Friday, August 8, 2008

the end!

The sea shipment FINALLY made it back across the pond. Packed on May 30th, they must have attached a sail to the top of the shipping container and then floated it across the Atlantic to save on gas.

Now we FINALLY have our mattress and box spring (good-bye sofa bed!), a desk for our computer stuff (we can finally hook up the printer), recipes and cookware (see ya later frozen chicken patties), my clothes (a suitcase worth isn't a lot for 2 months), etc., etc.

Meanwhile, our furniture came out of storage, Pat came home, and the air shipment arrived. I think it's safe to say we're done (with the exception of damage claims and taxes). So if you're waiting around for another post, it may be a while—you'll have to wait for the next big adventure!

Monday, June 30, 2008

exit interview

Ok, so now that we're heading back to Cincinnati, it's time to reflect on the good, bad, and ugly...

Q: What do you think you'll miss most?
A: (Jamie) I guess there are quite a few things that come to mind and probably more once I get home. I'll miss the rolling grassy hills, the sheep, authentically old stuff, the idyllic quality of many towns, the reuse of old structures due to new development restrictions, the sunsets (when the sun is out), the absence of roadside billboards, and fewer commercials.
A: (Pat) The flow of the countryside. The historic towns. Lack of puritanical ideas about TV and what is socially wrong to talk about. Absence of mixing religion and politics.

Q: What are you looking forward to at home?
A: (Jamie) Low prices, seeing friends & family, good food, more choices & variety (for just about everything), warmer temperatures, more sun, better customer service, having a dryer, having a garbage disposal, and being a person again. I will no longer be the "wife" or "spouse." Not that I don't enjoy being married to Pat, but come on.
A: (Pat) Have to repeat Jamie in that I'm looking forward to the variety and convenience as well as customer service. But probably most would be our friends and family.

Q: What has improved the most while you've been in England?
A: (Jamie) The laundry process had improved until we got the new washer. I'd been able to make some progress—gentle cycle only, low spin, extra fabric softener, and longer dryer times. Dress shirts and all pants stay out of the dryer to prevent unremovable wrinkles. All-in-all was the same overall amount of time and I still do it 3-5 days a week, but at least we weren't exfoliating with our bath towels anymore. The new washer has no drying capabilities, so it's all drying rack. This means it's quicker to deal with the machine, longer until you have dry clothes, and we're exfoliating again. It does wash better though and isn't as loud.
A: (Pat) Better understanding of how to easily get around. I feel like we suffered through learning about the train system and its quirks only to now leave. Should have added the trains to something I will miss; it makes getting around so easy and reasonably cheap.

Q: Do you have a British accent?
A: (Jamie) Definitely not, but I use the words "sort" (as in "figure out or organize") and "bit" ("thing") more.
A: (Pat) Nope, but as Jamie points out I have picked up on the local sayings and intonations, though I still won't spell color with a "u" no matter how many times the spell checker at work tries to correct me.

Q: Do you feel like you've immersed yourself in the culture?
A: (Jamie) No, but mostly because I don't have to. I work with people in the US, watch US TV and movies most of the time, and am surviving on hoards of US products we brought over with us. Some don't exist here, and there weren't good replacements for others. For example, our experience trying to find a simple bar of soap that worked for us was futile. Apparently, the Brits are into moisturizing big time and the LAST thing Pat and I need is more oil. After many breakouts, we stocked up on 20 bars of Dial on a trip back to the US. Having to find all new brands and products is a whole other adventure I don't really want to deal with. Basically, I'm an American on a long vacation.
A: (Pat) Yes. I spend the better part of my day with all British (aside from the occasional Italian or American). I've had greater exposure than Jamie to just the everyday bits I guess. This isn't to say I know everything there is to know about being a Brit, but I feel I got the whole treatment so to speak.

Q: What was your best purchase for life on the isle?
A: (Jamie) Ooh, that's a good question. I'd say it's a tie between tomtom (portable satellite navigation) and a rainproof, windproof jacket.
A: (Pat) Tomtom, definitely tomtom. Being the designated driver all the time and knowing my patience, or lack thereof, for misdirections, it has been much better for our relationship to have an inanimate object to focus any misgivings. Besides, it's better than Jamie at reading maps (sorry), and I only have myself to blame for entering the wrong information.

Q: What are you glad to leave behind?
A: (Jamie) BT, HSBC, Cigna, stores that close at 5, sinks with separate hot and cold faucets a mile away, and the washer. Happily. The sinks are the stupidest thing ever. I guess they've been handed down from olde, but they haven't evolved at all and are no longer really functional. However, you will find them in virtually EVERY public restroom. Pat says they made sense in the days when you filled the basin to wash up. It's true that every one of these things has a stopper on a chain, but I have yet to see one person fill a sink in a public bathroom to wash their hands.

There are lots of reasons why the sinks annoy me... 1) You have two faucets—one that gets instantly scalding and one that's ice... pick your poison. I've been known to use two sinks in the winter—I put my hands under one hot faucet to wet them. By the time my hands are soapy, it's too hot to go back so I turn on the hot faucet in the next sink to wash off. 2) The faucets are always teeny weeny and barely clear the edge of the sink making it very difficult to actually get your hands underneath without touching the sides of the public sink (ewww).

3) That damn stopper that no one uses is hanging there for you to brush against while you're trying to squeeze your hands under the water (another ewww). 4) The little faucets are so far away that there's no way to get your hands under both at once to even out the effects of the temperature extremes. The moral of the story: pack hand sanitizer.
A: (Pat) Have to share Jamie's dislike for the faucets, but I tended to try to wave my hands back and forth between the cold and hot fast enough that the pain receptors didn't kick in. But by far the thing I am happiest about leaving behind is the really really bad customer service from just about every major entity you have to deal with, phone company, bank, etc.

Q: Would you do it again?
A: (Jamie) It's hard to say but I think I would if the offer was right, however, I'd be a lot pickier now. It would have to be an interesting place that speaks English, not hurt us financially, have a better health plan, not be longer than a year, etc. It would be hard to repeat the set of circumstances that have allowed us to do this comfortably—friends to take care of our house, our cars, and family to take care of odds and ends. I wouldn't do it if we had a pet either—I think a Trans-Atlantic flight would be torture for animals.
A: (Pat) No. This isn't to say I didn't enjoy traveling around Europe and experiencing new things, but the behind the scenes crap I had to deal with, mostly coming from a combination of J&J's inept relocation squad or Deloitte royally screwing us on some of the worst tax and financial handling ever, has made the logistics a real nightmare and something I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

funny signs, part 7

This is the final funny signs (and other miscellaneous oddities) post. I'm sure there are a lot more out there waiting to be discovered, but you're just going to have to come over and find them on your own!

Only in England do you play a sport (aka cricket) in a white v-neck sweater. (I think the guy in the lab coat is the referee)

Only in England do people trust you to pay for parking using guilt alone. (And just so you don't get the wrong idea, this is exceptionally cheap parking.)

Ok, now who in their right mind wants to buy a house on Bad Bargain Lane??

The British really don't like dogs fouling the pavement (aka pooping on the sidewalk). This dog looks mighty proud of the result though. I especially like the steam marks—it's fresh alright.

I'm taking the A 1056 to Wide Open...

...right after getting to Burnmouth.

I'm not sure if Scone Palace is in the town of Old Scone or New Scone, but I'm all for a palace dedicated to a bready treat.

The British have an unending list of other funny town names that we haven't been able to get photos of—Newbiggin, Hornby, Bugthorpe, Sockburn, Bagby, Winksley, and Sandwich just to name a few.

This is where Pat and I'd be without TomTom...

Only France could get away with this one.

Apparently at Versailles you have to be on the lookout for runaway wheelchairs near the stairs...

And you should NEVER take your wheelchair into the fountain.

Monday, June 23, 2008

English Outdoor Art

Like in the US, the British make attempts at sharing artwork with the general population by displaying sculptures and other sturdy exhibitions outdorrs for all to see and touch. While walking into York the other day I noticed something different along many of the walls and all over town than the usual sculptures and historic displays that made me stop in my tracks.

The British National Gallery currently has a painting exhibit going on in York, only it isn't being held indoors. Below is the photo of a real Van Gogh, one of the last paintings he did before taking his life, that is currently on display outside of a church building. There aren't any fences or barricades to keep anyone from walking right up to it and touching it (though since this is England I can almost garauntee that there are cameras pointed at it from multiple locations).

As this Rembrandt shows, the location of the displays are not just on grand buildings, but really most anywhere there is simply space to hang something. This painting happens to be a self portrait of the artist.

As is stated on the placards to the side of each painting, the idea is to bring art into the community as opposed to having it locked up. One thing especially that took me by suprise is that these hang in their places day and night regardless of the weather (it has been raining here a lot lately too). I have to wonder if such a thing could be pulled off somewhere in the US.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Europe and Cars

I've never been the big car nut that knows all about the mechanical and electrical systems, and I couldn't tell you the year of the car simply by looking at it, but I do enjoy seeing them for both their beauty and engineering. While over here, I have had the chance to see how Europeans view autos and their related activities and since today is the F1 race at Magny Cours (France) I figure its about time to make a post devouted to vehicles.

In general the average European car is much smaller than in the US as you wouldn't think of piling 5 people into a VW Golf back home where here it isn't even given a second thought. Now I know people are going to say that the gas here is more expensive and that's why they are smaller, which it is, but the main reason the cars are so much smaller on the whole is the road size, limit of space in general for a 2 ton behemoth, as well as the excellent public transportation, cars simply aren't needed as often and they have no need for them to be big.

When Jamie and I were in Paris, one of the things they don't mention in many of the travel books is that the Champs-Elysees has many car manufacturer stores that show off their racing machines as well as concept cars (past and present). I don't mean the type of car racing that evolved from the prohibition era, turning suped up stock cars into the beer swilling monotony that has become NASCAR, but racing on roads or tracks that actually challenge the driver, by making them turn left AND right, and engineering skill such as F1 or 24 hour races.

These are from the Renault show room:

And here is Peugot's current and former racing machines:

At Toyota they didn't have any of their racing cars, but did have a full blown concept car studio complete with car sketches in a simulated design studio as well as clay models and full size productions.

This past weekend I had a chance to check out a classic car show near by. It was a bit odd as I'm used to seeing this sort of thing in a parking lot somewhere and not on the grounds of an 1800's estate. Brodsworth Hall hosted the car show in one of its gardens, which luckily for me was part of the English Heritage group (meant I got in free). It was mostly full of MGs, Triumphs, some Aston Martins, a couple of Porsches and the odd Rolls or Bentley. They did have one Mustang from the 70's, but as it had a giant confederate flag in the back window I decided to pass on taking its photo (who said hicks were confined to the US?).

And last but not least, my personal favorite. I always liked the style of cars that took their design from a boating metaphor.

This last image is for Jamie's uncle Chuck who is a big Triumph motorcycle nut. This is one of about 20 vintage motorcycles that were on hand, with the vast majority being Triumphs.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Longest Day of the Year

Since we spent so much time moaning about the dark winter months, we thought we should give credit where credit's due. Today, on the summer solstice, the sun officially rose at 4:32am and set at 9:40pm.

It was kind of cool to see this on the longest day of the year, a little mystical in a way, right outside our front window. This shot is from right around 10:00pm.

The whole story can't just be told though by sunrise/sunset times as that only says when can you actually see the sun. I think the more impressive times are when you look at dawn and dusk which is the time it actually is light outside. Today, dawn was at 3:38am and dusk was 10:35pm giving you a whopping 18 hour and 57 minute day.

This photo was taken at 11:15pm and as you can see the sun is still not wanting to yield its reign.

You'll have to forgive me for not waking up at 3am to show you that the sun is trying to come back already.

All this daylight does have some disadvantages though. I hate going to bed when it's still daylight out (probably a holdover from when I was a kid fighting to stay up past bedtimes). And it also kind of sucks when you get woken up by the blinding sun and it's only 5:10 in the morning.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

We wish a very happy Father's Day to our Dads!! We thought you might enjoy this wood carving of flowers more than the real thing. We hope you have a great day... Light up the barbeque and enjoy yourselves.

An extra special "Happy Father's Day" to the newest Dad, Dan. We hope you and Gabe have a great day!