nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Tonight’s experience just reminds me quite how different NYC is to NW3. I was out at 8pm after a school thing with a bit of baby sitting time in hand, so I wander over to 3rd Avenue and get my very favourite lychee flavoured bubble ice tea with a large bag of rice crackers from the health food store next door. Best enjoyed at home in front of Project Runway or The Blacklist (new series just started last week). And then I decide to get a spontaneous (and that’s not something any mother of young children can remember being) manicure. I know I’ve gone on about these before, but I feel the need to share. Here’s how the conversation went with the very nice lady doing my nails:

“Chinchilly?” she asks.

“Chinchilla?” I respond.

I look at the bottom of the bottle of nail polish and see it does indeed say Chinchilly.

“Chinchilla? That’s an animal, someone told me that” she responds, as if I don’t know that.

“Chinchilly. Yes, a cold chinchilla!” I smirk and think she will laugh at my lame humour.

“Eh?” She sort of says, but in a Nepalese way.

I then have to explain that chilly means cold and that it is a play on the word chinchilla, but her eyes glaze over and I give up.

I then apologise for my British humour and remind myself that I left my humour at Heathrow last time I left London and I never make a joke here because there’s no humour here. Not my kind anyway.

(NB: writing this blog post, the text editor has told me I have made four spelling errors besides the obvious chinchilly. Can you spot the US and UK English?)

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Introducing the Dag Dog

It’s all go in New York today as the 193 members of the United Nations get together for the meeting of the General Assembly. Luckily the UN building is not in our part of town but I wouldn’t touch the FDR driveway today, especially if the President is around. The roads jam up, the subway stops and there are a lot of scary looking black cars going very fast. Can you guess which one contains the President – bit like the card game ‘chase the lady’ or whatever it’s called.

I am reminded of our recent visit to the UN. You can turn up as a tourist and have a look around but only on a pre-booked tour. Our South Korean guide was gushing in her admiration for her fellow countryman, Ban Ki-moon, current Secretary General. We got to have a look in the various meeting rooms, fitted out by the Scandinavian countries, for some IKEA style wooden calm. Couldn’t seen inside the General Assembly building as it was being finished off for this week’s meeting. But overall it’s interesting to see, apart from the walk through various corridors that remind you that you are an unimportant person in a very important but functional administration building – off white walls, peeling paint and a distinct lack of light.

Anyhow, having taken in all that information and bought my UN pencil and mug, we emerged into the sunlight of 1st Avenue and wandered over to Dag’s. It is named after Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary General of the United Nations who died in a plane crash on his way to a mission in the Congo. I’m sure he would have been proud to have his name associated with a library in the UN building but to be the name of an outdoor cafe just off 1st Avenue? Not sure about that one. I also think he might have been slightly horrified to have a hot dog named after him. Yes, the Dag Dog. R had one and he said its combination of cheddar cheese, grilled onions, applewood bacon and mustard was a diplomatic success. Well, no he didn’t really, but he should have. Looked like a greasy hot dog to me.


United Nations building as seen from 1st Avenue

United Nations building as seen from 1st Avenue

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Hello Tiddles

Since R brought back six new Peppa DVDs from England in July, I have learnt all about the new characters which have appeared on the show since E stopped watching it a few years ago.  There’s a now a fox called Freddie.  I am highly amused by Brian Blessed, his voice booming as Grampy Rabbit who competes with Grandad Pig for who is best at everything.

But my favourite new character is Dr Hamster. I thought it was Caroline Aherne doing the voice, but it’s not, it’s Morwenna Banks, who mostly does Mummy Pig’s voice. Dr Hamster has a tortoise bizarrely called Tiddles. It clearly thinks it’s a cat because it’s always getting stuck in trees. “I don’t know why he does that, he’s a tortoise,” complains Dr Hamster.

I wanted to share my new found Peppa Pig knowledge with a man in Central Park today. I was out for a morning run, huffing and puffing up a big hill in the north part of the park in Harlem and nearly fell over when I saw an elderly man walking a rather fat ginger cat in the opposite direction. He had a lovely red lead, the cat, not the man. He thinks his cat is a dog. Maybe it’s called Rover?

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She was just having a laugh

white picture

I was having a bit of sit down in this gallery in the Whitney Museum of American Art having been through the Jeff Koons retrospective on the four floors below. Feeling a bit funny after all that Koons humour and colour and general gaudiness, I had found this room on the fifth floor. It is baffling.

What is going on here? I walk in, look at the 12 large silver framed pictures which are basically all white and a bit lined. I pull a face, read the blurb, find out they are by an artist called Agnes Martin who painted them in 1979. The blurb says “The Islands is among the most beloved works in the Whitney’s collection and is regarded as one of Martin’s great achievements. Hmmm.

If Martin had still been alive, I think she should have hung out in the gallery for 20 minute like I did and check out people’s reactions. They walk in one entrance, look at the room  and smile, but then they look perplexed.  If this were a cartoon, they would have a thought bubble above their heads that said “WTF?!?” Then most of them then look bored and walk on through.

Those who don’t get to the boredom stage check out the blurb, pull a face which says “eh?” and then walk out. The more intrigued then go and have a bit of a look at one or two and then clear off. The man next to me on the bench is reading his guide to NY and could be anywhere, he’s not bothered either.

After 20 minutes or so, having tried looking at the pictures by squinting, using just one eye and cocking my head to one side decide that she was just having a laugh. Bonkers.

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Welcome back, Met

As long as we’ve lived in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been surrounded by hoardings, covering up the work being done to reconstruct the space in front of the museum , which runs along 5th Avenue from 79th Street to 84th Street. It was pretty ugly, made the pavement very narrow in places and it was filthy to navigate in the depths of winter.

This week it was finally over. The front of the Met has been revealed and it looks beautiful. The David H. Koch Plaza is clean, simply laid out and resplendent with circular fountains and rows of bright red umbrellas providing welcome respite from the fierce New York sun.

Walking south along 5th Avenue outside the Met

Unfortunately they didn’t get rid of the ugly looking fast food vendors that line up along the pavement and pollute the air with their smoky cooking. Have a look and see what you think.

Walking north along 5th Avenue outside the Met

Walking north along 5th Avenue outside the Met










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When primary doesn’t mean school

In the UK the word primary usually gets associated with he word school. When I was a kid I went to primary school from age 5 to 11, then I went to secondary school until age 18. Here in NY primary schools are called elementary schools, then kids go to middle school and then on to high school.

The only reason I think of this today is because it’s primary election day today. This means that a load of candidates are trying to get the nomination for their party to stand for the real election in a few months time. Here in New York City that means a lot of people are vying to get the democratic nomination for various spots on the State government, including the Assembly, the Senate and a number of other posts I don’t really understand.

This does mean that getting down the street is quite hard without being assailed by a leaflet toting campaigner who thrusts leaflets at you. I’ve given up telling them I can’t vote, it’s just too much hassle, so I collect them all, have a bit of a read and discard them. A lot of trees have died for this campaign.


One of the more interesting races is that for the nomination for New York State Governor. Currently, it’s a man called Andrew Cuomo, whose father was also Governor in years gone by. He reminds me of the character played by Chris Noth (previously Mr Big in Sex and the City) in The Good Wife, which is a ridiculous legal based drama that R and I like to watch and laugh at, but secretly like. Mr Cuomo is not quite as handsome as Mr Noth.

Andrew Cuomo has done little to campaign for re nomination and I haven’t seen any campaign posters for the Governor’s race. But he is being opposed by a woman with the best name ever: Zephyr Teachout. She’s a law professor from one of the city’s universities and she’s focusing on anti corruption and drawing attention away from Cuomo. It’s been interesting following her campaign and it’s unlikely she’ll get much of the vote today.

The New York Times was wonderfully sniffy about it all and refused to endorse Cuomo, saying he hadn’t lived up to his promises to sort out corruption in the State Government. But they refused to endorse Teachout because she has no legislative experience. So, we’ll see what happens when the count is over and if Cuomo is tarnished at all. Whatever happens today, New York State will elect a Democrat as Governor, it’s just that kind of state.

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The $500 bug bite

This is a cautionary tale called “don’t let your kids get bitten by bugs in New York City”.

When the bite doesn’t heal, but spreads in a randomly circular fashion over your child’s leg and you hope that it will heal and five days later it still looks a bit angry, then you probably should follow that urge to take her to the doctors. And when you’ve waited in the waiting room for 40 minutes, then been seen by a nurse who then makes you wait another 20 minutes for the doctor, don’t despair if your toddler runs amok. You must think happy thoughts, that it is Friday and that it will, it must end soon.

And when the doctor appears, looking not so much like a doctor, more like your glamorous grandma, keep the faith, listen and hope that you can escape soon. And when she confirms that yes, that leg is horribly infected, you did the right thing and here’s a prescription (written out twice, as the first one was illegible, even for a doctor) you know you can now escape into Friday night, now feral children in tow (they need their tea). And then you can deal with your despair because she said you have to come back Monday!

Go back to the doctor on Monday, better prepared this time. Children fed beforehand, entertainments in bag and an acceptance of having to wait forever – confirmed by the receptionist who rolls her eyes when you ask how far the doctor is behind. And there you have it: a miracle, you are called within 10 minutes, see a nurse for 5 minutes, wait 2 minutes for the doctor, spend 5 minutes  with the doctor (this time in Pucci inspired grandma wear) and congratulate yourself on  being a good mother who spotted that it wasn’t right. Then thank the doctor for her perception and her kindness. And don’t be insulted when she says she doesn’t want to see you there again.

And the cost for all this: that’ll be $295 for the two doctor visits and just under $200 for the antibiotics. Gumph. NHS anyone?


Losing my grip

Yesterday I was reading a blog called the Selfish Mother and came across an article that appeared in the Guardian called “Why I won’t dress like a mum”. I was laughing until I realised she was describing me. Almost. I had recently ordered yet another hooded coat for the winter, a funky one from J Crew, in my defence; and I had also ordered a grey cardigan and jeans from Boden. You’d think I lived in the middle of nowhere, not Manhattan. I find clothes shopping in NYC utterly exhausting especially with J in tow, so I’ve pretty much stopped doing it now.
So when the Boden parcel arrived today I tried them on, thought ‘oh f***, she’s right, I look terrible: get a grip’ and promptly sent them back. Then I remembered how much I loved Cos in London’s Regent’s Street and how I’d read that recently they started selling online in the US. So I ordered four tops and a funky necklace. My only concession: they all had to be washable (I am a mum, after all). And then I looked at high top trainers on Zappos (amazing US online shoe store) and am still pondering whether I’m just too old. I’m not. I think. I might have stepped back from the brink. Just.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

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Let’s fry an egg on the sidewalk

Today is the day after Labor Day. It is the unofficial end of summer. This means that the sprinklers are turned off in the parks; that the free open air swimming pools are shut; the open air swimming pool on the top of an apartment building that we can see from our apartment no longer has a bored lifeguard on duty because its 2 September (I bet the residents were mad about that).

The streets are busy again as everyone returns to the city after a summer break and with schools starting back this week, there are kids everywhere.

And today turns out to be the hottest day of the year! Well done New York. It is September and the temperature hit 33 degrees this afternoon. E suggested that we try frying an egg on the sidewalk. Yep, she said sidewalk and not pavement. Tut tut.