Archive for November 2008

What a difference a few hours makes

Monday, 24th November 2008. Filed in Running7 Comments »

Sunrise

This was yesterday’s sunrise. It was so gorgeous, I just popped out of bed and ran for the camera. I can’t say whether I actually put my glasses on to take the picture or not, but I like the colors anyway.

Two hours later, the clouds blanketed the sky and it was completely gray and snowing. I dressed myself in my running gear and sat around the house all day in my really yellow warm hat, letting the snow (which didn’t stick) and rain pass before being pushed out the door by Crunchy husband. He couldn’t join me because he’s nursing a broken shoulder blade after being hit by a car while riding home from work last week. (Apparently, it really does happen like in the movies: car and bike collide, rider goes over the handlebars, across the hood and onto the ground in front of the car. Scary!) I think it was just a convenient excuse to stay warm, read the paper and eschew all house cleaning duties.  Ha ha! (But, actually I am really sad for him. Grown man can’t tie his own shoes.)

I had a calm, quiet 3 miles around the fields, chilly but not freezing. I felt like I was moseying along, stopping to take pictures and such, so I was surprised to see my time at the end of the run (28:00). Maybe the cold makes me run faster?

Sun’s out, let’s roll

Thursday, 13th November 2008. Filed in Cross-training2 Comments »

I know I have been known, once or twice, to grumble about the weather here in good ol’ England. Just once or twice, of course. So, for a change of pace, I’d like to exclaim enthusiastically: it was a beautiful morning!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the recent cold weather just about slammed me to the ground.  Yet these past few days have been a little bit warmer and, much to my liking, sunny.

This morning I hopped on the bike and set out for a ride down to the coast with a friend, who has recently hired herself a personal trainer and is getting herself back into shape. I am always nervous about riding or running or swimming or generally doing anything with someone I’ve never done it with because I am afraid I am going to keep them back. (This person used to compete in triathlons on the world scale, so yeah a little bit tougher than the tri-for-funs I’ve done.) But, the pace ended up being all right. I actually wasn’t pushing it, but that suited me fine today and gives us more time to ride together before her speed improves and she wants to ditch me for someone faster.  (From what I hear, this trainer’s going to whip her into some serious shape.)

But, like I was saying – the weather. I bundled up (and believe me, there was serious bundling going on, I’ve recently discovered I can wear hiking socks with my cycling shoes), but I was feeling toasty by the time I got to our meeting spot, it turns out both of us were. As we rode past rows of dried out corn into Ramsgate, the sun painted sparkling light across Sandwich Bay. I could (get this!) feel my fingers and toes. My teeth were not chattering and my brain wasn’t numb so I could actually carry on normal chit-chat. It was wonderful!

My rescuer is a muppet singing Careless Whisper

Monday, 10th November 2008. Filed in Random foliage4 Comments »

On Saturday, we took a trip into the city to meet with some people Crunchy husband used to work with for lunch. Like many trips before it, we drove to the North Greenwich tube station so that we could leave the car and take public transportation the rest of the way. (If the trains were faster and cheaper, we wouldn’t need the car at all!) Oyster cards in hand, we dodged rain drops and buses and ran into the station, only to find we were soon to be on one of those buses because of engineering works on the Jubilee line.

First transportation hiccup – not a problem. We’ve been there before. It took us much longer to get into central London, but we had plenty of time to get to the restaurant. What we didn’t realize was that our true transportation adventure would happen on the way back out.

7:15pm. We get back to the car. I look at my watch and think, good we’ll be home by 8:15pm. That’s not too late of a dinner. Then I try to start the engine. Which, you know without me telling you, doesn’t start. We call the AA (automobile association) and they’re going to call us back within the next hour to let us know what’s happening.

8:00pm. The nice lady calls us to let us know that someone should be with us within the next hour. I roll back my chair and prepare myself for a nice little nappy nap.

8:30pm. I’m getting cold. I also have to pee.

8:45pm. I am starting to feel impatient at sitting in a cold, rainy parking lot. Crunchy husband’s tired and not too talkative. I’m bored.

8:50pm. I decide to bite the bullet and do it. I buy the £1 bundle on my phone so that I can access the internet for the next 3 hours ten minutes. Heck, it’s cheaper than at the airport, right? I figure I might be able to learn some football news that will cheer Crunchy husband up.

9:00pm. Crunchy husband calls the AA again to find out where our man is. He’s stuck in traffic and won’t be there for another hour.

9:05pm. I decide to get wet and go search out a bathroom. (The toilets in the station are closed, but luckily there are public restrooms in the Millennium Dome.)

9:45pm. Not much happening on the email or Facebook, and I can’t find a way to access my Google Reader, but look, here’s that funny picture of my friend Andy as a camp director for Halloween! Nice legs, sport!

10:00pm. Our man arrives, but he’s not actually a tow truck driver, only a contractor they’ve sent out to see if he could get the car started.  He couldn’t. Duh. So we call AA again (or again, again) to arrange for a tow home. We also realize after having made the call that we will have to get our car to the parking lot entrance because the tow truck will be too tall to enter under the gate.

10:15pm. We push our car out of its parking spot, and crazy driver number 1 makes herself known. We’re out of the spot, but still in front of it at an angle, and this chick starts to try to park! It would have been really funny if it were not such a stupid example at how impatient and oblivious people are. She’d back in at an angle, almost hit the car in the spot next to it, pull forward, back in a little differently and almost hit our car. I think our disbelieving stares finally got through because she finally stopped and waited for us to push the car away from the spot.

10:18pm. Hazard lights blinking, we’re pushing the car toward the exit and crazy driver number 2 driving towards us squeezes us toward the row of parked cars. We have to stop and wait for him to pass. Some people.

10:30pm. I still can’t find a link to my Google Reader. So, I check email and Facebook again. Nothing’s changed. Duh. But, hey, Ipswich won – hooray!

10:55pm. I have to pee again, but we don’t know when the tow truck will arrive and the rain is torrential. I keep telling an increasingly tired and grumpy husband that we are having an adventure.

11:00pm. I find myself thinking I should sign up for Twitter and go wild. Instead, I diligently plod around until I find I can access my Google Reader – hooray!

11:15pm. Crunchy husband calls AA again. Our tow truck driver is close, but by law has to take a break now. He’ll be there in an hour.

11:35pm. Starting to feel sorry for myself, I change my Facebook status to try to garner some pity. It works a little.

12:10am. Our tow truck arrives. His sat nav voice is Fozzie Bear. Awesome! His radio is playing Wham! Awesome! I try to forget how much I have to pee and just fall asleep to George Michael and cheesy saxophone. A warm car moving in the right direction, at last. Awesome!

2:00am. We arrive home after chucking our car outside the village garage. Crunchy husband voices his astonishment at my constant good attitude throughout the ordeal.

2:01am. I pee.

11:00am. We actually drag ourselves out of bed, and have the dinner we were supposed to have had 15 hours before. (Left over Indian food that I made myself on Friday night. Yum!)

Now, what did I learn from all this? We need to keep a blanket in the car during winter and the price of my patience is £1 per day. Not too shabby.

Where’s the party?

Thursday, 6th November 2008. Filed in Brit-ification1 Comment »

Well, last night ’twas a very quiet bonfire night round here. Crunchy husband took me out to dinner to celebrate Obama’s victory and my ‘European’ birthday (5/11 – May 11th or November 5th, you decide!) since my real 30th birthday earlier this year was spent more than a bit anxiously in the ER getting my father admitted to the hospital. [Now that he’s okay and all surprisingly skinny NHS bills have been footed by their health insurance (if you’re American the total cost for 3 weeks in hospital and surgery would make you hysterical), we can all laugh about the birthday pancakes my mom made me. (She was worried. It was a hard time.)]

But, we appeared to be the only ones out and about last night. For Guy Fawkes’ Day, Canterbury was like a ghost town. It was kind of funny though because the last couple times we’ve thought let’s go Cuban, we get there and can’t get a table. So, this time Crunchy husband makes a reservation and the place is empty except for one other couple. How stupid did we look? “Uh, [cough] we have a table reserved. ” Ah well.

The night didn’t liven up on the drive home either. I kept my eyes peeled for signs of fireworks and fires. We saw a few pops of light toward the coast so we headed north. In vain. The only sign of a bonfire we came across on our roundabout travels last night was the usual trail of smoke from the MOD fire rescue training centre, but even that ‘party’ looked to be over and I am not sure we would have been welcome.

However, I think there are supposed to be celebrations this weekend, so as long as the weather doesn’t do what it’s forecast to do, we may get our fireworks yet. Though nothing, I don’t think, could ever compare to the bonfire in Leeds three years ago. That was positively scary. I have never seen a bonfire so big, felt a bonfire so hot. Sounds pretty good right now!

Hip hip hooray!

Wednesday, 5th November 2008. Filed in Random foliage2 Comments »

Yesterday was a hard day. Besides anxious anticipation and a cautious attitude because well, as recent history has taught us, you just never know until the results are tallied, it was hard in a way I didn’t anticipate. I realized pretty early on in the day that I wanted to be there. I wanted to be with people who were as excited and nervous as I was.  Up until yesterday, I’d never felt any sense of loss at casting an absentee ballot – as long as I can vote, I am happy. But, yesterday I was envious of those who had the opportunity to wait in line and physically be a part of something so great.

As the BBC election coverage continued on into the night, I toyed with the idea of staying up to see the results start to roll in, but then I decided it would be best just to go to bed, hope for sleep, and find out early this morning.  As I kissed Crunchy husband goodnight,  I said “just think this may be the last time we go to bed in the world as we know it”. At 4:15am when I turned on the TV to John McCain’s concession speech, I learned I was right.

Everybody likes a fresh start. It feels like this is the United States’ chance at one, or at least as close as it could ever have, all things considered. The slate’s not clean, it’s messy as all hell. The job ahead is tough, and I know not to expect big changes, and certainly not soon. That just how the US political system rolls. I know that. But, I am hopeful. As President-elect Barack Obama said last night:

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there…block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand…

…Out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can.

I am breathing and I am hoping. I believe.

I’m ready, it’s time

Tuesday, 4th November 2008. Filed in Random foliage2 Comments »

My head is a muddle of thoughts. I kind of don’t know where to focus my attention right now. It’s kind of like waiting for AP exam results in high school. Even if you know you did everything you could, you still can’t relax until you read your result.

I am ready to be proud to be an American again. I can’t bear to think what it will mean if I have to hang my head apologetically and explain to people here in the weeks and years following this election that “yes, I voted but no, I did not vote for him” as I have had to do these past four years.

I am ready to be proud to be an American again. Living overseas, you learn to see your country in a new way. In many ways, you are outside looking in. The media present things differently. Stories aren’t so localized and you begin to see what the British media value, what the rest of the world might value. Sometimes it angers me, puts me on the defensive – it’s too simplified, it doesn’t present the whole story, but other times it seems to hit the nail right on the head and makes me wonder, if the rest of the world sees it, why don’t many Americans?

I am ready to be proud to be an American again. I want to learn tomorrow that, regardless of who wins or loses, this election brought out the masses to vote. If there’s one thing this presidential race has shown, it’s that people are starting to care again. That, in itself, makes me proud.

I am ready to be proud to be an American again. I want to be led by someone who strives for dignity, integrity. I want to be led by someone I can respect.

Don’t get me wrong. My pride has always been here. Even after all the mess I believe that, collectively, Americans are good, hard-working, strong, honorable people – even ones who may not vote the same way as me. But, something’s gone terribly wrong and it’s time to start getting things back on track. Even if Obama wins, it won’t be easy – it’s the nature of the US government after all, but I am hopeful we are on the brink of positive change.

My vote’s been cast. My fingers are crossed. My hopes are strong. It’s time.