Blog Archive

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Tiers and Travel

We have had lots of friends and family reach out wondering how we are doing with the new variant strain of Covid. Thank you for all your concern so today I thought I would address this in the post.

 When we first arrived the country was in lockdown. This didn't mean much to us since most of this time we spent in self quarantine for 14 days. When we were released we had about one week left of the national lockdown but again we felt mostly unaffected since we were staying at our son's house. Our few trips to stores during this time we noted that the stores were strictly controlling how many in at any one time. 

Then on December 2nd the lockdown ended and our area in PortChester was under a tier 2. This meant that stores could relax some, restaurants could have dine in, on a limited basis, gyms and pubs were open but masks were worn everywhere inside. It is sad to say that this felt almost normal. It is also during this time we enjoyed some family day trips. Let me note here that we were trying to be careful since our son Kenny is set to deploy early January and even though the first 14 days of his deployment are going to be spent in quarantine, we didn't want to risk him getting sick. 

Our first daytrip was to Stonehenge. What an amazing site! Sometimes I still have to stop and remind myself at how old so many structures around me are. Stonehenge is an English Heritage site. Except for the museum and shop, which were open at the time, it is outside. We had to buy a ticket ahead of time that specified the time we could enter. I am sure this is the procedure they use to keep the crowd to a small size. 

 The next daytrip was to Dover. At the time Dover was in tier 3. This meant restaurants could only do take away and all the inside space, such as museums, were closed but the outside grounds were open. Again, we had to buy a ticket in advance that stated the time we could enter. We enjoyed the day exploring the castle grounds and walking along the white cliffs. 

We did get to see history up close and personal with all of the big semi-trucks waiting in line for the ferry to France. They were stacked on the road for miles. By miles I mean 10 plus miles. They were trying to get their goods moved before Brexit went into effect. It was surreal. That is my word for this year, "surreal". So many moments from 2020 have been just that. 

 Our last daytrip was to the Isle of Wight. This was the trip we planned for the boys because we were taking a ferry, riding a Christmas train and seeing Santa,aka Father Christmas. The Isle of Wight was at tier 1 which is the most relaxed tier. People were still wearing masks and socially distancing. We once again had to buy tickets in advance that gave us a time to ride the train but also an appointment with Santa. For the train, our family was assigned to a private car, so there were no other passengers sharing our space. We also go to eat inside at a Farm-shop. Don't get too worried, the tables were still socially distanced. I am really happy we got to do some normal things before this next phase kicked in. 

So if my memory is correct, a couple of days before Christmas, the new variant was announced and where we live was thrown into tier 4. Kenny and Kim were still in tier 2, which was totally bizarre since they are only 2 miles from our apartment and in the same county. The way they divided the area into tiers was not very logical and it actually divided a local grocery store into two tiers. The joke was most of the store was in tier 2 but the alcohol aisle was tier 4. 

Since then, we have all been placed under tier 4. Again the big question, how does this really affect us? To be truthful, not much. We are part of a support bubble that includes Kenny and his family. Our life consists of walking back and forth to their house and an occasional trip to the store to gather supplies. I think that people are Covid weary. By this, I mean that we have all made so many adjustments in our day to day living that it is hard to get upset at all the news and changes. It just feels like life and I hate that. I hate the fact this is all feeling normal. I am hopeful on this New Years Eve that we can find another new normal that includes more hugs, handshakes, and meeting new people. 

- Becky

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Tiny house living

Back after a long dramatic pause, we will resume the blog. In my defense, this is the first night in our new place we have internet. So, by the title you may have already assumed that we are finally homeowners in the U.K. My impressions of the whole experience? I hope I don't have to do this again any time soon. It has been such a frustrating process. 
Our new flat (downstairs, right side)

It starts out with us having to hire a solicitor, that we pay in advance, to represent us. Sounds good but since she is already paid, I get the impression that she doesn't really have to hurry or even be that great at what she does. Next, we make an offer. After it is agreed upon by the seller and the buyer then the solicitors take over in a flurry of "inquiries" and vagueness. I say vagueness because there is not set closing date. It doesn't matter if the seller has moved out and the apartment is empty. It doesn't matter if the buyer is paying cash and not doing full inspections to try and speed the process along, it is going to take as long as they decide. Whenever we asked how the process was going, we were told by our solicitor, that she was chasing inquiries. I am still not sure what that all means because we never got a really straight answer. 

Finally, after us calling everyday to check the process, did she decide that this had taken long enough and we could get the keys the following Monday. Keep in mind, that we were told on a Friday. So we made a quick trip to Ikea, to procure some pans and kitchen supplies, purchased to paint to hide the purple walls in the bedroom and obtained ownership. 
Purplish Bedroom (before)

 So, let me describe our "flat". It is just over 400 square feet. It was built, by our guess, in the 1930's. The last owner loved the color teal, loved IKEA, and loved to try and hack really big things to fit into small spaces, without much success. Some of the more interesting features, the bathtub and is so close to the bathroom sink, that the cabinet doors can't open because there is only 5 inches of space between the tub and the sink. If you want to open the oven door, you must first open the cabinet door on the side, once again because there is not enough room. One of the overly large IKEA cabinets, has beautiful pullouts, that of course don't pull out because there is not enough room. 
Teal walls! 
Cramped Kitchen
Space between tub and vanity

Did I mention the bedroom was purplish? But even with all this funkiness, we love having our own place. It was really nice to unpack our suitcases after a month. We have repainted the bedroom, bought some new furniture and have plans to redecorate the kitchen, lounge, and bathroom. 

Bedroom (after)



 Some things that our flat does have going for it, a very long narrow back yard. It has no grass but it does have lots of raised beds for gardens, a nice size shed and bonus, a fire-pit. It is about a 2 mile walk to Kenny and Kim's house. There are several larger stores within an easy walk for us to get the day to day basics, and best of all it is close to my three adorable grand-kids who are happy we are here. So, even though Covid is still and issue and has affected so many areas of my life, it is nice to know we have a place to be that is close to the hugs and kisses of our grand-kids. 
- Becky