March Update

Emigration is slowly inching a bit closer, I now have my medical scheduled and my interview at the American Embassy in April so I’ve been getting things ready for that. Assuming everything goes according to plan at the interview it’s go time and I have 6 months to emigrate.

With that in mind I’ve started to get rid of a lot of my things and pack what I want to take. Bunny, Kim’s cat, has been excited about this because now the bookcase is empty it’s provided her with extra climbing opportunities.

I sold a ton of stuff one morning at a car boot sale, I’d never done a car boot sale but it was pretty good, my things were mostly too low value or time consuming to list each individually on eBay or Gumtree and it feels so wasteful to throw good things away. Everything I didn’t sell at the car boot sale I took to Barnardos and I now have a lot less, win win.

I’ve been working a lot of nights still, trying to get shifts in before moving and then not being able to work for a while until I get a social security number etc. I took a Makaton course with work the other day which is a form of sign language and that was really fun. However the course was after a night shift which was really not fun and I drank about a gallon of coffee because after the course, as I was in the city, Kim and I went on a cinema date to see Beauty and the Beast (we go watch the same movie at the same time in different countries!). Looking forward to when that’s done with.

Other updates are that Kim is looking to buy a house for us to live in once I move, although her parents have very kindly offered to have us stay with them as long as need be it’ll be the first time we’ve been legally allowed to live together properly and I’m looking forward to spending time with each other as a couple. Kim’s been pre-approved for a mortgage which, with her student loan, took some doing! In the UK when you look to buy a house you can just contact the estate agent to view and if you like it you put an offer in, in the USA to view a house you really need your own real estate agent and they contact the sellers real estate agent so that’s an added complication but we’ve found a realtor now called Melinda and we feel like she’s a good fit. We’ve got our eye on a house we like in our budget that’s in a nice area and Kim’s viewing that today but if not we will keep looking and hope to be moved in soon so I can send the cats over ahead of myself.

In the mean time my Mum, my brother Charles and my sister Bronte have booked to go on a little trip to the new Center Parcs in Woburn in June. We used to go as kids to the one in Longleat and although us kids have wives and girlfriends and boyfriends we thought it’d be nice to have one last trip where it’s just the four of us so we are all really excited for a bit of nostalgia before I move away. And that’s pretty much it for March!

 

Amsterdam Part 3

The hotel we stayed at has a cat called Amy after Amy Winehouse because she likes to sleep in their wine cellar. She liked to share breakfast with us.

It was still chilly in Amsterdam but that didn’t stop the herring hut people from being open, I don’t quite get this craze… who wants bits of herring enough that they need to have a special hut for it?

Mmmm… Herring. Said no English person ever.

We took a trip to Anne Frank’s House one day, you had to book in advance and go in in groups. It was really busy and quite slow to get round the house, there were a lot of parts where we just had to wait in line. There were photos and information but most of the rooms were just empty which made the actual building feel quite disconnected from what happened there and it was hard to imagine the Frank family had ever lived there.

I didn’t take any photos because there wasn’t really anything to take photos of except the actual diary.

After that we went on a touristy sightseeing cruise because it was freezing out so sitting in a warm comfy boat seemed like a good option.

The buildings in Amsterdam are just beautiful, I liked having a good look through the massive windows.

I also enjoyed the houseboats, it must be pretty cold to live right on the water in the winter though.

The boat tour also came with an adjoining bus tour so we were fairly toasty for the afternoon learning facts about Amsterdam.

The next day we went to the sex museum, worryingly recommended to us by my brother, it was pretty funny. It had quite a few historical things in it like a little section about Mata Hari.

And some ancient creepy looking condoms.

It also had a lot of unhistorical stuff like this creepy flasher guy who scared Kim to death for the amusement of myself and several passing tourists.  And a ton of really weird porn from the 60s and 70s.

They had a couple pieces about the red light district but I would have liked a bit more history, I felt like they could have gone into a bit more detail.

And a chastity belt… which looked like it’d make bathroom breaks awkward.

We also took a trip to the Rijksmuseum.

I’m not a massive art fan so some of it was probably lost on me.

They had yet another Van Gogh self portrait… seriously how many of these are there?

And some bits and bobs to look round.

Including my dream home library.

They didn’t have as many stolen treasures as we have in England, most of theirs seemed to be gifts or Dutch or from Dutch colonies.

But it was an interesting way to spend a few hours.

The most famous piece of art (which is obviously the one we wanted to see the most, art ignoramuses that we are!) in the museum was The Milkmaid but this is about as close as we got to seeing it as it was on loan to the Louvre… booo.

After the Rijksmuseum we went to a photo shoot. Kim and I didn’t really get engaged before we got married, it was crunch time after 6 months of her staying in England and we needed to either go back to not living together or get married and apply for visas… whilst we still didn’t live together! Anyway, for our first anniversary I got Kim an engagement ring, engagement photos are popular in the USA so I got a photo shoot too. We had a really nice photographer called Nadine who suggested different poses and locations and although I hate to have my photograph taken she made it really fun.

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After the photo shoot we went for a walk around the city as it was our last day.

And we found some same sex knick knacks in the tat shops that are open late.

On our wedding day we had a nice fondue in the Rocky Mountains in Canada, so as it was our anniversary we decided on another and it was really good.

The restaurant had a cat too, I think this should be introduced in the UK, more businesses having their own cat. Weirdly enough the cat’s name was Simba which is the same name as the neighbour cat my Mother in Law has semi adopted.

And after that it was back to the hotel to pack for our flight the next day and google what this intriguing forbidden toe gang was… sadly it was less exciting than anticipated.

 

Amsterdam Part 2

In addition to their love of toast, the Dutch also love triple decker sandwiches, Kim had major food envy at breakfast.

Also, Kim and I discovered a new drinks implement which we christened ‘the lemon masher’, whenever we had a bit of lemon in our drinks we got a masher to accompany it which I rather liked.

After breakfast we had a jaunt to the Van Gogh museum as Kim’s sister got us tickets for Christmas. Van Gogh is another word I can’t pronounce properly in Dutch without it sounding like I’m coughing/grunting.

They had some Monet at the museum too.

They had quite a bit about Van Gogh’s chaotic personal life too but the thing Kim and I found the most odd about Van Gogh was his self portraits. There were so many self portraits in there, all with different hats, the museum probably sold originals in the gift shop there were so many; the man was obsessed.

But I had a good time taking photos of things you weren’t supposed to because I can.

After this we took a trip to the Bloemenmarkt.

All the flowers were lovely even though it was February.

Unfortunately we couldn’t really buy any fresh flowers because we couldn’t take them home but I enjoyed looking.

The market had a lot of tat to browse which I enjoyed, lots of fake delft china to be had.

We got magnets and Christmas ornaments. Kim got a tulip pen for work, stylish.

Just across the bridge from the Bloemenmarkt is the Torture Museum which had lots of torture accessories and history.

It wasn’t very expensive so we had a quick look round. This is the chair of pointiness (this name may not be accurate).

Most of the female torture seemed to revolve around sexual assault whilst the male torture was a bit more creative.

If you’re an official torturer I think it’s just code for groper.

So that was illuminating. It was pretty chilly out still so it’s important to stay warm.

We had ourselves some Dutch pancakes for dinner.

And then we took a lovely trip to the orchestra as Kim got me tickets for our anniversary. Strangely enough all the introductions were in English (as far as I could tell we were the only English people in the whole place so I don’t know why) and the tickets came with free drinks which was really nice.

Kim’s Visit and Amsterdam Part 1

It’s that time again, my wife and I had our quarterly visit… seriously this visa is taking forever. Prisoners get to see their families more often than I do. We were meant to hear back on a date for an interview 2 weeks ago but the visa people are behind on their 6 week target so they have decided to allot themselves another 6 weeks whilst they enjoy our money, how lenient of them. In the mean time whilst we wait my dear Kimmy came to visit me in England.  In my mansion.

Ha. No, but we did go swimming and for afternoon tea. Look how fruity my tea was, just look at it.

Mmm. Other than that we just chilled out, had a nice walk and fish and chips one day, annoyed our cats AKA the fur babies.

And then we packed our carry-ons ready for Amsterdam where we flew from Norwich Airport. It was a fairly cheap flight so I was thinking pretty convenient, we won’t have to leave too early. There was one shop there. One. We checked in two hours before departure like it said to on the website and they had one shop to amuse us with. I was unimpressed, I was also unimpressed that they charged us a tenner for a development fee each without mentioning it when we booked. What the hell have they been developing?

Our plane was one of about 3 there and it was tiny. The whole airport had a ‘I have a mate that can get you one of those off the back of a lorry’ type vibe.

The flight itself was great though, it only took about half an hour and security in Norwich airport took about 5 minutes so… easy come easy go. We made it to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam which was pretty nice and luckily my lovely friend Sarah had visited the previous week and told us all about the GVB travel cards on offer. The public transport for Amsterdam with all the trams and trains and buses was excellent.

We dropped off our bags at our hotel which was this retro officers’ quarters at a naval base which had been sold and then done up in a 70s style which actually looked quite nice. We had a spot of lunch, by the by, the Dutch are a little obsessed with toast – it was on the menu everywhere. I’m not complaining, I enjoy a spot of toast but still… random.

After lunch we took the tram into the city, the weather was pretty rubbish the entire time we were there and whilst it didn’t exactly hammer down with rain there was a continual icy wind between flusters of fine snow and slush.

We stopped in at the Moco Museum (another tip from Sarah!) who have a large Banksy collection.

In general I loathe modern art, I’ve never gotten over my trip to the Tate Modern where the highlights were a flashing light bulb and a smashed up piano so my rule for art is this = if I can do it, it isn’t art.

Banksy is a favourite of mine however. I like that he’s from Bristol, which is near where I used to live, and sometimes his art has funny stories about run ins with the police for graffiti.

There was also some Salvador Dali in the Moco Museum, I’m not a great Dali fan but there was only a small Dali section.

After that we stopped off at a place called De Vier Pilaren which didn’t look too exciting from the outside but was amazing, we tried some dutch poffertjes which are little pancake bites only they’re soft in the middle. I cannot for the life of me pronounce poffertjes, I tried so hard but I just can’t do it.

A bit later, in the evening, we went for a little canal cruise with cheese and wine that my brother and sister got me for Christmas. My brother Charles was also in Amsterdam just before we visited so was full of tips as it is his fifth or sixth visit now. As the weather was so rubbish and the city wasn’t too packed with tourists the boat only had about 6 different couples on.

We had unlimited wine which was nice and I decided I would be in charge of Kim and my cheese tasting experience so it was conducted in an orderly fashion with much consulting of the little cheese leaflet.

It was still bitterly cold out and a little rainy but we were comfy and dry on the boat so it was quite nice actually… until we got out to wait for the bus back to our hotel haha.

DNA Testing 

“Where are you from?”

“Surrey.”

“Oh. Well where’s your family from?”

“Norfolk and Essex.”

“But where are they originally from?”

“…England”

I get this all the time, I get it from patients, colleagues, friends, school. I have quite dark features for an English person and almond shaped eyes. Biologically both my grandmothers were English and both my grandfathers were American. My Dad, who I look a lot like, was adopted by my lovely grandparents but his biological father we know nothing about other than his name was Tom.

I especially get it from the elderly who want to know if I speak Portuguese (we have a lot of Portuguese nurses at work) or if I’ve been home to Turkey lately, the elderly are all convinced I’m Turkish and whilst my granddad used to enjoy a Turkish delight every now and then that’s where our connection sort of ends.

So I was pretty excited when Kim got us both an ancestry DNA test for Christmas.

We had to spit in a tube (classy) and post the tube off.

Kim got her results first and they were pretty spot on since she had been told her grandparents were Jewish, German, English and Irish. Also it turns out I’m more American than she is and she is more European than I am! We were excited about her Jewish roots… by we I mean I… because of my love of Fiddler On the Roof. Kim said she wouldn’t tell Trump about the 2% Middle Eastern ancestry. Kim’s Mom thought they were part Cherokee which Kim and her Dad like to tease her that she isn’t… turns out they were most likely right and there’s no Cherokee in recent times.

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I had to wait a few more days for mine but I got them eventually.

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Mine was a real mix of things and I had quite a few trace regions where my ancestors must have been pretty distant. It was interesting as I had no idea about the Spanish/Portuguese or Native American, or Scandinavia! My Mum found it interesting too so for a Mother’s Day/birthday gift I said I would get her one. We’re pretty sure the Irish is from my Mum’s part of the family and that the Native American and Iberian Peninsula (Spanish/Portuguese) is from my Dad’s side. The Scandinavian could be from my Mum’s side but some of my Dad’s family is from Norfolk which supposedly has a high viking population so who knows?

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Thank god there was no French.

Mrs Bridges’ Pantry

Getting near the end of stuff we did over Xmas I promise.. so Kim and my Mum and Kim’s Dad took a trip to Mrs Bridges’ Pantry which is a cute tearoom that’s run by an English lady and her American wife (career change?).

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I found my future supplier of Marmite and Branston Pickle (albeit pretty expensive!).

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There was meant to be a storm on the way but at first it was just a light dusting of snow.

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Important to stock up on calories when it’s cold out.

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Anyway the storm never came but we did get a little snow which my Mum and I were very excited about (Kim and her Dad less so!) and everywhere looked like a winter wonderland.

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Old Sturbridge Village

Kim, her Dad and my Mum took a little trip to Sturbridge Village (Kim’s Mum had to work that day) which is this cool recreated colonial timesey type village where you can walk about the place and go into buildings and explore them.

Let me tell you, I am glad I did not live then, life seemed fairly rubbish and I’m pretty sure I would have spent all of it bitching.

They had a lot of preserved artefacts.

And you could walk through different classes of peoples’ homes. These people were obsessed with chairs, every room had a gazillion chairs in it, even lining the bedroom walls which the signs said was for storage but in reality it looked like a creepy theatre to watch women give birth which by all accounts they did pretty much continually until death. Heh… fun. I liked their quilts. I also liked this frozen pond which we had fun throwing rocks at to see how frozen it was (spoiler, I am not good at throwing).

They also had workshops in the village and you could watch people do pottery or cooking and they had a blacksmith all using old techniques from the time which was interesting. My father in law promised to handcraft me a tin watering can which I think he meant as a joke but I will be expecting delivery of in all sincerity.

On the drive home we went past a lot of people’s houses that had lights in but none so many as this guy’s house… there were more lights that I couldn’t even fit in the photo, a lot of cars stopped outside of it to go and see the lights up close. Apparently it’s for food bank collections but I didn’t see anywhere to put food so perhaps he just really likes pissing off his neighbours… who knows.