Category Archives: American in London

Weekend Walk

My wonderful friend Greg was in town for a fast and furious 24 hours on Friday and I spent the day strolling the city and dodging rain showers with him and the Redcoat.  The photos above were all taken in Chelsea.  I have a major soft spot for the vine-covered home in the top photo on the left.  I bet the people who live there are really lovely.  They probably have a library stocked with first edition hardcovers and collect art from around the world.  She probably has the elegance and composure of Maryl Streep and he still wears tweed waistcoats and gets his hair cut by a proper barber.  They probably laugh a lot and always have someone staying in the guest bedroom.  They are probably fabulous! 

Speaking of fabulous, today is David’s birthday!  He’s being all grumpy and quiet about it, but I’ll force some tequila down his throat and do what I can to cheer him up.  I’m a lucky lady to have such an upstanding gentleman as a husband and I think he’s worthy of celebration every day.  LET THE PARTY BEGIN!  

Survival Friends

I took an noontime train to London yesterday to visit my dear friend Jeff who happens to be visiting the city for a few days (he’s blowin’ it up in NYC, mind you, so keep an eye out for his awesome work).  We had a gloriously gluttonous day in the city, starting with lunch at Dishoom and ending with drinks and dinner at Wahaca (aka Yumzville!).  As the clock was nearing midnight (okay, really it was 10:35), I raced to the train station to board my chariot home only to find that every single train was cancelled (insert panic-face here).  Supposedly, as I was busy wining and dining, there had been a torrential downpour that flooded railway lines to my Hobbit Town, Tunbridge Wells.  The loudspeaker (aka quietspeaker) cackled to life and someone mumbled something into it that left people groaning.  My sleepy heart sank.  What is a lady to do?!

The answer is this: Find someone who is going to the same destination and follow them.  In a moment of desperation, I put on my best American accent and asked if anyone was going in my direction and then latched onto two panicky old ladies who were pushy and panicked enough to get answers out of the one* National Rail employee on staff, who told us to jump on the next train to London Bridge where we’d be bussed, shipped, helicoptered and submarined home at some point**.  I looked at my old lady companions and said, “Girls, I’m with you.”

On the train to London Bridge we took inventory- whose phone still had enough battery power to last through the night, where each of us were going, etc.  When I announced my final destination, a girl who’d been quietly lurking behind me looked up from her phone and said, “I’m following you***.” 

And this, my friends, is how we will come to survive the zombie apocalypse.  I’ve always been skeptical of movies about the end of the world in which a group of strangers join together against all odds in the name of survival.  Together they run through abandoned subway tunnels, sleep in deserted homes (where one of them inevitably does something stupid like light a candle or put on a record which draws all the zombies to them within seconds, as if zombies are actually observant… whatever), and contemplate the v. important question of, if we were the only two people left to repopulate the entire world, could we find it in ourselves to procreate?  People in these movies are always attractive with straight, white teeth and the ability to run for miles to evade danger, and the answer is always yes.  Yes, they will fall in love in that gross urban hideout and they will build a better world together.  (Assuming they kill (rekill?) all the zombies, of course.)

Last night, I learned these same partnerships also happen in real life when a group of people are faced with imminent doom.  Whilst helplessly staring at the monitors at London Bridge, BECAUSE THERE WAS NOBODY THERE TO HELP US!, my new friend and I developed a tall, sandwich-eating shadow and before I knew it our small two-some had turned into three.  As we hopped from train to parking lot, to train, to bus, to home, the three of us had swapped stories, shared complaints, and talked a lot about the Olympics.  We had become survival friends!   At 1:30 the bus stopped across the street from my house and, in a moment of panic, I shot out of my seat, quickly waved goodbye, and RAN my ass home to take a shower and snuggle in bed with the Redcoat.  There’s nothing like a natural disaster to make you appreciate a clean towel, a soft mattress, and the arms of someone you love wrapped tightly around you.  Even if it is a super minor natural disaster that was actually more fun than cumbersome and made you feel like a navigation pro for making it home in the end. 

Zanna and Jaime, if you’re reading this, it was an absolute pleasure to share the worst commute ever with you!  Perhaps we’ll run into each other in town one day, or maybe we won’t.  I’m sorry I made you play the What are you thankful for? game (my optimism never dies!) and I’m sorry you both had to wake up earlier than I did this morning.  :(

*UNO, EIN, ICHI, people, ONE!  Where did this country learn their customer service?!
**He didn’t really say that, but, like, basically he did.  It was the most convoluted action plan I’ve ever heard of but it sure as hell beat the possibility of having to crash on someone’s couch with unbrushed teeth and feet that smell like water-logged leather.  Ewz!
***Uh, gooooooood luuuuuucccck! (Note, when you’re stranded somewhere, it’s generally not the best idea to find the sole foreigner in the group and decide to follow them.  Like, I can be really assertive in moments of crisis but I. do. not. know. where. I. am. going!  Even when there isn’t a crisis, this is true.)

Tuesday w/Moi

Tuesday, July 10th
This is my favorite mug ever.  I think it’s important to have a favorite mug.
It makes morning a little more bearable.
Literally running out the door.  David and I had to sign some papers at a boring government office.  It was very official and very depressing.
I cheated, it was really 11:09 when I took this picture, but I was detained in the aforementioned depressing government office at 11:00 and had to wait to bust outta there before taking this picture.
Fetal position on the couch in my Alexander Wang sweatpants writing yesterday’s post.  I’m still beating myself up about that post… I don’t know how to say the things I feel in the right way, but I’m afraid if I wait, I’ll never find the right way to say them and they’ll never actually be said.
And I want to say them.  Need to say them.  You know?
I read this by James Franco on Huffington Post yesterday about his take on the first season of HBO’s Girls as well as the London production of Gatz.  He wrote,  I think the show and Lena Dunham have done something right by writing about what they know and not worrying about it being perfect.  I think this is very true and good advice.  If we wait for things to be perfect, we will live in a constant state of ennui and idleness.  Sometimes it’s brave to say things that aren’t perfect as long as you’re telling the truth.  Also, things will never be perfect, so why wait?
I tried to draw Le Chat but accidentally drew my spirit animal, a fox, instead.
Hi Little Fox!
True story: Little Fox was the name of my first and only imaginary friend.  He was, as the name suggests, a little tiny fox who followed me everywhere and was my best friend.
Lunch.  Cheese sandwich with butter and tomato.  I kinda love but kinda hate how the Brits butter everything, but mostly I think I love it.  Yumz!
Our walls are painted, OUR WALLS ARE PAINTED!  I’m obsessed with the color (Skimming Stone by Farrow & Ball) and I’m so pleased the curtains actually match something now!
Yesterday was laundry day for our light colored clothes.
Took a walk (to buy some wine) and passed St. John’s as the clock struck 5:00.  I think I’ll go to a service on Sunday.  I think it’s time I go back to church.
 GREEN GREEN GREEN!
My mom mailed me that pressed flower.  Isn’t she sweet?
Creating things…. Next week is BIRTHDAY WEEK and I have so many cards to make!
These watercolo(u)r postcards are my favorite thing right now. I need to remember to buy more when I’m by Cass tomorrow…
Okay, so this was supposed to be my mom’s birthday card for next week (don’t worry, Mom, you’ll get something else instead) but I ruined it! with this crappy color scheme and terrible glitter application!  I also got superglue all over my left hand and had a panic attack because I couldn’t get it off.  EEK! Anyway, happy early birthday, Mother!  Start celebrating RIGHT NOW!
Freshly polished shoes.  Mine can fit inside David’s.  His feet are soooo big!
Let’s skip 22:00 because I was on a Skype call with my BFF, Brent, and I think he’d kill me if I posted the photo I took of us talking.  SO, here I am at 11:00.  In bed, with a candle beside me, and talking to my wonderful older brother who always helps to put things in perspective for me.  Two great Skype calls in a row, what a lucky lady I am!
So that was my Tuesday.  Thanks for reading!
xxoxx

Inspired By: Nora Ephron

I want to talk about Nora Ephron.  The men in my life don’t really understand how much her death affected me, and last Thursday was a sad day, indeed. 

I was eleven when You’ve Got Mail came out and I saw it in theaters with my best friend (hi, Sarah!) and her mother (hi, Trudi!).  I didn’t fully understand the nuances of Ephron’s comedy at that age, but I walked out of that theater feeling touched, forever changed.  I wanted to grow up and be just like Kathleen Kelly.  I wanted to have a sunny apartment on a tree-lined city street, I wanted to have a shop that was mine that I would fight for, and I wanted to one day fall in love with a man who would challenge me and love me and together we would be happy for as long as we both shall live

As I matured and grew older, the movie changed with me.  I became more acutely aware of Kathleen’s dilemma and saw that small business owners across America were going through similar hardships as chain stores turned old fields into superstores and put their tiny competitors out of business.  This outraged me and inspired me to shop at locally-owned businesses whenever possible.  Eventually, I ended up working for a small business in Boston and I helped to make it stronger and more competitive in the marketplace.  When I left the company two months ago, we were on the brink of a total brand overhaul that I so badly wanted to be a part of.  Next month they are moving to a luxurious new location and I’m angry that I won’t be there to welcome our clients through our shiny new door and into the chic new space.  Yet I’m proud of their success and proud of the role I played in helping them move forward.  It’s because of Ephron’s sweet interpretation of The Shop Around the Corner that I work to preserve and support the shops (and artists) around our corners that help to define and differentiate our communities and I’m excited to find new businesses to work with here in the UK. 

The day after her passing, I made David watch You’ve Got Mail with me [again].  This time, what came through was Kathleen Kelly’s optimism in light of losing everything.  Despite having lost her mother, her store, and her identity, she bravely moved forward, explored her opportunities and made a new life for herself.  That, my friends, is brave. That is inspiring.

“And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.” –Nora Ephron.

Right now, I too feel as if I’ve lost my identity. Making new friends, which has always come easily to me, has completely evaded me in this country and I feel claustrophobic in my small town.  I’ve been wearing spandex leggings and t-shirts for weeks (people, to better help you understand what a monstrous tragedy this is, I only have, like, two t-shirts and one pair of leggings) and right now I’m selfishly enjoying wallowing in my own misery.  Luckily, I married a man who challenges me.  He knows when he needs to let me cry alone, but also knows when he needs to come and sit on the side of the bed and tell me to take control and move forward

Much to my dismay, the UK isn’t all Colin Firth, ginger biscuits and tea with the Queen.  I’m learning how to be an Evil-Stepmother, how to connect with a country of people who are simultaneously much more reserved and far more crass (in my opinion) that Americans, and how to dream another dream and then make that dream my reality.  One day, if I can do something one tenth as special as what Nora Ephron has done, I will be a very happy woman and right now, it’s my turn to be brave.

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” –Nora Ephron.

 One more thing: I will not be doing a Tuesday with Moi this week because all I did today is wallow in bed, make lists, work, and write in my journal.  Instead, I will be doing a 4th of July with Moi and will post pictures on Thursday.  Xox

SUMMER?

Over the last few weeks, while all my friends in the States have been eating popsicles, boating off the Vineyard and sunning themselves, I’ve been wearing sweaters and rain boots, trying my best to stay warm and dry… until today!  Today is one of those rare English days where it actually feels like summer.  Yes, it’s still quite cloudy and I probably didn’t need to slather myself in SPF 30 this morning, but I can’t help but be a little overzealous when this weather feels so foreign and deliciously wonderful.   For the first time in weeks*, I’ve let my limbs out of their fabric shackles for a day of frolicking in the sun, and oh, the sun!  How glorious it is!

Today, I am thankful for the sun.  And for beer gardens, too.  What are you thankful for?

*Barring my time at Ascot when my limbs were bare but also covered in goose bumps. 

@Ascot

You guys, this ain’t no Kentucky Derby, it’s Ascot.  Royal Ascot, in fact.  A genteel affair that’s as British as Sunday roasts and high tea with the Queen (seen entering the Royal Enclosure in her carriage, second photo).  It doesn’t get any more British than horse races and irony-free head-wear and I’m so pleased I was given the amazing opportunity to take part in this 301 year-old tradition. 

On Saturday morning, I put on my knee-length dress* and home-made hat,** took David’s arm and we made our way to Ascot.  A very generous friend***  invited us to join his party in the Royal Enclosure which meant we were far removed from the majority of the fashion monstrosities that are just as much a part of the Ascot tradition as the horse racing.  Luckily, there are pictures

As you can imagine, I was ever so charmed by the clothes- especially the morning dress worn by the men (Swoon City!).  If an American man were ever required to wear tails and a top hat to a sporting event, they’d pick up their guns and start shouting about Civil Liberties faster than you can say George Washington, which is precisely why the majority of men at the Kentucky Derby look like they’re in an Easter-egg hued parody of Boardwalk Empire, complete with unlit cigars, clip-on bow ties, and ill-fitting bowler hats.  Though there was much moaning about the restrictive dress code this year, the crowd at Ascot was [for the most part] wonderfully put together and very handsome, indeed!

And speaking of handsome, how ’bout those horses!  I’ve never been one of those horse-obsessed girls with notebooks full of pencil-drawn horsies, their manes blowing majestically in the wind as they gallop across a plane or along a steep embankment that falls into the sea.  That being said, I’m not immune to the power and grace of a beautifully built horse and I definitely fell a little bit in love with a temperamental grey stallion that lost me five quid and taught me to never again bet on a horse just because it’s pretty.  And when they race, oh! how your heart does beat, especially if you have good money on a horse.  The horses are so strong, so fast, I imagine that being a jokey is the closest we’ll ever get as humans to feeling we can fly. 

Horse racing has gotten into my blood and like a junkie I’m already searching for my next fix.  I’ve spent the last two days daydreaming about picnic lunches and steeplechases, of bigger hats, bolder dresses, and sunny racetracks, of horses nibbling apples from the palm of my hand.  Maybe, just maybe, I’m a horse girl after all.  A horse racing girl, I mean.

*It’s by Michael Kors, for those who are interested. 
**I didn’t make the hat, but I did spray-paint it black and hand-sew beads and feathers to the back, which warrants some props, I think.  
***Thanks, Mike!

Sunday Lunch @The Hare

Yesterday, David and I laced up our walking shoes and strolled a couple miles down the road to The Hare where we enjoyed a beautiful Sunday lunch.  After our meal, we sat in the garden for a drink and dessert (rhubarb crumble with custard, yummmm) and all around us were families with children.  Many of these children took it upon themselves to find entertainment amongst each other, and they played in the field beside the garden- games of tag and cricket and whatever else English children do- and sometimes an adult would saunter over, beer in hand, and kick a ball around, too.  But usually the adults sat together in the garden, enjoying conversation and a drink in the sun with a few children leaning their heads on their arms, quietly listening in.  

The attitude toward child-rearing is far more relaxed here than in the States and parents seem to have a more harmonious balance between their own social priorities and the activities of their children.  Once a couple has children, their children do not seem to replace their social life, and I think it’s great to see families together at pubs, groups of parents engaged in conversation as their children run off on their own.  At first I found the presence of so many youngsters to be tiresome and irritating, but the more I see it, the more I realize their inclusion in the ‘adult world’ is actually healthy and quite liberating.  Instead of sequestering their children at home with a sitter, they allow them to experience and observe the real world, and allow them to behave like children at the same time.  It’s just one of those English things- like Sunday lunch and beer gardens- that I find sweet and charming.

How was your weekend, dear reader?  Did you do anything exciting/inspiring/relaxing?

Just a Note

I love walking along the canal in East London.  I love that the Redcoat wears pink stripey socks.  I love blossoming flowers and graffiti that reminds us to appreciate the good things in life.  I do not love that the weather still calls for a heavy jacket in June.  I mean, WHAT’S UP WITH THAT, ENGLAND? 

Walks & Wine

I’ve been spending far too much time cooped up inside Cox Quarters, watching Sherlock and moping.  My legs are itching for a walk, but the weather’s been unforgiving and I’ve sat folded on my couch for the vast majority of this week, gazing into my computer screen and taking accidental naps with Le Chat.  Glamorous, no?

As the rain pours down on this chilly Thursday afternoon, I will think back to better times- days when the sun was shining, the streets of London were filled with sights and sounds and smells, and David and I could happily stroll for hours before settling in at a small cafe for a carafe of wine and some people-watching. 

Time now to tackle some work, pour a cup of tea, and then curl up with a book. 

Are you reading anything good right now, dear reader?  I’m cycling through some literature I first read in high school and am currently rereading To The Wedding by John Berger.  Reading the notes I took in the margins makes me giggle and roll my eyes.  I was so silly at 16!