February 18th, 2015 | tags: architecture, Minneapolis, MN, social infrastructure, USA |
In the cold.
Cold is stuff below 10°F
I wandered out from my heated car, 30 paces, to the heated central post office in downtown Minneapolis. The post office has an amazing exterior. I’ll photograph the exteria in the summer.
The inside was like walking into the deserted 1920’s. There were a few people around, but not many given the size, capacity, of this building. The brass panel in the ceiling that hid recessed lights, the wooden, marble and brass wall panels. This building reeked of celebrating the postal service as a service for everyone. Fabulous.
I love the social responsibility of the locals and their city governance. I feel really at home here. Which is good, because this is my new home.
February 7th, 2015 | tags: International relocation |
When I moved to the Wendy House UK I let the removal people leave without unpacking. Lots of neat boxes stacked around the tiny Wendy house. It took me months to hack my way into the boxes, unwrap the stuff and dispose of the packaging.
This time, I made sure everything exact the picture gallery was unpacked before they left. It helps that this Wendy Loft has more floor space to pile random stuff on. Since taking this photograph I’ve managed to clear the useful surfaces: tables, sofa’s walk ways, dressing room. Now I’ve got to organise how to store the books and stuff I rarely use like Christmas decorations, tent, hiking bags, and decide on how and where to hang the rather extensive picture gallery. It will take a while to clear a visitable hole in the guest room where this stuff is flocking, out of sight
February 4th, 2015 | tags: on the road |
My real life eye colour doesn’t appear to closely match the eye colour in my passport photo. The Dutch border control officials conducted a thorough investigation.
This hasn’t been picked up by any border control officials in 7 years of travelling. But then, I haven’t been through Schipol Airport in that time.
They checked my drivers licence photo, whether I was wearing contact lenses and several other documents I wisely had available. I complimented the senior security staff, leading the two suspicious border control guards, on their thoroughness.
“We are good” she said.
I just managed to catch my connecting flight
February 2nd, 2015 | tags: homestead history, International relocation, MN, USA |
After a 2 month sojourn in Norfolk, Virginia, container port, my belongings arrived in Minneapolis. Hooray! They avoided the big storms.
Alas, when they arrived I wasn’t in Minneapolis to greet and shepherd them into the loft. Arizona’s nice this time of year.
While my belongings have been elsewhere indulging in meditation and mindfulness, I’ve been preparing the loft for their arrival, adding peanut butter, porridge oats, honey and tea to the empty kitchen cupboards. I’ve not yet found a local Marmite, or twiglets, source.
My dusty things arrive today
Today I spend my first night in the loft
This is as near as I’ll get to what my aunts and cousins call ‘settling down’ which is what they think I should be doing. Apparently, I’ve left it a bit late…
January 31st, 2015 | tags: conversation, language, MN, USA |
Wendy: How Ewe doin’ ?
Local: I’m living the dream
I think there’s a touch of sarcasm pervading the region. I like it. I must stop giggling and join the conversation….
January 29th, 2015 | tags: being wendy, language, USA |
To hotel guest: “Nice jumper, urrrr, sweater”
To colleague with lots of equipment “let’s use the lift, um, elevator”
To person looking desolate within a crowd in the Comcast service centre “is this a queue, uh, line”
“here in the US the colour of the pumps for petrol and diesel are reversed, in the UK black is diesel and green is Petrol. I nearly made a nasty mistake because of that” (autocorrect complete fail) “you mean gas and diesel, right. Brits call gas petrol?”
“I’ve got a British ice-scraper for my windscreen, a short handle, not with the sensible long handle that the local scrapers have” (autocorrect didn’t even know there was a potential problem here but my translation package was soon updated) “windscreen? Windshield”
I’m trying my darnedest not to be too cute in my regional language. Mostly, I know the USA word. I know the UK word will be understood after the listener has worked out my accent and often they quickly correct me. If they don’t correct me, or smirk, I don’t even know that I’ve used a quaint word.
January 27th, 2015 | tags: MN, snow, USA, weather |
Another polished concrete floor. This one isn’t in my apartment.
Under the stool in a bar where the floor is probably washed on a daily basis.
This is salt, walked in by customers crossing the car park. Wow! My car is now half white. I wonder what effect this has on the local water table, so much salt spread everywhere…
The carpets at the entranceway at work are thick with the white-out. My Dr. Martens carried the salt across several hundred yards to sit under my desk which looks a mess. My apartment has become a slippers-only place in the winter.
January 25th, 2015 | tags: Minneapolis, MN, shopping, USA |
When shopping for cleaners I tend to look for something that will zap as many things as possible with a minimum environmental effect. Vinegar and baking soda are pretty darn good at cleaning all sorts of things
‘Bed, Bath and Beyond’, takes a very different approach. They make the cleaner very specific to the stain. This approach would fill my cupboards with numerous cleaners for tomatoe sauce, tea, beer, toothpaste, egg etc
Presumably, to be financially viable, a specific stain has to be an extremely common cleaning problem. A stain that has no commonly known alternative cleaning method. I was taught that white wine and salt are best put on red wine spillage
I wonder of the red wine stain problem is particularly prevalent in Minneapolis
January 23rd, 2015 | tags: conversation, language, USA |
Wendy: thank you very much
Checkout staff: you’re welcome very much
January 21st, 2015 | tags: International relocation, MN, on the road, spectacles, USA |
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.
January 19th, 2015 | tags: homestead history, user experience |
I’ve picked up a cleaner, ready for when my dusty stuff escapes from the container port in Virginia that has held it since mid December.
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
January 17th, 2015 | tags: architecture, ceiling, MN, USA |
I think I’m developing a ceiling fetish. It’s not something that can be cured by rubbing cream onto it.
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.
I’ll refrain from a full feature analysis, but the fluffy white spray cover on the concrete surface of the industrial chic bar was really quite a fancifully enticing touch. Swoon.
January 15th, 2015 | tags: architecture, Minneapolis, MN, shopping, St. Anthony, USA |
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….
January 13th, 2015 | tags: homestead history, International relocation, MN, USA |
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:
- Was a fireman for 20 years, in the military for 20 years, working in schools for 20 years. This is his retirement job. He showed me his office, it’s a treasury. He reminded me of the fisher king.
- Sorts through the waste in the building dumpsters. He pulls out stuff that can be reused, rather than recycled. He cleans it up, fixed it, then takes it to the Salvation Army centre. He proudly showed me two vacuum cleaners that he’d fixed.
- Collects the ‘art’ that is thrown out and uses it to decorate the room where all the garbage falls from the chutes on each floor. He calls it his gallery, and it is, cheerful diverse pictures.
- Carves wood into toys for children, planters, decorative mail boxes. He has a series of aeroplane hanging in his office.
- Has dozens of grand children, their faces all smile down from around his tool board in his office. He introduced me to each one, and his siblings and parents.
- Lives in the building with his wife who has a wicked sense of humour.
- Told me that someone very, very, very senior, in the company I work for, rents an apartment in the building. Told me how much the rent was. I nearly fell over. Clearly a different floor plan to mine, bigger and with downtown views on the top floor.
I could have spent the whole day hanging out with Bob, he was great company. I’m glad I decided to live in an apartment instead of a house.
If can, I’ll spend time helping Bob
January 11th, 2015 | tags: being wendy, homestead history, International relocation, MN, USA |
Since November my key fob has been a little empty. I returned neighbours keys. Instead of a house key I’ve been using a hotel swipe card.
Now my key ring has returned to full jingle-too-big-for-pocketness. It holds
- Apartment mailbox key
- Car key (fob)
- Garage, apartment building key (fob)
- Apartment door key
- Security storage locker room key
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.
January 9th, 2015 | tags: Minneapolis, MN, USA |
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.
January 7th, 2015 | tags: MN, USA, weather |
Snow is predicted in “Inches per hour”. I know inches, this means something to me.
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.
January 5th, 2015 | tags: architecture, car, Minneapolis, MN, St. Anthony, USA |
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.
January 3rd, 2015 | tags: being wendy, car, MN, on the road, USA |
“I only just bought this car today. I know there’s a brake here somewhere because I set it when I parked the car”
“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”
December 18th, 2014 | tags: Cold, Minneapolis, on the road, snow, USA |
It takes a few minutes, or more, for a street parked car to warm up when it’s so cold outside that the Mississippi is frozen-over.
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….
December 15th, 2014 | tags: Christmas, friends, party |
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
December 14th, 2014 | tags: International relocation, shopping |
For a Wendy that doesn’t really enjoy shopping this list is worse than daunting
- Apartment (+light fittings, window dressings, insurance)
- Car (+Inspection, Insurance)
- Phone (+Service)
- Vacuum cleaner
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.
December 10th, 2014 | tags: homestead, International relocation, Minneapolis, MN, USA |
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:
- An offer is made with a goodwill payment of 1%. This acts to reduce the likelihood of people making multiple offers…
- If an offer is accepted by the seller it’s a legally binding contract for the seller, the buyer can still pull out at several check-points but the seller cannot continue to market the property. This acts to prevent gazumping.
- The buyer employs a professional to conduct an inspection. Professional? This person is not a qualified surveyor, no qualifications required. The fellow who conducted my inspection was like a caring dad who checked every window, every piece of equipment. He lit the oven, made ice, turned on the washing machine, checked all the lights and electric circuits, the boiler etc He gave me advice on how to look after the property and questions I should ask the Home Owners Association (HOA). He recommended that I attend a HOA meeting. He made observations about the other tenants. He was awesome. A buyer can pull out of the agreement after an inspection.
- Immediately prior to the money exchanging there is a ‘walk through’ of the property in the estate that it will be handed over. The money is not exchanged if the purchaser is unhappy with the walk through. My ‘Inspector’ explained that a resident may have a big leaving party that leaves broken windows and toilets etc. The final walk through makes sure that they pay for any damage between agreement and departure. Nice.
Meanwhile my inspection raised lots of minor functional questions, like
- How does the intercom work – there’s no in apartment equipment – is there a cell phone app for that?
- Are those sockets for internet connections or phones?
- Can I put more powerful bulbs in that light fitting?
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…..
December 9th, 2014 | tags: Minneapolis, MN, USA |
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?
December 8th, 2014 | tags: homestead, International relocation, MN, USA |
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:
- 2 bedrooms with walls that go right to the ceiling and windows
- Double-aspect windows, it’s a corner apartment with SW & NW facing windows
- Walk g distance from good restaurants and downtown facilities
- Walking distance from a bus stop that takes me directly to work (in case I can’t drive)
- Indoor, heated garage space
- Washer, dryer inside the apartment (not communal resource)
- View that includes greenery and things worth watching (6th floor, with lower buildings adjacent and no plans to replace them in a way that blocks the view, can see a dog-park without using binoculars)
- Has at least one wall that will fit my 6ft Welsh dresser
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.
December 7th, 2014 | tags: Minneapolis, MN, snow, USA, weather, Winter |
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.
November 18th, 2014 | tags: Dad, family, mourning, sad, UK |
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.
November 15th, 2014 | tags: International relocation, MN, snow, USA |
Lots of helpful snow clearing trucks take to the road as soon as the little white mischievous chilly things start to fall. Meanwhile, I’m driving around looking for a pre-owned home and car. I wonder what I’ll find.
November 10th, 2014 | tags: Minneapolis, MN, USA |
The Wikipedia lists have many names that I don’t recognise, their fame never reached me and it omits some key people that interest me. Here are the one’s that I’ve both heard lf and they interest me:
- Andrews sisters
- Amelia Earhart
- Billy Graham
- Bob Dylan
- Bobby McFerrin
- Charles Schultz
- Coen brothers
- Garrison Kiellor
- Hüsker Dü
- John Paul Getty
- Robert M Pirsig
- Scott f fitzgerald
More than enough to be researching….
November 8th, 2014 | tags: International relocation, UK, USA |
This blog post is bought to you courtesy of ‘procrastination’ and the letter T
- UK post now redirected to my new USA work office for 12 mos. Cost $31 per Mos. I’ll write to individual companies to change my registered address, once I’ve got a new home….
- Trying desperately to focus on which documents I should carry with me and which can go into storage. Paper documents are heavy, this is a difficult task that is increasing my addiction to tea and inclination to blog
- Last laundry load running. I’m even getting emotional about leaving my Miele.
Received an unbirthday present on my birthday. Mind imploding concept. There was carrot cake and singing to celebrate.