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International Day at Tesco

February 19th, 2012

International Day at Tesco

Had to run over to Tesco this afternoon for a few items. We were unaware that Tesco was having a half price day sale. The traffic should have definitely been a clue when it took us twice as long as usual to reach the parking lot but we persevered and went on into the lot and found a place to park.

I like to go shopping with my husband and he doesn’t mind it and usually enjoys himself as well. When my daughter is in town, we will also sometimes make it a family outing and all of us will spend some time browsing up and down the aisles. It’s always fun in another country as there is always something new to find. We may not want to buy it but finding it and seeing what it is or does is just as much fun. With this said, it still sometimes surprises me to see whole families going through the aisles doing the shopping together. My maximum family size is three. I am talking now of families that have 3 or 4 children and they have decided to bring along the grandparents as well. So there is a family of between 5 and 8 people wandering up and down the aisles together, pretty much blocking any access to anything until they choose to move on to another product.

Today was much the same but even more crowded than usual because of the half-price sale. I thought Tesco was crowded at Christmas! It was almost as bad. Today I also noticed all the different nationalities that are making Tesco their home base of shopping. I know the area around here has a large population of immigrants turned citizens and also a large population of ex-pats here for whatever reason such as we are living here. Today, a large population of the “foreigners” in the area all descended on Tesco in their family groups for the half-price sale.

First I noticed the Nepalese families. I have spent several vacations in Nepal so am fairly confident that I can identify Nepalese and faintly recognize the language. The Nepalese families there today were just the nuclear families but 2 or 3 children per family and really taking advantage of the sale with one or two carts full to the brim of goodies. I also noticed the Indian families. A few of them had brought along the grandparents where the woman was usually dressed in a sari while her more Anglicized children and grandchildren would be dressed in the equivalent clothes per age group of what English families wear. I think I noticed some Thai families but not really sure if they were Thai or another Southeast Asian family. Some Eastern European families were also stocking up but not sure from where but I did hear at least two different languages from that side of the continent.

Finally there was one lone Chinese woman doing the shopping on her own. She was a lovely person to see because she had dressed up for the occasion. She was in a long red velvet dress which skimmed the tops of her shoes. Her coat was a deep burgundy velvet type material. Totally made up face and fine jewelry and a magnificent fur hat which covered her ears topped the ensemble. Her cart was almost overflowing as she pushed it to the checkout line.

I really had been grimacing when we pulled into the parking lot because I am not very fond of crowds nor do I like to push my way through the aisles while people hem and haw over what to buy. But I’m very glad I went today. It was delightful to see so many different people and cultures all intent on their shopping, all at the same place, and all living the same kind of life on a Sunday afternoon.

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Definitely Rocked

February 19th, 2012

We Will Rock You

This was our first trip into London for a theater show. We really had no clue what We Will Rock You was about other than it had music from Queen, which we love. Somehow we thought it was more of a concert but turns out it was a musical play.

Thirty minutes into the play, we had to evacuate the theater which happened in a rather orderly fashion and no one stampeded out or knocked other people down. Killer Queen was singing a song when two people dressed in black just walked onto the stage, tapped her from behind and helped her down off her perch. I thought it was something that wasn’t supposed to be happening and I was right. As she stops singing, mid song, and climbs down, she says, “We’ll be back.” Then the curtains come down including a big curtain on the front that says “Safety Curtain” which I have never seen in a theater before. People in the audience sat a minute and sort of waiting for an announcement. Then people on the left hand side of the theater sort of all got up en-mass and started for the exits so all of us on the right side did too. We got into the aisle and still just sort of stood there when some theater employees came to the fire exits and started yelling, “Everyone out of the theater now! This way! Out of the theater now!” Everyone did start moving quickly now but still orderly and no panic. There is no smoke or anything happening that we can see.

Standing outside in an alley, we just were waiting to see what was going to happen and if we should head for the subway and go home or give it some more time. We heard sirens and saw an ambulance come racing towards the theater and then a fire truck. We started moving towards the front of the theater so we could see what was happened. It was very crowded so by the time we got to the front, the emergency personnel had either gone elsewhere or never stopped there anyway. Another 10 minutes and people started going back into the theater. We went back to our seats and were told another 15 minutes and the play would begin again.

So the night grew a bit longer than expected as we were allowed back into the theater later and the play continued on from the interruption point. An explanation later was that a disgruntled employee had pulled the fire alarm. We were also told that the disgruntled employee was known and would be dealt with in an appropriate manner. All that aside, the play was a delightful little future scenario where music is gone and one dreamer must find Freddy Mercury’s guitar where he hid it. I was a bit unprepared to hear women sing some of Freddy’s songs but it was good and their voices were superb. It was definitely a British tongue in cheek and the audience loved it when one line was something like “the old dominion theater held these shows for 150 years and only had to evacuate the theater once!” Our favorite part though was still the end though when they just sang Queen’s songs without any added dialog. It was an enjoyable evening.

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$1000 Weekends

February 16th, 2012

$1000 Weekends

We love being ex-pats. We have tried to take advantage of the culture and the location and the vicinity of surrounding countries/opportunities whenever possible in all the places we have lived overseas. When we started living overseas many years ago, there wasn’t a lot of money or time in the budget to do much but we still managed to visit some incredible places and see some fantastic sights in each place we have lived, albeit on a minimal budget most of the time which meant cheap hotels, long uncomfortable bus rides, you know the drill.

Nothing is different about that philosophy now except the location has changed, there is a more money in the budget, and we have a bit more time too as my husband has off work every other Friday. That gives me two 3 day weekends each month to try and come up with something exciting, either here in England or “on the continent”. So far we have managed to go south towards the coast for a weekend, to Cardiff, Wales for a weekend, and will soon have a nice weekend in Cornwall. We have also hit Belgium for a weekend and I have just managed to set up a weekend in Sardinia. Also on tap are a lot of the “English Must Do’s” such as Ascot, Windsor, Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and Royal Chelsea Flower Show. And I’m just getting started!

Needless to say, these weekends are no longer budget cheap, especially if it is a weekend where we have to fly somewhere and rent a car, stay in a hotel, pay for food, yada, yada, for two people do cost more than one even when I am getting every discount I can find, every Groupon coupon, every mileage usage and points usage due me. So it’s about a $1000 for a good weekend away. That probably includes all of the above plus gas and entertainment, entrance fees, diving fees (sometimes we dive), transportation, whatever. The end point you ask? It’s a hell of a lot of fun, we are enjoying the heck out of ourselves, we are seeing a ton of wonderful things, and we aren’t broke yet

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What’s Up with Clotted Cream?

February 16th, 2012

What’s up with the clotted cream?

My daughter sent us a lovely English Tea Hamper for Valentine’s Day. It came with a couple of nice scones, three different conserves, a jar of clotted cream, a fruit cake, and tea (or course). I think I remember trying some clotted cream a number of years ago and not really thinking too much about it but had put it out of my mind. We decided to have our “TEA” for breakfast the next morning.

I set out the conserves and opened the clotted cream and put them on the table, brewed up a cup of tea for each of us, popped the scones in the very large toaster that I had just given my husband for Valentine’s Day since all British bread seems to come in very tall and very fat, and cut off a small chunk of the fruit cake for each of us. The scones popped up nice and warm but they don’t open nicely into two halves. They sort of start crumbling the minute you try and open them. Oh well, still plenty of nice surface area to put some conserves (for non Brits, read jelly or jam or preserves) on each piece and the infamous clotted cream.

I delved into the jar, certain that a nice big dollop of cream was needed for each slice and bite. Stabbed a hunk of scone and put it into my mouth anticipating – what I’m not sure. What I got was pretty much a mouthful of jam and scone and really no other taste! Now I know that my taste buds are not the best for discerning subtle differences in spices and herbs and flavors but I would expect to be able to tell I was eating something milky and creamy. My hubby’s taste buds are much better and he felt there was even less taste to the clotted cream than I thought. Guess I had expected it to be rather like a whipping cream but heavier. I guess it is but it is also less flavorful and less tasty. Basically, I think it is adding texture and bulk but not a whole lot of anything else. So all this mystery over the famous scones and clotted cream must be more traditional because that’s all they had way back when, rather than a tasty treat of the ages. I will continue to eat scones and clotted cream because I like the tradition and the sense of “Englishness” but it won’t be something I go out of my way to get because of the taste.

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First go at the NHS

February 3rd, 2012

First go at the NHS

Had my first experience with the NHS or National Health Service this week. It was a unique experience. We had done all the proper paperwork when we moved into our house, i.e. finding a surgery or doctor’s office that was accepting new patients, then going to their office to register and fill in all the paperwork. Then after a few weeks, you receive your NHS cards in the mail and you are officially a patient of your new doctor’s office (or surgery). As we have now been in country for a bit over 4 months, I am starting to get low on some of my prescriptions so figured it was time for a visit to see what I could get renewed.

When we lived in Seoul, Korea, we would go to the doctor and basically tell him what we wanted in the way of prescriptions. It was quite handy to go get 600 doxycycline pills because we were traveling in malaria ridden countries or to get 300 of this or that. Usually I could get one thing or another for my husband also without him having to make an additional appointment. We always did the research and then the doctor wrote the prescription. Of course, there were certain things that could not be obtained in Korea. Then we lived in Canada off and on for a few years and pretty much I found the same to be true of the doctors I found there. I did the research, I told them what I wanted/needed and they wrote the prescription.

I wasn’t sure what I would find in England. So I go to the office and sit in the waiting room until the neon sign buzzes and my name comes up to go see the doctor. Her door is shut so I knock on the door which apparently I could have just walked in since my name was called. I explained what I needed and she proceeded to write me prescriptions. As easy as that! EXCEPT, one of my prescriptions has been banned in the U.K. Drat! Now, it has been banned because some people have had some side effects with this particular medicine. So what does she give me instead?? Some kind of narcotic that is “very addictive.” Great. Just what I need! Now instead of being able to take the medicine on a regular basis as a preventative, I can only take it now when in dire pain and only at night since it will put me to sleep! Not really sure this is a good thing. And the other medicine I required was a refill of synthryoid. There is a generic version of this medicine and that’s what she gave me. I tried to explain that for whatever reason, the generic version makes you lose your hair. She insisted it was the same thing. So now I have to find the research, again, to convince her that it does indeed make you lose your hair and I have to have the real thing, not the generic. Oh well. A little controversy never hurt anyone and maybe there is something that I can teach these doctors!

The most interesting part of the visit was yet to come. Upon getting my prescriptions (and my orders for an X-ray), I stood at the front desk waiting to see how much I had to pay. NOTHING! OMG. That’s a first! Then when I got my prescriptions today, again I stood waiting to see how much I would have to pay. NOTHING! Because I am over “a certain age” which will remain unnamed. AND when I got my x-ray, how much did I have to pay??? You guessed it – NOTHING! Wow, I could get to like this NHS. If only they had the meds I like. My hubby will have to stretch his meds until he reaches the unnamed age so he can get his for free too. I wonder what they will give him instead of the ones he currently takes.


The Move and the Beginning

September 18th, 2011

We have been ex-pats off and on for the last 17, almost 18 years. I love the life but I hate the intervals in between when we are stuck, usually in Houston, for some unknown period of time. While many people love Houston, I am not one of them and if necessary to spend a long period of time there (longer than about 2 weeks), I tend to get cranky, irritated, depressed, and generally all around nasty. Such was the case last year. We had this wonderful assignment to go and live in England but the project was delayed and we were stuck in Houston, again. I had changed all kinds of cool plans to make the move to England when we got stuck in Houston, again. I was deeply nasty, deeply depressed, and probably a real pain in the a** to all around me. For that, I apologize.

We finally made the move to England in September. yea! As I had pretty much stopped all my writing activities in the interim period of time (i.e. time spent in Houston), it has taken me awhile to get back into gear and start writing again. To any readers who were with me way back when and might still find me, I am so sorry that I haven’t written. To new readers, hope you will find me informative at times, amusing at times, provocative (probably never), or just fun to read. I will write about our experiences in England, living here, traveling around from here, people we meet, things we do, etc. etc. and also will add to some of my other blogs, namely Tales from the Litter Box, and Bits and Pieces. Yes, our cats did make the move to England with us. They love it here, especially if they can curl up on the floor next to the radiator. So, we are off again. sorry, again, that it has taken me so long.

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