Wednesday, 25 May 2011

New End of the World

It's October 21st, people!  And this time I mean it.

That just about gives Obama time to get back to supervise the Rapture.  This could be his chance to shine!

Obe's trip to this side of the Atlantic has been interesting.  First a stint in Ireland, where the public introduction from the Prime Minister resembled Scarlett O'Hara's father's rant that "You're Irish!  The land is in our blood .... " while Obama smiled, silently envisaging the Irish American vote in next year's election.  For a person who has all his life refused to be labeled as "mixed race", he's doing a surprisingly good job of leveraging his European heritage.  I actually had to switch the TV off.

Back in DC, the Frenchman passed on Hank's offer of housing, in favour of something closer to work,  so Hank is interviewing other candidates this week.   Here in London, I'm taking up a local Fitness First's offer of a free five day trial and finishing my library copy of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, both fulfilling activities which cost me nothing.  This money-saving business could become addictive.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Not the End of the World

Jesus on a Cloud - Jesus on a cloud taken up to heaven...
"Don't make me come down there!"

Are you still there, readers?

Is it safe for me to come out now?

I've been hiding under the sheets, afraid of the End of the World which was prophesied for May 21st 2011 in an earlier blog entry.

Alas, the world did not end afterall.  So I've now started work on my UK tax return.  

On my first day out from under the sheets, I've given the practice Nurse a sample of blood to prove to the US Embassy I've had a childhood injection she'd lost the paper trail for.  I'd find her misplacing of my health records faintly concerning but then I guess that's why they call her a "practising" Nurse.....  (Hey, it's ok if you groaned at that joke.)

Still no visa interview date from the Embassy.  I'm also still broke and while my recruitment agent faffs around finding me "something in the right league" Hank has agreed to take action to avoid me raiding my savings.  Starting tomorrow, we're renting the unused parking space on our driveway for a month to someone who works at the Senate, a few blocks away.  Hank is also meeting tonight with an intern looking to rent a room on the Hill for six weeks.  Should he move in, this would also provide some much-needed "man company" for Hank while I'm away.  This potential renter looks to be a good chap with a solid French government and banking background.  So keep your fingers crossed for Hank that he's not a psycho.

It's warm out and not too bad being in London right now - separation from husband and hound notwithstanding -  except for a nagging feeling that I should be getting on with my career and not stalling like this.  A bad dream which used to recur when I was a 29-year old still-entrance-grade employee has raised its ugly head again.  I'll tell you more about that dream when I write my long-overdue entry on "turning thirty".  But for now, keep your fingers crossed for a call from my recruitment agent to get me back in the workplace before Doom's Day.

Going cheap: five RVs.  One careful, deluded owner.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Second big wedding of the year

Just got back from my brother's wedding and found that Blogger's had technical problems, preventing my last entry from being published.  I'm duly reposting and hope this does not cause multiple notifications to arrive in your inbox.

Thanks to Chris in Kent, who let me know that the e-notifications you have signed up for (on the right toolbar) are pinging up on people's blackberries in the night when I, in my jet-lagged state, am awake and posting new entries.  I will try to curb my enthusiasm and ensure you don't get pinged out of your slumber, at least if you are in the Americas or Europe.

Talking of bedtime, I have a wedding to sleep off ...

Talking dog

Thanks to Alan for posting this on Facebook.  It made me smile.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Things sink to a new low

Mum has bought me a multi-pack of socks.  I am 33 years old.  It was very nice of mum, because I only brought two pairs of socks with me, but it is nonetheless going to be a long five weeks.

She committed this kind act out of mercy.  Or pity.  It was the last straw.  I decided to register with a temping agency to squeeze a few weeks of secretarial work in.  It irks me, yes, to be signing up for the same work at 33 that I was at 22, but it'll be worth it to be able to afford my own underwear.  At least temps don't have to make too many difficult decisions, so maybe I'll get an easy ride if I keep my head down.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Medic concludes: donate my body to science fiction

free clip art medical
No history of mental illness?
I'll ask you again AFTER you've seen
the bill for this appointment..."
I've had my US Visa medical and it was a brief, dull and expensive affair.  The Doctor seemed more interested in completing the paperwork and verifying my identity than checking my actual health.  The physical examination of my back, abdomen and chest must have been over in less than two minutes.  The long-awaited external genital inspection was merely a brief "front mooning" (sorry).  I also had a chest x-ray - only the second x-ray I've ever had in my life, the first being for my Japanese visa.  I'm sure that exposure to x-rays for non-emergency purposes is unhealthy but then I don't hold any of the cards here, so I'd better shut up. 

The highlight of the visit was stripping naked to the waist and sitting in a large robe that would not close tightly enough in a waiting room with people who were fully dressed for work.  Outside I could see people going merrily about their business on Marylebone Lane and I remembered that Hank and I walked down that street every morning on the way to our respective offices.  Never once had I thought to look up into the window of the Doctor's waiting room and see if I could spot semi-naked people.  The barber across the road, however, clearly knew what he could see in his customers' mirrors and - perhaps my mind was playing tricks with me here - he seemed to be smirking.

Only a foreign medical appointment could get me into such a fix.

I thought of David Sedaris's adventures in France.  At least in London the Doctor and I both spoke the same language.  If you've never experienced the joy of healthcare in a foreign jurisdiction, David Sedaris's short story, published here in the New Yorker, will make you weep with laughter.  And for the sake of continuity, Sedaris is Number 25 on, subject of my blog entry of April 23rd, and yep, Hank and I have indeed paid good money to hear Mr Sedaris read from his own books. 

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Mum says I treat this place like a hotel ...

... But that is clearly untrue, because I don't pay the proprietor any money.

Two days in my childhood home and mum is already hiding the chocolate from me.  I've eaten a kilo of her cheddar cheese and a loaf of delightful poppy-seed bread; the things I've missed most about the UK.  Oh, and my mum, of course!  LOVE YOU, MUM!

After four months with no income, my quest to make some bloody money has intensified now that I'm back in the UK and bored.  Today I researched homestay websites with a view to Hank and me hosting exchange students, families or interns on Capitol Hill this summer.   Hank is not keen on sharing his TV with anyone else, but maybe he'll come round....

Option two involves me producing commercial artwork.  Don't laugh; I used to be quite good!  I'll see what I can come up with over the next few days and maybe even upload a few pics for your opinions.

Tomorrow, though, I will be weeding my mum's garden and planting out her veggie plants.  Maybe she'll slip me a few quid as pocket money.

I might even ask around for a paper round.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Free diabetes medication with any soda purchase!

Thank you for all the feedback on yesterday's Bin Laden blog entry.  I was particularly relieved to learn that I wasn't the only one surprised at my desire to celebrate a person's death.  Your conspiracy theories about his funeral also amused me greatly.  Keep the comments and feedback coming in!

Today I have to go back to London to file US immigration paperwork, then wait around while they shuffle documents. So the blog may go a bit quiet for a while.  But I thought I'd share one last DC observation with you today.  Here's a photo I snapped in the supermarket this week.  It surprised me, so I did a bit of research into diabetes in the USA*.  According to the American Diabetes Association, 8.3% of the US population have diabetes, including an estimated 7 million yet undiagnosed people.  

A controversial site I found, natural news  indicated that a non peer-reviewed study released early last year had linked some 130,000 cases of diabetes (and other serious conditions) to overconsumption of soda.  This was unsurprisingly heavily refuted by soda companies.  To British readers, raised with a post-colonial scepticism of corn syrup substitutes for sugar, the soda theory will come as no surprise.  However, my Hank has grown up with the belief that cola, for instance, is good for you - it's both cleansing and revitalising, he chirps!  Ah yes, Hank, perhaps it was in the days when men wore leather chaps and ate beef jerky for breakfast, but today I'm pretty sure a glass of carrot juice with a twist of ginger would be healthier!  

Of course, ginger-infused carrot juice can't be sold by the bucketload on shelves stacked higher, deeper and wider than in a University library.  Neither can carrot juice have an non-refrigerated shelf life of "forever."  Moreover, carrot juice is pricier to produce and far less addictive.  So why would anyone bother to sell it cheaply?

The pictured advertisement for free diabetes medication in the soda aisle of the supermarket just sent me over the edge.  Why not just put a sign up saying:

"If you're too greedy or lazy to control your consumption of dangerous sugars, do take advantage of  our subsidised diabetes medication...  Whatever it takes to keep you shopping for soda in our store, chubber!"

Am I being unfair?  Perhaps the store was merely trying to direct shoppers who are already unhealthy (and perhaps poor) towards at least a diagnosis of the problem.

Hmmmm.  What do you think?

*Diabetes is also a growing problem in the UK, with the increase in Type 2 Diabetes primarily being fueled by obesity.  Despite - or perhaps because of - all medical diagnosis and some treatments being funded by the taxpayer, your doctor will give you a really hard time about your lifestyle rather than just handing out free medication.  This is, to me, the greatest advantage of a state-led healthcare system.  Nobody is incentivised to over-medicate you.  Your good health is in the tax payer's interest.  It's all considered an investment in the health of the nation ...  Comrade, dude, peace, man!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bin Laden dead after ten years of searching

Peace fingers clip artAmericans awoke this morning to the unexpected news of Osama Bin Laden's death.  I've never, ever triumphed at another person's demise but the notorious Al Qaeda leader's death could be nothing but celebrated by this country, and, I find to my surprise, by me personally.  The man responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans in the USA and countless combatants and civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan is finally gone. 

I look back on September 11th 2001 and recall distinctly the shock and disbelief in the eyes of my American co-workers, watching on a Japanese TV set the horrendous events which had played out overnight, which was the morning back home, miles away.  

The news was broken to me at 5am on Sep 12th when my mother, returning from work, had seen the footage on the 9 o'clock news and immediately called from the UK to check I was ok.  I, interrupted from the youthful, deep sleep of a single 23-year old overseas, sarcastically pointed out that I was in Japan, nowhere near New York and could she just leave me alone and stop fussing over nothing and refrain from telephoning me in the middle of the night, many thanks.  

Meanwhile my grief-stricken American co-workers, fellow teachers of English in Japan, had contacted each other overnight and arranged to watch the news coverage together in one place.  This happened to be in my apartment building, so I tagged along, not really understanding the magnitude of what had happened.   Only as I saw the footage of the Twin Towers did I understand why my mother had reached out to me in the middle of the night.   Oh boy, did I understand.  

Many of my colleagues were Californian, but most had strong ties to the East Coast.  Irrespective of these ties, what American could not be affected by the shocking images of that day?  A couple of our distant colleagues were from New York; some would later learn that they had lost neighbours or friends.  One co-worker's Uncle would become a hero on United Airlines Flight 93, a twist which, to this day, is probably why I have such a burning hatred for Bin Laden and such respect for the American spirit of independence.  But at this point, early in the morning of Sep 12th we knew none of this.  Phones lines out of Japan, still analogue in those days, were becoming jammed by frantic callers.  Email was not yet used by everyone.  Few could contact their friends, family, partners.  Flights to the entire US East Coast were being cancelled.  It was agony for my American friends trapped so far away from their loved ones.  

We sat in silence and watched Fox News until the rhetoric got too much for us, and then switched to CNN and, finally, the BBC.  We were glued to the TV as President Bush pledged to pursue those responsible for the attacks.  The death toll was, at this point, still being estimated in the news as 30 - 40,000 fatalities.  Body bags were running out.  But it was the first time I saw how much Americans truly loved their country, in a way that transcended the aggressive foreign policy for which the nation was becoming famous.  A US flag was being drawn over the Pentagon.  Emergency responders were going into areas where they would face mortal danger, to rescue their compatriots.  Insurance companies, wriggling to avoid life insurance pay-outs would be forced to support the bereaved, thanks to the sheer weight of American public pressure.  

The international War on Terror, regardless of whether you agree with it, was a reflection of how deeply America was scarred by the events of Sep 11th 2001.  Bin Laden's death at the hands of US Navy Seals marks the end of a chapter.   But what will happen to Al Qaeda now?

I find myself wondering if Pakistan knew about the planned American operation.  And if not, how will they respond to a foreign assault in the heart of their territory?  What does the death of Bin Laden mean for the future of the US campaign in Afghanistan?  And, of course, I wonder if Bin Laden was buried at sea PURELY to fuel future conspiracy theories that he was never captured? ;-)

If Hank and I had an American Flag, we would have flown it today.  Instead a Stars & Stripes cushion, a wedding gift, is propped up in our window.  It's a great day for this nation and for secular, liberal democracy around the world.  

Good night, Bin Laden.  May the 72 virgins supposedly waiting for you in heaven nag you incessantly and max out your credit card whenever your back is turned.    

And for America: well done, chaps.  I hope that, for all those who survived September 11th, finally the haunting spectre of that morning can be laid to rest.

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