Saturday, September 24, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Emigrates

Well, things are in full throttle here at GoAnneGo Towers. Having the job offer made, I have now accepted, and things are moving quickly. Very quickly indeed, as I start a week from Monday. This involves minor things such as moving down to the West Country and finding a place to live. Getting to Exeter is easy enough - just train it down from Paddington or Waterloo. They leave every hour at least and arrive two and a half hours later. The only problem is that with my back I can't currently carry all my stuff at one go. Thankfully Harters has a shed. Granted, it is more of an outdoor patio thing than your usual shed, but it is just right for storage of two large bags for a week or two. I am using the 'net to find flats to look at on Saturday and Sunday, and to find accomodation in the meantime. Still, it is stressful. But I know how to deal with stress and I know how to prep for travel to a foreign clime (ok, we're talking Devon, but still I don't know anything about down there.) I therefore killed two birds with one stone and hit the five level Waterstones on Piccadilly, where I purchased the following:

The Rough Guide to Devon & Cornwall (what to see, where to go, etc. I will never use Lonely Planet again as they are useless.)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (Set right there on the Moors.)

Lorna Doone (which is not in Scotland the way I thought, nor does it feature those little cookies of the same name they always give you when you donate blood)

The RSPB Guide to British Birds (a duplicate copy, to give as a gift to Harters as his book has nothing but European birds in it for some reason)

A Bad Birdwatchers Companion, mostly because I still can't classify that many birds, and this sorts out the top 50 in the UK. Which is handy when you can only classify the magpie, the wood pigeon, coots, herons, greylag geese and moorhens. Oh, and of course crows, robins and blue tits. But I digress.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I won't want to move to Devon after reading Hound of the Baskervilles late at night, but then risks must be taken. Apparently I also need to get ahold of some children's book called "Tarka the Otter" which is renowned as an example of both Devon and nature writing. I even passed a surprise quiz this evening by looking at Aki and saying "Hey! Those cufflinks are the Devon flag!" He was most impressed.

I've also been studying up on my new county and have started to crack it. In a nutshell, it is just like Massachusetts, except it isn't.

Coastline? Check. Loads of it.

Pilgrims? Check. Left Devon, arrived Massachusetts.

Sylvia Plath? Check. Left Massachusetts, eventually arrived Devon. (Ted Hughes is buried here.)

Top university? Check. Exeter University is pretty renowned. I hear rumors that some place called Harvard is ok to do A-level equivalents.

Associations with tea? Check. Devon cream teas (and clotted cream) are famous. Boston Harbour a teapot tonight and all that.

Crime writers? Check. Agatha Christie v Denis Lehane.See? Just the same, really.

I'm now pricing out where to live on the web. Conveniently, it looks like I will be able to afford something with two bedrooms, which given that so many people claim they're coming to stay is a good thing. You are all welcome, just let me find a place first. I almost lept for joy at one listing until I found out it wasn't furnished. Two bedroom, 10 feet from the sea, 1 minute to the train station to work, thatched cottage (you shouldn't own them as they're a pain to maintain, but to rent hey it is the landlord's problem!), oak fittings, big fireplace, £600 a month (my budget). If it wasn't unfurnished, I'd have been in like a shot! But the quest will continue, so start pricing out those flights! The cheap flights are already upon us and will continue til the end of March so get your eyes peeled now.

And to answer all the questions that have been flooding in:

Who are you working for? That's not the kind of thing I put on the web. If you really want to know, e-mail me and if I know you I will e-mail you back their website to check them out.

Are you a solicitor or a barrister? I will be a solicitor, but there's an exam to take yet. Solicitors do not wear the wigs. Unless they really want to at a fancy dress party.

Are they sponsoring you for a work visa? Yes, they are. Otherwise I'd be home soon.

Is "Congratulations. Oh crap." an appropriate sentiment? Apparently so. It has been expressed in various forms by a few people. I understand. I'm pretty excited, but definitely miss my friends back in the USA.

Is it Devon or Devonshire? It is Devon.

What is the town like? I defer to wikipedia:

Can I come and visit? Yes, you can.

When? Whenever you like once I have a place, which of necessity means any time after a week from Monday. Try to call first so I can prepare your room, but if not we'll wing it. Stay as long as you like.

What about your cat? I am having him chipped and he'll be here six months after that. This is turning out to be a real pain (and is currently falling to my friend Heike, bless her), but hope perserveres!

Will you post pictures? Yes. Give me a little time!

Is it really ok to come and visit? Yes. Stop being nudgy or your invitation will be revoked.

Are you going to row? Yes. Exeter Boat Club has an excellent sculling program and I'm already in touch.

Why does clotted cream clot? It is the cream content in unhomogenized milk, which rises to the top when you heat it on a low temp for several hours. The best stuff is from the butcher's, not the supermarket.

Is there a God? You may wish to talk to someone more theologically qualified than myself about this. I am, however, quite certain that God does not take either the form of Shane Warne nor Louise from Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps nor David Icke, whatever any of them may try to tell you.

Right, back to the house hunting.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Agonizes Over the State of Her Nation
It is hard to take, watching all the news filter through out of New Orleans. What is even worse, although totally understandable, is having to be the resident American around these parts. It means that people keep asking me "How? How has America let this happen? And why hasn't Bush lost his job already?" There is a perception here that it might all be race related, as it is almost nothing but black faces you see on television. I keep having to tell people that 70% of the population of New Orleans was black to start with and of the underclasses that wouldn't have been able to evacuate, that percentage was most likely to fall into it.

Then, of course, I have to explain that Bush can't lose his job. The "lame duck" concept isn't sitting too well over here. Were this sort of thing to happen on UK soil, Tony Blair'd be out of a job in hours with one "no-confidence" vote. The spectacle of celebrities managing to get in there to help (Sean Penn) and airdrop food with their own planes (John Travolta) just seems to pound it home. The government won't help, but celebrities will. Shocking. Completely shocking.

I don't know what it is like there in terms of press and things, but the news reports here have been pretty harsh towards Bush, and that's even the conservative commentators. The news though that the head of FEMA hadn't heard there were people needing to be rescued there until Thursday was pretty galling, particularly when you find out he has no emergency management experience and was sacked for not being even able to organize horse shows, at least according to this link from Sunday's "Observer" paper,6903,1562515,00.html. I think this guy is going to be the first to go. Sadly, he may well be the last.

I couldn't help but notice that when the government made up its mind to get people out, it happened. So why didn't it happen sooner? I have even tried to cut Bush some slack. Knowing that I don't like him, I think it prudent to actually look at what's happening rather than just take the easy tack of dismissing him altogether because he's a jerk. Unfortunately, actually looking at what he's doing or not doing just makes me even angrier.

I then feel in the weird place of having to defend my government's indefensible actions, just by dint of being the one who can explain the system a bit better. It is very odd to be the foreigner abroad. If I was just a tourist, no one would ask me. They're certainly not stopping the annoying tourists in Fortnum & Mason's (where I had to go shopping for a little pressie for my friend Brian. Great food, but you'll pay for it, and the first floor (or tourist floor, as I call it) can try the patience of anyone). But if you know an actual American who you can ask her opinion, which of course I give all the time anyway, all the better.

I've spent the time kind of in retreat. Done nice things. Went to Kew Gardens to check out the Chiluly exhibits and get a sun burn. Gave my Victoria & Albert Museum membership card a workout. Having tea tomorrow at the British Museum with a friend who works there in the European Art division and checking out the Arabic Calligraphy exhibit (another of my weird interests, that.) , checking out the Stubbs and the Horse exhibit at that National Gallery. And of course writing my Dar Williams article. But in the offtime, I keep catching myself tapping into a more frenetic mood while listening to The Killers at top volume, maybe with a bit of Goldfrapp thrown in to calm down. Obviously, I'm not calming down as much as I want, and have become obsessed by the news.

I've been to New Orleans, and it was a great city. I have confidence it will rise again. I have less confidence the US government is going to be much help with that, although I have awful premonitions of Bechtel getting contracts out of it, notwithstanding their lousy experience in Iraq and with the Big Dig (now springing more leaks in a large tunnel near you).

Right. Time for more diversion, obviously. Tonight: theatre tickets to see Euan MacGregor and Jane Krakowski tap dance and sing their way through "Guys & Dolls". Civilization goes on, I guess.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The phone is surgically wired to my head.