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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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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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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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A Day on the Welshpool and Llanfair

…And we’re back to the Wales posts. Followed by the Austria Posts. And a bunch of other posts I need to make….

Wednesday was a fantastic day for all of us. A friend of ours from the 16mm crowd, Dave, volunteers as an engine driver on the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway, so we decided to time our visit with when he was volunteering so we could get to ride behind a train he was driving. An extra added bonus was Dave offering to take all three of us on a tour of the “behind the scenes” (behind the steam?) areas after his last train for the day – disposing the engine, a walk down the track, and a glimpse in the workshop and engine shed! Dave even took us each up into the cab to show us what it looked like and gave Mark a short cab ride.

For me, it was the second time being in the cab of a narrow gauge engine while it was actually steaming (and not in a museum setting!), but it was still exciting. I know Helen and Mark enjoyed their turns as well.

We arrived at Llanfair station quite early. Dave was driving the second train of the day, and we timed our arrival for right after the first train had departed, so the station was relatively deserted. While Helen and Mark enjoyed a cup of tea, I took a wander down the platform taking photos. My favourite photo of the day will appear below, of the three fire buckets. While I was taking photos of the fire buckets, the signaller popped his head out of the signal box and asked me if I wanted to have a look around since it wasn’t busy. Did I? Of course I did! After all, Tim is a signaller. I managed to get photos of the frame and the diagram (drawn by the signaller I was talking to) before I needed to leave the box in preparation for the engine coming through.

To our surprise, Dave wasn’t bringing the engine in! There was much confusion, until we actually saw Dave and he explained that they have different people run in the engines from who will be the ones to put it to bed in the evening. Whew.

We had a pleasant ride down to Welshpool and waited while Dave and his partner for the day, Dan, did their midway maintenance work before running the engine back round to the front of the train to take it back. Dave showed Mark what he needed to do every step of the way – I hope he was taking notes! Since Dave was driving the second and fourth trains of the day, we decided to walk into Welshpool proper (about a mile or so) to get some Lunch and then head back to the station to take Dave’s second (and his last for the day) train back to Llanfair.

Welshpool isn’t much to talk about. Other than the railway (and let’s be fair, a lot of towns in Wales have narrow gauge railways!), it’s a typical town in Wales. Lots of shops, both unique and chain, dotted the main street along with restaurants and pubs. We travelled off onto a side street and found a small eatery called the Lunch Box that had reasonable prices.

Since we still had time, we did a bit of browsing and shopping before heading back to the station, and we managed to get to the Welshpool station as Dave was bringing the train in, so once again, Mark went to watch Dave do all his routine maintenance and Helen and I got on and found seats. Mark came rushing up to us to tell us that Dave was going to give him a cab ride up to the front of the train, so I ran down the platform to get some photos of Mark in the cab, then ran back up to try to get photos as he went past.

After the return to Welshpool, we browsed in their gift shop and headed back to the car to drop off our shopping while the rest of the passengers departed. We went back in and Dave called Helen and I over and asked us if we’d like to join him while he gave Mark a tour. Of course, we agreed!

We had to wait while Dave and Dan serviced the engine for the evening, and Dave was kind enough to explain everything he was doing step-by-step. I’m sure it took Dave and Dan twice as long as it usually did, but we surely appreciated it!

Our tour started with a walk through the sheds, where Dave showed us some of the other engines they regularly use. We also got to walk through the workshop, where we saw several engines that were being worked on, engines in pieces, and what the volunteers did to amuse themselves! Farther down the line, there was another shed, and this one contained some engines awaiting servicing, and several passenger cars.

It was fantastic getting to walk down the tracks, and getting to see things most visitors don’t. We’re all really grateful to Dave for taking some time out of his free time to show us around!

I can’t wait to go back and ride it again – Every time I ride a railway again, I see new things that I hadn’t seen before.

If any of the photos don’t resize properly for you, please let me know so I can fix them!

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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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To Market, to Market

Several times a month there is an outdoor farmer’s market in Lincoln. Tim and I managed to go once last year while I was visiting, but many of the stalls had already closed for the day, so this time we made sure we got in by noon. There were about nine stalls. I don’t know if this is a normal amount or not, but I suppose I’ll find out as it gets warmer out. I did notice the windmill stall (sold bread & organic flour) was missing, so hopefully they will be there on a different day.

I’ve managed to misplace all the business cards, so apologies to the businesses if I skip links. I will be sure to post some links next time! (I also neglected to pull my camera out. Whoops!). There were three stalls devoted to meat, two to cheese, one for bread, one for fudge, one for jams/jellies, and one for organic veg. Oh, and there also was a stall selling ostrich burgers, so that actually makes ten stalls, not nine.

We were on a mission. Tim’s younger brother and his girlfriend were coming over for dinner this past Sunday, and a request had been put in for “giant Yorkshire puddings filled with bangers and mash”. We thought since market was on Friday, we’d scope it out and check out what options for fresh (and possibly bizzare/unique) sausage there was. I let Tim pick, since he and his brother (B) would be eating it. Brother’s girlfriend (M) and I decided we were going to have chicken, as bangers and mash just didn’t appeal to us. At the pork stall, Tim found some apple sausage as well as ale sausage. Reports are both were good…..I could smell the apples in the apple sausage while I was cooking them!

My second mission was to speak directly to the people at Woodlands Farm about their organic fruit and vegetable delivery service. I saw on their website that would deliver to our village on Tuesdays, and I wanted more information and needed to ask them about what to do in relation to my food allergies. The man we spoke with was really helpful and he had examples of the sizes of the boxes with him as well, so you could figure out what size box you wanted. We’re getting our first box today, along with a dozen organic free-range eggs. If we like it, we’ll be putting in a standing order.

Of course, we had to buy from the two cheese stalls. Our first stop was the Lymn Bank Farm stall. They had loads of tasty cheeses and offered you toothpicks to taste. If we had stayed any longer at their stand, we’d have eaten all their samples! We settled on three – Apple Smoked, Cranberries, and Double Barrel. We intend on working our way through the rest of their cheeses at some point. What we’ve had so far was super tasty! The other cheese stall was the stall for Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese, a regional speciality. They also made several varieties and let us sample each before deciding on their Barrel Poacher (a strong, sharp cheese). According to their website, they even sell in the US (at Zingerman’s of all places and a few places in Philadelphia, too) and you can mail-order it. I highly recommend it!

Just around the corner from the organic vegetable stall was a jam and jelly stall. Unfortunately, I can’t remember their name other than it had the word sin or sinful in their name. I’ll get a link next time. We chatted a bit with the two ladies who ran the stall, and it turns out the one was married to an American and she knew exactly which jar I was headed to (pickles!). We also picked up a cranberry and orange marmalade, and something called Banofee Jam. Ah, they’re called Saints and Sinners. Helps if you check the labels of the jars you bought!

The last stall we gave our business to was a stall selling Lincolnshire Plum Bread, another regional favourite. I hope I’ve got the link right, as I’ve thrown out the paper from the loaf! The bread is quite tasty, but it’s more of a dessert or snack bread than something I’d want to eat a sandwich off of.

Oh, no, I lie. We also stopped at the ostrich burger stall. Tim tried it last time and thought it was tasty, so that became Lunch. We also discovered they sell kangaroo meat, so we might have to try it out.

After the market, we happened to be walking past the Corn Exchange market and I suggested checking out the meat stand in there. Turns out, it was a great idea, as they were selling 3 packs of bacon for £5. It’s turned out that each pack has had 12 slices, so that’s a lot of bacon for very little money!

If you’re ever in Lincoln, be sure to check out the farmer’s market:

Lincoln Farmers’ Market 1
Where: City Square [This is the area right outside of Wilkinson’s as you walk along the river]
When: 1st Friday of every month, 9am–4pm

Lincoln Farmers’ Market 2
Where: High Street [Usually the stands are set up in the open space near Barclays Bank]
When: 2nd Wednesday of every month, 9am–4pm

Lincoln Farmers’ Market 3
Where: Castle Hill [I haven’t been here yet, but I imagine it is in the area between the castle and cathedral]
When: 3rd Saturday of every month, 9am–4pm

[information taken from the Times Online]

Here’s a picture of our haul:
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One Month!

I’ve officially lived in the UK for one month, as of….well, right now, since my plane landed at 530 in the morning on the 21st of January. I’m settling into married life and life in the UK, and things are starting to get sorted –

*I’ve been added to Tim’s bank accounts and have received my debit card
*I have my NHS number and card and have been in to see the GP several times
*I have an EHIC card, so I’m covered if Tim and I jaunt into the rest of the EU and I need a doctor
*I have my NI number, so I can open savings accounts and get a job (if we decide I should)
*I have a library card, which has proven to be quite useful
*We joined the co-op and started earning a small bit for dividends
*I’ve been contacted by a local choir and have been invited to attend rehearsal this week

….the only thing left is for me to sort out the Provisional License, I think. As that requires sending off my passport for a month, I wanted to make sure I got everything else taken care of first.

It’s been a wild and crazy month, but I do love it here. I love being with Tim and we’re slowly getting the house sorted (and re-decorated) and everything is falling into place. We’ve even got most of the reception here planned already!

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My First Visit to the GP

Okay, I know it might sound funny for a 30-yr-old to write about her first trip to the doctor when she’s probably been going to see a doctor since she was born, but bear with me. Going to see a GP in the UK is a lot different than going to see the doctor in the US…and I don’t just mean because in the UK there is no co-pay!

My visit to the GP yesterday took all of 20 minutes. I got called back to the office at the exact time of my appointment, and the doctor was already waiting for me in his office. 20 minutes later, I was walking out with my new prescription in hand.

The health centre even has it’s own dispensary for prescriptions, and if they don’t have what you need, the co-op pharmacy is just one door over. We waited maybe 5 minutes for the prescription, and just like at the GP’s office, didn’t have to pay a co-pay to get it.

So, let’s talk about the NHS and using it as a spousal visa holder. Easy. All you have to do is walk into the GP office near your house and tell them you want to register as a new NHS patient. You fill out the new patient information for the GP, then THEY put your information into the computer, send it to the NHS, and about two weeks later your NHS number will be issued. You also are eligible for EHIC, which entitles you to free healthcare while travelling within the EU. At first, this looks like it involves filling out an application and sending in copies of your visa and waiting 21 days….but not if you’re on a spousal visa and are the spouse of a EU National. All your spouse has to do is call up EHIC and request a card for you. I should have my EHIC card in about 10 days.

There are other things that are different in the UK. For example, you don’t call the GP and set an appointment for way in the future. Most of the time, you’ll be asked about coming in later that day or the following day. The GP office also allows walk-in appointments (during set hours). The nurses at a GP office seem to have more responsibilities over nurses in a US doctor’s office in terms of what they handle for patients. The GP sees you in his office, not an exam room. I have to say, it’s a lot easier telling a doctor about your problems when you’re sitting in a friendly office setting and not perched on a cold table!

I was talking to the GP about Tim and I starting a family in 3-5 years and the first thing he did was offer me the implant birth control, which lasts for 3 years. He also told me that a woman isn’t high risk until age 40, and they usually do a natural birth unless something is really wrong or you are having a large baby. My US doctor had told me several years ago that if I wanted to have children, it would have had to be caesarian.

And did you know that if you throw up or have diarrhea within 3 hours of taking a pill, the medicine wasn’t absorbed by your body? I never knew this, and I’ve had digestive issues for several years now.

But the most astonishing part….it’s all free. No co-pays, no mysterious bills showing up in the mail later for tests you had in the office, no feeling like you need to take out a loan to afford your prescriptions…it’s all handled. Certainly makes you feel more comfortable about going in for preventative care!

Now, I won’t be stupid and claim that there aren’t any problems. Because of the free care the NHS offers, if you’re waiting for a non-emergency or non-essential surgery you might have a longer wait as they will schedule the emergencies first. And if you go to A&E (That’s Accidents & Emergency, known as the ER in the US), you’ll get seen based on the level of your emergency, not based on the order you arrived in, so if you go to A&E for something minor, expect a wait.

But I also know how good the NHS is. My father-in-law had a kidney transplant a few years ago, and Tim says he probably wouldn’t still be with us if it wasn’t for the NHS. When Tim’s gran went into the hospital, she was there for nearly 6 months and most of the time was just because she was too weak to be on her own. Tim’s family never saw a single bill. A 6 month stay in a US hospital can cost as much as half a million dollars.

I called my aunt last night to tell her about my doctor’s visit and she asked how much it cost. When I told her it was all covered by the NHS, her first response was “Why can’t we have something like that here [in the US]?”. I’d love to know.

Oh, and the GP gave me a prescription, but after I left he noticed it flagged in the system as something I wasn’t supposed to have, so he called over to the co-op to ask them to have me return to the office immediately. About 5 minutes after I arrived back at the GP, I was called back, given an apology, and walked out with a prescription I was allowed to have. I’m also going back over today to see someone about the arm infection my US doctor was trying to get rid of, and the GP doesn’t think I’ll need a skin graft like the US doctor did (of course, that might change based on today).

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My Visa Journey

I’ve recently applied for and recieved my UK spousal visa. Here is a detailed account of what I did. I hope this can help someone in the future!

1229091138 On 5 November 2009, Tim and I got married in a small and private ceremony in PA, followed by a reception for friends/family in th US. I filled out the paperwork to get the certified copy of our marriage license before the wedding and had the envelope and cheque all ready to be sent post-wedding. Tim and I departed on our honeymoon on the morning of the 7th, and my mom mailed off the request for the certified copy on Monday. We returned from our honeymoon on the 15th, Tim went back to the UK on the 16th, and the marriage certificate arrived on the 17th.

Before sending off the marriage certificate, I went ahead and changed my name with my bank (though I did that immediately after the wedding and added Tim to the account) and with PennDOT. Then, it was off to the post office to send in a renewal/name change on my passport. This is an optional step, however I really wanted everything to be in my married name. I did NOT expedite my passport, but I had it back after only 4 weeks. During this time, Tim was able to collect the required documents we needed on his end, and he FedExed me his paperwork on 23 December. Due to the holiday, I did not receive the package until the 28th.

Tim and I had gone through the paper version of the application together to make sure I knew the answers to some of the questions (like Tim’s NI number) in case he wasn’t around when I filled out the online form. Fortunately, Tim was around and we filled out the application together. It took about an hour, but that partially had to do with my slow computer. It got to the schedule biometrics page and I was given a date at the beginning of January.

I organized all the paperwork before I did anything else. I purchased Avery dividers with document pockets and color-coded each section. I had 6 sections to my documents – General Information, Identification, Finances, Employment, Housing, and Misc. I will attach at the end my table of contents for more details. Anything that was more than a page long got paperclipped together, and each section was then clipped together with a small binder clip. The entire application was 60 pages, 12 photos, and 3 passports, so I then took 3 very large binder clips and clipped it ALL together on three sides.

After hearing a few success stories of getting biometrics done early, I decided to take my chances and we drove over to York (where my local facility was). It worked out since it was only about a 20 minute drive away, and we wanted to go out to Lunch at a restaurant in York anyway. Fortunately, there was only 3 people waiting for their testing (this also is INS, the place where US immigrants go for their biometrics and green cards!). Since they weren’t busy, they agreed to take me after the three people waiting.

Biometrics was pretty painless. Instead of using ink and paper, they have a special scanner that scans in your fingerprints. Mine were hard to read, and the woman doing it told me it’s because I use my hands a lot – like to type on a computer, send text messages, even crafting. Doing those things creates lines on your fingertips and it makes it harder to read your prints. Fortunately after about 15 minutes, she finally got something that the computer was satisfied with.

When we got back to the house, I had an email from my courier instructing me to send my application via overnight FedEx that afternoon, so off we went to the FEdEx facility across town. It cost me $53, but it was worth it!

I used All Star Visa & Passport Services and I can’t recommend them enough. They were very professional, didn’t offer me any unsolicited advice like some of the others, and kept in communication with me every step of the way. The received my application at 10AM on the 30th, after their submission time to the consulate, but that gave Myra time to go through my application and make sure I had sent everything I said I was (a step I appreciated). She wasn’t going through it to review it like some places, just checked for my documents. She also told me that I was pretty organized, which pleased me. Their services are a little more than some of the other LA couriers – $150 plus an additional $24 for shipping, but in my opinion it was well worth it to have such professional service. I had heard a lot of complaints about at least 2 of the other LA Consulate couriers, but nothing but good things about All Star.

Ken submitted my application in the morning on 31 December. The consulate was closing early for the holiday, so it was iffy if it would get looked at. When I didn’t hear from the courier by 3PM PST, I assumed it was going to have to wait. Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call around 7PM EST telling me I was approved and my visa was on it’s way to me! Way to go All Star!

My visa process took exactly 8 weeks from wedding to visa issued, but you can cut some time off if you don’t need to/want to change your name on your passport (or if you expedite your passport). Tim had most of his documents all ready and we were only waiting for a copy of the land registry, but I’ve been told we could have used the internet print out instead, which also would have cut off a week.

I’ll be leaving the US on 21 January to join my husband so we can start our life together!

My table of contents is a pdf for you to look at and use as a guide. It can be found here: spousalvisatableofcontents.pdf. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list, and you might require additional documents depending on your situation.

For a guide of required documents and an example of what your sponsor’s letter should look like, please visit Transpondia.

You can find support from fellow Americans who have gone through or are going through the same process by visiting the forums at BritanniAmerica.

Meg from UK-Y has put together a sample budget, and you can download the template here. Again, please remember this is only a guide, and you might need to add or delete lines as necessary based on your own financial situation.

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New blog posts are coming!

I have been away on a trip to Ireland and the UK from 14 September to 29 September. Normally, I would have blogged something while away, even if it was just photos and videos, but we ran into incredible bad luck with wifi at our hotels. Once we reached Tim’s house, we were just too busy for me to do anything more than get photos up on facebook. But I’ve been back for afew days, and I feel ready to blog about things!

Oh, and I have some good news too – while we were visiting Tim, he proposed! We’re engaged!

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Trip Itinerary

We leave on Monday for our trip across the pond, so I thought I’d share our rough draft of plans with you –

Monday – Depart PHL
Tuesday (AM) Arrive DUB (with a layover in CDG). Check into hotel (Fleet Street Hotel), relax, Guinness Store House
Wednesday – Writer’s Museum, Trinity College
Thursday – Dublin Castle, Cathedral
Friday – Stena Ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, meet up with Tim. Welsh Highland Railway
Saturday – Lancaster in AM, Beamish in afternoon
Sunday – North Yorkshire Moores Railway & Howard Castle
Monday – York
Tuesday – Coastal drive (lighthouses), to Tim’s house
Wednesday – Lincoln
Thursday – London
Friday – open
Saturday – open
Sunday – open (but Tim’s day off, so possible stratford?)
Monday – Rail and Sail from Lincoln to Dublin via Hollyhead
Tuesday – depart DUB 🙁

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Castles in the North

[This entry refers to a trip taken in March 2009. As requested, I will be going back and blogging the trips I only posted vlogs about January – April.]

Tim and I picked up the AA Leisure Guide Northumbria & Coast and in the book were some suggestions for “driving tours”. We knew we wanted to see some of the castles in Northern England, and the route in the book took us neatly around to several castles we really wanted to see!

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(photo by Tim)

Our first stop was Alnwick. I wanted to go to Alnwick Castle, as it was one of the filming locations for the Harry Potter movies, and Hogwart’s was partially modeled after it. Unfortunately, the castle was closed for the Winter months, but we took some photos up by the gate, and then Tim walked down the icy hill to see if there was access at another gate and to take more photos. Unfortunately, the gates were all closed, so we headed back to the car and continued on our route.

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The next place to stop on the route was called Preston Tower. We actually nearly drove right past the place because we thought we were driving past private property! Preston Tower is located on a private farm, but the owners allow access to the tower. Admission is on your honour with a little wooden box, and they also had postcards and brochures. We were able to climb up to the clock itself and even go outside to check out the view. The clock at Preston Tower is designed after the clock at Westminster (Big Ben). While we were there, the clock struck the hour and it was super loud! I climbed all the way up to the top (even higher than the clock) and was treated to a 360 degree view of the English and Scottish countryside.

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Our next stop should have been Holy Island. Holy Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway and you can only cross at certain times of the day or risk getting stuck in the water (or on the island!). We looked at the schedule,and had just missed going over. Paired with seeing that we’d have a short amount of time over on the Island before needing to leave, we decided to skip Holy Island, and continued on to Bamburgh Castle

While we were in Bamburgh, we stopped at the Grace Darling Museum, a museum dedicated to the life of Grace Darling, daughter of the lighthouse keeper who assisted in a rescue at sea in 1838.

The sun was starting to set, but we weren’t finished yet! We kept on heading North and got to Norham Castle, the last stronghold before the Scottish border. The site itself was closed, but we were able to take photos of the castle.

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Tim then decided that we were going to drive as far North as the border with Scotland, just so I could say I was officially in Scotland!

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We ended our day there and headed back towards Newcastle-upon-Tyne and in search of dinner.

For more photos please see: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/northern-castles/

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Take a Step Back in Time…

[This entry refers to a trip taken in March 2009. As requested, I will be going back and blogging the trips I only posted vlogs about January – April.]

I’m still playing catch-up on my UK trip. Tim arrives in 25 days for his US visit, so I thought I ought to try and get things caught up!

Tim had a long weekend coming and we were trying to decide what to do on it and where to go. He handed me this big map book he has of the UK (complete with a mini visitor guide. This book is amazing and helped us plan several of our other trips!). I opened it up to the front page that shows all of the UK, and after two “splashes” (finger pointing at the Irish Sea), I landed somewhere in the Northeast. I think I landed specifically on Newcastle-upon-Tyne, or it might have been Durham. Either way, it sparked off a weekend in the Northeast! I was googling for things to do, and Tim remembered a place called Beamish. One look at the webpage, and I told him we had to go there!

Our weekend started off the day after one of the snow storms that swept across the UK. Actually, the storm that hit London the day before we left was the first big snow storm to hit London in 18 years! Since it wasn’t too bad in Lincoln, we decided to head on out anyway. I scored us a great deal on a hotel again, this time staying at a Holiday Inn a little bit north of Newcastle, for about half the price of even the local bed & breakfast! We settled into our hotel that evening, and planned on heading out to Beamish in the morning.

It snowed overnight, but only a light dusting. We headed out to Beamish, and right when we got there it started snowing harder! What perfect conditions to explore 1913!

Beamish is an open air museum designed to give you a glimpse of life in 1913 Northeastern England, and 1825. During the winter months, the 1825 section is closed, so you can only visit the 1913 town.

Fortunately, the trolley was running, so we hopped on the trolley and it took us back in time to 1913. Our first stop was a masonic temple, originally from Sunderland. The front of the temple was brought over brick-by-brick, but the inside was built new from the old plans. Our guide told us all about the secret society and talked about how to join the Masons. It was pretty interesting, but I lost interest after being told women couldn’t join! They also offered the opportunity to go upstairs, but I didn’t want to climb the steps.

Next to the temple was a branch of Barclay’s bank. A teller sat behind the counter working on needlework, waiting to show off the coins and bills used previously in England. We also took a trip downstairs and got to see the old fashioned vaults and deposit boxes. Wow, glad I wasn’t a banker in 1913!

After a stop at the (thankfully modern!) toilets, we moved onto some of the shops in town. The people in the confectionery told us to come back later if we wanted to watch a demonstration, so we headed to the Pub for a cup of tea to warm up with before heading back in. We got to watch how Toffee is made,and got samples fresh off the block! Tim and I picked up some old fashioned candy (at old fashioned prices!) to nibble on for the rest of the trip.

Across the street was the large co-op, where people could buy everything they needed for their homes, from washing machines and dishes to food and clothing. The shopkeeper explained everything to us, and showed us a very clever way of taking cash from customers. The shop had an overhead system of “rails”. Run completely by gravity (no electricity here!), the counter person was able to put the customer’s bill and money into a hollow croquet ball. Then, she’d put it onto the “track” and the ball whizzed it’s way back to a separate locked office where the cashier would take out the money, put change and a receipt in, and send it back to the counter person. This way, all the money was kept behind a locked door and it was actually a lot safer than most stores today!

Further down the block was a printing shop, where we got to watch the typesetter set the newspaper, and then used the press to make a “I’ve been to Beamish!” sign for a souvenir.

We skipped a few of the houses/offices and some of them weren’t open, but we did get to glimpse in the law office, and into the kitchen of a typical 1913 home.

Further down the block, we got to the Railway station – Tim’s favourite place! The station wasn’t open, but we took a few photos and got to see the Westoe Netty – and outdoor public toilet for men made famous by a 1972 painting. The toilet was built in the 1890s (and also the third old-fashioned toilet display we saw on my visit!).

On our walk back we stopped in at the stables and the garage before taking the trolly back to the entrance. We packed a picnic lunch, but supplemented it with some soup from the cafe.

We both had a great time, and I look forward to going back with Tim next Summer when we can see everything else!

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The trolly we rode on

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The Westoe Netty

For more photos: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/beamish/

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Groceries US vs. UK

Tonight, my mom and I went over to the Weis Market in the Manor Shopping Center (Lancaster, PA). We usually grab one of the mini-carts and put our reusable bags on the bottom half while we shop. As we walked in the door, the security guard stationed by the door tried to tell us that we needed to leave our bag(s) with the customer service desk while we shopped. We explained to him that they were our grocery bags, and his comment back to us was “people still could use them to steal stuff”. The overall impression I got off this security guard was that he somehow thought Mom and I were going to steal groceries and that’s why we were bringing in bags. I’ve never felt so offended before going grocery shopping. If this is going to be a trend with that store, we simply won’t shop at it anymore!

And then when we were checking out…it seems to me that if you bring in your own bags, the cashier doesn’t make any moves to assist you with packing up your purchases. Even if they have finished ringing you up and you have paid and the remaining items are out of your reach. No, you must stretch yourself to try to push them down to where you can reach them.

I compare this type of service to the service I regularly received at Tesco in the UK. Never once were we stopped by anyone for bringing in reusable bags, in fact, they encourage reusable over plastic and offer you 3p off your order for every bag you bring in. If you need plastic bags, you need to ask the cashier to give you some. Also, as soon as you start packing your groceries, the cashier always asks if you need help packing and will do their best to ensure that you can reach all your purchases.

I could be looking at grocery shopping in the UK through rose coloured glasses, but I never came across a rude cashier or stocker in any of our trips to Tesco. Matter of fact, I even received help finding an item in the store from an employee who was off-duty doing her own shopping when she heard me tell Tim I couldn’t find an item off our list!

I wish Weis was more like Tesco (and I wish they didn’t charge over $7 for the tiniest bottle of Ribena you can get for under £1 in the UK!). I’ve also sent in a complaint via the Weis Market’s website. I had wanted to speak with the store manager, but there was a long line at customer service and only one woman behind the counter. I didn’t want to cause a huge fuss asking for a manager to complain to when clearly, they needed help dealing with all the customers.

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Blogging the UK

I’ve decided I’m not going to take the time to completely blog every single town and place we visited. I’ve been home for over a month, and I just haven’t had the time. BUT – I know I have some readers (i hope?) who want to read about things, so here is the list of places we were. If there is a place you’d like to see me write more about and I haven’t already, please leave me a comment.

Stamford
Liverpool
Lincoln (multiple times)
Stratford-upon-Avon
Hereford
Hay-On-Wye/Brecon Beacons
Cardiff
Bridlington
Scarbourough
Robin Hood’s Bay
Yorkshire Moors (and NYMR!)
York
Nottingham
London
Portsmouth
Stonehenge
Blackpool
Liverpool
Rainhill
Newark
London
Greenwich
Beamish
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Alnwick and other Castles in the North
Scottish Borders
Durham
Darlington
GCR
Bletchley Park
Leeds
Mablethorpe (and other seaside towns)

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London, Day 2

We really packed a lot into day two, without actually planning on it. We wound up going to the Tower Bridge, the HMS Belfast, Big Ben/Parliament, seeing Oliver! in the West End, and Piccadilly Circus! Thanks to our daypasses for the Underground, we didn’t have to do a whole lot of walking, either.

The first thing we wanted to do was to see about getting theatre tickets for Oliver!, the production Burn Gorman is currently appearing in. Fortunately, there was a discount ticket booth right in the Covent Gardens tube station, and thanks to the person behind the counter calling the theatre, we scored high balcony seats for that evening’s performance. With tickets safely tucked into my camera case, we headed back onto the Tube to start our day.

Our day started with the trip to the Tower Bridge. I had discovered the Tower Bridge has a tour where you can walk along the top of it, and I really wanted to do it…and somehow I convinced Tim to go along with me! It was really neat learning about how the Tower Bridge was built and why, and then getting to walk across both sides of the upper bridge to take photos and video of London. We had a great time doing this, and fortunately, the Tower Bridge was a short walk away from our next stop. We decided against the Tower of London, since we both had already been there and I knew when I come back this fall with my mom, I’d be taking her there.

Just a short walk away from the Tower Bridge is the HMS Belfast. Again, I don’t know or remember much about it other than it is a 1930s warship. They were testing out a new route for their tour, so we got a little confused walking around and I kept feeling like we were places we shouldn’t be since there was no organized tour like with the HMS Victory. We did a lot of climbing up and down ladders, which I wasn’t a fan of, and had to squeeze past a lot of really tight locations to see it all. We learned all about how the sailors lived on the ship, as well as how the ship itself worked. We also stopped to eat on the HMS Belfast, and we purchased cups of tea to go along with the sandwiches we had packed.

From the HMS Belfast, it was another short walk to the London Bridge tube stop. When I saw we were going to be near Westminster, I asked Tim if we could stop to take photos of Big Ben and Parliament. I have photos from my first trip back in 1997, but there’s something about going to London and taking photos of all the important landmarks that appealed to me, so we stopped and after shooting short videos and taking photos, headed back onto the Tube to go back to our hotel to change for the play!

We stopped for dinner at a chippy around the corner from the hotel. I can’t rave about the food, because I really didn’t enjoy it all that much and ordered a hot drink when I wanted a cold drink, but it didn’t matter – we were off to Oliver!

Sadly, we didn’t get to see Jodie Prenger perform and saw Tamsin instead. I was disappointed, as I was really looking forward to seeing Jodie after watching I’d Do Anything. Tamsin didn’t impress me much. Her chemistry with Burn Gorman, who plays Bill Sikes, seemed non-existent to me. But Burn was amazing as Bill, and Rowan Atkinson gave a very hilarious performance as Fagin. Burn even managed to sing a bit of “My Name”. The character is so dark and cynical and I think Burn pulls it off well. The music cues when Bill comes on stage are sinister and dark, but it also takes a good actor to be able to take those music cues and actually make the audience fearful of him. Amazing performance, I loved it.

But perhaps the best part came after the show. I ran around the corner to the Stage Door, and got to catch Burn long enough to shake his hand and tell him who I was. It really made my evening! He was in a hurry to get home, but he still took the time to respond to my “Excuse me, Mr Gorman” and came over to say hello.

Needless to say, I was flying high after this and convinced Tim we should stop at Piccadilly Circus to take some photos before we headed back to the hotel for bed. We returned to the hotel, exhausted, but still flying high (at least for me!) after the performance.


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Previously posted video logs can be found here:
http://www.blog.beccajanestclair.com/2009/01/more-vlogs-from-london/
http://www.blog.beccajanestclair.com/2009/01/more-vlogs/

[Note to LJ users reading the RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to leave comments, as comments left directly on LJ do not get seen by me.]

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Lincoln Cathedral in Fog

A few weeks ago, Tim and I were invited over to his Aunt W’s house for dinner. W lives in Lincoln off of Steep Hill (and ironically, the day I walked Steep Hill I went to the newsstand across the street from her house!), so we parked over by the castle/cathedral. The fog was absolutely beautiful, so I took this video:

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New Year’s Day at Stockholes Farm

Tim will probably have to add a comment and talk about this some more  as I don’t know much about it and he’s currently at work, but I really want to get to blogging about London and I need to blog this first!

Tim took me to the open day at Stockholes Farm Miniature Railway.  This railway was very different from what Tim has in his garden, as these trains were large enough to ride on and they run on actual coal! The railway is pretty complicated and loops around the property, including overpasses and underpasses!  They even have a small snack window and a ticket booth outfitted to mimic a real railway ticket booth.

A lot of Tim’s friends from the 16mm group were there, and the man who organized Frostbite was there with his engine, and told Tim and I we could take a look around the shed.  The shed was filled with engines that weren’t being used that day and engines that were being built/repaired.

We even got to ride on one of the trains!

I had a great time, and it was the perfect way to celebrate the new year.


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For more photos see: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/stockholes-farm/ (Yes, I know it’s 2009 now, but it’s easier for me to keep all the photos in the same folder)

[note to LJ feed readers: please click on the link at the top of this entry on LJ to leave comments, as I do not see comments left on LJ!]

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More London Vlogs!

I promise a real entry soon!

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More Vlogs….

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