Tag Archives: UK

Photo Challenge: Symmetry

Except for the ill thought out placement of chimneys for a symmetrical photograph, Anglesey Abbey (first built as a priory during the reign of Henry I, i.e. 1100 – 1135) displays near perfect symmetry:

Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire, UK

Don’t look too closely. There are other flaws in symmetry.

You looked at this picture and thought our house hunt was over, didn’t you? We decided not to make an offer as the heating bills might strain our budget.

Symmetry

Airport Gestapo #2

How about a sharp tongue? Photo Credit: Wikipedia

. . . . . . previously, my bad flight karma had just begun as I faced off with a towering disagreeable-looking security officer at Heathrow Airport while she terrified some other victim of the search police.

Allowing the crush of pushy people and non-stop bags all around to empty my brain of common sense, I tutted and scowled and pushed my carry-on onto apparently her table in order to repack it after the x-ray scan.

It was a big table. There was plenty of room for both of us to conduct our business.

She gave it a resolute shove so it was teetering on the brink. I’d lost my gap on the downhill rollers from the x-ray machine with the flow of bags, trays, shoes and coats clattering along, so now had a cumbersome carry-on in no man’s land with jacket, handbag and computer in trays and not enough hands to deal with them all. Jimmy was not in my frantic field of vision. At least I’d kept my shoes on so my socks were clean.

A momentary vision of being pushed off a cliff with a cascade of dirty underwear, shoes and computers pelting me was shattered by the security führer barking, “You can take your bag over there to those chairs,” showing complete unwillingness to share her precious table.

“I can’t carry all this over there,” I muttered darkly and a little more loudly than I intended. A deep-seated mistrust of strangers in public places had me thinking I must do it all in one trip and not leave anything behind for one moment for some foreigner to steal while my back was turned.

Who was I kidding? I was the foreigner in England.

The mistrust stems back to having my tailored velvet jacket stolen from under my nose while I was having a shoulder massage at a convention in London. By the time I’d replaced the jacket it was out of fashion, or perhaps it never was in and my fashion sense angel took it.

But back to the crisis at hand. Breeeathe, I told myself, Put your jacket on, put your handbag on your shoulder, pick up the computer in one hand and pick up your case . . . . “uuuuh!” . . . with the other hand.

CRASH!

It hit the floor with just a little too much petulant vigor and I rolled it over to the chair, a chair intended for sitting, a chair not really large enough to hold my over-size carry-on, the sort of carry-on Jimmy and I used to point at and grumble sanctimoniously, “That’s too big for a carry-on. How are they going to fit that in the overhead locker? No wonder the lockers are always full and there’s never any room for our bags.” Now we both have one.

Okay. Trauma over. A few steps away from the seething mass and with my carry-on balanced on the arms of the chair, I tried a zipper. Aha! I slipped the computer into its slot amongst its protective underwear, zipped up the case, popped it on the floor and was ready to roll.

“This is all nonsense, taking shoes off being optional. What kind of way is that to conduct security?” I spat at no one in particular as Jimmy was keeping his distance, embarrassed to be with me. I turned to look for our boarding gate.

“Excuse me, madam. Will you come with me?”

Things went from bad to worse.

. . . . to be continued.

PLEASE! What time is it?

Telling time by our shadows
Telling time by our shadows

“Is it quarter past five or quarter past six?”

“It’s quarter past . . . oh. Did I change my watch or not?”

“I don’t know. I changed mine but I think I changed it back again.”

“Isn’t that the six o’clock news we’re watching?”

“It’s Dothan (Alabama). It was the five o’clock news the last time we watched it when we were on Central Time.”

“Well he just said the six o’clock news.”

“He said it was coming up.”

“It’s six o’clock Eastern Time so it’s the six o’clock news.”

“We’ve changed time zones, not Dothan, unless they’ve moved it since this morning.”

“Alright, smarty pants. The time on the microwave should be correct. It says . . . ah, I think I set that to my watch and I don’t know what time my watch is set to.”

“The clock in the car! I changed that from Central Time to Eastern Time after we came through Mexico Beach. That will definitely be on Eastern Time.”

On numerous occasions we’d been caught out by driving into another time zone and had been plus or minus an hour without knowing it, sometimes for a couple of days. With no deadlines to keep, time was more a habit than a necessity.

Having checked the road atlas I knew exactly where the time zone line was and had sat, rather childishly, staring at my cell phone to see the exact place where the time read out would jump forward an hour as we drove eastwards on the Gulf coast of Florida. It was an event for us – not changing time zones but remembering that it would happen.

What was so confusing that day was that we had driven from Central time to Eastern Time, then south and west into a state park and north onto a peninsula. The park according to its “quiet hours” was on Eastern Time but on the campsite our phones had gone back to Central time. According to the road atlas we were right on the dividing line on a spit of land across from St. Joseph’s Bay.

Telling time by the sunset. From land  . . . .
Telling time by the sunset. From land . . . .
 . . . to the sea. How could you NOT walk on this boardwalk?
. . . to the sea. How could you NOT walk on this boardwalk?

“So if the park gate is on Eastern Time, are we on Eastern Time even though, according to our phones, we appear to be back on Central Time? What time do we set our watches to?”

I really had no idea so decided to set the microwave clock forward an hour and start cooking as it was then six thirty. Somewhere.

Changing times zones is no phenomenon to an American used to traveling or telephoning around the country, but the whole of the UK is on Greenwich Mean Time (or British Summer Time but let’s not confuse the issue any more than I already have with daylight savings time) so that any road trip taken doesn’t involve guessing what the time is upon arrival. One simply looks at one’s watch (or clock or phone). Unless you are driving through the Channel Tunnel to France, but any fool knows to add an hour for arrival time in France and subtract and hour when coming back to the UK (except us of course, the first few times we made the trip).

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The ten o’clock news came on and we were still undecided as to where it was ten o’clock and which time zone we were in.

“Well I’m tired and I really want to go to bed but it’s too early if it’s ten o’clock.” I laid down the bed anyway and looked at the clock. “Aha! I haven’t touched my bedside clock, so it’s still on Central time. “I can just put it forward to Eastern Time which is 11:00. Bedtime!”

That little trick didn’t work. I still woke up early, five o’clock Eastern time, four o’clock Central, as they say on TV.

After waiting until a sensible 8:00/7:00 I announced, “I’d like to go for a walk on the beach today at high tide. I’ve got a tide table here. High tide is 3:28 PM.”

“Is that Eastern or Central?”

We had a number of departure times for our walk as we’d messed up all our timepieces. Except our phones. They were accurate, but which time zone were we in?

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Is This Your Idea of Fun?

"Fun" in the snow - Christmas 2005. Enough already!
“Fun” in the snow – Christmas 2005. Enough already!

Carrying on with my rant in this post, daytime temperatures in our box are as difficult to control as nighttime temps. Heat explodes through four floor vents spaced within 12 feet. As the temperature rises we begin gasping for breath and grow pale and nauseous with heat exhaustion.

When the furnace finally cuts out, the atmospheric pressure in our ‘cabin’ drops, making my ears pop. The silence is welcome but sudden, like unplugging your teenager’s stereo. One of us will be caught in the middle of shouting a sentence as the roar abates and my tinnitus becomes apparent again in the quiet. The heat wave recedes and recedes and recedes and goose bumps make a reappearance. Then the fight ensues over the furnace remote.

The location of the thermostat remains a mystery to us so we don’t know if it is affected by the stove or where we sit pumping out bad vibes or our own hot air as we complain.

Depending on our latitude and altitude and simply the vagaries of the weather we can be alternating from day to day with heating and air conditioning and back to heating. The trailer acts like a greenhouse, warming quickly in the sun and cooling down just as quickly as a cloud comes over.

Curiously this cooling phenomenon doesn’t happen at sunset; the trailer holds an uncomfortable level of heat until 5 am when the temperature plummets and it is then impossible to get warm and get back to sleep. I’d get up and get on with the day but what can you do when your other half is snoozing happily in the same ‘room’?

The air conditioning vents are in the ceiling, less than a foot from my head sending arctic blasts down the back of my neck and ruffling my hair. Jimmy is okay. He tends to find something to do and sits in a pocket of still air between gale winds. I twist the vents away causing the flame to blow out on the stove, then twist the vents again away from the stove. As I move up and down our tiny kitchen area I get gusts from three different directions.

All I want is for the temperature to be just right and stay just right. Is that too much to ask?

I suppose the subjects of terrorism, government, airline policies and finances (mentioned here in case you are thinking, where did that come from?) can be lumped together for the purposes of this rant. Terrorist threats have prompted the government to put stricter security policies in place which will cost the airlines more to implement, justifying yet more fees on our already escalating airfares back to the UK.

We now pay to eat, to imbibe, to take a suitcase, to book a seat. Soon they will charge you to sneeze. Used to an endless supply of free wine, we tell ourselves that orange juice is so much healthier.

More importantly (than a glass of wine? Heck!) we are questioning whether we can afford to fly to the UK every spring and autumn, as we have been doing, to see our grown up children and little grandchildren. Airfares have gone up, health insurance premiums have gone up, the pound against the dollar is down, interest rates are down. I’m not sure we can live here at all if we can’t afford to see our family regularly.

Bonjour France?

Hola Espana?

Buongiorno Italy?

G’day Sydney? A third grandchild has been born in Australia.

Himself won’t live in England. Don’t get me started on that.

The view from our RV. It may look familiar to many of you!
The view from our RV Christmas ’05. It may have a familiar look to many of you!

The Confession

Hello Ladies and G’s, Followers and Casual Drop-ins,

I have a confession to make.

You are on the naughty chair
This is me on the naughty chair.

This blog started somewhere in the middle of things, jumped around a bit, then settled down at the beginning of our travails (no, that’s not a typo) with the occasional excursion to the present (i.e. UK, Australia, France). I have notebooks full of sorry tales which I’m ploughing through on WWN101 in the hopes I get back to the present before the travels/travails start again.

I’ve had to confess as it will soon become apparent that the blog is set in a completely different season to the rest of the northern hemisphere.

We opted out of the wheeled life after 3 ½ years on the road to have comfortable chairs and beds,  beds I can make without turning the air blue (c’mon you RVers, you know what I mean, Nightmares Before Bedtime), more than one room, slammable doors between the rooms, our own laundry facilities that some dirty devil hasn’t just used before I put my whites in, a full immersion bath – not a footbath/shower, the same neighbors day after day (not always a good thing but we’ve been lucky here) to say hello to, dry towels, walk-in closets where I can make a considered choice instead of just wearing whatever is on top of the clean pile, a sofa that is out of earshot for the one who isn’t snoring, a recliner we can fight over and all the stores my little heart desires a few minutes’ drive away.

Now through circumstances beyond our control (and himself is bored) we are giving up the above amenities. Trailer life is looming large again due to uncertainty about our next step.

So we haven’t been, strictly speaking, homeless the whole while I’ve been publishing this blog, just unsettled and undecided apartment dwellers with containers full of furniture and who-knows-what stored and festering in another country for seven years.

When I said at the start “the beginning of our travails” that only referred to the American segment. There were European travels (with consequent notebooks of stories) before that.

I should make a change to my blog header and change one word by one letter – from homeless to hopeless!

As you can see below, I am rather reluctant to leave our stunning balcony view. I just need a lightning shot and the set will be complete:

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We will return to our regularly scheduled program on Friday.