nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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I can’t feel my thighs

This is our final day in New York. E, J and I will travel back to London later today and leave R to do all the fun stuff like packing and handing back the flat. I love our flat so much that I want to pack it up and take it back with us. Luckily I don’t have to see the flat all empty, as it will make me very sad. It is the best place we’ve ever lived; R says it will be the best place we ever live. I think he’s right. The luxury of the expat life has some great perks.

Some nice men came round early this morning and took all our air freight, so that’s done. I will leave with just two suitcases, a sports bag and no buggy. J is all grown up now.

It is also a very cold day. In fact, I think it may be the coldest day since we’ve been here. It is minus 13 at the moment and over night it got down to minus 17! I was wrapped up to the extent that all you could see was my eyes shielded by glasses. My thighs were the least covered, just in jeans from mid thigh where my coat stopped to mid calf where my boots began, and they were tingling in the cold. They have only just defrosted.

I went to the phone shop to cancel my US mobile and went past Fairway’s. No more visits there. It reminded me that Whole Foods is due to open today so I went to have a nose, but I was two days early. Typical, we live here for over two years and then they open Whole Foods two days after we leave.

The streets around where we live are pretty grotty at the moment. There are huge chunks of ice everywhere, as it hasn’t warmed up enough to entirely melt everything. But where it has melted a bit, it reveals all the dog poo, the rubbish that people threw in the snow and it’s so dirty.

We’re going to the ever lovely Mansion Cafe for lunch and a final round of pancakes and bacon – why does that combination work so well? Then we’re off.


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When 9 x 3 = loud

In our last few days in New York, I have a moment of weakness where I agree to have a goodbye sleepover for E. She will turn 9 the week we return to London, so this is a birthday sleepover too. Most of the people I mention this too say I am quite mad or very brave. I am neither.

I organise this with military precision, to include dinner at a local burger place and hours of evening skating in Central Park to wear them out and burn off all the sugar from the calorie laden milk shakes. There is something quite special about skating at night in the sub zero temperature with the buildings of 59th and 5th Avenue looming over head. There are lots of British tourists on the ice, so it’s good to hear some familiar accents. The girls are loud, they are boisterous but they have fun, so much fun.

We pile into a yellow cab to go home and they spend far too long chattering in bed before eventually falling asleep. What a great New York way for E to spend an early birthday and remember the lovely friends she will have to sadly leave behind in a matter of days.


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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 there’s another one

I’m referring to odd men. Back in the summer there was ‘creepy guy’ who got offended when I told him it wasn’t quite right for him to be hanging around a kid’s park with no kid. Today’s oddity was a bearded man wearing a sign around his neck proclaiming something about Jesus and sins who was hanging around our street. He decided that it would be absolutely fine to approach J and offer him what looked like a coloured stone. When I said ‘you shouldn’t give things to small children’, he just pushed it further at J’s hands, and J was of course fascinated by this and would have willingly taken it had I not pulled him away. The odd man then decides to follow us down the street, while I walk faster and hope the light’s in my favour so that I can cross the road and not stop. I look back and he’s gone.

After picking E up from school, he’s there again. This time dancing around on the street, sign flapping wildly. I hurry us all on and cross the road, trying to explain to a perplexed E why a man is dancing in the street with a sign around his neck. That’s a hard one.

But on the other hand, my good British friend G was telling me just the other day about a man outside Whole Foods on 14th Street, I think, who was dressed just in his underpants, dancing, with a sign saying something about making people smile. Which it did. What an odd world.


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3 hours to sunshine

Yes, that’s how long it takes to get to the Caribbean from New York. Great, isn’t it? And how do I know? Because we just went there from JFK airport direct to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Talk about a contrast: from the brutal, grey and cold city to the laid back, white sandy beaches, turquoise ocean and clear blue sky. It’s all a bit indulgent, really. We only went for 4 days and as this isn’t a travel blog, I won’t bore you about the lovely apartment, the heat, the sand…

But the point I really wanted to make was about proximity. In the UK you might head off to Spain, Italy or some other Mediterranean destination and take about the same time to get there. The Caribbean is a long haul flight away and an expensive one at that. So think of a trip to the Caribbean from the US as the equivalent of a trip from London to one of the Mediterranean countries. Great thing about much of the Caribbean is that the national language is English and for us in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the currency is the US Dollar, so no currency conversion horrors. And even better it’s on Eastern Time, so no jet lag and no time zone changes to mess about with J’s sleep patterns! All in all, a fabulous way to escape New York’s grim winter.

If I didn’t have the pictures, I probably would think it was all a dream.


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Now here’s something pretty special

Continuing with the cold theme from yesterday, E and I went ice skating in Central Park last night. There’s a permanent rink at the south end of Central Park which is re-used in the summer as a small fairground. We went to the fairground in August on a roasting hot day where I sought out shelter at every opportunity and guzzled bottles of water; this time round I’m freezing and gripping a cup of Early Grey tea to try and restore some feeling in my fingers.

The setting is spectacular: the buildings of 59th Street towering over us and the trees of Central Park nearly bare of leaves. It’s kind of spooky walking into Central Park at night; E wasn’t keen and I sort of knew where I was going after an abortive attempt to cut through the Zoo, which was unsurprisingly shut at 630pm. But we survived and it’s well worth it as a proper New York experience, something everyone should try during the winter.

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Not quite how you imagine New York

Coney Island in the cold and at the end of the season. No crowds, no queues to get on rides, pretty much the ideal time to visit. Looking at these photos, you’d never know it was Brooklyn, New York. Great way to spend a Sunday in October.

Along the boardwalk at Coney Island about 2pm.

Along the boardwalk at Coney Island about 2pm.

 

 

 

 

Just before leaving around 5pm, the view along the beach at Coney Island.

Just before leaving around 5pm, the view along the beach at Coney Island.


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Sunday best

In our local park today there was a costume contest for the local dogs in celebration of Halloween. The Halloween Howl was packed with dogs of all shapes and sizes dressed up and prancing around in an attempt to win a prize. Crazy stuff, but there was a great atmosphere and you couldn’t help but smile and go ‘aahh’ a lot. Check out some of the entrants:

This one is carrying a replica of the Roosevelt Island Tram. Came second in its class.

This one is carrying a replica of the Roosevelt Island Tram. Came second in its class.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A super hero and winner of its class.

A super hero and winner of its class.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favourite. Check out the daschund on the right: yes, he's wearing a leather cap!

My favourite. Check out the daschund on the right: yes, he’s wearing a leather cap!


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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?