17 April 2007

This and that

We're still getting back on our feet after being gone to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (the GA), and still have Claire at home on her term break, so I can't catch up too much, but wanted to put on a couple of observations from today:

Overheard on the bus

An older man got on with us carrying a couple of bags, one of which had a bouquet of flowers. An woman around his age got on a few stops later and greeted him warmly.

Woman: Oh, lovely flowers, are you going to visit someone?
Man: I'm to the cemetery to visit my wife, thank you. (Said with a great deal of love in his voice, and a smile on his face.)

Observed at the Cafe at the Zoo

England is starting to have the same sorts of obesity problems that are showing up in the US. Here's an example of why:

Lunch for three children:

2 plates of chips (fries, in the US)
1 plate of chips and beans
3 pieces of cheese pizza.


I'll have another post up with reflections from the AGM and more news about how our gardens grow!

7 April 2007

Easter face

We went off on another grand shopping day today. First it was to Kingston to look at sofas, buy some dishes and visit the farmer's market in search of asparagus.

We located our sofa at Marks and Spencer, a everything in one sort of store here in England. For more than we would have ever considered spending in the States, we bought a large sofa that will arrive in their warehouse in a month. It will take another week to two weeks to have it delivered to the house. We laughed when the saleswoman told us, and she was shocked that we would have expected delivery within a week or 10 days back in the US. She chuckled a lot during our interaction with us -- she told us that she found our accents charming, and Claire enchanting. We were amused by the whole interaction, and glad to have a couch on its way to us.

We bought two boxed sets of dishes -- four place settings each. At least that's what they were supposed to be. It turned out that one box only had three place settings. So we'll head back down sometime soon to return it for a full set. We're hopeful that our experiences with customer service don't continue to be challenging, and that the exchange will be handled without any difficulty. Keep tuned to see how it turns out.

The most fun of the day was that one of the mobile phone services had a woman doing free face painting outside their shop. Claire wanted to get hers done and it came out quite beautifully, as you can see. If it seems a bit difficult to tell, it is a bunny face, and she hopped away from the woman requesting carrots.

After a stop at home to drop off our finds, we were back into Richmond for a few last minute purchases. Peter and Claire went off to the farmers market to pick up a haunch of venison for our Easter supper, and I went off to do a little work for the Easter bunny. After finding a sweet mug with cats on it (that came with an chocolate bunny inside), and stoping at the market for a few household items (including picking up some Cadbury mini eggs), we're all at home having a bit of a quiet afternoon.

The house is still in chaos with piles of too much stuff, but we're finding our way through slowly and surely.

Happy Easter!

6 April 2007


It arrived yesterday -- all the belongings that we had packed away on January 19 were unloaded into our small house. Peter and I both marveled that we had thought that we had sold or given away almost everything we had, and still we are overwhelmed by possessions. Right now it's a matter of figuring out where things go and how we find storage for all of what we kept. Honestly, it isn't that much, but spread out all over the floor of the house, it seems like it.

Claire is particularly happy to see all her toys and clothes. She has worn about 30 different pieces of clothing since yesterday afternoon. Every now and then she'll wander out of her room and will have on a different shirt or trousers. Once boxes of her things started showing up in her room, she would upend them and shake out whatever was inside. "I'm never going to be bored again!" she declared to us. If today is any evidence, she's telling the truth. All her beloved stuffed animals are being taught school today, earning stickers and writing their names with lovely handwriting.

Like Peter and I, she slept in her own bed last night. This morning she reported that she fell right asleep now that she's in her own special bed. Hello Kitty sheets and comforter made for the perfect night for her.

I'm overjoyed to have my kitchen back: my favorite cutting board, my mother's cast iron frying pans, my good knife, bowls and US measuring cups and spoons. And my cookbooks. I haven't longed for anything in particular these last 2 1/2 months, but it's good to know that we can make our favorites again.

Another great relief is to have my books and study back. As with everything else, I thought I had unloaded a great deal of my books. In fact, I think I did, but there were more than I remembered I had. Because we didn't want to have to deal with the boxes and paper that everything was wrapped in, the three fellows moving us unloaded everything to the floor after they finished moving everything in. So my books were strewn across the study floor and some are still in the living room awaiting my sorting out. I'll get to it when I finish writing here.

We still have some things to get done -- we don't have our everyday dishes yet, and need a couch for the living room. Still we are feeling increasingly settled in our new home.

Oh, and an update on the television stand. It still hasn't arrived, and since it's a Good Friday the business that is supposed to deliver it is closed.

5 April 2007

News and notes

We're awaiting the delivery of our belongings -- finally they're coming sometime today. When we don't know, but it will be today. So whilst waiting, we thought we'd put up some of our impressions and notes about living here for 7 weeks.


There are an amazing number of song birds here. We have come at the time during which they are establishing territory and looking for mates, but they sing almost non-stop. At almost any time of day you can hear two or three calling out. It's quite lovely.


There are also scads of green parrots that live nearby us. I think they number in the thousands. They're pretty birds, but their squawk is rather ugly. It is odd to see them overhead or roosting on trees nearby.

Customer Service

We are spoilt Americans. We expect that people who serve the public should actually serve the public. Two examples:

*We ordered a television stand from Amazon.co.uk, and missed the delivery. The company put a note through the mail slot that said: "We missed you! We'll deliver on Monday." The word Monday was hand written, so it was clearly intentional. Monday came and went, as did Tuesday, as did Wednesday. Peter attempted to call the company. The number printed on the card was a fax line, though it clearly appeared to be phone line. After finding the real phone number on the company web site, he called and they said, "Oh, we were waiting for you to call. When would you like us to deliver it?" When he asked why it said they would deliver it on Monday, the response was, "Oh, it shouldn't have said that." Huh? Anyhow, we expect delivery today. We'll see!

*Peter made a trip to Ikea and bought us 5 bookcases and 6 chairs and various other items we needed. After finding that they couldn't take our Ikea Family Number manually (which would have allowed us some discounts), Peter finished checking out and went to queue up for delivery. One of the store personnel asked to look over his receipt and discovered that two items hadn't been rung up -- actually, one item had been rung up and then deleted by the clerk. Instead of just getting them rung up, they accused him of stealing, put him in a room while they reviewed the close circuit TV, noting to him that it would be easier if he just admitted that he was trying to steal. Twenty five minutes later, they escorted him (without a word of apology) to a check out to ring up the two items, and again he had to queue up for delivery. Once there, they charged him 5 quid more than he had been told on the phone and insisted on next day delivery (between 8 and 5!), not the 3 to 5 days that the customer service rep had said the night before. Had we not had plans for the next day that would have been preferable, but as it happened Peter had to wait at home for the goods, while Claire and I went off to church and then lunch out with friends. One more note: Three of the five bookcases were missing a peg each, so one is a shelf short. We may never go back.


You're much closer to the actual animals you eat here, and we have been enjoying different kinds of meat than we saw routinely in the US. Our local farmer's market has a butcher stand that has venison, hares and rabbits along with quails, pheasants, pigeons (!) and ducks. We've done a couple of venison roasts (delish, especially the day after with spicy British mustard). We haven't ventured into the hares or rabbits or the interesting fowl, but may get bold enough to do so. There's also a butcher about a block away from our house. The pork chops we bought there came with skin attached. Oh. My. And chickens from the supermarket (inasmuch as there are such things here) come with the lower leg portion attached.

Sticker Shock

Anyone who has traveled over this way knows that prices are huge. Almost everything looks like it should be in dollars, but the exchange rate is nearly 2 to 1, so prices are easily double. For instance, Abercrombie and Finch is about to open a store in London (their first). A sweater that would sell for $49 in the US will be 50 quid here (I don't have the little symbol for pounds -- a quid is a pound) roughly double the cost. Now, it is true that the price you see on an item is usually all that you pay -- stickers reflect all the taxes. Still, it is a costly place to live.

The Thames

It's wonderful being so close to the river. I walk along it at least 4 or 5 times a week on my way into or home from Richmond. Peter walks along it every morning on his way to catch the Tube into work. (He's discovered that there are times that it is faster to walk than to take the bus.) There are all sorts of water fowl to enjoy: herons, Canada geese, comorants, mallards, swans, and these funny little black ducks with a white bony sort of mask. People feed them, tossing great hunks of old bread into the water.

The river is still tidal here, so if you go at the wrong time of day, you can't walk along long stretches of the path by the river. Claire and I were going to walk home along the river one evening after she had a play date with a friend, and discovered the path was totally underwater.

We occasionally see people fishing, but can't imagine eating a fish out of there. It's none too clean.

There are also a fairly large collection of house boats moored nearby. There a motley bunch: some pretty posh, some under construction or covered with tarps.

That's probably enough for now. We are eager to get our things from home so that we can continue to get settled in here. And we are looking forward to sleeping in our own beds tonight.