Friday, March 28, 2008

A bit of a bill

Our electricity supplier (begins with 'nP' and ends in 'ower' if you're wondering) sent us this bill today:

A bill

What normally happens is that they send us an estimated bill (usually over-estimated) which then prompts us to go and dig around in our basement to read the meter ourselves. We then call them up and correct their meter reading and they send us an accurate bill.

So this was a bit of a surprise - over £2500 in just four months. Even taking into consideration a) winter, b) a baby, and c) rising fuel costs we figured it was an impressive use of electricity. However it all turns out to hinge on Mrs Hope's enthusiasm for accuracy with figures - she included the decimal point in the meter reading - and our supplier gratefully (delightedly) accepted the figures.

We will be calling them to let them know of the correct reading shortly.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Photo update

I've added some new photos of Reuben, his grandparents, and our recent visit to the States. Click on the picture of grandson and Grandad Alan for more at my Flickr site.

Alan and Reuben

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'll take the low road

We arrived back in Bristol on Saturday morning, after a long day of traveling and too short a night's sleep.

We left Maryland via BWI Airport on Friday. Our flight to EWR (Newark) was just after 1pm, and our connection to Bristol left just before 9pm. I think there is an art to traveling which has been lost in our modern consumer approach to life - that old devil 'hurry' rides our backs mercilessly given half a chance. And there, but for the grace of God, we went, for our first flight was heavily over-subscribed (it being the first day of Spring Break).

1pm is also Reuben's lunch time, but we wanted to feed him as close to take-off as possible to help him adjust to the changing cabin pressure. The gate-agent began to ask for volunteers to give-up their seats, travel plans permitting, for those passengers who had to catch the 1pm flight. We tsk'd as Reuben grew hungrier, trying to decide whether we should try to board first and stretch him out until take-off. One passenger took up the offer of taking a train to EWR as we continued to wrestle with how best to feed Reuben. The gate agent then repeated the call for volunteers - did I mention that $350 worth of travel vouchers were offered in compensation as well? - and we decided to take up the offer.

The gate agent was so grateful (they got all their confirmed passengers on board in the end) she gave us lunch and dinner money too. Reuben was happy because he ate while they sorted our train tickets out, and Mrs Hope was happy because she didn't have to fly up to EWR. And I love to take the train and see the world from the unique perspective that it offers. It wound its way up the East Coast, taking us through Baltimore, skimming through Delaware and Pennsylvania before dropping us off in New Jersey in plenty of time to catch our Bristol plane.

The hardest thing about the whole affair was giving away our spare meal voucher at EWR - only $12 so not much at all - but hardly anyone wanted to engage in conversation about it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


So we are moving to the States in June. We'll be in Severna Park, a suburb of Annapolis, in Maryland.

The state slogan for Maryland is (as listed by the unimpeachable Wikipedia): "Seize the Day Off". This I like.

The official state motto is taken from the state's official seal and was written in Italian thusly: "Fatti maschii, parole femine." The commonly accepted translation is 'strong deeds, gentle words'. This, too, I like.

We're just coming to the end of a preliminary two-week visit - I'm currently writing this from a house just nearby where we'll end up in June - and it's enabled us to get a flavour for what's ahead. First impressions are that it's very similar to Dubai - big roads, big cars, big food, big shops. The physical geography is completely new to me - certainly unlike anything I've known in the U.K. We are by the sea, but it's the Chesapeake Bay, and there's a mild tidal reach and almost no surf, so it's an odd beach environment. (A nice touch is that we're on the Severn River.) People here are very open and friendly - shop attendants will greet you as you enter their shop (and of course, bid you to 'have a nice day' when you leave), and we've freely exchanged words of greeting to people in the neighbourhood. And the people in the church here have been true to the state motto - welcoming us into their lives and bending over backwards to help us.

On Friday we go back to Bristol, which I have called home for the past ten years, to begin the process of packing up memories and possessions and saying goodbye.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Big Country

So we have been visiting Maryland for the past week and a half. We've met so many lovely people here that, despite our British reserve, we've almost been provoked into an emotional response.

We've visited the neighborhood and the house where we'll be staying for the next year - and it's all big! We even figured out that we could walk to the local shops (as there was a pavement, or 'sidewalk', along the road) - and on the way back we were recognised, by virtue of our pedestrian nature, as being the visiting Brits!

Mall-culture has been experienced and, to some extent, enjoyed. On the positive side, there is an Apple Store in the Annapolis Mall. On the puzzling side, we saw people exercising in the Mall.

This week we had the pleasure of sampling Maryland's famous blue crabs, which are actually pinkish when they get to your table. And, thanks to Mrs Hope, who dismembered her first crab very enthusiastically, I am now wearing some blue crab, but I am told that this is acceptable behaviour for round here.