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Women’s March in London

I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit

On January 21 2017, the first day of Donald Trump’s Presidency, women-led marches, welcoming all participants took place across the world, with over 2 million (and counting!) global participants.

We marched for the protection of our fundamental human rights. I marched to remind Mr Trump that we exist, we are watching, and we will not let him take away our rights. I marched along with my sisters (and brothers) across the globe to remind the world that love trumps hate. We will not remain silent. We will not allow Mr Trump to take away rights for women, the LGBT family, or minorities.

I attended the march in London. There were many marches across the UK – some even in some of my favourite places to be – but I chose to attend the London march to march with some of my fellow ex-pat friends. At last count, they estimated 100,000 people participated in London alone….and the police only expected about 10,000. So given those numbers, you can imagine how crazy the event was. This led to me thinking the event wasn’t very organised, but after speaking with a friend who was part of the volunteer base, I found out that the problem actually was more people than they had planned for, but in my friend Bonnie’s words:

When a march greatly exceeds its expected size, the very fact that it strains the organised plans is a mark of success. Traffic is tied up, streets & rally points overflow, AND THAT MAKES THE CITY & COUNTRY TAKE NOTICE. It is a bit of bother for participants but it means you got your point across. So pat yourself on the back. You just launched a Movement!

Of course we will need to do things to keep this movement growing, and I am committing myself to making whatever difference I can, in the UK, US, and globally.

Same shit, different century*


I share in their sentiments.

My day started off early in the morning. Too early, in my opinion, but when you can catch a lift into town with your husband on early turn, you take it. Even if it means waking up at 0400 and arriving in town at 0530 and your train isn’t until 7! But that’s OK. I had plans to grab a coffee from wherever was opened and then sit in the warm waiting room in the station, which opens at 6 (the waiting room opens at 6. The station opens earlier for the 0526 train, but then you’d have to sit on the cold platform until they unlocked the waiting room). I wound up going to McDonald’s after noticing a distinct smell of oranges coming from my back.

I bought a coffee, grabbed a stack of napkins, and found a corner. As soon as I opened up my rucksack I saw the problem — my bottle of orange juice to go along with my packed breakfast had leaked…everywhere. Fortunately, I am a smart packer even for a day trip so everything inside my bag was inside bags (plastic or cloth) and my electronics (my kindle, selfie stick, and emergency charger) were all in a separate pocket. The item that really got the damage, which I ultimately threw away was an A5 sized make up bag from Accessorize I had bought on clearance for £2 (because it was damaged by missing a single bead!) last year. Inside the bag was some extra layering items in case it got colder. All the items inside the bag were fine as the bag absorbed most of the juice. The juice also got on the drawstring bag my butterfly twist flats are stored in and a folding shopping bag (I kept both of those). I also had some face wipes in my bag, so I used those to give the inside of the bag a quick clean, re-loaded, and headed over to the station. It was around 0630, but the London train was already on a platform so the guard let me board even though the lights were out. Fortunately, by dumb luck I picked an unreserved seat once the reservation signs lit up! I managed to sleep for part of the journey until about Nottingham when other people boarded and sat with me (I was at a table) and we chatted – including a girl who was also attending the march. We arrived into St Pancras a few minutes before 10, and I made a beeline for the toilets since I knew we wouldn’t have many opportunities for a loo once we were part of the crowd.

I arranged with my other friends coming down from the North that we would meet up at the Meeting Point at St Pancras, also known as The Lovers. It’s a huge statue of a couple embracing right in front of the Eurostar platforms (which are behind glass). It’s a relatively quiet spot too, so I knew we’d easily be able to meet up. People started trickling in, and we finally had our group by 11AM so we headed to the tube. Plans were to go as far as Oxford Street and then walk to Grosvenor Square from there as we knew it was going to be hectic.

What we hadn’t planned on was how hard it was going to be to keep 6 adults and 4 children (one in a pushchair) together, and we actually became separated with one child with us on a platform while mum and the other 3 had boarded a train! No worries, we just took her with her and kept her calm until we met up with her mum again at Oxford Street….where we joined massive, massive groups of people all with signs all with one purpose. Fortunately, several of us know the area pretty well and we knew to go down a different side street than everyone was being directed on….but we met with a wall of people just shy of Grosvenor Square!

Crowds at Grosvenor Square

The rest of our friends were “near the drums”, so we asked a volunteer how to get there and they directed us to use the pavement to get down to our friends, but we soon were blocked there as well. Two of our group managed to get through (though I don’t know if they ever found the rest of the group!), and the rest of us were stood on the opposite end of Grosvenor Square from the US embassy for at least a half hour. Probably longer now that I really think about it. At some point we got shoved around by people behind (obviously wanting to get moving) and the official march time start came and went. Chants of “We want to march” rang out, and my friends and I kept ourselves amused by looking at all the different signs people had brought. I pulled out my selfie stick to grab some pics of the crowd, as I knew this was the only way I was going to get any!

Eventually, a volunteer with a megaphone came near us followed by a motorcade of motorcycles and told us we needed to move, so we threaded our way through the taxis to a little slip….where we stood again for probably another half hour before we finally started to move! We got to the corner and people were being directed to march back towards the embassy building, but we headed straight instead and caught up with another section of the march further on.

We were finally on the move! But the crowds were still very large and it became harder and harder to keep our small group together. At one point, I got cut off from my friends and I thought I could see the hat of one of my friends, but it turned out not to be her and I was well and truly separated from them. I marched on, but I really needed a loo.

I got as far as the Hard Rock Cafe, and I decided that I would go use their loo, even if it meant that I had to get a table or go to the bar, but fortunately, they were allowing people who asked in to use their loo. I then walked a bit past the Hard Rock to try to find out where my friends had got to, but a police officer told me I needed to keep moving as “this wasn’t a stopping area”. Err…Ok.

I wound up on a quiet side street where I managed to get myself back in with the main march crowd, and I had hoped closer to where my friends were…..but then I soon gave up on finding them or getting through the crowd. Someone near me murmured that online it was reported that we had 50k (this figure later turned into 80k, then 100k as they realised how many were there). Someone else was loudly complaining that they didn’t understand what all these people were here for (I’m assuming they were a tourist and got swept up in the crowds by accident). I finally saw the Green Park tube station, and that was when I decided I was going to head back to King’s Cross as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to find my friends again, and it was already well past 1500. The rally was supposed to have started at 1400, and I knew if I didn’t make it back to KGX by 1830, I would have to wait until 2030, which would be the very last train that could get me home on a Saturday.

After looking at the National Rail app and talking to Tim, I decided to get something to eat and made plans to get on the 1630 Virgin East Coast train to Newark, and then onto Lincoln from there. I even made it home and was in bed before some of my friends made it out of London!

I’m really glad I went, I’m glad I was counted in the numbers demonstrating, and I would absolutely do it again if the need arises.

Artist remains anonymous, but gives her permission for her art to be shared/used.**

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*I saw these ladies, but I did not take this picture. This picture was taken by Tara Rose. I just borrowed it for instagram (So this pic has been edited by me via Instagram).
**As stated in the caption, the artist wishes to remain anonymous, but has given her permission for others to use her art and to share her art. This image is not mine.

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, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[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 reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Page in the Park – 13 August 2016

IMG_0252 I know I have tons of blog posts and videos to get up from our holiday, but this happened yesterday so I wanted to post about it and get the video up ASAP.

I have had a strong love for the Canadian band Barenaked Ladies since I was in High School thanks to my boyfriend at the time. And me and BNL, well, we’ve been through a lot. I’ve been a fan of the band through their keyboardist, Kevin Hearn, getting diagnosed and ultimately beating Leukaemia, and I was a fan when the band had a bit of a line up change and longtime co-frontman Steven Page left the band in was it 2010? 2009? I can’t quite remember. And I won’t go into the details over the break (you can google for it if you really need to know), but in the end, it left me being very angry and upset with Steve. For a while, I wouldn’t even listen to any song that Steve sang lead on (which at the time was over 50% of the repertoire!). The split hurt the fanbase, and people really were divided over it. But over the past 5+ years, Iv’e gotten over my anger and I’ve understood that the break-up was something that had to happen. The band is still going strong, and I still love them to pieces, and Steve has been able to explore being an independent musician on his own without a band behind him. Sure, he still is “former Barenaked Ladies co-frontman”, but he’s definitely carved out a niche of his own, touring mostly around the area he lives in (NE USA and Canada).

This week, Steven has been on holiday in the UK with his family and started getting tweets from UK fans “wouldn’t it be nice if you played here?” So he decided to do a pop up concert. It was announced vaguely on Twitter at first. Just “would anyone be interested in coming to see me at a park on Saturday?” The response on his twitter poll was overwhelmingly YES.

Regent’s Park is Huge! And the pinned place on his tweet goes to a private garden….so….now what? I headed into the park and posted a photo of the map of the park on the BNL UK group on facebook and one person found me….then two more….then two more…and soon we were a small group of people wandering around!

so we all headed to the SE corner where we ran into more peopl and we soon increased our numbers and Liam sent a tweet to Steve to tell him where we were, and I had one more idea. Someone had brought along a Canadian flag and we managed between tying it to their push chair and my selfie stick to have it on display and I tweeted this pic out to Steve so he could find us:

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We soon gathered a sizeable crowd (maybe 40-50?) and then Steve arrived, borrowed a guitar, and started off with a BNL classic – It’s All Been Done. At one point, he went into the opening strains of Jane.

I think I'm dead. @stevenpage @getbarenaked @bnlfans

A video posted by Rebecca L (@beccajanestclair) on

In case you ever wondered where the URL for my blog came from, it’s from this song. ‘The girl works at the store sweet Jane St Clair’. My middle name is Jane, so using Becca Jane St Clair was perfect and so this song has always had incredible meaning to me and every time I hear it live I get goosebumps.

We were soon treated to nearly 2 hours of old favourite BNL hits and songs off his own albums. He even was joined randomly by a passing busker on his accordion, though we did have to chase him off after he tried to demand Steve play other songs and then tried to get us to give him money. Err….No. Just get out. And Steve played the opening strains to “Thanks That Was Fun” as the guy was walking away. I don’t think he even realised who he was playing with or that Steve wasn’t a busker with a crowd.

It was an absolutely amazing experience to be in such an intimate setting with one of my favourite musicians. A lot of us who had been on one of the Ships & Dip shows likened it to being on S&D in one of the smaller on-board venues. After, Steve stuck around to talk, sign autographs, and take photos with his fans, including Hamish!

20160813_143101

Thank for an amazing day, Steve. Hope you come back for a proper tour soon, and don’t forget to come to Lincoln!

Watch the video I took including It’s All in Done, What A Good Boy, Upside Down, Break Your Heart, Call & Answer, and Brian Wilson.

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The contents of this post, including personal 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, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[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 reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

For full Copyright and Disclaimer, please read http://www.blog.beccajanestclair.com/copyright/

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Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th Birthday Beacon Lighting

HMQ90-logo

Today marks Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday and people up and down the country are celebrating, including my small village in Lincolnshire. And this isn’t the Queen’s only birthday! on 11 June, we will also celebrate the Queen’s official birthday! Why, you ask? Apparently, it all started with King George II who was born in the Autumn, but the military cavalcade celebrating the king was held over the summer. Ever since, the reigning royal can have two birthdays – the day of their birth, and a day during the summer when weather would be more suitable. I’m not kidding. Seriously. Google it.

Anyway…..

Our village applied for a beacon when we were celebrating the Queen’s jubilee, and apparently we were the only local parish to be given one! I attended the Jubilee, and so I thought I would have a wander down to the village hall for her birthday beacon.

It really does make me feel proud to be British and proud to be part of this country when I see so many people turning out for these kinds of events, even at the local level.

Here’s a short video I put together for the lighting:

What a fun and chilly evening. Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth!!

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The contents of this post, including personal images and videos 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, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[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 reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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What the Duck? Quackers over Sir Nigel Gresley’s Missing Duck

So, yesterday, we were interviewed by the BBC South East Today.

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To make a long story that’s not my story short — A statue was created of Sir Nigel Gresley and he was to have a mallard duck at his feet to commemorate his love of birds and as a nod to one of his most famous engines – Mallard. Family members of Gresley opposed the duck, so a petition was started by the Gresley Society to reinstate the duck.

This all leads up to the unveiling yesterday at London King’s Cross and a faceboook post made by my friend M. He wanted to get a group together to show support for the Gresley Society and the sculptress by bringing along ducks. Well, how could we refuse?

#givenigeladuck #sirnigelgresley #sirnigelwantsaduck @gresleyduck #Hamish #ducksoninstagram

A photo posted by Rebecca L (@beccajanestclair) on

As it turned out, our ducks made quite a stir with the press there to cover the event. Because we were peacefully standing on the mezzanine just waving and squeaking our ducks, no one minded that we were there, and in fact, lots of people told us they liked the ducks and wanted the duck with the statue! Hamish (and his friends) have had their picture taken sitting on Sir Nigel’s newspaper by mane people, including the press. While Hamish did not make it into the newspapers (and really, wouldn’t it have been better to have a Scottish duck?), one of the other ducks I brought and gave to my friend Han did:

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Our picture has now accompanied articles all over the place!

BBC – ‘Deamining’ Duck Absent from Sir Nigels Statue
ITV – Rail engineer statue unveiled… but lack of duck ruffles a few feathers
The Daily Mail – Feathers are ruffled as statue is unveiled of genius behind world’s fastest steam train the Mallard – WITHOUT a duck at his feet
Yorkshire Post – Nigel Gresley statue unveiled at King’s Cross – and he’s out for a duck
Edinburgh Evening News: Sir Nigel Gresley statue ruffles Mallard fans’ feathers

and the Times:

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(It’s a subscription service, so could someone who subscribes get me screenshots?)

And, well, it looks like people are still leaving ducks there!

We had a great day. Our little group had 6-7 people, but we kept meeting other people who had brought ducks as well! After, we all headed to the Parcel Yard for a much deserved pint.

#hamish #ducksoninstagram #givenigeladuck

A photo posted by Rebecca L (@beccajanestclair) on

If I find more links or photos, I’ll be adding them to this post. I still have to unload my camera too and see what other people in our group managed to take. If you spot me or the ducks on another site, please let me know!

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Photo credits when the photo was not mine or embedded:

1 – Screencap from the BBC SE Today, capped by Dave Rudderham
2 – Press Assoiation
3 – BBC
4 – Rob Bough

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, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[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 reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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I Passed My Driver Theory Test!

driver I applied for my Learner’s Permit back in October 2014 because I wanted a photo ID before my trip to the US the following January (Jan 2015) that wasn’t my passport. I might be 36, but I surprisingly get carded in the US. And, of course, I planned on learning how to drive.

In the UK, learning how to drive and getting your license is a three-part process. Well, more than three when you add in everything you need to do.

Step 1: Apply for your provisional. This is really easy and you just go to the Post Office for a form, and send off the application with the fee, a photo of yourself, and your ID (passport if you are foreign). You can send them a self-addressed postage paid envelope to return your documents (I used one with tracking). It only takes about two weeks.

Step 2: Get car insurance. If you have someone else in your house who own a car, ask them to add you as a named driver. All Tim had to do was ring up his insurance (Directline) and it was around an additional £100 to add me for the year and the only difference is I have a higher deductible than Tim. If you have US driving experience and it hasn’t been forever since you had a valid license in the US, some UK insurance companies will accept your no claims bonus, but I haven’t had insurance in the US since 2008 so I didn’t bother. It probably also helped that I’m older than 25.

Step 3: Book lessons. As an experienced driver, I contacted a few local driving schools to ask them what options they had since I know the basics of driving and needed to learn 1) manual transmission and 2) how to drive on UK roads/how to pass the test. I found a school that was willing to offer me the same introductory rates as a new driver, but start me right away behind the wheel (instead of explaining “this is the brake/this is the gas/etc”).

Step 4: Book your Theory test. Apparently, the DVLA has been seriously backed up and in some places it’s taking up to three months just to schedule the theory test. When I went online to schedule mine, I had to schedule it for five weeks away from the date I was booking it because it was the first date available. I would have liked to have taken it sooner, but it gave me plenty of time to study.

Step 5: The actual test for getting your license in the UK has two parts – a written part (Theory) and a behind the wheel part (Practical). Both parts have several sections to them. You MUST pass the theory test before you can even schedule the practical, so step 5 is STUDY. Even if you think you know…study. Tim bought me the study books in a three pack for Christmas, but they are available at WH Smith and online from TSO for about £20 for the three books. I also paid for the official apps for my Android tablet (the guide, the theory test, and the hazard perception test), which I think cost around a tenner for all three, and in addition to all of that, we also bought the Hazard Perception DVD (I had to use Tim’s desktop since my laptop doesn’t have a DVD drive!) Overkill? Actually…..no. I read (most of) the book (I also had a free download on my Kindle I read), and then started in on the practice tests on my tablet. A lot. I failed some, I passed some. It was FRUSTRATING! I even practised the tests while I was soaking in the bathtub! And the night before my test, I took 10 tests (failed one, but all the other ones were passed with plenty of room to spare)

The Hazard Perception test is a separate section to the Theory, and a separate score. You need to pass BOTH sections in order to have passed the theory test, and if you fail one, you retake both. The Hazard Perception is a series of scenarios and you have to click when you see a developing hazard. Sort of similar to that simulation from Driver’s Ed in the 90s with the brake pedal and the ball rolling into the street. In the Hazard Perception test, you can score up to 5 points on each scenario, but one is worth 10 (it’s a double hazard). The later you click, the less points you get…but if you click in a pattern or the computer thinks you are clicking on everything, you don’t get *any* points! There is an app for this, but since you will be taking the test at a computer with a mouse, I felt it would be better to practice on a computer. The DVD cost £15 at WH Smith, so all in all we spent around £45 just on study aids. But this test is tough, and it only has a 50% pass rate for most testing centres! And since you have to pay £23 for the test each time you need to take it…well, you want to study as much as you can and use as many resources as you can. They even have the practice tests online for free, so if you didn’t want to pay for as many applications or books, you could take the tests online (but they don’t have the Hazard Perception test online).

Step 6: Take (and pass) the Theory test. You get given a set of instructions to follow the day of your test, and these include not bringing anyone with you to the test (Sorry Tim!), turning your phone off, and locking your phone, watch, tablet, handbag, jacket, and basically anything else you have with you in a provided locker. The only thing you are permitted to take into the testing room is your provisional license and the key to the locker.

The test starts out with a short 15-minute maximum practice session just to get you used to the way the test is conducted. Then, the computer gives you a timed 1-minute break (But you can skip ahead) before starting the theory test. The test is 50 questions long, and you have 57 minutes. You can flag questions you are unsure of and then at the end you can either review your entire test or just review your flagged questions. At the end, the test will also tell you if you failed to answer a question, so make sure you check! You need to get at least 43 questions correct, so I flagged the questions I wasn’t 100% on and at the end I had only flagged 5. If I had all 5 of those wrong, I still would have passed the test. But I went back and in the end I only had 2 questions I was unsure on. After you click the final submit button, it gives you a three-minute break (you can skip this or take less than three, but after three minutes it will move on to the Hazard test).

Just like the Theory test, the Hazard perception test will give you an example/practice test, then a one-minute break before starting the test. The Hazard part is 14 clips and each clip is probably around a minute long. You just click when you see the hazard developing.

When you’re done, you get up and leave the room and your print out with your score will be waiting for you with the receptionist.

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And check out my score! *one* question wrong on the Theory, and 65/75 on the Hazard perception! They break down the score for you, so I know I scored 9 points on the double hazard, and then mostly 5s and 4s, with only 2 points on two of the hazards.

Passed my theory test with flying colours!!!!! #drivingtheorytest #drivingontheoppositeside #dvla

A photo posted by Rebecca L (@beccajanestclair) on

Step 7 is of course, scheduling, taking, and passing the Practical. Watch this space!

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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, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[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 reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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My Visa Journey Part 3: Citizenship

invitation I became eligible for my UK citizenship in January 2013 after three years of residency, but we did not submit my application until September 2014. At the time I submitted my application, I was quoted as it taking 3-6 months to process, but closer to six….so imagine my surprise on Saturday when I got my acceptance letter! Total time from application being submitted to letter arriving on my doorstep was 6 weeks and 6 days!

The application itself is pretty straight forward. You download it off the gov.uk website. Don’t forget to download the guide and booklet to filling out the application as well as the payment form*! The current fee is £906, but this usually increases every 6-12 months, so it’s a good idea for you to double check with the website. I think the most frustrating part for me was finding the application online as UKBA used to have it’s own separate website and sometime between getting my ILR in 2012 and now, they moved all their files over to gov.uk. Google to the rescue!

You can either send your application in on your own (and send all your original documents) or you can pay £50 to your local council for a Nationality Checking Service. At this appointment, they will photocopy all of your documents and send those so you will not need to send in your originals.

Before you start to fill out the application, you need to get your photograph taken. I went to Snappy Snaps and had 4 photos done for £10. I’ve since used one for my provisional driver’s license and will use the remaining two when I apply for my British passport. You also could use one of those £5 machines in Tesco, Asda, etc. but every time we tried to get mine done the machine seemed to be down. I also preferred having mine done by a person and not a machine, because this ensured my photograph met the exact standards. Photos in hand, I was ready for the second important part of my application: your references.

You need to have two references. Both references need to have known you for at least three years. One needs to fit some very specific criteria** such as being a business owner, and the other reference needs to hold a valid British passport. Your first reference does not necessarily need to be British, by the way and neither referee can be related to you, even by marriage. Fortunately for me, I have been friends with the owner of MediVisas (BTW, an excellent source of advice!) for well over three years and I used one of our local 16mm members who I have known since I was first a visitor in 2008.

application

Before you sit down to fill out your application, you should first make sure you fit the residency criteria. As the spouse of a British citizen, I was eligible after three years of residency. Even though I waited longer, they are only interested in the past three years. You must have been in the country (not travelling) on the date exactly three years before the date of your application, and in the past three years you must not have been out of the UK for more than a total of 270 days and no more than 90 in the past 12 months. You also will need to know the exact dates you were out of the country (if you didn’t keep track, just go back through your passport stamps). Days spent partially in the UK (date you left and date you returned) do not count. You will need to enter the dates (for the past three years only if applying as a spouse) on page 7. If you run out of space, you can add additional details on page 13.

In addition to needing to know when you were out of the country, you need to list all of your UK addresses for the past 5 (three as a spouse) years. This can prove difficult for people who have moved multiple times. If you are reading this now with an eye to gaining citizenship, start keeping track of your addresses!

If you didn’t need to take the Life in the UK test for your ILR, you will need to take this test before you can apply for citizenship. If you are not from an English speaking country, you also will need to take an English language tests. Details for both of these can be found on the website. Hopefully, you kept hold of your LitUK test result paper, because you will need to send it with your application. If you don’t have it, you will need to take the test again, as they do not re-issue pass certificates.

You also will need to know your parents full names (including maiden for mother), birth date, nationality, and birth place, as well as all of this information for your spouse.

If you book a Nationality Checking Service appointment, you will need to bring:

-Your current passport and your passport with your current visa (if it’s in an expired passport)
-Your expired passport if it shows dates you were out of the country in the past 3 years***
-Your birth certificate
-Spouse’s current passport
-Spouse’s birth certificate
-Marriage certificate (the certified one, not the pretty one)
-Life in the UK Test pass certificate
-English language test results (if applicable)
-Proof of current address+
-Any other documents showing a change in identity (examples: adoption certificates for you or your spouse, divorce papers if either of you were previously married)
-Any other travel documents as issued by the Home Office. If you have a biometric card, bring it (I don’t have one).
-£50 to pay for the Nationality Checking Service (My council only accepted cash)
-Completed Application
-Payment slip for citizenship plus payment (No cash accepted. Card or Cheque only)

Please note that if any of your documents are in a language other than English, you will need to get them translated.

My Nationality Checking Service appointment was on a Wednesday morning. I did not need to bring my spouse along with me, but I did need to bring his documents. My appointment took about 15 minutes because I had organized everything ahead of time in a document folio in the exact order it would be needed. The woman who did my review praised my organisation….I couldn’t imagine doing these things without keeping my paperwork organised! As we went through my application, she had a checklist of documents and after we made the stack, she left the room to photocopy everything and returned all of my original documents to me. If you do not use the checking service, you cannot send copies and would need to send your originals.

fee

At the appointment, I was told I would hear from them in about 2 weeks letting me know the payment had been taken, and then I wouldn’t hear again for 6 months as that was how long it was taking to process applications. Well, I must be lucky as my letter arrived this weekend — what a perfect fifth anniversary present for us!

First thing Monday morning (today!) is ringing up the county council office to schedule my citizenship ceremony! Unfortunately, I can’t apply for my British passport right away as I am travelling to the US in January and I do not think I would have my passport back in time, but at least I will have my new passport before my trip to the US in May! (and yes, I will keep my blue US one too! I get to be a dual citizen!)

***

*When I went to my appointment, they had copies of the payment form, but to be on the safe side I would print one out.
**The guide claims there is a “list on our website”, but I could never find it. However, the full list if acceptable referees can be found here.
***If you have travelled to a country that is part of the CTA (such as Ireland) it’s a good idea if you have copies of your boarding cards if you flew or took a ferry to show the dates you entered and left. I’m not sure if this was a requirement, but I submitted the information as I listed Ireland on my dates out of the UK.
+This is not listed as a requirement, however I was asked for this at my appointment. Fortunately, I had with me the letter I recieved with my ILR that listed my current address, although she did tell me it would have been okay if I didn’t.

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My Visa Journey Part 2: ILR (aka Permanent Residency)

Yesterday was probably the most nerve-wracking and important day in our lives. As if getting married and applying for a Spousal Visa wasn’t bad enough, it only lasts for 2 years (technically, 28 months to give extra time in case you arrived more than a month after your visa was issued). To stay in the UK longer, you currently need to apply for ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain AKA Permanent Residency). You can apply by post or in-person. The in-person appointment has a heftier fee, but it’s an immediate decision and saves weeks of finger nail biting. We decided on an in-person appointment for peace of mind, and also just in case we decide to go abroad on a long weekend (we’ve toyed with a weekend in Paris, but might put it off so we can save more for a trip to Austria in June).

My appointment was for 11:15 at the Sheffield PEO office and the appointment information states you should arrive 30 minutes before your slot. We decided to take public transportation the whole way starting with a bus at 7:40AM out of the village. Our train was running early and we actually arrived at the PEO office with an hour to spare.

Getting through security was an ordeal. There was a couple behind us complaining that their appointment was in 10 minutes and I couldn’t help but wonder why they hadn’t read the information on the website! To get through security, we had to take the batteries out of our mobile phones to show the inside. We were allowed to put the phones back together, but we had to leave them off the whole time we were in the PEO. Tim made the best blunder of the day by forgetting his dress shoes were work issued and had steel toes! Fortunately, security just waved him through after I said “it’s the shoes”.

We checked in early and were quite surprised to get called up to the desk within 5 minutes. Our case worker, Joe, looked at my application and asked me when I filled it out. I told him I had printed it off the website a few days prior and he said “everyone’s been telling me that, but this is the old form”. He then handed me the new form and asked me to fill it out. There are NO differences between the old form and the new form, save for the fact that the bottom of the new form says “10/2011” and the old form “04/2011”. Apparently, the website hadn’t been updated with the new form and everyone coming in this week has had to re-do their form on arrival. I told the man at reception I had finished the new application, and before we even found seats in the crowded lobby, we were called to the desk again.

This time, Joe went through our entire packet. He asked me where in New York I was from, and I puzzled him by answering “I’m not”. I then explained how I was born in Brooklyn, but my parents moved when I was a baby. Surprisingly, he knew where Princeton was after he didn’t know where Hightstown was. He checked to make sure we had the required documents, transferred it into a plastic document folder, and told us to proceed to the payment counter. We had to wait for about 10 minutes while someone came to the counter, but the money was soon out of our account and the woman at the payment counter said she would “pop (y)our documents over to the case worker” and that he would be with us “shortly”.

Shortly turned into two hours. Two nervous hours. I tried reading, but I couldn’t even tell you what I was reading. I couldn’t even speak to Tim because I knew if I opened my mouth I might start crying from all the stress. I kept worrying that we had missed something, or something was wrong. I kept wondering if I should go back up to Joe to ask him if they needed more documents, because I had two years of bank statements, payslips, etc. with me just in case. Finally, we were called to another window where we faced a stony-faced man named John.

From the look on his face, I was expecting bad news, but he surprised me by telling us we had been approved! He then chatted with Tim about his job for a little, and asked us how we met (in some ways, I wonder if he was checking the information on file from my first application, but I’ll pretend he really was interested). He then told us we could leave and return in a half hour to 45 minutes for the visa to be processed. I really wish they had given us the option of leaving and returning during the two hour wait instead!

We left and walked down the river to a Tesco Extra for a snack and by the time we got back and went through security again, my visa was ready! Happy day! What a relief!

We celebrated by having a late lunch at Meadowhall at our favourite restaurant, Frankie and Benny’s.

As of January 2012*, These are the minimum required documents for ILR (if settling as a spouse**):
-Completed ILR application. The bottom of the application should read “10/2011”.
-Life in the UK pass certificate
-Your passport
-Your spouse’s passport
-Two passport photos of yourself
-One passport photo of your spouse
-Three most recent payslips for your spouse and yourself (if applicable***)
-Three most recent bank statements (jointly held or singly held)
-Six pieces of post spread out over the previous two years illustrating that you and your spouse share an address. Alternately, you may use six addressed to each of you for a total of 12. They should be from at least three different sources****.

Anything else is just extra fodder and they honestly don’t need it unless you need further documents to prove residency, employment, or funds. If you are in doubt, contact an immigration lawyer^.

All hurdles are complete for settlement in the UK. Once you have ILR, as long as you do not leave the country for an extended period of time (I believe it currently is two years), you are permitted to live here.

My plans? Citizenship, once I become eligible. As a spouse and under current rules, I will become eligible on January 22, 2013, after three years of residency.

*Please check the UKBA website for up to date information as requirements can change at any time and use my information as a rough guide.
**ILR applicants that fall under other categories have additional requirements. See website and application for details.
***Include payslips from whoever is employed. If you both have jobs, include payslips for each.
****My documents were council tax bills for both 2010 and 2011, e.on bills from random months in 2010 and 2011, a barclay’s bank statement, and a Santander/Soverign Bank statement. If you have changed address, you might require more documents.
^ I did not contact a lawyer to review my application as I felt fairly confident I knew what I was doing based on my own research. However, I brought along additional information in case we were asked for it including our birth certificates, marriage certificate, expired passports, Tim’s payslips for the previous two years, bank statements for the past 6 months, mortgage statements for both 2010 and 2011, and pieces of mail for each month from January 2010 to December 2011 addressed to either myself, Tim, or both of us. If I was sending my application by post, I might have included some of the other documents.

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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, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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Royal Wedding Fever, Part I

I woke up at 4AM on Friday morning and Tim drove me to the train station where I boarded a train headed for Newark North Gate (followed by a train to London King’s Cross). Yes, I was going to join the crowds outside Westminster Abbey. I didn’t expect to get close enough to see much, but I was going for the experience and so I could say I was there.

I will write a post later describing my day, but for now, here’s a copy of my Twitter feed from yesterday:

  • 05:20:35: People on train with bacon buttys. Makes me hungry!
  • 05:29:14: Wave at the signalling centre!
  • 06:05:04: Snagged an unreserved seat to london
  • 07:38:54: Have met two lovely people on the train. We decided to stick together for a bit
  • 07:52:02: Mcdonalds at kings cross has free loos. (Bought a cup of tea though) #london
  • 08:30:27: At big ben. Trying to get close to westminster
  • 09:01:22: Amidst the crowds at westminster
  • 09:04:23: Anyone know where nbc is camped out?
  • 09:07:40: Cant see a thing but this is so worth it!
  • 09:21:00: Beckham has arrived
  • 09:29:30: American stations need to find me!
  • 09:37:32: Mayor of london arrived
  • 09:50:25: Just got interviewed by fox 11!
  • 10:03:48: On the move again. Can’t see anything anyway!
  • 10:18:17: Can see prince charles and harry’s car
  • 10:35:46: Saw princess anne!
  • 10:53:07: Oops. Walked in front of a ‘news caster’ who had a cheaper camera than me
  • 10:59:04: Found nbc but they are on the roof
  • 11:12:38: Passed a few regiments of marching soldiers.
  • 11:43:10: Listening to wedding in the park
  • 11:53:14: Whole crowd singing along to god save the queen
  • 12:07:14: Walking, walking, walking
  • 12:15:32: Ha! Knapsack got caught in cop’s handcuffs as i squeezed past!
  • 12:26:28: Omg. Just saw the queen!
  • 12:32:30: I’ve lost my new friends. 🙁 oh well it was a fun few hours
  • 12:35:34: Not going to see the official wave. Had enough of crowds. Might find a bench and have my lunch
  • 12:50:06: My bottle of sparkling water exploded on me and person next to me. He was a good sport though
  • 12:53:05: To rosa and arthur of grantham- thanks for making it fun. Sorry we got separated
  • 13:11:11: Is westminster abbey open to tour this afternoon?
  • 13:15:41: Have taken off and put back on longsleeved undershirt in public without flashing thank you hhs marching band!
  • 13:27:57: And a cheer went up! Must be the wave
  • 13:31:23: Amazing flyover!
  • 14:04:45: Should have stayed in park longer! Too many people
  • 14:14:33: Just walked past downing street
  • 14:31:01: Abbey not open 🙁
  • 15:19:28: Twit on underground giggles everytime cockfosters is announced
  • 15:39:59: In the loo at st. Pancras giving myself
    Wet wipe refresh. Sweat=more infections in armpit
  • 15:54:36: St pancras so much quieter than kings cross! Love the hubs for suggesting it
  • 16:18:52: Ah. East midlands trains…smooth and quiet
  • 18:28:35: Almost home…the rapeseed is killing my nose!
  • 19:33:27: Fine alk day and my knee goes at st mark’s in lincoln
  • 19:47:23: Uni campus is dead
  • 20:45:40: Should i be concerned that the door to the ladies loo at frankie and bennies reads ‘dies’?
  • 22:12:28: Home from my big day out after a wonderful meal with Tim. off to bed for this sleepy commoner! Will update with pics and blogs tomorrow!

You also can watch parts of the Royal Wedding on their official YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheRoyalChannel including THREE HOURS of coverage via this link: http://youtu.be/schQZY3QjCw

I do have a vlog I took while in the crowd, it’s in the process of being uploaded now.

For other more official coverage, see:

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11767495
Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/royal-wedding/
And another person who was amidst the crowds: http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/04/29/135834585/the-royal-wedding-a-crowds-eye-view

My photos are available on Facebook via this link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/fbx/?set=a.10150235908637160.371117.522022159&l=9961b76489 but I will post highlights when I write my longer post!

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Photo at the top of this entry © The British Monarchy and may only be used for media purposes.
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The USS Intrepid….in Legos.

[Taking a brief break from posting about Austria]

A few weeks back, while I was in between bouts of flu (really. Who gets 2 different flu strains back-to-back? I DO!) Tim and I travelled down to Brighton to help out his friend Nick with his stand at ModelWorld, which is an annual model show. No, not fashion models! Things like trains, toys, ships, doll houses, aeroplanes, cars, trucks, and things made out of Lego.

There were loads of interesting things to see at Modelworld. I was quite smitten with a doll house display where they had put a T-gauge (think really small. The engine is less than 2 inches long) train track in the loft (US: attic) and had it running. There also was a Doctor Who display with loads of Dalek’s including the famous green Dalek from the Winston Churchill episode.

But what Tim and I liked the most, was the model of the USS Intrepid….made entirely out of Legos.

The Lego ship was 23 feet long, at a scale of 1:40…and I promise you, it looks exactly like the real thing.

Here is the real USS Intrepid:

[image thanks to WikiMedia]

And here’s the Lego version:
INTREPID COMPLETE (On show)
[image thanks to Lego Monster on Flickr]

Pretty impressive, right?

We got to speak with the man who built the Lego ship, and he told us that he has an invitation to take his Lego ship across the pond to put it on display on the actual USS Intrepid, which is currently serving as a Sea, Air and Space Museum.

What I loved about his ship was all the details – down to the planes having foldable wings!

[If you click on the photo once, it will take you to that photo’s page. If you click on the photo again, you will be able to view it full size. I have no idea why WordPress made it so complicated! Apologies to LiveJournal Users. If you do not see the gallery below, please visit my website via the link at the top of the entry to view the gallery. I am working on fixing that.]

[Photos taken by either myself or my husband, Tim and are all © Tim and Rebecca Lockley]

While at Modelworld, I snuck away for an afternoon and spent it with Tim’s cousins wandering Brighton. I’ll post about that and some of the other things we saw at Modelworld in a different post!

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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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Bonfire Night!

Bonfire Night was a few weeks back, and it also happens to be our wedding anniversary. We decided that every year we are able to (it’s always subject to Tim’s work schedule), we will attend a local bonfire to celebrate. We had several options – some were on Bonfire Night (the 5th), others on Saturday or Sunday. We picked the Lincolnshire Show Grounds because it was only about 3 miles down the road from where we live.

We had a great time. It was cold if you weren’t near the bonfire though, and we had to queue for food for about a half hour! The food stands were the same ones at the Sausage Festival the week before, including the Hog Roast stand, so Tim got to have Hog Roast again. We didn’t get anything to drink and once we had our food, made our way towards the bonfire. The fireworks were pretty, and lasted around 25 minutes. Most of the crowd started to leave once the fireworks were done, so we were able to get closer to the fence around the bonfire. We were nice and toasty warm, but thirsty, so we wandered off in search of some Hot Chocolate. After trying two stands that were out, we found one that still had some hot chocolate and I decided that next year, I’m bringing along a flask of it! £3 for two small styrofoam cups of instant hot chocolate is a rip off!

Since the parking lot had started to empty, we decided to head back to the car…which we couldn’t find. After about 15 minutes, we finally found it surrounded by cars trying to leave – everyone had decided to make their own lane.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I9rRAQqp84

Can’t wait til next year!

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York, UK. Not to be confused with New York or York, PA

In July, Tim was scheduled for his annual work physical in York and I decided to tag along for the day to wander the city during his appointment. Of course, we took the train up to York, and since we had time before Tim’s appointment, we had a wander around the National Rail Museum. We visit it alot, but you always see things you didn’t see before – either because you hadn’t noticed it or because they rotated something new in. The NRM has the same problem a lot of museums have – too much stuff and not enough places to show it off – so they let visitors take a walk through their store rooms where you almost always notice something you hadn’t before because there’s just THAT MUCH stuff in it. Tim and I saw loads of things that we wished we had!

After the NRM, Tim was off to his appointment, and I headed off into the city. The NRM is across the street from the train station, and train station isn’t quite in the center of town, so it is a bit of a walk. Fortunately, a nice man selling newspapers outside the train station pointed me in the right direction and I began my wander…..to get lost.

I had wanted to do some shopping in some specific stores I knew were in York but not Lincoln, and I couldn’t find any of them. Even the little souvenir shop I was positive I knew where it was….couldn’t find it. I think I probably walked in a circle at least twice. I did see things that looked familiar and that I remembered from previous visits to York, though, so I don’t think I was honestly lost. Plus, I could nearly always see the Minster, and if you can find your way to the Minster, you’re definitely not lost! I did discover a few shops I hadn’t seen before though, so that’s always a treat. Then, I was in the “square” and just about to leave when I turned around and saw a church was having a used book sale! Books for only 50p! It was about this time that Tim called to tell me he was done, so he met me there and between the two of us, we spent over £10. For a good cause and used, but this meant that our packs were full and HEAVY, so we decided to call it a day. While walking back to the station, we spotted a street artist who had painted himself purple, so naturally I had to get my picture taken with him.

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A Visit to the Seaside

One sunny day back in May, I asked Tim if we could go to the seaside. Growing up, I used to love going to the (New) Jersey Shore, and I had been looking forward to once again, living close to the seaside. From where we are in Dunholme, it’s only about a 45 minute drive to Cleethorpes, about the same as it was from where I grew up in East Windsor to get to the New Jersey coast. We picked a Friday, figuring it wouldn’t be as crowded and packed up a lunch, grabbed a blanket, and headed out.

We parked down by the Cleethorpes railway station and planned on walking down to the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway, about a mile down the promenade (what we would call a boardwalk in the US, though it isn’t on boards).

I noticed a few differences between trips to the shore in the US and a trip to the shore in the UK. The first one has to be the lack of a boardwalk. Like I mentioned above, they call the strip of shops and food counters and restaurants a promenade. While it might be raised up from the actual beach, it’s not on planks of wood like it would be in the US. It is made of brick and concrete. It was also interesting to find out that Cleethorpes is called the “seaside”, but the “seaside” is actually the mouth of the River Humber. You can even see across to the Spurn Head Lighthouse if the weather is good! This also explains why there is such a wide tide. When the tide was out, you could barely even see the water from the promenade.

We walked across the beach, and I was surprised to see donkey rides offered every few yards. Tim explained that it was a big thing for kids to get to have a donkey ride down the beach. I have never ridden on a donkey, and had never seen it offered on a beach before. Looking out to “sea”, you could see ferries, container ships, cruise ships, and oil rigs. Definitely not something you would have seen going to the Jersey Shore!

We picked out a patch of sand far enough away from the shoreline to not get wet, but close enough to a set of access steps so we could easily get back up to the promenade, and settled ourselves down to have some Lunch. After Lunch and basking in the sun for a bit, we walked down the promenade to the railway and had a ride.

The Cleethorpes Light Railway isn’t quite narrow gauge (even though I called it that in my vlog), but is what gets referred to as “miniature”. The track is 15 inches wide, so it’s not quite two-foot gauge, but it’s also larger than the 5 and 7 inch “garden railways” we have previously been to. The trip is about a mile long, and you can even stop at the midway point to have a drink in the smallest pub on the planet, at only 2.4m x 2.4m.

Cleethorpes is also home to a castle, believe it or not! The castle is called Ross Castle*, and it’s not actually a castle at all. Ross castle is a mock-up of castle ruins, built by the railway in 1863 to attract more holidaymakers to Cleethorpes. It looks very artificial, but as it is a “castle”, we had to visit it. From the top you could see all the way down the promenade and pretty far out to sea.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtvjiAi8p1g

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Lincolnshire Life

Way back in March (yes, I know….I’m horrible at posting!) Tim and I went to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life

The Museum of Lincolnshire Life is FREE and is absolutely fantastic. Lincs Life has exhibits showing the county’s culture and people from 1750 to present day, with a large exhibition of the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment, where I found an interesting US connection.

Those of us who grew up in the US and studied US history have all heard about the “shot heard round the world” – The first shot that signified the start of the American Revolution (or if you’re in the UK, you call it the “American War of Independence“). As it turns out, the first shot was fired at a Lincolnshire man!

They also have a tank called Flirt. Flirt was the first tank (a Mark IV) built for World War I, and she just happened to be built in Lincolnshire. The museum also houses a Ruston engine, and other assorted bits of transportation related to Lincolnshire.

They even have a section of mock store-fronts and a section to play “dress up” with clothing from the different eras.

A friend of mine who used to work for Lincs Life told me they occasionally rotate the displays, and that they have loads more items to exhibit than they have room for, which means I’ll be sure to visit again! I loved learning a little bit more about the county I moved to. Paired with some of the other museums, attractions, and community events I’ve attended, I’m starting to feel like I fit in here.

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A Call to NHS Direct

Recently, my husband was ill. It started on a Friday, and we thought he hit the worst of it on Saturday, but by Monday, he was still feeling under the weather and he began to feel worse overnight on Tuesday. Scary worse. To the point where I wondered if I was going to need to wake my in-laws at 4AM to take us to A&E (I don’t drive).

I went online and filled out the NHS symptom checker. The online service told us that because he had been ill for more than 48 hours, medicine wouldn’t help at this point, and that a nurse would call us to evaluate the situation.

We got the call around 5AM and it was determined that Tim did not need A&E and shouldn’t go to the GP, either (due to spreading the illness). We were advised on what he should eat/drink and what kinds of medicines he could take. At 5 in the morning, when most people who are ill would probably think to head to the hospital if they were feeling as bad as Tim was.

We had to call back an hour later when Tim started showing other symptoms (we were told to call back if things changed). This is the point where if there wasn’t NHS Direct, I would have suggested A&E or After Hours. The nurse on the line, however, told us we didn’t need the hospital, which put my mind at ease.

According to the Telegraph, calls to NHS Direct cost £25.53, and a GP visit costs between £20-25. There are those who call for the closing of NHS Direct, sighting that it will save money. Sure, it just might save 53p-£5, BUT you need to then consider how many more people will be calling the after hours GP service or showing up at A&E. How much does an After hours visit or A&E visit cost the taxpayers? Probably a lot more than £25.53!

An article in the Guardian claims 1/3 of all calls to NHS Direct still result with a trip to A&E or the GP and this is a sign that NHS Direct doesn’t help….but what about that other 2/3 who get answers to their questions? If NHS Direct receives 27,000 calls on a daily basis (again, what the article claims), that means there are 18,000 LESS people each day crowding A&E, After Hours, and their GP office. Surely, you can’t scoff at that!

I don’t think the government should get rid of NHS Direct. The new plan, to create a “111” information number won’t be as effective for one glaringly large reason: the operators answering the phone won’t be trained nurses. Plans are to give operators 6 hours of “anatomy” training and basic first aid, and then have ONE nurse on staff. I don’t like that. How will it be any better than someone going to Google and entering their symptoms and then finding a website that tells them they have something far worse than they actually do? When I put in my husband’s symptoms, the number one result was Swine Flu (which he didn’t have). If we hadn’t already spoken to a nurse directly, I probably would have been panicking! The second illness it kept telling me he had was Meningitis (again, he didn’t have that). Both are really scary and a LOT worse than what the nurse said. I can just picture calling into 111 and being told that you have a life-threatening illness when you really don’t. Something like that could cause further problems for someone just from panicking.

I sincerely hope the government decides against closing the NHS Direct number. If they’re worried about staffing issues, why not only have it open in the evenings,on weekends, and holidays? During the day, people could call their GP office if they had questions, but I think having NHS Direct is crucial for emergencies in the middle of the night.

News articles I mentioned:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/3253245/Every-call-to-NHS-Direct-costs-25.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/aug/27/nhs-direct-health-phone-service

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Armed Forces Day

This past Saturday, Lincoln Castle held their annual Armed Forces Day and my chorus, Lincoln Sounds, performed. Armed Forces Day offers free admission to the castle and grounds. Everything is open at the castle, so it’s a great day out for anyone who hasn’t yet experienced the castle. On the lawn, each branch of the armed forces, as well as their youth programs, organizations for retired service men & women, widow/widower organizations, and support charities set up booths with information, demonstrations, and exhibits.

The youth organizations all appeared in uniform and participated in a group march from the castle to the cathedral and back, including one of the military bands.

The whole concept of an Armed Forces day was “foreign” to me. As far as I know, we’ve never done anything like this anywhere in the US, and Armed Forces Day is a country-wide event in the UK. I’ve seen various booths set up for each branch of the US military at fairs and expos, but usually they were only there for recruitment. It blew me away to see all the crowds there. An email my chorus received told us they had over 8,000 people come through the gates! That’s absolutely amazing. All money raised at the event went to Help for Heroes, an organization for wounded soldiers (of all branches of the military).

Check out the Armed Forces Day website to see when an event is in your area!

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Swimming, Swimming…

Swimming, Swimming,
In a swimming pool.
When days are hot, when days are cold,
In a swimming pool.
Breast stroke, side stroke, fancy diving too,
Wouldn’t it be nice if I could go swimming with you?

We’ve hit a heat wave in the UK this past week (or two, actually!) and I’ve been spending time away from the computer and outside in the garden….until it got even too hot to do that.

Yesterday, we were melting. I had just finished making dinner, and standing in front of the hot stove/oven had overheated me. I went outside (where it was cooler!) and watered the garden before coming back in and Tim suggested we head on over to the Yarborough Leisure Centre to have a swim. Entry costs £2.90/adult for casual swim, which gives you about an hour and half of swim time.

It was….interesting. Nothing like what I expected, and nothing like what I’m used to in the US. In the US, I’ve always had community pools at my disposal (either in my development or within a short walk) and your fee for using it was always included in your annual fees. At the pools where I grew up, you would walk in, flash your pool pass, and then head into the gender segregated changing rooms/toilets. At this one? We all got herded into one single changing “pavilion” (I believe that was the word used) which had coin-operated lockers (£1) and individual changing stalls (with locks). Men, women, and children all together in the same room with plenty of attendants on hand. If you needed to change, you were expected to use one of the changing rooms, and the only shower facility was the group shower area (so no way to really wash with shampoo/body wash, etc. unless you went into the gym’s segregated changing facilities). To say that I was shocked was an understatement. The attendants didn’t even say anything when Tim and I went into the same changing cubicle post-swim.

After you changed into your swimming costume (US: swimsuit/bathing suit) you went through the showers (required before swimming) and handed your ticket to a lifeguard. He then handed you a colour-coded wrist band (though mine was large enough to go on my ankle) based on what time you entered. Along one side of the lifeguard station was a strip of bright lights. When your time was up, a buzzer sounded and a coloured light lit up based on your wrist band colour.

Despite the crowds of people waiting to get in and milling around the changing room, the pool itself wasn’t too crowded. I imagine the colour-coded wrist bands help. Tim and I swam a bit, and did “water aerobics” until our colour lit up. Then, it was out of the pool, back into street clothes, and home with just enough time for Tim to get ready for the overnight shift.

We’re hoping to swim again soon. Our plan is to eventually feel comfortable enough to attend lane swimming instead of open swim so we can get in more exercise, but it’s been a while since both of us swam, so we’re taking it slow!

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Gleeful

I’ve just watched the season finale of Glee, and I’ve been trying to catch Gleeful: The Real Show Choirs of America that aired on E4 on Monday….and from what I’ve seen so far, it really doesn’t paint a very positive view of choir in the UK. My children are not going to experience the thrills of musicals and singing pop songs in harmony and showtunes….and it just really upsets me that my children won’t discover music in school the way I did. Like the one American they had on…I started singing in choruses when I was 6! And anyone who knew me when I was younger (which is a handful of you reading this on LJ, more if you’re reading this on FB) knows that music was a huge driving force in my life. At one point, I think I was involved in 6 or 7 music groups between school choirs, band, church choirs, bell/handchime choir, etc….not to mention the annual school musical! I really can only assume the reason HHS didn’t do a show choir was simply because a) we already had 5 choirs b) we put money into marching band shows and the annual musicals and wouldn’t have had money to go into a show choir.

But this isn’t about me being sad that I didn’t have a show choir to be part of. I was pretty proud of what I did accomplish, and was awarded several awards for my involvement in music.

Do British schools really NOT have music education/choir? One of the British women spoke about choir being “once a week. We started with a hymn, then we sang another hymn, and oh, then we sung another hymn”. It just breaks my heart that my children might not get that exposure to music at school. Not to say I won’t be educating them about music on my own, but there’s something really special about performing on stage.

I mean, all is not lost. If Tim and I have a girl, and if she enjoys singing, she could join Sweet Adeline’s Young Women in Harmony when she is 7 and/or LABBS (and Sweet Adeline’s) Ivy League. I can only assume that BABS has something similar for boys.

Tim and I are at least 3 years away from having any children of our own, and a long way away from starting music education, but it still makes me think and makes me want to find a music program for them to be involved in…or at least try. Obviously, there’s a possibility that our children won’t inherit my voice or my love for singing/music. Our children might not even inherit Tim’s love of trains…and that’s alright. But we both want to be able to expose them to our interests and at least have them try them out before deciding they’d rather do something else (Just watch. We’ll wind up with footballers for kids or something).

And a big you suck to the British Comedian who says “what good is this” and doesn’t think it should be taught in school!

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Digging Shakespeare

When my mom had her extended visit courtesy of volcanic ash, we decided to take advantage of Tim’s day off and took Mom to Stratford-upon-Avon. Tim and I had previously been there in October 2008, but we hadn’t seen all the attractions, and it’s just a nice place to go!

Fortunately, the weather agreed with us, and we had a fantastic day. We started with Shakespeare’s birthplace and walked on floors he once walked on as a child. We even got treated to an impromptu performance of selected scenes from Macbath, Othello, Romeo & Juliet, and several other plays. The performers were more than happy to continue to perform for us as the crowd kept asking for more!

We had a picnic lunch along the Avon before we wandered over to Nash’s house and gardens where they are currently doing “Dig for Shakespeare” – an archaeological dig to try to find the original house! Dig for Shakespeare includes a display where you can touch artefacts they found and I got to hold a 500yr old brick and some Roman coins. Pretty nifty.

After that, we headed to the car to drive out to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. We just made it before they closed, and as we were the only people there, the guide went above and beyond in talking to us, showing us everything, and telling us stories that had been passed down.

We had an absolutely fantastic day, and since the Shakespeare homes offer an annual pass with your admission, we can go back again within the year without having to pay again!

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Beamish Revisited

About a month ago, Tim and I took advantage of our annual passes to Beamish we got in September when we were there with my mom. I finally got to see sections I hadn’t seen before, including the farm and I got to pet a lamb! (which was trumped a few weeks later by feeding a lamb, but that’s another story!) But one thing was missing…

The Westoe Netty! It used to sit right outside the train station area, and when Tim and I were there, you could walk up to the netty and we took photos of Tim pretending to use it and me looking confused.

Oddly enough, a photo website has photos of the Westoe Netty posted on the 23 of April, only two weeks after Tim and I were there, so I’m really confused!

I’m trying to track down information from Beamish if the Westoe Netty is still there or not. Maybe it was moved and we didn’t see it since we only went to the sections I hadn’t been to before…who knows?

If you have any information about the Westoe Netty at Beamish, please leave me a comment!

But first, here’s some photos Tim and I took while we were there:

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Annual Passes

Tim and I have visited various attractions the past two years that offer annual passes. We hardly ever take advantage of the offer since in many of the cases it’s an attraction that isn’t local, such as Walt Disney World or something like that. But I’ve been noticing a lot of attractions that are “local” (by local, I mean within a few hours drive) that offer an annual pass when you buy your admission.

Examples include:

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – Your admission price gives you unlimited entry to HMS Warrior 1860, Royal Naval Museum, and Action Stations for one year, however it is only valid for one entry to HMS Victory, the Mary Rose Museum, and Harbour Tours. Tim and I went in fall 2008. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to return to use our tickets again, but if you live close enough that you can go over the course of a few days, I highly recommend it! There’s so much to see there. Currently, you cannot visit the Mary Rose, as they are in the process of building a museum around her and expect to open in 2012, but you can still see everything else. Touring the HMS Victory was well-worth the banged heads on the lower decks!

Shakespeare’s Houses and Gardens – Entry is valid for one year, and if you download the voucher located here, you can even get a two for one offer on the multi-house ticket until October 2010. Tim and I first went in the fall 2008, and then recently took my mom for a visit a few weeks ago. This time, we used the 2 for 1 voucher (didn’t have one last time) and are planning on returning before our year is up. Just like Portsmouth, there is a lot to do there that all fall under the one ticket. When we went in 2008, we only had time to tour two of the buildings since we also had tickets to see a show at the theatre.

Beamish is another place that gives you a full year for the price of a single admission, and with so much to see there, it’s well worth it. We purchased tickets in September (2009) when my mom and I were visiting, and Tim and I took advantage of the annual pass and took a trip up to Beamish with a packed lunch so it only cost us petrol for a full day out! The first two times I was at Beamish, I only was able to see a few areas, as it was the Winter season. We finally went during the “Summer” season, but there’s still more to explore!

Or, if you’d rather a large variety of places to visit, there are organizations such as English Heritage (Membership starts at £44) and National Trust (Membership starts at £36). Each organization manages over 300 sites throughout the United Kingdom, and an annual membership gives you free admission to ALL attractions they own/operate.

Another website I’ve found useful for planning trips is Enjoy England. Enjoy England frequently offers 2 for 1 deals on many attractions.

Going away for a weekend getaway doesn’t have to be expensive!

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