Monthly Archives: October 2008

London’s Burning

I got so excited when I spotted the first, albeit paltry, selection of children’s costumes at Marks and Spencer (department store) last month.

Then, my hopes quickly were dashed when one of Mike’s co-workers informed us that Halloween is more of a holiday for yobs (British shorthand for rowdy, drunken, and disorderly teenagers picking fights, vandalizing property, and generally being punks).

It’s just an excuse for more trick, rather then treat, and certainly not a night for going out after dark with a toddler…

“It is catching on though”, one British mum informed me. Every major store offers a smattering of Halloween candy, decorations, and such, but it’s still not as widely observed as it is in the States.

Sure enough, my expat friends confirmed more of the same. Although they live in a neighborhood full of young families, no one came around for “trick-or-treating” last year. NO ONE. Chances are our neighborhood is much the same.

I got the idea that most of their kid-friendly Halloween fun either revolve around the American Embassy or parties at school, neither of which we are personally associated with.

The closest thing we got invited to is a “Saints and Angels” party in honor of the Feast of All Saints the following day. The hostess said that she “doesn’t really care for all of the ghouls and witches”.

So, I reluctantly decided to pass on getting Avery a costume this year.

It was VERY DIFFICULT, especially since I bought him two costumes last year. TWO! Just because I couldn’t decide which was cuter…

The “angry” bee?

Or, the one that matched his best friend’s?

(Man, I can’t believe that was a year ago… Sniffle)

Okay, so the Brits don’t do Halloween (very well). They do, however, celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on Nov 5. Apparently, he tried to blow up Parliament a long, long time ago.

(My attention to detail and historical accuracy is astounding, huh?)

To celebrate this treasonous act, the Brits burn him in effigy on the streets, have drunken bonfires, and shoot fireworks. The very posh and very gourmet grocery store where I buy the overpriced milk that I usually forget to get at the regular-priced grocery store is selling 2-for-1 fireworks this week, because yes, they ARE street legal here…

… in London, the city famous for burning to the ground.

Judging from the ’round-the-clock “gun fire” in my ‘hood, they seem to be selling rather well. I swear, it’s like living in Compton. (Like I would know anything about that…)

Happy Halloween, y’all!



Filed under Family, Holidays and Merrymaking

D. It’s the new C.

I “love” that all of my friends from Texas have started complaining about how cold it’s gotten, because last night…

…it snowed in London!

I, of course, didn’t take any photos of my own because I was…

A) Trying to convince my two-year-old to please STOP stripping down to his diaper every time Mommy turns her back. If only he would just stop running around the house, leaping from the sofas (stupid circus), and screaming like a manic, he’d probably realize why it’s good to wear clothes. IT’S COLD!

B) Determining the perfect ratio among the number of blankets, cups of tea, cement walls in lieu of insulation, and radiator heating with only two settings, sweltering and off.

C) Moving the clocks back an hour earlier three days late (Apparently, the UK observes Daylight Savings a week before the US…)

D) All of the above


Filed under Weather

Banking 2.0

It’s been a while since I’ve ranted about the banking system

Since my last post, I was finally added to our accounts. I have my own cards and everything.

No more begging Mike for advances on my allowance! Whew-hew!

So, the next logical step in my plan for world domination was to set up online banking. That should be relatively simple…

HA! Haven’t I learned that nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, is as simple as it should be here?

We attempted to log on to the site and were blocked. The outgoing message informed us that before setting up ONLINE banking, we must first call their PHONE banking to verify our details.

Once that is completed, the bank will MAIL (as in by Royal Post, not e-mail) a 9-digit log-in, which we can then use to set up online banking… and each step should take… umm, 3-5 business days.


When their letter arrived in the post this morning, I hopped online immediately. Instead of then allowing me to access our accounts, the site spit out another reference code (15-digits, that’s SIX more digits than the last one…) along with instructions to call their PHONE banking again and give them this code…

…and then, they really will (promise, promise, cross-our-hearts-and-hope-to-die this time) authorize us to access our very own money online.

Is your head spinning yet? Oh you just wait for this next part…

After 10 minutes on hold, I’m told that the code I have in hand is Mike’s, not mine or even ours. So, I just have to answer a few quick questions to prove that I’m also on the account. (Fine. Whatever.)

I am transferred to another rep, who verifies this, but proceeds to tell me that I still cannot access OUR accounts with MY HUSBAND’s code.

In fact, it is ILLEGAL and I will need to apply for my own super secret code, which must never be shared. Not even with my partner

“I don’t get it. It’s the same accounts.” I argued

“Yes, but we do this for YOUR protection. Customers can only can access their individual accounts,” he replied.

“Okay, but this is a joint account. We’re married. We live together. We share the finances…”, I sputter.

“Madame. (dramatic pause) People don’t always stay together,” was his sage and worldly response to my obviously naive claim to wedded bliss.

“That is THE most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  We’re talking about the two of us accessing the SAME accounts. We share the exact same accounts!”

“No. It makes perfect sense. If you were to separate, you would want to…”

I cut him off with my hysterical laughing. I’m so used to this insane run around by now that I’m past the frustration. All I CAN do is laugh.

“Okay, whatever. Just send me the papers.  I guess I’ll talk to you in 3-5 business days,” I said once I regained my composure.

Besides, if I were to ever leave Mike, don’t you think I’d drain our bank accounts first…


As an aside,  all paperwork and official documents, from my bank cards to our phone bills to my library card, are issued to “MRS. G Duffy”. (As opposed to “Grace Duffy”, unique and multifaceted individual with a separate identity from Mr. M Duffy…)

Prior to moving to the UK, the only time anyone ever called me “Mrs. Duffy”, it was usually in mocking. Still, it amuses me to no end to live in a country where titles actually matter.


Filed under Banking, Marriage, Undiplomatic Behavior

Running Away From The Circus

Avery has yet to encounter a street performer, juggler or slap-stick routine that hasn’t sent him into the most adorable giggle fit.

So when the trucks rolled into our borough and the tent went up for the Chinese State Circus, I was sure it would be an instant hit!

More Cirque du Soleil than Ringling Bros, there was little ethical quandary over whether “to circus or not to circus”. As I purchased the tickets, I simply imagined Avery’s wide-eyed excitement and unabashed glee. Even Mike was looking forward to it.

The show opened with a welcome from the “Monkey King” and a parade celebrating 2,000 years of Chinese acrobatic history.

Although the blaring voice-over had all of the forced warmth and deliberate annunciation of Moviefone (blast from the past), Avery seemed engaged. He was smiling and clapping, but by the time the second act of plate spinners took to the stage, he was sobbing.

Mike and I took turns comforting him, but his tears were undaunted and he begged to go home…

… £55 and five minutes into the show.

Mike and I exchanged glances… Should we go? Should we see if he calms down? Perhaps it’s just the thought of a million plates shattering that’s stressing him out…

It was completely dark except for the stage and the music was so loud that his crying didn’t even register with the families sitting near us.

(I actually think it was the combination of the noisy, the crowded, and the dark that set him off… )

I told Mike to save our seats while I took Avery outside for a few minutes, which, of course, stretched into the rest of the first half of the show. I tried to coax him back inside so that he could at least see the “Lion Dance”…

… but he was content to periodically peak in through the curtains. Nothing more.

By intermission, I had bought Avery a bag of popcorn and successfully convinced him let us join Mike again. We took seats closer to the exit and talked to Avery about the circus– relating it to a Curious George story about the circus and a favorite episode of Thomas the Tank Engine

No luck. He spent the second act, either crumpled across our laps with one eye shut and both ears covered or asking to leave again.

Called the “Olympic Nations Tour 2008”, the show concluded with four gold-medal winners performing on various gymnastics equipment while a singer in a long flowy number lip-synced to a something akin to  “We Are The World”.

However, by this point, Mike was taking his turn chasing Avery around the concession stand and occasionally peaking in between the curtains.

After the last bow, I collected our stuff and met Avery and Mike at the entrance. As I helped Avery into his stroller, he says to me, “Circus FUN, Mommy!” and he was all smiles and clapping again.

In all fairness, it was a fun show, but it will be a looooooooong time before we ever “circus” again…


Filed under Family

No Photography Please

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Okay, so I technically wasn’t supposed to take this photo of Queen Elizabeth’s throne at Windsor Castle, but it was right there and I just couldn’t resist a quick, covert snap-snap.

I hope I don’t get sent to the Tower


Filed under Photo Ops, PhotoStory Friday, Sightseeing

1,2,3,4… Tell Me That You Love Me More

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Mike and I celebrated a wedding anniversary recently.

Four years ago we promised to love, honor, and cherish. Little did I know that it would be more like honour…

Of course, at the time, I also expected ours to be a life right out of a Pottery Barn catalog– gracious dinner parties, Saturday mornings at the farmers’ market, monogrammed table linens… or as my younger (and much cooler) sisters would probably call it, “Death by boredom… er, suburbia”.

Fortunately, Mike had more exciting things in store for us… kind of.

So aside from a “romantic getaway” to Stonehenge, how did we celebrate our grand and wonderful love?

Mike went to work and I stayed home with Avery…

ALL DAY! Whew-hew!

Okay, okay. So I DID manage to throw together a decent(ish) dinner that night.

Scallops in a sage butter sauce as an appetizer. Parsnip and sweet potato encrusted pork loin, garlic potatoes, and green beans for the main course. A store-bought English apple crumble and ice cream for desert.

It wasn’t until after dinner that I realized that I probably shouldn’t have indulged in the scallops.

Mike and I may have hit it off immediately upon meeting, but seafood and I… well, let’s just say our relationship is less… umm, agreeable.

I sent Mike out to the ONLY store in London open “late” (past 8pm) for sparkling water and Alka-Selzer. Then, we spent the rest of the evening watching a re-broadcast of the last Presidential debate (i.e. yelling at the TV).

Not exactly silk stockings and garters, but just as special… I guess.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Filed under Daily Life, Marriage

Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again

Have you missed me?

I’m sorry to be MIA, but my laptop… the bright pink and brand spankin’ new one I brought shortly before moving to the UK… has crashed for the SECOND time in a little over a week. Grrr….

The first crash was due to some “mandatory” Windows Vista update. (Don’t even get Mike started…)

The restore disks arrived from my parents on Monday, and Mike was in the process of re-loading all of my programs and files when…


It crashed yet again.

Mike is working on a fix while I totally bogart his computer. I hope to be up and running again soon…

… even if it means converting to the Cult of Linux.

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Filed under Blogging