Saturday, August 16, 2008

a few good things

Ok, so for starters- Jon has a job.
I took a job working as an in-house recruiter (like a corporate recruiter in the US) for AEA, an environmental consulting firm.
I will be starting in about 2 weeks and will be recruiting scientists, engineers and IT people. It will be a nice challenge and a new role, working on-site at a secure facility for 1 client (the guards at the gate have guns and you can see the nuclear {pronoucned nuk-u-lar} towers a couple of miles away...
I could have started sooner but with the bank holiday coming up and with our trip to Scotland it just made sense to start a bit later (as per their request). Plus, they pay a generous car allowance, which will be awesome and help our finances!!! Robin is already in Scotland, I head out tomorrow AM for the week+. We have some cool trips booked and look forward to seeing Glasgow, Edinburgh, Loch Ness, Inverness, Highlands, Stirling, Wallace monument, etc...
Also, we have a CAR! I found a Honda Accord I really like and drove it today. Ok, so driving on the other side of the road was not as big of a deal as I thought it would be. So, it's like an EX in the US- sunroof, leather, etc. It has 93k miles so it's a baby of a Honda and a great deal. I plan to pick it up the day I get back from Scotland (a week from Tues). The fellow needs it for another week as he's waiting for a company car to be delivered and his wife has a baby due- congrats!
Also, Robin goes back to the US in about 2 weeks to get Felix and Jack, our little buddies. Well, I look forward to seeing them both and they actually get back on my 1st day at AEA.
I think that about sums it up. Great news and good times in the UK.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Aug 12 job, etc. update

Well, suffice it to say it's great to have Robin back in the UK as of yesterday morning. Jennifer and Kevin's wedding went off without a hitch (well, without any bad hitches, there was one hitch-ing) and everyone had a great time! So, now Robin is back in the grind after enjoying a bit of R&R working from home yesterday.

We are now thinking that having a car is essentially a must-have. Just something decent to get us around for our time here, nothing too fancy (maybe I can get that 5-series when we're back stateside?). :) It would just add a lot of options for weekending, commuting, running errands, taking the dog places, picking up visitors at the airport (ahem, ahem) etc. So, I'm giving it a bit of thought and shopping around a bit. Though an older BMW or Audi would be nice I have found a few Accords that have decent power and still good gas mileage. There are a few Toyotas around here as well but it tends to be the smaller ones like Yaris and Corolla; I think something slightly larger would be worth the trade off in mileage. I like Nissans but they only imported the really small ones for a long time; the name- Micra, should tell you something. So, time will tell.

As for the job search, it's still in limbo at the moment. I have 1 company that I had final interviews with last Wednesday and they seem to want to make me an offer, just haven't gotten it quite signed-off yet. One of the ladies is out sick today but is hoping it will be formalized today, though we've been hoping for a few business days now so... I had my interview for the government chartered job working with women in Science, Engineering and Technology last Friday and it seemed to go quite well. They said they'd get back to me this week and I'm pretty sure one of them was quite interested but got mixed feelings from the other lady; not bad feelings, just more of a poker-face... I'd be the only guy in an all woman-office and a 100% woman-oriented job so am wondering where their heads are on that dynamic; all the names they mentioned in the organization in other hubs were female as well. Also, they were advertising the job as full or part-time and it seems they are not behind any aggressive initiatives or anything and just need a little extra push so I can see how they would prefer to go with someone part-time as a full-timer might get a bit lost/bored and the obvious fiscal savings. I told them I was open to P/T so we'll see what they say. I haven't gotten a "no-letter" in the mail so at least they didn't pass on me right away (the domestic post here is very fast, about the only thing that is fast here... international not so much). I have an interview with the regional manager for Manpower on Thursday in Oxford, so that is promising, though it has take a long time to set-up (he was on vacation and has a very full calendar) so I hope we don't miss our window. He is looking at me for internal recruiting roles and on-site roles with clients (Microsoft, HP, Xerox, etc.). I lean toward the on-site role as it's where I see myself once we're back in the US. I could make more $ here in a branch/commissioned role but, given the option, I'd rather go in-house/corporate (the grass is always greener, right?). I have been informed that August is basically the biggest holiday-time-burning season, so, aside from December, arguably the worst time to find a job- just too many folks out of the office. So, I get good feedback from recruiters/managers and they know I'll get nabbed, it's just slow going. I have another interview being scheduled for me on Tuesday, a phone interview with BT iNet, a Cisco patner, that is looking for an onsite HR adviser/recruiter/program manager. So, it's the right role, the right location and with a technical company. The salary is pretty solid, right in the middle of things, but seems to be the best overall option (Cisco hires on-sites and has a big presence in Raleigh/Durham). I may have to buy some time if/when I get these other offers but don't want to put them off, either. Hard line to walk- balancing that bird in the hand (of course, I've had to wait for the bird, and am still waiting for it....). I also have another recruiter with Hudson Global (the folks who started though she's been slow getting back to me. She was working from home yesterday so I'll try her again today; many folks here are not exactly as proactive as I would like but so it goes. Trying to show initiative and patience at the same time...

So, now that Robin's gotten back from her week and a half in the US she's going to Scotland (Glasgow) for a little over a week on Saturday for work. The following Monday (25th) is a national holiday, so the plan was for me to come up for the 2nd weekend and travel together after the conference. I may actually head up sooner as I'm not keen on spending another week at home alone. Plus, I would love to have some more time up there ("free" hotel and all). 1 job might want me to start this Monday but I think I will seek to hold-out until the 26th as a start date, to try to give every option a fair shake. That way I have the extra time to travel yet my resume picks back up in August, so not a huge gap; though I imagine a gap won't be interpreted poorly- international move in-between them and all.. Of course, I could get an e-mail any minute that this AEA job wants me and if I want the job I have to start Monday... doubtful scenario but possible; not sure what I'd do but will cross that bridge if/when...

Anyway, things are looking promising and I'm hoping the timing of everything works out for all parties.

Ok, off to do housework and then go biking- the weather is pretty nice today. It rained really hard last night for hours but has cleared-up, for now. :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Today was our second wedding anniversary, and sadly we spent it on different continents! We'll get to celebrate together next week, and some more on the upcoming trip to Scotland, but it's especially hard being apart today. I can't believe it's been two years already- so much has happened in our lives!

I'm having a fantastic time in NC right now, seeing friends and looking forward to Jennifer and Kevin's wedding (at the Carolina Inn!) this weekend, but I can't fully enjoy it without my hubby. It will be nice to go to a wedding at the Carolina Inn and actually get to enjoy the food that we didn't get to eat at our own wedding! Still, it won't be the same without Jon to share in the fun. He's diligently looking for jobs, and hopefully one of this week's interviews will turn into an offer! It's so nice to hear him excited about the new prospects, especially considering all of his *interesting* work experiences in the past. Please keep your fingers crossed that he finds something wonderful!

I really think it was a bit too soon after the move for me to come back to NC. Since we're not completely settled in the UK yet, it's very easy to get nostalgic about the great life we had here and everything we gave up for the move. Seeing old friends and coworkers is great, but it makes me so sad that we don't get to see them more often. And say what you will about the sweltering heat, but I do love the hot weather! I do, however, still stand by my assertion that English Diet Coke is far superior, so at least the UK's got that going for it. I've ridden by our house (got a little bit teary-eyed) and it looks like the tenants are taking good care of it for us. Mom even brought Jack down from his vacation home in Maryland to visit with me. We are really looking forward to the end of the month, when we can finally bring our little buddies over to join us.

North Carolina has really become my home over the last 9+ years, and I really hope that life brings us back here after the English adventure is over. In the meantime, we hope to have lots of visitors from the USA!

Friday, August 1, 2008

job search update, Friday Aug 1

Ok, so it's August already and Jon needs a good job. Well, Robin is gone from today until a week from Monday and I hope to have accepted an offer by the time she gets back. Maybe I could even start by then but my guess is getting all options explored will result in starting the week of the 18th. It just so happens our trip to Scotland is that weekend (Robin will already be there that week for work) as the 25th is a national holiday. Woo- Scotland, here we come! What a great way to cap all this hard work- applying, interviewing and, hopefully, accepting a J-O-B! Also a good way to celebrate (albeit a touch late) our 2nd anniversary and her b-day. :)

Ok, so here goes my unsuccessful attempt at a long story short. Also, hopefully these companies aren't reading my blog... :) Interviews this coming week:
-Monday: 1 company was looking at me a few weeks ago for an engineering recruiter role and passed on me but is now leaning toward me for an IT recruiting role... not keen on the location but planning to meet the IT lead guy anyway. I highly doubt this option will work out; I'm not a fan that they've taken so long and been wishy-washy about me. I like the managing director but time kills all deals (plus they passed on me once already).
-Tuesday: 2 interviews. #1 is for an IT recruitment role 8 miles from our home that is in the middle of nowhere so would 100% mean getting a car. However, it would be a predictable 15 minutes every day each way- way doable! It has the lowest base salary by far but strong commissions so we'll see... It is also on a huge campus in what sounds like a very nice setting. Interview #2 is for an in-house/onsite recruitment role on a contract (what we would call a corporate recruiter). It's all IT and Engineering for an environmental firm that is growing like crazy. It's basically a major international "green" agency and would be great experience and could turn into something longer-term and/or be a great way to get into in-house recruitment. Honestly, it's quite challenging to get into corporate recruitment in the US, let alone for a Yank in the land of pork scratchings- would be tough to pass this one up. They just called me today and it is currently (subject to change any second, and then back to being) my #1 choice. They had me do some writing samples and basically seem to have gotten their "grilling" out of the way. After the writing stuff and the time on the phone the lady indicated the meeting Tuesday was going to be informal and she'd basically just want to ask me a few more questions and introduce me to folks... all signs that her concerns about me are gone. Oh, and they pay a solid monthly travel/car allowance, which is grrreat. There would also be some domestic travel (all expenses paid) but not a ton of it so a good way to see places but not be out nights on end. Toward the end of our last call she actually joked about me starting this Monday- they need someone yesterday and the location is good (not quite great) for me/us but I could see how finding talented individuals for this project/location could be a challenge.
-Wed or Thurs I am supposed to meet with the Manpower fellow who is on holiday this week; he will look at me to manage a new Manpower branch in Swindon. The commute would be 50 minutes or so initially but once we move toward the other side of town (saving Robin tons of time, too) it'd be more like 35-40. This option is a very close 2nd though I could see it locking me into the staffing industry and I'd really like to "go corporate." So, hopefully they can confirm this meeting early next week and also give me an update on my timeline to meet the other fellow about the Regional Sales Manager job. I believe he is on holiday, too. Either job would come with a company car and would make a strong resume-bulider.
-Friday is the interview with the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Eng. and Technology. It's taken them quite a while to get moving on this. To be fair, they are government and on a college campus so probably much of the problem is folks on holiday between semesters but even then, it's been sloooow. Anyway, I have my initial interview with them and they said there will be more rounds so fear they'll take too long to get through the process. It's close to home and would be meaningful but the funding is not guaranteed for very long and the pay would not be in the same category as the others. Again, time kills all deals 101.

Ok, so I think that sums it up. I look forward to having pepperoni pizza, pork chops and steak while Robin is gone but definitely miss her already. All quiet on the Oxford front.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Almost August #3

Ok, so more news on the job front from Jon...

Manpower is opening a new branch in Swindon and is considering me for being the Branch Manager! Swindon is about 40 minutes by car and the job comes with a company car, so wow! I should be meeting the higher-up/decision maker next Wednesday or Thursday and the people I have met thus far are all quite confident he'll like me and they think this is the best role for me (in their minds better than the regional sales manager role which is also still "in the works"). The branch manager job has excellent training, support and the ability to find/bulid my own team. The branch role is a better path to upper management as well, so they say. The RSM role would put me more at the mercy of a different set of factors, limit my other internal options a bit and would have some very aggressive targets to hit. The branch position would be more empowering, have more room for creativity and is equally interesting to me; it will have targets as well but new branches take time to build so wouldn't be quite as "sink or swim." I haven't seen much about the comp structure but they seem to think the roles can be about even- depending on the region and, obviously, the results. Plus, it'd be less time travelling, working, etc. and focusing on 1 market instead of a whole region and a dozen or more offices (could get hard to keep track of who's who:). It's still sinking in but this is a job I could definitely see myself doing, and doing well. They are also looking at me for an onsite role with Microsoft in Reading but that is moving slowly due to so many folks on holiday.

Haybrook IT is looking at me for a recruiter role running a full desk. They're about 8 miles from our current home and set out in the country on 2000 acre campus. They're one of the biggest IT firms in the UK and seem to have a solid reputation and a pretty cool building/layout. I interview in-person there on Tuesday of the coming week. The salary would be lower than the others but is very competitive on commissions. And I would have to have a car- on my own dime. This option came out of nowhere (through a recruiter) but could be an ok option. It's basically at the bottom right now.

The UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology interview 1 is happening a week from tomorrow (Friday). It's a contract and a government agency/charter. It has moved quite slowly but it looks pretty promising as well. It's close to home, would be meaningful helping folks get back to work- after having kids, etc. and the money is pretty good. Long-term it is a bit dodgy as the contract is under a year but they said there's a chance it will renew... This job was #1 until the Manpower stuff came and took the top spot. Still, could re-take #1...

We'll see, great to have some promising options.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Almost August #2

Well, I just heard from Manpower and they're considering me for a position internally as a regional sales manager. No joke- regional sales manager! It is the answer to a lot of our problems/questions/objectives and would be a highly visible and challenging role. I'm excited about it. Finally the job search has me with 2 good, do-able options! Yessss! Time will tell. The person I'd report to is named Simon and he's the director of key accounts, so hopefully we hit it off..... They need people in a few different locations and 1-2 would work so we shall see... fingers crossed!!!

Almost August

Hello all! It's been a couple of weeks so I figured an update is past-due. We're doing well and settling in more and more. We still love our TV and our new sofa far surpasses the junky futon that was left here for us. We also bought a king sized bed (what we would call a queen they call a king) and moved around the furniture in all 3 bedrooms and much prefer the new layout. We've been getting better sleep on the new bed and got a great deal on it as well so we're both quite pleased. :)

Robin is going to NC for just over a week Aug 1-10 for Jennifer and Kevin's wedding and she'll also be doing some work while she is there. Her mom will also be visiting so Robin will get to visit with her and our little terrier buddy, Jack, is coming, too. :) Our 2nd wedding anniversary is a week from today (the 5th); how time flies! Robin also has her birthday coming up on the 13th, so though we'll miss being together for our anniversary, she will be back in the UK for her b-day. She got one present from me early- a Radley handbag, which is pink and features a little terrier as the mascot... So, suffice it to say she's quite keen on it. :)

The job front has been pretty crazy for me but seems to be pointing in the right direction now. London is off the radar; the jobs pay better and it would be a great experience to work there but the commutes are just too long given the somewhat unpredictable buses and the fact that it takes 35-40 minutes or so to get to the train station. Once we live closer to it commuting to London would be doable; in the interim it is the Oxford area and Reading has some good leads. Reading is only 1 train-stop away and more of a technical city than Oxford seems to be. The trains are predictable, fast and, though a bit pricey, better than dealing with the cost of gas (about 10 bucks a gallon at the moment). etc. Plus there is the price of insurance- the quotes I got for just me on an older car with modest coverage were over 4x what we were paying in the US for full coverage on 2 newer cars and 2 drivers... then there is the cost of the car, maintenance, etc. Enough about that, I do have an interview a week from Friday for a job I really like (on paper anyway) working with women who have been out of the workforce back into the workforce in science, engineering and technology jobs. It is a contract with the UK Resource Center for Women ( which sits on-site at a local college and would be an interesting combination to complement my skills, education, motivations... and they said it could extend long-term, pending good results and funding... Either way it would be good pay, meaningful, close to home and get me some UK-experience. Many companies here are hesitant with me as I have no UK experience. I am also working with Manpower as of late last week as they are fairly sure they can find me something quite good. We had a great 4+ hour panel interview and they work with Microsoft-UK, Hewlett-Packard-UK and basically any other big-name-IT company which has a presence here (Manpower is essentally the largest US recruitment firm and has been around over 60 years). So, between those leads and a few other loose-ends something should stick soon. Prayers, patience and persistence seem to be paying off. Ooh, alliteration- I am still Presbyterian! :)

Speaking of church, we still attend at the Holy Trinity church where CS Lewis is buried. It is small, obviously Church of England, and the people are nice. We have yet to hear the head fellow preach but look forward to that. He's been out much of the summer so maybe as Fall approaches we'll see more of him.

Ok, I think that about covers it. We miss our little buddies and look forward to Jack and Felix's arrival in late August. And, of course, we miss you all, too!!!



Sunday, July 13, 2008

London calling!

"No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

I think Samuel Johnson has got to be right about that. We spent a fantastic day in my favorite city yesterday, and I don't think I could ever be tired of that place. I've been there quite a few times now, and there is always something new (or old, for that matter) and exciting to see. We made it to a few museums I've always wanted to visit- Victoria & Albert (my favorite was the display of fashion and trends throughout the ages!), the Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs!), and the Science Museum (space!). Then, after I drooled for awhile at the Radley handbag shop, we ate at a place in Chinatown called the Tokyo Diner (no, that's not a typo). We always seem to eat in Chinatown when we're in London, because the food tends to be more reasonably priced and have more normal (aka American-sized) portions. Tokyo Diner was no different, so definitely worth a second trip.

After dinner, we had a nice walk along the South Bank, taking in the sights and trying not to look suspicious as we walked by MI6. My inner historian is always a little overwhelmed when I think about all the Kings, Queens, prisoners, and poets who have traveled along the Thames (for very different reasons!) throughout history. I could go on, but at the risk of sounding even dorkier I will spare you. Does it sound like we have covered a lot of ground in one day? That's because Jon is a real expert at navigating London, which works out well for me because I have no sense of direction. He has the tube all figured out, which is no small feat.

The real highlight of the evening was going to Camden Town (where Amy Winehouse hangs) to see Heypenny, which happens to be the band of Jon's fellow Chattanoogan Kevin Bevil. They put on a great show- very cool, original music and all high-energy performers. I wish they had been able to play longer! I think Kevin was pretty surprised to see some fellow Americans in the crowd! We were really impressed by how they won over their British audience- it was a good sized crowd, and everyone was dancing and singing along. It was a late night, as we had to take a bus from Camden to Notting Hill (because apparently the tube stops running at 12:20 am) to catch our bus back to Oxford. We finally made it back home at about 3:30, having had to walk from the Headington bus stop home since the Oxford city buses were not running at that hour. It was a fun day/night, but we are paying for it this morning! At least we have all day today to recover. It's safe to say we are tired from London (but not of it).

Another important development in our lives is that we have a new bed! It's "King" sized (which translates to Queen sized in American) and it is fabulous. We found it on the DailyInfo, which is Oxford's version of Craigslist, and Jon went to pick it up on Friday. We've been wanting a new bed for awhile, since we're used to having the extra space (it is hard to downsize to a double bed, let me tell you) and we kept waking up in the middle of the night with elbows in our faces. We also got a new loveseat this week, replacing the horrible futon, so life is good!


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jon's job search and our potential vechicle acquisition continued...

Ok, so I have offer 1 in hand, which is nice to have, to be wanted. However, I'm not exactly excited about many aspects of the job and the offer is not what I would call impressive. So, we left it that I'd sleep on it but 99.9% sure I will say thanks but no thanks tomorrow. Even if the offer had been better I still had some strong reservations about it and was pretty sure a "no" was going to be my response.

I have had a couple of other interviews and those are awaiting feedback. I interviewed yesterday for a first round and I am interested in though the commute is a bit long. The town is called Milton Keynes and it actually feels like a US city in how it is laid-out. It was developed pretty recently and they used US-style model for it. I also applied for a bunch of really good stuff yesterday and today and hope that those (and my previous applications for similar jobs) come back to me tangibly soon. It seems recruitment here is much more heavily focused on sales than I am (or want to be) and the role more closely suited to my experience is HR Advisor and/or In-House recriuter. Both are apparently very sought after and the competition is fierce, so hopefully some company somewhere will like what they see in me and give me a shot. Oh, and I applied to Microsoft UK today, a former client when I worked at Volt. Microsoft has an HR Consultant/Advisor role in Reading which is pretty doable. For you IT nerds, I left the fact that I know and use Linux and Mac in my resume, so I'm not a total sell-out!

As for the car, we've done a bit more shopping and are still on the fence a bit about the level of car to get. If it is for work and everyday driving something decent-good but if it is just for errands, some sightseeing and very limited mileage something a bit less-nice would work fine. We shall see if any of these jobs get serious. I am trying to apply to positions which I can get to easily on the bus/train as it's both green environmentally and will help us save some green on gas. It's about 11 bucks a gallon today and not expected to go down anytime soon.

Keep your fingers crossed for us and maybe say a little prayer? :)


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Jon's job search and our potential vechicle acquisition

Well, I must say this has been an interesting job search thus far. I began by applying for positions in late April and May but those have yet to really go anywhere- they were mostly in publishing sales and other sales roles. I have been getting a fair amount of calls and interviews for jobs in recruitment consultancy (staffing/headhunting). I have one company who is possibly making an offer in the next day or two though it seems they want to hire an experienced person and pay just a tad over an entry-level salary. We'll see if they make an offer, what it is, and even then I'm not 100% on it being the right fit (long story but it is about a 40 minute drive each way by car and I'm just not excited about it). I also have a first face-to-face with an agency in Milton Keynes tomorow though that commute would be even longer than the other company (just over an hour each way by car). I have even gotten a few calls about London jobs, which pay much, much better, though that would be an even more terrible commute. It is hard to evaluate what is "fair" for salary packages here. We definitely see the cost of living differences so want to adjust for that but certainly don't want to overshoot expectations either. It is freeing to have so much flexibility though I do look forward to focusing more and having a job to fill my time! We have heard this is not the booming time of year for hiring (many the graduates have been getting jobs over the last months) though there does seem to be some activity. Once I am working that will also help us know what side of town we want to settle-in long-term.

And on the topic of commuting.... We do not yet have a car, though we are starting to see the strong case for having one- we could take personal trips across the countryside and run errands much more easily and not having a car is limiting my job search pretty tangibly. Plus we can pick folks up at the airport when they visit- Ahem Ahem... :) Taking the buses is ok getting around town but using them to commute between towns would add a large chunk of time on both ends of the day that could be cut in half (or greater) with a car. So, instead of 1:00-1:40 each way I would be looking at 30-45 each way. Still not an ideal commute, especially with gas over $10 gallon, but much better and would not have to schedule my life around the buses (they are often late though I must say they are very clean and easy to figure out the lines, etc.- plus free WiFi on-board and they have plugs in the walls to charge devices!).

It has been good to get some traction/interviews already though I feel like I am sort of going down the wrong path. Most of my interviews thus far have come from recruiters who have called me about my online profile. I have been applying for "better fits" but those have yet to turn into anything though I will be following-up on a couple of those early this week. I do plan to hone my job search almost exclusively to Oxford instead of including the more outlying towns; there are a couple of other towns that are easily commutable as well. I have not yet seen a lot of great jobs here, more of a univeristy-town than a booming technical area but there have to be a few companies I have yet to find. I am pretty sure we're going to get a car whether my job requires it or not- probably something older just so we can get around. We have identified a few later 90s and early 00s BMW and Audis that have caught our eye. They are actually cheaper than Japanese cars and everybody says not to buy an English car. There seem to be a lot of Peugot and Renault as well but am not excited about those. We could always look for Saabs and be the envy of Uncle Dave. :)

It is a bit rainy and cool here today. It has been pretty warm (some days even hot) and dry lately so this seems to be more of a taste of what we anticipated. I think that about sums it up for now. Cheers, mates!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Another day, another dryer!

When I came to visit Oxford over the last few years, the flat I stayed in had this really tiny washer/dryer combo machine. The machine in our house looked just like it, so I assumed it was a washer and dryer, too. So a couple of weeks ago I went to do the first load of laundry. It was in there forever, seriously, like 2 hours, so I went to take the clothes out and was shocked to find them not dry! Then I picked up the instruction manual, which I probably should have done in the first place, and there was nothing about dryer settings. I had always wondered why there was a clothesline outside.

I mentioned this to some of my coworkers and they just kind of said "So? Don't you have a clothesline?" Now I am willing to assimilate here, but I draw the line at hanging our underwear outside for all the world to see. And do I have to remind you that we live in England, so the odds of your clothes actually drying outside and not getting rained on are about 50/50? So we started by just hanging things over chairs, on the bannister, basically wherever we could find a place. This was not good. It literally took everything days to dry. Then, my fantastic husband found a used dryer online for £20, and the seller was willing to deliver (this is key since we don't have a car)! Phew. Now I just want to do more laundry so I can use the little dryer. It's so cute- it just plugs into the wall and that's it! And it fits perfectly in our pantry, even. Am I gushing too much? On Wednesday our new TV will be delivered (we're downsizing to 42") and on Friday the furniture from Ikea, yippee! Also our shower should be repaired next weekend, so we're almost completely mostly settled in.

We went to church this morning at the Holy Trinity Church in Headington, where C.S. Lewis was a member for 30 years. He is also apparently buried in the church cemetary, but we didn't see the site. We did, however, see the frosted glass window dedicated to the Narnia characters! We liked the church service, and it's a short walk from our house, so we'll likely go back. I even met a man who wrote a book chapter for OUP-USA- everyone's an academic here.

Cheerio for now!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Venice, by Robin

First, can I just say how thrilled I am that we have internet now? Thrilled actually doesn't even begin to describe it.

Just to add a little to Jon's description (which focused mainly on the beers and cars of Italy), Venice was awesome. It rivals NC for summer heat and humidity, though! Both Jon and I had to invest in some lighter clothing. We were staying on the Lido island, a small strip of land that separates the Venice Lagoon (and the main island, San Marco) from the Adriatic. If I ever return to Venice, I would definitely stay on Lido again. The hotels and restaurants were much less expensive, there were fewer tourists, and it was just a short water taxi away from the main attractions. And being steps away from the beach was fabulous. Even though I was there for work (a Schizophrenia conference) it felt like vacation. We took lots of pictures, so watch this space and we'll get around to uploading them sooner or later! People had warned us about a particular "smell" in Venice (think thousands of tourists, with varying standards of personal hygiene, marching around in 100 degree heat) in the summer, but I have to say I didn't notice it. Apparently (according to a fellow American tourist) August is when it gets really unbearable until the rainy season washes it all away in the fall. So if you're planning a trip any time soon, bear this in mind!

Back in Oxford, we're still getting settled in the house, with a furniture delivery from Ikea expected on the Fourth of July (this should help a lot). Then we'll be ready for visitors, so start planning your trip!


Back from Venice

Well, Robin is about to get on a bus at Gatwick airport to come back to Oxford after a conference in Venice. I had the fortune of going as well though I came back Monday to cope with utility installs, etc. (we now have internet at the house- YESSSS!!!! CIVILIZATION HERE WE ARE).

Venice was great, we enjoyed the fantastic weather, the exquisite cuisine, a touch of Chianti, Nastro Azzurro, Moretti La Rossa, etc. We took a romantic gondola ride through San Marcos and saw where Marco Polo was born, some really old buildings and a host of other sites. The shopping on San Marcos was unbelievable- every brand name you could name and then 1000 more! :) We even saw Lauren from the MTV show "The Hills" shopping for leather gloves with her mom and sister. I was kind of joking to Robin that it was her but she recognized Lauren's mom and sister so we are sure it was her. I got to see a few Ferraris, Maseratis and some other $$$ cars (no Lamborghinis though). Porsches, Benz' and Beemers were a dime a dozen there. I tried to offer a guy a dime for a dozen though and either he didn't like my pricepoint or it got lost in translation.... I think it was the latter. :)

I have a big (I think it may be a final) interview tomorrow, so my/our fingers are crossed. I was recruited by an agency and am meeting with the fellow who overseas all the UK operations; the company is HQ in San Diego. The position is selling recruitment services into the European market, largely related to mobile phones and related IT areas. It would be similar to what I have been doing but definitely a new challenge. The company is in Aylesbury which would basically require me to get a car to keep the commute reasonable (by bus= about an hour, by car= 20 minutes or so). Gas is hovering between $10-11 a gallon so will have to focus on economy... no Land Rover or other V8 vehicle for us!

I think that about sums it up,


Monday, June 16, 2008

What did people do before the internet?

So the lack of posting has not been because nothing is going on in my life- definitely the opposite! Jon is here (!!), things are starting to pick up at work, and we had a great day trip to London (and the Ikea in Wembley) over the weekend. We still, however, do not have internet or phone service at our house, which makes the blogging a bit difficult. I was carrying my laptop with me every day for the first week, but it's not so light, and my shoulders were really starting to get sore. I promise to be more diligent once I have more reliable computer access (I am, of course, completely above wasting work time on blogging).

We should have everything up and running at the house by the end of next week, but we're also leaving for Venice on Friday (what jet-setters!) so you might have to wait just a little longer...Stay tuned, I promise it'll be good!


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Fountain of Youth?

I've always thought my complexion looks much better in England. Fine lines disappear, my skin is clearer, and the damp weather means dry skin isn't an issue (I am being serious here, it is much improved in just a couple of days). My friends and I were also talking a couple of weeks ago about how our English coworkers all look much younger than their actual ages. Our theory is that this is because they get so much less sun, so their skin doesn't prematurely age like those of us from the sunny south. So forget the Botox and expensive anti-aging creams, my friends, a trip to the UK is the ticket to eternal youth!

The downside to this, of course, is the rain, which is coming down like cats and dogs today. I thought it was so nice to have some exercise and fresh air yesterday when I was walking from the bus stop to work, but I have to tell you it is not so nice in the pouring rain. My shoes were soaked through by the time I got here. I noticed other girls with similar shoes to me, and they did not seem at all bothered by this- is it just because they're so used to it? Are English feet somehow water-repellent as a result of evoltion? I'll do some research and keep you posted.

In other news, when I got home from work last night, the chair and loveseat that were in our living room have been inexplicably replaced by a really big futon! It is probably more actual seating area than the sofa and loveseat, but I liked have the different seating options. A little more disturbing is that the landlord apparently went in the house while I wasn't there, which seems kind of sketchy to me (not that I would rather have him bust in while I was home). He did do some work in the garden, though, which I appreciated. Now if I can just get him to have the place cleaned...

Back to work now!

Monday, June 2, 2008

First Day of Work!

This will be short because I'm feeling awfully tired after a full day of work and not much sleep last night. Every time I hear a noise in the night I think that some English spirit, or maybe a thief, is coming to get me. But then I ask myself "Who in their right mind would rob this place?" That makes me feel a little better until the next bump in the night comes and it starts all over again. The landlord was supposed to come over and do something about the overgrown garden today, and I've asked if they could have the house cleaned, so keep your fingers crossed!

Work was fine today- great to see the friendly faces of my coworkers and to not spend another day in solitude. Not so great that IT has screwed up my account even though I transferred within the same department. Par for the course, IT. I was supposed to get my new BlackBerry today, but they screwed that up too, so it'll hopefully be ready tomorrow. Nice to know that I'll have some means of communication to the outside world from the house soon (will be helpful for reporting boogeymen or robbers).

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Day 2

So I probably won't keep up the daily blogging for long, but there's not much to do by yourself on a Sunday in Oxford when all the shops are closed! For some reason, I couldn't connect to the free McDonald's wifi today, so I found a little internet cafe with pretty cheap access.

I made it through my first night in the house, and did a little shopping for some of the essentials today (bedding, pillows, shower curtain). I had gotten some Friends VHS tapes to watch, but I think there's something wrong with the VCR since it ate two of them! I did watch the UK version of The Apprentice (I'm already hooked) and some reality show about people vying for the parts of Oliver and Nancy in the West End production of Oliver.

I don't think I've ever been so excited to go to work- it will be great to see all my UK coworkers, and to have something to take my mind off being here alone for another week. I've figured out my bus route, and I think it'll take me about 30 minutes door to door. The public transportation here is amazing, and so reasonably priced when you consider the price of gas (or petrol, as they say here).

They need to make some kind of instruction manual for people who have just moved to the UK. Chapter titles might include how to set up phone & utilities, how the heck National Healthcare works, and if you need to bring your own pillows and sheets to your new furnished house (that advertised white goods included). You know, the important things. I think I should probably write one myself if I ever figure these things out.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Here I am...

I arrived in the UK this morning (1:30 am US time) after getting no sleep on the plane as usual. It was so hard driving out of our neighborhood on the way to the airport, not knowing when I might be back there (and someone else will be living there when I do come back). I had a bit of a celebrity encounter, as John and Elizabeth Edwards were on my flight to Heathrow- they were whisked on to the plane ahead of everyone, though, so I just caught a fleeting glimpse of them.

Our realtor, Gersh, met me at the airport and drove me to our rental house. I have to say I was really depressed when I got to the house and found it to be quite small, very sparsely furnished (no sheets or pillows!) and in need of a lot of repairs. After a mini breakdown, I have convinced myself that it will be fine for the six months we've committed to, and hopefully we will have an easier time finding another place now that we're actually in town. It's still a bit of a shock coming from our beautiful almost 2000 square foot house, but we'll adjust. It's really lonely without Jon here (he's coming over a week from Monday) and I have no phone or internet access at the house yet (I'm camped out at the McDonalds, which has free wifi). It will be a relief to start work on Monday and have some human contact!

Over and out for now...

Monday, May 5, 2008

We're moving to England!

We've decided to try blogging to keep friends and family up to date on our English adventure. Robin is planning to move the last week of May and Jon probably the second week of June. Check back for photos and updates on what we're doing, what we're seeing, and what crazy new English expressions we're learning!