Monday, March 31, 2008

A Perfect Sunday

Yesterday was my first Sunday I didn't spend scurrying around London shopping or playing tourist. Instead, I did the thing that makes me feel most normal and settled when in a new city: I played softball.

A co-worker at Amazon (who just moved over 10 days ago from Seattle) found a league, and I joined him yesterday for what I thought was supposed to be a light practice and scrimmage. Well, four hours later...we had a practice in which there were drills, and we played a double-header scrimmage. But, the weather yesterday was unbelieveable: so warm, I was comfortable in long gym pants and a long T-shirt. yea! Spring is officially here. I hope...

The team is quite diverse (as apparently all of the softball teams here are): half Aussie, not quite half American, and an odd Brit or other European or two thrown in for good measure. Apparently, softball is a HUGE sport in Australia-especially women's fast pitch. This I learned yesterday.

It's a pretty hard core group of people in terms of their dedication & love of the sport. But, I feel like I'll be able to keep pace and contribute-and perhaps even return to the US with some new skillz. And, the best part: It's a fun group. We had a bbq at someone's house after the game yesterday, and I just had a blast. It felt good to simply be hanging out in someone's home with a beer and a burger, and talking about whatever.

Softball has never let me down: It's how I found friends in Atlanta when I moved there and didn't know anyone. It's how I found friends in Seattle when I moved there as well & didn't know a soul. If yesterday is any indication, it will also be how I find friends here.

It was a good Sunday.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


I just spent 4 hours in hell yesterday. My soon to be roomie and I trekked (and, I'm not using that term loosely) down to Ikea in Croydon yesterday. A tube ride, train ride, and tram ride-and an hour later-and we were there.

The 'shopping' part of the experience only took two hours-an Ikea record, when you consider how much we had to get. Then, as we left to pay, it's like the gates from Purgatory opened up and said 'welcome to hell.' After ringing up our purchases (£750 yikes), since we're both still struggling with the UK Bank thing, and have no UK credit card, Sarah decided to pay with her US credit card. This is where things went horribly sideways. To charge the amount with a non-UK credit card, the cashier had to get approval from the credit card company. So, she called her customer service, who in turn called the credit card. 30 minutes later, we're still waiting for approval. 30 minutes. That was not a typo. grr.

Well, after 20 minutes of it, since we knew we still had to take our haul (bed, bureau, dining table & chairs..) over to the "Home Delivery" section, I set off with the two carts to go queue up and start the process. 10 minutes go by, and Sarah finally makes it over to me. Where, I haven't moved, and have observed perhaps the two slowest workers-who clearly didn't give a crap-in my life. A snail's pace would have been faster. Twenty minutes in line we wait before we're called up, and then 10 minutes later, we're done and are off.

So, in a nutshell, here was a good portion of my Saturday: 1 hour of transportation, Two hours of shopping, and hour of queuing, and an hour and a half of return transport. No wonder the Brits complain about everything-they've got A LOT to complain about. I think my 'American Optimism' may have been damaged a bit yesterday.

Oh, and the worst part? We've got to go back again to get all of the little things (outdoor table, lamps, rugs, etc...) that we didn't have time to get this time. Oh joy. I get to take another trip back to hell. God save me.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

My New Favorite Commercial

Random, I know..but I was talking about this commercial at dinner tonite with Simon, and I couldn't help but come home and find out about it. It's an addictive song. Sung originally by Steve ("Higher Love") Winwood. Who would have thought!...

Hope you like it as much as I do:

well I'm a man, yes I am and I can't help but love you so....


Friday, March 28, 2008

My First Paycheck

Oh, I'm po' (That's poorer than poor for all of y'all not familiar with this southern slang).

I was temporarily excited by my first paycheck I received yesterday-because the after tax part wasn't that bad. Not great, but not bad... until I realized that it's my only income in UK for this 'tax year' (their year ends on March 31. Go figure..). So, the UK 'IRS' thinks I earn the lowest tax bracket amount. Sadly, it's not true, so the next paycheck will have even MORE tax withheld as we start the new tax year.

Double the expense of living here, and my takehome pay will (at best) equal what I took home in Seattle.

Shite. Anyone know any rich Barons, Dukes, Princes, or something similar I can marry. Sir Paul (Macca to the Brits) is single now, but he's a bit too old for me...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Date Update

For all you enquiring minds..

Second date in London was also successful. We met at 3p on Monday (gotta love those bank holidays), for what was suppposed to simply be drinks and maybe a nibble. Well...8 hours later, I finally jumped into bed (alone. minds out of gutters, please...). Drinks and a nibble turned into drinks and a nibble and drinks and dinner. Good fun, but I had way too much to drink for a school nite.

There will be a third date on Saturday...These Londoners take this dating thing very seriously!

But, to all my single lady friends back home. A few observations: British men are huge gentlemen! They open doors for you, wait for you to order first, hold your hand when crossing busy streets, and put up a huge fight when you try to pay for anything on the date. It's really too good to be true...All you guys back in the US had better take note!

Homeless no More

By tomorrow, I will officially be a renter in London. We had our Mews House inspected this afternoon (yes, inspected. the process here to rent is almost as rigorous as the process to BUY in the US), which is the last step before getting keys. Our lease terms starts today, but due to some MAJOR screw ups by the bank, it will be tomorrow before our first month's rent is deposited with the landlord and we get keys.

woo hoo! thiiis close to feeling like I have a home here, which should make London in general seem more like home. though it's funny. i had to pop over to the leasing agent this morning to drop off some paperwork, and I couldn't help but notice how incredibly comfortable I felt just walking the streets with nothing more than my AtoZ London Street Guide and written directions. I guess London is starting to feel more like home already!

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Farewell Tour

Well, it seems a little out of place in the flow now, to post about my leaving Seattle, but since I only got my camera connection/upload thingy in my air freight shipment yesterday, better late than never!

Departing Seattle was such a surreal experience, I can't even begin to describe-and heck, after 3 weeks, seems difficult to even remember all the details. But, as they say...A picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll just let them speak for me. In order of my farewells for the week:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Great Online Travel Resources

Partially for me, and largely for anyone who is planning a trip to London-with the intent of going elsewhere in Europe (HINT, HINT), I thought I'd keep a running list of those those travel websites that are most helpful...

Discount Air

General Travel (air, hotel, car, etc)

Rail (thanks for the find, Tom)

London Tube

General Consumer Stuff (the travel tab may be worth checking out...)

London Car Rental (a la Flexcar/Zipcar)

Happy Travels!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My First Date in London-the Update


My New Obession

It's utter crap-the acting is horrible (as are the story lines) and I don't even watch this type of show in the US, but I am so addicted to one of the serial soap here, The Eastenders.

Check it out when you have a moment:

Good times.

My First Date in London. Yikes.

Well, like most singletons in London (and Seattle..), I've joined a dating site in an effort to quickly get myself out there and meeting folks. Be careful what you ask for...

I've my first 'date' tonite. First meeting-and in fact, since I don't have a cell phone yet, it's the first time I'll have even spoken with him. And, unlike most US-based first dates, where a drink or two-and an hour of two is the maximum, this is pretty serious: reservations at a proper restaurant. drinks before. and, if it weren't for the fact that it's been pouring buckets all day long, we were going to go for a stroll around Regents Park beforehand. yikes.

His name is Simon (JenArm, you'll appreciate that...), and he seems like an incredibly funny guy. But, dinner AND drinks? Yikes.

Should be interesting, to say the least..

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Great Tea Debate

I couldn't ask for a more British post than this..

The past 30 minutes at work have consisted of my co-workers (who sit near me) debating the merits of tea. How long could that really take, you ask? Well, there's much to consider here...

Typhoon tea (popular brand here...) versus Earl Grey versus Pickwick (the brand in the breakroom). Add to that the proper water temperature (hot versus hot, hot) and preparation method (tea kettle, versus tap that's been microwaved versus the hot selection from the filtered water bottle in the kitchen), and we have ourselves a full blown debate!

The verdict? Typhoon that is hot (not hot, hot) made with the filtered hot water. Why?...At
£1.10 and 50 tea bags, Tyhpoon is cheapest. Hot, hot, is too hot for most people. And the kettle is scary now with all of the sediment that's built up in it over the years-and no true English person would ever think of heating water in the microwave for a proper cup of tea!

In case you ever wonder...

Sunday, March 9, 2008


I love tuna. I love mayonnaise. I love the two together. When I do it myself.

While shopping in Tesco today (local grocery market chain), I came across a jar of "Tuna & Mayonnaise Paste." Ick.

What are they thinking?

I took a picture (yes, and received some stares along the way...), and will upload when I get my camera linking to computer thingy next week.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

My First Holiday Booked!

Edinburgh, Scotland-here I come!

We get a four day holiday here in two weeks for Easter. Yep. Four days. Crazy, I know.

And, I couldn't just let this opportunity go to waste. So, I decided to book a trip. Opting for cheap-since it's a major travel holiday and I'm waiting until 2 weeks out to boook, my choices were limited. But, when I say 'cheap', I mean under a £100 for a round trip ticket. So, I'm going to Edinburgh. Price? £65. And half of that is tax. Crazy.

Can't. Wait.

The First Week in Review

I must admit: I really didn't think this week would be as productive and painless as it was. I was expecting a general sense of overwhelming stress (not that there weren't moments...), late nites at work(not that there wasn't one or two), and an overall feeling of 'oh crap' (which, this never really happened).

But the reality was 180 degrees away from this for the most part. In review: Monday was a wasted day really-half day of orientation, 2 hour lunch, and the rest of the day was filled with 'new job' things-paperwork for health insurance, getting the computer set up, getting the phone set up, passwords, etc...ick. All in all, a lost day-but necessary in any new job. It is what it is.

Tuesday (and BTW, I won't review every single week like this...I just want to get the first week down for memory...) was more productive: I drafted my 90 day and 12 month roadmap (yikes! more like 6 month and 2 year roadmap-from all the work...), had a brief chat with my new boss, Les, and finalized all the little details (setting up meetings with all my main points of contact for the balance of the week) that i didn't get to do on Monday.

Wednesday and Friday were one in the same: meetings with those main points of contact. About 10 in all, I think? And from each of these, a long list of things that need to be done. I should add it to the roadmap next week. oy. I think I'l now be up to a one year and three year roadmap! :)

Thursday was a treat-and frustrating all at the same time. I worked from home on Thursday because I had a 3 hour lunch & chat with a vendor right in the middle of the day. A trip out to Slough and back (and the expense) for just a half day isn't worth it. Our lunch was at a restaurant called Scott. It's in one of the poshest areas of town I've seen so far-a Rolls Royce dealership and Marc Jacobs store were just around the corner. The cool thing was that this is the restaurant where Ian Flemming (James Bond writer) came up with his 'shaken not stirred' martini idea. Yep. That chi-chi-poo-poo...One of the ladies at lunch said this was one of the places that get stalked by paparazzi on a regualr basis.

The frustrating thing was that the metro line I was on to get to said restaurant shut down due to a train problem-and I was still 2 miles away from the restaurant. By the time I surfaced and started walking, all of the cabs I saw were full of people. So, I started walking. About a mile and 20 minutes later, my feet said 'no more', and at about that time I turned around and saw the first vacant cab I'd seen since I started walking. Whew. My poor feet, after living here, will never be the same. I understand now why it seems like everyone's shoes always look so shabby. Mine are already taking on that appearance. Between this little walk and my other walking for the evening, I'll bet I walked 4-5 miles that day. whew!

The social life this week was a hodge podge: Sushi with co-workers Monday nite. Mexican with my soon-to-be roomie, Sarah on Tuesday. Crazy Homies. Actually, really good-and packed with American expats...I stayed home on Wednesday. Dinner with the brother of a friend of a friend (crazy, I know...Jeff. Nice guy. We had a good chat.) on Thursday (Thai-and it was quite tasty!), and dinner out last nite. So much for cutting back on my going out spending. I figure the first few weeks while I'm trying to meet as many folks as possible, that I'm not going to turn down any offer simply because of cost. A month from now? Different story. But, I'm being really good about eating lunch in-either taking or bringing leftovers from the nite before. And, since the 'good' coffee at work isn't that great, I'm suddenly down to two cups a day (and one of those I make at home!).

All in all? Short of winning the lottery, being told they made a mistake in my salary-and it really should be double my US earings, or meeting Mr Perfect, I couldn't have asked for a better first week. Oh, and the weather-up until today has been brilliant. Cool, but sunny every day. Not too bad!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Crazy Things I've Heard

A list that I'll keep a running tally of (see: Stupid Things I've Said for the flip side) over my time here of all the crazy things I'll hear-a new word, phrase, or whatever that I would likely never hear in the states..

So far...
1. That Barack is one crazy guy (my cab driver on my way from Heathrow to home on my first day)
2. Do I like ale? Though admittedly, it's only crazy if you don't know how much beer I drink...
3. I need an American! (said when someone was confronted with a large side by side stainless steel refrigerator-WITH ice dispenser. very, very rare here)
4. It will cost another 70p (said to me after charging over £700 at Ikea-it's their credit card service charge....) . At this stage, does another £.70 really matter?!?
5. You like to drink a bit don't you? (Said to me by a Scott. I think I have a drinking problem...)
6. You are a delicate flower (said to me by Simon-in all seriousness-when I was protesting him taking the train in the opposite direction of his stop just to see me back to my stop)

Damned Monsoon

I made the mistake of stepping into a Monsoon store today at Paddington Station:

Crap. Great clothes (at least for me...), 'reasonable prices', and even though I'm supposed to be 1-2 sizes larger here, I'm actually a size smaller-they're very generous with their cut. Either that, or I've already dropped another 5 pounds in my very brief 24 hours here!

I'm in such trouble. Or, credit card is; I didn't think I'd be spending much money on clothes here due to style, size, name it. Apparently, I was wrong.

Stupid Things I've Said

Another list that will simply get edited as time goes on...

1. Can I have a straw? (said in a restaurant when I ordered a Coke. My request was met with a blank stare)
2. How 'hammy' is the chicken pie? (in my defense, Ham was listed as one of the ingredients in a chicken pot pie. wouldn't you want to know too?!?)
3. Fancy popping out for a spot of lunch? (geez. i think i officially just became a Brit!)

A Successful 24 Hours!

Whew! What a whirlwind 24 hours...For some crazy reason, everything has gone off without any problems-and if anything has been tons easier than I even imagined. I don't know where my luck has come from, but I'll take it!

To wit:

-British Airways didn't charge me for the extra luggage and the three pieces that weighed a combined 80 kg (that's ~160 pounds. seriously!) that I checked on my flight over.
-I was able to score a vegetarian meal for the flight over. A small victory for my tastebuds.
-Even with two bulging suitcases and a box stuffed full, a backpack, and a huge purse, I didn't get stopped by customs and searched. I don't think I had anything that was illeagl, but the hassle would have been a pain.
-My ATM card is working! So, I was able to take cash out and take an exhorbitantly expensive Black Cab from Heathrow to Corp housing. It was £52, but I reference the 160 pounds and three pieces I would have had to have struggled with otherwise...
-Food shopping on Sunday was fun, convenient (most things I bought at the Sainsburys at Paddington Station-a 3 minute walk from my flat), and not as expensive as I had thought-£24 for a good amount of basics. The curse was then having to tote it back home!
-A fluke in that the T-Mobile store I went to this morning didn't open on time: I had time to stroll the shops on Queensway Rd and easily pick up a Hairdryer (Boots. yea!), French Press, and Space Heater. Things I was going to buy anyhow, but I figured I'd have to trek to a different part of town to do so. Easy peasy.
-The T-Mobile guy was so nice, that he gave me my new SIM card for free (saved £15)! "Technically", I have my London number now, but I can't apply for an actual contract with T-Mobile yet until I have a bank account-which will come later this week.
-I've updated my Telegraph Dating profile, and a cutie has already been spied. We'll see. Dating in general will be a seperate post altogether later this week-hopefully, I'll have something to report!!

Woo hoo. Let's hope the next 24 hours are as good as this!