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August 2005

Settling In

Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

“You know what the funniest thing about Europe is? It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit we got over here. But over there it’s just a little different.” –John Travolta as Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction”

After only a week of living in London, we’re quickly becoming acclimated to the “little differences” of our new life in Europe. For example, everything is smaller in Europe. We live in a tiny flat in a tiny building, with tiny rooms and a tiny bed and a tiny kitchen with a tiny fridge, stove and microwave and a tiny all-in-one clothes washer/dryer that never actually dries.

(See Flickr photo blog for photos of our neighborhood and flat!!)

Some things are bigger: Prices.

A quick look at what things cost in London:
--Pizza lunch for two including two beers: 14 pounds ($25 USD)
--Dinner for two with four drinks: 26 pounds ($45)
--One pound of chicken breast: 2.99 pounds ($5.38)
--Fresh baked baguette from Sainsburys: 42 pence ($.75)
--Non-stick frying pan from Woolsworth: 5.99 pounds ($10.78)
--Head of Romaine lettuce from farmer’s market: 40 pence ($.82)
--One tomato: 15 pence ($.27)
--One CD: 9.99 pounds ($17.92)
--Shampoo, store brand: 99 pence. ($1.78)
--One adult movie ticket: 8.50 pounds ($15.30)
--One-way Tube ride: 1.70 pounds ($3.06) *Reflects reduced price with Oyster Card, London’s version of Washington Metro’s “SmartTrip” card.
--One-way bus ride: .80 pence ($1.44) *Reduced price with Oyster Card
--An ‘80s style, chunky leather women’s belt that are all the rage here: 25 pounds from Marks & Spencer ($45), or just 4 pounds ($7.20) for a decent knock-off from the Chapel Market. Guess which one we bought.
--TV License: 120 pounds ($216)
--All-day parking garage fee: 12 pounds ($21.60)
--“Congestion Charge” to drive your own car into downtown London: 8 pounds per day ($14.40)
--Six months of water/sewer: 140 pounds  ($252)
--Gallon of gasoline: 78 pence per liter ($6.05 per gallon!! And you think gas prices are bad in the US?!)

P.S. The pound is often referred to as “quid” and pence is just “P”. Example: A pint of milk costs 1 Quid, 20 P.

And then there’s the little differences in what things are called in UK vs. US:

UK phrase: Washing powder
American translation: Laundry detergent

UK: Washing-up liquid
US: Dish detergent

UK: Catering foil
US: Aluminum foil

UK: Current Account
US: Checking account

UK: Solicitor
US: Attorney/Lawyer

UK: Fag
US: cigarette

UK: Scheme
US: plan. (i.e. Under the “Kid for a Quid” scheme, children can ride the Tube for 1 pound).

UK: Lorry
UK: Truck

UK: Push Chair
US: Baby Stroller

UK: Newsagent
US: Convenience Store

UK: Chemist
US: Pharmacy

UK: Bird
US: Girlfriend

UK: Girl
US: Young woman under 30

UK: Candy Floss
US: Cotton Candy

UK: For hire
US: For rent

UK: Take away
US: Take-out food

UK: Mind the gap/Mind your head
US: Watch the gap/Low headroom

UK: Telly

UK: Mobile
US: Cell phone

And my personal favorite:
UK: holiday
US: vacation


Greetings from LondonTown

Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

Hello everyone! We're back in London after a weekend holiday in Amsterdam. Yes, that's right. We've been in the UK all of five days and we already went on holiday. Had a great time in Amsterdam, where we met our Floridian pals N&N. Toured the Van Gogh Museum, came across a huge music festival and of course visited the red light district. ;o)

Now we're back in SUNNY London for the Notting Hill Festival. It's 80 and  hot, a virtual heat wave by UK standards. Not a cloud in the sky!  The outdoor cafes are packed, the women are wearing miniskirts and flip-flops and the men are wearing CLAMDIGGERS/CAPRI PANTS! (Heretofore known as Ronwear). 

After our delayed return to Amsterdam on Sunday (Note to self: NEVER fly BMI Airlines again), we chilled at our flat. And since it was such a nice day, all we wanted to do was be outside. Who knows how many more sunny days we'll have like this. We wanted to see how long it would take us to walk from our flat to Tower Bridge (photo above). Answer: about 50 minutes, though we stopped a bit and got lost a few times.

We're still figuring out our neighborhood and how things work. For example, it would be cheaper for us to just use the Internet cafe instead of paying for broadband cable at home. Every few days we stop by the local juicebar, which has lots of great, fast machines and wireless access.  We've pretty much now mastered how to get around on the Underground (tube) system.  Still haven't tried the double-decker buses but that's on today's agenda.

We've also learned the hard way that the ONLY people you ever tip are restaurant waiters, taxis and hairdressers. Never tip a barkeep!  And contrary to what we heard before we left, Londoners are quite friendly and open. We met some great folks last night during "quiz night" at the Islington Tap, who promptly invited us to their table for drinks. 

Incidentally, we SUCK at quiz night. Out of about 20 teams, we came in LAST PLACE yesterday. Worse was the public humiliation of having to stand and walk before a cheering crowd to the bar to receive our booby prize: one lime. At least we'll ward off scurvy!

British Banks = AARRGH!

A few months ago back in D.C., I opened a new checking account at a major American-based bank. The entire process was done online and took me all of 15 minutes; within 5 days I had my ATM card and checks in my hand.

On the other hand, opening a bank account in the UK is akin to pulling your own teeth with a pair of tweezers. It's nearly impossible for a foreigner (and even many Britons) to open an account. Why? I'm not exactly sure. Something to do with trying to prevent money laundering by drug dealers and terrorists.  And you just can't walk into a bank and ask for an account. You must make an appointment. You must bring with you all sorts of documents, including your passport, US drivers license, proof of residency, and you must will your soul to the Queen (just kidding).

Many Americans who have posted on UK-Yankee tell tales of how it took weeks and even months to open a UK account. We did it in 2 days. My colleague, who is a finance director at my office, walked the Two Crabs to a major UK bank and personall introduced us. Then he left us with the clerk for TWO HOURS while we were interviewed, poked and prodded with multiple questions. In the end, we walked out with our own UK account.

We now have UK credit! Woo hoo!

WE'RE HERE!!!!!!

After years of contemplating our move, and six months of preparations, we arrived in London today for the first chapter of our new life in Europe!

Our USAirways flights here were uneventful, notwithstanding a broken headlight on our first plane from Washington National to Phily that delayed our plane for almost an hour. But once we got to Philly, the flight was only 5 hours, 45 minutes to London's Gatwick airport. As usual I barely slept on the plane so I'm DYING as I type this.

From Gatwick , we hauled on our backs practically EVERYTHING WE OWN ON THIS PLANET. Each of us carried a rucksack on our back, and two suitcases by each arm. One duffel I was carrying weighed 68.5 pounds, just a tad under the 70-pound limit. We also had "personal bags" (i.e. purse and laptop briefcase).  We BREEZED through customs, which was surprising given all the horror stories we had read on, a popular website for American expats living in the UK. Nobody read our diaries, journals or phone books. Nobody gave us a full body cavity search, or questioned us about our intentions or ever asked to look in our bags.  From the time we were off the plane to the time we cleared customs and picked up our bags was about 10 minutes total! 

The hard part was getting all our stuff home. We decided NOT to shell out $100 US dollars for a taxi and instead opted for public transportation. It was difficult and slow-going, especially climbing up and down stairs with all our stuff, but we somehow managed to ride two trains to our final destination.  We would pause for breaks after every block or two. Finally, there she was: the new London crab shack!

Our flat is on the fourth floor (3rd floor to Britons) of a walk-up brick building in Islington, just 5 minutes walk from the Angel tube station. We were surprised at how much bigger the flat was than we recalled. The last time we saw it was for only 3 minutes and the previous tenant was home and the place was packed with her junk.  Sadly, our flat included a lot of stuff we had brought with us, so we could have saved a lot of space and weight had we known what was here. The flat already included plenty of towels, linens, comforters, and best of all -- A SOFA BED!  So we hauled our Aero inflatable bed here for nothing! 

We even had mail waiting for us when we arrived! (All bills. Some things you just can't escape no matter where you are in the world).

By this point, both of us were starving so we walked down the block to The York, one of our favorite pubs here in Angel and had a great lunch and a few Guinness beers (extra cold, of course). Now it's 2:45pm and both of us are DEAD TIRED. Time for a nap!

Still no phones, so e-mail is the only way to reach us at the moment. Until next time,

The Two Crabs

America the Beautiful...

Our final night in the good ole' U.S. of A. Nervousness, anxiet and trepidation has been replaced with a bit of sadness but mostly excitement.  We spent the final weekend attending the wedding of my best friend in Erie, Pa. (Photos TK!).  Camped on the shores of Lake Erie. A good time was had by all. Drove home early Sunday, and spent the day working our fingers to the bones getting the house in tip-top shape for our renters. Finished storing all our stuff in the attic; scrubbed the toilets, threw away every piece of food in the house. Checked again to make sure our luggage meets the airline weight requirements. Yes these are the things you need to think about when you're moving overseas. Pineapple Princess's sister and family came down from Baltimore to join us for our last supper. Started off at Ramparts; sadly their customer service has been crappy lately so we walked over to Cap City Brew Pub in Shirlington for our last meal. Tomorrow morning we finish packing our bags and then, 5:30pm, we leave the skies of Washington for the last time until who-knows-when!?!  This is the part where I'm supposed to write something inspirational about beginning a new adventure, yadda-yadda-yadda. The truth is, I just want to go to sleep!  Cheers.

Telling it like it is

(Just had to share this message that  somebody posted on CraigsList DC today. NO, I did not write it!)

I'm an experienced NCO and WILL enlist again under new leadership

Reply to: [email protected]
Date: 2005-08-14, 10:51AM EDT

I love my country, I love the army. I enlisted twice, and am still eligible to re enter the service and keep my rank, especially during these tough times when recruiters cant make mission, cutting a sweet deal wouldnt be a problem. What IS the problem is this commander in chief. One central tenet of military leadership is "you dont send someone else out to do something that you yourself would never do". This punk punked out of service when his time came, and then lied about weaseling out of that commitment. And now he expects good and noble volunteers to put their asses and lives on the line for some phoney bullshit war rationalized by a pack of lies, that's not just immoral, it's fucking criminal.

If the American people-the ones that are finally waking up to the fact that this invasion was insane and badly executed by rummy and the gang of other political hacks-run these thieving lying bastards out of town, INVEST in the future of this country and restoration of our flag and integrity, get off their asses, turn off the fucking tv and demand their resignation, I'd invest in Americans to help clean up this mess in Iraq, because my faith in the system would be restored, and they'd deserve my sacrifice. Right now, after all of this cowering behind "faith" and bullshit empty patriotic blather, they dont.

This "man" they've held up for so long as a "straight talker" and bought that fake texas accent doesnt even have the balls to come face to face with a gold star mom camped out at the edge of his lair. What the fuck kind of person can now defend and rationalize this fucking creep?

The single best thing about military service is'll come in contact with, work with and for some of the finest men and women in the entire world, that you'd never know in any other environment otherwise, and have the honor of that association. Later in life, when you leave the military, it's a lot easier to recognize good character in another person when you see it, and another that's rotten to the core when you smell it.

This George W Bush is a disgrace to all that our great nation has stood for for centuries, and has sullied our reputation and standing in the world for too long, and with that trademark cynical smirk sent men and women who he's not fit to lick their boots to their deaths for a purpose that never had anything to do with the safety and well being of you and I. When ambiguity and doubt turns to righteous outrage, it'll be a society worth defending again. Ignore it all out of fear or disinterest, and we'll deserve to lose all that the best of us fought and died to preserve for generations to this present day and precarious time.

this is in or around I wont work for a lying dirtbag coward

  •  no --  it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests


RIP: Bessie, 1996-2005

Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

After 8 great years and 116,000 miles together, Bessie the Jeep is no more. I sold her this morning. It broke my heart, but she had to go. There was no way we could take her to London, and we couldn't justify letting her sit in storage. (Besides, we need the cash!)

Bessie was born on a Detroit assembly line in late 1996. I bought her on Aug. 16, 1996, less than a week after I had returned from a 9-month Army tour in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I had saved up so much dough in Bosnia that I paid for Bessie in cash. I didn't even know how to drive a stick shift when I got her (old GF taught me)! Oddly, she still has her original clutch despite my horrible driving skills back then.

Exactly five years ago today, coincidentally, I married a Jeep girl! (Happy Anniversary, hon! Another post on that topic to follow). Unfortunately, Pineapple Princess's Jeep was a hunk of junk so we quickly sold it. But Bessie was always there. We've taken countless trips to Rehoboth Beach, Skyline Drive, Baltimore. Days after Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, we drove her to New York City. Last year we took Bessie on her longest drive of her life, to Ceder Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio -- the world mecca for roller coaster enthusiasts!

Bessie did have her ups and downs. She blew a head gasket last January. Needed a new top two years ago. And she was involved in a minor accident a few years ago when some stupid teenage punkass hit-and-ran into her rear end (said punk, who took off with me holding on to his car, was later caught and convicted). And last year, some other stupid teenagers broke into the car and riffled through the glove box, but they only stole $2 in spare change from the ashtray.

But for the most part, Bessie has been true green friend. And we feel better knowing that she's going to a good home.
Thanks for the memories, Bessie.

T- minus 14 days

Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

Two weeks to go before our move abroad. We've been spending our last weeks hitting some of our favorite D.C. spots. Last weekend we hit the 9:30 Club to see Thievery Corporation with See-I (Pineapple Princess knows the lead singer of See-I). This photo was taken in the U Street Station when, as usual, we arrived just as the train was leaving. I snapped this shot during our 20 minute wait for the next train around 1am. No "Metro Magic" tonight!