nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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Another healthcare rant (with a twist)

I’ve written before about the crazy healthcare system here in the US. I don’t like it but I put up with it because, well, I have no choice and we have pretty good insurance. Here’s my most recent experience:

Me: Thank you for my prescription for eye drops, how much is that nice chemist lady?

Nice chemist lady: (looks sheepish and nudges packet across the counter to me, showing the cost printed on it in small type)

Me: 200 bucks??!!! Really?? What’s in it? Gold?

Nice chemist lady: Yeah, maybe (and continues to look sheepish)

I restrain myself from going into my NHS rant and pay the bill.

And today the complete opposite happened. I took J to the doctor and just couldn’t resist sharing my 200 dollar story so she took pity on me and gave me a handful of samples instead of yet another phenomenally expensive prescription and said ‘use those, I get loads’. Ha!

Then they couldn’t get their new IT system to work; it couldn’t cope with the fact that I wanted to ‘pay out of pocket’ because they don’t recognise my insurance, so I walked out without paying! I’ll have to go back and pay the bill later, but I did enjoy the frisson of excitement from not having paid…

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So it wasn’t the end of the world, then?

Indeed not. The promise of several feet of snow falling on New York City overnight on Monday and forcing its icy grip on its residents just didn’t happen. I woke up yesterday around 6am and peered outside expecting to see snow piled as high as the cars but could see less than a foot. Admittedly from the 35th floor, it’s hard to get perspective on this, but it clearly wasn’t two feet.

It was eerie though. Normally the streets and avenues of New York are bustling at all times of day of night. But at 6am yesterday there wasn’t a soul around; the streets were weirdly empty and quiet. It was the quiet that got me. It’s never quiet here.The Mayor had decried that no one should be on the streets after 11pm Monday night. No food deliveries, how would New Yorkers cope?

Around 7.30am yesterday the Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, said it wasn’t so bad after all so the subway would start again around 9am, running a Sunday service. Bit by bit the traffic started appearing on the streets and the white roads became their usual mucky colour and it looked fairly normal for a winter’s day. The Mayor said he was right to be cautious and shut the schools, put the 11pm curfew in place, etc. But on this occasion it was an over reaction. He seemed pleased but apologetic for the inconvenience. He would have been criticised whatever he had done.

There was, however, enough snow to do some sledging in the local park. It was cold enough to freeze my feet after an hour despite two pairs of socks and some rather unattractive snow boots. J and E had a great time. I was glad to be back in doors, in the warm and feel my toes again.

And today, well of course the aftermath was dissected ad nauseum in the New York Times. We didn’t get ours yesterday, so it appeared snuggled inside today’s copy.  The kids went back to school as normal; the pavements are slushy and the crossings deep with melted, disgusting dirty snow. I went to Fairway’s and they had a fair bit on the shelves despite all the panic buying. No fish mind you, or my favourite bread, but that’s not so bad when the end of the world has been averted.


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Apparently we are hunkering down

I have never used this term before, but it seems to be used mostly for bad weather. We are then hunkering down for a massive snowstorm.  It even has a name, Winter Storm Juno. In fact, judging by the behaviour of the people near where we live in NYC, it appears to be the end of the world!

In true British panic fashion, people are emptying the shelves of the supermarkets and there’s an odd look in everyone’s eyes as they attempt to navigate the snowy pavements with enough food to last a long time. The local stores that usually remain open into the night all have hand written signs saying they are shutting early. I went into one with the slightly deranged idea that I could get something nice for tea, but when I saw the queue backed up through the entire shop, so I baled.

I collected E from school, just four blocks away, and kids everywhere were having fun in the snow. Perversely I decided that we would have ice cream from our local ice cream place, because it seemed like the right thing to do but even that was shutting down shortly after we bought ours, as the owner was fleeing to Queens. E did look a bit insane eating hers in the snowy streets, but no one batted an eyelid.

The schools are shut tomorrow, both state and private as the Mayor learnt from the last storm that keeping the schools open in fierce snow isn’t a smart move. Even Central Park is shutting at 6pm today. Let’s hope its open tomorrow for some snowy fun.


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Good job we’re off soon

Because it looks like the only way you’ll get decent Cadbury chocolate will be by importing it in your own luggage. The New York Times reported that “as a result of a settlement with the Hershey’s Company, Let’s Buy British Imports or LBB agreed this week to stop importing all Cadbury’s chocolates made overseas.” The woman who owns the British cafe, shop and chippie way downtown was not happy and another retailer of British goods was quoted in the article saying “Cadbury’s is about half of my business.” Crikey, are there that many people in New York who buy British chocolate to sustain half a business? Not me, I always get mine from Fairway’s and I’m pretty sure they are UK made, unless I’ve lost too much of my UK tastes in the last two years. I suppose Fairway’s will stop selling them too, let’s hope they don’t stop selling Walkers crisps, because we have definitely been their best customers – so much so they put the price up three times since 2012.


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Rain? What rain?

Here are my top tips for visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island:

1. Don’t go on the rainiest day of the year. Especially when that rain is really cold and forms slushy puddles everywhere you walk. Go equipped with snow boots and heavy duty rain gear including thick gloves and umbrellas

2. If you do go on the rainiest day of the year you can wave goodbye to crowds and all those who booked to come here but didn’t come because of the rain. You will breeze on to the ferry, find a seat easily and despite the rain and general cold, have a pleasant journey from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty.

3. Be happy you booked to go inside the Statue of Liberty – the Crown tickets. This is because there are no crowds (see 2. above) and because climbing hundreds of steps inside a copper statue in the cold is actually OK. Imagine it is 30 degrees C + and you are inside said statue, now that’s unpleasant.

4. Rejoice reaching the crown of the lady liberty, be slightly freaked out by being so incredibly close to the eyes inside the statue, staring at you; look outside the tiny windows of the crown and think ‘blimey, her hands are massive’ as you realise quite how large this statue is when you get inside it.

5. Congratulate yourself when you emerge at the bottom for not slipping on the incredibly narrow spiral staircase that goes up and down the inside of the statue. Forget the fact that you slipped on the way up the first, less narrow stairs, missed the bannister and bashed your head on the wall in a spectacular feat of clumsiness.

6. Freeze in the queue for the next ferry that will take you to Ellis Island. Feel smug that you brought lunch in the form of Bob’s Bagels stuffed with lovely cream cheese and other delights; no greasy over priced food for you on this trip.

7. Lament the shortness of the crossing that does not allow your tea to cool down enough that you have to dump it in the bin on the way out as you need both hands to drive the buggy. Buggy very necessary on very wet day to control toddler who is liable to sit down in protest anywhere and anyhow regardless of foul weather conditions.

8. Feel pleased for making the effort to get off the ferry at Ellis Island as it is a poignant reminder of the adversity of New York’s immigrant population. Think warm thoughts of 8 year old daughter who is actually interested in the history and listening with interest to the audio guide, taking us around the building where thousands, maybe millions of immigrants were processed to be allowed to enter America.

9. Smirk at your 3 year old toddler who is wearing headphones and no audio guide but thinks he’s just like his big sister. Chuckle when he picks up a phone in the exhibition where there is oral history on a loop and says ‘it’s Nana on the phone’. Bribe with Smarties smuggled in from England when he starts to get bored.

10. And leave, feeling like this was money well spent and that we really should have done this earlier in our stay in New York.

11. Trudge home from Bowling Green station and emerge at the other end full of thoughts of the past as well as more pressing thoughts about getting that cup of tea and actually drinking it this time.

12. New York tourist spots? Tick done.


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And so it begins: the clear out

It feels like time is slipping away already. I am on a major drive to purge our apartment of stuff we just don’t need. We have been carrying around items for years that we move from house to house and never use. But that ends now. I am on a mission to have a big clear out.

So how do you get rid of things in New York City? Well, according to our doorman you need the Salvation Army. Sounds extreme, but he’s right, they collect all your unwanted goods and sell them on to make money for their own charitable needs. I booked a pick up online last night at www.satruck.org. It’s a really good website that allows you to specify the goods you want to donate (although some of their categories are a bit esoteric), where you want them collected from and when. I was amazed at the lead time, it’ll be another 2 weeks before the boxes are collected, so I’m glad I did this early.

Then there’s the electrics. We had to buy electrics that drew any considerable amount of power, so that includes the hair dryer, toaster, kettle, hoover, shredder, blender and dust buster. I am looking for good homes for them all now, except the dust buster that will go in the bin as it’s completely worn out from collecting all the crud on our white kitchen floor! The electrical goods will be hopeless back in the UK and we already have them all sitting in a lonely storage crate in the back of beyond.

And of course there’s toys and baby clothes. J has gone from being a 10 month old baby when we arrived to a 3 year old tornado. He has a lot of baby things we just don’t need now and there will be no baby 3, that’s for sure. So, I have been sending these off to someone I know who has a boy exactly 2 years younger than J.

Even the buggy will go. Kids in New York stay in buggies way longer than UK kids because of the amount of walking they seem to do to get to school. I have seen 5 year olds in buggies. But not us. I am determined the nearly 9 year old Maclaren will not be going home and will go to the buggy tip and the 3 year old Mountain Buggy is off to Queens. Don’t tell J.

I’m sure there will be more to go, but it’s a good start. So cathartic.


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And it all grinds to a halt

Oh dear, New York was not a happy place yesterday. The snow started falling from about 9am and didn’t stop for a long time. I watched it from our apartment, 35 floors up, and it was mesmerizing. I emerged late morning to pick J up from pre-school and it was 2 inches thick, a powdery loose snow that swirled up into the air. It was minus 7 degrees C. Our avenue was chock full of cars, taxis, buses and trucks warily edging their way up the road. People were angry: they clearly hadn’t read the forecast and were beeping and shouting, at what, I don’t know. All a bit pointless really.

I had to take J with me to the orthodontist to get my new aligners to finish off my Invisalign treatment and he was in heaven stomping in the fresh virgin snow. It took us 40 minutes to sort of walk 3 and a bit avenues. And then we got caught by the funeral of ex Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, which was taking place at a church on Park Avenue. TV cameras and crews everywhere, blocking the traffic even more. Had a nice chat with and bored looking NYPD officer nearby which made J’s day (and mine, I suppose), so something good can happen in sub zero temperatures in New York.


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Mmm, malt loaf and moving home

I’m in the land of malt loaf, a surprisingly tasty, squidgy bread that’s low in calories and high in loveliness. I just had some with some Anchor butter because in the UK it’s in every supermarket and there’s nothing like it in New York.

But really I should be writing about the new year and not going on about food. Again. Yes, 2015 the year we return to the UK. We will be leaving New York within three months as R’s job is relocating back to London again. The New York years are nearly over.

This changes things. It now means that all the ideas on our bucket list need to be either abandoned or booked. We still haven’t been up the Statue of Liberty, so that’s all booked for late January; not the greatest time of year to see it, so fingers crossed for no snow. R is woefully behind in his New York tourist excursions so he is doing some things alone, like the Tenement Museum, but of course that means a return visit to the nearby Katz’s Deli, the home of the enormous salt beef (corned beef to the Americans) sandwich. Yum. Plus a trip to the New Museum, which is likely to be very J unfriendly, but we’ll give it a go.

I want to make the most of these three months and not lose them to moving preparations, obsession about schools and flats to rent in NW3. So, lots to do and lots to write about as we head towards our exit.