Saturday, December 26, 2009

And to all a good night

Wow! Really?  It's been a MONTH since I wrote???  How is that possible.  I'm a wicked blog-slacker.  Grovel grovel and what not.  OK, on to the update.
Happy Christmas to everyone!!!  As much as I was dreading it, Christmas has been a pretty amazing experience here in the UK.  Chad and I chill out very well together, and yesterday was the epitome of our chill-energies merging.  We slept in a bit and made coffee and lounged around for a little while while pecan sticky buns were doing their thing in the oven.  After a leisurely walk with the Nug, we came back to eat said sticky buns and open our gifts.  THANK YOU to the many of you who sent cards and gifts! It realllllly made our day to have care packages full of mementos from home (but are sorry for the HUGE postage charges! Jeez!).  Chad hit the jackpot this year with a new guitar and a sweet pair of boots to replace the Keens that got a bit waterlogged this autumn.  I scored pretty hard with a new coat, a jewelery tree, and not one but TWO new cookbooks.  My sister also totally rocked the house by sending us an enormous amount of pb cups (one of the things from home we've been missing - the English are not fans of pb and chocolate together).  We had a few Skype dates with family and ate a huge meal of steak and Yorkshire pudding, and topped off the day with the newest Harry Potter film.  All in all, it was a totally excellent day.  Apart from a few twinges of homesickness, I was really really really happy to be spending the holiday with my favorite person in the world, cooking, and generally vegging out, especially after a particularly hectic week at work.  So, surprise, surprise, Christmas rocked this year.  Sigh of relief.
So today, as many of you know, is my birthday.  What you may not know, however is that it's also a national holiday here in Britain.  Yay for the whole country having my birthday off!  Seriously, though, it's been yet another awesome day.  So far today, I've slept in, eaten pb cups for breakfast (thank you, Kt!!!!), gone for a mini run  (my first in over a week since I got struck down with the stupid sleep-stealing cold from heck), and finished Wally Lamb's new book.  In the works for this evening is artichoke heart and carmelized onion pizza, brownies with ice cream, and the new Wolverine film.  I'm already planning Bloody Marys and a huge brunch for tomorrow. Ahhhh, holiday.
There aren't any huge updates in life since the last post.  We're still living in Keynsham, I'm still working, and Chad's still studying.  His last class of the semester was last Friday, so now he has until the 14th of January to finish his three final papers - upon which his cumulative grades for the courses will be based...but no pressure, Chad!  He's actually doing magnificently, having finished one paper completely (topic: violent death in "media" through the ages), completed about half of another, and researching the third (topic: the missing body - how to memorialize the dead when there are no remains to bury or cremate).  If it was me, you can bet I wouldn't even be starting them until January. 
As for me, working retail at Christmas has  You can bet I'm going to be much nicer during shopping trips from now on.  I'm really loving the girls I work with, and being a busy shopping season has kept things hopping in the shop.  Plus, we've been giving out Lindt truffles to our customers (read: forgetting to offer them to customers and therefore eating them ourselves).  So life isn't so bad ;).  For our Christmas "do" at work, we all got dressed up and went out on the town for tapas and dancing...all of this in the midst of my heinous, sleep-stealing cold, hence the need for a super chill holiday.  We also did a very good job at indulging in pretty much everything we felt like eating over the last week or so, so now that I'm back to almost full health, it's time to get running again.  I can't believe how fast my stamina slackened after now running for a week!  I felt every step of those 2 miles today after running 11 a couple of weeks ago! 
I hope all of you had a simply amazing holiday.  I've been planning a fun food update for the blog, so look for that soon, and I promise to try to keep on top of things.  We've got some fun (and chill) plans for New Years Eve, and we're looking forward to a trip up to Shrewsbury sometime in January.  Late Feb will find us in Rome, followed by the half marathon in early March, and possibly a visit from my Dad and Mim in early Spring!  So lots to look forward to, lots to think about.  Love to all of you and hope you all have super celebrations of the new year, in whatever way you choose.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Hey all,

I hadn't realized that it's been FOREVER since we blogged; sorry for that! It's ironic really as I've been thinking about so many of you recently.  The holidays here in England are a very different experience, particularly at a time when I could really use a little familiarity.  That's right, folks--I'm homesick!!!!  Many of you already know this and have been uber-supportive, which I really appreciate.  I'm also grateful for those of you who have said htat you've been in the same position.  It sucks to feel like a loser with no friends, so it's nice to know others have felt this way too ;)

Anyhoo, I thought I'd dash down a quick note to let you all know wassup.  Work. School. And Christmas Market!
First off, I'm plugging away at work. My GM was gone for the week (of to NYC on holiday), so I was large and in charge at Sweaty Betty.  Nothing terribly exciting happened, which is exactly what I was hoping for.  I had some good bonding times with a couple of the girls at work and was there late to supervise both the free yoga and running clubs.  I also did get to go to dinner at Demuth's Restaurant, a really amazing veggie place in Bath with Tara, a super sweet girl in Chad's department.  Yay for girl times and yummy food!
Chad, as always, is the graduate student every professor dreams of.  He is tirelessly reading, studying, researching, and repeat for papers that aren't even due until mid-January.  There are whole new sides to Chad that I never knew existed (who knew I'd married such a nerd?!), like this unbelievable patience he has, and how well he can adapt to a whole new circumstance.  I think this is going to be a really important year (and hopefully longer!) for him as a scholar and I feel very honored to be a part of it. 
Now to the good stuff: Christmas Market!!!!!  This came at the exact right time as I was starting to get kind of weepy and stupid about missing holidays with family.  On Thanksgiving, obviously, it was business as usual in the UK and I was a bit mournful about stuffing myself silly and turkey hangovers. Claire, one of my co-workers, came to the rescue and suggested we get festive bagels from around the corner.  Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce on a bagel - that was about as close as I got to "home" that day, but it was enough.  Later on, I swear the entire country of England was in Bath for the ceremonial switching on of the holiday lights and simultaneous kickoff of the Christmas Market.  So here's what happened: they basically shut down all the main roads in the city and all the stores (except ours - yay!) stayed open late for Nicholas Cage (what???) to show up and switch on the lights.  I missed the actual ceremony but could hear it from the shop.  It was just as well.  There were just too many darn people around.  I did get to see the results, which were pretty spectacular. I'll take some photos to post, but it makes me feel better to JUST miss my train every night because then I have and hour to walk around a winter wonderland (sans snow).  The Christmas Market itself is a collection of huts that have sprung up around the Bath Abbey.  It's super quaint and cute and if I hadn't been walking through the area every day for a couple of weeks now, it would seem like they all just sort of sprang up out of the pavement.  They're all decorated with ivy and spray of holly, and lights and whatnot and there are vendors selling mulled wine and caramel nuts and sausages.  The huts themselves are local artisans selling their wares - ornaments, scarves, handmade leather books, jewelery, toys, etc.  There are some really beautiful things and I'm really looking forward to making a night of it with Chad later in the week.
Last night was "Victorian Night" here in Keynsham, and we went out with James and Sophie, our roommates. There were rides set up for the kids and camels (what?), and street food (YAY STREET FOOD!!!!).  We gorged ourselves on very tiny hotdogs and hamburgers in very large buns with brown sauce (don't ask), chips, pancakes (basically a huge crepe) with toffee and nuts, and hot cocoa.  There were carolers and vendors of various sorts and a good time was had by all.
That's it for now kids.  I'm headed over to a friend's house later to whip up a slightly tardy Thanksgiving feast involving roast chicken, Aunt Steph's sweet potato casserole, Uncle Matt's crapple sauce, and Dad's brussels sprouts.  See? It's just like having them here ;)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Quick quick!

Hey all!

Just wanted to drop a quick line and say, "Yay!" - first day of work, check!
London was completely overwhelming, and even though I was about a five minute walk from the London Bridge, I still didn't get to see it because I was so straight out the whole time I was there.  It was a great learning experience, though, and now I've got the tube down...ish.  Plus, I'm now mobile-less because I left my charger in London.  They are supposed to post it back to me, but I give that a 50/50 chance as the woman I spoke to was foreign and overworked and there is currently a postal strike on.
Work today was also overwhelming, but I got a super cute new uniform outfit that I can't wait to wear (seriously, these clothes are amazing), and I even got out for a quick run between finishing up at work and meeting my train.  I had one of those perfect travel moments where I strolled into the train station, darted up the stairs, and there was my train, waiting for me.  I LOVE not waiting around for things.
OK, that was a whole lot of not much, but I'm happy and excited and wanted to share.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


There was a while when I didn't know whether I'd be able to work in the UK.  I came up with a few schemes that involved me moving elsewhere or doing other things while Chad pursued his MSc, but mainly what I did was make lists.  Because that's what I do. So I had a list of things that I thought might keep me busy in the UK.  Unbeknownst to me, I have actually already started pursuing many of the things on my list.  Perhaps it was my subconscious propelling me toward these activities, needing to put imaginary check marks next to the items on the imaginary list. 
*Start training for a race: Check!  In some manifestations of the list, this was a marathon, but really.  Come on now.  A half marathon is long enough.  My last training day was on Sunday, and I had one of those perfect running days where I could have gone on forever - I ran 5.5 miles and stopped because I got bored.  I'm petrified to go out again because I'm pretty sure it's going to be a big ol' mess and I won't be able to get around the loop even once.  I'm also feeling pretty chuffed (ooh, fun new British word!) about having gone that far.  Yay!
*Start knitting again: Check! I've been an avid knitter in my time, but have sort of fallen out of the habit while living on the island these past three years.  I bought some beautiful Vinalhaven wool before I left and was gifted with a super beautiful mitt pattern by Angie, our local knitting store owner, and have begun my mitts.  I'm also looking into finding a knitting group that will suit my schedule as I've run into a bit of a snag with the pattern.
*Get involved with the community: Check! After joining the gym, I applied to volunteer at a variety of places, and have heard back from three of them thus far.  I've noticed that people are much more lax about communicating around here, often taking FOREVER to reply to e-mails, but I'm looking forward to getting involved!
*Learn Italian: Not-so-check.  This is one of the goals on the list that I haven't quite checked off yet.  I've always loved languages, having been a French major for about five minutes in college.  Italian has always held a special draw for me.  Up till now, I haven't exactly had an opportunity to look into learning a new language, but now I have an excuse - we're going to ROME!  Chad and I randomly started talking the other night about taking off for a while before his new semester begins on 9th February.  However, I discovered that I can't take any of my holiday time until my probationary period at work is up on 5th Feb.  So we decided to throw caution to the wind and schedule our trip for 20-24 of February.  We found a super cheap flight, a super cheap B&B that was having a stay-4-nights-for-the-price-of-3 sale (our room ended up being cheaper than all the hostels I looked at!), and booked!  Chad will be back in classes by then, but he's promised to do his readings before we leave so we can enjoy ourselves.  I've been enjoying looking up fun places to see, and, of course, things to eat, and have even found Chad some catacombs and a cemetery to check out (am I a good wife or what?).  Yay for Rome!

Speaking of yay, I also found out that on Thursday, I'll be spending the night in London for my training at Sweaty Betty.  As I've mentioned before, the 5th of November is Bonfire Night, and there are 25 different fireworks displays going on in the city that night!  I'm beyond excited and can't wait to check out the city and join in the festivities!  Chad's programme has a field trip to London scheduled for a Saturday in either January or February as well, so he'll get to check it out separately.

I've got my new business cards and am picking up my Thai massage mat on Thursday in London, so hopefully I'll be able to start my home visit Thai massage business pretty soon!  That's the next thing I'd like to check off my list :)


Saturday, October 31, 2009

So......Now we've been in Bath for appoximately 5 1/2 weeks.  I've had enough time to settle into my new life as a student at the University of Bath and the experience has been very positive.  On that note, I thought I might write a little bit about what it is like to be a student of death studies.

My program, as most of you know is entitled: A Post Graduate, Course Taught Master's Degree of Science in Death and Society- Msc.  My reason for choosing this particular program is that there is none like it in the U.S..  In addition, the sociological research advanced within this field was generated mostly by scholars in the UK throughout the past 20 years.  With that said, I must acknowledge that there is indeed a very broad amount of literature in the States that focuses on issues of death and dying.  However, most of it is produced by scholars who, by and large, emphasize a medical or psycho-social approach to such matters.  Therefore, many significant authors producing work on death and dying in the States typically fall into certain professional categories such as: doctors, nurses, palliative care specialists, social workers and psychiatrists/psychologists.  In the words of Austen Powers "That's not my bag baby!"

No, I prefer looking at issues of death and dying via the sociological lens.  This is to say that I am interested in how we generate meanings of death and dying via social structures, institutions and various other spheres that exhibit social organization.  Examples include (but are not limited to) families, hospitals, medical centers, medical examiner offices, churches, hospices, bereavement agencies, bereavement support groups, funeral homes, nursing homes, morgues, cemetaries (yes, cemetaries too), cremain (ashes) scattering tours, racial groups, ethnic groups, societies, cultures (broad or underground) and state departments that may be concerned with regulation or legislation (e.g. The Human Tissue Act- 2004).

So what has come out of this studious experience?  Currently I am enrolled in 3 courses.
They are:
1. The Social Context of Death and Dying.
In this course, we've looked at the ways in which primarily western society has historically responded to or changed in the face of death and dying.  For instance, we've asked questions such as: How have economic structures, medicalization, and secularization impacted the ways that we deal with death and dying in contemporary modern society?
2.  Ritual and Belief
This course has focussed on a number of issues and requires an integration of the sociological lens with those of anthropology, history, religion and archeology.  This is actually quite fascinating as it has involved trips to cemeteries, abbeys and a crematorium.  We ask questions like: What cross-cultural commonalities exist in the ways that we memorialize the dead.  How does corruption of the corpse relate to or impact the ritualization of funeral practices?  In what ways does the dead body become commodified via the funeral industry?
3.  Research Issues.  Ways we can validate, determine, and exercise approaches to researching in death studies.  As a research course, I don't have much to say about it that might be of a more general interest.

This past week I handed in a short (2000 word) essay.  The purpose of the essay was to help us get our wheels turning and think about how we might approach our course writing assessments.  This essay won't count towards my grade, but it was nonetheless a fun and challenging assignment.  My topic was on Cryonic Preservation (this involves the process of preserving the body of newly deceased individual in a vat of liquid nitrogen in the hopes that one day, medical technology and nano-scientific advancement with allow the person to be thawed out, physiologically restored and brought back to life).  Although it sounds a bit Frankensteinish if not down right, totally led me to wonder about how it could be happening, how it is happening and how, as a movement- it is growing.

Aside from all of this, we generally have a really good time.  I am fortunate to be part of a group of folks who represent various professions including: nursing, palliative care, social work, funeral directing, potential coroner, real estate, and sociology/philosophy.

Okay, that's it for now.  It's Halloween and there's some good, deathly entertainment on the tele.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Makin some peeps

So today, I might have signed Chad and myself up for a karate dojo, received my book club book in the mail, and gotten an e-mail from a super sweet girl who runs the Bath Stitch n Bitch group, which meets on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Now that I've got a little job security, I'm looking to branch out in free or cheap ways, and to start making some friends!  I have to say, I'm not terribly impressed by my social scene thus far - primarily hanging out with all Chad's death friends (how morbid does that sound?  they're actually a super great group of people!).  I do really appreciate the various ways they've extended their friendship to me, but I realize that I need to get a life.  I've also been going to a bunch of classes at the Keynsham Leisure Centre - Zumba, yoga, and pilates, and chatting amiably with some women there.  I've also sent out a ton of enquiries into volunteer positions, primarily either massage or environmentally oriented, that will help me meet people and improve my skills.  I know I'm going to have a lot less time on my hands coming up pretty soon, so I just wanted to commit myself to a bunch of activities now so I can pick and choose later what suits me best. 

Tonight, we're headed over to Sheila's flat for dinner, and the GM at Sweaty Betty is having a birthday party with all the girls from the shop next Wednesday, quickly followed by my training in London on Thursday (where I'll also be picking up my sweet new Thai massage mat!  Thanks, Ebay!).  Next Thursday is also the 5th of November, Guy Fawkes Day, which almost makes the total lack of Halloween celebration here worthwhile.  Also known as "Bonfire Night", Chad, the roomies, and I are going to head into Bath to watch the fireworks and general merriment.  Friday is my first "real" day of work, but I'll be at the shop in Bristol for that, and "real" work for me starts on Monday, 9 November.  Let me tell you: I cannot wait.  I am so done with trying to entertain myself all day.  I need some stimulation, hard, and to be making some money so I don't feel so guilty living off our savings. 

So I'm off to walk the Nug, groom her for her first trip on the train this afternoon (Sheila insisted that we bring her, so we'll see how that goes.  I think I'm going to take her for a super long walkk to tire her out), and probably start my book club book.  I know I'll look back on these weeks as an extended holiday, and wish for them back, but it's important for me to feel useful, and that's the last thing I feel right now. 

Side note: Skip and Carol Thompson's granddaughter, Phoebe, had her most recent MRI yesterday, and all seems well.  I know that some of you have no idea who or what I'm talking about, but it's music to my ears. 


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sweaty Betty Assistant Manager, reporting for duty

Yes, it's true.  Last week, I was offered, and accepted, the position of Assistant Manager at a high end women's activewear boutique called Sweaty Betty.  I haven't started yet as they're sending me to London (!) next Thursday to train.  I really love the idea of the company, which is all about empowering women through exercise (and still eating Cornish clotted cream).  The clothes are amazing, (particularly because I get them free :).  All the girls working in the shop now are super petite and look adorable in the clothes, so I was a bit nervous to try them on, but, and I say this without pride, I look pretty OK in them, too, even the leggings.  I feel like they're sized well and are meant to fit a wide range of women's bodies.  All the trousers are long enough for me, which I know is probably bad news to all my height-challenged friends, but there are some that you can actually cut to length and they just roll up at the bottom and are good to go (wow, I apologise to any guys out there who are reading this.  You must be bored stiff).
The GM I'll be working with, Rachel, is sooooooo super sweet, as are all the girls I've met so far.  They have two groups that meet weekly - one is a yoga group and one is a running group, and I'll be supervising one of them each week.  Rachel's birthday is next week, and even though I haven't started yet, they've already invited me to join in the festivities. 
I think the best part about this job is that it will get me involved in a group of active women who are into yoga (and therefore taking care of themselves), so I may be able to start forming a clientele for massage, specifically Thai massage.  I've ordered a massage mat on Ebay and am picking it up when I head to London next week.  There's a bulletin board up at the shop where I can post my advertisement, and a place for business cards at the front till.  I guess we'll see, but it will be a great support as I'm training for the Bath Half and will certainly encourage me to stay in shape!  I'm also hoping to volunteer in some capacity, either doing fundraising or massage, and am waiting for my book club book to come in the mail.  I won't be able to join the Bath Community Singers for at least a couple of weeks since we have plans for the next two Thursdays, but I'm looking forward to getting involved now that I have steady income!
I'm just going to send out the call for Skype addresses again...we've been having such a good time talking with many of you and would love to stay connected!
That's all for now, kids! Three blog posts in two days!  I think Chad might even post one soon - can you believe it? 

Thank you!!!

Jessica Brophy (JBro), and
Melissa Ryan
 for already putting me 69% of the way to my fundraising goal for the Bath Cats and Dogs Home! No matter how small a donation you can make, you are making a difference!  I really appreciate your support!


Monday, October 26, 2009

The Glastonbury Adventure

Hi all,

I feel like I left you hanging at the end of the last long blog post when I talked about Glastonbury, so I'll share that story and then update all that's happened over the last week or so.

A couple of weeks ago, as you may rememeber, my aunt and uncle were here.  They were staying about an hour away in a sweet little holiday cottage (side note: I cannot believe how cheap self catering holiday cottages are - like £250 for the WEEK!).  We took the train down to Castle Cary, a straight shot from Keynsham that takes about an hour.  Chad met the most adorably quintissential elderly British woman and chatted with her for a while after they both saw some sort of bizarre creature bounding off into the shrubbery.  It was tres cute. 

When David and Barb picked us up, we had no idea where we were going until they suggested the Tor of Glastonbury. 

The Tor is what remains of a series of medieval church that has been restored, and is also the site that is mythologically linked to the Isle of Avalon.  Now, for those of you who don't know, I have read "The Mists of Avalon" more times in my life than any other book, so as we were hiking up the hill, it was really amazing to imagine the land that I was walking over being submerged in water, as it once was, and the boats that traversed across it making it to the Tor (or instead landing on the Isle of Avalon). 

Either way, it was really a most breathtaking experience.  The Tor itself was visible for miles around on its hilltop, and the 360° view of the countryside from the site itself was extraordinary.

Following this, we trekked down into Glastonbury and went to see the remains of the Glastonbury Abbey. 

Now, as you might imagine, due to the proximity to a popular fantasy legend, Glastonbury is a bit of a hippie town.  There are crystal shops and outdoor markets and dredded guitar players at every turn.  So it's particularly interesting that literally in the middle of all of the magick and wizardry is the most stunning ruin of an abbey that I have ever seen (granted, I've seen two, but this was the more stunning).  First, it was absolutely enormous...the ruins and the grounds.  This was supposed to have been the burial place of Arthur and Guenevere, before their remains were stolen and then lost (really, how do you misplace the remains of two of the most historically significant characters ever?).  There was a completely awesome herb garden and a kitchen demonstration where the different types of food, herbs, drinks, and even dyes and soaps were displayed.  Otherwise, though, there was a really deeply profound sense of time standing still.  It was really beautiful and peaceful, and everyone really seemed to respect the history that they were lucky enough to be experiencing. 
So, many many thanks to my super cool relatives for letting us experience those two magnificent places with them.  It was truly a highlight of our stay in the UK so far.

So, updates...
Chad is continuing to enjoy his classes.  He is sitting next to me as I type, working on his first 2000 word essay about cryogenics.  Earlier this week, he went on a tour of a crematorium.  Sheila and I were supposed to meet them at a pub, but realized that all routes to said pub were blocked, so instead made an impromptu trip to the crematorium as well.  Let me tell you, not what I was expecting to do that day.  I won't go into details, but it was actually very interesting, and should you ever have the urge to visit one, there is (fyi) a window in the chambers to look through and watch the bodies burning. 
Needless to say, a drink in the pub, when we finally got there, was in order.

Chad has officially accepted his two scholarships at two different award ceremonies.  I found a totally sweet cashmere blazer for him to wear, and let me tell you, wear it he does.  I have the most handsome husband ever.

Barb and David also took me up to Cadbury Castle, the alleged site of Camelot, but unfortunately, I don't have any spectacular photos of it, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was pretty super cool.

So that's it for now.  I hope you're all doing well and are continuing to enjoy our latest adventures!  I hope I have more to post re/a job for me in the very near future.  Much love!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Half Marathon Fundraising!

Hi all,

Just a quick note to acknowledge the new widget on the side of our blog.  I've signed up for the Bath Half Marathon in March and have decided to make it my first fund raising initiative.  I'm hoping to raise £175 for the Bath Cats and Dogs Home.  I would really appreciate any support you may be able to give.  The organization is sponsored by the RSPCA here in the UK and provides re-homing for thousands of animals in the Bath area.  For more information about the organization, visit:
If you have any questions for me, please feel free to e-mail me at my personal address: 
Thanks so much!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A week already?

First off, I'm trying not to dominate the information that winds up on this blog.  Chad has promised to post info about his first couple of weeks of school this weekend.  Many of you have asked about his experiences thus far, and I don't feel qualified to relay it all, so stay tuned!

It's been almost a week since our last post, and wow - I can't believe it's gone by so fast!  Lots has changed, and all for the better.  First up - employment.
I had my first interview today with a recruiter who sifts out candidates for employers who he represents.  I applied for a job as an assistant manager at a busy Bath restaurant via, a website that posts jobs in the hospitality industry.  Simon called about five minutes after I sent in my CV and we met up today for a preliminary interview so he could gather some more info about me before recommending me for jobs.  We had a really great chat, which lasted about 40 minutes, and he's decided to recommend me for assistant/deputy managing jobs at two restaurants, which is pretty promising as he only recommends 1 or 2 candidates per position.  He's scheduled me for one interview on Monday at a restaurant in Bristol, and I managed to secure an interview of my own at a restaurant in Bath tomorrow, for the same type of position.  I don't necessarily see myself managing restaurants for the rest of my life, but it's something I have 10 years of experience doing, and it would be a great skill to learn, not to mention bringing in a few pounds!  It doesn't pay a ton, but it would be enough for us to support ourselves without dipping into savings anymore, which would leave us with plenty of play money for traveling and such.  Not to mention, I'd get a life ;)  So I'm pretty pleased with that turn of events.  Send good thoughts my way!
In other news, we had a great weekend, starting off on a trip to a local pub with our roomies on Friday night.  We got to see the "other" side of Keynsham (there are some characters out here, let me tell you), and I found a new favourite cider.  Good times were had by all.  Sophie and James are great and have been so awesome about introducing us to their friends.
Saturday was also super fun.  The farmer's market in Keynsham only happens once a month on the second Saturday, so I was excited to see what they might have.  I picked up some really amazing apple juice like I've never tasted before, some really beautiful salmon and smoked makerel, and an awesome, AWESOME venison and stilton pie.  Let me tell you, England knows how to do pastry.  We had it on Sunday with some peas - quite a quintissential English meal for a couple of Yankees - and it was right lush (how do you like that lingo?).
Later that morning, we met up with Chad's class and Tony, the professor who's house we went to for dinner, at the Bath Abbey, the huge cathedral in the centre of the city.  WOW.  I can't even tell you how gorgeous it was.  The ceiling was made up of fluted fans that just went on forever.  That, in combined with the stained glass windows that surrounded the structure, gave the most amazing feeling of light airyness in the middle of this huge stone building.  The reason for the field trip was the fact that more people are buried in Bath Abbey than in any other church in England, and all of their memorial stones are displayed on the interior walls.  There were some really fascinating reads and it was all very eerie, knowing that we were walking on floors that house the remains of over 3000 people.
Look! A photo!

As interesting as the memorials were,  I was much more drawn to the exhibit that was going on in the Abbey.  One woman, Sue Symons, has created the most amazing set of diptychs portraying Genesis 1-2.  On the left side of each diptych is the actual text from the Bible, done in the most amazing calligraphy, and decorated impeccably.  On the right is a visual interpretation of the passage embroidered on fabric, occasionally using other materials.  I wish I could explain how intricate and extraordinarily beautiful and moving this exhibition was for me.  The photos don't do it justice, but here's one anyway:

If you want to know/see more about the Abbey, go to:  For all of you who will be coming to visit, this will be our first stop!

So. Following the Abbey tour, we all went out for a delightful Thai lunch, and I took my leave of the group to go with Tara, the birthday girl.  We went to her boyfriend, Bas', house on the outskirts of Bath with beautiful views over the surrounding fields.  We drank tea and ate enormous amounts of cake and had a fantastic time while Chad wandered around a bunch of cemeteries (more later from the man himself!). 
On Sunday, my aunt and uncle, Barb and David, came up to the city, and we went out to our first "official" Sunday roast lunch with Barb's sister, Melissa, her husband, Joe, and their son, Jeff, who lives in London.  It was surreal being surrounded by so many American accents, but so nice to be among people I've known forever and made plans to get together on Tuesday to check out their sweet country cottage and go on a bit of an adventure!
More on that later - our Glastonbury trip deserves a post of it's own! 
All our best to all of you...until next time!

Friday, October 9, 2009

An eventful day


Yesterday was Chad's first day of school, and though I spent an exorbitant amount of time trying to upload a pic of him leaving the yard to Facebook yesterday, it refused to load, so you'll have to take my word for it.  My computer has decided that it's ethernet port doesn't feel like working, so all the photos I have uploaded onto it will have to wait until we get a wireless router (hopefully tomorrow! Stay tuned!).
In my free time on my first day sans Chad, I was on line looking for fun, inspiring jobs and getting a bit frustrated, so I decided to go for a run.  It was a spectacularly gorgeous day and I wanted to take advantage of all that sunshine, so rather than head to the gym and hopping on the treadmill, I made my way down to a really beautiful trail that runs an enormous distance along the River Avon.  It was more of an exploratory run - let's see how far I can get -  so I was just loping along, feeling pretty great (which might have had something to do with the fact that it was downhill most of the way ;).  Just then, fate stuck out it's invisible foot (it couldn't possibly have had anything to do with my exceptional coordination), and I fell.  I groaned a bit and felt sorry for myself having to walk home instead of continuing my run.  Poor me.  It's so hard to be Sarah.  Wah wah wah.  It was just about then that I decided to pull up my pant leg so I could see the bruise that was already starting and wallow a bit more in self pity.  Much to my surprise, there was no angry bruise developing.  There was a HOLE.  In my knee.  I had apparently falled right on a pointy rock when I fell, and though it didn't rip my pants, it put a HOLE in my knee.  I almost posted a pic of it (because obviously I took one), but decided that y'all didn't need to see that.  So lucky me, it wasn't bleeding or anything, but it was clearly something I had to take care of and had no idea where to go or who to call.  So I walk the mile or so back home, try to find a walk-in centre in Keynsham, come up empty handed, start freaking out, and call Chad.  Poor Chad.  It was his first day of school.  He was in between classes, having lunch with some of his fellow students, and his hysterical wife calls.  Long story short, after making darn sure Chad was staying put at school, I managed to find a general information line for the National Health Service (NHS) and figure out that I would have to go to the emergency room.  I got a book, hopped the train, and headed over to the hospital.  Long and super boring story short (I'm glad I brought the book), I was walking out with five stitches in my knee about two and a half hours after walking in, having paid nothing for my services and being treated extremely well by everyone I came in contact with. 
When Chad came home around 6:30, I was sitting on the couch with my leg up, a cider in my hand, and dinner sort of figured out.  He gave me a run down of the day (which I'll let him relate here), and we called it an early night.

So on to the weekend - we've got a walk and talk around Bath tomorrow with one of Chad's professors (which includes lunch at a Thai restaurant - yay!), and a visit with my aunt and uncle on Sunday...I think (are you guys out there?  Are we definitely doing this?  Give a ring when you have a chance!).  Monday will find Chad and I signing up with a GP in Keynsham (because, clearly, I need medical care closer by).  We've already signed Nug up with a vet, but not ourselves with a GP.  Where are our priorities?

So after my little self-pity schpiel last time, I'm feeling a change in my attitude thanks to yesterday.  I think this may be the universe telling me to slow down for a while, so I'm going to try to do just that and trust that things will work out.  We are here for a reason and I don't think my lack of a job after two weeks of being here is going to make or break our ability to stay.  So I'll certainly keep looking and sending out enquiries (what the heck else am I going to do without being able to run for two weeks?), but I'm not going to freak out about it anymore and let things know...till I get bored again.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The honeymoon period...

seems to be coming to an end. Although we're both still loving it here and enjoying our exploration of our new environment, we're both quite ready to be settled. For Chad, he's anticipating the beginning of his coursework tomorrow and all the excitement and anxiety that churns up for anyone. He's starting a programme that we all hope will change his life. We've been waiting so long for this, and it's finally here. In a very real way, there's a whole lot riding on this, and for my part, I know that he's going to get out there and really shine. It's hard for him to expect the best sometimes, but he's so well-prepared for this. He's read 4 out of the 6 books on the "recommended" reading list for one of his classes without even having seen the list until last week. He read and thinks about this topic constantly in his spare time. He's already read at least 75% of the material due for this week. I don't think a student has ever been as ready as this guy is.

As for's a little bit harder. I'm trying to find things to get involved, and have found a knitting group that meets weekly, the Bath Organic Group, where I can volunteer in community gardents, and a book club at a super sweet little independent shop in town. We're signing up as members at the Keynsham Leisure Centre this afternoon, and I signed up for the Bath Half Marathon (eek!), for which I'll be raising money for the Bath Cats and Dogs Home. I'm planning to find a yoga class around soon, as well as a meditation space and hopefully some kirtan.

All of this sounds great, and I'm really excited about it, but the fact that I don't have a job or really a social life is starting to weigh pretty heavily on me. As we've said several times, as long as I'm able to find work, we'll be able to stay here, which means Chad can complete his PhD, and we'll all live happily ever after (or something like that). I've applied for a few "professional" jobs, many of which I don't really expect to hear back from for a few weeks. I've sent out my CV to a variety of local food shops because I'm a huge foodie and think it would be a great way to meet like-minded people. Yesterday, I sent in my CV for a deli assistant in Bristol, and got a stock response today informing me that I didn't get it. That was a huge blow to my Master's degree, eternal optimist ego. A deli assistant. They hadn't even interviewed me. So, lesson one: Though there may be jobs out there that I think sound like fun and think I'm qualified for, they are not necessarily mine for the taking. Ouch.

I guess the thing for me is that I want to do something that inspires me. It doesn't have to be the best paid job in the world, but I want to learn, and I want to meet people. I don't feel like it's asking so much, but it's pretty important to my identity as I try to make this place my own.

We've compared this process to a roller coaster so many times that it's beginning to be trite, but we're really both feeling the pressure as we inch closer and closer to the precipice. It all starts tomorrow...and away we go!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Reading, Writing ..........and Passing Courses at 40% ?

As I prepare for my week ahead, I find myself experiencing a bit of the old "performance anxiety". I think to myself: "Nice people, interesting subject matter, a fair amount of there a catch?". I further wonder if this sense of uncertainty is directly linked to what I've read or been told about the "English Way" of grading. It works like this:

I am enrolled in a course taught Masters programme- full-time for the duration of one academic year. This is to say that I am committed to be on board with the University as a grad. student from Oct. 5, 2009 until Oct. 4, 2010. The school year is divided into three sections that I will generally refer to as fall semester, spring semester and summer session. Each semester of my programme consists of several courses (or "units") that once successfully completed, permit me the qualification to advance to the next phase (or semester of units) required for earning my degree. This fall semester is composed of the following units: 1. The Social Context of Death and Dying, 2. Ritual and Belief and 3. Research Issues. Each course is multidisciplinary (as is the whole programme) and will be convened by a number of lecturers whose backgrounds/specialties relate directly to the subject matter being discussed within the unit during any particular week. Sounds pretty normal....right?
Well, there are some things to consider. First, the assessment of my work for each unit will be based primarily on one thing: a 5,000 word essay that will allow me to choose my own topic, pursue different lines of argument, evaluate existing literature and analyze and synthesize all sorts of themes, theories, and discourses relevant to my essay topic. This means that there are no exams or even shorter papers to work into the equation. Thus, my grade is based on one (about 20 page) paper. "Ahhh..." you may think, "A 20 page paper isn't any big deal." True. It's not. However, what has been made very clear is that a 20 page length is more a matter of making things easier and time efficient for those responsible for grading. It is the "quality" of the paper that is most important when considering the grade that a student will receive. Hmmmm....
The University of Bath Student Handbook for the MSc in Death and Society Programme outlines the following:
Students submitting their essays will be required to earn a minimum of a 40% passing mark in order to successfully complete the relative unit. Furthermore, a passing mark of at least 70 % is required for a student to pass the unit with "academic distinction". So what's so odd about this? Well, for one, the rumor is that passing with something greater than 80% is generally unheard of and this is where I'm forced to recognize that I have no idea how to correlate the English system grading with the American system.
On that note, I've decided to take a 10 week (once a week) optional course on graduate writing through the University. This will hopefully provide me with a firm sense of how I need to write in order to "do a good job!".
More on Death and Dying Later, but as a side, I made a coffee date with a professor who's an American from Ohio. Very interesting fellow. He apparently has a desire to franchise the Center for Death and Society (CDAS) and integrate it's purpose into the context of American social science. I'm pretty excited about this.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A social life?

Thanks to all who have written in encouragement of our crazy adventure! We very much appreciate the support and are super happy to hear so many of you are enjoying the blog.

The past few days have seen us getting our feet under us a bit more. Chad has made a couple of visits to the university - the first was for his "induction" on Tuesday. We weren't exactly sure what to expect apart from it being a bit of a social hour for international students to schmooze. I stayed home for the morning, planning to meet Chad in town later in the afternoon. While I was happily perusing the want ads in various universities, I received a text from Chad: "Awkward". He's promised to post about his experiences thus far, so I won't say much more except that if any of you has been placed in a situation surrounded by people you have never met and with whom you have nothing in common, you'll have an idea of how Chad felt at this event. His orientation with CDAS (The Centre for Death and Society) later in the day was much more fruitful, and he was full of excitement when we met up at a tapas bar later that afternoon.

As you probably know, Chad was here in the UK back in March for a week (see the blogs from March for that adventure). While he was here, he met a few members of the department, specifically two women who have been super awesome since we've been here. The first is Sheila, who tirelessly exchanged e-mails with us as we searched for a living arrangement. She was the one who came and checked out the house that we're not living in, and we are mucho indebted to her for putting our minds at ease about housing. Her cousin, Cecily, was here last Sunday, and we met up with them in Bath before heading over to a flat that had recently been abandoned by one of the former professors at CDAS. She had left a variety of furniture and "stuff" in the flat, which was getting cleaned out later this week, so we got to peruse her remaining belongings and scored a bunch of kitchen stuff. YAY for free stuff! Later, the four of us went to one of Sheila's favourite pubs and then out for sushi - conveyor belt sushi. Yes! A fun time was had by all, and it was the first time since we've been here that I felt kind of normal, going out for food and drinks with friends.
The other woman Chad met in March was Tara, and when he came to meet me at the tapas bar on Tuesday post-induction, she came with him. She was super sweet, really wanting to get to know me and we exchanged info. I think we're going to dinner sometime early next week. I really appreciate the effort that she and Sheila have both put into introducing themselves to me
and really going out of their way to make sure I don't feel left out, particularly when Chad hits the ground running at school next week. I encourage any of you out there to try to make new folks feel more comfortable and at's a scary position to be in sometimes!
I realize I haven't said a whole lot about James and Sophie, our housemates. They're awesome. There's a really comfortable vibe at home, and even though we've only been here for a week, it seems to be a really easy living situation thus far. As a couple, we've never lived with anyone else, so I think we expected it to be a bit more difficult, but James has been great, taking us on a drive around to get acquainted with the area, and Sophie and I have found that we have lots in common, and have even started talking about training for the Bath half-marathon in March together. We're all heading out to some cocktail bars in Bath with them and a few of their friends tomorrow night and are very much looking forward to it.
Finally, one of Chad's professors, Tony, gave a ring this morning and invited us both to dinner at his house on Saturday night. How sweet is that? He's also leading a "field trip" around Bath next Saturday, to which family members of CDAS students are invited, which includes lunch at a Thai restaurand and a tour of Bath Abbey. Rock. The following day, my aunt and uncle, Dave and Barb, meet up with us in Bath. It will be SO AWESOME to be with people who I've known for more than five minutes :) I cannot wait.
In other news, the train schedule has still got me turned around a bit. I do have the homepage for the National Rail on my (SWEET) mobile phone, but we often still finding ourselves sitting at the platform for ridiculously long amounts of time. I long to be one of those people who dashes up the stairs to the train and jumps on it just before it leaves. Sitting around wasting time at the train station - or anywhere, really - is not one of my favourite things to do.

Sorry for the scattered update. I filled out a few job apps this morning and am getting a bit done with sitting in front of the computer...especially on a beautiful day in Keynsham (side note: It's been sunny at least part of every day that we've been here, and straight up gorgeous on a few occasions. I don't want to talk about it too loudly, though, and am knocking on wood as I type because I've how finicky English weather can be). Look for Chad's first post sometime in the next couple of days.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A coffee maker! That makes coffee!

Yes, I really am posting about the fact that we finally got a coffee maker that works. We have been here for nearly a week now and have been trying our mightiest to do the whole tea thing. Really. We have. It's just not the same. We walk around with these dazed expressions on our faces, saying "What do you want to do?". "I don't know, what do you want to do?" when all we've had is tea in the morning. And we're doing it right, too - drinking PG tips and all (I do adulterate mine with honey, but don't tell!). We gave it a week. It's just not working.
Of course, this is not made any easier by the fact that at the Bath Farmer's Market on Saturday, we found a delightful young man selling all varieties of fairly traded coffees and picked up 250g of a lovely biodynamic Brazilian blend promising "classic chocolate notes with a little hazelnut finish". First, we started in Keynsham. We didn't have much hope, and any that we did have was dashed by the completely flummoxed look on the shopowner's face. "A what?" Was her response. "In Keynsham?" Message received. No coffee makers were to be found in Keynsham.
Shortly thereafter, we popped by Kitchens Kitchens in the Bath city centre and found every possible kitchen gadget - hundreds of knives, cutting boards, baking pans, etc. Small appliances galore in every color and size imaginable--and two (count 'em, TWO) coffee makers. One was the same one we left in the U.S. with a built-in grinder that was selling for £130 and one was a no-frills £30 model. Needless to say, as we are both currently unemployed and needed nothing fancy, we picked up the cheaper version. Bad idea. We put it through a trial run, and not only did it make a huge amount of noise and take FOREVER, but by the end of things, about 1/2 of the water we put in the machine ende up evaporating out during the very noisy and time-consuming process. Fail.
The next night, we shared a most delicious sushi feast with a woman Chad met here in March, and she recommended going to the House of Fraser, but more specifically the one in Bristol as it is much larger than the one in Bath and she had actually perused their selection of coffee makers at one point. Off to Bristol we went on our quest.
Bristol is about 6 minutes away from Keynsham, and is the "real" city in the area. Bath is a city, of course, but it's really rather touristy, with the baths, of course, the various cathedrals, cutesy pubs and all that stonework. Bristol is a proper city, bustling with people who know where they're going and had to be there five minutes ago. It was quite reassuring really, after all the gawking tourists in Bath who would just stop in the middle of the sidewalk to stare, open- mouthed at one bit of architecture or another. Of course, if you're one of those tourists, as we were, we were a bit in the way as we took pictures of Chad standing under the awing of a building that said "King House", and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture of the River Avon flanked by a castle on one side and a fantastic looking very modern shiney swoopy building on the other (those of you on Facebook know what pictures I'm talking about. I will get photos up here soon. Really).
We finally found our way to Cabot Circus, basically a mall, and the House of Fraser there. The House of Fraser is kind of the Nordsrom's of the UK. It's a huge department store with fairly high-end merchandise - Bobbie Brown cosmetics and Deisel jeans (drool drool), if you know what I mean. We found our way to the housewares section, and lo! The selection of coffee makers stretched out wide before us. They had espresso makers, they had automatic drip, they had combination of the two, they had those one cup jobbers that everyone is so excited about. In the end, after realizing it would probably be just as difficult to find disposable coffee filters as it would be to find the actual coffeemaker, we went with a simple Bodum french press.
So here I sit, blogging away, sipping my lovely Brazilian roast with distinct chocolate and hazelnut undertones. Chad's just left to catch the 10:56 train to Bath so he can attend his induction at the university (he was told to "dress smart", and he did). I'm thinking I might head into town to pick up a few items at the various markets to make chili tonight. My debit card came in the post a few minutes ago, so I can take it on it's maiden voyage. Later today, I plan to return the dreadful automatic coffee maker to Kitchens Kitchens and visit the Fashion museum in Bath with Cecily, the cousin of the woman who pointed us in the direction of the House of Fraser. All this followed by making some tweaks to my resumee and a Skype date with friends in the US. All in all, it's shaping up to be a pretty sweet day.
Cheers for now.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I think I can officially say that we're getting situated pretty well. We're still very much on U.S. time, not finding our ways to bed until midnight and waking around 10. Though we're definitely jet lagged, I think a lot of this is due to the enormous amount of stress we put on ourselves over the past few months - we're making up for lost time.
We're living in Keynsham, a township located almost exactly between Bath and Bristol, the two large-ish cities in the area. About a five minute's walk from our front door is a perfectly delightful park - Keynsham Memorial Park to be exact - with about 2 miles of winding paved paths leading along a river that feeds the Avon, past the remains of an abbey, a skate park, and two playgrounds. There are always a few dogs running around on the perfectly manicured lawns, and are several depositories for dog "waste" - this is clearly a dog-friendly place, and Nugget is reaping the benefits. We've even found signs indicating that a neglectful dog owner must pay £1000 if they don't clean up after their dogs!
Just past the park is the downtown area of Keynsham, replete with two (count them, TWO!) fresh veggie stands, a "sausage factory"/butcher shop, a wine and spirits shop, and a grocery store about the size of the IGA on Vinalhaven. I must say, I'm totally overwhelmed by the new labels and even new items I've seen on the shelves, but am completely tickled by the prices, and the huge selection of local produce and meats. There were bags of 4 avocados for 99p, fresh, local strawberries for £1/kilo...I could go on and on. Basically, I'm in food heaven and Nugget's in dog heaven. Life is good.
Another helpful amenity that's just a few minute's walk away is the train station. It takes 9 minutes to ride into Bath and about 7 to get to Bristol. We haven't explored Bristol quite yet, apart from the few harried minutes we spent in the city centre when we were trying to find Keynsham, but we've been to Bath twice now, and it's really a lovely city, and very tourist-friendly, which makes me feel slightly less of a foreigner. I have no probelm walking into the information office and asking any number of silly questions. Bath is built around some old Roman baths, and pretty much everything is made of stone in the Georgian style. There are cathedrals dotted around the city itself, including Bath Abbey, a truly stunning centerpoint of the city. Once I figure out how to upload pictures onto the blog, I'll start sharing, but trust me - it's gorgeous.
So in the past few days, we've spent some time making our new place home for us, done some exploring, and eaten some pretty fantastic food at the local pubs (and one really appealing pizza place in Bath), we got cell phones that do all sorts of crazy things, and that I'm having a bit of a ball with, and generally familiarized ourselves with our new surroundings. We're very fortunate to have moved to a country that at least speaks English because everything is just different enough to make even small, everyday things challenging and new. We both look forward to finding our groove here and having things become normal.
I feel like there's so much more to say, but that's it for now. If anyone out there has Skype and would like to chat, sent us your name and we can make a date!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Where to begin?!

I cannot believe everything that's happened in the past couple of days, but will try my mightiest to be as thorough as I can...I'm not sure how much I'll get through now, so there will be more to come.

So - travel.
Alison came down to CT via the esteemed Concord Trailways bus line (and the less esteemed Peter Pan), and we settled in for some tasty sushi as our last supper in the U.S. - for a while at least. After a nice long walk with Nugget on Tuesday morning, we were set to take off for Newark. As it turned out, we left at almost the exact right time to have a bit of a tour of Darien, CT, Chad's old stomping grounds, and a couple of Nugget romps to tire her out a bit before hanging out in her crate for what ended up being about 10 hours. I was super nervous to drop her off with Cargo, but the folks helping at the desk were super (even giving me a high five for how organised her paperwork was), and that hurdle was jumped with a minimum of fuss from the Nugster. She pretty much just settled right down in her crate. It was a huge relief to me to have her taken care of without her totally freaking out. Not sure I could have handled that on top of everything else.
The larger challenge came when we went to check ourselves in, or rather, our luggage. The night before we left, I'd checked our baggage in on line, paying the necessary fees for extra baggage and bags weighing more than 50 pounds. Unfortunately, the website neglected to inform us that the bags couldn't weigh more than 70 pounds. I'll bet you can guess how much one of our bags weighed - 77 pounds. Sigh! The baggage handler was most helpful, though, offering to help move our belongings from one bag to another, and we finally passed through after only taking out a pillow from one of the bags (which came in rather handy on the plane ride!).
After a few stiff drinks at the airport bar, we were ready to board the plane to Manchester. Lucky us, we had requested emergency row seats, so we actually had leg room, and Continental's got these nifty video screens on the back of each seat, so we could watch a selection of movies or TV shows, play games, or listen to music. I found a few cooking shows and was good to go.
Six hours later, after virtually no sleep whatsoever, we found ourselves in England. Only three hurdles remained: pick up our rental car, pick up Nugget, and drive the three hours to Keynsham.
Hurdle one went off without a hitch. They gave us a SWEET silver Audi hatchback that just barely fit all our stuff. I was driving and (naturally) got in on the wrong side, making a bit of a food of myself in front of the gentleman helping us. Ah, what else is new? It was a bit tricky finding the happy medium of being on the left hand side of the road in the right hand side of the car and not run over the curb whilst trying to avoid the traffic coming in the opposite direction. By the time we'd made a few laps around the airport searching for the Cargo pick-up to get Nugget, my nerves were fried, and it had started to rain - my first English rain. Luckily, my husband kept his wits about him and found someone who pointed us in the right direction.
We had been told that it could take up to 4 hours to get clearance for Nugget, so when we arrived two hours after the flight had touched down, we weren't expecting much. Lo and behold, Nug had been there waiting all along, all her paperwork went through without a hitch, and she was in a small holding pen (I could not thank Pets on Jets enough for getting her out of that crate and giving her some water!). She was a most confused pup, but was so relieved to be reunited that she simply passed out in the back of the car as we were getting on the motorway (how do you like that lingo?). Hurdle two, check!
If only we could have passed out, too. After a night of no sleep and a significant amount of stress, I could have used 40 winks. Alas, the final hurdle was before us. Drive to Keynsham. After a quick stop for some caffiene, it was actually a super drive and rather uneventful...until we got about 12 miles away. For about 45 minutes, we drove round and round searching for a route that would lead us to Keynsham. We were following some directions from Googlemaps, which had been great up to that point. Then it all went to heck. We finally found a route that looked right and made it most of the way to our destination before giving up, getting an atlas, and asking for directions. As it turned out, we were about 2 mintues away from the town, and arrived at our new house about 5 minutes later. Our new roommates weren't home yet, so we were allowed to get settled, which pretty much consisted of us looking at each other and shaking our heads while we made our nest.
A couple of hours later, James and Sophie arrived, a super sweet couple who are engaged and own the home. We all went out to our local pub, which is really smashing, all stone and timberframe and plaster with CIDER ON TAP, serving all sorts of English specialties - Toad in a Hole, Fish and Chips, etc. We had a good time poking fun at each other's accents and generally relaxing and learning the ropes of ordering at a pub - You order everything at the bar, and are given a number on which to run a tab. Servers bring it out to you with a huge selection of vinegars, dipping sauces, and spreads. And no tipping. That's the one I'm going to have a hard time getting over, especially with how sweet most of the servers are and how well we're treated.
So, all in all there's definitely a bit of culture shock going on, but we're settling in quite well. I'll try to write more later on, talking about the past couple of days, but for now, Cheers!

Monday, September 21, 2009


We are in Connecticut, having successfully left our home of three years with a minimum of hysteria. I daresay we'll be back, so it's not so sad of a departure, but it was a little bittersweet. It's good to be here, though. Nugget's all settled in, though I think she knows there's something going on. She's sticking pretty close to us. In about an hour, we're headed to the vet to get the last pieces of paperwork taken care of - Nugget's tick and tapeworm treatment and an international travel health document for her, certifying that she's fit to travel. Our dear friend, Alison, is on a bus headed this way so she can drive us down to Newark tomorrow (after super exciting sushi tonight!). We think it will take about 2.5 hours to get down, so we'll leave around 4 to give ourselves plenty of time and get to stop to let Nugget out at least once for a good romp. We were told by PBS (Pet Border Security?) that it may take up to 4 hours for her to get clearance, so she could be in her crate for up to 13 hours. The more exercise we can fit in, the better I think she'll do with all this. I will breathe a huge sigh of relief when we've all been reunited after the flight and are on our way to Keynsham.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One week!

We leave for the UK one week from today. Yesterday, we received e-mails stating that our visas have been issued and that they would be arriving today. That meant that we could finally (finally!) make our airline reservations - for both ourselves and Nugget. We leave from Newark, NJ on Tuesday, September 22nd at 10:00pm, and arrive in Manchester, England England (that was a "Hair" reference for all you musical theatre fans) at 10:00am on Wednesday, September 23rd. The plan is to rent a small van to transport us - and all of our stuff - the three and a half hours to Keynsham, where we've agreed to share a home with another couple, James and Sophie.
...and after all this, the part I'm most anxious about is driving in the UK.

Thank you to all our family and friends who have tirelessly listened to our rants and raves (and my occasional sobbing freak-outs). I can't help but think that we're doing the right thing and that this is the beginning of something really amazing.

It's really real!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Two months and counting until we take off for Bath! Lots is underway - looking for a place to live in almost-earnest, getting the animals ready, saying goodbye to folks we won't see again until we return, setting up Skype accounts, jumping through hoop after hoop getting ready to apply for visas...AND...
getting the results of the scholarships that Chad applied for! You can probably guess from the tone of this that there is good news approaching. It didn't always seem that way.
Chad applied for several scholarships in the US, including one from the Rockefellers and one decided by folks we know on Vinalhaven. We were hoping to fund at least his tuition (about $18000) with scholarships as we're not sure whether we'll be able to find work and we're saving as much as we can to live (and travel!) on.
Grand total of scholarships from the US: $1,750.00.
OK, that's a start.
So last week, Chad hears back from the University of Bath on the status of a US student scholarship offered by the school. "Congratulations" was all we had to read to send us into fits of excitement. - $5,500!!!!
Now, he'd applied for two scholarships through the university, so I certainly wasn't expecting him to get both after the mediocre turnout from the US - one was enough for me! In an unexpected show of optimism, Chad really thought he had a shot at the second one - a scholarship for international students, not just Americans. Turns out,
He was right!!!!! - $5,500!!!!
Grand total of scholarships from the UK: $11,000
Granted, we didn't meet our goal of taking care of Chad's tuition, but really, not too shabby. It takes a huge weight off us knowing that in addition to paying $1,800 to get the animals over, plus our plane tickets, general living expenses, etc., we don't have to worry about a bunch of Chad's tuition as well.
So all in all, looks like we're on the right track. I'll try to keep the blog updated more now that it's getting close. Thanks for all your love and support!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chad the social buttefly

Chad's newest update from this afternoon:

Bath: Bath is as it implies a city built around a bath. However, the city developed as it is today is relatively new to Britain. 16th and 17th century to be more exact. The city center is actually an old Roman bath, preserved for the dull eye of a busy tourist. Entrance to this magnificent structure of course requires the purchase of a ticket-the price of which I have not yet enquired about. Still, there are a great deal of other free things to explore and photograph. Churches for example range from Catholic to Baptiste, which I don't yet completely understand. Transportation via bus is boundless and both the train and bus stations are clean, friendly and straightforward. Backtracking though....the reason (I think) Bath is so easy to orient around is that it really isn't that big and several looming landmarks provide excellent points for orientation. They are of course, the churches. In addition, streets and walkways are broken up in a variety of pedestrian friendly ways, however, it is indeed important to look in a counter intuitive manner when crossing the street or you may have to flick a crinkled car off your knee.

The University of Bath is a decent University. Built in the 1960's- it is a top science school in the UK that draws a serious population of Chinese students. The department of public policy and social science is also filled with quite a few big wigs and I have been assured (without asking much) that the University of Bath can claim itself as one of the more prestigious universities in the UK and definitely, England. In fact, if I may boast a little, Allan Kellehear, whose work on community dying has created new grounds for Australian end of life care policies, is now becoming increasingly recognized in the UK to the point where legislation is being crafted to accommodate his theoretical developments (which apparently have worked extremely well in Australia)- he told me that he'd be willing to work with me (as a faculty mentor of sorts) when it comes time to complete my thesis. Yay!! But more importantly:

I have already met with several grad students to discuss experience and practical matters such as renting a house/flat. Tara is currently a first year doctoral student who would like to direct her sociological attention towards the role of women in the funeral industry. Having worked as a funeral director for several years, she is now looking to pursue an academic course. We had coffee Monday evening and she showed me around campus through places like the gym, the stores, and common areas. She was very willing to be helpful and reassured me that as a grad student going for a PhD, she still does not have a complete vision of where she'd like to be in the future. This of course kept it real and I'll be able to touch base with her at Thursday's seminar when everyone adjourns for discussion and possibly a dinner outing.
On Tuesday, I took the bus down to the Bath Square in order to meet Hans and Regina (courtesy of Tony). They are a Swiss couple who moved here with their two children so that Hans could complete the MSc in Death and Society. We ventured to a cafe and talked for a good hour over cappuccinos. They were very reassuring and provided me with there contact information. Regina actually provided me her email and extended the invitation for Sarah to email her with any thoughts or
concerns about the whole process of moving to Bath or finding employment. It seems that there could be some out of the way opportunities.
On Friday, I will meet with Aliki, another grad student who moved to Bath from Germany with her dog. I'll go ahead and forward you the email exchange between her and Tony that lead to us planning a meeting time for Fri. It's hopeful. Anyways, my trip to Shrewsbury and visit with Jonathan were great!!!!!!!! We (I) have a legitimate bank account (checking and savings) with
Lloyds and it's an "in country account" rather than an international one. Sweet! No worries with American bureaucracy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chad's trip to Bath!

Here is an excerpt from a recent e-mail from Chad, who arrived in the UK yesterday, March 9th, at 8:30am, UK time.

After arriving at the airport, I found Tony (my program director), standing with spectacles on and nose buried deep into a book. He is a great guy with a sincere smile, who provided me an itinerary of people, contacts, and locations that I may consider during my stay in Bath. Finding our way to his car (no big deal as Bristol IA is about as complicated as Bangor IA) we ventured along the country routes for a good 15 minute drive into the downtown Bath area. Note: The city of Bath seems to sit low at the base of many lush rolling hills made up of farm fields and country sides. A good part of it's down town border is defined by a water way that flows past several city parks.

Once we arrived at Tony's flat (just outside of the general city area) I was presented with a detailed overview of the city layout, rental prices from region to region and of course, general info. for the common foreigner. After talking at length over a cup of coffee, I ventured out with map in hand to get a feel for the city center. It was surprisingly easy to negotiate and certainly entertaining as one of the oldest cities in the UK. Cafes, shops, students and people wearing black are just some of the immediate things that surround the area. Although
people generally look quite stern and unapproachable while walking on the street, they also present as quite warm and sincere- so long as there exists the appropriate reason to interact. Note: Always preface inquiries with strangers with a polite and clear "Excuse me,..........". If not, they'll answer you- but the look on their face will imply that you are a "wanker" (or worse yet, if they themselves are not British- an "American").

Friday, February 20, 2009


Today, we made our first wire transfer of a substantial sum of money to the UK! Our account isn't officially set up yet, but we've filled out the application and Jonathan, who lives in Britain, has allowed us to deposit the money into his account, and once ours is set up, he will transfer it into ours (he has promised not to "do a runner" - yet another one of those charming English phrases I am blissfully ignorant of -which I assume means he won't be taking off to the Caribbean on our tab). So! We are now the proud owner of pounds. Certainly a step in the right direction. Hurrah!

Friday, February 13, 2009

An update

We've been making small strides toward our move to England. A few things we have in the works:
1. We're in the process of figuring out how to open a bank account in the UK so we can have a cache of pounds ready and waiting when we arrive (and so we will be protecting some of our money if the dollar suddenly tanks). We've been experiencing a distinct lack of expediency on the part of the bank (i.e. it takes 11 days to get a response to an e-mail). Luckily, my boss has a contact in England who is making the whole process much easier (for example, letting us use his address in the UK and vouching for us at the bank, as well as scanning and emailing us an application for an account--what would we do without him?).
2. Chad has booked a trip to Bath to attend a seminar at the Centre for Death and Society. I'm very excited about this step because Chad will be able to get a lay of the land, become familiar with the campus, make contacts, and hopefully get leads on areas in Bath where we'd like to live. His trip will last from March 8-15. I'm sorry to not be going with him, but I'll be at Kripalu getting massaged for two months. Alas.
3. We've gathered a few contacts in the general Bath/Bristol area, and a couple in London as well, and are making strides to get in touch with as many people as we can in the UK so we won't be quite so alone.

I've also started reading "The Anglo Files", a book written by a former NYTimes journalist who moves to the UK with her British husband. She chronicles her adjustment to living in a new culture, and the many, many faux pas(es? what is the plural of faux pas?) she manages to make. It makes me anxious that I will do the same, but grateful for her book for preparing me.

That's all for now. I hope the next entry will include a successful transfer of our savings to our new bank account at Lloyd's TSB! Fingers crossed!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A sign

Yesterday, I was spending too much time and energy stressing about England--where we're going to live, with whom, for how long, where I'm going to work, etc.
Then, I stumbled upon a link to the Somerset Cider Festivals .
Yes, that's right, FestivalS. Plural. It turns out that we're going to be living in the epicenter of the hard ciders of the world--Somerset County, UK.
That's when I knew--it's going to be alright.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Chad and I (Sarah) have started this blog to chronicle our move to the UK, as well as our experiences there. We currently live on a small island off the coast of Maine called Vinalhaven, swinging hammers for a living.
Last June, Chad was accepted to the University of Bath in Bath, England. We deferred his acceptance a year and are preparing to move to the UK in September of 09. We're also preparing our dog, Nugget, and our cat, Thelma, for the voyage. We decided to take the animals because we're not sure how long we'll be over there (Chad's programme takes 12 months, but he may very well stay on for the PhD), and we love our furry critters. It just seemed like the responsible thing to do.
So now we're trying to sort out as much as we can before we leave. For example:
1. Trying to take advantage of the low pound:dollar exchange rate and buy up as many pounds as we can, preferably in a bank in Britain.
2. Finding an apartment in Bath, or the surrounding areas that we can afford, and that accepts our animals. We go back and forth about what kind of lodging we'd like. Finding a house to share would be super because the rent would be cheaper, and there would be an instant social network. However, finding a place of our own would be great, too, for visitors and such, as well as maintaining our autonomy. Problem is, a place of our own may be expensive, and most of the people who are looking to share are looking for a single professional, not a couple.
3. Finding a job (assuming the work visa thing works out) for me. I'm currently training to be a massage therapist, and will easily meet the criteria to be one in the UK, but I know it's tough to find employment, and am already looking on job search sites for possibilities.
4. Applying for scholarships. Chad's finding all sorts of good looking scholarship opportunities, so hopefully there will be lots of organizations who want to give us oodles of money.
5. Making contacts in and around the Bath area so we aren't SO alone when we get there.

For those of you who don't know, Chad is going to Bath to study a specific sub field within the discipline of sociology at the Centre for Death and Society. He's a hospice volunteer now, and hopes to become a professor in the field.

Hope you've enjoyed the first installment. There will be more to come.