Sunday, 30 September 2007

"Wild Thing" - Troggs, 1966

Life in an English village in the countryside has some distinct advantages. One of them is that we sometimes have some interesting wildlife in and around our house. Over this past weekend, we had two new visitors.

One was a hedgehog! I'd never seen one live and in person before. John spotted him/her poking around in our back garden Friday night when the security light came on. I grabbed a camera but only managed one terribly out-of-focus shot out of one of the upstairs windows...

That's the little hedgehog there in the upper center of the photo, next to one of the legs of the bird table.

In order to aid in the identification of this creature for my non-UK readers, here's another photo of a hedgehog, taken by somebody else under much better conditions...

Cute, huh? And John tells me that they eat all kinds of pests in the garden.

And if that wasn't enough "nature" for one weekend, very early this morning we were awakened by the loud sound of an owl outside our bedroom window! We didn't see it, but it was certainly there. John has done some research on the web today, and we're pretty sure it was a Tawny Owl because of the calls we heard it make.

No, Janet, you certainly aren't in Houston anymore!


PS After thinking about this posting overnight, I have realized that I should have also linked two of John's postings about the interesting woodpeckers that we've see in the garden. So one of them is here, and the other is here. Happy reading/viewing!

Friday, 28 September 2007

"Should I Stay or Should I Go" - Clash, 1982: Update #2

Today's UK residency process update...

Last night, after running through about 96 randomly-selected questions from a CD study aid for the "Life in the UK" manual chapter called "A Changing Society", John asked me if I was ready to try taking a sample of a real test. In other words, he wondered if I was ready to try an example of 24 questions selected from all of the 5 relevant chapters of the handbook. I'd never been brave enough to try that before. And I strongly suspect that John thought I'd say no. But I thought, what the heck. I said ok...although maybe just because of fatigue.

Out of the 24 questions, I missed 6 -- giving me a 75% score -- which means that I passed, although just barely.

I guess I think that's pretty good, given that we still have 10+ days of studying to go.

And I found an interesting website this morning, with a section called "Five Things People Don't Expect When They Take Their Test". It's interesting reading...and some of the items back up what a new office colleague has told me about his experiences when he took the test (although he took the earlier version, which included fewer chapters).

Thursday, 27 September 2007

"Should I Stay or Should I Go" - Clash, 1982

Today, I'm going to begin regular reports on my quest to get permanent residency in the UK before Christmas.

I've been here in the UK since December 2002 on a 5-year work permit. That visa expires on the 22nd of December this year. As most of you know, John and I got married in January 2006. But despite now being married to a British citizen, I still have to go through what seems like endless channels to get permanent residency...and perhaps, eventually, dual citizenship.

The first step is to obtain what's called Indefinite Leave to Remain. Before the appointment with the government to obtain that, I have to pass the "Life in the UK" test. And that's now scheduled.

I have an appointment with the testing center in Banbury, Oxfordshire -- the nearest location to our village -- for Wednesday 10 October at 2:15pm. So for me, the serious studying begins. And I have an excellent tutor, study partner and coach, as you can imagine! God bless him!


Wednesday, 26 September 2007

"Coincidence" - Hugh Masekela, 1994

My life has been full of coincidences. Some of them have been incredibly important, but most are not so consequential. But I find them great fun either way.

I've had another minor one this morning. And since it's the only thing I'm motivated to write about at this point in the week (maybe it's all that studying for my "Life in the UK" test -- which I'm now scheduled to take two weeks from today [gasp...]), here goes!

Yesterday, I got a craving for Nutella. A really strong craving. I've gotten into the habit of eating a toasted bagel for breakfast on work days, and I started thinking about how wonderful Nutella would taste on my cinnamon raisin bagels (as a substitute for the peanut butter I often eat on them). So early in the evening yesterday, John and I walked over to the little food shop in our village so that I could get some. And I thoroughly enjoyed my bagel this morning! John also had some on toast at the same time, and he enjoyed it also.

So I headed into work and got into the office just before 8am. On the counter was a large box of Confetteria Raffaello that had been brought into the office by one of my colleagues. There was only one of them left, and I hadn't had one up to that point. I was curious. So I helped myself.

WOW! It was a very delicious coconut cream candy with something crunchy in the middle (maybe almond-flavored?). Where has this been all my life????

I was curious, so I "googled" the name of this delicious confection. That led me to this page on Wikipedia for Ferrero SpA. Lo and behold, Confetteria Raffaello is made by the same folks who make Nutella!

Cool coincidence, huh? I hope this is a good omen for the day.


Sunday, 23 September 2007

"I Should Be Studying" - Keith Ritchie, 2005

Good evening, dear readers!

I spent last week in London, running 4 days of training courses. I had planned this weekend to post some photos I took in and around my Bloomsbury hotel and my Borough training venue. But I really should be studying for my "Britishness" test.

You can go back to my Lord Celery entry of 31 May this year and see what's I'm having to study...and why.

Anyway, if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to my studies tonight, as I need to be ready to take my test some time within the next 3 weeks or so. I'll post those photos in the next few days.


Sunday, 16 September 2007

"We Are Family" - Sister Sledge, 1979

John's mum Anne has spent this weekend with us -- our first weekend visitor to our new home! We've had a terrific time. I thought Lord Celery's readers might enjoy a few photos taken today. (As usual, click on any of the photos for a full-sized version.)

Here's Anne, relaxing in our living room.

And here's my John...resting his injured neck in a supportive collar.

Anne and I took a walk in the village this afternoon. Near our house, we came across some beautiful passion flowers. (I have some young vines growing in our back garden, but it will be some time before they produce flowers this beautiful!)

Our parish church.

This is one of our favorite homes in the village. I wonder how many rooms this place actually has!

And it was my eagle-eyed mother-in-law who noticed that the carving over the house's door says it was built in 1617!

The center of our village -- the Market Place.

Here's Anne, admiring the buildings around the Market Place.

We finally have a useable dining room (i.e. not full of boxes!), and we put it to good use tonight. John and I realized that this is our first dinner party!

John and Anne enjoying some of John's legendary Nasi Goreng!


Saturday, 15 September 2007

"Completed" - By Night, 2005

Remember the saga of the bus shelter in our village -- see the Lord Celery entries of the 24th of August and the 1st of September.

Well, take a look at what we saw when we walked into the center of the village today:

(Click on either image for a full-sized version.)

And there's even a bike rack on the back side of the shelter!

It's nice...but I have to admit I kinda miss that quirky decorated version!


Thursday, 13 September 2007

"Going Downhill Fast" - Divine Comedy, 1994

Some time in my past, somebody gave me a greeting card that said: "Things are getting worse. Please send chocolate." I think it's time to get the chocolate out...even though it isn't even 9am yet!

Today started out just fine. England's "football" team beat the Russians 3-0 in last night's game at Wembley (and Scotland beat France, in Paris, 1-0!), so I still had a nice buzz from the results of last night's games when I woke up this morning.

I left the house for Oxford a little later than normal. The drive to Kidlington (just north of the Oxford park & ride lot I use) was just beautiful. It's a cool, crisp morning. The sun had just risen. There were patches of fog along the Oxford Canal and over farmland in the valleys.

Then the traffic quit moving, before I could even get through Kidlington. I was on and off the clutch, just inching along. Rather than making the 7:45 shuttle bus from the park & ride, I literally jumped onto the 8:00 bus as it was pulling away from the waiting area. I hate running for a bus, but it would have been a 15-minute wait for the next one.

Throwing myself into a seat on the bus, I pulled my "mobile" (cell phone, to my American readers) out of my bag, only to discover that for the past 2 minutes or so it had been having a conversation with our phone at home. Argh. "Sorry", I wrote to John via text, as he was the recipient of the errant call. And I also wrote something about how this had the makings of the start of a bad day.

John sent me a text back in return telling me that, no, it would going to be a good day for me. Bless him! Sometimes he and I switch places these days; John becomes the optimist, and I'm the one who thinks the sky is falling.

So I got off the bus in the middle of Oxford and decided to stop at the little Sainsbury's Local near the bus stop. I thought I'd just pick up something for lunch, a few of their nice freshly-baked bagels (some of the best bagels I've found in the UK), and some chocolate for my desk drawer at the office. The lady at the "till" (cash register to you in the States) had a big smile on her face. She was about my age, I guess...maybe a little younger. She had a lovely Scottish accent. And we started chatting about how nice the weather was while she rang up my items.

And then it happened. She mentioned her family, and she asked me if I have any grandchildren. She has 8 of them.

Oh, Good Lord. On the 13th of September 2007, I was asked for the very first time whether or not I have any grandchildren.

Of course I could, age-wise. But that's not the point, is it?

Oh well. It could be worse. I understand that it's the first day of Ramadan. If I was a believer in the Islamic faith, I'd have to fast all day today. Which means that I couldn't have the chocolate that I'm about to unwrap...


Tuesday, 11 September 2007

"We Remember That September" - Caitlin Rose, 2006

Friday, 7 September 2007

"But to Fly" - Ki:Theory, 2000

I've heard of some weird forms of airline maintenance before, but never have I heard of the approach to a technical problem that was recently taken by Nepal Airlines.

Here's the link to the BBC's story about the sacrifice of two goats in front of the problematic Boeing 757. I'm still shaking my head over this one!

It gives a whole new meaning to the idea of a goatskin flight jacket, doesn't it?


Saturday, 1 September 2007

"Gimme Shelter" - Stones, 1969

Remember my previous posting about the southbound bus stop in the middle of our village? I wrote about it back on the 24th of August -- the link is here.

Both John and my friend Cindy got me all excited yesterday, telling me that our village finally had a new bus shelter! But when I asked for details, neither of them would tell me anything...saying that I'd just have to see it for myself.

Well, I did this morning. Here it is...and no wonder they wanted me to see this very special piece of engineering for myself!

Here's the new "waiting area" for the Oxford-bound bus.
(Click on this, or any of the images, for a full-sized version.)

This new shelter has everything anybody could possibly need as they wait for the bus!

The west-facing chair is for smokers...

...while the adjoining chair, facing east, is for the non-smokers.

A sign, decorated with an "England" flag, will help ensure that passengers won't board a bus going the wrong direction.

And finally, I think the hanging plant is the perfect final touch!

Ahhhh...English village life!