Travels With Bean

Travels With Bean: Stonehenge and Avebury

Here at Bean Towers, we like to show our guests a good time. Uncle Dave (he’s not Dunka Dave anymore) visited a few weeks ago on his way back from a business trip on the continent. He checked in to our deluxe accommodation (includes fold-out sofa and oscillating fan) on Friday evening.

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It’s Go Bag Time


Bean’s never been That Kid yet on a flight, but we always like to take steps to ensure maximum compliance. At the top of the post is a picture of the goody bag I’ve assembled to amuse her while we cross the Atlantic tomorrow.

At the bottom is a picture of the only item she’ll actually care about.

Fingers crossed for happy trails….


First, Have Coffee

Wednesday is our day to sneak uptown to the Bull Ring Market. Today we got going quite early. Possibly too early:

to lhr

Properly secured.

Me: Do you have the list?

T: Yep, right here.

Me: I’m going to add broccoli…

Bean: Seetbat!

T: What’s that, darling?

Me: Shhh, honey…. and blue cheese, that one stand sells it…

Bean: Seet! SEET!

Trev pulled over right away. We’d put her in the car seat, but forgotten to belt her in. Thank goodness she can talk.

Travels With Bean: The Malvern Hills

About half an hour’s drive south from us lie the Malvern Hills. They’re not very big or extensive– an eight-mile long chain of hills, with a decidedly modest summit of 1,395 feet. Just a few dozen miles beyond lie much more rugged hills, even proper mountains, in western Wales– like this one:

brecon beacons

Trev at the foot of Cribyn in the Brecon Beacons, 2007


The Malverns were Tolkien’s inspiration for the mountains of Middle-Earth. The composer Edward Elgar, who lived in the area, was moved to write a cantata based in them. Mallory used them as exercise while preparing for his historic trek up Everest. They contain an Iron Age hill fort and some of the oldest-known rocks in Britain. They’re also ideal for a refreshing, energetic morning out, being one of Britain’s Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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If We Took A Holiday

Wow, it’s been more than a month since we left for our vacation. And it feels like we spent more than 17 days in the company of all our lovely people out west.

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Our yearly jaunt to the U.S. for July 4th is something we really look forward to. It’s not just that the trip reunites us with loved ones, and lets Bean get to know her extended family better: it’s also a great excuse to eat ice cream daily and go to the beach. Really. The weekend at the Jersey Shore that typically gets folded into our summer vacation is just about the best shot we have at real summer weather most years. And they have fireflies.

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Re-Entry: Bodies In Britain, Brains Over Greenland

Baby In Sunglasses

Bring me a bloody mary and a Tylenol, I'm dyin' over here!

We’re back from our holiday, and a proper post on that will go up shortly. I’m just waiting for my brain to catch up with my body: having done this trans-Atlantic jaunt a number of times now, I can confidently say that the west-east leg results in much more difficult jet lag than the east-west trip.  Research apparently bears this bit of anecdata out.

What’s difficult to bear, at the moment, is the disruption to the Bean’s sleeping patterns. Because a disruption in hers inevitably means a disruption in ours. Case in point: she woke up at 1 am Monday and didn’t go back to sleep for six solid hours. Owing to Trev having wrenched his back (proof that there may be such a thing as Too Much Bodysurfing), I was left holding the baby, sometimes literally.

From 1:30 – 3:00 I tried, valiantly, to get her to fall asleep in her room. I stood in the middle of the floor, holding her while gently swaying. I lay on the futon, first while cuddling her, but after being kicked in the crotch for the nth time, decided to put her in the crib, while lying on the futon myself, occasionally whispering “shh” when she moaned.

“Handt,” she wailed at one point. “Want handt!” So I gave her a few fingers to hold. She drifted off quickly. Then my arm fell asleep. Initially I thought I could deal with it, but it occurred to me that the arm in question was my right arm, the one that’s responsible for my typing speed and my marginally competent mordents and my occasionally pretty handwriting. Having it amputated was too high a price to pay in return for more sleep.

I tried to disengage, but she had a death grip on my middle finger. I laid hold of my numb arm with my good hand and pulled, hard. She muttered and groaned, but still she held fast. Finally, I sat up and wrenched my arm away. She woke up, squawking, and I went on letting her squawk until the feeling returned to my fingers.

By this point, it was already beginning to get light. The Dawn Chorus had started. Eve left off squawking and decided to start rifling through the toybox at the end of her bed. “It a dolfin,” she chirped. “It a whay-le.”

I made one more effort to get her to sleep, taking her into our bedroom and planting her in the middle of our bed. But no sooner had I lay down beside her than she hopped up, eager to look at herself in the mirror hanging behind our headboard. She slipped and put a knee in my eye. Trev, attempting to dodge her falling butt, yanked his back again and cried out sharply. I gave up.

It was 3:50 by this time. I popped Eve on the sofa and turned on My Neighbor Totoro. I filled up the moka pot and frothed milk. I  knocked back the bread dough I’d left to rise the night before, and fired up the oven to full whack. I put on my running clothes. While Eve twiddled her toes and played with blocks and talked excitedly about the soot gremlins on the TV, I noticed the sunlight creeping across the mirrors and the sofa and the dining room table.

I slipped into the chilly garden, barefooted, breathing in the herb-scented air, to listen to the birds’ morning report. Dewy spider webs spangled my climbing roses, which scaled the fence in frothy pink clusters. Crimson and purple clouds lay spread across the eastern sky like rags of silk.

All creation seemed to lie before me, renewed and refreshed and splendid, extending in that golden moment a hand– a hand of loving grace, a hand rich with gifts and  heavy with promise. A hand, dear readers, that I would gladly have bitten off at the wrist in exchange for ten straight hours of sleep.

I mean, really.

Travels Without Bean: Chicago

And we’re back.

I was in Chicago earlier this month, for some bidness meetings, to celebrate Yelena’s 30th birthday, and to spend time with Maureen, Juan, and their ladies at the zoo (Emelia is so TALL! And Noemi, who is nine months older than Eve, hilariously touched up her hair when we passed a reflective surface).  And when I’m traveling alone, I always have to do three things:

  1. Ruin an article of clothing;
  2. Lose or destroy some personal electronic device;
  3. Get involved in a zany mishap of some sort.

On this particular trip the victims were my only pair of jeans (torn) and my LG Cookie smartphone (got it wet while running, ruined it).

The mishap occurred on my first full day, before I killed the phone. Continue reading