A Room with a View

I’ll make it simple for you to figure out – without the gushing and tears. This is the kind of thing I might be doing today, right now, if we hadn’t taken the crazy train to London in October 2008.
fixing hem

pinning cassi

me with statues

So. What do color guard addict-turned-fans do with their weekends?! This addict-turned-fan filled the day with flat hunting, job training, and educational activities. (Snicker.) Sort of.

Because you’ve told us that you need to know where you’ll be staying when you come, I understand how anxious you are to hear the flat hunt update – so we’ll talk about the job training (wink, wink – right Lauren?) tomorrow. But I am going to tell the story the way I always do; the long way.

Estate agents are generally accepted to be on the social hierarchy beneath the feet of tax collectors and lawyers. (Drew and I have had our frustrations with a few agents who shall not be named.) You might remember, also, that flat hunting in London is a bit of a pain. Taking all of this into consideration I must say that we have had the pleasure of working with some really sweet estate agents. But Mumzad is tops. He took us to see at least 5-8 properties in October 2008; he was terribly kind even when I told him we had found something with another agent. When we were ready to move this time around, I gave him a call. He has shown me at least 15 flats. Bless his cotton socks, for real though. I am a pain to work with, having a long list of requirements and tastes outside my budget. Mumzad totally took it in stride. I am relieved to say that he may have just found the right place for us today.

Do you remember contestant number nine with the balcony overlooking the canal? Yes, this one.
new wharf road
photo courtesy of Foxtons

I didn’t ask to take photos inside the flat because the current tenant is still in and that seemed like an invasion of their privacy. However, we did snap a shot of the entrance.

entrance new wharf

We also wandered through the London Canal Museum a few doors down. It’s a cheap school lesson on a very interesting topic if you ask me.

london canal museum

The flat “ticks quite a few boxes” for us – great location for transport, open plan reception/kitchen, washing machine, quiet, good light, secure, good floor plan, two good sized bedrooms, nice size fridge, freezer, good amount of storage… It also has some extras that are worth a lot – like the nearby nightlife, the balcony and the super cool kitchen/dining area. (Previous guests of the Huddleston B&B might be pleased to know that a full shower curtain is in use in this flat. Brilliant, right?!) Really, my requirements are largely relative to my desire for people to enjoy staying with us – having a space in which we are comfortable entertaining.

By the way – did you know that you can rent or buy a place on a houseboat or barge? Not kidding.

Yeah, so. We talked about it at length. We put in an offer. There isn’t any reason that the landlord wouldn’t accept a realistic offer from two people as nice as us, except that he doesn’t know what ridiculously good tenants we are. That’s what references are for, right? We’ll know something as soon as our agent does. And when I know, you will know. Thank you in advance for the good vibes.

By the way, when you visit the website it tallies our “hits”. It gives me a good cheap thrill to see the numbers. No pressure.

Surreal Life Begins Again

I. Am. A flat hunting maniac (having been recently promoted from “flat finding enthusiast”; thank you kindly – but do hold your applause). Now those things they have said to me about Londoners pouring their hearts into choosing property is beginning to make sense… It is an emotional thing to choose the right little space to hang your clothes and your head at night, let alone choose the right neighborhood. Barbican has been my home for just over a year, but a sinking sensation in my gut tells me I am cheating on the City of London proper in viewing a flat south of the river. Yes, I said south. South, south, south, south, south. So there. And it’s southeast to boot. Please excuse me while I vigorously wash my mouth out with soap.

The west side is greener and may well be cleaner, but the east side calls to my inner artist. Besides, my search has barely even extended outside zone 1! Stick any post code you want on it – I must argue that SE1 is absolutely borderline central. Don’t judge.

And there are properties on the north side of the river that I am booked to see as well. Lovely, sweet, good sized, nice places. Close to the canals and the Vue Cinema… Trust me, I am torn. In such a good way.

It’s not just the neighborhoods that tear at my heartstrings. Those dang neighborhood pubs loom on the map – beacons of big piles of mash and mushy peas on lazy Sundays, over a game of Jenga on an uneven planked table with friends all around… Really. I said it. It’s a big factor. But bigger than that is the tug-of-war between the well planned out conversion and the spiffy new purpose built.

Ultimately, I am sure I will know the one. Can you pick it out of the line-up?

Contestant number one is ten minutes walk from Borough Market.
Great Suffolk Street
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number two is impressive with the loft style- warehouse conversion vibe.
Cardigan Street
photo courtesy Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward

Contestant number three certainly entices in the could-be-a-warehouse-refurbishment department.
St John Street
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number four is charming and quaint.
New North Road
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number five comes in strong with a view.
Lever Street
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number six just looks so cozy.
Halton Road
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number seven seems to belong on an episode of Dr. Who. Enough said.
Baalbec Road
photo courtesy Chesterton Humbert

Contestant number eight does not fail to impress in any way.
Ecclesbourne Road
photo courtesy Foxtons

Contest number nine makes me swoon with the waterside balcony.
New Wharf Road
photo courtesy Foxtons

[Commence with applause.] These contestants really are quite a delight, wouldn’t you say?!

We have been lax in updating the website, but you miss it anyway don’t you?

Of Bridges Burned

While Drew was busy today, I joined Emily and Kerry for a walking tour of the area near St. Paul’s Cathedral, on the south side of the City of London.  Apparently Emily has become friends with some credentialed London tour guides, Keith and Gordon, whom I had the pleasure of meeting.  It is amazing the amount of history they have stored under their hats!  These gentlemen surely have very full social calendars; they know the whole city by heart as well as most of what there is to do.  Keith gave us plenty more information than I could ever remember about the buildings in the area that had been destroyed and rebuilt, whether due to bombings or refurbishment requirements.


tour statue

st. pauls


We ended our walking tour at the Museum of London.  Though it looks rather unimpressive from the outside, it houses a fantastic amount of information on the history of the city as well as precious artifacts.  The collection of exhibitions are well presented and inviting.  Currently, the museum is undergoing refurbishment on the lower level to accommodate for exciting new features.  I wouldn’t mind visiting the Museum again, less tired, less snotty, and less frozen.

Although the headache was quite prominent by this time, the night was still very young.  The walking tour group headed to the Sir John Oldcastle pub; Drew joined our group there.  Drew and I celebrated our first beer of 2009 and enjoyed a curry.


We met a few more of our group and were privileged with more information about events around the city and additional bits of history before moving along to our final destination.

The Slaughtered Lamb, in Clerkenwell, is a nice place to enjoy a drink, a hot pub meal, and live music in a part of town that is rather quiet on the weekends.  Trusting the expertise of our new dear friends, we are able to recommend the chips, but can only give three stars to the fish due to it’s low crunch factor.  The portions are healthy, and the atmosphere isn’t bad, but crunch is a rather important factor to this group.

I know you are wondering how we stumbled upon The Slaughtered Lamb.  Upon the urging of Kassi Thomas, and seeing how the venue happened to be in my neighborhood, it felt right to be at Levi Weaver’s show – despite the low grade fever, exhaustion, headache, and runny nose.  It was well worth the late night to say the least.

levi weaver

If Bob Dylan, Thom Yorke, and Coldplay had a baby I think they would name him Levi Weaver.  And I hope my saying so doesn’t offend Levi at all…  Armed with a pick, a haunting voice, a drummer, a borrowed guitar, two loop pedals (one of which may have fried mid-Of Bridges Burned), a harmonica that was missing early in the set and later returned by mic b (Mike B.), and a borrowed violin bow, Levi won my heart.  It might have taken a lot less, but I think it was the fried equipment and mislaid instruments that made the night so special.  It was cause for conversation that tied us all intimately into the performance – even to the very last note of Which Drink.  Kassi Thomas’ name did come up, in fact, and Levi spoke sweetly of my dear friend.  That’s good; I’d hate to get all redneck in public.  Under the lights.  On stage.  Like the time I was on Springer.

The lyrics are haunting and intelligently crafted, riding on a voice that lifts up one of your heartstrings in an unexpected way, and sneaks in.  If you aren’t convinced by the recordings you can find on his site, I would beg you to give it another listen live.  Experiencing his candor, wit, and spirit enhances the mere poetic vibrations – which are lovely on their own – and creates a tangible connection to the universal themes of love, loss, and the peace that only comes with hope.

Blue. Blue Seven.

  1. I am married to my best friend.
  2. I can afford food, clothing, and shelter.
  3. I have marketable skills and an education.
  4. I live in London, a place where many people may never even have the chance to visit.
  5. This week there is evidence that more Americans feel hopeful.

Although it isn’t always the most fun to live through emotionally taxing moments, they really can turn into the funniest stories.  I hope that you get some enjoyment out of it when I rant and rave about a day’s crazy events because somehow Drew and I manage to laugh ourselves off the couch about it.  And…  I would like to think I grow a little bit each time my eyes well up with tears (yes, we all know that’s not the rarity it should be) or some idiot troublesome, but lovely, individual makes my heart race.

So, what’s with the list?  On days that present challenges, making a Top Five list becomes a lifeline.

Yesterday started nicely enough.  While making a trip to the office supply store (or heaven, as I like to call it) and the grocery, I found a small street market that I had never seen before, right around the corner from our flat.  This market on Whitecross Street boasted several ethnic food booths–and others with random wares for sale.  I also found a vegetarian restaurant of a more permanent variety, called Carnevale, that has vegan cuisine on the menu daily.  The restaurant appears to have pretty limited hours, so I might just have to try it alone.

whitecross market


carnevale menu

After my spirits had been lifted by this new experience, I happily returned to my flat for lunch.  While I was submitting an online application my computer screen went black.  I was nervous.  Then I noticed I was sitting in the dark; I looked up to see if the people across the street were still working.  The whole office building across the street was in darkness and workers had left their desks, like I had, to look out the windows at the city employees tearing up the water lines below us.  I am sure we were all thinking that someone down there must have accidentally cut the power on our street.  As I was watching the people in the building across the street, those people started to notice me as well.  One at a time–from different floors and different sections of windows–people started to wave excitedly and smile.  For some strange reason it thrilled me to be so warmly greeted.  And I smiled and waved back.  Before I could get the camera to capture the warm waving workers, the lights had come back on and they began returning to their desks with cups of tea.  And just like that the magic moment passed.

water works

gullivers house

Over my own cup of hot tea, I took a moment to peruse our Barclays online bank statement.  A very fishy charge in the amount of £74.99 appeared on the account.  I don’t know where to begin telling this bit of the story.  I’ve already filled you in on the ordeal of starting our account.  Then, I am sure I mentioned the trouble regarding the debit card I requested.  It seems that I remember also filling you in on the debit card I requested three more times.  Did I also tell you about the the time I found out I wasn’t eligible for a debit card like Drew’s?

Short back story on this new edition of “bank error”:

On a Friday in November Drew made a purchase.

Immediately after purchase Drew did some research and realized he had been lied to.  He called to request a refund but the phone number is invalid.

Drew immediately went to Barclays to dispute the charge and cancel his debit card.

Barclays refunded the money ($74.99) immediately, pending investigation.

Barclays sent Drew paperwork to fill out; he got through most it.  However, signing the document signifies that the cardholder did not provide banking information to the company presenting the item for payment.  I took the form to a Barclays branch to ask a member of staff how to properly complete the form.  The rep recommended that Drew leave the rest of the form blank (don’t sign it) as it does not apply to him; send it in without a signature.  Although this sounds like complete crap to me, what information do I have to argue?  I mailed the form as we were heading to airport for our Christmas holiday.  The form said that if we didn’t mail it back within 14 days, the bank would assume the money should be debited from our account.

Yesterday I see that the charge reappeared on our account.  (That’s grocery money.)

Drew requested that I investigate the situation.  The problems with this were that 1) Drew made the purchase, 2) Most Barclays advisors don’t listen very carefully to what customers are saying, 3) Most Barclays advisors I have dealt with say whatever they need to say to get you out of their own hair and into that of some other department outside the building, 4) Barclays Card Services, Branch Staff, and Online Banking department do not communicate well with one another, 5) There are fundamental flaws in the electronically generated communication with the customer and between departments, 6) Gaps in time make diagnosing a problem difficult, 7) Bank staff in all departments are trained to expect fraud and suspicious activity, 8 ) I have witnessed that many customers requesting help can be rude, emotionally charged, ill-prepared, uninformed (like me, not always our fault), disorganized, and talking on a mobile phone in the bank–so, the advisors are harried before I get to them, 9) It’s London; London is busy.  They don’t have time to deal with me, 10) I just might be that suspicious person they have been trained to catch in action.

Although I felt strongly that our dispute paperwork had been filled out incorrectly (or not to Barclays’ satisfaction), resulting in the charge reappearing on our account, I headed to the branch with the nicest advisors I had yet found in this fair city to find out what I could do to rectify the situation.  I am not sure what I expected them to say.  However, I was prepared with the printed statement, my account numbers, a well thought out explanation, and my passport.

After briefly explaining the situation to the young bank advisor she asked for my account information.  Then, she spit out a bunch of gibberish.  It went kind of like this:

Me: We’ve disputed a charge on our account, but it has shown back up again.  I am afraid we may have incorrectly filled out the dispute paperwork or missed some step in the process to clearing it all up.  I’d like to find out why this charge has been assessed to my account at this time and how I go about clearing it up for good.

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Sort code?

Me: 111112

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Account Number?

Me: 11111112

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Hmmm…  Blue.  Blue seven.

Me: That doesn’t make any sense.  Are you sure you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor:  Blue seven. (This is where a smile should have come into play.  Blank stare.)

Me: Seriously, after all of the misinformation I have received I can barely stand here and accept that “blue seven” is the answer.

Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Since it was Andrew Huddleston that made the purchase in question, and not yourself, you are not authorised in the first place to investigate this charge on your account.  You have no power here.  Be gone, before someone drops a house on you, too!

If you are an ex-pat who has stumbled across this blog entry in your research on which bank to choose, I hope our misadventures, at least, are helpful to you.  As for me, I feel like I might be a few centimeters taller.  There is also a creepy warm feeling in my chest and throat (like heartburn) seeming to suggest that if someone mentions Barclays within the next few weeks I might catch fire.


What Day is it?

On Sunday Drew and I decided to wander down Brick Lane. It’s famous for the groups that have historically lived in the area, the Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine offered every few feet, and the vintage shops and street market. The significance of Brick Lane’s history has been featured in novels and films. I had hoped to get some really great photos, but it was so packed that we were wedged in a moving stream of people that made taking photos a real pain. I did, however, search for photos that might capture our experience. These are borrowed from 2camels.com.

brick lane one

brick lane two

brick lane three

brick lane four

brick lane five

So, what’s on the news in London today? The economy, Obama’s upcoming inauguration, government policies proposed to increase bank lending, unemployment, and which stars have been nominated for various film awards are on the top of the list. One topic that is quite hot at the moment, though, is the third runway proposed for the Heathrow airport. Think: construction of I-840 plus carbon emissions and large communities where the runway is set to go. We’ll keep you updated regarding how likely you might be to experience topless antics on your trip to visit…

Today was another brave day for CV re-writes and recruiter phone calls. The job interview on the books has been rescheduled for next Wednesday. Yes, seriously. That’s what I said: Dang, Gina!

Reconsider Everything

While walking through Green Park today on our way to take photos of Buckingham Palace, I heard a terrible commotion in the distance.  It sounded like someone giving a heated speech to a noisy and responsive crowd–like you see in old history films.  A detour down Piccadilly towards Piccadilly Arcade led us to the source of the disruption.  A very large crowd was marching, followed by many police (on foot, in several police vans, and on motorcycles), with a loudspeaker in the middle.  A man’s voice could be heard shouting and sometimes chanting things like “Gaza is a killing field”–and the crowd would repeat most of what he said.  Their bright orange signs read “ONLY KINLAFAH WILL LIBERATE PALESTINE”, “STOP ISRAELI TERRORISM”, and MUSLIM ARMIES MUST DEFEND GAZA”.  Although I was at first intrigued by the crowd and the police that allowed them their peaceful demonstration, my heart quickly began breaking at the sight.  As usual, I have no interest in a debate; I just feel great concern for the human lives for which these voices rang out and I am at the same time conflicted over the issue of violence to bring about peace.  Isn’t that like spanking your children because they hit someone?  I don’t mean to suggest that Gaza should not be allowed to defend itself, it just seems that these two peoples will not be satisfied with peace.  It appears that peace is not what either truly desires…

demonstration one

demonstration two

I didn’t wake up this morning hoping for something so big to blog about, nor do I consider myself to be knowledgeable enough to speak about this issue itself.  However, my brain translated this incident into a representative event.  Drew and I are living in a very big, very diverse, city.  We are closer to world events than we have ever been.  Our children may someday appreciate that we were witnesses to events like these and may learn an appreciation for our place in the global society from our example–that is, once we gain our own footing.  And I also ache for the children on the shoulders of the parents in that crowd, learning very deep anger, to support violence, and prejudice at such a young age.  I also must be thankful that we live in a place where we may all peacefully express our views on the Queen’s doorstep.

Before the deep thinking began, we slept late and headed to our neighborhood Pizza Express for lunch.  I was anxious to get photos of a quintessentially British site before you all got bored and Buckingham Palace seemed like the very best stop.

Buckingham Palace

new do at the palace

green park gate

After the camera ran out of juice and we explored the grounds, we headed toward the London Eye, Big Ben, and the houses of Parliament.  We’ll have to make that trip again with two batteries fully charged and more light left in the day.

After dinner we finally unpacked and started laundry.  Yes, my London housewife life is now back in full swing.

Yesterday was very pleasant, though bitter cold outside.  We slept late, got haircuts at ESHK, ate lunch, began planning for the website upgrades, walked to Islington, ate dinner at Yo! Sushi, and saw “The Spirit” at the Vue Cinema.  If you like films made in the style of graphic novels (that’s sort of like a more grown-up version of a comic book, mom), you might really like this movie.

drews new hair

website wall

website wall two

I am very excited about our new website.  And there is no better way to demonstrate excitement than by hanging brightly colored Post-Its.

Don’t Look Now…

All this time I have had to make Christmas cards was foiled by my ignorance.  I’ve been searching for craft stores in London and I have pawed through stationery stores for the supplies I would need to glitter your mailbox.  Today I discovered something wholly new to me.  Haberdashery.  Mostly it indicates sewing supplies, but sometimes other types of crafty things are sold at bigger haberdashery stores.

On the fourth floor (out of five) of the John Lewis department store there is a magical place of material, notions, knitting supplies, and all sorts of crafty things.

John Lewis decorations

John Lewis decorations two

John Lewis knitted doll

John Lewis Crafts

John Lewis Crafts two

John Lewis yarn

John Lewis yarn two

I was disappointed in the selection of paper supplies, but do not expect to have the time to make cards at this point, anyway.  (I know that you are breathing a sigh of relief that you will not be finding sparklies all over the place for the next three weeks.)

On another floor, I walked through the seasonal section so that I might peruse the Christmas decorations being sold to real live Londoners.  I was not surprised by anything I saw, really.  It seems that the US and the UK agree on this issue of importance.  You either pick classy or trashy–or you do one of each in two separate rooms.

Christmas Tree

Upside Down Christmas Tree


Last evening, at the Roundhouse near Chalk Farm Station, Master Shortie wore out a crowd of singing, dancing fans.  I was impressed with the number of people who had already memorized every song, though MS has yet to release his first album.  When it does “drop” I am sure things are going to get really crazy.  I had a great time; there is nothing better to relieve stress than a catchy beat shared by a crowd.

Master Shortie

Drew and Janita

Drew and Jen go to Master Shortie

Would You Like to Dance?

Where to begin…

With a sequence of events not entirely unlike a roller coaster ride–the kind you wait in line nearly half a day to ride and get off feeling sick, exhilarated, and thankful to be alive–it’s hard to know exactly how to begin to tell the story of the last two and a half days.  This may eventually make its way into the draft copy of that book I told you about.

Monday there were yummy (vegan) Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemony Icing.

vegan gingerbread cupcake

I had an interview on Tuesday morning with the CEO of a dynamic and specialized medical company looking for a Clinic Coordinator.  The long term goals of the organization are quite inspiring and I was honored to have made it to their short list.  However, I think our recent relocation may have given them the idea that I may not offer them the longevity they are hoping to find in the right candidate, raising a tiny red flag.  Although I can’t make any promises about what the next five years hold for us, this opportunity would be a dream for someone looking for career advancement in my field– and in related fields.  There are quite a few potential leads in the wings at the moment, but I am intrigued at the challenges presented for this Clinic Coordinator as well being very impressed with the clarity of the plan.  The environment is small and manageable enough still that there should be a moment to get acquainted with the role before the expansion and growth begins.  There is a bright future for them, regardless what they decide about me.

There are several other opportunities in the wings that are more closely in line with the work I was doing when I left the states.  Unfortunately, I will probably not know anything about those opportunities until January as most employers during this season are just lining applicants up for hiring at that time, when teams have returned from holidays.  I do find it a bit strange that my previous employer has not contacted me since I arrived in the UK, though I did make sure to pass along my contact information and I had received such positive feedback from the team here.  It seems I was more starry-eyed about them than they were about me.

Headsick and hopeful, I left my interview to get you some photos of Carnaby Street.  It’s a fun little pedestrianized shopping street near Oxford Street Tube Station where big Macy’s-Day-Parade-like snowman balloons hang in the air above your head as you wander along shopping.

snowman 1

snowman 2

snowman 3

snowman 4

Wow, snowmen and tea shop window displays do wonders for that part of my head that almost never stops asking questions that keep me awake at night.

whittard 1

whittard 2

You know what else eases my mind?  Modern dance done well.  I know that seems like quite the non sequitur, but stay with me here.  It has always been my view that Drew could appreciate modern dance if we were to identify a choreographer that had something in common with him.    Tuesday night I had the chance to find my answer.

edward scissorhands

When Drew was offered tickets to Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands at the Sadler Wells Theatre in our neighborhood I was thrilled.  It is essentially a contemporary ballet (which relies heavily on movement as a theatrical tool as well for its purely enjoyable aesthetics).  The show is a must see for contemporary theatre, Danny Elfman, and dance lovers.  Though the story took a slight departure from the film, it was still an incredibly staged adaption ending in [SPOILER ALERT]  snow for the audience, too.  I much appreciate the live orchestra and superb company of dance/actors as well as the talent and vision of the team who put the show together.  Wow.  Even Drew was really impressed and dance is not normally his favorite thing.  Dang, Gina.  I wonder if there are any dance classes in the area for old, out of shape, degree holding dance minors who can sizzle like bacon and rise like smoke from an invisible fire…

And this is where the story starts to get really personal.  It’s hard sometimes to decide what details to share with the world.  I am quite aware that my potential employer might be the type that Googles every candidate and well aware that my former students cannot be kept from reading something publicly available on the world wide web.  With all of that said, you know that I do give great consideration to the content of our blog and that I make every effort to ensure every embarrassing and/or personal divulgence is relevant to some worthwhile point.  I talk too much.

There is such a thing as being too eager.  I am suspicious that this eagerness is often the catalyst for the weird situations in which I find myself.  Wednesday morning I nervously rushed around to be sure that I had everything I needed for my first appointment at a clinic here in the UK: plenty of water in my body, passport, National Insurance number on my welcome letter, my pap smear results from my April exam back in the states, and a vile of urine.

Drew, my sister, and I went through a lot of trouble to get those stinkin’ lab results from my physician before we left the states because I had done research on the subject; my sources strongly advised having original medical and dental records upon arrival in your new country of residence.  Besides, it is programmed in my thinking that you cannot get a prescription for birth control without those yearly exams and I intended to avoid an unnecessary exam if at all possible.  Ladies, are you with me?

(If you really don’t want to get to know me personally, skip the next paragraph or several.  If you can talk about medical things that happen and apply to us all (or the women in your life, for the  gentlemen) without thinking about the fact that it’s me in this story, read on.  But be forewarned.)

As for the urine sample, picture this: I have taped aluminum foil around the specimen cup to avoid getting the label wet.  Like a ten year old with a science project, I have also constructed an aluminum foil funnel that I am also seriously considering using.  This is the only time I have ever stopped to consider the convenience of being a boy.  Anyway, due to lack of time and planning I decided to forego the funnel.  My brain may have stopped functioning for a few fractions of a second when I got creeped out by having my hand dangling in the toilet; instinct told me to stand up a little and try to look to see if I was about to accidentally put the cup in the water.  You know what they say about stopping mid-stream.  Fun times.  As a side note, I have a legitimate reason for being freaked out by the whole peeing in a cup scenario, but that’s another story for another day.

So, I jaunt off to my appointments with all my documents and urine sample in cup in a baggie in another baggie in my purse.  I am supposed to see the doctor at 10:20a and the nurse at 10:40a.  A little weird to see the doctor before the nurse, but no one else seems to think it is weird, so why should I?  On my way to the clinic I went over in my head all of the ways in which I could be discovered carrying urine in my purse.  What if a cyclist mowed me down and the nurses in the emergency room had to go through my things to get my ID before I regained consciousness?  What if I fainted and someone wanted to see if I had a cell phone to call an ambulance?  What if I stopped to buy a bottle of water on my way to the clinic and the clerk saw what was sitting next to my wallet?  I can’t believe this is a normal practice here.  Weirdos.

I arrived at the clinic just prior to my appointment and waited my turn to speak with the receptionist.  When she was free, I gave her my name.  She greeted me as if she expected to see me and I was very impressed.  I handed her the paperwork I had brought with me and asked if that could be added to my chart.  She took it, said yes, and went back to her computer screen so I took a seat amongst the other waiting patients.  It was weird to walk away without marking on a sign-in sheet, getting out an insurance card, or paying a co-pay.

The environment was very different from the private practice offices I am used to, but similar to the clinic I remember on my university campus.  When it is your turn to be seen, your name and room number pop up on an announcement screen.  A loud beep sounds each time a patient is directed to a treatment room so that everyone knows to check the screen.  Moms sat with children and cute little old people nodded off in their chairs.  There were also a few young-ish people reading magazines while they waited.  Everyone seemed to get pretty comfortable in their chair before they were called back, but I didn’t notice any really long wait times, except for me.  At 11:30 my heart was pounding.  I was afraid there has been a mistake and I was keen to get it straightened out; I preferred to straighten it out like a normal person and avoid being perceived as a self-absorbed American, but I was slightly concerned because  I know that missing an appointment can result in being removed from a practice’s treatment list and I wanted my first appointment to go smoothly.  In my two encounters with this receptionist she has been impersonal, if not rude.  I finally ended up approaching her.  She motioned for me to talk to her even though she has just said hello to someone she called on the phone.

Me: Hi, I am really sorry to bother you.  I have been waiting for over an hour for my appointment and I just want to make sure this is normal.

Receptionist (with the phone to her ear, apparently on hold):  What time is your appointment?

Me: I had a 10:20 appointment with the doctor and a 10:40 with the nurse.

Receptionist: You didn’t sign in.

Me: I’m sorry.  I thought all I needed to do was give you my name, which I did when I first arrived.

Receptionist: You didn’t tell me you had two appointments.



Me: I didn’t realize it mattered or that you wouldn’t already know that I had two appointments.  I just said my name and I thought you knew why I was here and then I asked you if my medical records from my previous doctor could be added to my chart.

Receptionist (with a flash of recognition, a touch of color coming into her face, and sterner, louder tone of voice):  You just handed me papers to go in your chart.  You didn’t tell me you had an appointment.   You have to sign in for your appointments.  I am afraid you are not going to seen.

Me (wondering why else I would have been in the clinic if I wasn’t registering or turning up for an appointment): What should I have done to sign in?

Receptionist: You have to come to the counter and give me your name.  And you have to sign in.

Me (attempting a sincere tone of curiousity and well intention): What do you mean by “sign in”?  Do I have to actually sign something?  What part of “signing in” did I fail to do?



Receptionist (apparently the other party on the line is speaking to her now): Hold on.

Big, fat, crocodile tears began to fall uncontrollably down my face.  (Don’t get too upset, I am a self-professed crybaby experiencing PMS, it could have happened at any moment anyway.)  There was no sobbing, but my face is hot and wet.  I was embarrassed that I had somehow missed something after attempting so hard to meld into the system.  I was embarrassed that this person had raised her voice at me, had become defensive at my mere request for information, and the fact that she was belittling me at a medium volume in front of her colleagues and a small waiting room crowd.  I was embarrassed that I was letting it affect me–and that I was falling apart in front of all of these people–while she took a phone call.  When she had hung up and turned her face to me again, I calmly attempted to speak with her again.

Me: I apologize, again.  This is my first appointment with a physician in the UK.  I understand that I have missed my appointments today and will not be seen, but in future, I do need to know how to sign in.

Receptionist (calmer and in her regular loud voice): You just come to the counter and give me your name and sign in.

Me: Ok.  This morning I gave you my name.  How do I sign in?

Receptionist: Everything is computerized so when you sign in we let the staff know you are here and they can call you back.  When it is your turn your name and room number will come up on the screen in the waiting area and you go to the room indicated.

Me: Ok.  How do I sign in?



Receptionist: You give me your name and you sign in.

I was absolutely exasperated at this moment and I took a moment to breathe.  I knew that the issue  may have been that I am pretty intelligent and that she didn’t know how to explain what I needed to know.  We had both made some incorrect assumptions.  I got it.  She obviously didn’t.

Receptionist: You handed me paperwork; you didn’t say you were here for an appointment.

Me: So, to “sign in”, I need to tell you I am here for an appointment.  [Because you don’t know to expect me and have not looked at the day’s schedule.  I have worked in a busy medical clinic and our front office staff knew who was on the schedule to be seen that day, even when we had over a 100 patients on the schedule.  If they didn’t recognize your face, which was rare, they sure as heck recognized your name as one being on the schedule when you went to the window and gave it to them.]

Being a nice person who could see a miscommunication for what it was, she kindly phoned the nurse and doctor to explain what had happened and arranged for me to be seen.

The nurse was very kind and let me pull myself together before she started taking the necessary vital signs and history.  She teared up as she asked me to explain what had gotten me so upset.  I gave her the short version of our relocation trials and explained that PMS+last straw+being new to everything at almost 30=occasionally getting overwhelmed.   The nurse also explained that people pop in to drop off paperwork or pick up prescriptions.  It is quite common that people show up in the office without appointments for other reasons.  Note to self.  I saw the doctor next.  This is your intermission.  Take the opportunity to make a bowl of popcorn or warm your coffee.  I’ve been working on this entry for about three to four hours already, so we all need a break.

As far as I can tell, no one ever looked at my chart or those lab results I brought that caused all of the confusion.  By the time I sat with the doctor I may have been in shock already.  These rooms in which I met the nurse and doctor were more like offices than exam rooms.  Except, they were more like the offices you met your biology professor in to discuss taking a test early so you could miss class for an out of state trip with this color guard group–that no one understands is really a sports team competing in world class competition, sort of like the Olympics (well, maybe that’s a stretch).  I explained that I just wanted to get the birth control and migraine medicine most similar to what I had been taking.  I looked around the strange room while she Googled the brand names of my prescriptions.  Yes, she did.

What she said next kind of made my head spin.  If you have ever felt faint or been on the Tilt-A-Whirl, you know you the sensation I mean.  In the UK, migraine sufferers (especially those who are   age 35 and/or smokers) are not prescribed combination type birth control pills, which is the most popular type of contraceptive.  This is what I had been taking.  Apparently, the risk of stroke is something taken very seriously.  My natural defenses were lit and I felt offended that she might be implying that American physicians are ignorant or reckless.  Of course, I was too dumbstruck to know what to say in response.  She said that I could opt to use occasional methods which are widely available at pharmacies over the counter or I could choose between two more effective treatments available through the clinic.  The progestogen only pill is an option only slightly less effective with a different set of potential side effects.  Equally as effective as this option is the insertion of an intra-uterine device (IUD) which prevents pregnancy without chemicals (though you can opt to have one with hormones for symptom management or as a spermicide).  Both of these options holds a new set of risks.  I’ll let you do the research you care to do.  That part isn’t really what’s important in this story.

I enjoy a healthy dose of drama just as much as the next girl.  But this was more than I thought I would be faced with at this juncture.  This type of combined-hormone pill therapy was something I chose as a treatment option ten years ago when my doctor recommended it for symptom management.  It has been something I have been thankful for as I enjoyed having time to be married without children.  And it is something that gave me time to enjoy working with that crazy string of teenagers I love so much (not in the weird Michael Jackson way).  I have always looked forward to having kids, but I have also wanted to wait until I had more patience, more wisdom to share, and more love to give to them as a less selfish me.  Babies are a thrilling and heartwarming prospect, but it’s not something I want to juggle alongside getting settled–and I need to earn a little money for a while to kick start our plan.  Having a baby, though awesome, has more serious consequences than dropping an M&M.

I came expecting the unexpected and I know the challenges are far from over.  But I was still caught off guard when our relocation affected me in such a truly personal way.  You don’t get more intimate than this.  (I have done some research today and I am certain that I already have all of the side effects that any of these options could cause [in less than 3% of subjects studied versus those on placebo].)  BTW, if anyone understands why those two people on top of the cliff are holding hands from separate bath tubs at the end of the Cialis commercials, please fill me in.

Before this experience I had no frame of reference to even begin forming questions about it.  Now, I am prompted to research things I never thought would be applicable to me.  It’s quite funny considering that I have worked in pharmaceutical related industries for ten years and medical related industries for four of those.  You would just think that I might have come across this information in my research.  Well, maybe not.  Not every woman relocating from the states to the UK is a migraine sufferer on combined hormone birth control pills.  The IUD is also less commonly used in the states.  None of my friends have mentioned it.  Is someone holding out on me?  Point being, who knew?!

There was no time to sit around and feel sorry for myself for being conflicted about some serious choices ahead of me and having been so fantastically embarrassed. I had an appointment with a genius at the Apple store over 2 miles away. Carrying my computer to the tube station nearest me on the Central Line and getting off in the busiest area of town year round, let alone at Christmas, was probably quite a site for people watching. Dang Gina. By the time I got to the Apple store I was hot and sweaty, but thankful to be somewhere quite familiar. I had an appointment. I was thirty minutes early. It was awesome. Maybe it wasn’t that awesome, but in comparison, I didn’t know that. There were fun people waiting beside me and I had a short conversation with two of them. Then, I discovered that my genius was personable and we ended up having a pretty cool conversation. He asked me out on a double date; he and his fiance are in the process of relocating here from Australia and we have both put in some time in the field of clinical research. Did I just make a friend? (If any technophiles have made it this far, I just need to replace the RAM.)

Later that afternoon, I got my prescriptions filled at my local pharmacy (chemist). A very nice family runs it. My migraine medicine was £7.10 for 6 pills, a year’s worth of the progestogen is free, but I may not need it that long. The jury is still out.

At the end of the day, the two contrasting experiences left me with a sense of being from another planet.

The communication breakdown at the clinic combined with the realization that medical care is structured more differently here than I had imagined started that train of deep thoughts and ranting…  It was like I said to the nurse, I will eventually be thankful for the emotionally poignant experience I now have to remind me that there is no shame in admitting you are new to something and that reaching out is worth the difficulty of doing so.  I was also reminded that the world is big and that as much I want to be unbiased, I am still displaying stereotypical American traits that are not so desirable.   (I am proud and I assume MY WAY is THE WAY.)  Maybe the staff at the clinic will appreciate this opportunity to reassess how new patients are handled.  Perhaps I have helped them to identify a breakdown in their systems and procedures.  If not, I at least modeled an attitude of flexibility and willingness , without looking to place blame, in the midst of a stressful situation.

I don’t think my experience with the receptionist at the medical clinic brings to light issues solely related to the medical community here.  There is a culture of impersonality that permeates London.  People are not unfriendly, though.  I have enjoyed my share of impromptu conversations with strangers.  Most of the time I smile at someone, that smile is returned to me. Today I may have made a friend in a busy store.  The issue is sheer volume.  The number of people conducting business–or just going about their day–in this big wild city have changed the way people interact.  It is certainly foreign to me.  I am still attempting to enjoy those tiny human connections appreciated in more rural areas through such conventions as customer service.  When you hear it said that people in cities like New York, Paris, and London are unfriendly and callous, you should consider that your perceptions are based on societal norms that don’t apply in that place.  It’s not a case of Nashville versus Venice; it’s a case of “when in Rome…”  As for me, I will continue to smile at strangers and give open-mindedness a jolly good go.  I will also bite the bullet more often and ask questions, even when I think I know the answer.

About nine years ago I had a brilliant dance instructor that told me to quit thinking of gravity (or more so the concept of weight) and the floor as obstacles, but to be mindful of them as essential tools for movement. Part of the trick was, of course, learning to properly use the tools. For me, it was one of those concepts that I could only understand at first in bursts of what I describe as being wow-the-universe-is-big moments. Once I was in that moment, I really felt like I was part of the floor and I could work in tandem with gravity. But, it is also knowledge like everything else, that fades in to the recesses when it isn’t being used. That concept, at least, does seem applicable to this situation and quite often in life. Maybe Edward Scissorhands tickets weren’t so random after all. It may have been the reminder I needed that there is no coming to consciousness without pain.

Is Your Mouth on Fire, Too?

Yesterday I got a new broom, cloth handkerchiefs, and a silicone device used in a frying pan to prepare foods like eggs or pancakes.  (I didn’t have to wait long to test out my new cooking tool.)  You would think Londoners never saw someone carrying a broom down the street before…  How did they get their broom home?!

This morning I made Drew a proper weekend breakfast, though he may have had an accident with the pepper shaker…
The biscuits turned out different than the first attempt, but still not quite perfect.  I am tempted to think that the measuring bit is the problem.  I usually experience more success when I wing it–I’ll keep trying.


Though we ended up having a rather lazy day that included housework and a grand nap, we did manage to have the most delicious dinner at Thai Thai on Old Street.  The service was better than any we have had so far in London.  The atmosphere was welcoming and posh at the same time; we felt pampered.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted so I explained to our waitress that I wanted something spicy with vegetables, tofu, and red curry.  She was happy to select a dish that fit those requirements.  I still can’t believe how friendly and warm the staff was.  Everyone that came by our table acknowledged us and was extremely attentive.  The food was excellent.  It was exactly what I described.  It was like dining at home.

So, tomorrow we’ll be visiting some retailers in search of a nice coat for Drew and fun household items.  I don’t think we’ll be investing in anything really amazing or awe inspiring, but these days I am an easy girl to please.

Maybe this Christmas you should consider starting a savings account for your London trip.  We have identified at least one really nice local Thai restaurant that you will want to try.  Any other requests?

Love, hugs, and gingerbread to you~

You’ll Need to Bring This Back With You.

Term of the Day: Bits and Bobs

  • Odds and ends

A good portion of normal, everyday Londoners order groceries online and have them delivered; they pop in to local stores for the random bits and bobs.  Within my frame of reference, that would have seemed very posh two months ago.  After discovering the challenges simple grocery shopping poses in a big city like London, I now fully appreciate the concept.  Space is at a premium so not all stores can stock a full range of items, it’s hard to carry your groceries if you can’t manage to do a little shopping everyday, moms+kids+groceries+public transport= : ( , and you might have to visit several stores to get everything on your list–or do without Maple Syrup this week.

I met one of our neighbors two days ago.  She is lovely and has lively Terrier who rather liked me.  Maybe she could sense how desperate I’ve become for some animal attention.  Dang Gina, I miss my cat.  So, the neighbor filled me in on some very interesting news–news that might put you at ease.  If you must come to visit in a large group, or you need a little more privacy than we can offer you, there are six guest flats on campus that we can rent.  We actually live next door to a double (£45/night) and a single (£27/night) guest room.  I am not encouraging you to stay next door, but if you all come at the same time it may be an option we have to explore.  Large groups could be fun actually…

For those of you reading who may be looking for a solution to your quest for shortening in the UK, I would like to recommend Stork and White Flora.  If these products are stocked in your local grocery they will most likely be refrigerated and you will find it near the margarine.  They don’t advertise themselves as shortening, they are “cooking products”, so search for the “great for baking” and “great for cakes and pastries” wording on tubs.

The Sainsbury’s in Islington has now trumped my local Waitrose to become my favorite grocery store.  As my idea of the size of my local neighborhood expands, so does my level of expectation grow.  Such good things are hidden in the nooks and crannies I haven’t yet explored.

I know that you are all curious about medical care here within the NHS.  Of course, being the responsible investigative reporter than I am, I have taken it upon myself to discover how it all works–which translates to “I am running out of birth control soon.”  

Some of the straightforward information I have gathered regarding seeking medical care within the NHS, so far, is as follows.

  • You must register with a General Practioner (GP) in your local area.  If no GP in your area is able to add another patient, you may appeal to see one outside your area.  GPs are paid based on the number of patients registered with their practice.
  • To register you must show ID and turn in your paperwork to the clinic.  Within 48 hours your address and National Insurance (NI) number are verified so that you may call to make your first appointment and any records may be transferred from your previous physician, if necessary.
  • Physicians make house calls in special cases, for home bound patients, and to mothers with newborn babies.
  • To see a specialist, your GP must refer you.
  • Not all GPs prescribe medicine; it depends on their specific training and degree level.
  • Pharmacists can prescribe certain medications and are especially knowledgeable in the area of topical medications for irritations and rashes.  These professionals have special training in the area of medicine and prescribing; sometimes more than certain types of GPs.

Finding a nearby clinic was easy with a tiny bit of research.  I was able to visit their website, print out the necessary registration forms, and drop those off yesterday.  Dropping off my paperwork took me less than one minute and the receptionist gave me a specimen cup to bring back my urine sample on my first visit.  Ok, that may have been strange.  Some of me is still wondering if this is a joke they play on brand new patients.  I will definitely inquire about it when I call to make my appointment.

I know you are wondering what in the world I have done this week.  I wonder myself.  HHmmm.


Identified new vacancies for which I will apply, Grocery, Borders (to get the recent issue of Design Week for Drew), Christmas trip planning, normal housework


Sent CV in reference to 16 vacancies, normal housework, scheduled a preliminary interview for Wednesday morning, scheduled a preliminary phone interview for Wednesday afternoon, met Drew at his office, had dinner with Drew and Janita when they were finally ready to leave at 10p (A “fire” started while I was in transit to the office; I owe Nashville echoneer, Anton, Maynards Wine Gums for his awesomeness in firefighting.)  Fun times.


Attended interview, emailed my Dad (Happy Wednesday!!) registered at local clinic, topped up cell phone service, grocery, normal housework, called my sister to check in for the big day (my Mom is having her supersonic hearing installed–next Christmas we might buy her X-ray vision.  A little over the top?), attended(?) phone interview, called home again, made cupcakes, had a frosty beverage at the local pub (The Shakespeare) waiting for news from my sister, received an update, made dinner (dishes), and crashed
in the oven

fuzzy cupcake


the shakespeare

Today I am still a little tired and waiting for it to be late enough in the day that I can call home again.  I am so thankful the dark morning has given way to a good bit of clear sky and sunshine.  I be will carrying cupcakes to Drew’s office at tea time–doing it in the dark and the rain doesn’t sound appealing.  The cloudy, dark sky also tends to make the bed seem like a very, very wonderful (magical, even) place to be.  It’s good that we don’t have more days like that.

We Came, We Saw, We Chugged Hot Apple Cider

So how about this new look, eh?! Props to a gorgeous webmaster and designer extraordinaire… More changes and updates to come, we hope you enjoy!

If you don’t have something to drink and more than just a few free minutes on hand, go make yourself some refreshments and come back with a comfy chair. The update you are about to peruse is lengthy. We apologize for the lovely inconvenience.

We awoke Saturday morning to a grey London sky. It was cold and spitting rain when we ventured out of the flat with a plan to head to the IKEA store in Wembley. After a stop for hot chocolate in the cafe downstairs, we bravely headed for the tube station.
barbican tube
Unfortunately, at the tube station we realized that all travel via tube in the direction we needed to go was suspended. Since our trip was more for fun than out of necessity, and because we had already made it outside the flat, we decided to head southeast toward the Borough Market.

Dang Gina.

People were crammed in the aisles between the market stands. The farmers’ market tradition looked to be thriving in this riverside town.
borough market

fuzzy vegetable stand

Despite the chill and the threat of rain, people weaved their way through pick-pocket central for things like artisan breads, fresh produce, direct from fisherman fish, sweets, savouries, free-range meats and eggs, hand squeezed juice, wine, beer, ready to eat foods, and fresh sausage cooked any of a hundred different ways. (Although the smell is still appetizing, I can barely look at a sausage.) We had lunch from an organic stand and then got in line for hot cider. The sign said something about mulled apples and fall spices. It should have said something more like “hot apple flavored piss, nasty–but hey, it’s warm!”. Hold your nose. Raise glass to lips. Swallow. Repeat.

I managed to bring home this cute little guy from a lovely bakery stand; Drew opted for a big, fat brownie. I can’t blame him, but look just look at this face…
robin cookie

Cold? Check.
Full? Check.
Damp? Check.
Photos? Check.

We thought we might as well follow the river west until we hit the Tate Modern Museum. Before we could make it inside, we were tempted in to the new Globe Theatre, whose roof is currently being re-thatched.  Wow.
the globe stage
It was really an indescribable experience to walk through the museum and take the guided tour of this attraction that has been so lovingly built– and restored as near as possible to the specifications of Shakespeare’s time. Those two semesters I chased theatre in college came in really handy, but I was amazed that there were people on the tour who did not know that all actors in Shakespeare’s day were men. I thought we all learned that in English class when we read Romeo and Juliet. Whatever. Moving on. Drew and I will definitely return for a play when theatre season starts. For now, everyone is talking about Panto. This is an art in which I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to participate. If you are one of those dear friends that dresses up and carries a big bag of toilet paper, rice, and newspapers to a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show to shout at the screen–you will appreciate this form of theatre that has survived on an undercurrent to its present day fame. The plays performed are usually kids’ fare like Peter Pan, but the adult humor whizzing over little heads is key. The audience knows their lines and the performers are over the top. Before we leave town, we’ll have to experience this!

Tate Modern has too many floors. I mean that in the nicest way possible. Of the seven levels, four have exhibits. Drew and I only made it through two before it was late, dark, and my eyes had started to look at each other for help.  I don’t think I could have made it through another collection, even if we had arrived at opening.  The huge exhibit on the first floor didn’t take long to see because we opted not to stand and watch the film portion. We did spend some quality time with a UBS Collection of the following:

Anish Kapoor and Barnett Newman
Material Gestures
Viennese Actionism
Distinguished Voices
Contemporary Painting
Claude Monet and Abstract Expressionism
Marlene Dumas
Paul McCarthy

Giorgio de Chirico and Jannis Kounellis
Surrealism and Beyond
Elements of Chance
Natural History
Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso
Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer
Balka and Espaliu
Eileen Agar, Claude Cahun, Zoe Leonard
Cornelia Parker

We’ll have to go back for the Rothko and Cildo Meirles exhibits as well the other collection put on by the UBS. And next time, I am going to get one of those kits they give the kids. It has crayons and paper so that the kids can attempt to recreate a piece of art they like. I think I heard someone saying that a member of staff tries to guess which piece it is at the end of the tour. I thought crayons would be an extremely bad idea in a gallery, but these British children seemed to keep the crayon in the right place. Maybe Super Nanny was standing behind them.

We had a long walk home, which started with the crossing of the River Thames via the Millennium Bridge. Even in the rain, and as dark as it was, the view in all directions from the middle of the bridge was beyond expectations.

Sunday started slowly, but I eventually made my way into the kitchen for glorious biscuit making. That is, until I opened the box of Atora Light Shredded Vegetable Suet, I was excited. What is this stuff? It cannot be what I should have purchased. It looks more like Gerbil food (or the after product) than shortening.
atora droppings
Anyway, I’ll test it out in a recipe soon, but I didn’t want to take any chances with it this morning. I opted to use butter instead. They weren’t the biscuits I had dreamed of making, but they didn’t kill us and they were all consumed by the end of the day.
Most of of the rest of my day was spent tweaking and posting blog entries with bits of housework sprinkled in. Drew spent quite a while updating the look of our website, but he worked in a little housework as well.

For the grand finale to our big, lazy day I made a dash to the store for a few fresh baps, a green pepper, and a red onion to make Spicy Veg Sloppy Joes. There is something about that weird family tradition of eating Sloppy Joes on Christmas Eve that makes them irresistible in the days preceding the holiday… This may be the 10th wonder of the world.

I was very impressed with the color of the onion and green pepper as well as the bright red color of the final product from the special blend of simple ingredients and spices. Drew seemed really impressed with my skilled used of the hillbilly casserole dish.

sloppy veg
I was quite pleased with myself as well. You would think we had real pub food. MMmmmm. Peasant-ish and uncultured. My stomach stills hurt a little when I think about how spicy they were; I look forward to the leftovers! (I brought a bottle of mixed berry Tums, Donna, don’t worry!)

Please be aware the English mustard is a lot like Wasabi; licking the mustard spoon may cause death or flaming nose drippings.

It was a lovely weekend.

When You Put it That Way…

Word of the Day: Biscuit

  • (UK) Cookie–and sometimes cracker
  • (US) Small, savory, bread-based food item eaten most commonly at breakfast

A girl (and hopefully a boy) can be happy anywhere by creating little bits of familiarity around them.  What else is a house wife to do, then, besides make familiar foods?  I’ve tried something like vegetables and dumplings.  We’ve had veggie patties with steamed broccoli and baked carrot/sweet potato/butternut squash medley.  There have been those nights that we enjoyed Thai dishes, but we have worn out pasta with marinara sauce.  I have even managed to find black beans for burrito night!  What I really wanted to do was surprise Drew some Sunday with flaky, steamy, yummy biscuits like his mom and Granny make.  

Vegetable shortening has been on my list for three weeks now.

Today I was determined to have my hands on the last ingredient to evade me, for the sake of Sunday’s brunch menu.  I bravely stood in the baking aisle, holding my ground while daddies ran me over with their recklessly driven strollers and little old ladies wobbled into me with their big bags and trolleys.  Busy Londoners stepped right in front of me to contemplate which varieties of Pot Noodles were part of the 2 for £3 special, but I stayed.  The thing I eventually picked up was Atoralight Shredded Vegetable Suet.  


The first thing I did back at the flat was research the word (please don’t click this link if you have a weak stomach) suet and attempt to discover if I had completed the mission.  Ick.  EEeeww.  Yes, I had, but I was suddenly less interested in flaky, steamy biscuits.  I wanted more information about how vegetable “suet” is made so I researched shortening, quickly navigating away from the photos of suet.  I found out some interesting things about how shortening works.  Did you know that you get better results from using cold or frozen Crisco?  If your recipe calls for water, use ice water.  Still, what is hydrogenation and how does it create trans fats?  (Man, I miss chemistry…)

Basically, what I’ve decided is that biscuits should be enjoyed rarely and I should attempt to find healthier fats to use when cooking.  I guess any time we “process” food we alter the nutrition in it, but our bodies haven’t been altered to deal with this, only our tastebuds.  Wow, a simple trip to the grocery stored turned into a science research paper.  Sorry folks.

We’ll enjoy our Sunday brunch with biscuits this week.  Then we’ll take a walk!

You Ought to be Ashamed.

Words of the Day: Philately, Philatelist

  • Philately: The study and collection of stamps
  • Philatelist: Someone who collects stamps

Correct use of these words in a conversation:  Hey, have you seen Dr. Philately?  I heard he had a Philatelist on the show the other day; apparently they are working through his addiction to that stuff on the back of lickable stamps.  Quite tragic, actually.


We haven’t seen any snow.  We did take a bus to the Islington shopping center, wander around in a Borders store, eat at Yo! Sushi, see a movie, visit the Soho Fresh and Wild, have a drink at The Shakespeare, and eat dinner.  That’s a wild ride for a lazy Sunday, huh?

I never get tired of good bookstores.  Bookstores are a lot like everything else in my life, though.  When is there is too much stimulus I shut down for a minute.  Then, I systematically create lists and plan a serious attack, and by “attack” I mean there is a lot of flailing about and commotion that is meant to appear as progress.  Right before the city is quarantined due to the Zombie outbreak, I want to make it into the nearest Borders store with a cafe.  Hopefully I will be able to enjoy the time I have left on Earth without feeling guilty that I am neglecting the laundry.  All the excuses in the world don’t make up for the fact that books are now easy to purchase and load on an iPod or MP3 player.  We’ve tried it; I think we both liked it.  Why did we stop buying audio books?!

Another really pertinent question on my mind is related to recommendations we received before our relocation.  Why did no one tell us to fill at least one suitcase with vegan chocolate chips?  The Fresh and Wild in Soho seemed to be a nice size and also appeared to have a selection of wonderful products.  However, they failed to stock whole black beans or vegan chocolate chips.  Who, I demand to know, shops at Whole Foods that does not purchase these items?!  Please don’t answer–I know who you are and you are wrong.  And you ought to be ashamed.  So, before this week is out I may create my own London bus tour with all stops being at stores which advertise themselves as natural food stores.  If I find vegan chocolate chips, I am going to buy so many bags that I have to get a cab home.

The Shakespeare, as we discovered this evening, is a quiet little neighborhood pub where you can enjoy a frosty or hot beverage while you do what you do at a pub.  Sanctioned activities include watching sports, enjoying company, scowling to oneself, scowling at others, playing electronic slots, or just enjoying a drink. Although I’ve seen signs for lunch, they don’t serve dinner.  That is just as well, because we’ve been to grocery store and Drew set up our digital tv stuff yesterday.  The atmosphere this evening was friendly and there was football on the telly.  I didn’t understand much of what was happening in the game but all of the players looked pretty happy in the end, so I guess all is well in the world…

I have mixed feelings about facing the new work week.  Firstly, I hope (and have a teeny-tiny sadness) that it might be my last week at home before starting my new job.  Secondly, it’s a holiday week back in the states and this will be our first Thanksgiving in London.  We’ll manage to have good time, but we’ll certainly be thinking of home.


Word of the Day: Brolly

  • umbrella (slang)
I have a weekly run to the post office on Mondays; it’s always packed.  What was so special about today’s trip was that there may have been a Senior Citizen’s Center meeting to have just let out ’round the corner.  If you know me, you know I quite adore most elderly people.  Well, in London, the older people are just that much more adorable to me.  Most old men wear funny hats or cuss in pubs (or both).  Little old ladies walk across streets wherever they want, taking as long as they want.  They are decked out and working their trolleys.  Oh yeah, trolleys.  Almost every elderly person I see has a personal trolley–not to be confused with a shopping cart provided by a store for shopping within that store; these are little trolleys you use for carrying your own things around and for shopping where ever you go.  It makes sense I guess, but it’s a sight to come across a gaggle of gossiping old women mucking about and blocking the whole sidewalk.  I promise that I attempted to get a photo but they got suspicious and tried to trip me.


I don’t know why I bother to bring it up, but I stopped at the bank for some cash.  I know I have been vague about our banking problems, mainly because I didn’t necessarily understand them.  Finally I am able to put my finger on what wrong.  I never got a debit card because I wasn’t “approved” for the premium card “awarded” to Drew; I can only have a card if Drew accepts the step-down card.  This was finally explained to me after my fourth complaint (in branch, at 30 minutes minimum per visit) that my card had not yet arrived.  Let me sum this trip up for you.  I am still angry that I have to “apply” and be “approved” to access my own flipping money!  Yes, I understand that I am not working and that it would be a risk to lend me credit.  However, who do you think does the grocery shopping and runs the errands with Drew’s money?!  My personal banker had the nerve to suggest that I should get my own bank account so that Drew could have his premium card and I could have the step down card, but that we would both be able to have a debit card in that scenario.  I laughed.  Really, I laughed loud, and I didn’t care.  Why can’t I spend his money; if he didn’t want me to have access to it why would he have put my name on the account?!  We live together.  I cook for him (at least twice a day until I get a job, hee hee) and do his laundry.  He owes me the money I spend.  What Drew and I decide about our money is our business, right?!
So, back to cute little old people.  I decided to take our clothes to the laundrette for a change, to see if it is worth the time and money to have clothes that have been through the dryer.  I am always nervous in a new situation and this was no exception.  I was almost paralyzed with anxiety before I somehow worked up the nerve to get out the suitcase and start packing.  I filled three small trash bags with dirty clothes, whites, colors, and towels.  I packed them in the suitcase with the soap and softener.  Then I headed out to the laundrette.  When I got there a very sweet looking man returned my big smile.  He also returned my big smile after I had gone out for more change, and again as I sipped my coffee (that I bought to get change).  As he packed up his personal trolley, he made sure to pause for one more big smile before he slipped out the door.  And by “slipped”, I mean made a five minute ordeal about getting himself and his trolley turned the right direction and out the door.  I love him.  I didn’t have enough change, I went to get change, then I had the wrong change but didn’t realize it, then I loaded a machine that didn’t take the change I did have and had to move it all, then I had to use a machine that is meant to wash a comforter to wash our underwear because that machine took the combination of coins I had, then the dryer…  wow.  Dang Gina!
After the laundry was clean and put away, I went to meet Drew in Covent Garden so that he could pick out some new clothes to go with his new hair.  The truth is that we only brought three suitcases with us and he needed some new clothes to wear!  After all, he goes to work everyday.  So, he deserves new clothes–and a debit card.

A Tradition Begins

Word of the Day: Minging (rhymes with ringing)

  • Offensive, disgusting (I left a glass of milk on my desk for a few days and it is minging.)
Thing I miss: color guard rehearsal and winter programs camps

I am not sure why I am feeling so very tired.  Maybe it’s the cooler weather or the shorter days.  It could be the amount of time I am by myself with this computer.  Perhaps I am not sleeping as well as I think I am, what with the street lights and street noise outside our bedroom.  Who knows?!  Whatever the cause, it’s another thing to which I’ll have to adjust.

We walked from our flat all the way down to The Tower of London today.  
Originally we had set out to find the building where I have the interview, but we found such cool architecture that we took a few detours.
building 2

We also realized how close we were to the spot where we stood, barely over a year ago, wondering if we would ever have the chance to live somewhere as cool as London.

As the city began to turn dark, we thought we would get a bite to eat and catch a movie.  We found a wonderful hole in the wall called Indian Veg.  The owners had plastered the walls with research about the benefits of eating vegetables and certain spices.  It was wonderful to have a vegan meal; the food was simple, but full of flavor and vegetables that were filling and nutritious.  The meal was also very inexpensive.  I was grateful for the meal and the love that went into its preparation.  I could see us finding that place again–since it is near the theatre and its affordable, we could make a little tradition out of it.

Walking for hours on end might not have sounded like a fun way to spend my Saturday back in the states, but there is so much to look at and digest as we wander the streets…  I wonder if it ever gets old.


Word of the Day: Prawn

  • Basically, shrimp.
Today’s Most Missed Thing: my mixer
You know what’s strange?  The baking section in city grocery stores is very small, if it exists.  I wonder if people don’t have time, don’t have space, don’t have space to store the tools, don’t like cake, or generally get confused about the use of ovens for purposes other than drying socks or toasting a baguette to go with soup.  I think the reason why you don’t see cake mix or brownie mix on most shelves is related to the phenomenon mentioned in a previous post about ready-to-eat food.  Cooking, REAL cooking, is uncommon.  Yeah, I saute veggies and throw sauce on them.  Somebody else made the sauce, though.  On a scale of heated it up to gourmet, made-from-scratch, I usually try my best to fall somewhere in between.  It has to be healthier.  When I worked all the time I was barely aware of what I ate.  Obviously, but that’s not the point.  I just realize how far away we have moved from the table to fast-paced meals made from previously frozen and re-hydrated food flavored materials with preservatives.  I have also noticed how easy it is to eat the same types of food repetitively due to price and ease of preparation, like pasta and mayonnaise based sandwich fillers.  Even good foods, like peanut butter, have quite a bit of fat–I know it’s good fat, but the number of times we choose it over a vegetable because of its convenience is staggering.
This was just not something I thought would be so amazing to me.
My friend Janita has really been encouraging me to bake since we’ve moved into the new flat.  Trust me, I have the serious itch to do it, too.  I looked around and realized I had no mixer and only one large glass measuring cup.  No measuring spoons, no measuring cups, no cake pan(s), no spatulas, no whisk to be found.  They do have those cute little egg holders that people use to eat hard-boiled eggs (I think).

egg holde

And twice I have wanted Vegetable Broth.  First of all, it’s called brine here.  If you get broth it has stuff in it.  Anyway, it’s super hard to locate it if the store has it at all.  Maple syrup, tofu, vegan cheese, vegan “ice cream” all belong on the things I miss list.  Sometimes there is one jar of maple syrup left, but it is expensive because they flew it over her from Canada.  I did find one choice of tofu and some strange looking tofu dogs.  Without a freezer, I must learn new ways to cook tofu and tofu dogs for two…  I also need to find a International grocer.  They will most likely have more options.  I just pray that I don’t buy squid by mistake.

Enough whining, I think it’s time for an Episode of Ugly Betty and some snuggling.  I like snuggling in London.  I like snuggling when it’s chilly.  I like snuggling when it’s rainy or stormy and when I don’t feel well.  It’s also nice after a glass of wine or some ice cream.  Sometimes snuggling is great when you’ve had a long day–or before you start the day.  Ok, I am snuggler.  Sheesh.

Camping in the Big Wild City

Living in our cool new flat in London, which seems pretty modern and art deco in the photos, is not entirely unlike camping to a very spoiled southerner.  Although we were really excited to have the big open ceiling in the living area and the cool little office space that closes off, I underestimated how much I would miss the plugs in the bathroom, shower curtain, microwave, dryer, dishwasher, freezer, double sink, and en suite master bathroom.  I am determined to make the best of living like a Londoner, though.  They do it.  Why can’t I?!

We have (many) fewer square feet in our flat here than we did at our house in Smyrna, but we probably utilize the same amount of space.  Hopefully this will train me to live with less or find more efficient uses of space and translate well into my future homemaking ventures.  For now, it means no yard work and less to clean!  It also means more frequent trips to the grocery and lots of laundry everywhere.  Whew!  I am going to have to get in a steady routine when I start working and I’ll have to show Drew the system when its time to share the chores.

I have gotten used to the street noise and no longer have trouble falling asleep to it.  I am afraid, though, that the untrained ear might not be so easily lulled into slumber.  There is also a lot of light from the street lights, and in the morning, the sun.  Sometimes Drew and I wear our goofy sleep masks if we want to sleep in.  I just bring these things up so that you can pack with them in mind.  However, they do give out eye masks and ear plugs on your flight over.  House shoes wouldn’t be a bad idea.  The bedroom has carpet, but when you come out for your coffee the chilly floor might be a turn off.

For your vacationing pleasure (and the demands of daily life) we have located all of the following within a quick jaunt:

I am pretty sure we are going to live.  A lot.  Can’t wait to have you here or see you at Christmas, whichever comes first.  All my love to you!

“Remember, Remember…

the fifth of November
Gunpower, treason, and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
should ever be forgot.”

There are fireworks booming outside and I was a little excited about it at first. It felt a little bit like London was celebrating just for Drew and me because we voted. When I researched the 5th of November tradition of bonfires and fireworks, I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to associate with the US election at all. The fireworks are nice, but what a thing to teach your children!?

Though I got off to a bit of slow start this morning, I did leave the recruitment agency search and CV re-writing to go by the bank and purchase a few things for the flat. While I was at the bank, I sat down with a personal banker to discuss the problems I have been having with Barclays–specifically the problem of repeatedly requesting and waiting on a debit card that never comes. (I know you think you’d heard this one. This is actually a separate trip to the bank than the first, second, or third time.) We may switch banks.

Points of interest:

  • For some reason, when you buy a dish-drying rack in London, it does not come with the rubber/plastic mat that sits underneath to catch the water. HMMM?
  • Most Londoners have coats that are either black or grey.
  • In a light drizzle it is not necessary to pull out an umbrella and poke everyone’s eyes out as you squeeze through the crowds.  If you are not carrying a hat, so sad for you.  (Your hair looks fine.)
  • People will stand very close to you everywhere you are.  Put your earbuds in your ears and rock out.
  • Asking for hot tea in a cafe or restaurant is rather dumb.  That’s how tea is always served, stupid.
Today I found my grocery store home.  Those of us that truly have the gatherer instinct know how really helpless one feels until they have identified that place, the mecca, of the stuff they want.  I found a Waitrose right around the corner from our flat.  MMM.  Tofu.
Just so you know, uploading photos with our new internet service is not a picnic.  I have crashed quite a few blog postings lately, hence the spread.  Sometimes I get so frustrated and it gets so late, that I just quit.  For the sake of a photo that I so desperately worked to post, may you enjoy this fuzzy kitty photo.  It brings a smile to my face when I need it.

I wish it was a photo of my own cat, but my cat is not so photogenic, you know, being that he is black and crazy. So, my sister’s family cat will have to do.  What do I miss today? Midnight. Like crazy. Who knew it would be this bad?!

If you are a regular reader, please be sure to check for old posts that you have missed due to our technical difficulties!  If you are not so regular, shame on you, but you won’t know the difference.

Was this what I ordered?

Word of the Day: Sultana

  • A sultana (also called the sultanina or sultani) is a type of white, seedless grape of Turkish or Iranian origin. It is also the name given to the raisin that is made from it.
Today’s Most Missed Thing: holding beautiful babies


Mom, I might invite a few extra folks for Christmas, but the little ones don’t eat much–the pregnant one might, though…  Let’s make extra food!  (Just kidding.) (Ok, well, only sort of…)

On to the news…

Saturday was a bit of an adventure involving calling a moving van, hailing a cab, and rushing over to meet the moving van.  Then we unpacked a little.  Drew got started hooking up computers while I started laundry and light cleaning.
Drew comp set up
 On Saturday evening, we ventured out to Oxford Street to purchase cell phones and grab a bite to eat.  Oxford Street has a little of everything.  We were only able to purchase a cell phone for Drew, as he is the only one with a debit card (nasty face implied).  Then we had dinner at Yo! Sushi.  It’s a restaurant with a neat concept.  You eat at the bar or a table where a conveyor system rotates ready-to-eat sushi right by you.  You may choose any item(s) whizzing by and/or order from the wait staff the hot food or the sushi you want but don’t see.  I enjoyed it.
Yo! Sushi

On our way home we stopped into an HMV to purchase a season of the TV show Firefly.  It was about the same price as seeing 1.5 movies at the theatre, but we will enjoy it a lot longer! You can do the research, but the short version is that it’s supposed to be a sci-fi series that has the feel of a western. Those are two things I wouldn’t have put together, but I am open to the idea…

Sunday, Drew went into work for five hours (plus travel time). I scrubbed the bath tub/toilet/sinks, unpacked, made the bed, dusted, swept, did more laundry, did some dishes, and cooked dinner. Phew!

Monday was a big day. I rushed around to get our write-in ballots printed, filled out, and shipped. Then I purchased a SIM card for a mobile phone so that Drew and I can find each other when we get separated and such. I went to the Post Office to mail a letter and request that our mail be forwarded to our new address. Unfortunately, they are unable to do so seeing that we have no qualifying proof that we were residents there. Relocation pains. I also stopped by the old flat to get something that was inadvertently left behind and returned the keys to Ticketmaster–making us officially residential. As many times as I have said it, I still mean it when I say that I cannot believe we are actually here.

Tomorrow will be dedicated to re-working my CV and submitting to Recruitment Agencies so that I may too enter the working world. I think it will be nice.

We love you all!

Music to My Ears

Oh, Kassi, this one’s for you. (I hope I can name at least one band you don’t recognize.)

Last night Drew and I attended the UK Festival Awards 2008 at the O2.  
O2 Dome at night
The Awards Ceremony was actually held in a smaller venue than the main stadium, called the IndigO2.
Headlining the show was a band called Pete and the Pirates. You can’t see much more than lights, but Pete and his Pirates are pretty good.
 O2 at night
Apparently, a Festival Organizer (that Drew has met and may work with quite a bit) loved festivals so much that he came up with an idea to create an online community for festival planners and patrons so that the tradition could continue. Annually, Virtual Festivals gathers feedback from the community and throws a party.  They give away awards for festival acts, but most of the awards are for festivals.  (They also raise money for music-related charities.  Festival goers vote via the website on things like the greenest, best loo, best ticketing process, and best line-up. This not only promotes the community, but also gives the vital feedback needed to keep the festivals running.

It was fun to be back in the swing of something more normal.  You know, hanging out with people we don’t know, listening to bands we had barely ever heard of…  Cool stuff.
organizers and niz

You are going to want to check out MGMT and The Ting Tings, too.

If you do some research, there is more cool music promoted all over the Virtual Festivals website.

I have packed up almost all of our stuff, washed the sheets/pillows/duvet cover/towels, hung everything to dry, clean all the surfaces, and put all dishes back. I am really feeling a chill that I can’t shake; when I woke up my eyes were swollen and I thought I had my earplugs in. Allergies? I better take a little something and have a nap.

See you very soon. Something in the neighborhood of 50-55 days. Bigs hugs (and kisses to those that require them)!

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
Cath 1
Cath 2
Cath 3
Cath 4
As always, all my love to you~

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.


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.


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.


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.