Journal Entry
June 2001
Our first month in London

scribe.gif (3200 bytes) Week 1   Week 2  Week 3  Week 4

    6/2/01 - After taking a short nap and unpacking, we looked for the print-out Nils gave us (along with a calling card) the night before we left the States.  We planned to call a few family members and let them know we had arrive all right.  We couldn't find it, so we tried to get operator assistance, but couldn't figure out what to dial.  Off we went to search for an Internet Cafe to get on-line and find out how to make our telephone calls.  However, we didn't have much luck in our search so we walked down the Baker Street area, and found a Mews (alleyway) where several outdoor cafes served food.  (My stomach had been upset all day; perhaps my body telling me it was "payback time" for the stress I'd put it through the last few weeks!)  Tim and I both had a type of crepe with chicken and asparagus.  It was interesting and tasty.  We walked back to the flat and searched again for the lost print-out.  Success!   After making our telephone calls back home, we crashed for the night (or was it day).

6/3/01 - We lucked out; not only was Nils going to send us our camera, but the glasses, and another item were found as well.  Nils would send everything to us Monday.  We're not sure what we would do without Nils' help!

        I started a load of laundry in the very small washer/dryer combination.  Each load takes about an hour or two to wash and an hour to "dry", but you still have to hang many items on a rack (provided in almost all flats) to dry, and just about everything needs to be ironed (an iron and ironing board is also provided)!

    Larry Mathews (Tim's sponsor over here) was to drop by and talk with us today; however, his wife was sick, so he arranged for us to go with Karin (one of Tim's old co-workers) to RAF West Ruislip and pick-up a few items at the Navy Exchange.   (Karin has a car over here.)

    Karin picked us up outside the flat and zoomed us over to West Ruislip (about 30 minutes away).  After awhile, we went to Karin's flat where we talked and enjoyed coffee and cake.

    After returning to our flat, I did more laundry and didn't get to bed until around 2:30 AM (jet lag is setting in).

 

6/4/01 - Tim started his first day at 7 North Audley Street...he looked very dapper in his suit.  I spent the morning ironing, then joined Tim at his office for lunch and then to be "processed in" (forms to fill out, picture taken, ID and ration cards issued, etc.)

    When Tim returned to the flat after work, he told me we were scheduled to attend Newcomer's Orientation beginning 8:30 AM the next day, everyday for the remainder of the week,at RAF West Ruislip.

    We walked over to Marylebone (pronounced Mar-lee-bone) Station to get our bearings and a train schedule since we'd be riding the train to West Ruislip for the next four days.  

    Dinner at an Italian restaurant, then back to the flat and sleep.

6/5- 6/8 - At 7:13 AM every day we rode the train  for about 15 minutes to West Ruislip and walked to the base (the U.S. shares/leases space at this British -Royal - Air Force base).  At 4:46 PM each afternoon, we took the train back to the Marylebone Station and walked to the flat.

    Although both Tim and I suffered the effects of jet lag most of the week, we agreed the Orientation was well worth it...it was excellent.  Both civilian and military personnel (and spouses) attended the sessions.  In addition to military and administrative matters, we received very informative presentations covering legal concerns, customs, living in the United Kingdom, culture shock, driving over here, security concerns, safety and electrical concerns, visited a pub for lunch, had a B-B-Q, went to Windsor Castle, and received numerous hand-outs covering almost everything.

NOTE:  When a pub has a sign that says "Open all day", that means they're open from Noon until about 4 PM.  We think that what we consider all day is broken down into morning, day, and night.

    Both British and American personnel presented the materials, so it was a very interesting mix.   The British RAF Liaison Officer and the Commander of U.S. Naval Activities in the UK, were both very interesting and provided a great deal of humor in their presentations.

    The RAF officer suggested that we not have any preconceived notions about the British...he wouldn't call the U.S. a British colony, if we didn't consider the UK the 51st star on our flag.  He also suggested that we watch British television so we'd get to know what the Brits are really like.

    Tim and I had vowed we would not watch television while we were here so we'd be sure to get out and see the sights as much as possible.  However, we decided to turn on the TV each evening for a little while...we love the British humor!

NOTE:  two words we hear quite a bit are "rrriiight" and "brilliant".  The former seems to imply that a person is thinking about what you've said, or doesn't truly believe what you're saying; the latter seems to be used as either saying something is terrific or as a put-down about something someone is saying or has done.  Also, their put-downs here seem much more polite; i.e. instead of saying someone is stupid, they say they are "dim".

 

Week 2 - Tim, for the 2nd time in the 7+ years I've known him, developed an eye infection.  Instead of paying $150 to visit the Navy's clinic, his co-workers helped get him seen at a local clinic.  As most of you know, Britain has a National Health System (NHS).  We'll discuss this later under tidbits2.jpg (1600 bytes), but want to say we were very impressed with the care Tim received.  The clinic in Soho saw him, sent him to the eye clinic near our flat in Marlebone, prescribed medication for the viral infection in his eye (5 tablets/day for 5 days).  All of this was accomplished within four hours and the only cost to us was 6 for the medicine.  We also purchased an eye patch (he wore it one day) because the appearance of his eye was unnerving other people (it really was gross - little children would point and cry - NOT). He took some kidding at work about his eyepatch - "where's your parrot, wooden leg", etc.  Now he wants to look for a few "pirate " items to decorate his office and perpetuate his new image.  His eye is fine now.  However, stress can be an activator for this non-contagious virus, so it may reoccur.

London is the largest city in Europe and is very expensive (it takes about $1.50 to equal 1- one pound - we'll soon have  information and pictures about the British currency on our TidBits page).   I think Nils told us London is the 4th most expensive city in the world...we believe it!   We're working with an estate agent to find a permanent flat/house in this area; however, she keeps taking us to places well out of our range, so we've hit the Internet and are requesting viewings of properties we like that are listed for let (rent/lease).

    We received our misplaced items Nils forwarded to us, and are starting to take pictures to add to this website  - most recently a wonderful Big Bus tour we took yesterday(see camera.jpg (15127 bytes)).

    After our tour, we went looking for a birthday present for Nils (he and Elizabeth celebrate their birthdays on 26 June).  However, the item we wanted to get him at Selfridges on Oxford Street (similar to Nordstroms) was 1000+ (more than $1500!) - we'll keep looking...

    Next, we went to the Aberdeen Steak House and had a hot meal...very good.  Tim had a steak and I had chicken.  The problems they had with livestock over here does not appear to trouble the British public...speaking of which:

    Tim and I love to watch people.  We discussed how we wished the people walking by our window seat in the restaurant on Oxford Street would wear some sort of flag to signify their country of origin.  The U.S. is a melting pot where people of multiple nationalities live and are pretty much expected to assimilate into the American culture, even though there are sections of areas, i.e. Little Italy, Little Norway, etc., where some of their previous identity/heritage survives.  However, here in London, in addition to the natives of the British Isles , there are masses of people from all the previously or currently held British colonies.  They live here and maintain their languages and customs to a much greater degree than they might in the U.S. (in our opinion).   We find everyone here fascinating.

        The weather is primarily cool (about 50-60F) and wet.  There have been a few partially sunny days since we arrived.  July and August should be warmer.  There is still daylight here almost up until 10 PM!  (During the winter, we'll have more darkness than in the states.)

    Our unaccompanied baggage or "Express Shipment" - the one Tim thought would be here within 2 weeks of our arrival - won't be here for another 3 weeks (total 37 days).    Many of the things we thought we needed are in this "express" shipment, so we're learning to compensate for the delay.  We're rotating Tim's two suits at a dry cleaners until the rest of his suits arrive. 

    Well, I'm finishing up with washing/drying laundry and with this segment of our journal.  (I've asked Tim to put his words of wisdom down in the journal too so you get his perspective...soon.)

 

Week 3 - well, we're into our third week here - still like it; however, feeling very disorganized and unsettled.  We've been looking at permanent places to live; one the night before, two yesterday, two today, and one each (so far) tomorrow and the day after.  We did put an offer down on one place...we'll find out soon if it's accepted or if we need to negotiate and make another offer through the estate agent (leasing -letting - is very different here).

Banking:  Closed 6 accounts in the U.S., left 2 accounts open over there, and have opened 2 accounts here (one of them is a sterling account for British currency).  Since we're getting advances, have electronic transfers through different accounts, could pay up to $8000 for a deposit, etc., and we aren't sure what will be on Tim's paycheck yet, I'm stressing over how to budget...it will work out and be fine -I am sure - once we are settled in our own place and finalize some of the advances, etc., AND as soon as I feel more comfortable transferring  dollars to pounds into the sterling account.  That's the account we'll use to pay for our expenses over here.

We're probably feeling a little bummed too because last night we saw another Bichon (similar to Diogi) and started to miss her again.  Also, missing holidays and birthdays that are coming up, we are more aware of the separation from friends and family. (They did discuss recognizing and dealing with culture shock/homesickness, etc. at the orientation...guess feeling a little down now and then is expected.)  But, as Nils has reminded us, we're only about an 8-hour plane ride away!

Saturday we're going to Warwick Castle for the day where we'll see knights jousting!  We'll take pictures and add them to the site.

There is a large 4th of July celebration coming up at West Ruislip, and a Hail and Farewell celebration in London for those leaving and those who have just arrived...they really do take good care of the Americans who are transferred over here.

I've forgotten to mention we've followed British politics over here...very humorous, open, and interesting.   Also, the Queen and Prince Phillip's birthday celebrations occurred our 1st two weeks here...you often hear the royal helicopter overhead (it's security for various functions/travels for the royals).  More into pomp and circumstance later...

Week 4 - We begin this week having had our offer for a flat accepted...we move in 1 August.  You can see a few pictures of our new home now 199 Old Marylebone Road; we'll add more after they've furnished it and we move in .  Had they not accepted our offer, we had been negotiating to make an offer on a 4-story mews home - more expensive than we wanted, but we loved it.   It included an enclosed patio/garden area, as well as a spiral stairway to the roof where there was a rooftop deck.  (If we had gotten the mews house, our children may not have gotten their planned trips over here...we think we did the prudent thing in selecting the Old Marylebone Road flat, and we really like it as well)!

    It was fun seeing the different types/qualities of flats available, but after looking at about 12 of them in 2-1/2 weeks with three different Estate Agents, I'm relieved to be done searching.

    The cost of leasing a home/flat in London is still mind-boggling.  Just our deposit/1st month's cost is over $10k!!!  Fortunately, our government helps the civilian and military personnel here with their monthly housing cost (up to a certain amount depending on their grade/rank).  Tim and I discussed the expense the government incurs by doing this - wouldn't it be more cost-effective for our government to buy or lease a few buildings in London to house the civilians working here(?).  Tim believes the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) may be the reason.  The way the housing is now ensures adding money to the economy here.  Oh well...

    We were planning to go to Warwick Castle 23 June but decided to reschedule to 25 Aug.  We walked around Oxford and Baker Street instead, and plan to take the tube (underground/subway) to  Baker Street, then transfer and get off at Liverpool Street to visit Petticoat Lane today (Sunday).

        Our visit to Petticoat Lane turned out to not be what we expected, but we did get more familiar with the tube system.  Very efficient.

        Thursday (28 June) we attended a "Hail and Farewell" ceremony at the Navy building.  It was to greet newcoming senior civilians and wardroom level military (wish they had included all levels), and to say goodbye to those who were going on to different careers or duty stations.

        Saturday (30 June) we traveled to RAF West Ruislip for the annual U.S.A. Independence Day celebration.  (They'll have a smaller event with fireworks there on 3 July.)  I'll be putting up some pictures Tim took...many civil war reinactment photos...check out the photo album.

This ends our first month in London England.  Future journal entries will probably be shorter and the photo album should expand.