Eagles Game – London Edition

It is scary to feel like joy will never again truly touch your soul.  My 5-year-old son lost his first tooth and I was distraught….I started crying.  All I could think was ‘Malcolm will never lose a tooth.’.

Moments like this are a frequent occurrence.  Specifically, when this pertains to my son and daughter, I am very upset by it….fucking furious, actually.  I feel like aside from being desperately sad, Chris and I are being robbed of moments of happiness that are every parent’s right to enjoy (we, as parents, certainly put in the work!).

Look at that sweet, first-lost-tooth smile <3

Conversely, things that used to stress me out or made me sad, or frustrated, no longer bother me.  As an example, one morning Chris woke me to tell me our car was hit (eventually deemed totalled). I thought ‘so what?  This is a fixable thing.’ and I rolled over and went back to sleep.

One of the things both Chris and I enjoyed in our past life, our life before Malcolm died, was watching the Eagles play football.  It is one of the things we bonded over while dating and we have attended many games in many different stadiums over the years.

With Merrill Reese, the voice of the Eagles!
Being interviewed in Houston by Eagles TV!

When I was pregnant with Malcolm, we were having trouble agreeing on a name.  Our other two kids are M names, and we wanted to continue the tradition, but only if we really loved the name.  Then one night we were watching the Eagles and Malcolm Jenkins introduced himself and Chris and I looked at one another and said ’Malcolm’.  We must have come across this name before, but hearing Jenkins say it, it sounded good to us. Sure enough, a few weeks later, we had our Malcolm.

Babies are perfection….exhausting perfection <3<3<3
We were allowed 9 months of perfection.

 

Malcolm died September 25, 2017.  

 

So smitten with his Daddy

I don’t even remember the following months.  The holidays came and went…we went through the motions for the kids, but I couldn’t tell you one thing that happened.  Chris’ dad bought us all Malcolm Jenkins jerseys for Christmas, which made me cry and smile and all of it. We watched the playoff games cause why not. Sure they won, I sort of cared, but not really.

Chris, I and M and M in our Jenkins jerseys
I am lucky enough to count my brothers among my closest friends (you will find them and their families in many posts). My brother Dave and Emily, his wife, are Malcolm’s godparents. We love spending time with them.  They came down for the Falcon’s playoff game and we also watched the Super Bowl with them.
Decorating Malcolms grave-site for the playoff run.

Then they beat Minnesota and it changed.  All of a sudden it was everything. They had to win.  Chris tried to keep his emotions in check, didn’t want to tie in the meaning too closely, but I couldn’t help myself.

Back up in Philly, on the morning of the Super Bowl, I visited my Aunt’s grave…..she is one of the biggest Eagles fans I have ever known.  We have tailgated, cheered, screamed for and booed the Eagles together. I asked her to snuggle Malcolm during the game and to teach him the ropes.  While I was speaking to her it began to snow, which is Malcolm’s sign.

The Eagles were going to win…I could now feel it in every fiber of my being.  The first time I had really FELT anything in months.

    

Of course we all screamed like lunatics during the game and the Eagles won their first ever Super Bowl.  (last few minutes recorded below, hero bear celebrated with us)

I really don’t know what would have happened to me, emotionally, if it had ended any other way….I had been so invested.  We came back up for the parade and shortly after I sank back into depression.

A few weeks later when Chris casually mentioned that the Eagles were playing in London  I said ‘yes…..we are going’. We bought plane tickets before game tickets. It was when the idea of how traveling, reconnecting with something I always enjoyed, may help me.

So to London

HB ready for London Eagles game

So….many….Eagles fans.  I mean, they annoy the crap out of me, sometimes, but Eagles fans are the best fans.  I told this to every UK Eagles fan I saw….‘you chose the right team’. We waited at customs for 2 hours.  When we told our customs agent why we were there he said ‘I’m going to stop asking people their purpose of visit….everyone is here for that game.’

We swung by the Eagles pubs in town, but The Admirality was closed when we stopped by (we got there just passed midnight) and the next night Passayunk Pub had a 2.5 hour wait.  We met up with my friend Einar the Saturday night before the game so we went out elsewhere to experience the exciting city we were visiting. We walked about 10 minutes from Passayunk and hit up Fitzroy Tavern.  Even there, the Eagles fight song broke out and we had to join. I mean, it was our duty. Einar then leaned in and said ‘we don’t do that here’…haha. I did ask if we embarrassed him and he assured me we didn’t 🙂  After the pub Einar took us to Bali Bali in Soho, which cooked all of his favorite dishes well (Einar is originally from Indonesia), and we ate our hearts out. The Tahu Talor (bean curd omlette) was sooooo yummy.

The next day we headed to Wembley – the 1948 summer Olympics stadium (see general London post for more on my Olympic Stadium Goals) ….oh, and there was an NFL game going on as well.  

We enjoyed chatting up the UK fans and seeing why they chose to cheer for the Eagles (or another team).

Our buddy-for-the-game Pete from Coventry

The atmosphere was different than an Eagles game in the states for sure!  The Eagles were WELL represented, as Iggles fans always travel well, but all 32 teams were represented (literally, we were intrigued and so we kept track).  I still screamed for/at my team, but it was a more mellow vibe for sure….all part of the experience 🙂

Wembley

Sealed with a few big plays by Malcolm Jenknis and an Eagles win, 24-18, it will always be an emotional memory.  A memory forever tied to my baby boy.

#RememberingMalcolm – London Edition

It was in February, when we first decided to come over for the Eagles game, when the idea of #RememberingMalcolm really started to take shape.

This trip to London was special and different for Chris and I, so we wanted to find something particularly meaningful in the memory of our sweet boy.  While sifting through the internet we came across Brixton Soup Kitchen. There was a lot of positive vibes surrounding this grassroots organization by both the community and the press.  We had not come across Brixton in any of our ‘what to do while in London’ searches, and connecting to a different, less-touristy area of the city was appealing to us.

 

Brixton Villiage is a great market with lots of restaurant options.

 

The day we were volunteering the tube proved too efficient, again, and we were 15 minutes early (I’m punctual! :)).  We soon found out that mornings at BSK take off at a more relaxed pace.   

Fortunately, we caught Esther on her way in, or else we would have been waiting outside a while!

We got a brief tour and looked around while Esther and Ahmed went about their routines of starting the tea and coffee and preparing bread with cheese.

When Micah showed up our BSK history and tour went into full swing.  He spoke to us about how Solomon was drawn to do something for their community and aid those that need it the most.  To focus on what is truly important in life. Something to which Chris and I can relate. Just from that sentiment, we already felt a connection to BSK.  Of course we shared our story and why we had looked to volunteer. We showed Malcolm’s picture around, introduced everyone to Hero Bear and wore Malcolm’s shirt.

Originally, BSK had difficulty finding space as all their services, including hot meals, pantry food, clothing, and legal advice, free of charge.  The community has drawn together to make it a warmer (literally!) space. A friend installed the heating system, to make BSK a cozy place to come in the winter (London requires historical buildings replace old materials with similar materials, to maintain the historical feel of the city.  A result of this is the windows at BSK are single pane, and a functioning heat system was necessary).

BSK doesn’t receive government funding, but relies on volunteers  and donations. Their efforts have been recognized and aided by many different sponsors as well.  Capital One helped them clear the garden and make it a gathering place for warmer months (Micah dropped it in that he was BBQ champ this past year:)).  They get food donations from several local cafes, restaurants and grocers. BSK was even featured on the UK show Surprise, Surprise, a home reno show, that gave them state-of-the-art kitchen appliances!  Their website highlights and appreciates all the sponsors for helping them be able to offer such a pure community support.

Its no wonder the community appreciates this place 🙂 And their hustle is undeniable…even while we were there Solomon was taking meetings and pressing the flesh to get BSK the necessary facetime.

Also ANYONE can help their cause by donating to their GoGetFunding page, and look to purchase Solomon’s recently published book “The Solomon Success Story: Born Into a Dyslexic World”, about being born severely dyslexic in the tough streets of Brixton and overcoming.

As we were learning about BSK’s history other regular volunteers were arriving.  Charlie, BSK’s admin and our contact, was there with her daughter (Jada) and nephew (Corey) who had the week off from school.  Martin is a regular volunteer from the Netherlands who is studying the semester in the London. There were also two Jennifers who are a part of their regular rotation of volunteers. It was interesting hearing everyone’s stories and what led them to volunteer at BSK.

Then we were put to work.  We prepped, cooked, served and got to know one another a bit more.  

Corey and Jada are great, volunteering at BSK while their school was on holiday. Corey converted us to Glasgow Celtics fans, and we convinced him that the Eagles were the way to go, if he ever started watching the NFL. 🙂

After learning we were originally from Philly and there for the Eagles game, Micah and I crushed a rendition of ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’.  I wish I had video but I was sauteing onions. I still did the step out of the cab with the spatula in my hand.

Serve it up!

We served food to about 10 people, which is a very light day at BSK.  More people did trickle in eventually. With one big dining room table and a cozy setting, the environment is inviting and conversation flowed.

Micah and Corey took Chris on a tour of the neighborhood and to drop off some food at the library.  Similar to the US, some kids don’t get meals on a regular basis, and rely on their meal at school as a source of nutrition.  When they have a week off, they can go to the library for their lunch and BSK delivers food donated by Nandos Peri Peri. Have we mentioned BSK is amazing??  

A HUGE thank you to Brixton Soup Kitchen for having us participate in their daily routine and educate us about their community, their inspirations and their amazing efforts to provide some relief to those that need it.  Also, thanks for letting me take a bunch of pictures to remember our experience as we keep doing what we can in memory our Malcolm.

Solomon and Micah are so inspiring in their commitment to their mission. They are also a lot of fun to hang out with 🙂

London

London!  What a rich experience you were.  This trip was so emotional for us, and between our #RememberingMalcolm moments, the Eagles game, sightseeing, pubs and taking in a show in the West End it was all we could have asked for.

Approaching this trip was so different.  Everyone kept asking if we were excited. I kept saying ‘we are looking forward to it’.  Since Malcolm died, we don’t really get EXCITED for anything, any more, as outlined in my post about the Eagles.  Planning a trip is something I have always enjoyed, though, and hunting down a good accommodation and other must dos was a good distraction.

Location Location Location! Hyde Park across the street and an elevator that drops us off right at our room.  I really took the below video for the kids cause they would have loved it!

I found a wonderful Air B&B for two directly across the street from Hyde Park for around 120 USD a night.  I have used Air B&B a lot in the past, but this was our first time staying in a room in someone’s house, and not renting an entire space.  But London is expensive, so it seemed like a good time to try it out 🙂 We did have our own bathroom and the host, Marite, was wonderful. She had breakfast available and coffee, which we greatly appreciated.

Breakfasts are not a requirement of an AirBnB, so we fully appreciated this extra touch to start our mornings off right (and caffeinated)

You can definitely get rooms even cheaper if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom.  This was also an anniversary trip, so we sprang for our own toilet.

Day 1:  After over 2 hours in customs lines, we checked in and bought a picnic for Hyde Park. As we entered the park we saw an older man play hide and seek with his dog.  While his sweet little Scottie was sniffing a tree, the man casually walked ahead about a dozen yards up the path towards us and stepped off the path out of sight behind a bush. When the dog look up you could see the surprise on his face and it made us laugh….then the Scottie trotted towards us looking left and right off of the path until he spotted his owner and his tail went a-wagging 🙂

We wandered along checking out many different corners of the park, and then settled in for our picnic with views of Kensington Palace.   We enjoyed dog-watching as much as people-watching!

We came across one of Malcolm’s signs on our walk through Hyde Park.   Malcolm ‘spoke’ to me on Mother’s Day weekend when I was gently touched by dandelion seeds while having a very big breakdown at his grave.

The next morning was our #RememberingMalcolm appointment.  After our time at Brixton Soup Kitchen, we wandered through Borough Market and bought lunch.  Anything you want to eat, they got!

One of the few places we went to scratch that Harry Potter itch.  Borough Market was the setting for Diagon Alley

We tried the Scotch Eggs at Scotchtails….tasty!

Then we headed over the bridge and along the Thames with views of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.  

We didn’t go into the Tower of London mainly due to time constraints. While walking around the outside I had to use the bathroom and there were only pay toilets!  We hadn’t exchanged any money, and I wasn’t about to do so just to pee! We wandered a bit further and found perfectly functional, free toilets at the adorable St. Kathrine Docks Marina.

Another view of Tower of London and Tower Bridge. We walked all the way around the Tower, and we are so glad we did! St. Kathrine Docks Marina on the other side of the Tower is ADORABLE.  It is a quaint, quiet little area with lots of marina view restaurants and wine bars. Not much in the way of pubs, though, which is what I had on my mind by this time.

While walking around the Tower, I heard a man mimic  “‘Go Birds’ all over the bloody place…..some sort of rubber match or something’.  Made me smile. (‘Go Birds’ being the minimal amount of syllables to say ‘Go Eagles’) Clearly Eagles fans were annoying some locals already and it was only Friday.

We ended Friday sightseeing at  Covent Garden and enjoying a few pints at The White Swan pub.  

Fantastic autumn vibes at Covent Garden
This great little pub gave our feet a much needed rest.

Then back to our room for a quick change and to dinner at Gordon Ramsey’s Heddon Street.  It was fine. We were set to try the Beef Wellington and so we did…it was tasty (and for the price, should be!).  The dinner checked a box for us. I saw a mouse, which made me laugh (‘cause drinking) but, of course, caused the wait staff some horror.

Roller skate hangout at Piccadilly Circus shortly after midnight…

Saturday, Day 3, was first the The British Museum then London Olympic Park.

Not sure what to do? Hop in a queue! This one at the British Museum moved fairly quickly….and you always have to appreciate a hard working security team

 My bucket list is to visit all Olympic Cities. I have quite a few done, already, but there are many, many more out there!

We took the tour of the stadium, now home to West Ham United.  There were many good photo ops. Since we really have no grasp on non-American football, the tour was very educational!  

HB is always game
#gameface
Chris and I do NOT know a lot (anything?) about non-american football. But we both really enjoyed this tour.

We bought some souvenirs and then headed up the Arcelormittal Orbital sculpture right next door and took the SLIDE down!

The view from the bottom (always an attractive angle)
view from the top!

We both agreed this was worth the money.  We walked the Olympic grounds more (quickly, ‘cause it was cold) and got to see the velodrome and the Olympic Rings.

Another Olympic City down! Wembley, where the Eagles played, also hosted an Olympic Games.

That night was our attempt at Passyunk Avenue, which is a Philly-style pub, but because of the game the wait was 2.5 hours!  

‘Kelce’ photo ops waiting for Einar at Passayunk Avenue

We waited there for our friend, Einar, then headed out elsewhere in the city. We walked about 10 minutes from Passyunk and hit up Fitzroy Tavern.  After the pub, Einar took us to Bali Bali in Soho, which cooked all of his favorite dishes well (Einar is originally from Indonesia), and we ate our hearts out.  The Tahu Talor (bean curd omlette) was sooooo yummy.

Day 4: Sunday was Eagles game…which we made a separate blog post.  

After game we did an ad hoc stop at Kings Cross cause I wanted an HP pic. Alas, the line was sooooooper long, and we were exhausted. Long days and late nights were catching up to these two old heads, so we settled for a picture of a stranger.

Exhausted, that night we got some Moroccan food to go from Sidi Maarouf, ate in, and watched the soccer hooligan movie ‘Green Street’ inspired by our West Ham visit the day before.

Monday was ‘sightseeing day’.  Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms and a beautiful walk through St. James Garden to Buckingham Palace.

Dinner was at Chili Shaker Indian Restaurant (yummy….I ate toooooo much….jean-buster) near Piccadilly Circus and then we saw ‘The Book of Mormon’ at the Prince of WalesTheatre.  We knew what we were getting into with this play, and that it is not for the easily (or even not-so-easily) offended. As expected, traditional big-theatre boundaries were smashed.  We thought it was smart and funny and are glad we chose that play!

HB is very cultured

On our last day, the tube ride out of town saw us meet a lovely couple from New Zealand. They’re visiting for a month. The older lady next to us had a teddy bear (Mr. Potts, of facebook fame) sticking out of her backpack like Hero Bear was from ours. She said drop her a message on FB if we’re ever in New Zealand!  

Nice to meet you Mr. Potts!

Finally, we headed home to see our kiddos.  I thought the bathrooms in Reykjavik airport were super-cool, so I took a video for posterity!  They were empty, but I walked quickly cause taking a video in a public bathroom is weird.

One more #RememberingMalcolm moment. Helping children with illnesses travel? How could HB resist?

The rapid pace of our visit made it best for just the two of us, but we missed the kids like crazy.  They made us welcome home cards and there were hugs and tears and getting ready for Halloween the next day. Right back to it…and we wouldn’t want it any other way 🙂