nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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Ageing gracefully

Take a look at this article in today’s New York Times magazine. It’s wonderful. It shows four sisters who have been photographed in the same pose more or less every year for the last 40 years. The online version shows the four sisters ageing every year, but in the hard copy magazine you see just a selection over the years and the impact is much greater. Makes you think about your own ageing.


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Miss you, Guardian

Have I confessed before to being a Guardian reader? Well I am. Or was. For a very, very long time. Reading it online is a poor substitute and I have lapsed since living in New York and only occasionally look at the website. I tried reading the Guardian weekly digest, an A4 size version available for 5 bucks in a newsagent up the road, but that seemed to be just the boring bits strung together and none of the features and writers I loved.

So what brings me to consider this today? R has just returned from a few days in the UK and has returned with a pristine weekend edition (now 2.50, I’m sure it was 2 quid when we left) and Monday’s edition, almost pristine, if R hadn’t looked through it on the way back to New York.

What a pleasure to see it again. How funny the Berliner format seems compared with the large and old fashioned style of the New York Times. How nice to read a story on consecutive pages and not be sent to three different sections of the paper to finish an article (yes, New York Times, that’s you and it’s still annoying).

I read the Saturday magazine in the library this afternoon, with J sat next to me happily ‘reading’ his toddler books. It felt almost sacrilegious to put it in their recycling bin when I’d finished it. I was sure another Brit would be along shortly to love it like I did. But they didn’t, so I did (throw it).

And this evening R and I raced each other to finish the Monday quick crossword, just like old times. So close, he beat me by 2 and a bit clues. Good to see Lenin in the answers, good old leftie Guardian.

So if you’re visiting us, make sure to bring a copy of the Guardian and some Sainsbury’s Highland Shortbread Fingers (family size pack of course, but they are only for me) and you’ll make me a very happy nyc-newbie.


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The popularity of Peppa

My favourite episode of Peppa Pig is when Daddy Pig takes his book about concrete back to the library and sheepishly says “I may have had this for rather a long time.” To which Miss Rabbit, the librarian (and jack of all trades) responds after scanning the book and getting a loud alert sound, “Daddy Pig, you’ve had this book out for ten years!” Daddy Pig reddens in embarrassment and Miss Rabbit says “That’s alright, just don’t do it again”.  No fierce librarians in Peppa land.

This makes me and E laugh every time that we play the English DVD of Peppa Pig episodes. I had thought we had left this behind literally and metaphorically but with J reaching nearly two and a half, he has discovered the wonderful world of Peppa and I have gone back in time six years.

I share this because I take E’s Peppa Pig ball to the playground now. J loves it. And this has become a passport to conversations that start “where did you get that ball, X loves Peppa Pig!”  This is where I open my mouth, clearly demonstrating I am British and I am in. I am very popular. The ball is positively antique but here it is worth as much as one.

I have discovered that Peppa Pig is shown here but is dubbed with American voices! Why? Are the English voices that hard to understand? I don’t think the lovely Morwenna Banks would agree – she of the Mummy Pig and Miss Rabbit voices and partner of British comic, David Baddiel. Looks like I’ll be playing that ancient DVD for a while longer, I don’t think J would understand why Peppa is suddenly accentuating her Rs and replacing her Ts for Ds. And I don’t fancy it either.


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RIP Avonte

I wrote a while ago about a young autistic boy who went missing in Queens. Months went by and no sign until this week when his remains were found on a beach in Queens. The reporting in the New York Post was shockingly graphic and I don’t think you would ever see such detailed descriptions in the UK press.  I often thought about Avonte, wondering what happened to him. Now at least his family knows and can say goodbye. Rest in peace, Avonte Oquendo.


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Not everyone in England lives in an abbey

There has been much excitement here in the US at the prospect of a new series of Downton Abbey. The New York Times devoted an entire broadsheet page to previewing the new series. It shows on PBS here, which is a peculiar public channel that I think pretty much everyone gets. On our RCN cable package it shows up as something called Masterpiece, so when you search for it on TIVO (our version of Sky+) it doesn’t show up. It was only by chance I found it on the listings. I have been asked so many times whether I am watching Downton Abbey. I am very glad to say that yes I am, because I had already seen the first three series in the UK and was peeved to have to wait until January to see series 4 when it had already finished showing in the UK.

I do have to remind people that not everyone lives like that – it is set nearly a hundred years ago, for a start; and I am not landed gentry. Well, I grew up on a  farm, but that’s not quite the same. I have to say though, seeing it now after being here for over a  year, it is lovely. I even find myself talking just a bit posher afterwards. And they show Sherlock on the same channel. Now that’s good TV and you don’t need the BBC iPlayer to see it. Bliss.


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Levering for votes

You’d think that a sophisticated city like New York would have a sophisticated system for dealing with elections: no pieces of paper folded up and shoved into antiquated boxes in musty church halls here, you’d think. Err, well you’d be wrong.

“Dented, dinged and dated, New York’s battleship-gray lever voting machines have been hauled out of retirement because the city can’t seem to get the hang of electronic voting.”

This is what the New York Times had to say on in its front cover story in today’s newspaper. Machines from the 1960s have been dusted down, lubricated, given some TLC and shunted off to the 1200 voting locations for tomorrow’s primary elections. The primary elections are to decide who gets the Democratic and the Republican nominations for the race for Mayor and the other election in the city (that’s five Borough Presidents, the Public Advocate, the Comptroller and various City Council seats). You cannot escape the candidates and their supporters as you walk around the city, the number of trees that have died because of election literature must be huge!

The Executive Director of the Board of Elections, Michael Ryan – appointed a month ago –  goes on to say on a more cheery note in the same article:

“The machines have all been tested, and they’re functional. I think that there are naysayers in every walk of life, and some people just like to harp on the darker side of life. We’re a lot more optimistic here about this election coming off, and the election coming off successfully.”

Fingers crossed, eh?


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How many Jaffa Cakes?

Ah, August, time for big fat issues of fashion magazines to hit the shelves with the much anticipated September issue. they arrive with a thud. Best issue of the year but my god they are thick here. US Vogue comes in at a whopping 902 pages, compared with the UK edition which is a mere slip of a thing at 430 pages. US Vogue takes until page 208 to get to the table of contents, such is the weight of adds vying to be near the front of the magazine. Want some words? Best go buy a book. Want to luxuriate in the promise of Autumn/Winter fashion? Read September Vogue.

I considered how to share quite how thick US Vogue is and came up with the Jaffa Cake measurement. Vogue is three Jaffa Cakes thick. Yep, that’s three Jaffa Cakes (kindly imported by R’s brother just last week). It would take me the entire packet to read the whole magazine. No chance I’ll be wearing any of the fashion if I do that. Must exercise self control. This is what your $5.99 buys you:

vogue jaffa

And if you need any more convincing, here is the September issue of W magazine, which I think is only published in the US. It is a mere two Jaffa Cakes thick as it is only 454 pages for just $4.99:

W jaffaPhotos brilliantly photo-shopped by R after being bribed with a cup of tea and a Jaffa Cake, of course.


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What is he up to now?

Blimey. I thought old Anthony Weiner had got over his leacherous ways, but apparently not. The press here has been all over the confessions of his sometime ‘sexting’ partner, Suzie Leathers – what a great name, it has to be made up. Seems that he created an alias for himself – Carlos Danger (!) so that he could carry on his pervy ways. I’m not sure whether the UK press would have done what the New York Post did here. Through their Twitter account they published the text ‘conversation’ between Carlos and Suzy. They blacked out the rude words, but you didn’t need to think very much to know what they were. It was soft porn for the masses. Apparently he has a thing about high heels. Naturally there has been intense speculation as to whether he can continue in the race to get the Democrats to nominate him as their candidate for the election for Mayor of New York. So far he is still in, but his campaign manager has legged it, but he’s only 31, so I’m sure he’ll be just fine. It’s hardly comforting when your main man clears off a few weeks for the all important primary election on 10 September. I am quite addicted to following Mr Weiner now, shame I can’t vote.


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ok, ok, I’ll say something about the royal baby

It would be remiss not to, not that I’m any kind of royalist, but you can’t fail but be a bit interested in the birth of a future king. I bought today’s papers here in New York to see what New Yorkers had to say.

First, the New York Times. Blink and you’d have missed it. They put a small photo on the front page, a second one, as they normally only carry one rather boring picture on the top left on a normal day. It shows a policeman outside Buckingham Palace and the crowds near the gold trimmed board that officially announced the birth. ‘An heir is born’ it says, followed by ‘Crowds at Buckingham Palace after the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a boy.’ And in true New York Times fashion it refers you to another page. They then deign to provide half a page on a rather snidey, yet bemused overview of the day’s events. They get Lionel Shriver, author of ‘We need to talk about Kevin’, who is US born but now lives in the UK, to do a piece on the baby later in the paper. You get the feeling she’s not keen when she says ‘the firstborn of the Duchess of Cambridge (that’s Kate Middleton to you) being third in line for the throne is of no more import than my being third in line at my local London Tesco’. You kind of wonder why they bothered.

Then the Daily News, a good old fashioned tabloid, sells for 75 cents and really isn’t worth buying normally. Its headline  shouts ‘Let’s heir it for the boy!’ and follows with ‘Wills and Kate baby joy’. It then refers you to pages 6-7 and a double page spread shows a very glum looking Queen and a town crier, looking ridiculous. I thought they’d be pretty into the baby thing, but half of page 6 is devoted to a really anti royalty piece called ‘No thrill among moms who feel royally shafted’. Denis Hamill, their columnist, goes on to say ‘the world media fawn over the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who live on public assistance in public housing in Great Britain, where they welcomed another royal layabout son’. Not keen then? It’s a shame it was quite so rude about the royals, as it does actually make some solid points about the poverty many New Yorkers live in and yes, it’s incredibly hard and expensive to raise a child.

And my favourite. The New York Post. The entire front page is devoted to a random baby in nappy, waving whilst wearing a gold crown and holding a silver spoon, next to the headline ‘Crown Jewels. Kate delivers a baby king’. Fabulous. The New York Post loved their front page so much, they tweeted a picture of it and asked readers what they thought. Not quite in the same league as the UK’s Sun tabloid newspaper that renamed itself for the day ‘Son’. Classic.

Now can we obsess about something new, please.