Having visitors come to stay with us is a perk to living abroad because adults don’t normally invite their friends to come sleep over for no reason. But this way, when people come to visit, that is precisely what they do-it’s like a slumber party that lasts a few days. We had heaps of visitors in Milano when we lived there and here in London, we are just getting warmed up and have had a few come through our house already. My best friend and her hubby came to stay with us in mid-August and we spent a few days playing tourist with them, which was superb. (Clearly, since I’m yapping about August, it’s been a while since I uploaded). Among visiting the staple and typically commanded venues, we went to see the Lion King musical one fine afternoon. As we were running late to get to the theatre, we hopped in a rickshaw to make it on time for curtain call. The five-minute trip cost us 20 GBP, but it provided heaps of laughter and enlightenment because we learned that rickshaws and taxi’s get along as well as Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. If Brad Pitt represents the common man on the street, Angelina and Jennifer represent the two different modes of transport battling to get him around.
It turned out our driver was Polish and as he pedalled past a taxi, he pestered a particular driver stuck in traffic by yelling out ‘Taxi! Taxi! Taxi!’. The taxi driver, clearly annoyed and frazzled with rickshaws responded with a big ‘F*%k you!’. Undeterred, our cyclist smiled back and replied the same way to the driver, resulting in a chorus of laughter from us, the Brad Pitt’s. We then learned of the animosity that exists between the Aniston’s and the Jolie’s of the commuting world, and also of how the city here is trying to introduce mandatory licensing for rickshaw drivers. Currently, there are over 300, perhaps more, rickshaw drivers working in London, and as none are licensed of yet, they face heavy criticism for their safety and alleged reputation of playing loud music and driving on sidewalks, and being ‘dangerous’. So bad is their name here that police want the rickshaws outlawed and two years ago had temporarily reintroduced a law that was last legal 173 years ago.
To penalize improper behaviour back in the 1800’s, those who rang a doorbell and fled could face up to fourteen days in prison for their prank. Singing obscene songs, using horns excessively, and flying kites in dangerous manners were also punishable, (but what it means to fly a kite dangerously, I don’t know). Basically, this law was enforced to corral those that did not act properly and with respect, and to discipline them in a harsh manner. Police tapped into this regulation and resurrected it so that they could lasso those drivers acting in a way that posed a threat to motorists, pedestrians, and passengers. During the three-month campaign where this law was reborn, over one hundred rickshaws were impounded, and over fifty drivers were fined. Will they ever be outlawed I don’t know, but as controversially interesting as they are, they do get you around pretty quick, if I have to admit.
As all good things come to an end, the departure of my friends signalled an end to a week of going to high-tea, sampling beers, wandering the town, seeing shows, shopping, and perusing museums together. After our friends flew back home, the kiddos and I departed that same morning for six days in the motherland. It had been almost two years since I was in Poland and so I decided that before the kiddos and I start school, we should go visit again. My folks were there as well on holiday and we spent the days sightseeing, swimming daily in the hotel pool, time with family, and a quick jaunt to the mountains. All of the things we did were really just mere breaks from feasting at my aunt’s house because all she wanted to do was make sure our bellies were full, and like the universe, continually expanding.
In the evenings, when the kiddos and I were fasting within the walls of our hotel room, I had some good laughs watching polish people try to sing english songs on televised singing competitions. As one couple did a rendition of Whitney Houston’s ‘I will always love you’ from the Bodyguard, I couldn’t help but giggle, though their voices were impressive. The concepts of accents has intrigued me for some time and I had a good time listening to this Polish duo sing ‘…eef I shoot stay, I woot only be in yorrrrr way……and I, weel always lof you…’. Trips to the motherland are often entertaining, albeit fattening.
Coming back to London signalled the end of summer holidays and I know first-world problems induce eye-rolling reactions, but I am content not to fly for a little while. It feels wonderful to be home and settled. We’ve been packing and unpacking since we prepped to leave Milan back in March and now that summer and travels are done, we can focus more on making our new home a home, as a family. Being now that it’s October as I get to finishing this entry, the kid’s school is in full swing again and that promises to keep us swamped with homework and extracurricular activities, which I am superbly excited for. The Albino Hulk is registered in football (soccer) and cooking classes, whereas Little Miss Stubborn is taking drama after school as well as swimming. We started at this school late in the year last year so it will be great to see it function with a fresh start and to see the kiddos grow even more. To add to the experience, I signed myself up to be a representative for the Parent Teacher Association at the school for both kiddos’ classes, and I share this role with one other mom in each class. To sweeten my schedule even a bit more, I also will be volunteering to be a parent-reader to the kiddos in different class simply because, I want to see the school function as kids fascinate me. Time and again I am astounded and oozing with pride when I step back to watch and reflect on how well the kids have adjusted to their changes. I truly feel it is us, adults, who fear the unknown so much more and I wish we could all take a page out of the books of children and like them, just go with the flow. They don’t view changes so distinctly and with objection like we do. Instead, they accept these new places, streets, buildings, concepts, and people as an extended part of their norm. It’s magic and they are magnificent teachers. Little Miss Stubborn and the Albino Hulk have been my most excellent mentors and motivators to provide a settled environment together with Lumberg. Lumberg is much more content with change than me and navigates with more implied ease. I’m the loopy one, but then again, that should be so evident already.
With the kiddos back in school, I am slowly trying to adapt my schedule to accommodate the fact that school is in for me too and I am officially a grad student as I pursue some mad Marketing skills. It has been 11 years since I graduated from university so I have been spoiled by my ‘free’ time. I expect it to be a good challenge and very interesting because the general concept of marketing is a huge experiment in human psychology, and hence, very interesting to analyze and ponder. My return to a studious lifestyle only reaffirms the cliche but very true saying of ‘never say never’ because upon graduating in 2003, I told myself I would never go back to school to do a Masters. Fast forward eleven years later and here I am, stocking up on highlighters and binders. Kids these days get a selection of back-to-school items that blow mine out of the water.
Lumberg and I have signed up together at a local gym to try and get these old hips into some sort of shape. Speaking for me, I refrain from using the term ‘back in shape’ because I’m not sure if I was ever ‘in’ shape to begin with but I know I definitely don’t want to go back to the ameoba-physique I was in before and actually feel healthier after having kids. At the gym the other day I had a good chuckle as I rowed, rowed, and rowed my imaginary boat down my fictional stream. Having my own ear phones on, I was unable to hear the music from music videos on the tv screens in front of me. Observing Beyonce trying to be all sexy and uber cool by thrusting around on a beach like a fish out of water to my perceived silence cracked me up. The facial expressions, the way she dramatically moved her head from side to side, the hand gestures, and the dance moves were simply mime-like to me and far more entertaining than they should have been simply because, there was no audible music to accompany her. Because I often extrapolate myself to any situation before me or that is around me, I tried to imagine myself doing what she was doing on the beach in silence and pondered if I could pull the video off in the same way. Alas, because I do sexy like Godzilla does tip-toeing, I started to get a case of the giggles while on the rowing machine and magically, my time on there flew by. Comical distractions are wonderful and I should be able to locate a bicep muscle on my undefined arm any day now. Please hold.
Of course, London has heaps to offer for entertaining and outside of the gym there is far more to laugh at than my muscles. Last week, Lumberg, I and another couple went to see a stand up comedian named Jon Richardson who is currently on tour. He’s young, he’s British, he’s cute, he’s super witty…he’s splendid. Indeed, those are all fabulous qualities in a person but he really peaked my interest, tickled my fancy, and had me at ‘OCD’, if I have to be honest. Much of his comedy and laughs are sourced from his inability to let the little things go and being neurotic about how things should be done, (but why people feel this is a bad thing, I don’t understand). If he ever makes a fragrance I hope he (neatly) takes a page out of Calvin Klein’s book, but instead calls it Obsessive and I will be the first to buy it and douse myself in the sweet smell of righteousness. Lumberg has to patiently live with my inability to go to bed with a dirty kitchen, to make sure all drawers to any and all units are closed, and that folded and stacked shirts in the closet never topple over. I admit I will stretch the sheets and fluff the duvet a bit better when Lumberg leaves the room, leaving him to believe he really helped me by offering to make the bed in the morning. I do the same in the kitchen and wipe down the counters and tweak my appliances into their proper position after Lumberg cleans it. I like the sound the vacuum makes when it picks up dirt off the floor because the clinking of dirt and debris being whisked up the hose tells me the floors are clean, I only use wooden hangers that all must hang in the same direction, and when I was little, I would orientate all the toothbrushes in the bathroom to face in the same direction after I brushed my teeth. This shit starts early but I didn’t realize I was effed up until I got older and realized it was just my home, and more specifically my ma, that was this way. Up until then, I thought it was normal but by then it was too late and aspects of OCD were surfing through my blood and encrypted my DNA. The Dyson man is famously known to say ‘I just think things should work properly’, and to that I raise a beer and add ‘I just think things should BE properly’. I sound like a tight-ass, but I really like to think I am fun to be around. Dear Lord, I hope.
In my defence, I do believe I have relaxed since meeting Lumberg but at the same time, I am teaching him new tricks because he knows what makes me tick and hence he works hard to avoid those catalysts which just shows his genius. It’s a happy union and I admit, I have gone to bed once or twice with the kitchen in disarray. Either way, the comedy show allowed Lumberg and I to laugh about having neurotic tendencies and to me it was therapeutic because 1) there is safety in numbers and 2)…as Richardson The Cute Comedian showed, one can be be OCD and cool too. You really all should high-five your OCD friend today, (and their patient partners).
For the kids and their entertainment, we sampled The London Zoo again recently. We bought annual passes and the kids seem to enjoy the park every time we go. There is heaps to see and they roll around the zoo on their scooters taking in the sites. In historical times, many animals were kept at the Tower of London for over 600 years. Within the Tower’s walls, lions, leopards, an elephant, wolves, porcupines, ostriches, and eagles all lived there at one point. In 1252, the King of Norway gave Henry III a polar bear as a gift, which makes me beg the question of how much money must one have, and how bored must one be with other tangible items if a polar bear is what one gifts to a fellow rich friend?! I gifted a friend a gold fish once because they were in my budget and much easier to transport, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyways, over the years the animals started to outgrow the premises of the Tower of London, and together with private collections of other animals around London, it was decided that all animals would be donated to the Zoological Society of London. It was the first of its kind anywhere in the world and at the society’s premises at Regent Park, the animals were better cared-for in proper enclosures and with staff that knew how to treat them. It is from here that the term ‘zoo’ comes from and that term was first used in the early 1800’s. Through this donation of animals, the zoo was essentially born and from this point on, millions of people have visited the zoo over the years to admire and understand the animal kingdom in close proximity.
Moving on, as I try to include in each entry and in terms of some suggestions for things that could be useful for my parent-readers, should you be coming to the UK for a visit and are worried about traveling with heaps of equipment, give this site a try. They’re called Baby Comes 2 and they specialize in baby equipment hire. When we first moved here and while all our stuff was on pilgrimage from Milan, we rented a vehicle but didn’t have car seats for the kiddos. Renting from the car rental shop was an option of course, but I began to look for other possibilities and stumbled upon this site. I booked with them and they delivered to my door two car seats at rates cheaper than what the car rental agencies offered. Best of all, when I was done with the seats, I put them back in the boxes they came in and left them at my front door, where the same courier came to pick them up. It was too easy! They deliver to anywhere in the UK and offer a range of products to borrow, all in excellent condition. They’re truly a site of convenience.
If you’re looking to perfect some baking and cooking skills but don’t have the time to venture out to a class, have the chef come to you. That is precisely what I did earlier this week with a friend because I wanted to learn how to bake scones and bread properly. As the students, we had to supply all the ingredients, but the chef came armed with recipes and pointers on how to create edible items. The Roving Chef, aka Hayley, was friendly and fun and the three hour lesson flew by very quickly. The ultimate test for me is to see whether my clan approves of my attempts of edibility and with a huge sigh of relief, all three of them approved and even asked for more. That doesn’t happen very often but now I happily have a recipe to warm up my family’s bellies on the colder days that are coming.
London seasons are changing indeed and fall is quite pretty here. With cooler weather, bugs are also coming into the house more and this makes me very uneasy, and that proportionally makes Lumberg roll his eyes at me more. The kiddos have a large window in their bedroom and as a result, the top of the window is far far higher than I could reach, even if I stood on a chair. From the hallway I noticed a black spider on the top of their window frame one day and it automatically set me into defence mode simply because I knew the height differential set me at a disadvantage, coupled with the fact that we don’t own a ladder and I don’t know of any cheerleaders that could come and make a human pyramid to gain access. We do have a handyman who services the area and he naturally has a ladder, but I couldn’t really call him to ask him to come by with his ladder to remove a spider off my window frame, even though the thought bubble above my head did consider it for a second. In the end, I grabbed my vacuum. Standing on Little Miss Stubborn’s bed, I held the body of the vacuum in my left hand and extended the rod of the vacuum as far as it would go and with my other hand. On tip-toe, I swiped the top of the window frame repeatedly, hoping to whisk the spider away into my vacuum’s Vortex of Dirt. My Bosch vacuum isn’t small or light, and since my biceps are still in the gestational period, this task wasn’t easy for me, but I was determined to find that spider. Lumberg stumbled upon me doing this and I can only imagine that to him, I clearly looked very ghost-busterish with my equipment, except I don’t possess Bill Murray’s confidence. He knows I’m nutty and he knew that no amount of convincing would stop me from what I was doing, so after he paused for a few seconds to witness my paranoia in action, he just walked away without saying a word. Such a good man he is!
Alas, after a few swipes I trusted in my silent Bosch and hoped I got the critter. I climbed down off the bed and put my vacuum away. For days I would glance at the top of the frame when I passed the kiddos bedroom and started to gain confidence he was gone. Then, on the seventh day, the spider decided the coast was clear and in a style opposite to God’s, he came out of hiding and resting, and I spotted him again. MF’er! This time, a friend suggested I grab my mop because naturally I text my friend Nina who is just as petrified of spiders as I am and in times of need, we come up with plans to help one another remotely. I extended it as far as it would go, climbed on the bed, engaged my tip toes, and wiped the top of the frame again. I didn’t see a squished spider on the mop as I had hoped, however I removed heaps of dust with the soaked mop from my window frame which was really unexpected, but pleasant. Regardless, this cooler weather and change in season has brought in a spider in the house but I haven’t been able to find him since and hence the title of this entry, borrowed from U2. We’re discussing a trip to Africa next year and I really don’t know how I will cope with the critters because I can’t really plug my vacuum in in the game parks, can I?!
No photos this entry simply because my lap top needs to be tidied-too many photos to choose from and organize and I just don’t have the time. Hope to post again in a week!