Borough Market, Whitstable, a Vineyard. The question of context.

Right now I’m in transition. We don’t know exactly when I’ll head back, but it will probably be in about a month. C. will hopefully follow a few months later. With a ton of things to get done but no definitive deadlines I’m a bit at loose ends.

The visa process (for C.) is another uncertainty. The website seems to be a wonderful source of misinformation, so any time I want to get completely freaked out, I can always go there an find ten reasons why our plans will get messed up.

We’re working with someone at C.’s work though, and fortunately after a brief call to the guy today, I feel so much better. And grateful that we’re not alone in the process.

But back to the Things to Do Before Leaving the UK List. Borough Market was at the top.

I also went to a Sussex vineyard (thanks Groupon!), the Yayoi Kusama show at Tate Modern, and to a new seaside town for me—Whitstable—for a walk and to see some short plays.

St. Paul’s from Tate Modern lawn on an unseasonably warm day.

Borough Market loaf. This is bigger than my head. Sad day for the gluten-free visitor.

Nut bread? C’mon. You’re killing me here.

No kitchen should be without goose fat.

Gorgeous views as one’s walking around the markets.

Uber brownies! I would like a badge for not getting one for C. and sneaking a bite with a handful of gluten-ease pills.

Yes!

A bit wilted but still pretty.

Figs.

Still life.

Being a sort of tourist for a year and a half is starting to feel weird.  I’m not quite as excited about the amazing historical thing I’m touring or which fantastic garden or cultural site I visit. Instead I’d like to just have a normal day where I get dressed, go to work, and do something tangible, whether it’s frustrating, exhausting, or productive, and then come home to a place that feels like home. Wanting this makes me feel guilty and dull.

Sometimes there’s the sense of killing time, which can happen anywhere.

Spring in Whitstable.

Whitstable castle, built in 1700’s.

Sun!

Coast.

Last weekend, C.’s two pals and I walked around the town of Hastings after doing the vineyard thing. I expected a big site for the Battle of Hastings (1066! English language changed forever!), but I was told that there’s a town called Battle where they do reenactments, and that’s where the official marker is. Instead there were just some signs basically describing what happened in 1066, who the Normans were, etc.

What was funny was that at the tasting our guide razzed on the French for a while until this lone woman with a classic French accent said “Excuse me Monsieur, but I am French and I do not agree,” about the quality of French wine, and the rest of the afternoon went on in this manner. She was joking and so was he, sort of, but sort of not.

I can’t remember where, but I heard someone say, weeks before, that the closer you get to Hastings the more they hate the French. Well, I wonder if this French woman knew that the wine tasting she was going to was in Hastings.

One of the guide’s jokes about the French even worked the Americans in. (The American in the story was loud.)  Two for one special!

After the tasting we had a walk along the coast and then a nice meal at Pomegranate (killer risotto). Then mini-golf which was fun but freezing.  We chose “Pirate Golf” which involved various water-spirting holes.  It was after dark by the sea. I had clothes for weather about twenty degrees warmer.

“Is getting wet…avoidable?” I asked the ticket guy, in what I thought would be the least likely manner to invite a snarky remark.

“Well you can look at see where the cement is wet and then not stand there,” he replied.

Sheesh.

But back to my point about the outing. I loved being in the vineyard on such a warm sunny day and learning about how they grow their grapes. (The guide was especially interesting and is retired, having previously spent decades working in the lost luggage room at Gatwick airport. I’d say the guy deserves a few free bottles.)

So while I certainly can’t complain about the day, I started getting into a funk during mini-golf which was weird with skulls lighting up and saying pirate-ey things to us about how poor our shots were.

There was this sense of frivolity without the context of work so I kind of felt like it wasn’t deserved or appropriate or something.

Wine in the making.

I know that most people my age would kill to have so few obligations, and so in that regard, I am fortunate. But all told, I would say the hardest thing about being an expat or a trailing spouse is not knowing how long you’re staying or what you’re doing to do next. The problem of context.

Without a clear role and a sense of rootedness and community, context kind of drops out. “Fun” things can feel strange.

And of course there’s a bit too much time for rumination in the middle of a transition. I’m wondering when exploration becomes indulgent. When it is wise? How do we know which “games” are childish and which are childlike?

When is it necessary to leave behind the pursuit of exhilaration, of newness, and fully accept the quotidian, as that too brings a type of joy?  I’m guessing there’s no right answer to any of it.

Hastings coast, dusk.

First Visit to the US

Being back in the US after being gone a year and a half was intense. I was fortunate to get to do so much and see so many friends all at once, coast to coast and all points in between. The AWP conference in Chicago offered a nice meeting point for some Richmond (VA) connections.

I also had a job to do. I needed to scope out possibilities for our recently discussed move back. We’re still gathering information, but we’re headed in the NYC direction. C.’s on his way to finalizing some things on his end for his office transfer. I’ve started looking for work, albeit with a bit of wariness. Hopefully this search will be a bit less frustrating as I won’t have to learn so many new tricks as a relatively old dog.

Snowy Nova Scotia (?) from the plane on a bright sunny day

Only 18 seats taken on our flight over! The benefits of flying on a Tuesday afternoon. Everyone had a whole row to him or herself--ahhh....

We lucked out that the New York office needed C. to come in in early Feb., so I tagged along and visited possible places for us to live when we move.  In between studying train lines, doing a million Google distance searches to train stations and rejoicing in my reunion with Kombucha tea, I managed to score a free ticket to the David Letterman show.

I got in trouble for this actually. We were in line but technically inside the Ed Sullivan Theater. "No Photography!" the girl said and pointed to the sign.

It was sweeps week, so there were all sorts of antics like going to a new savory pie shop in the neighborhood. The big guest was Denzel Washington. I spent the entirety of the show (fourth row, dead center!) terrified that my loaner phone would go off. I felt like I’d turned it off but my phone in London took me forever to get used to. I sometimes thought it would be off but it wasn’t. And the loaner phone was new and unfamiliar. Thankfully nothing happened and Dave didn’t make fun of me on live television. With an unfortunate haircut. Whew.  I sat next to a woman from Wisconsin who was traveling alone in business and we clapped loudly as we were instructed to do, and avoided making the “Whoooo!” sound. (Seriously, no “Whooing!” allowed. Just enthusiastic clapping and cheering. There were about ten interns standing in front of us before the show providing examples of good clapping.)

In our New York hotel home virtually scouting out commuter towns. My dogs were barking after hours of pounding the no-so-metaphorical pavement.

The High Line, NYC. Old railway tracks now outdoor gallery, hang out zone, and architecture tour.

Great, even on a cold day in Feb.

Can't wait to go back in summertime.

C. and I want to live outside the city as he’s always done, so we’ve been researching Jersey. A friend of a friend took me on a driving tour of towns around New Brunswick, and then I took a bunch of trips out with C. and without, meeting real estate agents. (They all seem to rent through agents there, I don’t know why.)  One agent was so hyper that she flew to one appointment while I waited in the office and then the other agent had to leave. They locked me in for about 45 minutes which was not fun! Needless to say we’re not going with them. The next two agents we met were much nicer.

One apartment in a nearby Jersey town has a view of Manhattan from the living room window.

Gorgeous light in this one but a teeny kitchen, creaky floors and someone above.

Our new North Jersey main street...?

A lot of attic apartments in big Victorians. Have lived in a bunch of these over the years.

Neither C. nor I are excited about small apartment living, but we hope to be able to get a little house in Jersey after a while. I’m freaking out about the closets more than anything.  We’ve finally got the standing wardrobe situation here down to a manageable system, and most things have homes.  Going back to two tiny closets for the whole place is going to be a challenge. Plus tiny kitchen.

C. then went back to London for two weeks while I continued on my way, heading to California for a week to see my dear friend M. and her family, thanks to a crazy cheap CHI>SFO ticket.

But first I went to the Chicago ‘burbs to see my most excellent pal Chris and her crew of two kids and senior kitty, who, I’m sure, was fully sick of me by the time I left:

Gene! Love affair spanning 10+ years.

Getting to meet my friend’s 15 mo. old daughter, N., was a highlight of the trip and I already can’t wait to see her again. I’d met Chris’ son when he was 9 months old but now he’s 2 and a half and calls me “Taro.”  He’s really fun and outgoing. When I arrived I got out the little toys I’d been gathering for a few months, and we first tried out some glow sticks. These were too fun. When you bent them, they turned from clear to bright neon, and you could snap them together to make huge multi-colored hoops that we spun on our arms in the dark. We danced like maniacs to music on their porch with the new toys. I gave Gene a pink glow-stick necklace and he trudged around with it on for a while. I am the cat whisperer.

Then to my friend’s in CA.  I’d never been to Monterey Bay. Insanely gorgeous.

Point Lobos, Monterey Bay. One of those places in California that doesn't quite seem real, it's so perfectly beautiful.

When not to take a photo, that is the question.

My friend from IL, B., also happened to be in CA, so we did a little thrift shopping in Monterey. I found a killer Nikita camo jacket for four bucks. B & I used to thrift shop hard in Chicago and other spots way back in the eighties, so it was kinda funny to find ourselves rummaging around again so many years later.

C. and I met up again in Chicago and he roamed the streets while I conferenced.

Downtown Chicago. C. took this.

After another stop at Chris’ where C. got to hang with the kids (and read Dr. Seuss to them in a very stiff accent, which was hilarious), we had a week to kill since we didn’t need to scout towns in Jersey again.  We spent a few days in Galena, IL, a cool little town near the Mississippi preserved, nearly, from the 1800’s steamboat days. Off season, it was cheap and we practically had the place to ourselves.

Then off to central IL to visit relatives. Hadn’t seen some in over five years so it was great to get down there!  Got to meet my uncle’s new dog Bruiser and C. took part in one of his favorite pastimes: target shooting. I think he and my uncle will get along just fine.

So, what’s the verdict then?  All my friends had the same question for C.: Are you excited? Meaning the prospect of moving to the US and working in NY. At first his answer was uncertain, but as we traveled around he seemed to get a bit used to the idea. He’s threatening to do a BPRB version of his own called Dull Gray Long Underwear from our new New Jersey haunt.

I’ll leave you, for now, with C.’s Zoolander imitation.

Is there more to life than being really, really ridiculously good-looking?

Possible move back to the US

With a bit of trepidation and a lot of research to do, we are looking into an opportunity to move back to the US.  I’m excited at the prospect of driving, going to Target (will shamelessly admit this), and eating out without feeling like we’ve broken the bank, not to mention being able to see friends more easily.  We’re realistic though.  While C. will have work, the state we’ll probably move to has massive hiring freezes for teachers.  People can’t even get sub jobs, y’all.  I’m trying to be positive. Isn’t everybody?

The next few weeks will involve queries, the continued processing (hopefully) of C.’s spousal US visa request, and, if we’re lucky, maybe a bit more clarity on where we’re headed.  Since I don’t know where we’ll be living in the coming months and I’m busy with research, I’m not looking for work at this time.  It’s strange to have no idea where we’ll be, and what I’ll be doing.

On a visa note, those of you who may have gone through this wonderful process may have had experiences like ours where we filled out the immigrant petition form and they sent a different form back (we hadn’t even been led online to the right one) *graded* in angry red pen.

First US Spousal Visa attempt: FAIL.

I doubt that processing visa applications is fun. As much as I loathe filing out confusing forms, I can’t imagine reading them all day.

A bit of the ‘ole vitamin D always helps.  The other day I met my friend T. in London at the British Museum.  The sun was warm enough at noon to sit on the steps and just bathe in it for about ten minutes.  What a slice of heaven.  And on a London note, if you can do go see the Exhibit on Hajj–Journey to Mecca.  It was incredible and I’ll be thinking on it for some time.

My main concern about being able to move is the house.  Not a good time to be selling.  One young couple who viewed it was looking to move from London as they said things were getting too violent where they were.  I could honestly tell them that most of the violence in the immediate radius is post-pub brawling, so hopefully we’ll get more potentials like those two.

I might be on a brief hiatus while I’m mentally reviewing our options but will post from time to time.  Cheers for reading!

American Humor Vs. British Humour

Brits are famous for their bone-dry wit, and the contrast between American and British humor seems to be a popular topic. I’ve addressed it briefly in other posts, but a further consideration of humor seems warranted, and I’m also going to explore the ever-popular charge that Americans don’t have a sense of irony.  (I found Simon Pegg’s piece after I wrote mine and am very happy to see that I’m not alone in my conclusions.)

First, I’ll toss out a number of varieties of humor, and briefly cover the difficulty of translating one culture’s humor to another.  Types of humor: dry, clever/lofty, slapstick, deadpan, satirical, theatrical/dramatic, absurd, self-deprecating, dark/black, silly/goofy.

Humor is tough to translate culturally.  I could offer many examples of this, but the one I remember most is a story about a German woman that I used to work with at a US public library.  She spoke perfect English, and she often appeared to me as stereotypically German–stoic, serious, well-read and orderly about her work. She was tough to talk to because she just wasn’t a chatty person, and I don’t consider myself that chatty, but in comparison I looked like a sorority girl. Sometimes I would try to make a joke with her but always they fell flat, and she would give me this look like she was worried for me.

Anyway, one day she came up to me all excited and she was smiling–I had never seen her face lit up like that. I realized that in the two years I’d worked with her, I’d never seen her teeth before.  She was holding a Dave Eggers book (H.B.W.O.S.G.) and on the back flap photo was a shot of the author with a dog, accompanying a brief biography and at the end, “This is not his dog.”  This sent my co-worker into spasms of laughter.  I thought it was funny too but not dying of laughter funny.  Still, I was glad she’d found something to make her day, and I thought about how lonely it must be to not be able to be German-funny with us at work.

And at the same time, I myself was American, but there were many instances in which I wanted to make a joke at work but couldn’t because my sense of humor was too dry or dark for a lot of my co-workers.

Which brings me to my point, which is that American humor is varied, even though there probably is a banal, Stars & Stripes generic stereotype.

I often hear that “Americans have no sense of irony.”  This might be true of many, but I guess I hate to be lumped in with this group.  Irony, especially in the stalwart Midwestern town where I grew up, probably saved my sanity.  I will never forget finding Mad Magazine when I was about seven or eight, and thinking “Wow–there are others like me.”  I loved Tex Avery cartoons, comic books, and any other artform that utilized irony and satire.

With the advent of Sesame Street, a whole generation was introduced to an irreverent sensibility at an early age. Granted, this wasn’t the height of sophistication, but watching clips while a nanny in my twenties, I was surprised at all of the jokes for adults.  There’s Kermit the Frog’s News Flash on Sesame Street, the weird parody of an orange performing Carmen’s “L’Amour” on the kitchen countertop.  Not to mention all the inside political and cultural jokes on The Muppet Show.

After the muppets and Mad Magazine, there was Saturday Night Live. SNL rides the shirt-tails of genius sketch comedy like Monty Python, and no one, including myself, would ever question the brilliant delivery of comedy actors like John Cleese.  Still, SNL covers quite a few kinds of humor, and much of it is ironic. Maybe there is a difference, though, in a British sense of irony and an American one?   British humor does sharper and often more clever than mainstream American humor, but non-mainstream American humor can be quite sharp as well.

SNL is one of the biggest icons of humor in America, and it’s sort of been a touchstone, one of those rare pleasures that spans the ages.  I’ve been watching SNL since I was in middle school, if not earlier, and  it’s thrilling that such a show has survived since the 70’s and has given so many talents a start in the business.

The notion of characters comes to mind, American literature and film being very character-driven in the context of the “individual.”   Has this influenced the American vs. British sense of humor?  Would Molly Shannon have created Mary Catherine Gallagher if she’d been born a Brit?  Sally O’Mally?   Would Chris Farley have created his motivational speaker Matt Foley who warns of “living in a van, down by the river”?

Something that an English media studies teacher once said to me about American vs. British culture also comes to mind.  He said that in British coming of age films, the challenge is about figuring out how to fit into the rest of the society.  In other words, existing with the group.  On the other hand, American coming of age films deal with the individual and identity–who is that person on his or her own, and how that person can be authentic.

Does this affect our sense of humor?   It must.

American humor is often irreverent, perhaps as a necessary antidote to American earnestness.  To start, there’s  The Onion, The Colbert Report, and Bill Maher.  There are plenty of other examples of American irreverence (The Simpsons), and the American political/cultural divide offers no end to opportunities to lambast the religious right-wing.  Irreverence is something we share with the Brits, I think, even if it happens for different reasons.

There’s a lot to love about British humor, and I’ve known plenty of Americans who prefer it.  One of my favorite British sketches is The Ministry of Silly Walks.  To an outsider, this is a comment on the British sense of tradition and  doing things in the right way, especially as opposed to the American notion, which would be to find a new, more individual way to do something.  Since living in the UK I’ve also discovered Mock the Week, which I love, even though I don’t always get the references.

When my husband and I first starting dating, he shared The Oatmeal with me, and hyperboleandahalf.com.  30 Rock, Modern Family, SNL, and movies like The Wedding Crasher also provided common ground.  Darker comedy like Zach Galifianakis and Arrested Development works for both of us, but I don’t share my husband’s appreciation of British sitcoms like Only Fools and Horses, probably as I didn’t grow up with them.  My husband also doesn’t get Seinfeld at all, which still amazes me.  “It’s not about anything,” he says.  (Yes–exactly!)  What is it about that show that doesn’t cross the US/UK divide?  Are there other Brits who like it?

Blackadder Goes Forth is hilarious, and we’re both also fans of Whose Line is It Anyway, which began as a British improv show and then the US followed with a version hosted by Drew Carey.

One thing I’ve noticed about humor is that the sense of being self-deprecating for men seems different.  There doesn’t seem to be a “Don’t Emasculate Me” button in England.  I was shocked the first time I heard jokes that would be considered very emasculating, especially in regard to couples, and an invitation by my husband for me to join in.   I’ve also heard guys make comments about men vs. women (such as joking about men being useless except for their contributions to procreation) that would be viewed as pathetic in the US.

I realize that I’ve only just grazed the surface here.  There are so many different other worlds to explore–Welsh humor, Irish humor, African-American humor, Jewish American….  What we find funny, though, is a wonderful lens in which to view our cultures.

Favorite examples of British or American humor anyone?  …Anyone?

One year of blogging.

So, the blog.  Blogging about blogging is probably like writing about writing, which might be terribly indulgent, but it seems appropriate at the one year mark.

I’m very ambivalent about blogging.  It seems like it would be great–no overhead, a vast potential audience, blog from anywhere. But there are a number of problems.  The notion of writing about one’s life to, oh, everyone on the planet, especially mixed in with all the other noise of the web seems daunting at best.  I much preferred the zine world, where one could write about anything and then schlep the little DIY pub to ye olde zine shop, zine distros, etc.  The zine audience was controlled, so there was some privacy and therefore, maybe more authenticity in the writing.  There’s something also very “Hey!  Lookit me, lookit me!” about a blog, and I’m usually disappointed by the writing in popular blogs.

Still, it’s an outlet.  A few of the virtual conversations I’ve had with folks in the last year have sustained me, mostly other expats telling me that they get it, that they were in the same boat.  (Thanks to you!)    It’s something to do while trying to create a space for myself in a new country.  BPRB offers WordPress practice, and let’s face it, one’s gotta try to keep up these days.

So after a week of two of consideration, I’ve decided to keep on blogging despite not showing up in the WordPress search bar under the name of my blog, which baffles me.  The IT husband can’t figure it out either.  It took quite a long time for Google to find me (months) but I haven’t found anything in forums that indicates that WordPress takes a year or more.

I’ve thought about doing an “after a year in the UK” post, but I think I’d be redundant.  For what it’s worth though, in a nutshell: the house is just about finished, is on the market, and we will possibly buy another that we’ve put an offer on, which is risky without me having solid work.  It seems crucial to be in a less extreme environment though.  The job search continues.  I’m still playing with various combinations of teaching qualifications and always have tons of forms that must be filled out yesterday.  Still do not have the driver’s license, and need to get that.   Am glad to at least be working part-time, even if it is just admin, and earning a few pennies.  Writing some reviews for Medway Broadside, and monthly book chat with the marvelous peeps of the Medway Book Club.

The romantic expat life, eh?   The biggest realization in the last year is that I’m in a weird position being an expat who isn’t with a bit of disposable income.  Those expats and trailing spouses can travel, do local things, and the TS can take afford to take classes if need be.  I’ve found that talking to other expats can be awkward because they don’t understand that I’ve moved here on a shoestring and they usually assume that we’re in a different bracket.

I wonder about taking two steps back, or in this case, about twenty steps back when it comes to work, whether it will make sense in the long run.  C. and I have no idea where we’ll be living in two years, five, ten.  When establishing a house and home is so important, this feels shaky instead of exciting.  I crave a home base more than anything else now, and have learned that I still like travel, a bit of adventure, but want to feel like I have a home and a life to return to.

In early September, I always go back to Rilke’s poem, “Autumn Day.”  (Scroll 2/3 way down for Edward Snow translation, which is best, in my opinion.)   “Lord, it is time.  The summer was immense.” and “Who has no house now, will never build one.”   The summer was indeed immense–an April of sun, and then the endless light of May, June, July.  In fall, a descent, permission to consider mysteries and troubling questions, to retreat.  Sleep so hard we wake not knowing who we are; darkness, and what we might find there.

Oxford and Falconry Visit

C. got a Groupon owl/falconry experience for our anniversary months ago, and we decided to combine it with a weekend visit to Oxford with anniversary gift $$ from my mother.  We found a bargain room at the Holiday Inn Express, which was OK except that I had to sleep on the pull-out couch and C. got a horrible kink in his neck (super soft mattresses).  The weather was cold and blustery most of the time (minus the twenty minutes where we managed to get a few great pics of St. Mary’s), so now we have horrible colds, but I enjoyed the architecture of the colleges, and of course, the BIRDS.

St. Mary's

 

There’s a wonderful place to sit by this college, with old vaults and a natural foods café.  Tons of students gathered for pictures in their gowns, tossing up their graduation caps.  I wondered what it would be like to study here, rushing to an exam while tourists swarmed with their cameras.  I heard a story about Oxford banning students from taking money from tourists, since students wear their capes for exams–excellent photo op and easy money for students.

Tower, St. Mary's

A sign at the bottom of the tower warned us about the number of steps–something like 127. There’s only one set, so those going up have to squeeze by those going down.  The view was worth it, but as I pulled myself up the many narrow, twisty-turny flights, “I’m getting too old for stuff like this” went through my head more than once.

Radcliffe Camera from the tower

All Souls College from tower

On a little street near St. Mary's. Dream life: that I use this door every day to go to work in an office full of books.

Green Man.

A store in the covered market. Think I'll go back for another degree...minor in truffles?

Garden store at covered market.

Christ Church near meadow

FALCONRY & OWLS

Falconry at Fallowfields, Oxfordshire (No long 'i.' Say "Oxfordshurr")

Huge garden on premises. Sorry, but this is so Peter Rabbit....

Some of the raptors here (hunter birds) are rescues, but many are bred in captivity and the falconry centre buys them. This would be the case for birds actually used in falconry.  All the birds seemed extremely well-cared for and loved.

Snowy owl. It's sleepy time.

Not sure what kind of owl this is, but he's clearly in REM sleep. Geez, people, it's not even noon yet!

Me with the UK Barn Owl--one of five kinds of owls in the UK

The other kinds are the little owl, the tawny owl, the long-eared owl and the short-eared owl.  The first lesson in holding an owl  is to choose a tree.  Then, become that tree.  Keeping an owl up on a “branch”–the highest point–keeps the bird from climbing to your head.  (Fun fact: how much does this owl weigh?  8 oz!  Owl bones are hollow and their bodies are super light so that they can fly swiftly and quietly to  their prey.)

C. has a turn

Anthony and trainee.

Two faces of falconry: the blue blood Oxford guy and the rugged country guy.

I want one of these hats (the bird's)

Rewards were strips of meat. Anthony came by and placed them on our gloves and the birds would then land there.

 You know how people look like their pets…?

I think Anthony would take this as a compliment. I know I would.

“A bit fresh” & a few house pics

“A bit fresh.”  That’s how the weather might be described today.  I’ve never heard anyone actually admit that it’s cold here.

But c’mon.  We’re creatures who evolved from warm climes, aren’t we?    Wet cold will kill you.  Which is definitely how it feels today.

It’s mid-June and barely 50 degrees.  Wet.  So cold that I’ve been back from “the shops” as they say, for an hour, and am sitting here in my North Face hat, trying to get warm again.

Mid-June afternoon. Please send multiple parkas.

I think I might finally be getting something about British culture and weather, though.   In the US, wearing skimpy clothes in freezing cold weather is considered silly and unwise.  The precedent to getting sick, which is a waste.  But here, enduring the cold is a badge.  I’ve heard many boast about how little they need to wear in warmer places, while others are donning coats and hats.  C. firmly believes, too, that one should keep the house as cold as possible to avoid any sort of unhealthy familiarity with temperatures above about sixty.

I’ve also heard the phrase “feel the benefit.”  I.e. don’t wear your coat on the train, where it’s warmer.  If you do, you won’t “feel the benefit” when you get into the cold.

Call me a wimp.  Call me decadent, etc., but I don’t want to be cold, shivery, or sneezy.  I enjoy warmth and the sun, and am not afraid of admitting it.  I do, however, enjoy a non-wet cold.  Icy cold, and snow.  It’s sobering.  It wakes you up.  Of course snow is gorgeous too.  I can appreciate a nice, polar ten below day.  But not wet cold.  There’s something about it that instantly makes me feel like I’m going to die, which is perhaps a life-enhancing feature of the human brain, but might be best switched off in England.

What I have heard locals admit is that the weather can be “a bit fresh.”   This, to me, feels like saying that the Sahara is “a bit sandy.”   But this is the closest I’ve ever come to witnessing a weather complaint.

I’m trying to remember what it’s like in Virginia right now, 100 degrees and climbing, when one simply cannot do anything out of doors.  That’s a killer too.  I remember trying to take a walk on one of my last evenings there, and it was like trying to swim in a Jacuzzi wearing four wool sweaters.  Just awful.

I thought I’d also share a few pictures of my neighborhood.   Even the houses look like they could use some chicken soup today.

There’s often a wide variety in how people keep up with exteriors around here.  There are piles of empty glass beer bottles in the windows of the unpainted house.  Very ghosty.

Sometimes I struggle to keep my spirits up when it’s so dreary.  I miss trees, flowers, green.  On the other hand, we did get our carpet in, and it looks quite nice:

The lounge. We put new curtains up--pics coming....

So lounge=living room.  This space is considered quite large, even though it feels a bit small to me.  More pics to come.  Estate agent was supposed to take pics tomorrow for their website, but he had to reschedule, so our deadline for getting things tidy and clearing out massive piles of clutter has been moved up.  A blessing in that there’s no pressure now, but a curse in that I probably won’t get very much done with it today without the pressure.

Murphy is very excited about the carpet.  The ping-pong balls he loves glide across the floor now in the most enticing way, and usually by nighttime he’s ready to curl up with us on the duvet.  He always goes out when C. leaves before 6 in the morning, even when it’s cold and rainy.   He scratches at the door at very odd times, like the crack of dawn and 10:30 p.m., as if he has a scheduled appointment in the alley.  I don’t know how he stays warm, he’s so small, and always comes in wet.   Do British cats have oily fur, like ducks?

Murphy’s favorite spot is right on top of C.’s feet.  C. had originally banned Murphy from the bedroom, and then just from the bed, and then from his side, so of course that’s the one place he always targets.  How do they know these things?

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