Archive for July, 2008

…you must remember that whilst walking home from the station, you are going to have to find that peculiar compromise between walking really fast so you can get home and have a wee, and walking just slow enough that every step doesn’t joggle your bladder uncomfortably.  (Tip: get out your keys a block away from the flat and bless the roofers for leaving the front door of the building open because that puts you five seconds closer to your toilet.)

That said, I had two interviews in London today!  One was with a recruitment agency; they quite liked my CV and portfolio, so now I’ve got two recruitment agencies looking for work for me.  The other was with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games for the position of AutoCAD manager.  The interview went very well, and I would be very surprised if I didn’t hear back from them for a second interview.  I think it would be a damn difficult job, but they didn’t flinch when I told them my asking price, which has added onto it £4,000 for a yearly train pass.

Yep boys and girls, that’s $8,000 a year for the privilege of utilising public transportation for a total of three (!) commuting hours a day.  It’s a bargain, though: when I bought my pass today (which includes not only the train but unlimited access to the Underground) I slapped down £29.60.

Let’s hope a paycheck is soon in coming.


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Any cleaning product with antibiotic agents in them have a warning on the label: “Always use biocides responsibly.” I like this. In general, there is less of an emphasis on antibacterial soaps and cleaners than in the US.  (Also, there’s a brand of cleaning products called “Fairy” which reminds me, for no particular reason, of India’s “Vim.”)

It’s not “vacuuming”, it’s “hoovering.” (This sounds amusingly ’40s to me.)

Francis was shocked at how much of an American’s income is taken by the government, but actually, I think it’s about the same. Here, there’s income tax and NHS taxes, instead of Social Security and Medicare.  The English get more vacation time, though.

We get four TV channels: BBC1, BBC2, ITV1 (3 on the remote), and BBC4. I don’t know what happened to BBC3. There are many fewer advert breaks (a.k.a. commercials) than on American television, and Francis tells me that this is because of the TV tax, which is used to support the BBC. When you buy a TV, you pay a tax.

(From a cat food ad: “At any age, it’s ever so scrummy!”  Whaaaa?)

English television is much racier than American television: at night you will hear all sorts of swears that are normally reserved for cable. Also, you will see boobies.  And there are off-colour jokes pretty consistently.  If you know me at all you will know that I don’t mind this.

Folks here are NUTS for real estate-themed programmes. There are shows about people buying houses, selling houses, people who are looking for vacation homes in various European countries, etc. They also love shows with auctions in them: there are shows where people shop for flea market items, then have a competition to see who can re-sell them for the most profit.  There is even a show involving real estate auctions!

Instead of the housewives’ talk show The View, they have something called “Loose Women.”  I asked Francis if the phrase had the same connotation here as in the States; he said yes.  There are some pretty odd marketing things around, including a car insurance website called confuse.com, which just seems like a bad idea to me.

The school girls’ skirts are so short that they are a teeny band of plaid fabric barely covering their bottoms.  I know I’m getting old because I feel like telling them that they can’t leave the house like that, young lady, and if I catch you smoking there’ll be hell to pay!  All the school kids wear uniforms.  They’d probably hate me if I told them how adorable they look.

Most of the sidewalks have a little drainage trough in the middle, which if you aren’t looking out for, makes you lurch a little when you step into it.

The post office is just like an American post office, with long lines and jaded postal employees.  However, instead of having a machine that prints out a sticker with whatever postage your letter requires, they have to go through a booklet and pick out individual stamps.  They stick them on for you.

There are quite a lot of foreigners here; you’ll hear a variety of languages on the street.  Lots of Poles.  It makes it seem even more exotic, compared to homogenized Portland.

Kitty-corner from our building, there is a DVLA licensing agency, which is the equivalent of the DMV.  Frequently there are pimply-faced teenagers popping the clutch (they learn how to drive on stick here!) and turning corners at a snail’s pace, all the while grinning like Cheshire cats.  They are unnerving and darling at the same time.

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As of 8.30 this morning, B. has a little sister!

All went well; momma Ann and wee baby happy and resting.

Ann told me that a month or two ago, B. was sure that the baby was going to be a girl.  When Ann pointed out that it might be a boy, B. waved her purple magic wand over Ann’s belly and said “Don’t worry mummy, I’ve magicked the baby and now it’s a girl.”  Then she announced that the baby’s name was Sprinkles.

Happy Birthday, Sprinkles!

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Me and Francis in Gainesville, in Mom’s yard.

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I can’t believe it’s July.  This is ridiculous.  It’s 13° (that’s 55° to you American peoples) and raining and gusty.

I’m wearing wool socks and slippers and a sweatshirt.  My nose is cold.  Hot soup sounds good.

We had one day a couple weeks ago where it was actually a little too hot in the sunshine.  That day, Francis and I went to my new favorite park and found my favorite new tree: a huge English oak surrounded by a ring of ten-foot oak babies.  It makes a big, green, sweet-smelling room, and it’s in a very quiet part of the park.  Lovely and magical.

Wish I were there now.  In the sunshine.  Feeling too hot.  With a the boy and a beer.

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B. turns 3.

Saturday was Francis’s niece’s third birthday party.

There were numerous lovely friends and family, including several adorable children.  There was a very sweet and energetic dog.  There were balloons, and presents wrapped in varying shades of purple.  (Purple is B’s favourite colour.  Once, after I’d drawn her a brown pony, she said: “It’s a very lovely pony, but it would look nicer if it were purple…”  Very diplomatic and well-spoken for a child not-even-then three, no?  Francis once heard her intone: “All things must be purple!”  And you have no idea how charming these things sound when spoken by a small, blond, blue-eyed English child.)

There was a beautiful table crammed full of sweets and baked goods (Ann, B’s mum, said she’d been baking for the entire previous day, and had gone through kilos of flour and sugar), including but not limited to: cupcakes decorated by the birthday girl, purple-frosted cookies, er, biscuits in the shape of butterflies, red-frosted biscuits in the shape of hearts, little varicoloured biscuits that tasted delightfully of anise and orange peel, scones, fresh strawberries, teeny sausages, tea, Pimm’s with lemon and mint, and a gorgeous cake decorated with pinky-purple frosting and white chocolate sweets.

Holy sugar coma, Batman.

There was also a trip to the park, where B. ran through the sunshine clutching a magic wand, and danced ballet under an oak tree.

All very satisfying.

Remarkably, there were no spats among the children, despite there being presents for only one of them and rather close quarters and an inordinate amount of sugar consumed.  In fact, one lovely little girl (dressed all in pink) carefully picked out a tiny purple biscuit and handed it to B. (dressed all in purple) before selcting her own pink one.  So sweet!

B. said thank you to each gift-bearer as she opened each gift, and was heart-breakingly shy when sung Happy Birthday by an entire room of people.

Francis was granted the most lap-time out of anyone, and I got not one but TWO huge, spontaneous hugs.  Heart is melted.

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Food blog!

I started a food blog!

Because, you know, I needed to add something to my already-full plate.  Get it?  Get it?

It’s here: Nom Nom Nom.  (There’s also a link in the sidebar.)

I’m looking for folks to share their own inventions, new discoveries, the delicious and unusual, and the old reliable standards.  Please email me and I’ll make a post with your recipe in it!

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