Monday, 31 January 2011

Give Em The Old Razzle Dazzle!

The whole reason for being in London was that Matthew bought me tickets to see the musical Chicago for my birthday. He also asked my Nanny if she wanted to go with me - clever boy. So on Saturday, the 4 of us trucked up to town for a day out. We met our friends Alex & Naomi Glancy for lunch at Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant on Upper St Martin Lane. As we were walking there from Charing Cross, Nanny told us how that used to be her "Sunday walk", and how when she was little they would walk up Embankment, and stop at a park that might have a military band playing and have a picnic, and then they'd come up to the Strand and Trafalgar square, and then walk back home to Waterloo where she lived. Imagine seeing this on your average Sunday - we just don't have places like this in Edmonton!!

Lunch was good - although eating in a restaurant with a baby is kind of like moving IN to a restaurant with a baby. We bring more toys than necessary so she can be distracted as soon as she gets bored. The food was really good, and we all had a great time together. It was really nice to see some friends from home. Naomi was especially encouraging, as she told me that she was incredibly desperate to make friends as soon as she arrived here. I have been on a mission to make friends and meet people since we got here - I'll let you know when I make my first real friend! Wooooo!! On a totally separate note: I couldn't believe that the restaurant's high chairs were Stokke Tripp Trapp seats - hello, they retail for about 300$. Wowza.

After lunch, Nanny & I went to the theatre, and were totally razzle dazzled and entertained. Who doesn't love a show where the men are in tight pants and no shirts, and the women are in lingerie?? Naomi had seen the show, and her description was: "These people are singing their hearts out while they are actually IN THE SPLITS." It's true. There were many jazz hands and lots of shimmying and fish nets and I loved it!
On Sunday we went to The Birchwood - the local pub in my Nan's neighbourhood. We had a 'proper pub lunch' (aka lamb shank with mashed potato and yorkshire pudding), and then they play bingo in the pub. It was totally hysterical. The pub had about 40 people in it (I think about 40, but I am so bad at guessing that sort of thing), and as soon as the very Scottish announcer started saying numbers, no one spoke at all. It was super tense!!! And since it was my birthday, my aunties bought me cards to play, and I WON A HUNDRED POUNDS!!!  Best birthday ever!! :) Big thanks to Auntie Tracey (aka Auntie Biscuit) who bought me the winning card! Not gonna lie: I actually screamed when my card was filled. It was really fun!

Elizababy's first tube ride!
We took the train home on Sunday afternoon (no more stupid coaches), and going home was infinitely better than getting to London. Just in case any of you are thinking about coming here: we left Nan's house at 4:45 pm, got the train at Abbey Wood at 4:56, and then the train at King's Cross at 6:11, and were in our house at 7:20. 2 and a half hours door-door. And for those of you who wouldn't necessarily want to visit my Nanny (although, I'm not sure why you wouldn't, she is so great!), it means one and half hours to the middle of London from our house. Pretty awesome!! Who's going to come next?!?! :)

One last thing: I just need to say right now: I am so glad we are not living in London. It is so busy, and packed with people. I think I have the reverse-gift from that vampire in the Twilight series - you know, the one who can sense everyone's moods and calm them down?
Except I sense everyone's moods and take them on. (hahaha, I am such a dork!!!) When we got into the city on Friday night, I was immediately stressed and anxious, and as soon as we left, I was able to calm down. And the weirdest part was arriving at Cambridge, and saying to Matthew, "It's really nice to be back home." I guess we do sort of feel like we live here now. Hmmm...

Getting down to London

We went to London this weekend. London is about 60 miles away from Cambridge. That means about 95 km for those of us who don't know how to convert miles to km (myself included, thanks Google!). We asked my cousin Ross about the best mode of transportation - train vs bus vs renting a car. The car rental is the easiest to rule out: (a)expensive, (b) hello, wrong side of the road, and (c) we were leaving Friday after Matthew left work, and who wants to drive through or around London on a Friday at rush hour?? Ross suggested the bus (except here it's called a coach), since it is cheaper than the train.

We looked into the train anyways - it goes from Cambridge to King's Cross Station in London. That would mean we'd have to take the tube from King's Cross (north London) to Charing Cross station (centre London) to catch an overland train to my Nan's house. So, we checked the National Express website, and there was a coach that left Cambridge at 1535 and got into London Embankment at 1735. The Embankment is a big long road that is on the city-side of the Thames (as opposed to the side my Nanny lives on), and is within 10 minutes walking distance of Charing Cross station. Awesome! I was totally stoked that we wouldn't have to take the tube in rush hour on a Friday - especially as we had a playpen (and those bad boys weigh a TON), a car seat, a sports bag of stuff, a diaper bag, Matthew's backpack and a baby. Easy decision: we booked the coach tickets and were on our way.

The drive was uneventful. Elizabeth fell asleep in the taxi on the way to the coach station, and then woke up as soon as the coach left - obviously. But other than having to read "Hand Hand Finger Thumb" (dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum) a million times, nothing terribly exciting happened. We arrived at the Embankment stop just as Elizabeth started to get really grumpy about being in her car seat (aka car jail). We went to get off the bus, and asked the driver to open the hold so we could get our stuff out, and he said, 'Oh no, you can't get luggage out of the hold here, love. You have to go to Victoria station. It's against the rules.' . . . . . seriously? Are you kidding me? The "rules"???

After a two-minute hate for London & buses & drivers & traffic & basically everything about public transportation, I got over it, and we figured out how to get the tube from Victoria station to Charing Cross. Turns out it is only one tube line with no changes, so easy peasy, right? Wrong. Victoria station was having major engineering work done, so there were NO escalators or elevators going down. There was a line up about 100 people deep just waiting to get to the stairs down to the tube line. The headline of the Evening Standard actually said, "AVOID VICTORIA STATION AT RUSH HOUR"...  And there we were, with about 800 pounds of crap with us, and a cranky, hungry baby. Awesome.

We quickly realized that getting down to the tube station was impossible, and got ourselves out of the mash of angry commuters who just wanted to get home. After phoning Nanny to tell her we'd be late, we started the walk to Charing Cross - there was no point getting a bus or trying to get on the next tube station because everyone else was having that exact same idea. In hindsight, we should have probably strolled rather than power-walked, because we passed some of the great sights of the City Of London - Westminster Abbey, the Parliament buildings, Big Ben, the walk up White Hall and past Downing Street... but I had to get to a bathroom and didn't want to stop because then E would have realized she was starving. So we busted it to Charing Cross, and got on a train, and finally, got to Nanny's house. Instead of being a 3 hour trip, it was 4 and a half. But we made it. And Nanny had spaghetti waiting for us. And we bought beer at Charing Cross. There's nothing that home made spaghetti and beer can't fix.

How sad is it that I didn't take a single picture of Elizabeth on her first walk through London!! Parents of the Year, right here.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The intermittent kindness of garbage men

Garbage in England is more complicated than you think. You have three bins outside your house: grey, blue and green

Green = compost. Yay! I am excited to compost, finally. It is a lot harder in Canada when you don't have a yard, and there was no city-wide program in Edmonton. So when we bought a kitchen set of slotted spoons, spatulas and wooden spoons that came in this plastic cylinder packaging, I cut it in half to keep on the counter for all our food scraps. I'm so excited to be more green! Even if I have to empty the container everyday because the old food scraps and coffee grounds kind of sick me out. Clearly, I haven't done that yet today.

Blue = recycling. But you can't recycle everything here that you can at home, which is more annoying that you think. For example, no plastic bags can be recycled. Whaaaat?? And no plastic packaging, or polystyrene, and no plastic pots or tubs (like baby food tubs, or tubs that dips come in or whatever).
Grey = everything else. Which is a lot of plastic packaging, and polystyrene, and styrofoam when you have just moved into a new place and bought a bunch of stuff that came packaged in plastic and polystyrene and styrofoam. The other thing about the grey bins is that they call them black bins here . . . clearly, they are grey.

So the you have to wheel your bins out to the curb (which they spell kerb) on collection days. Easy enough, except when you don't know what day is collection day. This morning, as Elizabeth & I were playing, we heard the trucks and I busted outside to see if I could catch them. The garbage dudes were still doing their thing, so I wheeled out my super full blue bin for them to take. Garbage Dude #1 says to me, "Nah, dah-lin', it's only black bins today, love." I quickly apologized, and ran back to my house (with E in my arms, and both of us still in pajamas), and grabbed our grey bin for them. As we were wheeling our grey bin back, this other lady who lives across the courtyard from us ran out of her house, pushing her grey bin in front of her. Garbage Dude #2 kind of yells at her, "D'ya think we have all bloomin' day? We's supposeda be on tha next street ovah by this time! Come on then, hurry up!" Thank goodness we had Garbage Dude #1 on our side of the courtyard...

Also, we haven't got a drill to put in our new child-safety lock things on the cupboards in the kitchen, which is why our garbages are on our counter. And I really wanted to get mini grey, blue and green bins, but they only had grey and white. And then I have my handy-dandy, arts-and-craftsy compost bin. The only good thing about counter-garbages is that you are forced to empty them everyday since they are a constant reminder. Except for today, obviously.

Oh, and P.S., I had to google grey vs. gray. Gray = American spelling.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Blogging: the hardest part.

Well, so far, the hardest part of blogging is coming up with a title, and then choosing a font that you like. I chose "Merriweather", as a kind of prayer, I guess. It did take me the better part of Elizabeth's nap to choose the font. Matthew helped me come up with the title; the other front runners were:,, and

Our actual move was pretty ridiculous - Air Canada allows one 50lb bag per passenger, and a second 50 lb bag per passenger at a cost of 50$ each. So we took one large suitcase, three huge MEC duffel bags, and one large tupperware container (of Elizabeth's toys!!), as well as 3 carry ons which were all over the allowable size. And a carseat. Oh, and a jogging stroller. And a baby. The flight was uneventful for us, but the highlight was definitely the poor woman across the aisle from us who was traveling with a sick toddler and an infant - and she was by herself! There was a point before takeoff where the sick toddler was screaming so loudly that the flight attendant told her if she couldn't calm her child down they would be taken off the plane & to an emergency room. At that point, the woman mixed up the first of about a thousand bottles of formula for her kid, and basically force fed her until we landed. I'm not kidding, in an 8 hour flight, I think those kids had about 10 bottles each.  But they were quiet and happy, so ten points for that woman!!

It was pretty exciting moving into our new place. It is a 2 bedroom, 2 story house, in a complex of houses & flats that are owned by Cambridge University. Our unit came furnished, but nothing else - no kitchen stuff or bedding or whatever. My aunt Angela & cousin Emma saved us with gifts of pots & pans, and dishes & cutlery, but there was nothing else. So my other cousin Laura & her boyfriend Ollie, as well as my aunt Jenny & uncle Graham took us to the British version of Superstore. It was soooooo much fun!! We went down every aisle and got something from every single one!! :) Pillows, and measuring cups, and a food processor, and a kettle, and toilet paper, and light bulbs, and an alarm clock, and a mirror, and and and and and!!! 2 and a half hours, and 4 carts later = enough for a home!!  Then we had to wait a whole week for internet connection - and let me tell you, a week with only a phone connection was long enough. I was shocked by how disconnected we felt! It was almost a little embarrassing how much we missed the internet - at one point we needed information about buses, and as we were waiting for our phones to load up, I said to Matthew, "hey!! We have phone books here!!" We both had to re-learn how to use a phone book . . .

We have been here for 13 days so far. I still don't really feel like we live here - since all of my extended family lives in the UK, we have been on lots of holidays here in the past, and two weeks isn't that long to be away from 'home'. I wonder how I'll feel in another two weeks, when a normal holiday would be over, and we'd be headed back to Canada. I'll let you know.

What perfect timing: Elizabeth has just woken up and I can hear her babbling away to her Winnie The Pooh mobile - better go and rescue her.