maarmie's musings

Friday, November 30, 2007


Snot is oozing from my left nostril as I type this post. I've had this nasty cold for a couple of weeks now. Sneezing, runny nose, coughing. A total pain in the ass combined with late pregnancy blahs (I'm 30 weeks pregnant on Monday) that involve lower back pain, a sharp pain in my abdomen, constant peeing (mostly in my underwear), constipation and the staving off of the growth of stretch marks on the underside of my large melonious belly.

Baby girl has been kicking up a storm, too, mostly while I'm TRYING to sleep at night. During the day, she's quiet as a church mouse except for a few kicks after I eat lunch.

But as soon as I settle into bed, roll onto my left side and manage to drift off - bam! - there she goes walloping the inside of my gut. The movements, aside from being more than a little weird, are hugely comforting for me, but, as time trickles on, I get more and more scared about the labor part of this whole scenario. It's gonna happen, and it's gonna soon. Nothing I can do about it. This kid has to come out, and there's only two ways she can make her appearance. Neither one of these ways appeals to me, but I prefer to give birth vaginally, if possible. And I'm going to try and do it without a spinal block, too.

I have an appointment with the diabetes lady next week and another scan in a few weeks. I have been assured the little one is of average size considering her gestational age, so I'm not worrying about the obstetrician having to induce labor early. Still, that leaves 10 weeks at most until my body is ripped in half.

When are men going to take over this gruesome task?

Christmas plans

C* and I decided to sit our happy asses home over Christmas this year. The Boy will be at his mother's house, and we aren't going to be making the trip to C*'s mom's house in south England. We agreed on a £20 cap on spending on each other as well. I thought about making an overwhelmingly thoughtful homemade gift, but then I remembered that I'm largely uncreative and unskilled in the way of crafts.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I got a Thanksgiving - and some snow - after all!

C* surprised me by doing a little shopping today so we could have a small, quiet Thanksgiving meal at home. On the menu is turkey, turkey gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes, green vegetables and Yorkshire pudding. Those of you who don't know what Yorkshire pudding is should really read the Wikipedia link. It's not dessert. It's bread.

Today marks the first white Thanksgiving I've ever had. On the way home from work, tiny pellets of icy snow were bouncing off the windshield and onto the pavement. The show lasted only five minutes or so, but it counts. I walked to Tesco earlier to pick up stuff for gravy and for lunches this weekend, and it was coooooold. Made my eyes AND my nose run! It's nice experience a season other than the perpetual summer that Florida has to offer, but milder temperatures are definitely more to my liking.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No pumpkin pie for maarmie

Tomorrow is my first Thanksgiving away from the United States. I won't be having any turkey (except a turkey sandwich for lunch), no potatoes, no stuffing and no pumpkin pie. C* and I printed out a recipe for pumpkin pie earlier then set out to find the ingredients. It's not so easy to find canned pumpkin over here, it seems. And there's no Publix around to just buy a premade one.

I guess I'll just have to suffer.

On another subject: Just because I've written about a few things that go on in Scotland or in the United Kingdom that I view as negative, that doesn't mean that I, in any way, regret moving here. Not for an instant. I am infinitely glad I moved here, and I am even more happy than that that I am with my sweetie.

I'm really very happy. Shocking, isn't it?

Friday, November 16, 2007

First day of work

Today is my first day at work in Scotland. I go in for an unbelievably difficult two or three hours today to get the lowdown from the woman whose last day it is and to meet the woman who will be my supervisor for the next month.

I got the job courtesy of a temp agency I signed up with. Today's wages will go toward the payment of a £20 background check since the work I'll be doing is in the medical field. I guess it's required. I guess in the next month I'll get to find out about the wild world of being a secretary. I'm less than excited, but, hey, it's a paycheck, however small.

Update to come after today's shift.


The 2.5 hours went about as I thought they would: a brief introduction to my duties. The atmosphere in the cubicle-ridden office is about the same as in either the British or American versions of "The Office": everyone sitting there doing menial, mind-numbing tasks while waiting for the sandwich van to pull in at noon or for the day to mercifully end.

It turns out I'm not going to be a secretary. I'm going to be a secretary to a secretary to the boss of all the head nurses in the highlands. Secretaries of secretaries get to print out e-mails with attachments, make copies, arrange meetings, do filing, open mail and complete other soul-ripping tasks. I'm glad this post is for one month only. I just left one life-draining job, and I'm not about to take up another one so goddamn soon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Guy Fawkes celebration

These photos are from the bonfire and fireworks display in Rosemarkie celebrating Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night), November 5.

Guy Fawkes didn't like Protestants, so he devised a plot to blow up the House of Parliament, and, with it, Protestant rule under King James I of England.

I'm not sure if this night is meant to celebrate the plot (unlikely) or to celebrate Guy Fawkes' subsequent capture and hanging. All I know is that when we tried to leave early to avoid the rush of departing traffic, an angry mob of Scottish people cried, "Halt, ye unbelievers!" and chased us with torches and clubs all the way back to our car.

UK v. US - round three

Banking. Why do the British have to make it such a fucking hassle?

From my limited experience, you go into a bank in the United States, wait to talk to an accounts person, fill out paperwork, hand over money, show ID, and, voila, you have just opened a checking or savings account.

Over here, they can't make things that simple.

This week, I've checked out four local banks having branches on the high street (the main street downtown). At the first bank I tried, the Royal Bank of Scotland (or RBS), the lady told me I needed a water bill with my name and current address as proof of my new address. Goodness knows I have tons of other kinds of mail to prove I live where I do, but that's not good enough. I need a utility bill. Bah! Even if I had one, the only account they'd let me open would be the most basic one - one that doesn't even come with a debit card! Can you believe that?

I worked my entire adult life to build up my credit score in the states (and can proudly boast a score of 826) and I move here only to be treated like a financial leper. What's worse is the banking people tell me they can't check my financial history in the United States. I have to start fresh.

The second bank I went to, Clydesdale Bank, told me I'd have to apply and, after my history is checked, they decide which account I can have. The third bank, Lloyds TSB, told me I could just come in and open an account. When I tried to do this, I was told I'd need an appointment, which I made for the next morning. When I showed up, I was told that I'd need employment (and a minimum of £500 being direct-deposited into my account each month) to qualify for even the most basic current account. Since I'm not yet gainfully employed (though I DO start a month-long temp job doing secretarial work for the National Health Service tomorrow), I would only qualify for some kind of what they call a "cash account." Again, no debit card. I can only deposit money and withdraw it from an ATM.

The fourth bank, and the one I have decided to go with, required me to fill out an application and mail it to some office in Leeds. Where the fuck is Leeds, anyway? I went into the branch to see if I could drop the application off there and was told I'd have to mail it. Even though that was my only question, the guy still felt the need to ask, "How long have you lived here?"

Jesus Christ, dude! None of your business how long I've lived here, how long I'm planning on living here (a favorite question) or why I live here! As long as I am legally allowed to be here and I want to put money in an account in your bank, what the fuck is your problem?

The downside at the bank I chose (and the downside at all the banks here considering my lowly status) is that I don't get any kind of overdraft services and I can't make deposits using a teller at a branch. Apparently, they have drop boxes and ATMs in which low-class people like me can make deposits. But at least, if I'm approved, I get a goddamn debit card.

These people are starting to piss me off.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

UK v. US - round two

Gas prices. They suck over here. People in the U.S. freak out when the price gets much more than $3 a gallon. Well, try $8 a gallon, folks. You heard me right. Eight dollars. A gallon.

It's not that a barrel of oil costs so much more over here. It's that the British government adores taxing the fuck out of its people. Cigarettes are $12 a pack. There's a monthly fee that has to be paid for the privilege of having a television in one's home that pays to keep the BBC on the air. Sales tax comes to just over 17 percent. I shudder to think what percentage is taken out of paychecks.

Where does all this money go?

Are the schools world class? NO!

Are the roads perfectly maintained? NOT ON YOUR LIFE!

Are there plenty of city amenities available to residents and the public? NOT!

People are disgruntled, to be sure, as evidenced by the many newspaper articles wondering where the price of a liter of gas will come to rest. But people aren't fighting it.

Do the British feel as powerless against their government as Americans feel against their own?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sick. Bleh!

I seem to be developing some sort of chest cold. My chest feels all raw and yucky. I hope I'm not in for a long winter of illness.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Guardian, Nov. 3

Click on the photo to read the caption. It's good to be surrounded by people who hate the president and vice-president as much as I do.

UK v. US - round one

In the United Kingdom, officials who have weapons can actually be found guilty when they slaughter innocent people. Take the case of the Brazilian man thought to be a terrorist who took part in the London subway bombings. This week, the cops were found guilty unlike those monsters who beat and suffocated a child at a Florida boot camp.

Unfortunately, the cops in the London case don't face any criminal charges or punishments on the job. Instead, the police force is facing a paltry $2.1 million fine for shooting an innocent man in the head seven times on a crowded subway and killing him.

Oops! "Sorry" should be good enough, right?

I call that "murder," however, and I call what the boot camp guards did "murder" as well. Only those creeps aren't likely ever going to be held liable for what they did in any way, shape or form.

It seems like a trend in the United States. Might makes right. Except when the person exercising his or her might isn't a cop and, especially, when that person is black.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Welcome home

I might not have a job anymore, but there are plenty of things for me to do right now.

The first thing I did was get a library card and put some books on hold at the library. Then I went to see about opening a bank account. I handed over my passport this morning to get a provisional driver's license and have an appointment in three weeks to see about getting a national insurance number so employers will easily know that I'm eligible to work.

The day I got here, I went to my new doctor's office, and I have an appointment Tuesday with a midwife. I've already applied for six jobs (most of them are retail or hotel work but one is in the local office of a member of parliament) and hope something comes through soon. Momma needs a paycheck!

C* has been lovely and welcoming. The day I got here, there were flowers and balloons with streamers in every room. The day after I got here, the card above arrived for me in the mail. How thoughtful can he be?

I already feel more at home here than I ever did in the United States. Is it something about the environment? The attitude? The people? I'm hoping to figure it out and to make some interesting observations and post them here along the way.

maarmie on location in Scotland

I'm here. I'm happy. I'm applying for jobs and getting my life together. This move just might be the best thing I've ever done.