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 ├ľkokiste. 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.