Monday, June 30, 2008

Glastonbury on the Telly

Glastonbury, called the oldest music festival in England, took place this past weekend. Last year when we were visiting, trying to make the decision about moving here we watched coverage of Glastonbury on the television and I couldn’t understand who in their right mind would want to attend. The mud in the fields where people camped looked to be almost knee-deep. Festivals are way bigger here than they are in the U.S. and the whole thing leaves me feeling quite conflicted. I love going to concerts but the idea of camping makes me want to hurl, especially in the unpredictable English weather. But when you look at concert options in the summer outside of festivals, there is not a whole lot to choose from. Call me spoiled, I like to see the bands I’m paying money to hear. When you look at the sea of people in the audience at these festivals, it doesn’t look like that is really an option.

This year the weather for Glastonbury was much better. I was once again an armchair participant, watching the highlights from my living room. There was some controversy this year with the festival when New Yorker Jay-Z was invited to headline on Saturday night. Many wondered if hip hop had a place at a mostly rock festival. What amazed me is what WASN’T controversial about Jay-Z. My how times have changed! Just a few years ago the Dixie Chicks were considered a pariah after Natalie Maines said during a concert in London that she was embarrassed that they were from the same state as George W. Bush. Fast forward to Glastonbury 2008 when Jay-Z is being televised in front of thousands of people projecting an image of our fearless leader onto all of the jumbo screens and clearly saying after a pause, “Fuck Bush”. I did a search of the news outlets and that didn’t seem to make the news at all. I know different people buy Dixie Chicks records than buy Jay-Z records, which plays a part in no one batting an eye, but I also think that it also speaks to the change in political climate.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Feeling Somewhat Settled

It has really made a difference having the family here, being able to cook meals again, and have a washer and dryer at my disposal! I was feeling a bit down and over it before the family arrived. I am sure though all three of us have had moments where we thought, “I missed YOU???” We are a family so no doubt we occasionally get on each other’s nerves.

A will be taking the grammar school test next week which is a verbal reasoning test. It will determine whether she is considered for a grammar school where the smarties go or if she will go to the other school in the area. If she is considered for a grammar school, where she will go is in question. It may not be the closest to our house if the school is over-subscribed. It may be a girls’ school or a mixed school, we will see. No doubt that wherever she goes, she will be wearing a school uniform which she is not happy about.

Neighborhood Horticulture

Almost every house in our neighborhood has rose bushes and right now, they look just beautiful.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Country Pub

We got invited out to a country pub Sunday night for dinner with a work colleague and partner. Horses were in the adjacent field, which A immediately ran to. We also had one staring us down from another field.

She went to bed in a fine mood…

You don’t necessarily expect someone who wakes up on their own, without an alarm clock to start the day to wake up in a shitty mood. With A these days, you just don’t know what you’re gonna get. She hugged us both good night and told us that she loved us. In the morning when I told her we were walking down to the library to check email I got she “hates this place”.

A Home Cooked Meal

All of the psycho babble might say that food is not love. The food itself may not be but the act of preparing it can be an act of love. I have the good fortune of knowing several very good cooks and more than once, their meals have soothed my soul. Yes, it was the company as well, but there are times when someone takes care to plan a meal that for those who appreciate what that entails, it is love. When A and I got back from London last week, H had homemade beef stew cooking and the smell was heaven. He even added my new favorite vegetable, parsnips. That’s love.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Neighborhood Cat

We aren't quite sure how this cat gets here. By the way, I have yet to meet anyone in the UK who has an indoor only cat like so many do in the States.

What the Outlets Look Like

All of the outlets have switches on them. You don't see this very often in America.

What Every American Household Must Have

Forget the French or the English variety...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pics of the House

My friend M in Atlanta has been asking to see pics of the house. As she commented, "Are you waiting for the IKEA boxes to be cleared away before you send some pics?" So true!

Here are a couple of pics, warts and all. The first is what will be our dining room/computer room. Note the IKEA boxes stacked to the right and all of the cables, etc. on the mantle of the fireplace. I was sitting at the dining room table when I took this. The kitchen is behind me. The other pic is the kitchen. The door that is open to the left leads to a washer and dryer and a 1/2 bath that has the tiniest sink that I have ever seen. I'll have to post a picture. To the right in the kitchen is a door to the backyard.

In the Window at Harrod's

A wanted me to take a picture of this. When we got home and I showed the 24K gold iPod picture to H, his only comment was "Only 16gb?"

Chihuily at the Victoria and Albert Museum

A few years ago there was a great installation of Chihuily glass at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Here is a beautiful piece at the V&A.

The Size of our Refrigerator

My dad was asking me about this so I thought I would post this picture. A is standing in front of our fridge and she is about 5'5" so while it isn't as small as some European refrigerators, it is also not as big as the "American Style" appliances some of the electronics stores are now selling here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Yes, We Are Americans

We skimped on furniture but invested in a good television. I rationalized this by the fact that we will only have one television, two less than we had in Missouri. When the electronics company called and left a message to say that they were delivering the television on Thursday, the guy said at the beginning of the message, “Wow that’s quite an accent”. Funny, I have been focusing so much on everyone else’s accents that I didn’t even think about what I might sound like to others. Of course I had to play my voicemail message to see if I was particularly nasally Midwestern when I recorded it, but actually I think I sound pretty respectable.

The television arrived Thursday. A has been saving her money for about a year for a Nintendo Wii which she got yesterday. Suddenly instead of reading the copy of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities I checked out from the library, I want to sit on the couch and watch music videos with A. Just when I thought my television addiction had faded, it’s back in full force.

Crayfish and Rocket Sandwich

A and I stopped for a sandwich on our day out in London. She picked up a Chicken Aoili sandwich (we would just call it chicken salad). I picked up a crayfish, rocket, and chili sandwich. Rocket is arugula (I think) and the rest is self-explanatory. It was spicy and delicious!

A Day with A in London

I had an afternoon in mind for just A and me to do things I knew she would enjoy. I told her it was going to be our day of looking at expensive things on the cheap. We took the tube to London and went to the V&A Museum to look at the fashion in the museum from top designers over the years. Then we headed to Harrod’s to walk through the different designer’s boutiques there. When we passed through the Ralph Lauren boutique there was a woman probably in her early 20’s, very pretty trying on one of his floor-length gowns. She couldn’t stop walking around in it, you could tell she was just giddy that she had on this beautiful dress. Her behavior was refreshing and quite unexpected since everyone else in the store who can afford to buy the expensive stuff seems unemotional about it. Maybe they’re just medicated? We had a great day looking at things we couldn’t afford!

The Supremes at the Victoria and Albert Museum

I have heard Oprah Winfrey say in the past that the first black person she remembers seeing on television was Diana Ross when she performed with the Supremes on Ed Sullivan. This was before my time and so it never really sunk in how significant that could be. The V&A Museum had a special exhibit of Mary Wilson’s Supremes costumes so A and I went. I didn’t quite know what to expect but the museum did a nice job of telling a bigger story with the display. The costumes were displayed in chronological order describing the rise of The Supremes along with the story of the civil rights movement in the United States. A of course wasn’t interested in the historical context, she was just interested in the beadwork. I tried to force the issue but when I asked her what the civil rights movement was anyway and she gave me a satisfactory answer, I let it rest. It was interesting to see a British museum tell an American story and to also read about the impact that Motown made on England, especially in the north. About the beadwork, it was also spectacular, and of course the music throughout the exhibit had everyone singing along. One interesting fact, the girls wore wigs which modeled the white hairstyles of the day when they were performing because Berry Gordy Jr. wanted them to have a wider appeal than just a black audience.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Another IKEA Trip

Tuesday we went back to pick up a few more things and as H said, “Are you sure there is nothing else we need because I don’t want to be back in the store for a very long time”. Me neither. Since we were in London, we went down to the theatre ticket sales booths to see if we could find cheap tickets to a play since it was a weeknight. No luck on the tickets so we walked around a bit and came back home. We were discussing how this week is the same week last year that we visited England and tried to decide if this was the right move for us. Who knew it would be so long in the making.

Television License

So I was told that everyone who has a television in the UK must buy a television license. I hadn’t looked into the details of this. One night when I was watching something at the B&B on BBC One I commented on the lack of commercials and someone said, “That’s what the television license pays for”. We headed to our council to let them know we have arrived so they can start sending us a bill as well. In the U.S. I guess this would be equivalent to city tax which pays for garbage, etc. Did I mention I feel like I’m hemorrhaging money? We thought we would ask there where we pay our television license. This question sent the three council employees into a state, well they didn’t know they just paid with their debit card. They never said WHO they paid with their debit card. The woman said that three times until I said, “We aren’t from the UK. We’ve never had to buy a television license before”. Finally they understood that this was a foreign concept to us and told us to go online and search for tv license and we would find the necessary information. I did and £139.00 later (close to $300) we are the proud owners of a “colour” television license.

I thought about asking the family if they would mind going vintage for a black and white license at the fraction of the cost but I would run the risk of mutiny.

Will We Die Without Internet???

We have been relying on the public library for internet but it was down Tuesday. It seems like setting up services takes a mighty long time or we are just very impatient. We ordered internet on Monday and it won't be installed until the 2nd of July.

Monday was a Bad Day

On Monday we did nothing but some errands and waited for another IKEA delivery. A actually said at one point she hated this place because the day was filled with nothing but waiting for things. H chalks it up to television and internet withdrawal. She is moody as heck and having been a single parent for the past ten months, he has little patience for it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A’s Favorite Part of Greenwich

Lying in the park...


A has decided that she hates history. By the end of our time in Europe then, no doubt she will hate us, because it is exactly what is missing in the U.S. and what we are interested in seeing. It was a stunning day on Saturday for our trip to Greenwich, which in terms the London Underground, is quite a journey away from us. We walked along the Thames and then headed to the National Maritime Museum. A promptly found a seat in every room we entered. I now know why Admiral Nelson was so important in British history, but ask her and she will say, “Who?” We then walked up to the Royal Observatory to see Harrison’s famous clocks. They had a really nice display. We then ventured to Greenwich Market where A found a gift for her best friend and we had some delicious things to eat like these Italian (don’t know what they’re called so I will call them) croquettes, which had rice, cheese and ham inside.

A's First UK Friend

Her first day here, we were walking down the street in our neighborhood and this cat was across the street. All she had to do is say, “Awww, kitty” and it was crossing the street to get to her.

Putting Together the Furniture

To quote A, “there’s a bed in here somewhere, we just have to find it”. Well, we sat and watched H do his magic.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What Our Days Are Like...

Here is an idea of what our days have been like since the family’s arrival in the UK.

Wednesday – They arrive about 8:30am. Our first shipment from IKEA arrives at about 9:30am. H puts together our bed, which is the first bed with an actual headboard that we have ever had in our eighteen years of marriage. Some things have just never seemed important. We walk to our High Street (town centre) which is a little over a mile away to get food and back. With jet lag this does them in so most of the rest of the day is sleeping.

Thursday I go into work for a quick meeting. When I get back they are finally moving due to their schedules being severely out of whack. We take the tube to IKEA and we spend over three hours in a store. H and I have NEVER been shopping for that long. We are all completely wiped out by the time it is over. If you have never been to IKEA before, you get to walk through all the pretty showrooms and write down what you want to buy but THEN you have to go pick it all out of the warehouse and put it on trolleys. It was a good thing there was three of us because that’s how many trolleys we had full of flat-packed boxes of furniture. Most of the furniture requires assembly so as we were stacking things up I was thinking about the number of projects H just bought for himself.

We went and got them library cards Friday morning and used the internet and then we went to Hemel Hempstead on the bus in the afternoon. Without a car we are getting a lot of (needed) exercise getting to public transportation. Here we look at televisions and walk around some stores pricing various items. Now that we are all here we need to stop converting everything in U.S. dollars because it just scares us!

I recently read this book called Longitude by Dava Sobel and since we have no television or internet, H read it after me. After reading this book we were both interested in seeing the clocks that were created to solve the longitude problem. They are housed at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich which is also the prime meridian point. So Saturday we went there. While this should have been a nice outing, it wasn’t. At some point each of us was in a bad mood, never at the same time thank goodness. I can’t speak for the others but I just feel exhausted. While I felt a bit settled into English life, setting up house has made me feel like a foreigner once again. More about the Royal Observatory later...

Sunday we needed the internet. Since the library was closed I suggested we go to Starbucks which I thought offered free internet. Well, they don’t and the prices were ridiculous. As we walked down the street we noticed a local coffee shop did, but after we made our purchases, we found out that it was down this particular day. We traveled to my office instead so A could email her “best-ies” as she calls them, and we could shop for a television and internet package. We also did some internet grocery shopping. With a £4.75 delivery charge (a little over $9.00), this is a good deal for us since getting a taxi back from the store would be a lot more expensive. We also don’t have the impulse purchase temptation.

So it’s now Monday and it’s 6:30am. Our purchases from our Thursday IKEA trip will arrive today along with our groceries. We have a list of other things to do today. I can’t wait until we are a little more settled.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Their Arrival

H and A arrived Wednesday morning and I was so happy to see them. So far they love the house. They got upgraded to business class on the way over so they could sit together. A told me that her best friend said before she left, “I can’t believe you’re leaving me for your mom”.

Our neighbor dropped by last night and brought us a cake and a welcome card. In all of our moving around over the years, that has never happened before!

Last Night in the B&B

I still can’t believe that I lived in a Bed and Breakfast for ten months! Tuesday night was my last night there. There was only one other guest, a young Frenchman who checked in and immediately said he was headed to London and wouldn’t be back for two nights, so was is nice and quiet here.

L and I took some of my home purchases to our new house Monday night. I walked in the door and it is such a weird feeling when you are getting used to a new place, and realizing in a few weeks, it will feel like home. I wondered what changes will occur in our lives in this home.

She's a Teenager

A's thirteenth birthday is rapidly approaching. As I was preparing for the family’s arrival, I emailed her to find out what kind of bed she wanted. I sent her some links to several and she picked one requesting the black brown finish. She was also picking out some new tennis shoes and what did she pick, black Converse All-Stars with red trim. Then I called on another day and asked her what color sheets she wanted. Her answer – black or red. I guess we are moving into the dark phase…

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Beds will be delivered tomorrow, tea kettle has been purchased, and H & A are on their way to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago after a very stressful slapdash visit to the British Embassy downtown. They will arrive at 7:00am my time and a very large taxi will be waiting to transport them and their very large suitcases to our new home!

Some fun facts about moving overseas – The U.S. Postal Service will not let you forward mail to an overseas address. After calling British Telecom yesterday and finding out that the phone line is all ready and actually working in the house, I found out it would take eleven days for it to be ours. Maybe I misunderstood, but that seems like an awfully long time to transfer a phone account.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sex and the City is Big Here Too

In an attempt to stay awake after a redeye flight back, I went to see the Sex and the City movie yesterday. I was afraid that a dark movie theatre would put me to sleep. The film had the opposite affect on me. It’s the second weekend for the movie here and the theatre was packed with only a few men here and there. I think me and the woman sitting next to me might have been the only women who didn’t come with at least three of her closest friends.

Friday, June 6, 2008

iPod Wars

Part of my trip to Utah this week was to celebrate the go live of a big project. We had a really nice dinner and then afterwards we gathered at one of the out of towners’ hotels which had an iHome. This prompted all of us business travelers to break out our iPods to play our favorite songs which my pal D called “the iPod Wars”. You see a whole other side of your colleagues when delving into their playlists.

Moving Ahead

I was in Utah this week for business, which was good because it has made this last week without the family go by very quickly. We have gone back and forth on this issue but I believe the family is just bringing their luggage and not shipping anything. The new David Sedaris book is out this week so I was able to pick that up to take back with me.

I pick up the keys to our rental house (end of terrace) pictured here on Saturday so I can get some furniture and the utilities taken care of. We will be living in Amersham, the next village over so I can take the bus or the train to work until we get a car. It’s too far to walk and after wrecking my bike when we lived in Germany, I’m a little scared to choose that mode of transportation!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pictures of Chesham

As I plan my move out of the B&B next week, I took some pictures of the village I have called home for the last ten months.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bo Diddley

I am just getting into Utah and turned on the radio to hear that Bo Diddley passed away. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform at the Tip Top Cafe in Huntsville, Alabama in the 90's when my friend Jim played in his band. I recently interviewed Jim and asked him about that experience. You can read that interview here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

J in the UK Gets a Makeover

Thanks to my talented friend M, J in the UK went under the knife this weekend and is back with a new look. I absolutely love it and it's the perfect time for a change. I'm off to Utah this week for work and then when I am back, the family will be here in a matter of days. It's time for phase two.

Pub Drinks

The other night before our pub quiz some of us went to another local country pub for dinner. My brother recently asked me what kind of beer people drink here so I asked my mates if I could line up their drinks for a picture. The beer on the left is an Italian beer. The drink on the right is a London Pride Shandy, which is a mixture of London Pride beer and lemonade. The one in the middle is called Colley’s Dog from the Tring Brewery. About the shandy, the lemonade in the shandy is not what we Americans think of as lemonade. It’s more like a lemon lime soda. This particular pub is a freehouse.

The food was good. One of my dinner mates had the mixed grill which came with a beef steak, a lamb steak and a fried egg on top.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My Friends Are Back!

After T and J visited Paris and Amsterdam they made one more stop in London arriving Saturday morning for two days. We had a fun day walking around the secondhand shops and relaxing in one of the coffee shops. After many days of sightseeing they were ready for a slower pace so we went to see the new Indiana Jones movie, which wasn’t the best of the lot but wasn’t awful either. At some point in the movie Indiana Jones mentions the crystal skull that is housed in the British Museum and I wanted to shout out, “Hey, I’ve seen that!”

Visions of IKEA Dancing in My Head

The stressful stuff is what seems to be left of this move. We are trying to decide now exactly what to ship, and our leased car in the U.S. is causing the biggest headache. One of my colleagues drove me to IKEA Friday so I could look at beds and other things. I woke up in the middle of the night and my brain was working overtime making lists for the arrival and couldn’t go back to sleep until about 4:30.