Tuesday, June 28, 2011


For the record it's pronounced as " gren-ich" and nor "green- which". Now that we have that out the way, we spent a lovely Sunday strolling, relaxing, soaking the sun in this nice lazy town which honestly is not as lazy as I expected it to be. 
As soon as we got off the Cutty Saark station, I was taken back, there were lots and lots of people. Everywhere. We had made our plans around the Greenwich Festival, but I really was not expecting the number of people. In less than 10 minute walk, we reached the Greenwich park which had a lovely painted chapel, lots of small and big performances and the best of all a huge park area. We had packed a small picnic basket, so we sat on the grass and enjoyed the picnic food. V was extremely happy, we had recently read a book on 'going to picnic' so she was very involved. Across from there was an exhibition of art. Interactive modern art, rather interactive scientific art. Small little demonstrations of basic laws of physics were on display. Some were evident and some were hidden in art, one had to figure it out. People of all ages spent a good amount of time there. All three of us were mesmerized, I literally had to drag V and Sumit out to see other things. 
There were acrobatic displays, people dressed in salwar suits walking on sticks. V just called them, giant princesses, musical performances and above all very bright sun making us happy and extremely thirsty. A perfect bubble gum flavored ice cream later, we headed to the Royal Observatory, come on, you have to see the GMT line while in Greenwich. The small walk was fun, the GMT line, the 24 hour clock and the back splash of London made lovely photo opportunities. Sadly we reached a bit later and the observatory was closed from inside, but it was still worth the hike. I tried to explain the latitude, longitude concept to V and stopped short, she was just way happier looking at the views and saying ' Click a picture now'
We walked a round the town a bit more and then headed home. V was exhausted and just slept en route back giving the husband wife a good amount of time to just chat witheach other.

The overall day was lazy, picnicking in the park, walking around town, rolling on the grass, dancing with the performers, watching gravity defying acrobats and laughing as V would keep running and shooing the pigeons away. The town definitely calls us back. Summer just started here, I am hoping we can head over there again soon. And next time I am going to start from the Observatory and then do the rest.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New City

Recently I met a friend for lunch. As we dug in our pizzas and pasta's, he made a very compelling statement. ' yes I have been to London before on a tour, but that is not a way to experience a country. This is.'
The more I think about it, it makes sense. Yes we can have pictures from all over the world, but did we really enjoy the city, the culture, the newness.
As I reminisce more, the first time I fell head over heels in love with states was after 5 years of living there. Only when I did the cross country drive from CA to DC did I get to experience US. Driving the road less travelled, the true country side and experiencing the country up close and personal. One of the best trips ever.
With work, we get only limited vacations, and when we do visit a place, we like to get maximum bang for the buck. What we loose in the process is the concept of 'true vacation' versus 'sight seeing'
I am excited at being in London. This is my first time living in EU and I really want to make the most of it. I am really hoping with time I get to travel more, see more, learn more and overall experience the charm of each new country, new city, new place. Not by seeing the "top 5 things to do' but actually experiencing the country.

On that note, I will try jotting little notes from our trips. A friend of mine does it beautifully on Facebook. I am inspired to add a new tag here 'travel journal'

Monday, June 20, 2011

US vs. London for apt hunt

I am happy to report we have a place to live. It's been hard, but finally I can say...it's been worth it. Yay..... 

But it has been painful, and I am sorry I will be comparing to US, sulking and ranting about the way things are done for rental apartments here in London. So if you don't want to hear it, stop reading now.

In US, i have moved 8 times in 9 years, so i know a little about moving. You go to craigslist, shortlist the area, the budget, go see the places, like, sign the lease and move in. Simple. Yes you might have to see a few places, but when you search for 2 bed/ bath, it's a matter os aesthetics, the basics are the same. Standard. Simple. And above all, quick

In London..... Here is my story.
We started with, contacting realtors on our own. Go to the areas which we had researched prior just to get a feel of the area and the property styles. Also to see how much will we get in our budget. Stretching the pound if you will.
First day, was woooh! Yes it's a three bed/ bath but seriously it's only700 sq. Ft. Ouch. Too small. Yes that's more like it, but wait a minute, that's 400 pounds more per week
"Hmm, it's a bit random here" was what I said the end of our first day. 
The next couple of days was the same, few more areas, few more apts. and a lot of WTH moments.
After we shortlisted our areas, we contacted our relocation specialist. That was one day, back to back viewings and the end of the day, we had a favorite.
We were elated, in my mind it was to be, like place, tell the realtor, sign the papers and thAts it.....move in. Done.
Sadly no, the first place, the landlord took our 'offer' gave it to another interested party and negotiated a higher rate. Sorry though we like you, the other party is giving considerably more. Do you want to match that ? 'no thank you, is all I could mutter.'

Property two, it took three realtors, four days independently to have the landlord agree to our 'offer'. Now I was happy. Yeah. But no, once again two days short of moving in, the land lady kept adding clauses and sub clauses to the offer. Red flags. 'if the land lady is being such a hard ass before we move in. Imagine what happens that if the washer breaks down. She might just bring in the firing squad. So we had to back down again. A meddling land lady would be a nightmare.

I was so pissed by the whole 'whims' of realtors, contracts, land lords, offers. I was done. I told Sumit, screw it....I am going to stay here in the hotel. Done. 

Then finally, we found another place. Perfect. Ten minutes from V's school, 5 min. From tube, our top area. It works perfectly for us. I didn't want to celebrate, since I had a hunch that if something were to go wrong, it would. But luckily for us. It didn't. Papers, clauses agreed on. Move date finalized,  and we are good to go. Since I have post marked this, while you read this, I am in the nightmare of arranging things in the house with a very very helpful toddler. So wish me luck.

Now if you are moving to London, buzz me, I will give you a reality check before you look.
In short, be ready for a slower place, heart break and middle men. But you will eventually find something in your budget and get used to not having a Dryer in the apt. If you get one, call me, I have no shame in bringing my wet laundry to use the dryer.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Email addiction....

I am one of those who cannot leave an email unread or deleted or archived or labelled. No I am not organizing my inbox, just, when I log into my gmail, I like....'no new messages' to show. Period.
That implies, I check my smart phone, iPad or computer incessantly and either delete, reply to or mark to reply, follow up, pretty much right away. Most of the times.
Au contra ire, my hubby's inbox.....has at the last he showed me 1500 unread emails. He does not clean his inbox. And that annoys me. But hey his inbox, his rules right?
Anyhow, back to my email addiction..... I love it. Sometimes easier to communicate via email then actual calls. Yes, I suck. I know. A few friends, we have a common email chains, how else are we suppose to keep connected in over four continents. A dear friend and I exchange emails as often as possible....they are long, wordy and to some extent like a conversation just the e-conversation. Some friends, I need a single liner email and I know what we mean. It can be a forward of standard "what not to wear" auditions and we both laugh our life out over emails. We know.
Email conversations are fun, frequent and simple.
Now comes phone, being in London now implies I fight time zones, sleep alarms and different schedules. But we talk...generally after missing each others calls a zillion times, we talk. And it's fun.

At the end of the day, its these calls that keep me connected back to my girls. Our friends and above all makes us smile.

Skype, email, cheap calling rates....thanks, though I have packed away a decade of my life in US and life in India.........I am still very much there.

And yes, I have read your email....I promise to revert soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Commuting woes or lack of.......

So far I have been lucky (or convincing enough) to Sumit, that we live close to my work. Never in my career in US has my work commute been more than 20 minutes. Most recently it was a 20 minute walk at a really easy pace. On the other hand, husband's commutes are always north of 45 minutes. It may have been train, car or combined. So yeah, I have been getting the better side of the deal. And I am not complaining. 
When we decided to move to London, since knew I'd be on a mini sabbatical, I said, this time for once, let's live near your work place. Our temporary accommodation was 10 minutes away from his work. I would see him often home before 6:30 p.m. Which trust me,in our household is unheard of. he liked it and we loved it.
However when we started looking for schools and apartments, somehow V's school took priority and now we are 10  minutes walking from her big girl school and sadly, 30 minutes away from his work place. Hubby, sorry you still have to commute. But, we did get the place of our choice, in our top area.......well the commute lives on. But 30 is better than 45 right?

Yes, let the congratulations for finally finding a place to call home begin. 
And yes, let the fun of settling in begins as well.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One short - long train ride

Over the weekend we took the infamous tube. The train ride was suppose to be only two stops, so give or take five minutes. Really short train ride if you will. But this train ride also turned out to be the longest train ride till date.....thanks to a really really inquisitive and nosy toddler...the star of that evening. Miss V.

So we manage to get in a very crowded train with stroller et al. And before we could even settle down, V points to a passenger standing right behind me saying.
" Mummy why is that boy so short. He needs to be so tall " accompanied by the hand actions and a loud clear shrilly three year old voice. I was turning red, avoided looking behind me, but am sure all the people beside me checked out the boy for sure. She repeated.
" mummy that boy is not as tall....he needs to be." and I could simply say, "honey not nice to point." 
But I am sure she did not hear me, since before I could finish my sentence, she screamed, pointing to the same man again...
" mummy why is that boy wearing earrings, boys don't wear earrings. That's not very nice." by this time my face was crimson, and I kept wondering, gawd,......where the hell is my stop, I was too embarrassed, giggly and crimson shaded. . Miss V repeated "mummy why is he wearing earrings, eeeeew, boys don't wear that." please someone press the eject button on the train, so we are outside the train....please....aargh.

Innocent questioning and logic of a three year old left me speechless and rolling on the floor laughing the minute I got off the train.

I am sorry, anonymous boy....I really am. I was too numb in the five minute train ride to practice goos parenting. V has been since advised that it's not nice to point, comment or describe strangers and above all not there attributes. 

However she is still confused why some men wear earrings and her father, mama, dada don't! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Letter to london

Dear London

I like you, I really do. I love the multi culture feel, the city, the tube, the cafes, the mango's, the food. I love that I don't have to explain every other person, that vegetarian means no fish or that mangos are not exotic fruit, but an essential. I love how the people welcome you, not complain about the rains but just shrug the shoulders and say, "about time eh" I like the cheery attitude of the city and how the conversations are not about the weather, but about cultures, weekend multi country trips. I like it all, but you are not making it easy to make me like it more and more. Are you?
Yes London, this is ranty post, not about you, but the 'system' or lack of.
It's taken over eight trips to the 'neighborhood' phone store, three calls and four frustrated conversations in the past six days....and I am still without a phone after almost a month being here. And making other trips to the store.
The excuse I get all the time for the 'sloppiness' is the system. Or "that's how it is." seriously?
It's been over three weeks  I  have had an offer on the place I could call home, but sadly I still don't know. it took me three realtors negotiating and figuring it out, but still the response I get is 'couple of hours' I have been hearing that for more than 3 weeks now. Seriously?
It's takes you two seconds to tell me 'top up' the travel card, I do so dutifully with the cc card. But when I use the same cc card, say at a phone shop, you regretfully tell me 'sorry, systems issue'
Seriously ?

I know, I know.....I should give it time. I am, but with each passing day, I actually think, how much more. 
At some level, i think, it's better to be in the service apt. I have a hunch, if and when I do eventually move in my own place, the landline, the electric bill, the county tax, the cable.....all will take eons and be handful and mouthful. I know it. The 'system' comes into play for such stuff. 

I don't get it, you get millions of people moving into the city, they take phones, new leases,  cells, cables, TV. It's not unheard of. Right? Why does all this very basic stuff feel like the first time the city does it? I don't get it.

Help me a bit out here....... I really like the city, the 'system' is beginning to frustrate me a bit.

Not very Cheerful,

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sorry....but now I am back.

It took a friend beating me up on email and saying " you are suppose to be free now " to realize, even with not working currently I am more busy. I have neglected a lot of missed calls, emails and also the blog. For which, trust me......point noted. I am making it a point to be at least weekly here on it's a start and on  Mommy-in-making. Pakka. 
And yes my google reader is untouched for a while...so will catch up soon. Pakka.
But on a positive note, I am reading. Two books in a week. Great start. Sumit got me the books from the library and then just coyly placed them on the night stand. I am back to reading paper backs. Me like.
Besides that, adjusting in new country is on. It's a lovely place but you really don't realize subtle differences in a new country without living in one. Visiting a place and living in one are two completely different things.
Here has been my major adjustments. 
Apartment hunting needs middle men, realtors and for the same place it can take three different realtors to negotiate the best rates for you. Hmm. 
Schools, this is big. Somehow, their timings are just not that friendly to both parents working. Schools are from 9 to 3:30. Hmm. So let me get this, I drop kid at school at 9 get to work and then either have a nanny or some other help get the child for evenings. Hmm. After school programs, yes they exist. But are really expensive, hmm. I am figuring this piece out...tune into Mommy-in-making for more rants about this.
Stairs, lots and lots of them. Here is where I miss my car sometimes. Ok, more than sometimes.
Kitchens being 'rooms' and not open kitchens. I love cooking, but somehow not being able to talk to family or watch tv or just feel like a part while enjoying something will definitely take some getting used to.
But.....adjustments aside, london is as vibrant as they say.
Food, vegetarian options, flavors.....don't let me even start. The piled on pounds is proof enough.
Roses, every city corner has them and they smell wonderful. I had forgotten the smell of flowers. Trust me on this.
Travel. Within a few hours one can explore so many different terrains, cultures and again food. We have only begun, but our day trip to simple Brighton was a great start.
Literature, I have seen cafe's named- Yates, little Dorrit. Need I say more.
History, and the mix of the old and new. This is what amazes me. From my hotel I look out, on one end I see st. Paul's cathedral and the other side I see the Shard and both form a part of the skyline blending in beautifully.