Scottish Independence

These are exciting times in Scotland. There’s an election coming up. If you’re reading this blog in the United States, you might even have read about it in one of a series of mildly condescending articles in the Times!

(Actually, that is also true if you’re in the United Kingdom. What is it about papers called the Times?)

I don’t get to vote – but if I could, I think I would vote yes. (For independence, that is). I quite like the idea of living in a small, liberal nation that stays out of international affairs and spends more on childcare than warfare. But I know that there are many good and valid reasons to vote no. I also know that there’s not much that’s more annoying than when foreigners express their opinions on how things should go in your country. So that is all that I am going to say about that.

It’s interesting to think about what it would mean to me if I’m no longer a UK resident. I’d have to deal with an new form of bureaucracy when it’s time to renew my visa, of course. But my job isn’t going south of the border, and while it would be frustrating to watch the pound drop in value against the dollar – which, let’s face it, is already happening just because a Yes victory is seeming like a possibility – I’m still going to go nuts at Target the next time I’m in the US.

Perhaps I need to get out more (ah ha ha, I have two small children, OF COURSE I need to get out more), but I’ve been to England only once since I moved here. And while it perhaps would have felt strange to bring a fistful of passports along just to cross the border, it seemed way more bizarre that I traveled for about an hour on the train to get off in a place where everyone had a COMPLETELY different accent. How does that even happen?

Anyway, much like I (still) feel more like a New Yorker than an American, I feel like I live in Edinburgh first, Scotland second, and the UK a distant third. Perhaps I’m quite provincial, but I prefer to think I’m simply more comfortable with a lighter load of cultural baggage.

A wee bit of culture shock

Some things make me feel so very American.

1. When I say “have a good day,” and the other person interprets it as a question.

2. Orderly bus queues.

(I grew up in New York City. At a glance, I can determine how best to position myself so I am among the first to board any oncoming bus or train. Here, the part of the brain that could be devoted to that task is instead used to remember everyone’s place in the bus queue. People track the smokers standing to one side, the friends standing together who did not arrive together, and the unruly three year olds who are swinging on the bench. And the order of arrival is politely, yet strictly, followed when boarding. So I’m learning to wait. Okay, there may have been an incident recently where I swung a small child over my head to snag an empty seat on the train. But there are always bumps in the road.)

3. The time I offered my friend a peanut butter cup, and she visibly recoiled.

4. When I see a date written as, say, 5/9/14 – and I have to stop to think about which country I’m in, and which country it’s referring to, before I know whether it’s already happened.

5. Filling out any form that asks for my race/ethnicity, and there are multiple choices under White, and those choices are White Scottish, White British, White Irish, Polish, and Gypsy/Traveller.

6. When I buy vegetables, and they come wrapped in plastic, and those plastic wrappers have cooking instructions that involve boiling for at least twelve minutes.

Happy Independence Day

I bought some new underwear recently. From the Gap, so no surprises, right? But look at this:

underwear

Can you believe that label? It’s four labels long. Need to know how to wash these underpants in Hungarian? You’re in luck. Because this label contains washing instructions in more than twenty languages. (Including both French and Canadian French. The Canadian French washing instructions are considerably more complex. But I digress.)

According to the Daily Mail (don’t judge), labels like this one are a new European Union requirement. As of 2014, if an item of clothing will be sold in an EU country – or might be sold in an EU country – it must have information printed in the language of that country.

That, to me, is an incredible amount of regulation regarding my underpants. It makes me homesick for the US, where the government would never support an intrusion like that into my… um…

Yeah. Never mind.

Happy Independence Day!

Trip to Arran

We recently spent a week on the Isle of Arran. That’s in Scotland. Really.

tropical

No, really. See?

Lochranza Castle

We saw many things. The baby was kind enough to wake us up in time to see the sun rise over the Firth of Clyde. At 4:27 am.

sunrise

We also saw standing stones at Machrie Moor.

Machrie moor standing stones

And Ireland, from the top of Goat Fell.

view from Goat Fell

Here, let me help you out with that. It’s the bit of land way at the back. See?

view from Goat Fell - Ireland

Three years old

As of Tuesday, I have a three year old.

kid on bike

Some days I want to write down every single thing he says so I can remember it all forever.

Kid: “Take your face off and put it on the apple.”
Me: “But then I won’t have a face.”
Kid: “Then you won’t be able to yell at me.”

Some days I don’t.

My three year old loves trains. Especially trains with faces. He thinks toys with wheels make the best presents. But dinosaurs are pretty good too. Last weekend he convinced us to buy him a toy in the museum gift shop by saying that he needed a Parasaurolophus. He insists that he wants us to paint his walls his favorite color: red. (We’ve been reluctant.) He has a best friend. It took him 45 minutes to pick out his newest pair of shoes. And when it rained the next day, he made us carry him everywhere so they wouldn’t get wet. He can make his baby sister stop crying just by talking to her. He has excellent taste in chocolate. But sometimes he doesn’t want chocolate because it will make him too sugary.

And he’s adjusted remarkably well to a year of huge changes. (Better than his parents, we suspect.)

We’re still here!

We’ve been here a year! (Plus 5 days or so.)

I remember the days before we arrived – newly pregnant, recently robbed, and seriously questioning our sanity.

But what do you know, we’re still here.

I love this city, I really do. Although I’ve experienced it in a totally different way than anyplace I’ve ever lived before. I generally feel like the best ways to get to know a new place are to take long walks, find the best places to eat, and find a couple of great places to relax (namely bars and coffee shops). But being pregnant made all of those things far more difficult. Let’s just say I would not recommend getting knocked up as a strategy for getting to know a new city.

Now that the baby’s here, I’m taking plenty of long walks, eating a LOT (although not at terribly fancy places), and working on visiting every coffee shop within a two mile radius. And taking advantage of the fact that nearly every bar in the city allows kids in during the day. I’ve gone from barely getting out at all while pregnant to getting out constantly and ruthlessly with a small baby in tow. I have learned the precise water resistance limits of all of my jackets, let me tell you.

I’ve heard that it’s impossible to really judge a place you’ve been living until you’ve been there at least a year – because it takes at least that long just to settle in. And living here, while an adventure in some ways, is also just life. I mean, we have jobs and kids and furniture and way too much stuff and families to visit (STILL) and a mortgage and all the other trappings of being grownups. I also know that some of both the shiny newness and the crippling unfamiliarity of the place will be wearing off over these next few months. So watch this space…

Too many clothes, part 1

I would love to be a person who lives simply, who shops mindfully, and who has little enough stuff to be able to pack up and move at a moment’s notice.

Clearly I am not this person. Recall:

our stuff

In an attempt to have less stuff and simplify my life, I decided to keep all of the kid’s old baby clothes, pack them away in huge plastic boxes (which are terribly green*), and bring them to Scotland. Wait, no, it made sense at the time. I wouldn’t need to buy any new baby clothes!

This strategy probably works really well for some people. Do you know when it does not work? When one kid is born in May, in California.

dressing the kid

And the other is born in December, in Scotland.

dressing the baby

On the bright side, she’ll soon start to grow into his winter clothes, which might just get her through the summer here.

Fortunately, we have extremely generous relatives. And friends. And friends of relatives. So we now have a full set of nice, new, warm clothes for the baby. To, um, complement our full set of nice, slightly worn, not-so-warm clothes for the baby.

What, I should just throw them away? There could be a heat wave.

So yeah, that simplifying thing is going really well.

* Really. They’re bright green. From Target. (I miss Target.)