Live like a local.
So, we have had a few visitors, and all would attest to the fact that our front door cannot be opened easily. You can easily put the key into the lock, turn, open the door, but then you spend the next 5 minutes forcefully trying to pull the key out. Of course, while you are twisting, pulling and swearing, you’re saying to yourself, "the next time I’m at the store, I’ll buy that lube that we all have on the shelf in the garage". Then I get inside, and within seconds poof, the thought is so far gone from my head. It never reappears until the next time I’m at the door trying to desperately remove the key.
Not today. Oh no. I decided, no time like the present. Down to the corner construction store I march. I look around and see caulk, tape, nails, wood, paint, and other construction building materials filling the shelves… I can picture the can of lube, but I don’t see it anywhere. It’s blue and yellow. I know where it would be in my garage. I’m reduced to walking up to the counter and asking for assistance… ummm …. “Do you have any KY7?”
He gives me the strangest look. It’s true, sometimes my accent throws people. Maybe it’s an American product that they don’t use here? But without missing a beat, he looks me straight in the eye and tells me they don’t sell that here. I can’t believe it. “If not here, then where?” I explain (since we moved in 20 months ago) I’ve been so frustrated, and I thought for sure they could help. He smirks and asks me what is exactly the problem? I explain, using hand gestures, “It goes in fine, I wiggle it, but then I can’t get it out. I need some sort of lube for the lock”. He bursts out laughing and says he has just the thing. He walks me over and hands me a can of WD-40. I smile and say, “Yes exactly, that’s what I asked for!” He sheepishly tells me I asked for KY7 – and BTW what is the 7?
If I could have died of humiliation, I would have right there on the spot. I couldn’t help but smile all the way home. I'd wager he and his co-workers have had many a laugh at my expense.
My front door lock is now properly lubed and the key glides in and out easily. The can was super-sized. I have enough lube for every lock for every flat within a 10 mile radius. Just ask.
Today is my Birthday. Old enough to drag out a story that could be said in 2 sentences, but I won’t let you off the hook that easily.
David took me out to the best breakfast I’ve had in the UK!! Delicious!! shout out to “Beam” and to David! Our waiter was cute, when he realized it was my birthday he brought over two kinder eggs. I had never seen one before. Why? Because, evidently, US parents can’t be expected to watch their children and consequently, they are illegal in the United States of America.
Yes, you read that right. We are a country that protects our citizens from doing unintentional harm to one another, and so justifiably made opening a chocolate egg with a rather large plastic “yolk” encompassing a small toy, illegal.
But it is all about me today… My fun egg was a sign, it must be!! My toy had a baby. A shout out to Katherine and Josh and hopes that their beautiful baby girl shares my birthday.
For those of you, like me, who did not know anything about the illegal Kinder egg, here are some fun facts.
“It all goes back to the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. According to the law, food cannot be sold if it contains a "non-nutritive object." In the case of Kinder eggs - - the plastic toy at the treat's center is pretty obviously not nutritious. However, non-edible items can be sold with food if they have a purpose related to consuming the food, such as the stick of a lollipop.” Oddly, we do not make lollipops illegal even though there are numerous Oro-pharyngeal injuries every year to toddlers that hurt themselves with the sticks.
You have likely heard of “those kind of undesirable people” who smuggle firearms or contraband into the United States, well look no further, an underground market has developed, with people bringing the eggs into the United States. Beware, if a person is caught by customs, they can face a hefty fine of up to $2,500 per egg.
And for all you zealous religious folks out there, you may agree when you read about the resurrection of Jesus in the Bible, you'll find little mention of chocolate, bunnies, or eggs. Despite this, a large bunny that hides eggs (which are often made of chocolate, or worse yet = plastic eggs with hidden money, small toys or tiny chocolates) is a central figure during the American Easter celebration.
In Italy, there seems to be a tradition associated with the Christian holiday as well. Italian children receive large chocolate eggs that contain toys. Now you see why the tradition of the Kinder Egg came about creating the kinder surprise.
Side note. 10 children worldwide have died from choking on parts of the kinder toy surprises over a 47 year period. And yet, 300 children in the United States were shot with a firearm and killed in 1 year and yet, we make no headway regarding gun control. I realize the USA has not done a very good job of educating our population in math or statistics, but maybe that is where we should start? Unfortunately, the very people supporting the gun laws will soon be in control of our education system. Think about that. Frightening. If, we the people, cannot see what is going on, then we deserve what is coming… it’s not pretty.
After so many years of being denied a Kinder Egg, I am delighted I was able to experience one. I plan to give them to my grandchildren, under adult supervision – of course!! I might even have to smuggle a few in. I can see the headlines now, Grandmother arrested over egg controversy. Sentenced to maximum years in prison because she refused to pay the fine.
When is enough, enough? Clearly not after 85 beers. I bet you are thinking I am going to write about the raucous fans for the England - Italy Euro's final, but you’re wrong. Truthfully, if our neighbors were paying attention, they must think we are serious alcoholics!
It began one evening with a cool summer breeze coming through the window and an innocent comment from David, “wouldn’t a good English bitter taste good right now” and I dutifully replied (without a self-serving motive in my body😉) “yes it would, I’ll get right on that and order some to be delivered” …
Somehow this is how the never-ending beer cycle began. I place an online order for 2 - 8packs of ESB beer to be delivered before the BIG Euro Final. And days before the game, 48 beers arrive. Not 16, but 48. Not ESB, but 24 Peroni and 24 Meantime IPA. I get back online to express my confusion and I get confirmation that it was their error, and they are correcting it. Wonderful. That is when the second case of 22 bottles came. Not ESB, but Peroni again. Not 24, but 22, the 23 and 24th bottle broke so the cardboard was like mushy sticky oatmeal – they clearly saw the problem, so instead of opening the box and removing the broken beer bottle that ruined any stability given by the once supportive cardboard and repackaging it, they just used an entire roll of tape to make sure it didn’t fall apart any more than it already had. Again, I reply to the confirmation that, in fact, we did receive their correction beer, but still, the wrong beer and yet this time, broken. She apologized and sent the appropriate LOL via email and said that they were right on it and will send out the new correct 2-8 pk of ESB by courier.
You realize, the Euro Finals have long since been played. Sadly, we could not drown our sorrows with beer. Instead, something stronger was needed to erase the despondency felt for how close England came to winning after so many years of not.
But again, we wait with eager anticipation. This morning was the morning. The courier rang, we joyfully retrieved our box and proceeded to open it. YES! It was ESB, but not 16! Only 15? It is comical now. I am speechless. We figure we may have lost out on 1 ESB we would have drank, but we gained 70 beers I am confident the kids will drink.
A slight annoyance like this was made up by working with the nicest customer service person that had to handle the, what should have been simple, order from hell. I believe she earned the right to call herself an essential worker! Certainly made us appreciate drinking a beer.
.... I had to update you all... I'm sure you are on pins and needles. Another box arrived. It's unbelievable, but true. They got it right. 2 8-packs of ESB were delivered, unbroken. We are ready to entertain now. Please come on over!
What motivates someone to do something that is completely out of character? Research tends to believe it is one of these four reasons: herd mentality, stress, trauma, or illness. I would argue that none of those reasons caused me to act out. Then again, it is all how you interpret the following incident.
I innocently went into the spa for a long overdue pampering, a facial. Ahhh and how lovely it was, until... the conversation began. The aesthetician’s assumption was that my eyebrows had been neglected for the duration of lockdown. What makes it worse is that the inattention had not been during lockdown, instead the negligence had been my lifetime. This sudden realization after 55 years made me wonder what I could have possibly been missing? The prospects were endless, but let us stick to what they could provide at a spa. Back to the subject of my eyebrows, What Shape? Thickness? Color? etc. these things I had never contemplated, until now. Lockdown has robbed me of travel experiences, so why not get practice in being adventurous by attempting things I did not know was the norm for many people. I have always wanted to be wise, so maybe eyebrows like an owl would suffice? Then again, you all know I am a dog lover, so maybe a Burnese's eyebrows, soft and cuddly look would work? I believe in hydration, hydration, hydration, maybe the long unique look of a camel’s weighted eyebrows will be the ticket? But instead, I was indecisive and told the aesthetician to do whatever she felt was appropriate.
Who knew? she believed Sophia Hadjipanteli was trapped in my body! So now, I am stuck with dark bushy eyebrows. I got the raw end of this deal. I seemed to get her worst attribute! If we were going to make me into Sophia, why couldn't the aesthetician have transformed my body to hers? Mine was obviously, without a doubt, neglected during lockdown! All I got was the bill for the eyebrow's and to become everyone’s subject in their next conversation. I ask all of you, how long do you think it will take before they grow out, fade and become ignored again? Will they even grow out? and have I learned my lesson?
So, the next time some psychologist writes an article on why people act out of character, I hope they recognize that lockdown exhaustion might have something to do with it!
There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
I was out watering my row of flower boxes hanging off my fence and the nicest woman sluggishly and painstakingly approached. I thought, at first, she was being cautious because she worried about COVID and me, so I respectfully put on my mask so she could walk by, but then she stopped to talk, and it was clear she wasn’t trying to avoid me due to fear of covid. She was proudly vaccinated. She wanted to stop and tell me how much she enjoyed the flowers I planted. That it brightened her walk each day and she had hoped she would meet the person who planted them so she could thank them. And so, she did. We had such a nice little chat.
Her name is Camilla. She tries to walk everyday but the pain is great. She is getting both knees replaced in April, and that is why she moves with deliberate caution. She lives at the end of the street and she told me how she lives here to be close to her children. She then explained that she has nothing to complain about, everyone has some problem and hers are her bad knees. How lucky she was that hers was pain and nothing more. She cannot wait for her surgery! So upbeat and positive. Then she came back to how beautiful the flowers were. It made my day. Mostly because we have lived in this flat almost a year and hadn’t met anyone until now. This week, we’ve met two neighbors … and all because of the flowers. The day after I planted them the kids that lived next door RAN out to tell me how pretty the flowers were. They also enthusiastically talked about how school was starting etc. But you see, something as simple as the flowers was the opening needed for people to talk and share with one another.
Maybe that is what I love most about winter. People are holed up in their homes and the first sign of sunshine and warm weather everyone is outside enjoying one another and the world around them.
On a side note. I told Camilla that I hoped I’d be able to keep the flowers alive. She suggested that I take milk jugs and fill them up and leave them up at the top of the stairs, that way I didn’t have to go up/down the stairs 5 times to water the flowers with my tiny watering can. It really was a great suggestion… besides, she said when she walked by that she would happily water them as well but only if the water was nearby. 😊 How sweet was that!? It is possible that my flowers will become a community effort!!
Today my challenge is for every one of us to go beyond our everyday radius and go outside and find a flower, a beautiful weed, a garden that you have not noticed before. Really see it. Choose to be happy. And if you happen to see water near some planter boxes, help them out and water them!
You remember me telling you about the cleaning woman that didn’t clean? I feel badly even writing anything about this one… but it is so strange I must share it. I am now using a friend‘s cleaner. Yesterday, I left a clean set of sheets on the bed for her to put-on. This morning, I went to wash the old set, but I could only find the pillowcases. Strange. I kept searching. I honestly questioned if she took my sheet home. There is no place for a sheet to hide. I logically knew she did not confiscate my sheet.
With much determination, I found it. ONTOP of my old sheet! She did not “change the sheets” she just put-on the new sheet on top of the old one. I felt like I was inside an Amelia Bedelia book. After all, it is national book day today.
Next time I will leave a note that is more precise. “Please take off the old sheet and replace it with the new, clean sheet. Thank you.”
If the cleanliness of my house reflects the stability of my life at any given point, then this pandemic has, without a doubt, made me feel less stable! Shouldn’t my house be cleaner because I have more time? And yet, somehow, I cannot motivate myself to scrub anything. Instead, I tiptoe around nursing my fragile emotional stability.
I've been attributing my cleaning incompetence to the differences in cleaning products and the hard water. But I felt horrible when I was whining about not wanting to clean when so many people were out of work, so I did something that I thought would help me and them. I hired a cleaning service. I booked a 3-hour time slot. I am not proud to admit it, but I stopped cleaning as soon as I booked the cleaning date. I just ignored the filth, telling myself that there was no point in cleaning it days before I was paying a cleaner to clean.
I made a list of my priorities and then asked the cleaning person to just go down the list until the clock ran out. The first things on the list were the floors and the bathrooms. I put all the cleaning supplies out with my list, then went out for a walk so I would not be underfoot. When I returned, the cleaning person was bopping from one room to the next and the house was still dirty. I didn't say anything, because clearly she was not finished. Then she asked me to give her a 5 star review and she left. My mouth hung open. The house was almost as filthy as it had been when I left.
She didn’t even clean the toilets!#$&*! What cleaner does not clean toilets? She did rearrange my face cream and shampoo bottles?!*#$? The bathroom mirrors were streaked beyond belief. I wandered around the house thinking that this had to be a joke.
The kitchen floor had not been touched, and it was covered with crumbs. There's no way she couldn’t have noticed. In the other rooms you could see where her mop had gone because she hadn't cleaned under anything, only around things. I thought this is what it might have looked like if I had paid two 10-year-olds to clean the house. My usual after cleaner leaves jubilant mood was nowhere to be found. My joyful anticipation of smelling lemon scent and slipping on a well mopped floor turned into bewilderment, which turned into resentment. I went around taking photos of how bad it was, and then felt too embarrassed to even include them in this post or complain to the service. My house was still an absolute disaster and I knew I would have to suck it up and clean it. And so I did.
If you are familiar with services that provide all the recipes and ingredients for you to prepare the meal intended, you will be able to imagine what I am talking about. When COVID broke out we were introduced to Baked In. All the Pre-measured ingredients delivered to me in a neat little box. Now I possess everything necessary to make the dessert of the month! We did not have any kitchen tools or ability to store excess food because, at the time, we were living in temporary housing and our shipment had not yet arrived from the USA. This is way back in April, so we signed up for Baked In and thought that the premeasured amounts would be of great help. Of course, the desserts were far too big for two of us, so after gaining more weight then we intended, I kept two additional month's boxes and then canceled my subscription. I held onto the boxes waiting for the kids to come, hoping we would bake together.
… it is time to start the frosting. Cole reads out loud, “mix the mascarpone with bag #5, so I do this. We whip it, and again, taste it, and there is no doubt something is wrong, it tastes strange. THAT bag #5 ended up being yeast. Then the light bulb goes off. He had been reading the recipe for the cake but, all the while, using the ingredients for the pretzels. We laughed SO hard when it became obvious. We had to throw away the frosting too. We looked in the fridge and found some cream cheese and in the correct box we found icing sugar… we made an ad-hoc frosting. I hold my head in shame convinced the mistake was the company’s when it was ours and ours alone.
Between our fits of laughter, we did the best we could to finish the cake. …It is true, the cake looks horrible. As we learn to be flexible in difficult times, it becomes crystal clear that joy is not obtained by the result, but in the journey making the sweetest memories.
Take it from me, throw out your recipes. Create your own. You might find that your pretzel cake is just what you were after all along.
I am not alone in anticipating and watching The Crown as soon as the new season came out. It is the history my age group remembers; Margaret Thatcher, violence of the IRA and most of all, Princess Diana, and her tragic death.
We happen to live a few doors down from the school that William and Harry went to for their primary years. Daily, we see the nannies, security details and the occasional parent drop off their children in their extremely adorable uniforms. So, when we watched in Season 4 episode 2 Princess Diana dropping off William at school, we knew, firsthand, of the door to which he was dropped off.
I never realized how isolated Princess Diana must have felt. A friend of mine has children that went to school with Prince William. She tells of her son having play dates together with the young Prince. In fact, she told me once that Prince William was over and he told her that his Grannie was coming to pick him up. As you could imagine, my friend panicked. That would be the Queen picking up her grandson at their home ?!#*!? Oh my, what would she say? What should one do? Invite her in? She didn’t have time to tidy the house, so many things ran through her mind. Of course, that did not happen. To her relief, the security detail dropped off and picked up, as usual. But consider that the playdates were not entirely different than when our own children would have playdates with neighborhood children. And that is the rub. It was different. Of course, you would be excited to have your child be invited over to Kensington Palace for a play date, but would you be prepared to know what to say to Princess Diana when you picked them up? Would you talk about everyday trials and tribulations about parenting with a Princess? You would think she would have nothing in common with you. We falsely attribute having different emotions to people of such privilege. When Princess Diana dropped Prince William off at school and all the mums/nannies were gathered around chatting it up, did anyone reach out to Princess Diana to join in? Of course not. My friend said, nobody even knew the proper way to address her. They all left her alone. Could she have joined the group? Possibly, but we all recognize now, she was dealing with her own insecurities. Besides, the paparazzi would never have given her the opportunity. She did not feel she belonged anywhere. Not at home. Not with her own peer group. And, unfortunately, not with the Royal Family. In fact, it was unclear if she even had a friend with which to blow off steam, to share her darkest secrets, or to laugh till they cried. She was, by definition, as alone as one could get. While Princess Diana carried all that pain alone, we all thought she “had it all”.
David said it reminded him of the pretty girl syndrome in high school. You would never ask out the “prettiest girl” because everyone thought, “she would never go out with me”. Couldn’t she date anyone she wanted? Yet, her “having it all” appearance made her unapproachable, and she was never asked out.
Princess Diana was marrying a mature stranger, who unbeknownst to her was in love with another woman and entered a role she was not sure how to navigate. When I was her same age, I was immaturely balancing university responsibilities with partying and learning how much fun was too much? Is it no wonder she did not have the emotional intelligence needed to succeed? And in time, her compassion and humanity came through and she found her place and her purpose despite everything. It was too bad, nobody understood her. It was disastrous that the paparazzi did not give them their privacy. It is tragic when any human being feels so alone. Princess Diana deserved a better goodbye.
Where to begin? How about somewhere totally mundane like the signage in front of our house. Just to clear up any confusion before starting, we live on Chepstow Place. Now in Mid-August, we notice the road crews came by and placed these seriously significant signs on all four corners of our street that say:
ROAD CLOSED FOR PLAY STREET UNTIL SEPT 2020
Yup… they were very visible, and we had no idea what they meant. Our road had plenty of traffic and clearly was not closed to cars. We walked around freely as well as did all the parents and nannies with their children in tow. We expected to “see” something in September that would clear up the big question, “what does the sign mean?”
The obvious, was that the Road would close for the month of September, but no. Then it was clear come September that all the families would come out and play on the street, we were really looking forward to this! Maybe this is similar to a block party in the states? But no. I began to daydream about all the neighbors I would meet. But no. September came and went. And no official closures of any kind. No play. Nothing changed that we could tell.
It was clear the city could not reuse this sign, it had Sept 2020 on it. So, I asked some official looking person if I could have the sign when October came! Afterall, what is more cool than to have a memory of such a ludicrous no closure that was supposed to happen in front of our house? But, nobody I spoke with had the authority to give permission, I had to call the City. Of course, I considered just taking it on the last day of September… who would care or would know? If you are unaware, there are CCTV (AKA video surveillance everywhere!) “THEY” would know, I was not about to just “take” the sign. So, I find out who made the sign and called them. They gave me the council # who paid for the sign and I proceed to call them to ask for permission. I should have known better. Nobody is going to take the time to reply to some lunatic who wants a sign that makes no sense! But WHY can’t I have it? It cannot be used again. So today, Oct 1, I am in luck. I am sitting at the computer and the city’s road maintenance truck is in front of my house collecting the signs. I dart out of the door and up my stairs, my immediacy received some attention because by the time I landed in front of his truck, he was ready to listen with wide eyes as to what could be so important …. The speed in which I tell him all the reasons he should let me have the signs he is picking up made his head spin. I explain they can’t reuse the sign (due to the past date) and that I called the council but I couldn’t get a hold of anyone with any authority, and that there were so many signs nobody would miss one… etc… I was rambling so fast and furious that once I shut up and allowed him to speak, he couldn’t see why either. He was curious WHY I wanted it, and what I planned to do with it, but other than that he was happily searching through the signs to find the sign with the least wear and tear. I’m going to go as far as to say he was amused.
I felt somewhat foolish admitting that I wanted to put it on our bare walls because we thought the sign made no sense. With a smile he tried to explain that it meant - our street was near a school, kids might be at play. I stopped him and said, “Here? In the street? Children playing in this busy street?” he rolled his eyes and said, “yes, it’s possible, they’re called Play Streets” Then I went on to ask, “Why the Date sept 2020?” School is longer than one month. He said he didn’t know the answer to that question! And so there we have it folks. The logic of the British has escaped me again. Maybe I could get a job with the council? My first suggestion would be to place permanent signs up on the streetlamp poles near schools that clearly state: Sept-June School in session, children at play, SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!
I might need to eat a chill pill. I was volunteering today at my favorite charity – plug for London’s book project, and I brought up how poorly this sign was worded, and they all laughed at me. They said that “Street Play” was a THING. And it was not easy to get your street designated as a Street Play, so I should be grateful. I came home and looked it up. Yup, it is a thing. Maybe COVID had something to do with it this year because it was not anything like the video, just saying. But I am happy to think that the effort it took to make my street a PLAY STREET gives me joy. Maybe next year, we'll see kids playing with one another outdoors?
Don't take life so seriously.
I'm Jody. I love to travel. I love to take pictures. I love to meet people and find interesting places. I also love to write about and post pix of what I've found. But, I've been told that I write like I talk - in streams of consciousness. So, if proper grammar and well composed sentences are a must for you - my posts will make you crazy. If you want to follow my journey as I learn about really cool places and offer some great tips about living abroad, read on!