Archive | August 2013

My Memoirs 6 – Larry’s Fourth Week in England


This past week has been all about sheds! First of all, Larry’s new shed was delivered and erected by Telesheds, in just under an hour and then Larry made a few modifications to make it just how he would like it. In the picture he is making some edging for the corners and once done, it looked very nice. Then of course there was a trip to Homebase to buy some Cuprinol to protect the shed from the bad weather that I expect we will be having soon!

I’ll show you how the shed turned out in a few days time.  Meanwhile, here is Larry’s observations over his fourth week in England:

‘My Fourth Week in England

Shopping carts in England are called “trolleys”. You’ll find them all chained together in front of the grocery store. Apparently if left unchained these trolleys would all escape to the far corners of the local neighborhood. If you want the pleasure of driving one of these trolleys around the grocery store you first have to release the chain holding it to the others. Just insert a one-pound coin (worth about $1.50) into a slot on the trolley – this releases the chain so it is free to roam about as it pleases. You can also use a token made expressly for this purpose if $1.50 seems too much to invest. When your journey around the grocery store is complete you get your coin or token back when you re-chain the trolley to its brothers and sisters. Although chaining trolleys together is an obvious affront to their civil rights, I did notice the complete absence of loose trolleys in the car park (parking lot), and no dings on the sides of the cars where unrestrained trolleys had banged into them. Perhaps shopping carts in America should be re-evaluated and given a little less freedom. In any case I must admit to missing the ones in Krogers with the square wheels.

Speaking of grocery stores, you can conveniently find them in large shopping malls here. Buy an iPad at the Apple store, a new jacket, pair of trousers or new shoes on the first floor of Marks and Spencer’s, then have a sit down for tea and cakes, and finally on your way out of the mall grab a quart of milk, bread, cheese, tomatoes, and other grocery items on the ground floor of M&S – all just in time to catch the No. 9 bus back home. How can you make things easier than that? How many more people would visit their local shopping mall if there was a grocery store there?? BTW if you are on the first floor of a building here don’t be fooled into thinking you can just walk out the door. You’ll find it’s a nasty drop. The ground floor here is for doing that. The first floor is one story up, and the second floor is two stories up, and so on.

This week’s discovery is the word “hire”. In America the word “hire” applies to people but not to inanimate objects. For example Americans might rent or lease a car and then hire someone to drive it for them. In England you can hire a car, hire a caravan (recreational vehicle), hire almost anything whether it’s alive or not. The words “rent” or “lease” still apply when referring to real estate, such as renting a flat (apartment). However the most common phrase for renting or leasing a place to set up a business seems to be “To Let”. There are large signs posted everywhere saying “To Let”. To show you how a tired old brain can play tricks, my mind saw “To Let” and automatically inserted an “i” to make the word “Toilet”. For some reason this mind trick persisted for almost a week. “How marvelous that every toilet in the UK is so prominently marked”, I thought! Then one day I realized my mistake. While there is an ample supply of toilets everywhere I’ve been in England, there isn’t one on every street corner after all.

I had been warned (sort of) before I moved here that there was a poltergeist living in the upstairs portion of the house – not an evil or malicious type, just a mischievous spirit who likes to play pranks on occasion. Being of scientific persuasion I immediately dismissed such notions without a second thought. However, this past week provided first evidence. Moving a computer and printer from one room to another provided the opportunity. All the cables for both computer and printer were disconnected and carefully placed in a plastic bag. After both machines were relocated the process of reconnecting the cables began. All the cables were accounted for, except the gray and orange cable that connects the computer to the printer. After looking for it for almost an hour it became apparent something strange was going on. After another half-hour we found the missing cable on top of the wardrobe in another bedroom, where no one had been during the past several hours. Without question the printer cable was connected prior to the move. So how did it turn up on top of a piece of furniture almost six feet high in a room where nobody had been?

Definition of Paradise – Sitting hand in hand on a park bench under an enormous oak tree by the River Ouse in Bedford feeding the swans, partly cloudy skies and 70F with light breeze.

Watch this page for next week’s adventures in paradise.’


Sunday is gardening day!


After a slow start, the beans have come on in leaps and bounds and we have already had three meals for three people from them.


Good results down on the allotment too, as you can see from these pictures, taken at Stockwood Park:








Yes, it’s been a very good summer. Now the fields are golden and the farmers have been busy, bringing in the crops and already there is a slight hint of Autumn in the air.

My Memoirs – Larry’s Third Week in England


Big-Chief Larry in Hitchin

Larry is now well into his fourth week in England. We have sorted most things and tomorrow is a red letter day because his new shed is arriving. Pictures of that will follow soon.  Before I give you his take on Life In England, I want to share with you how it has been for me. Since these are my memoirs, I feel justified to do that.
It has been a whirlwind of a three weeks, but somehow it feels like it was all meant to be because so far at least, everything has gone very smoothly.  Going back to the visa, which arrived after only a six week wait from application, this was our experience:
Larry put in for his visa, which included a large payment to the Home Office here and a shirt-box sized packet of documents for them to look through and check. The visa was a spouse settlement visa and it is valid for three years. Then it has to be renewed.  To make sure that we had filled in the documents correctly, we employed a solicitor here in England to help us through the complicated procedure. This involved extra cost but was invaluable help as it turned out.
Since July 2012, the sponsor(that’s me) has to show written evidence that he/she is earning at least £18,600 per annum. I am not. Since I am now on my pension, it doesn’t come to anything near that amount. However, since L and I are a couple, both on pension, he in America and me here, our joint incomes counted, so we were ok. I suppose it is unusual for retired people to relocate so far afield and it could have caused a problem, but it didn’t.
Living here as a threesome has been wicked. It’s so much easier when two can go shopping, then when they return, there is someone waiting to open the door and help with the unpacking.’ Many hands make light work’ as the saying goes, is certainly true in this case.
Of course there is  1/3rd more washing and ironing! and more cooking, but I’m not complaining, yet!
So here then is Larry’s diary for …
‘My Third Week in England
The word “Tea” (capitalized out of profound reverence) has a number of meanings in England, some of them less than obvious. For example, “Tea” is
• A hot drink served at almost anytime of day. People get “absolutely desperate” for it while shopping. Thus, there are tables and chairs and counters that serve tea and pastries almost everywhere. Teashops are outnumbered only by mobile phone shops in England. BTW “iced tea” does not compute here. I haven’t dared to ask for it, even on warm days in August.
• A meal served somewhere between 5 pm and 7 pm, consisting of sandwiches and/or pastries and, of course, the hot drink called tea. Evening tea is not to be confused with “dinner”, which is the main meal of the day usually (but not always) served around noon. “Dinnertime” is rarely in the evening as it was when I was growing up in America. And “Tea Time” can be anytime you want it to be, not to be confused with meeting your friends at the country club for a round of golf. (Confused yet?!)
• An entire aisle in Sainsbury’s grocery store.
• Something to be thrown into Boston Harbor in protest against unfair taxation… Sorry, I got sidetracked.
The point here is that when you are asked very politely if you want “Tea”, you might wonder if you are being offered a drink or a meal or something else entirely. I’m hoping experience will eventually be my salvation in this matter.Judging by the number of mobile phone shops in England, I have estimated that everyone in England is expected to have at least four mobile phones. I have only two at the moment, one of which (my Verizon iPhone from America) does everything except make phone calls, assuming there is a WiFi available. The truth is I really don’t expect to make many phone calls, at least not for a while. But of course that’s irrelevant – it’s the principle of the thing! After several weeks of research I have concluded that “unlocking” my iPhone and replacing the SIM card with one from a British service provider is only slightly less complicated that brain surgery. An exhausting search for reasonable alternatives has convinced me that a simple “pay as you go” mobile phone is the best option. It feels a bit like regressing into the 20th Century, which come to think of it wasn’t so bad.This week’s special discovery – the word “sorted” applies to people, not just to inanimate objects as I have always been led to believe. When I was a child growing up marbles could be sorted by size or color (sorry…. colour), eating utensils were sorted into trays of knives, forks and spoons, laundry was sorted into whites and everything else, etc. But in England it is possible for people to sort themselves, not by height or weight or ethnicity, but by successfully applying effort toward a particular outcome. For example, in the grocery store after all the items on the list have been purchased you will hear the phrase, “That’s me sorted”. Apparently after one has resolved all the issues of the day, they can then relax in a comfortable chair with a good cup of tea, and the phrase “I’m all sorted now”. Whether one can ever be really be “sorted” (short of death itself) is questionable, because new problems want solving every day. But the phrase “That’s me sorted” has a satisfying tone to it which I find very appealing. In fact I’m feeling more “sorted” with every passing day. Must be the Tea……Watch this page for my fourth week in England. Cheers!’

Dylan update – a trip to the hospital.


It has been a very busy week for my little grandson, Dylan who is two and a half years old now.

Last Friday he started Nursery School for the first time.  For the last year or so he has been coming to me for the day on Fridays, but now that routine is set to change. Just like everything else in life; just as you get used to one routine, it changes for another. Having Dylan for the whole day has been a joy, but also very hard work because he is on the go all the time and at my age that is hard. I need a sleep in the afternoons or a rest at the very least. With a toddler around, that is nigh on impossible. I cannot believe how I coped all those years ago when I had my own three little boys. Did I really go through the whole day without a nap? Could I really carry one on each hip at the same time? I did, but I couldn’t do it now.

So in a way I am pleased that Dylan will be going to Nursery and yet in another way I am sad because it will be different.

With Larry’s arrival and Dylan’s first trip to Nursery School, we have put away the cot and all the bedding including the mattress. It is up for sale (sadly) and so is his push-chair (reluctantly). Ah, I hear you say, but you have another grandson (Sam)…. what about him? Isn’t he coming to stay at Oma’s?  Well no, is the answer to that.  I don’t expect to see nearly as much of Sam as I have of Dylan. Sam and his parents live fifteen miles away so he won’t be popping in nearly so often. I think of him every day and in some ways I wish I saw more of him, but again, it’s hard work, entertaining family and babies and I have to admit, I’m just not up to it anymore.

For the last two and a half years I have played at mummies and babies a little bit.  It was wonderful to have a cot around again and a pushcahir and all the other paraphernalia that comes with a baby, but now I’m ready to move on. Larry is here and soon his ‘stuff’ will arrive from America and we need every bit of spare space we can get in the cottage.  I’m not very good at empty nests. I never have been. My nature is to collect things, not to give them away.

Dylan went to Nursery with his daddy and the first session was just for an hour and a half. Soon he will be going for a day and a half each week, which is probably plenty for a child so young. After his session at Nursery he came here for the rest of the day and I noted that he was a bit disturbed. For the first half hour he curled up in a ball by the front door and wouldn’t talk to anybody or do anything. We were expecting a delivery of a large package so eventually he had to move to allow the men to get through the door so that made him move to the sofa. After that he steadily got out of the sulks but truly he was upset and I felt sorry for him. He is a sociable child and he needs to mix with other children, but it must have been hard for him – about the same as for one of us going to work for the very first time.  Everybody is new, there are lots of people about, the noise is probably a bit deafening and all in all it makes for a stressful environment.  I’m sure that once he gets used to it, he will be fine, but for the moment, he is out of his comfort zone for sure.

Last night there was a development, nothing to do with the Nursery. Dylan developed breathing difficulties in the middle of the night and his parents took him to the A and E (Accident and Emergency) department of the local hospital. There he was thoroughly checked out, given oxygen and steroid medicine and eventually went home at 5 a.m. It must have been very traumatic for him as it was for his anxious parents. Today they are all resting and getting over it! However, it is a wake up call. His mum suffers with asthma so maybe Dylan will have a tendency to that sort of thing.  At the hospital, croup was diagnosed. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again! So frightening for all concerned.

So, life does not always go smoothly, does it and the lesson to learn is that each day is precious and we need to remember that.

Bless you Dylan, get well soon. You are so very loved by us all xxx


My English Country Garden – In a field near me.

In a field near me there is something exciting going on. Read the sign below to find out what…


The field was sectioned off and planted with all sorts of wildflowers. Now the results are beginning to show. How many of these plants can you recognise?

No. 1DSCF1477


No. 2 – red flowers


No.3 white flowers


No. 4 yellow flowers


No. 5


No. 6DSCF1483 No. 7



No. 9


No. 10


No. 11


No.12 blue flowers


No. 13 pink flowers

They might look like weeds to you, but to the insects, birds, butterflies and bees, they are a valuable source of food.

I’ll be returning to this later on.

Meanwhile enjoy your trip through the flower meadows.


My memoirs – 5 – Larry’s second week in England.


Now that I’ve got my ‘sun King’ here in England with me, it seemed appropriate to visit the ‘Sun Hotel’ in Hitchin for morning coffee, one day last week. Life is still new and exciting for Larry as he gets to grips with our culture, food and weather. Funnily enough, with a few exceptions, the weather has indeed been sunny ever since he got here. We know it won’t last, don’t we, fellow Britains!

Here are his thoughts at the end of his second week in England, which he now calls ‘Planet Zzogg.

‘My Second Week on “Planet Zzogg” (England) – Learning Quickly.

Although I sometimes feel as if I am living on another planet (Zzogg) where Darwin’s evolutionary process has produced unfamiliar results, some things are becoming a bit more familiar now. For example I’ve become used to the Tsunami that occurs when you flush the toilet here. Seems like about two gallons compared to the stingy flushes I’m accustomed to in America. Also the water level is a bit shallow in America – here it’s more like looking into a black hole surrounded by porcelain. Gives one a sense of finality, which I’m beginning to like actually.

Other observations this past week include:
• Buses are the way to get around town over here. The front of the bus even lower’s itself (hydraulically) at each bus stop to welcome passengers aboard. Can’t help but be impressed by transportation that genuflects with respect for the elderly and the disabled.
• Driving a car in the UK is something I will likely never attempt. I have developed the greatest respect for the natives who successfully negotiate the narrow streets with cars parked half in the driving lanes on both sides. Taking turns isn’t reserved for intersections – checkers on a checkerboard and cars in England seem to move in much the same manner.
• We have three cats here, one of which is most definitely uninvited. Each gets their breakfast at a different time, so as to avoid all but the occasional skirmish. The uninvited one stays outside and gets fed only so it will go on it’s merry way, allowing the other two cats to go out into the garden in the morning to do whatever cats do in an English garden in the morning.
• Our American cat has so far managed to deal with the language differences much better than I have. My most recent discovery is that the word “What” doesn’t have a “T” on the end. In England it’s pronounced “Wha!”. To appreciate this you have to imagine that there is a valve in your throat that suddenly slams shut, instantly stopping the airflow from your lungs after the first three letters. Takes a bit of practice….
• Car seats for three-year-olds (grandchildren) require three hands to secure the child in the seat. There is one strap that goes between the legs, into which you connect the two straps coming over the child’s shoulders. Problem is that each of these three must arrive at the connection point simultaneously and in the correct configuration. No two can be connected without the third. Add a squirming three-year-old and the frustration is complete!
• In my brief exposure to English summertime weather, what is called rain here is what Americans call drizzle. What Americans call rain is rare here and only lasts a short while. What Americans call a downpour (AKA, “toad strangler”, “gully washer”, or “trash mover”) is apparently a rare occurrence in the UK, although I have seen reports of flooding in parts of the country. I find being “caught out in the rain” here to be a delightful experience indeed!
• Package delivery here seems a bit more unpredictable than in American. I have grown accustomed in past years to being able to track delivery of a package via UPS, FedEx or the US Postal system, right down to the explicit date of actual delivery. Things are similar here except you may receive your package on August 8 in spite of receiving an email from the shipper that clearly announces delivery on August 12. I like surprises so no harm done!
• One more thing here that reminds me of the “good ole days” – hanging the freshly washed laundry outside on a clothesline to dry. It’s the thing to do here and the clothes smell wonderful.

I’m getting used to things on “Planet Zzogg” and liking it more and more every day. The question I get most often is “How long are you here for?” My answer: Forever! Scatter my ashes in the Thames – that will suit me just fine. ‘

Biennial Quilt Show at Barton le Cley


Last Saturday I went to a biennial patchwork quilt show in a nearby village. Sewing is very much part of cottage life, at least it is in this cottage! and I was pleased to go along and see what other people had done.

The quilts were fantastic as you will see in the following pictures:

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No. 3DSCF1435


The next one isn’t quite finished, but it is lovely, don’t you think?

No. 4DSCF1436

No. 5DSCF1437


No. 6DSCF1439

No. 7DSCF1440

No. 8DSCF1441

No. 9DSCF1442

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No. 11DSCF1444

No. 12DSCF1445

No. 13DSCF1446

No. 14DSCF1447

No. 15DSCF1451 No. 16DSCF1452

No. 17DSCF1454

No. 18DSCF1455

No. 19DSCF1456

No. 20DSCF1457

No. 21DSCF1458


No. 22DSCF1460

No. 23DSCF1461

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and this next one was voted ‘Best in Show’. I think you can see why.  It is fabulous, isn’t it!

No. 28DSCF1466

Larry found an appropriate one: Someone had made a quilt of American flags. Isn’t that neat?

No. 29




I hope you enjoyed your trip round the quilt exhibition with me. Which one did you like best?