Saturday 18 December 2010

Snow, and the Healing Power of Chicken Shit

So, I spent a fun and exciting day vacuuming up brick dust over at the house. David and Robin went off to Ikea to load up on about £8million worth of household goods. We got about four inches of snow today. The various transport bosses actually had the chutzpah to say they handled the snow well this time. Hmm - lets see - nothing was salted, so all the smaller roads are skating rinks. The airports are closed. The trains aren't running. I managed to fall flat on my ass, and Robin got the van stuck. Fortunately, we have a very large bucket of chicken shit pellets. David was pretty sure that cardboard under the wheels would get the rear-wheel drive van unstuck, but nope - it was the chicken shit.

Friday 17 December 2010

Packing Sucks Donkey Dong

And not in a good way. There is nothing quite so soul destroying, I think, as depersonalizing a house, or realizing that one's entire life can fit into boxes. I suppose it's better than before. I used to be the master at cramming my entire universe into the back of a hatchback. A small hatchback. We're moving most of the stuff tomorrow and Sunday, with the remainder on Weds (the day the fridge arrives). We just had the kitchen redone (in 5 days), and will be getting a new bathroom in January. Until then, the three of us (four over Xmas) will be taking a number for the one toilet, which, blessedly, is separate from the sink and tub. David and Robin will be heading, with rental van, into the Ikea maelstrom in the morning, whereas I get to go pick up a carpet steamer, which I'm going to get to schlep a mile back to the house (nothing like taking a carpet steamer for a walk through a shitty neighbourhood to make people think you're normal!). My task tomorrow is going to be cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning. Unfortunately, all this kitchen construction, plus the demolition of the kitchen chimney, has left a coating of brick dust on every single surface in the house. Yuck. Still though, I'm not sure which is worse - cleaning all day, or dealing with the mad hordes of pre-Christmas Ikea. Of course, Ikea does have Swedish meatballs, but I'm not entirely sure they would make up for the screaming "But Mummyyyyyy!!!!!!" (And that's just David!).

Ooh, and just for fun, it's supposed to snow tomorrow. London's general snow policy seems to involve about six grains of salt being laid down at strategic intersections. It does vary through from borough to borough. The City, this time, went completely apeshit with the salt - no snow there! Hackney though, with the same amazing advance knowledge that it was going to rain, then freeze, and then snow, put its snow emergency plan into effect. The snow emergency plans pretty much consists of strategic future warming, which, most often coincides with the temperature going above freezing. Last time though, I'll give them this one, they were out salting the walks in front of the council building the afternoon before it was supposed to warm up (about three days after it snowed). Better than nothing, I suppose. So, anyway, it's supposed to snow. It snowed today, about an inch in Hackney (a cm or less in South London), which, combined with the pristine, salt-free roads, made for a really fantastic evening commute (on my bike). Nothing like limping onto the train with one's bike, tail between one's legs.

Kitchen before - last summer when we were looking at the house:

Kitchen at present (dirty and not furniture, but gives the idea...):

Tuesday 14 December 2010

God Save the Queen!

I pledge allegiance, to the queen, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and to the monarchy, for which she stands, one woman, under gowns, indominable, with lager and jam sandwiches for all.

Well, almost like that. David and I had our citizenship ceremony yesterday, down at Southwark Town Hall (just down the road from here). Robin and Paul were our guests. So, we wandered on down there about 1015am and found ourselves in a room of, well, foreigners. Lots of Africans, Middle Easterners and Chinese. Not so many North Americans, Aussies or Kiwis. Welcome to Southwark! Picked up some paperwork, got our nametags, got a nice little plasticated paper flag. We all milled around in there for a while, then were shepherded off, in smaller groups (with guests) to a smaller room for some more milling around, this time with biscuits and tea (or coffee) (and biscuits being cookies, don't forget). After about half an hour, guests were asked to head to the visitor's section of the council chambers, and those of us taking part in the ceremony were seated around where the councillors would normally sit.

Two very boring speeches, both of them essentially about being nice to one another (one of them was by an ex-Mayor of Southwark, resplendant in her gown), as well as some community organizer type guy (Irish - couldn't they have gotten a British one? Whatever). Anyway, boring speeches finished, we were asked to each say "I, [Name]", in turn, after which we recited two pledges.

This was the non-God ceremony - the afternoon one had swearing to God. This one just had affirming. We also had the handshake or no handshake option. I chose handshake. Anyway, it's worth quoting the pledge, and comparing it to the US Oath of Allegiance, and US citizenship ceremonies. Rather different!

UK: Oath of allegiance
I (name) swear by Almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law.


Affirmation of allegiance
I (name) do solemnly and sincerely affirm that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according
to law.

After the oath or affirmation, you will make the citizenship pledge:
Citizenship pledge
I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.

The Mayor, or the Mayor's representative, will then present you with your citizenship certificate and a gift.

At the end of the ceremony the new citizens listen to the National Anthem.

Photographs are taken with the Mayor to round off a special, meaningful and enjoyable occasion.

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

How different.

I have to say I don't think I could have ever become a citizen of the USA were I not already, b/c I sure as hell would never say that pledge!

Anyway, we filed up then to get our certificates and get our pictures taken, and I, being a complete spaz, managed to drop mine on the floor. Great. Auspicious start. I did manage to say something about wanting to provide the entertainment, but, truthfully, I wanted to just die right there - poof, little pile of ash! Sigh - well, this just goes with the Doug territory I guess.

And then we all stood to listen to the first stanza of the national anthem, which is, rather conveniently, sung to the same tune as 'My Country 'tis of Thee...'

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

Probably the funniest part of the whole thing, other than me making a dumbass out of myself, was when we were walking home. Set the scene - four silly queens, generally dressed nicely, walking up London street. Three of us are white, with generally shaved head. One is black, but wearing a hat and gloves. (This is relevant). We're walking along with our flags, which is not a normal thing to do here. For the most part, one only sees flags at official occasions, sports events, and being used by white power groups. Anyway, this guy pulls up in a car, leans out, and asks, "Are you guys English Defence League"? (skinheads). Yes, with our new black member. Dumbass! Ah, my fellow countryman...

It was a bit of an anticlimax then to head back to work, though I was, to my amusement, greeted with a flag and cutout of the queen on my monitor. Who said Hackney didn't have class?

Anyway, lots of other stuff, but I'm mostly too tired to mention it at the moment. Maybe tomorrow. We're in the process of getting the kitchen done, have travelled numerous times to Ikea, hardware stores, builder's supply stores, furniture stores, etc... We're moving most of the stuff on the weekend, then actually moving in the 22nd, when the fridge arrives.

So tired.