Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spot the Canadian

Back in February, I blogged about snow in a mild climate. Well it has snowed again here in southern England and once again there is chaos on the roads. I will cut slightly more slack for yesterday, when it rained in the afternoon which slowly turned to snow as the temperature dropped. That, on top of the snow that has been around since Friday made for very slippery conditions. People in the nearby towns abandoned their cars and walked the couple of miles back home, rather than spending another several hours in stopped traffic. I've read accounts of people taking over an hour to move 200 metres down the road and four hours sitting at the bottom of a hill with plenty of others stuck in their cars for company.

Once again, I was one of only two people who cleaned off our sidewalk. It surprises me how ingrained it is into me to shovel off the snow, but it is. The only other person I saw removing the snow last week? A woman sweeping the snow away from the front of the pharmacy. She used to live in Germany, so once again the old connection pops up (read my other blog post if you don't know what I mean). As I'm the only house that has clean sidewalk, if you live in Cookham, it might be fairly easy today to spot the house where I live, hence spot the Canadian.

I know when I walk down a snowy street I find myself alternately thanking and cursing the owners of the house I was walking past, depending on whether they have bothered to clear their sidewalks. I'm not bothering to curse at anyone, but I am feeling slightly smug, thinking that people might be inwardly thanking me for my consideration of them. They may be thinking I'm a fool to have bothered, but I will continue to take pride in having a cleared sidewalk. As long as it remains a novelty of once or twice a year at least!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Dark and Light

There's several things that I don't understand about the UK, but the one that plagues me the most is why they insist on being in a different zone than most of the rest of Europe. Right now it's 4:30pm here and with the rain, it's horribly, horribly dark and depressing. If it was 5:30pm, like it is in France and Spain, due south of here, it might be almost tolerable. But no, being an hour later means the sun sets an hour earlier.

Actually, it's in summer that this bothers me the most. On June 21st, the longest day of the year, the sun rises in Dover at the excruciatingly early hour of 4:36am. In Calais, a mere 34 km to the south-east and for the purposes of my rant, close enough in longitude and latitude to be the same, it rises at 5:35. Does this seem fair? Birds and small children don't understand clocks, they understand the sun is up and therefore you (that is, ME) should be up as well. Nearly all of Great Britain is in longitude line with France and Spain, which both use Central European time. Why doesn't Great Britain? WHY? Why make such extraordinarily early sunrises in summer and early sunsets in the winter? It's hardly like this country gets moving at the crack of dawn.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mission plan

We have a mission. We have the attack clones, now we have our mission. We've decided while we are here in Britain, to try and spend the holidays that take place in this country visiting the various British major island groups. So far we have been to the Isle of Wight and to the Inner Hebrides; specifically, the Isle of Mull. That takes care of two of them. What do we have left? Well, the Outer Hebrides obviously, the Shetland Islands, and the Orkney Islands in Scotland for a start. If we get through all of those, we can start to work on all the little "Firth" groups up there. The Isles of Scilly and the Islands of Furness in England. Anglesey in Wales and then the separate islands of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Oh, a visit to Northern Ireland too. I think I've covered the major ones, because there are thousands of little islands around the British Isles. But if I've left something out, please let me know. I am after all, an uncivilzed colonial who doesn't know any better and I will need to add any missed ones to the list.

Why the mission? Because I think it's a good way to get to know the country we are living in. We might be here for just another few years, we might end up spending the rest of our days here, but either way, I wouldn't like it if at the end, I couldn't say I had seen a variety of places around the country. Our families live far away, so that will always slow us down from exploring locally, but local exploration does need to be done.

So if you have any great tips or ideas of when to visit any of these places, where to stay or the address of your great-aunt Bessie who would love to have cake and tea with us while we are visiting near her, let me know. The mission has started.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The 2nd Invasion Force

Sorry I was so quiet over the summer. It was a busy time, with lots of long-term visitors and also the birth of our next clone/colonial, Mitchell. He's a wonderful little guy and I will post some recent pictures in the next day or two, but I'm guessing most readers of this blog will have seen pictures of him already, hence my lack of urgency about this.

I have lots of ideas for new posts, so assuming I can find some time, you should see semi-regular updates from me. Today I'll just leave you with something that local readers of the blog might find interesting. The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead (I do get a kick out of living somewhere "royal", even if no one issued me with a crown when I moved here) is hip and up-to-date with the latest technology. They have two Twitter feeds; one for events: http://twitter.com/rbwm_events and one for the borough: http://twitter.com/RBWM. I've just signed up to them, so their usefulness has yet to be proven. None the less, I think it's a great idea.

Even better than Twitter feeds though, is the Cookham page on Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cookham/116477699826. It's of course not working for me right now, but it's probably a temporary Facebook glitch. This has been a good source of info about things in Cookham, along with the excellent website they already have and which you can find by following the link in the right column.

So with this short post I hope to be back to blogging. Hope to see you here again soon.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Package to the Future

We are redoing the floors in our house, replacing the carpet with new floor boards. G and his dad found a few pages of newspaper under the boards in the living room dated May 31, 1974. It's from the Maidenhead Advertiser, the local once a week paper. The pages are quite interesting. Let me quote you one of the ads of a house for sale: 

"COOKHAM DEAN: This charming semi-detached cottage is situated on high ground ina semi rual area, overlooking orchards. Complete renovation has been carried out, including a new kitchen and a new bathroom. Two bedrooms, bathroom, lounge, dining room, modern fully fitted kitchen, ample space for a car, large gardens. Central heating. £15,000." Just so you know, a house described like that would now go for around £320,000 pounds today! 

The ads for help wanted are good too. They advertise specifically by gender if they want, even listing a different salary, depending on whether you are male or female. An audio typist (female) with Black & Decker would have earned £26.34 per week. Part-time help at Marks and Spencer earned 52 pence an hour. They did have the benefit of a 3-course lunch for only 5p at least, amongst other things.

We thought it was kind of nifty to find these things, so we decided to make up a time capsule to put under the floor before we lay the new boards. I was pretty keen and eager with this and if we had had more time or thought of it earlier, I would have gotten all high-tech with the container and found lots of fun stuff to put into it. But the boards can't wait and we didn't think of it earlier, so what we have will have to do. Here's the letter I put into it, minus some personal details:

"April 28, 2009

 Dear Finder,

 I am writing to you from the past. How far in your past I can’t say, but past it definitely is. We are laying new floorboards in our house (address) and after finding bits of the past under the old boards, thought it would be a fun idea to leave some more history for others to find. I don’t know if it will be us to find it in 4 years, or some total others to find it 40 years. I just hope you enjoy the information and things we’ve provided for you to get a glimpse into our lives and the world of 2009.

 We are a 3, soon to be 4 person family. My name is A. I’m 37 years old and was born in Canada. My husband’s name is G. He’s 30 and was born in Australia. We met and married in Munich Germany when we were both living there and moved to the UK in October 2006. Our daughter is Lena and she is 2 years old. We have another child due at the end of July and I feel a bit sad that I can’t include any information about him (we were told it’s a boy after having my 20 week ultrasound scan). But the floors can’t wait until then to be finished.

A bit about what is happening in the world today. The main story of today is the start of a scare about swine flu. Over 100 people in Mexico City have died so far and cases have been confirmed in the U.S.A., Canada, the U.K., Israel and New Zealand, among others. So far, no one outside of Mexico has died of the flu, but the World Health Organisation has raised its pandemic threat level from 3 (where it has been for ages due to possible risk of bird flu for the past few years) to 4. The max is 6, which is global pandemic. I’m not worried yet, but I did pick up a few extra groceries and disinfecting hand gel today, just in case. When people in places other than Mexico start to die, then I will start to worry. The really potentially scary thing about this flu is that people from ages 20-50 have been the ones who have died, not the very young or old. That’s the age group who died in the 1918 pandemic, so it’s something I will be paying attention to for the next week or so.

Our hobbies right now include gardening, cricket, music and cooking. We love living in Cookham, as we find it is a peaceful village, quite different from the hustle and bustle of London. We often go for walks along the river, or up the hill to the pub, The Jolly Farmer, where we enjoy a pint or two and then head home.

I’ve included an inventory list on another piece of paper to help you identify some of the things in this time capsule. Please try and contact us when you find this, we would love to hear from you. Here are our contact details at the moment.

email addresses: a@gmail.com, g@gmail.com, l@gmail.com (no, Lena doesn’t write emails at the young age of 2, but depending on when this capsule is found, she might be a better contact for the future)

website: http://cloneattack.blogspot.com

I hope that’s enough to find us. Enjoy this little slice of history and good luck with your lives and future."

Included with the letter was the inventory list, a current picture of the 3 of us, the grocery order list from Tescos that was delivered today, the first few pages of The Daily Mail and a central bit about St. George’s Day, just past. (We aren’t regular readers of The Daily Mail, which is generally considered to be fairly right in politics and conservative in beliefs. More they had the best freebie giveaway out of the papers on the weekend. It has some information on the swine flu and some current sports news.) A brochure for Rebellion Beer Co. Our local microbrewery just across the river in Marlow Bottom. Some pages again from the current issue of The Maidenhead Advertiser, including the news from the Cookhams, house prices and some help wanted ads. And finally some coins. Some Aussie and Canadian ones since we are, and some British and Euro coins. We figure there's a good chance one of the last two won't exist anymore at some time in the future, so it could be worth something. 

It all got put into a box that arrived today in the mail from Munich (thanks for returning the books Inessa, you are far more efficient than I ever will be), then wrapped it in plastic and tucked it under the boards. Tomorrow it will be nailed in and within the next few days, sealed off until an unknown time in the future. Here's a picture of it just before it got put under the old boards. 

I'm actually pretty excited about this, and hope that it is eventually found and that we are all still around for the future finders to locate us. I'm in a good place in my life right now and to get a reminder of it at some point in the future is something to look forward to. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Buried Treasure!

Today was rather exciting, as we found buried treasure in my garden! My father-in-law was helping me dig over the allotment and he found an old coin. The date on the coin is 1735, which makes it really old in my colonial eyes. I cleaned it up a bit to have a better look at it and as much as we can tell, it's not a British coin. Here's a couple of pictures of both sides.
You can see the date at the bottom of the coin, 1735. Above it looks like three letters, Η Γ Α. Above that looks like it's less clear, but looks like a fancy A, with the middle cross bar extending past the angled sides, followed by possibly an F. 

This side is far more difficult to decipher. We think the bit to the left of the corrosion at the top might be a bird head and neck, with a wing on the right side of it. But it might not be, it might be a scroll, it might be anything. This picture is actually pretty good, you aren't missing anything in the photo that we can see in person. 

So if anyone out there has ideas of what this coin might be, or where to research it more, please leave a comment! 

EDIT: Through the power of the internet and my supergoogling friend, Babs, we have found that the coin is a Russian Denga. Not worth a fortune, but an interesting find. What is even more interesting is to ponder how it ended up in an allotment plot in Cookham??? 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Glorious Week

The past 7 days have been absolutely spectacular spring weather. It's been sunny and warm every day. It's still only spring, because as soon as you are out of the sun you can feel there is still a nip in the air, but out in the sun you would think it was late May rather than late March. Lena and I have been enjoying the backyard and also trips up to the park and the allotment. Lena is much more into the allotment this year. She enjoys digging around with the little trowel. I have a toy one for her somewhere which I should find as sometimes I need the trowel and she's not quite willing to give it over. The hoe is also something she enjoys; by pretending it's the see-saw and singing Margery Daw while on it. I'm very impressed at how well she can sing it. I'm also happy to say she has no fear of bugs or worms or anything, whenever I find a worm to show her, she wants to have a "little talk" with the worm and give it a kiss. One day after being up at the allotment and putting in potatoes, I told her to tell G what we had planted. She happily told him, "We plant worms!" 

To me, it's unusual to get such a long period of time with steady good weather here in the UK, so I have really been enjoying seeing the sun everyday. Coming from one of the sunniest parts of North America, (Alberta gets more sunshine hours per year than Florida) it makes it easier to get things done and to get out and about when the sun is shining. Of course, now that I've blogged about it, it will likely rain to biblical proportions or descend into the next ice age or something.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Review: Eats of Eden in Bourne End Flowerland

I really don't want to give this review because it's a bad one and I have been really hoping this place would be a success. But it's not. 

Eats of Eden has both a cafeteria and a farm shop set-up within the Flowerland garden centre. I don't have any complaints about the farm shop and often buy bits and bobs there. In fact, I heartily recommend the great selection of bread from the farm shop. This review is exclusively about the cafeteria. 

The atmosphere is quite bright and cheery inside the shop. It's well-lit and has nice solid tables with wooden chairs to eat at. There are magazines and newspapers on the back wall that you can borrow and read whilst enjoying your meal or beverage and there is a children's play area too. Unfortunately, other than a table and chairs and one push-the-beads-along-the-wire type toy, there is nothing else in the play area. There is a black chalkboard, but no chalk. There is a TV, but I've never seen it on. There is a big plastic bucket that at one time might have contained toys, but now is empty. It's a bit of a shame because the area is nicely set up, but it didn't hold Lena's attention long with nothing to do there. 

The service from the actual personnel is a bit lackluster. Twice I have stood in front of the hot food and had to wait several minutes to be served, despite staff having seen me. When served, everyone was pleasant enough. They have an assortment of different sauces all easily available and on Sundays when they are busy, I have seen pitchers of water and glasses out for customers to help themselves. However, several of the sauces had a crust on them like they had been out for a very long time. I'm sure they probably refrigerate them overnight, but it wouldn't kill them to put some plastic wrap on top to stop them from getting crusty and looking so unappealing. 

The real let-down is the food. It's very mediocre. I wouldn't call it bad really, but it's institutional food. The first time I ate a meal there was on a Sunday and it was a bit late, so I thought perhaps we were just unlucky with the timing. The last time though, we were the first people to be served for lunch and it was the same. I had salmon the last time and it was dry, even though as I said, we were the first people served for lunch. The side dishes of broccoli, carrots and chips (I will give them credit for having 6 various sides to choose from and a help-yourself philosophy to them) were very so-so as well. Even Lena, usually a chip fiend, left a couple untouched. It wasn't so bad that I didn't finish it, as I said, it was just mediocre. But at the prices they are charging, I can go somewhere else and either get pretty good food for just a pound or two more, or no worse food for a pound or two less. 

So my rating:
Ambiance: 2 For a cafeteria, it's nicely set-up. Shame about the children's area.
Service: 1 At a cafeteria, I expect a bit faster service and the crusts on the open sauces isn't nice. 
Food: 1 Edible, but that's it. And overpriced for what it is.

So a poor rating of 4 out of 9. We won't be eating there again. Perhaps a coffee/tea and cake are within the realm of possibility, but certainly no more hot food. And if I just need something to eat, I'd rather go next door to the farm shop and get some of their nice bread or pastries. 

Friday, February 06, 2009

Snow in a Mild Climate

This week it has been snowing all over in the UK. And this is actual snow, not just what Canadians would dismiss as dust. Monday, February 2, was a big downfall, followed by another load overnight to wake up to on Thursday and now today it's snowing again as I type. It's pretty warm still, hovering around zero, so it's not going to last forever. But it was enough snow to build a snowman on Monday and it's been cold enough that until yesterday that he held his shape (although he did look like he was doing the Limbo as the head tilted backwards with the melt). Here he is in his full glory:

It snows so infrequently in the southern parts of the UK, and it usually melts so quickly, that the country is really unprepared for snowfall. I understand that it's a silly waste of resources to have a fleet of sanders and snowplows when they get used at most once a year, more likely every 3 to 4 years. None the less, I find how the whole country shuts down because of snow quite amusing. There was about 6-7cm when we woke up on Monday morning and every school in the area closed. If that were the amount of snow that would close schools where I grew up, I would have stayed home from mid-November until April. 

I also know I'm the only Canadian or North American who lives on my fairly long street, as our sidewalk was the only one that was swept clear of snow first thing in the morning on the days it snowed. It must be ingrained in my system. I belong to a mail group for parents in the area and there was a mail this morning from another Canadian woman, suggesting to people that they clear their sidewalks of snow as well. I wrote back to her as I thought it was funny that all the Canadians in the area were out there cleaning snow. She said she received several responses from Canadians and Germans, all who had cleaned off their walks and were the only ones to do so. This made me laugh even more, that the Germans did it too. The two countries I've lived in previously have obviously had some impact on my behaviour.

So if you still have snow in front of your house here in England, "be nice and remove your ice". I'm sure everyone walking past will appreciate it.