Thursday, April 21, 2011

Snafu City

Today marks the three-week anniversary of our arrival in London.  That means my ears have now been clogged for three weeks!  I've either gotten used to it or it's gradually getting better, because I only notice it when I bend down and can hear the fluid sloshing around.  I'd love to see a doctor, but my experience at the walk-in clinic was not very encouraging, and I've been waiting to get our health insurance information because I've been told you can get an appointment faster if you have private insurance.  If I had known it would take this long, though, I would have just started cold-calling local physicians.  It seems a little odd that Josh has been working for BAE for nearly two months and they still haven't provided us with insurance cards.  He emailed the HR people about it a while back, but so far has not heard back.  Gotta love that British efficiency.

Some other snafus have arisen.  We are scheduled to move into our rental house on May 3, but we still don't know when our furniture and other belongings will be delivered -- and we can't really move in without it.  There's a chance our shipment will get held up in customs because it contains a box with food in it.  We were advised not to include any food in our shipment, so we told the movers not to pack anything from the pantry or refrigerator when they were packing up our house.  Unfortunately, we forgot that we had spices, tea, and jars of flour, sugar, and pancake mix stored elsewhere in the kitchen.  We were both very sick the day the movers came, so we were both camped out on the sofa and didn't notice that they had packed that stuff until after they had left.  The relocation company has been trying to help us deal with this -- we even told them that the customs people were welcome to remove that box and destroy it -- but it's hard for them to anticipate exactly what will happen and how long it will take for our shipment to clear customs.  Today I was able to get BAE to extend the reservation of our furnished apartment through May 6, but there's no telling if that will be long enough.

Also, before we left home, I went to the post office to submit change of address forms.  Believe it or not, the USPS will forward first-class mail overseas for 6 months, but you have to get your forwarding address to fit on their forms, which are formatted for US addresses.  I couldn't give them the address of our rental house, since we won't be moving in until early May, so I had to use Josh's work address, which is about 6 lines long.  I had to use every available space and the margins to fit the entire address on the form, which was further complicated the additional "c/o Josh Fitzhugh" line on my form.  Josh actually received a batch of mail at work last week, but it was all addressed to him.  The problem was twofold:
  1. The post office had to severely truncate the address to fit on their forwarding labels, so they did not include the "c/o Josh Fitzhugh" line on my labels.
  2. Josh neglected to inform the mail room that any mail addressed to Naina Mistry should go to him.
Now the BAE mail room staff knows that any mail addressed to me should go in Josh's mailbox, but in the interim, my debit card and PIN numbers from our new Citibank account were returned to sender, along with who knows what else. We had a meeting with our new "relationship manager" at Citibank yesterday afternoon, and she said she would have a new card and PINs issued to me and delivered directly to the branch office.  It should take about 7 working days, but since we have a string of bank holidays coming up, that could mean another two weeks.  Sigh.  At least I discovered that I could use my Capital One ATM card to withdraw cash from our US bank account without incurring any fees, but that means I can only pay for things with cash, which takes some getting used to -- and frequent trips to the ATM. 

It's also been unseasonably warm and sunny here ever since we arrived.  I'm certainly not going to complain about that -- it's gorgeous! -- but I didn't pack appropriate clothing for 75-degree weather.  I was expecting it to be about 20 degrees cooler and rainy.  Half the clothes I brought I haven't worn at all, and I only have two short-sleeved t-shirts.  So, after our meeting at the bank and a quick lunch with Josh at Pret a Manger, I hit nearby Regent Street to do some shopping.  In a show of Royal-Wedding-related nationalistic pride, it is all decked out with British flags:
Regent Street
My goal: some short-sleeved tops and a pair of comfortable but reasonably attractive sandals.  Everything costs 50% more here than it does back home, especially at the high-end shops in this part of town, so I set an upper limit of £20 (about $33) for clothing items and £40 (about $66) for shoes.  I was hoping to find something on sale, but sales are not easy to come by in this town.  I did find a cute navy blue top on sale for £18 (originally £45!).  The sales clerk spent about 10 minutes wrapping it in tissue paper like a gift:
Is this really necessary?
It reminded me of that scene in Love Actually, which seems even funnier now that I know it is based on reality.

I had much less success shoe-wise.  You'd think in a city where everyone walks everywhere, in a country where walking is a national pastime,  it would be easy to find comfortable walking shoes.  Nope.  The options are ugly sneakers, flats with quarter-inch soles, or vertigo-inducing platform heels.  I finally found a pair of Skechers sandals that I liked at a store called Schuh, but they didn't have them in my size. [Speaking of which, the UK shoe sizes are smaller than in the US (US 7 = UK 5), but the clothing sizes are  bigger (US 8=UK10)]  I later found an actual Skechers store, but they didn't even carry that style, and when I attempted to try on a different pair of sandals that were similar, they didn't have those in my size either.  Fail.

I eventually hit Oxford Street, where all the big department stores are, and tried the shoe department at John Lewis.  No luck there, either, so I went to the cafe (all department stores have cafes here) and consoled myself with a chocolate croissant.  I also discovered they had a London 2012 store already, so I roamed through the store until I found it.
Olympic souvenirs, a year in advance
Why are Olympic mascots so creepy (and phallic)?
Admitting defeat, I hopped on the tube and headed home.  Since I was too exhausted to stop at the store on the way home, we decided to go out for dinner.  We tried an "American" restaurant a few blocks away called Henry J Beans.  They have a rib special on Wednesday nights, so Josh ordered a rack of ribs, and I got a burger.  The food wasn't bad, but it was still clearly a British interpretation of American food.  The cheeseburger came with American-style skinny fries instead of thick-cut British "chips," but it had "Monteray [sic] Jack" cheese instead of cheddar and was served with cups of ketchup and mayo on the side.  I almost gagged at the sight of that much mayonnaise!  The burger patties here are more finely ground and mixed with onions and spices, so they taste more like meatloaf.  As much as I love cheeseburgers, I think I'll save them for a treat when I'm back in the states, because I'm always disappointed when I order one here.  It's not that they're bad, it's just not what I'm expecting.

Today I had a slightly more successful shopping adventure, but I'll have to save that story for tomorrow.  It's time for bed.


  1. The Olympic mascots remind me of Kang and Kodos, the evil green tentacled alien monsters that are in every Simpsons Halloween episode.
    I hope your belongings arrive on schedule!!

  2. That is SO funny, about the wrapping on the shirt, because as soon as I saw the picture, I thought, "Wow, that reminds me of 'Love Actually,'" and then I continued reading your blog! :-)


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