Now that I’m living in the States, I have had the opportunity to sample dishes that I’d never heard of before, and I have to say it – American cuisine is fab! But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about my fave fish and chips.I have to listen with envy as my family describe how they still have fish suppers every Friday. Yes, of course we can get fish and chips out here but no disrespect to our American cousins, this is a dish that us Brits definitely do best. I’ve tried fish and chips in many different countries, and even though all of them were very pleasant, no one does our national dish quite like we do.
Admittedly, fish and chips from a proper British chippie is impossible to beat and always to recreate at home. Almost everyone I know has said that there’s something about fish and chips from your local chip shop, with lashings of onion vinegar and wrapped in paper that is hugely satisfying and hits the spot every time. To me a proper fish and chip shop, is one where the fish is battered (never breaded) and the chips are chunky (never fries!) After my last day at the school where I worked, my colleagues and I could have gone anywhere for my leaving meal. But what did we choose to do? Grab fish and chips and eat them on the steps of the town hall, which incidentally also gave me flashbacks to grabbing munchies after a hard night’s clubbing! Yep, I clearly knew I was really going to miss good ol’ English fish and chip shops that much!
But as much as I love chips from the chippie, that doesn’t mean that the home-made version isn’t delicious. Which is a good thing as that’s now how I’m going to be able to get my fish and chip fix regularly! Here’s a recipe below for scrumptious beer-battered fish and chips. For those of you who don’t like the idea of frying everything, the chips can also be roasted in the oven at 200°c/Gas 6 for thirty minutes, turning over occasionally.
BEER-BATTERED FISH AND CHIPS
Prep time 15 mins
Rest time 30 mins resting
Cooking time 40 mins
50g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp turmeric
75 ml beer
75ml sparkling water
Vegetable or sunflower oil for deep frying
400g cod, hake or haddock, halved
Salt and Pepper
For the chips:
750g potatoes, peeled and sliced into thick chips
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt and pepper
1. Combine the flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt, pepper and turmeric in a large bowl, reserving about one and a half tbsps of the mixture and set aside.
2. Pour beer and water into the bowl and whisk until you have a smooth, lump-free batter. Leave to rest for 30 mins.
3. Meanwhile prepare the chips. Boil a large pan of water, add the cut potatoes and boil for 2-3 mins until the outsides are tender but not soft.
4. Drain potatoes then tip on to a large baking tray with flour, 2tbsp oil and salt and pepper. Toss until all the potatoes are evenly coated. Set aside.
5. Pat the fish dry with kitchen paper, then season with salt, pepper and lemon pepper for extra flavour. Then coat evenly in the remaining turmeric flour mix. Shake off excess then dip into the batter.
6. Heat 1 ltr oil in a deep saucepan. When hot enough, lower each fillet into the hot oil and fry until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, lift out the fish and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt.
7. Fry the potatoes until crisp and lightly golden. Remove from oil and drain on kitchen towel. Sprinkle with salt and vinegar.Serve with fish and enjoy!
As usual I was stuck when it came to deciding which three people I wanted to express gratitude to – as once again there are so many, I really didn’t know who to choose! But I finally decided on three and you’ll notice that there’s a theme with this post – other than gratitude – as all three people who I would like to express gratitude to have all played a major role in my career as a teacher for which I can never thank them enough.
1. MY AUNT
I’m really grateful to my aunt because after spotting an ad in the paper for a teaching position in London that she knew I would love, she informed me immediately. Mr. D and I were living in Devon at the time, working in student accommodation, and we HATED every second of it (not necessarily picturesque Devon but the job and the people we had to deal with.) We wanted to either come back to London or return to Bournemouth where we had previously been living but work was very thin on the ground so for the time being at least, we weren’t going anywhere.
Then I received a call from my aunt who, knowing that I wanted to go into teaching English, said that she’d seen an ad in the paper for teachers at a language school in Central London and that I should apply. So I did – and found out that I had two days to get down to London for an interview to see if I’d be accepted for the training program. Ever the optimist, I didn’t think I would pass the training, so I booked a coach ticket and headed over to London with just a week’s worth of clothes not knowing that I’d never be going back to Devon again…
2. P.B. – THE TRAINER
I had three trainers in total plus a lovely principal and I am grateful to all of them, for the opportunities, support and help that they had given me. But why I feel that I have to thank P.B. first and foremost is because he was the trainer who interviewed me and gave me the chance to train there. He seemed very no-nonsense and the kind of person who wouldn’t put up with any of my shenanigans, and he even warned me that the training program was very tough and intense and that even if I was accepted for the training, there was a chance that I might voluntarily drop out due to the pressure. Filling me with confidence, he wasn’t!
For reasons I’m not sure either of us understand, I was put through to the training program – something I’m sure he’s regretted ever since! Ever the optimist, I was sure I wouldn’t pass training, but not only did I do so but I continued to work there right up until the school very sadly shut down (that’s a whole other story) Had it not been for P.B. I would never have had the chance to do something I loved, and realise for the first time that I’m actually good at something. I met tons of really cool people, both staff and students, who I’m still in touch with to this day – including P.B. of course!
3. STAFF AND STUDENTS AT SCHOOL NO.2
OK, I’m cheating here a little because instead of expressing gratitude to one other person, I’ve chosen to be thankful to a bunch of people – but it’s impossible to to select just one person. Who should I choose? The receptionist who handed over my CV that had turned to paper maché when I walked in from the rain looking like a drowned rat? The former colleague from my previous school who unbeknownst to me was at that school, and put in a good word for me when he discovered that I had applied? Or the principal who hired me based on the strength of my CV and what my colleague had told her and felt that a formal interview wasn’t necessary? The staff that took care of me when I got sick? The staff that propped me back up when I suffered a devastating blow while at work? And I could never forget the amazing students there who were an absolute joy to teach.
When my visa came through to move to the States, I handed in my notice and did so with a very heavy heart for while I was happy to be reunited with Mr. D. and start the next stage of our lives together, I was also very sad to be leaving a place where I was ecstatic to go to every day – and how many people can claim to be ecstatic about going to work? When my last school shut down, I never thought that I’d ever find another place to work where I could fit in so effortlessly and be so damn happy – but I did. And I have all these fantastic people to thank for that – people who are no longer staff, colleagues or students but friends.
A bit of an odd one seeing as I no longer live in the city! But as much as I’m enjoying life in the country, I am grateful for:
A. BEING A CITY GIRL
I love city life. Pretty much any city: Dublin, Vienna, Barcelona, Seattle, Mumbai… I love them all! Country life is pretty good but while Mr. D has rural living in his blood, I am a city girl through and through. I love doing what Mr. D calls ‘city things’: museums, galleries, coffee shoos, bars, taking in a show, riding the night bus…
I know there’ll come a time when I probably won’t want to be anywhere other than the country, but right now I need the energy and vibrance of the city. I loved growing up in a place where everything was on your doorstep and it was very easy to get around, even without a car. I love that there’s always so much to see and do. You can never get bored in a city.
True, people may be more abrupt and always in a hurry but contrary to popular belief, I’ve never felt lost or lonely in a big city. I know people who live in rural towns who can’t settle in big cities due to them finding it ‘too busy.’ I can understand why they would find the transition hard which makes me even more thankful to be city born and bred, and having done the reverse has not been too difficult for me. can never get bored in a big city. I remember when I used to fly into Portland, Oregon on one of my visits to see Mr. D before we got hitched, looking out of the aeroplane window and seeing the city all lit up like jewelled specks on black cloak, highlighting the beauty and mystery of the night. Yes – bright city lights always make me happy.
B. BEING A LONDONER
As if being a city girl wasn’t enough, I’m so, so grateful that I grew up in the most amazing, exciting, diverse and vibrant cities in the world – London! Even though I know people are always complaining about all the negatives connected with London living – exorbitant costs, crowds, filthy streets, crime etc – I can’t quite put into words why I’m so proud and thankful to come from one of the world’s most famous cities. I love the nightlife, the arts, the mix of cultures; hearing all those different languages and accents, seeing people in traditional dress – something I miss very much now. I love that I’m able to get virtually any kind of cuisine without having to travel too far. You can complain all you want about public transport but at least it exists and there’s pretty much a twenty four hour service. There’s some absolutely stunning architecture and I love that some of the world’s most iconic sights are right there in London. And if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of London living, there are some districts and neighbourhoods that have a distinctly village feel.
London really is the city that has it all, and I’m so thankful and so glad its my city!
C. LIVING NEAR BOSTON
Seeing as the topic of this post is being grateful for the city you live in, I’m going to have to talk about Boston which is the city closest to where I live. I’ve mentioned before that it has always been my dream since I was an eleven year old New Kids On The Block fan to live in – at the very least visit – Boston. Never did I think that my dream would one day come true but it has!
Admittedly, as we live so far out of Boston, I haven’t visited as often as I’d like to but the few times I’ve visited I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve seen the Bruins play, seen some of the sights, been to a few gigs, eaten at the world famous Wahlburgers (haha! Although I didn’t see Donnie or Mark but Paul did say hi!) I’ve discovered the awesome Mike’s Pastries, and I know a bar where the fish ‘n chips are pretty decent!
I’m so glad to be living near a city as cool as Boston and look forward to visiting more of the historical sites. But more than that I’m grateful and thrilled to have realised one of my ambitions.
Trying to think about what I would choose as my something I’ve been given for this week’s challenge was hard as I’ve been given so many meaningful things by some very special people.
So I decided to go with the keys that Mr. D. presented me with that opened the door to our first home – and that’s the first home that we own and not one where we’re paying off someone else’s mortgage.
As a big rock fan, I love that its not your standard run of the mill looking key and represents our love of concerts and the way we met.
But it means so much more than that.
When we lived in London, owning our own home seemed like the impossible dream – and anyone who lives in London and isn’t a millionaire will know what I mean. Getting on the property ladder was hard. We couldnt even get on the property footstool and I was really kicking myself for not having got a move on much earlier.
I just wanted a home we could call our own, where we could be us and do our own thing, and be surrounded by things that were ‘us’. Where I could entertain and have people over to stay. Mr. D. was more concerned with having woodland, animals and a lake to fulfil his desire for nature. I also wanted enough land to build smaller homes for our parents in their retirement.
Talk about a pipe dream!
Admittedly when we first went to view the house, I wasn’t really taken with it. A chance encounter with a neighbour really had me hoping we’d buy somewhere else! But the house came with land for me, woodland for Mr. D and a lake behind the nearby conservation land. Plus the house was in our price range so it looked like it might just happen…
Fast forward eighteen months and we are very settled in our home. We still haven’t done much with it and we’re still getting used to being homeowners. This house was definitely worth the wait and almost worth leaving London for… If only I could have taken my family and friends with me 😢
We’ve been saddled with a thirty year debt but believe it or not we are so thankful for that. If it means we’ll never have to deal with another greedy landlord, see another dodgy tenancy agreement or share with another hideous housemate then great! Although I hastened to add that I actually miss most of our housemates but there are some I’m hoping never to bump into again.
But yes, these keys are among some of the most cherished things I’ve been given and I am so very thankful for them.
It’s been the most talked about news for the last few days – and I’m not talking about Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement. Superbowl fever is here again and come Sunday, the whole of America – well OK, those who are not seriously cheesed off by their teams not getting through -will be on the edge of their bar stools as they wait to see whether it will be the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons who’ll emerge victorious. Those who know me know that I haven’t got a sporting bone in my body but as I’m now a New Englander, I obviously want the Patriots to do well (sorry everyone!)
Last year I was pretty chuffed to have got to America just in time to see the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in Superbowl 50. And just before that we also watched the Patriots suffer a crushing defeat which obviously did not go down too well with the locals!
I’ll admit I won’t have a clue what’s going on! I don’t know the rules or how the game is played – despite Mr. D. trying to explain it to me a million times – but then why would I?
Sporty I may not be but one thing I can understand is the excitement of the country right now. I may not be a football/soccer fanatic but I’m jumping up and down as much as the next person during World Cup and Euro Cup seasons and never miss an England match (yeah let’s not talk about that!) and always make sure I have the best seat in the pub when I’m watching a game – complete with cider and a plate of pub grub of course. It’ll be no different in America on Sunday with packed bars across the country as everyone desperately waits to see who’ll be the new NFL champions.
But I know that not everyone will be watching the Superbowl in a crowded bar or pub. Superbowl parties are very much the rage here and some people will be celebrating with family and friends in the comfort of their own homes rather than “pay the over hiked prices in bars” – and why not? I think a Super Bowl party sounds like a great idea. As everyone knows entertaining is very much my thing, and I have to say it definitely sounds like my kind of party: there’s no pomp and ceremony, you don’t have to get your glad rags on, and there’s this mixture of a laid back, chilled out vibe combined with a feeling of excited anticipation as the guests get psyched up as much as the players!
As a relative newcomer to America and American football, I had to ask around in order to find out how to put together an awesome Superbowl party. I now wish I hadn’t left it so late in the day to throw a party myself but… There’s always next year!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
Decide who’s coming: invite your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, your hairdresser, local barista… Invite who you want but be sure that you have enough space to accommodate your guests and that you can cater for large numbers.
Work out your budget for food, drinks and the necessary extras.
Get some bedding handy for anyone who might be staying over because they’re too drunk to drive – or heartbroken!
Alternatively keep the number of a reputable cab firm handy!
Ensure there is adequate seating for everyone as you don’t want any of your guests to stand the whole time. Drag in your garden chairs if necessary; borrow folding chairs and bean bags. If worst comes to the worst people won’t mind the floor or stairs.
Get the tables ready. You’ll need one large table to hold the food, and then a few smaller tables within people’s reach to rest plates and glasses on.
You may not know for sure until the day but consider whether you need to move the TV from its current location and position for maximum viewing benefit. After all, people are there to see the game so you don’t want any disgruntled guests!
Drinks coolers and ice buckets – it might be cold outside but who wants to drink warm beer?
Bottle openers – a must unless you want people opening bottles of beer with their teeth, or worse, your furniture!
Napkins – cloth not necessary!
Disposable cups, glasses, plates, and cutlery – it takes a brave woman – or man – to get out their best crockery and silverware knowing that they’ll have a never ending mountain of washing up to do afterwards! Just make sure you choose good quality cutlery because if there’s when thing I can’t stand it’s plastic cutlery shattering when I attempt to use it.
Serving platters, trays and bowls
For one day you can go absolutely football crazy in your home!
Use flags, posters, pictures, footy gear or anything else that screams football!
Get inspiration for your colour scheme by using the colours of the teams that are playing.
Decorate the main food table to resemble the football pitch.
Decorations don’t have to cost the earth. Streamers and banners are relatively inexpensive, and use ordinary latex balloons rather than helium ones if you want to keep the costs down.
Get crafty by creating decorations from crêpe or tissue paper.
Beer, beer and more beer!
I figured that much of the food would be classic American fare – and I wasn’t wrong. The food doesn’t have to be ‘fancy’ – not something my mother would ever want to hear – it should be quick and simple to prepare and serve and if it’s something that can be prepared in advance, so much the better.
The food tends to be fried or baked finger food, a little on the stodgy side with little need for cutlery, although you should provide some anyway. There’s no need to try to ‘elevate’ any if these dishes ( this isn’t Masterchef!) and food is generally served buffet-style so guests can help themselves as and when they want and load up during the game.
If you’re pushed for time and/or cash you could:
Kindly ask everyone to bring a platter. This will also ensure that most dietary requirements are covered.
Make big batches of dishes like chilli or lasagna which can be made in advance and frozen.
This isn’t Come Dine With Me so if you can’t make everything from scratch, don’t be afraid to order in food or visit the freezer section at the supermarket.
Its always good to offer a selection but don’t feel as though you have to give the kind of selection found on a restaurant menu!
My own personal choice would be a minimum of six different appetizers; two mains, and a minimum of desserts.
Don’t forget the sides for your main dishes and the accompaniments for the desserts.
If you choose to go for one main only, you could always set up a build your own tacos, burritos or even sandwiches station with all the components laid out and your guests choose what they want. This way thry feel as though they’re getting a choice but how practical this idea is depends on space and the number of guests – there is also likely to be a bit of a wait.
You could always choose one type of dessert e.g. brownies, cupcakes, cheesecake, cookies etc. Whip up a huge batch of the batter or dough, then divide them into portions and give each a different flavour. Once baked, you could give them different toppings.
Its OK if you wish to forgo mains and dessert. But if you choose to serve snack food only, ensure there is a reasonable selection to choose from and make sure quantities are plentiful. It’s going to be a long game and people will get hungry. Furthermore, its also a good idea to have some ice cream in the freezer for anyone with a sweet tooth!
Obviously you can serve any kind of food you wish during the game. Use the suggestions below as a guide.
Chips and dips
Fries with cheese and bacon
Soft pretzels with cheese dip
Mini blooming onions
Pull apart garlic bread
Mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce
Anything battered or breaded including shrimp, calamari, chicken bites, mushrooms or zucchini.
Loaded potato skins
SIDES AND ACCOMPANIMENTS:
Sweet potato mash/fries
Fruit pie bars
Ice-cream cookie sandwiches
TO SERVE WITH DESSERT:
Fruit flavoured sauces
Whatever you’re doing on Sunday, I hope you all have a great time – and may the best team win!
A while ago I told you all to expect some good news – but not of the gender reveal variety! Well I’m thrilled to announce that Mr. D and I are at last homeowners!!! Woo woo woo!
To be honest we never thought this day would come. I guess the move to America was worth it after all because when we lived in London, the dream of owning our own home was just that – a dream. Despite the fact that we were both working and Mr.D was earning quite well, it was impossible to find a property in our price range. Even a tent in a field would have been a bit much going by crazy London prices! London has gotten ridiculously expensive and it’s sad because given the choice, we’d have liked to have stayed here.
But I suppose everything happens for a reason and once Mr. D had found his dream house, there was no stopping him! If I’m brutally honest, I didn’t feel like this was the house for us. As it was in the country, and I’m a die-hard city girl, I can’t say I was jumping up and down at the prospect of rural life – something I’d tried before and didn’t enjoy, although Mr. D, of course, couldn’t wait to get back to country living.
Then of course there was the distance to Mr.D’s workplace as our new house is quite some distance away. As we’re leasing our car we need to keep an eye on mileage and also I was worried about him driving home in heavy snow ( I guess it shows that I’m a Londoner!) Furthermore, I’d already met one of our neighbours and let’s just say that living close to him was not something I especially wanted to do…
However it was quite obvious that Mr. D. was smitten with the house and especially the acres of woodland that came with it. Plus I have to admit, the house kind of grew on me; it wasn’t bad for a first time home; it was habitable, and needed very little work. We were getting a pretty good deal on the house… So we went for it. And now here we are!!! And I’m even excited about giving country life another attempt.
I’m unfortunately still in London, tying up loose ends and trying to pack up remainder of our never-ending belongings. I’m very sad that I wasn’t with Mr. D. to collect the key but then again I guess that moment belonged to him and him alone. After all if it wasn’t for his determination and persistence, we wouldn’t have had this wonderful opportunity. It really is because of him that we can call ourselves homeowners and begin to pay our own mortgage rather than someone else’s. There’ll definitely be a chance for him to carry me – and all my items of luggage – over the threshold of our new home, and that’ll hopefully happen sometime soon.
The idea of a thirty year debt isn’t appealing, and neither is the thought of having to cut back on the little luxuries that Mr. D. is always telling me off for splurging on which is definitely the downside of having your own home but my goodness, I won’t miss paying extortionate rent; matchbox-sized flats; greedy landlords determined to rob you blind; moving every few months; dodgy estate agents, and obnoxious housemates. And that’s just some of the horror stories!
This is the beginning of something new and hopefully good for both of us. I can’t wait to begin this stage of our lives. Its just a pity that our family and friends live so far away but hopefully they’ll all get to visit.
I’ve been a little quiet with the posts this month as April has been quite a busy month for me. As everyone knows Mr. D. and I left England to go and live in Massachusetts after Mr. D. had been offered a job there. However because we had left quicker than we would have liked, it was always known that I’d be returning after a few months in order to tie up loose ends – so here I am!
It’s great being back in my city though I wish Mr. D was here because I do miss him terribly but hopefully I shouldn’t be staying for too long and I will be back with Mr. D. before I know it. In the meantime, I just want to enjoy all the fab things London has to offer; see all those I never got a chance to say goodbye to back in January, and spend time with those who matter because it might be a very long time before I see them again.
I’m actually enjoying using my Oyster Card and hopping on and off public transport because not being much of a driver – despite having passed my test yonks ago – I’ve never really been much of a driver, so depended on Mr. D. to ferry me around which I know will have to change once I move back to the States. You can complain all you want about public transport in London – and we do – but it’s not brilliant in Massachusetts at all, so when we first moved out there and had to wait to get a car, we really struggled. I’m so thankful that we have a fairly decent bus and tube system here in London.
I know a few people are confused that I have found myself a job in a school but it’s only for the duration of my stay. The truth is I really miss being in a classroom; being an English teacher is a big part of who I am. So when the opportunity arose, I grabbed it and I have to say its a lot of fun. It’s great getting to know my new students and colleagues, and one of my former colleagues is also working there, so it’s great to see a familiar face.
I’m so glad I’m having this time in my hometown because who knows when I’ll be back. But funnily enough, it’s also made me feel more optimistic about living in America and I really want to give it a go. Not everyone has the opportunity to experience life in another country so I’m determined to make the most of every second which isn’t easy when homesickness rears its ugly head… But I’ll try!
And Mr.D. and I have some rather exciting news which I’ll be sharing with you at some point but I don’t want to give too much away now. I will however make it clear that for those who are expecting to hear an announcement about the pitter-patter of tiny feet, well it’s not as exciting as that – but it’s pretty close!
By now most people will have heard of Kenny Harmon, the grandfather from Oklahoma who makes a mean hamburger, and is now affectionately known as Papaw. He made headlines around the world after a photo posted on social media of him tucking into a hamburger went viral. OK, so there’s nothing remarkable about a photo of a man eating a hamburger – but the story behind it is!
THE STORY SO FAR…
The doting grandad had invited his six grandchildren over for dinner, and set about creating a hamburger meal for them, complete with twelve – that’s right, twelve – hamburgers! However come dinnertime, five of them were a no-show. The only grandchild who did turn up – Kelsey Harmon – took a snap of Papaw as he tucked into his dinner and posted it to her Twitter account, explaining that dinner for eight had become dinner for two. Then before you could ask for more burger sauce, the post totally blew up on social media with thousands of people commenting.
THE PUBLIC HAVE SPOKEN!
A lot of people commented that the look of disappointment etched on Papaw’s face made them a little teary, especially when they heard about how much effort he’d gone to. Many agreed that they wanted Papaw to be their grandad too. Others wanted to know what had happened to the remaining burgers – and rightly so! A few sad cases declared that Papaw couldn’t be a very good grandfather if his grandkids didn’t want to spend time with him, while the odd couple of lost causes made death threats against the kids who didn’t turn up. Seriously people, get a life!
Just about everyone had an opinion regarding hamburgergate although the response to Papaw’s photo was generally very good. And one thing this photo succeeded in doing was make us think about our own grandparents and the role we played – or for those lucky ones, still continue to play – in their lives. And it certainly made me think about mine.
OUR ROLE MODELS
When it comes to grandparents, Mr. D. and I consider ourselves to be extremely blessed. Our grandparents were exactly what you would expect grandparents to be and served as excellent role models, not just to us kids, but to many other people who also looked up to them. We were adored by our grandparents who spoilt us rotten but were wise enough to know when to stop. And in an age where marriages collapse faster than an undercooked chocolate fondant, our grandfathers were devoted to their wives – quite simply they couldn’t live without them. If Mr. D. and I could have just half of what they had, we’re on our way to a very successful marriage.
Our grandparents may no longer still be with us but they are still the people we aspire to be like. They played a massive role in our upbringing and helped shape us into the people we are today. It saddens us that they didn’t live long enough to see us marry and guide us through our married life.
BUT WE WEREN’T PERFECT…
But I’m sorry to say that although Mr. D. and I had the perfect grandparents, we weren’t always the perfect grandkids. As we went from sweet kids to rebellious teens, we swapped sleepovers at our grandparents for raucous nights out with our friends, followed by all night swotting before exams at uni, before getting started in our chosen careers. So as we got older, even though our grandparents were always in our thoughts, we didn’t always visit or call as often as we should have. It was never intentional but it’s something that fills me with shame to this day.
WHY WE WERE MOVED BY PAPAW
Papaw’s story is both heartwarming and inspiring because it illustrated that in a world where people don’t get enough quality family time, there are still people who make an effort to get their familes together. In an age where the family unit isn’t as cohesive as it once was, there are still grandparents out there who want to play an active role in their grandkids lives. And although some people have passed judgement on the absentee grandchildren, I know just how easy it is to let the demands of real life get in the easy of things we really ought to do. And even though its been a zillion years since I was a teenager, I remember putting off visits to my own grandfather to go and join in with my friends’ crazy antics.
Its not that teenagers and young adults don’t love their grandparents of course. Its just that at that age, we often forget that the time we have with them is limited; we think that they’ll be around forever and that we’ll never see a time when they’re not around. At least that’s how it was for me. I think Papaw’s story has reminded us to make every second count when it comes to our loved ones.
WE LOVE OUR GRANDPARENTS…
Most of us really do the very best we can for our grandparents. Where I grew up in Northwest London, I saw even the roughest, toughest kids turn into big softies when it came to their grandparents and they couldn’t do enough for them. And even after their grandparents pass away, they’re never forgotten with their grandchildren marking birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions.
…BUT SADLY SOME ARE FORGOTTEN
I’m glad that Papaw’s story had a positive outcome but it also made me feel sad because I thought of the grandparents who are not made to feel loved or valued – and believe me I’ve come across plenty of them. Many elderly people I know talk about their huge families – complete with grandchildren and sometimes great-grandchildren – with pride. But these are the same people who struggle with the simplest of tasks as they go about their daily lives, depending on the kindness of neighbours, friends, acquaintances and even strangers rather than burden their children and grandchildren. In fact I know of people who usually see their grandchildren when they turn up demanding a handout!
I can’t help but feel a little angry at situations like this and marvel at peoples carelessness and lack of common sense. Surely if your family is bigger than the average village, than the responsibility of looking after grandma or grandpa should be a doddle, shouldn’t it? Well apparently not! I may not have called in as often as I could have but whenever Grandad needed help with anything, one of us was always there.
CHERISH EVERY MOMENT
When my grandfather passed away, I regretted that I didn’t spend enough time with him. It was only after his death I realised just how much he lived for his grandchildren and how every moment with us brought him so much happiness. But as a few people told me, no matter how much you did for your parents and grandparents, no matter how much time you spent with them even if it was every waking moment, it would NEVER be enough. And grandparents understand that we have things we need to do in life and we can’t always be there and nor would they want to stand in our way. As long as you show that you care, and that you love and value them, that makes them happy. So instead of feeling guilty, we should treasure the time we did get to spend together, know that we did the best we could and take comfort from those memories.
If there’s anything we can take away from Papaw’s story, it’s that awesome grandparents never stop giving, no matter how old their grandkids get. And despite a few exceptions, grandchildren never stop being loving – they just get busy! Modern life is frantic but we should do the very best we can to find even just a little time to let our grandparents know what they mean to us.
The Harmon family’s story did get a happy ending in that Kenny Harmon was reunited with all six of his grandchildren a week later for a special buffet lunch. And I did wonder just how many of those who wanted Papaw to be their adopted grandfather actually made the effort with their own grandparents. Well it seems that the other good thing about this story is that it actually made people reach out to their own grandparents immediately rather than putting off contact to another day.
We’ve been in America for over six weeks now and I am slowly getting a feel for our new home. Im gradually adjusting to life in a new country, with a new way of doing things, though thankfully not a new language – although sometimes that’s debatable!
This is my second attempt at life in the USA. The first time admittedly I threw in the towel too soon but everyone puts that down to wrong place, wrong time and I’m inclined to agree with them. This time I feel more prepared and I am liking Massachusetts a lot. I hope this time will be second time lucky!
WHERE WE’VE BEEN
We landed in Ohio where we spent almost a week before beginning the ten hour journey to our new home in Massachusetts. A few weeks later we did another road trip though this time to Delaware which took longer than it should have thanks to Mr. D. getting lost and not wanting to admit it!
We were supposed to go to Pennsylvania but unfortunately there wasn’t time but we will fit that in later in the year as well as a visit to North Carolina and a cross-country trip. Woo!
Oh and the number of States I’ve visited has now increased by three – Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware – which brings the total up to a groundbreaking… eleven!
WHO WE’VE SEEN
Mr D.and I have family and friends scattered all over the country and we obviously haven’t got round to see everyone yet – hence the numerous trips planned. But we did get to catch up with Mr. D.’s parents and younger siblings as well as meeting our brother-in-law and the best bit – wait for it – our super cute nephew who was born three weeks after we arrived here. We couldn’t get enough of the little fella!
WHAT WE’VE EXPERIENCED:
I thought coming from England, I knew all about the cold. I was wrong. Yes people, believe it or not there are places far, far, colder than England!
Anyone who follows the news will have been aware of the horrendous snowstorm that struck the northeastern states. Thankfully we made it to Massachusetts before we ran into any real difficulty but apart from being pelted by a thick blanket of icy, white stuff while dashing out to the supermarket, and feeling as though we were living in an ice-box despite having the heating on at home, we were much more fortunate than a lot of other people. You only had to see the images on the news channels to see how people were suffering. And our phones were ringing constantly with concerned family and friends wanting to know if we were all right.
Snow… beautiful to look at… Not always beautiful to be in.
We thought we were pretty much sorted with the perfect apartment when just a few days before we were due to arrive in Massachusetts, we realised we were being scammed. It seemed too good to be true and it always pays to listen to your instincts. To cut a long story short, the little s**t got reported and he didn’t get any of our hard earned dosh despite his best efforts – but I still hope that Karma will bite a nice big chunk out of his bum! There’s tons of scammers out there who are ripping off innocent people who are just looking for a decent place to live – almost happened to us in London as well – so be careful, people!
So it meant we arrived in Boston with no apartment to move into and had to stay in motels for over a week. Looking for somewhere suitable to live can be every bit as tricky as trying to find something semi -decent in London, and as we knew we were going to be without a car for a while, we had to find something as close as possible to Mr. D.’s workplace.
This narrowed our choices down to two, and reluctant to do a house share again, we opted for a basement flat which although wasn’t fantastic (the landlady’s words funnily enough) and was far more expensive, it meant that we had our privacy and the one thing we never had, living in our cramped London studio – space and tons of it! Not only that but we had access to the mini gym, and the garden which boasts a pool and a hot tub. OK, obviously we can’t take full advantage of it during these freezing cold winter months but spring is around the corner and we’d love to put them to use then.
Many of the locals will tell you that Massachusetts isn’t cheap when it comes to property so I hope they never visit London because they’ll get the shock of their lives! Our monthly rent now is more or less what we were paying for the little shoebox we just moved from!
BUYING A NEW CAR
In a land where cars are like names – simply everybody has one – to tell an American that you don’t own a car will incur the same reaction as telling them that you don’t own a toothbrush! You’ll be met with a reaction that is a cross between pity, ridicule, confusion and incredulous amazement that you’ve made it this far in life! Whenever we told people that we “don’t have a car at the moment,” the response we usually get is:
“What’s wrong with it? When will they have it ready by?”
We realised that it was far better to let people think that somewhere in town, a mechanic was tinkering away on our nonexistent car. Well nonexistent wasn’t exactly true. Mr. D. is actually the proud owner of a jeep that he’d had for many years but it had to be left in Ohio for several reasons. Furthermore Mr. D. was adamant that we could get by without a motor – especially as his main priority was to buy a house before committing to the expense of owning a car. Plus in an effort to get fit, he wanted to bike more as he had done in Portland.
However, this isn’t Portland and poor Mr. D was having to bike into work in not so pleasant weather conditions, although when the weather was really ghastly he would cycle to the nearest bus stop and wait for the bus, while ignoring the stares of passing motorists who were trying to work out what the hell was wrong with the strange guy on a bike!
Thankfully it was the birth of our nephew that prompted Mr. D. to finally concede defeat and get a car as there wasn’t a more convenient way of going over to visit. It’s true what everyone says; to live here you really do need a vehicle to get around and it does make life so much easier. I’m so glad we’ve finally got a set of wheels – and I don’t mean bicycle ones!
This is a country that definitely takes their sports seriously. Which is bad news for me because I’m not in the least bit sporty. When we arrived here, football fever was already well under way. The Patriots suffered a crushing defeat which obviously did not go down well with the locals and disappointed me too, as having just arrived in New England I would have loved to have seen them make it to the final.
And watching my first ever Super Bowl proved to be very memorable – and not just any Super Bowl but Super Bowl 50 no less – where the Carolina Panthers took on the Denver Broncos – and lost! I was glad because I had my money on the Broncos even though admittedly I didn’t know which was the better of the two teams. I just got lucky!
I was pretty chuffed to be in America as they celebrated the fiftieth Super Bowl but of course, I didn’t have a clue what was going on! I don’t know the rules or how the game is played – despite Mr. D. trying to explain it to me a million times. But then that’s hardly a surprise as I don’t even know the rules of soccer (also known as real football!) and I grew up in a football (soccer) mad family! Sporty I may not be but I will have to make an effort to understand more about the more popular sports in the States because when in Rome…
WHAT WE’RE UP TO
Mr. D. is a month into his new job and he is loving it! He’s much happier doing what he’s doing now than he was in his old post in London. That reason alone has made the move worth it.
I’ve gone from being an English teacher at one of the most well-established schools in Central London to being a housewife in New England for the time being- and there’s nowt wrong with that! It means that I get to spend more time with Mr. D. than I did when we lived in London, and it’s great that after years in a fast-paced job that got extremely demanding towards the end, I can take a little time out to chill and get used to my new surroundings.
I’m also brushing up on my language skills (comes in very handy in my job!) and working on business ideas that I’d put on the back burner. It’s a case of now or never and I have the time so I’m going for it. And most of our weekends are taken up with house hunting as we search to find a place we’re happy to call home not to mention accommodate the bands of visitors we’re expecting, who we can’t wait to see – just not all at the same time!
Of course I’m missing my family, my friends, my job and my city but we are only a five hour flight away so even though I can’t fly home every week, I can still make a few trips home a year. But this is such an exciting stage in our lives and I’m determined to make the most of this fantastic opportunity.
So this is it – my last post before I head off Stateside! At the moment I’m rushing around like a headless chicken trying to get everything done; say all my goodbyes; make sure I can find all the necessary documents; move out of the flat… I don’t think I’m going to get any sleep until I board that plane!
I am feeling a tad bit more optimistic now. I suppose I won’t be able to totally relax until I get out there and see what New England life is like. I’m sure I’ll be OK eventually but I expect it will take time to get used to living in a different country and adapting to a different way of life but hey, at least I don’t have to learn an entirely different language. Well OK, maybe I do – but just a little!
So here it is – the start of my new adventure. Cannot wait to fill you in on everything. Wish me luck!!!