Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Day #215: The one when I became a London resident

Let's just say, the Money Pit has flooded.
It all started months ago with the floating tortilla chip, the leaking bath tub, the lack of water pressure, the lack of hot water, the spiders, the electrician...."The Adventures of the Money Pit" have continued to keep us on our toes and will probably be a blockbuster hit released in the summer of 2013.

We started noticing our walls falling apart a couple months ago but we were hesitant to tell our landlords. We envisioned A) Being forced to pack our things and move while they knocked the place down & handed the plot over to the Federal Heath Code Regulators, B) Spending the next two years greeting carpenters arriving to re-do our entire flat. If the electrician took two weeks, can you imagine being here while they knocked down walls?!? or C) Trevor, our maintenance man extraordinaire, attempting to do the job himself and coming home to find bulldozed sections of our flat halfway down our high street. So, we ignored the problem as long as possible.

However, last night with the heavy rains, our apathetic attitudes had to go (along with most of our drywall). We were finally confronted with the reality that, if mold grows, our health problems would be more of a disaster than watching our landlords attempt to handle the situation.

Today, I watched as Trevor peeled off our walls to reveal sopping wet cardboard in our living room, hallway and bedroom. Rad. The highlight: The gapping holes between the floorboards and walls and Trevor saying, "Oh my, these are big enough for mice to climb through!" Double rad.

Trevor was about to cover up the dripping cardboard with new paper and paint; however, I put my foot down and demanded that they send someone out to make sure we don't have mold in our walls. My landlord proceeded to tell me that no one in London inspects mold problems. When I said I was sure there had to be building inspectors in the city of London he said, "I can assure you, from my office over the phone, that there is no mold problem!" I truly felt reassured.

It was finally decided that an inspector would be called. Trevor was instructed to leave the walls as-is and just clean up the sheets of paper from all over our house. He asked for the vacuum cleaner.
I showed him where we keep the vaccums and said, "Use the black one! Neither really work, but the blue one is really broken!"
I watched as Trevor pulled down the blue one.
I said, "Really Trevor, it's broken, go with the black!"
He decided to take the plunge and throw caution to the wind. I watched as he plugged in the blue vacuum. The vacuum body immediately began to smoke, the front case burst open, and the entire thing exploded in our hallway. He looked at me, I looked at him...there was really nothing to say.

I did; however, experience a moment today that made me smile. If you recall my first time meeting Trevor, I was mesmerized by the tea break he took every hour. He couldn't believe that I only had one type of tea and no milk or sugar to offer him.

Today it dawned on me that, without even thinking about it, I had offered Trevor a fresh cup of tea every hour, on the hour.
I also asked the first time around, "Would you like the raspberry, Earl Grey, or breakfast blend?"
Also, without hesitation I had plopped in two sugars and a dash of milk knowing how he takes his tea. Twice, I actually sat down with him and had tea myself.
This irony was realized when Trevor, upon leaving said, "You make a wicked cup of tea."
I smiled to myself and thought, "Wow. In a mere 7 months, I have started to become british!"
I do promise; however, that no matter how long we live here, I will NEVER be ok with a floating tortilla chip in our washing machine.

Lesson Learned: Our walls are lined with cardboard, so when we move home, there will be no need to purchase moving boxes. Win!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Day #206: The one on the overground

Now that I am settled into my routine at work I can travel to school the same way each day.
1. Depart house at 7:30
2. Walk down Upper St. (12 min.)
3. Wait 8 minutes (sometimes a little less if I swing in for a Starbie's (that is British for Starbucks)
4. Board the overground train at 7:50
5. Arrive at the Finchley Road & Frognal Stop at 8:13 on the nose (unless, of course, there is a train delay)
6. Absolutely haul ass up the hill and arrive to school by 8:15 sharp.  I am convinced that my jaunt up the hill takes longer than two minutes; however, there is some sort of time continuum I walk through everyday.  It's awesome.

I have journeyed this way consistently enough to know the people at Starbie's, recognize people on the street, and even wave to the girl who tried to screw us over when we got my cell phone (kill her with kindness is my modo!).  Usually on the overground, I cram myself into a corner, pull out my latest book, and zone out for 23 minutes.  But, one day last week I decided to break my routine....

It all started with a rancid smell.  We are talking the kind of smell that burns your eyes and catches in your throat.  This putrid reek startled me out of my reading coma and I looked up to find the source of this offensive odor.  As the crowds on the train buried their faces in their scarves, violently waved their hands in front of their noses, and coughed like a cat hacking up a hair ball, I noticed a man who had a slightly devious grin on his face. He half-heartedly held his nose in an attempt to blend in and be discreet.  However, in my mind he had been pegged.  He was Mr. Pooped-His-Pants.
Sidenote:  My immediate go-to with the Little Miss reference might stem from my recent time spent in the Early Childhood classrooms.  Forgive me.
As I chuckled to myself about Mr. Pooped-His-Pants I started to notice other comical scenes going on around me.  I decided to put down my copy of One Day (Yes, I am still reading this!  Emma and Dexter are not holding my attention like I thought they would) and have a look around.  What I found was a vast array of entertainment that I had, thus far, completely missed!  I couldn't believe it.  As I studied the crowd I found the most eclectic group of people I had ever seen.

First there was Mr. I-Have-No-Ear-Drums:  This guy was dressed like a Jnco Jeans advertisement as he was clearly embracing his inner Kenny Fisher.  His massive lime-green headphones were strung out of his textured fuzzy backpack and music was absolutely BLASTING into his ears.  The song playing was C&C Music Factory's, "Everybody Dance Now" which further added to the comedy. It might as well have been Puff Daddy jamming out to TLC's, "Waterfalls!"  Kenny Fisher would have been so disappointed.  Mr. I-Have-No-Ear-Drums also disappointed his ENT doctor as, following the train ride, his ears were sure to have been deemed useless.  In fact, the song was so loud that a woman a few feet away was absent-mindedly bobbing her head in beat with the song.
Next I noticed Mrs. I-Don't-Know-About-NHS:  This poor woman was as sick as a dog - sweaty forehead, hacking cough, sneezing.  Of course her hands were all over the handrails and I made a quick mental reminder to get myself a pocket-sized hand sanitizer.  The people on either side of her paid no attention.  I was like, "Both of you just contracted hepatitis and you don't seem to care!"  We have free health care, I literally don't understand.
Across the way was Little Miss I-Just-Got-My-First-Corporate-Job:  Beautiful girl, probably 21, long sleek hair, way too tight pencil skirt, smart collared button down, six inch heels (dead give away in London), and a Burberry briefcase.  In her hand was, of course, an i-phone (no cover...sleek and black) and she was busy at work, probably working on her latest deposition or an email to the CEO...nope, Angry Birds.
Down the train car a little ways was Mrs. I-Need-Super Nanny-Fast:  This was an exhausted 30-something woman with a 4-year-old in hysterics.  This child was face down in the middle of the commuter packed train car absolutely kicking and screaming.  The more the woman tried to help, the worse it became.  The child was screaming, "Give me my candy!!!!!!!"  The mother was frantic and negotiating, "If you get up I will get you candy when we get off the train!!!" Oh geeze - Super Nanny...come quick!
Next I spotted Mr. I-Hate-My-Job:  This poor guy was in his suit ready to go.  He was run-down, beat-down, definitely was not carrying a Burberry briefcase, and staring blankly into space.  I think if he "accidentally" missed his stop he would have been thrilled.  I said a little prayer for Mr. I-Hate-My-Job.  I hope that he walks in to work tomorrow and yells, "I QUIT!!!"  I envision him throwing on a Hawaiian spooner, starting a successful internet company, and working the rest of his life from home with a mai-tai in his hand.  Here's to you Mr. I-Hate-My-Hob.
To my right was Mrs. I-Had-A-Rough-Night:  This woman was on her cell phone and had clearly been burned by her friend out at a club the night before.  She was still in her clubbing clothes and would have probably killed someone for a toothbrush.  There was a lot of head-bobbing going on and I predict that under her sparkle cardigan was a t-shirt bedazzled with the word, "DRAMA!"  See, her friend Deeana was supposed to wait for her by the lou and left her there to go get another drink.  Deeana is always doing stuff like that and Mrs. I-Had-A-Rough-Night is just fed up.  Can YOU believe Deeana got another drink???  What a lousy friend!
Last, but not least, there was Mrs. Up-In-Everyone's-Business:  That was me.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes you should just put down your book and take a look around.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Day #199 - The one with the ode

An Ode to Germany
Written by Shayne McKay Singleton and Jacob Lee Singleton
11 October, 2011 *

*(Yes, that is how they write dates here)

Germany, oh Germany, we love you so,
and now from London, you're just a stone's throw.
This ode to you is well deserved,
our time spent last weekend must truly be preserved.
When we booked our tickets to your historic Oktoberfest,
we knew a good time would be our quest.
We pictured small, quaint tents with sweet song and dance,
we had visions of drinking beer in a field where sheep prance.
What we found was quite different, please forgive our shock,
when we walked in and found sights deserving of a gawk!
With eyes the size of saucers and smiles on our face,
we embarked upon the madness and jumped into the drunken race.
Day one was sheer madness as we met up with the group,
we crammed into a table just inside the Lowenbrau coop.
It was here we spent eight hours drinking, laughing, and making friends,
however, the lady's bathroom situation was a little worse than the mens (not by much!)
After 45 minutes each time to the loo,
Marge and Shayne's patience really started to stew.
When an emergency arose, together they did band,
Marge helped Shayne pee in public between a stroller and pretzel stand.
Day one ended in a heroic round of Glee (quite literally),
we stood up on table tops and set our voices free.
Hey Jude, Man Eater, and Sweet Caroline filled the air,
but Country Roads was the hit, who knew Germans had a cowboy flair?
Day two was quite different as we had a reservation,
at a tent table is where we found our self-depravation,
On the balcony we sat, it was real estate with a view,
with 10,000 others we 'cheers-ed' on cue.
With a round of birthday song we celebrated Jake P. and Marge,
they even got on stage to conduct the band and crowd at large.
After seven hours of beer at our VIP table,
we ventured down to floor-level to see if we were capable.
We climbed up on tables and benches so high,
a few hours in the "true" Oktoberfest we could not deny.
When they finally kicked us out, we reluctantly took our leave,
AMAZINGLY no one even claimed the need to heave!
In a dizzy blur of people, songs, and lederhosen pride,
We bid our adu with a bumper car ride.
The following morning we woke up with a start,
on our way out of Munich we shouted, "Gute Fahrt!"
Down the Romantic Road we wound and curved,
through tiny little towns and bumped and swerved.
After two short hours we entered our fairy tale,
Neushwanstein castle we knew would prevail,
Being at Disney's inspiration was a dream come true,
meandering through Ludwig's halls, we felt part of a lucky few.
Of course we couldn't make it through without a massive faux pas,
taking pictures in every room, the "NO PHOTOS" sign we never saw.
Good thing our day of fairy tales didn't stink,
because our entire hotel room was a sparkling purple and pink.
In Fussen we dined on our favorite German fare,
Duck, sausage, kraut, and spaetzle were certainly not rare.
The following morning we headed back north,
it was only with GPS that we were able to go forth.
The sites on our agenda were off the beaten track,
at one point our car was in a pasture and a bull at our back.
With this little bit of effort and small charging bull fright,
we found the Wieskirche, an international pilgrimage site.
Next on our list was a date with the Monks,
we journeyed through forests, detours, and pastures that stunk.
When we finally arrived, it was well worth the wait,
Kloster Andechs was part of our fate.
The working monastery was a spiritual place,
a cathedral and brewery...you should have seen Jake's face!
After our final German beer a tear slipped our eye,
one cannot leave Germany without a good cry.
This ode goes out to the people, beauty, and food,
the beer, the culture, the overall mood.
Germany is more than a place, but an experience all around,
it is where a piece of our hearts will always be found.

Lessons Learned: 1) Jake P. likes girls with tattoos, 2) The beer at Oktoberfest is made stronger for the celebration (what a SILLY idea!), 3) We both secretly want a pair of Lederhosen.

The Jakes at our table at the Lowenbrau beer tent.
Things might have gotten weird  :)
Marge and I, of course, had to purchase cookie necklaces (a very traditional Oktoberfest custom). When we bought them the guy said ours meant, "Pretty lady in a good way!"  Later that night we were told by a German speaker that the cookies we had been wearing around all day meant, "Whore!" Cool. 
Without him knowing, we put a fork with pork knuckle into the back pocket of Jake P.'s lederhosen.  Very German don't you think?
Ben and Jake leading the singing charge!
The singing continued outside the tent. 
Ben, Shayne, Margaret, Mike, and Jake outside the tent on the first night.
The view of the band and crowd from our balcony seats  on day two.
Our centerpiece...LOVE the blue cabbage.
All of the liters from our table!  WOW!
The birthday boy and girl!
Cheers!  Look who's winning the drinking race!  Or perhaps Jake just lapped me.
On the balcony over looking the carnival.
Our gang!
Marge and Jake conducting the crowd on stage. It was SO cool!
Jake and I up on stage!
Ohhhh...the fun continues!
Bumper cars post beer tent - GREAT idea!
Another bridge photo for Mike Braund - enjoy!
Jake and Ludwig - very royal!
View from the castle.
The throne room - note, this photo was highly illegal.
It's like DISNEYLAND!!!!
It's a dream come true!
It will never get old!
Just one more!
This is a Haribo gummy stand.  Kristyn and Kristy, this one's for you!
Gute Fahrt!!!
Lighting a candle for Memaw and Papa.
In Fussen on our last night.
View from Fussen - check out that reflection!
The bull that almost took out our car.
Inside the pilgrimage site with the choir singing.
A new style of Haribo's!
Sound it out people!
At the monastery!  
Check out this sign..."Do NOT play with your children with a ball, near a car, in front of your home!"
Beautiful sunset along our drive.
Oh Germany!
To view all of our photos from the trip, you can click on this link: