Wendy: thank you very much
Checkout staff: you’re welcome very much
Wendy: thank you very much
Checkout staff: you’re welcome very much
Without any studying I passed my ‘knowledge’ test for a Minnesota driving licence. I also passed the eye test, which SUPRISED me because I was squinting and the text was fuzzy. Not good. Now I’ve booked a proper eye test with an optician to get some more up to date lenses. No squinting allowed when driving, working or watching films on my surface.
It feels like everything I do is a test, can I get a new phone service, can I find a good optician, can I pick how to invest for my 401k (pension), can I find a place to park downtown, can I follow my GPS (Satnav) directions? There’s a lot more concentration and thinking needed when you move countries (jobs, homes) than when you stay in the same place.
All these tests get the adrenaline flowing, they make me feel alive.
So far I’ve been passing most of the tests… just….
The world looks a bit like this fuzzy photo, even when I’m wearing last year’s prescription glasses. Evidently that’s good enough to drive here.
I’ve booked myself in at an opticians. The next test will lead to a new pair of spectacles… and lenses.
My last vacuum purchase was a Dyson animal canister vac. It was a joy to unpack and worked a treat for my 7 years in Britain. I want that again.
This Dyson animal is an upright, my first. Unpacking was an unpleasant surprise. How should I get into this box? How many bits of over folded and slotted cardboard? How many plastic bags? A bag to carry all my pieces? Totally unclear which bits go into which pockets in the bag. The bag was something I don’t need or want. Nearly 30mins of frustrating unpacking and it doesn’t even have an auto-retractable cable.
It feels flimsy, not sturdy like my canister, I hope I grow to love it because our first meeting has not been auspicious
I find myself looking up and wondering about what the ceiling is made of, whether it hides another ceiling, whether it’s original to the building and many other little, life-peripheral things. Will I recover, will my neck develop a kink? I’ll let you know.
Meanwhile here are a couple that caught my attention this week.
Several people roamed around the spacious yet cluttered store. Heated sufficiently to remove the steam of our breath and feel like outdoors in a temperate climate. For a Minneapolis winter, this is a good temperature for a store. Customers are bundled-up in clothes suitable for minus degrees Fahrenheit. The winter is coming…
All these beautiful wood, doors, columns, sconces…. every piece with a story to tell. This is a magic shop. I left the magic undisturbed, leaving with a raised heart and the treasures left in their place for others to see and enjoy.
I’ll be back,
Next time I may bring a friend….
Bob the building manager is a hero in my world, and it’s only my first day in the Wendy house loft. Bob’s not his real name. We met in the car park of my apartment building. It started with a friendly hello and within the hour I’d discovered many things that make Bob a hero. Bob:
If can, I’ll spend time helping Bob
Now my key ring has returned to full jingle-too-big-for-pocketness. It holds
My apartment is empty because my belongings are in a shipping container that’s been caught in a container jam in Norfolk VA since 23rd December. Meanwhile I can start visiting my empty apartment to fill it with new electrical goods and work out how to get the internet working before moving in.
This may be the last time I see the polished concrete floors before they’re covered with cosy Persian rugs…
The keys tie me to a cosy life with a home even if the building is still bare.
Next to the “City Salvage” store is a place reminiscent of a large UK pub. When I wandered in at 4pm it was almost empty. By 6pm it was busy with couples and families.
The dapper waiter looked like a younger version of Colonel Saunders with his neatly coiffured moustache and beard.
With time I’ll get habituated to the wooden columns and exposed wooden ceilings in many lf the downtown buildings. For now my jaw slackens and I study the texture of the beams and layout of the columns. Were there once walls here? Was there once a ceiling hiding the roof beams and holding ornate plasterwork?
The lady at the table next to me was considering moving to Minneapolis from Boston. She introduced herself and asked me what it was like moving to Minneapolis from the UK. How friendly. In the UK I’d have found the self introduction somewhat surprising, possibly even rude. I like this open, direct, way that American’s have. I can go out and just meet people and share stories with them. It’s not as lonely as the UK’s polite reservedness.
Wind-chill is translated to the “number of minutes before frostbite” All I know is that Frostbite is bad. I think it kills the parts of the body that it effects and they drop off. This is like the weather people saying don’t stay outside this long, even if you’re wrapped up well it’s just a really silly idea.
Schools are closed based on wind chill levels. Different schools have different policies. Looks like a wind chill advisory of -35F is likely to close schools. That is 15 mins to frostbite…
I made a mistake at the weekend. Walking 50ft from the car to a building, I didn’t bother to put my gloves on or button my jacket. It’s not a mistake I’ll make again. My temperate climate habits don’t fit here.
Silver-car parking on the streets of St. Anthony.
We are free to park where-ever we want, as long as we pay at the metre. Sometimes it looks like car owners flock to their like-coloured colleagues.
Wandering into the antique shops in this fabulous building revealed that the local parkers were, like me, pale skinned (Caucasian origin?). I’d parked a couple of blocks away, among the black cars. My dark blue blends in almost seamlessly.
There’s a rogue bicycle lassoed to the parking meter in this photo. I’m so impressed by the cycling commitment of local residents.
“I can’t believe that you just got here, and bought a Lexus”
“but I can’t find the brake pedal (waves foot around in footwell) that’s not good for your confidence in my driving”
“We’re not driving yet”
On days like these I leave 15 minutes earlier for work. I scrape the ice or snow from the front, side and rear windows. Some cars come with heated wing mirrors, steering wheels and seats. Not the VW Bug I’ve been given as a rental car.
This evening I drove into a mall parking garage. As I drove into the warm, underground parking my windscreen fogged. Out of habit I turned the in-car warm air blowers to the windscreen. The fogging appeared to increase. In a random effort to clear my view I turned on the windscreen wipers. Voilà! The condensation was on the outside of the cold car windows, not the inside.
A local told me that I should open the windows before I park outside at night to let-out all the damp warm air from within. To make sure the insides of the windows don’t ice-up as well as the outside.
Oh. I’m learning….
Is Wendy alive or dead in her reality Box (outside the internet)? This question was raised in a cunningly disguised question at a Minneapolis Xmas Misfits part. The question arrived as
“are you here for good?”
A tricky question to answer at the best of times. Yes, I hope to do good. How long will I be here? I could be leaving soon (I don’t know) or I may live out the rest of my days here. I realised that I live my life with both of these possibilities existing in parallel. Wherever I live could be forever, or temporary. Having these two competing views actually leads to a form of exciting peace.
The party progresses with too many interesting, funny, and private stories to relate here.
A happy Christmas is on the cards
For a Wendy that doesn’t really enjoy shopping this list is worse than daunting
It looks such a short list, but there are way too many decisions needed for each of these purchases… I’ve spent most of today researching car and phone purchases and tomorrow looks busy on the same topic, though I am making progress. Despite immense social pressure I wont be buying a Subaru Outlander…
I’ve also got to study for my Minnesota driving licence, and book the 3 tests (online, sight, practical), that’s near enough shopping though not a big range of choices involved.
The USA home buying process is radically different from the UK process. Here are some of the features that actually change the way people behave:
Meanwhile my inspection raised lots of minor functional questions, like
It feels good to shift to asking trivial functional questions, clearly the big stuff is working well. The apartment is 4 miles from work and has ample bike storage in the basement. I could get fit in the summer. The route to work is through prettily housed suburbs.
As the inspector checked the apartment I pondered the view, watching the tail’ lights of city traffic. I felt at home. It felt right despite being so very different from my little hidden garden cottage in Reading. We all change as does the world around us. Time for a high rise garment with scary balcony…..
In the dark, driving slowly, I search for the car park entrance to the supermarket.
There is a roadside Christmas tree sales spot. Someone has camped on the abundant sidewalk and placed their neatly cut trees in the snow. Music is playing, they have bright lights pointing at the trees. It reminds me of TV programmes, films, I’ve seen. The Christmas trees shopping experience in below zero USA climates is just like that in the films.
A portly black man, reminiscent of father Christmas, dressed in ‘Salvation Army’ red rings a handbell at the store entrance. I pull out some dollars and push them into his collection jar. His voice is cheerful, hearty, as he talks of his day job and, this, night time volunteer work. I thank him and listen. I admire his dedication. It’s below zero and he’s collecting money to help those people who’ve been excluded by society. He likes my hat and warns me against the problems of drink.
How did he know?
I’ve successfully sold the Wendy house in Reading Town. There were bumps in the process. The four month process from putting the place on the market (July 22d) through to completing on the sale (Nov 28th) was efficient by UK standards. The buyers were first time purchasers in the UK. A French couple. Their lack of familiarity with the local process meant that it took longer than the 3 months it took me to originally buy the place. I left them champagne, a gifted plant, a folder of historical documents and a book describing the history of the area. The garden looked a bedraggled, neglected mess and removing my furniture revealed some dampness that neither I nor they expected.
The market in Minneapolis has Ground to a halt between Thanksgiving and the Super bowl in mid February. I’ve been tracking properties and prices online since April 2014. I feel confident that I know the type of properties and the places. I’ve now driven to, through, and walked around the areas I’m considering. I’ve had an offer accepted on an apartment that is very good value for money and checks most of my requirements. The requirements it fits are:
I’ve been researching the building developer and condominium management company. This apartment block was built in 2008 and is managed by a huge company that manages condominiums all over North America. The developer is prolific and their conversions, including this one, have won design awards. I’m comfortable with the developer.
Yelp reviews of the condominium management company are not good, they mention things like phone calls being ignored, maintenance work being difficult to schedule and generally tardy. Apparently getting the cash is the one thing they’re reportedly good at. I’m hoping that the reports are disproportionate and that when the company works well, no one bothers to review it on yelp.
Most of the time it’s below freezing. Today’s been an exception, I’ve walked out with my coat undone, no hat, no gloves and my scarf hanging limp in the sunshine. Yet the restaurants don’t offer to take your coat when you arrive.
Cloakrooms are definitely not ‘de rigour’. They exist. If you ask, you are offered a coat hanging solution, but this offer is not naturally forthcoming. Odd, given the weather and dress of the locals.
I’ve been in Minneapolis for a week, eaten out once per day. My oversized WW2 style flight jacket is heavy, when placed on the back of a restaurant chair, the chair surrenders. It falls backwards to the floor. I’ve now sent the jacket to the dry cleaners because it’s hugged way too many local restaurant floors.
Dad and I, spring of 1990. Mum and dad had come to visit me while I was studying for a PhD.
Mumzie took the photo. It captures a lot of us both and our relationship. Our profiles are very similar, though dad had these wonderfully entertaining wild, overgrown eyebrows that luckily I haven’t inherited.
More than enough to be researching….
This blog post is bought to you courtesy of ‘procrastination’ and the letter T
Received an unbirthday present on my birthday. Mind imploding concept. There was carrot cake and singing to celebrate.
International relocations are exhausting. The most emotionally disruptive, painful, experiences are consistent:
I’m looking forward to some peace in my home life. It will come about 2 months after I’ve moved into my (to.be found) new home. Maybe March 2015.
The new Wendy House will not be a house, it will be a loft apartment… …exciting!
The garden thrives
Close friendships incubated
Acquaintances fade away
Stalkers try harder
ITV online allowed me to watch the film of Phillip Roth’s book. I was initially attracted by the powerful cast including some of my favourites. Anthony Hopkins, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and Nicole Kidman.
4 smiles: Ratings explained
This good rating is despite the film failing the Bechtel Test:
(1) are there at least 2 women in the film? (yes)
(2) Do two women talk to each other (No)
(3) the conversational topic is not about a man (Not applicable, see 2)
As society progresses to make good films that include storylines that draw on the richness of life which includes women, I’d like to add that the women in the film with speaking parts have names.
I’ve rated this film so highly despite this prominent failure because the protagonists main storyline revolves around the challenge of living in a discriminatory, prejudiced culture. I recognised his challenges and could empathise with the difficulty and outcomes of the decisions he’d made.
The protagonist, Coleman Silk, is the son of African Americans, his skin is pale and he can pass as a white person if he chooses to do so. We see him treated as-if he is white, the position of privilege. To me this is analogous to a woman choosing a route where she highlights the characteristics associated with the male was as a technique to gain the benefits associated with a male privileged world. I wear a suit, I talk with the confidence associated with men. I’m confrontational in my discursive style. I recognise that these are not associated with the traditional female role.
When Coleman has the choice of mixing in society as ‘black’, going to a college that is recognised as for blacks, joining the army and declaring his ethnicity, he chooses to not declare his status as a member of a disempowered group. At school I was teased for being like a boy, wearing my hair short, wearing trousers and flats shoes. All done for comfort and convenience. The teasing bothered and hurt me. But I chose to go with the values of physical comfort and convenience over conformity to avoid the aggressive, mean, teasing. Coleman doesn’t conform, he side-steps.
The film tracks significant events which lead to Colemans decision, through tragic and painfully ironic outcomes. Eventually, he finds love and acceptance for who he is by closeness with a woman who’s been the victim of a broad range of typical outcomes of being a victim of male power. Unlike him, she never had the option of denying her ‘class’ as woman. In his senior years we see Coleman voluntarily walk into the type of prejudice and unstable life that he chose to avoid, with deception, in his youth.
A beautiful, painfully sad film.
The average time to sell a house on the UK is currently about 6 months.
July 22nd my house went on the market. Today we exchanged contracts, the sale is finally legally binding. We’ve set the sale completion date at 29th November. 4 months. It’s fast and everything went smoothly, if seemingly slowly, to me as someone who’s bought and sold houses in America in about 30 days. I love the USA system. I’m looking forward to buying there once I’ve transferred the money. It took me 3 months to buy this UK Wendy house. Very fast by UK standards, frustratingly slow to me. I don’t want to go through the UK house purchase or selling process again. I will, when mum dies unless she moves to a retirement property beforehand which is not something I’m pushing for, though my brother is.
Now, I’m out of the country for several weeks on work, come back the night before the removal people arrive to pack, then leave the day after the house sale. November looks hectic and I’m quite looking forward to it!
I’m going to try and fly mum out to go house hunting with me. A mothers eye is always entertaining and she does notice things that I don’t. Sometimes the things she notices are not important to me, but often they are valuable insights. Mum loves shopping, especially when it’s free to her. Mum also wants to be confident that I’ll be happy. I want to give her that confidence and I love that she’s always used my happiness as her yard-stick. Her emphasis on my getting a good education was so that I’d be able to support myself, to be happy, to avoid ‘struggling’. Everything she’s strived for in raising me can ultimately be traced to her beliefs on what would enable me to have a happy life. Fabulous.
I left the USA to spend high quality time with mum and dad in their latter years. To avoid regrets about not having shared special times with them. I’ve been lucky, it worked. Dad’s now dead, I now have a really high quality relationship with my mother that will work across the continents. Phone calls, Facebook, Skype…. we’re closer now, being apart physically will mean much less than it did at the turn of the millennium.
I left the USA on November 24th 2007, thanksgiving week. I’ll be returning to the USA at the end of Thanksgiving week 2014. The emotional symmetry is pleasing.
Wendy: watches the lady behind the cash till type in the numbers and wince. “Are you alright?”
Cash teller: No, it’s my foot
Wendy: It looks very painful, is there anything I can do, can you call someone to help?
Cash teller: It is very painful, (winces) there’s only me, no one else in the store, I can’t close up
I don’t know what to do. I look at the long line behind me that she has to deal with and say loudly
“take care, these people don’t want you to be in pain and we’d help if we knew how to”. Most of them look away, one nods his head in silence
Dad’s death, a friend’s psychosis, a new job, and an international relocation all add up to a ‘diet’ and I can tell without reference to bathroom scales
Trousers bought to fit in March 2012 now slide down over my waist and hips. Without a belt they head for the ground with predictable, slow, determination. Rings that once fit on my 3rd finger now sit comfortable on my middle and first fingers. My watch which once pinched the flesh on my wrist now slides over my Ulna base and rides around like a carousel. It no longer steadily sits facing outward. It rides up and down and round and round. My cheek bones are once more visible in a manner that looks, to me, slightly unhealthily as-if I’ve had plastic surgery to enhance them.
It seems I’m loosing weight
My eating habits haven’t changed
Who knows what will happen once I’ve ‘settled’ in Minneapolis….
Having a tantrum, because not everyone is a pacifist. Nothing broken. It makes me feel so middle class.
While humans feel strong emotions that are aggressive, we can learn to manage and express them in ways that don’t involve inflicting physical and emotional pain on others. Democracy facilitates the existent of alternative view points which include the use of violence, frequently institutionalised (Capital punishment, Weaponised military). I’m just not convinced that enough people in power have actually committed to using alternative approaches.
Wendy: my cousin teaches gender studies at [name] University
Sister-in-law: gender studies? I don’t understand, what’s that?
Wendy: Sex is the biological determination lf you as a Female or Male. Gender is the social construction of behavioural expectations for people who are classified as Female or Male
Sister-in-law: what? I don’t understand, women are women
Her world view is so well defined and ingrained within her role as a woman that I decided to give up at this point. My brother is a classic white male pseudo liberal dude and she is a home building wife who puts much effort into conforming to prevailing stereotypes of girliness. She is extremely accomplished at this.
Wendy: my cousin teaches gender studies at [name] University
Niece 1992: gender studies? I don’t understand, what’s that?
Wendy: Normally there are two genders on any form that you fill in, girl or boy, but real people identify with a really wide range of genders, it’s not a neat dichotomy. What if I’m a girl who likes to dress like a man because I feel it suits who I am. Am I a girl or a boy at a social level? Why do we even have to define a specific position. Facebook in the USA provides 51 different gender options. We are all different. Our sex is a biological determinant, our gender is how we, feel and express our identity.
Niece 1992: 51 genders, that’s just silly
Wendy: Yes, we should be people with no need to identify as a specific gender. Our sex may be relevant for things like medical treatments, but a gender assignment is often unnecessary and irrelevant, leads to discrimination and all sorts of unnecessary nastiness particularly for anyone who isn’t a heterosexual white boy.
Niece 1992: 51 genders, that’s just silly
Gosh. Failed to communicate.
As a fairly radical feminist this familial lack of awareness of the meaning and hence value of understanding systematic discrimination of non conformity to socially constructed definitions of gender is quite overwhelming.
On the other hand, my cousins totally ROCK! Their father died before they reached puberty, which may not be significant. My brothers views are classic white male patriarchy.