to be much smaller than what I’m simulating here.)

I’ve included a few photos Dan Bell sent from the other night….

Dave Chance Downtown

We haven’t yet started moving Dave into his new photography studio at 610 High Street, but we’re starting to design how he will use the space.  Our friends Jenn White and Dan Bell met us there the other night to celebrate Dave’s news.

Beaming Across the Table

An image Dave texted me last week -- from one of my favorite seats in Norfolk, sitting across from Wayne Ringer at D'Egg diner.

An image Dave texted me last week — from one of my favorite seats in Norfolk, sitting across from Wayne Ringer at D’Egg diner.

I haven’t been eating out much these past few months.  It’s just not as delightful when the seat across from me is empty.

I’m lucky to have many memories of meals with loved ones to keep me company, but it’s still not quite the same.

I particularly miss breakfast time with Wayne Ringer.  Dave and I meet Wayne for breakfast a couple of times each week when I’m in Hampton Roads.  When I’m away, Dave often texts me pictures so I can feel included.  Here’s a shot of Wayne that Dave sent me last week.  I haven’t seen Wayne yet, but hope to “real soon.”  I know he’ll be happy I’ve been able to “tell everyone in Dublin ‘hey.'”  (That’s his normal directive when we part.)

Wayne and I originally met at a little coffee shop in our Port Norfolk neighborhood.  That was way back in 2000.  Even though that shop closed and Wayne moved across the river to Norfolk, we still find time to meet for breakfast.

These days, Dave’s schedule permits him to join us (he typically rises before the sun, to photograph buildings in the light of the rising sun, and joins us after his photo shoot).

Here’s a view I typically have in Dublin:

Empty chair across from me in Dublin, at Nandos.

Empty chair across from me in Dublin, at Nandos.