Saturday, July 23, 2011


My wonderful sister Tracy passed away on Wednesday night. I didn't make it to the Bahamas in time to say goodbye which was devastating. But she is in a better place after a four year cruel battle. God bless, my love. I will always miss you.

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields -
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!
- Emily Dickinson

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The wheels on the bus go round and round...

Since we moved the commute to Cate's school every day is close to an hour - each way. I've taken to hailing a bus which takes us a block away from the school (and we walk by Gwyneth Paltrow/Chris Martin's house every day). It's been...interesting.

Two little old ladies who were dressed up in their best finery, complete with hats and Queen Elizabeth handbags - one in yellow, one in blue,  entered the bus and sat behind me. They were the quintessential British ladies, the only things missing were cups of tea. Here's a snippet of their conversation (from what I overheard):

Blue Bird: "This blinking bus is slow. What time are we expected?"
Yellow bird: "Half five."
Blue Bird: "What's the time now?"
Yellow Bird: "Quarter five. We'll never make it. We should have rung a car."
Blue Bird: "Sod the car. Too expensive."
Yellow Bird: "Hamish will be annoyed."
Blue Bird: "Bugger Hamish. He can wait."
Yellow Bird: "He's a right bastard that one."
Blue Bird: "Right you are!"

Not exactly Queen Elizabeth calibre after all, but damn funny!

Another time Cate and I hopped on the bus and she dashed up to the stairs to the top level. There was a haggarded looking bloke with a heavy coat and an eye patch dozing in the front seat. Undeterred, Cate ran up to the window and gazed out (it's the best seat in the house for a four year old).  At one stop light she turned around, covered an eye with one hand, cried, "Aaaaargh" at the top of her lungs, complete with a pirate like gesture with her other hand and guffawed. The entire upper bus exploded in laughter - except the poor sleeping pirate/man. Oy!

The last little adventure was not as fun. I was tossed off the bus. There were two prams on the bus so when I wanted to get on I was surprised the bus driver let me (only two are allowed technically). I got on, took up a spot near the rear door and away we went. Four stops later, ANOTHER pram got on and blocked the aisle. Three stops later the bus driver jumped out of his seat came around to the back and started yelling at ME to get off. I told him no. He started freaking out and X got upset and started to cry - the guy was out of line. I got off and told him I was going to report him - which I did (you knew I would). I hustled to school as quickly as I could but I was some kind of upset - I am a goodie-goodie -  long gone are the days of being a rebel. I play by the rules so I don't expect to be lambasted for his sorry mistake of allowing too many prams on the bus. But I also didn't want my son to see a grown man have a meltdown and scream at his mother. So I got off. But I demanded my fare back and I filed a greviance against the driver. I hope it goes on his record.

I have two days left and I think I'll just walk the four hours a day (one hour there, one hour back, twice a day). Sure...I have nothing to do. But after that, I think I'll get on the tube or a car when I have to travel with the kids. I'll miss the grannies and pirates, but I'm sure they'll still be there when the kids are big enough to travel without a stroller!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Good fences...make good neighbours

Ah, the joy of meeting the neighbours. We haven't yet. But as Robert Frost so aptly pointed out: Good fences make good neighbors.  (Frost is one of my favourites, by the way).

Our place in Brooklyn was quiet with great neighbours. It was a private brownstone - the owners lived on the top three floors and we lived on the ground floor. It was ideal and we loved it for the eight years we lived there. I STILL miss it daily. All of the neighbours were friendly, we knew them all by name and liked each and every one. Heavy sigh - we had hit the jackpot.

Our last building here in London had thin walls. Even though the place was small it was sort of quiet. The Russians (we love to assign monikers to people - it's practically sport 'round here) who lived above us were quiet enough -  however they complained to everyone in the building about making noise. They got on my case for running the washer/dryer too late at night so I never did laundry in the evenings (to be fair the thing would rattle like a locomotive). But they are universally disliked for it.

The gay couple (the Great Gays) across the hall were quiet and kept to themselves unless the alarm went off (and it went off plenty), then they would bitch out anyone within earshot.

We had a perfect family, quiet, reserved and polite (The Beavers), the crazy lady (Shriek Owl) who lived next door who screeched at delivery men who rang all the doorbells and freaked out on others for a myriad of issues (and she's a yoga instructor - hmmm).

Then there were the rude French folks (Frenchie) and a few others who we actually liked (one family - the Loud Americans are actually good friends).

The point being - we fit right in, liked everyone and made it work.

Now we're in a new building and we know absolutely no one. I love it.

The people across the hall have a newborn who cries ALL the time. My heart breaks for whoever lives there. I've seen about five different people coming and going with their own keys so I haven't a clue as to who the baby belongs to. You can only hear it if you're near the door or in the hallway - thank heavens because the last thing I need to to be kept awake by someone else's crying baby.

Then there is 'The Crone'  - a cantankerous woman in her early to mid 60's who is the self-appointed hall monitor. She barked at our movers to close the doors once they were done, she called animal control to catch the raggedy fox that made it's way out back (poor thing), and she tossed Fen's shoes in front of our door (I told him to get them out of the dressing room because they smelled and he put them outside the flat so I can't say I blame her for that one - and I promised to try and control my wild and troublesome husband in the future).  This evening the Frat Boys (who live above us - in late 20's and surprisingly quiet) left two beer bottles on the wall in front pathway and she growled at them to pick them up. I snickered behind my curtains at that exchange.

We have The Nakeds next to us. One night, last week I went into our bedroom to shut the curtains and didn't turn on the light (because I don't want the neighbours looking at me) and saw both him and her in their knickers hanging in the kitchen. Yikes!

So far I haven't formally met any of them. And that's fine with me. The walls are thick, the ceilings are high and the curtains are shut. Works for me!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another appliance bites the dust

I had an old CD boombox that I placed in the kids room to play kiddie CD's (gotta love that Raffi). It was the only thing we had that could play CD's.

Fen took the player out of the bedroom and plugged it into the wall (I used batteries) and blew it up. Damn. Now we have no way to play CD's. good thing we have iPods (and an iPod station that is correctly plugged in)

I'm putting this on the list of 100 things we need for the new flat. This list also includes: new French Press (Fen dropped mine by accident), microwave oven (good thing we donated the one we bought last year for the first flat and then had to get rid of because the second flat came with one built in), a broom (the movers took off with ours) and a new Swiffer (which I plan to buy at Target when we're in the US). Those are the most crucial items.

I think that I will have this place up to where I want it just in time for us to move out. ah well.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Going home

This is where I'll be soon. Looks fantastic doesn't it? I would love to curl up in a hammock under those two trees and just read a book and sip some frothy, fruit concoction. Alas, it is not to be. I will be in the Bahamas but it's to visit my very, very ill sister, Tracy.

It's a trip I'm dreading yet very anxious to take. I need to see her. She has steadily declined in the last few weeks and was finally flown from New York to Nassau as the hospital can no longer do anything for her. It is a tragedy. I don't think I'm mentally prepared for it, I hope I am, but I don't really think anyone can be. This is what I wanted to see the doctor about but was turned away at the door (by the way)

However, it's vital I spend time with her. She has been my best friend for 40 years. I can't even think about a world without her in it. So I don't. I live 5,000 miles away in a protective bubble that keeps me in denial. But the bubble is bursting and I have to face reality.

I'd rather sit under those trees. In a hammock. With Tracy. And she could be healthy again.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Washing machine busted and other such growing pains

It's so true that when it rains it pours. Last weej Friday the washer decided to die. I had a load of brand new kiddie clothes whipping round without incident. It ran the whole cycle but then wouldn't open. I looked inside at the trapped wet clothes and called the management company. They said someone would be right over. Yeah, they never came. By 8pm I pried the door open with a screwdriver and freed the soggy laundry. I was not about to have them be ruined by moulding in a closed washer - no way.

Funny, I didn't notice before that there were already marks on the door of someone else attempting to pry it open. And the handle fell off when I tried to force it open - it was obviously glued on at some earlier point. To further create my case for a new washer, were the scratch marks on the floor where it's clear the washer has been pulled out of its spot on multiple occasions. Hmmmm...I'm not exactly Sherlock Holmes, but this seems fairly elementary, my dear.

Monday I called the company again and they sent out their guy to fix it. It's not fixable, sayeth he. My carefully crafted case for a new washer was not needed - it's six years old and worked to death. Victory I thought - it was short lived. An hour later, another worker showed up - a repair man, not a handy man. He worked for hours and left, with the motor, promising to come back Tuesday. He came Tuesday - was there for hours. Proclaimed it fixed and told me to wash away.

I did. It didn't finish the cycle and I once again, pried the door open to free my dish towel - my test garment. I texted him to come Wednesday. he did. Three times. No luck. He said he'd be back with a new washer. He came back with a new motor and fixed it for real this time. I've been up to my eyeballs with laundry ever since. But it's nice to finally chip away at it.

Then I called our caretaker for our house in PA, the hot water heater is broken. I paid $1,200 two years ago for this fancy electric/propane small heater and it's kaput already? I have to wait until later today to call the company that sold it to me and file my complaint. They are fixing it for free or I will tear the joint down! Madness. We'll be there for a while next month and I'll need hot water, thankyouveddymuch.

But on a happier note, the broken fan/light above my kitchen hob (burners) has been replaced. When we moved in I called immediately and stated it was faulty and I couldn't have that. A little silver lining for ya. The kitchen is coming together but it still has a way to go. The oven, as old as it is, is actually fantastic - better than the one at the old place, which was a little more modern and flash. This one bakes evenly and the temperature is consistent. Not exactly a Wolf (my dream oven), but it'll do.

Slowly, but surely, we're settling in. Once all the hiccups are fixed hopefully we can just live peacefully. Now, you all know that's never going to happen, but I can dream, can't I?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Exit stage left, please

I've been having an issue and thought it might be a good idea to go into NHS to talk to someone about it. So I booked an appointment, looking for a referral and then headed in for my appointment.

Met with the doc, explained the situation, filled out a form and she agreed that it was a good idea for me to see someone and started to tell me all about it while being the right degree of concerned and interested. She told me someone would contact me via mail (which always takes forever) to which I said, 'Oh, I'll need to change my address. We moved.'

The doc stopped in her tracks and inquired about my new address. As it turns out, I'm no longer in that particular NHS practice's 'area'. She said, 'I can't help you. You'll have to get a private doctor or find another NHS in your new neighbourhood.' No referral, no help, no apology - just a big fat - get out!

I protested and pointed out she agreed I needed to see someone lickety-split - and she said yes, I do - but it wasn't her responsibility any more. I was seriously stunned.

'I'm sorry,' she tried.

'No. You're not. And shame on you,' I replied with hostility oozing off each word like molten lava. I wanted to add: 'Take the Hippocratic oath didja?'

She looked away and I could tell she wasn't happy. I suppose it's not her fault, but  her bedside manner was definitely lacking and I was pissed so she got a shot of my nasty side. I don't care.

What makes me upset is that I am a tenacious individual and I will press on and get the care I need. But if someone less...aggressive/determined/etc was to be swept aside - I just wonder what would happen to them.

Now I have to find new doctors, a new practice, new everything for my entire family. I just don't need the headache, frankly. But one thing is for certain - I would never, ever go back to the Keats Group again after this. It was just insult to injury and in poor form. A pox on their house, I say.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!

We're sick again - all of us, with a common cold (gadzooks, forsooth!) It was bound to happen, we've all been well for over four months. After being sick for the majority of the winter, we were on a healthy streak. But with the stress of the move and the ridiculous amount of rain (of which I've been walking through for hours at a time thanks to the extended school run) it was only a matter of time.

I blame X. He was the first one to show signs of being rundown. On Saturday his nose started and Sunday he wasn't hungry, he was bossy and extremely crabby. He only wanted to sit on me and snuggle. Which is wonderful, but not when that all he wants all day. Sunday, Fen and I both woke up with sore throats and faucets for noses. Fun.

X recovered beautifully by Monday. Cate was fine that morning, but at noon we received a call from her nursery - she was fast asleep and could we come fetch her, please? We were lost in the middle of Ikea in Wembly, so we dropped our stash off in a corner (sorry Ikea workers, duty called) and dashed out the door to pick up our sweet Cate. She was fast asleep on a little sofa in a corner of her nursery; she honestly looked like an angel.I scooped her up and took her to the car. She feebly said, 'I don't feel well, mommy.! Lawdy - break your heart, it could.

Both kids slept for two hours when we got home. Cate  had a mild allergic reaction to something and her eyes puffed up. I gave her Benadryl which helped. Not surprisingly, both were lackluster and took up residence in two moving boxes (see above) However, Fen and I were dragging ourselves around, clutching tissues and sniffling, still. Something isn't right with this picture!

Cate was home yesterday and she slept alot in the morning but had a miraculous recovery by 2pm and was bouncing off the walls. She's back at school today - thank heavens! We're all back in the pink, for the most part as well. Hooray.

(PS, that is a quote from an Ogden Nash poem about the common cold that I remember from Uni. It was so vivid I never forgot it and always think of it when I'm in the clutches of the common cold)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Got kids? I'll bet you have Ikea bowls...

It seems every parent I know has the Ikea bowl, plate, cup set. It's like a right of passage or something - both here in the UK and the US. So tell me, are you a proud Ikea bowl owner? Take my poll below. If you took it yesterday while I was testing the new polling system, I apologise!!