Sunday, December 31, 2006

Meeting the Neighbours

One of the couples who live on our street had a little get-together last night for everyone who lives on the street. It was a good chance to meet some of the people who are our neighbours, although we had met some already, partly by chance on the street, partly due to the note we had sent out before. We took along Lena, having bought her a party dress the day before for her big debut. She was the belle of the ball as they say, very well behaved, which of course made her endearing to everyone. Don't think they would have ooh'ed and ah'ed the same way if she had been screaming her head off.

Everyone is very friendly and it's nice to know the people around you. Nearly all have said something to the effect of feeling free to drop by for a cup of tea or if we need any help, to be sure to let them know. It was also good to have the chance to start to possibly make friends, as unlike living in a "foreign" country (England is a foreign country for us, but not in the larger scope of the word), there's no quick way to meet other expats by going to a local bar or to some sort of English-speaking event.
Of course we will meet people here, but it's something I've known for a long time - people who grew up in one place don't have to go out of their way to meet new people. It's not that you are against meeting new people, but you already have a large circle of friends from growing up in the place and most are likely to be around for a long time. Whereas, when you are an expat in a foreign country, you don't have that built-up social network, so you are always open to meeting new people, because if all your other friends are also expats, they could move away any day. Living away from your home forces you to be more sociable than you might otherwise be.

Back to the neighbours; they are apparently quite a gregarious lot, and are already talking about a barbeque for the summer and/or a street party later in the year. Everyone also enjoyed being able to drink up and not have to worry about catching a taxi, haha! I look forward to more events with them all.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Advice for Wexham Park birth clinic

If you came here via a link looking for information on Wexham Park and giving birth there, click here: Giving birth at Wexham Park for all my posts about it.

Lena was born in the birth centre at Wexham Park hospital. A lot of people have come across my blog by doing a search on Wexham and birth, so I thought I would offer a few tips and advice based on what we experienced.

They were very accommodating to whatever I needed when we went in. They even suggested I take a bath and ran it for me. Later, it was no problem to take another when I felt like it.

It wasn't busy in the actual birthing centre. One woman came in and gave birth while I was there, but other than that, I was the only woman in there over a period of 18 hours or so. Don't worry about room at the inn, if you know what I mean. The post-natal ward was full however, but I couldn't say if that is normal or not.

There aren't beds there, but when it was 3 in the morning and we were both trying to sleep, with me on the beanbag, they did bring in a thick foam mattress for G. He wasn't stuck lying on the floor or in a chair.

The midwives were very good about providing water, tea and biscuits. I would recommend bringing in your own sugar supplies though, because you will probably want them. I brought müsli bars, which I wouldn't do again. I think something easier to chew when you are tired or busy in a contraction is better. Think more like chocolate or digestive cookies.

Drink lots of water and keep going to the toilet to let it out.

The fans in the rooms are a godsend. I used G as my slave, getting him to turn it on and off at my whim. Sometimes you are really really hot, sometimes you don't like the breeze.

After the birth, there was no rush to get up and out of the birthing room. Take your time and enjoy those first few moments. Anything they want to do will go on around you, you don't have to move.

Don't be afraid to be assertive with what you want. I know that's not usually a British trait, "mustn't grumble" often being the idea. But you and your baby are the focus here, so use the opportunity. If you want more water, get someone to get you some. If there is a certain medical procedure that you don't want done (in my case, breaking my waters artificially), unless it's really necessary for the health of you or your baby, don't be afraid to say you don't want it. They might try and convince you otherwise, but the choice is yours. If you are overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask for support, be it mental or physical.

Last point - we decided to pay the extra money for a private room in the Astor suite. There were a couple reasons for this. One, the post-natal ward of the birthing centre was pretty full, so it would have been us and 5 other mothers with newborns, which isn't really how we wanted to spend the first few hours with our child. No offense to any of those lovely ladies. Two, I had been having contractions since Wednesday morning and by the time Lena came on Saturday morning, I was exhausted. It was fabulous to be able to get some sleep in a room alone with her. There was way more room for all our stuff too. Three, it's not like you give birth everyday. It's a lot of money (145 or 175 pounds per night, including meals) but it's not like we are going to be staying there once a week or anything. It was worth the splurge for us, but others might decide to save it for something else. To each their own.

I hope some of these points might help someone else with their birth. Good luck to you and happy delivery!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Shopping service

After our unsuccessful attempt to go shopping on Boxing Day, we tried again on the 27th with a good deal more success. We went to Tescos one of the major supermarket chains in the UK. It was another 24 hour one, but not the one from Boxing Day. I find the definition of "open 24 hours" a bit amusing. They are open 24 hours a day, as long as you want to go shopping from 8am Monday to 10pm Saturday. They are open Saturday and Sunday, but not nights. To me, open 24 hours would mean 7 days a week. I'm glad that I found this out before trying some late Saturday evening. Still they are open longer than most places.

Anyways, I was quite impressed with it, right from the approach. The parking lot doesn't just have disabled parking, but it has parent and tot parking. This is so that parents with small children don't have to slog across the entire lot with groceries and child(ren); they can park close to the entrance exit. I had seen this before, but this Tescos had more than just a token one or two spaces, there were several there. And the best thing, they have an extra meter or so of space between each spot, so you have room to manoeuvre a shopping cart or a stroller beside the car. Also enough room to actually open the door and pull out the baby and car seat without having to resort to yoga-like contortions.

We didn't park there because it was full, but just past it. Next nice thing was - the aisles of parking have a space between them to walk down. So instead of being nose to nose with the next row of cars, there are posts to keep them spaced and a big roomy walking area between. Also much nicer than trying to dodge reversing cars, puddles and so on.

Once we got to the front of the shop, we had a choice of about 5 different types of shopping trolleys. They had the ones shaped like cars for toddlers to ride around in while mom and dad put the groceries in the top section. They had regular trolleys, plus shallower versions of the same for those who don't fill a huge one when buying a week's worth of groceries. Save your back, not having to bend down so low for a few items. Then they had the trolleys with the built-in baby seats. We were considering transferring Lena from her car seat to one of these when we shown another type of trolley by one of the employees. It had a big tray on top, where you could rest the car seat, plus a seat belt to keep it securely in place. I wish I could find a picture to show you what I mean but the Internet seems to be empty of trolley spotters taking pictures of the different types.

I know it might seem silly to be so pleased about a parking space and a shopping trolley, but having spent many years living in a country where I'd be sometimes lucky to find a basket to use to shop with and every trolley demanded a deposit before it could be taken anywhere, it was a nice change.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Braving Boxing Day

We are about to head out for the first time since coming home two days ago. A bit crazy to head to the shops on Boxing Day, when everyone and their dog will be out, trying to get the best after-Christmas deals. But when there are things the baby needs, a more convenient time doesn't really come into play. And we have to do it sooner or later. I'll let you know how it goes when we return.

[several hours later]

Well, that was pretty easy. Simply because the places we wanted to go to weren't open! I guess every retailer in Britain is open, but not the grocery stores. Even the 24-hour Tescos closed just before we got there. Huh.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Lovely Lena

As you might have guessed from the lack of updates, we were pretty busy the last few days. Lena was born on Christmas Eve eve in the morning. I'll save you all the gory details and just tell you the important bits:

Weight: 4.080kg. For the heathens, 9 pounds, 0 ounces.
Length: 51.5cm, or 20.3 inches.
Name: Lena J. (we say it LAY-na) Unlike her mother, she's taking G's last name.
Date and Time: December 23, 2006,
at 8:24am GST.

And a few pictures to keep everyone, including the proud parents, happy:

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nearly ready

Our home-grown clone still isn't quite ready to present to the world, but the signs are there that things are moving. I won't go into more detail of the signs, other than the head is more engaged and I'm getting lots of practice (Braxton-Hicks) contractions. If you are in a pool, I'd bet on a date between now and Christmas. No guarantees for loss of income if I'm wrong though.

Monday, December 18, 2006


I've updated about half the posts in my blog with labels so far. The older posts still don't have labels, so you'll have to do more work to find them. If you see an obvious topic that I haven't included in my labels, leave a comment or drop me a line. The label list is at the bottom of every page including this one, so just scroll down and see if you can find what you are looking for.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Greeting people

We went out for a walk this afternoon onto the moor. No ankle mishaps this time, but lots of people and dogs out as it was lovely weather. A slight bit chilly, but other than when the breeze caught you or you noticed the lack of leaves on the trees, you would never know it's only a week until Christmas and nearly the shortest day of the year. I'm glad we got to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

I wish there was an easy greeting to give people here like there is in Bavaria. In Bavaria when we'd be out walking, you simply say "Grüß Gott" [groosz got] to everyone who crosses your path. It is a shortened version of the longer (and never used) greeting "Grüße dich Gott", which directly translated means "Greetings to God". This is a bit of a mistranslation, as the grüßen (greeting) verb here has the older meaning of blessing, rather than greeting. So it actually means "God bless you". Even non-Bavarians will make a joke of the direct translation though, answering "Yes, when I see him" or "Hopefully not too soon". But normally when you are out and about on a walk, if you say "Grüß Gott" to any group of people you come across, they will automatically answer back with a "Grüß Gott", especially anyone slightly older. Younger people might give more of a "Servus" or "Hallo" to each other. You can say it when you go into a small shop to greet everyone there or when you walk into the waiting room at the doctor's office as well. I loved getting this automatic interaction with people, it's seriously drummed in as the polite thing to say. It doesn't mean you are going to start having conversation with everyone there, it is simply cheery and nice; you aren't ignoring the fact that there are other people out there with you.

The British are friendly, they will smile or nod when you cross paths with them, but there isn't such a formal easy-to-use greeting. I say "Afternoon" when appropriate, but it just doesn't quite have the same feeling to it. "Hello" isn't quite right either, it sounds like you are about to engage them in conversation. Of course, the people sometimes aren't quite ready to be greeted either, so they don't have a quick reply ready, leaving them to just say "hello" back or give you a nod. "Good day", although appropriate at all times, sounds awfully formal, something you only here in 18/19th century period dramas with a "Good day sir!" to dismiss someone. I guess in time I'll probably get used to not greeting people, but I'd rather have something to say.

Oh, and for anyone who thinks that "Grüß Gott" is way to religious to say, remember that "goodbye" comes from the expression "God be with ye". It's just words for most nowadays.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Last Days

Yesterday was the last meeting of our NCT (National Childbirth Trust) antenatal class. Everyone was interested to see if we would make it or not, as I ours is the first baby due and they had the due date. There's another woman due on Tuesday, so we were joking, wondering who will have theirs first.

The class was good, running for several weeks every Thursday night. It was for both the mothers and fathers-to-be, which I think is good too. If you don't have a partner, okay, then perhaps a mothers-only group makes sense, but if you are in a relationship, why wouldn't you want your partner to know what's going to happen during the birth and what will happen in the first few weeks after? They are going to be there too, after all. Even if all the responsibility is left to the mother (for shame!), it's not like you can exactly ignore a newborn in the house, is it? Well, maybe some can. The point is moot, as all the fathers in our group seemed pretty supportive.

I'm afraid I'm not really in the mood to write much more here, but as some of you might take a lack of posts to mean a baby is arriving, I thought I should post a little something to let you know that isn't the case.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Britain - A semi-civilized country

I have a little joke I like to tease my friends with. I tell them that Canada is the only civilized country in the world. There are only 3 qualifications for it, but Canada is still the only country.
  1. They speak English.
  2. They drive on the right side of the road.
  3. They use the Metric system.
Now this always gets people into a tizzy, but it's only a joke.

To a certain extent.

I will overlook all you island-dwellers driving on the left. You are on an island and there's no one else to confuse with this. Plus the fact that there's no really good reason for that to be counted other than right is a synonym of correct. So that let's the Australians off the hook. But when it comes to using metric, there is no excuse. Especially when Britain is half-way there already. Why can't you just go all the way? Anything you buy in the grocery store is measured in metric. The temperatures are given in Celsius. But you use the heathen Imperial measurements of miles and gallons when it comes to driving. Yes, heathen! It's evil, it's silly, it's ancient and makes no sense. I know my parents still occasionally use it, despite having conversion forced upon them in the 70s. But they at least do know and understand and normally use metric.

Even worse is when it comes to measuring a person's weight. They use rocks. Sorry "stone". At least as casual measurements. I think they might just be civilized enough to use kilograms for official things. But stone! What, do we live in the time of Fred Flinstone and the only thing we can weigh people with are rocks? Before pregnancy, I weighed around 11.5 stone. G weighs around 14.5 stone. To anyone outside of Britain, we could be really close or really far in weight, there's no way to tell. I heard on the radio that Nicole Ritchie was arrested and told police that she weighed 6 stone. My first thought was "I bet she didn't tell police how many rocks she weighed". My second thought was "Is that a lot for what she's supposed to weigh or only a little?" I had no idea, I had to sit and do some mental math to figure it out. Which was before breakfast and not my favourite time to start the brain in high gear. The whole stone thing drives me around the bend.

I thank the powers that be that at least the Brits managed to decimalize the currency before I arrived.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

No News is News

Eagle-eyed readers will know that today is my due date. Babies however, are not like German trains, coming exactly to schedule. In fact, apparently only 3-5% of mothers actually deliver on their due date. In Henci Goer's book, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, she says that a 1990 study of a group of healthy, white, first-time mothers showed that on average their pregnancies lasted 8 days longer than their given due date. Unfortunately, I can't find the statistics to back this up, though most antecdotal evidence seems to point at the fact that most first babies are later than the due date. Why they give you this date in the first place then, I don't know. I guess just so you have something exact to tell people when they ask when it's due, rather than just saying "sometime between the beginning and end of December".

I'm not impatient at all, I wasn't expecting things to happen today anyways. By the weekend I might having a bit more let's-get-this-show-on-the-road feeling. We'll see. So in the meantime, no need to call or email anxiously.

P.S. I've updated to Blogger Beta, which puts subject labels on the posts, so you can more easily search through my posts for similar topics. It's not retroactive though, if I want to label any previous posts, I'll have to edit it. So if you are looking for something specific, don't think it's no longer there if it doesn't link with a label.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hashing in England

We went to the Berkshire Hash Sunday run yesterday. They are one of the Hashes located close to us, and this past run happened to be one of the runs that actually is very near us. Lots of the others are on the other side of Reading, which isn't too far, but certainly farther than the 15 minutes it took us to get there yesterday. What made it especially pleasant was there were several Hashers we knew from our trip to Prague and Cesky Raj in summer 2005. They were all pleased to see us, if surprised. Even more surprised when we said we weren't just over for a visit but had moved to the area. Of course, I managed to get several more good surprised looks on faces when I told people I was due in 2 days. Haha, it was worth going just to see that! G had a good run with them, where as I just walked to the first checkpoint and then had a bit of a bummel around the area until they came back. No way was I up to walking around 6 miles over hill and dale.

Everyone was very nice, so hopefully we'll get out to Hash with them again soon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wexham Park Birth Centre

If you came here via a link looking for information on Wexham Park and giving birth there, click here: Giving birth at Wexham Park for all my posts about it.

We've decided to have the birth at Wexham Park Birth Centre. There are several reasons for this. One, when we saw it on the tour a week or so ago, it definitely had a nicer atmosphere than the labour ward downstairs. Nothing wrong with the labour ward, but you definitely know you are in a hospital when you are there. The birth centre in comparison was much more relaxed. Dimmer lights, nobody rushing around, no strange machines that go ping*. We were there last week, unfortunately late for the 36-week chat (both for the chat and for 36 weeks) but everyone had lots of time to answer all our questions, absolutely no sense of rushing. There was a woman giving birth in one of the rooms, but you couldn't hear anything. So no scary noises to stress you out. Two, I had considered going to Heatherwood, but we never made it for the tour. Plus, my paperwork was sent there on November 9th and as of December 1st, it still wasn't ready. Not really a good sign. The person in charge of the paperwork had been off sick for 2 weeks, but isn't there anyone else who can do it in the meantime? I tried to contact them again this week, but wasn't able to reach anyone. So, due to this delay, not being able to do a tour of the place and also it being a fair bit farther from us than Wexham is, we decided against Heatherwood. Three, the birth centre at Wexham is low-key and midwife-led, so birth interventions should be at a minimum. However, in case anything should go wrong (knock on wood against that), they are part of the bigger hospital, with obstetricians, pediatricians and all the necessary equipment in case something does go wrong. So with it being both low-tech but with a technical back-up, it made the most sense to us.

We went to Wexham yesterday for an antenatal visit. Poor girl, we were with her for about 90 minutes because she had to fill in all the paperwork again. But she was really friendly and bubbly, giving us even more reassurance that we'd made the right decision to have the birth there. Anyways, everything is still A-okay and progressing normally. We'll see when the big show actually starts, don't hold your collective breath yet.

* - The machine that goes "ping" is part of a Monty Python sketch entitled "The Miracle of Birth". It's from the movie "The Meaning of Life". It is quite ironically funny in how the birth becomes such a technical thing that the mother and baby are really a side issue to the whole process. You can read the sketch here, or if you have Flash, watch the video below. (don't mind the Portugese? subtitles)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Last Red Kite post, promise

I'm only posting this because I think it's quite a coincidence. Right after my post yesterday, a flyer came through the mail advertising a new book that's being sold. It's an updated version of "Birds in a Village", which was originally written by W.H. Hudson. It's called "Birds in a Village, a Century On" by Brian Clews. And what do we see on the flyer? A picture of a red kite! I see today that it's being advertised on the Cookham website too, so I hope they took a fee for that, and not just did it for free to have something to report about Cookham. So with my post on Monday and yesterday, that puts me ahead of the curve, topical posts before it's known by all. I haven't actually seen the book, so I can't make any comment on the content. If you want to send me a copy Brian, get in touch and I'll review it here for you.

Later today, a post about what's happening on the baby front.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Red Kite photo

Here's a photo of a red kite. It's not really as good as I would like, as the tail looks somewhat different to how it's pictured here. However, it's a copyright-free image, so until I get a photo of one of the local ones myself, or someone let me use one of their photos instead, it will have to do. It at least gives you an idea of what I've spotted in the skies above me.

EDIT: Here's a couple more photos, used with the kind permission of Ian McGuire, an Owl Conservationist and Wildlife Photographer. His website, especially if you are into owls, is

Monday, December 04, 2006

Train and Bird Spotting

I'm hoping that bird spotting isn't considered quite so geeky as trainspotting by the general population, as I out my experience in this next post.

Trainspotting, in case you don't know it, isn't just a film starring Ewan McGregor, nor a book by Irvine Welsh, upon which the film was based. It's a hobby for people who like trains. They like them enough to go and hang out at stations and along train lines, to write down the different train numbers and engines, to take pictures and keep track of which trains travel which routes. Most people who aren't into it think it's a bit strange.
Obviously, hanging around outside, waiting for a train to go by, can be a chilly way to spend an afternoon in certain seasons. So a sensible trainspotter would wear a heavy jacket, often an anorak/parka. From this, the word "anorak" in Britain has become a slang term to refer to a person who has a geeky and precise knowledge of something off the wall. I heard it used just yesterday on a re-run of Top Gear, when a man in the audience regonised a car as a Ferrari just from the sound of the motor. Jeremy Clarkson (the show's host) called him Britain's biggest anorak.

But I haven't been trainspotting, I've been bird spotting. Several times in the last week or so I've noticed some sort of bird of prey hovering above the neighbourhood. There were actually two of them most of the time. They are quite distinctive and I think I may have figured out what they are: Red Kites, aka Milvus milvus. They have a very distinctive V-shaped tail and big white patches on the underside of their wings. I could of course be wrong, but having looked at a few pictures, I think I'm right. I'll add a picture here in a while.
What makes this a bit exciting is that red kites were fairly rare until recently. You had to go to Wales if you wanted to see them in Britain. Due to a successful reintroduction program, they seem to be on the comeback.

I'm both amused and pleased with myself for actually having gone to the trouble of figuring out what the bird was. It might be a slippery slope down towards anorak territory, but not quite yet.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday musings

I got my hair cut and coloured at a local place in Cookham. I have to say, it's a really really gorgeous colour, I haven't had such a nice job done in a few years. I'm not so sure about the cut itself, I'll maybe give it about a week to sort itself out before I give my final verdict. It's nice and short, but he styled it in a sort of 1950s Beatles style.

It's a bit longer than the Fab Four wore theirs, but the bangs (or fringe, for the British and Aussie readers) and style are the same. I think he went with something a bit conservative since it was my first time. As I said, I'll wait a week to decide completely about it, see how it responds to my (lack of) care.

One other thing I wanted to mention this morning is how dark it is around here. There are hardly any streetlights in Cookham. Now I don't want a blaze of strobe lights or anything, but it would be nice if there were enough lights to be able to walk down the street and actually see the sidewalk you are walking on. This isn't limited to Cookham, it's the same in other small towns and villages too. The main street might have lights, but as soon as you go off of that, they are few and far between. In our half mile (860 meter) walk to the local store, until we hit the main street, which is the last 100 meters/yards, there is all of 2 street lights. I'm not scared or anything walking through the area, I just wish I could see the ground to prevent me from yet again twisting my ankle. (See here and here for other twists)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Cookham Recon - The Butcher, Bakers and Kangaroo Song Maker

In my bid to learn more about Cookham and area, I did some investigative work this morning.

First, I went to the Cookham Country Market. It's a local market that happens every Friday from 8:30-10:30am at Pinder Hall, one of Cookham's meeting halls that is located conveniently close to me. The local market is part of a larger co-operative that helps to organise local markets across "England, Wales and the Channel Islands". It does make me wonder about Scotland. Are there not enough people there who are interested? Do they have their own co-op? Do they like doing it without a co-op? Enquiring minds want to know.

Back to the market. It wasn't very big, there were about 8 tables set up. They were selling cakes, cupcakes, minces pies and Christmas cakes for bakery items. There was some yummy fudge made with goat's milk and a stand with jams, jellies, marmalades and chutneys. Along with this, there was a stand with fresh eggs, a stand with very reasonably-priced jewellry (I feel like Bridget Jones's mother saying that) and a couple of stands selling cards. I didn't take a good look at the cards, as I wasn't interested - I was after food - but I think they were seasonal Christmas cards mainly. I bought a cake, some mince pies and some chutney, which totalled around 6.40. Pretty good prices, if you ask me. So if you are in Cookham and have time to head down on Friday mornings and want a few treats, I would recommend it. I've already tried the cake and it's delicious.

On the way back I stopped off at Maceys. Keith Macey is a local butcher who offers organic and free range meat products in his butcher's shop. He's normally open Friday through Sunday. Nice work if you can get it! Probably more goes on than just that, I'm guessing. Anyways, he's a nice fellow and we had a little chat as he is often over in Bavaria as one of his marinade/spice suppliers is near Nuremberg. I bought some minty lamb kebabs, so can report back to you later today or tomorrow as to how they were.

Lastly, I was reading the Cookham website and saw that Rolf Harris was at the opening of the new Indian restaurant near us on Monday. I don't know if he's a Cookhamite (thanks to Anonymous for telling me the correct term for a Cookham local) or from somewhere nearby. Who is Rolf Harris? Shame on you for not knowing! He's an Australian icon and you probably know his work, even if you don't know his name. He wrote and sang the classic "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", which I am certain that 90% of you have heard. My Hashing friends will also recognise a rather lewd version we sing occasionally at Hash (but that I won't repeat here). He also sang one of my and my dad's favourite Christmas songs - "Six White Boomers". What fun it was as a kid to jump around the kitchen like I was a kangaroo pulling Santa's sleigh. Anyways, I hope Mr. Harris had a nice meal at Little India; we hope to make it there soon ourselves.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Ashes and the Army

There were several late nights last weekend in the C'lonial household. It was the first game of The Ashes, a big cricket series between Australia and England.

I have a soft spot for cricket, as I met G. on a cricket tour to Hamburg. Long story, I don't think I'll get into it now. But it was on this tour that I learnt what a wicket was, that the ball is "bowled", not "thrown" or "pitched". I even learnt the technical term LBW. Now, after 4 years of having watched the Munich Cricket Club (warning - it's a slow page to load and it's a frightening shade of yellow) play a number of times, I can easily follow a game. The subtlety might escape me, but not the score, who's batting and who's bowling and whether it's close or not.

However, as in most sports, watching a game is much more interesting when you actually care about the result. I cared about the MCC, but to be honest I don't really care about The Ashes. Of course being loyal to my husband over my new adopted homeland, I'd like Australia to win (sorry England, but us colonials need to stick together). But not to the point of starting to watch at midnight and cheering the Australian side on until 4am or later. Naming no names, but there were others who did this. Fortunately, we have a special satellite TV service that allows you to record things easily, so it wasn't necessary for G to stay up the entire time over all 5 days. Yes, for all the North Americans, one game of test cricket can take up to five days. And you thought Monday Night Football lasted a long time.

Anyways, by the end of day 4 of the cricket, it was pretty clear to everyone that Australia were going to win the test. The audience at the stadium on day 5 was a bit bare, so the English fans who travelled to Australia to watch the test were able to sit together. And for the first time in my life, I witnessed the "Barmy Army".

The Barmy Army are not a bunch of crazed soliders. Well, there might be one or two in the bunch, but basically they are English cricket fans who travel to the England away games. They say their goal is "To make watching cricket more fun and much more popular." They certainly looked like they were having fun. As the game was slow, the cameras went to the fans quite often. The Barmy Army were dressed in all manner of England (mainly) and British (some) fan gear - hats, face paint, flags, sunglasses, you name it. They were constantly jumping up and down, waving their flags and, get this, cheering themselves! They sing "Barmy Army, Barmy Army" over and over again. When I first heard and saw them on TV, I asked G why they were singing "Balmy All Me" (what the accent made it sound like to me). His answer "Because that's who they are". It took a while longer to realise it was Barmy Army, not Balmy All Me. After figuring that out, I was still really as baffled by them as before. But as long as they are having fun and not acting like hooligans, I don't have a problem with it. In fact, I look forward to seeing them at the next few tests. We know a few English from the MCC who are in Australia for the whole test series, so you never know, we might spot them singing along with the Barmy Army.

Barmy Army homepage

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Zee View

This is the view I have from our upstairs front bedroom, where the computer is set up. The hill you see is Winter Hill, and is part of Cookham Dean. I was hoping to get a better picture the last couple of days because the hedge in front is very colourful right now. Unfortunately, it's been pretty much non-stop rain so any photo would look a bit dreary. The view itself isn't dreary, I really like looking over and seeing the horses grazing in the paddocks.

Monday, November 27, 2006

This and that

Thanks to Dee and Kathie for clearing up the mystery of British plugs somewhat. While I'm at it, thanks to everyone who has left comments on the blog. It's very encouraging to keep writing to know that people actually do read this!

I mentioned an online service for ordering organic produce in one of my previous posts. Well, I've found another - Chiltern Organics. I still haven't tried either out, but it makes me happy to know there's a selection available.

I need to get my haircut this week, so expect a post sometime soon about that. Hopefully it will be a post full of praise, rather than a rant, cursing the day the hairdresser was born. I've certainly had both experiences, so until I try it out, it's hard to say which way it will go. Cookham has 7 hair salons, about one for every 1000 inhabitants. I'll be trying just one though, not all 7.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Electricity - We will, we will Shock you!

I think the British must have an innate fear of being electrocuted. Let me show you what I mean.

Electrical plugs come in two sizes in Germany/Europe. The sleek version:

And the slightly more bulky version known as a "Schuko plug":

The British, (and Irish, as different as they might like to claim to be) despite using the same power as the rest of Europe - around 220 volts - use this monster of a plug:

I'm not going to bore you with the whys and wherefores of the differences in the plugs, if you really want to know about electricity, I found a very nice explanation of the different electrical and plug systems here.

But it's not just the plugs that are huge and bulky, they have taken extra steps on the sockets themselves:

That bit in the middle is two switches to turn on the power to each individual socket! I tell you, that caused me a fair amount of short-lived frustration the first week or so. I'd plug something in, turn it on and then be baffled as to why it wasn't working. Then I'd remember that I had to flip the switch to turn on the socket. Which of course is usually located somewhere awkward and low, so me with my big pregnant belly would have to do all sorts of contortions again to flip the switch. This has resulted in the having the opposite effect of what is intended. Instead of the extra safety of a switch, I just leave all of them on. Risking my life, I'm sure.

This doesn't just stop at the plugs and outlets. Oh no. The bathrooms are the same way, with an even greater fear of electricity and water. All bathrooms have a pull switch to turn on the light, so that the dangerous power is far out of reach. It always looks really dinky to me, having a cord to turn on the light. Okay, Germany wasn't really any different because their light switches for the bathroom are located outside of the room itself, allowing your friends and family to amuse themselves by turning off the light while you are taking a shower, causing outrage within the bathroom and laughter without. But in Germany, they at least trust you to plug in electrical appliances. In every bathroom I had, there was at least one regular electrical outlet. Usually located a bit high on the wall (above the mirror or so) so it didn't get water splashed on it, but you could at least plug in your hair dryer or toothbrush. In our place here, we have one of those dinky little things where you can plug in an electrical razor, but nothing else stronger. Just out of curiousity I tried the hair dryer, and it most definitely doesn't work. There aren't a lot of outlets around the house in the first place, so it's annoying not to have one in the bathroom.

To top it all off, what amazes me, after all this caution towards electricity; it seems quite a standard thing to rewire a plug! Something I've never ever done, nor had to do in my over 30 years of life. Yet the English seem to find it a very normal thing to do. Why rewiring might be a useful skill, I have yet to learn. One of the mysteries of living on the island that has yet to be solved...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Engage the Clone!

The little home-made clone is making moves to come out and join us in our domination plans for England.

I saw the mid-wife today and she said the head has started to engage. It's not right down in the pelvis, but is on its way. This means the baby is starting to move down, so labour will likely start in the next 2-4 weeks. Could be tomorrow, but that's highly unlikely and it could also be in 6 weeks, but hopefully it won't take that long either.

No matter when the baby comes, hearing that it had started to engage is good motivation to start doing more baby-related things, like shopping for a car seat and packing a hospital bag.

Wexham Park Hospital tour

If you came here via a link looking for information on Wexham Park and giving birth there, click here: Giving birth at Wexham Park for all my posts about it.

We went on the Sunday tour at Wexham Park Hospital this past weekend. Wexham is located just north of Slough, for those who like to know where things are. There's a tour at 1pm and another at 2pm, you just show up for it, no need to register. It meets in the foyer of the ante-natal clinic.There were a lot of people, so that may have coloured my impression that the labour ward was a bit cramped. By the time we got to the maternity center, we had split into two groups, so it was less cramped there.The labour ward has 12 beds, one bed per room. The bed is adjustable, both the head and foot ends. Other than the bed, there were 2 rocking chairs and a pezzi ball available for different positions.The maternity center has 4 or 5 rooms (can't remember), none of which have a bed. Each room has a pezzi ball, big bean bag and an arm chair. The rooms are then different as to whether they have a shower, bath, none, or a pool. Water births are possible there - well in the room with the pool obviously. Although I like the idea of floating in a pool during labour, I'm don't think I'm quite up for a full water birth. There is also a pool in the labour ward, but I think it's smaller than the one in the maternity center. If you want an epidural or if there are any complications like the need for venthouse (sucking the baby out using a vacuum) or such, you'll be transfered from the maternity center down to the labour ward.

My overall feeling was the labour ward was, well, a hospital. I didn't like it much, it felt too clinical for me. The maternity center was far less clinical and seemed to have a much more "easy-going" atmosphere, at least to me.

As we missed the tour at Heatherwood, the other possible place for us to give birth, I decided to register at the maternity center, simply so I'm registered somewhere. We can still change our minds if we want to later after seeing Heatherwood.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Preparing for birth in Britain

This will be a fairly long post today about what has happened in regards to getting ready and registered for the birth of the baby in Britain. Unless I get sick of typing, in which case, consider it part one.

I landed in Britain on Friday October 27. One of my main priorities was getting quickly into the system here, to make sure everything would go smoothly for the birth. So I went down to the local clinic (often called a "surgery" here, a term which I find most inappropriate, especially nowadays) on the following Monday, October 30, to get an appointment. I got an appointment with a doctor for that afternoon.
He was a nice and friendly guy. I showed him my little book of medical information from Germany and he was able to make out most of it. In Germany, every expectant mother gets what's called a Mutterpass or Mother's passport. It contains details of all your visits to the doctor or midwife, the blood tests you've done and their results, your weight at each visit, the position of the baby, any complications are noted in a special section, etc etc. You are supposed to carry it with you at all times so that if anything happens to you, people will know you are pregnant and your pregnancy history. After deciphering my Mutterpass with a bit of help from me, he basically asked me if everything had gone okay up to this point, if there was anything he should know. I said so far, so good; so he just did a simple exam.
It was different from my exams in Germany. In Germany, my doctor checked me from inside everytime to make sure my mucus plug was still in place and to make sure the cervix wasn't opening or anything. From that finger test, she would also rub it onto a petri dish, I assume for a simple test for any new bacteria or such. I actually didn't think to ask at the time what exactly it was for. She would give me a quick feel of the tummy, feel my ankle for any swelling and that was that for the actual basic examination. Before I saw her though, I always did a urine test, got weighed and my blood pressure taken by the assistant and also hooked up to a fetal monitor for 20 minutes. Other times, there were ultrasounds involved to measure the size of the baby and to check position, but that didn't happen every time.
Here in Britain, I was weighed, peed and got the blood pressure, but no internal exam. He felt me on the outside to check the position of the baby (head down, by the way) and for the first time in my pregnancy, actually got out a measuring tape to measure my fundus - the size of my uterus. I know that's to check that the baby is growing on each subsequent visit, but it somehow felt quite quaint and old-fashioned after my flash doctor's office in Munich.

At this point I have to go slightly off topic and comment about that. In Germany, there are hardly any practices with several doctors working together in the same offices. The most I've ever personally had were two working together. Oh wait, when I had knee problems, I did go to one specialized clinic for orthopedic injuries where there was more than one doctor. But for General Practioners, nearly always 1, very occasionally 2 together.
What also seems standard in Germany is that you go to an OB-GYN when you are pregnant, not a GP. You can then trade monthly visits between the OB and the midwife, or see one or the other more or less exclusively. You also choose yourself who these people are. It might be based on your doctor's recommendation, but the final decision is up to you. Here in Britain, from what I've picked up, your general pregnancy care is in the hands of the community midwife/wives. Nothing wrong with that I guess, it just felt kind of restrictive after my previous ability to choose.

Anyways, Mike (the doctor) told me to make an appointment to see the midwife at the clinic within the next two weeks and if I couldn't get in to see her, to come and see him again in two weeks. So out I went to the front to make an appointment. Remember it was October 30 this day.
Appointments woman: "Right, how does November 23rd sound?"
Me: "It sounds way too late. I'll be only 3 weeks away from my due date then."
App woman: "Oh! Let me see if I can you in any earlier."
After some checking, it turned out the local midwife was on holidays until Nov. 16, so I couldn't get an appointment before then. We made a provisional appointment with Mike for about 10 days later and she told me to call Wexham Park Hospital to see if I could see one of their midwives before then.

So I called Wexham Park and told them the story (new to UK, pregnant, need to get registered, blah blah blah). Here I found out that the Cookham midwife was in China at a conference! Interesting information, but didn't really help me. So they said they would arrange something and call back in a few days. That was the Wednesday, and on the following Monday morning I got a call from the midwife who said she would come and see me at the house on Wednesday afternoon. (See here for previous mention of that visit)
That seemed strange, having a medical appointment in my own home, but it was pretty straightforward. I had to give a urine sample again, blood measure and the quaint fundus measuring. She felt my tummy to make sure the baby was still downwards and took a blood sample. Even though what she said the blood was for was all tests that I had already done ages ago and had written down in my Mutterpass, but she wanted it, and so I let her have it. No need to make a big fuss I guess. I was a bit surprised when she took the blood sample without putting any gloves on or sanitizing my arm first though! Gangrene doesn't look to have set in though and I did see it was a new sterile needle, so I guess it was okay.

So that was 2 weeks ago and this week my new British records should be ready for pick-up. I can understand 2 weeks as a standard turn-around time, it's no big deal when you are in the early stages of pregnancy. But I would have thought coming into the system at 35 weeks pregnant they would have tried to get them done a bit quicker for me, as really things could get moving anytime. Ah well, the British one is a big folder that you have to carry with you, not nearly as convenient as my Mutterpass, so I should be happy that I haven't had to drag it around with me so far.

And that's it so far, until my next appointment with the Cookham midwife this Thursday. Back from China, with all the latest news from the world of midwivery. We also did a tour of one of the hospitals this past weekend, but I think I'll save that for another post.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pictures from the area

G has put up some pictures from our new area on our website. Do take a look, it shows you what a pretty place we live in. Here's just one as a taster.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Shopping and services - online information

I started a price book a week or two ago. A price book, for those who don't know, is a little comparison sheet you make up to compare prices of items in different shops and to help remind you/figure out when certain things go regularly on sale. It's really good to show you how much money you can save by shopping at a cheaper grocery store, even if you are buying exactly the same brand name products.

But now I don't think I need one. I stumbled across a brilliant website that basically does it for me. It's called mySupermarket, and it compares the 4 biggest supermarkets in UK for you. Asda (Wallmart to everyone outside of the UK), Tesco, Sainsbury's and Ocado, which is the online shopping service for Waitrose. You choose the store where you would normally shop, find the items you want to purchase and at the end, it shows you where it might be cheaper to go shopping. It even shows the weekly specials for each shop, so if Waitrose is having a deal of 2 for 1 on packs of cheddar, it will let you know that. The newspaper The Guardian reviewed it and has a good write-up of it here, so no point me repeating it all. The website is even free, so all the better. It doesn't have the super cheap Aldi and Lidl options, both of which I have a soft spot for from my time in Germany; but most shopping for us wouldn't get done there anyways as they are pretty far from us.

Another online shopping option I've found is Abel & Cole. It's a company that does organic home delivery, mainly of produce, but also meats and other things. I haven't actually used them yet, but they look very similar to the service we used in Germany for a while, the Ökokiste. I wonder if they can compete with the big supermarkets on price, as the supermarkets also have a range of organics. I hope so, for their sake.

So these are the two good things I've found. One thing that I've been a lot less successful doing though, is finding information about nappy (aka diaper) services. Both G and I are willing to give reuseable nappies a go, but I'm not keen on spending all my time washing them, nor having them hung all over the house to dry. So we think a service would be our best option, and is apparently the most enviromentally-friendly option out of disposables, washing yourself or a service. Basically they come and collect the dirty ones once a week, leaving you a load of freshly washed and folded ones at the same time.
I've been asking around on several online sites for anyone who has used a nappy service, just to get an idea of what others think. I know there are nappy services, I've found their websites. But I can't find anyone who's used them. I asked a local online parent group (139 members), a cloth nappy online group (327 members) and on the message boards of iVillage(loads and loads of people). Not one single person seems to have used a nappy service.

So now I'm asking the great wide world - have you used a diaper or nappy service? What's your thoughts on it? Please leave a comment!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

New Slang and a Links

I just learnt a what I think is a very amusing slang term. You know a big 4x4 like vehicle like a Land Rover or Land Cruiser that's only ever used for suburban and urban driving, never off-road. It's called a "Chelsea Tractor". Chelsea is a district of London popular with the rich and famous, very urban and very posh. As you might guess, it's a word with a negative image, but I think it's funny and like the term better than "gas-guzzler" or "mom-truck" or "Yank tank". I will use it often, especially since our car is so tiny in comparison. And yes, I will eat a lot of humble pie if we end up getting one in the future. But for now, let the fun begin!

The link is because I'm trying to increase the web traffic to my blog, so I've submitted it to a few blog search engines. This search engine asked for a link back, which I guess is only fair. It's called Blogarama, so check it out if you need to search any other fine blogs.

Accident Prone Pregnancy

Just a short post to complain about my increased accident-prone nature in this late stage of my pregnancy.

I admit, I'm not always the most elegant woman. I do have a tendency to have the occasional bruise or scrape on my shin during the summer. I won't tell you what my dad used to call me as a teenager to refer to my awkwardness, suffice it to say, there was a nickname. But really, for the most part, I tend to get through life without too many mishaps and do have moments where I can be graceful. Well, that was pre-pregnancy. Now, with a slightly different center of gravity and a belly that sticks out at least 15cm more than it used to, I seem to have more and more accidents. Nothing of the variety that need stiches or even a Band-Aid (plaster to the rest of yous). More of the type to cause me to go "Ow!" very loudly and break things.

Take yesterday for example. I got off the couch to head to rearrange a pillow. Whilst turning holding the pillow in front of me, I knocked a glass of water off the coffee table. There was enough room for a pillow and a non-pregnant person to stand up, but not enough for me at the moment. Like it was a show-down between my belly and the glass - "This town ain't big enough for the both of us. One of us is gonna have to go". The belly won the duel, as it always does. The glass broke of course, spilling water all over the floor. Now what really ticked me off though, I had just finished cleaning up the mess when I went and did it again! I had put the base piece of the glass back on the coffee table, planning on putting it into the garbage bag last. I stood up after cleaning the rest up and knocked it off the table! And it broke into more pieces!! Fortunately I could see the funny side to it, even in my frustration.

Hopefully my extra accident-prone nature will revert back to its normal level at the end of the pregnancy. After all, there will be someone else around to go and break stuff for me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Christmas Fairs and Poppies

On Sunday, we went to a little Christmas fair at the Cookham Dean village hall. It was organised by one of the local pre-school groups, Noah's Ark. It was cute, if small. Although there were a few stands for adult presents, lots of the stuff was for toddlers and kids, so there wasn't a lot of direct interest for us. Next year, it would likely be a good place to pick up a few things though. People were friendly, which is always nice.

The Cookham Dean village hall is right across from the war memorial. There were fresh poppy wreaths on it, as the Brits always commemorate (celebrate wouldn't be the right word) Armistice Day (aka Rememberance Day, Veterans Day, Poppy Day) on the second Sunday in November, not on the actual day of November 11. It's not a public holiday here, which I find unusual, considering how many British soldiers must have died in both World Wars. It's a federal holiday in both Canada and the United States, although in Canada it's only really for federal employees and such, it varies from province to province as to whether it's a provincial holiday.

A few random notes about poppies.

The poppy was chosen as a symbol after Canadian doctor and solider John McCrae wrote his poem In Flanders Fields, where he wrote about the many war casualties in Flanders where the poppies grow between the graves of the dead.

There are a few different types of poppies worn by people in remembrance of the wars.

This is the pin worn in Canada. It's sort of curved, and the leaves of the poppy are felted plastic.

This is the pin worn in the UK. It's flat, made of paper and also has a leaf attached. According to Wikipedia, it's the "Earl Haig" variety of poppy. Not quite sure what that means, comments welcome to clarify. (Edit: Thanks to a reader, I now know this is an English poppy. There is another variation for the Scottish poppy. In fact, having done a bit of looking, there are several different ones which you can see here on the Scottish poppy appeal page).

There was also talk on the news here in the UK about the white poppy. It's apparently been around since just after WWI, and along with commemorating the sacrifice of the armed forces during the wars, it's also supposed to be more of a pacifist's symbol, representing the idea of lasting peace. This year on the news they were saying that proponents of it claimed it was "more Christian", but having done a little more research into it, it's a pacifist symbol. I wonder if white poppy people said this, or if that was the media's own spin on things.

There's a bit of a debate between Legions and White Poppy proponents, with the Legions and veterans feeling that the white poppy undermines their contributions. The white poppy people say it's not meant like that. I don't mind either way, I just find it a bit amusing that they chose white, which is the colour of the opium poppy...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blitzing the House

My friend D is here for a flash visit and to help me to unpack the boxes we have left. Considering we started with over 40 when the movers dropped them off, it's not bad to have about 7 or 8 remaining. Today we got rid of three of them, also finding places for lots of other stuff that had just been randomly emptied. I understand G had to empty boxes without much too regard for if it was a permanent location or not, simply to get the boxes out of the house. But now is the slightly more difficult work, of finding permanent homes for things. So it wasn't just physical effort, it was mental effort as well. Might sound easy, but it was really tiring. Along with the 3 boxes, finding permanent homes for things, we also rearranged several of the big shelving units downstairs. I got overwhelmed at one point and broke down. I think it was a poor night's sleep combined with pregnancy hormones. Anyways, I'm okay now, thanks for asking.

G left this afternoon for a week to Spain for work. Barcelona, look out. So it's nice that D is here until Wednesday morning. She's a hard taskmaster, I'm sure she'll make us do a lot tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Understanding of Time

This is one big difference between the Germans and English that is quite irritating. In Germany, if you need something repaired or someone is going to come around, you agree to a time and they are there at that time. Let's say I need someone to fix my furnace. I call up the furnace repair people, they say they can send someone on Tuesday at 2pm. Actually, they would say 14, as Germans work on a 24-hour clock. Within 10 minutes of 2pm on Tuesday, the repair person would be there.

In England, you seem to be give a range of hours when they might show up. Between 9am and 2pm seems to be the normal time to give. Which really ticks me off, because even if I'm not working anymore, I do have more to do than to just hang around waiting for someone else to show up. And they always show up at the end of the time period. Today for example; someone is supposed to be coming by to fix our shower as it makes horrid noises when you turn up the pressure. Sometime between 9am and 1pm. Well, it's 12:15 and no one in sight. Normally I could live with this, but a midwife is supposed to be coming between 2pm and 4pm to visit me, and I really don't need the overlap. She'll of course be early instead of late, I'm sure, knowing Murphy's Law. Plus the fact I need to get to the bank today to get a banker's draft to pay for our car today. If I knew that the repair person wouldn't be here before noon, I could have gone this morning. But with this stupid time range, I have to suspend my life to wait for him.

This is one thing I already miss from Germany. Punctuality.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Transporting the Troops

So we have bought a car. We've had a rental the last 2 weeks, which I've been bravely driving around without incident. But that has to go back on Thursday, so we bought a car. We bought it at a "car supermarket" which is something I hadn't heard of before. Basically, it's a company with lots and lots of cars. The turnover of cars is so high, they can afford to keep the price pretty low. You don't haggle, you don't get to test drive. You can sit in it, start it up, but that's it. The place we went to deals mainly with cars that had been used for companies, so they have a fair amount of mileage on them for relatively new cars. However, they are also several thousand less than the new price for 6-month old cars.

We bought a black Ford Focus. Ford Focuses are apparently Britain's most popular car, so there were several to choose from. For those who like all the nitty-gritty details, it's a 1.4L LX Focus. We did have our eye on a Sport model, but it was already taken when we went back, so we settled for our second choice. There's not a lot of difference between the 2 anyways, and this one was 300 pounds less with less mileage, so we can live without the alloy wheels. It's pretty roomy in the trunk and has 4 doors, so getting the baby and baby equipment around shouldn't be an issue.

The young fellow serving us was pretty amusing. He had had a bad day when we went in to make a down payment on it and was ticked off with all his colleagues and the entire place. So absolutely no hard sell on any of the extras, he just wanted to get out of there. I'm off to get a banker's draft made up for the rest so we can pick it up tomorrow. I'll maybe try and post a picture or two in a few days, both of the car and the area.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bonfire Night

We went to Bonfire Night last night. Bonfire Night is about Guy Fawkes, from my understanding. In fact, I only knew it as Guy Fawkes Night, not so much as bonfire night. Not that I know much about it, it’s only via Brits in Munich I learnt of it. I just wonder if the name has become more PC by calling it Bonfire Night than Guy Fawkes. None the less, there was the figure of a body (Guy) on the fire. There wasn’t just a bonfire though, they also had a fireworks display after the bonfire had burnt down after an hour or so. Bonfire and fireworks seems to be SOP for the night, with every little village and area doing it.

It was a perfect night for a bonfire. It was brisk and cool, but not freezing and absolutely no wind. It hasn’t rained in a few days, there’s only been heavy frost, so everything was wet enough to be safe, but not so wet as to be depressing. On top of that, a very clear sky with a full moon made the night, easy to see and get around. Which G and I were happy about, as we didn’t know where were going and it was less eerie when we could see where we were going.

I bought the tickets for the evening at the local supermarket, but neglected to ask where it was. Without internet or a map of the area at home, we were a bit stuck. So I went next door and asked our neighbour, who explained where it was. It was the other side of the village, so we drove part of the way. In the end, we probably only saved about a third of the drive, but I was glad we did, as I wasn’t moving exactly quickly last night.

There were a lot of people there, certainly more than just Cookham locals. Hmm, what is someone from Cookham called? Someone from Birmingham is called a Brummie, does that make someone from Cookam a Cookie? Haha. I don’t know, but an interesting question. Anyways, as I said, a lot of people there, which was a surprise, as we could hear and see fireworks going off all over the place, there didn’t seem to be a reason why people would specifically come to Cookham to watch them.

The bonfire had just been lit when we arrived at the site. It was really smoky at first, and it looked like something out of Harry Potter with the big billows of smoke illuminated by the moonlight. Once the fire really caught, the flames were going up to about 15 metres high at some points which was really impressive. You could really feel the heat coming from it, but once the flames died down, it was much cooler again. We decided to line up for some mulled wine and just as we did, the fireworks started. Lots of people left the line-up, (oh, maybe I should start calling it a queue now... nah, line-up is fine) to watch the fireworks from closer, so our waiting time went down from probably 30 minutes to around 10, which was how long the fireworks lasted. They weren't bad for a local display, certainly loud and bright enough. I don't see why anyone would need to get closer, but some people probably get a kick out of being right under them. After the fireworks, it was basically over, so we walked back to the car. Having walked it once, it didn't seem as long to walk back. All in all, a nice evening.

Getting to know you

The day after I arrived last week, we decided to introduce ourselves to our neighbours. Rather than going door-to-door, making them all wonder what we were selling or for which religion we were proselytizing, we decided to write a little note to them all. Which also felt a bit weird, but we feel it’s important to get to know people asap, because we will need some friends even sooner than usual with a baby on the way.

We went down to the post office and made some copies and then stuck them in all mailboxes of the houses along the street. We both felt silly doing it, but understood our reasoning for it. Fortunately, we nearly immediately got some feedback, as one of the women who lives a few houses down came over before she headed out and introduced herself. That made us feel much better about having done it, as we got to meet at least one person via the note. It has had more of an effect though, with a few people introducing themselves over the week, as the opportunity presented itself. I even got a lift down to the railway station because of it. He was heading off to take his dog for a walk in the woods so when I said I had to hurry to the station, he offered me a lift, which I was quite happy about, as I was slightly behind schedule.

Everyone has been really friendly, which has made the effort worth it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

In England

My first post from the United Kingdom! The invasion is complete, the entire c'lonial force is now in the same country. So much happened in the last few days, I don't have time for a full update right now. I'm at the library and only have a short amount of time to use the computer - we don't have access from at home yet - so just a few short points to tell you about:
  • I love our neighbourhood. This is already pretty clear to me. It's pretty rural, but it makes a great change from the busy street we used to live on with the heavy traffic noise.
  • I still go to the wrong side of the car to get in, but am fairly okay with driving on the wrong/left side of the road. In fact, we were watching TV last night and I was confused as to why Tom Hanks was driving on the right in the movie.
  • Still several things left to do in Germany, like officially deregister, but everything can be done from here via email or fax. I was so busy the last few days I'm really happy to have left, to be honest. I think homesickness will hit sooner or later though.
  • Paperwork in the UK is just as bad, if not worse, than Germany.
  • At a later point, I will have to write about how frustrating I find it to have switches on all the electrical outlets.
  • Lots of boxes still to unpack, but G made a good start without me and we did some more on the weekend. Part of it is finding a good place to put things, not just unpacking them.
  • Getting used to an English keyboard again is amusing to me. Lots of misplaced letter Zs instead of Ys and funkz punctuation.

Time's up on the computer here, so more another day. Hopefully a post about the last frantic 48 hours in Germany.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Furniture has arrived

I have received word from the advance force that the supplies have caught up with them.

In other words, G sent me an sms this morning to say the moving van arrived. The boxes and furniture are being unloaded as I type this. On my end, I'm covering our tracks with a special team of painters who will remove all traces that we actually lived in our flat for the past 3 years. The kitchen that technically should be removed (see previous post) might give the game away however.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Moving Update

Am over at my friend's, D's, place and using her computer, that's why the update in such a short period of time.

Both G and I didn't sleep too well the night before the movers came, too nervous about the whole thing. In the end, our worries were pretty unnecessary, as it all worked out well. It will cost us more than they estimated (what a surprise) but we'll see what happens there. They came in the morning and I was telling them what to pack and they kept asking, "Alles? Es kommt alles mit?" (Everything? Everything is coming with?) I think the 4 flights of stairs and 4 rooms of stuff was quite daunting for them. Oh well, better them than me, that's all I have to say. We did tip them well at the end though.

Friday was pretty tiring for us too, as we were busy sorting things to throw away from things to keep, started ripping out the carpet (we have to take it out as part of our rental contract), took a bunch of junk to the junk yard, making sure that stuff we need like passports didn't get packed and pulling down shelf units that were built-in. The carpet was easy to rip out, but the backing underlay is horrible stuff that has basically turned to powder in several places, so we only did a few pieces and cleared out one room before deciding to leave it until Saturday. For me, the big tiring thing was going up and down our stairs a dozen or so times over the course of an hour or so. Being 7 months pregnant and many kilos heavier than usual made that a real workout. G had to go up and down many more times than me, poor thing. The actual easy thing that I was a bit nervous about was taking stuff to the junk yard, aka Wertstoffhof in German. You have to be a Munich resident to be allowed to take things there for free, so I had our rental contract with us, and you are only supposed to be allowed to dump 2 cubic meters per household per day, so I was worried they would measure us to see how much stuff we had. Yet another thing I was nervous about was that it would be a huge line-up to get into the junk yard and take forever. In the end, it was the easiest thing we did all day. Drove straight in, no one measured our stuff, no one asked for proof that we live in Munich. Dumped our stuff in the appropriate bins and drove straight out.

Saturday was another full-on working day for us. We ripped out the rest of the carpets and took down the shelves in our closet. This was such a futile thing to do. The shelves were very useful and I'm sure anyone who moves in will want shelving in there. But the way German rental contracts are, you have to take everything out. Everything. We have to remove the kitchen in the flat too, according to our contract, but we are hoping to sell that on to the next renter so we are leaving it for now. Also as mentioned, we needed to remove the carpets. So basically, you rent a flat that consists of walls, roof and floor. Oh, the toilet, bathtub and sink are staying too, so you don't have to bring your own john at least. Anyways, the shelves were a bit of a pain to get out; one because of the futile nature of the business, two because the people who put them up used a zillion different sized screws with different heads on them to put them up. So I had to keep changing the head on the drill to remove them which really slowed things down. Finally we got them down and did two more trips to the dump.

Oh, you may be wondering where we are staying in the meantime, since our flat is totally empty. A friend of ours is on holidays right now and kindly offered his place during the move. 3 cheers for TJ for being such a generous guy, we really appreciate it. I'm sure several of our other friends would have offered us space, in fact I think some did. But it's good not to intrude on anyone and also to be able to come home at the end of a day like Saturday and just shower and then hang around in your pyjamas without worrying about socialising with anyone.

Today is G's last full day in Munich, he flies out for good tomorrow morning. My flight still isn't booked, as I have to arrange when the flat transfer to the housing agents/landlord. That can't happen until Friday, as the painters are in Wednesday/Thursday next week. Soooo, sometime before November is still the best answer I can give there. Ah well, eventually we will have the full contigent of C'lonials for our attack upon Britain...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Last German home post

This is my last post from our flat in Germany. The movers come today, so the computers will be packed up. I might get a chance to log on before England (I'll be around until at least Wednesday next week) but not again from this address. Wish us luck with the move!!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Last minute #1

I'm labelling this post last minute #1, as I think there might be another day with lots of last minute things to do. I'm going to keep it short, because of this.

Tomorrow the movers come. So today is the last chance to sort out junk that we don't want anymore from the stuff we do want to take. It's amazing how much stuff you can collect that you just never get around to throwing away. G. had an obsession of keeping the boxes that things originally came in. After throwing out about 20 boxes of various sizes and shapes and keeping 2 to repack in, I think he may be cured of the habit. Of course, I'm not much better, not tossing random bits of photo-copied teaching material, because "I might use this in another class". Well, it either should be filed or chucked, not left on a shelf for 18 months to collect dust.

The painters are coming in a few minutes to give us an estimate of how much it'll cost to repaint the apartment. The Hausverwaltung (the people who look after the building for the landlords) want our two pale yellow rooms painted white of course. I told them that I talked with my renter's association and they said that the yellow is okay because it's not a horrible shade, very decent. Well, the guy didn't agree, but I'll see what the painters say. He said on the phone it would take 2 coats to cover it. If it's 2 coats, I'll do it, but if it's more, too bad, they are getting yellow and we can fight about it. I also need to do all the final cancellation of stuff and faxing today while all the machines are around to use. We aren't taking the phone because the UK doesn't have ISDN, but some of the connecting cables and so on might go missing during the move. I learnt an interesting German saying on Tuesday: "Dreimal umgezogen ist wie einmal ausgebrannt," which means moving three times is the same as burning everything once. Very interesting and applicable in a few different ways. Both for throwing things away, the ensuing chaos, the loss and breakage of possessions, and maybe also the idea of having to start from scratch again.

Tonight is our farewell to the band we play in, The Pullacher Blasmusik. Yes, they are an oom-pah-pah band. I'm busy baking muffins for the occasion. I think that this is going to be the hardest goodbye for me. The band has been part of my life since my third month in Germany - basically I've known them longer than I've known anyone else in Munich, and I've had regular contact with them for 13 years, there's no one else I can say that about. Being in the band made me feel so much more a part of German society, it was proof to myself that I wasn't simply living in a little expat bubble community. Geez, I'm tearing up just writing this, I'm going to be a mess at band tonight.

I had my last OB-GYN appointment here in Germany on Tuesday. Everything is okay, she said I'm okay to fly still, thank god. I don't even want to picture having to take the train. So, if anyone from Cookham is reading the blog, I'm looking for a doctor, midwife and place to give birth, so any personal recommendations you can make will be appreciated!! It'll be only 6-7 weeks until my due date when I get over to England, so the situation is rather urgent. No, I don't have the exact date of when I'm flying out yet, probably mid to late next week. It all depends on how quickly I can organise the flat here.

Hmm, not as short a post as I planned, but lots happening to tell you all.

Monday, October 16, 2006

1 good thing, 2 potential good things

A stressful morning, but the afternoon is shaping up to be better. I just got an email confirmation of my visa for the UK. So I'll be allowed to live there. G picks it up at 2pm and I'm guessing his is confirmed as well. So that's one good thing off the stress list.

The potential good things are about the apartment. I phoned the agency that looks after our building for the landlords, putting forward the idea of the landlords buying the kitchen we have in the flat. It belongs to us, meaning we could take it with us, but as we have no use for it, it might as well stay in the flat, so I offered that to her. She said she would have to check with the landlords and see the kitchen, but she didn't give an outright no. The other good thing was, once I told her that we will be out of the flat by the end of October, she said she would bring the agent in charge of finding the next tenant along and if they can find someone for November, we would be able to get out of our rental contract early. Tomorrow they will come by to take a look at the kitchen and the flat.

So the only stress now is to tidy up enough not to shock them at the haphazard state of our flat, with boxes everywhere.