I’m currently sitting in our garden, in a little rocking chair that was generously donated by Michele’s excellent Grandmother. The sky is as pure blue as is possible and the trees appear to have been sprayed with a light coating of gold paint. All around me are the sounds of frisky birds eating, mating, and generally having a good time. The tulips, daffs and other garden beauties all appear to be enjoying the environment as much as me. It’s possible that I have before felt as relaxed and comfortable as I now feel…but only just.
Brits! Allow me to introduce you to a new world! A world where you can enjoy the spring and summer without getting a house full of bugs, insects, and wasps. Yes, it is possible. By simply installing a screen or fine-net you allow light in, prevent insects from getting in, and prevent parrots from getting out! Brits should be amazed to discover that Americans have had this technology built into their houses for at least 30 years. God bless America. Not only do they understand the joy of AirCon, but they have screens in all of their windows.
If I ever move back to the UK I will create a huge chain of stores that sell nothing but window screens and cheesesteaks. If you can think of a title for this company (apart from “Screens and Cheesesteaks”) then let me know. I’ll cut you in.
The stereotype of Americans being car-obsessed and driving hugely over-powered, oil-pissing, monsters is without question, let alone guilt, sadly true for the most part. I’ve never seen more obnoxiously brutal, huge and wasteful SUVs as there are in this city. Even in the old parts of town, where the roads are tiny and utterly fucked (no road tax here) they drive 6 litre V8 powered behemoths like they’re on airport runways.
The car is everything to most people here, and if you can’t drive there, it probably isn’t worth going. That includes bars and pubs. Out in the burbs, where “normal” people want to live, no only are there no pubs, but they’re are frequently no pavements! They’re not just unaware of pedestrians, they seem actively antagonistic towards them. But why the hell would you want pavements anyway ? What are you, a commie queer ?
So, how do the vast armies of jocks and Sharons get to those huge, soulless beer barns that pass as bars ?
The answer is so simple and so obvious that it’s a mystery we didn’t think of it before – they just drink and drive! The best of both worlds.
Luckily, in the city, especially and old city like Philly, they have public transport. In fact, it’s pretty bloody good too. The locals all slag it off for the same reasons that Londoners slag off TFL, and they are just as wrong. TFL is superb, as is SEPTA. Whilst SEPTA doesn’t have anywhere near as comprehensive services as TFL, by some mysterious means, they manage to make the buses stick to the timetables. Incredible, but true. All you need to do is look up the next time the bus is due and leave the pub a few minutes before. Bingo – cheap chauffeur service. The city also provides a plethora of cheap neighbourhood bars within walking distance. Thank god.
Even though we have our own gas guzzler ourselves (with a 3.8L engine – bloody hell) rather than find it the key to liberation and happiness that the advertisers claim it to be, it’s been a very useful, very expensive, pain in the arse. And we didn’t even pay for it.
If you go into a hardware store (shop) over here and ask for rawlplugs, or multiway mains sockets, or polyfilla, or a spanner they won’t know what you are on about. Fortunately, the hardware store situation here is exactly the same as it is in the UK; you have a choice between local, family-owned places and one of the various megastores.
Just like the UK, the megastores are badly designed, full of uninterested, mouth-breathing, dullards, and concentrate on quantity rather than quality of crap. Just like the UK, the local places are full of helpful, friendly, geniuses and stock the obscurest of widgets. Just like the UK, the local places are permanently on the point of bankruptcy.
Anyway, thanks to the incredibly nice staff of Stanley’s Hardware and thanks to my late grandfather-in-law, I now have a bunch of tools and enough knowledge of the way things work over here to enable me to give derisory comments and tut at previous cowboys work whilst making a complete bollocks of screwing some shelves to the wall.
The electricity situation here is bizarre. Here is a list of things that will amaze Brits, and that will appear normal to the average American:
- They have mains sockets by kitchen sinks and in bathrooms over here.
- The traditional plugs fit in either way round.
- Not only are the light bulbs screw-in, some fuses are too. They’re also frequently made of glass.
- Frequently the mains sockets aren’t earthed.
- You can buy 3 pin to 2 pin adapters where the earth pin has a little metal tag that can be screwed into a nearby earth.
- Their old wiring is called “knob and tube” because they used little porcelain knobs and tubes to feed the bare wire around the house. Our house still has some “knob and tube” in the roof. Being a Viz reader of course I refer to it as knob and bollocks wiring.
- Sometime a house can have both 110 and 220 volt mains.
- The plugs aren’t fused.
Nonetheless, after walking around the house with my tool box, doing some drilling, checking the shelves with a spirit level and ignoring the plaster-dust generated, I’m feeling like a real man.
P.S. I’ll be back in the UK on the 21st! I’m so excited!
Our first weekend in the new place is well underway and, to be perfectly honest, I can’t remember a time when I felt happier (excluding nights out in New Cross of course). We both love our new house, our bed, our new town, our lovely birds and even our neighbours seem friendly. The only thing missing is you! If you come and visit we’ll guarantee that you have at least one night that will justify your plane fare.
There are other reasons why I’m happy:
- I resigned from my job on Friday!
- We filled in a tax return which means that not only are we eligible for a $1200 “economic stimulation” payment, but I also got a rebate for $500 owing to my stupidity when filling in the tax form.
- I start a new job with a very cool company on the day after my birthday.
- That will leave me with enough time to come back to the UK for a week!
- The tax rebate will pay for it!
- There’s a pub down the road called “Union Jack’s.”
After a stressful day at work, we moved our mini aviary into our groovy new pad which I think means that we have actually moved in! The birds are now sleeping, I’m posting this over our cable Internets, we’re drinking some of Carlo Rossi’s finest, and the house looks like a right tip – I couldn’t be happier. Pity I have to be in work at 5:30 tomorrow morning to jump through a loads of hoops, whilst rounding up some undomesticated geese.
We still haven’t actually managed to move into our new house yet. The latest reason is that the gas works decided to cut us off yesterday and so the place is colder than a witches tit. Despite that, we have a sofa, a lovely bed, some shelves, a jug of red wine, and a cable. I waited in all today for the cable guy to arrive for his appointment, which was between 1pm and 3pm. He arrived at 4, and together with the backup he called upon, left at 7:30pm; the Internet access still wasn’t working. Now, I’m no craftsman but I know a bloody cowboy when I see one, but it really wasn’t his fault. The fact that he was a borderline cretin also wasn’t to blame. Comcast and Verizon make BT and NTL look like skilled professionals.
However, one thing that keeps us both happy is that we both really love our house. It’s exactly what we’ve both dreamed of, and the only worry is a deep-seated fear that someone is going to take it away from us. Everything there feels right, and we can’t wait to move in there with our mini aviary.