Category Archives: UK

Why post when you can comment? (and the 2nd installment of a Little Brit Different)

I should totally just copy what I write in people’s comments and put them here as a post.  I’m way wittier and I do it more often.  I really am working on getting my life in order.  It seems like this month has just been a total wash.  But new month tomorrow, right?  The Rocket Scientist’s birthday is coming up and I’m looking forward to maybe even having a babysitter so we can have a meal by ourselves for once celebrate in style.  More on that to come.

And now, for something…

I saw this the other day at the grocery store and I wish I’d stopped to take a picture, but I fear I was gawping a little too long to long and the lady had gone into the store.  Apparently it’s not such a big deal to have an infant in the front seat of a vehicle here.  And it’s not like this was only a 2-seater, there was more than enough room in the back to put the carseat.  And it’s not like this was an older child, this was an infant in a rear-facing carry seat thingy.  And it’s not like this was an older car with no airbag up front, it was a swank, new model, silver BMW.  I really hope my jaw didn’t make too loud a noise as it hit the ground.
*Okay, so I just looked up UK child seat law and apparently it is actually illegal to put a rear-facing child seat in the front IF there is an active airbag.  Who knows, maybe she can turn hers off, or maybe she’s just wildly mis-informed.  But on another interesting note, with the exception of rear-facing, it is totally legal to put a child in any other kind of seat in the front as long as they’re properly restrained.  (For non-North-Americans or childless folks, you can’t put a child in the front seat until they’re 12 years old or a certain height/weight in North America)
**Please don’t think I’m saying that people on this side of the pond are all heartless people putting their children in mortal danger (although in the case of a rear-facing child seat in a possible air-bag zone I’m tempted), I actually find it refreshing to be in a place with significantly less paranoia fear caution.  And I have to say, given a drive through the country with just Doodle and I, I would be tempted to move him to the front seat so I can interact with him more and perhaps be able to give him food and/or drink without completely dislocating my shoulder and trying to watch the road and child behind me at the same time, which, come to think of it, is likely the most dangerous bit right there.

And now for something…A little Brit different

Okay, I am going to be totally upfront and say that I did not think of that terribly witty turn of phrase on my own. We are big Doctor Who fans in this house and made sure that every cable package we had back in the States included BBC America. I don’t know if they said that before every program (that would have gotten old really fast), but they did say it before Doctor Who and/or Torchwood and it would always bring with it a little twinge of excitement because it meant we were getting our ‘fix’.

I am now completely unashamedly stealing that phrase for my own blogging purposes. I think I’m pretty safe in this. But if I get several hundred more followers, I may have to change the name as a preemptive strike against litigation. (I have always wanted to idly fit that into conversation).

So without further ado, here is my first installment of:

Everyone asks, “How do you find driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road?” Honestly, you get used to it. For one thing, you’re expecting it. You know, coming here, that you’re going to be driving on a different side, getting in the other side of the car, trying to remember which direction to look when you cross the street. You’re prepared so it doesn’t take too long to make the adjustment. It’s the little things that no one ever tells you about, that you’re totally unprepared for, that go a long way towards making you aware of the fact that common language or no, you are in a foreign country.

So here’s on thing I noticed that is different on this side of the pond. Light switches go in the opposite direction. In North America, you click the light switch up to turn it on and down for off. Here it’s down to turn it on and up to turn it off. I know, right? Who would think to warn you about stuff like that? I would. That’s right, I got your back.

By the way, my inspiration for starting this is Brit Gal in the USA and her Brit Word of the Day.

National Health

So we have an appointment with our local fertility clinic this afternoon. I find myself quite nervous. I knew I was getting anxious, but as today has worn on, I have become positively beside myself. I’ve managed to keep myself busy, I got up early and made crepes for breakfast, I’ve baked some truly delicious honey/molasses bread, and I’ve just about finished all the laundry I was behind on. I’ve also finished a unit of my online course and started the next one. And Doodle has been nursed, napped, fed, cleaned, and kept happy. I need to be anxious more often. It makes me ridiculously productive.

On the other hand, I’d prefer to go without the stomach ache, slight light-headedness, and general shaky feeling. Sounds bad, I know. But it’s all physical. I haven’t been running stuff around in my head, I have apparently been suppressing any and all thoughts about it and it’s just making me feel like crap. Part of the nervousness is the prospect of starting all this again; the meds, the testing, the not-so-comfy IUI, and the very real prospect of being pregnant again in the next couple months (we didn’t have the horrible experience that some have had, I ovulated on the first round of clomid and we got pregnant on our first IUI so I’m kind of expecting it to go just as well the second time round).

The hitch, and I think this is what’s really got my knickers in a twist, is that it’s not like the US system where we had great insurance and a really great doctor that I had picked out myself. The clinic we’re going to is at the hospital instead of a nice cosy office. I’m likely going to have a male doctor, not my first choice for sure. And the real kicker…they can say no. I’m not sure of the rules or waiting lists for these procedures. I know the rules for IVF are really quite strict. If we needed IVF I wouldn’t qualify right now. I’m a little freaked. I’m trying not to be. Obviously. I never get this much work done. I’m sure all my worries will come to naught, but of course until I know for sure I’m having a bit of a moment.

Oh, yeah. And if they want to start Clomid, I have to wean Doodle first. Yeah. I might actually be ready (although I feel guilty that I am), but I know that Doodle for sure is not. Okay, for real now I think I may throw up sometime before this appointment actually takes place. Hopefully it’s not as we’re checking in. On someone’s shoes. That would suck.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

A Fortnight

I cannot believe it has been so long.  Is anyone still there?  If you are I apologize for my absence.  In my defense, there has been a lot going on.  Janet was here for a week.  We survived all our driving around.  Yes, we all survived and yes, I did get lost a few more times, but we always had great adventures.  There will be stories and pictures shortly.

The day that Janet left, the Rocket Scientist, Doodle, and I headed for Cambridge for 4 days for a conference.  We stayed in a lovely little B&B and Doodle and I took long naps and spent our afternoons wandering the city.  I even got to do a bit of shopping.  I’ll post pictures and stories soon.

Did I mention there’s been a lot going on here?  Between dropping Janet at the airport and leaving for Cambridge our boxes arrived.  Most of the floor space of our living room and all of Doodle’s nursery were completely covered in boxes.  (Yes, I’ll share pictures of that, too)  Which of course I had to leave behind to go to Cambridge.  I practically itched to get at them.  I got a good two days of unpacking in once we returned before my neck made it too painful to move my head let alone boxes.  It’s still kinked but will hopefully be better in time for me to finish getting the house ready for Doodle’s birthday party next Saturday.

Doodle did quite well being out as much as we were, but he didn’t really get a chance to kick his cold so it’s now going on past it’s third week. I think it’s finally on its way out though.  At least I sure hope so, there has not been a lot of sleep in this house lately.  He has also been teething, what seems like all the rest of his teeth at once, if his drool, chewing, and crankiness are any indication.  We’re getting ready for his 1st Birthday!  Yay!  Stories and pictures, of course, will follow.

I am finally kicking my cold (thank goodness) and the Rocket Scientist has caught his first UK cold.  Unfortunately it has hit him much harder than it did us.  Of course now that I am finally not sick, something had to happen. I have twisted my neck and flared up an old whiplash injury.  I didn’t think it was too bad at first but it’s now three days of considerable pain and I am not a happy camper.  And it couldn’t have come at a worse time.  But don’t we always say that.  Don’t worry, this is it for that story and there are no pictures.

So that’s the fortnight in a nutshell.  There are several things I want to expound on and I hope to do so over the next few days, but you’ll forgive me if I don’t always make it.  The pain in my neck has taken the writing of this blog from a few minutes to two hours.  And now that my warm rice sock is no longer very warm and it’s time for my next dose of pills and my nice warm bed.


Life in the Left Lane

Well, I have now driven on three different continents.  Granted in Africa it was once, and probably very badly, but to be fair the truck was almost twice as old as I was.  At least it looked like it was.  This time, the car was considerably newer and I did a much better job.   Coincidence?  I just don’t know.

No, we haven’t bought a car.  I know you were all wondering.  We joined Streetcar.  It’s kind of like ZipCar in the US.  It’s a car-sharing program.  You pay a yearly membership fee and you can take one of the several cars around town for an hour or a few days.  Significantly more economical for the hour.  We’re pretty excited about this because there have been several times when we wished we had a car for just a couple hours to do a big grocery shop or get to a larger shopping centre and now we have a way to do that without having the expense of renting for a whole day.

So, my friend Janet is coming out to visit next week.  We are renting a car to do some toodling around.  Very exciting.  But I didn’t want my first time driving here to be on my way to London’s Heathrow airport with Doodle and no Rocket Scientist.  Perfect way to test out our new Streetcar membership.

Sadly there are no pictures as I was a bit too shaky to take any.  I was very happy to find that driving a manual transmission is a skill that comes back very quickly.  The only thing that was a bit awkward was of course that the stick was on the left side. Thank goodness the peddles are still in the right order.  I only stalled the car once.  Technically the car stalled twice, but I’m fairly certain that God did it the second time.  See, He knew I was about to turn down a one way street and I didn’t.  And the brakes work great.  There are these little mini-roundabouts that you don’t see until you’re broadsiding the car turning right in front of you.

That was the toughest part, the part that left me a little weak in the knees after an hour of driving around getting used to things.  Not the stick-shift, not even driving on the left side, it was the signs, or lack thereof.  There aren’t always signs where you expect them and half the time you don’t actually know what the sign means, so while you’re busy trying to figure it out, you suddenly find yourself on the motorway with no idea where you’re going or how to get out of the roundabout up ahead.

Well, I managed to not get lost, not drive down the wrong roads or the wrong lanes, not hit anything or anyone, and not get honked at (but only because it was a very gracious person behind me at the time).  I came home after an hour just to let my nerves settle a bit.  We had supper and then headed out to an evening service at the local vineyard church.  I did feel much better that time for having had the practice.

Now we just have to see how Doodle and I survive picking up Janet on Friday.  It’s his naptime so he should sleep the whole way there.  *Please, God, let him sleep the whole way there.*

London. Finally. *Warning – this is long (but it has cool pictures)*

So last Saturday, we all got up with Doodle at 6 (instead of the bit of a lie-in I usually get until 7) so that we could be out the door by 7:30 to give us loads of time to get to the train.  We got there stupid early, but that’s fine, gave us time to chill and have a muffin.  The train ride was nice and uneventful.  I would have liked to have a forward facing seat as it’s harder to enjoy the scenery going backwards, but it was fine.  Doodle nursed and got a bit of nap before we got into the city.  I found it interesting how as we got closer to Paddington station, the area began to look an awful lot like the train ride from New York out to New Rochelle.

Mommy left this attached to my coat, but that’s okay, I can make it work.

Some things that we noticed right off the bat.  Everything is a lot closer than you think.  I’m used to looking at maps of Chicago and what looked like very loooong blocks were in fact very short blocks.  What that means though, is that you let yourself walk a lot farther before you realize you’ve passed what you’re looking for.  Happily though, it also means that when you think you’ve gone about 10 minutes too far, you’ve actually only gone, like, 2.

So we went at first looking for a couple stores, and thinking that we were a ways from Picadilly circus we originally were planning to take a bus or the tube, but it was a nice morning and we thought if we walked instead we would get there around lunch time.  So 10 minutes later, we’re there and it’s not quite lunch time.  The restaurants aren’t even open for another half hour even though we’ve been up since forever and are just about starving.  Oh well.

We strolled around the circle and took pictures and stopped in a souvenir shop and got a union jack tank top for me and our first fridge magnet.  It looks so lonely.  I can’t wait for our stuff to get here.  We did a totally un-London lunch:  TGIFriday’s.  I know, I’m sorry, but it was kind of nice to have something familiar that we knew we liked and that was sure to have a highchair and changing table.  Don’t worry, the rest of our day was nice and British.

After lunch we walked down to Trafalgar Square and did the whole touristy picture taking there.  There was a performer by the steps who was very funny and had a big crowd.  Unfortunately we missed most of his gig but were right up front for the big finale.  There were lots of people climbing all over the lions despite the sad little railing that I’m sure had at one point been put up to keep people from getting up there.  Doodle loved the fountains and was greatly disappointed when we didn’t let him jump into the pools.

After that we walked across the pedestrian bridge to the promenade by the water and the London Eye.  Along the promenade were tons of street perfomers.  One group of breakdancers, and the rest were either characters from history/tv or those strange silver painted people pretending to be statues.  I really don’t know why this is so popular.  Some were painted silver, some were painted gold, and sure, the first time you see one you think wow, that person is standing really still, I wonder if their nose itches.  But when there are 8 dozen of them it just kind of gets boring.  There were 2 worth mentioning.  One man actually was painted up in what looked like bronze and his clothes were done really well so the folds were somewhat exaggerated and stiff.  I actually had to look to see if he was breathing or if this was a statue.  He was the only one like that and he was brilliant.  I would have given change to him if I’d had some.  The other one that was fun was the ‘invisible’ one.  It looked like the head and hands were invisible with this crown and glasses suspended in midair above a seated figure and no hands coming out of the cuffs.  You realize right away that the body is a bit oddly sized and shaped and that it’s just a person slouched down int the clothes and the crown/glasses/etc are taped to the chair, but still, points for originality.  That is until you walk another 20 feet and realize there’s another one exactly like it only painted gold instead of silver.  You get no points.  There was one other, but it was kind of sad.  It was an incredible, I would dare say authentic, Darth Vader.  His sign said, “Labourer made redundant in the London work force, trying to support my wife and two kids.”  It’s not an exact quote because I didn’t want to take a picture of him without being able to put something in his tin.  It was a bit sad.

So then we come to the Eye.  The line to get tickets was longer than the line to get on, go figure.  I think the Rocket Scientist was in the ticket office for almost 45 minutes and it took us maybe 10 to get on.  But I didn’t mind, this was my whole reason for coming to London.  I know, there are far older and cooler things to see I’m sure, but for me, it was the Eye.  I want to go back now and do it at night.  Or maybe sunset.  It was an awesome view and we took a bazillion photos up there, half at least of Doodle walking around the pod hanging on to the lower railing and charming the pants off all the other passengers (very embarrassing in mixed company).  I managed to not freak out too much at the height, I have a mild phobia of heights.  I got a bit nauseous in line and had to work at not hyperventilating as stepped onto the still moving pod. But it’s big enough inside to not really be an issue.

As I sat on a bench beside the Thames, looking out at Big Ben with the Eye beside us, nursing Doodle, I realized how much I missed the big city.  London isn’t all the skycrapers that Chicago is, but it is a big city, with all the hustle and bustle and traffic and people that that implies.  And I miss it.  I was instantly more comfortable in London that I have been in Oxford.  And it’s not that Oxford isn’t nice, because it is, and the people are nice and there’s nice stores and good public transportation. It just…moves at the pace of a smaller town, or suburb maybe.  London has a different energy to it.  One that I miss.

So after our stop to nurse and have a snack, oh, and change Doodle in the McDonalds basement from hell, A) it was hot, B) it was crammed with people and you could barely walk let alone maneuver a pushchair [stroller], C) it was stupid hot, D) there was only one baby changing room and no place to queue [wait in line] except right behind the door which left you doing a strange dance when the door had to open and you had to change spots with the person on the other side of the door, and E) OH MY FREAK, it was hotter than the bowels of hell down there.  Anyway, after all that, we crossed over the river again to take our pictures of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

By this time, I’m looking at my map thinking we have quite a ways to walk to get back to Trafalgar Square to catch a train back to Paddington so we should really get going.  And of course, 15 minutes later we’re suddenly there.  I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to that.  Of course I’m sure I will and then I’ll be back in Chicago and I’ll be like, oh it’s not far, lets just walk, and 2 hours later I’ll realize we’re still not even halfway there and I’ll likely just say screw it and go home.

We got back to the train and would have been in plenty of time if it hadn’t been for trying to find change to use the toilet.  That’s right, 30p to use the toilet in Paddington station.  As it turns out, we needn’t have searched so vigourously for exact change as the attendant was pretty much letting anyone in if you at least looked like you were trying to find it.  Nice bathroom though.  Unfortunately by the time we got to the train it was close to departure and quite full.  We found a seat for me facing forward but it was next to other people, there was a table, the Rocket Scientist was sitting across from me, so we were both sitting next to someone strange.  The people next to us were irritating me, especially the guy who insisted that he and the person he was saving a seat for sit across from each other and not side by side.  I don’t know why, he clearly wanted to get into her pants.

The happy part of our trip back was the other couple sitting across the aisle (the people that were sitting over there were nice and let them have their own side of the table unlike ours, but whatever).  They were also heading back home to Oxford with their 18 month old daughter.  We got to chatting and found we have quite a bit in common.  They are also crunchy, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, attachment parents.  We talked slings and cloth diapers and playgroups and what neighborhoods were the most fun (ours being on the somewhat ‘bleak’ end but oh well).  Doodle and I were going to drop into a toddler dance/play group on Wednesday but then his ear infection happened so I’m hoping to get together with them next week.

So all in all, it was a very good day.  We had our moments of starving long before lunchtime and trying to maneuver the bowels of hell disguised as a McDonalds and maybe I had a minor meltdown getting onto the train because it was so cramped and the seats were sucky, but we really did have a great time.  And hopefully made some friends along the way.  Granted I was pretty sore the next day and the bike ride to church just about killed me, but I’m sure I’ll do it again.  Soon in fact.  My friend Janet will be here in just over a week and we’ll likely do a couple days in London, we’ll visit Stonehenge, we might even make it out to Cardiff the Doctor Who fans that we are.  But I’ve learned my lesson.  Post it right away, while it’s still fresh.  Maybe even make it stretch over a couple posts.  You can always put pictures up later.

By the way, if you’re still reading, A) congratulations and B) I’m really sorry the pictures are all stacked on top of each other like that, I couldn’t figure out how to make them go side by side and it’s now 11:49 and I’m so going to pay for staying up this late tomorrow.  And I’ve totally remembered like three cool things that should have gone in the story but it’s too long and too late, so now I’m going to have to do a London II and by that time I’m sure I’ll have gone again and will have more cool stories to tell.  Ugh.  It’s now 11:51.  Good. Night.

The Family that Cycles together…takes a lot of pain killers.

Saturday saw yet another first. Our first family bike ride. Our arrival in Oxford has left us without a car for the first time in our marriage, and for me for the first time in 9 years. The buses are plentiful and go everywhere here, but they’re not cheap and there’s still the walk from our house to the main bus route. Not as convenient as we had hoped. So we decided to get bikes.  The Rocket Scientist has had his for a couple weeks and has been using it to get back and forth to work. I love it, it means he can stay a little later in the morning and still get to work on time and he can stay at work a little later and still get home at a decent time. Because of a mixup as to what child seats fit on what bikes, I only got mine this last week. I went out a couple times to test my bike legs as it were and by Saturday I felt comfortable enough to go out with Doodle so we decided to take a ride as a family.

Doodle did great. Of course he had no reason to think this was a big deal, it’s just another seat that he gets strapped into to go places. A little colder though, have I mentioned I can’t wait ’til spring. Right around the corner they tell me. We ended up going farther than planned and by the time we got home, I wasn’t sure I would be able to stand. Ugh.
So what did we decide to do today? Bike to church. Oh. my. gosh. It’s not like Oxford is super hilly, it’s more bumpy as the Rocket Scientist says, but enough that my thighs and knees are quite upset with me.  The Rocket Scientist looked on google maps and figured we biked about 12 miles in the last two days. I’ve never been one to ease into things. Doodle once again was a trooper.  His face however is showing a bit of wind burn so I’ll have to get him a bit of protection for his face and slather on the Aquafor in the meantime.
I’m totally kicking myself though for not taking our camera today.  First of all, the creche (nursery) in the church we went to had a little blue rocking horse which he had fun on.  And actually, this was his first time in a room full of children his age.  I left him and went to sit with the Rocket Scientist in the service.  That was hard for me, but good for Doodle I’m sure.  He did great though, playing nicely with everyone, not freaking out when he didn’t see me, and didn’t cry when I came back, just showed me how nicely he could feed the baby next to him a wooden train track.  ‘Bless’
After church we went to a pub for a Valentine lunch.  It was a really nice place with a real highchair, not the wooden things you get in most restaurants.  The Rocket Scientist had a steak and I had a lamb pot roast with yorkshire pudding and mint sauce.  Mmmmmm…so yummy (or scrummy as it is here).  Doodle did so well considering he had no morning nap.  He was enjoying eating all kinds of new food off of Mummy’s plate, and then suddenly, in the middle of opening his mouth for a bit of potato, he just kind of…fell asleep.  It was hilarious, I’d always wondered how kids fall asleep in their spaghetti, and now I know.  If you keep your child awake through their entire nap time and are approaching their next nap time, any place where they are sitting becomes good enough to fall asleep in.  Again, kicking myself for not having the camera.