#StyleMeFeb challenge

I’m biting the bullet and trying out one of these #styleme challenges. Been tempted by a few of them in the past but they seemed to have a lot of items or colours that I just don’t own and, really, I procrastinate too much anyway. Heck, this one started yesterday, but luckily I happened to wear one of my favourite purple scarves all day long, and purple is indeed my happy colour. Let’s see how this goes…

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February 2, 2013 · 11:12 am

Guest Post, of sorts

I’ve contributed a post to Any Other Woman’s “A-Z of Getting Married” and it went up yesterday. Here it is, if you’re interested: P is for Plus Ones

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So I accidentally attended a church service…

The husband and I went into Coventry to get out of the house for the afternoon, planned to meet up in time to go to our friends’ house, and went our separate ways. Because I always like to, I headed over to the Cathedral- whether to pray or just look at it for a while I wasn’t sure, but I planned to be on my way in under twenty minutes. I slipped into the new building (the Old Cathedral, as its known, was bombed out during the Blitz and remains a beautiful shell beside the new one) and saw hymnals set out for the Choral Evensong service. Worried that I’d be in the way or interrupt when I got up to leave, I asked the woman at the desk when it would start. “4 o’clock,” she told me, going on to say I could get “Surround sound” if I went up to the nave.

“Oh I just wanted to know so I could be out of the way, I won’t be here long.” She looked at me and smiled very pleasantly, but what she must have been thinking I don’t know, because I soon found out it was about two minutes to four at the very most. I went up to a seat quite far into the nave, so I could look at a beautiful images in the Chapel of Gethsemane, which are done all in golds. I knelt and prayed and looked around to admire the beauty of the place, and then a group of people in blue and white robes trooped in, directed by a man in purple and grey and light brown with a staff. The empty parts of the room then filled with organ music, and I found myself standing with the other five or so congregants for the beginning of the Evensong service.

I stayed for the whole service, nearly an hour. It was beautiful and felt very medieval, particularly with the verger* directing everyone- whenever someone had a reading to do, he’d process (to call it walking doesn’t bring up the right image) over to them and lead them to the lectern or wherever they needed to be, and then afterwards lead them back to their seats.

I felt like I’d been given a gift, a blessing, to be part of the service so unexpectedly. It wasn’t, I think, anything particularly to do with Advent, but it felt like a right and proper start to the season.

*I don’t know what the root of “verger” is, but it always makes me think of the French “berger”- shepherd; of course “shepherd” is a theme in much of the Gospels, but watching everyone being led around by that one man yesterday made it seem a very apt association. Of course, if I’m wrong about what a verger’s job is then this is only so much waffling.

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#ShareAdvent from www.skinandblisterblog.com

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thanks

We hosted our first Thanksgiving on Friday, with turkey and pie and sweet potatoes and just one mug of hot apple cider. We made too much food, invited more people than we own plates or chairs and had a wonderful time. The flat felt full the way my grandma’s house always has, full of us all laughing and sharing and eyeing up the sweet potatoes and stuffing: when is it okay to take seconds? I felt as buoyed up as I did at my bridal shower, warmed and joyful that we have so many friends, that I dearly wanted every one of these people in our home, sharing something of mine. I’m still eating leftover pumpkin pie and smiling at the taste of home and smell of this most beloved holiday.

I spent much of the week leading up to it explaining this strange American custom to fascinated students- what was it for? Did we get roast turkey again at Christmas? What else do we do for it- are there presents? To them it looks like overabundance, in a season already promising the meal to end all meals (just like last year!) to have a holiday just for eating. I told the Story of the First Thanksgiving, just like I learned it in school when I was years old and explained that I was twenty before I ever heard that most Americans have turkey at Christmas, because we’d always had lasagne. I just assumed that everyone had something different at Christmas, depending on their family.

When our friends were all gathered and passing the roasties around the room, they asked me what I’d be doing if I was home with my parents, with that same “Tell us a story” look, and I had as much fun talking about the Yearly Saga of the Mashed Potatoes and tying Great Grandma’s apron to her chair so she wouldn’t get up and wash dishes in the middle of dessert as I had had just being excited they were all coming over.

Yesterday, my husband and I were in Leamington Spa for the Turning On of the Christmas Lights, complete with Panto Dame and terrible impersonators of Michael Bublé and Cheryl Cole. I feel fantastically Christmassy now, with just enough time to really enjoy it.

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Teen and Reteen

Disaster averted! I made a disappointing phone call to the DVLA (the UK DMV) who insisted that no, I could not do anything with my driving experience, even sacrificing my old license would do nothing because they don’t do any exchange with US licenses. I kind of wanted to scream- shouldn’t they be able to put something to say “this person has been driving an automatic for X years” on a new manual license? Do they even do that for Brits who decided to take the “easy” test first and get some experience before they added in gears? Maybe it’s never come up, and the automatic license is only used by people missing a limb or something so they can’t use the clutch anyway?

I texted my husband, who then called the insurance company to switch my license type from “full US” to “Brand new UK” and dreading the price jump to come. There was some worry that I couldn’t be insured at all on our car with its fancypants boyracer engine (totally a technical term) and we’d have to sell it and get something sensible and then pay buttloads of money so I could drive that. He called, he explained, and the answer he got was “No problem. No, there’s no difference in charge, I just have to change our records and put her name down.” So easy, after all that stress.

I do not understand how they work out insurance here- we still have our old roommate on ours, because it knocks off a huge amount from just my husband being on the policy. Apparently the logic is “If she’s driving it, you’re not, therefore less risk to the car.”

So I’ve been zipping back and forth to work, getting an extra hour or so of free time a day. Its amazing how much that improves my mood and energy- I don’t feel like I only have the weekends any more, I can get chores done and still relax in the evenings. A bad day at work isn’t followed by a miserable wait for the bus and a sad bus ride home; instead, I can just hop in the car and get away, immediately. Even being able to get into work earlier is wonderful- I’m never rushed off my feet putting things away and getting my assignment and getting to a classroom on the second floor. I have time and leisure to change my shoes, when I no longer need it.

I enjoy driving itself now, more than ever before. I feel a bit teenager-ish, free and unstoppable, in a way that I didn’t when I was a teenager with her first car. Perhaps the lack of running all the errands helps, but I think I just appreciate it now.

Now to plan some road trips.

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Vroom!

Yesterday was THE DRIVING TEST. After an inauspicious start when I headed for the wrong side of the car, I passed with only three minor errors. Now I have a full UK license, and will soon be able to go to work without getting up two hours early so I can get the right bus. It will be wonderful.

Altogether this makes the fifth time I’ve taken a driving test- it took me three tries to get my NY license in my teens, and then I forgot to renew it when I went to college in Ireland and had to take it again. I’m going to see about trading in that very license to the UK driving authorities so they’ll be able to add my years of driving experience onto my new one and therefore save us lots and lots in insurance. I spent all day yesterday wavering between relieved glee that I passed (my lessons tended to alternate between my instructor saying “brilliant!” and clearly wondering how I hadn’t died at some point in all my years of driving) and weeping fits, which were a combination of hormones and grief that I’m giving up my old license. Its funny what you get attached to- this piece of plastic has been with me everywhere I went for years and years, started conversations with cheerful bouncers in college “Well what brings you to this part of the world?” and meant freedom to travel, to drink, to do what I wanted. And its what ties me to New York, publicly, legally; links me to the house where I grew up. I’ll miss it.

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