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My Memoirs – My granddad Fred Mills, circa 1922.


Fred Mills on beach with family circa 1921

I am writing these memoirs for my three sons. I hope they read them one day and find them interesting.

In the picture are: on back row, my Nanna Ethel Mills and my Granddad Fred Mills.

On the front row, from left to right are my Uncle Bert, My Dad, also called Fred Mills like his father, aged about three and my Auntie Connie who is thirteen years older than my dad.

They are enjoying a day at the seaside, but I don’t know where the picture was taken.

I recently came upon some information about my Granddad Fred and would like to share it with you below. It is an entry on page 239 from the Journal of the Great War, 1914 – 1918.

‘MILLS, F., Gunner, Royal Garrison Artillery.

He joined in June 1916 and in the following year was sent to France.  In this theatre of war he fought in many engagements, including the Battle of the Somme, and during his service overseas he was stationed at Etaples for some time.  He was discharged in May 1918 on account of service and holds the General Service and Victory Medals.’

His address is given as 71 Salisbury Road, Luton, Bedfordshire, England.

Looking at the picture above, it is almost inconceivable to me that World War II ever took place.  How could the world ever go down that route again?? My dad, so small and innocent in the picture, went on to fight the Germans in Holland, but that is another story and not for this post.

I remember my Granddad with great fondness. He was very kind. He smoked a pipe and as a child I loved to watch him filling his pipe and lighting it. In later years it was one of the few pleasure in life left to him because he suffered very badly from rheumatoid arthritis (the scourge of my family) and endured much pain for many years. Eventually he could no longer climb the steep stairs in his house to get to bed so a bed was made up for him in the front room at Salisbury Road.

On the day that he died my mother was visiting. He was lying on his bed when she arrived. He sat up, in his vest and raised his arms above his head, which was something he hadn’t done for years! ‘Look, I can move my arms’ he said with joy. Later that day, he died.

My memoirs – J and I, our first home.


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I’ve been ill with the flu all week – horrid. It was a week when I discovered Larry didn’t know how to peel potatoes and Jim didn’t know how to load the washing machine! Oh well, perhaps I’ll feel better next week.

While I was lying in bed feeling awful, I got to thinking about my next post on here. What should I write about? It seemed some time since I wrote a post for my memoirs, mainly because I’ve been caught up in Larry’s posts about his finding on life over here in the U.K. I

I am writing these memoirs for my boys. Perhaps they will like reading them one day. This one is particularly significant and I hardly known where to start. It is about young love and discovery. It also touches on ‘becoming invisible as we get older’ because I am 62 year’s old now; but I wasn’t always old. I wasn’t always an Oma. I was a young lady – that’s me in the picture with my first husband J. We weren’t married yet. When you look at this picture, see me as the young lady I was, not the old lady I’ve become. I’m still here. I just look different and I think differently about life, based on my experiences. I digress…

It is May 1970. I am 18 years old and J is 21. We  are preparing for our wedding in August. We have know each other for four years already and we are planning to get married to the day that we met, i.e. August 15th. For me it is a happy day, a very special day. J and I met on August 15th, 1966 and we married four years later. The marriage was to last for 36 years and we are still great friends to this day.

We saved to get a deposit for the flat (apartment) you see in the picture. It cost apx  £3,200 and our deposit was £1,000. Neither of us earned very much money because we were so young and J was still studying for his degree as a research chemist. He wouldn’t complete the course until three years later, although he already had an H.N.C (Higher National Certificate) in Chemistry. So in those early days I was earning more than he was,just!, as a Sales Administrator at Electrolux. In those days it was only the husband’s salary which counted for the mortgage and then only 2 1/2 times, nothing like it is nowadays. We were lucky to get a mortgage at all. Despite saving diligently in the Halifax Building Society for 3 years, we were still turned down. They said they didn’t lend money on flats and we couldn’t afford a house. Then J’s father took matters into his own hands. He went down to the Building Society and ‘threatened’ to take his own savings out and put them somewhere else if they didn’t give his son a mortgage! Nowadays that probably wouldn’t cut any ice, but then it did. He had significant savings and they listened. Our mortgage was granted (thanks dad) and we got on the first rung of the ladder.

The flat was new, brand new and I can’t tell you how excited I was to get it. My mum promised to buy us some curtains so that they were all the same. They were bright orange and one of the walls was purple. All very 70’s and high fashion at the time. Later on one of my hamsters would chew a big hole in one of those expensive curtains, but I’ll keep that story for another time.

Our flat was on the ground floor, at the front of the building. There was a bus-stop right outside, which was very convenient. I could walk to work and J could get the bus. Bit by bit we bought carpet and furniture and made a cosy home.

In the picture I am wearing a mini-skirt dress. It was made of crimplene, a very fashionable material at the time. I think it was a pale green colour.

Here are some interesting facts about May 1970 in the U.K.

So, we had chosen our home, booked the church for our wedding and the venue for the wedding reception. My dress was chosen as were the dresses for the two bridesmaids. We were almost there…

What were you doing in May 1970?

Larry’s take on the weather here in England.


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Six Months in England – Weather

I’ve been told that to be accepted by the British one has to complain about the weather. My father taught me that trying to understand the weather was preferable to complaining about it. Nevertheless I’ve found complaining about the weather in England is not optional – it’s compulsory!

Dad worked for 40 years at a chemical plant in Texas that produced carbon black (soot basically) by burning crude oil and methane. Today carbon black remains a key ingredient in automobile tires (excuse me, tyres), plastics, dyes, etc. No need for a chemistry lesson here – elemental carbon is used in almost every product you buy. But the process of making carbon black is messy to say the least. Today chemical plants control their airborne emissions in compliance with strict government standards, but back in the 1950’s this wasn’t the case. Although filters were used at my Dad’s plant in the 50’s and 60’s, they weren’t adequate to prevent micron size particles of carbon filling the air above the plant. Depending upon the wind speed, direction, relative humidity, etc., very fine particles of carbon would settle on the farmhouses in the countryside surrounding the plant. Every day the plant manager would get a phone call from one or more farmers who felt they were getting more than their share of soot that day. The plant manager was mildly annoyed – my Dad was fascinated!

Having only a 7th grade elementary school education, Dad maintained all the instrumentation used at this plant, mostly through self-study and trial and error. Since weather affected these instruments (many were unsheltered outside), so he also noticed that very local weather observations seem to coincide with heavier than normal soot fallout at certain neighboring farms. Having no weather station data closer than 30 miles away (and 24 hours behind), he decided to collect his own weather data using crude instruments he cobbled together in his shop. There were no computers or data-loggers in those days – wind speed, direction, relative humidity, and barometric pressure readings had to be collected manually several times a day. The eventual result was decades of weather data for that plant’s location that predicted quite accurately which of the surrounding farms was going to get “dumped on” that day. Dad could tell the plant manager in the morning which of the local farmers would be calling him that afternoon to complain. As the technology improved, so did my father’s enthusiasm for understanding what made the weather different from one day to the next.

What does all that have to do with the weather in England, you ask? Apparently Dad’s decades of passion for understanding the weather rubbed off on his only son. I find the weather in England quite fascinating and definitely worth a bit of study. The United Kingdom straddles the geographic mid-latitudes between 49–60 N (51 N where I am). It is on the western seaboard of Eurasia (the world’s largest land mass) and the eastern edge of the northern Atlantic Ocean, warmed by the Gulf Stream.
Moist maritime air and dry continental air are constantly converging at this location. The large temperature variation creates atmospheric instability, which is a major factor that influences the often-unsettled weather experienced in the UK. The weather here is seldom uncomfortably hot, and seldom bitterly cold, and seldom the same from one hour to the next. The terms “moderate” and “variable” have new meanings here. If you want to delve a bit deeper read “A newcomer’s guide to English weather” at http://www.vegemitevix.com/2012/10/26/understanding-english-weather/ , e.g., “Sunny – means the sun will rise and set. It might even show up for a minute or two. Sunny does not mean you will be reaching for the sunscreen. As Miss Fliss asked the other day ‘Why doesn’t the sun feel warm over here?’ Answers on a post-it note please.”

This month I’ve installed a Davis Weather Station at the top of an 18-foot pole in the back garden, which wirelessly transmits data to a console 75 feet away inside the house (where it’s warm and dry). Obviously it’s early times, but I’ve already observed hourly swings in barometric pressure that are amazing, measureable rainfall every day in January, and wind gusts of 17 to 22 miles per hour almost daily. Today we had blue skies at 12 noon, a driving rain from 12:20 to 12:45, and blue skies again at 1:00 pm. I’ve never seen clouds move across the sky the way they do here except with time-lapse photography. The good news is that the “bad weather” for this winter (snow & ice) hasn’t yet arrived. Maybe in February. Can’t hardly wait!!

Memoirs – Larry’s Observations on Driving in England


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First of all, let me wish all my blogging friends on here a very happy New Year. I hope it brings you much joy and no sorrow! I have so enjoyed reading all your blogs and sharing in your lives and hope to continue to do so through 2014. Thank you to any new followers and welcome 🙂

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Larry has been with me in England for nearly six months now and he says he is still learning. This month’s observation is all about our driving habits over here. Have a giggle…

‘Five Months in England – Still learning!

Driving in the UK remains somewhat of an uncertainty. I plan on taking driving lessons in the spring – that is, if they will let an old man of 69 years drive over here. Not that I don’t know how to drive a car – been doing that for half a century now! No, it’s this business of having the car on the wrong side of me and the gear shift on the wrong side of me and the road on the wrong side of me…. Well, you get the picture. It’s a bit like trying to read a book by viewing it in a mirror. Seems simple enough to decipher a sentence or two as a party trick, but imagine having to read the entire book that way, and in heavy traffic. I just need a bit of practice to gain some confidence, and a driving lesson or two seems the safest way to proceed. Might even be a nice break for the driving instructor, not having to worry about a gum chewing 16 year-old slamming on the brakes every 100 yards to answer a text from their friends. Hopefully I’ll get an instructor who can adjust to my Tennessee vocabulary, such as ‘rite thar’, which means ‘look whar my finger’s pointin’.

Having a senior citizen’s pass to ride the bus for free makes driving a luxury rather than a necessity. But that isn’t the point. I see it as a challenge, and I’m still up for a challenge even at my age. Learning the ‘rules of the road’ in the UK, albeit substantially different from those in America, is not the challenging part. I recall my 7th grade English grammar teacher explaining to a group of 13 year-olds that it would take us two weeks to learn the rules of proper English grammar, followed by another 16 weeks to understand all the exceptions. The exceptions were the interesting bit – so it appears to be with driving in the UK. Take, for example, a leisurely drive through a suburban area of a southeastern English town. In England we are supposed to drive on the left side of the road. Simple enough, but here come the exceptions. At least half the cars in the UK are parked in the road (they have no other choice), some partly on the curb and some completely in the road blocking the left lane entirely. So if you’re trying to drive on that road what do you do? You toss the rulebook out the window and improvise. You drive on the right lane (natural for me) until you get around the obstacle. Unless….. There’s a car coming toward you in the right lane. That means waiting until he has passed, and then moving into the right lane. Unless….. You think you may have ‘just enough time’ to swerve around the car blocking your lane and get back in your lane before the oncoming vehicle arrives. This is where it gets interesting. Different drivers have different perceptions of how much is ‘just enough time’. City bus drivers seem to be experts at this little game of “chicken”, having played it once every 3 minutes throughout their career as a bus driver, based on my 5 months of observations.

I used to think that most of the traffic congestion in America, caused primarily by 4-way stop signs, was successfully eliminated in the UK by building roundabouts. These ingenious inventions keep the traffic moving because it is much easier to determine whose turn it is to safely proceed through the intersection, i.e., you don’t go through the intersection – you go around it (and each other if there’s sufficient space). However, I have since discovered that whatever time savings the roundabouts offer is cancelled out by the time spent sitting behind parked cars blocking the left lane, where ‘whose turn it is’ depends on people’s perception of ‘just enough time’. How big the oncoming vehicle happens to be is also worth considering, with city busses getting preferential treatment from most motorists.

Out on the motorways (highways) things get a bit more dicey at much higher speeds. Motorways in the UK are usually a welcome relief from the relatively narrow (curb to curb) streets in and around towns. Motorways may be wide enough (using the entire paved surface) for three car widths, sometimes wider still. Thus driving in the left lane offers some new options. If trapped behind a slow moving lorry (truck), some drivers wait until there is sufficient space in the right lane to pass the lorry before the next oncoming vehicle arrives. This is the familiar custom on American highways. In either country success also depends on how much horsepower you have under the hood (excuse me, bonnet). But in the UK you may choose to go down the middle, passing the lorry on its right side but staying sufficiently out of the right lane that the oncoming vehicle can comfortably (or uncomfortably) go whizzing by. This is an interesting thing to watch – a lorry at 60 mph being passed simultaneously by a BMW going 75 mph in the same direction and a Fiat coming at 70 mph in the opposite direction. Definitely not for the faint of heart!! Other options too complicated to describe here must surely be available when the motorway offers multiple lanes in each direction.

To sum up then, the art of driving in the UK requires unique skill and experience in making the fullest possible use of any portion of the roadway that becomes available at any moment, with the ability to execute split-second timing being the thing that separates the experts from the novices. I am wondering if I have enough years left (and can purchase enough insurance) to adequately master this art form. One thing is certain however. For those entrepreneurs in the U.S. who collect $100 every time they tow away a car found illegally parked in the streets of American suburbia – come to the UK. You will all be millionaires in six months.’

Oma

Life in the U.K. – Larry’s update at four months.


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Here is his take on the first 3-4 months.

Larry’s chair in Knoxville is empty these days because, as you know, he is now over here.

‘Three Months in England – or is it Four?

I must admit I have lost count. Time flies when you’re having fun!

Accomplishments this month include
• mastering the UK currency (which involves twice as many coins as in America),
• committing the local neighborhood to memory (it’s less than a 10 minute walk to the supermarket, dry cleaners, doctor, dentist, several restaurants, Bramingham Wood, and much more),
• rediscovering the problems caused by the U.S. Postal Service refusing to forward mail beyond U.S. borders (European countries have been doing this for decades),
• finally finding an “eagle” at Bank of America who understands how to make repetitive wire transfers to a UK Bank (although even she was unable to correct the mailing address on my Bank of America checking account),
• having minor surgery to remove a basil cell carcinoma (my 8th in the past 30 years) from the back of my neck, at no cost!

Americans have to contend with pennies (1 cent), nickels (5 cents), dimes (10 cents) and quarters (25 cents). Actually pennies are just used to fill glass jars. Hardly anyone pays with pennies anymore. In the UK there are coins for 1 pence, 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, 1 pound, and 2 pounds. To help out a bit, the 20 pence and 50 pence coins aren’t round – they have seven sides. Why seven and not six sides or eight sides, you ask? No one seems to know. At least in the UK the 10 pence coin is larger than the 5 pence coin. I never did understand why dimes are smaller than nickels.

Suburban neighborhoods in the UK are designed for walking. There are paved walkways that go between houses, providing shortcuts that avoid having to walk along busy roadways with almost constant vehicular traffic (you can still choose the paths beside these roadways if you wish, but it certainly isn’t as pleasant). However, sidewalks are called “pavements” in the UK, whereas the pavement in America is the roadway itself. Obviously it’s important here to know what you are talking about.

This past month I ran across an interesting postal problem. The U.S. Postal Service will not forward mail to other countries. And Bank of America will not allow its client’s to have a mailing address outside the USA. That means that a form mailed to me from Bank of America never reached me here at my UK address. Since I didn’t receive the form (I was never told it existed) I didn’t return it. Because I didn’t return the form Bank of America deleted the information allowing me to wire transfer funds to my UK bank. Imagine my surprise when I called Bank of America and was told this little story. Fortunately, after also being told nothing could be done to fix this problem, I found an “eagle” in the Bank of America Wire Transfer Services Department who happily fixed it for me. Thank heavens for those few “eagles (I can do that for you)” in a world full of “ducks (sorry, there’s no way to do that – have a nice day!)”.

For those who believe universally available healthcare can never work, I suggest you investigate the UK National Health Service (NHS). I have seen the doctor here on several occasions, been diagnosed with skin cancer (again), had the lesion surgically removed from the back of my neck by a Russian dermatologist (she did a beautiful job of it), and I have yet to pay a single farthing! I have not had to wait for treatment nor been inconvenienced in any way. Everyone I have seen has been very professional, competent, courteous and genuinely concerned with my wellbeing. No forms to fill out and patient information is shared between doctors, hospitals, laboratories, etc. for maximum efficiency. I would highly recommend it. For those over 60 who aren’t looking forward to the healthcare issues associated with growing older, the benefits of the NHS are obvious.

One of the more obvious benefits of living in the UK involves the way the daily news is delivered, whether by radio, TV, Internet, or printed media. I find the greater focus here on the world’s news events refreshing and enlightening, although sometimes depressing. There’s a lot going on in the world that Americans don’t see. National events here receive appropriate attention to be sure, but reporting of UK events and politics is more reserved, and more time is spent on global events. Perhaps that is due more to geography than anything else, but the contrast with news reporting in the U.S. is dramatic. In the past few years I have grown particularly fatigued with the constant barrage of divisive political reporting in America, usually with obvious bias and unapologetic pandering to a select audience. Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, where are you…..?

I remember a time when elected politicians claimed (believably) to be representing the views of the people who elected them. American political parties now claim that when they lose an election it’s because they “failed to get their message out”. Maybe it’s the people who aren’t getting their message in! Ten’s of millions of dollars are spent by political parties in America to “win people over to their point of view”. Perhaps politicians should spend that money attempting to understand the point of view of ALL the people who elected them, rather than incessantly “selling” the extreme ideology of an over zealous minority through a news media eager to grab the attention of an increasing polarized American public.

It does appear that American politicians these days are solely interested in their own survival and total destruction of the opposition. The desperation evidenced by factions within a political party willing to furlough thousands of federal employees and default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America, just to destroy a government program they don’t agree with, is something I never imagined I would live to see! It appears now that any means to political victory is justified. Will active sabotage of government programs be the next weapon of political warfare? Those who claim their actions are “saving the nation” seem to be willing to destroy the democracy it is built upon in the process. And the American news media is offering the spotlight and center stage to help them succeed.’

Interesting, isn’t it?

 

Oma

My Memoirs – 1962 – I start High School


Stella starts High SchoolThis old photograph was taken in 1962 and it shows an eleven year old me in my new school uniform, ready to go to High School.

In order to get to the ‘High School’ we had to pass the 11-plus examination at the end of Junior School. My mum promised me a transistor radio if I passed! The 11-plus was more of an intelligence test than a proper exam. I passed and got the radio. I was delighted. Now I could go to the best school in the town and I was as pleased as my mum and dad were proud.

I had to be kitted out with the uniform, which was extensive and expensive. I had two sets; one for summer and one for winter. The winter uniform consisted of a felt hat, white shirt-blouses,tie, navy blue tunic,large navy blue knickers,white socks and sensible black shoes. I also needed a blazer with a badge on it, plus a badge to go on the tunic. This showed the school emblem. In the picture I am wearing my summer hat, which was a straw boater. We could choose between three colours for the summer uniform. The choice was yellow, blue or pink gingham and I have to say that the girls looked very nice in their pretty colours.

We also had to have a sports kit. The least said about that, the better. I had the same pair of black plimsolls for five years! and I was always getting into trouble because they were black, not white. I lived with my mum at the time and we were very poor. She couldn’t really afford any of it so I would never dare to ask for anything extra for fear of upsetting her.

My satchel was leather and had to hold a lot of books. Each day I had to carry the books to school and then back again afterwards. It’s a wonder my shoulder wasn’t dislocated with the weight of it all.

So I was going from being a big fish in a little pond to being a little fish in a big pond. What would life hold for me? You’ll have to wait for the next instalment…

Can you remember getting your school uniform at High School?

My Memoirs 6 – Larry’s Fourth Week in England


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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.’

Oma

My Memoirs – Larry’s Third Week in England


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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!
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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!’

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


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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. ‘

My memoirs – 4 – 2013, Larry’s first week in England.


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Back in 2007 I remarried to Larry. This is our wedding picture, one of them. Nice isn’t it! At the time his dad was still alive and in his 80’s and Larry was his carer. Dad lived with Larry. I went to America to live and every now and then I returned to England to be with my own family. I became a gypsy! I think I was always a bit of a gypsy really and this confirmed it. The fact that I could live this double life so easily came as a surprise to me and everybody else. I won’t say it was easy. Sometimes it was very hard and there were many mountains to climb and valleys to cross. However, our love endured under these difficult circumstances and we are still together after six years.

Larry’s dad died just over a year ago and just recently Larry has come to live here in England with me and my ex who still dwells in the same cottage as me. Life will be even more interesting from now on!
Last Tuesday I went to Heathrow to meet Larry and bring him back to the cottage. It was a magical moment when I saw him coming through the gate at ‘Arrivals’. I had been waiting for an hour, hanging on the rail as I got more tired and a bit anxious. Finally I saw him coming through the doors.
Larry has been with me here for a week now and I thought you would like to know his thoughts on his first week in England? We are all curious about what it is like to live in another country, aren’t we. Well here is his take – an American in England, part one:

‘My First Week in England – Being Three Years Old Again! – Living in a foreign country is like being three years old all over again. Everything is new and different and can be learned for the first time, even if you are 68. Some examples (some expected, some not):

• Cars drive on the wrong side of the road and come at you from odd directions
• Steering wheel, gearshift – all on the wrong side of the car.
• Car is on the wrong side of ME, putting the curb and the rear view mirror also on the wrong side of me.
• Toilet paper comes off the roll in the wrong direction (I may feel compelled to fix that one at some point)
• Clouds look familiar but move across the sky at several times the normal speed limit.
• Sun comes up at least an hour too early here – 4:30 am (I should have that corrected by December I think…)
• There is this funny “u” that keeps popping up for no apparent reason, like in colour and flavour.
• Words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently, like conTROVersy instead of CONtroversy, etc.
• Other words have new meanings, like BOOT and BONNET – yes you can wear these here on a spring day, but they are also the front end and back end of a car
• Inanimate objects have hidden desires, i.e., “the car wants washing today”, the floors want vacuuming (excuse me “hoovering”!)”
• Ten words are often used where I would use only five, but it sounds so much nicer using ten. That is a skill is simply must master!
• You can watch an entire two-hour mystery movie on the “tely” with no “adverts” to make you forget what the movie was about. This means you need to go the toilet before the movie starts, like in a movie theater (excuse me – “theatre”)
• The “toilet” here is the entire room, not just the porcelain thing you sit on.
• You can still have your milk (and bread and cheese) delivered to your door here!
• A doctor will come to your house if necessary! Absolutely amazing!!
• One is rewarded, rather than penalized for being over 60 here. I have a “bus pass” that lets me ride the local buses for free! Even gives me a discount on the train to London.
• No sales tax (“VAT”) on food or children’s clothes here.
• I used to wonder where “the good ole days” went. It appears they went here in many instances. I have fond memories of things I used to do as a child growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. To my surprise you can still do them here.
• It’s fun being three again!!!Watch this page for my second week in England…..’
For some reason I can’t get the formatting right in this post. Sorry about that. I think it is a little difficult to read? Any helpful suggestions about font size etc. would be appreciated.