Friday, 26 March 2010

Our house! March 29, 2010

So, you want to hear about the house? Joe got the keys on our second day here. When he brought them to the hotel and pulled them out of his pocket my jaw dropped. They are skeleton keys. They are huge and remind me of keys that a jailer would have on a huge round circle! I said, "I thought this house was built in the 80's?" He just laughed and shook his head. I was wondering if we were moving into an old castle.

So anyway, off we went to see our new "home away from home". I pretty much knew what it looked like from pictures as I had found it online and Joe had looked at it on his last trip here. It is a very nice house in a nice neighborhood. Ours is probably one of the smallest houses on the street. The others being VERY large for UK standards. We are the second house from a dead end. You can't see it from the street as our driveway is a long long lane that goes way back to the house. Once you come around the corner at the end of the lane you see it. It is an attractive all brick house with a detached brick two car garage. BTW everything here is brick, stone or stucco. I have not seen any type of siding anywhere, in any neighborhood.They call this a bungalow because it is all one level (one of my prerequisites). It has cute window boxes along the windows in the front (my hands are just itching to get to them)!

We used the gigantic keys and went in. There is an alarm system, but thankfully it was turned off. There is a nice entryway when you come in and a large living room with double doors at the entrance of it and a set of double doors across the room leading to the dining room. There are two very big sets of sliding doors in the living room. Once set to the back yard and the other to the conservatory (glassed in porch). Very light and airy. The kitchen is also off the entryway and is fairly large with nice counter tops and ceramic tile. I even have a laundry room off the kitchen. (I'll explain later why I am lucky on that). Then down the hall (the other direction from the entryway) are three bedrooms and two and a half baths. One being an en suite which means master bath. Joe kept calling our bedroom an en suite until one of his coworkers told him that was the word for the master bathroom!

The yard is quite large and typical of English gardens (they aren't called yards here, if you have a front and/or back yard, you have front and/or back gardens). Both front and back are full of plants, trees, flower beds all over along with stone walkways here and there and a few large cement bird baths. The whole yard (front and back and down the lane) is surrounded by privacy fencing, which you can hardly see because of the hedges and large trees in front of it, and English Ivy growing over it. It is absolutely private, we can't see our neighbor's yards or houses (except for the tops) at all. But it has been neglected. Joe has tried to talk me into hiring someone to clean it up but I want to do it. It is a challenge and I can't wait to get started. Someone obviously put a lot of time and work into creating it and I want to clean it up and get it back to its glory. I've never planted a lot of perennials and there are things coming up all over the place! I just can't wait until everything is up so I can see what I have! I wish my friend Jill, my sister Debbie, or my brother in law Maury were here to help me!

Now about the decor...every single room is wallpapered floor to ceiling, including the ceiling. I don't know why, but they wallpaper the ceilings with white textured wallpaper! The living room has crown molding and wallpaper but everything else is wallpaper and borders. Two of the bathrooms are tiled all the way around. Also, there are custom made draperies in every room. BIG, formal looking ones, especially in the living room. Not exactly my style, but the colors aren't bad. With exception of the dining room curtains. They are dark green and beige with old colonial type scenes on them with tassels hanging from them! Yuck! Figures they are Joe's favorites! Could we be any more opposite?

I looked all through the house and then I REALLY looked through the house. It is extremely dusty, with some carpet stains and dirt marks on the wallpaper throughout. The curtains were really dusty. I'm not too worried about cleaning. Joe didn't want to say anything to his boss(from the states)as they are paying for the lease so we can at least clean it ourselves. They probably don't even know.

Then, upon further inspection in the kitchen, I realized that I had two dishwashers! But when we opened them we found that one was a refrigerator!! I KID YOU NOT! The refrigerator is under the counter just like the dishwasher and actually is SMALLER THAN THE DISHWASHER! Also, there was NO FREEZER in it! This did not seem possible. The guy from Joe's work was with us and he acted like all was normal. I said, "what do people do with ice cream"? He just kind of shrugged and said, "eat it". He said he has a freezer in his garage. Oh my gosh. I just wasn't getting this. I said, "We drink tons of milk, I buy it two gallons at a time. How do you have room for anything"? He just said, "we go to the store a lot". Man, I couldn't believe it.

The laundry room was next. I knew to have one was a huge luxury, as the washers are usually located, where else? Under the counter in the kitchen! Except, there was no washing machine in the laundry room. I was actually relieved. See, I had been briefed by the wife of the last American who worked here for United. She said that laundry was a nightmare. It almost made her lose her mind (and she is a very easy going person). She said they have these machines that are a washer and dryer in one. You put the clothes in, turn it on and it goes through the wash, then the dry cycle and you can't open it until its done. She said using those machines, there is no such thing as permanent press, nothing ever seems to get very clean and clothes take forever to dry. Her example was one bath towel would take approximately 90 minutes to dry! She was convinced that is why people wear black and other dark colors here, so they don't have to do wash so often! I was anticipating that this might be a issue. Some of you may know that laundry is my favorite chore to do. I have always liked it and am very particular about my laundry. So, I was relieved to see that I would be picking out my own washer.

We were through with our first visit here and were ready to get started supplying things for the house. We spent 5 days in the hotel before we moved in. During those 5 days we bought furniture, appliances, a couple of towels, linens, a few scarce dishes, pots and silverware. See, the stuff we shipped ahead of time is still on its way. Actually by now it is at the dock but for some reason still takes up to two weeks to get here. So we are living with the bare necessities right now. I just hate buying things that I know are in my shipment.

All this involved many trips made to shopping areas that were naturally unfamiliar. A guy from Joe's work took us out the first day and then we were on our own (with our handy GPS). So just like before we had to figure out where to go and enter it into our friendly machine. One thing that's kind of neat here is that every house, store, restaurant, establishment has an address of course. Like our zip code they have a post code. Except unlike our zip code they're post code takes you to the front door! So all you have to do is enter their post code into the GPS and it takes you right there. The next part, following the GPS is another story altogether. Like I said earlier, it is extremely challenging. We are now to the point when we hear the wench's robotic voice saying, "re-cal-cu-lat-ing" we both throw our heads back against the head rests and say bad words.

The next in the UK.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

My very first blog! March 25, 2010

This blog has been created to protect some of you from a deluge of unwanted emails. Instead of writing them and clogging up your mail I thought I'd start a blog and those of you who are interested can check-in (or not) whenever you please.

It's been forever since I've been online. We are not having good luck with the internet here at all. Supposedly we are to get it FOR SURE in two and a half weeks. Joe bought me this little 1gb stick that is supposed to allow me to get a signal temporarily. This thing is so slow though I have about lost my mind trying to use it. Half the time it will let me on my aol account and let me SEE the emails that I have but not open them up! For someone who has been out of touch with everyone for two weeks you can imagine my frusration. So I really haven't been able to write any to speak of either. Just a couple, that must have been a fluke.

BUT I was able to get this blog started to look out!!!

We left on March 11 (Joe's birthday) for our new adventure (as we call it). Joe kept saying "We're off to our new adventure" when we left our house at Lake Anna for the last time, when we boarded the airplane, when we landed in England, when we walked into our house here for the first get the picture. It is both exciting and scary to us and we're going to try and make the most of it.

We were delayed three hours trying to get out of Newark. Of course they don't tell you the plane will be delayed for three hours, they tell you a half an hour and then keep updating the situation every half hour. Just to make sure you can't leave the gate and go eat or shop or do anything besides sit there and wait. I was entertained mildly by the man sitting behind us with a New York accent who was getting more bitter by the minute each time they would delay again. But then again Joe is no fun when it comes to making fun of people.

So we finally got here and it was raining (shock). Then the fun began. We had to walk in the rain to find the rental car pushing all of our luggage (4 big bags and 2 carry-ons) through the rain. They don't bring the cars to you here. You go to a car lot and find it yourself. Of course ours wasn't in the numbered spot that it was supposed to be in. It took us about 1/2 hour to get to the lot, then find someone to help us find it and then sit there once we were loaded and wonder how the heck we were going to be able to drive in the rain, with the steering wheele on the right and on the WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD! Joe had a few miles of practice back in October when we came out. Not enough to make him feel comfortable at all.

We did have a UK GPS (they call them sat navs here). Thank God for that. Seriously.
Except they don't get you out of parking lots. So as we were entering our first of thousands of round-abouts that they have here Joe took the wrong turn and we ended up in the airport parking lot. Not the rental lot mind you, the parking lot that you have to PAY to get out of. He is really under stress at this time as you can imagine. He doesn't usually show it, but he's been a different man with this driving crap. So now we are in the pay parking and we can see a little pay booth. Here in the parking areas (which there are many) you buy the little pay tag before you leave the parking lot. Then you insert it in the machine as you leave and this allows the arm to move up. I knew this from last time we were here so I told him to let me out and I'd run to the booth for the tag. So I jump out in the rain and ran over there and I see the machine is all taped up. Another man is there with me and we both run back to our cars. I told Joe it was not working and he would just have to go up to the bar to pay. He didn't want to as there was a line of cars leaving and he didn't want to do the wrong thing. But I insist so in the line he goes. As we get up there we can see that everyone else has a pay tag so when its our turn we have nothing to put in the machine. I see another booth and take off to it as Joe is saying, "See! This is why I didn't want to get in this line". He is devastated that he is holding up the line while I'm out there running around. This machine was taped up too! I jump back in the car and Joe has pushed the button to talk to the operator. The people here are extremely friendly and not one person honked at us. We ended up giving a credit card to the thing and paying that way. BTW the woman said the booths weren't taped up, I don't know, they looked like it to me.

The driving here has got to be the biggest challenge of all. I would say it would be completely impossible to do without a GPS. With the GPS we have missed a ton of turns and been on many wrong roads. First of all they have round-abouts ALL OVER. I am not exagerating. The problem is the GPS will tell you to take like the third street in a round-about and say the name. Once you get in the round-about there are no street names. Plenty of signs telling you what each road takes you to like "this way to the M1" for example but NOT the name of the road you are looking for. You may say well if they tell you to take third one just take it. It is not so simple. Sure we learned that after a while, but at first you are looking for a road name. And sometimes you can't even tell which one is the third one! It took us a few wrong ways to figure out that instead of jumping off the round-about we could just keep going around until we figured out which road we wanted. All this wouldn't be so bad if you weren't driving on the left hand side of the road with people coming at you in all directions.

That ride from the airport was awful. A half hour ride tooks us 3 hours. But mostly because there was an accident on one of the highways. They haven't figured out here that you can push the accident to the side and allow a couple of lanes to go through. No, they close the whole highway for HOURS to do an accident investigation and everything. You come to a complete standstill. Unbelievable. So we took many detours and wrong turns by the time we got to our hotel. We had travelled all night, by then it was around lunchtime here. But it felt like the middle of the night. I literally fell into the bed when we got to our room. Poor Joe had to run to the office (about 5 minutes away for a UK driver) to say hello. I don't know how he did it. But he didn't stay too long and eventually we were able to get an early dinner and hit the sack.

continued later...