28 February 2007

Stitching ‘n Bitching

I’ve been chastised for not writing about my knitting group here. It's not that I was ignoring them or intended any slight. Though the ladies in the group have been an integral part of me adjusting to life here in the UK, I just hadn’t thought that a bunch of old grannies and few (nearing) middle-aged knitsters (including myself) would be of interest to anyone but me. The truth is, though the knitting may not be, the women certainly are.

I wasn't even aware of it myself until today: they’ve been more of a help than I’d known.
Monday was a horrible day. Normally I enjoy my trip to London – a train journey that allows me to read or knit uninterrupted, a chance to visit Café Macchiato and have a buffalo mozzarella and tomato sandwich on the softest, most perfect ciabatta I’ve had outside of Italy, a quiet sit outside Euston station where I choose between honey-roasted cashews and pecans and a Belgian chocolate brownie to have with my vanilla latte before boarding the train and then a nap or a read on the way back home. Monday I did not enjoy my trip.

On the train on the way up I had a woman next to me who wouldn’t sit down for more than two minutes at a time because she kept standing up to talk to her family in the set of seats in front of us and then super-lonely guy, on the way back, who needed to continuously talk on his cell phone (even though the phone kept dying and he had to keep redialing whoever it was he was annoying besides me) who spoke so loudly that I could hear him even with my earphones in and The Stone Roses up as loud as I could get them without giving myself a migraine. Un-fucking-believable.

I missed the first train I intended to take so I had no time between the time I arrived at Euston and the time I needed to be at the salon to make it to the shop I wanted to go to. My stylist was running behind schedule, which she never does, so she finished my hair at 6 instead of 5, so I still didn't get to the one shop I needed to get to before heading back to the station for my train home, which, by the way, I missed because I'd walked to a shop that was already closed. Shit.

I had fast food for dinner (which I am pretty sure that I gave up for Lent, but it was that or powdered toast when I got home at 11 p.m.) and my husband was late picking me up from the station,
while the train was slightly early, so I stood around outside in a town that is normally about 2 degrees cooler and 20% windier than the town we live in. Bollocks!

As one can imagine, I was not a happy bunny when I arrived home. I went (almost) straight to bed, slept nearly completely through the night (I am like an infant when it comes to sleep. I usually have to pee in the night, but since I don’t have the luxury of weeing in pants and having someone clean up the mess in the morning, I have to get up, which I loathe) and then woke up this morning feeling what my friend describes as pants. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with feeling crappy, which very accurately characterized how I felt. I was tired and cranky and in no mood for anyone today. The post arrived bringing the yarn that I'd won on eBay, but was the wrong color because the shtooopid woman that listed it listed it as one color when it was really another (and, mind you, the numbers were not close - 167 instead of 154, urgh!) and I already had that color so I was miffed, irascible, droopy-eyed and feeling "pants" before I even reached the kitchen for coffee. Which, much to my chagrin, hadn't yet been made. Damnit!

Can you say, “Stay away from the crazy lady. Awoo-gah, Awoo-gah, this is not a drill! I repeat, this is not a drill! Dive, dive, dive!” ? Yes, I thought you could.

Even my ever-placid cat took one look at me, headed straight for back door to wait for me to open it and, when I did, went promptly out of it. Screw the rain - she preferred to sit outside. I imagine her telling the other neighborhood cats over a catnip toy they were passing around, “It’s either get wet or deal with my human, and I make it a point to never deal with my human.”

Needless to say (but I'm going to anyway), I was in no mood for a 15-mile drive that would take me 40+ minutes. I intended to skip Stitch ‘n Bitch because I feared that I would be less of a stitch and more of a bitch and that that wouldn’t be good for anyone. But, as I'd arranged to meet someone there to talk about bears (don’t ask!), I felt obligated to go. My friend, the closest friend I have here in the UK, sent me a text to say that she wasn't coming and that made me even less inclined to go. Sigh.

Going was the best thing that I could have done.

I arrived at our usual meeting place to see another friend and her beautiful little grandson, who has one of those sweet, little kid voices [made all the better for his little English accent (I know, I know, I’m the one with the accent)]. He had a brand new fire truck and was on his way home with his nan to get some supper and, more importantly, extricate his new toy from its box. He said a dulcetly high-pitched "bye-bye" to me and, as they left, more of the group started drifting in, including the friend I wasn’t expecting to see! I had lemon drizzle cake and a small vanilla cappuccino and a good old natter while we knitted. Another friend showed up late, but she sat near me and kept me in stitches (pardon the pun) the entire time. It's been a long time since I laughed so easily and comfortably with a group of people. I wasn't the new American girl anymore, I was part of the gang. I got invited to a birthday party (it’s for a 6-year-old, but, hey, it’s an invite) and I made plans with two of the girls to make plans for a girls’ night out. Excellent.

By the time I'd left, I felt more like I used to - social, included, happy.

I needed that. I needed them.

Thanks for taking me under your wings, ladies, and for making me one of your own - even if it's only for an hour, every Tuesday night.

It’s midnight now, and I am going to have to post this tomorrow because the steamer that the husband is using to strip the wallpaper off the walls in the upstairs bedroom just tripped the breaker that controls all of the sockets in the house.

And you know what? I don’t even care. I’m going to go eat half a tub of Cinder Toffee ice cream so that it doesn’t melt and call it serendipity.


23 February 2007

A Grand Day Out

As you well know, I did not have high hopes for the day. Before I went to bed last night there was no sign of having anything to look forward to but boredom and wallowing in self-pity.

Ha! The universe has its way with me again.

Today we went to Harrogate – a beautiful little village to the southeast of the Yorkshire Dales – for my birthday day out. It was fantastic, and not just because I got two new pairs of leather-lined boots!

Instead of the promised rain, the weather was mild and brisk and very pleasant indeed. In fact, the only rain we saw was from the inside of the Old Bell Tavern as we drank pints of Timothy Taylor and glasses of Lamb’s Navy rum and Coke (with lots of ice), refreshing ourselves after a hard day of shopping and eating.

We had a gorgeous* lunch at the Loch Fyne Restaurant in Harrogate and then a walk around the village. We ventured into a men’s shop that sold men’s clothing tailored in a traditionally English way and the husband bought an exquisite pair of handmade boots. He is as much of a shoe who-ore as I am.

We headed back to the town centre** and bought currant scones for tomorrow morning and lemon tarts (to serve as my birthday cake) from Betty’s Tea Room. Oh, the lemon tarts… They were exceptional – the perfect balance of sweet to tart, the kind that gives you that momentary flush from the tart, but none of the cloying taste of the "too sweet." Mmm, mmm, delish. It's a shame that we only bought the two because we both devoured them in record time (after a proper dinner, of course). I’ll be missing mine about an hour from now.

We wandered up a winding side street to burn a few calories and check out some of the shops off the beaten path, where we happened upon a killer shop called Velvet Rose - a smallish shop packed to the gills with the girliest of girly wares. The racks were sagging from the weight of organza, rumpled linen, velvet, rose-shaped brooches that wouldn’t be amiss on a woman from a Dickens novel and skirts fit for a Gibson girl - bustle and all! It’s exactly the sort of clothing I love and exactly the sort of clothing that makes me look like an ottoman with legs (which is why I never wear that kind of clothing). They also had a fa-hab-u-lous pair of brown leather boots with a four-inch heel and electric blue trim around the seams. These do not make me look like a walking ottoman, which is why they are now mine to stroke and yours to covet. Of course, with each step I hear Molly McGee's voice telling me, "lean way back on your heels." Hopefully I don't look like a clydesdale or an ottoman.

The husband and I went into another shop so that I could point out the ridiculous price tag on a Chloe handbag. I was so smug. I ended up with a second pair of boots. They are spectacular. Fortunately, they were of a price that we mere mortals could pay and the husband bought them for me as an extra birthday present. Awww…

With the shops and teahouses closing, we headed off to the Old Bell Tavern for a quick drink to relax for a bit and wait out the Friday night traffic. It was a proper pub with old, french-polished wood and real ales (9 to 12 percent alcohol content; none of this namby-pamby 4 or 5 percent) and locals throwing back a pint before heading home or off to a restaurant for their evening meal. I made a friend of the woman next to us as she admired our shopping prowess and I got to pet a sweet, if overly excitable, cocker spaniel who was hanging out with his (human) mates before walkies.

After a quiet drive home, we arrived to find a second bouquet of flowers (the first was from hubby this morning before we left) and cards and a sweet little package from my in-laws and nieces. I ate my butter chicken with vegetable naan from the Indian take-away and opened my e-mail to find a haul of e-cards from friends.

Like I said, "Awww..."

Even though I’m far away, I felt (for a moment) like I was home.

So, before I can miss my lemon tart, I’ll head for bed – with a smile on my face, humming “Happy Birthday To Me” – and know that it was a good day.

Thanks to everyone who made it happen.


* The British are fond of describing food with words like beautiful and gorgeous. They don't use arcane vernacular like delicious or tasty. Interestingly, scrummy is a perfectly viable adjective.

** They spell words that end in "er" like the French ("re"), for which you can be legally† drawn and quartered if you point it out to them.

† I'm not sure if it's legal, but they will‡ draw and quarter you if you point it out.

‡ Okay, they won't, but they will think about it.

22 February 2007

Gonna Party Like It's My Birthday...


Tomorrow is my 39th birthday.


It’s hard to believe that I am damn-near 40 years old. Another year closer to being dead and no years closer to being the person that I always thought I’d be.

That’s a damn shame.

The problem is that I still don’t know what it is that I want to be when I grow up. The bigger problem is that I need to figure it out pretty damn quick since I am awfully, awfully close to being grown up. This, too, is a damn shame.

What a difference a year makes... This time last year I was surrounded by friends, living in a place that I knew well (and really, really liked) and I was a contributing member of society. I had a job and a social life and solid plan for my birthday. Last year I went to lunch with friends almost every day of my birthday week and had phô and chocolate cake and ahi tuna sandwiches - all within walking distance of my office.

This year, I am sitting up at nigh midnight looking up possible day trips for tomorrow - somewhere to go so that I don’t end up sitting in the living room watching a marathon of "True Hollywood Story" on E! Entertainment Television or reruns of "Two and a Half Men" while stuffing myself with bowl after bowl of Cinder Toffee ice cream and swigging hard cider from the bottle to keep from feeling sorry for myself; something to do other than clean the front room and try to put craft supplies and a hundred tech gadgets and their various peripherals into spaces that don’t exist.

There’s no solid plan for what to do tomorrow - just a bunch of suggestions, some self-pitying mewling from myself and a few half-hearted attempts by the husband to come up with a day plan. This is pissing me off. I love my birthday.

My stepfather and a good friend of mine prefer natal anniversary to birthday. My SIL asks me if I’m “x again” each time age comes up. Well, none of that horseshit for me. It’s my freakin’ birthday and I am 39. I am not coyly pretending to be some age other than the one that I've worked damn hard to reach, nor am I am couching the word "birthday" in gentler terms. I am happy to age. The alternative does not bear thinking about at the moment. I just want to celebrate my birthday.

I’d rather intended to write about how much tomorrow was going to suck since I was going to miss talking to my stepmother (who never fails to remember my birthday), but she called me this afternoon to wish me happy birthday and to talk to me before she boarded a plane to San Diego to see my sister’s 20-year Retirement ceremony from the Marines (Semper Fi!) and my older sister sent me an iCard from Apple.

Could it be a happy birthday after all?

06 February 2007

A Tale of Two Mornings

Last Friday, my world looked like this:

This morning, it looked like this:

And this:
And this:

It's night now and it is -2.78°, that is below f!@#ing freezing, thanks very much.

Winter is in full swing here and for the most part it's beautiful - cold, but beautiful.

Wish you were here?

05 February 2007

Ecover Squirt

My life these days seems to be a never-ending series of Sisyphusian tasks. Cook a meal, clean the kitchen, cook meal, clean kitchen, cook, clean, sunset, sunrise, repeat.

No sooner do I finish sorting a drawer, cabinet or room does something need to be mended in - or removed from - said drawer/cabinet/room. Everything that was in there needs to be shifted to some other drawer, cabinet or room, and this means rearranging everything that used to exist in that space to some other space. Arrrrrggggggggggh!

I'm reminded of an ex-boyfriend's mother who had a mastectomy and directly after her surgery she and her husband remodeled their kitchen. I remember her obsessing over really small details and parts of the process. Kitchen cabinet knobs became the thing. Should they be football shaped or moon shaped? If moon-shaped, should they be crescent moon or new moon shaped? Her husband and son became increasingly frustrated with her, wanting her to make what they felt was a simple decision.

I, on the other hand, completely sympathized.

Obsessing, er... focusing, on something that you can control - no matter how small - alleviates the need to focus on the real thing, the serious thing, the thing that's too big for your tiny, crazed, brilliant mind to encompass.

My...focus... is always cleaning some minute part of a room that is, otherwise, completely covered in crap. At the moment, that describes my entire house. People who know me will know that this is not a comfortable state of affairs for me. So, tonight it was the bottom shelf of a bookshelf. I got down on the floor on my hands and knees, sprayed the shelf with cleaner and then scrubbed the thing within an inch of its life. Behind me, there is an ottoman covered in sheet protectors filled with embellishments for card making and scrapbook pages, a furry alpaca pillow that has yet to find a home in any of the chairs that we own, my knitting bag that is (quite literally) overflowing with yarn and knitting accoutrements and a plastic storage container that has various archival adhesives in it.

My bookshelf shelf is gleaming. I could eat my evening meal off of that thing. Do I care that can't see the floor in the rest of the room? You bet your sweet ass I do. I am, however, choosing to ignore it.

Ooh, wait, look, there's a speck of dust left on the back edge. Let me just get that...