Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Upcoming weekend and more yard work! April 27, 2010

We have decided on York, UK as our destination this upcoming long weekend. For our weekend trips we try to do cities that are not too far and that are listed as "top cities to see" in many UK websites and books. We also solicit advice from locals. York has a lot of history and culture (and shopping!).

York archaeologists found a 1,000 year old viking city and have set it up just as it was on the actual site where they found it. It has houses, workshops and backyards of the Viking city Jorvik. This should be very good as it is supposed to be authentic with people as part of the exhibit cooking, cleaning, working and gossiping just as they did 1000 years ago.

There is also the York Minster, the largest medieval Gothic cathedral north of the Alps. It supposedly has a treasure house of 800 years of stained glass. This has been highly recommended. The pictures of it are unbelievable. I can't wait to take my own!

We will surely see Clifford's Tower too. An old stone tower built high on a hill to see the town of York and the surrounding countryside. It was built by William the Conqueror. I am amazed by how many towers and castles in England were built or started by him. When I read information on websites etc. his name is so prevalent in the makings of these places.

In the meantime, I am supposed to be cutting the grass today. Those of you who know Joe well, knows he loves to cut his grass. I have never cut grass because he would never let anyone else do it, (not even the boys). That should tell you how much work there is here in the yard. He actually didn't take time to do it last weekend and is willing to let me have a go at it.

I can't remember if I've ever cut grass before! I asked him how to get the lawn mower going. He said, "just pull the cord". OK, that should be easy. Then I said, "well you'd better makes sure there's gas in it". So he goes over to look and then says, "oh, I forgot, you need to push this red button ten times before you pull the cord." So I gently remind him that had he not told me that I would have been wearing myself out trying to get it going and maybe it was kind of an important thing to forget. Oh well, at least he remembered. Then as he's leaving for work this morning he remembers that I need to hold one of the bars near the handle to start it, and keep holding it or it will cut out. Also, to get it going into the self propelled phase I need to hold onto the other bar near the handle. Geez-e-Pete, I'm glad he remembered to tell me all that!

I know you all are probably wondering how in the world one can go all these years without cutting grass but before you think bad of me, just know this...I've never been allowed! He even started to change his mind and said, he'd do it after work. Well, I'm going out to try and we'll see what happens. He will be looking it over with a critical eye when he gets home.

FYI he and I worked outside almost all day Sunday and I worked out all day yesterday. I had a ton of annuals to plant in my window boxes, hanging planters and large pots. Now that's what I call fun! I've said before that we have stone walkways and stone gardens around and I worked on weeding them too. SUCH a huge job, all this weeding and so much more to do. But I really enjoy it and get so much pleasure from cleaning it up. Joe had his toy the power washer out Sunday and worked on the stone. Some of it turned out so beautiful. We had no idea what colors were going to come out!

Joe wants me to send a special "hello" to everyone from him. He appreciates the comments on the blog. He is VERY busy here at his new job. Learning the ropes at the same time changing most of the procedures that are currently in place. Of course he is well liked by everyone which helps the transition. They can't believe that he never gets mad or annoyed by the numerous questions the employees have. He says they seem so hungry to learn and have been stunted in their growth for the last 3+ years. But he hasn't had ANY time to keep up with you, although he thinks of all of you Aireconians plus many friends often. His new work email is kind of restrictive and blocks different emails for various reasons. For this reason I want to give you his personal email account that he just started. He checks it on weekends mostly. It is Jhawkins311@gmail.com. I just got a pop-up that warned me if I put an email address on the web nasty spammers can get it to!

In case you are wondering, I managed to get the grass cut. It wasn't so bad, but not fun like the other yard work I like. We have a kitchen window that looks out the front of our house.
I was standing in the kitchen when he pulled up from work. I saw his eyes surveying the yard just like I knew he would. I did burn the grass in several places. I don't even know how it happened. Oh well. He hasn't seen them yet!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Things around the house April 22, 2010

Good news!

We have finally heard that we are getting our shipment tomorrow!! Hooray. I am so tired of cooking on walmart type pans and wearing the same clothes over and over. This is worse for Joe as he has to go to work in the same few outfits. Finally I'll have all my old stuff. You can't imagine what a pain it is to only have what you brought over here in a suitcase 7 weeks ago! Of course we bought quite a few things. Electric things for example we weren't able to ship. But things we knew were heading here we tried to do without. Lotions and creams, shoes, my files, linens, tons of kitchen stuff, trash cans, you name it. I just can't wait.

Joe and I are working very hard on the yard. It is a huge undertaking but little by little it is coming along. He bought a power washer a few weeks ago. Tim the tool man had to have one of the most powerful ones too. He was so eager to use it. He wanted it to clean up all the slate walkways around the yard and house. Boy were we surprised when we saw that the black slate that we thought we had was actually RED with black flecks around the edges! That goes for the bricks around the walkways too. Who knows when they were ever cleaned?

I have a shirt that I like to wear outside to garden. It has wild flowers all over it and is very comfortable. Joe hates it. I tell him I wear it for him. Don't you think its garden appropriate?

We went to Hinckley last Saturday. That is the town where Joe works He wanted to get his haircut. It is kind of nerve wracking when you have had the same person for years doing your hair and all of a sudden you have to start all over again. But he saw a barber there in Hinckley and decided try them. They had a sandwich board outside that said, "HAIR CUT GENTS?" He got a real good cut though. It turned out to be their market day so they had all kinds of vendors set up through the streets selling everything you an imagine. We walked all around and got a few things, Joe got himself a couple of good leather belts and we got some real good produce. They have these markets all over the place here. Another town close to us has markets every single day! They are really big here.

See Joe on the right in the navy blue sweatshirt? He is walking away from me acting like he doesn't know me while I take the picture.

I actually walked into our village and got my hair cut yesterday. The girl did a pretty good job. When meeting people here the conversation always turns to America. People are much in awe of us and love to hear about the US. I spent my time there talking to the girl who cut my hair and the owner about America and the differences between it and Britain. Another thing that happens is when we are walking around and talking, people turn and look at us when they hear our accents. Especially the kids. We were at a dinner meeting for Joe's work the other night. We were talking at our table about places to see here in the UK and some of the people were telling me words to say and then laughing at the way I said them. I keep forgetting that I am the foreigner now.

OK, here is the house. When we get the garden cleaned up I'll send you before and after pictures of the outside.

The entry way. Double sets of doors to enter the house are very common here.
Living Room: Sliding door on left goes to glassed patio, door on right to backyard.

Dining room with doors to LR shut above, and doors open below.

Glassed in patio off LR. Doors to outside to
left and right of chairs.

Kitchen. See my little refrigerator on the left? Dishwasher is to the right.

Opposite view of kitchen. Clothes dryer on  left, freezer we had to buy on right.                                                          

Laundry Room,
two views

Sunday, May 2nd is Joe and my 30th wedding anniversary! Can you believe it? If anyone would of told me we'd be living in England on our 30th anniversary I would have told them they were crazy. Monday, May 3rd is a holiday here. May Day. So we are going to go on another little road trip. I am looking at several options to figure out where to go. There are so many places! We can't leave til Saturday morning as we are going out with his work people Friday night. That should be fun though.

I have had some people tell me that they try to comment on this blog and it comes up that they have to be a gmail member or something. I played with it a little to unblock that. I love to get comments of course and don't want anyone discouraged from leaving them. The only way I can see to do it is to click anonymous, leave your comment and put your name after it. My sister-in-law Irene does it that way every time.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Cheese Rolling 2009 - Our Official Movie ( watch it in HQ )

Joe and I have a long weekend coming up in May. I was searching different websites to find a place to go. I was looking on The Cotswolds website. The Cotswolds is an area of England that is made up of several towns. They are famous for their beautiful little villages and cottages along with large homes, gardens, pottery, antiques and museums. It is a good place to go if you are driving as they have some really beautiful country drives and walking trails. Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit was inspired by one of the towns there.

Hidden beneath the city Bath lie the stone remains of the Roman baths. There is still a natural hot spring that has flowed for as long as man can tell. And Blenheim Palace, Sir Winston Churchill's birthplace which is one of the greatest houses in England is there too. It is supposed to be beautiful to tour with priceless tapestries, furniture, china etc.

I was looking over the 'events' calendar and saw that during the month of May one of the attractions is their annual Cheese Rolling contest. This looked intriguing so I clicked on it to see what it was. It is an ancient tradition of chasing a 'cheese' down a hill. This custom originally ensured the villagers' right to graze sheep on the hill. I noticed there was a YouTube video clip of one of the races. Suffice it to say, we will be there that day. Anyone want to plan a trip out next May??

Monday, 12 April 2010

Warwick Castle Blog date 4/13/10

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, England

I have finally figured out how to put pictures on my blog! I am way behind in this computer age so it was a real accomplishment.

After seeing Shakespeare's town on Easter weekend we decided to drive over to Warwickshire where the famous Warwick Castle is. It was only 12 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. We have been told that this castle is very commercialized but hearing about it many times and being so close, plus the fact that we've never seen a castle, we thought we should go ahead and check it out.

As with all these old places here, there is a ton of history in this old castle. The daughter of King Alfred (Aethelflaed) built a 'Burh' or 'Burgh' at the site in 914 AD. At that time 'Burhs' meant "fortress" and were for the whole community, rather than a 'castle' which was a private enterprise. They were usually built on a hilltop or along a river. (The castle sits on a hill along the River Avon.) The term "fortress" over time changed to "fortified town" or "town". In time 'burh' changed to Burgh, Burry and Borough which are common in many British places today. Anyway, Aethelflaed built this Burh to protect the town of Warwick from the Danish invaders.

In 1068 William the Conqueror built a motte and fort at the sight and names the first Earl of Warwick, Henry de Beaumont. Five generations follow. In the 1200's the wood is replaced by stone. There are many changing of hands over the years. The castle was badly damaged during the Baron's War and had to be reconstructed in 1315.

During the reign of Edward III came the great Chivalric age and Warwick Castle was the scene of many tournaments, feasts, banquets, etc. During the War of the Roses the Earl of Warwick changes allegiances by defeating Edward IV and restores Henry VI to power. But eventually Edward IV defeats the Earl and kills him. The following Earls of Warwick are branded as traitors and executed, temporarily ending the title of Earl of Warwick.

Richard III takes ownership of the castle until he is killed in a battle against Henry Tudor. The Tudor kings keep Warwick Castle to themselves.

The history of Warwick Castle enters another period of executions and treachery with the short reign of King Henry VIII's son Edward V. John Dudley at the time is a very important man holding many titles, one of them being Earl of Warwick. However with the King being ill he realizes that if the king dies and the throne goes to one of his sisters then Dudley would lose his power. He plots with the Earl of Suffolk and arranges a marriage with his son and the Earl's daughter, Lady Jane Grey. The young king dies, and Lady Jane Grey is Queen of England. She is only there for nine days however, before the rightful queen, Queen Mary takes the crown. John Dudley was beheaded for treason and the castle is passed to the poet Sir Fulke Greville. He was murdered by a discontented manservant and his ghost is said to haunt Warwick Castle.

Robert Greville, the cousin and adopted son of Fulke is named the next Earl. After that Charles II was restored to the throne and things calmed down for Warwick Castle. Robert Greville turned the castle into a showplace and made some great additions.

In 1978 the Earl of Warwick sold the castle to the Tussaud company which owns Madame Tussaud's in London. They did extensive restorations (adding the wax figures of some of the royalty) and opened it to the public.

Over the years there have been many queens and kings who have visited the castle. These include Queen Elizabeth I in 1572; King William III in 1695; Queen Victoria in 1858; Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in 1996.

That's your little history lesson this time.

When people told us it was commercialized they were right. There were an awful lot of people there, but it was a big place. The fact that it is a popular tourist place was a good thing too. They had many different set ups all over the grounds of people dressed in period style doing the ordinary life tasks (and games) that were done in the day and it was very interesting. Here are some examples of this:

They also had matches between men using various weapons of the day. They were really funny to watch. They had the townspeople all dressed in their period clothes who would watch the spectacle. The guys fighting were very much into it and sometimes it looked like they were really doing some damage. Along with the townspeople would be a young boy who must have been the highest ranked person there. He would declare the winner after each round. There was much booing and cheering and even a trumpet blowing. Of course the ring leader in charge would admonish the fighters if they weren't fighting hard enough or whatever. It was really comical and you could tell that the actors were having a lot of fun.

We went over to see the weapons makers tent and got a little lesson on long bows. The fellow told us that all boys from age seven up were required by law to practice the longbow for one hour each day and two hours on Sundays. By age 11 they would be proficient at it and would be able to have five arrows in the air per minute. I can't remember the poundage of the bow but Joe tried it and was able to pull it back and the guy said it was half the weight that an 11 would have done. To show you how crazy some of the British laws are, that law was in effect until 1998!! I couldn't believe my hearing and made him repeat it several times.

There were all kinds of sights and scenes going on that day. I can't even tell you all of them. People reciting stories, jousting, some crazy thing on horses that we never managed to get over in time to see, they also had a Princess tower that little girls could go up and dress up like princesses. It was one of the real towers too.

They had a place called The Peacock Garden which was a garden with trimmed hedges and sidewalks all around and peacocks roaming all over. Have you ever heard a peacock scream? It would make your blood curdle.

When we entered the castle the first room we saw was the Great Hall that had all the armor that the knights wore. There were two knights on life size horses covered in armor in the middle of the room. There was a beautiful banquet side table that was made from one Oak tree. This would have been the main hall for feasts with guests.

The next room was the beautiful State Dining Room where the special honored guests would dine. It had a big table set up with all the dinnerware and the figure of Queen Elizabeth standing at the head of the table.

Then there was a hall that led straight from the Great Hall and went all the way down to the end of the building. Each room was connected on that hall so that you had to go through each room to continue to the next. They did not have their own private doors to any of the rooms. The further a guest was allowed to go down that hall showed their importance.

The first few rooms were drawing rooms where they would entertain guests. The rooms became more private as you walked along. First room was the Red Drawing Room:

Second was the Cedar Drawing Room. Notice the legs of the fancy table. Each leg is a woman in different stages of pregnancy. For the life of me I can't remember the significance of that. But it was still interesting.

Room three was the Green Room with a display set up of Henry VIII and his wives. They looked so real! I just loved the ceiling in this room. There was a secret door in that room where if someone had to they could disappear and come out in the bowels of the castle.


Room four was the Queen Anne Bedroom which had a beautiful four poster bed and old old tapestries covering all the walls.

The last room was the Blue Boudoir. It was a tiny room with a small writing table, no bed, and a figure of a young lady sitting at the table as if gazing out the window. The walls were covered in blue satin fabric. There was a stunning clock that once belonged to Marie Antoinette on one wall.

I was a little disappointed in one respect. In all my imaginations about seeing castles I have always pictured long stone staircases going up to dark dreary halls and endless amounts of bedrooms and things. We were only allowed in those rooms in the castle and they were all on one level. Now, that castle is huge so there are many more rooms throughout. I don't even care if they're decorated, I just want to SEE them. Another thing I want to see is the dungeons. The only way to see the dungeons at this castle was to take a specific tour of them. Which would be fine but it is more like a haunted house tour with actors and such. We saw that in London when we came last October. We waited in this huge line and went through the London Dungeon tour that was a glorified haunted house. We were both so disappointed in it. I love that stuff, but it has to be authentic! So we didn't see these dungeons. I am very excited to go to more castles that are not so commercialized as Warwick Castle. We did have a great day, but I'm looking forward to seeing MORE of the castle next time. I hear Wales has wonderful castles.

I'm leaving you with this picture of this adorable little boy who was dressed for the day.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Shakespeare's hometown April 6, 2010

Shakespeare's childhood home

We spent three days and two nights in Shakespeare's hometown over Easter weekend. The weather forecast was calling for heavy rain all weekend. But I couldn't stand to waste our first long weekend here without seeing something. I chose this because I knew it would be a lot of looking inside rather than so much outdoor stuff. Little did I know that we were going to walk our legs off the whole time! But we were in luck because it only rained a couple of times off and on and otherwise was very nice out. The reason I say that 'I chose this' is because Joe is leaving all the planning for touring up to me. He wants to see everything but is happy to let me do the researching and choosing.

This blog will be a little history lesson too so be prepared. Firstly, Shakespeare's town is called Stratford-upon-Avon. This name came about because of the river that runs through the town. The river was named Avon (Avon was an old Celtic word for river). Stratford was the road where one forged (crossed) the river. Hence, Stratford-upon-Avon.

We arrived early on Friday and decided to go on a tour bus that takes people around to all the pertinent sights in the town and surrounding countryside. The bus has a sound system so you can hear all about Shakespeare and the town through headphones along the way. I really like this way of doing it rather than having an actual person talking because if there are noisy people on the bus you can't hear. We were free to get off at any stop and catch the next bus that comes along. They come in 1/2 hour intervals. Of course we WALKED from our hotel to the tour bus place!

During the bus ride we heard some fascinating things. They included little stories explaining where some of our terminology today comes from. They were discussing medicine and mentioned that in Shakespeare's day (16th century) the barbers were the only men who could perform surgery. They would advertise this by putting a red and white pole outside their shop. The red signified blood and the white signified bandages. A doctor was someone with medical schooling, but did not perform surgeries. Only the barbers were allowed to do that. To this day in England, doctors are addressed as such but surgeons are still called 'Mr.'

Of course we know that cures for illnesses and diseases were just plain nutty back in those days. A common cure for a sore throat was to hang a frog upside down above the patient's mouth and drip the frog saliva down their throat. Many years later it was discovered that the frog's saliva actually had a natural antibiotic in it and did cure a sore throat. That's where the term "frog in your throat" came from.

In the 1500's scurvy was a severe problem especially with the sailors. It was determined that a lack of vitamin C led to scurvy and that eating citrus fruit was very helpful with the condition. That is why sailors were particularly affected. They would be gone for long periods of time without eating fresh fruit. So they started taking barrels and barrels of limes on board their ships. This is where the nickname 'limey' was started for Englishmen. [Some of you know that my mom is famous for using old fashioned terminology. I can still remember her asking us what kind of scurvy we had when she noticed a rash or unusual mark on our skin.]

Salt was extremely important in those days. Besides the biological need for it, it was imperative for their survival because of its use in preserving food. It was so valuable that men were often paid their wages in salt. Families would display their large piles of salt to show their wealth. So where do you think the term 'worth your salt' came from?

Throughout these little tantalizing bits of information we got off and saw several interesting places. We saw Anne Hathaway's family home. This was Shakespeare's wife. It was the home she grew up in. Her father owned many acres of land outside of the city. He would collect rent from the area farmers that used his land. Shakespeare's father was a glove maker and lived in the city, but must of also farmed some of the land. When he would travel to the Hathaway's farm once a month to pay Anne's father the rent he would take William with him. This was a fun day out for William. This is how he met Anne Hathaway. Their house is a historical site (as all the places we saw) and kept just the way it would have been in their day. I just love walking through the homes and imagining their lives back then.

Next we saw Mary Arden's family farm. Mary Arden was Shakespeare's mother and it was her family home, where she grew up. It is still run as a working farm with animals and such. They had two baby lambs that were just the cutest things I've ever seen. Also they have people dressed in period dress doing the chores as they would have been done back then. Very interesting!

On Saturday we WALKED from our hotel to the center of town. That is where the house that Shakespeare was born and grew up in is. He actually died there too because he ended up living there with his family after his parents were gone. His house is right in town on an old street where cars don't drive. It is kind of like a town square with stores up and down both sides. The back of his house however faces a main road. I liked his house the best. It was first built in around 1500 and was just a little two room cottage. One small room with a stone floor and one room above it for sleeping. TINY! The fireplace in the lower room didn't have a chimney. Back in those days people didn't have money for chimneys but they had to have a fire for warmth and for cooking. So the cottage was constantly filled with smoke. This is one of the reasons for people having breathing problems and also for their shortened lives. Living until your 40's was considered a good long life.

When Shakespeare's father bought it he added on to it. It has been added on to a couple of times so that now it has the front room with a parlor off of it. The main piece of furniture in the parlor is a bed! Back in those days most people didn't have beds, they slept in pallets on the floor. If you were lucky enough to have a bed, it was for guests and displayed in the parlor where the family entertained guests and for visitors to see. Another way to show their wealth. There was also a kitchen and a big work room for his father for making his gloves. He used lamb, goat, cow, rabbit, among others hides for these gloves.

Apparently the Shakespeare's did fairly well because upstairs there was a bed in the parent's bedroom with a pull out trundle bed on the mother's side. This was for the baby of the family. Shakespeare was born in this room and would have slept in the trundle bed until he was about 5 years old and then joined his siblings in the only other bed in the house, the room next door. All the beds were very short. Most people slept in an upright position having superstitions that if they slept lying down the devil would think they were in their death positions and possibly take them!

One of the things that I just couldn't get over was the fact that we were walking on the actual floor that Shakespeare had all those years ago! It gives me goose bumps to think about it. Of course all through these houses were artifacts and things from their day. Joe and I are always some of the folks who read all the signs and displays. We both really love history.

Did you know that Shakespeare made up words when he couldn't come up with a term while writing? The English language was much smaller then and Shakespeare is credited with making up 3,000 words during his writing days. There are around 1500 of them that are common words today. For example: premeditated, remorseless, savagery, majestic, swagger, eyeball, hoodwink, lonely, excitement, discontent, cold-blooded, and accused are all words that did not appear in the English language until Shakespeare used them in his plays.

Saturday night we WALKED to a nice restaurant and had a great dinner. Afterwards we WALKED to the Royal Shakespeare Company's Courtyard Theatre there in the city and saw the play Romeo and Juliet. We've never seen a Shakespeare play and really neither one of us had a particular fondness for him. But after seeing all the history and learning so much about him over the weekend it was really a highlight at the end of our time there. The acting was very good and now I am determined to read some of his work. I have never really done that other than school assignments.

Afterwards we WALKED like all the other Brits back to our hotel. I am amazed how people WALK everywhere. But so many times you just don't have any choice. For instance, this was a huge theater but there was no parking. Not a parking lot anywhere (they call them car parks). There were just a few places on the street, and I mean few, maybe six or seven. This was one of the times it was raining and people just calmly come out of the theater, put their umbrellas up and head home! So we did the same. Our stuff hasn't gotten here yet so we only had one umbrella, but luckily I had bought one that day just in case.

Well this ends the Shakespeare part of our trip. This will end today's post. I can rattle on forever. Joe is in London today and tomorrow. He doesn't know that his underwear is hanging out on the clothesline! Before you think I'm horrible, no one can see into our backyard. Anyway, mine's out there too. hahahaha Bye

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Odds and Ends APRIL 1, 2010

We seem to be getting settled fairly well. We're on a sort of a schedule right now. I stay home during the week doing my housewife duties. With no car yet I am pretty much stuck at home. I do however walk down to our village main street. There I can buy a paper, mail letters, etc. The mail carriers don't pick up outgoing mail when they deliver here. So if you want to mail something you have to go to the post office or find a place where there is a little old fashioned looking red mailbox on a corner somewhere to put them in. The people are very friendly and I think are getting used to seeing me every once in a while. It is about a mile walk to town. The other day I walked to the library and got my very own library card! What a tiny little library. Definitely not what I'm used to. But it is just a little one for our village, so it's OK. Most of the books were by British authors...guess I shouldn't have been surprised about that. I thought it was funny when I saw their little selection of audio books. The sign on them read, "talking books".

I know you picture me as the queen of domesticity, greeting Joe at the end of the day like June Cleaver, complete with my dress and apron on! Don't worry, it hasn't gone that far yet. But I am enjoying my early retirement immensely. The best part of the day is when he is getting up for work and I get to stay in bed. Ahhh what luxury. I am SO glad NOT to be carrying mail anymore!

When Saturday rolls around we have to go shopping which takes a whole day. This is something quite new for Joe. As most of you know he NEVER did any shopping, with or without me. Up until now he went to the grocery store for me maybe 10 times in our whole life together. And that would have been in extreme circumstances when I desperately needed something. He didn't like to go and I just never asked him to. As far as any other shopping, forget about it. He went once a year for Christmas for me (usually waiting til the last minute at that). But because we have only the one car and he hasn't let me drive it yet, he is chauffering me around on Saturdays.

I always have a grocery list and an "other" list. Things for the house, garden tools, all kinds of things. The hardest thing to get used to was the grocery stores. Things aren't in the same places at home and a lot of the items are different names. It has been very challenging. We'd been going to this one big store called ASDA which is like a Walmart. Last week I decided I wanted to go to a different one. Joe didn't want to as he just started feeling like he was knowing his way around. (Maybe he's getting into it a little, ya think?) But I don't want walmart quality every time.

The British are not fans of soft drinks. There is a very small selection in the grocery stores. The aisle for soft drinks is called "fizzies". I have only seen coke products and then their brands. They usually only have cans too. I found bottles only a couple of times and there was only a handful of them at that. Their generic brand of coke is much much cheaper. So I tried it. Yuck! It was awful, tasted like medicine. When you ask for a diet coke at a restaurant you don't get any ice unless you ask, and then its just a few cubes. There are not soda machines in stores like there is in the US. You know how we always have them at the checkouts at home depot and places like that. No, you just die of thirst here while you are shopping.

I found it ineresting that the beer aisle was called "bitters, lager and ales". I was really amazed when I turned the corner and they had all the liquor in the next aisle. How handy! I bought some rum that looked like it could have passed for Captain Morgan, but I haven't tried it yet.

I must say Joe has been very helpful in the grocery store. He follows me with the cart (called a trolly here). He said that when I am talking he sees people's heads turn as we go by. The accent... not my beauty. I keep forgetting that WE are the ones with accents here.

Joe spent a long time in the coffee aisle the first time. He just kept looking and looking. When I found him he said he couldn't find coffee filters. Then someone at work told him that they don't brew coffee here. At least not at home. All the coffee is instant. They just have electric pots to heat water, mostly for their tea. So he is drinking instant coffee with no half and half as they don't have that either. Even in restaurants. "cream" for coffee is just milk. He says he is used to it now. Glad I don't drink coffee.

Everything is an adjustment, then you get used to it. My oven was a real shocker. It is tiny! Like everything in the kitchen. I will not be able to get one of my big cookie sheets in it when I want to bake cookies. I was used to two ovens too! How in the world do people cook big Christmas dinners? I haven't figured that one out yet. The first time I turned it on to bake a pizza I thought I had some wierd kind of oven because it only went up to 220 degrees. I kept turning the dial and turning it and wondering what in the world was wrong. Until I looked at the pizza box and saw the temperature was in celcius. The stove is called the hob. I found that out by way of box directions too. My "hob" has four burners. Three tiny ones and one not quite as tiny. You'd think the people were all midgets here! Oh, is that not politically correct? Sorry.

To fill you in in Joe's job. He likes it very much. He is working long hours right now just to learn the companies ways. He reminded me that all the parts and supplies he knew in US terms. Suddenly every single thing is different. For example USA measures in BTU's and UK uses kilowatts. You can multiply that by ALL the types of measurements he used and see how he is having to re-learn it all. Even though he doesn't deal with parts and pieces on the counter, he still needs to know and be familiar with it all. The people in the office are great and he will soon be getting out to visit the stores and get to know all the employees.

To back up just a little. Joe was basically hired to manage the company. At the time they started talking (almost a year ago) United had just hired a guy who was to be groomed to be the general manager when Joe left. His name is Andrew. But since this has all started and as months have gone by Joe, and the previous American who was here before Joe, and the head man in the US, feel that Andrew has done so well that he should be given the title of general manager now, rather than later. It also gives him more authority to the employees who may feel they don't have to answer to him if there is an american present. Joe doesn't care about titles, he just wants to help them be successful. Anyway, Andrew and Joe work really well together and think a lot alike. So Joe is kind of teaching and leading right now. Andrew told Joe the other day that Joe has a calming effect on the office. I can see that, can't you? Just as a little side note...Andrew is from Wales and one of the funniest men I have ever met! We've been out to dinner several times and it is always a "jolly good time".

This is a four day weekend coming up. They call them bank holidays even though it is actually Easter. They are off Friday and Monday. I wanted to take advantage of this so I booked a room for us at a hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon. This is a famous town that lies on the Avon river and is the birthplace of William Shakespeare. It's where he lived and died and is buried there along with his wife Anne Hathaway. All six of the houses he lived in from birth til death are still there and maintained exactly as they were in the 16th century. We plan on touring them and also seeing a play at the Royal Shakespeare Company. I think Romeo and Juliet is the one playing while we are there. There are several castles in the surrounding areas so we may do that if we have time. I am very excited for our first sight-seeing trip! I'll let you know how it goes. Happy Easter everybody!