Friday, April 6, 2012

Farewell Blog

The original aim of this blog was to portray the transition of my experience from being raised and living in England to my life here in North Carolina.

We have now lived here for over six years. As Anglo-Americans we have adapted well to the changes and there is now little to record of the differences that has already been discussed.

I tend to use social media, i.e. Facebook, to express views now and therefore will not be updating this blog in future.

To all who have read, enjoyed (or not) and made comments, thank you.

For the record I am proud of my English heritage and equally proud to be an American.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Big Move

Six years ago today, we said goodbye to some dear friends at Málaga Airport before flying to London to prepare for our biggest move yet.

Saying goodbye to Andalusia was hard, but our five-year "vacation" had to end some time.  On reflection, I'm not sure if, when we had decided to retire to the Costa Del Sol five years previously, that we really thought that we would spend the rest of lives there.  It was certainly good while it lasted.  The weather was amazing compared to the dull, gray days which seem to prevail in Norfolk since my retirement.  The Andalusian culture, when not spoiled by the many ex-pats from northern Europe, was a delight and we made many friends, both Spanish and English.

 Ronda - a must for our many visitors

The wonderful city of Málaga. I never tired of this view from Gibralfaro

Our granddaughters spent their summer vacations with us, as did friends from England. As for us, well who could resist the delights of Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Ronda, all on our doorstep.  But after visits to our son, who was by this time, living with his American wife in Durham, North Carolina, we both realized that the beautiful Old North State would be a better place to make our forever home.

So, for the second time in five years, we sold our home with all it's contents and on that early morning, with all the possessions that mattered to us in two (large) suitcases, flew to London Gatwick, booked into a hotel in Horley to spend the rest of the day preparing for the biggest move of our life.

Monday, January 23, 2012


A year ago, almost to the day, I posted that although February was my least favorite month, I wasn't particularly fond of January either.

Today reinforces that viewpoint.  The weather is what I call "raw". Although currently 45F, which isn't too far off normal, it's gray, damp and miserable.  Even though I'm not a huge outdoor kind of guy (especially at this time of year) the weather definitely effects my mood.  However, tomorrow looks good and we're back in mid 60s again with plenty of sun!

Being the start of the new year January always has the promise of things "looking up", but to me usually fails.  It's not just the weather, it's a month when our household seems to have more than our fair share of bills.  You know, the insurance premiums, auto inspection, license tags, etc., and of course it's when most of us start thinking of tax returns. 

Now that the insurance premiums have been paid, the car inspected, tagged and serviced and, wonder of wonders, the tax returns have been filed, should I be hip-hip-hooraying that these are out of the way for another twelve months?  Of course I should and I am.  As usual I soon remind myself how fortunate I am to have the means to do this, a roof over my head and food in the pantry.  

So, so many haven't and it angers me to see those "would-be Presidents" having the nerve to tell us that they know what's going on and that they are going to do something about it . . . if only we will vote for them.  

There, that's warmed me up - my blood is beginning to boil!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Here's Hoping

Although I had every intention of posting yesterday, the gremlins got to my (not so) trusty Vaio laptop.  After several months of increasingly irritating problems, it refused to do anything on start-up despite all my efforts.

New laptop?  I hadn't budgeted for one in the 2012 family budget - big mistake!  With congressional debate (that's myself and Gail, not the Capitol Hill version), a decision was made (obviously not the DC version!) but one which had to dip into the "discretionary" fund.  Not another laptop, but a new desktop.  More bangs for our bucks.  A day of setting up, transferring files, software and the like and I'm ready to blog.

I'm not one for New Year resolutions, never have been.  If you want to change your life, January 1 is no guarantee that it's going to happen.  A good starting point yes, but so is any day.  In my view you have to change your life by, well, just getting on with it.  That's my  "bite the bullet" philosophy (after a board meeting with my CEO naturally - usually made during a bedtime discussion).

No resolutions, but like most, I do have hopes for 2012 however.  The most obvious is world peace - wishful thinking perhaps.  Another is that the world has a greater awareness, and the determination to act, on environmental issues.  An end to hunger - an achievable goal if only the first of my hopes is realized.  Perhaps the most unrealistic of my hopes is that those who pursue public office actually serve those they represent - that's you and me folks, not themselves or the corporate giants.

A word my previous CEO would not accept was "hopefully".  It just wasn't in his vocabulary.  He insisted on "certainly".  "Certainly" has to be worked at.  If only we could all (including world leaders) do that, we could perhaps have the "hope" that world peace could become a reality.

Love is a bigger word than war.  I can dream can't I?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas present

My previous post was a memoir of Christmas Past.

Fifty-five years later, the Christmas experience is very different.  Most of my family of that time, the majority of whom lived within 10 miles, are no longer with us.  I now have a family of my own, who are spread over three countries and two continents.  Indeed, I now live 4,000 miles from my home town.

As a child I was part of a larger family, now the "blood family" is much smaller.  However, I now have a larger "family of friends" in many parts of England, Ireland, Spain and the US.  I am referring to "real" friends and, with respect, not the multitude of "social networking friends" that many have (I make a point of "friending" only those I know personally on such networks).

"Present" also means "a gift" and I had more than my fair share of these yesterday.  I also experienced the gift of a loving family, near and far, including an hilarious six a.m. "conference call" to our Norfolk, England family, where our wonderful granddaughters were enjoying their day and getting our day off to a good start.

Later our church family provided more love and cheer at Holy Eucharist, whilst after opening and exchanging gifts with our son and daughter-in-law we shared a wonderful Christmas dinner.

The definition of blog is, as I understand: "a Web site containing the writer's or group of writers' own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having links to other Web sites."

I fear that this post is more of a journal entry than the above and sharing photographs is lacking (mainly because, unlike my daughter and daughter-in-law, I don't take many photographs), but I am working on posting more regularly.  If no one reads the posts I don't mind, I enjoy writing, albeit not too well and that's my motivation.  I enjoy reading the blogs of others and as long as they don't included incitement to intolerance and hatred, it makes us help us understand each other.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Memories of Christmas Past

“Christians, awake, salute the happy morn!”

The time was 4 a.m. I awoke from a deep sleep to hear dad coming up the stairs singing his favorite Christmas carol. He had done this every Christmas Day I could remember. “Rise and shine” were his first words directed at me, “breakfast is ready.” There was no “Happy Christmas son”. It was work as usual for dad and my job, even as a twelve year-old, was to help him serve his customers, Christmas Day or not, as quickly as possible to enable him to have at least some time to enjoy the festivities. I hadn't had much sleep, having attended midnight mass, so it was always a struggle to rouse myself from a warm, cozy bed.

Traditional Christmas breakfast was, even at that early hour, always the same. Cold pork pie with an egg in the middle (this I have recently discovered was called a “Grosvenor pie”), pickled onions and HP brown sauce, washed down with a mug of hot steaming tea. Dad must have had a palette of iron as he always drank his tea scolding hot. In fact he could not abide his hot food going cold, as he always said, “hot means hot, not luke-warm”.

I was putting off drinking my tea and blowing on it with the hope of it cooling down, but there was no time for delay. Dad’s customers came first. The milk had to be delivered to enable them to enjoy their holiday.

Cycling to the dairy took us ten minutes or so. The streets were deserted and dark, in those days only one in three or four streetlights were left on from midnight to six a.m. It was more often than not very cold, not helped by the strong winds blowing off the North Sea and usually raining. I cannot ever remember a white Christmas, but can remember many wet ones.

It didn’t take long to load the milk float. I was used to lifting the metal crates of pint, half-pint and even quart glass bottles of “pasteurized” (silver top), “TT (tuberculin tested)” (red top) and “Jersey” (gold top) milk. As I often helped Dad during school holidays - not that I was expected to, I just loved doing it, making me feel grown up I suppose – I knew all of his many customers and their orders, so unless there was a change in the order, we didn’t talk much. I delivered on the left side of the road whilst Dad looked after the right (drivers’ side).

We had usually finished and were back home for hot mince pies by 8:00 a.m. After a quick change, I then joined Mum and some of my paternal family (although not Dad) by attending Christmas morning mass at the local R.C. Church. Even though Mum was Church of England, she had been educated at a Roman Catholic school (I never did find out why), so we had to sit out the Communion.

By the time we had Christmas Dinner, which Dad had prepared and got started, it was time for a great English tradition - "The Queen's Speech". Dad an I normally took a nap before walking to my aunt's home for the family get together. After yet another enormous meal we retired to the rarely used parlor, where a coal fire was already roaring away. With an Uncle tickling the ivories we always had a sing-song, gradually getting hotter and wearier as the evening progressed. Around 11:00 p.m. the women would disappear into the kitchen and after a while, a head would pop round the door to state, "Supper's ready".

How we ate all that food I'll never know, but by the time Christmas Night turned into Boxing Day, we were walking home and were ready for bed as, of course, the next morning milk had to be delivered again.

By the way, I can never hear or sing "Christians, Awake", without remember my very happy childhood, thanks entirely to a wonderful, loving family.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bloggers cramp?

My blogging statistics for 2011 have not been good. Since I started blogging in 2008, this year has been my least productive. Including this one, just fourteen.

To be fair, the main reason for starting the blog was to record the differences encountered by an Englishman settling to live in the United States.  Of course, the differences encountered over the first few years are now perfectly normal for me, so I don't feel the need to recorded them. In fact, there's sometimes a few seconds lapse when I think of how I used to pronounce a word or to think of what I used to call, for example "hamburger" or "ground beef" ("mince" sounds so, well "foreign").

I have learned a lot about myself from my random postings. For example in the early days of blogging I wrote a series of posts on my music preferences and in doing so found I didn't really have a preference, that I really did enjoy all genres of music . . . no, I don't consider a thumping bass that rattles my windows, music, so that techno (c)rap, or whatever it's called, doesn't count.

I was to continue by saying that I have never considered myself a snob, but that last statement could be seen to contradict that I suppose.  Of course, there are snobs of every kind, not only in music.  But I'm afraid - no, hang on there - I'm not afraid, to say, that if I enjoy it, I like it, be it music, wine, literature, art, or whatever.  And that's okay with me. I am not going to like anything because others think I should - however technically brilliant or clever(?)  it is.

My favorite Hans Christian Andersen story, The Emperor's New Clothes, may have been written as a "Fairy Tale Told For Children", but I'm of the opinion that many adults would be happier if they saw what the little boy saw and Danny Kaye sung - "the King is in the altogether".

To get back to the point - there is a point? As much as I admire those who blog regularly, especially the once-a-day bloggers, I cannot see me doing that.  I do intend to post more, if only I can remember those ideas for a post I have in the early hours!