Taxes?

boxesIt was 11:30 last night when my husband said, “You know our UK taxes have to be filed by the 31st of this month, right?”

This wouldn’t be a big deal if we weren’t living like hobos right now. Have I explained our living situation to you yet? Since we moved to the US we’ve been packed into the guest bedroom in my parents condo along with all of our earthly possessions. If you’ve ever been in a living situation where you can’t seem to get organized and you don’t know where anything is multiply that by 7 million and you’ll know what we’re going through.

“Can’t they wait until March?” I asked my husband after I opened the closet door and looked at the stacks of boxes and clothes. We’re supposed to close on the house we’re buying on March 1st and once we’ve moved in I’ll be able to get a handle on things.

“It doesn’t work that way,” he said.

What does he mean it doesn’t work that way? I think countries should let you file taxes whenever you get around to it. That would be so much more convenient for me and you know every nation in the world should make their laws according to my convenience.

I started pulling stuff out of the closet and realized that I have so many silk scarves that someone might mistake me for a magician. I’m also quite good at making money disappear, but that’s a different story. Among the silk scarves, musical instruments, and sweaters I probably won’t wear again any time soon where a stack of unlabeled boxes. Labels … who needs the labels? I’m a magician. I can see through cardboard. My tax records were in the second box I checked. I’m a lucky magician.

Once I found them I spent a few minutes … okay probably like 15 … sitting amongst the mess feeling sorry for myself. I don’t know what made me feel worse the fact that I had to put all that stuff away again or the fact that I would have to do my taxes. My ultra organized husband probably finished his taxes in the time it took me to find my records. Okay, that’s not true. He didn’t do anything about his until this morning.

My taxes are done now and I don’t have to panic again until it’s time to do the US taxes.

Photo by ejhogbin

There’s Something About an English Apple

There are a lot of things that America does well, but grow a delicious apple is not one of them. I am consistently disappointed by the quality of the apples here. They are all mushy and powdery inside. Even the ones that seem like they might be wonderful are mush in your mouth.

An English apple on the other hand is like heaven. It’s a frothy delight. When I bite into one I swear I hear angels singing. If you are wondering what could be so great about an apple, you’ve obviously never tasted an English apple. If you had you’d know exactly what I mean.

I often wonder what the English secret is to growing such delicious apples. Maybe it’s the thick layer of clouds covering the country. Maybe it’s the constant supply of cold rain. Maybe it’s the Wellington boots worn by the English farmers or the ability to complain about the weather no matter what it is. Or maybe apple trees thrive on dry, cynical humor. Whatever it is American farmers need to get up to speed.

For now I’m considering starting an English apple import company. My English apples will blow American taste buds away. That’s my big idea for the day.

Photo by A Guy Taking Pictures

RIP Frank the Car


When we decided that we were going to move back to Florida we knew that we’d have to get rid of our car, Frank. Since people from the scrapyard had already expressed interest in him we decided the easiest thing to do would be to scrap him. Just writing about it even now gives me a lump in my throat.

You see, Frank was a good working class kind of car. He had calloused hands, dirty fingernails, swore a lot and liked to go down to the local to have a pint with the boys. I’m sure he was pretty good at darts too. Frank served us well. Even though he was 16 years old he only broke down once and that wasn’t even his fault, but that’s another story.

The most convenient way for us to get rid of Frank though was to sell him for scrap. Poor Frank. Here’s how it all went down.

After we drove our fifty million suitcases to the hotel near the airport, we drove Frank to the scrapyard. The scrapyard was a dusty, loud place with lots of men and lots of F words being thrown about. Just the kind of place Frank would feel right at home in. A man told us to drive Frank onto the scale and then we went into the office to find out how much we could get for him. The man at the desk told us the price and asked, “Do you have everything out of it?”

“Yes,” we said.

“All right then,” the man said. Then suddenly a giant claw came down smashed right through Frank’s sunroof and flung him about thirty feet in the air. He landed with a crash on the other side of the lot. Then a second claw picked him up and flung him again into a pile of cars at the far end of the lot.

We both stood their in shock. We were shocked for two reasons. Firstly, we’d never seen anyone throw a car before. Secondly, the scrapyard website has a little section on it about how to be environmentally friendly they must drain all the fluids from the cars before scrapping them. Unless a crew of small invisible men were busy doing that while we were finding out the price that didn’t happen.

When we moved to the UK we bought Frank from a friend for 100 pounds. When we sold him to the scrapyard they gave us 98 pounds. I think we made out pretty good. Too bad I can’t say the same for Frank. He will be missed.

A Picnic on the Motorway

Even though I’ve lived in the UK for close to five years now there are things that I’m still learning. I never bothered learning to drive here so there are a few road signs that I just never bothered to learn what they meant. Like this one:

What’s that look like to you?

Up until recently I thought it indicated that there was a picnic area nearby. Doesn’t it look like a picnic table? I used to think that Brits were very into picnics because I see this sign all the time. Then one day I was going somewhere with my husband and I commented on it.

Me: We could always stop and have a picnic there.
My Husband: Where?
Me: Where that sign was.
My Husband: What sign?
Me: You know the picnic table sign.
At this point my husband is just looking at me like I’m insane. Then we pass another picnic table sign.
Me: That one.
My Husband: That sign means we’re approaching the beginning of the motorway.
Me: What do picnic tables have to do with the motorway?
My Husband: They’re not picnic tables they’re roads.

So all this time I thought that sign had something to do with going on a picnic. I thought the sign that I often see with a line through the picnic tables meant that there was no place to have a picnic in the area. Apparently, that sign means you’re coming to the end of the motorway.

Now I know, but I wish I didn’t. Picnics are so much nicer than motorways.

Observation of the Day

After dealing with what has felt like weeks of rain, the sun has finally decided to come out and say hello. Hallelujah. I was really starting to wonder if it really existed at all. I was starting to think that the sun was just something I’d made up long ago. I was starting to wonder if the English have gills hidden beneath their jaunty tweed jackets. Alas, none of this is true because the sun came out today. We can go outside and get some sunshine on our skin. We are no longer in danger of developing rickets. Hooray!

The weather forecasts aren’t very accurate though. When I looked up the weather last night this is the report I read.

I could predict the weather. It obviously doesn’t have to be right. For tomorrow I’m predicting sunshine and sausages. They don’t usually include the sausages in the forecast, but hey I’m unconventional.

Diamonds are for Jubilees

Now that the extended Diamond Jubilee weekend is over I thought I’d do a quick recap. Even though the Queen wasn’t polite enough to show up for my citizenship ceremony, I watched her little Jubilee celebration. One of us has to have some manners and I thought it was up to me to be the bigger person.

Day One: In true English style, it rained all over the opening pageant. I always thought a pageant involved women in sashes talking about world peace, modeling swimsuits and displaying talents like juggling. This pageant didn’t have any of that. Too bad because I was quite excited to see the Queen juggle. The pageant did have a lot of boats though.

Day Two: The best thing about the Jubilee was the concert. I don’t know if the Queen thought it was the best thing. I’m betting that she enjoyed the pageant more just because she looks like someone who likes boats more than music. One of the highlights was Grace Jones hula hooping through an entire song.

“She’s not going to do this through the whole song,” I kept saying. She did. She’s like sixty years old, wearing a plastic outfit and hula hooping. You’ve got to love Grace Jones.

For some reason all of the American performers thought it was the Queen’s birthday. Didn’t they realize that if it was her birthday she’d be wearing one of those paper party hats.

Day Three: On the last day of the celebration the Queen did something at St. Paul’s Cathedral. I don’t know what exactly happened. I suspect that it didn’t involve hula hoops or juggling so I didn’t watch it.

Now the Jubilee is over people are taking down their Union Jacks and life has returned to normal. It’ll be another ten years before we get a Jubilee celebration. I think ten years is too long to wait. I think I’ll petition the Queen to have another Jubilee celebration in two years.

Country Walks

My husband and I tend to go for walks a lot. You would think that living out in the country would provide us with nicer places to walk. That isn’t exactly true. So far every public footpath that we have attempted to walk on has eventually led to a scene like this:

Yes those are cows in the distance. They’re in the distance because that was as close as I was willing to get. My husband kept insisting that it was fine to walk across that field like the public footpath sign directed, but I swear I saw some bulls in the mix. Bulls are dangerous. I’ve seen the way they charge people on TV. My camera bag is red. That’s like wearing a great big target on my back. Hey, Mr. Bull standing on that hill over there, come stab me in the back with your bull horns and fling me like a rag doll into the air. No thank you.

“But we just pasted a woman who obviously came from this direction,” my husband said.

Some people are willing to flirt with danger. I’m not. I like to keep danger hidden deep inside the junk drawer in my kitchen where it will cut my fingers when I reach in it without looking.

So we turned around and decided to follow the signs for another public footpath. Once on that path we encountered this:

That still makes me feel a bit uneasy, but I was able to deal with it. Mostly sheep just stare at you and if you walk in their direction they get out of the way. I’ve never heard of anyone getting killed by a sheep. But wait, there was that movie I saw not too long ago…

 

Igloos, Damp, and Hot Glue Guns

We’ll be moving soon. The funny thing is that we have no idea where we’ll be moving. My husband and I have just about as many organizational skills as tadpoles. Speaking of tadpoles have you ever seen this?

Nature is beautiful and all that, but sometimes it is horror movie worthy.

Anyway, back to moving…

Part of the reason we’re moving is that realistically our flat is kind of dreadful. In this case dreadful means moldy and damp. Now that we’re moving out our landlord is trying to re-lease the place. She’s also trying to raise the rent by 50  pounds a month. The real estate company or estate agent or whatever you call it has been showing people around our home. Even though we’re packing things in boxes we have the keep the place looking nice so perspective tenants can view the property.

Normally keeping this place looking good would be easy, but when sorting through long forgotten drawers and random boxes in closets–oh wait we only have one closet–the task is a bit more challenging. This is a tiny apartment, but we have somehow managed to ram so much stuff in here its unbelievable.

We’ve recently sorted through our stacks of CD cases. My husband has put them all in a bag to go out, but he doesn’t know that the next time he goes out I’m going to build an igloo out of them. All I need to do is to buy a hot glue gun and the building can commence.  I think a CD case igloo would be a wonderful feature that would justify the new rental price for this place.

The funny thing is that when we rented this flat the estate agent seemed kind of shocked. Apparently, they had been trying to rent it out for a while with no success. We were desperate enough to move in anywhere so we took it. Now when new people come to view the property I can see by the looks on their faces that they arent’ going take it. If I ever get a moment alone with any of them I always mention the damp problem. That  doesn’t help the situation much.

If I build the igloo maybe it would make up for the fact that I keep telling everyone about the damp…and I’ll have an excuse to buy a hot glue gun. Every woman wants a hot glue gun.

 

Something’s Happening Upstairs

The worst thing about renting an apartment, besides the fact that you’re  paying down some else’s mortgage, is sharing your walls and ceiling with neighbors. I’ve had all kinds of neighbors, but the ones I always remember most are the bad ones. There was the guy that would come home from a night out and blare techno music at 2 in the morning. Then there were the neighbors that had loud arguments almost daily. Let’s not forget about couple who had sex a little too loudly a little too often. Oh yeah, there was also the guy that would get drunk every night and yell profanities at no one.

I’m not saying that we’re perfect neighbors…all right I am saying we’re perfect neighbors. We’re friendly, polite and both play incredibly noisy musical instruments. Who wouldn’t want to live next door to us?

A new family had the privilege of moving into the flat above ours last week. They seem to be generally okay, but I do wonder what is going on up there. I know they are renting because my husband talked to the owner of the flat a couple of weeks ago and he said that he had new tenants moving in soon, but they seem to be making a some renovations.

Soon after they moved in, I spied a brand new door wrapped in cardboard and plastic sitting in the yard. Later that day quite a lot of banging around ensued. “What do you think they’re doing up there?” I asked my husband.

“I don’t know,” he said, “Maybe they’re replacing the doors.”

Then yesterday I swore it sounded like they were ripping up the carpet. “What do you think they’re doing up there now?” I asked my husband.

“Sounds like they’re ripping up the carpet,” he said. Then he went back to reading his book like nothing interesting was happening at all. I sat on the couch looking up at the ceiling and imagining the scene that must be happening upstairs–dust and nails flying everywhere as the carpet is ripped from the floorboards.

I’m curious by nature and if that curiosity was matched with a little more bravery I would’ve marched right over and knocked on their door. But since I’m just a wimp with a wildly active imagination, I can just sit around and speculate.

 

Dawn Believed Me

Guess what came through my mail slot this morning?

No,  not an envelope stuffed with cash.

Okay, I’ll tell you. I got a picture of a sad kitten named Stevie.

Doesn’t that just tug at your heartstrings?

Oh yeah. I almost forgot to mention that I also got my British passport!!!

I am now an official member of the two passport Bettison crew. We roll like that…with double the passport renewal fees and two expiration dates to keep track of.

 

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