Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Both of these signs can be found in Cookham village. They scream "Look out! There are criminals about!" to me. And yet, I don't get the feeling that Cookham suffers that much crime. Yes, I've read that some cars have been broken into for laptops, satellite navigation systems or mobile phones; but it's not like it's a huge number of vehicles.

So why the very visible signs all over the place? I would think that it's only common sense not to leave valuables out on display. Why do the police have to tell us? Is that their way of passing the buck back when someone reports a car break-in? A sort-of "we told you so"?

Britain has lots of these warnings. On the radio there are regular community announcements telling you to be careful of all sorts of things. People coming to your door and offering services or telling you to not put boxes of expensive Christmas presents out for the paper recycling collection too early or in one piece (in that criminals could scope out what you got and decide if your home is worth breaking into). There's a couple such ads on TV right now too. One has a couple showing a would-be burglar around their house, showing how their burglar alarm doesn't work, how their valuables are out on display, how flimsy their back door is, etc etc. The other has a guy in a bar showing the would-be thief his new flashy mobile phone and telling him he'll just leave it on the table while he goes to the toilet so he has a good opportunity to take it.

Coming from Germany, where this type of ad or warning isn't common, I don't know quite what to think. So rather than letting myself get worked up by an ad, I went and read the EU crime and safety survey. Actually, I didn't read all 118 pages of the report, I read the press release summaries for the UK and Germany and skimmed through some of the points in the report.

All in all, the UK does have a higher crime rate than Germany. In fact, the UK has the second highest level for theft from cars out of the 18 countries measured. Only Estonia is higher. Germany in contrast, has the second lowest rate. But that isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds. Germany's rate for theft from cars is just under 2% and the UK's is 6%. So four more out of every 100 cars will be broken into. I admit, I don't want our car to be one of those extra 4 (or the first 2 either), but I'm not sure it justifies the warning signs. I think having signs like that just creates an atmosphere of fear. Perhaps others think differently...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Friendly Smiling Post

Just a nice little video to start your week off.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Lena had her first set of shots yesterday. Well, I say set, but in actual fact it was only one. She got the 5-in-1 shot, which protects against Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio and Hib (that's Haemophilus influenzae type B) but I decided to put off the one that protects against Pneumococcal variants. Why? Because next month, she gets a booster for the 5-in-1 and her first shot for Meningitis C. Then at 4 months, she gets boosters for both of these, and a booster for Pneumococcal. But when I read the information sheet for the Meningitis vaccine, it says directly on it the following: "Concomitant use of Menjugate Kit with pneumococal conjugate vaccines should only be consider if medically important and not on a routine basis". Translation: the meningitis C vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine shouldn't be given at the same time unless there's a good medical reason for it. Why? Because they haven't studied what might happen if they are given together like they have with the 5-in-1. Yet here in Britain it is standard procedure to give them both at the same time! I shake my head in wonder; does anyone read the packaging other than me? I'll arrange for her to get it in the next week or two, without any other shot with it.

I went last week and asked for a copy of the packaging so I could read up on the inoculations. When you get a pack of aspirin from the pharmacist, they tell you to read the packaging and follow the instructions carefully. But for giving your child a shot, you just go without any instructions into the nurse's room and let them stick stuff in them. What's ironic is that for the 5-in-1 vaccine, there is a leaflet for parents. It says on it in big letters "READ ALL OF THIS LEAFLET CAREFULLY BEFORE YOUR CHILD RECEIVES THIS VACCINE." When I went for the shot, the leaflet was nowhere to be seen. It certainly wasn't offered to me (and the nurse didn't know that I already had a copy). I bet 1 in 100 parents reads the thing before the shot is given. Talk about blind trust in the system.

I don't know if the all vaccines that kids get here is the same as what they get in other parts of the world; it's been too long since my own shots were given and there's probably a few different ones out there anyways. If you want to compare though, here is a concise list of what children are offered. I say offered, because all the inoculations are voluntary.

For the most part, I'm in favour of vaccination. But I'm also in favour of knowing what is going on. I don't think enough information is imparted to parents on this issue, I had to be very pro-active to get it.

Anyways, enough ranting. Lena was very brave yesterday. I could barely stand to watch - I'm fine getting needles myself but I didn't want to see her getting it. But she gave one little cry and then it was all over. No fever, no fussiness or any other side effect last night. I can only hope they all go so well.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A course in the castle

Lena and I are taking a baby massage course. There are 4 lessons and we've been twice so far. She really enjoys getting her legs massaged, but wasn't so keen on her belly being massaged. It's a little group of us and 5 other mothers & babies. I'm going to the class because I like the idea of doing baby massage - I mean, who doesn't like a massage? But I'm going to this course all the way in Windsor rather than something closer because it has an extra interesting feature - it takes place inside Windsor Castle.

It's in the home of the woman who leads the course. No, it's not the Queen. I asked on the first day how many people live in the castle who aren't the Royal Family and she said around 200 people. I was amazed it was so much. They live in the castle because her husband sings in the choir at St. George's Chapel. The choir members are always on call and have to return within 24 hours if called back (say for a state funeral) even if on holidays. So that's part of the reason they get accommodation at the castle. The other people who live in the castle are the clergy members, a few military pensioners and the household staff of the castle. So, it's for very specific people, you don't just see an ad for a free apartment listed in the local paper.

The rooms are quite nice, with the high ceilings you would expect in an ancient building. Lena certainly enjoys the space, and I do get a kick out of going into the castle for some reason other than to gawk around. I did enjoy gawking around when we went with my mom on a tour, but it's fun to be part of the fabric of actual day-to-day life inside the walls at Windsor.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sightseeing in London

On Friday Lena and I headed into town to get a friend to sign for her passport. He works in "the City", which means right in the heart of London. It's where lots of banks and financial companies are located. You can't swing a cat without hitting someone in a suit. Since we were on a mission, it wasn't really sightseeing, but we did walk right past 30 St. Mary Axe. That's the official name of the Swiss Re building, but it's known affectionately as "The Gherkin" to Brits. A gherkin is a small pickle, something I didn't know for the longest time. Probably because I don't like them very much. But I do like the look of this big pickle building, it's quite sleek and cool. I tried to take a couple of shots of Lena in front of it, but it wasn't easy as she was in a carrier attached to me, so the angle was poor. None of them are very good pictures, but all together I think it's a funny little collage of our Friday trip. Note, Lena doesn't always look quite so grumpy and jowly. The angle I took it from, about 15cm from her face causes the extra-thick jawline. Her wondering what the heck that is in front of my face causes the frown of concentration.

To get a Canadian passport, I needed someone to sign as guarantor that Lena is who we say she is. It's a very short list of people who the Canadian government will accept as a guarantor. These are the requirements:

  1. Have known you personally for at least two years.
  2. Live within the jurisdiction of the passport issuing office and be accessible for verification.
  3. Be one of the following:
    Practising lawyer
    Medical doctor
    Notary public
    Police officer
    Signing officer of a bank

Living within the jurisdiction means someone living in England. Considering we just moved here, how am I supposed to have known a mayor for 2 years? There are hoops you can jump through to get away without a guarantor signing for you (they involve a trip to the consulate and paying a substantial amount of money), but fortunately this wasn't necessary. A lovely fellow who I will call James, used to live in Munich and that's where I got to know him a couple of years back. He now works as a notary in London and was very obliging and willing in signing for Lena's passport. He even gave her paperwork his official notary seal, which should impress some bureaucrat along the line. That gets sent off tomorrow (along with her Canadian citizenship forms) and hopefully will get a passport back in 2-3 weeks.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Video Premiere

If everything goes according to plan, below this text there should be a video for you to watch. I bought a cheap video camera off of eBay to record Lena moments. With so much of our family living so far away, I thought they might enjoy more than just still pictures. Of course, our friends and random strangers who come across the blog might enjoy it too.

Forgive the poor quality of film-making, I was still getting used to the camera and wasn't paying enough attention as to where my subject material was in relation to the camera lens. Just click the big play button on the screen and you should be able to see it.

EDIT: Well, I can see the big empty space where the video should be, but it's not showing up nor playing for me. Let me know if you can see it.

Inside every German lives a Policeman

That's the title of an article from The Telegraph. The author talks about how Germans always feel the need to tell you the right way to do things. And she's right, they do do that, for better or worse. But what I found amusing was one of the examples she listed as perhaps "worse behaviour" is one of the things I think is worse here in the UK. She writes:

For anyone visiting Germany for the first time, one of the things that you notice almost immediately is the orderliness of the country. It is striking to see that all cars are parked in the direction of the traffic. Imagine trying to impose such rules in Britain, or even more ridiculous, in Bangkok or Mexico City.

This is one of the more annoying aspects of driving in the UK; the fact that cars are parked in either direction on both sides of the street. The number of times G or myself have turned onto a street and suddenly panicked is countless. We turn the corner and seeing all the cars facing us we both fear that we've turned the wrong way onto a one-way street. The feeling usually only lasts about 10-20 seconds, until we realise we must be on a two way street because there are street signs facing us, but it's pretty upsetting at first. On this point, I really wish the Brits would take a page out of the German book.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Organic snow

The title of this post isn't actually accurate, but it sounded cool to me.

In two previous posts I talked about organic fruit and veg delivery companies. Abel & Cole and Chiltern Organics (mentioned here and here, respectively). Well, I found yet another company that delivers organic produce to our area which is called Eat Organic. I still haven't ordered from any of them, but now that things have settled down a bit, I should. I have ordered from Tescos and ASDA and will have a rant about ASDA in the next few days.

Also, G has updated our website with a post of his own and some very nice pictures of Cookham in the snow. Click the link and check them out!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Comings and Goings

Last Saturday night we drove into London to go to the going-away party of Inessa, a friend of ours. Driving into London itself wasn't too bad, until we got to a junction called Shepherd's Bush Green; at which point, the 10 remaining minutes of our journey took 40. Who could know that Saturday traffic at 6pm could be so heavy? Obviously not country bumpkins like ourselves. Actually, according to the radio traffic report, we hit the only traffic jam in town.

Anyways, we made it eventually to the party. We were the first ones there, as Inessa had said we were welcome to come early as we might have to leave early. We ended up not being the first ones to leave, which impressed me with our and Lena's staying power. Lena again wore her party dress, which 6 weeks after its first outing. I wore a 3/4 length skirt which camouflaged me well with the others at the party. G had said when I bought the skirt, "Now you are becoming British". I didn't know what he meant and he explained that British girls seem to wear that style of skirt a lot. I didn't realise it until I was at the party as saw that he was right, well more than the half the women there were wearing just past knee to 3/4 length skirts. I don't ever recall being at a party in Munich and being able to pick out one specific fashion item that encompassed the majority of the women there. Whether that is because I didn't notice, people (esp expats) in Germany have more individuality or because they don't know the latest styles and therefore don't dress so similarly I couldn't say. I mean, there certainly are fashion trends in Germany, but having the same style and length skirt worn by so many at one occasion is something I would now associate with Brits, no one else. I'll keep paying attention and see if there is more "uniform" dressing to be seen.

The party was fun and it was nice to get out to an event where there was more to talk about than parenting and babies. Not that there's anything wrong with those events, but it's good to be reminded that there's more to life than that.

As I said at the start, it was a going-away party for Inessa. The hostess is moving to Munich to live with her fiance, Brian. Brian is a good friend of ours from Munich which is how we know Inessa. It's a bit of a shame that she is moving, as they were two of the few people we knew here. Brian came over to visit regularly but having Inessa with him in Munich will obviously stop that. Despite them deserting us in our attempt to overtake the island with c'lonials, we wish them the best of luck in Munich. All the best for the forthcoming nuptials too!

It will be interesting to see what cultural differences Inessa notices doing the opposite move to us. Getting used to the differences moving from Britain to Germany should keep her busy for a while. ;-)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bilingual Baby Speak

I thought I would make a short post about the differences in language between Canada and Australia/Britain. Because for whatever reason, the words Aussies use tend to be more similar to the British word than the Canadian word. I could make this a huge post, going on about roundabouts vs traffic circles or to-MAH-toes vs to-MAY-toes, but there are plenty of sites where you can read about those differences. I'm going to stick to the differences when it comes to refering to baby items. I was a bit surprised when I realised how many different words there are. I shall list them as such. Canadian-Australian/British-and just for fun if I remember it, German. Comments in italics if I feel the need.
  • soother - dummy(I never understood why it was called this, but just as posting, came to the realisation it probably is from dumb as in mute. So it mutes the baby. Hah, only took 10 years to figure that one out) - Schnüller
  • crib - cot - kinderbett
  • stroller - pushchair - kinderwagen
  • diaper - nappy - Windel (although the brand name "Pampers" also is common in Germany for diapers in general)
  • burp the baby - wind the baby - can't remember in German
  • pee - wee - pieseln
  • bassinet - Moses basket - never used it in Germany, so I don't know the term

7 words on one topic is quite a few in my opinion. Only in food and car references can I think of more different words per topic. In our house, it's a combination of both, with a slight advantage going to the Canadian version. Whether that's because I'm with Lena more or because I've had more practice using them including my year of au-pairing I can't say. G can speak both Canadian and Australian baby terms, but I caught him by surprise when I for some reason asked him if we had the Schnüller for our trip in the car.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gratuitous cute photo

I was sorting some of Lena's clothes by size and wanted to see how this hat fit her. It's much too big right now, but it made for a very cute photo. Our own little Cabbage Patch Kid.

Sunday walk through Cookham

We had beautiful weather this past weekend, so we decided to go for a nice walk around Cookham. It was also the first real cross-country test drive of our new stroller. Worked a treat, once we got the tired properly inflated.

Here you can see G. with the stroller walking down towards the train station. I don't think you can see it in the picture, but way in the background is Cliveden, a large manor near us.
G getting aquainted with some of the friendly neighbours. What's funny is that this is about 200 meters from a regular side street in Cookham Rise.
We continued our walk through Cookham village and visited the Holy Trinity Church. It is quite old, well, parts of it are old. Before this church, there was a Saxon church built here, dating back at least as far as 750 AD. It was refurbished to more along its current form in the 1400s. If you visit, there is a good explanation of the architecture and history available to read.
From the church we went to The Ferry, a nice restaurant and bar right on the riverside, for a drink. It was the first time I had breastfed Lena out in the open, which was a slightly weird feeling, but actually was no big deal.

After the drink we headed for home, but took a side path to see if it also led towards our place. It didn't and we started to encounter fairly rough countryside with just the narrowest of paths. It's good our stroller is 3-wheel drive. But along with being a bit rough, it was leading us away from home, with no easy or short way back. But we were walking right beside some houses and I could see that if we cut through the yard of one place, we could get from their driveway to the street. G wasn't keen on doing it, but I was even less keen on walking an extra kilometre or so over rough ground, especially in the wrong direction. So we decided to go for it. Sure enough, the second we were on their grass, a window in the house flew open and a woman shouted out at us, "Just what do you think you're doing?" She sounded fairly annoyed, as I would be with someone walking in my yard. But I pulled the ultimate trump card, an apologetic tone and a baby. I immediately apologised and explained we were just trying to get to the road because we had lost the path. She quickly came around and was much friendlier once she saw we had the baby and a stroller to push. She let us go across to her driveway which led to the street - it was only about 30 meters from the edge of her property anyways. I was as sorry as my tone to her indicated; I didn't want to trespass, but I'm glad we did in the end. So thanks to the lady who by the end of our little encounter was making gentle small talk with us for letting us take a shortcut home. We promise not to do it again.

Measuring our walk using Gmaps Pedometer, we walked nearly exactly 6km. (Sorry, if you want the uncivilized mile measurement, you'll have to figure it out yourself.) Not bad for our first big walk out. The weather has become far more winter-like today, so we are unlikely to repeat it this weekend, but will be trying to do more and more in the future.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Football and the Bears

Today's post isn't about the Chicago team that lost the 41st SuperBowl to the Colts. It's about Teddy Bears and two other forms of football.

HSBC has some great advertisements for cultural differences and this is a prime example. Football means different things to different people. Lena is learning this lesson early. Because she has received 2 different football teddy bears. One is a Sydney Swans teddy bear. The Sydney Swans play Australian football and they are G's team. This was a gift from one of Greg's best mates back in Australia. The other bear is a Liverpool FC teddy bear. Liverpool FC play British football - aka soccer. This is a funny gift from a friend of ours from who is from Liverpool. The reason it's funny is that he knows that Liverpool is not G's team, Manchester United is. He's obviously trying to instill a sense of rebellion in Lena from a young age. What is also funny is that both football bears were given by a Steve. Now all we need is another Steve to send a CFL (Canadian Football League) bear and we'll have the complete set! Haha.

I am a fan of the British football/soccer, but I don't have a team. When I was in Munich, there were 2 teams (and a third lower league team) to support, TSV 1860 and FC Bayern. I would cheer for both, except when it came to the local derby (when the two teams would play each other), when I would cheer for the underdog 1860. In international games, I would cheer for FC Bayern. I still would now, and if they play Man United anytime in the near future, it's likely to be quite an ugly scene around the house. But normally I'm pretty impartial when it comes to football. This partly comes from the few years I refereed when in Munich and also from the fact that I've never really grew up with a team to cheer for. Ice hockey is in fact the only sport for which I truly have a team. (Go Oilers!) But I'm considering taking a British team to cheer for here. It would just make life a bit more interesting on lazy Sunday afternoons when the games are often played. I could take Man U, but that's too easy as they are the top of the league right now, so it could be looked upon as just jumping on the bandwagon or being a fair-weather fan. The closest local team in the top division is probably Reading FC, called The Royals by their fans. It's their first season in the top league and they are doing amazingly well. They are in 6th place, which is nothing to sniff at, considering the competition. But the team I really was cheering for recently was a football team that isn't even in the top division. Nor in the second or third division even. They are fourth division team called the Wycombe Wanderers. They play in High Wycombe, which is just down the road from Cookham. The reason I was cheering for them is that they had been playing in one of the many tournaments English teams have and had managed to get to the semi-final of it, where they were playing a first division team called Chelsea. Chelsea is a high-profile team (as is Man United, to be fair) with a lot of really pricey stars playing for them. So for the Wanderers to have gotten so far as to play against Chelsea was very impressive. What was more impressive was that they managed to tie Chelsea in their first meet-up! Sadly they lost in the second game, but it was none the less an excellent effort on their part. So Wanderers, if you get up the Premiereship, I'll be cheering for you. In the meantime, go Royals!!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Review: Lychee in Cookham Rise

Lychee is a Chinese take-out & delivery place rather than a sit-down restaurant. Feeling very lazy, we decided on delivery rather than going down to pick it up ourselves. It's 1 pound per mile for delivery, but free if you order over 15 pounds.

The food was okay. Nothing that special, but certainly no problems with the quality. The lemon chicken was good, but the beef dish we ordered was a bit mediocre. It's very reasonably priced though, with most dishes around 5 pounds.

When I phoned up, the man on the phone was very efficient and friendly. He said it would be delivered within 15 minutes and it was. He came to the door and again was friendly and polite, so tops for the service.

My 3 point rating system doesn't really work for take-out, so I'll pass on that for now. I would say we would probably give Lychee another go, especially when not wanting to cook and wanting something fast. The friendly service certainly is encouraging to order again.

Lychee's website: http://www.lycheetree.co.uk/