31 December 2011

Are you alright?

Quite often someone I vaguely know will ask me "Are you alright?" I always assumed I looked like I hadn't slept in weeks (which might not be far off) or that I looked as if I was about to burst into tears (also possible). I finally realized that "Are you alright?" is the equivalent of "How ya doin?" or "Whas up?" I no longer try to reassure people that I am not actually on the edge of a breakdown when they ask me if I'm alright.

27 December 2011

London seems empty. Where did everyone go for "Christmas holiday"? Shouldn't I be there too?

Where is everybody?

26 December 2011

What the heck is Boxing Day?

From some website: Traditionally, 26 December was the day to open the Christmas Box to share the contents with the poor. The Christmas box was a wooden or clay container where people placed gifts. 

What a nice tradition. I don't think that they do this anymore. Today the main thing going on seems to be a transit worker strike.

22 December 2011

The Dead

People haven't ever heard of The Grateful Dead. Guess I'll have trouble finding Cherry Garcia Ben & Jerry's here.

16 December 2011

Bah Humbug

Ruby came back from school today with tons of Christmas artwork including a few copies of this gem. Does anyone else think this is crazy? Ruby is now asking me to remind her of who all the people are in this drawing and asking me to sing the hymn she sang about Jesus' birth in the school play. (This is a public school!) 


15 December 2011

Where did Hanukkah go?

There is no sign of Hanukkah anywhere. I can't even find candles for my menorah. When I ask in the stores they just point to little birthday cake candles. I sent Simon back to NYC this morning to buy me some. (He actually has an NYC business trip, but I can pretend). Since October, everywhere I look there is Christmas paraphernalia. Even in our house - Simon got the kids a tree at a crazy store where you order things out of a catologue. The Christmas Tree
I thought I saw a tiny menorah on the dashboard of someone's car, but on closer inspection it was a Christmas candelabra. Ruby was in a Christmas show at her school. I haven't heard that annoying Adam Sandler song once.

Where's the FUNukkah?

09 December 2011

Driving "theory" test

Part one of my driving test is a multiple choice test on a computer. 100 questions (you need to get something like 85 correct) and it takes an hour. Then a "hazard perception" test where you watch videos and click your mouse when there is a hazard. All the interactive study materials only work with windows PCs, and our computers are both macs. My test is this Tuesday.

My head hurts.

08 December 2011


A friend just blogged about my blog on her blog!

Robyn's blog

Bean Bags

There are a lot of people here who I can't understand at all, and a lot of people don't understand me. A plumber came to the house today. He asked me over and over again if I had a couple of bean bags he could use. After a while I was cracking up, picturing me and this big dirty guy hanging out in the bathroom lying on bean bags. I finally got that he was saying "Bin Bags" and wanted some large garbage bags. At least this was kind of funny. When I had the driving instructor who I couldn't understand at all, it was kind of scary.

06 December 2011


Not sure why all my posts are about food - and mostly snack food at that.

Sweet Popcorn - avoid it
I want to point out that popcorn here typically comes in 3 flavors: "salt", "butter" or "sweet". I found this out when I went to a movie theater and later saw microwave popcorn sold in a variety pack of these flavors. Don't know why you wouldn't be able to have salt and butter on your popcorn. If you were wondering, the "sweet" one is NOT caramel popcorn. It tastes gross and smells like nasty chemicals when it is popping in the microwave.

I'm not brave enough to try this flavor.

05 December 2011


The house is cold and drafty. The back door doesn't shut properly and the many windows aren't double glazed. Apparently there is a big market here for "door draft excluders". People seem to like them to look like an animal.

Fush n' Chups

A typical English meal complete with mushy peas. (The stuff that looks like diarrhea is curry sauce.)

The other typical "tea" we have is "pie" - a puff pastry shell with bits of meat or vegetable inside.

London Fog

02 December 2011

Sun monday?


We think a red fox keeps defecating in our backyard even though it is completely enclosed by a high fence. The fox keeps leaving the poo right by our back door. Every morning I have to check for poo and go out and scoop if it is there. There are lots of clumpy brown things on the back porch and I think most of them are mud, but some could be fox poo. Guess I'm more used to dealing with mice and cockroaches.
Poo machine

29 November 2011


Late tonight I read this tiny slip of paper that Ruby brought home from school today. It said: Reminder - because of the teacher's strike, school will be closed tomorrow. It was the first I'd heard of it. I think I would remember something like that.



Some guys tried to break into the house next to ours last night. Ugh. So many robbers and muggers!

25 November 2011

Chinese Food

After years of ordering Chinese and Thai delivery a few times a week, I've now been Asian food deprived for 3 1/2 months. We tried Thai once in Clapham, but it was pretty bad. I ordered an egg roll from a Chinese place in Balham, but it was all doughy and tasteless. Tonight we decided to pick up Chinese from a place down the street. We didn't have a menu, but I told Simon 4 different options he could order for me. They didn't have any of them... "Moo shu what? A pancake!?" Simon ordered brown rice for me. The guy at the counter asked if he meant rice with soy sauce mixed in. Simon said he meant unrefined whole grain rice. The guy again insisted that if he put soy sauce on the white rice it would become brown rice.

23 November 2011


As you know, there is no Thanksgiving here. Simon works tomorrow. Ruby has school. When her teacher tried to tell the class what Thanksgiving was she said it was "a Christmas dinner". I've invited all the Americans with kids in the area to come to my house to make those Turkey hand prints. Not many people are coming because most have gone to America.

Here are some things they don't have here in Tooting (or if they do you have to hunt for them): Turkey (except for Christmas). Frozen pie crust in an aluminum pie tin (they have no idea what I'm talking about). Canned pumpkin. Chex mix. Marshmallows that are soft and aren't pink.

Would this taste ok if it were pink?

A 20 minute bus ride away, I found a butcher that sold me a raw Turkey breast. It came wrapped in bacon (huh?!) and cost 31 dollars. 


They call some cookies "digestive biscuits" or just "digestives". ewwww.


But on a brighter note, after years of searching, I found my favorite candy. I hadn't seen it for over a decade. Toffifee! It turned up on the shelf of a 99 pence store. I bought every box they had even though I had to wait in a ridiculously long "queue" at the "till".


By 3pm it is pretty dark outside. At 7am, it's still dark. By 8 it is starting to look like morning.

22 November 2011


London is full of petty criminals. When I went to the library yesterday, 2 thieves had just stolen a woman's purse while she was in the restroom. I guess they walked in and grabbed it. No one stopped them and they walked out of the library with her screaming that they had taken her purse. No security at the libraries, unlike Brooklyn.

The "riots" when we first arrived were just people breaking into stores and taking whatever they could grab. There are all these thieves here that steal ATM pins and set up devices to steal your debt card number. Simon's friend who moved here the same time we did has had his house broken into and the tires stolen off his bike.

I think London could use some style Giuliani police action.

17 November 2011

Monkey Nuts

Peanuts are called "Monkey Nuts". I saw it on a package in the grocery store and did a double-take. No one gives kids PB&J here. I guess "Monkey Nut Butter & Conserve" doesn't have the same ring to it.

This Canadian dude thought it was pretty funny too.


By the way, they also sell "Faggots" in the farmer's market. Simon and I haven't tried a faggot yet but Simon is thinking about it.

15 November 2011

Hard Water

The London water makes my hair look like I'm a sea witch. None of my hair products work here. I thought fabric softener was a scam - something you didn't need to put in the wash, but people were somehow convinced to buy it anyway. If you don't use it here, your clothes turn into cardboard. The drains in the bathroom sink smell like sewage. It's from the minerals in the water coating the pipes. There is white chalky stuff on everything - bathtubs, dishes, glasses. I wonder if the white stuff is lining the inside of my digestive system.

09 November 2011

Driving Test

I need to get a UK driver's license. You have to pass a "knowledge test" and then a practical test to get a license. I'm studying for the test by reading "The Official Highway Code" and "Know Your Traffic Signs".

Here is an excerpt from one of them: "Near-side edge of carriageway or obstruction near that edge (alternative shapes). White markers are used on the off-side edge and amber ones on the off-side of a dual carriageway".

I'm pretty sure I will fail the test.

Prostate exam in crosswalk

Swollen left arm ahead
This actually means NO BIKES

Caution: wide ass

Don't put doll house furniture on your head while you drive.

06 November 2011

Guy Fawkes Day

There were fireworks all over London last night. I heard on the radio that the emergency rooms were full of people who had blown off various body parts. We lit off fireworks in our friend's garden (backyard) while the kids breathed in the stinky toxic smoke and screamed "stinky! farty!". Simon bought 2 big boxes of fireworks from the local grocery store. They told him that after he purchased the fireworks he had to immediately leave the store because they didn't want people to light fireworks in the store. He asked if that had ever happened. They said no.

04 November 2011


Things are constantly being put through the mail slot in my front door even though we put up a "no junk mail sign". Before the sign, it was a new leaflet, business card or menu every few hours, and now it is still a few things a day.

We also get people who knock on the door trying to sell me stuff. Today it was a guy selling fish! (He's come a few times). Yesterday around "tea" time a young guy with a big duffel bag rang the doorbell. He talked with a heavy accent but I think he said he had gotten out of jail and was trying to get a second chance by selling "merchandise". He wanted to know if he could come in and if I had a few seconds he would show me his "merchandise". I did not, however, invite him in, and I'll never know what was in that big lumpy bag.

02 November 2011


Suddenly half the people walking by me on the street are wearing a red plastic flower on their coat. This morning someone asked me to buy one. He said it was to commemorate WWI (I told him I couldn't really remember what had happened in WWI but bought it anyway). Then someone else asked me to buy one and said it was for Afghanistan. I think the whole thing may just a Marimekko promotion. Anyhow, if you find one in a Peter Jones changing room stall, it's mine.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Ruby goes to a public (they say "state") school. Some state schools here are religious, but this one isn't. Today I went on a tour where the headmaster kept emphasizing how diverse the school was and that they were proud of this. He also said the whole school puts on a Christmas pageant and a Nativity play (I'm not even sure what this is exactly). I asked why they did the Nativity thingy when there are so many Muslims and Hindus in the school. He acted surprised as if no one had ever questioned it before and said they had always done a Nativity play, and that parents could just have their kids not participate. Oy Vey.

31 October 2011


Ruby and I walked around looking for houses to trick or treat at. I was told to only go to ones that had Halloween decorations - which were few and far between. Walking through the mostly deserted streets, we saw a red fox running around, going into people's yards trick or treating.

The few people who came to our house looking for treats were very sheepish. They looked like they wanted to apologize for showing up.

27 October 2011


Every night for the past few nights there have been fireworks going off around our house. I can't see any lights; just hear constant loud explosions coming from all sides. Simon and I thought maybe the fireworks were for Guy Fawkes Day - which isn't until Nov 5th - and is a night where towns have bonfires where they burn Guy Fawkes in effigy (a dude who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605) as well as effigies of unpopular famous people. It used to be some sort of anti-Catholic holiday. But someone told me today that the fireworks are for Eid al-Adha - a Muslim holiday that has to do with Abraham almost sacrificing his son.

20 October 2011

Wendy again

The "nutter" across the street came over to see who was sitting in the Wimbledon Driving School car parked in front of my house. When she saw it was me she said "Hi Wendy!" and kept talking and talking. I pay for these lessons by the hour so I kept trying to get her to move along. After that, my driving instructor called me Wendy for the next 2 hours.

19 October 2011


A flu shot for Ivy cost me 190 pounds ($300 US). A chickenpox vaccination for her cost me 190 pounds. At least most of the other stuff has been free. Doctor visits within the National Health System are scheduled for 10 minutes or less. I get into the room and start speed-talking. (Not much different than seeing a NYC doctor on an HMO I guess).

10 October 2011


Haven't seen him around.
I found out today that there is a cute little squirrel that used to be seen all over London. It was smaller than a regular squirrel, had a white tummy and looked like the drawings in a Beatrix Potter story. It has been almost completely wiped out by the invasive American gray squirrel. Such pride!


This is a photo of a poppet.

Everyone calls Ruby "poppet". Someone told me Ivy was a pudding.

09 October 2011

Ruby says...

...she wants to play "piggy in the middle". Not "monkey". She says "waTer" instead of her Brooklyn "wa-der". She asked if she could "have a run around?" when she wanted to get out of the stroller.

Playing Chicken

I knew it would be strange driving on the wrong side of the road, sitting on the wrong side of the car, but that isn't the strangest part. Here people park on both sides of the road (with the cars facing both directions on both sides). That is strange enough, but then they also drive right in the middle of the street, straddling the white line that separates the 2 lanes of traffic moving in opposite directions. The roads are 2-way roads, but they are too skinny to fit 2 small cars at once, so everyone drives in the center of the 2 lanes and pulls over when someone else comes down the street the other way. It is the most crazy system I've ever seen. If neither car pulls over, they just face each other in the middle of the road, until one driver reverses into a parking spot so the other can pass. Why the roads aren't one way streets, I do not know.

05 October 2011

Spider Season

There are spiders everywhere and huge webs everywhere. It looks like Brooklyn on Halloween, but the stuff is real. When I walk around outside I always feel webs touching my face. Before all these big juicy spiders appeared someone told me it was "spider season".

28 September 2011

Rosh Hashana

I went to the grocery store and asked if they sold round challah bread. The person in the grocery store said, Yes, cha-la. She was correcting me so I knew it was pronounced like "cha cha cha".


The songs and nursery rhymes are different here than in the USA. There is one song about little sleeping baby bunnies where the bunnies are "so still" that we sing "are they ill?" Another song involves singing different food combinations as if you were making the sound a train would make. The lyrics are "beef and carrots", "prunes and custard", "fish and chips".

27 September 2011


I went to the Clapham Common (they call the parks here commons). There were big piles of sand in the middle of the grass in random spots all over the park. I let Ivy play in one. Then someone told me that dogs pee there.

Nursery School

In Ruby's school they watch Dora the Explorer on a regular basis. Whenever I pass by, one or more of the teachers is outside the building having a smoke. When I went by yesterday it was the school nurse (in charge of the nursery school kid's health) puffing away.

18 September 2011


 I keep seeing people that look like they were cast for a part as "preppy asshole" in an 80's teen movie. Today I saw a whole family. The father, mother, toddler (Imogen) and baby all wore pink. The father wore his pink polo shirt with the collar sticking straight up. None of them looked embarrassed.


Our neighbor is named Susie. She lives across the street in an apartment building that I've been told is public housing (council flats). Susie calls me Wendy. She regularly pops by - usually right when I'm putting the kids to bed. Simon thinks she stops by on her way home from drinking at a social club. Once she came while I was out and scared the babysitter. She had boils on her hands and face. Usually when she comes by she says she stopped by earlier and where was I? She told Simon she was in a comma for 6 months, and they drilled holes in her head.

17 September 2011


We thought we were moving to a house in a neighborhood called Balham. That's because the real estate people said it was in Balham. Turns out we are living in Tooting - or possibly Upper Tooting. I thought that was the equivalent to moving to a neighborhood called Farting but my brother-in-law said that Tooting is farting, but Upper Tooting is burping.


Looked like this one but deader.
Last night Ruby was running around the garden (the backyard). She stepped on something yucky. Simon picked up an enormous mushy creature. It was as big as 3 or 4 American slugs. It was tan with bright orange. We weren't sure if it was alive or not. Simon threw it in the bushes.