Friday, October 30, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The exchange rate

I can tell I've been here a while, because I've started forgetting to recalculate prices in my head.

This is particularly dangerous when making purchases of things needed, but readily obtainable cheaper in the States. For example, this past weekend we went to the bike shop to get Himself a set of good lights for commuting, and some new glove for me. While we were there, I was encouraged to check out the jackets. Since its been almost a decade since I've lived anywhere with a real winter, this seemed like a good idea.

I found a really nice one, spent a few minutes struggling with the idea of buying a new jacket, and bit the bullet. It's a great jacket - it converts into a vest and is lurid enough to alert even the most unobservant of drivers. In fact, if a driver can't see me while I'm wearing this thing, I would predict they are legally blind and, as such, shouldn't be on the roads anyway.

To try and put this color into perspective I have to share a childhood story about my brother. When we were young (maybe 6 and 8 or 7 and 9), there were a couple of summers when Boston experienced a major infestation of gypsy moths. We were alternately fascinated and horrified by the caterpillars that were absolutely everywhere. My brother and I discovered that if you stepped on one end of a caterpillar, bright fluorescent green guts would squirt out the other end. Truly disgusting, and guaranteed to be a hit with all the neighborhood kids. Of course, my brother went on to collect the caterpillars in old beer bottles filled with water and keep them in his room, but that's another story.

Anyhow, this jacket is that type of bright fluorescent color, but yellow instead of green. Beyond retina searing, and perfect for cycling in a city with lots and lots of traffic. I wore it on a ride on Sunday and was amazed at how much more room I got from passing vehicles, just by virtue of being an insult to anyone with color vision. Awesome.

However, the jacket was quite pricey. £68 in fact, and my thought process when buying it ran something like this: "$68 is a lot of money, but it's a jacket and a vest in one, and the color will be really good, and I don't have a good riding jacket, so what the heck." The only problem here being that it is actually a $112 jacket.

That sound you heard was my little tightfisted Puritan heart breaking. One hundred and twelve dollars for a yellow piece of plastic you can ball up in your fist? My sainted ancestors are spinning in their graves as we speak type. Shocking!

However, if it keeps me off the pavement, it's worth it. Thankfully I can wear sunglasses and not blind myself while I'm wearing it.

Heinous jacket

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This would never happen in Texas

So last night, Himself and I were enjoying a lovely evening of sitting on the couch, drinking beer and watching bad TV (actually we were watching Airplane, but bad still applies). And suddenly a bomb went off.

It wasn't actually a bomb, it was our neighbors setting off elaborate fireworks in their backyard. Serious fireworkers, that whistled and screeched and sent off showers of sparks. After deciding that no, the world wasn't coming to an end, and the kids weren't waking up, we were somewhat perplexed. What was going on?

Our neighbors are Indian. And I once, long long ago, lived in New Delhi for a brief stretch. One of my lingering memories is of all the houses in our neighborhood illuminated by hundreds of tiny oil lamps lining the walls and rooftops. So I ran in to our handy dandy computer and discovered that, lo and behold, yesterday was Diwali, the Festival of Lights, a major Hindu holiday. Often celebrated, even in London, with lots and lots of fireworks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I have a new toy

I spent an inordinate amount of time last week trying to get a new phone, and I finally succeeded. So now I can take candid photos whilst out and about with all and sundry.

D practicing her numbers

Boo at the grocery store, stocking up on important supplies

The Natural History Museum

Boo assessing the duck situation

Devil prospecting for gold. Or digging to China. Who knows?

I guess she got tired of digging.

I'm looking forward to being able to engage in some kinnearing in the near future. London commuters be warned!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Um. Wow.

Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this later, when I've had time to process a little bit, but the first thing that jumps to mind is:

How do you like them apples George?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Where oh where has the last month gone?

Somehow, while I was busy running around, a whole month has gone by and it's officially autumn. This week we've finally gotten our first taste of "typical" English weather - it's been grey and drizzly and cool all week, after a glorious weekend.

So what have I been doing? Well, let's see...after a quick week of half-days, Devil started up school full time. Well, the 8:30-3:30 version of full time that is. She loves it. Absolutely adores her teachers, her classmates, and the whole kit and caboodle that is school. She even has homework (!), which she does happily. Of course, since her homework basically consists of reading books with me or Daddy, and occasionally doing some flash cards for words, it's not too strenuous. And she has a whole host of little jingles for each of the letters of the alphabet that are slowly but surely driving me insane (damn you Jolly Phonics!). My mind still boggles at the idea that she will be able to read and write by the end of the year, but she is on her way.

Yesterday was our first experience at a school production for parents - it was her school's Harvest Festival. They typically have an assembly every Tuesday morning, but this week, parents were invited and each class (including the Nursery kids!) stood up and sang a song, or did a little presentation about a autumn celebration. Devil's class did the Chinese Moon Festival, and they each recited what they wished for (she wants a wand, no surprise to anyone there). Then all three of the pre-prep years (Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, aka: kindergarden, first grade and second grade) sang a song about conkers, that I've been hearing in bits and pieces for the last few weeks. It was nice to figure out what the damn thing was actually about, since D insisted on pronouncing it "conkiss". Which I suppose is what it sounds like with an English accent, but it's hard to interpret as an American parent.

Boo is still enjoying daycare, blithely running downstairs every morning to show off her latest animal. Her teachers, bless them every one, continue to act suitably impressed when she proudly shows off her giraffe for the umpteenth time. And always the precocious one, she's decided not to wait until February to start acting like a three year old. Little shit*. So life with Boo now mostly revolves around asking her to do something, watching her float away ignoring me, and then wrestling her upstairs to her room as a consequence while she screams at the top of her exceedingly well-excersized lungs. Fun times. The only up side to this is that I have evidence that this too shall pass. It just might take a couple of years.

Himself is enjoying work, and is currently in Italy looking at rocks. Life is very tough sometimes. I'm back at work on a part-time basis, which I'm really enjoying. I can take the girls to school, go into the "office", have 5 hours to get things done (which requires me to actually be productive) and then I pick them up and spend the later part of the afternoon with them. It's working out quite well. I'm not getting paid yet, since I'm still waiting for my British Social Security number, but I'm enjoying being back in the lab/science world and having somewhere to go every day. However, life is about to be horribly disrupted by Devil's half-term holiday in a week and a half. She'll get to come in with me!

So that's it, in a nutshell. My commute is providing me with many entertaining observations on English life, and I promise it won't be another month before I tell you about some of them.

* And I mean that in the most loving way. Really.