Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Day 2 - Salisbury with Tonia
This lovely little street leads you into Salisbury Cathedral - but you can see that impressive spire from pretty much any vantage point (see it peeking over in the picture).
There was reconstruction going on on the other side, but you can't see it from this perspective!
Lovely how the river runs through the town.
Tonia and I had a coffee at the cathedral cafe and swapped photo-taking responsibilities with the lunching ladies across from us, photographing each others' get-togethers.
Near where we stopped for lunch, how's THAT for a view? River, field, spire in background and of course me in the foreground! I'm struck by how white I am, I literally blend in with my white sleeves.
This is a pub where the old mill used to be, Mom and I stopped here and had a drink 15 years ago (we have a photo of it somewhere) before we headed up to see Stonehenge, which is maybe 20 minutes from here.
Yep, still amazingly impressive, no matter what angle!
Kind of a cool pic of the cloisters at Salisbury Cathedral.
Who knew my birthplace was just off a roundabout on the way to Salisbury.
Day 3: The New Forest with Jaci and family
I spent my full 2nd day in Alderholt with Jaci and Rogan and their kids. Jaci and I once worked together (for a whole 3 weeks she was able to determine when we were catching up) but a soul-friendship began! I spent the day with Jaci and her youngest son, preparing dinner and catching up. We then collected the two older kids from school. I bribed them with presents making me popular - and that I spoke in a funny accent and I dutifully performed better than any trained monkey with words like "bangs" (here they say "fringe") and "braids" (here they say plaits).
Jaci holding her 6 month old son. He was such a good baby and Jacs looked gorgeous.
Rogan with the little man.
The next day we met up in Ringwood for a picnic!
Who says English food has no flavor? Just look at these potato chip packets. In the end I only really liked the Cajun Squirrel - it tasted like BBQ crisps. Jaci liked the Crispy Duck. Neither of us really dug the chilli and chocolate.
Day 4 - Lots of chatting with Gretta and then Carolyn
I went to Gretta's house and the chatting started right up and didn't really stop until I drove off several hours later. We went for a long (mostly flat) walk, she took me to lunch and we walked back. I then headed to Carolyn's, who is one of my oldest friends. I arrived at her house at 5 but didn't leave until 2am or so. As with Gretta, we went for a long walk and then had dinner down at Hythe marina and walked back - laughing ourselves silly much of the time. In fact, a couple of times we were laughing so hard we got the "ugly" face syndrome; you know, when your face contorts involuntarily to some gruesome expression, all because you're laughing so hard it almost becomes...supernatural! :D
We had just walked down to Hythe and were about to have dinner. Asked a lone woman (weren't a lot of people down there at the time) to take our picture and she was from up north! Small world, small island I guess.
Day 5 - Bournemouth
I lived and worked in Bournemouth for 6 years basically. This was my first time returning. In between lots of coffee dates with former coworkers, I explored and took pics of the city - it really hasn't changed much. It was still very pretty, very breezy and very busy!
This used to be Interlink, where I worked for 4 years or so. It's now a specialized school for boys with Asperberger's Syndrome.
The town centre, where the shopping precincts continue up either end. To the left (in this pic) is where you enter Bournemouth Gardens.
Up one side of the centre where there are shops and a LOT of foreign students!
This is the way from the town centre to the sea front, you just follow the path through Bournemouth Gardens behind me.
More of Bournemouth Gardens
Before meeting Gus and Sarah for dinner, I had a bit of a break in my day. I noticed this gorgeous (and HUGE) dog snoozing in the car at the carpark at ASDA - he was napping the way I was wishing I could at the same time!
Sarah and Gus met me for dinner in Charminster (where we all used to teach at an English school) for dinner. Then we went on to Havana (bar) a few doors down and caught up more.
Day 6 - Veronique and then Christchurch with Sarah
First I had lunch plans to see Veronique and after that I headed down the road to Christchurch for a cream tea with Sarah. It was a lovely day to be in Christchurch and I'd forgotten how much it has to offer: it's cathedral, the quay, the old castle and grounds, the beautiful river...
Veronique and I worked together at Interlink for the last 1 or 2 years I worked there (the first couple were soley as a teacher). She still looks so chic, stylish and we always shared at least 3 mutual loves: dogs, vegetarian food and jewellry! Turns out we still do - and we had lunch at this gorgeous vegetarian restaurant that's been in Boscombe forever and I remember it from at least 15 years ago - same owners too!
An old lane at the end of which is the entrance to Christchurch Cathedral. I remember this at night at Christmas time too, it is gorgeous then as well.
And more ruins.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
*while many photos have been taken, they are still safely on the camera since I left the USB cable for the camera at home – my packing strategy is showing some holes, I admit.
Day 2 – Salisbury with and Tonia
On Monday, I drove to meet Tonia in Salisbury (what a gorgeous city – I’ve been there before – remember it, Mom…before we went to Stonehenge? Still, it struck me with renewed appreciation), we met out front of the cathedral, it was like a scene from The Muppet Movie, Tonia and I like Kermit and Miss Piggy finding each other and running in slow motion in the fields into each others arms! Okay, she’s British, so we hardly displayed THAT kind of public affection but I hugged my old friend tightly. Though I had spent a few days with her last year in West Yorkshire, I was thrilled to have another face-to-face catch up session.
We quickly went into the café at the cathedral to have a coffee and croissant and the catching up began! After we had a long, leisurely coffee, we walked around Salisbury, along the river, along some back roads (Jaci, it was all so quaint!) popping into the museum for a cold drink. Tonia then took me to gorgeous place for lunch at a hotel that served its food in the garden, by the water, with a striking view of the cathedral (though the spire is visible from seemingly any location as it’s so tall). We then topped off our day with going into the town center (still strolling along) and did a few bits and pieces before parting. Sadly, our schedules don’t match up for any other visits this week but through email, we manage to stay in touch pretty well.
Day 3 – Jaci, Rogan and kiddies in The New Forest
Do you ever meet someone and though you only know them for a short while, you feel connected them to…like forever? That’s how I feel about Jaci. She figured it out today that we only actually worked together for fewer than 3 weeks before she was transferred but we forged a close bond anyway. Jaci and I are quite different, she and her husband Rogan (then boyfriend) are kind of new age hippies, SO creative and not just in their ideas but they actually act out their creativity – I love it! Rogan used to make one-of-a-kind benches out of logs and tree branches and everything Jaci does so effortlessly is, to me, hugely creative. She and Rogan came to the states twice during my years back there and both times I was lucky enough to see them and my sister and mother were both lucky enough to meet them, too.
In the past 10 years or so, they’ve gotten married, started a successful business, bought and built on to a house and had 3 gorgeous kids! I shall not gush in too much detail about their kids as this is a public blog and I don’t know what’s appropriate but let’s just say, they were gorgeous. The baby was so easy today, the kids so imaginative, I learned a LOT about frogs and also practiced my coloring while listening to stories of fairies. I won’t lie though, I was exhausted when they went down for bed. How does anyone herd two children to bed and put down a baby at the same time?
Anyway, after arriving at their Victorian semi in Alderholt (I got a proper tutorial on all the different types and names of properties here: bedsit, flat - purpose built and converted), maisonette, bungalow - with and without chalets, terrace, semi and detatched). Jacs and I prepared the dinner for the evening meal (well, I grated cheese and beat an egg), a gorgeous roast dinner with home made nut loaf, the best roast potatoes all from just ONE potato – thing was as big as an American football. The wee baby just hung out in the kitchen with us ready to flash a big drooling grin (teething and all) any time we were smart enough to turn and look at him. Then we catch a quick sandwich and chat with Rogan (congrats again!) Later, we ran into Fordingbridge, had a quick coffee and then picked up the other 2 kids from school. I successfully bribed both of them with presents (yay me!) and all was well. We ate in the garden and had to move the picnic table just once to keep up with the setting sun. I captured some gorgeous pics of the family and look forward to being able to see them properly!
Once the kids were all in bed (two of them chatted away for quite a while – I should think that’s a nice sound as a parent, two siblings in bed just chatting away to one another as they finally talk themselves to sleep), the grown ups (man, am I really in the grown up group?) relaxed into our seats a bit more and then we chatted about projects, old, new and ongoing and much more. Rogan built us a small fire in the stove (is that what it’s called Jacs? It has a door so it’s not a fireplace…) to heat up the room. I peeled myself away at 10 knowing that not only did I have a busy day tomorrow but they were going to have a normal day for them – which I had found amazingly tiring! Luckily I have plans to see them again, at least once more, before I head back up north.
Tomorrow is meeting with Nancy, then Mandy and then a few others in the evening – it will be my first visit to Bournemouth since leaving it all those years ago. It’s go, go, go but I feel so fulfilled, so grateful! It’s time for me to get in the hotel shower (god, I love that thing) and relax in the hot water before going to bed. Side note: with the bed, I can feel the springs poking me (what can I say, except “high maintenance”) so I found if I sleep on top of the duvet and pull it over to cover me, I don’t feel the springs and I also feel quite cozy that way, like a sausage roll (vegetarian of course!) Speaking of the hotel, they offer a continental breakfast in the morning, so nothing hot (but toast) but have protein in the form of cheese, meat and hard boiled eggs. My intentions are always to get enough protein so two mornings in a row I’ve taken an egg to my room to have later, but I seem to end up eating a fair amount of junk out and about and have yet to eat them. I’m starting a collection, I should have at least 7 by the end of the week at this rate!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I'm the kind of person who prefers, if possible, packing on the day OF a trip, rather than the night before, though I always organize everything beforehand. For two reasons: one is the most obvious and that you don't have to fiddle with the stuff you've packed using it the night before and day of journey (toiletries especially) - since otherwise it feels I have to keep track of "already packed but just used and will need to pack again" items. The second is a way of a check list - as I use each item I pack it away, ensuring I don't forget anything. That plan worked well this trip, apart from forgetting my hair brush. You say "oh well, big deal" but I didn't know until after I'd arrived at my hotel and ready to take a shower (and then brush my hair when drying!) and with Sunday trading hours, shops were all closed. Some nice girl at a petrol station which was sort of a mini-mart too asked me if I had found everything and when I told her I couldn't find a brush, she found me one itty bitty one - but it'll do until tomorrow. Note: in this pic, the hair dryer is normal size and scale…so my brush is like a "mini-me" brush. But it's worked!
Abby is so cool, she could see something was going on as I was packing the car and closing all the curtains, doors etc. But putting her in the car to take her to Lesley's, she just stuck her head out the window and all was well. OH - can I say how much I love driving!!! Yes! I have a rented car just like my company car in model etc., but this one has A/C, thank goodness and a few other little upgrades, so to speak.
I was torn between two nicknames "Black Beauty" but alas she's dark blue and then "Blue Steel" but somehow knew that'd already been coined (damn that hilarious Derek Zoolander!) so decided on Blue Beauty, you can call her "B.B."
I set off at 1pm and just stopped for potty breaks and grabbing a few snacks but apart from some slowing around Birmingham, made it here easily and effortlessly.
I guess when the "attendants" are on another (and surely secret) bathroom mission so they send the highly trained "Operatives" in their place.
This was really cute, all four of these woman were wearing these HOT pink scarves to keep their hair from blowing. I wish I could've gotten a shot as I passed them, they all had chic sunglasses on and were having a good time (perhaps a road trip like mine!) but it was too dangerous to do both (and I know my Mom thanks me for remembering "Safety First").
I do love my snacks
Exhibit A: Notice that they really want the consumer to know they have greeting cards, two signs in this picture alone, notice how they describe them…yes, they don't claim to kick-ass in the greeting card department of have an impression selection, instead they humbly but succinctly tell you they have a "unique" collection of (here's my favorite part…wait for it…) of "good quality" greeting cards.
Exhibit B: This is a picturesque pub right in the heart of the village and as most local pubs have, they have a Quiz Night (think Trivial Pursuit in teams) and they choose not to oversell it. Rather than boasting about their quiz in the context of surrounding areas or even Hampshire, they only simply promise to be the "best in Botley" (note: population of the Parish of Botley is just 4000). And they don't ram an oversell down your throat with anything as pushy as advertising meal deals, new menus etc., ohhhh no, not this pub, they quite simply put forward a question, "Why Not Eat First?" Why not indeed!
I mentioned that the hotel was situated between Botley (which I've covered) and Hedge End. Hedge End when I first met it many years ago had started out as a simple commuter village with easy access to motorways to Southampton and Portsmouth (and in my case, Bournemouth). I decided to have a wander (in the car) since the walk in Botley was so short-lived and started to feel a sense of familiarity. I found the "village center" and while the shop fronts may have changed, I swear it hasn't changed in size at all! And I knew, just knew, the way to the house I lived in for a year (my only home purchase to date) was nearby. While the center hasn't changed, Hedge End is allll about superstores (think predictable strip malls in the states, always the same with Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Home Depot, Starbucks) except here it's different superstores. I decided I'd try to find my way to the old house (couldn't even remember the address, I've lived in THAT many places!) I backtracked to where the M&S superstore is and where I spent two months employed there one holiday season (polyester uniforms…shuddering to think about it) and from there it was easy to just follow my senses. And as I turned on the last roundabout , recognizing the area I wished I had somebody in the car to tell "I found it! I found it!" Words that were a tad premature. I found "it" but it "it" probably had 5 times the number of houses crammed in every nook and cranny of the development. I had bought the house (with my then-boyfriend) brand new so there were only a few houses built at that stage), I remember it being posher than it looked tonight in general, but eventually keeping in my mind's eye what the front looked like, I found it and thankfully I snapped a pic with my phone without anyone noticing (don't want to make anyone nervous!) I enjoyed living there, but was only there a year before life led me in a different direction.
So it's 9pm now, I'm starting to settle into the hotel room (the first night is always a bit odd to me), I've just had modern Godzilla movie (with Matthew Broderick) on the TV (funny how they didn't make a sequel…NOT) and now Rush Hour has started (well I can get into that at least but still prefer Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element!) The only negative (as I'm no longer brush-challenged) is my mouth. I don't know why/how but I seem to be having allergic reactions on my tongue to highly acidic or spicy foods. Why? I think it started when I ate too many hard candies the other night (that had fizzy middles) and it's like they just burned the crap out of my mouth. But I was eating a salad that had pesto salad dressing tonight and my mouth was simply burning, on fire! Tongue, lips everything. Does that mean that for this week, where I'll be having most of my meals out, I have to eat bland foods? Weird. Not comfortable. Actually painful and especially in the wee corners of my mouth, where my lips meet in the corners, OUCH. I had to get a diet Pepsi and kind of let the Pepsi sit in my mouth burning the areas because afterwards there was some numbness then. Weird weird weird.
Just heard from Lesley, she and Abby just got back from a walk, so all is well. Tomorrow I am meeting Tonia in Salisbury - will break out the REAL camera then!
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Pre-flight: The days preceding my flight to Heathrow were such a mix. I was heartbroken to leave my boyfriend, sad to leave Abby (but knowing she'd be joining me eventually), excited to be fulfilling my heart's desire by returning to the UK and happiness at seeing my mom also moving on to a new stage of her life by moving back to Phoenix to her new home there. My sister was visiting to help my Mom (emotionally too as well as all the muscle Shannon brings!) and she was also giving me a hand. I had 4 suitcases that I had packed soooo poorly, because they weren't organized. I hadn't yet thought about how having everything mixed up between them would possible effect me later. Anyway, I remember a pile of items I had needed up until that final day and four already full suitcases and I asked Shannon to pack the remaining items and to, in the words of Tim Gunn, "make it work" which she did! We loaded all the stuff off and headed to LAX on that sunny day, that was April 7, 2008. To avoid long goodbyes both for me, (once you're at the airport, you kind of want to be done with the emotional goodbyes and get on with things, don't you?) and for Mom (who was not only sad to see me go but had a million things she also needed to do), Shannon helped me unload (did I mention she brings muscle?) and I queued up. They snapped a pic of me as I waited to check in and off they went:
Arriving: After sailing through customs and immigration (yay for being a British national!), I had all of my luggage once again on my trolley (note to self: do not take a book that ways 10 pounds in case you want to read on the plane, you will have to carry the damned book through the airport on arrival too!), I distinctly remember rolling out the doors of the terminal at Heathrow. Well, it was nothing special. Looked like a road by an airport. But the brisk air caught my nostrils and I breathed in many deep breathes. Holy cow, I'd actually arrived! I rolled over to where I could get my courtesy bus to the car rental place. Once I'd hoisted my bags into the rental car (those damn bags are a feature of all my first experiences, it seems!), I plugged the destination into my SAT NAV (GPS): a hotel in Stockport (Manchester area) that I had booked (thanks to Mel!).
Getting to Manchester: It seems to me in my memory, that 3-4 hour drive marked the start of a long day (especially having already been up close to 24 hours). I adjusted to the motorways without much problem and savored my first Marks and Spencers sandwich at a services stop somewhere along the way. But I was getting tired and then I hit road construction (I assume) and the last 60 miles were looooong. At times I was at a standstill, so at least if my lids fell closed, I wasn't in a moving vehicle. A few peppy texts from Rich helped as well. Eventually, I knew I was getting close to my destination (SAT NAV told me so!). I saw Stockport for the first time. Lots of red brick. My first life in the UK, I recall the 2 hours from Heathrow to Bournemouth full of my exclamations of how green everything was (I was moving from Phoenix that time), but this time I wasn't as in awe of the differences. I had lived in the UK before after all. But there was a lot of brick and I could tell this was much the industrial north that I had read about. I spied a B&Q (like a giant Home Depot, even the same color scheme) and a Staples as I got off the motorway and headed the last couple miles to the hotel. Checking in was easy apart from...wait for it...the baggage! I had no idea what suitcase had what and I had booked the hotel for a week, so I had to get all those bags up to my room. Of course, this is England, so there was no elevator to the different floors. Thankfully an employee of the hotel took pity on me and while there was no bellhop, she helped me lug those buggers upstairs.
Priorities: Get a power cord for my laptop. After getting directions from the hotel, I raced to the nearest PC World to try to get a power cord that I could use. I felt it imperative to have internet access (which the hotel had) because then I could stay in touch with back home. They didn't have the right cord, blah blah blah, not an interesting story but it took several days before I had a proper power cord for it. After I got back from my mission to get a power cord, I took in the nightmare that was the hotel room. Awful bed, remote to TV chained to the table (remote didn't even work), towels with blood stains on them (small but still...ewww) and a shower I couldn't work. Thankfully, despite my insomnia issues, the 32 hours of being awake finally hit me and wearing layers to bed (just didn't want any part of my skin to actually touch the bedding!), I crashed out. Day 2 my priority became: find a place to live. With the help of an estate agent who I had been in touch before my arrival, day 2 I did find a house. Unfortunately it wasn't going to be ready for another week but we did the paperwork to get it going. So THEN my priority changed to: find a different hotel for the week. I located a hotel that had one more star (and was worth the extra money) but they could only take me in the following day. So I managed one more night in the hotel and finally rearranged the contents of my suitcases so I was much more efficient when I checked into Hotel #2 (which also didn't have a lift) on my 3rd day here. I finally enjoyed my first home-cooked meal thanks to Mel and Simon (and for this I really say thank you!) My last urgent priority became: get a bed bought and scheduled for delivery on moving day. I went to a local furniture store and I bought a double bed which was luxurious and comfortable and scheduled it. I then jumped online (I spent the first month at Starbucks with the laptop for internet usage) and bought two crucial purchases: Swedish memory foam (for the already comfortable bed) but I needed to make sure this bed was an indulgence as sleep was a problem for me and it was just so important for me emotionally for some reason and the 2nd item was a Flavia drinks machine. My first night in the house I curled up in my new bed (with soft bedding I had also purchased), my hot water bottle filled and watched The Mummy on my laptop (had brought a few movies with me). That first week living in the house the boiler broke (so no heat but more importantly no hot water for several days until it was replaced), I shopped (Ikea) and tried to start meeting people and making connections. Once that was all done, it was time to start my job!
It's been a really rich year full of just life experiences! I started my job, which I had a feeling would not be long-term, and did that for 6 months. I got to know the area with covering my sales territory and enjoyed the freedom of the car. I started making some great friends (thanks to Lesley for inviting me to a comedy night in Manchester from which I started to make friends with more and more folks). I was proactive in making friends and found the people so welcoming. Their support and growing friendship has been the high point of this first year. I also caught up with old friends (Allie, Tonia and Mahmuda). Thanks to technology (IM, Skype, Facebook) I was able to keep in close and regular contact with loved ones which was such a blessing. Other highlights (or low lights depending how you look at it): I was laid off from my job, got to go to Budapest, visited Dumfries, had a few parties and so much more! But I've learned so many deeper lessons: patience, living in the day, acceptance, the value of contrary action, trusting in the universe...and many more.
So now a year on, I have no regrets about moving here (I have never had one actually even when facing obstacles here). Change is in the air (I hope) as I continue to look for jobs and a career I can once again thrive in. I'm outgrowing this house, not in size and function but in location, decor and the outside space (and the Stairs of Doom - where I fall down the stairs and Abby seems to fall going UP them!) I'm broadening my search criteria to include places which would require me to uproot once again, but that feels like the right thing to do (Scotland? Yorkshire? Who knows?) I'm so grateful Abby is with me, she is the one steadying thing day to day no matter what. She doesn't seem older to me and is adored by all (okay - most) who meet her. I am looking forward to things too: a trip down south (finally!) soon to see all my old friends, DMB concert end of July (only about 90 minutes from here via train!) a visit from Mom and Shannon in September and another trip to Dumfries in October.
I wonder what I will write a year from now, after I've completed my second year in the UK! Time will tell....
Friday, April 03, 2009
This is a guest house as well. The conservatory on the back is where we had tea.
She was soooooo good watching and waiting.
About to dig into our scones!
Yep, she's still waiting - love all those hills and fields in the background.
Toilet was outside and I lapsed into American tourist-mode, "Oh my god, it's just so quaint!"
Went for a stroll along the little lane.