Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 1 in Strasbourg - Duncan's Highllights

yummy breakfast
serious coffee/chocolate machine!
We had a full full day today.  Hard to know how to order the highlights!  So... from Duncan's point of view, here are a few of them, in no particular order:

1. Breakfast at the hotel. We had croissants and pain au chocolat, and they had a fabulous machine that not only made great coffee (au lait? cappucino? espresso?), but also made a mean cup of hot chocolate (Duncan tossed back two of them)

a really cool tram
2.  We figured out how to get ourselves off to the tram line, to get to the University (so I could register, and pick up my materials for the conference).  The tram (which is above ground) has a great 'high-tech' look to it! We figured out how to buy the ticket, AND how to 'composte' it [which did NOT involve putting it in a bucket with green waste and worms].  I give my paper tomorrow (and Duncan will be spending the full day sitting at the conference) so we decided today would be a "tourist day".
3.  Tourist day meant: going to the cathedral to see the astrological clock; taking a boat ride on the river Ill; taking a mini tram ride through town; climbing to the top of the cathedral.  More to say on all of these in some other post.  These were "OK" on the Duncan scale, and "Fabulous" on the Mother scale.  ... so ... more on those things in another post!

Smurf flavoured icecream
4.  Schtroumphe flavoured icecream.  Duncan swears that this flavour is so amazing, that he now understands just why Gargamelle is always trying to eat the Smurfs!

painting a goblin
5.  "War Hammer":  Duncan found a "War Hammer" games store... the kind where you buy small miniatures, and then paint them. His uncle Doral always loved doing this stuff. The store would let you sit down and try painting 'for free'... yes... it was 'for free', at least the character that Duncan painted.  The starter pack of goblins he then wanted to purchase was 'less free', but... it is a fun hobby if he is willing to do the work!  Duncan says he is going to have fun painting them, and it will be fun to play war hammer with his friends and cousins when he gets back to Canada.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Video Games in Real Life (by Duncan)

We are here in Strasbourg because i wasn't allowed to stay at home while my mom went to the conference The day we got here we were walking around for a little bit in town. Then we decided to go for pizza. It was already dark out but we sat at a table outside where we could see the top of the cathedral. I got a huge pizza and a ginormous milkshake, and mom took lots of failed photo attempts of me trying to eat it before she could get one good shot. I also took a picture of her eating pretzels.

Even though it was really dark and cold, she wanted to take pictures of the church. But all of the pictures she took were failed attempts. I told her it was too dark, but she kept trying anyways. Finally she gave up and said we could try again in the morning. The pictures all looked like this!

Wierdly though, on the way home, we saw something strange. We ran into one of those mushrooms from Mario that make you grow big. It was in tile in a wall of one of the buildings. It was just like when we saw a green ghost from PacMan at the Louvre in Paris. And I was like, "huh?!" Is this by accident, or is someone doing this on purpose. I wanted to take a picture, and she said it was too dark, but tried anyways. The picture came out perfect, even if her church pictures didn't. hahah

Starting the week in Strasbourg

Add caption

I am in Strasbourg this week, for the congress of the AFSP (Association francais de science politique). Alex is back home at a Rugby Clinic for the next couple of days, but there was nothing for Duncan.  School doesn't start til next week, Steve is at work for 12 hours/day, and we couldn't find any childcare for Duncan so... he had to come with me! .... he is not looking forward to sitting at the conference with me all day, but has some new DS games to keep him distracted!  Life is always like this:  Steve and Alex would rather be here, Duncan would rather be at home.  There is no justice!   :-)  

So we just arrived, after a restful trip on the Eurostar/SNCF.  The stroll from the train station to the hotel was beautiful.... it is my first time here, and I must say, this town is lovely!  I can see why it is a UNESCO world heritage site!   Here is the view from our little hotel room!   Not bad!   Now we are going to sneak out into the streets to grab a bite to eat.  I suspect Duncan's vote is going to be pizza.  :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Morning Walk to and From the Tube Station

Woodside Park Tube Station
While i have never really been a morning person, I am sort of enjoying getting up at 6:30 in the morning to walk in with Steve (and the dog) to the Tube Station: Woodside Lane, to Woodside Avenue, to Woodside Grange, to Woodside Park: yes, it is a 15 minute stroll, but it is 'woodside' all the way!   This time I took the camera with me.  The skies were grey, but I thought I would capture some of my favourite moments of the walk on the way home. 

First, I love the station itself.  It is so 'unlike' the majority of the tube stations.  Far from having that urban centre, under-the-ground thing going on, our station is above ground, and has the feeling of something more rural, something like the old train station in Sicamous, BC!  If any of you come to visit us, you just hop off the tube at Woodside Park, walk up the street (towards where I am standing to take this shot), and take your first left onto Woodside Grange (and woodsides all the way home!).

Right at the beginning of Woodside Grange, there is a lovely pear tree. I find myself trying to assess from day to day whether or not the pears have grown any larger overnight.  Half a block down is some kind of (I think) crab apple tree.  It is loaded with small fruit, but the branches grow so low over the sidewalk, that I am continually wondering when I will forget to duck and will instead get skewere through the forehead.  So far so good.

I love the variety in the houses along the road:  some flats, some retirement residences, some brick homes, some wood.  This house amuses me... I like the contrast of the one house, with the one beside it wrapped in plastic (renovating? fumigating?).  I also love a house a bit further up the street with its weather vane pointing out the direction of the winds (which, no matter which direction they blow, seem always to end with rain)
corner of woodside ave and woodside grange

I love the branches...

...and the trunk!
One of my other favourite trees is at the other end of woodside grange.  It is a bit of a mammoth (at the corner of a Y-intersection where woodside grange meets woodside Ave).  I like the view from the bottom, looking up through the branches.  But what I really adore is the trunk (yes... as my kids say... i find bark interesting!).  This particular trunk reminds me of a wet rag... right after a person has tried to twist it to squeeze out the excess water..... and of course, given the amount of rain here, the analogy to squeezing out a wet rag is more than apt!  ;-)

Friday Night Festivities in Rainy (as ever) London

The weekend once again!   This time, the plan was theatre!    I got us tickets for  "Crazy For You" in the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre.  OK.  Yep.  Open Air Theatre!   Now, the men were all a bit skeptical about this choice, since it has rained (or poured) every day this week.  So perhaps not the best choice?   On the other hand, why not give it a try?!  The theatre's website gave us all sorts of info about "the weather", so... i had come prepared (each of us had a knapsack with an extra cushion to sit on, and fleecy blanket for warmth, and a couple of umbrellas... just in case!).

Wearing our backpacks, the boys and I headed into central London, to meet Steve:  Weatherspoons right by the Baker Street Station, just  down the street from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum (which we have not yet visited).  Right outside the door is the statue of Sherlock Holmes  (since Baker Street is where the infamous literary detective lived!).  Here are my three men doing the Sherlock Holmes pose!

After dinner, happyily stuffed with "Sausages and Mash", and with our tickets in hand, we wandered down Baker Street, and into Regent's Park, stopping to watch the crowds of ducks, pigeons and (yes) Canada Geese swarming around the couple who had brought a bag of bread for feeding time.  There were a bunch of cute little goslings in there too, but i am not sure if you can catch them in this shot.   There was also a stork resting under one of the bridges, so the boys accommodated their shutter-crazy mother with a "stork pose" shot!  :-)
The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre itself is great!  This is just a shot in the 15 minutes before show time, as people were taking their seats. Thankfully, the seats fold down and have their own cushions, so my fears about backache were put to rest!  Of course, the seats were also soaking wet, since it had poured rain about 30 minutes earlier!  Given the damp seats, I was really happy to have the cushions, though I could see that other theatre goers had also come prepared with plastic bags, which they were laying across their seats! 
As the ushers were showing people in, there were also a host of cast members pushing brooms and towels across the stage to dry things off.  I tried to take a photo of the cast members wiping the stage, but then a very apologetic attendant came to tell me that the stage design for this particular show was copyrighted, so they prefer to pictures of it (stands fine, stage not).   Alex was outraged to note that other people were also taking photos and were not getting caught.... Ah well... the red hair is a disadvantage in contexts where you are trying to do something people don't want done.  I am not so good at 'sureptitious'. hahaha.   So... to get a sense of the backdrop for the stage (which is a wonderful lush setting of trees), here is an image off the web from an earlier season (with no stage design to be copyrighted!).

Next time, we will come earlier and hang out before the show starts!  There is a barbeque area, and a huge picnic area.  You can even order picnic baskets to be waiting on your arrival... they also have what is billed as England's longest bar!   It spans the entire back edge of the theatre (and you can bring your drinks with you into the stands).  It is really lovely!  Huge trees on one side, ivy (or something) falling down the roof edge of the bar, woven with tiny lights that sparkled in the dusk as evening fell.  Here are two shots, one under the bar, and the other looking up through the corridor of trees that span it.

So... back to the show itself.  "Crazy for You" is a comedic piece of musical theatre (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy adopts a disguise, girl falls in love with disguise, things go wrong, etc etc and all ends happily ever after).  Basically, a classic shakespearean plot, but set in the 1930s, using exclusively Gershwin songs to push the plot along.  The play is full of great songs, great dancing, great jokes, great slapstick comedy.  Funnily enough, after I got home, i discovered that the piece was written by Ken Ludwig, the same guy who wrote "Lend Me A Tenor" (which I saw with Arta and Wyona when i was hunting for an apartment back in June (and which Arta already blogged about!")  After the fact, I can see the connection.  fun!   You can read the telegraph's review of it here, and see one of the songs, "I Can't Be Bothered Now" (from the 1993 Tony Awards) on youtube.

Of course, as with all our London adventures, nothing goes quite as one might hope. Perhaps 30 minutes in the show, as dusk had fallen, Alex poked me and pointed to the trees on the left side of the theatre (were were about 11 row back on centre right). I could see why he pointed: it looked like it was raining in the trees... I could see no rain falling anywhere on the stage or on us, but it looked like a wall of rain inside the trees. Really wierd. I wondered if it was some sort of 'after-the-fact' response to the ealier know how sometimes it seems to be raining under the trees when it has already stopped raining?

under the umbrella...

scattering to shelter in the bar...
But no... it was a real downpour, but contained and moving towards us very slowly, almost like a wall!   Within a few minutes, you could see umbrellas start to pop up on the far left of the auditorium, and then slowly spread across, like a slow-motion "wave" in a sports stadium!  [the seats are raked sufficiently high that no one's view gets obstructed by an umbrella in the row ahead of them!]  Duncan and I happily popped ours open and huddled under.   The cast continued singing and dancing for another several minutes, but finally the rain really came down with a vengence. The music stopped, and an announcer told us that the cast would take a brief break, and that we should all seek shelter under the bar.   People scampered to follow these directions.  I wouldn't have believed it had I not seen it myself, but the bar area is indeed large enough to provide shelter for an entire full theatre of people!  Nothing like a bit of 'the unexpected' to bond people together. :-)   and sure enough, in 15 minutes, the rain has stopped, and they sent us back in.  The cast were again out on the stage with mops, wiping it dry, and then they all settled back into the positions they had been, and the show took off again!   Totally wild!

All in all, a great show, with a great finish!   With the sky dark, the lighting people managed some bit of magic that sent stars sparkling through the trees and skies, reminding me of what it is like at the lake in the summer, when we have a dance party on the lawns in front of the cabins, and wyona or arta have turned on the mirror ball, which sends shards of light skipping over the grass.  We wandered back to the Baker Street Tube station, and headed for home... Yep... a perfect evening out.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A bit more nature than I really wanted to see...

Well.... I really am a city girl.  Always have been one.  So it is a bit odd to me that the first couple of months of life in London has involved so many exposures to wildlife.  We have seen pigeons aplenty, hedgehogs, and foxes, but this one really pushed me over the top.   I am not a squeemish girl.  Really.  I don't generally mind spiders.  But this thing was the biggest one I have seen in my life (that wasn't in a cage at a zoo).  To get a sense of the dimensions, we caught this thing in a 4 cup measuring cup.  I dropped the cup over it, then slid a piece of paper underneath to pick it up.  You can see that, from leg tip to leg tip, it was almost the same size as the bottom of the measuring cup.  Alex carried it outside to live someplace other than the living room.  Bleech!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Royal Air Force Museum

Last weekend, Steve wanted to go to the RAF Museum.  Off we went, on an adventure that (after consulting the "Transit for London" website) had us take a short walk, followed by two buses.  No big deal for most folk, I am sure, but we are still finding bus travel to be something of an adventure.  Neither of the two buses was a double decker, but both were fun! (these ones had a video screen at the front that was cycling through various views of the inside of the bus... so Duncan and I could admire ourselves on screen!)

As often happens, the character of neighbourhoods changes quickly.  Our route took us out of Finchley and into Totteridge & Whetstone, which seems even less urban, and more like a bit of the country.   Lots of green space, and very large homes (dare I say mansions?).   A peek out to the internet told me that conservation laws have indeed left much of this space protected (and green!), and that many wealthy people have their homes there, including Sir Cliff Richard.  I of course "Suddenly" found myself "Dreamin" that I might see him on the bus ride, but maybe that was just the "Devil Woman"in me!   :-)   sorry for the musical references folks, but I am hoping that my sisters will be remembering the many summer nights laying on the beach under the stars singing along to those songs!  Ah, sweet 70s!

Our route went past St. Andrew's Church.  There has apparently been a church on the site since at least 1250.  A wedding was going on, so we got to admire the tuxedos, summer dresses and plethora of HATS which we lounging around the front of the church. Again, my websearching told me that there is an ancient Yew tree in the church yard, one estimated to be between 1000 and 2000 years old (if wikipedia is to be trusted!)  Couldn't help but think of the Yew tree at Arta's place at the lake (down by the stream).  Now I am wondering how old our own Yew is!  Anyways, there is a lovely photo of the church here.

outside the flight simulator!
Eventually, we made it to the museum, which is housed in a series of gigantic hangars....hangars big enough to house a TON of airplanes!  ... everything from the planes like the first one at Kitty Hawk through to the most modern of jets.  There were also flight simulators on the floor.  Alex, Duncan and I took a shot at experiencing the inside of a jet fighter.  I came out feeling woozy, and decidedly happy that I chose a different career path!  One of the funniest parts of the simulator (for me) was that the last 60 seconds of the ride [after it has stopped, but before the doors open to let you out], there was a recruiting advertisement, telling how great the jobs are if you join the RAF. Alex noted that the Ad was not as "high-tech" as the US recruiting ads (which have the feel of a blockbuster movie). Indeed, after showing us shots of dentists, nurses, and maybe even a bar-tender, this ad informed us that "you may even be suprised to know that for some jobs, no qualifications are necessary" :-) No doubt. I loved the element of being a captive audience for the commercial (maybe that is how they can keep the ticket price relatively low). It was fun, so I didn't really begrudge the ad.
A Tiger Moth!
We also went to see a short 4D movie, about B17 bombers (the chairs moved, the room filled with smoke, blasts of air came out at us, etc). Again, Alex wondered why the movie focused on US airmen since we were in a british museum, but.... there you go. I will confess that the movie made me cry. Couldn't help but think about Al and Norm. Indeed, the whole museum (with its emphasis on planes and pilots) left those two guys firmly in my mind. I got to see the Lancaster (which Al flew) and a Tiger Mother (which Norm OWNS... you occasionally get to see if fly over Victoria on special occasions).
The DeHavilland Mosquito

Shot down in a bombing raid
Checking out the cockpit!
After that, we went exploring planes. Amongst other things, we saw a DeHavilland Mosquito, which was the kind of plane that Steve's dad worked on during the war (after he had been injured).

Duncan was also impressed by the burned out carcass of a plane that had been shot down in a bombing raid on an aircraft carrier. Also, he loved being able to climb up to investigate the cockpits of several of the planes.

off to the Sunderland...
In the Battle of Britain hanger they had a Sunderland plane.... a flying boat, as far as I could tell. The thing was HUGE!  We also had fun trying to find the Canadian crest on the wall that had the seemingly hundreds of crests of all those air force groups (divisions? regiments?) who participated in the war (Alex was the first one to identify the moose head!).

All in all, it was an interesting way to spend a couple of hours!

The Imperial War Museum (by Duncan)

Last weekend, we took a trip to the Imperial War Museum. We brought the camera to take pictures, but my mom forgot to put the memory card in the camera. She only figured that out when we were all standing in front of the museum, and some other person was trying to take a picture of us! So we didn't get any pictures of us. But we did buy the book from the Museum. This is the cover, and you can pretend that we are standing in front of the museum and waving to you.

Inside the book are pictures of some of the things we saw. There were lots of things related to war. We saw some planes, some tanks, some bombs, and even some busses!

There was also a world war I section in the museum, where you could go walk through a reconstruction of the trenches to see what it felt like. Here is a picture of the trenches from the book. It was dark, and noisy, and kind of creepy to be inside. It even smelled like you were surrounded by dirt. My mom and Alex were happy to get out of there! There were lots of things related to war. There were also a ton of guns to see, and you could go into something like the inside of a submarine!

There was also a great museum shop with so many things I would have liked to buy. My dad did get me a really cool shirt. My mom says that I now match the treetrunks outside our house! The museum was excellent, and I would like to go there again.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Morning and Evening Skies...

the passage between fields 2 and 3!
  As usual, the morning started with the ritual walk:  get up early (6ish), take the dog, and go for a walk to the Tube Station with Steve.  It is only 10 or so minutes away, but it is nice to get the time in with Steve (i just leave the kids sleeping)...sometimes it feels like it is the only quiet time we get for conversation! :-) Then, after leaving him at the station, I retrace my steps, and walk over to Whetsone Stray Open Space to throw the ball for Kiwi. 

This morning, I was not sure if the sky or the ground was more interesting.  The sky did capture my attention at first:  it was a relatively clear sky, but there was a very strange set of clouds floating there... it looked almost like some sort of star.  I finally realized that it was vapour trails from the early morning planes over London!  :-)  Still quite beautiful, but less confusing (for the part of me that was trying to figure out if they were rain clouds, or what!)  At some point, my attention was drawn back to the ground.  The grass was still completely laden with dew.  In particular, you could see small sparkly circles all over the place:  small spider webs in the grass, capturing dew drops which shimmered in the early morning light.  It is not that I have a thing for spiders or their webs... it is just that the little webs are totally invisible later in the day once the dew dries up.  I almost felt bad walking across the grass, knowing that I was mashing plenty of the webs underfoot.  Almost! 

The day itself had the usual smattering of adventure.  I decided to take the kids on one of the London Walks, this time the British Museum walk.  We had been planning to go back to the Museum in anyevent, and this seemed the perfect way to do it!  Meet at Holborn Station, pay 8 pounds (kids go free), walk down Museum Street over  to the Museum, and then have a guide take us into the museum for a highlights tour!   We arrived in time, paid our money, and followed to the guide over to the Museum.  We stood outside with her for 10 minutes while she told us great tales about the history of the Museum, and Sir Hans Sloane (whose collection started things off).  For example, his collection included a series of hairballs.  yum, yum.  He also apparently is responsible for the first chocolate bars (for Cadburys). 

Now... this was all quite exciting, and we were about to enter the museum itself when the fire alarms went off.  Yep.... police and firetrucks arriving, security people moving us first off the steps, then out of the courtyard, then accross the street.  Just TRY to imagine a museum packed with people being herded out into the streets.  Alex rightly pointed out that it was insane.  It took us some maneouvering to work our way through the flow of people to reconnect with our group.  Our tour guide told us that this happened not infrequently, and that they usually sorted it out before they got the museum fully emptied... but at some point she just gave up, and gave us our money back.  sigh.  Double sigh really, because the museum decided it was a false alarm and started letting people back in maybe another 5 minutes after that.  The kids and I have decided that our luck is just not all that great!  

So much for the guided tour.  But, not to be disuaded, I still tried a bit of the unguided tour with them:  we spent a half an our with the Elgin Marbles, learning everything we could about the South Metope IV (not a very romantic name really, but it was still interesting to learn what a metope was!)   We watched a great film clip about this particular piece, which is of a centaur attack a youth with a water jug.  The heads for both the centaur and youth are in a museum in Copenhagen... but we got to see a reconstruction of the entire piece, as well as a picture of what it would have once looked like (back in the days when the Parthenon would have been alive with colour.  Sweet!

We managed to connect with Steve after we were done at the museum (since I am becoming more skilled at texting on my phone), and found a new pub for that had yam fries (first time we have seen them since coming here).  There was much celebrating from Duncan.  And so, full of delicious pub food (which meant chicken tikka masala for me!), we headed off to the Tube station and wound our way home.  The sky at the end of the evening was just as beautiful as it had been in the morning, though in a different way.  I am sure that my camera does not do it justice, but... maybe you can imagine what it looked like from the backyard:  the sky was a beautiful mix of pinks and blues.  I just can not figure out how nature manages to produce such an amazing range of colours.

The passing of my friend Al Trotter

Al (Elmer) Trotter
This week marked the passing of a much loved friend:  Al Trotter.  Several years back, I had the good fortune to work with him and Norman Reid (and the tenacious and gracious Susan Ruttan) on a case involving the federal government's refusal to pay full compensation to a number of former prisoners of war (and those airmen shot down behind enemy lines, who spent their time evading capture).  Al and Norm were doggedly persistent in their quest for justice, and eventually (with the help of Paul Pearlman and Marcia McNeil) won their case, resulting in the full pensions being paid to something like 120 vetrans (or their widowed spouses).   Indeed, for several years, students in the UVic "Law, Legislation and Policy" course used the case to learn about law... and many of wrote pettions to the AG of Canada in support of the two men.   Here is a link to those course materials, if you want to read more about these two amazing men.

Before he died, Al also wrote a great book about his experiences behind the lines (he was a POW in the camp which is the subject of the movie "The Great Escape").  You can see a note about his book, "Against the Odds" if you click on the link.

Here are a few links to newspaper reports on this great man.  I feel very lucky to have known him.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Foxy Visitor...

look back by the tree...

 Yes... for the last couple of days, Steve and I have had the opening riffs from the Jimmy Hendrix Song "Foxy Lady" running through our heads.   Well... at least the `Foxy` part of it. That is because there has been an interesting visitor in our neighbour`s backyard.  Can you see it here?  Back in the corner by the tree?  Steve noticed it the other day when he woke up. From our 2nd floor bedroom windown, you can see clearly into our neighbour`s  backyard.  He said, “Hey!  There’s a fox next door!”  I said, “That’s rude! You should be focusing on the fox who shares your bed?!` He said “No.  Really!   A REAL fox!” I went to the window, and sure enough, there a red animal with a long fluffy tail.  It was definitely NOT a dog.  Our window was open, and we think it heard us talking about it.  :-)  It turned, gave us a look, and then casually hopped over the back of the neighbour’s fence, and was gone.

a closer view

Ever curious, I headed out to the web to see if it was possible that there really were foxes on the streets of London.   Apparently, yes.  One site on Urban Foxes, suggests that there are something like 33,000 urban foxes in Britain (maybe 10,000 of them in London).  Hmmm..... well.... there is certainly one next door.  We have seen it a couple of times since.   I think our neighbours might not own a lawmower, and the fox seems to like laying in the tall grasses in their backyard.  Wierd.  I don’t know why that strikes me as wierd.  Afterall, deer walking down the street is a fairly normal part of life back in Victoria.  And i never get fussed by the notion that there are occasional cougar sightings back home.  But still.... having a fox next door seems a strange...  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Making Mints in London

Duncan will be the first to admit that it may be something of an obsession: home-made peppermints. There is probably not a week that goes by where he doesn't ask if we can make mints. Of course... here in London, we are still getting the kitchen set up, and i have deferred all his requests with the observation that we are missing ingredients (all of which are being carried home from the store in our knapsacks!) But yesterday, while we were shopping in Waitrose, I finally gave in, and told him that we could make mints if we could find all the ingredients.

sugar, mint, and gelatine

Oddly enough, that was a bit more of a challenge than I had expected. which is a bit silly since there are really only 3 ingredients you have to buy: icing sugar, peppermint extract, and knox gelatin. The challenge came in figuring out the 'new packaging'. I know what those ingredients look like at home, but they are not the same here. And it is not just a matter of a different company's name on the same package, but a matter of different packaging. So, in this country, icing sugar does not come in those flat clear plastic bags (marked with the "Rogers" label, but in paper bags that looked more like small packages of flour). And I thought the gelatin was the packaged mix for some dessert. But, all was well, for (with the help of the store personnel) we found what we needed.

expert mint making skills
We passed on the foodcolouring (or rather, i just didn't see it), and so we produced a batch of classic white mints.  You can see that Duncan's skills at cutting the snakes of dough into the little pillow shapes has remained untouched by the weeks of repose.  :-)

There was, however, a suprise.  The taste.  They do not taste quite the same. Steve (who has never been tempted by them before, has been sneaking them from the tray. 

So... is this just some sort of psychological thing?  Things in London taste better? (this is what Duncan reported to one of the staff people at the library the other day).  I mean, the ingredients are pretty standard: mint flavour, unflavoured gelatine, and sugar.  .... so... the detective in me thinks that maybe the flavour difference is real, and is located in the sugar.  

The sugar I grew up on is Roger's Sugar, which had its Taber refinery which produced its sugar from sugar beets).  This sugar is Tate & Lyle (ah yes... the same Tate who founded the Tate Modern and Tate Britain Museums, the same Tate who was the sugar baron, and remember that sugar is the one product that continues to arrive in London via the Thames!), and it comes from sugar cane.  I always thought that all icing sugars tasted the same.  Apparently not.

... or maybe is IS just the London air that makes the difference?  :-)