19 October 2013

Friday night rant

I am currently shopping for a coat because all my winter clothing (and everything else) is sitting dockside at some port in the states and will not ship out until next week sometime.  The shipping company allegedly "lost" the payment that was wired to them in September and did not bother notifying us despite the numerous email asking when the container was due to arrive here in the UK.  While I don't want to spend the £££s on anything I do need something to keep me warm since we're edging closer to November--I was expecting to be here in August at the latest so I only kept out a couple of lightweight jackets and packed everything else.

Suggestions on coats would be greatly appreciated, I need something that will be layer-able, cover my butt, keep me dry and will be durable enough to withstand brambles and stinging nettles.  Oh, and something that doesn't make me look like the Bride of the Abominable Snowman would definitely be preferred.

A little taste of "home" 

18 October 2013

Double Rainbow

Dude. Double rainbows are awesome.  

Caught this image outside our office window yesterday afternoon.  Unfortunately the rainbow on the left was fading quickly and had almost disappeared before I got the camera out and focused.

Thursday was one of those gorgeous sun-filled days that suffuses everything and everyone all bright, shiny, and glowy......at least until around 3 in the afternoon when the skies opened up and I had to make a dash to grab the washing off the line before all the drying was undone.

I'm slowly getting the nearby paths and shortcuts mapped out in my head.  After taking a "shortcut" to the main canal earlier in the week I thought that I had a loop mapped out instead of an out and back so that's what Elsie the Miniature Schnauzer Menace and I set out to explore yesterday morning.  There are a handful of road crossings--one particularly busy with no pedestrian light to stop the traffic and one section that I would definitely prefer never to run through at night but it is a very viable (and scenic) route.  We ended up with 6.7 miles and for some odd reason Elsie wasn't begging as hard to go run this morning, lol.

One thing I have noticed is that when I take Elsie and/or Ben out with me on my runs people tend to be a lot more friendly and open.  It's not that there is any rudeness when I run solo but I do tend to get more subdued good morning greetings and just a wee bit of wariness whereas when the dogs are with me nearly all the famed British reserve almost disappears. 

Today I had to force myself out the door to run and then had to cut it short because I ate entirely too late last night but at least I managed to get a handful of miles in.  It's definitely time to start thinking about meeting up with some of the local running clubs so that I can find someone to run with. 

If I only knew how many miles! 

16 October 2013

food, cars, and stuff

Today was my first long drive in the Mini mobile on a route that took us through Milton Keynes--lots and lots of traffic with seemingly endless roundabouts in heavy rain.  Talk about getting thrown in, at least I had someone to talk me through it and it wasn't the dreaded Magic Roundabout.  The trip ended up being a washout since the car dealer we were making the trip down to view a couple of Land Rover type products was apparently not interested in selling any cars today.  Yes, it was drizzly but no one came out to say hello while we wandered all about the lot looking at various vehicles.  Even after we walked into the building the salesperson simply waved us into a corner office and didn't bother getting up to say hello.  Once we inquired about the vehicles we were interested in and if we could look inside them he told us that test drives were appointment only.  He finally asked if we had driven far (over a hundred miles!) and you would have thought there might have been some give, but nope, "Appointment only, especially since it is raining."  WTF???? It's England, it rains a LOT!  Their loss, it would have been a guaranteed cash sale.

After that we decided to head off in search of a pub lunch but ended up spotting a Mexican food restaurant (Chimichanga) while driving through Amersham. Cute place even if it is a chain and unlike the car dealership, GREAT service! Main difference between this place and a Mexican restaurant in the states is that we didn't get complimentary tortilla chips and salsa, I'm not sure if this is the norm in the UK or not.  Oh and the pico de gallo could have done with a few more peppers.

The tried and true steak fajitas

No run this morning due to an achy back from yesterday's fall then following it up with a full day's work cleaning out the garage (which still isn't clean by the way).  Ended up taking a just over 2 mile walk with the mutts instead.  

15 October 2013

exploring and Access ALL Areas

What a beautiful start to the day, the sun came out to warm things up slightly and cast a gorgeous glow over everything. Made it much easier to get out and run than yesterday.  The canal trails closest to my house are no longer in use (which means you don't have to worry about tripping over barge stakes) but today I took a fork on the normal path I run to cross over the rail lines and found some more canal paths along a minor waterway. This means I also found a great place to run stairs on the foot bridge over the rails whenever I become so inclined as well as being able to admire the local graffiti ;-).  

Elsie had her first introduction to swans when two swam over to us looking for bread crumbs.  She stood there wagging her stub until one hissed at her, she took a few steps back then edged closer again more tentatively then decided she might ought to stay far away after the second hiss.  I also took my first fall, was admiring the canal lock when I caught an uneven edge of concrete and down I went. No blood spilled though. Then Elsie and I kind of hit the runner's groove where you zone out and we didn't hear the cyclist coming up behind us who was being perhaps a little too polite with his bell, lol. I apologized profusely and even if he might have been cursing me in his head he didn't display it verbally.

If you get a chance go over to a friend's blog, Access ALL Areas and show her some support please. Watch the video! It's very eye-opening and displays a tiny bit of her wicked sense of humor.  I hope she does more of these.

14 October 2013

I hate planks.  How can something so simple be so difficult?

borrowed from pinterest

However I had an excellent run this morning once I forced myself out the door into the cold drizzle--hey even the locals here are complaining so I am not going to feel overly wimpy for complaining.  Left Ben and Elsie at home because I wanted as uninterrupted a run as possible, with the canal paths you will always have some slowdowns because they are so heavily used but the scenery is worth it.  The rain kept most of the dog walkers home so no "good morning love" salutations this morning (I look forward to those!).  Our next door neighbor came by with his dog Sammy just as I finished up and I'm sure he thinks I'm insane because I was rocking those post great run endorphins and might have been a little hyper during our chat, lol.

Actually the elephant pic above looks like a cheeky shot that someone took of me yesterday while I was attempting to tame the front garden somewhat!

No clue as of yet when our container of shipped items will arrive from the states but I am needing it here already because most of my cold weather gear is packed up in it.  I fully expected to be here in August so nearly everything that was unneeded at the time was boxed up.  Mid-summer in Arkansas means you are not thinking about heavier clothing for October in England.  It will be nice having all the smaller furniture items as well so that we can make the living room more, well for lack of a better word, livable.  We are starting to make progress on it though, finally got the drum kit downsized and some of the clutter put away (I'm not posting the pic of the stack of gear against one of the walls). 

I think I need an Americana pillow to go with the Union Jack!

The fireplace is a bit dire--AKA ugly. The landlord went for cheap rather than aesthetically pleasing, he also opted for the electric instead of gas thus using up one of the few outlets available.  Anyone have suggestions on how to disguise, minimize, change the looks of it before I get lost on pinterest for the day? 

12 October 2013


Not many people know it but I have a strong interest in retailing news, I always thought when I was growing up that I would end up doing something in the apparel industry but it's weird where life takes you, ie into a profession almost the complete opposite. Because of that interest I have a couple of different email subscriptions that keep me sort of up to date on what's happening in the retail world and this study about social media by Colloquy caught my eye this morning. I think the statistic that took me most by surprise was the use of landline telephones by those polled.  Will be interesting to see how this changes with the next study. Personally I use twitter and facebook quite a bit to research or to discuss positive and negative experiences with various companies and products as do many people I know so I believe that set of statistics will only climb higher

Another intriguing bit of news was about Reebok opening a FitHub concept store in London.  Reebok was THE brand of trainer to wear when I was in high school but they have been on a downward spiral for quite a while.  It's going to be hard but I think what they are producing for the crossfit market will be the key to rallying back, nice to see them producing gear that is fashionable AND functional again instead of plastering the name on any old thing.

Where all my "research" takes place

11 October 2013

Truckers etc.

You know the writer of a blog that has "trucker" (albeit former, rather than current) as part of its title is gonna have to watch a show called "Truckers" ;-)

My impression? Entertaining.  Will definitely watch again since the first episode wasn't over the top in portraying the drivers as caricatures of what the entertainment industry thinks truckers are.  Looking forward to the second episode (love BBC iPlayer!)

I'm also beginning to understand the depths of what I've gotten myself into with moving to a foreign country even if it's one where we sort of speak the same language. Tiptoeing through the minefields of cultural differences has commenced.  Light feet, y'all, light feet.

10 October 2013

What I miss

It's been less than 3 weeks in the UK but I'm already getting asked what I miss about the states.  It's early days but what I miss most is my running friends!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh and the American style washer and dryers that don't take 3 hours to do a minuscule load of laundry.
I see some amazing things outside the windows of our home, there's a very fat bunny rabbit that calls the back garden his home, a pair of doves spend a lot of time cooing from a nearby tree, the horses amble around trying to ignore all the people and dogs who tramp through their pastures.  Today when I glimpsed out while getting ready for an afternoon run, I spied a hawk making short order of his/her lunch.

Not quite zoomed in enough

Unfortunately I think this is what was left of one of the doves I mentioned earlier

One of the magpies moving in to find what it can scavenge

On a happier note, I had a fantastic run.  Elsie and I went out a little bit further on the canal path closest to us than what we did last week.  She's turning back into the lean, mini Schnauzer running machine that she was 3 years ago and is doing much better behavior wise when it comes to not lunging towards people or other dogs.  Ended up with nearly 6 blissful miles with her and then I came back for Ben so he could get a short run in--I can't take him out near as far or as fast as what I do with Elsie because he suffers from arthritis in a back hip and he limps for a day or so if we overdo it.  

09 October 2013

The mutts in the UK

One of the first questions that I was asked whenever anyone found out I was planning on moving to the UK was what I planned on doing with my dogs.  Of course I was going to bring them with me if at all possible!!! The next question by anyone remotely familiar with the laws was what about the 6 month quarantine but thankfully my travel plans fell into the right time for a rule change also known as the Pet Travel Scheme.  This was so new that not even my vet's office was aware of it until I brought in the info when I wanted to get Elsie prepared for the trip.  It was still a stressful and expensive process because the steps must be followed in a certain order, the paperwork must be filled out a certain way and it included a trip to the state branch of the USDA office to get the paperwork certified and stamp--fortunately this was before the current federal government shutdown.

The shipping of the dogs over could be handled by a third party who would ensure that all paperwork was done plus oversee the crating when at whatever airline you chose but that costs 3-4 times as much as doing it yourself.  We chose the DIY route and since I was flying United (hello, frequent flier miles meant my flight was $80!!) we used their PetSafe service.  There ended up being a few issues, the first was that because the flight out of Little Rock was on a small jet I would have to pay for them to ride in the cabin and this was going to be on top of the other charges for shipping them thus increasing the cost even more.  I ended up choosing to drive from central Arkansas down to Houston (an approximately 8 hour drive with bathroom stops).

Next issue was trying to find the United cargo terminal, I wasted close to an hour driving around trying to decipher the maze that is IAH.......once I managed to find the correct way into the air cargo terminals there were not any signs on the outside of the buildings giving any indication where PetSafe was located.  Stress level escalation!

Once there the two men who were in charge of setting up the crates and taking care of the animals were amazing! They took over and had everything put to rights in no time while reassuring me and were very attentive to Ben and Elsie.  Absolutely no complaints there, those two were top-notch and you could tell they enjoyed what they did.

The woman who was checking me in and going over the paperwork was another story altogether.  She didn't want to be at work and very much resented anyone coming in and interrupting her texting and phone conversations and her boss wasn't much better.  She claimed she couldn't find the shipping reservation--the one I had called to double check on the previous week by the way, the supervisor (another lady who wasn't happy with being interrupted) ambled over to find it.  Then there was confusion over the names on the reservation because there was two of us listed.  Then she claimed that the health certificates were invalid because they were done in May (that's when the rabies and other vaccinations were done) and that we were just going to have to leave when I was trying to point out the correct date.  Supervisor ambles over again, sighs very loudly, and announces that yes the health certificates were valid.  Next up was her trying to figure out how to fill in the customs forms......It just went on and on.  I don't mind when someone is new at their job and trying to get through it without messing up, I do mind arrogance and trying to shift the blame of their incompetence to the customer for what is already a stressful event.

Thankfully we all made it onto the correct flight and made it to London Heathrow mostly safe and sound (I have other stories to relate about this, lol).  The Heathrow Animal Reception Centre was very helpful and they cleaned the dogs and the crates up before bringing them out to us.  However, there is something else to be aware of--a representative with a customs clearing company may ask to speak to you via phone while you are waiting for the animals to be released and will say that you have to pay an additional £300 in fees.  I am not sure why this is but it amounts to extortion as far as I am concerned because these are your pets not merchandise. I immediately passed the phone to my partner who is British and he told them over $1300 had been paid and that no other charges had been discussed so as far as he was concerned there were no other monies owed.  We were then asked to fax a copy of the shipping papers and fees that had been paid already and the dogs were released to us approximately 45 minutes later.  A young lady in the USAF whose dog had been shipped to her (at well over $2000) didn't press it and just paid what they were asking.  These fees very much need to be made clear at the time of shipping NOT when you are waiting to pick the animals up.

Waiting to check out the new home

Another Mini pic

Sorry, can't help it because the Mini is just too darn cute.  This was taken from outside our upstairs window this morning and yes, that is how brilliant green the grass is.  I still can't get over how gorgeous the sky was as well (now it's just gray) but there was a permeating chill in the air, quite a contrast from yesterday's balminess.  You always hear "If you don't like the weather just wait 10 minutes and it will change" from so many people about where they live but it seems to be more true for the UK than anywhere else I have traveled.

08 October 2013

eenie, meenie, miney, mo........

It's a MINI!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, the car shopping is finally done for me, I am now the proud owner of a Park Lane edition 2006 Mini Cooper (imagine me grinning like a loon!).  Tis gorgeous and oh so cute and I am............totally and completely a nervous wreck what with having to remember to shift (5 speed manual), what lane I am supposed to be in, and the steering wheel being on the "wrong" side for my body memory--yes, after approximately 25 years of driving a certain way, your body adjusts to the position and it is hard to change. Trying to figure out a very new to me car in rush hour traffic on the first drive home didn't help any!  

This car seems to be almost meant to be, the person selling it was also a Gabrielle/Gabby albeit a few years my junior.  Unfortunately the personal plate didn't come along with the car unless we were willing to spend an additional £4000 (approximately $6435)--the UK methodology of vanity plates is quite different from the US way.  

See, isn't it cute?!?!

Now for getting down to the nitty-gritty of studying THE HIGHWAY CODE which I think is going to be even harder than my CDL exams were.  Oh yeah, no stress there *tongue firmly in cheek*

Since we are sort of on the subject of big trucks I snapped this pic of a Downton lorry en-route to picking up my Mini to kind of tease at a friend who was quite vocal in her disapproval of how the last season of Downton Abbey ended.  Look, there's a roundabout as well! How much Britishness can I squeeze into one paragraph! 

07 October 2013

Monday meanderings

Monday.  We have an appointment to go look at a car this afternoon--hopefully it ends up being the one because I am tired of shopping, I love cars/trucks/motorcycles but the searching and test driving absolutely pushes all the wrong buttons for me.

What does push the right buttons? Being less than half a mile from 30 plus miles of a multi-use trail network if I take the sidewalk (aka pavement in the UK) to the trail start or just outside my gate if I cut through the horse pasture.  Every morning I meander out on it has been amazing, you are right next to the road but it feels so serene and I don't think I will ever tire of hearing "G'morning luv" while I'm out running.  The only "downsides" are dodging the piles of horse crap and the stinging nettles--my right ankle is stinging a bit from a brush against some this morning--but how amazing is it being able to see horse-back riders sharing the trail with you every day??? The mutts seem to be loving it as much as I am :-)

Speaking of horses, I had a moment when I thought I'd been transported back to south Texas last week when what looked like a Hispanic man in full working western gear and saddle rode by outside our office window. Kind of made me miss my trucking days down I35 south of San Antonio.

Another thing I love is that we have blackberries growing along our back garden fence and they were ripe in October!!!! That's something you don't get in the muggy south of the US.

blackberries and red currants


The dog in the picture above is Ben, I need to formally introduce him on the blog but he has been in our family since this time last year.  

06 October 2013


I am finally in the UK, it has been a long stressful year with trying to get the visa sorted out but it's DONE!! Not singing the blues at all with the view outside of my window this morning--it's a gorgeous sunny cool autumn day (warm for the UK actually but I'm not acclimated yet!)--but a wander about youtube listening to some blues brought me around to a video of Samantha Fish.  Fantastic artist and an aroundabout Arkansas connection via the cigar box guitar she is playing.