Valentines Day & Stuff

Valentines day has been and gone for another year. This year was a little interesting, Kim and I exchanged gifts but I thought I’d push the boat out and carve one of our trees (romantic!). My Dad told me what sort of knife I’d need and it arrived… it was a bit bigger than anticipated and it was the type that’s illegal to carry in the UK and locks open (perfect for carving trees or stabbing people!).  So I got it through in the mail and decided to open it away from Kim so she didn’t get creeped out (What did you buy me for Valetines Day Darling? A knife!) only then I couldn’t figure out how to shut it again! Luckily all was well, the tree is now carved and I have the tools for a moonlighting career as a mugger.

I got Kim this classy card.

And got a singing pug one in return which I think is a fair trade.

The day before Valentines Day we went to a Japanese drumming show only they’d decided to pair up the traditional drumming with a light show, dancers and hover boards… slightly less traditional haha.

On Valentines Day itself we went to a nice Italian restaurant in Coventry.

Worryingly before hand Kim presented me with this bottle of prosecco saying she’d got it for after dinner. She couldn’t understand why I was laughing or asking if she’d got me a hooker for Valentines Day… she just thought the name was fancy and French.

The snow is back and slowly thawing so we’ve made use of our movie passes a lot, we’ve seen a lot of serious films lately so we went to see Peter Rabbit and Early Man for some comic relief and they were both very good. We discovered a little cinema near us that we thought was pretty run down. It’s in a mini mall and when we went in it looked pretty scabby and the toilets were shut off with a sign that said they were undergoing major works… never a good thing. So we weren’t expecting much, we entered this tiny movie theater to find it full of comfy armchairs with electric reclining footrests – very nice!

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The Spa At Norwich Inn

Kim and my 2nd wedding anniversary is coming up soon so we decided to have a little weekend away to celebrate. We went to a hotel just under an hours drive away (convenient!) called the Spa at Norwich Inn. Now this is Nor-Wich in CT not Norrich as the UK pronounces it where I used to live (just to confuse things). No one here seems to know why they say Nor-Wich but Not Green-Wich for Greenwich.

So on Friday once Kim and I were done with work we took the very short drive and checked in.

There was a ‘complimentary’ activity sheet which was quite sweet and kept us occupied.

Luckily we made it just in time for the “wine tasting” AKA drinking wine and eating cheese and grapes, which is just fine by me.

Then we went to check out the spa quickly before dinner, they had a fancy changing room with those electric code locks which no one over the age of 40 seemed to be able to work out.

There was a big vanity area with different products and blow driers etc.

And round the corner they had a big hot tub, steam room and sauna. These were all in the actual changing rooms so they were female/male only, whilst this is convenient for Kim and I, I couldn’t help but think it would be quite inconvenient for all hetero couples.

There was a heated pool, a gym (I didn’t step over the threshold obviously, lest my skin burn), a work out studio and a quiet room with magazines and big comfy chairs in.

Then we had a good dinner and some cocktails.

Now somewhere in the middle of the previous day it had seemed like a good idea to wake up at 6.30am for the ‘complimentary’ morning walk about the grounds.

It seemed like less of a good idea when it was cancelled because it was -7F (-21C) outside and Kim had managed to set fire to the sugar packets accidentally whilst making her coffee.

So in the end we sacked that idea and I took the executive decision to have breakfast at Starbucks, then we made it back in time to do meditation.

Then it all went a bit down hill. The meditation class was packed full and was what Kim would call ‘crunchy hippy’. The woman running it was talking about feeling the “power centres burst forward” and “invite your breaths to come into your lungs”. I started to feel overwhelmingly English and became slightly horrified at “give yourself a hug, thank yourself for being here”…. um… no…. I thought, as I peeked round at about 20 Americans lovingly hugging themselves with their eyes closed. “Take a minute to be inside your own body breathing”…. yeahhh… I’ve been doing just that solidly for about 29 years now, clearly I’m a pro meditator.

After ascertaining that regular meditation sessions are perhaps not for me, we went to get pedicures and Kim got a manicure and spent a gift voucher left over from her birthday (excuse my creepy stubby toes).

Then a spot of lunch and some more spa-ing.

Then we stopped for some afternoon tea which, bless them, they hadn’t got exactly right. The whole hotel had obviously tried to have a bit of an English theme and had called the restaurant the Kensington and the bar area the Ascot (Kim didn’t get it when I asked if we needed to wear a hat). We got very nice scones but they were served with whipped butter and marmalade… hmm… they tried. Also they didn’t have any earl or lady grey tea so I had hot apple cider… still…. why not?

They had a pianist to listen to which was nice.

That night we went for a ‘fancy’ dinner, at the Kensington no less, we got some fancy bread with a selection of fancy butter… fancy.

More cocktails.

And I decided to have some swordfish (which was jolly tasty) because lately I feel as though I am single-handedly diminishing the world’s chicken population. The next day we went to Mohegan Sun, an Indian casino which is literally 5 minutes away from the hotel.

It was pretty big, we only went for a look round because neither Kim or I really enjoy gambling. They’d obviously tried to go with an Indian theme which was nicely done, they even had a robotic wolf that moved it’s head (which is necessary for optimal gambling).

I found some pots in the Indian type shop that were made in the same village ancestry.com said my family is descended from so that was interesting. If all my distant relatives are making these then why am I so shit at art?

Then we mooched around the shops for a bit. The casino had a smoking section and I realised how long it had been since I had been in a building with a smoking and non-smoking section. To make up for this though the casino had strange futuristic toilets that coated the toilet seats with plastic and when you press a button a new layer of protective plastic rotates on! So I played with that for a bit, Americans seem to be deathly afraid that they can catch AIDs or something from a toilet seat and covers pop up everywhere you go out.

And then it was back home to the kitties.

Gay City State Park

Last weekend we decided to celebrate the brief break from snow with a nice trip to Gay City State Park.

Gay City was settled by a religious sect (honestly, a sect!) as a mill town that was eventually abandoned and is now a state park. There were a few graves that we saw that hinted to the history but we didn’t come across much more in the part we walked in.

There’s a lake to swim in (perhaps when it’s a little warmer…?) and picnic areas.

There’s a bridge over a dam that leads to some walking trails.

And for once the trails are actually marked out and colour coded. The state forest near us is purely guess work!

So we walked the two and a half mile trail which was very pleasant apart from when I managed to lose an earring that I had only bought two days ago! Ugh!

We drove home and put the kettle on for a cup of tea and after a few minutes noticed our house was surrounded by 3 police cars, so being nosy we looked outside. The house across from us is up for sale and the chap who owns it has been completely renovating all of it for the past 6 months and was urgently waving me over. So I stepped outside and he said “Can you tell the police that I live here? I locked myself out and had to climb through the window!” Briefly considered lying and saying I’d never seen him before but as he helped me shovel out our driveway one time I decided to own up to knowing him and off the police drove after saying “thank you ma’am”.

The rest of the weeks been pretty busy with work for Kim and I. We went out to dinner with one of Kim’s coworkers and her boyfriend to the Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant which was a treat.

The snow is back though, and that’s decidedly not a treat. Although I did get to see this parade of turkeys on my way to work this week, young mister turkey guiding all his girlfriends across the road.

There were zillions of turkeys outside this house… I haven’t seen any wild turkeys this year and then about 20 all at once! This weekend Kim and I are off to celebrate out second wedding anniversary a bit early so hopefully it doesn’t snow anymore whilst we’re away and we can get in the drive way on the way back! Roll on spring.

16 Things I Really Like About America

A lot of people here and back home have asked me what I do and don’t like about America, what I miss about home etc and I thought I would do some posts about this so here goes: what I do like about America – in no particular order.

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Mail boxes – they’re just better. Most small parcels fit into them, no one seems to steal stuff from them and if you want to send post out, no need to find a post box, just stick your little flag up and the friendly mail lady collects it to post on her way. Letterboxes in our front doors should be done away with, our American chums have got it right.

Holidays and Themes – Oh you think you decorated for Halloween because you put a pumpkin out? Well the Americans have projectors broadcasting ghosts on top of their houses, tomb stones in the yard and candy bowls that grab the kids hands! Oh you put a Christmas tree up? Well just drive down the road and you’ll see massive inflatable santas, giant light up reindeer, perhaps stop for a while outside the house that has 10,000 lights on display and it’s own Christmas radio station for passers by? And what about all the extra holidays? I got a day off for Martin Luther King Day. Americans love their holidays and they out do us in every single way.

Lack Of Pantomimes – I can’t stand pantomimes… I just find them annoying and cringey and when I explained this to my wife she said “what’s a pantomime?” That was when I knew she was the one for me… but seriously, it’s so nice not to be plagued by these over Christmas, I just hate them. For the Americans reading, they’re sort of a play for children put on at the theatre with Z list celebrities and there always seems to be a man in drag for some unknown reason and the audience has to participate (ugh) by shouting things.

Greetings Cards – I love American greetings cards, they’re really funny. They have moving ones, singing ones, all different novelties. The hardest thing to find is a blank greeting card (which I need to write to my Great Aunt who can’t use “the face book”) because they have them for every thing you could possibly think of. I got Kim a dancing hamster card that sings MC Hammers ‘Can’t Touch This’ for her birthday because I physically could not leave the shop with out it, that’s how much I loved it. Greetings cards are so expensive in England anyway, why not make them worth buying?

TV Shopping – now I loved TV shopping in England, but in America not only do they sell regular things, they also sell weird stuff! Like this, the lunchbox sized personal oven, cook your meals from under your desk! Also they have callers from all over the country so I get to hear “iiits Miiisteh cawlling frum Teyxus an aiii jus bowt tin uvens fur awwwl ma relateeeves!” Bliss.

Weather – Now I’m indecisive about the weather, I miss the grey of England where you never needed to really check the weather forecast, lest your pipes freeze over night if you don’t leave the heating on. But it is nice to have proper seasons and know summer will be nice and hot, get snow at Christmas etc. I’m bored of the snow now though, that can stop coming. Every time I think it’s thawed and gone more comes. We bought a power snow shovel thing so I think now that we’ve bought it, it won’t snow anymore – you’re welcome Connecticut.

Accents – it can be fun to hear all the different accents here. Back home my accent just sounded slightly posh but mostly boring and regular. In America I’m almost exotic, today someone called me sophisticated… the last time that happened in England was when my friends were making fun of me for eating pizza with a knife and fork. Sometimes the Americans mistake it and think I’m Australian, and I just run with it if I’m feeling bored and talk about dingoes… no one’s ever twigged yet.

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Good Service – The customer service here is just better. Servers in restaurants are much better, retail workers are genuinely helpful and friendly. I had to return something for the first time last month and I arrived at the store prepared with my receipt and a whole big reason for why I needed a return ready. In any UK store they would scrutinise the returned item, gain the entire story checking for any plot holes and then make you write down your name and address and signature fixing you with a suspicious look like you may be a criminal. In the USA the store lady didn’t even care, she said oh that’s ok you don’t need a reason, hardly looked at the receipt and wanted to know if I would rather have the cash or put it back on my card. I was disarmed.

Radio – The radio in the USA is excellent. In the UK I was subjugated by my radio’s inability to pick up anything that wasn’t Heart or Kiss and the occasional Norfolk yokel station. Here they have everything, my favourite is 104.1 alternative rock, or if I fancy I can switch to classic rock, Christmas music, pop, oldies, some strange Latino music all in Spanish… the list goes on. And there are fewer ads that last for less time, less DJ prattle. Is there anything worse than having to listen to DJs personal lives whilst in traffic? Sometimes on Kiss in the mornings I’d be driving back from night shift and all you could hear was the idiot DJs laughing at their own unfunny jokes for a solid minute – just laughter, and I would stare down the line of cars gridlocked ahead of me wondering what I had done in life to be here. That is no more!

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Food – Now I like UK food for the most part and there are many things I miss from the UK but the food here is very nice too. American crispy bacon is better than UK floppy bacon (which they call Canadian bacon), although Kim prefers UK bacon to USA bacon. I always used to think the USA portion sizes were way too big however the reason they are so big is because most people then take half of their meal home to reheat the next day as left overs. Left overs are a big thing here and if you leave any of your meal your server will offer to box it up for you which is great because you’ve paid for it already so why waste it? And no one has to pack a lunch for the next day. Another good thing about the food is that because of all the immigrants from all over the world there are a ton of new foods I’ve gotten to try that are popular here but I hadn’t seen in England. I’m still not brave enough to try meatloaf – I would do anything for love; but I won’t do that.

No NHS – Now no free healthcare is a bummer, yes. However we are lucky enough to have medical insurance and the care we get really is a million times better than the NHS. I worked in the NHS for almost 5 years and as much as the staff made the best of a bad lot, due to money and the strain on the services I think that a lot of the time the staff was unable to provide the care they would have chosen to. All the healthcare professionals here seem to have a lot more time, fewer patients and provide great customer service because they are in competition for your custom. In the NHS there wasn’t really an alternative place to go unless you want to pay (and who wants to pay?) but in the USA they want to keep you as their patient to earn your money. Which is why Kim’s doctor asks Kim about me and the cats and holidays coming up etc because they keep notes on your personal lives to make pleasantries with you the next time you visit – smart. Yes the cost is annoying, but maybe it’s worth it when you know the care is so good?

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Living Abroad – this is still a novelty to me. It’s nice to sometimes get confused about what things are in shops and visit new places. In the USA I don’t recognise half the stores or brands. A coworker told me she had a new Coach handbag the other day and I wasn’t sure whether this was a good thing or not. The same is true for Kim in reverse, she was confused about who Ted Baker might be and loved living in the UK. I’m still quite rubbish with the coins because I don’t use change much to pay for things, when I do need to use coins I get the people in the store to help me pick out the right coins (they all look the same!) and they never mind because they just permanently smile in a dream like state of perfect customer service.

Power In The Bathroom – The UK needs to make this happen. Yes, I get that you could electrocute yourself if you plug something in and then drop it in the bath but if you’re silly enough to do that then isn’t that just a helpful pruning to the human race? Survival of the fittest and all that? I’m an adult and I want power in the bathroom! Thank you America.

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Shopping – The mall here opens until 9pm, apart from Sundays when it’s still open until 6pm. Most shops in England aren’t open at 6pm, let alone on a Sunday. It’s lovely to be able to realise you have bought the wrong Christmas lights then traipse back to Lowes (the USA’s answer to B&Q) at 8.30pm. What joy. There are lots of independent stores in the USA as well as chain stores including independent grocery stores which I can’t ever remember seeing in the UK, the term here is ‘Mom & Pop stores’. Also there are all the coupons you can clip from the newspapers to get money off everything, I think I enjoy things more when I know I’ve got them for a bargain. And then there is the sheer range of products available, and all of them new to me because most brands in the UK don’t seem as popular here. For example, do you want a bagel? Perhaps there are 3 or 4 types of bagel available in the UK where they are sold. Here I could have cinnamon raisin, onion, poppy seed (although these show up on drugs test as opiates!), plain, wholegrain, multigrain, whole wheat, sesame, cranberry walnut, cheese, chocolate chip, french toast, blueberry…. or perhaps I would like an everything bagel? Yes, there’s an everything bagel. England cannot compete.

Nature – A lot of the nature and the wildlife in the USA is new to me, it’s a special kind of novelty to see a brand new animal in the wild for the first time. I came to a full stop in the middle of the road this week to watch a possum scuttle about. As a teenager I had a Saturday job in a exotic plant nursery by my house – we used to sell some of the plants there that grow wild in the area… as being exotic…. they’re not exotic anymore!

Driving – Now although I had to retake my driving test which was mildly annoying and drive on the right hand side of the road (which is clearly incorrect), there are a lot of things I prefer about driving in the USA. Firstly, almost all of the roads are very wide (how else would the masses fit their SUVs down the road?) so you hardly ever get some tosser hogging your side of a country lane. As well as the roads being wide the parking spaces are wider and often diagonal to give the least amount of effort to parking. Lady parking jokes aside, I think we’ve all been to some shitty car park in the UK where the spaces are minuscule and there’s a concrete pillar inches away from scratching up the side of your car door because the owners of the car park are desperate to get an extra couple of pounds out of us by cramming as many spaces in as humanely possible – there is none of that here. Also most places you park are free, sometimes we are planning to go somewhere and I ask Kim if she has change for the car park, she fixes me with a funny look and says “Babe, this is America” witheringly. However when the rare occasion arises that we do have to pay for parking Kim would obliviously hand over a small fortune whilst I would say “are you fucking joking?” and insist on walking from a mile away just to get a dollar off. Petrol (or gas, as I must call it if I don’t want anyone to look confusedly at me) is so much cheaper, I can fill my entire tank for less than it cost me to fill half a tank in the UK – when I first discovered the price difference I was sick with rage. Insurance is also cheaper… go figure?

So that is a small sample of the things that the USA just does better than England at.

Merrow Meadow

I was a bit bored last weekend because Kim had to work so on the advice of a co-worker, I took a trip to Merrow Meadow just down the road.

There’s a nice walk that’s partially paved with conservation swamps and a canoe launch area.

And the Willimantic River runs past it which was very pretty.

Where it’s been very cold the river has left massive chunks of ice all over the ground randomly and I made a buddy when I had to help an old lady across all of the ice at one part.

Then I drove into Manchester (a different Manchester to the UK one of course) but I was a bit early so I stopped by Target for a Starbucks and a browse. There aren’t many Starbucks around here so I have to make the most of it when I’m near one. I think my fake American accent must be coming along nicely because the woman wrote something close to Hayley on my cup instead of ‘Heidi’ which everyone seems to hear when I say ‘Hayley’.

All the Valentines stuff is already out so I browsed that. Some of the suggested gifts I think must have hidden meanings, e.g. the below. You’re yappy like a foofoo dog but I still love you?

Or… Happy Valentines Day, clean your hair out of the plughole?

I think someone before me was trying to kill time in Target too.

And then I went to the movies because they were showing a live Russian ballet perform Romeo and Juliet, it was $18 but I only paid $7 because of my MoviePass – I love a bargain.

And that was my weekend.

16 Things I Don’t Like About America

Although I’ve been enjoying living in the USA, a lot of people here and back home have asked me what I do and don’t like about America, what I miss about home etc and I thought I would have a think about it and share on here. I’ll start with what I don’t like about America in no particular order and apologise in advance for offending people!

Tipping – This is one of my pet hates, now we do tip in the UK but it’ll be like a couple of quid, in the USA people are very focused on tips and the exact percentage you tip to the point where they actually don’t pay most waiting staff a minimum wage because they are expected to make tips. I sort of resent having to pay their wages and each time having to judge servers on their performance. However, the customer service is miles better which obviously I do like so it’s a tough one. Also there is the question of who to tip? Servers of course, bar tenders you tip every drink, hairdressers, taxi drivers etc… where does it end? Also – I don’t get tipped when I do my job, does this mean I don’t have to try so hard?

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Obsession with the flag – Don’t get me wrong, I like the Union Jack but I would never dream of putting one on a flag pole outside my house (although I did keep the USA flag the previous owners left tacked to our shed up as a joke). And if someone bought their own Union Jack (or Union flag as is the correct term when not at sea) and then burnt it I certainly wouldn’t be bothered to arrest them, because it’s their own property they can burn it if they like and I wouldn’t really care. But here it’s a different story, there are even laws about flying the American flag – you’re meant to take it down at night but you’re allowed to keep it up 24 hours a day IF it is correctly lit… I mean come on… who cares? The English just don’t have flag mania. I sometimes see red necks wearing t-shirts that say things like ‘god, guns and the flag!’… usually they’re the kind of people that look like their mother and their sister are the same person but even so, crazy!

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Taxes – Not only do Americans have to do their own taxes each year instead of it automatically coming out of your pay (ugh!) but any time you buy something the price that is displayed on the label is before taxes. So you get to the cash register with your money ready and then they give you a completely different price because you’ve forgotten to add the tax (this is when I make Kim or the cashier help me pick out the right coins I need for change because I still haven’t learnt the coins very well!). Also the sales tax changes in each state you go to… I miss England just adding it on the advertised price because ignorance is bliss.

Insincerity – Now the Americans are much more polite than the UK I think but sometimes they’re just SO nice that it can seem insincere to me being a miserable islander. I’ve had emails signed off with “fondly yours”, been told to have a “sparkling day” but I am now sort of getting used to it. Where as in England every phone call that starts with a “hi, how are you?” immediately tips you off to it being a sales call, here everyone starts every conversation with it. Enter any shop or business and it’s all “hey how are you?” and then you respond “good, how are you?” and the original person replies “good”…. every. bloody. time. Sometimes I break this happy little routine just to mess with them like the other day in a shop when I told the cashier “my day’s a bit shit actually, how about yours?” and she had a shocked giggle. I think the comforting thing is that it does just seem to be a routine politeness, it’d be odd to have all these people working in say the post office or fast food something being that happy… it’s suspicious and unnatural – you’re cleaning floors in McDonalds, of course you’re not enjoying your day!

Spelling – All the lazy spelling here drives me a bit mad. When signs say “drive-thru”.. that irks me, just get a slightly bigger sign and spell it like we’re adults. Also, ignoring the endless Zs in words and theater instead of theatre, there are annoying phrases to contend with such as “I could care less” – what they actually mean is that they couldn’t care less but somehow over here that just got lost in translation and when they don’t care about something Americans happily go round telling everyone that in fact they do care and could care less about it but presumably don’t because they care more. Ugh. “Baggy” also annoys me, they don’t say I’ll put this in a bag, they put things in baggies… which is strange because they’ve made the word longer and less convenient to say yet it means the same as bag?

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Lack of Geography – Now in fairness on this one, my knowledge of South America for instance is a bit sketchy but geography is just not considered general knowledge here. My lovely wife Kim who has a first class degree with honours, for instance, thought that Ireland was where Wales was on a map, that we were going to Denmark on holiday (we went to Amsterdam) and that Austria is no longer a country. And she is an American that has been to Europe several times! Kim’s Mum thinks that Kim Jong Un is from China and other countries barely make it into the news here. America is just so vast that they really don’t seem all that interested in what’s outside. Most people here are descended from immigrants and will call themselves Polish or German or whatever but know absolutely nothing about that country and will have never even visited it.

Racism/discrimination – This one is a bit sad I think but being openly racist or prejudice towards minorities or women etc is far more tolerated in the USA. More than a couple of times I’ve felt really uncomfortable being around people in social situations that have been hideously racist. I feel like in the UK you could spot racists easily but here you’ll just be talking to what you think is a normal regular person and suddenly they’ll drop a racist bomb and you have to confront them or back away. I don’t think it helps that Mr ‘build the wall’ is in office though.

Politics – Now I was never heavily into politics but I’ve actually had to stop reading any news here to do with politics because it makes me so annoyed. The amount of people here that voted for Trump is scary (and it isn’t just unknown strangers, some of Kim’s relatives or my co-workers I know have voted for him), where as the UK think of him as insane, lots of Americans still think he’s the right man for the job and completely overlook all the awful things he says and does. Thankfully almost all the people I work with are Democrats and we don’t often discuss politics but the scandals and the dodgy dealings here are crazy. Even on a local level its frustrating, Connecticut as a state went months without even having a budget because no one could agree what it should be.

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Religion – People are very open and sometimes pushy about their religion here. Where as in England most people I knew were not at all religious, in the USA atheists seem to be the minority. People openly talk about god, just a few months ago I got stuck when a very pleasant electrician I was chatting to started talking about ‘JC, the big man’ and I couldn’t escape because he was doing work in my house! I had to be a bit rude to the Jehovahs Witnesses to get them to stop coming over and the amount of ads and flyers etc from different faiths all convinced they have the one true religion is madness. What a coincidence that they were all born into the correct religion and everyone else is wrong… Now I do find learning about the other religions interesting, don’t get me wrong, but if I’m not asking a question I really don’t want to know. The only religions that don’t seem to recruit are the Jews and the Amish so those two are my favourite.

The Job Market – The job market in the USA is slightly different. Hardly anyone lists rates of pay in their adverts which can be awkward because you’re not supposed to ask during the interview so it’s difficult to know if you actually want the job in the first place. Also you’re meant to send thank you notes after you go to an interview… thanking them even though you’re answering their advert and taking time out to come to their place of work at an inconvenience to yourself. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that so my lovely boss had to settle with a thank you email.

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Driving – Now there are a lot of things I actually prefer about driving in the USA (that’s for another post). I prefer driving on the left but now I’m used to being on the right hand side of the road I don’t mind so much. The indicator lights on the back of cars are red, not orange like in the UK, but the brake lights are still red too so it isn’t always immediately clear when someone is turning. If you are turning right at traffic lights you are allowed to drive through a red light so long as it’s clear – this terrified me the first few times Kim did it and I didn’t like it but now I’m getting used to it and it’s nice if you’re in a rush because you can use your common sense (which is in short supply here). All the road rules change in each state which can be a bit ridiculous for example in New Hampshire you don’t even have to wear a seat belt (their motto is ‘live free or die’ which I assume they do in copious amounts if they don’t wear their seat belts?), if you’re pulled over and fined by a cop you are charged more if you are outside of your own state. Also instead of having junctions on one side of the road when you’re on a highway, junctions come up both sides of the roads and lanes split all the time which can be confusing if you don’t know your way around. When driving home from Hartford (our nearest big city) the road is 6 lanes wide at some points! Thank god for GPSs.

Health Insurance – This one is another double edged sword but the one thing I don’t like about health insurance is the cost! Also having to figure out what you are and are not entitled to is confusing.

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Guns – This one is self explanatory… just get rid of them.

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Weather – England was very grey and dreary, but I loved the grey. Now all the weather is freezing cold or blistering heat.. there’s a distinct lack of grey days.

Banking – Banking in the USA is still in the middle ages. They’ve only just started using chip and pin, my card doesn’t even have contactless payment possible on it! Most places you go you still have to sign a paper receipt. Also they charge you for just about everything including to order a cheque book, to take money from an ATM that doesn’t belong to your bank and even to have an account open they charge you a monthly fee! It’s crazy. I really miss the UK banks.

Gaps in Toilet Doors – Last but not least there is ‘the gap’ and I don’t mean the shop. Why Americans like watching each other going to the toilet is beyond me, I took this photo from inside a cubicle and just look at that gap! You walk into a public toilets and you can see people in the cubicles… why is this a thing?? Surely doors can’t be that expensive? Savages.

So that’s my list, next time things I do like about America and it’ll be more cheerful!

Taming Of The Shrew

Last week we got 11 inches of snow and it was about -20 C… not fun. However, I did get two snow days off of work so that made shoveling the driveway less laborious because after instead of having to go to work I got to hibernate inside.

Unfortunately we weren’t the only ones feeling the cold because we noticed some mice must have come into our house through a gap in a kitchen cupboard. We inspected and sure enough they’d nibbled through an entire packet of Kim’s sweets. The kitties were extremely interested and began patrols at once.

Kim’s had a bad cold and has been feeling rotten so we stocked up on the cold meds. Did a spot of reading whilst waiting in line.

All the lake has been frozen over and we have been at the mercy of the snow ploughs although thankfully they’ve been good to us and not taken out our mailbox.

So whilst the snow has walled us in the house I had ordered some wire wool and expanding foam to keep the mice out… when Mr Barclay cat manages to catch a live shrew inside our house next to our boiler which I then had to attempt to rescue and put outside (only it was pretty stunned so I think it probably died anyway!). Since the shrew was captured the cat’s haven’t been patrolling as much and there aren’t anymore signs of life.

All the same, I have been hunting out all the possible gaps in the house, including this horrible area next to our boiler we’ve never really investigated which was full of tiny gaps (one presumes straight through to the crawl space?).

I found all sorts down there, bricks, bits of plaster, an ear plug, a receipt from a liquor store and bits of newspaper from 1982 (which, from the quantity of crap I found in the gap, makes sense to be the last date it was cleaned!).

And underneath all the rubbish some pretty sizable gaps.

So that’s been my thrilling January so far, taking down Christmas stuff, freezing, rescuing half dead shrews and then blocking them out. Fun times. The upside to the cold weather is that we’ve really been getting our moneys worth from our Movie Passes and been to the movies a lot. Next week I start my new job role (at the same company) and going up to 40 hours so that’ll be good… hopefully no more snow for just now.