Where in the World is Rebecca Today?

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[X-posted to blog, facebook, and lj. Again, apologies if you see this multiple times]

There were a few things I left out in my last post (Can you blame me? Typing at 4AM! LOL)

I wanted to add –

-Moving me to the ward where I’d be with “women my own age” was a bit of a joke. I was the youngest there. The woman across from me was the same age as my mom, the woman in the bed next to me the same age as my aunt, and the fourth woman was in her mid-80s. Monday we did little talking, but on Tuesday when 2 of the ladies were discharged, Sue (the one my mom’s age) and I became chatty so it was still a good move to move me, as the ward I had been on previously was full of all mid-80s women in various stages. The first ward also was very large and this one only had 4 beds in the room, so it was fairly quiet.

-As I said, the food I was given was awful. The biggest problem was, the NHS serves the hot meal at Lunch time, and since each day I was on “Nil by mouth” for Lunch, I had to skip it. The person serving the food always put aside whatever was cold from the meal for me to have when I was allowed to eat, but somehow the night nurse couldn’t find it so I was given those crap sandwiches. I can’t properly judge on the quality of the food, since I didn’t really eat NHS meals.

-The nursing staff….lovely. The daytime ward sister and Vicky were both amazing, as was the other nurse we had on Tuesday (Trina or something like that?). The night time ward sister also was amazing, but there was one night nurse who wasn’t very friendly OR encouraging. On Tuesday night when we were crossing our fingers that I’d still go, her only words to me were “you might not. There could be an emergency”, when all the other nurses were crossing their fingers along with me and telling me “I’m sure you’ll go”. I mean, way to be supportive of your patients! Not to mention, she kicked Tim out the one night before I knew if I was having surgery or not….something I found out later she wasn’t allowed to do as he is my spouse! Random visitors have to stick to visiting hours, but spouses are given all-access. Very annoying. But I loved Vicky. She really pulled out all the stops on me and really was hounding the surgery department to get me in or for them to make a decision. I plan on sending a letter of thanks to her and the hospital as soon as I can hold a pen again!

-Being able to be mobile, even while attached to an IV was great. I never once had to ask for a bedpan/commode, as I was able to always walk to the loo. On Wednesday, I was even allowed to take a shower to wash my hair (before being re-hooked to the IV). We dubbed my pole “Fred”. I haven’t been in a US hospital in years, but the last time I was in one (1998), the nurse forced me to use a bedpan even though I could walk.

-Wearing my own clothing was even better. The last time I was in a hospital in the US for a surgery (1998), I had to immediately change out of my clothing and put on a hospital gown. Here, I only had to wear the gown for the duration of my surgery. I was allowed to wear pajamas (or whatever I wanted, really) the entire time I was waiting, and about an hour after the surgery I was told I could change back out of the gown to be more comfortable. Nice. I also was able to keep my knickers (US: panties) on the entire time, including under my gown. When I was in hospital in the US, I was told I had to remove everything under the gown.

-I really can’t compare services received in the US vs. the UK. I never spent a night in a US hospital other than when I was born, and was a day patient 3 times (4 if you count the spinal tap). The only thing I CAN say is that I don’t think we’d have been able to afford a three-day stay in hospital if we lived in the US.

-As far as US Emergency Room vs UK Accidents & Emergencies go, I think the care was about the same. In the US, you’d have to wait if someone “worse” than you showed up just like you do in the UK. I was seen by triage about 45 minutes after arriving, and was called back to see a doctor about an hour after that. The long wait was only for a bed. In the US, I think the wait between triage and seeing a doctor might have been longer, but again, it always depends on the reason you are there. If you walk in and you are bleeding with something sticking out of you, I expect you’d get immediate care in both the UK and the US.

As far as an update on me goes –

I have a constant pain. The painkillers make it bearable, but it’s still always a dull pain. I found out yesterday from the nurse that I need to see a nurse every single day to have the dressing changed because they need to pack the incision. This really messes with our plans as it includes having the visiting nurses come see me over the weekend to change it on both days, and the visiting nurses cannot guarantee what time of day they will be able to come. During the week, I can easily get to my appointments if Tim has to work, as the practice is only a mile down the road. It’s walkable, or if I don’t want to walk, the bus costs 50p and goes from 3 houses down from me with a stop right opposite the practice.

Yesterday, I had extreme nausea after my nurse appointment. I will make mention of it to the nurse today, as I’m not sure if it was from the pain of being poked, finally coming down from the anaesthetic, or something else. I also might ask for a stronger pain reliever, but I DO NOT want morphine, which is what they almost gave me at the hospital. Thanks, but I don’t fancy being loopy for the next three weeks.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.


The Past few Days (or, My NHS Hospital Experience)

[x-posted to blog, lj, and facebook. Sorry if you see this more than once, and apologies for the length. I can use the “more” option on the blog directly, but I don’t think it will cut any length for those of you reading it on an RSS reader.]

For some background –

I have Hidradenitis Suppurativa and was diagnosed in July 2010 after a year of misdiagnoses (2 in the US, 2 in the UK). Basically, what it means is that I have (very persistent!) infections in my armpit sweat glands. The disease hits females more than males (Though apparently men tend to get them more in their groin, women more in the armpits) and there really is no known cause or cure. There are loads of things that “might” trigger it, and loads of things that “might” cure it. Basically, I’m stuck with it until they decide to go away. Treatment (for me) has included loads of different antibiotic medications, a topical steroidal cream (at one point), and most recently, scrubbing with Hibiscrub and then applying Zineryt, a bacterial acne medication.

I have a file 4 pages long that describes my entire history with this problem, including all treatments. I won’t post it, but if you really are that curious, ask me to email it to you.

The Zineryt was doing it’s job, and while my armpit is scarred, the infections themselves were clearing up. And then I got a really bad case of flu that knocked me down for two weeks. At one point, I couldn’t get out of bed and skipped showering for three days. I was drenched in sweat several times each day…and a HS spot developed in my right armpit. (previously, everything was in left). I kept putting Zineryt on it, but on Wednesday or so of last week, I noticed a new spot developing – this one was about 2 inches long, and very narrow, but it hurt a lot. I called to make a regular appointment with my GP, but he was all booked up so I got an appointment to see one of the other GPs in the surgery. Told it was a HS flare up, and given a week of antibiotics with the instructions to come back in a week if it wasn’t healed or got worse.
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I didn’t get the part.

I’m not too upset by it, but at the same time I am a little disappointed. It’s hard hearing such great things about your voice and then getting told “sorry, we’d rather go in a different direction”. But the woman who called me told me at least four times in the five-minute phone call that the judicatures were all very impressed with my voice and liked my singing…it just wasn’t what they were looking for. Admittedly, I wasn’t really expecting it to be. I have a polished voice…this was for the part of Priscilla Biggadyke, who probably didn’t have a polished/professional sounding singing voice. I also of course had the American accent thing possibly going *against* me – but at least I was honest when asked if I could do a British accent. Saves them the trouble of possibly casting me only to find out my British accent would make Dick van Dyke’s accent in “Mary Poppins” look proper! (Though I also could pull off an Eliza Doolittle accent, but that’s pretty much the same as DvD’s, really.)

The best thing to do is accept the rejection graciously. I’ve been offered tickets to the performance, which I might take them up on. I also do plan on asking BBC Lincolnshire to keep my information on file in case anything pops up that I would be appropriate for. Even if it’s just singing a jingle for an upcoming event or something.

I suppose it’s a little late in life to revert back to my 16-yr-old self’s dream of singing professionally, though.

OTOH, at least I don’t have to worry about squeezing in rehearsal for this on top of convention rehearsals with Lincoln Sounds, garden railway steam-ups, and everything else that goes on on a regular basis.

Still, like I said, it is a little disappointing after having such a fantastic audition.

Will I audition for anything else in the future? Probably. I keep wanting to get involved with the Theatre Royal’s productions, but find out about auditions and things too late to participate. The Broadbent Theatre is also close by, though participating there will have to wait until I can drive myself. And of course, there’s always my “dream” of joining Lace City in Nottingham!

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users can comment directly on Facebook.]

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.


That Went Well….

I’m quite pleased with my audition. It went really well, and the people I auditioned with were very nice…they even made me blush by telling me how good I was!

Talk about a confidence booster. It was especially nice to see the three judicatures nodding their heads and tapping their feet to “Anything Goes”.

So here’s what happened:

I got to the studio about a half hour before my audition slot, and was sent back to the interior lobby where I was interviewed (and recorded) by I’m guessing a student intern (she mentioned living in student accommodations while we were chatting, so that was my clue). I was just asked some general questions about who I was, my singing experience, my performing experience, and how I found out about the interviews. Then, it was back out into the interior lobby to wait to be called back into the audition room – three judicatures, 2 techs running the cameras and recording equipment, and the person I had been emailing with this past week. I managed to sing the first two verses of their song they wanted everyone to sing before I stopped and apologized for not being able to do the last verse (I had forgotten how it went!). I was told that they were sorry I had had to stop! That felt good! Onto my second song, “Anything Goes”, and I think I did really well. Like I said, people were tapping their feet, nodding their heads, and really enjoying it and again seemed to be disappointed when I stopped singing! After the audition, I was called back in to be interviewed (just to ask how I felt it went), and the interviewer asked me if I had been asked if I could do a British accent…I hadn’t been asked, and I admitted to the girl that I didn’t think I could, so…we shall see.

I should be hearing this afternoon if I received a part or not, but even if I didn’t, it still was great to go out there and sing.

A big thank you goes out to BBC Lincolnshire for even considering me!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.


Audtion Preparations

I’m perhaps doing something incredibly insane. Last week (Thursday, to be exact I think), I was poking around online and came across an article about BBC Lincolnshire holding a performance of a new musical about Priscilla Biggadike. Priscilla was the first woman to be hanged in a private hanging on the grounds of Lincoln Castle. She was hanged for poisoning her husband, however information came out a year later that proved her innocence. Poor woman.

BBC Lincolnshire is holding auditions for the musical….today. And I signed up to audition, giving myself 4 days to really learn the song I need to perform and to pick another song to sing! Am I crazy or what?

I think I’ve finally got down the Priscilla song. I’m worried about having to sing it unaccompanied though, since the recording is backed with a guitar. I’m also singing it an octave higher than the singer on the recording, since the man who wrote it is performing it, and I can’t sing that low.

For my second song, I think I’ve finally settled on “Anything Goes”. It’s tough trying to pick a song that’s appropriate and won’t put people to sleep with! I debated “With One Look” (Sunset Boulevard), “On My Own” (Les Mis), “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Carousel), and several others….but I think I’m solid with “Anything Goes” now. Maybe.

My audition is at 3:30 at the BBC Lincolnshire studio….wish me luck!

The performance will be on 7 April at the Castle. Regardless of if I get in or not, you should go see it!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Has it really been two weeks? Oh, dear. I’m so sorry to have kept all of you waiting for the rest of the Austria trip. I got sick sometime around Valentine’s Day, and I’m still not 100% better, even though we went to Brighton last weekend for ModelWorld. Sadly, my visit this week to see my friend Jessy is currently on hold due to me still having symptoms and not wanting to pass things on to her or her children. I’m hopeful that I’ll make it down later in the week, though.

We also are getting new to us bedroom furniture at the end of March, and need to put up lining paper in the bedroom, re-paint the walls and trim, and get new carpeting installed…plus make it so we can put the new furniture in the bedroom. I don’t know how much I’ll be around until after we get all that done. Working on the bedroom will be taking top priority, as we must move the furniture on the 28th.

To add to all this — it’s competition season for my chorus! We’ve got a competition in a few weeks time and then our regional convention/competition in May….with loads of extra rehearsals on weekends to prepare! If you think that’s all we have going on right now…no. It’s also model railway show season! It’s absolutely crazy around here!!

But rest assured, the rest of the posts are coming. I don’t think I’ll get one out tonight (I’m feeling tired!), but I’ll try to get something up tomorrow. If I don’t get to Jessy’s, I’ll try to post every other day this week.

Oh, and we have a bit of good news – Tim found out his new MOM position will start on the 3rd of May. The only downside is his weeks away at training will overlap my chorus convention…and the weekends will be the only time we’ll see each other while he’s away on his course, so that won’t be fun, but at least we now know when he’ll start!

We also re-arranged our kitchen yesterday and finally got rid of the in-laws picnic table we had been using as a kitchen table. We bought Leksvik from IKEA – it’s a small table with two drop leaves. Perfect for two, and expandable for six. Plus, it fits a lot better in our kitchen! Photos will be posted once I get things back in order. Right now the kitchen is still a bit of a mess!

Hope everyone is doing well!!

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I have Arrived

I know that’s a funny title…arrived where? And I’m sure I’ll get even more funny looks when I respond with “England”, but there you have it. Last week, I realised that I am embracing the United Kingdom and even though I’ve been calling this place my home for the past year, I finally feel like I mean it.

It’s for a really stupid reason, though. No one asks me where I’m from any more. I don’t get “Are you [Canadian/American/Irish*]?” , “Where are you from?”, or “Are you enjoying your visit?” when I go out or travel. Possibly because I walk with purpose. I can navigate myself through King’s Cross, down into the tube, and across town to catch another train out of Paddington or Waterloo with little fanfare. I know where to find the pricey high street goods for less. I know which pubs are poor quality chain restaurants and which ones are genuinely good. My go-to fast food is fish and chips. I drink tea, and actually now prefer tea over coffee. My kitchen radio is set to Radio 2, except between 12 and 2 when I switch over to Radio 4 or BBC Lincs. People stop me in Lincoln, Derby, London, Leicester, etc. and ask me for directions. I walk everywhere and only consider asking Tim to drive me a mile to the co-op if it’s raining or dark.

I’m sure I’ll always have an American accent, but what sets me apart from visitors is the language I use. Yes, America and England are two countries separated by a common language** But it’s those linguistic differences that make me feel like I have arrived (Tim also says that my tone of voice is quieter and the only times he can tell I’m a Jersey Girl are if I’m on the phone with Jessy or Erin).

I remember my first trip to the UK in 1997. We were all fresh-faced high schoolers ready to visit a foreign country….and half of the group trekked to McDonald’s for Lunch. We thought the signs that said “To Let” were misspelled signs for “toilet”, and we didn’t understand the funny looks we got when we asked for the bathroom. Few of us would have been able to tell you that pants are worn under your trousers, suspenders hold up your stockings, and braces are what hold up your trousers.

We went home from that trip, full of memories and British words. Oh, we thought we were so cool if we asked a teacher if we could go to the loo. But now? I actually cringed when an American friend who has never left the country used words like loo and lorry. Tim laughed at me and told me that that was me 5, 10, 15 years ago…and he’s right. But living here, actually living here…it is what it is. It’s not always glamorous, it’s certainly not easy, but it’s my life. And I love it.

*Yes, Irish. Don’t ask me WHY, but I apparently sound Irish to some people…
**Thank you, George Bernard Shaw

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He Got It!!

[x-posted to LJ]

I’m married to a MOM.

Mobile Operations Manager.

This is the position Tim interviewed for on Christmas Eve. The one he was supposed to go to training for 2 weeks ago that he got dropped from for not having the proper medical level.

We really thought Tim might not get the position because his fellow interviewee (and friend) who was sent on the course with Tim and was able to go received a rejection letter on Monday, and originally they were all told that rejections weren’t going out until after the person offered the position accepted.

Funny enough, Tim’s offer letter was dated YESTERDAY. Tim thought maybe his letter was being held back because he was the second, his mum thought maybe his letter was being held back because he needed the medical first. Whatever the reason…I don’t care because he got the job!

I’m so so proud of him. This is a “temporary” position – the letter says it will start at a to be determined date and last for 6 months, so basically, 6 months from whenever he has the training I’m assuming. I don’t know all the inside workings but basically there is a manager off for medical reasons in Newark, so they have one of the Lincoln MOMs filling in for him and needed a temp MOM to fill in in Lincoln. After the 6 months, they’ll drop Tim back to his regular job (so he won’t become unemployed) — but he’ll still have all the MOM training and still be able to be used as a “step-up” or even for him to go for a MOM position elsewhere.

Boys in the panel must be thrilled – one person out for 6 months means more OT for them! 🙂

*edit to add* Tim’s explained that it could be for more than 6 months – the letter is just guaranteeing that he will get that grade pay for at LEAST 6 months.

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Networked Blogs

I’ve just partnered my blog up with Networked Blogs to facilitate cross-posting to facebook. You can go to my main blog page (http://blog.beccajanestclair.com) and click “follow this blog” on the right if you want to follow me..and please do! It looks a little lonely right now! 🙂

hopefully, Facebook won’t double post my blog posts now that I’ve added networked blogs.

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Interview Me…Part II

Sorry it’s taken me a few days to get Part II up. I was caught up in a short term cold that left me in bed all day yesterday. I’m still collecting questions, and will continue to post these kinds of posts until I run out of questions.

Remember, if you’ve got a question about my experience in the UK, feel free to ask it in the comments or on facebook.

From Emma:
is there a food/meal that you’ve discovered here that you’d never heard of in the US?

Loads! Some things I had heard of through watching a British TV show or reading a book by a British author, but I had no clue what they were. Toad in the Hole, Bangers and Mash (I had no idea that Bangers were sausages, but I had an idea what the mash part was), Sausage Rolls, Fish Pie, and Scotch Eggs are a few things I can think of off the top of my head. As a matter of fact, I didn’t think I’d like ANY of those foods until I tried them. Now? try to get me away from a sausage roll!

From Cathy
Has anything about living in the UK taken you by surprise or not been what you had expected?

Going to the GP, having the GP send you to the hospital for tests or to a specialist and not seeing a bill for it. It’s a really hard concept for me to get used to – I went from having to pay $60 per office visit to my GP to £0!

From Sarah:
What is the best insult you can think of in British English that a person in America would think is a compliment?

I really can’t think of any, actually. I even asked Tim if he could think of something. The only thing I can think of is the word “fanny” has a totally different meaning in the UK, but I don’t really think that works in an insult. I even tried to come up with something in cockney rhyming slang, and came up with a blank!

From Charles:
What is the difference between England and the UK?

England is part of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Great Britain itself is, however, only the countries of England, Wales, and Scotland (except during the Olympics, when Olympians from Northern Ireland can elect to compete with GB or with Ireland). I could get into a history lesson about everything, but I think that might get a bit long. There are plenty of websites and books you can take a look at, or even just look on Wikipedia. Basically, I live in England, but I also live in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. A bit like saying you live in Pennsylvania, but also the United States. Except that England is a country, not a state. My husband is an Englishman, but also can be referred to as British.

From LJ User:
Have you ever slipped into the local accent entirely not on purpose, then realized you did?

No, I can’t pull off a British accent at all. There are a few words I get told make me “sound British”, but I think that’s more to do with having learned the word here. I’ve also been mistaken for being Irish. And Canadian. I get Canadian a lot more than American. A friend told me my writing style has started to sound more British, though.

From Jes:
Becca, how about humorous cultural differences concerning food and slang?

Hmm. Well, there’s the whole chips and crisp thing. But that’s really only funny in the US if someone orders chips with their sandwich and gets crisps. Almost happened to Tim while he was visiting. There’s also a particularly naughty word in US English that is a word for sausage here, but I’m not going to use the word. “Pudding” is a generic term for dessert here, and “Tea” is what parts of the UK call the evening meal. Tea time, however, is different. And there’s also High Tea, which I’ve never had/been to.

Slang wise, I think the funniest has to be the word “rubber”. In the US, you might call a condom a “rubber”. In the UK, they use the word “rubber” for erasers!

From Michael:
Have you become a fan of any of the following music groups: Westlife, Take That, Sugababes or anyone else who just isn’t big in the U.S.?

Not a fan, no. I’ve heard of them and probably like a few songs, but not to the point where I’d go to a concert or even buy a CD. Boothby Graffoe is about the only person I can think of, but like I said in my previous entry, I don’t think he counts since I had heard of him prior to my move. Oh, John Barrowman, I suppose….but again, I’m not sure he counts.

From Nicky:
What is your favourite location in the UK and why (not including where you live)

It’s a toss-up. I love London, and always will. London was my first glance at the UK way back in 1997 which sealed the deal for me wanting to eventually live here. BUT, my favourite place to visit other than London is Northumbria. I love Beamish and have been multiple times. The castles in the north, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Hadrian’s Wall…I love it all. However, Northumbria is tied with Northern Wales. I love the mountains, the sea, the trains, and the castles there, too.

Do you understand the slang word ‘chav’? And if so do you believe you have encountered any.

Yes. I plead the fifth on that second part.

Where does the Queen live?

Officially, the Queen’s residence is Buckingham Palace. The monarchy also maintains homes at Windsor Castle, Holyrood Palace, and Hillsborough Castle. The Queen herself also owns Sandringham and Balmoral Castle.

Do you need a passport to visit Scotland or Ireland?

As Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, if you have permission to visit or reside in the United Kingdom, you have permission to visit/reside in Scotland. Ireland is a bit trickier. Ireland and the United Kingdom have an agreement called the Common Travel Area. Passport holders of either country may pass through with no passport check. However, if you are not a citizen of Ireland or the United Kingdom, you would need to pass through passport control in order to legally be in either country. This catches MANY people out, since there isn’t passport control once you reach Holyhead via boat from Dublin. Dublin, however, does have immigration control. My passport contains 2 Ireland stamps from my visit in September 2009, but no stamp for the United Kingdom, as my mom and I had round trip airfare between Philadelphia and Dublin, but came to the UK to visit Tim part way through our visit. In 2008, the Border Agency issued a statement that they would put checkpoints in at places such as Holyhead, but so far they have not.

Do you find the majority of the population of the UK arrogant or ignorant?

I don’t know enough of the majority population to make a judgement like that. I know some arrogant people, and I know some ignorant people. I also know plenty of people who are neither!

From Kara:
What would you recommend as your top must see spots for someone who has never been to the area? (Both typical touristsy spots, and spots a tourist may not be aware of.)

By “in the area”, I’ll assume you mean Lincoln. If you’re visiting Lincoln, I think a trip to the Lincolnshire Life museum is in order – fantastic place to visit, lots of fun stuff to see. If Ellis Mill is running, it’s a fun place to visit, but it’s also nice to look at. Further afield, and if you like antiques, Hemswell, a former RAF base, is a great day out.

From LJ User:
What was the biggest switch you had to make moving?

Trying to pack up 30 years of my life and having to decide what was worth spending money on shipping was probably the hardest thing to do, but as far as making switches go, I think it has to be switching from imperial to metric in the kitchen. I’ve gotten much better at it in the past year, and I have a conversion chart taped to the inside of a kitchen cabinet, but when I first arrived there were many wrecked dinners because I couldn’t work out the temperature properly or work out the correct amount of things. And cakes. Oh god, I ruined several cakes before I learned how to measure it and cook it in metric.

Also, although I might be the only person who doesn’t know this, how did you meet your husband?

This is a great story! No, honestly! We started talking online in 2004 in the IRC chat room #crfh (a channel for fans of the webcomic, College Roommies from Hell!!!) just as friends, as I had been dating someone else at the time. We then met in person when the group held what we refer to as “Boardie Con” (which is why sometimes Tim and I will say we met at a webcomic convention). Details are sketchy if it was in 2004 or 2005. Neither one of us can remember. I attended the con with my then-boyfriend, but got to spend a little time talking with Tim where we solidified our growing friendship. I can remember sitting with him on a couch having a conversation with him and another girl, I remember Tim gave me a bar of Cadbury’s that I saved for AGES, Tim and I sat next to each other at one of the big meals out, and we sat near each other when we all picnicked at Alki Point on the Fourth of July.

We remained friends and talked all the time in #crfh, which then changed over to chatting on MSN Messenger and then eventually he said to me “I have this program called Skype….”. Our first conversation was horribly choppy, as Tim was still on dial-up, and we agreed to try again after his upgrade to broadband. Then, Tim disappeared for a month or so and I was worried – turns out he was in the middle of his switch to broadband and had been having problems with his provider. We got back in contact and the Skype chats started…..our first conversation lasted over 8 hours and both of us began losing sleep spending so many hours talking. It also helped that at the time Tim’s union was on strike and he was at home for a solid week.

But we were friends….always friends. We exchanged Christmas gifts and talked about everything and learned everything about each other over the course of those conversations. I had been seeing someone else, who broke my heart in January 2008, just before I went on Ships and Dip III. I remember talking about Tim with my cousin, Missy, while I was visiting her before the cruise. Tim told me he would make himself available to me and even though I was online for limited times while I was visiting my cousin, I talked to Tim while I was there, and even texted him from the boat.

After I got back from the cruise, things got interesting. I was flipping TV channels one day in March of 2008 and came across one of the Harry Potter films. Tim and I decided to watch the DVD together (while talking on Skype) from the beginning. That was our “first date”. A few weeks later, I was in my pajamas and Tim said to me “have you ever gone on a date in your pajamas?”. We watched the next HP film. That was Date 2. We worked our way through the five HP DVDs, and then Tim ordered Torchwood so we would have more to watch together.

Meanwhile, I was planning a visit to the UK for the fall of 2008. Tim offered to let me stay with him for a few months and use his spare room as a homebase while I travelled around. I settled on a two month visit, and Tim made arrangements to take off work for the first three weeks of my visit so he could take me around to places….still, we were just friends.

I finally admitted my feelings for Tim in June and it took us until July to start dating. My visit was in October, and the rest is history. Two months came and went, and we didn’t want our time together to end, so we extended my visit until April 09. Tim came to visit me in July 09, and my mom and I went to the UK in September 09. Tim proposed to me on this trip and you all know the rest. A wedding planned in 6 weeks followed by 10 weeks apart while we waited for my visa!

From Michelle:
What American stuff were you surprised to find in the UK?

Mustard. I don’t like English Mustard. It’s spicy, but too spicy for me. I was going to have my mom send me a bottle of French’s, when I found ASDA brand “American Mustard”. There’s a picture of me on facebook hugging the bottle!

ASDA is pretty good for selling random American things. Generally, if I find something I pick it up for the novelty factor.

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Interviewing….Me! Part I

Since I’ve been here for one year, I thought I would open things up and let people interview me and ask me anything they’d like to know about living in the UK. I asked over on Facebook, and here are some of the questions with my answers. If you’d like to ask something, feel free to leave me a comment on facebook or on this post. There will be a part II, assuming I get more questions!

From Amie:
What is the most amazing thing you stumbled upon living in the UK that wouldn’t be something a tourist would find?

Knowing I can go back to places more easily means that I don’t obsess so much about HAVING to see something or another and can take my time and enjoy a place. But I think it would have to be the village pubs. Most tourists probably wouldn’t consider stopping at a small village pub for dinner unless it was in the guide book or a “name brand” kind of place. Tim and I have been in some great little pubs that we found simply by getting off the motorway and driving on back roads – which is also something a tourist probably wouldn’t do!

But oh – I thought of an actual place. Finding Tupholme Abbey while driving on a back road.

Oh, and charity shops!

From Carrie:
What are some of the biggest differences between the US & the UK? What were the hardest adjustments to make?

Honestly, there aren’t as many differences as someone might think (at least to me). Money is different, but it’s still based on decimals, so the only hard bit there is learning the new coins. Food is different, but not in a “ew, that’s weird” way, just in a “never had that in the US” way, like Fish pie or bangers and mash. It’s more normal for people to have a Pay-As-You-Go mobile phone here than it is in the US, but the PAYG plans are also better. Measurements for cooking are different – grams and ml instead of cups and ounces. The UK uses Celsius for temperature here (learned that one the hard way with the washing machine!). Most schools require a school uniform and most schools are still affiliated with the Church of England. I’m sure there can be loads more to add to the list, but I just don’t find things super different.

Also, the drinking culture is different. Here, it’s not uncommon to give a child a shandy – a mix of lemonade and beer – when they are young and children as young as 15 can drink wine in a restaurant or pub as long as their parent is present and gives permission.

A hard adjustment was getting used to shops closing at 5, and living in a village. Coming from an area where the local mall was open until 10 and most stores were open until at least 9, it was hard to get used to. We do have 24-hour grocery stores, though.

From Amie:
Is there anything you miss from the US that you simply CAN’T find in the UK? Be it food, a certain type of restaurant, or even other items…

My mom? No, but seriously – I miss hoagies. We do have Subway here, but Subway in the US was never as good as going to a local mom and pop shop for a hoagie. It works in a pinch, and if I’m in town and need Lunch I usually go there, but it’s not the same! A few nights ago we bought lunchmeat and baguettes and I tried creating our own….still not as good!

From Lou:
has the experience of finding your way in a new country changed you? Has the experienced helped your confidence, challenged you, things like that?

I don’t know if I can separate moving to the UK from getting married, since one lead to the other. I DO think I have changed in the past year, but whether it has to do with moving to the UK or the fact that I’m now married, I don’t know!

I do think my confidence level has gone up, but I also think that has a lot to do with Tim.

What is your Favourite UK TV show? (not counting Doctor Who I know that one is a given)

I’m currently enjoying QI, Come Fly with Me, and Not Going Out. Secret Diary of a Call Girl starts soon, too. I also love the shows Giles and Sue do, and I watch anything Jamie Oliver has on. I also like some older UK shows – Red Dwarf, Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes, Black Books, Hyperdrive, Spaced, etc. We watch a lot more TV on DVD than we do actual television.

Actually on the same theme – UK bands artists that you hadn’t heard of prior to coming over to live?

I don’t know if I really know, to be honest. Any time Radio 2 played a new artist I liked, it would turn out that they weren’t British. LOL. Boothby Graffoe doesn’t count since I heard him on the cruise in 2008.The only new CDs I’ve bought since moving have been new BNL and Carbon Leaf.

Oh, but would you believe I had no idea who Take That or Amy Winehouse were before I moved here?

From Sue:
Is Hogwarts real?

Yes and no. Alnwick Castle (where they filmed bits of the earlier ones) is real, the viaduct the train goes over is real, and platform 9 3/4 is “real”.

From Brian:
Do you think you’ll ever want to be living stateside again?

Not really. I think whatever happens, it would have to be a family decision and be what’s right for our family. Tim’s job is very UK-specific, so I can’t see us leaving unless one of us got a better offer than what he makes now. We joke about the possibility of living in the US and building a huge garden railway in my aunt’s backyard, but we also know it isn’t likely to happen. Plus once we have kids and they are in school, I wouldn’t want to pull them out to move them since the school systems are different. But that’s okay. I’m happy to stay here!

From Sheldon:
Do you like EastEnders or Corrie ?

Honestly, I haven’t seen a full episode of either, only bits and pieces. Occasionally I’ll watch Doctors, or have it on in the background. I watched Emmerdale a few times. My problem with picking up an established soap is not knowing any of the back stories. I don’t even like starting to watch a TV series partway through!

From Sally:
You at the dinner tonight Rebecca?

Sadly, no. We originally thought the weekend would be the only time for Tim and I to see each other, so I told Helen I couldn’t! 🙁

From Elisabeth:
Do you think your and Tim’s future kids will have a better life here in the UK than they would in the US?

I don’t think I know enough about the British education system to really answer this yet. I’m sad that my children won’t get to be in marching band, though! But, if we lived in the US, there’s no way we’d be able to afford a house with as large of a garden as we have, so I think that’s a definite plus for them!

From Emma:
which building in Lincoln has a hidden Imp?

As far as I know, the only place to find a hidden imp would be the Cathedral.

From Robert:
Have you seen the Queen?

I’ve seen the film “The Queen” if that counts!!

From Michelle:
Is there anything about living over there that you don’t like, that just drives you crazy that’s different?

I try my hardest to use “British English” and use the British words for things. But 30 years of living in the US ingrain some words into my head that are hard to not use. Things like asking for the bathroom (which in the UK, is the room with the bathrub), or calling those long things you wear on your legs pants (in the UK, pants are the undergarment). Tim tells me over and over not to worry about it because with the influx of American Television, people know what I’m talking about. But it really annoys me and drives me crazy when someone deliberately acts like they don’t know what I’m talking about or tries to make a joke about it. That doesn’t really answer the “different” part of your question though! I guess you could say the differences in language, despite being the same one, can drive me crazy at times.

Do you think your mom will ever move over there to live by you?

Unfortunately, the UKBA closed the way of bringing over a dependent parent, so it would be a little hard to get her a visa to live here. But maybe when she retires she can spend months at a time here as a visitor instead of a few weeks.

From Janey:
Is it still hard to convince people that you don’t get homesick because England is the best place ever?

It’s really hard to explain that I don’t get homesick. The things that I miss I either make do without, get sent to me in care packages from my family, or I create my own substitute. I don’t really miss a lot of people because I do get to talk to people like my mom on a near daily basis, and have had video calls with some of my friends, too.


How Many Anniversaries Do I Need?

Today marks ONE YEAR of living in the UK.

I haven’t left Europe in a year, either.

I absolutely love my life here, and look forward to the next year, and the next, and the next.

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Organizing Life….

One thing I really struggle with as a housewife is being a GOOD housewife. I always worry that I’m not doing enough…or if I get distracted (which, I easily get!) by a webpage or book and haven’t done much with my day, I feel like I’m a failure.

Well. I’m going to try to change that.

See, I already meal plan every week because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to do a Tesco order. I try to meal plan on the Friday before (which is why I don’t participate in Meal Plan Monday that often) so I can place my order for a Monday or Tuesday delivery. It works out pretty well, and sometimes I even get the following week planned at the same time. Meal planning takes up a decent chunk of my day. I like to try one new recipe each week*, so sometimes I spend as much as an hour looking through cookbooks. Sometimes I mark more than one new recipe if I’ve found several interesting ones. Sometimes I’ll pass Tim a cookbook and tell him to pick something. Sometimes, I’ll try to come up with something to do with leftovers other than freezing them for a homemade ready meal. Then, I make a list of ingredients I need, sometimes looking up recipes for our favourites. After I have my full weekly ingredient list, I spend time going through the pantry, freezer, and fridge to see what items are already “in stock” and also to check what I’m running low on. And then, of course, I have to put the order into Tesco’s website. This doesn’t take too long, since I can go in and see my “favourites” and just click on the things we order each week – bread, milk, eggs, chicken (nearly every week. What can I say? My husband loves his roast dinners).

But anyway. This wasn’t going to be a post of me babbling about how I meal plan. This was going to be a post about how I’m getting myself more organized and trying to become a better housewife. Not a Donna Reid (who I had to explain to Tim), but a good housewife. Though, if anyone wants to send me a frilly apron, I promise I’d wear it! (and I need a new one as I’ve had to throw one out for ripping beyond repair)

Last Christmas (2009), my mom put a magnetic notepad in my stocking. It’s about 7 inches wide, 5 inches long and has columns for the days of the week across the top. Monday through Friday have full page columns, and Saturday and Sunday split the 6th column. I used this pad sporadically for meal planning in 2010, but I kept feeling like I wasn’t using it to it’s full potential. Most of the columns only used up a line or two where I wrote in what I was making. Occasionally I’d write an event on it, but usually it was largely left blank and became scrap paper after the week was out.

There are about 30 sheets left on it. I don’t know what I’ll do when I run out of sheets, but for now, here’s what I do –

First, I write at the top of each day what the date will be, followed by what shift Tim is on. Then, I take a coloured pen, and I write in the meal plan. I use other colours to designate other things, too. Tim and I both want to make sure we get on the Wii Fit every day, so I’ve written it on the planner. I write down deliveries and meetings, and I even started scheduling what cleaning tasks I’d like to do each day. I also added (after I scanned it) blogging, so I can keep my promise of weekly blogging…I haven’t been doing so great since the start of the new year, but I think I can pick up the pace.

Will it keep me organized? Who knows. But at least, I have things written down. Sometimes, I don’t always make the meals in the order they appear on the weekly meal plan, so I’ll probably do that with the cleaning, too.

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*So we don’t get stuck in a rut of the same old stand-by meals. I mean, Tim would be happy with a roast chicken every week, and I’d be happy with pasta every week, but I have to mix it up a bit!


To Volunteer or Not…

I really need some opinions on this matter.

I volunteer at the Cancer Research UK charity shop on Thursday afternoons from 1-5PM. I take the bus into town (£2.50) and then usually meet up with 2 friends to go to chorus, and then another friend would give me a lift home.

My friends I usually meet are no longer available to meet me before chorus to give me a lift, so I’m stuck scrambling for a solution. Another chorus friend lives in one of the villages near me, and she’s offered to give me lifts on “most” Thursdays if I can get to her house via the bus. I’m fine with doing that, but it will mean paying for a return fare into town (£4.50) plus a single to her village (£2) every week. I’d also only have about 45 minutes at home between busses to shove something to eat down my neck. That’s not counting busses running late (they nearly always are) or the walk to the bus stop (about 5 minutes each way). So really, I’m looking at spending maybe if I’m lucky a half hour at home. Which isn’t enough time to cook anything, so I’d either have to have a meal in the crock pot waiting, or just have a sandwich. Even heating up my oven to cook chips takes nearly 20 minutes! The downside to a crock pot meal is that depending on Tim’s schedule, he might not get to eat it, but would have to smell it cooking, which really isn’t fair.

This also means I’d be spending £4.50 each week just to volunteer….over £20/month. In a time when Tim and I are trying to cut back on some of our finances so we can put more into savings…do I really want to spend that extra £20/month? Granted, some weeks I go into town early and do some shopping, but since I’m also trying to cut back on my extracurricular shopping trips, I can’t really use shopping as an excuse. Plus, I always have to take the bus into town on Market days, since Market isn’t on a Thursday.

And let’s talk about the volunteering.

I started volunteering to get myself out of the house, to meet people, and to possibly count towards my eventual citizenship*. I started in March 2010, and I have not met anyone to hang out with outside of the volunteer job. I’d say I’m “friends” with the woman I usually work with, but we don’t even have each other’s mobile numbers and we only talk if we’re both at the volunteer job at the same time…and since September, it’s been hard to find a day when we’re both there since they keep switching her schedule around. I do not get along with anyone else I volunteer with, other than one of the men who helps out with sorting (and he’s not usually on the floor). All of the other women who work on the floor just rub me the wrong way, boss me around, treat me horribly, or are just too quiet to try to make friends with and barely answer my questions if I try to start a conversation. One of them clearly has a problem with immigrants as well, as she makes horrible comments but then covers them up with a “but of course I don’t mean you”**. Another deliberately gives me a hard time any time I use the word “pants” instead of “trousers”. Now, most people know what I mean (and even this person knows) if I say “pants”. Customers recognize that I am American and that in America we call trousers “pants”. Nine times out of ten, I catch myself and correct myself immediately when talking to a customer, but there is one of the co-workers who always sneers at me if I use an American clothing word.

The bosses are nice, but sometimes I think they think we are all uneducated and they seem surprised when I pick things up after being shown/told once….but then if I make one tiny mistake I get called out for it, so really, you can’t quite win with them. The bosses (and other co-workers) seem to be plagued with the same problem some of the chorus members have of “you should just know this because that’s how it’s done”.

I know I’m not happy 100% with the “job”. I think if I was 100% happy there, I wouldn’t bat an eye at spending £20/week to commute to it. But really, it’s more like about 20%. Most Thursdays I really can’t get up the excitement to go, but I do it anyway.

I don’t want to be a quitter. I wanted to stick it out and “just do it”, but I really don’t want to spend that money and rush myself around like that.

Tim didn’t want me to quit the many times I said I wanted to before, because he didn’t want me to be one of those people who never leaves the house and who doesn’t have a life of her own outside of her husband, but I do things. I have friends that I see and do things with. I take the train to visit friends and other places….I’m not going to suddenly become an invalid if I stop volunteering. I also still have (for now) chorus. I think Tim is starting to see point in me leaving it though now that my schedule is changing.

PLUS, our steam-ups are always on Thursdays, and if I’m not volunteering, I’d at least be present for part of the steam-up. I’ve missed so many of them last season, and some of Tim’s friends (my friends now, too) were disappointed when they didn’t see me.

So, how do I graciously get out of this? Do I need to write a formal letter stating that I am leaving? Do I ask if I can leave myself on the roster for possibly going back if my schedule changes again? Do I just call in and say “not doing this any more” or do I need to attend a “last day”?

*The volunteering was part of the Earned Citizenship stuff to reduce wait time from 5 years to 3. Parts of the EC have been thrown out, but no one seems to know if this volunteering thing will still be needed….but they also never released figures stating how much volunteering you needed to do for it to count.

**I don’t think we need to get into this again. Those of us who are (white/English-speaking) immigrants in the UK get treated to comments like that all the time.

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2010 in Review

Sitting down to do a 2010 review seems so weird….didn’t the year only just start? But then, when I look back on things…wow, January 2010 was so long ago!

We’ll start the year out on December 31, 2009. Tim and I were waiting on my spousal visa to be approved, and I received one of the most important phone calls of my life shortly before midnight GMT. We had been approved and my visa was on it’s way to me! My boxes had already been shipped, so the next three weeks were filled with me trying to pack my remaining suitcases, visit places “one last time”, and see as much of my family as I could. I left the US on January 21, 2010 and entered the UK on January 22. The immigration officer asked me nothing beyond “Where is your husband?” when I went through immigration. He stamped my passport and said “Welcome home, Mrs. Lockley”.

Tim picked me up, and we headed to the hotel he had booked for the previous night. Since my plane was getting in at 6 in the morning, Tim went down the night before, and we had decided he would pick me up and we would go back to the hotel to get more sleep, stay the night again, and begin our trip back home on the 23rd. I remember bits and pieces of the hotel stay. I remember watching an episode of Doctor Who on BBC3 while we sipped champagne and celebrated finally being together.

Tim went back to work and I busied myself unpacking my suitcases and getting things ready for our late Christmas celebration. On the 28th, we had Tim’s parents and sister over to celebrate Christmas…complete with putting up the tree!

My boxes finally arrived in February and it took me a while to get them all emptied….I finally emptied the last book box on our anniversary in November! Tim’s aunt found a local chorus for me to get involved in, and I started volunteering once a week at the Cancer Research UK shop on the high street. I was starting to get myself established!

March was fairly uneventful. Tim had a week of leave and we decided to stay at home and began working on our garden – we were going to try our hand at growing our own vegetables this year. We also began work on extending the garden railway…a project that had a deadline of August 31! I adopted the area under the lilac tree as “mine” and began clearing it of weeds. I soon discovered that there is something wrong with the soil under the tree, as nothing appears to want to grow on the sunny side. 🙁 Oh well, Rock garden for next year!

In April, we held our reception for Tim’s family and our friends in the UK. My mom flew over for it, and he trip was only supposed to be a short one….but due to volcanic ash, we wound up with an extra week!

May brought my first choral competition with Lincoln Sounds…and we came home with a Bronze medal and the highest score the chorus had ever gotten! What a fantastic introduction to the competition.

June and July were both quiet months. Mostly filled with more gardening and garden railway building.

in August, I went with my friend Helen and her son, Mark, to Wales for a week. We spent the week visiting castles and railways, and I had a great time. I loved Wales, and loved being near mountains. The end of August brought my birthday and Tim’s birthday. Tim was hitting a milestone this year, so we decided to have a party and officially open the upper circuit of the garden railway.

September was our big holiday. Honeymoon part 2. Tim had wanted to take me to Germany and Austria for our honeymoon, but it wasn’t going to work out right after we got married, so we decided to take the trip when Tim had his two weeks off. We spent our time camping in Zell am Ziller and Nußdorf, making day trips to castles and railways and Tim took me to see “my castle” – Neuschwanstein. We had a great trip. Blog posts about it are coming, I promise!

in October, I took the train down to Southampton to visit a friend I hadn’t seen since college. We re-connected through Facebook and I found out she had also married a British man and was living in the UK, and she invited me to come for a visit. We had a great time. It was really nice to be around someone who I have known for so long and to catch up with her. We have plans to get together sometime soon.

November marked our one year wedding anniversary and we celebrated it by attending the fireworks at the showgrounds. We also celebrated Thanksgiving and I cooked a full Thanksgiving meal for Tim and my in-laws.

Which brings us to the most recent month past, December. I spent most of the beginning of the month preparing and cleaning because my mom arrived on the 16th! Our plans for Christmas involved going over to Tim’s parents house, so I cooked my Christmas dinner on the 23rd. Unfortunately, my MIL wasn’t feeling well and on the 24th decided to cancel dinner at hers and rescheduled it for the 26th. Tim and I had to brave Tesco on Christmas Eve to get all the fixings for our dinner. I didn’t cook a turkey, but we made do with a nice roast chicken. Mom left on the 30th, and Tim and I watched DVDs last night and flipped to BBC1 about one minute before 12….and went to bed shortly after the fireworks.

Bring on 2011!

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My webpage is popping up as being blocked by both firefox and AVG. I’m looking into it.

If anyone else is getting the same issues, please let me know.

(this will have to be my filler post for today. And I really hope I don’t miss tomorrow’s last post of NaBloPoMo!)



Today is my family’s big Thanksgiving dinner, and only the second one I’ve ever missed. I sent my mom some photos to take along, and I’ve also written a letter to my family. Here is a copy of the letter, which is basically a run-down of 2010:

Dear Family,

I hope you all can forgive me for not being there for Thanksgiving, but with Mom’s visit to me in December, I felt it was silly to visit so close to her visit. I’m planning on visiting sometime in 2011 and if Tim can get time off from work, he’ll come with me.

I’m not sure where to start or what all to tell you but I will say that this past year has been amazing. I really love living in the UK and I have made some fantastic friends, as well as re-connected with a friend from high school who now lives here!

Before I arrived, Tim was talking with his Aunt Wendy about me wanting to get involved in the community. Wendy asked what my hobbies were, and Tim told her about singing. Wendy had a friend who was part of a chorus and I was invited to attend a rehearsal. I loved it, so I joined! The group is called Lincoln Sounds, and is a female barbershop chorus and part of Sweet Adeline’s International. This past May, we won the bronze medal at our regional convention!

I also found a volunteer opportunity one day while walking around in town. I now work once a week at the Cancer Research UK shop. It’s a short shift, but it gets me out of the house, meeting people, and more used to using British money. I tend to make people laugh when I use American words like “pants” or “suspenders” – in the UK, if you mention “pants”, you are referring to what in the US is called underwear. “Suspenders” in the UK are what in the US are called garters! Whoops! Fortunately, most people recognize my accent and laugh.

We’re slowly working on getting the house redecorated and organized, but we can see the final vision in our heads, so hopefully in 2011 we will be able to do everything. We are planning on installing double glazing on our windows to help with keeping heat in in the winter, and looking into central heating. Our house is a farm house from the 1800s (the oldest house in the village), and the previous owner never had central heating installed and Tim didn’t have it done because he was hardly home. Now that I’m here all day and we’re thinking about starting a family, we need central heating! I also plan on learning how to cook on our Esse stove. We have a solid fuel stove that will require smokeless coal and I will have to keep it topped up daily. The fortunate thing is that the Esse (similar to an Aga Rayburn) will also help to heat the water in the house. We’ve got a long way to go before I can use it, and a few weeks back a bird flew down the chimney and was stuck in it! Fortunately, Tim rescued it.

Of course, you’ll know about Mom’s visit in April. She got stuck here due to the volcanic ash, but it wasn’t a bad thing! She came over so she could attend the wedding reception we held for Tim’s family. We had a great time, and I got to wear my dress again! 🙂

I’ve gone on a few trips this year – one with Tim, and 2 without. In August, I went with my friend Helen and her son, Mark, to Wales for a week. We stayed near the coast and spent the week going to railways (Helen and Mark have a garden railway like us) and castles. We had a lot of fun, but I missed Tim. In October, I went down to Southampton to visit a friend I knew in high school and college. She also married a Brit and lives down there, so it was nice to catch up with an old friend, and made me feel comfortable. I missed having friends around who I’ve known for years and who I could just talk to about anything. I’m planning on going back down to see her in January.

Our big trip this year was our Honeymoon Part 2. This was the original Honeymoon plan before Tim’s days off got restricted last November and we wound up going to Florida instead. Tim wanted to take me to Germany and Austria, so we headed off in September with the car loaded down with camping gear. Our first stop was Neuschwanstein Castle, which most of you know is one of my favourite castles. We then drove down into Austria and set up camp at two different sites and visited railways, castles, and historic towns. Since we were camping, we also got to experience life in Austria and buying groceries! My German came in handy, but if someone heard Tim and I talking to each other in English, they would switch into a combination of German and English that we could understand. We really enjoyed camping as well. We have a large tent that has 2 bedrooms and a large middle section as well as a camping stove and of course, lots of flashlights (called torches here!). Just about the only thing we didn’t like was that once it started to get dark, it was hard to read or do anything else other than go to bed. We also didn’t like the cold, but we were camping in the Alps, so what did we expect? We plan on going camping again this coming Summer – spending a week in Scotland with Tim’s brother, Ben, and then a week down in Wales with Helen & Mark. I do apologize for postcards not making it back to the US. I’m not sure what happened, but it appears as though every single postcard we sent to the US has been misplaced by either Austrian Post or the USPS. After asking 5 people if they got their cards, we’re writing them off. Maybe someday they will show up! I sent Mom some pictures though, so they should be somewhere with this letter.

We had two big garden projects this year. The first one was trying our hand at growing our own vegetables. We dug a small plot and planted some potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. The carrots and parsnips are just now finally getting large enough to use, and I harvested over 300 potatoes in August! We also tried growing cucumbers and tomatoes, but the weather here isn’t suited for them and we will need to build a greenhouse if we want to really grow them. Fruit-wise, we have our large apple tree, which I managed to get nearly 14KG (so that’s about 30lbs) of apples off of, not counting the apples friends would pick when they visited. We gave some away, I made some apple butter, and the rest are in the freezer for the Winter. We also have 2 wild blackberry bushes (called brambles) and I harvested about a gallon-sized ziplock bag from it. Those too, went into the freezer. Our raspberry canes did not do well at all. We might try again next year. We also planted three blueberry bushes. Two of the bushes died but came back to life after some serious pruning mid-summer, and the other bush just grew lots of leaves. I read that it can take 3 years for blueberry bushes to grow, so hopefully we will one day have blueberries! We also planted 3 strawberry plants and managed enough strawberries for snacking. I’ll probably plant more next year. My herb garden suddenly took off in September after hardly having anything. I have Mint talking over along with Parsley. Oregano, Marjoram, and Basil were harder to coax, but I wound up with enough to use. I also have a Thyme bush that doesn’t seem to quit! Unfortunately, I can’t move the plants inside for the winter, as my kitchen hardly gets any light, but I’ll plant herbs again in the Spring! (BTW, here they pronounce the h in herbs, Basil is pronounced “Baa-zil”, and Oregano is “Ore-gahn-no”.)

Our second project was Tim’s railway. He had wanted to build the upper circuit by his 40th birthday, which was in August, so he had a lot of work to do! Tim, his brother Ben, Ben’s friend, and Mark (Helen’s son) spent many days outside digging, laying bricks, and concreting. But we did it! Tim pinned in the last bit of track about 45 minutes before people arrived, though we had had the full circuit complete for several weeks before then. Tim even built two “level crossings” across our front walkway where the railway crosses it. We had steam-ups once a month over the Spring and Summer where friends would bring their trains over to have a go, and it was fun seeing their reaction to the progress. Tim even managed to build a snowplow in January, and so we’re hoping for enough snow to get it out this year!

Tim’s cat, Prudence, is starting to finally get used to me. I miss Will, though. Plans are to move him over eventually, but who knew it was so expensive to move a pet overseas? In the meantime, he keeps Mom company. Prudence recently stopped liking us, though. I noticed she was acting funny and we took her to the vet. Not once, not twice, but three times. Poor thing had to have 4 teeth removed and then we had to feed her antibiotics for a week. I am not very popular right now, but she is starting to go to Tim again.

I am settling into life as a British-American housewife. Learning how to cook with Metric has been interesting, and there was one mishap at the beginning where I shrank our clothing by forgetting the temperature gauge on the washer was in Celsius! I think since January, I’ve only made a few mistakes and we only had to go for takeaway (carry-out) a handful of times because dinner wasn’t edible. Ask Mom to tell you about my red velvet cake that turned black (it wasn’t burned!). If you have internet access and read my blog, I occasionally post recipes. I’m learning how to make a lot of traditional British dishes alongside my American cooking, so we have a nice mixture of meals. Betty Crocker is still my go-to book for recipes, but I also really like Jamie Oliver’s books.

I haven’ t sorted out driving here, yet. Mostly because of the expense of it and because I have no experience driving a manual car. Tim’s car is manual, and that seems to be the trend here. I also have to send off my passport to get my permit (called a provisional license here), and I haven’t been willing to part with it yet! I’ve been relying on public transportation to get me into town. While Lincoln isn’t a big city like London, it’s a decent size and we have 3 busses an hour that run from our village into town.

My health needs are taken care of by the NHS. It’s really nice to just call and have an appointment and not have to worry about paying for it. All prescriptions are £7.20, regardless of what you need, but if you have a chronic condition, you can receive prescriptions for free. My infected armpit issue has FINALLY cleared up! It had been bothering me for nearly a year, but it’s finally been cleared up and I am infection free. I’ve been to an after hours doctor twice for it, and even saw a dermatologist, all without any additional fees. I am definitely in favour of Universal Healthcare!

In December 2011, we will have to apply for my permanent residency. It’s going to be expensive (about £1000!), but it’s the next step we have to take. I have to pass a “Life in the UK” test before I can get my residency, so I’ll be studying for that in January! There also is an English requirement, but since the US speaks English, that test is waived.

I think that’s about it! I sent Mom some photos to share, and she has printed out a few of my blog entries for anyone who wants to read them. If you have internet access, you can read my blog at http://blog.beccajanestclair.com. I try to update it as much as possible. I’m also on facebook – http://ww.facebook.com/beccajanestclair for those of you who don’t have me added. You also can email me – [removed for privacy]. You can IM, video call, or call me on Skype. My account there can be found under [removed for privacy]. For those of you who don’t have internet access, our address is:

[removed for privacy]

I still have my US-based phone number, too. If you want to call me, you can call [removed for privacy]. The number is based in Michigan, so all you pay is long distance to Michigan, instead of the UK. Alternately, you can call my google voice number to leave me a message at [removed for privacy]. This is a Lancaster number, but it only goes to a voicemail account and I would have to call you back (which I can do through Skype for free). My UK number is [removed for privacy]. You would drop off the initial 0 when dialling from the US.

I look forward to hearing from you! Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year

With Love,

Rebecca & Tim

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Wildlife in Our House

I seem to have a knack for attracting wildlife into our house.

Remember the frog in the house when I was a visitor? Back in August, we had another frog in the entry way. That one I accidentally shut the front door on! But don’t worry, he was okay. I just opened the door, and he hopped away.

Then, there are the slugs. I think we’ve had 3 or 4 slugs wander in through the crack under the front door this Autumn. Again, no harm done. Just scoop them up into a bin and toss them back outside.

But recently, I had two different wildlife visitors….

It was towards the end of September, and we started closing some of the windows. I was headed up the stairs with a load full of clean clothing when I saw something red flapping in the guest room. Our guest room is right at the top of the steps, and you can see out of the guest room window as you get closer to the top, so I just thought I saw a bird fly too close to the window. I put the laundry in our bedroom and went to go back downstairs, when I saw the flap again. On further inspection, it turned out to be a butterfly!

Getting the butterfly out was pretty easy, I just reached around it and opened the window and watched it fly away.

Our most recent visitor….well, it took a little bit of effort.

A few days ago I heard flapping coming from inside the wall. I told Tim, and he said that sometimes a bird will put it’s nest in the chimney or fly down and not to worry about it, because it would get itself out eventually.

We have an Esse stove (currently not in use). It’s a solid-fuel stove from the 1950s and I know I’ll have more to say about it after I start using it, but it has it’s own chimney and a little flue box on the top of the stove. Yesterday, I swore I saw a wing in there, but when Tim looked, he didn’t see anything.

This morning, the flapping became worse and I heard a metallic sound. I’m not sure how to describe it, only that I thought the neighbour was out cleaning his gutters because it sort of sounded like a ladder. Again, we ignored it….until I walked into the kitchen to make Lunch.

What did I see?

Yes, that’s a bird, and he’s inside my stove. My stove looks a little like this:
only it’s not blue and has the boxy thing all the way over on the right. Inside that boxy thing? Was where the bird was!

Fortunately, Tim was able to open it up and catch the bird to release it outside, and we watched it fly up to the top of our apple tree.

[*Stove photo from Kernow Coal Fires]

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Why Are You Here?

Michelle from A Mid-Atlantic English (as well as The American Resident) asks, “Why are you here?” and asks her readers to post their stories on their blogs.

“Why are you here?” is a question I get asked countless times…at least once/week when I’m at my volunteer job, sometimes in the shops as well, but since I tend to frequent the same shops, people are getting used to me.

I suppose my story goes something like this….

-Visits the UK as part of a whirlwind European tour senior year of HS (1997)
-Decides then and there that she wants to live in the UK someday
-Goes to Penn State, puts dream aside for a few years while she dates and studies
-Breaks up with boyfriend, considers International Business
-Gives up on International Business
-Starts working in a day care, UK dream having been given up
-Gets laid off, gets job at bank. Starts thinking about the UK again and sets a 10-year move to UK goal
-Dates some more
-Goes to Seattle for a convention of webcomic fans. Meets English bloke.
-They hit it off well and stay in touch via email and IMs. They exchange Christmas presents, etc.
-English bloke upgrades his internet to broadband, starts talking on Skype.
-Tells English bloke about dream of living in UK, English bloke suggests an extended visit to see if the UK is really what she wants
-Agrees, and schedules visit for October 2008.
-Decides she likes English bloke as more than a friend, and surprisingly, he likes her too.
-Start dating English bloke
-visit English bloke. Decided after 2 months that they don’t want to be apart, so visit gets extended to full 6 months
-Goes back to US, 4 months later, English bloke comes to visit.
-5 weeks later, takes mom to the UK to sightsee and meet English bloke’s parents
-English bloke has an epiphany while riding Welsh Highland Railway and proposes
-Returns to the US, plans wedding in 5 weeks
-Are wed on 5 November 2009
-Apply for passport in new name, apply for spousal visa, pack up all belongings
-Moved to the UK 21 January 2010 (interestingly, about 2 years before my “goal” year)

So there you have it. And we’ve just celebrated our one year anniversary and soon it will be my one year anniversary of living in the UK.

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Happy Anniversary!

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason, and….

A wedding?

Hard to believe, but today Tim and I have been married for one year! We’ll be celebrating tonight over at the Lincolnshire Show Grounds for their annual Bonfire Night festivities, which include fireworks in addition to the giant bonfire.

When we were picking our wedding date, Tim and I joked that we would get married on the fifth of November, so we would never forget our anniversary and we would always have fireworks on it. As luck would have it, it just happened to work out that we really DID get married on the fifth of November in 2009.

We’re still just as in love as we were when we got married, and I hope it stays like this forever. I love you Tim! Happy Anniversary!

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