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a decision

We live in rural Cheshire.  Its a small town with no high street. No good restaurants. No real grocery store (one that is so high in price its infuriating) Typical town church. Loads of pubs and a few crappy take aways. This small town feel is not what I am used to, although I have lived small town in the past. My husband is from Manchester and he just can not cope with this area. He is a city boy at heart. I am from the Sacramento area of California. Strip malls, loads to eat, places to go. Lots to do.  We have known for a long time that this area isnt for us. We have known its not working. We are bored. There is nothing to do. I would even dare to say we boarder on hating the area. Dont get me wrong. The town has wonderful lovely people, its just so isolated.

We have a small house here. 3 bed semi detached. The third bed… aka the box room, is so small that you can sit on the edge of the twin size (single) bed and touch the opposite wall. Its a fine enough house for 1 person, okay for 2 but just way to small for the three of us with my step daughter on the weekends. Enough is enough.

Its all come to a head. We are putting the house on the market. Yep, we have talked about this time and time again but with the idea of moving to the states. Well, with the house prices down and the exchange rate in the toilet, add to that the economy in the states, that move is just not going to happen. We are going to move though. The decision has been made and its happening no matter how cold my husbands feet get. We are moving somewhere in the greater South Manchester area. We went for a drive around there today. Just being back in his old stomping ground makes my husband look more alive. The thought of moving back makes him feel alive again. This is what we need.

For me, I know that moving to the states is on hold for a while and there is a part of me that is relieved. Another part that is sad. But the relieved part would have always wondered if I was really unhappy here, if it had just been the typical expat ups and downs, or if it was this small town we live in or what. I am really glad to have a chance to live somewhere else. To really know if I want to stay here or not. I have hit the 5 yr mark here. Strangely I am feeling more settled.  Being an expat is a full on up  and down swinging pendulum of emotions experience. Some days you love it, some days you hate it. I am very excited to see a different place and have a more open experience. Its been really isolating to go from a condo that I could walk out, get in my car, and have a choice of so many places to eat out at it was hard to decide.  From that to eating out 1 or twice a year and a few crappy take aways. Even the local chippy isnt very good. Not that I want to eat out all the time but I do want an option. I want a more rounded experience. I want a place with better job options. The UK is great about having part time job sharing placements that could really work for us with my son. The US doesn’t really have job share or part time. Its a rare thing. So I am really excited that we have finally come to a decision. One that I wont allow to be changed. One that is going to expand and change our lives. Mostly, one that is going to put us into a house that fits our family, not shove our family into a tiny house.

We went for a drive around a few areas we had looked at about 3 yrs ago. It sealed the deal. We drove around as the night came in and just as people where turning on their lights but not closing their curtains so we can see in. The houses are huge compared to ours. Small compared to some in the states. They are still on top of each other like typical British fashion. The area looks great. Now to on to the hard bit, to sell our house. We will then find the perfect RENTAL and have freedom. YIPPEE!

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So its my 5th New Years here. Strange how fast time goes by. I have worked everyone but one, when I was pregnant. Still, after all these year it feels foreign to me. The basic tradition is there, a count down,  the Happy New year hoot, then ol lan sine, but… you stand in a circle, boy girl boy girl, arms crossed in front of you, holding the hand of the person in front of you, singing and bouncing your arms up and down. Then the bit I hate.

What is it with Europe and kissing. Its gross. So after you sing everyone kisses each other. Best wishes for the new year is said. Fine when the kiss is on the cheek but its midnight and everyone has been drinking for hours. So sloppy drunken lips trying to kiss on the lips. Blech. Gross. I have learned to make a B-line to the toilet (that is the restroom for those of you in the US. But a restroom in the UK is a staff break room so they look at you weird if you ask where the restroom is. Why would you want to go to the staff break room?)  Even running off and hiding doesn’t get me out of all the kisses.

I still sit back and observe. Even though I have worked at the same club for years I still am very aware that I am on outsider looking in. I am also very aware that they dont realize it. Americans do things just that bit different. But I am the only one in the room that knows this. I am always aware how lucky I am to be living in this other culture.

For Christmas our neighbors, who live on the other side of our semi-detached house and share our path, bought their son a basketball hoop. So every morning and every nap time this kid is out bouncing the freaking ball. They ball, on top of being noisy, is bouncing a mere few feet from my car. This is going to be a problem.

In my life, when ever I have lived in close quarters to others I have gone out of my way to think of my neighbors. Other then one neighbor, I have never had any return the favor.  My patience is running thin on this. I am sick and tired of having to deal with other peoples thoughtlessness. I would love to have a few acres and not have anyone around anymore.

Now that we no longer have a cat we have taken to throwing stale bread and the crusts that my son wont eat to the birds in the back garden.  I have really enjoyed watching them have a nice winter meal of bread and sometimes a bit of Nutella on it. I have fallen in love with a little back bird with a white face. She struts around the garden, sometimes walking right past the bread, looking very sweet.

Sometimes the garden is full to the brim with these birds. I can see them sitting in the trees outside waiting. As soon as I throw out the bread they swarm like a shot. They must really be hungry. dscn2077

I was very upset the other morning to look out and see that there was a pile of feathers. Some horrid cat must of been lying in wait. There was nothing left of the poor bird. Feathers and bread. I feared it was my favorite little black bird. For about 4 days not a single bird landed in the garden. No birds in the trees either. Finally today they started coming back. I was relieved to see that the little black bird was amongst them.

My nearly 3 yr old son is car mad.  For Christmas he got a bunch of the Characters from Cars, his favorite movie. He was so excited. Played all day.

So it came time for bed. We went through the nightly routine. We head upstairs for bed and I notice he has his hand on his tummy. No matter what he keeps his hand on his tummy. Hmmm. So I go in for a feel, it doesn’t feel like tummy. 😉  Cheeky little monkey was trying to sneak Lightning McQueen into bed with him. This is a first.  “You cant take a car to bed” I tell him. He has a look on his face like he is in trouble, hands the car to me. I then burst out laughing. He is so funny, and so car mad.

His new thing is to lay on his back under his tricycle like a mechanic fixing a car. He uses a laundry clip as a spanner. He will spend a half hour fixing his car… uh bike this way.

What a lovely Christmas. Probably the best I have had in years. We had a lovely morning. My son was so excited and happy opening his presents. He was so excited that Father Christmas had come and left presents. He needed no help in unwrapping his presents. It was so much fun to watch him go to town.

We had a lovely day. Great movies on telly. The meal turned out great, even if my homemade stuffing was a bit to hum… moist. Another half hour in the oven uncovered helped. It was just a lovely afternoon. We even all had a nice nap. Bliss.

Evening brought my stepdaughter over. More presents opened. More great British telly. The Brits know how to do a great evening of Soaps. An hour of Corrie, and hour of EastEnders. Always a climax. Always a great watch. I do love a British Soap. Add in Wallace and Grommet’s new one and an special Royal Family. Great night. Yep, we are homebodies and we stay home for Christmas.

Boxing day is tomorrow. A day to basically do what we did today. As an American I don’t really “get” boxing day. I would rather have  Thanksgiving. But its great to have another holiday. Makes for a long weekend this year.

So goodbye Christmas 2008. Until next year.

( I just want to add … Every Christmas always will have a moment to reflect on the passing of my beloved step dad, Carroll, 5yrs ago today.  Although he passed on Christmas the day doesn’t make me sad. It is a good way to always remember him. He was a wonderful man. He loved Christmas. He really made my childhood. So here is to him, my wonderful step dad. )

Its Christmas eve here in the UK. Time, once again, to remind me just how bloody small the fridges are here. The fridge in the UK is about a quarter of the size of the fridges in the states. This is because A) people used to just shop daily for what they needed and B) They don’t have room in the kitchen for anything larger then a dishwasher for a fridge.

Our fridge/freezer combo is so small. The freezer has 3 tiny drawers that you heave, shoving and pushing as much stuff as you can. The fridge, well think of your dishwasher. Thats the size. Wait, scratch that. If anything is at the back of our fridge it freezes so subtract some space for that.

So here it is, Christmas eve. I have bought stuff to make salads, stuffing, meat. Christmas meals. But we don’t have room. So I am left feeling frustrated. Again.

They have come out with “American style” fridges. Most are still smaller then what I had in my condo in the states, and it wasn’t the biggest fridge going.  One day, we will have a huge fridge. Either here or in the states, we will have a big ass fridge with so much room that I never, ever have to worry about the mayo freezing because it got pushed to the back again.