Tag Archives: UK

Rolling Along

The days rolled along.  Lynn and I visited scenic places in the morning, worked in the afternoon, and watched movies or TV at night.  We went to Padstow, which has become a tourist draw due to the presence of celebrity chef Rick Stein.  He’s got at least three restaurants in this small town, ranging from a fish and chips shop to a white linen place.  Lynn and I had the fish and chips and agreed it wasn’t any better or different from fish and chips anywhere else.  But Padstein, as it has been nicknamed, was a lovely town.

We visited The Eden Project, an educational and scientific environmental enterprise.  The exhibits are housed in enormous geodesic domes.  Each dome features a different region of the world, from South American rain forest to Australian outback.  They had a great gift shop where, believe it or not, I bought some environmentally-friendly underwear so I would have at least one pair that wasn’t blue.

Once I was past the shock of having to shout over disco karaoke to make myself heard in a work Skype meeting, the remote work wasn’t so bad.  I would do things that required concentration, like editing, at the cottage.  With no internet, I was not tempted to check my email or distracted by pop ups.  Then I would walk over to the lodge and send emails or have Skype calls.

We ate breakfast and dinner at the lodge and became friendly with the cook and waitress.  We learned the resort had been struggling financially and had been sold to a new owner.  All the employees were holding their breath to find out if they would have jobs in a month, or scrambling to find new jobs.  The waitress told us that her passion was theater; she had just handed in her notice and would be gone soon to run her own theater nearby.

The cook reminded me of Vince, my son.  He had creative cooking aspirations in a place where people only wanted fish and chips.  Every morning he would offer us something new—the crayfish omelets were memorable.  We would enthusiastically accept and show appreciation for whatever he made, which seemed to make him happy.  He told us he was waiting to see which way the wind blew with the new owner.  He had a new menu up his sleeve with imaginative dishes and he was prepared to roll it out here or take it somewhere else.  Both he and the waitress had other jobs on the side.  It was a typical rural employment situation, where people were hustling to cobble together a living and also striving to do creative things to stave off boredom and keep from going crazy.

At the end of a week, we pulled out of the killer driveway for the last time and headed to Charmouth, which is near Lyme Regis, another town you’ve probably never heard of.  Both are in Dorset, the next county east of Cornwall.  Specifically, they are in west Dorset.  This became apparent when we moved on to Devon a few days later, because the local maps we’d acquired only included the western half of the county.  So we drove to the edge of the map and then had to switch to our atlas.

Anyway, we stayed at the Fern Hill Hotel for a few nights and this was our favorite place.  It was smallish (think Fawlty Towers) and family-run.  There was a sign on the desk stating that Robert Plant, front man for Led Zeppelin and rock god, had stayed there.  If it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me.   I couldn’t resist sending Vince a message that I might be sleeping in the same bed as Robert Plant.  I know, inappropriate, but he liked it.

The lovely woman at the front desk gave us minutely detailed instructions and maps for walking into town.  As per our usual routine, we found ourselves on a golf course and then a muddy cow pasture before winding up in Charmouth.  After we had a wander, Lynn figured out how to take a bus back to the hotel.  We celebrated this navigation victory with drinks on the patio.

Moving, Here and There

In real time—September 1, 2017—I just woke up in my own home for the first time in three months after living, traveling, and working abroad.  It’s disorienting.  My place feels the same, yet different.  Maybe that’s because I sold it right before I left, and as soon as I unpack my suitcase I will need to start packing everything to move in one month.

This will be my third move in two years.  This one will be hard.  I love this place—its location on The Hill near all the mansions and shops and restaurants, and the character of the condo itself—with beveled glass, graceful curved woodwork, exposed brick walls, fireplace, high ceilings, and warm wood floors.

When I woke up at midnight last night to the creaking and thumping of my upstairs neighbor walking around on his wood floors, I smiled and knew I had made the right decision.

I’ll be moving into a duplex on St. Paul’s east side.  You know what they say about rents and real estate: “Location, location, location.”  And it’s true.  The duplex is very nice but there’s nothing much nearby except other duplexes.  Therefore it’s cheap.  I’ve signed a 10-month lease and I can lay low there until I decide what to do next.

I am lucky to have the choices I do.  I knew that intellectually, but spending time in refugee camps made it visceral.

I arrived at Heathrow from Addis Ababa at 7am.  I had barely slept due to my cold and, well, having to sit upright in a cramped airplane seat.

There was Lynn waiting for me in the arrivals hall—the one where they filmed the opening scene in Love Actually. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a sweet montage of people meeting people at the airport.  Friends, families, business associates … smiling, waving, hugging, laughing, and then walking off to start whatever lay ahead for them in London or beyond.

I transferred myself from Maki’s good guidance to Lynn’s.  I am a “take charge” person but Lynn is even more so, and we were on her stomping grounds now.

First stop, Boots, the chemist, which is like a prettier version of Walgreens. I loaded up on sore throat spray, cough drops, and tissues.  We got a cup of coffee at Costa and found the car rental kiosk.  Lynn bought all the insurance they offered, which would turn out to be a good thing.

This was supposed to be the vacation part of my sojourn—two weeks of driving around the southwest of Britain, starting in Cornwall.

Until recently, I’ve never had a problem logging off of work email and not checking it while I’m on leave.  I crossed a line somewhere and started doing that, and when I did, at Heathrow while Lynn was making the car arrangements, there was an email about an opportunity for us to submit a concept note to DFID, the UK’s Department for International Development.  It was due in less than 10 days.

A concept note is like a preliminary sales pitch to a potential funder.  You send them 3-5 pages summarizing your big idea and hope they ask for more, in the form of a full grant proposal.  Thing is, you have to put almost as much work into a concept note as a full proposal because you have to give them a top line budget number, and to get that requires, basically, developing the full project and budget.

I was really glad we were going for this, and I wanted to work on it.  I had met with a DFID representative two years before when I was in Amman, Jordan.  We had tried to stay loosely in touch with him, and if we are funded, it would be almost a textbook example of how development/fund raising works.

But the timing that was inconvenient.  Lynn doesn’t need anyone to entertain her, but I thought it would be rude to be constantly checking my email and on Skype while she was having a G&T by herself on the patio at the resort in Cornwall.  Being online too much would turn out to not be a problem.