Archive for the 'moving' Category

News from across the pond

No, still no hard news on if we are moving or not, only to say that as of yesterday we’ve confirmed it is still a possibility. To cut the pain of uncertainty I’ve enjoyed reading the British news lately – my favorite (no suprise here) is the very liberal Guardian.

So, since we have no news ON England, how about some cultural commentary FROM England?

Apparently it isn’t just the United States that suffers from puritanical ideals when it comes to breastfeeding.  A woman was told to leave a restaurant when she was inconspicuously breastfeeding her child because, according to the cafe owner,  “I can’t have someone breastfeeding while another table is next to them eating.”  What, you can’t have someone EATING next to other people EATING?  In that case, sir, it’s time to close your doors.

Slate has a hilarious essay up on nursery school admissions in London to which I can totally relate. Of course I was looking for schools in the lazy, hazy countryside of Somerset, which although I like to play off as a low maintenance gal, apparently I’m even more high-strung on some things than most Americans. Oy.

This explains some things about the British diet. My problem besides the lack of items on any given menu and almost complete lack of restaurants can be summed up in four words: where are the veggies? And no, potatoes do not count. I suppose I’m a veggie nut and am not typical but I’d love to have a fresh greens salad that wasn’t drowned by a mayonnaise-like substance or a meal that wasn’t primarily light brown. Before you rail on me, keep in mind, again, I was in Somerset, where things are generally much more traditional. In my experience London itself has amazingly delicious dining options which rivals any I’ve ever tasted. By the way, articles like this with references to shops, brands and other British cultural self-evident assumptions that go completely over my head is part of the reason that I feel like a fish out of water “over there”. I’m even more of a dork in England than in my own country, which says a lot.

And a little insight on why housing is so darned expensive in England. Even in Somerset.

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Dreaming of England

I love it here where I feel safe. Safe in the arms of him. These familiar arms have carried me through my life; the whispers in my ear tell of so many stories we share together. I laugh and I cry happily here. I am comfortable. I don’t want to belong anywhere else. I belong to America.

But in my sleep my dreams betray me.

I dream of her. Of fog-shrouded castles and of writing words with extra letter Us thrown into them. Of eating pasties outside of the chippy on the corner and seeing her familiar face in the features of the pub owner down the road. Of uniformed schoolchildren and my own children calling me “mummy”. Of the gentle curve of her thin winding roads and her sultry thick mud on my Wellies. Of time spent together at London shows and ancient cathedrals. Of wandering hand in hand with her through villages of thatched roofs and little brick houses that have leaned on each other for hundreds of years.

As much as my dreams are sincere they equally decieving. Life would be easier and more comfortable if I stayed in the arms of America. Life would be more romantic and exciting if I was able to melt into the dream of England. Yet I refuse to put my own selfish desires in front of my honor. But which road is more selfish? Which is more honorable? Truly I can’t tell what my own desires are any more – when am I dreaming and when am I awake?

So I live at the whim of my emotions. My dreams. There is still a possiblity I may leave, or that possibility might have disappeared a long time ago. Perhaps it never was there. Perhaps it only existed in a nightsong. I believe I shared some secret, unspoken language with her. I felt her dancing eyes and suggestive smiles she shared with me in a castle, a little old man waiving his cane, a rainbow.  Did England feel it too?

So I will wait. Until time whispers when it is the moment that adventure and comfort can exist together. I don’t know if that means my dreams or my reality will change, but I know that it will mean that they will become one someday.

Until then, I will have her in my dreams.

Day 6

I’ve still been preoccupied with school stuff so I’m going to hand the reigns of the website over to the hubby, Rich.  (Let me just tell you how thankful I am that he has the day off tomorrow and will be around to help make the school decision).  Anyroad, here he is:

Cheerio all from Mr. Mum!

I guess am to write my first ever blog entry today, which as you can guess goes against most of my manly beliefs.  Work goes smashing over here in the U.K.  The wide range of people I work with makes the work day a lot of fun.  The Scottish accent is my personal favorite.  They sound so excited and interested in every topic mentioned. 

Now, as for the English cuisine.  It does leave something to be desired……most meals come with two servings of ‘vegetables,’ but this really means two different forms of potatoes.  And for someone who is trying to eat a low carb diet, this can be very difficult.  And as gross as it sounds, the black pudding (blood sausage) is acutally quite good! 

So for the question that everyone is asking, “Are we going to move to England?”  Good question.  Still don’t have a good answer for you all….. sorry. 

Cheers,

Richard

Day 5

Bloody ‘ell (as they would say here), I just received some crazy news this afternoon.

I already knew that Connor would be entering into Foundation (kind of like Kindergarten but they start 1 year earlier) at a regular school in the fall.  What I didn’t know is that the extended deadline (for pity cases such as ourselves who are moving into the area, etc.) for putting in on choice of school is due THIS FRIDAY AT 4PM and that the good schools are already filling up.  How do I pick a school before I’ve picked a place to live?  If I get Connor in to the school of his choice, will there be a home for us available nearby?  It is hard to choose a good neighborhood when here in the UK I wouldn’t recognize one if it hit me in the face.  It is like the chicken/egg scenario but with much more at stake. 

If the school I choose is over-subscribed (too many parents have chosen it), then they use subscription criteria to determine which children get in.  They are:

1) children who the state is their guardian (‘looked after children’) get top pick

2) children with special educational needs get second priority

3) children who live in the catchment area who have a sibling attending the school

4) other children living in the catchment area

5) children living outside the catchment area who have a sibling attending the school

6) if a religious school, children outside the catchment area whose parents are practising members of the church

7) other children living outside the catchment area, measured by straight line measurement.

They are fair, valid criteria.  But unfortunately for us we fall into category 7, and technically our ‘straight line measurement’ would be 4,800 miles (give or take).  Yep – we’re doomed.  I plan on using the Inn as our hotel, however it is a little bit out of town so most likely I won’t fall into the catchment area of my choosing.  Luckily I get to put down my top 3 choices, and we’ll hear our results by mail on the 19th of January.

My plan:  pick 3 schools, then hear our choice, then pick a home right afterward and if all goes according to plan we’ll be able to move in by February.  Just without any furniture.

Enough about my anxiety attack.  Let me share with you my day today.

We’ve heard that the proprietor of our inn is interested in buying up homes for the sole purpose of renting them out to us poor Americans.  We haven’t actually spoken to him about the idea, but word has it, from several sources, that basically you pick a home and he buys it for you, furnishes it if you wish, and rents it directly to you, making a profit of course.  Since the plan is for us to be here only for a couple of years, this seems like the perfect scenario for us.

This morning I got up and drove into town to take a look at some new home developments in the Bridgwater area.  I was really impressed with one – Churchfields in Wembdon, which lies on the Western edge of Bridgwater proper.  Wembdon is an area of nice, large, quiet older homes and a couple of new developments.  There is a walking path along the main road which I would no doubt make use of.

Here I should mention that a typical modern British home is considerably smaller than what we are used to seeing in the States.  Their largest home for sale is just about the same size as our house in Richland, which is the smallest home in our neighboorhood at just over 1500 square feet.  Also, modern British homes are not as open and airy, which is something we would have to get used to but may have some benefits (we would have more privacy).  All the homes I have seen have only one living room, which has shutting doors to all the adjacent rooms.  One thing I really like about the homes I saw were that many of them had a conservatory, which is a bit like an enclosed screened porch you might see in the Eastern US except it is made entirely of glass windows.  What a great way to enjoy the outdoors even when the weather is wet.

It is really hard to say what our price range will be, but homes here are EXPENSIVE by our standards.  Prices seem to be right around 200 pounds a square foot, which computes out to 400 dollars a square foot.  This is FOUR TIMES what we are used to paying.  Since we have a family of four, I’m not sure we’ll be able to skimp on square footage much.  I would say that food and other living expenses is in the same price point.  Luckily Rich will be getting his salary plus a travel allowance for each day we live here.  Needless to say we will have to sell or rent our home back in the states.

I’ll try and post some snapshots of a typical British model home I took later tonight if I get a chance.

After touring the neighborhoods and homes, I went over to the primary school in the area.  This is a Church of England school, but it is public and would be paid for by the state.  I was hesitant to check out a CofE school as I do believe in the separation of church and state and we are not regular church goers ourselves (but do consider ourselves Christians although we have a very liberal sense of what that means).  However as 25% of public schools in the UK are CofE and the other 75% have christian-based religious education included in the core curriculum, I wanted to check at least one out.

I was floored.  This is an incredible school.  The building was much nicer than any of the other schools I’ve seen so far, and the headmaster and teachers were warm and kind.  Children in Reception class spoke to me kindly and shared the projects they were working on at the moment for an anti-bullying art contest.  There was a quiet room for children who wanted to take a moment to rest or do something else.  An entire room was dedicated to IT learning with probably 30 computer terminals and two electronic white boards with overhead projected monitor.  The playground was huge and the school has a great reputation for football (soccer) having won 8 of the 9 area championships.  A separate mobile music class where children as young as five start learning to play instruments.  I got up the courage to ask about religious education and his answer couldn’t have been better – they spend a good deal of time discussing the world religions but the majority of time is spent on the Christian faith, with love and community being at the core.  No fire and brimstone, I was assured.

So I’m pretty sure I’ve found my top pick for a school.  The question remains, will I get in?  The answer is probably not.

Can American English be qualified as a special need, or do I need to turn Connor over as a ward of the state?

I’m only half joking.

Playground in North Petherton

Playground in North Petherton, originally uploaded by american_mum.

This nice large field a block from the neighboorhood above and a couple of blocks from the school has play equipment in it. The sign reads, “No Dogs or Animals Allowed in Playing Field” – sorry Zoe…

Countdown: 5 days to go

We’re leaving in five days to see Somerset, England for the first time and I absolutely cannot wait for our adventure to begin.

Rich will be in essence in the middle of a two-week interview situation, so I don’t plan on seeing much of him during the trip.  That means, it is up to me to make the most of my two weeks, practically and extracurricular-ly.

As we speak, I have another window of the browser open to make a car reservation – which I’ll be driving.  On the other side of the road.  With different road signs and signals.  I’m a flighty person anyway, which sometimes admittadly translates into my driving habits.  It would not surprise me if I spend most of the two weeks driving around lost in the English countryside.

Those who know me well know that I am a list-maker to the point of compulsion.  Sometimes I even make charts.  With three dimensions.  (Really.)  This trip is no exception.  Since my main goal will be to check out towns, neighborhoods and schools, I’ve created maps of each of the villages that we are considering making our residence, and located each of the schools I’m interested in on each map.  I also have cross-referenced these school locations with the school’s Ofsted report rating (how cool is it that in Britain, the government inspects, rates and writes a hefty public report on each school?) and the general personality of each of the areas.

My perfect find for a hometown would be an area of town where amenities like good restaurants and grocery stores are close, the school is excellent, and the feel of the neighborhood is hip and young.  I’d love if there were lots of young families with preschool age children.  Maybe that would give us a jumpstart on making some new friends.  Friend-making has always come more easily to Rich, but I’m going to have to bite the bullet and do some socializing on my own, I’m sure.

I’ve also got a list of minor chores I’d like to do while I’m there.  These are silly things but could be important to determine what our way of life will be like (personally and financially) after the move.  I plan on checking out a grocery store or two to not only price out a few things but determine availability of foods.  I will probably sit down with a paper (or maybe a real estate letting agent) and start checking out places to live, if only to get an idea of prices.  I hear opening a bank account in the UK is no easy thing for a foreigner, so I need to look into the logistics of that.

If I run out of things to do, I can always go sightseeing or shopping.  I’m not a natural-born shopper, but I need to check out the shopping centres of the area, and possibly make a trip up to Bristol.  There are lots of sights about an hour away for my travel-curious brain – Stonehenge, Glastonbury, and Bath are my top picks.

I’ll try to update the website from the road as we can – until then, have a happy turkey day everyone!


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