June 30, 2011

Day Five

Outlet shopping in Napa to satisfy Donal. I begrudgingly participated. ;-)
Drive south through Oakland on our way to Carmel via the Pacific Coast Highway.

Day Four

Wine, whine, wine.

Wineries: Castello di Amorosa; O'Brien's; and one I don't remember.
Lunch at Bottega where they don't know the difference between spagetti
and linguini noodles (but at least stand by their arguments). Slightly
tipsy by the end of the day so in bed and asleep by 8:30. I think the
jet lag finally caught up with me.

June 29, 2011

Day Three

Record rain in San Francisco. We couldn't get the car until 2:00 so
hung out in the hotel. I went Walgreens shopping just for something to
do. (I also went to The Banana and got a great dress.)

Finally got the car, Dad drove over the Golden Gate bridge - neat!
Dinner at The French Laundry in Napa. Very exciting, and while
possibly not worth every dollar we paid, it was a great meal and

June 28, 2011

Day Two

Early rise, around 5:30, gave us plenty of time for breakfast. Then on
to our organised tour of Muir Woods and Sausalito. Then on to
Fisherman's Wharf for [an overpriced] lunch, a walk to Pier 39, and
then Ghirardelli Square for a necessary sugar and caffeine fix. Mom
and Dad ventured public transport back to the hote7l while Donal and I
opted for the walk, in order to "see more of the city". Interestingly
enough, San Francisco is not all beautiful - there's quite a lot of it
which don't make the postcards.

June 26, 2011

Day One.

First mobile-blog post of our holiday out to California. Typing and
photo-ing from my iPhone, so my usual witty prose and gorgeous
pictures will be considerably stunted.

Left the house, the boys and the in-laws this morning a little after
7:00. No tears or whining, which gladdens my heart. Hopefully the week
goes smoothly for everyone.

Now sitting in a poorly lit executive lounge (Donal's constant travel
does have some perks), eating a peculiarly delicious croissant,
eavesdropping on a nearby conversation, and enjoying a bloody Mary
(possibly not a great idea... Must stay hydrated), waiting for our
flight to be called.

June 24, 2011

No white eggs.

By way of Lancaster, Columbus, San Juan, Chicago, Cork, Atlanta, Houston, and Boston I find myself living in London. Actually, I'm nearly a Londonder - the official title is dubbed on you after you've lived here for 10 years. But I'm sure true Londoners don't know that, so, alas, I'll never really be one.

In fact, I'm really always on the outside here. Not growing up in a place and being privy to it's social history and cultural nuances is only truly evident when you're the outsider. 

I'll never have watched The Flumps from a Victorian semi-detached house, lived through Thatcher, learned all the kings and queens, suffered punk fashion, taken A levels, nor gone to "Uni". I didn't take holidays in France or Spain. I didn't do a gap year. 

I watched The Cosby show from a 1950s ranch, thought Regan was great because he liked jellybeans, became aware of royalty through Diana's wedding, rocked a banana clip and stirrups, did respectably well on my ACTs (but sucked on my SATs), and went to college. My first international travel was to England, through my employer, when I was 21. (Unless you count Toronto and Cancun. Which, at the time, I did.) I didn't know people could take a year-long vacation and I had no idea jobs in Australia were, apparently, so plentiful. 

I was prepared, confident, tall and assertive (AKA: American Andrea). I am now mild, organized and non-confrontational (British Andrea). In my heart June is still a summer month, but realize the shorts have been replaced by wellies. I have bought wellies. I get heat rash in 80 degree heat and open my windows when it's in the 60s. I can think in Celsius but choose not to, as it really doesn't make sense and even the British public can't seem to firmly convert. I spell words the British way, but let spell check correct them so I'm no longer taunted by my family for extraneous "u"s and misplaced "s"s. I get irritated by people commenting on my accent on either side of the Atlantic. Everyone has an accent. Talking in hushed tones is as comfortable as bellowing across the playground. I eat with my fork upside down and don't switch hands. I make chocolate chip cookies but am unsure as to weather or not to call them biscuits.

I think taking a two week holiday is normal and that every employee should have at least that, plus more. Socialized medicine is wonderful but am glad my family has the cushion of private when things go really wrong. A year's maternity leave, while unnecessary for some parents, should be the employer's standard. My taxes are too high, but I'm glad for the help it provides to those who really need it. It's very irritating that the shops close at 5:00, but I'm sure the employees wouldn't have it any other way. My prescriptions aren't advertised and are probably generic. I don't mind, they hardly cost a thing and I'm not a media-induced hypochondriac. Birth control is free.

London is dirty. It's crowded. It's got shite weather. My sidewalks are covered in dog poo. My local shopping center is riddled with ghetto gold for sale down the middle aisle; it smells like KMart popcorn. My local market smells like dead, rotting fish and sounds like Africa, Turkey, and East London combined. I have three great coffee shops within 5 minutes of my house, none of them are Starbucks, and I know all the owners. The museums are free. There are loads of really great things to do with kids within walking distance. Within a bus ride there's hundreds more. There are fantastic and unbeatable parks. You can buy just about anything you need within a 10 minute walk of where you are, including a full-blown picnic with wine. You can drink wine in public. I can walk to nearly all of my friend's houses; they can walk to mine and often do. 

Conversations are even-keeled. Private lives stay behind closed doors. No one shrieks, no one shouts. Good news is met with a smile and bad news passes with a cup of tea. Social standing can be judged in quantities of sugar. 
Hot tea is tea. Trash goes in the bin. Lay your suitcases in the boot, fill the tank with petrol and check under the bonnet. Paracetamol is Tylenol; Ibuprofen is Advil; Calpol is for kids. We put our groceries in the trolley. My sons learned to do wees in the potty and now go to the loo. Sometimes, when Nana is here, they also spend a penny. Z is zed.

You don't own a van, you own a people carrier. You don't own a station wagon, you own an estate car. You can't find a way to explain what a blimp is. You might have a garden, but never a yard. A school fete is a fair. A hamper is a gift basket. Some children call their teacher "Miss." You push your children in a buggy or pram. They sleep in a cot and suck on a dummy (you try to forget about British orthodontics).

You know more Fiona's than Stephanie's. You've never met a British Brad or Scott. You navigate roundabouts, but rarely see a stop sign. The fast lane is on your right; the gear shift is on your left. You can't pay at the pump. Petrol costs 136p / liter. ($9.08 / gallon) Most cars are hatchbacks. SUVs exist, but the term doesn't translate. A semi truck is a lorry. Fire engines sound like "nee naw". There aren't any yellow school buses. You cross the street at a zebra crossing and walk on the footpath. Your bathroom doesn't have sockets, apart from the one used for shavers. You post your letter; the postman delivers them. Call your friends on their mobile (listen to the dial tone, it's different too). Lots of people wear glasses. Your Doctor is a consultant; they work in a surgery. Get your prescription from the chemist. 

Shite, bollocks, feck, sugar, pants are a few choice words. After revising, you erase your maths mistakes with a rubber. You get pissed at the pub. You wear pants under your trousers. Cricket is not the same thing as baseball, netball isn't the same as basketball and soccer is not just for girls.

If it's hot, cool down with an ice lolly. A stick of butter is not a recognized unit of measurement. Butter comes in blocks. Candy = sweets, Arugula = rocket, Eggplant = aubergine, Chips = crisps; they are not sold in mega-bags. French fries = chips. Father Christmas comes in winter and Boxing Day is Dec. 26. The correct date format is DD/MM/YYYY. I don't own a tumble dryer or garbage disposal. My windows don't have screens. There's no AC. There are no raccoons or chipmunks. I've never seen a white egg for sale.

I'm sure there's more, but I'm struggling and I'm sure you've stopped reading.

June 15, 2011


Happy Birthday, Goose!

June 1, 2011

Today I didn't do it.

The story is not my own, but the pictures are...

A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard. The door of his wife's car was open, as was the front door to the house and... there was no sign of the dog. 

Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room, the TV was loudly blaring a Cartoon channel and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door. 

He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that something serious had happened. He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the bathroom door. As he peered inside he found wet towels, scummy soap and more toys strewn over the floor. Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls. As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. 

She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, 'What happened here today?' She again smiled and answered, 'You know every day when you come home from work and ask me what in the world do I do all day?' 'Yes...?' was his incredulous reply. 

She answered, 'Well, today I didn't do it.'

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

All pics taken as-is, 15 minutes ago.

My reading list; not including my current weighty tome.
(I also have to fix that paint chip.)