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.
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.
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.
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.