Almost Home

Today was a very busy day for us both; I was purchasing home goods for the new flat and Drew is hard at work as business booms at the new echo office. I also managed to drop of some applications and CVs today at the University of the Arts London… Although we both had very full days, we headed out this evening to an awards show at the O2 for festival organizers and acts that have had a great influence in the festival scene. There will be photos on our Flickr page soon for your viewing pleasure.
For now though, I have some great shots of Cambridge Theatre, locations near our new home, and a few special shots for our new friend Melodie. We hope you can feel the love!

Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre
Corner Pub
The South End of Our Building
Neighborhood
Cath 1
Cath 2
Cath 3
Cath 4
As always, all my love to you~

Travel Rule Number One

You should never actually use your cell phone abroad.  Unless you really need to.  But even then, you should sleep on it.

Tonight, for your viewing pleasure, we would like to share the excitement in Leicester Square as The Quantum of Solace descends in London…

 

Drew had to fight the crowd and take an alternate route home from work this evening due to the commotion. I guess we can safely assume that this kind of thing is going to be a regular occurrence.

There is more good news. I am slowly taking photos for tomorrow’s post. Trust me, lugging a big camera around while you are actually trying to conduct business in London, is a joke. Your needs are very important to us; thank you for your patience and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.

XO

So much for so little

Yesterday was a brilliant experiment in patience and self preservation.  I went to the bank, yet again, to request that another mistake be corrected.  I don’t know anymore how many people have been involved in our grand banking adventure.  Just when it seems that the clown car cannot hold another circus member, we pack another one in.  It will be a glorious day when we can all jump out and dance away as the end credits of “bank error” roll to Danny Elfman’s “Big Top Pee Wee” Theme.

I hear you.  More photos.  It is on the list for tomorrow, I promise.  Today I attempted to print out an application and CV with no printer.  This means interrupting Drew at work and being a little inefficient with my time.  Tomorrow I have more to print, though I haven’t even finished creating them all!  I also have to deliver all of this paper work to the University where I am applying.  Maybe between the University offices and a recruitment agency I can stop for some photo opportunities.

In my back and forth today, I did manage to look at winter coats in a few stores.  I am just itching to buy some outrageously English clothes and head to work.  I know that no one here will appreciate how much like fancy dress this is for me; hopefully we’ll manage to get some photos so that you can experience tights and boots as well.  You know you want some in your wardrobe.

This evening is full of email, a movie (a bad one), dinner, and job search paperwork.  I am making up such lovely things about myself that I can’t imagine how anyone could consider passing me over.  And I make a mean twice baked mash.  That’s important for potlucks in the work place.  You don’t want to hire that girl that makes the jello with mayonnaise and fruit in it.  If you are that girl, stop taking that stuff unless you really don’t like anyone you work with.

Much love to you and all my very best for a great rest of the week!

Sunday, Sunday

It’s amazing the things you can find on You Tube… Just try typing in “Dr. Who and the Daleks remix” and see what you come up with.  Please also search for “the funniest cat video ever“.  This one only gets better the more you watch.  (Mom, you can just click on the link to see the videos.)

There is good news for those of you coming to visit us soon.  Today we ventured out to Heathrow airport via the Underground!  We went to visit my former Project Manager from ICON before she flew back to Nashville after a full week and half of meetings in Vienna and London.  Though the details of her project are confidential, she was able to tell me a fascinating bit about the ins and outs of diverticulitis–over breakfast.  Yummy.  I was genuinely pleased to have run into her again.  What were the odds?!

So, why is this good for you?  We know how to get to the airport to meet you when you get here!  Trust me, it can be overwhelming to find your way into London from the airport.  You’ll be glad to see us.

We had a rather lazy rest of the day and caught up on few more episodes of Ugly Betty.  I have to tell you, these writers are great.  Where in the world do they think of this stuff?  It is so unbelievable and so real at the same time.  I would recommend that you find yourself at the video rental establishment of your choice and get a few discs.  You are also going to need some ice cream and popcorn.  It wouldn’t hurt to have some of those Lindt Truffles if you can get your hands on some.  You know what… go ahead and have something with sun-dried tomatoes on hand.

Later this week we’ll be buying some bedlinens and towels so that we can make the move to the new place.  We thought we would wait until payday so that we don’t pay interest or foreign banking fees on our new stuff.  Oh Dad, we’re getting smarter aren’t we?!  I really have to consider the cell phone issue as well (they’re called “mobiles”) once Drew gets his work mobile issue sorted.

So, we hope that you had an amazing weekend.  We thought about you a lot.

xo

The Saturday Evening Post

Today we were on the set of the 2010 Dr. Who series 6 (play along with me). We got some great promotional shots and read through the script for one of the upcoming episodes; sorry no spoilers here, but I wouldn’t rule out a cameo of yours truly… Please do rifle through the shots, but be sure to keep the lights on.

very very sleepy for no reason at all.  must snuggle.

(love you very much)

Friday I’m in Love

(Just so you know I have written, published and mysteriously lost this entry already this evening–but here it goes again.)

We got the keys to our new place today after meeting an inventory specialist to sign off on the evaluation and take a last look at the place.  There are several reasons why we have decided not to move in today:

  • The internet connection will be activated on 31 October
  • The whole flat needs a good, thorough cleaning
  • We still have to purchase bed linens and towels
  • The landline connecting us to emergency services will be activated on 29 October
  • Seven Dials is a fun and convenient place to be on the weekend
  • The landlord still has to get back to us regarding the location of the electric meter
 
Although I have registered to pay council taxes, arranged for the water to be in our name and signed up for telephone/internet services, I still have a few more things to take care of.  Of course we have to get an electricity/gas account, but I also have to investigate whether or not we have to get a tv license.  I am hoping the landlord might have one that is good for a while…
 
London isn’t everything we dreamed it would be just yet.  We’ve spent too much time doing work type things.  However, I think we have saved enough allowance money to see the Dr. Who exhibition this weekend at Earls Court.  You’re jealous.  We’re geeks.  It all evens out.  I just hope I get to spend some stress-free time with this boy I’m crushing on.
 
My former Project Manager from ICON is an hour away from London on business this week, so I am hoping that we will somehow be able to swing catching her in her travels to or from her other destinations.  It would be great to see someone familiar, from home…  So, when did you say you were coming?
There isn’t much else to tell in the way of bigs news, so I will leave you with a few photos of some green space that I have enjoyed in the city.


green
green2
green3
green4

We’re not in Kansas anymore

Simple things, like eating a meal out somewhere, have become something of anxiety producing process.  Each time I consider where to eat I feel my heart beating a bit faster.  How much does a sandwich cost here?  Do I order at the counter? Am I supposed to leave a tip?  Do I really want to sit here alone and eat a sandwich? I have to pee so I should eat here because that would give me a good excuse to use the bathroom, but then I’d have to carry my purse and backpack into the tiny bathroom.  Then the staff will think I don’t know that the bathroom is for customers only, but I can’t order and then go to the bathroom… I also can’t leave my things at the table while I go.  If I have to ask a question I may not understand the answer because of their accent and the time it takes for me to get it sorted out may piss off everyone in line behind me.  Am I really standing here having this conversation in my head with myself?  Where is St. Mungo’s?

On the upswing, I have never seen crisps in this many flavors.  Lay’s has a contest going to create a new flavor; in the UK Lay’s=Walker’s. Doritos though, go by the same name.  But they don’t come in Chili Heatwave back in the states. Sunbites, known as Sun Chips in the states (and owned by Lay’s/Walker’s) are also here in full force–and full flavor.  Wow.  Who knew I was so easily fascinated by junk food?!

Though it sounds like a petty issue, discovering the variety of new-to-me crisp flavors is an analogy for the life I find myself living in London.  There are more choices for everything–choices I had never considered.  The answer is obvious, but still so novel to my programmed themes and schemas.  There are more people here.  And the people here are from all over the world.  Cultures and ethnicities are colliding all around me.  It’s been happening for longer than I have been alive and longer than anyone I know has been alive and on and on.  As silly as it sounds, crisps in all of the flavors just remind me that I have been so sheltered.  No matter how intelligent, open-minded, cultured, or whatever else I considered myself to be, I was none of those things.  I may be yet.

In talking to native Londoners, I am also learning that they are just like that native Nashvilian in me.  The ones who have never traveled or lived close to people vastly different from them are the same person I was before I left the states–a bit ignorant about how alike we all are.  None of these revelations make me miss home any less.  It just becomes clearer each day that the only things in life that really matter aren’t things at all.  New and better junk foods exist outside the ones I know and take guilty pleasure in.  People though, are mostly the same.  I hope I am never in the position to stop being surprised at what the world has to offer, but I also hope to remember how valuable this new knowledge is.  It’s like I previously understood the theory and now I am viewing it from a more interior perspective.

There’s something to be learned by living away from home.  There is something special about being in an uncomfortable situation and finding that you have the strength to order that sandwich.  Above all, there is great satisfaction in the growing pain once it has passed.

We love you.

Expats in London

magazine cover

In this issue of Expats in London:

  • ‘Sweet and Spicy’ 30 Minute Meal recipe #2, from the “Accidentally Yummy” collection
  • A Newcomer’s Experience at International Banking
  • House-Hunting Tips and Trends
  • What’s Hot and What’s Wrong with this Picture
  • Stereotype Myths: Real or Old School Hype?
Letter from the Editor
Thanks to all of our devout readers who continue to inspire us to write (almost) every day.  Your continued support of this little online ‘zine we’ve got going really keeps the whole machine running.  Keep those letters coming, and please, let us know if you would like to have your thoughts or questions highlighted in an upcoming issue of Expats in London.  We look forward to bringing you the day-to-day events of two crazy-in-love kids and their grand adventures in London.

Sweet and Spicy: a 30 Minute Meal (recipe #2)

Before I forget how I accidentally created a yummy new meal, with beginner’s luck and an amateur excitement about cooking in a kitchen with two pots and a wooden spoon, let me share my brainstorm with you!  Please bear in mind that I have very little experience in the kitchen and no natural cooking talent.  Those readers of a more advanced chef’s pedigree may choose to continue to the next interesting article.
Main Dish Ingredients:
palmful Carrot sticks
palmful Broccoli Florets
palmful Cauliflower Florets
1/2 small Onion, chunked
1/3 to 1/2 Red Bell Pepper, Chunked
Olive Oil ’til it looks right
1 clove Garlic, or good, sensible shake(s) of Garlic Powder
Chili Pepper, flakes or fresh
Salt and Pepper to taste
Balsamic Vinegar
Maple Syrup or Honey
Alright.  Measuring is for wussies.  So, 1) Mix the Balsamic Vinegar and syrup in a small bowl until you have a mixture that is runny like warm pancake syrup. Set Aside.  2) Toss veggies with olive oil, to coat, in frying pan (or the largest silly saucepan you have).  Heat veggies until sizzling and sprinkle with spices, lightly coating the veggies.  Vary the spices to your taste.  (The dish is especially yummy when the chili flakes can be tasted against the sweet syrup.) 3) Cook the veggies until you can insert a fork into a carrot or broccoli floret and it’s the texture you like. 4) Turn off the heat and add the sweet and sour sauce immediately. 5) Toss well, remove from burner, serve immediately.
Side Dish Recommendation:
Couscous in your favorite flavor!
A Newcomer’s Experience at International Banking
Upon opening our first checking account as US expats living in London, we felt like real people leaving the bank that day.  It was explained to us that our checks and debit cards would arrive within 7-10 business days.  Oh, what a rush!  Real, bank card carrying citizens… So what’s the insider skinny on this banking business?  We’re happy reveal the easy, straight forward steps to starting your first off-shore account.
1) To open an account with an international bank, one must present a passport and a bank statement or utility bill showing the applicant’s previous address.  It doesn’t hurt to rock a low cut shirt or rising hemline.  Next, you have to decide on the type of account you want and the added features you desire.  For us, a simple “current” account did the trick.  Online banking, debit cards, and a check book were all free options with this type of account.  Please note that you should confirm with the sweet, thickly-accented personal banker starting your account that he has spelled your name(s) correctly.  It is a good idea to be sure your first name has not been entered as “Mr Andrew”, for example.  That would generate bank records for the individual “Mr. Mr Andrew Huddleston” or a debit card for “Mr. M Huddleston”–both of which may cause confusion when using the card to make purchases.
C) Once your account has been activated, each individual will receive a letter concerning the pin number for their debit card.  The pin number is revealed by using a secret decoder ring (only found in the bottom of select General Mills cereals) with a highlighted passage in the letter; the resulting message should be mailed via Royal Post to the queen for authentication and further confirmation of pin number.
32d) Under separate cover, each individual on the account shall receive a card reader device for online banking.  The card reader must be used each time an account holder would like to log in to the banking website.  The card reader generates a printed message upon card insertion; this message must be entered exactly as printed into the login screen upon first try before the message self-destructs.  Additionally, a separate letter for each account holder will arrive to provide the individual’s online membership ID number.
F) At some point before one of the account holders has another birthday, a debit card will arrive for each individual listed on the account (if it has been properly ordered at the time of account set-up).  When any attempt is made by the account holder to activate the card or try online banking for the first time, they will fail.  An additional trip, and a beautiful hissy-fit, must be thrown at the branch closest to the account holder’s home, or corporate housing, or street grate that you are sleeping on because you have no debit card to pay the deposit on the flat you are supposed to move in to…  Though the phone representatives are very nice and the music they play when they put you on hold is the from the “Pay It Forward” soundtrack, they are slightly unable to help you.
Additional Tips and Info:
Be sure to pack your essential documents in your carry-on luggage; you’ll need them for lots of things once you land.  Essential documents include, but are not limited to the following: work permit papers, passport with attached entry visa(s), original birth certificate, original marriage certificate, tax return documents for the past three years,  college and high school diplomas, medical and dental records, and the crossword puzzle from inside the American Airlines magazine.  You wouldn’t want the airline to lose these documents and you may need them to get through customs.  Of course, you will need them when you open your international bank account and upon applying to rent property.
House-Hunting Tips and Trends 
Before you set out to meet an Estate Agent they are going to ask you quite a few questions.  You need to know your budget, what area you are looking in, what kind of property you want, and what any deal-breakers might be.  Look at a wide variety of properties and check out different areas of the city.  Consider whether it is your top priority to live in a place with blue wallpaper or a place above a laundromat.  Both of these things are really cool, but which feature is the most important to you?
Here are some great internet resources to help you get started.

Just remember to be honest with your agent, ask plenty of questions, and don’t be afraid to explore places with which you are unfamiliar.  There are agents in every neighborhood and on every high street.  They are all working for the landlord, so go on and give up your innocent ideals of being fairly represented and get cheeky.  Buying a book about relocation can be helpful, but it is a good idea to ask people who live in your new city/area, ex-pats who’ve relocated to there, and then figure out that no one can predict your situation for you.  Roll with it.  Your gut instinct about what is around you when you go to view the property is usually a very good indication of whether or not it is right for you.

What’s Hot and What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Wandering the streets in London, it becomes clear that tights are in.  Wooly tights, patterned tights, thick, legging-style tights, bright tights, and neutral tights can all be worn with ballet flats or boots. But what’s wrong with this picture? Oh yeah, your purse is legally required to be bigger and/or weigh more than you.
tights and purse
 

Stereotype Myths: Real or Old School Hype?

Is it true that fish ‘n chips is the only dish served in London?  Are all big-city folk rude and pushy?  Do all Londoners have teeth like toe-separators?

My husband and I recently joined an online group of US expatriates.  I was so dismayed to read a recent string of messages dedicated to things these Americans miss.  Topping the list were things like Lucky Charms and Peter Pan peanut butter.  I feel for those people who are here with the military and not necessarily by choice.  For them, I think, there is much more room for homesick posts about crappy fast food and grocery items.  The rest of us should stop and appreciate the reasons we chose to be here.

We have really old buildings in London, a very funny governmental structure to laugh about (and learn from), opportunities to interact with people originating from cities all over the globe, and theatre that trumps anything I’ve ever imagined.  “Chicago” is playing at a theatre I can see from my living room window.  Really.  We are a stone’s throw from France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Rome, Scotland, Ireland, Wales…  It’s really hard to adjust to a new city and that’s beautiful in and of itself.

In my opinion, the only thing really worth being homesick for are those lovely family members and friends we left behind.  The myths and stereotypes about London and Londoners are just that.  With your best friend beside you, a genuine smile, a healthy sense of adventure, and some southern charm an American can feel right at home here.

Paul Fryer

Morning Star, by Paul Fryer

Jen and I had, what I consider, a great opportunity to see this work, Morning Star, in person yesterday. It is by an artist I had never heard of before, but I am very glad I now have. His work may not be earth shattering or mind altering. Of course then again – I am NOT an art critic. All that being said though, I really love this piece as well as the other pieces we saw on display.

This particular piece, as I understand it, is a depiction of the fall of Lucifer, The Morning Star. In this piece you see him captured and entangled during the fall. What I find incredibly interesting about the work is two fold. It appears he is entangled in high-tension electrical wires strung between three telephone poles. He also is depicted as the conventional image of an angel with large feathered wings (though appropriately they appear tattered and torn). The actual piece is not the size of a full grown man however, though, aside from the wings, he appears as a man in every other way – no horns, no tail, and certainly no pitchfork. It really is a beautiful work. It is this breaking from, or perhaps challenge of, the conventional image of Lucifer mixed with the contemporary images of technology which make it so interesting to me.

Great Art in Londontown

Morning Star, by Paul Fryer

Jen and I had, what I consider, a great opportunity to see this work, Morning Star, in person yesterday. It is by an artist I had never heard of before, but I am very glad I now have. His work may not be earth shattering or mind altering. Of course then again – I am NOT an art critic. All that being said though, I really love this piece as well as the other pieces we saw on display.

This particular piece, as I understand it, is a depiction of the fall of Lucifer, The Morning Star. In this piece you see him captured and entangled during the fall. What I find incredibly interesting about the work is two fold. It appears he is entangled in high-tension electrical wires strung between three telephone poles. He also is depicted as the conventional image of an angel with large feathered wings (though appropriately they appear tattered and torn). The actual piece is not the size of a full grown man however, though, aside from the wings, he appears as a man in every other way – no horns, no tail, and certainly no pitchfork. It really is a beautiful work. It is this breaking from, or perhaps challenge of, the conventional image of Lucifer mixed with the contemporary images of technology which make it so interesting to me.

One of the things I had not considered about our move to London was how close in proximity I would be to such a fabulous art community. My creative spark has already been rekindled and it is my hope that being here will continue to fan the flames. During college I had hoped to some day be a freelance illustrator, and while it may not be a realistic dream considering how the internet has made accessibility to stock work easy to the point of pollution, I still want to do something purely creative (of course it is also fair to say illustration was never purely creative).

So here is hoping I get off my metaphorical butt and actually start being creative again. And considering how much GREAT inspiration is around me, how could I not?!

Cheers!

My First Really Good Day in London

As I sit in a coffee shop near my new home with cup of hot chocolate in my hands, I can feel the vibration of a train passing underneath me for the first time in the 13 days I have been in London. The sensation is a novel experience–a reminder that I am really here.  I wonder where the people are going on a Friday, midday.  The weather is chilly with a good bit of sun, despite the assurance of a cold and gloomy forecast by the folks back home.  Sitting here, looking out this big picture window, it stuns me– the juxtaposition of new and old.  Although I feel extremely inspired to write, the stimulus of the surroundings demands my complete attention and it is all I can do to melt into it.  The sensation is foreign and familiar at the same time.  Traditions and social order are completely cultural, but we all seem to be more the same than we are different.  Every person passing on the street is loved by another someone.  All the people I lay eyes on are living the human experience; we’re all sort of working out why we are here and trying to enjoy the connections we make until we figure it out.  Beyond just making my way around the city, I am making a big step toward living globally–with a better awareness of how each of us fits in the puzzle.

 

I love you.  I miss you.  I can’t wait to see you.

Money Down on New Digs


Right to the point – we put a deposit down on this [link removed] place today.

Jen had been talking to me about a different place yesterday. Yeah, the same one she posted a blog entry about because she was so excited about it, and today she passed on it completely – even putting a deposit down on it before I had seen it. Okay, not really, but she was prepared to put one down because she knew I would love it as much as her.

Well when I left for work this morning the plan as I understood it was for me to meet one of our fleet of estate agents at 4:30 to take a look at the place Jen was so excited about yesterday. I was even excited about it because she thought it was so perfect and I was ready to be done with the hunt (for her sanity). Then, an hour before I was supposed to leave to view the property, she pops on IM and says she has found the place. I was confused for a moment. What happened to the other place? The place you saw yesterday? She tells me that it is still a great place, but the one she visited today blew all the other places out of the water (my words not hers).

So after a very excited exchange over IM, I meet Jen outside the TM office and we head to our original appointment with new plans to visit “The New Hotness” a second time today. Our tube trip had us travel from the Leicester Square tube station to the Russell Square tube station, and let me just say, take the elevator unless you really want the workout and that awesome “my lungs are on fire” feeling.

We met the agent to view the place from yesterday, and it was great. Really nice place with a great view and lots of nice places near by for food, etc. As we were preparing to leave the first place we told the agent we had found one other property which was really exciting to us and that we REALLY appreciated all of his hard work and help. He of course said he hoped he could work with us, we shook hands and told him we would let him know. He really has been super helpful and we may send him a thank you gift for his time.

Soon as he was around the corner we “legged it” (new local term I have picked up) over to the other agent’s office to meet her for the second viewing and put down a deposit. You see she and Jen had been on the phone while I was touring the first place and the landlord had accepted our offer (yes, you can negotiate rent). So we were off to see it.

The walk from the first to the last was not a short one, but it was nice. We saw a lot of what will be our new neighborhood. The agent, Sky, was very very friendly and was more than willing to go through everything she had already told Jen again for my benefit.

We had a bit of an adventure getting into the building, there is a magic spot on the door where you wave an equally magic card and it will open. Would have been easier if either the card or the spot had instructions or if perhaps said spot was not completely hidden behind a sign.

Once we finally made it inside I was sold. Jen was right, it was perfect. You can tell the architect who owns it was taking great care to restore it to its original glory (I am thinking 60’s but am not sure yet). It is a really nice space – lots of room, lots of light, and the modern vibe we wanted. I think anyone of you who come visit will absolutely enjoy the space. And good news too, while it is on the 3rd floor (4th in American), there is actually a lift (elevator).

Okay, fingers crossed that I didn’t make a mistake asking Pinky to be my reference and that my salary is enough for them to think I can actually afford this place!

Isn’t It Ironic? (Not to be confused with the completely coincidental Alanis version.)

I apologize for the lengthy radio silence.  Monday was a bit of a day of recovery for me.  I was tired from everything that I had squeezed in.  The weekend was wonderful, but not much of a break.  I did manage to field some calls from agents following up on the properties we had seen in Ealing.  Yesterday, we met an agent for our first property viewings in Islington.

I don’t know if you are aware of the way it works if you are me and you want to rent an apartment in London. Basically, a landlord lists a property with one or more agencies it’s the job of an agency to help them determine the asking price and get it filled. “Renting” is called “letting” and you should know whether you are interested in a conversion, purpose-built, apartment, flat, or house. There are letting agencies every few blocks in the busier areas and every borough has its own set of agencies. So, company A will have lettings offices all over London that list/show properties in their respective areas only. When you set out, you have to identify the area you want to look in, then contact agents in that area to arrange to see what they may have on the market that fits your specifications. Rents are negotiable, they are usually listed by the week, and the properties move very quickly. Renting a property is like buying a house. You put in an offer and hope to win the landlord over by being a good tenant with smashing references or signing a long lease. Keep in mind I don’t have a car and I am using Drew’s AMAZING iPHONE (to be read in a big, loud, intentionally show-y voice), which is still a US number and very expensive to use–besides the fact that it is a pain for agents to have to call an international number to get me. I am in a huge city going to places I’ve never been to find these agencies and have a hard time judging how long it will take me to get from place to place. I also have to figure out my route and exactly how I will get somewhere. If you didn’t have that all sorted out, you now have a better idea why my body and my brain are fragile these days.

I think it was Saturday that we really decided that Ealing was just too far west of the heart of London.  It was too similar to living in the residential areas we had lived in our whole lives.  It just seemed to make more sense that if we are going to live here for a short time, we might as well have an experience that is uniquely “big city” and close to the sites.  Ealing was nice and quiet with some very beautiful properties, but the cost of transport to (and distance from) work and play made it quite unattractive to us upon proper inspection.

Those considerations led us to look in the Islington area, which is on the outskirts of central London.  It has quieter areas and a cool vibe.  We did find something north of Islington, in Highbury, that was very nice and afforable.  We also found an awesome loft in a converted schoolhouse on the same street as the flat where we stayed with Keith and Jen!

After considering the Islington and Highbury areas, our search opened up options moving closer in to central London.  The type of properties we liked and the surroundings we were describing to the agents kept pushing away from the more residential areas.  I have spoken to no less than 10 agents and I have viewed at least twice that many properties.  Tomorrow I have three appointments to see new things and a second viewing of a flat that I would like to make an offer on; I want Drew to see it first.  I was so excited that I forgot to take photos when I was inside.  I did get two shots of the outside; I asked the agent to leave me there because it was close enough for me to walk to where we live now from the flat we were seeing.  While I was standing there deciding which direction to walk, I remembered to pull out MY AMAZING iPHONE (again with the big, loud, intentionally show-y voice) and get the shots.

The flat is above a restaurant that looks quite nice.
the restaurant

It is the fourth floor penthouse, but it is still a one bedroomed postage stamp. I’ll not go in to great detail unless we get it–I would just hate to get your hopes up, hahaha!
penthouse

The area is more of what is considered Clerkenwell. It seems to be a cool place to live (and maybe for me to work). The flat I’ve found there is close enough to where Drew works that he could bike, bus, or take a long walk to work (20-30 minutes). Transport links to great sites are also right on our doorstep. It’s quite exciting to think about living there. I also don’t want to get my hopes up; the landlord doesn’t have to take our offer. Depending on what else I see tomorrow I may or may not still want it, but I think I might : )

I’ve spent a bit of time with Drew’s workmates (from echo Europe). They’ve been really helpful and I am thankful that they have included me so much in their social outings. When you are surrounded by such masses of people, it is so easy to be lonely. That’s true irony. I don’t think I really anticipated how strange it would feel to have such little quality interaction with people on a day-to-day basis. Of course, I knew that we would have to make friends and find our “home” in London; that will take time. I just didn’t know how stark the contrast or the realization would be.

Drew keeps encouraging me to find time to relax and enjoy being off work. Although it is a bit torturous to think about not having a job for an extended period of time, the weather is quickly turning colder. There will be great opportunities for cuddling up in some coffee house with a comfy chair and great view to start writing any one of the five books that I’ve got swimming in my head. I might need to spend some time deciding which one will come out first.

When we have our flat situation sorted, I am sure I will have a perfectly lovely writing space. I envision that I might enjoy some reading as well. For now, though, I fancy letting sleep and some nice dreams take me.  Maybe I will see you there.

And on the seventh day…

When I left you last night, we were headed out to grab a bite.  We ate at a wonderful Japanese skewer restaurant. We had teriyaki salmon and rice. It was delicious. We may have wandered around a little, but I can’t remember what in the world we may have been looking for… ahh, ice cream. Yes, Drew’s weakness. Mine, I think, is more along the line of hot chocolate or chai tea lattes.

Look what we found while we were out. Seriously, when did THIS happen? Was it while we were on the plane?
Pasta Hut

Earlier yesterday we went out to an area in west London, called Ealing, to look at flats with an estate agent. Because one agent flaked on us for our first appointment we ended up wandering pretty far around town, and enjoying one of Ealing’s green areas.
on the bench

After our appointments we met Drew’s boss (and our new friend) Adrian, his girlfriend Mel, and his two year son (George, aka the Mighty Dollop). He had the prettiest flowers in his front garden. If I had to guess I would say someone else planted them, but he did tell me that they are called Fuschias.
flowers
Adrian drove us all out to a proper Manor House that is preserved by the National Trust. We had proper English tea and scones. It was fun and the Mighty Dollop let me help him feed the ducks. In case you were unaware, ducks apparently go “quack, quack” and lions say “RRRRrrrrrooaoooarrr”. Also, sometimes tumbly-boos appear in the trees. Postman Pat delivers mail and Old McDonald had a farm. I learned a lot from George. He’s very bright.

I am sorry to report that there are no magnificent photos or brilliant stories to report today.  Unfortunately, we just didn’t take on the sites.  We did, however, explore a neighborhood called Islington.  We rather liked it when we stayed there last year–visiting London with Keith and Jen.  It’s an area of London that has a reputation for attracting young professionals and seems to be an environment full of art and contemporary design.   We have had it in the back of our minds the whole time we were thinking about where to live, but have had so many great such suggestions from people who live here.  We just couldn’t help but check it out to make sure that we could consider it or chuck the idea.

We took Gina to an Art Gallery showing.  We found some great artists and we all wished we had money to spend on art work.
Gina at the Art Show

We found a place called Tortilla in Islington. I was so relieved to find guacamole that I almost cried. The hot salsa was good enough for a photo opportunity, though I am not still on fire. It had a very nice and full hot flavor. It was much appreciated in this land of fish with chips and Indian food, though I like those, too.
salsa

This afternoon we wore ourselves out looking for some sort of stationery.  We eventually just started looking for paper and envelopes.  Although we eventually emerged from a Borders store victorious, we were both rather grumpy and sore when we got home.  What an ordeal for paper!  Oh, Target…  I appreciate the specialty shops, but today I longed for a drug stores with cards or a Hallmark store with all of its cheesy seasonal decor.  I guess I am not near to a Londoner yet.  We’ll keep working.

Love and hugs!

The Saturday Evening Post

After a very full week of emotionally and mentally exhausting work, we ponder what to do with our night.  The evening has passed already, but the streets are still full with people and the restaurants will be serving for hours…  It’s Saturday night–we should be tearing up the town–but we’re very tired.  We’ll definitely eat.  We may wander the streets a little and could even see a movie.  There are a couple that look quite good.

Though I am feeling a bit like a novice at everything concerning life in London after my first week on the job, I have learned a few things.  I have a moment to share a couple of my simple observations with you.

Big purses must have come into fashion because women taking public transport have to carry their wallet, passport/id, pen, grocery list, tube map, tube card, bus ticket, grocery bag, regular map, hat, light jacket, umbrella, sunglasses, hair brush, chapstick, change of shoes, maybe dry socks, possibly a scarf, a book to read or a journal, a bottle of water, and a snack.  Small purses are only carried by the wealthy women being driven around.

Using the dryer is bad.  Invest in fabric softener and litter your flat with wet clothes.

 Laundry

A Londoner’s perspective of personal space is very small compared to a statesman’s. This seems to be reflected everywhere. I am sure this is due to obvious reasons. It’s just such an adjustment and something you don’t consider before you come. You just accept that the place you’ll live in London will be small and storage will be at a premium. However, you have to learn what side of the sidewalk to walk on (we still don’t know), how to squish in to the train or the bus, how to stand at stations, how to queue, and how to mind your own business with someone breathing down your neck in a restaurant. There’s nothing bad about it. People actually do nice things like walk arm in arm and kiss each other on the cheek as a greeting, all related to this personal space thing, I think.

Londoners do not all know where Nashville is.  Just say Elvis, Justin Timberlake, and Johnny Cash.  That’s the ticket.

I thought you said it would be rainy.

Well, the weather is great in London town this week. God knows I have appreciated it while I wander and orient myself to my surroundings. What I did to deserve this good fortune is unbeknownst to me. As the party beat pulses through the floor of our flat and the cheery voices float up to our living room window, we rest up for a busy day of appointments with Estate Agents tomorrow, as well as meeting a friend and his two year old son–then possibly seeing a rugby match. Crazy, huh?

So, to quickly catch you up, Drew and his team launched their first website holding page for a British client today. I had a pint with them after work to celebrate. We came home for a wonderful dinner which I prepared accidentally on purpose. I had no idea if everything would work out, but we were pleased with the results.
dinner
Simple recipes really.

cut up some potatoes
boil them
drain them
coat them in a little olive oil
sprinkle with Rosemary, Garlic, Salt, and Pepper
place in the oven until lightly roasted
mmm.

steam some veggies you like
drain veggies
coat with Indian yummy sauce shown here
mmm again.
Ingredients
The crackers and dips are just a few little things I found to make us feel like we were dining at a fine Indian restaurant. The crackers are awesome–like Wheat Thins on steroids. It’s of the Crispbread line and man they’re good.

After dinner I looked through some more real estate listings to prepare for tomorrow’s adventures. On the spur of the moment we went out for ice cream and just wandered the streets for an hour. Wow, we really live here. What a weird thing to keep saying.

There is still so much to do and so little time to do it all. I work harder now than I ever did at work! Who ever said being a homemaker was easy?! I long for Sunday. On Sunday I promise to be a bit more of a tourist. I’ll need it to be ready to do it all again on Monday.

All my love~

So happy together (feel free to sing along)…

Well, Drew and I are pretty darn official today. We opened a British bank account. Whew. I feel somehow better about our situation. Our banker even gave us a three-ring notebook to keep our paperwork in and gave me a free pen that says “I love a good doodle”.  Well don’t we all?!  There just isn’t a nicer feeling than not being thrown out of a bank on a bright Thursday morning. When we left the bank, Drew headed into work and I headed home to pick up Gina. By the time I arrived back at the flat, the flower vendor had set up shop. It’s so lovely to have a flower shop outside your door! That’s the door of our building there, on the left.
Front door

I answered a few emails and packed up all I needed to head out to a part of Town called Ealing, on the west side of London. We took the tube. Thank goodness Gina is so travel saavy.
Gina on the tube
She does attend to attract a lot of attention, but I’m not sure why. Her skirt is not much shorter than any other I’ve seen–on girls quite a bit less attractive.
Outside the tube station I was quite pleased to find a flower shop. I wonder if that is a good sign?
Ealing flowers
Funny story. After meeting three estate agents and making three appointments, I stopped in to the last place on my list for the day. There was a very nice estate agent available to show me some listings right away. It turned out he had come to London from Poland about five years ago to make enough money to buy his own home (knowing no English), met a girl, got married, and expects a son any day. When we arrived at the second listing we couldn’t get in. The key wouldn’t work. He paged every neighbor to try and get buzzed into the building, but to no avail. We hopped over to the last listing and got locked in. A colleague of the agent had to come and let us out. I’m so glad he was a really nice guy. We had a good laugh.

I was more than tired when I got home, but I still had so much to do. I met Drew for dinner and came straight home to look through more listings so that I would be prepared for my meeting on Friday and to see if I could set up anything else for Saturday. Dang Gina, I’m exhausted!
Gina and me

Hey, Quiet Out There!

So yesterday, on my way into the office there was a large chuck of Leicester Square blocked off by barricade and a large crane was behind it hanging a sign on the front of the Empire building. Now I guess I should tell you a bit about Leicester Square so you understand what I am talking about.

Leicester Square is a nice little square. It has a nice square garden at the center with a road wrapping around and buildings wrapping around that. Actually, I posted a video back during our first visit which is just a quick 360 view of Leicester. But this is basically THE place in London to go when you want to see a movie or buy tickets to a show (as in proper theatre). It is always filled with people – whether they are just sightseeing or actually have somewhere they are going I have yet to sort out, but since this particular square has been converted to a pedestrian only area, you only see cars / trucks when they are making a delivery.

So anyway, I say all that to tell you this – the barricade did not stop with a crane hanging a sign, because it was not just prepping for a new movie release, but a PREMIERE. And not just any premiere, but the premiere of High School Musical 3. Now I know nothing more about this movie than it seems to be a movie for kids and teens, hence the “high school” bit in the name, but as I am walking to work I am made aware something insane is going to happen this day.

As my eyes move from “poster hanging crane” back to barricade, I begin to see what I originally though was simply the everyday mass of people moving through the square is actually a mass of people who are doing the exact opposite of moving – they are planting themselves right beside said barricade. As I am continuing on my typical path through the square to my office I find myself walking past men, women, and children of all ages who have brought camping chairs and sac lunches. These people were planning to be here for a while. Then I notice the stage.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, they were erecting a stage outside my office door. This is when I realized my day was going to be a little weird. Apparently this is not entirely out of the ordinary. In fact, this is probably pretty typical considering it is in the freaking heart of London. Hello! Drew! You live in LONDON now. These things are going to happen.

So anyway, long story short (ha, yeah right), Through out the course of the day I am inside working, meeting with people, having lunch, etc. and I begin to hear screams coming from outside. They get louder throughout the day and reach a climax about a half hour before I leave the office. It didn’t turn out to be quite as insane as it could have, but check out the video below to get a look at the madness that was outside my front door.

Needless to say, I had to take the long way around the square, bumping through a mass of kids, to get home after work.

Ah the excitement of life in a big city.

Cheers!

Premiere: High School Musical 3

Now I know nothing more about this movie than it seems to be a movie for kids and teens, hence the “high school” bit in the name, but as I am walking to work I am made aware something insane is going to happen this day.

So anyway, long story short (ha, yeah right), Through out the course of the day I am inside working, meeting with people, having lunch, etc. and I begin to hear screams coming from outside. They get louder throughout the day and reach a climax about a half hour before I leave the office. It didn’t turn out to be quite as insane as it could have, but check out the video below to get a look at the madness that was outside my front door.

Needless to say, I had to take the long way around the square, bumping through a mass of kids, to get home after work.

Ah the excitement of life in a big city.

Oh I, I will survive…

Please allow me to introduce you to my new friend, Gina!

Dang, Gina! 

Since my sister couldn’t come with me to London, she sent a sista, aka Gina McSasspants, to look after me.  I hope you are all looking forward to the upcoming “Dang, Gina!” moments.

Now, as you may already know, the FedEx outpost in Antioch has some crazy ideas about what you can and can’t ship to yourself.  Well, my sister took her 5’0″ can of smack-down into her local branch.  Problem solved.  You may not know that on the day I left the US I received a letter from the IRS stating that I had not filed a tax return for the year 2006.  It turns out the US Embassy has a representative in the UK to take my call.  You can’t get a bank account here without an address and you can’t rent a flat without a bank account.  It’s ok.  We’re well connected : )  With every small hurdle there seems to be a solution that’s fairly painless, though possibly quite time consuming and involving many steps.  There is a definite challenge involved in making my way around a huge city with no cell phone and little confidence in my ability to get on the right bus or have enough fare on my Oyster card to get there and home again.  I asked to be tested and this is the reward I’ve been given.  Maybe I’ll be really cool by the time I come home for Christmas!

I am happy and adjusting well despite the camping trip we are on.  Please don’t worry about us and do know that we love you very much.  We miss you, but we can feel your love all the way across the ocean…

Jenspeak

My, my, my.  It’s London out there.  And in here, really.

I feel like I must have felt on my first day at school.  My five senses are overloaded with the incoming information.  Wow, what people wear in this chilly weather!  When I close my eyes, I dream about foreign languages I barely understand. My head is swimming with the thoughts of all the things that must be tied up–bank accounts, a more permanent living situation, a job..
The grocery store shopping carts (trollies) are tiny, but most people use the small hand held baskets to shop with.  Things are not located in the store as an American would expect them to be and there is a patisserie where fresh bread is just sitting on the bare shelf for you to bag.  (They also have bread in bags like we are used to, just not in this section.)  It’s always a mad house at the grocery and they have so many prepared foods here.  I saw a tv personality saying that not many people cook.  I thought that was crazy until I saw how much food is ready to heat and eat.

There’s so much to see-to learn-to understand. I am overwhelmed and proud that I am taking it all in stride. Please bear with me as I figure out the sensible way to to share it with you. It is late and I am charged with getting enough sleep to do the morrow justice. Much love!!

The Huddlestons Have Landed

So after thirteen hours of travel, Jen and I finally made it to the flat. We think we got pretty lucky with TM putting us in the same location as our previous visit because this time we will already be a little familiar with the locale.

We had a little issue with shipping a few things from Nashville. Apparently the FedEx outpost in Antioch is under the impression Britain prohibits the import of copyrighted material. Can anyone tell me what one would ship from the US which is NOT under some form of copyright? Anyone? We are going to have to sort this out or we might have an issue here.

The flights were both bearable, but I have to say, if the kid has teeth and can talk – he is WAY too old to be breast-feeding. I mean, for real – it is just creepy. [insert shout out to American Airlines for being quite possibly the best experience I have ever had on any flight – from staff to planes, they were top notch – LCDs in all headrest.] We decided not to eat on the plane this time to try and help our bodies adjust to a new internal clock, but I am not sure how well that has worked. Jen is pretty tired and I would rather take another nap, but know I need to save it for tonight.

After we landed in Heathrow (for some reason I thought we were flying into Gatwick again), it was a really quick train ride into London’s Paddington Station on the Heathrow Express, we hopped into a taxi, stopped by the office to get the flat key, jumped back into the taxi, and made our way to the flat – in the rain. The rain wasn’t too bad though, fairly light by Tennessee standards in fact. After placing a couple of phone calls and sending a few texts to family to let them know we made it safely, Jen and I both took a shower and then Jen went downstairs to grab us a bite to eat for lunch.

Before we call it a night we will be stepping out to find a few essentials such as a hair dryer, beard trimmer (so I can remove this thing before going into work tomorrow), straightening iron, nail polish remover, and a job for Jen. Okay, we probably won’t find the job tonight, but you never know!

More updates to follow. …and once we are rested, the funny will return.

We miss you already.

Deep Thoughts and Ranting

I am constantly amazed by the enormity of the body of information that is lost on me. Another big fat wave of “really?!” is sure to hit me in the next five minutes. I knew there was a lot I didn’t know, and then I began the process of moving overseas. Through this shenanigan, I realized how many relevant, important things I take for granted. It is most absolutely overwhelming what you must do and learn to live in another country.

Take for instance the things you don’t know about the people you love the most and the people you see the most. Do you know that someone you love doesn’t prefer crushed ice to regular anymore or that someone you love doesn’t have the same great memory of sharing Raisinets? It’s quite true. Someone you love is politically minded for all of the right reasons and speaking intelligently about their position to anyone who will engage them, even the crazies who can’t understand them, on the off chance that the aforementioned crazies might be positively affected by some rational, adult conversation. Are you aware that someone you love and spend time with frequently has a recipe to make their own bacon? Mmmhm. I’m just saying…

Would you like to know what other random things I have learned while making this move? When you call any service provider that you are in a (pseudo) relationship with, their automated answering system will not have an option that fits your needs. If you want to remove yourself from those mailing lists of companies who send you pre-selected and other preferred customer offers, you have to rope down the moon. The DMV doesn’t know what address you should put on your driver’s license when you are living outside the country, but plan to drive when you come back for vacation. You can’t pay your final phone or cable bill when you cancel your account because those services are prepaid and calculating the pro-rated balance is way beyond the capabilities of the cute little lady who answered your call. If you do not sell your car before you go, you have to give someone Power of Attorney to sell it on your behalf. If someone has to pay any bills for you or accept any money for you while you are gone, you have to add them to your bank account–and everyone on the account has to be present to add or delete a party on an account. If you have $3000 extra dollars, you can upgrade your 2, one-way plane tickets to first class. If you move outside the country during an election year, you have to get an absentee ballot and carefully follow the instructions for voting outside the country. If you would like to take copies of your medical records with you, you should not assume that your husband will be able to pick those up for you. Even though he is your emergency contact and they would call him if you passed out and cracked your head open, they could not tell him that you were there to find out whether or not you were having his baby. There are forms and fees associated with that. Really?!

There are also very awesome things to do and learn as you relocate across the pond. Right now, though, my feelings are hurt by the icky ones. For that reason, I’d like to sincerely thank the people who are carrying this burden with us. It is would be impossible to do this without you. I may owe you more than I can ever pay you back.

Live via Satellite-

We sincerely apologize for the radio silence and recent interruption in your regularly scheduled programming.  Please be patient with us as we experience periods of time with no internet connection.  Additionally, our comcast email accounts will no longer be used.  When the address book is once again functioning, we will be sure to forward our permanent email addresses to our contacts.  If you feel an urgent message may have been lost between 20 September and 6 October, please feel free to leave us a blog post comment or voicemail message.  Don’t Panic.  This is only a test.  We apologize for the Inconvenience.

Sleep. Not so much.

This simple girl is having a hard time dealing with the weight of liquidating a household full of stuff.  Drew is much cooler.  We are running on fumes, though, and there isn’t any gas in the cars either.

I must apologize for the delay in the release of precious details since our last post; I am not even sure why I couldn’t find the time?!  Here’s the hot list:

  • September 6, Buyer makes an offer, we counter
  • September 7, Buyer accepts counter
  • September 9, Termite Inspection
  • September 10, Termite Letter received
  • September 11, Home Inspection 
  • September 12, Buyer asks us to fix a leak, trim some trees, fill in some cracks in the foundation, and bring in some fill dirt for a spot behind the house.  We agree to all but the tree trimming.
  • September 15, (Happy Birthday, Mom!) Plumber estimate x2, research dirt, get foundation filler
  • September 16, Plumber fixes leak
  • September 17, Landscaper brings dirt
  • September 19, Drew’s last day at work
  • September 20, MOVING SALE/Moving Day (Dang, Gina)
  • September 21, (Happy Birthday Richard!) A few hours were spent at a Habitat for Humanity build and then it was back to our house to pack…

I am tired, yo.

Once again, my sister and adopted sister came to my rescue on the day of the Moving Sale.  I just don’t deal well with money.  If it had been up to me, one family would have had me pack up my crap, deliver it to their house, move it in, write them a check (for taking my stuff!), and go deposit it in their account.  Overall, I was really surprised by the day.  The rain, of course, was not in my plan.  The strange flow of folks was unusual.  The 6:15am shopper going through our personal belongings in the garage 45 minutes before we were ready was a bit awkward.  Looking back on it, his truck was oddly full for 6:15am.

We managed to sell the biggest items and the big ticket items–except the Prius and motorcycle.  If you hear anyone talking, well, you know.

We hope that you are planning to be at the big party.  It won’t be quite right without you.  We will have cake, of course, and the band should be awesome–or sweet–or wack–or wicked.  (I am not sure what the young kids are saying these days.  I’ve gone too long without a good conversation with my students or my nieces.)  The bar is a regular…..(yawn)…..cash ba(yawn)r.  You might even have fun meeting each other what with the (yawn) and maybe the with your (yawn) and then he said…ZZZzzzzzzZZZzzzzzzZZZzzzzzzzz

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program…

Thanks to our collective faith, positive attitude, and willful visualization of that “SOLD” sign, there will soon be a “SOLD” sign in our yard! What an amazing feeling–if I weren’t so excited, I might be scared out of my shoes. Everyone breathe a sigh of relief and get some good sleep tonight. There will be lots of moving, drinking, eating, meeting, hanging, more moving, a blow-out party, and some bittersweet days ahead. Tonight might bring the best sleep I have had in three months…

The Epic Tale Continues…

So this week my work permit arrived from the UK office. One would like to think that was the end of, what has become, the epic process of entering the UK, but one would be wrong.

Apparently, while I can now legally work in the UK, I still have to be approved to ENTER the UK.

After receiving my work permit on Monday I then started the slightly confusing process of applying for entry clearance. The application itself was a nice online form written in typical government speak (read “confusing as hell”) and came with a $430 application fee – you know, pocket change – for EACH. Yes, Jen and I are now out $860 on this venture and we haven’t even left American soil. Good news is I can expense it once I actually make it to the London office, but until then, we are paying interest baby.

So today, as the next step in this process, Jen and I are heading to an office near the airport to have our Glamour Shots and fingerprints taken and submitted electronically to the British Consulate General (via Homeland Security). The part that I particularly enjoy about this step is the name, “Biometric Data.” Although, I have to say I was a little disappointed they weren’t asking for fluid samples, dental records and bone marrow.

Once we have submitted our Biometric Data (I really love that term), we will then have to MAIL our paperwork and passport to the British Consulate in Chicago to finish the Entry Clearance Application.

So, in summary:

  • British Paperwork – not complete
  • New Salary – in negative numbers
  • House – still for sale
  • Car – need to put on Craig’s List
  • Motorcycle – want a couple more rides
  • Storage Space – quickly filling
  • Crap in House – still in house
  • Family – planning a send off
  • Friends – waiting for a send off
  • Doctor Who – award winning television
  • You – reading

God Save The Huddlestons.

The Roller Coaster

Updates-
We now expect to board a plane for London on October 4th.
We are being fingerprinted on Friday, 29 August.
We send our paperwork to be processed to Chicago as soon as our fingerprints (and other biometrics) are on file.
We have shown our house to the same buyer twice–and she likes the snacks.
We are working on a Bon Voyage Bash for the week prior to our departure.
We cheer ourselves up each evening with cheezburgers and the failure of others.

When I stand still, even for a moment, I feel the way one feels on the last few clicks of the climb you make on a roller coaster. Although buying the ticket and getting on the ride took courage, I am aware that I could never be prepared for what’s in store. It’s going to be bumpy and my hair is gonna be bad when it’s safe to loose my grip on items such as sunglasses or hats. How do you get ready for something you’ve never experienced? Someone told me that you are much less likely to be injured if you fall down the stairs while you are asleep; she tried that one night. I think the moral of the story is to try your best to let what is wash over you, get in sync and be at peace with the rhythm that is life as we know it, and rest when it’s not your turn to row.

Thank you again for your immeasurably profound love, encouragement, and support. It’s true that you don’t know what you have until you lose it (or move across the ocean from it).

All my best and all our love to you.

Don’t Stay Home

Usually when you come home and someone has eaten your Reese’s cups, you call the cops–or at least the exterminator. Tonight it was awesome to find that someone (maybe several someones) had several drinks and snacks from our wide selection of yummies. Our house hosted a new family this evening, for the first time since the house has been on the market. Though two appointments had been previously scheduled, for various reasons the appointments were not kept. Tonight though, refreshments have been had! Visualize that sign…

Special News Bulletin

For those faithful readers who cannot stand the suspense any longer, the move has been postponed and is now scheduled for approximately September 28th or 29th.  Additional paperwork was requested of us and we expect our legal documents to be ready for us the first week in September, but when it arrives we have to take it to a UK Consulate (the nearest one is in Atlanta) to put some magic touch on it.  He probably has to stamp our passports and verify that we are who we say we are…  Until then, please visualize the Coldwell Banker “Sold” sign in our yard.

We do plan to have an Open House on Sunday, August 31st.  Please encourage anyone you know, in the market for a great house in Smyrna, to come by.  We are looking forward to beginning the process of selling the house to its new family.  Meanwhile, the listings for flats in London gives me great hope that you’ll have a very cool place to stay when you visit!

Please do check back often for more entertaining accounts of the last few weeks and forgive us for our very lackluster post this evening.  It was all I had.

Brought to you by Tums

Did I survive a yard sale or I am still dreaming?  Oh wait, it rained today.  A yard sale on a rainy day would be counter productive. Silly rabbit…  Of course, it did stop raining.  Right after it poured and then rained and then stopped and then poured.  Hmmm.   I am delirious, I still have on yesterday’s make-up, I am sore, I smell like wet dog, and there is a stack of dollar bills on my kitchen table.  I either survived a yard sale or I was the entertainment at someone’s bachelor party.

Thank God for the folks who will love my gently-used, but well-loved crap.  Also, bless the hearts of those characters that tracked dirt on my freshly shampooed carpet and let their children kick the back of my couch.  Yummy.  I am grateful that the day has passed, grateful for the amazing friends and family that supported me through this trying ordeal, and so pleased to be $28.37 richer.  This could not have been possible without the tough love of my sister–and our adopted sister.  Who else stays up all night with you singing along to crappy (but inexplicably awesome) 80’s Jams and faces death to remove all traces of cobwebs on your cathedral ceiling?  Who else can scare you straight about the mess on the dining room table and will selflessly defend the $2 salad bowl?  Thanks also belong to my dad and stepmom for making the multi-family yard sale a real event, to my Auntie Jean for her sense of humor and for sharing a margarita with me, and to my mom for windows that you can eat on.

I miss you already.

The Final Decision

Well the budgets have been created, checked, double checked, tweaked, triple checked, torn apart, put back together and checked again. Discussions have been had. …many, many times, and we have finally reached a decision.

Looks like Drew And Jen are going to London!

I have actually been holding off on publishing this blog post for about two weeks now. I informed TM a couple weeks ago that I was ready to accept their offer, but I wanted to wait to make it public until I signed the paperwork. Seeing as I signed it tonight I figured I should probably go ahead and let you all know (all 10 of you).

My last day working for the Nashville office is officially set for August 15th with my first day working for the UK office scheduled to be September 1st (or 1 Sept if you are British). Between now and August 15th, Jen and I have SO much to do.

We have to sell our cars, my motorcycle, our house, and everything in it. Not to mention we need to do a few home repairs before it is even ready to go on the market – plus a pricey bit of landscaping. We plan on renting a storage unit as well to keep some of our irreplaceable stuff (like handmade furniture my Grandfather made for me). We also plan on throwing ourselves a blowout of a going away party / moving sale.

…by the way, anyone want to pay top dollar for a slightly used Prius (looking like $28,000 is about fair these days)?

The In-Between Time, Chapter Three

Vegan chocolate chip cookies rock.  They rock pretty hard core, actually.  Vegan not-chicken noodle soup is excellent, but it doesn’t hold a candle to vegan chocolate chip cookies.  Thank you, Skinny Bitches, for the chocolate cake that saved my life and the cookies that rock my socks off.

Now, on to things that do not rock.

  • Highlander, The Source
  • Cleaning out the drain in the shower
  • Pretending to be on Clean Sweep with my all time favorite collector, Drew Huddleston
  • Babies being harmed
  • Accidentally entering a hotel room that is occupied.  By honeymooners.  Happy, active honeymooners…
  • Running into people you know at the grocery store before you’ve showered or brushed your teeth
  • Bad Wolf
  • Cats on planes to London, specifically mine
  • Book Rental Failures
  • Writer’s block
As we continue to contemplate a move across the ocean, the yard sale pile grows.  (The pile of stuff to store might still be bigger…)  Please stay tuned for ways in which you may purchase awesome collector’s items or contribute to our big yard sale event.  Don’t make plans to leave town in the next three months.  I might need you to buy me a beer.

The In-Between Time, Chapter Two

I am sure that you are creative enough to imagine the kinds of things one considers as he or she contemplates a move.  You are likely to be crafty enough to formulate a loosely constructed course of action for relocation to another country.  Try as you might, though, I am not sure many deliberate the way Drew Huddleston does.  I will confess that I am awed by this ability he has to study for a decision as if there were going to be a test and a right answer.  My decisions are driven by my gut, they can be messy, and may leave me with a fair amount of self-loathing.  It is quite often the case that I fail to spend that extra hour of planning on the front end which would save me from the immeasurable amount of inefficiency on the follow-through. Despite the comfort that I take in Drew’s careful pontification of every possibility, I also feel like I am that proverbial gerbil on the wheel (the cute kind that doesn’t bite), and he is the wheel.

Drew is a thinker.  I am a feeler.  And I feel like he is thinking too much.  (It’s a play on words that is funnier than true, but I’m going with it.)

He put together a budget for several scenarios:

  • paying mortgage and rent, Jen not working
  • paying mortgage and rent, Jen working in a coffee bar
  • paying rent, Jen working with her current employer having taken a demotion
  • paying rent, Jen becoming a rock star in a power suit
Creating a budget made it necessary to consider the actual cost of living in London.  Drew’s buddy had helped research the actual cost of utilities, we looked at real live flats for rent, we traveled by public transport, and we ate in town.  We got maps and books.  And then it got a little ridiculous.  Drew asked me to put together a monthly grocery list so that he could estimate that piece of the budget puzzle.  He found a grocer in London that allows you to shop online and ten minutes later he was calling to me from the other room, “You didn’t say how many tampons you use in a month-they come in boxes of 14, 16, 32, and …sixty-four!?  And there’s slender, regular, compact, pearl, light, super, extra super… and, oh my God, suckin’ up the ocean?! Oh, and there’s a multi-pak.  Is this for real?
     
Budgets alone were not enough to ease the decision making process.  We listed pros and cons of the job offer as well as sharing our concerns about being so far from those we hold dear.  We researched the job market for my potential dream job.  (Good news on that front-I’m going to do a season of Dr. Who when Donna Noble moves on.) We talked about our ability to come home to visit.  We brainstormed the possible adventures we could have here in the states.  We asked the cat what he wanted.  Nothing seemed to bring us closer to going or staying. Thank God for the heinous grocery experiment that ended in a really good stress relieving laugh.
I’ve grown to appreciate Drew’s propensity for logic and I know I’ll be grateful that he dedicated so much time to the consideration of the job offer when a decision is finally made, but my mind is reeling with the the list of things I should be doing if we are about to move to London.  I get a little tired when I let my mind get stuck there…  At the end of the day– I am happy to get in bed with my best friend and any anxieties grow faint and dim.  I am content to go where he goes (or stay where he stays).  
     
I know–you just threw up in your mouth a little.

The In-Between Time, Chapter One

It was a little strange coming home from the UK this time–maybe because I had been awake for the entire return journey, maybe because of the mind-blowing philosophy book I bought for the trip, or perhaps from the heat that hit us in Atlanta…but most likely because I wasn’t sure how long I might call this place “home”. The scenery looked slightly different, in a undefinable sort of way, and I felt a sort of pride in belonging to this place.

On the plane from Nashville to Atlanta I had been seated next to a woman with an incredibly gentle smile; Drew and I were not assigned seats together. She told me about the 16 day trip from which she was returning, her daughter who lived in Germany, the time she lived outside of Washington D.C., her husband (an orthopedic surgeon in Nashville), and her recent interest in macrobiotic cuisine. She eventually asked about my trip. When I told her about Drew’s job offer in London, she smiled knowingly. She told me about her time living in the big city–and the contrast of life in the suburbs.

“While you are young you should experience big and bustling,” she said. “You can’t appreciate the life you have here because it is all you have ever known. But don’t worry about the decision to go or to stay; wherever you are together, that will be home.”

I wasn’t sure at the time that our short conversation was meaningful. With a few days gone by, I am so thankful to have made the decision to keep my seat.

The Visit, Day Five

A simple girl in London has many things to be thankful for.  Body shapes and sizes are so varied and not many people endeavor to hide their jiggles and wiggles.  The wind is always blowing in London and the hairstyles are evidence of that.  In fact, it seems to be rather cool to look a mess, all in all.  You have to dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes; it’s hot in the tube and on the bus, but it’s windy and cool on your walk.  Inevitably, all of the parts to your ensemble will not match.  Pieces of your outfit work together, maybe, but overall it’s just a hodgepodge of your personal style and there are so many different people here with so many different individual styles that you get the feeling that anything goes.  It’s a bit of a relief to feel removed from the pressures that I imagine at home–to be polished, sweat free, and perfectly accessorized.

 

We discovered a new neighborhood today, called Maida Vale.  It’s a very nice place–bordering on a not-so-nice neighborhood.  There are great quaint and quiet streets that feel a bit more like home than the flats above and in between shops that exist closer to the heart of London.  There were plenty of nannies shuffling their charges along the walk and children playing in parks.  We met with Scott and Vito this evening for drinks and then went to eat Indian food with Scott.  Wow.  Real Indian food, with an educational staff and great menu.

Tonight we say goodbye to our wonderful evening street noise (the morning street noise is not so lovely).  We do enjoy the sounds of laughter and merriment that continue past midnight each day. So, good evening and goodnight to our lovely neighbors!

Tomorrow we return to our wonderful family and friends in a place we currently call home.  I can’t wait to see you all.

The Visit, Day Four

Jet lag can be a bit tricky.  We tried sleeping with the shutters closed last evening because it gets light so early here, but it was still hard not to feel like we were oversleeping.  Our morning was spent planning a trip to Marlow to meet with my prospective employer.  We had to take a tube to the train station and then a train to Maidenhead and a train to Marlow.  Really.

The folks I met were super nice and the village of Marlow is quaint, quiet, and very nice.  It’s just more than a bit of out the way.  I would definitely have to drive to work.

As boring as that sounds, that is really how we spent the majority of our day: preparing, walking, tubing, training, walking, interviewing, and the preceding in reverse.  (We are now preparing for tomorrow.)  While we were on the train I actually watched a guy–a grown man–pick his nose and eat it, for about an hour.  I guess when you are pressed for time you have to eat on the go.

When we arrived back at the flat, I changed out of my suit.  We walked down to Leicester Square where the TM office is and took some video.  We ran into Scott, Drew’s supervisor, coming out of the building.  We chatted and walked with him down to Chinatown.  He made some suggestions for a meal and a drinking hole.

 

Because we had grabbed a pasty in the train station, we just walked down to Trafalgar Square to take a little video and did a tiny bit of sightseeing on our way back to the flat.

We’ve got the terrace door open and the tv on.  We can hear the sounds of the street below and are still able to enjoy a silly comedy of some sort.  I am tired.  I cannot believe I am sending emails or blogging.  However, I do hope that you are enjoying keeping up with the Huddlestons!

Much love to you all and happy Wednesday, dad!

(p.s. Mom, text in a different color in the entry above is a link to a website.  click on the link to be redirected to the other site.)

The Visit, Day Three

Today started out with an early visit to the TM office to chat with a couple people I didn’t get a chance to meet with yesterday. Was only there for about an hour but I feel like I got a lot of important questions answered. Still have a few more people I have to touch base with tomorrow morning and the day is already full with plans.

After leaving the TM office this morning I had to come back to the flat to drop off a few things Lin, with the TM office, had picked up for us – towels and linens mainly. Was just as well that we went back because I still seem to be suffering from major jet-lag and had to take an impromptu nap.

We wanted to spend the day checking out potential neighborhoods and touring flats of various price ranges, so while I was napping Jen was kind enough to put together an itinerary for the day. She contacted a few companies and mapped out a route for us so we could not only get there but stop at a post office along the way and end up eating at a vegan restaurant, Eat and two Veg, while we were out (Yvonne would LOVE this place). We also took Scott and Vito’s advise and picked up an Oyster card for the transit system.

We got really lucky today and ended up talking with an estate agent who was really friendly and willing to help us out without pressuring us to do something today. Check out below a video of one of our favorite flats we saw while out today.

The Visit, Day Two

Yesterday was short and busy. Started the day off by sleeping till 11am local time after going to sleep around midnight – 11 hours of sleep, yeah, we suffered from jet-lag.

After we finally got up and around we got ready, did a little catching up online and Jen prepped for a phone call with her local office while I started working out a new budget. After we finished all that up around 2:00 it was time to head toward the TM office to meet with Scott and Vito. Jen and I each grabbed a slice of pizza and ate in the park at Leicester Square before I headed into my meeting.

My meeting went really well – learned a lot. I wanted to find out what the plans were for the echo office here, both in the short and long term, and especially how I was going to fit into that plan. We also spent a lot of time chatting about where Jen and I might want to look for a place in town. We might end up needing to be on the more expensive side of town if Jen does end up in ICON’s Marlow office just to minimize her commute time.

After chatting with Scott and Vito for a couple hours, Scott and I met Jen downstairs at the little desert shop where she had been waiting. The three of us then jumped on the tube and headed toward The O2 to meet Scott’s wife for dinner and a show. We had some REALLY great at Thai Silk before heading into see Roger Waters. I have included a video snippet to tease you – though I caught a LOT more on my Flip Video.

After leaving the show we headed home via tube to the Waterloo station and then Taxi from there. Didn’t stay up too much later after getting back to the flat, but it was a really nice night.

Stay tuned…

The Visit, Day One

Jen and I touched down in the UK this morning at 9:00am local time after traveling for HOURS. We had been in the air since 4:00pm Nashville, which for those of you doing the math (and after the additional commute to the flat) means we were traveling for over 12 hours. It made for a very long day – though we had a nice lunch during our layover in Cincinnati.

After touching down we jumped on the Gatwick Express (the non-stop train between Gatwick airport and London’s Victoria Station) and rode into London where we then grabbed a taxi. I had to stop by the TM office building to grab the key to the flat and then we jumped back in the taxi for a quick trip to the flat.

Once we finally made it into the flat we pretty much passed out. I didn’t let us sleep too long though – didn’t want us to waste a whole day in bed. So after our short nap we decided to walk down to the TM office just to get a sense of what was around between here and there. Was a really nice walk, even had a good old Cornish Pasty on the walk. I think that is officially my favorite food now and may be the single reason I decide to move (kidding).

On the walk back Jen decided to let you get a look around the flat so I pulled out my new Flip Video and made a quick video and uploaded it here for you to see using Vimeo (another TM company).