Thursday, July 30, 2009


Well one test down, one to go and I will be a fully licensed driver! I studied for hours, going through literally hundreds of sample questions and memorizing stopping distances, signs and speed limits on various roads. When I actually sat the test today I felt a bit silly for all of the studying I did because the majority of the questions were common sense things I already knew. Most of my studying was unnecessary but its best to be over-prepared rather than underprepared.

The part of the test I was most worried about was the hazard perception test. This consists of viewing video clips of driving situations and clicking the mouse when you see a hazard developing. The problem with this test for experienced drivers is that most experienced drivers will click too early and before the scoring window starts. After some practice I was able to figure out the scoring system and click at the right time so I passed this part as well with no problem.

There is a waiting list of about a month to schedule the road test so I will continue taking lessons until I can finally take my road test.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Summer Day Out

Today was a beautiful day and Jason and I took advantage of it by driving up to Crimdon Dene on the Northern outskirts of Hartlepool to take Max exploring in the nature reserve and beach. Here are the photos from our day out!

Anglophile's Digest is on Vacation

Sorry, I've got too much going on with Jason home on leave, taking driving lessons and other things at the moment so I don't have to time to blog every week.

I am still posting over on Anglotopia in the meantime, although I am using the next four weeks to look back at the year so I don't have to spend too much time coming up with new material for the blog. I might post an update here intermittently but please still continue to read Dispatches form the North on Anglotopia until I come back in mid-August.

Thanks for reading and thanks to my friends and family for all of your love and support.

All my love,

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Home Improvement

Forgive me for being lazy with my blogging over the past couple weeks. I will be perfectly honest, I have been in a bit of a dark place lately. After Jason left to go back to the base two weeks ago it hit me that the next time he left it would be for far longer than I am prepared to handle. I haven't been able to shake the feeling for these two weeks and sadly its given me a nasty case of writer's block.

I haven't been letting my dark attitude get me down too much. I have decided on some projects to keep me busy over the next couple months. I helped my sister-in-law paint her dining room this past weekend and we made a bit of a pact to help each other out with home improvement projects over the coming months.

My first project is going to be my kitchen. When I first moved in I had decided I was just going to let it be the way it is until we can completely redo it, but over the past week I have looked at it and thought of some ideas to really make it work and make it flow with the rest of the place for not a lot of money. The fact that it is kind of a simple kitchen will only enhance the relaxed seaside feeling I am going for and I think after a good coat of paint, window treatments and some art on the walls and well placed accessories that it will be quite easy and inexpensive to transform it. I might even replace the cupboard doors if I can find a really good bargain.

Looking forward to this and other similar projects I have planned is a little glimmer in my dark mood. Still, please forgive me if my posts take a turn for the slightly depressing over the coming months.

This Week's British TV Review:

Relocation, Relocation

I just recently started watching this show. It is one of the many real estate and home related shows here in the UK. The concept of the show is to help home owners cash in their current city home (usually in London) and use the value of that home to purchase a "country" home or at least a larger home in a place where their money goes much farther as well as a "crash pad" in the city for them to use during the week.

There are two things that strike me about this show, first of all in many of these cases the father uses the crash pad during the work week while the wife and children stay at home in their family home. It strikes a chord with me because these people are basically opting for my lifestyle. My husband works away during the week and is here on the weekends and I can't say that I would choose this lifestyle if it wasn't sort of pre-ordained for me. Not only are they choosing this lifestyle, they have made an entire television show out of it!

The other thing that strikes me about this is that is makes me understand and appreciate the curious phenomenon that is the American suburb. Suburbs simply don't exist here. Once you escape the limits of the clustered cities and towns of England you reach nothing. There will be a far flung country home or farm house here or there but nothing resembling a suburban American neighborhood.

Its a bit sad really. In America when the city becomes impractical for raising a family people move to the suburbs. I think its a bit sad that for many people the option of working away during the week and being home on the weekends is kind of the next best thing. I don't think that kind of lifestyle would go over very well in the states but its kind of become all the rage here.

You can check out more about this show on the Channel 4 website

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kindness of Strangers Tour: Monkey Business

Mike Harling, author of Postcards from Across the Pond and my fellow columnist at Anglotopia, is on a "virtual" world tour visiting blogs all over the globe. Today Mike is virtually visiting Hartlepool and I have given him a place here on my blog for the day. Enjoy his virtual visit!

What day is this? Where am I? Oh, it’s Monday, the 6th of July. I’m in Hartlepool. And it’s raining. Forgive me if I’m a bit bleary this morning but my hosts – Lisa and her husband Jason – and I spent the weekend at Dockfest, Hartlepool’s premier music and comedy festival. I’m a bit old for that sort of thing but, frankly, there wasn’t much else to do after we exhausted the Monkey Hanging story.

As most of you know, Hartlepool is famous for having hung a monkey, which they mistook for a French spy, during the Napoleonic wars. It’s a great story, even if it’s almost certainly not true. As the town’s claim to fame, it’s also a bit outdated and unnecessary because in 1914 Hartlepool became the first place on mainland Britain to be bombed by the Germans. And because of that, they can also boast the first soldier – Theo Jones – to die on British soil in the Great War. That’s got a specious monkey hanging beat hands down.

We spent the early part of the weekend touring the local drinking establishments and discussing the relative merits of these stories, but then a group of locals began getting shirty when I suggested the monkey story had more myth than mayhem about it so we retreated to the waterfront and see what Dockfest had to offer.

It was a hoot! I saw Sean Lock – one of my favourite comedians – and listened to the Lightning Seeds and some local band called “Lithium Speed Dementia.” My ears are still ringing.

I know what you’re thinking, “but did you do any book promotion?” Well, yes. At least I think so. I have a fuzzy recollection of handing out business cards and my rucksack is empty, so I must have unloaded all the copies of my book I’ve been toting around. Unfortunately, my wallet is also empty, so I either gave them all away or bought everyone a drink with the money they paid me. Either way, don’t tell my wife; she keeps reminding me we’re supposed to be making money on this tour, not financing an unending binge. Easy for her to say; she’s safely tucked away in our flat while I’m out here working hard doing… uh, market research. Yeah, that’s it.

I have to sign off now; I hear people stirring and the distinct aroma of a full English breakfast is wafting into my room. These northerners are a hardy lot; I don’t think I’m ready to face much more than a piece of dry toast and a cup of tea but I suppose I’ll have to be polite and eat what’s put in front of me. I just hope they don’t include the fried bread.

Later today I’m leaving Hartlepool behind to move on to another destination. I’ll miss it. I had a grand time here, despite the weather, and hopefully I’ll be able to return some day. But if I do, I certainly won’t let on that I have doubts about their monkey story.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I wrote a guest post on the blog "Pond Parleys" this week. The topic we discussed was manners, so go check it out here!

This week I had my first two driving lessons. I did amazingly well, my driving instructor Tony is really impressed with my driving and the progress I have made in just two lessons. It is such a huge weight off my shoulders to realize that I can do this, that I can do this well, and I don't need to be afraid of driving in this country. Well, maybe a little bit. A woman veered into my lane and then cut me off yesterday.

With each lesson as I am getting more comfortable with carrying out all of the steps of operating the vehicle little bits of my experience are settling back in. I am once again keeping my speed steady, staying aware of what is around me and steering smoothly. Instead of feeling like I am learning all over again (which is how it felt at first) I feel like I am really just supplementing my knowledge.

However, this learning experience still packs a lot of surprises. Even though I am used to the roads here in England and know the layout of the town very well the flow of traffic is so different here and the steps I have to take in operating the vehicle to deal with these situations are completely new to me. There are very few stop signs and stop lights and lots of situations where I have to make the choice between stopping and continuing forward fairly quickly. I can't just stop until I feel safe, this is a great way to get rear ended.

In just two lessons I have achieved shifting gears and taking off and stopping up to the test level. However, now the things I need to learn are the nuances of driving on English roads which is a whole different beast altogether. The good thing is that learning all of these little things is much easier now that I am comfortable and confident with operating the vehicle.

I think it is actually going to take me longer to take care of the red tape end of things like getting my provisional license and booking me theory and practical test than it will actually take me to master driving. I am confident that by the time I actually take my practical driving test I will be well settled into driving.

This Week's British TV Review:

Ross Kemp
Ross Kemp is a former soap opera star who turned his talent and recognition to investigative journalism. He goes far deeper than "imbedded" reporters and puts himself in some of the most dangerous places and situations to reveal the truth through his documentaries.

In 2006 Ross Kemp released a documentary series where he investigated the inner workings of gangs. More recently, in the series Ross Kemp in Afghanistan he followed the 1st Battalion of the British Army's Royal Anglian Regiment. He traveled alongside them during a 6 month deployment in the Helmand Province and his investigative reporting went deeper and closer than most journalists would dare to go.

In his latest documentary Ross Kemp In Search of Pirates he traveled to Africa and South East Asia to get to the root of the piracy problem in countries like Somalia and Nigeria. Ross Kemp puts his life in danger to deliver these fascinating documentaries and they are all well worth watching.

His documentaries are on Sky 1 so they are only available for free to Sky subscribers. Some of his documentaries have been released on DVD and they can also be found on bit torrent sites (but I didn't tell you that).