Posts Tagged ‘Cineworld’

This week has been the end (mostly) of a very long saga of accounting issues stretching back to April. Apparently getting yourself set up the first time for a tax cycle in the UK is a lot more complex than you might imagine, but it all got filed on Thursday. We may still have one more thing to dispute later on if HMRC (the UK version of the IRS) decides to press it, but that might not come up. I cannot stress enough the cumulative building stress that I was under and the relief that I felt when we got the final email from the accountants saying everything was filed and, by the way, Merry Christmas.

One thing to know though, before skipping along to the travelogue, is that I do not recover instantly from stress. While in no way does this compare with the experience of an Iraqi vet, in the same way that you can’t expect a returning soldier to simply kick their heels up and pop open a cold one because they’re out of the trenches now, neither can I go frolicking through the fields with daffodils and kittens. I tried to explain this to Bear, between unpredictable emotional outbursts, and it went something like this:

Bear: But it’s OK, why are you crying? It’s over!

Me: <sniff> Why did Tom Hanks break down at the end of Captain Phillips once the Navy SEALs rescued him and he was finally safe?

Bear: Because he wanted another Oscar?

I had somewhat calmed down by Saturday thanks to two trips to the movies to see Frozen and The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, and Bear planned a trip up to York to see some spots we had missed. I really like York a lot and was trying to look forward to it and ended up napping most of the way until we arrived.

Byland Abbey is a really extensive Cistercian abbey in the Yorkshire moors that, like many, has fallen into ruins thanks to Henry VIII, but what’s left is still impressive.

Unusual rose window at the end, an influence of Gothic architecture

Unusual rose window at the end, an influence of Gothic architecture

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Ammonite fossils are commonly found in Yorkshire and we found this one in the stones used for the building

Ammonite fossils are commonly found in Yorkshire and we found this one in the stones used for the building

The window was fairly whole until the late 1800s when the circular frame collapsed.

The window was fairly whole until the late 1800s when the circular frame collapsed.

We had tried to find Helmsley Castle last year when we first came to Yorkshire but it’s oddly located off the main square with absolutely not one single sign pointing to it. Given how freaking large the complex is, that’s pretty amazing.

Helmsley Castle

Helmsley Castle

Leona would be very disappointed in the state of the moat

Leona would be very disappointed in the state of the moat

Bridge over one of the two moats

Bridge over one of the two moats

Museum inside

Museum inside

Monks still active today!

Monks still active today!

The East Tower

The East Tower

View of the Helmsley town from the castle hill

View of the Helmsley town from the castle hill

We talked to the guys at Helmsley about the Jorvik Center in York which we haven’t been to and we’re on the fence about it. It looks kinda cheesy in some of the pictures and we have a firm rule against mannequins, but reputable people keep telling us it was a good experience (including an archaeologist at Creswell Crags who sounded exactly like Jane Horrocks, which is a little terrifying). The guys said it was a little dated but that the collections were really good so we think we’ll break down and do it.

Around the corner from the castle, there was an amazing bakery (Auntie Anne’s Bakery) that had won some awards and we picked up scones and some cranberry cookies with tea. Scones are generally very dry and even hard, but these were light and beautifully fluffy, almost like Southern biscuits. I nearly cried.

To get to the next site, we took the off road through the moors and on some single track roads which led to some really nice scenic spots while eating scones and cookies and getting crumbs basically everywhere.

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The next stop, Mount Grace Priory, was a two in one with a manor house from the 1800s that was part of an abbey that was still accessible. The driving force behind the house was a man named Lowthian Bell who was a follower of the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement started by William Morris, and much of the house was decorated/designed through Morris’ company.

The house portion

The house portion

Admittedly, not the best lit photo of the priory ruins

Admittedly, not the best lit photo of the priory ruins

Honest to God English holly (no sign of ivy)

Honest to God English holly (no sign of ivy)

Bell also built a recreation of a monk’s cell as it would have been for the Carthusian monks who founded the abbey. There weren’t many Carthusian houses in England as the order were hermits, which is not to say that they were ascetics. The restoration/recreation of the cell was really nice and comfortable and each one had its own latrine and running water in addition to private chambers and being part of a cloistered area with its own tiny gardens.

Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child

This sculpture is of a Madonna but in a very different pose. The plaque contained a statement from the artist detailing his vision of her as strong and determined, offering up her child, the Christ, up to heaven even as she received him, and it’s interesting to see how her posture forms a cross. It was supposed to combine the nativity, the annunciation and the crucifixion all in one.

We headed in to York and had dinner at the best restaurant in York (IMHO), La Rustique, which is an amazing French place with actual French waitstaff. I know this not only because of the accent but because of how nice they are to us. Go for the set menu of starter, entree and dessert for just 15 pounds and you get amazing food, like Bear’s seafood linguini.

Seafood linguini

Seafood linguini

We made a good stab at visiting Howden Minster on the way back south but it was already pitch black by then (which happens at 4:30 p.m. now) and while we found it, it was so dark I nearly twisted my ankle just walking through the graveyard. Cue the spooky music, it would’ve been a perfect setting for a horror movie. (I’ve seen pictures online though and it’s absolutely amazing so we’re not claiming that one yet until we go back by daylight.)

I was still really tired from the week and, frankly, the last eight months since the accounting stuff started in April, so we have a deal that tomorrow I’m going to go to the movies all day courtesy of the Cineworld Unlimited card. We’re on track to get a Cineworld theater of our own in St. Neots in mid-February, just about two months from now. Since the project has undergone some bizarre setbacks so far, including being built 88 cm off the blueprints which resulted in a woman who shall not be named protesting that it was too close to her house and getting the entire structure torn down so they had to start over again, I’m not making plans just yet, but I am excited. However, this week the News Crier had a story about how a worker at the site was crushed between an earth mover and a wall (I guess he didn’t see it coming?) and has serious injuries to his pelvis (not a good area in general), so who knows what that will mean for the opening. My co-worker Sheila says that after all my anxious monitoring of the progress that they should let me cut the ribbon. I don’t know about all that, but I certainly plan to be there for it.

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One of the things that has made our adjustment easier to living in England is having access to current films. I know that sounds sort of shallow but we watch a lot of movies and it’s one of the few pop culture things we’re really involved in. Most of the music we listen to is either from decades ago or from off-beat artists who don’t make radio, and I wouldn’t know a current best seller if it hit me in the face. But movies…oh, movies.

The Huntingdon Cineworld

There’s a chain in the UK called Cineworld and they have a program which lets you pay a flat fee per month (14.99 pounds) and you can watch as many movies as you want, any time, any movie, no questions asked — yes, there’s a small upcharge for 3D to keep the fees proportional. When I realized that it costs over 9 pounds to see a single movie, I signed us up post haste.

Every Friday is date night now and we head out after work to the Cineworld to catch whatever is opening that week. Or in some cases, you can see older movies being re-released for special events, like Jaws, Chariots of Fire or Quartermass and the Pit. Some Cineworlds even have an IMAX built in, like the one in Sheffield.

Cineworld with IMAX in Sheffield.

Generally a Cineworld is fairly large and newly constructed (except for Bedford–don’t ask) and has between 12 and 18 screens.

And sometimes, like in Stevenage, they’re co-located with a Nando’s so the date night package is complete.

Beanie Burger with mango-lime sauce, the choice of discriminating ‘munks

But most importantly, they have parking lots. Real, genuine, actual parking lots with parking spaces.

Parking spaces just lying about without a care in the world.

Inside, they have a really extensive concessions section, plus a candy store and an ice cream counter.

You fill up different size cups for different rates. It’s a diabetic nightmare.

A case full of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, not that I’ll ever know what it tastes like.

So since we elected to continue on as we had in America with not having TV/cable and we’ve cut back on other things as well, the 30 pounds a month for the movies has been a really good decision. It’s hard to get into that negative mindset that you’re somehow deprived or uncomfortably budgeted when you can head out to the movies at any moment and see anything you want without having to check the budget. It makes passing up other things a lot easier when you have one other area that feels exorbitant and first class. Given how many times we’re going to see The Hobbit, this program paid for itself!

Or you can shoot pool and play some video games to kill time before the movie. Some Cineworlds even have a full bar lounge for the over 18 crowd.

Just this week we got extremely exciting news in the local paper. After years of discussions, it looks like work is going forward on building a Cineworld right here in St. Neots and they hope to complete it within the next year. Restaurants like Frankie and Benny’s and Pizza Express have already signed 25 year contracts to be located in the plaza with the theater and they promise there’ll be parking too — now that’s exciting.

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Part of my post-Sardinia plan was to take care of business closer to home while getting a little more rest as well so that we didn’t travel as much for a few weeks but still had fun. Following the visit with our friends Hannah and Micah, that meant getting over to Milton Keynes to take care of some domestic errands like picking up a digital projector for the house so we could arrange the rooms differently and achieve a better separation of work and after-work hours. That also meant heading back to PC World, a place that loves the color purple more than any reasonable business should. They had a fantastic deal on a projector though so I really couldn’t complain.

My cashier’s turban was also purple. I’m not sure if that was required but it certainly seems to have been on purpose.

After that we went to Bletchley Park to tour the complex. I’d seen a film (Enigma) about the work that the codebreakers did back during World War 2 to break the Nazi code using the captured Enigma machines.

In addition to the code breaking material, they also had exhibits on children’s toys particularly during the wartime era. I’m fascinated by vintage toys and would probably own a ton if it weren’t for Bear’s somewhat OCD tendencies, so I had to satisfy my curiosity through the exhibit.

It’s hard to explain how this was really interesting and yet so sad at the same time.

This toy castle was played with by Stephen Hawking as a boy

While thankfully the anticipated gas attacks never came, this gas mask for babies was a stark, sad reminder of the fear that England lived in for the years of the war

On the lighter side, some do it yourself molds for lead soldiers. Just “ask your Mother which saucepan to use before boiling the lead on the stove”.

Bletchley Park also has an extensive section devoted to the work of Alan Turing, the mathematician and pioneering computer scientist who worked there during the war as part of the code breaking team. Without him, I shudder to think where we would be in the computer science field today. His work was light years ahead of anyone else, including the Turing Machine and the Turing Test. (I actually built a model of a Turing Machine in college using a little piece of software and I recall it took me way too many jumps to get the job done but I was just relieved that it worked in time for class.)

Statue of Turing — his 100th birthday was the week we visited

Alan Turing’s story had a very sad ending though as when he reported a burglary it became apparent he was in a relationship with the man who had broken in and Turing wound up prosecuted for being gay and underwent chemical treatments to avoid prison. He lost his security clearance, his work access, and died a few years later. (There’s some debate as to whether it was a suicide or an accident — the balance seems to be tipping more towards a chemical accident now.) He was relatively young and it was something like losing Newton decades before his time. The UK government has issued an official apology signed by David Cameron which is also posted in the museum.

Porgy, the teddy bear that Turing practiced his college lectures on (on loan from the Turing family).

On the morning we visited, the museum was running a test demonstration to show how the Enigma machines were used to translate messages. They had a secondary station set up at a remote location (OK, in some kind of shopping mall so it wasn’t all that remote) and people could go up to the desk there and send a message here to Bletchley Park. The message was received and put through the same procedures to decode using replica coding machines, including I believe a model of Colossus, the computer built to help in decoding. Because of the security clearances involved, the work of the Colossus creators wasn’t recognized until the 70s and later, so the history of computer science we now know began much earlier than previously thought. (They have an actual replica of Colossus as a part of the museum but we ran out of time. Fortunately the tickets are good for a full year so we’ll be heading back.)

Translation team at work

After the museum we went over to the shopping mall area, which is a little unique for England. Milton Keynes is something of a planned community and they have features you wouldn’t commonly expect, like…parking. We had lunch at a cafe in the mall area where we’d been once before and then over to T Mobile to get some answers about why Bear’s phone hadn’t worked in over 3 months. (I know that sounds pathetic but we honestly hadn’t had time off from everything that was already scheduled to come over and get something basic fixed like that.) They had to send the phone off, so we went over to IKEA to pick up some other needed items like a better chair for work since my back was starting to feel weird and some trays to carry food up and down the stairs. It’s only a matter of time before I trip on the stairs and do a glorious face plant complete with tikka masala up and down the stairs.

With all the business out of the way, we headed to the next door Xscape leisure center where they had lots of restaurants and indoor sports activities as well as a theater. We checked out the giant rock climbing tower and the indoor skydiving tunnel (the wind force keeps you aloft) where Bear Grylls had set a Guinness world record (no, that had nothing to do with Guinness ale).

Bear paid his respects to the most famous celebrity Bear of all–Bear Grylls.

Rock climbing up through the floors of the mall area

Indoor ski and snowboarding slope! (This was a birthday party for little kids riding on tubes and sleds down a marked off part of the slope.)

After checking out everything we’d like to come back to do, we headed to the movies which is usually my favorite part of the week. The Cineworld movie theater chain does lots of cool special events, like broadcasting operas, plays and other special events.

Cineworld also has Baskin Robbins right in the theater–good news for hungry bears!

They also bring back classic movies for special showings and this week they celebrated Jaws. I’ve seen Jaws at least a dozen times but never on the big screen and they chose to run a version with some additional scenes. It was one of my favorite movies to watch in grad school with my roommate Laura and we could pick up watching at any point whenever TNT re-ran it at night. (For some reason TNT ran nothing but Jaws, Aliens and The Road Warrior for about 18 straight months in 1996-97 but as those are three of our favorite movies, I never complained.)

If you thought they needed a bigger boat before, wait until you see Bruce the Stunt Shark on the big screen!

Next week we’ll be scouting more of the places we’ll be taking my Mom when she comes to visit, including Wrest Park!

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