Second Sleep, the Rodent and Jewelry

Some stories are difficult to tell, well, at least without giving away all of the family scuttlebutt, secrets and airing dirty laundry.  But, I’m going to give this one a shot.  However, it’s one of those “long way around the block” stories, so here’s the get-your-cup-of-creamed-tea warning.

Oh, yes, and there’s another warning too…this is one of those husband-wife kinds of stories.  And believe it or not, there is DNA in here, eventually, but nothing at all like you would ever expect. I guarantee that!  And no scrolling ahead either.  Just enjoy the story.  It’s full of surprises with a couple twists along the way!

miss trouble copy

Since I’ve invited all of you along on the trip to the British Isles, you all know that Jim, my husband, was along with me.  If you recall, our original goal was to visit Lancashire, land of the Speak family, and the trip itself grew from that week into a month.  We added a few days onto the front of the trip in London.  Jim had never been to London.  I had been there, but it was long ago as a student and most of my memories….well…never mind about that.

I actually searched through my old photos to see if there is one of me in London in 1970 to share with you, but unfortunately, I’m not actually in any of my photos from that trip.  I’m taking the photos and in retrospect, I wish I had understood photography basics at that time.  Let’s just say I have a lot of out of focus pictures of the backs of people in front of buildings that I can’t identify, and pigeons, lots of pigeons.

London pigeons

In any event, before Jim and I left for the British Isles, we scheduled our time and our transportation and pretty much knew what we were going to be doing when, more or less.  Neither Jim nor I are strangers to travel, so we know enough to plan generally and to leave enough flexibility to adapt to local circumstances.  For example, some years back, we discovered in Vancouver that one city tour picked up at our hotel, where the others didn’t.  But we didn’t discover that until we asked at the hotel, so we were glad we hadn’t prebooked and prepaid.

Our London itinerary that we so carefully planned around 2.5 precious days looked like this:

  • Day 1 – arrival and half day historic tour including the Tower of London and possibly the Science Museum
  • Day 2 – full day tour of London or Stonehenge, depending on weather
  • Day 3 – full day tour of whichever one we didn’t do on day 2
  • Day 4 – leave bright and early with our family group for the Lancashire part of the journey

Please notice that there is no spare time in this schedule, no spare half day, and both day 2 and day 3 are kind of an all or nothing thing.  In other words, you either go on the tour or you don’t, there is no half-day option.  This will become important in a little bit.

And if you’ll remember, Day 1 did not go well, or at least not as planned.  That’s the day I learned to swear in Brit….Bloody Hell….and we wound up staying in a very small, very expensive room in a hotel with no air conditioning, (because we had no reservation in the hotel where we were supposed to be staying) in a heat wave.  We not-so-affectionately called this hotel the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven.  Just to set the scene for you.

On the evening of Day 1, after our delightful impromptu afternoon tour with Said, our chauffeur, I fell asleep about 8 PM, which is unheard of for me.  I’m a night owl.  The red-eye from the night before just wiped me out.

Now, keep in mind we are sleeping in the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven.  It’s hot and very close as the room is very small – like 18 inches of clearance around the bed small.  No AC but we have a fan that helps a little.  I didn’t care, I was exhausted.  Oh, there is also no bedside clock either.

So I fell into a dead sleep and woke up quite refreshed.  There is one window, with a light blocking curtain.  It appeared to be dark outside.  I got up and fumbled around since I didn’t want to wake Jim up by turning on a light.  By the time I found my phone, and discovered it was about 1 AM, London time, I was wide awake.

Now my cousin, Elaine, a historian, is probably laughing heartily now, because she identified this concept as that of “second sleep.”  It turns out that our ancestors all slept in two shifts. They would sleep for 3 or 4 hours, get up for awhile and do things like write letters, or make babies, and then go back to sleep for 3 or 4 more hours.

So, I had in advertently instituted the concept of second sleep.  The problem is, Jim didn’t know about second sleep.

I was also hungry and managed to grope around in the dark and find a bag of trail mix. I was quite proud of myself for not having to turn on one of our two light bulbs in the Kenner Easy Bake Oven.

About 2:30 AM, Jim wakes up.  Not entirely, just a little, and hears something.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Jim thinks, “Oh Heavens, that’s a huge rodent.”

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

”Really huge.”

Click, click, click.

”The rodent is typing?”  ”Huh???”

“Roberta???”

Now mind you, he wasn’t concerned about me – he wanted ME to go and take care of the rodent problem.  Sigh.

He was quite startled by the crunching, clicking rodent and by then he was awake too.  I explained to him about second sleep but he was a skeptic and gave me “that look.”  So, as long as he was up anyway, I asked him to help me upload photos from the camera since I was working on his MAC and not a PC.  For some reason, being the middle of the night, he had an issue with this but since we were in the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven and he couldn’t sleep either, he did help me.

After that, maybe about 4 AM, he starting using words like “crazy” and started singing “lunatic” songs, which made me laugh.  No, not just laugh, but laugh like the crazy woman I obviously am.  Somehow the sheer lunacy of being in a tiny very hot room in London wide awake in the middle of the night and Jim’s large rodent seemed utterly hilarious. His last words to me before we finally fell asleep after laughing ourselves into hysterical tears was “If you tell me you’re tired tomorrow I’m going to beat you with an organic carrot.”

The next morning, he woke me up about 8:30 to get ready to go on the Stonehenge tour, and I really didn’t want to get up, so I groaned, rolled over, and said “I’m tired” and the peals of laughter began all over again…..

I will share the very special story of Stonehenge with you in a few days.

Stonehenge Jim and I

Stonehenge closeup

On the way back from Stonehenge, a 2 hour ride on the bus, we started to discuss the itinerary for Day 3, and then Jim started to do “the husband thing.”

Yes, that husband thing.  They all do it, but each one has their own style.

It’s what they do when they know they are about to be in trouble, that’s Big Trouble or maybe even BIG TROUBLE.  When they are at the point where they have to fess up.  In Jim’s case, he generally mutters and pretends that he told me something already, and then acts offended that I didn’t remember.

Now keep in mind that we had very carefully discussed and planned our 2.5 days in London…for weeks…and that after arrival, on Day 1, we decided on which day to visit Stonehenge and which day to do the London city tour.

So, here’s how the conversation went.

Jim – “I think we should leave for the tour tomorrow a little later.”

Roberta – “What do you mean by ‘a little later?’”

Jim – “Like late morning, around lunch time.”

Roberta – “Why would we do that and how can we?  The tour leaves in the morning.”

Jim, barely audible – “Because I have that appointment in the morning.”

Roberta – “What appointment?”

An appointment?  What appointment?  Jim doesn’t know anyone in London.  How the Bloody Hell can he have an appointment?  And it just came up in the last day, while he’s been on vacation, since we last discussed this?  I’ll just leave the conversation above, at this point, for the sake of decency.  Let’s just say, it was headed in a downward spiral and I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks.

It seems that one of Jim’s international customers had an office in London, or so he claims, and Jim saw the opportunity to be a hero by “sacrificing” one of his vacation days and calling on said customer to “explain something.”  Well, of course, that’s not how Jim phrased it.  His version included the words “had to” and “salary continuation plan,” but I know Jim.

Did I mention that I was doing a daily family blog, for the kids, my quilt sisters and cousins to keep up with our great adventure?  I also find that blogging, which is really, in the case of my “Journeys” blog, shared journaling, makes it much easier to organize photos later too, as we upload them daily to a file folder and I select from them as I write the blog.  The biggest challenge is getting a signal and bandwidth to post the blog as we travel, but I digress.

Let me share with you the family blog from Night 2.  It was a little different that the one from the night before which included the hysterical laughter episode.  Let’s just say that the only people laughing about Night 2 were the readers…

“Hmmm, Jim is asleep and I’m obviously not.  Now Jim is also in trouble.

Jim made a customer appointment for tomorrow morning.  I can hear you now….”he didn’t!”  Yes, he did…and yes, without talking to me about it.  We only had 2 full days here and he took the morning of one of the days so that means we can’t do a full day tour tomorrow.  Well, I could, but the problem is that because of the hotel booking screw-up, we have to move hotels in the AM and I am NOT dragging all of his luggage plus mine to another hotel several blocks away.  I mean, his main suitcase alone is over 50 pounds, and full of electronic gadgets.  It would take me several trips like a Mama cat moving her litter to move all this luggage. So, he’ll just have to come back here and retrieve his mad-as-a-wet-hen wife in the lobby sitting and waiting with all of the luggage because it’s after checkout, even after late checkout.  No, the appointment was NOT first thing in the AM. Yes he’s in a lot of hot water which makes this Kenner Easy Bake room seem cool by comparison.

So, all things considered, would it be terribly evil of me to turn off the light, get the trail mix, sit down on the floor beside the bed where he is sleeping….and crunch??????”

Suffice it to say that Jim was lucky that he wasn’t sleeping on the only couch in the place which was located in the lobby.  But regardless, I was really steamed, and not just because I was sleeping in the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven.

Now, if you’re a female, right about now, you’re probably shrieking, “He WHAT?????” and if you’re a male, you’ve just dropped your head into your hands and you’re shaking your head and groaning, “Oh no,” because you know what’s coming.

Now in Jim’s guy-brain, it would just all be OK because I would just stay in the hotel, with the luggage, and wait for him and we’d go on the tour later.  No problem.

Well, we have two huge problems, aside from the mad-as-a-wet-hen wife problem.

Problem one is that you can’t just leave later on the tour, so in essence he was going to ruin the entire day for both of us, more than one third of our time in London.  I would have gone without him, except I couldn’t because of problem two.

Problem two is that this was the day we had to check out of the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven by 11 AM and return to the hotel where we were supposed to be staying and where we were meeting the rest of our tour group.  Unfortunately, check-in there wasn’t until 3:30.  I told the gal at the front desk the situation, and after she stopped laughing, she said that I could extend the checkout until noon, but beyond that, I’d just have to bring my stuff to the lobby and sit there and wait, or haul all of our luggage, a month’s worth for 2 people, by myself, to the other hotel, where I could sit in their lobby and wait until check-in time.

Now, the good news….the lobby was air conditioned.

The bad news….Jim didn’t know what time he was actually going to be back.

The morning of Day 3 wasn’t fun no matter how you paint it.  Jim left early to deal with transportation issues.  I got up and packed both of our luggage, ate breakfast and then moved to the lobby and made myself a nest on the couch.

luggage in lobby

When I was arranging for late checkout and then checking out, I had to explain to the gal on the desk about why – especially when I had the same credit card but a different name entirely.  When I explained the situation, she said, “Well Honey, you have his credit card. You just put your luggage back here behind the counter and I’ll keep it safe until he gets back.  I’ll call you a taxi and I know a wonderful jewelry store.  You can shop until time to check in at the other hotel.”

I thought about this, then asked, “But how would I know when Jim got back?” and she said, “I’ll call you….no better yet…I’ll just call the taxi driver….and I’ll tell your husband exactly where you are and what you are doing.”  And she smiled a very big smile.  I really, really like this gal.  I’m sure that back somewhere in time, we’re related!  We obviously share the jewelry gene.

Now for a minute, I did consider that.  I seems like SUCH a good idea.  I even considered just faking it to see Jim’s face.  Seemed like a Kodak moment just waiting to happen.  But in the end I just went and sat on the couch.  I really did not want to escalate this little “tiff” into a war….so I waited, and waited, and waited….and I thought about calling Said but then I would have had to admit to Said what boneheaded thing Jim had done….and then Said would have had to deal with all of that luggage…if he was even available.  Plus, Jim had, inadvertently I think, taken most of the British cash.  So instead, I stood outside within sight of the luggage and took a picture of the tile sidewalk that looked like a quilt, and then I sat in the lobby, feeling quite abandoned, and stewed…and read a book…and waited.  At least it was air conditioned and it was a good book.

London tiles cropped

When Jim finally returned, late, sometime after lunch, which he had eaten and I hadn’t because I couldn’t leave the %#@*^ luggage, we moved to the hotel where we were supposed to be originally.  After we checked in, we then verified that it was too late to do the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour, and that’s when we decided to walk to the Science Museum.  We enjoyed the Science Museum, especially seeing the double helix model.  I’ve already shared that with you…but you didn’t know the back story then.

But just for good measure, obviously in a moment of fleeting insanity, Jim immortalized the non-event and took a picture of me pointing to the tour at the Hop-On location that we walked right past, but were too late to take!  Yep, that’s the red bus we weren’t on, right on that poster!

tour we didn't do

That evening, we met the tour group that included my cousins and went to the tavern and ate fish and chips…what else, and spotted dick.  I was almost over being mad at Jim, almost, when I discovered two things as he visited with my cousins.

First, he had showed his customers my family blog entry about him being in trouble.  I guess he was, or maybe he wasn’t, amused.  I don’t know which and it didn’t matter.  I’m not sure whether he was trying to engender sympathy or show his corporate dedication, but suffice it to say that the female account rep offered to give me the addresses of “good” London jewelry stores.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for Jim, we were headed out of London.

Second, and this is what sealed his fate…he replied to my family blog with a comment….and this is what he said, waxing philosophic.

“It would be impossible to plead my case here, so I will not even make any attempt to. Perhaps it is best to simply say that sometimes the most difficult of situations makes for the best of possibilities overall.

I am also confident that jewelry may salve the wounds of a few lost hours of vacation time.

Life is an unscripted journey, and without a few detours or speed bumps, where would the fun be?”

I was so mad I was making up my own swear words…kind of like Bill Cosby who got so exasperated in his old “Himself” series of stand-up comedy videos that he couldn’t even talk without stammering and sputtering.

By now, both men and women are probably groaning and saying, “Oh no.  Someone take that man’s shovel away from him cause the hole he’s digging is just getting deeper and deeper.”

Well, yes and no.

You see, as it turns out, Jim was, um….er… r, i, g, h, t.  This is probably the only time I’ll ever say thatlemon, and publicly, no less, but it turned out that he was right.  Yes, seriously.  Hey, when you’ve got a lemon this big you have no choice but to make lemonade cause it’s too sour to eat and too heavy to carry around!

Well, truth be told, by now Jim is probably regretting being right, because, you see, it led to innovation, reinvention, metamorphosis and of course…you know what’s coming… jewelry.

I spent the entire rest of the trip looking for jewelry….because he, most assuredly owed me, big time, and being a wife, I had a certain wifely obligation to not let that opportunity go unfulfilled.  Kind of like the time he accidentally spent a bunch of money in the casino on a cruise, way more than he intended….he came back to the room with jewelry.  He may be a guy…but he is not dumb.  That jewelry made me forget entirely about his casino tab!!!  I mean at that point, there is nothing you can do about the tab so might as well enjoy the jewelry!

I told Jim this was my DNA trip so my new jewelry was going to be my DNA jewelry. But I never found any jewelry that I liked, and I certainly found nothing that reminded me in any way of DNA.  I was disappointed, to say the least.  Free ticket to jewelry and I can’t even find any to purchase.

So, I told Jim, I’m just going to have to design it myself.  A look of horror shot across his face.

By this time, Jim was actually actively encouraging me to buy something, anything, to settle the debt.Claddaugh ring

“Here, don’t’ you like this?  Look, a Claddaugh ring with a green stone.  How about this?”

“No!”

“How about this red bus charm?  Reminds me of the London busses.” red bus charm

“No, not that one either!  Reminds me of the tour we didn’t get to go on.”

And so it went.  I think he was getting frightened.  I think maybe he realized, all too late, just how much trouble he was really in.  Ah, the cost of being right.

But I found no jewelry.  This jewelry had to be special jewelry.  Really special jewelry.  Worth-a-day-in-London and being-abandoned-in-the-Kenner’s-Easy-Bake-Oven-hotel-lobby special jewelry.  The more I thought about it, I really did want DNA jewelry.  What started as a half-joke meant to be a cute throw-away comment became an inspiration and grew on me.  So I googled, and nothing…no DNA jewelry, or none that I wanted.

So, I came home and set about designing my own, with my long-time trusty family jeweler, Al Hummer of Ore Creek Custom Jewelry.  He made our wedding set years ago, and since then, those of several friends and family members too.  And better yet, I took some older jewelry I had and rebirthed it, kind of like DNA, recombined it and gave it some mutations. Oh, no, not my wedding set.  I wasn’t THAT mad at Jim.  The new DNA ring was ready the week before Christmas.  Amazing, the timing of that…and the necklace and earrings will be finished after New Year’s.

It’s actually going to be a new custom jewelry line, called the Helix line, and it’s beautiful….stunning…fitting of the DNA legacy and helix name.  We’ve already designed a second helix inspired set too that will be available in the spring of 2014.  Maybe by Valentine’s Day!  What timing!

So yes, this will be available for everyone, not just me.

But I can’t tell you any more until the line is finished, the before and after pictures of the rebirthed jewelry taken and the professional photography of the Helix pieces completed.

What, you want a sneak peek?  Well, OK, but just one, and don’t tell Al that I let you peek, because he wants the new line to be just perfect and make a splash in the jewelry and DNA world.  He’d be mortified at my own “DNA ring selfie” picture.

See the helix?  I’ll tell you all about the process later.  It’s been wonderfully fun and it’s full of personal significance, just like our DNA!

DNA Ring

Oh, and what about Jim you ask?  I bet he’ll never say anything like that again.  I mean, the man in essence gave me a blank check, obviously in a fit of macho bravado…in writing…with witnesses.  I mean, how does it get better than that?  I’d have to get Judy Russell’s opinion of course, but IMHO, that was a binding contract.  I guess that is the price of being right!  And he was.  Jewelry is salving the wound, every single day.  Right this minute in fact.  That “hiccup” led to the birth a wonderfully innovative and transformative jewelry line.  Who knew?  Sometimes opportunity knocks in mysterious ways, wearing work clothes, or maybe in the forsaken lobby of the Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven hotel in London.

After all, as Jim said, life is an unscripted journey, and without a few detours or speed bumps, where would the fun be?”  Sometimes the blessings and the successes are in the detours.  I’m always reminded that Thomas Edison’s first 99 light bulbs were “failures,” or experiments, or as I’d prefer to call them, “learning experiences,” but no one knows about those.  Number 100 couldn’t have happened without 1-99, but it’s only number 100 that counts and is remembered today!

So now, when we announce the Helix line sometime in early 2014, you’ll know at least part of the rest of the story.  And yes, of course, there’s more…;)

Watson, Crick and Spotted Dick

dna 1953

In September, 2013, my husband, Jim, and I visited the British Isles.  This trip was planned around various aspects of genealogy and family history – all of which pertain to and were enabled by DNA.  I’m going to be sharing portions with you over the next several weeks.  These stories will all include DNA, but I’m also going to share other photos with you.  The culture, so different from ours, is critically important to understanding our ancestors and these areas are simply beautiful.  I’d like to share the entire experience, not just the DNA piece.  So I’m inviting you along on my day in London.  Come on….we’ll have fun!

I didn’t plan my trip to England with Watson and Crick’s DNA model in mind – that part just kind of evolved, a positive mutation, so to speak.

Jim and I traveled with a family group that indeed did make this trip as a result of DNA – but that is another story for another article, several, in fact.  In any case, we weren’t really in charge of where we were staying in London – the tour company took care of fanthat – supposedly.  That is a long and sorry saga which I’ll spare you.  Let’s just say we weren’t staying at the hotel where we were SUPPOSED to have reservations and the one where we were staying didn’t have air conditioning.  It was “broken.”  It should have been an aha moment when they handed me a fan when we checked in.  At least they did that much.  It was very hot.

Suffice it to say, we were close to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens in London.  The idea was that we could take a walk in the park if we wanted to.  Flowers often grace every nook and cranny in Europe and the thought of walking and viewing was quite enticing to me.  Here is a rose garden in front of a private home near Hyde Park. Just lovely.

London rose garden

The London subway is a bit overwhelming, but it really a good transportation system once you get used to it.  You can get places far more quickly by subway than by car on the surface streets.

london subway

Still, you stand a high probability of getting lost, at least initially, and it’s pretty intimidating.  So we opted to walk when we could.  Plus, you get to see a lot more of the area that way.  After all, it’s not always the destination.  Sometimes, it’s about the journey.

Before we left for London, I searched for the location of the double helix model created by Watson and Crick in 1953 when they discovered DNA.  I found that it is in the British Science Museum.

After arrival in London, looking at the map, I discovered that the Science Museum was just on the other side of Hyde Park.  I asked and was told that it’s about a 10 minute walk.  Have I mentioned never to believe a British person about distances???  It must be genetic – they seem to have a distance judgment impairment gene!

Jim and I set out to walk to the Museum because it seemed like a much better option than three different subway transfers.  And after all, it was only 10 minutes away and only drizzling.

Me hyde park

We cut across the park and enjoyed the walk and found the museums, further away than we thought, of course.  We discovered we were walking on the Princess Diana Memorial walkway, and only after we got home and looked at the photo did I realize that Kensington Palace is behind me.

British parks and gardens are really quite remarkable.  There are a lot of them and they have beautiful statues and flowers. This statue is of Prince Albert.

prince albert

Half an hour or 45 minutes later, we arrived at the Science Museum.  It’s quite large, and we asked where the DNA exhibit was located, received directions, and off we went.  We were pleased to see that they had an entire exhibit area devoted not to DNA but to what makes people unique.  Of course DNA had a prominent position in that exhibit.

dna book

The “books of genes” shown above and below is actually the top back of a seat in the museum exhibit.

dna seat

But we were unable to find the Watson/Crick model.  We asked a second time and the guard told us that it was downstairs “by the autos.”  We had just come through that area and we didn’t quite believe it would be there, but since it wasn’t where we were, we went to look.  Sure enough, in with the 1950s cars and the earliest computers, in a display case but not near anything else similar, we found the double helix model with only a small display description.  In fact, we had walked right past it earlier and didn’t notice it because where it is located and how it is displayed is so nondescript.

dna sign

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The helix model itself is kind of difficult to see because it’s small and kind of thin and in the middle of a case with glass on all sides.  Jim is trying to get a good picture, but that is almost impossible between its position and the glass and lighting.

Crick Watson Jim

The model is constructed using clamps.

Crick Watson closeup

It’s actually difficult to see because the aluminum templates, shown below (wiki photo) are on a flat plane so they are being photographed sideways.

DNA model leaves

I was thrilled to see the model, but saddened that it has been relegated to the section of “vintage cars” when it was the discovery that fueled many of the life-changing medical discoveries of the past few years and nearly everything in the exhibit we had just seen about what makes people unique.  If not DNA, then what?

The Crick/Watson double helix model should be the crown jewel of these types of exhibits, not relegated to a place in the footnotes of the 1950s.

The model itself is elegant in that its simplicity belies the complexity of DNA.  Yet, that complexity is comprised of simplest of elements combined in the simplest of manners.  It’s hard to believe sometimes that we are looking at the recipe for reproduction, for all of life itself.

Here are Crick and Watson with the model.

crick watson with model

Of course, we walked back to our hotel, but we took a bit of a different route, past both sets of palace gates (below) and up some side streets.

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Glory be, we also found a Starbucks!!  We discovered a beautiful old church on Kensington High Street and slipped into the courtyard which is also the cemetery.

church high kensington

It’s hard to believe that just a few feet away on the other side of the fence the London traffic and hustle and bustle are in full force.

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This courtyard is a tiny haven of tranquility. Of course, I had to look at the stones to see if there were any familiar names.  After all, some of my ancestors were here – however, they weren’t wealthy enough to have stones in churchyards.

Some things have no equivalent here.

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Humps, in case you are wondering, are speed bumps.  The even more interesting sign was the one that had a picture of two humps, side by side, on the same sign.

We passed this lovely pub that is just so quintessentially English and so beautiful.  Surely looks inviting doesn’t it.  Want to have an ale???

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That evening, we met up with my cousins from New Zealand (more about that later) in The Swan Pub, a very quaint and very English old coaching pub across from Hyde Park, and had an English dinner of what else, fish and chips.

But that wasn’t the end of the adventures.  Nosiree….there was what we term as  “adventure eating” left to be done.  There was Spotted Dick on the dessert menu.  Yes, we did, we had to order that and try some.  Here’s Jim getting ready to try Spotted Dick.  Looks kind of apprehensive doesn’t he.  I must admit, it was very, very good.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along with me on my day in London visiting Watson, Crick and Spotted Dick.