Monday, December 17, 2012

Barnacle Bill

Last Friday, my sister-in-law and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous winter weather and head out to do some Christmas shopping for handmade curiosities in quaint, countryside shops.

Just kidding! It was pouring rain and the sun didn't come out and we went to Ikea.

I had to pick up some decor and plates and flatware and serving dishes and basically everything because Fr. In-Law doesn't want to host Christmas dinner after all and everyone else in the family decided it would be cool for us to host it. 

So I bought all my gear  and we went back to my sister-in-law's place to decorate her tree and get her house looking spiffy for the holidays. Mission accomplished, her tree looks awesome. After all, I have to get my tree-jollies from other people this year. I'm okay with that.

Anyway, after many hours of hard holiday graft, the Agent came to pick me up and we made our way back home. Too tired/lazy/whatever to stir up our own meatless dinner, I finally gave up on my post-baby moratorium on fish and chips and suggested it. Because a) in the village, that's the only take out you're going to get anyway and b) Englishmen never say no to fish and chips. Win-Win.

Our local chippy is called Barnacle Bill's. Barnacle Bill is both awesome and hilarious. He's always talking about weird village gossip and politics and won't tell you his real name. Or won't tell me anyway. I never have any idea what he's talking about. I just smile and nod because he makes delightful non-soggy fish. You'd be surprised at how often fish and chips are soggy. It's gross.

Last time I saw him I was still pregnant. When I waddled in to collect our Friday usual, he says to me…

"You know me' chips have sent off women in the village before!"

Yeah, ok Barnacle Bill. I seriously doubt ye' chips are gonna send me into labor because I'm not due for three weeks and everyone knows first babies are always late and also they're just chips and can I please have some tartar sauce thankyouverymuch.

We went home, had our tea (which incidentally means dinner,  a cup of tea and also afternoon tea in the UK, so don't get confused!) and I told the Agent about Barnacle Bill's latest round of crazy. We laughed about it and then he very soberly reminded me that I wasn't allowed to go into labor anyway because he was leaving for a secret mission early in the morning.

And then I started having contractions.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cultural Adaptation

Yesterday I needed to go to the post office to put a box of Christmas goodies in the mail to the good ol' US of A. I packed up the box, wrapped up the baby, wrapped up myself and trotted out in the cold on down to the village center to take care of business.

When I got there, the post office was closed. Because as we all should know, on Wednesdays everything in the village closes at noon. Everyone else knows this instinctively because all of the other residents have lived here forever, as have their parents and grandparents etc etc on back until probably the Roman occupation.

I was pretty heated. Major irritation. Mind you, not because I had to walk to the post office, or even walk in the cold, or walk in the cold with a baby...and not even because the post office was closed at a completely unreasonable time in the middle of the week.

I was mad because I would have to get in the car and drive three villages away down to the next post office.

Three! Whole! Villages!

Mind you, it would've been like a ten minute drive and less than 5 miles.

But it was still three villages and I was just NOT going to do that.

I guess I just might be getting used to this place after all.

But maybe not, because I still throw a minor fit every time I do the dishes by hand or hang up clothes on the line. I mean really, how are the clothes supposed to get dry a) when it's raining or b) when it's so cold that they'll freeze before they're dry? Hmmm????

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Some Holiday Cheer

When I packed my life up and moved over here to marry the Secret Agent, I didn't pack up all of my Christmas decorations and awesome vintage ornaments and all that jazz. Obviously.

So needless to say, I was feelin' pretty sour about not having a Christmas tree. And I made sure I acted as a travel agent for guilt trips every time we saw trees for sale at any retail establishment...not that we'd have a place to put a tree, but that definitely didn't stop me from laying it on reaaaaaaaaaal thick.

I thought that I had maybe taken it a little bit too far when I started saying how beautiful the trees looked on some BBC Christmas special when the Agent just got up and left the room in the middle of my sentence.

Um, wow. Okay. I seriously crossed the line.

But then he came downstairs with this sweet little thing:

Yes, I'm repeating from Instagram. Don't act like you don't!

Turns out he and my mom conspired fix up this little faux battery powered tree. Mom hot glued all the little lights and ornaments on and then the hubs smuggled it back in his luggage. I have the best family.

So then the Agent gets out his Leatherman and I start freaking thinking he's going to destroy my precious mini tree. He kindly tells me he's going to wire it so we can plug it into the wall and not use a zillion batteries from now until Epiphany. Wise man! (Oh yes I did....)

So as he's tinkering I  say, "You know how to diffuse explosives don't you...?"


"you aren't allowed to tell me, are you?"

Agent says: "Yeah, something like that. Now if you would please take our daughter out of the room- this thing is either going to work perfectly or explode."

Friday, December 07, 2012

7 QT: A Very English Holiday

1. This year we're staying in the UK for Christmas. It was a tough decision for all, and by all I of course mean only me because I'm kind of a selfish brat and viewed it as an affront to justice that I wouldn't get to see my family over the holidays. Even though we spent Christmas with my family for the past two years. See? Major Bratitude.  However, I was an emotional terrorist played major hardball and bargained that I would stay and mostly not pout about it if I could go home at Thanksgiving. For a whole month.

2. I do have to say that I'm actually kinda looking forward to having a big family Christmas here where no one is trying to kill each other. You see, my husband's family are basically kindly Hobbits from the Shire with not a single contentious bone in their bodies, whereas my extended family are the Hatfields and McCoys. Ah finally, Christmas without a flak jacket…

3. There is one thing standing in our way though….SPACE. Since this is Europe, we basically all live in dollhouses so nobody has room to host a Christmas dinner for 20+ people. Or even 10 people. Except for the priest in the family, who lives in a giant Victorian mansion-presbytery from the days when priests got to live in mansions with 10 bedrooms and 4 floors and servants quarters and a special room for a pool table. It's funny because I'm not even kidding. But he's not playing ball, so we're kind of in a jam. So if you could, please pray that Fr. In-Law changes his mind, otherwise my Christmas will look like this:

Drunk, alone, in PJs all day, watching infomercials with a tissue paper cracker crown on on my head a la Bridget Jones. Can we please avoid this? Kthanks!

4. That aside, I'm having wild fantasies about what I can cook for our potential-big-family-Christmas dinner, constantly mulling over what fantastic American culinary specialities I can force them all to try. Because sweet baby Jesus knows that I am not going to eat bread sauce (blech) and mushy boiled brussel sprouts (double blech). What's your favorite thing to cook for Christmas? Do I feel a link-up coming on….??? I hear they're all the rage these days.

5. Can we just talk about how cold it is y'all? I'm dying here. Until this afternoon I hadn't actually left the house all week. Too cold. And dark. Like the sun sets at 2pm dark. I was wondering why I was starting to feel cranky, sad, and short fused. Luckily my sweet husband sensed the impending stir-crazy meltdown and took me out for coffee and scones at our favorite fancy country hotel. Yum. 
6. Speaking of the cold, my skin never does very well in winter. Does yours? If so, don't tell me because I'll be terribly jealous of your freak-of-nature-super-model-good-skin fortune. If not, let me let you in on a little secret! Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream. Don't be afraid because it's called "Cream". It's   light and lovely and silky and super hydrating. I'm talking make your face feel dewy and perfect kind of hydrating. So hydrating that the Agent touched my cheek and said "Your face feels kind of like our baby's butt…. I mean that as a compliment".  And (almost) best of all, you only need a tiny bit of it for your whole face- the small jar does me just fine through all the cold months, which are many since I live about 15 miles south of the Arctic Circle.  It might be my favorite skin product ever, which is saying something since I've tried approximately all of them (except for the reeeeaaaallly expensive bee venom and other crazy ingredient ones). So ask for some for Christmas. Or just buy it yourself. Whatever. You won't be sad.

7. I was feeling extra bold today so I decided to try on my two biggest pairs of pre-baby pants. And guess what? THEY ACTUALLY ZIPPED UP.  I'm not saying they looked good (they didn't), but they went on and zipped up and I didn't have to lay down on the bed and inhale or do the pants-dance to get them on. Which then inspired me to try on my real wedding ring, which I haven't worn in many many moons. And you know what? IT FIT TOO! I had been wearing some rings which were an anniversary gift (originally sized to fit my right hand…) as a wedding ring, but now I can wear the real deal. I am so happy. Looks like my mediocre attempts at weight loss have been a semi-success. Only 23 enormous pounds to go. Wish me luck.

Bored yet? If not, go see the Quick Take Queen for more.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A Royal Mess

I'm pretty sure that everyone knows that the Duke and Duchess are expecting their first child. How exciting, a royal baby!

But then I realized that I'm going to be subjected to an absolute societal obsession with the bump, the maternity clothes, the expensive prenatal pilates and holistic treatments, the OMG doesn't her hair look fabulous (as if we don't get enough of that already), the speculation on names, the OMG doesn't she look flawless she hasn't gained any weight! , the sex of the baby, the birth, the Christening, the royal nursery, the education….on and on and on until oh, approximately forever.

It makes me feel kinda sick and I'm just not quite sure I can deal with it.

Apparently it's all making Katherine quite sick as well, as we learned that she's been hospitalized with hyperemesis gravidarum, which as you all probably know, is a terrible terrible variety of morning sickness in which you hurl your guts out all the time, can become dehydrated and lose weight. Even your own saliva can send you running for the toilet. If you're lucky, the symptoms should ease by week 20. If not, you could be sick until the baby comes out, and maybe even a bit after.

It's really horrible. I know, I had it. I'm so glad the Duchess is getting the treatment she needs. She fortunately has resources available to her that allow her to be treated by the finest physicians in the land in only the best of hospitals (private, of course). Other new mothers, like myself, aren't so lucky. The subject seems to keep popping up in Twitter conversations I've been having lately, but 140 characters just hasn't been enough to even begin talking about our dealings with the NHS.

It started when when I got pregnant, well, I guess after my first awkward conversation with the GP about whether it was "planned" and how I "felt about it" and whether I wanted to "keep the pregnancy" and how "we really must sort out your contraception next time".  After all that, when I first mentioned to the midwives that I was feeling inordinately sick, they actually laughed at me and said, "Love, if we had the cure for morning sickness we wouldn't be working here. Try eating some crackers". As if I hadn't thought of that before. Unfortunately they made me puke. But so did everything and nothing, and I continued to throw up blood and bile all over everything until about halfway through my pregnancy. 

At one point I called the doctor, who told me that I should see the midwife, but I insisted on being seen. He then told me he couldn't diagnose HG because he couldn't confirm if I had lost 5% of my body weight since the midwives neglected to weigh me (and they didn't, ever, for my whole pregnancy). He also said he couldn't recommend any medication, which I thought was odd since as a non-health professional I can think of at least three anti emetics off the top of my head.

Then I had to fight for my ultrasound. You see, when you are granted a non-GP appointment, they notify you by letter, telling you when and where to show up. My letter came when I was in the US for Christmas, and the appointment came and went without my knowledge.  The hospital was reluctant to reschedule me.

Then I got kicked off of the midwives' service altogether because we moved and no longer lived in the correct post code. We had to re-apply to be admitted to a new doctor's office in the correct zip code; in the mean time I missed 3 appointments with the midwife. Of course, once we were admitted to the doctor's service and I finally turned up for my way overdue midwifery appointment, I was scolded for neglecting my prenatal healthcare. Go figure.

I had a normal delivery in July. However, the midwife who did the post-labor "clean up" (ahem stitches) forgot a few bits. When I complained of soreness at my 12 week post labor check,  the GP confirmed that I had an unresolved birth injury and referred me to the hospital OB/GYN team. I'm still waiting to see them.

I was also been waiting for treatment for postpartum depression, but again missed my appointment letter because I was out of town and was summarily discharged from their service. They offered to re-list me for treatment at the end of the list without having to see my GP for another referral (another 18 week wait), but then the lady on the phone said "oh, but I see you were referred for self help. Would you like me to mail you the pamphlets?" I'm sorry, but why do I need a referral and to suffer a four month + wait for DIY worksheets? Couldn't I just order a book from Amazon or something?

And then there was the tongue tie. Oh, the tongue tie. To keep a long story short, every health care professional we saw for our baby girl's first 3 weeks of life kicked the can down the road on who was supposed to help us. We finally got a referral to have our little girl's tongue tie fixed, only to be told that there was a SIX WEEK WAIT. Friends, a six week wait is completely unacceptable when your child is STARVING. The poor little thing lost so much weight that she was hospitalized, and you're telling me I need to wait SIX WEEKS to have a cheap and simple procedure completed so she can EAT?! That is shameful. I was so enraged that I spent the afternoon on the phone hunting down a private physician who would see us. I finally found one. Two days, £100 and a 100 mile road trip later, our baby could nurse.

I really wish that this sort of thing was the exception and not the rule, but I'm afraid it doesn't seem to be. A friend of mine was diagnosed with PPD; she waited 5 months for treatment and still suffers because she was only allotted six appointments and was then discharged. One of my in-laws waited six months to have his skin cancer treated. Another family member is desperately mentally ill. He is practically debilitated. He has never seen the same doctor twice. None of his physicians can agree on a diagnosis or medication. He has been bounced back and forth for over two years with no improvement and no steady course of treatment.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but there has to be something better than this right royal mess.

Friday, November 30, 2012

7 QT: How Not to Fly with your Toddler

We made it back to the village on Tuesday after a pretty intense 20 hour transatlantic slog.  It was much easier this time since I had the Agent with me to help, but  I am just here to say it is never easy with a baby, or when you miss your connecting flights, or when everyone assumes that the incessant screaming coming from the adjacent toddler is coming from your precious non-screaming angel. 

See? Not screaming.

So what upset our fellow mini passenger so? It could've been that….

1. He was already exhausted from a full day of flying. They connected from somewhere in South America.

2. His parents didn't even try to put him to bed for the entire duration of the flight.

3. When he started rubbing his eyes and crying or exhibiting other signs of tiredness, his parents would actively try to keep him up- they would put headphones on him and put a movie on, offered him a snack, etc. No sleep for you, Junior!

4. He didn't have anything to eat except for chocolate and cookies.

5. His mom kept giving him baby bottles…full of Sprite. 6 whole cans of Sprite (that I counted), until the flight attendant cut her off.

6. He started puking from the massive sugar overload.

7. And his mom didn't change his vom-soaked clothes. Come to think of it, I didn't see a diaper change either. 

All on a 9 hour flight.

I hope you weren't feeling like a bad mom today. If you were, cut it out and give yourself a gold star. Or a mother of the year award.

Go see Jen for more of this week's highlights.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Better Late than Never: What I Wore {T-Giving}

Breaking the blog silence from the great state of Texas. Hallelujah, right?

Thanks to Grace & Anne for shaming me (in the nicest way, of course) out of blog hibernation- so now that you know that I am completely susceptible to peer pressure, don't go suggesting I try anything crazy like hi-lo hemlines, ombre hairstyles, or paleo diets. Promise? I knew you would.

What I Wore to Thanksgiving Dinner:

Chambray-esque top and coral (ahem) skinnies both from Target, keeping me semi-trendy in my slightly larger post baby shape. Tory Burch sandals from Nordstrom.

Do you like my new "low lights"? Or, as I like to say, practically brunette locks with copper accents? Yeah, me neither.

This Texas adventure is sadly almost over. We're back to the UK on Monday. Sniff sniff. And just in case you were wondering, I wholeheartedly do not recommend taking 3 month old or 4 month old babies on long haul flights.

...wait...did I just say my baby was four months old?! Gahh...

Go see Grace for more fabulous fashion. 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

A Very Important Detail

Which is: we are no longer homeless.

It's been a few weeks since we moved into our new home, but much of that was spent cleaning, waiting for an internet connection, unpacking, waiting on an internet connection, trying to order new appliances and waiting on an internet connection.

Strange priorities? I think not.

The last house thoroughly traumatized me and I will definitely never ever ever understand the British cultural aspiration to own a very very old house. Please give me something new and shiny and watertight and not full of damp and mold, thanks.

...which is exactly what we got. We moved into a remodeled 1970's bungalow (very undesirable by most locals' standards), but I don't care because it's new and shiny and watertight.

With a UTILITY ROOM! and a bathroom....DOWNSTAIRS! Each a holy grail in terms of home features here, to be sure.

We're in (yet another) new village. Smallest yet, but I  keep seeing ladies walking with strollers so perhaps I won't be too isolated. However, this will require me to go outside and stop creepily peeking out the window. What can I say, I'm a little bit of an introvert.

In other news, there was this thing last weekend/this week called "the Jubilee" where everyone got a four day weekend and pretended to be very patriotic. Now that it's over, we'll all go back to watching nightly specials detailing which boring village the Olympic Torch went through today.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

You want me to WHAT?

One of the things that people back home are most curious about is the health system here.

...I will tell you that it is not as bad as the gulag infirmary that lots of Americans fear it to be (even though my local GP office does look like a POW camp. But that's a story for a different day.)

...But I will also say that it is not the magical fairy system of endless virtue with unicorns and peacocks, where all doctors are brilliant saints who look like Patrick Dempsey- which is what you  might think talking to many Brits.

I like knowing that I can get a next day or same day appointment if I'm sick. I like the minimal paperwork.

I dislike the constant obsession with my drinking habits (I have been asked on more than one occasion when was the last time I got so drunk I blacked out. Um, never?!). I dislike having no choice of provider. I'm a little bit afraid that I'll get to the hospital to deliver the baby and they will tell me that they're closed and not taking any more patients. Sorry, drive to the next nearest hospital (an hour away). I'm also a little bit afraid of delivering the baby by myself, since if you are in the hospital they technically don't have to provide a midwife to attend to you during labor.

But most of all, I dislike that they want me to pee in this:

That thing is TINY.

It's just not fair. Or realistic. But it's a little bit funny.

Oh yeah, and I'm supposed to recycle it. As in, bring it in full, take it home empty. Repeat for next appointment. Kind of gross. And kind of a cheap and unnecessary cost cutting measure. Surely something a little bigger wouldn't be too much more expensive?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Home & Away

I think my mom could feel how tired of being cold I was, so she bought me a plane ticket to go back to Texas. For a month. Please accept "I was too busy gorging myself on enchiladas and sunshine" as a valid reason for not posting.

I came back to the UK all happy and refreshed only to walk into the garden of our new-found cottage to find the big apple tree, split in half and laying across the sidewalk going up to the front door.

We went inside.

Funky smell.

We walked into the living room. Even more funky smell.

And sagging ceiling.

...and standing water.

And.... jeez. louise. Please dear soft tiny baby infant Jesus don't tell me this place has a roof leak.

But oh, it does.

We called the landlord who informed us it might be kind of hard for him to deal with it since he has to see a doctor about his knee (or something). I'm not sure how that would prevent you from calling a roofer or repairman or SOMEONE please ANYONE, but you know, this is England, it's the country and what do you expect?

The roofer made his way out a few days later and pointed out all of the places in the house which had a damp problem (i.e. almost everywhere). I asked him how long water had been coming in. He said at least a year. So the insides of this house are rotting and moldy and somehow, someway the landlord and any previous tenants didn't seem to notice water coming into the house every time it rained.

At least it makes sense now why the Secret Agent and I both had trouble breathing in the house. A mold and damp infestation.

And then the midwife told me that it was a bad idea for me to be there, being super pregnant and all. Then she said that the baby couldn't live there because it's way worse for a tiny small person to be exposed because then they'll develop asthma and every other horrible disease known to man. As if standing water wasn't enough to get me to leave.

So now we're kind of homeless. No word from the landlord, but we have to tell him we're moving out.

Hopefully he'll be reasonable.

And hopefully we'll find a new home, preferably before I go into labor.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blog Tag!

Well, color me excited- I've been tagged by none other that Mrs. Patton herself for an exciting game of blog tag. Get ready for probably more than you ever wanted to know about yours-truly.

These are the "rules"... 
1. The first rule is to post these rules. (Check.) 
2. Post a photo of yourself and 11 things about yourself/your life. (Photo on the sidebar, you can live with that, right?) 
3. Answer the questions set for you in the original post. (Check.) 
4. Create 11 new questions and tag people to answer them. (I'm breaking this rule. Anyone who I would tag has already been tagged.).

11 Autobiographical Points
1. Even though I wasn't born there, I will always call Texas home.
2. I met my husband on the internet. No, it wasn't on E-Harmony and yes, it freaked my parents out a little.
3. I planned my whole wedding by email with a wedding planner I'd never met.
4. My mom is an insanely gifted seamstress. I wish I made her teach me everything she knows,  but I didn't. I'm guessing she gets a lot of enjoyment from my frantic sewing project emails.
5. Now that I live closer to the Arctic Circle, fewer people ask me if I'm a natural blonde. I am, but I secretly want to be a redhead. 
6. I have a major addiction to Greek yogurt. And Nutella. But not together.
7. My favorite part of BBC programming? The tranquil sound effects they play when there is downtime between shows.
8. It took me a long time to realize that here, pants=underwear. Now I know why the ladies at the dry cleaner always laughed at me when I asked to pick up my husband's pants.
9. We're having our first baby. It will allegedly be here in July. Hooray!

10. The child compels me to eat oranges and lots of foods with tomatoes. He/she hates chicken.
11. I make my own laundry detergent. It's awesome.

And now for Grace's questions:

1. Age: I have been alive for a quarter of a century. 
2. Dream job?: I'm living the dream. I don't get paid in cash-money, but I live in a beautiful place, I get to cook/bake whenever I want for a husband whom I adore, and I have lots of time to read. Though the last part will probably change come July.
3. Favorite blog: tough call! I don't know that I have a favorite, really…but I'm a big fan of the ladies-who-keep-it-real-blog variety.
4. Favorite recipe: mmmm….chicken and biscuits. My mom used to make it when I was growing up and holy cannoli, it's my favorite. It's basically kind of like chicken pot pie, but instead of in a pie shell, you put the chicken mixture in a baking dish and top it with homemade biscuits. Not diet food, at all.
5.  Favorite book: CS Lewis' Space Trilogy. But I guess that's three books...
6. One piece or two piece swimsuit: one piece. always. I'm not comfortable wearing my underwear in public, ergo not comfortable in a two-piece. 
7. Most embarrassing moment: Does all of junior high and high school count?
8. Pet(s) & names?: Caesar. He's a Bichon Frise that now lives with my parents. I miss him so much!!!
I didn't have the heart to ship him as animal cargo. Does that face look like cargo to you?!

9. Specific makeup item I can't live without: I'm really loving Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer. It has more color than a typical tinted moisturizer, but isn't as serious as a foundation and is definitely not as fussy to put on.  And I need mascara recommendations, so bring 'em on!
10. Favorite song of the moment: It's not a new song, but I still love it.

11. Weekend plans: We're moving on Saturday, so I'm unpacking…. and if I finish, we'll go party in the new village. And by party, I of course mean get mediocre take-out and $7.50 pint of Ben and Jerry's and call it a day.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Village Upgrade

Our three hour tour of uber-outer-pretty-much-not-London was almost not worth the 7-ish hours we spent traveling there and back. I say almost because while the Secret Agent was working away,  I spent my three hours eating tasty artisanal bread sandwiches and cake. Lots of cake. And cake and tasty bread are always worth it. Especially when it's bread like this…

I should've photographed the cake, but it was looooooong gone before that even crossed my mind. Sorry, maybe next time.

In other news, we here in the Village have a very busy week ahead of us. The Secret Agent will be busy continuing to defend the Free World and I will be packing up our starter apartment because we are moving to a new village!

Major village upgrade in the works, people. Not only are we moving to a much nicer + prettier village,  but we are also getting this charming little cottage! 

….with a garden!
….and a garage!
….and a functioning hot water heater!
….no dishwasher, but hey, it's the Village. Pick your battles.

Lots of packing for me and more stories, reflections and excellent iPhone photography headed your way.

Friday, March 09, 2012

I Got 99 Problems but Finding a Coffee Shop Ain't One

In our little town, there really aren't many, shall we say, "retail opportunities". It is a village after all, so I guess you wouldn't really expect that. However, I am continually amazed at the plethora of very-particular specialty shops. For example, on the high street (the main road) tucked between the old-lady fashion emporia and charity shops, there is:
  • a hat maker. You know, silly hats for weddings? Fascinators? They've got 'em.
  • a "sheep shop". As far as I can tell, they sell yarn and knitting paraphernalia. 
  • a bicycle shop. But they only sell bikes for kids and uber-fancy Tour-de-France types of bikes that cost many thousands of dollars. Go figure.
  • a traditional Chinese medicine shop. This one really confuses me since the only Asian person I've seen here is the one who runs this shop. I haven't seen any hippies either.

I often wonder how they stay open. Even though we live in a small town in the boonies, it is Britain and that means exorbitant property prices and equally high rents. Somehow they manage, and I guess if I ever take up knitting or silly hat wearing or professional cycle racing, I'll be in good shape. 

Every single other shop in this village is a coffee shop. I'm not joking. There are TONS of coffee shops and they are always packed. I find this especially peculiar since nobody here really likes coffee. As you probably know, this is a tea nation. People will openly tell you that they don't like coffee. Generally speaking, if you ask for coffee at a restaurant, many places will serve you funky instant Nescafe (It's gross. Don't try it.). So why then, are every single one of the coffee shops rammed full of people drinking big cups of coffee and noshing on "American Style Muffins"?

My theory is this: Often times it is cold. It is also often raining. People like to get out of the cold and rain, so into the coffee shops they go. Honestly, the patrons would probably prefer tea but feel ripped off being charged £2 for something they can make for almost free at home, so they order something fancy instead (for £3 or more). 

I think this theory is probably true. I am even more convinced that it's true since I have observed the patrons of said coffee shops almost never ordering real coffee, but hot chocolate or half-strength mochas and cappuccinos instead. It makes much more sense now. However, I am still very curious as to where these people get their money for expensive non-coffee when none of them seem to be gainfully employed, but that's a story for another day.

The Secret Agent informs me that we are traveling to London tomorrow. I was very excited at this prospect since I've been itching for a good wander around town, some museum viewing, and a decent meal out. He then crushed my hopes by telling me that we won't make it to inner London at all, but instead will remain in the suburbs for him to do some work. This means I will get limited wandering and no museums. We'll probably eat sandwiches on the train.

A happy weekend to all!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

I'm Not Walking in the Rain! or, How I Learned to Drive in Britain

It is probably a little unnecessary to begin this post by writing about how much Americans love their cars, but it's true. I love to drive. I love my car. You probably do too! Cars mean freedom and you know how we Americans feel about our freedom.

Before my move, the Secret Agent and I discussed how we would be a one car family. I found this very upsetting. In my defense, it takes a little bit of living here to realize just how eye-wateringly expensive it is to operate a vehicle between the cost of the car (think how much you would pay in dollars, then increase that by 50%, then add 20% sales tax), road tax, insurance, mandatory vehicle testing and inspections and $9.50/gallon gas.

"BUT YOU DRIVE TO WORK!!!!" I would cry. "How will I go places when you are gooooonnnnnnnnneeee??!!!"

I can assure you that these complaints were met with little sympathy and with replies like, "you can walk" or "there's a bus that goes there". When I explained to him just how much it rained in England/how am I supposed to walk, he promptly told me to bring an umbrella. AN UMBRELLA. Heartless man. I kid; he had a point. Needless to say I've gotten every penny's worth of use out of the Kate Spade wellies I invested in before I came.

So in the weeks leading up to our wedding, in an attempt to grant me some of my lost freedom of mobility, the Secret Agent made it his mission to teach me how to drive a stick***.  I learned to drive a manual with my left hand on the wrong side of the road in tiny villages with winding, narrow streets and hills and the world's-tiniest-roundabouts and country lanes lined with hedgerows. It probably would've been a little bit easier if the car we drove wasn't a hand-me-down, French-engineered jalopy whose clutch had to be kicked, stick hand to be manhandled, and occasionally wouldn't reverse, but we got there in the end. 

It got a little more complicated when we tried to add me to the insurance policy and they flat out refused to believe/their computers couldn't compute someone my age who has held a driving license for ten years. 

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, that got sorted, and then I was free to practice and sign up for my not one-but-two driving tests! Because, ya know, I obviously don't know how to operate a vehicle safely if I've been driving for a decade. More on that later.

***I can now attest that taking on a project of such magnitude two weeks pre-wedding is probably not the greatest idea.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Welcome to the Village

I've spent my entire life living in or near major cities. I've never lived more than a ten minute drive from a Target or a mall or more than an hour away from an airport. Never, ever, ever in my life did I ever imagine that I would live in the country- in another country- in England. That all changed when I said "yes" to my then-boyfriend's proposal. Now, we live in a seaside village in the rural north of England.   Before I came here, no one told me that-

  • if you run out of ibuprofen and want to take something for your headache before bed…sorry! The pharmacy closes at 5:30.
  • if traffic made you late, it's probably because you were stuck behind a tractor.
  • if you're getting ready for the day, it probably isn't in the bathroom. There aren't any electrical outlets in there and there's a window where the mirror should be behind the sink. That's a tough one.


  • if you're too lazy to bake your own homemade bread, good news! There's fifth generation baker down the street. She'll hook you up.
  • if you fancy a drink at 11am, that's ok. The pub is open! They might even serve breakfast. No one will bat an eye if you bring your dog, or your baby for that matter.
  • if you really need to get out of town, there's a train station nearby. London is never more than five hours away (except for Scottish Highlands and Isles, Scilly, and the Isle of Man-but that's a typical British exclusion.)

Village life! It's simultaneously charming, quaint, frustrating, and hilarious… and I wouldn't have it any other way. But I wouldn't complain if they built a Target nearby either.