Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Howdy, Seamus

Last weekend, I realized my dream of getting a fish. I have a long history with fish, particularly Bettas, starting back when I lived in Philadelphia and exhausted Betta population of the Snyder Avenue PetCo. I had several Edgars, an Edward, and when I moved to Brooklyn I had Freddy "Betta" Betesh. Don't ask, it's a family joke. So anyway, I've been without a fish for a while now and I decided it was about time for me to remedy the situation. My friend Rose reminded me of the aquarium fish shop on Essex Road in Angel, and, after visiting a few times to inspect the fish stock, I dragged the Irishman with me last Saturday and acquired a red Betta named Seamus.

Now. I've been planning Seamus's acquisition for a while now, to the point of having picked his name and talking about him like he was already in his bowl happily swimming about. So I was pretty pumped about picking him up and getting him home. But of course, in my usual fashion, I didn't quite plan for it. I forgot to get a net for scooping him, and we bought food from the fish store. But the biggest issue was the water.

In NYC, I used to buy a gallon of water from the grocery store for 50 cents or whatever it was, and pour it straight in the bowl. Freddy never really had an issue with it, and it was a lot easier than treating water with chemicals, sitting overnight, etc etc. So I did the same thing here. I went to Budgens and got 2 2liter bottles of water for Seamus's bowl. Thing is, water here comes in a bottle that looks like a soda bottle - and though Still, the water must be bottled under pressure because the minute I put Seamus in the bowl he was covered in little tiny air bubbles. The air bubbles were lifting him to the surface, and for the first 15 minutes in his new bowl, he was floating on his side at the top. Poor guy.

I tried to help him by lifting him out of the water so the bubbles would explode, but I didn't have that net so I used a slotted spoon. Yeah not so great, because Seamus kept leaping off the spoon and then falling back on it and I think I damaged one of his little side body fins. So within 30 minutes of having Seamus, I was extremely upset about my bubbly broken fish and had to leave.

When we returned at 10pm that night, I was prepared for a dead fish. But he miraculously was okay! He acclimated okay and is now an extremely active and happy little fish, and even the Irishman likes having him around. Hurrah!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spotted: A pot of gold?

A view from his office, courtesy of The Irishman
Canary Wharf
March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

April Showers?

So it's not quite April but the amount of rain coming out of the sky would make one think otherwise. March passed by in a whirlwind, and next week's April Fools kicks off the Easter 4 day weekend. Sweet! The Irishman and I were meant to go to Istanbul for 6 days, a trip that I was getting super excited about, but we've recently had to cancel the whole thing. I've been planning to transition my visa from a Work Permit to Tier 1 for a while now, but the Home Office recently revised the rules and requirements for Tier 1 going into effect on April 6th - the day we were supposed to fly home - and under the new rules I won't be eligible. So with a heavy heart we sucked it up and canceled the hotel and are taking the hit on the flights to the tune of £150 a piece, just so I can submit a 75 page application and my passport with £820 in fees. I'm really freaking out about the whole process - the fee is gigantic and I only have 1 chance to get it right. The Irishman has been an absolute star with this whole process, helping me fill in the form, searching the web for immigration message boards to answer the questions, reading my form and generally being really supportive. It's actually making me feel pretty guilty as my immigration issues are ruining not only the trip we had planned next weekend, but also grounding any travel for the foreseeable future: my passport goes with the application so I'm bound to the UK until I get it back. We'll be doing lots of staycations and local travel by train, so if anyone has any good suggestions of places to go on the mainland - let me know!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring has sprung in London!

Crocuses are blooming, the sun has been out for like 5 days straight, and I'm back on the bike! The Irishman bought me lights for my lovely wreck for Christmas, so I coerced him to zip-tie them to the frame on Sunday and it's been pedal power ever since.

Apparently the prolonged winter that we've experienced her has affected not only everyone's mood; the BBC and newspapers have been sounding the alarm that there is a daffodil shortage! But even worse, a Shamrock shortage in Ireland is causing widespread panic as fake shamrocks are replacing the real thing due to the shortage!!! Clearly, the winter has had some dire effects.

Personally, I'm thrilled about the sun, the quickly lengthening days (sunrise is at 6am and sunset is at 6pm!), and the increase in buzz on the high streets in the park. My only issue though is that so many of my friends are pregnant and due soon, which means that I have a LOT of knitting to do. Knitting is an inside sport, though, and I want to be outside! I'm going to really have to buckle down on rainy days to get my gifts done!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Birthday blog

Hurrah for sun on the most important day of the year, my birthday! And it was bookended by sunny days, as Friday was and today is bright and clear if not frigidly cold. It's my last year before the big 3-0, and I celebrated it in a very lovely London way. It started on Friday with some flowers and cakes at the office, leading to some truly frightening karaoke singing (complete with hiccups) on Friday night with some lovely work ladies. I paid for it yesterday AM with a pretty terrible headache, but was restored by the Irishman's full English fry-up and my favorite tv show, Saturday Morning Kitchen.

I got some fantastic presents from the Irishman, who braved the intimidating French shop girls at my favorite store, Comptoirs des Cotonniers and picked out an awesome t-shirt with French bulldogs on it for me. It was accompanied by a book I'd mentioned I was interested in called Inside of a Dog. I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of his gifts – especially how much he remembered about my favorites (stores, books, interest, even WHAT SIZE I AM) which made it all even more special. He even made me fudgy chocolate cupcakes which made me swoon a little.

Part of my gift was the proclamation that as it was my birthday, I could choose whatever I wanted to do all weekend long. So I actually suggested that instead of a fancy meal somewhere, I'd prefer to go to the movies because I never really have a chance to get out and see stuff in the theater before it hits DVD. I mentioned that I'd like to see MicMacs, the new film by the director of Amelie, and the Irishman didn't complain at all. He then went on to book us into the Everyman theater in Hampstead, a boutique cinema that has club chairs, sofas, and waiters who bring you drinks and nibbles.

I've never been to Hampstead, a posh neighborhood bordering Hampstead Heath, so we decided to go up there early, before the 6pm showing, and have a wander. I highly recommend it, because the little village is adorable. It's windy and cute and there are all kinds of little shops and eateries like Louis Hungarian Bakery which had a window full of deliciousness, Mr Simm's Olde Sweet Shoppe, and Jin Kichi, one of the best rated Japanese restaurants in London. We tried to get a table reservation at Jin Kichi for dinner after the film, but they were already booked up by 5pm. Since it was my choice and I wanted Japanese, we ended up at Hi Sushi which hit the spot and wasn't bad but I bet Jin Kichi is better.

The movie was amazing - if you love Amelie, definitely see it - and having a glass of champagne on a sofa in a movie theater was pretty much the best ever. I was a bit sad that I didn't get to spend my day with all of my nearest and dearests, a symptom of expat life, but it was a glorious day and I wouldn't have changed anything about it. It was the sort of day that made me fall in love with London, and everything and everyone I have here, again and that little bit more.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


On my trip to Dublin this past weekend, I took the risk of flying notoriously cheap Ryanair. I wrote about how annoying they were when I bought the ticket (I had to pay £7 more than the Irishman) and this unfairness continued as I boarded at Gatwick on Thursday.

Ryanair makes a big deal about charging you for everything, and it's totally true. You have to print out your own boarding pass (and pay £5 for the pleasure) or face a £40 fee to check in at the airport. So I printed my boarding passes at work, made sure to pack only the essentials into my regulation size carry-on (for a wedding, impossible - I had to bring 2 pairs of shoes), and headed to the airport to see what they had in store for me. We sailed through security and got a drink before boarding so that standing in line and fighting for a seat would be a bit more tolerable.

Little did I know that I already had made a huge faux pas. Only as we neared the gate desk to have our boarding passes checked did I notice that the Irishman's had a big EU/EEA stamp on it (for EU/European Economic Area citizens) and mine had a paragraph of small print under the heading "Passport Check". Since I'm American, I was supposed to have read that paragraph and gone to a check-in desk landside to have them verify my passport. Oops. The Irishman turned a horribly dangerous shade of red and we shuffled forward to face the music. Luckily the lady who took my documents worked for BAA, not Ryanair, and she took pity on me. She explained that they stamp the boarding pass and if I went back to do it they would charge me £100!!!! So she did something tricksy with the Irishman's boarding pass and waved me through with a stern warning.

The Irishman's face didn't return to a more natural shade of pink until we were safely in the air, and he lectured me even more. And yes, I was wrong - I should have read the stupid piece of paper. But! I think it's horribly unfair of Ryanair. I'd guess that non-EU/EEA travellers make up approximately 15-20% of all their passengers, and this hidden charge takes advantage of them. I've flown hundreds of times and never had to had my passport checked (and boarding pass stamped) by an airline prior to boarding. The Irishman wouldn't have known; he rarely flies Ryanair and his passport is EU. So all you Yanks - if you plan on taking advantage of flying Ryanair around Europe - be warned! Only take one carry-on, READ EVERYTHING, and don't take anything for granted!!!!