Monthly Archives: March 2008

Ar ahhs and Ikaka

new homeFollowing an enormous amount of stress, last minute panicking, and worry, we now

have our own house!

OK, in reality some bunch of money lenders actually own it but at least we’re not going to be paying someone else’s debts off with our rent for a while.
We have now achieved our goals of:

  1. Moving to America.
  2. Getting a job.
  3. Getting a house.

In less than six months! Not bad eh ? So can I come home now please ? Only joking…I think.

Let me tell you, it’s pretty bloody scary buying a house, especially when it’s more than 3000 miles from your friends and family. But we both have a really good feeling about this place, and it is a lovely, lovely, lovely house. So come and stay people! Please ? You’ll like it! And we miss you!

Recent events had shaken our confidence in whole deal coming off and so we had done very little (or “bollocks all” as they say in my country) to prepare ourselves. After “closing”, and after Fred, our most excellent mortgage/real-estate dude, had bought us a slap-up lunch at LeBus, he dropped us back to the in-laws billet. I had a sudden panic that he was leaving us alone in a new world where we had our own house, without a big book of instructions on what to do. “Don’t leave us!” I said, pathetically. But he did, and after we made a few phone-calls we decided to go to Ikea and buy the bare minimum of furniture to make our house into a feasible home.

As shocking as it may seem to some of you, and despite Michele and I being married for over 10 years, I have never been inside an Ikea. Based on the superlatives used by past and regular patrons I have known, I was expecting something between Xanadu and Shangri-La. But it turned out to be a furniture shop! In fairness, we encountered an unnaturally helpful and friendly guy in the bedroom section (called Ira) and the gear in the place did look really well made, and it was really cheap…


We needed a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff. And we obviously wanted it delivered. Did I mention that there was a lot of it ? So we took the list of stuff we wanted downstairs so that we could pay, and tell them where to send it. But that’s not good enough for Ikea. At Ikea you have to show your dedication to the Ikea way by finding the shit yourselves, pulling it off of shelves, and conveying it to the checkout. After paying you then have to convey it to a delivery desk nearby, where staff take care of storing, delivering and installing your shit.

As we were trying to find one of the two sofas we had ordered I realised that me and Michele humping furniture from one place to another in the same warehouse was utterly ridiculous and so instead I found a nearby member of staff. We’d already been told, admittedly in apologetic tones, that we were indeed required to be involved in this superfluous leg of the furniture’s journey, but by now it had dawned on me that if Ikea wouldn’t get our substantial purchase from one place in the warehouse to another without us being involved then they should really stuff our substantial purchase up their Swedish arses.
Pointing this out to a member of staff resulted in the assignment of Monkey-Boy to our aid. Reluctantly he got us to the checkout and then fucked off sharpish. So, once the cashier had run up our substantial purchase I asked if I could speak to the manager before we settled the bill. He was irritatingly nice and agreed that if we knew what we wanted and also wanted it all delivered we shouldn’t really need to drag it across a warehouse, presumably as penance, first and summoned someone else to help him drag it to the delivery section… where three other members of staff moved it to a different rack in preparation for delivery tomorrow.

Tonight Michele’s mum bought us a bottle of Cava to help us celebrate. We did, and I still am. Come and visit us!

Mortgage problems and parrots

A bloody great question mark dropped onto our mortgage plans this week. Obviously, as it landed ten days before we are due to move in to our new place, it was about as welcome as a dose of syphilis. This caused a great deal of stress and anger, as you can surely imagine, but things seem to be a lot happier now – and not just because we’ve had a lovely night out at one of our favorite over-priced eateries on Main St. In fact, it’s all currently looking quite positive on all counts.
As much as I miss London, our excellent friends and our excellent family there, nether of us think that moving back there would solve anything; we’re going to give this thing a proper go.

For the first time in my new cuboid career I worked at home today. There are a bunch of reasons why, but by parrot-bed-time I was feeling utterly rejuvenated. Not only because I got a day working with parrots, but also because I wasn’t in that fucking depressing office. I actually managed to get more done than I would have done in my cube.

The parrots are all superb company during the day, even though the two ekkies are a couple of little buggers. More about that another day.

Reality and simple pleasures

Work has been particularly annoying this week, culminating in a busy and stressful Friday. In my book that’s just not on, and the end of the tether is within groping distance. Sadly, and as much as I’d like it to be the case, MegaCorp are not entirely to blame. Significantly, but not totally.

So tonight when I got home at 7pm, leaving many of my colleagues enthusiastically grafting in the office, complete with communal pizza, whiskey, and the Dunkirk spirit, imagine my joy to find a letter from the HMRC [for the uninitiated, this is the UK organisation of Tax Bastards] waiting for me on my favourite chair. So, I drank some more, ate a crab-cake, sat down, pumped up the tunes, and ripped open the envelope. Even if it was a bill, I’m 3000 miles away.

It’s safe to say that I have never had good news in a letter from the revenue…until this evening! It was only a letter telling me that they’ve credited my account with a substantial amount of cash! In fact, once converted to the pathetic currency of the US, it’s enough to make me consider dangerous options such as leaving a chod on my work desk and fucking off. It even caused me to do a little dance!

Of course, I’ll spend this weekend doing work as before, and I’ll work on Monday, but it’s nice to know that it’s optional.

No longer can I deal with tedious office stress. It’s quite simple: all I want to do with my life is spend most of it with Michele and parrots, in a place with a roof and internet access, and be able to go outside regularly. Red wine and nice cheese would be a welcome bonus, as would eating out. But that’s it. No cars, posh furniture, jewelry, or gold, just peace and quiet with Michele, parrots, and some intellectual stimulation. That’s not much to ask is it ?

MegaCorp, and most other employers for that matter, expect their employees to be not only satisfied with dedicating their lives to “The Firm”, but they also expect you to be grateful!

The most significantly significant moment for me this week was during our first “team building” meeting [yeah really]. The CEO was explaining a bunch of things about our relationship with MegaCorp since the take-over. Personally I found it genuinely fascinating, and not the least bit surprising. He ended his talk with a sentence that illustrated exactly why I feel like I’m in the wrong place:

“I mean, we all want ******[MegaCorp’s] stock price to increase!”

Well, no! I don’t! In fact I get a considerable amount of pleasure from watching their share price crumble. I want them to fail. Even if it resulted in all of their employees losing their jobs (which it wouldn’t) I genuinely believe it would benefit more people on this planet in the long run. No, I won’t try to justify that statement 🙂

Back to parrots. It turns out we have three of the loveliest parrots that ever lived. Each has a personality as beautiful as their feathers; and let me tell you the feathers are pretty bloody beautiful!

More about our fluffy companions another time.

Parrots, Dahlak and Germantown

Princess LeiaPepperWinstonMeet Leia, Pepper and Winston: our new parrots. Or at least the plan is that they will be our new parrots tomorrow. All three are currently residing in an excellent local parrot rescue, and all three are due to be re-homed with us tomorrow. There are some people that may think taking on three new parrots just before we move into a new house is a stupid idea, and I’m one, but sometimes it’s best not to ask questions and just accept what is going on. Michele is, as anyone who knows her will suspect, very, very excited indeed. Anyone that knows me will also suspect that, despite my reservations, I am too.

Work has been draining every last drop of power from my poor aged brain and so yet again I should apologise to the people I haven’t managed to email recently. Sorry, really. It’s not that I’m not thinking of you, its just that I want to sit down and write properly, which is impossible. Ideally we could meet up for a drink in a comfortable boozer, but that’s quite tricky with a 3000 mile bus ride in between.

On the good side, this evening has been about as perfect as either of us could have wished. We were both craving a curry because our local place recently closed down and we haven’t one for over a month; British readers will understand the gravity of this terrible situation. So, tonight we decided to go to visit a place in Germantown called Dahlak , partly because we were excited by the idea of Eritrean, Ethiopian and Indian food, and partly because it sounds a bit like Dalek. The only problem is that this part of Germantown is widely regarded, by people who don’t live there, as being pretty hairy.

When we got there, the whole area looked exactly like Deptford (South East London) and consequently made us feel quite at home. The restaurant was a beautiful, cosy, oasis of middle-class, red-wine drinking ,nice food eating, friendliness and I can’t tell you how good the whole experience was. Brits, bring your beautiful British pounds over here now – you’ll love how much they’ll buy you. We got the bus home and the entire experience was as close to living back in London as we could have hoped for.

Stay tuned for parrot updates. Good night.

Spanish Blue and parallel universes

Trash Tossers (a genuine product that is sold ove here)Making friends in a new country is hard. Or rather, making friends here is hard; I’ve no idea about other countries. In all honesty, London is probably a harder place to meet people on account of the average Londoner’s uptight-quotient. Still, we’ve been doing surprisingly satisfactorily. Last week we were invited to our first dinner party. This week we were invited to see a Philly band play a well-known local music venue in Manayunk. We were both quite excited about it; not only had we been invited out, but it also sounded pretty good! Woohoo! Maybe we could tick the “social-life” box. At the last minute the venue was switched…somewhere nearer to our current abode. As it was very, very, cold and as the local weather forecasters were threatening snow, this sounded like good news. All the local places we have noticed appear to be quite hospitable and normal, apart from one place, so we were quite excited to be trying a new venue. By the way, the dodgy bar is just along from the local Sally Army AA place and a couple of other dodgy spots so we have regularly joked about going there for a nice quiet drink – it looks like the sort of place you’d go to on getting our of prison so that you could meet up with your old friends.
Can you guess where the band ended up playing ?
The first thing that struck us about the place, apart from the Hammer-studio decor, was the smoke. Philadelphia has a blanket ban on smoking in bars, but this place was inexplicably exempt. We went over to the bar, which was populated by either coke-heads, aged winos, or generic weirdos, and tried to order a drink. Obviously I went for a Yeungling, but Michele had a few problems. The lack of Irish Whisky (despite having cardboard shamrocks and hideous, bloated, leprechauns all over the shop), and no red wine led her to follow my example and get a beer. “Good choice” remarked a gentleman punter standing next to us. We made a swift exit to “the back” where the band were setting up. Apart from the band there was a pile of old shite, a little bar with no obvious signs of beer on sale, and a bunch of semi-circular, waist-height booths that had apparently been rescued from 1980; one of which was occupied by a pissed-up homeless-looking guy who had fallen asleep and was gently secreting a line of drool onto his trousers. By now Michele and I were enjoying the atmosphere because it reminded us of being in our early 20’s – either in New York or London.
Earlier that day I had been at work and, as we had some cunt from Megacorp coming in, jeans were banned. This is because jeans are made from denim, which “business professionals” are so allergic to that even being in the same room as them can cause perspiration. Or something. Going to this bar in pin-striped trousers caused a few conflicting feelings. Which path should I be on ? Sensible trousers, tofu, and stuffed vegetables, or buffalo wings, pissed-up, beery, comedy punk bands in rough dives throughout the world. We had a bloody great evening there to be honest so now I’m even more confused 🙂 What would Mark Steel do ?

Maybe the confusion is related to our proximity to a huge parallel universe split that is about to occur. Either:

  • We get final approval for the mortgage – which means we have a new house, new parrots and a US life ahead of us for a while…or
  • We get turned down for the mortgage and have to seriously reconsider our options.

In all honesty I think that both universes offer a lot of decent possibilities. That’s probably why I’m not currently crapping my pants.
Good night.