Thursday, February 24, 2011

I've Lost the Plot

Someone asked me the other day ( I think it was my brother) if I had learned any new British words. Generally, it's not the words, but the phrases that I start to add to my daily dialogues. Here, is a very good example of how I have recently 'lost the plot'. Yes, I have lost my mind.

Apparently, the stress of work and moving is taking it's toll. Hence, my wardrobe choice for today is pictured. I didn't notice until I had walked halfway to the train station. How did I finally figure it out? Well, the heels are different sizes and I couldn't figure out why my stride was funny. Yes, I've lost the plot. I mean, seriously? I blame my lack of a sofa and internationl travel. I haven't been on a plane in 12 weeks. It must be withdrawal, right?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Banking Is Better

I have been chastised a bit for my posts that portray things that are different in England in a maybe, somewhat possibly, just a tad... negative light. Therefore, I thought this time I would point out a couple of things that absolutely the States should adopt. Definitely better on this side of the pond. In both instances, it has to do with money.

The first thing is called 'Chip and Pin'. Now it isn't such a novel concept as most of us our familiar with it because of a debit card. You put your debit card in a machine (whether to check out of the supermarket or get money), it reads your chip, you enter the pin and magically, money is taken out of your account. Here in the UK, they have the exact same system for credit cards. Brilliant! No signing of pieces of paper, if your wallet or bag is stolen they can't use it in person and they bring the card reader to your table in a restaurant so your card doesn't leave your sight (that's the photo in this blog).
The second cool thing is personal payments to other people (say THAT three times fast). If you owe someone money - you just get their bank details - it comprises of an account number and a sort code, and you can go online with your bank and just transfer money directly to their account. It is more than brilliant. Seriously. No checks (or cheques), no mailing anything, no going to the bank - just out of your account and into someone else's account. It's fairly secure as well meaning just because someone has my account details doesn't mean they can get money out of my account - only put it in.
There you have it. When it comes to paying for things, Britain is better. Well, at least for now. Just wait until Apple reads my blog and I'm sure they will come up with something cooler. Ha.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Inflatable Companion

Now, now... don't put your mind in the gutter.

Someone had a spectacular idea to save me from sitting on the floor most nights. Meet Big Blue, my new inflatable sofa. Hopefully it will last another six weeks in time for my sofa to arrive. Well, when I actually buy one. Why is it that furniture takes so long?? Actualy, I just hope the sofa can make it through the house warming party. Maybe it's a good idea that the real furniture won't be here in time.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More Cultural Differences

Have I ever mentioned that according to a statistic I heard, the number one expat assignment that fails worldwide is Americans moving to England? Yup, that's right. Since the language is relatively the same, we assume that things are just like home. Boy are we wrong. The differences pretty much drive us batty until we can learn to embrace them.

After numerous trips to the post office, I finally asked the question: What is the difference between a first class stamp and a second class stamp? Do they just put the second class mail into a pile and let it sit there and hang out for a few days at the post office? Think about it - it all goes to the same place and then is delivered along the same route.

The answer: second class stamped mail gets sorted AFTER the first class mail. Apparently, it is a throwback to the olden days but no one has bothered to change it. So- you send your letter via second class postage and it makes it to the sorting center. Then the mail is put into two piles, first class and second class. Then the first class mail gets sorted via route and then maybe if there is some time left at the end of the day, they will sort the second class mail. Really? I'm amazed at the effort. I wonder if Brits think is strange that the States only has one class of postage for the mail. I swear when the Postal Service was initiated they got rid of the class system for a reason. Down with the class system!

Another interesting difference between countries concerns driving licenses. You may recall that I finally passed my driving test - Did I mention that in the Rules of the Road book it says 'the best approach for dealing with snow is to not drive at all'. Sweet. Anyway, I digress. When they give you your license (please ignore the ax murderer picture if you can see it) it comes with a piece of paper as well. Your driving license is both the card and the paper. The reason: if you get a driving infraction, they write it on the piece of paper. So if you get pulled over or another infraction, you have to give them the paper and they can see your infraction. Apparently, the idea of computerizing the points and putting them against your license is still a work in progress. Oh, and did I mention that you don't even have to have your license with you when you drive your car? Yeah, it's optional. You just have to produce it within 5 days if you get in trouble. Strange. Although on the plus side, it doesn't expire until I'm sixy years old. Roll on Granny!

Monday, February 14, 2011

My New Neighbors

If you are reading this post and you are British, yes, it should be titled 'My New Neighbours'. Sorry. I have to write this in American.

I've moved into number 58. Here you can see my skinny front door which barely allows the handle bars of my mountain bike to make it through, let alone the sofa.

To my left, in number 60, they have a boat in their front yard. Reminds me a bit of the States. Someone always has a boat, RV or pickup truck parked in a yard somewhere, don't they? :o)

To my right are the neighbors in number 56 - who have a slighly annoying cuckoo clock that I hear clucking the hour on occasion and number 54, who I haven't met yet.

Just steps away are numbers 52..... and 50..........

And then look who is next! If I thought the river, the train station and the proximity to the castle weren't good enough, now I have a brewery for a neighbor. This post might need to be titled 'No Sir, I Do Not Have a Problem II'. Tucker and I are looking forward to meeting all of our new neighbors.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Front and Center

If you thought bicycles were part of my life...

they are now part of my living room and dining room. The smaller place means getting a bit more creative with where all the bicycles go. I hope my dinner guests don't mind the smell of chain oil.......

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hello and Goodbye

Aside from the plague, I have also been busy getting ready to move. For those that may recall, after leaving the job, I had to leave my subsidized housing. So I moved in with a friend and now that I'm almost back on my own two feet, I've got a place of my own again. More info about that to come.

As stressful as moving is, the happy part is that my bed is back, Yippee! However, the wardrobe is in an interesting place but I'm working on that.

Unfortunately, my American size sofa, love seat and arm chair do not fit in through the British size front door. I'm gutted! My Chicago special that has moved from N. Elaine Place to 424 W Belden and then to Austin, Texas then to Modesto, CA then to England... has finally had it's day. Don't worry visitors...even though the sofa bed didn't make it through the front door, the inflatable mattress did. The doors are back open again for houseguests. And no, you don't have to sit on all the dog beds strewn about the living room/lounge/front reception. I promise to get furniture. Let's just hope it doesn't take as long for a sofa as it is for getting a car......