Monday, September 29, 2008

Risky Business

I am perhaps one of the least qualified persons on the planet to comment on the current global financial crisis. I did eek out a BS degree in Finance 25 years ago but honestly it is like a distant memory, a cloud-filled bubble of angst and memorized mathematical formulas. To further cement my abject lack of qualifications, I have never, not once, not ever, actually sat down and balanced my checkbook. But when I heard the chancellor of the exchequer this morning claim that no one in the government saw this coming, I had to yell back at the radio. Come on! Even my own little monkey brain saw this coming.

Just one look around town, the constant building of flats - that sit empty - waiting - for who? The growing wastelands of McMansions in the US. The skyrocketing values of houses in our own neighborhoods that we wanted to believe in but still wondered how everyone could afford $1 million houses in an average middle-class neighborhood. And there was the parade of credit card invitations in the mail, desperately looking for new suckers to sign on to the American dream. The words "zero percent introductory offer, low monthly payment" forever shackling the unsuspecting, the dreamers, the naive, the needy, to the vice-grip of high interest rates, til death or the Lotto do us part.

I think the governement just wanted us to buy more stuff to distract us from the fact that this is life during wartime. No rations, just buy more shiny cars and houses. Keep the economy pumping, keep the illusion of normalcy intact.

I mean, it doesn't take an economist to see this high-stakes gambling passing for investment banking couldn't possibly result in anything good - unless you were earning the commissions. And yet, why didn't anyone do anything? Where were the rocket red flares of warning? It seems to me that there were too many profits, not prophets, and now the little guys get hit in the gut - again. I'm all for individual fiscal reponsibility but if the banks and other financial institutions can't be bothered, what signal are they sending us? It all just makes me want to live off the grid in France, growing vegetables and drinking homemade wine.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Last week was a doozy. I just couldn't get my act together - partly a result of lots of travelling recently and not enough time at home. So things pile up. I was afraid to sort through the pile of mail, certain I had missed deadlines and forgot to pay for stuff. I especially dread those brown envelopes from Her Majesty's revenue service. I've lived here over 4 years now and I still don't understand the tax codes and the system at large. Not that I really understood the US system but at least it has an air of familiarity. Clamoring for attention in my monkey brain was an equally complex pile of laundry, a long banal list of things 'to do', and just general anxiety about the world financial systems collapsing around us. So no biggie.

I turned up the Undertones and got busy. Little by little things got better, I could see the light. All was looking right with the world. Until I made the mistake of uttering the one word that fills G with panic and dread: Ikea.

I cheerfully insisted we cruise on over to the Swedish superstore on Saturday to pick up some bits to help us organize the house, all the while exclaiming, "It's not so bad", "I'll be quick", "They have a nice design ethos", "We really need some stuff," "We can get some meatballs," etc. I think he felt sorry for me because I have been such a wreck the last couple of weeks, so off we went.

Once in the labyrinth, we dutifully followed the arrows on the gray linoleum path and I tried really hard not to get distracted by all the little particle-board rooms and seductive merchandising. We actually found what we wanted relatively quickly, navigated the aisle/location system, checked out and were on our way back in around an hour and a half. The trouble started, however, once we got home.

We bought these two red lamps for our living room, which G happily assembled and switched on. He called me in to take a look. They look fantastic! But wait, what's that buzzing sound? Is that normal? Oh, I say, we can live with that. We won't even notice once there is ambient noise in the room. But then, both lights start this weird vibrating and flickering like in a cheap motel. THAT we could not find a way to live with and THAT was what sparked the row that followed.

The idea that now we would have to go back to Ikea was simply too much for us to handle. There was lots of screaming and hollering about cheap crap, made in China, waste of time, what did you expect. I threw back some nonsense about what the hell else did we have to do and how I was sorry for going there but I just couldn't live in a bare room anymore. Then G, probably thinking about how his life was slipping away arguing about nothing and everything, looked at his Swiss watch and saw that it had actually stopped at 2pm - while deep inside the Ikea vortex. I couldn't argue with that.

The dysfunctional lamps (actually made in Poland) are packed up and by the door, ready for their return trip this week. I think we'll just drop them off by the door and run.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mrs Tooley

One of the wonderful things about Facebook and the social networking revolution is how it reconnects with people from your past. And by doing so, you are also reconnected with the memories of you that that person has carried around and you most likely have long forgotten. This happened to me recently. A girl I knew from school and growing up in Ohio contacted me and sent me a lovely note. She recalled our first-grade classroom with Mrs Tooley. I immediately thought of apples because Mrs Tooley lived on my street and always passed out shiny red delicious apples on Halloween.

Anyway, my friend recounted a memory of how a smooth-talking little boy (who grew up to be quite the ladies man) had asked for her phone number and that she, being 5 or 6 years old had no idea what he had wanted it for. Apparently, she told me about it. Later when she told me that he had called her my little 6 year old self reached out my arms to her and exclaimed sweetly "Oh, he's so wonderful!"

Now I don't remember this at all. But I love the idea that it happened and that she had remembered it 40 years later. How many other piece-part memories of me are people walking around with out there? What would it be like if I could sew them all together in the collective gauze of the universe? What would I see?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Three Years Later

I said I had issues focusing and I wasn't making it up. I think it's interesting that I had a desire to check this dusty blog out today, almost 3 years to the day of when I made my very first entry and then abandoned it like an old pair of shoes at the thrift shop. What have I been doing for three years then? Well, first I'm now 46 so I've been ageing as we mortals do. Somehow 43 sounds so much better and so much further from 50, but there we are. I've already had the first thoughts of where my 50th celebration will be held and let's just say for now that it involves wine country, Sonoma or Santa Inez, and G thinks I'm properly bonkers, but I like to look forward to things and we're only talking about three years and we've already witnessed how fast 3 years can fly by.

I also have a new job, back to doing what I seem to do best and that is marketing and PR for emerging technology. I tried to switch gears but discovered I missed the fast-pace of the technology world and writing about stuff that very few if my friends and family understand. G thinks I am a secret agent scientist of some sort. My dad still has no idea even though I've been at it for years. Last year I had to take a conference call with some industry analysts while staying at his house in Ohio and at one point he picked up the other extension and asked if I wanted pizza for dinner!! I felt like I was 12. "Da-aad, I'm on the phone!"

Still loving our house and still looking for a good martini. Actually, I've kind of given up on it here ever since the time I went to an event at a hotel and asked for a glass of red wine and the teen bartender did not know the difference between red and white wine. Honestly. So now I save (and savor) my martini experiences for London.

I will try to keep this blog up now, especially since I'm trying to link into Facebook as another way to keep in touch with friends and family spread out all over the world.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Opening remarks

It's really a miracle that I have started this blog because it required me to make a few decisions right off the bat. Things like a name and a font. To most people I understand this would be a relatively easy task, but not for me. I can stand in the grocery store feeling up the fruit for an hour and have been known to become paralysed over choosing a new shampoo. But as you can see I have managed to make some quick choices (which I will probably change later) and so here I go.

My friend Susan has inspired me to do this. I love reading her blog so much that I thought it would be fun to write one of my own. First, a little about me. I moved to the middle of England about a year ago after living in NYC for almost 20 years. Why would I leave the greatest city in the world to come to the "assasination capital of the UK"? Well, I fell hard and fast in love with a British guy, "G", and married him under the Brooklyn Bridge. Now that I've settled in to a whole new life I have to say that I really like it here. We are moving into a beautiful old house in a few weeks. I've never owned an honest-to-goodness house before (and I'm 43) so this is NOT SMALL. I have a weird but interesting job working for a charity that helps victim of crime. I get to see behind the scenes of the British criminal justice system where men wear wigs and the police don't have guns (mostly). I am meeting lots of new people who find my American accent quite exotic, which gives me a strange kind of verbal power that I have never known before. But I do have my difficulties. For instance, I throw every bartender into a complete panic when I order a martini. I can always spot the trouble coming. First, they fuss about looking at the "drink menu" trying to find the ingredients. Then they go find the manager and call for help. Last night, the guy took about 20 minutes to make my martini with a whole production of stirring and not shaking, but when I asked for olives, he had to search high and low, back of the fridge, only to come up empty-handed. He was ready to just hand me the plain unadorned vodka, but I told him I couldn''t just drink a glass of cold vodka and couldn't he please pretty it up with something. So he managed a lovely lemon twist and all was right with the world.

I am still searching for a good dirty martini. Actually, that's not true, I have given up because I don't believe the olive juice is the same here. it's really oily and not briny enough. Just tastes like vodka sludge. So I carried home a jar of big fat green olives in my suitcase after our last trip to the states, but as of yet have been too timid to "BMOO" up to the bar. One of these days...

Oh dear I can see how you can just ramble on forever here. The sun is coming out, which makes me happy. I am going out to play.