Saturday, December 25, 2010

An American Girlfriend In London, Pt 7: Christmas 2010

I was going to write a blog post.... but I just didn't feel like it. So instead, today, you get a video... of me. There is a part of me that really wants to apologize for sitting here in a sweatshirt with no make up, and messy hair covered by a hat I've had on since noon, but I won't, 'cause this IS me. Well, it's me home alone and ready for bed....

(I have NO idea why the sound & video don't seem to be lining up properly, sorry)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An American Girlfriend In London, Pt 6: The New London Eye?

About two weeks ago the vision in my right eye went cloudy. Not the eyeball itself, just the way things looked. There was no injury, no signs, no redness, no itching, no irritation, no scratch, no makeup or moisturizer in my eye, nada, zip, zero, zilch. I assumed at the time that it was my contact lens, and so I took them out. The following morning I put on my nerd glasses and the eye was still cloudy. I washed my face, put drops in my eyes… no change. Days went by… no change.
After about four days I was up walking on the high street near here and saw a Boots eyewear shop. I figured there'd be an eye Dr. in there since people need to get prescriptions for glasses, right? They had to have some equipment that could see past the obvious, right?  Wrong. Other than wasting about £40 to be told to put a warm washcloth over my eyes for 10 minutes a day, I got nothin'. NO answers.

A week later, after being told by the BF that I should just go to the local hospital down the road and not bother with the "private practice" people… I went. Though I should say "I spent"… not money… but 5 hours. Yes, FIVE FUCKING HOURS in the waiting room. Well. more like 4 hrs. 15 minutes since the first 45 min were spent going from desk to desk to desk at the hospital since no one seemed to know much of anything.

One office: They ask me if I am diabetic, I tell them no, they then tell me they can't see me since they only deal with diabetics. In my frustration I offer to head back to the high street and eat a couple dozen cupcakes to give myself diabetes. While the other patients in the waiting room found this hysterical, the receptionist did not… and sent me to yet another office.

(insert 3 other offices/desks here, none of them helpful AT ALL)

Another office: Since I didn't have a primary care physician, nor did I have any obvious medical emergencies (i.e an axe sticking out of my cranium), I was told I needed to go to the ER section and see someone there…

ER: they took my info, told me to have a seat… and for 4 hours and 45 minutes my ass sat there in silence. Wish the same could be said for the family with two small children that didn't shut up for more than 10 seconds during those 4 hours and 45 minutes. They weren't speaking english, so I have no idea what was so important that the husband and wife couldn't shut up. They weren't even fighting… just non-stop (VERY LOUD) jibber jab. It was getting on my every last nerve.. but still I sat… waiting, quietly, hands in my lap, in silence… for 4 HOURS AND 45 MINUTES!

When a Dr. finally came out and called my name I almost cried tears of joy… but held back for fear of screwing up whatever tests they were hopefully about to run. Know what they did? The very nice (& decidedly hot) Dr looked in my eyes with a small light, put some iodine drops in my eyes, looked at them again, flushed the iodine out... and said "what would you like first? The good news, or the bad news?" … I gotta admit, I was actually excited for the bad news at this point because in my head it meant he knew what was wrong.

"Both, in one sentence" I told him. So he says "well, good news is that I didn't see anything wrong, because the bad news is that the equipment here is not any good for this sort of thing and you'll have to go see a private care physician." He gave me a print out of the place he recommended, oddly enough it was the place I had originally wanted to go that the BF told me not to bother with. So… the next day I emailed them, and asked for info about an appointment. When I finally heard back two or three days later the email told me that a consultation, not even a fucking exam, would be £200 to £250… yeah, that's almost $400… so guess whose eye miraculously cleared up a day later? (It totally didn't, I'm just faking it till I get back to the states and can go see a Dr that won't cost me an arm and a leg… almost $400 is downright retarded)

So, yeah, I'm walking around these days with a really cloudy eye that makes seeing things at night a royal pain in the ass. On sunny days I am stupid enough to put my contacts in because I can not see in bright sunlight without sunglasses on, and wearing my glasses makes wearing sunglasses impossible (…or just plain awkward, 'cause I don't think glasses of any sort were meant to be layered- even in the 80'.) Yeah, wearing my glasses sucks- especially in the winter when they fog up every time I walk through a door where the temperature changes. Makes me want to invent a wee wiper blade that swishes across the lenses, how cool would THAT be?!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An American Girlfriend In London, Pt 5: Excuse You

 I can not even begin to tell you how many times I have witnessed this over the past month, and it truly shocks me: NO ONE IN LONDON CLOSES DOORS.

It's freezing here, and the heat is on in all establishments, but no one seems to bother to close the door after they enter or exit, EVER. In just the past 20 minutes I have witnessed the door to the back terrace at the cafe where I sit be opened by 10 different people, not one of them closed it behind them. Do they think that because they are brave enough to sit outside in the cold that all the people inside must get the chills too?

I am more than a little obsessed with keeping doors shut due to my very drafty house back home in the states... plus the drafty house here in London where I am living needs doors to stay shut or the rooms will never get warm. I've witnessed this all over the city; in restaurants, shops, and even other people's homes. Seriously though, what is with people? Is it that hard to close a door? You opened it to get in/out... then eventually one of the staff here, or maybe me, closed it when your inconsiderate ass left it open... why not try being polite? Close the fucking door!

Don't get me wrong, many (like most) Americans are rude as fuck... and they seem to be even worse in the summer... like if they leave enough doors & windows open they'll manage to cool down the air outside. Dear Idiots- YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

I've also been noticing that people rarely say "pardon me" or "excuse me" when they bump into you.... moreover when they bump into me. The other day I actually stopped to look in a store window to check my reflection to see if maybe I had a sign somewhere on me reading "please pretend I'm a bumper car"... nope, wasn't there. Or was it? Maybe I just can't see it? I'm one inch shy of 6' tall, with bright fuchsia streaks in my hair... I'm not what one would call "easy to miss"... maybe that's the problem? I'm so in their face that they have no choice but to bump into me? I'm gonna go with that one, it almost makes sense... almost.

I'm really in no mood to be writing a post right now... and in the 5 minutes since I started, the door to this back terrace has been opened by 6 different people, none of them shutting it behind them. It was always one of the busy staff running from the front of the cafe to close it. WTF?

At least I've been smart enough to always sit in the far back corner so no one even has the option to bump into me... and I can just watch their inconsiderate asses waste some more heat/money. Guess people figure if they aren't paying for it... they're not paying for it. I'm sure this happens everywhere... but I'm not everywhere... I'm here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An American Girlfriend In London, Pt 4: What A Riot

A VERY good friend of mine (Doug) that I've known since I was like 14, is in London on business this week (woohoo!) and tonight (his last night) we met up for a bite to eat and to catch up since we hadn't seen each other since spring.

I don't recall the place we ate at, and it wasn't a "real" meal per se ...just a massive plate of chips (french fries) & a variety of sausages (um... YUM! Seriously.. YUM!!!) We had been sitting around waiting for the BF to show up and after an hour or so decided to move to somewhere to get a cup of tea/coffee ... and as we left the restaurant we were greeted by this:

 (click to enlarge)
I walked up to one of the cops in their riot gear and asked him "What's going on?"
He replied "I don't know, you tell me..." and smiled.
I just looked at him funny and said "Ok, what's your name? I'll go run up ahead and shout back for you" and started to walk away.... then this happened...
 It was fairly intense for a few moments there.  But did I manage to catch THAT on video? No. (That would have been too awesome apparently....) I was so taken aback by the sight that greeted us outside the restaurant that I had whipped out my camera, and as soon as the first picture was taken the cops started marching so I filmed THAT moment. (it was a VERY creepy sound BTW) People were rushing around and shouting, and Doug & I had NO idea what was going on, so I asked another bystander. They told us it was in regards to the recent changes in the college tuition policies. (Apparently they want to change the fees for English (not Welsh or Scottish) students from £3000 to £9000... and not too many people are all that pleased about it. There have been loads of demonstrations around the city, a MASSIVE riot about a week ago, and tonight there was a whole mess of angry protesters around London, and the police were trying to get them all into one place to keep an eye on them in Trafalgar Square. (I don't think they were keeping too close an eye since they seemed to miss the guy spray painting "TORY SCUM" on the statue known as Nelsons Column. (Nelsons Column is basically the London equivalent of The Washington Monument and was once known as the center of town as well.) Doug got a good shot of that on his phone.

We finally made it through the crowds, found an empty coffee shop, and went in... getting hot cocoa... 'cause not much says "we're wild, crazy, and live on the edge" like hot cocoa, ya know? The BF eventually showed up. Doug & the BF finally got to meet, and I am happy to report they got along famously... as they should. I would have to break up with the BF if he didn't like Doug, not even kidding. Doug is that fantastic... and I love that he and I got to see the oddities of tonight together.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

An American Girlfriend in London Pt 3: WTF-UK

This would be the blog post where no matter how hard I try not to sound like I'm complaining or trying to pull the "that's not how we do it in America" card… I'll fail miserably. I'm really not too worried about it though, because I feel the overwhelming need to get some of this out….

I do realize that the area am currently living in here in London (Hackney) is not what many would consider "LONDON"… but it is London. It's a part of London…. and London has done (or technically NOT done) quite a few things since I've been here this time around to make me wonder why it is listed when people talk of bustling metropolises (i.e "New York, Paris, Rome, London…") of the world.

We have received a total of approx. 1½ inches of snow here in the past 5 days, a mere dusting really (& yes, I realize other surrounding areas got loads more, and Scotland is like closed… 'cause they got slammed)… know what London did? Shut down. Seriously. The transit system went all loopy; schools closed; airports closed; mail even ceased to be delivered, & I just sat here totally stupefied. No mail? Are you F'n kidding me? (Dear USPS- You RULE!!) I only noticed this because I had been waiting on a few things, like my bank card, to arrive… and after waiting since the 16th of November, about two days ago I hoofed it across Hackney to the bank (it ain't close) to find out what the hold up was, fully convinced that HSBC stood for "Her Slow Bank Card", and I quickly found out that HSBC apparently stands for "Her Sucktastic Bank Corporation" 'cause those asshats mailed my bank card to my AMERICAN address. (WHAT?!) Know what the woman at the bank said to me? "You know, you didn't have to walk all the way here, you could have just called." This would be the moment where I consciously had to stop my eyes from rolling and turning into über bitchy American chick, and I calmly replied:  "Well, I would have called… if I had a phone… which I don't… and can't get till the bank card arrives, nor can I access the money I put in there till then either. So, as you can see, walking across the city to here was the only option."

Anyway.. that mild annoyance regarding the bank card is just that, a mild annoyance. All of these things are just mild annoyances and/or occurrences of "huh, that's odd" variety. Another example would be the package I have been waiting for. Each day this week I sat here patiently waiting for the *kErThUmP* noise the mail makes when it is shoved through the mail slot in the front door. I must admit, I do like that sound, but that is mostly due to the fact that back home on the island where I live mail is not delivered to houses; I have to go pick everything up at the post office. Home delivery seems like such a treat to me… so waiting for the postman to show up with a package was nice… till I gave up the other day and left the house around 2:30pm to go to the cafe down the road to use the internet… since we still don't have any here (more on THAT in a moment)… After I left…the post came, my package was here, at the front door… and it left. All I got was as slip of paper telling me to call for redelivery- with my nonexistent phone apparently- or I could walk to the package pick up center (about a mile or two away) and go get it myself.

Today, after getting directions from the BF as to the location of this package pick up center, I walked up there. It took FOREVER. Know why? Everything is coated in ice. According to one of the BF's housemates (AIR: Artist In Residence is the name given to him on the BF's blog, so I think I'll just use that one here as well), shops and homeowners alike are told to NOT shovel/scrape the areas in front of their properties, nor can they put down salt or sand… all because someone might slip on the salt or sand and sue. (But falling flat on your ass due to massive amounts of ice is okay?….) So, yeah, the only shoes I can wear for extended periods of time in this weather (chuck taylors) have ZERO traction (or warmth) on anything other than a basketball court (& while I am 1" shy of 6', and can palm a basket ball.… I don't play)…. Soooooo there I am taking baby steps and walking (slipping & sliding really) all the way up this road to find the package pick up center. I found it with no problem, but was more than a little shocked that I couldn't buy stamps anywhere in the building or nearby. I asked about 10 different people as I continued walking down the icy sidewalks, and FINALLY I found a post office. I bought 2 stamps (so that I wouldn't have to come back that way for a while), and mailed the one envelope I brought with me… and started to head back to the house.

Once I made it back to the road where I first began my trek I realized it was actually getting COLDER out… and there was even more ice on the sidewalks. I saw an ambulance loading a person in front of a grocery store… a grocery store with a HUGE patch of ice out front. Rocket science wasn't needed to figure out what happened… but the overheard conversation as I skated by ("Poor thing, she was just trying to hurry and get out of the cold" said a woman, "should have been wearing shoes with better traction" said a man) basically confirmed my theory. (I totally wanted to turn to the guy and be like "dude! way to kick someone when they're down! dick!") Behind the ambulance was a large van that was stuck on the ice. I wanted to cross the street, but not only was I completely bemused by the situation and the fact that right behind the numbskull that was attempting to push the van there was a large pile of cardboard that would have instantly afforded them the traction needed to get back on the road… but I didn't want to cross the road anywhere near this giant van that could have fishtailed at any second and, well, killed me. I am not ready to die… I got stuff to do.

As I rounded a corner I noticed a man, with a wheelbarrow, chucking fistfuls of sand onto the road. Homeboy was like a neon jacketed flower girl at the wedding of ice & wind. I couldn't help but wonder why a city like London didn't have some massive salt/sand trucks to help in these situations. I mean, a lone dude, in a bright yellow jacket, with a wheelbarrow on a major road…. it just doesn't seem to make sense. I'm sure in the main part of the city, where all the wealthy people live/work, there are salt trucks that can attend to the city's needs… but I was shocked by the lil' dude in the yellow jacket.

Now I am back at the house, typing this, wishing there was internet… and knowing that we probably won't even have it till mid-January at the earliest. THIS irks me. I could understand a week long wait… but honestly, this is retarded. Back home I wanted to switch providers, made a phone call, drove 3 miles, picked up a new router, plugged it in, an *poof* new internet in under an hour, America, Fuck Yeah! (even on the boring, tiny, no option havin', wee island…) Apparently the only way to get internet here, if you aren't going through your cable company (I have yet to explore the options of that one since there is no cable here at the house anyway), is to have a land line installed, and THEN you can get internet. Problem is getting someone here to do it. One of the BF's housemates is in charge of this (Not sure what to call him here… but Drunky McDrunkerson would be apropos… seriously, he is a hardcore alcoholic. I have never seen a human plow through booze the way he does… but he is nice enough. Very odd, totally quirky in the most annoying ways, and void of all social skills, but nice enough… I'll leave the part about him clearly having issues with women for another post,) So, yeah, DMD said he'd take care of all this… but he's more than a little flaky- so if the BF & AIR aren't on top of this… I will spend the rest of winter freezing my ass off up at the cafe so that I can post my ramblings ….& check email/facebook/and all the other stuff one uses the internet for.

I miss my WiFi… I also miss my big comfy girly bed with it's retarded amount of pillows, the feather bed topper, and the down filled duvet… and I miss my wood burning stove…. I miss not having my nose run INSIDE … I miss 80% of my clothes ….. I miss my refrigerator, and not just because it's massive & awesome, mainly I just miss it because it isn't filled with questionable things that very well might have expired during the Clinton administration. Plus it has more room than the shoe box sized fridge here. I miss my speedy and efficient washer & dryer. I miss grocery stores where I actually know where & what everything is. I miss my best friend & her two son's, A LOT….. I even miss my housemate Colin and the 130lb beast (Niela). I do NOT miss having everything I own coated in her hair, or her deciding at 3:30am that she needs to go out to pee and I am her Obi Wan. She can't go out on her own, she's too friendly and if she sees a skunk she'll be all "Hey kitty! Wanna play?! Can I sniff your butt?" - trust me, she did this quite a few times one month a summer or so back. You'd think just once would have been enough to teach her a lesson… nope. We've been really good about keeping an eye on her ever since…. easier than bathing her, that's for sure. (BTW- best thing to get rid of skunk stink? Dish soap. Don't believe that "tomato juice" lie… it doesn't work. It'll just make your dog smell like a salad… a skunky salad. Dish soap cuts up and breaks down the oils that the skunk just coated your dog in… and they'll smell lemony fresh :) It will dry their skin out big time though, so if you have some doggy shampoo for sensitive skin on hand (which you should if your a dog owner)..wash 'um with that after.)

That all reminds me… know what else I miss? Dish soap that doesn't make your palms peel and your nails turn into brittle, weak, pieces of paper. (Damn you "Fairy Soap®"!) There are also things that I don't necessarily miss, but wonder what ever happened to. Things like Jello®. I am pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but the fact that I can't find any Jello® products it just so weird to me. No Campbells® soups either… or Betty Crocker/Duncan Hines…and…….. <*insert solitary tear of remembrance here*>… no Strawberry Twizzlers®, that one is sad as hell.

Ok, I'm done. I do love London, and I am enjoying myself… and I do realize that for every difference I find there is an opportunity to potentially discover something even better than what I was originally looking for… but the lack of Strawberry Twizzlers® is a travesty. For real.