nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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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.


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The tyranny of Invisalign

I had British teeth, all a bit crooked and crowded. When you live in New York City, you are surrounded by straight, white, beautiful teeth because practically every kid here wore braces and ended up with great teeth. I have been obsessively looking at everyone’s teeth since we’ve been here. Just over a year ago, I caved into the pressure (perceived by me) and spent a fortune on this crazy treatment called Invisalign.

Invisalign is a teeth straightening treatment. You wear plastic aligners over your teeth, made from 3D images of your teeth, and every two weeks you change to a new aligner to make a new movement in your teeth and for me that meant getting through 30 sets in just over a year.

I have worn them 22 hours a day, every day; taking them out only to eat or drink. I have made cups of tea before my meal in order for them to be cool enough to drink a the end of my meal to reduce the time the aligner is not in my mouth. I have been in great pain when I had a new aligner, because the pressure is so great on my teeth.

I had vile lumps of cement put on to 17 of my teeth which were coyly called buttons by the orthodontist to fool me into getting them put on. Apparently these were to help the aligner, but I never quite understood that.They were the worst part of it as they were so ugly and so rough in my mouth, they made eating much harder all round.

I even had to wear elastic bands that went from my top aligner to my bottom teeth, secured by a metal bolt on my molar, to adjust my bite. That was very unattractive, so much so I refused to wear them out and about and hid at home with them in.

I have brushed my teeth on average four times a day, got through miles of dental floss and should have bought shares in the toothpaste manufacturer, because I brushed so much this last year.

And the result? Well, yesterday I went to the orthodontist who removed all the cement, filed my wonky teeth and made me look amazing. Despite all the moaning above, I love my new teeth. They aren’t quite American teeth yet because I haven’t had them whitened and they need a few refinements to sort out the minor bits that need doing. But they are close to it.

Today has been odd. I still wear the last set of aligners at night until my new ones come through in January – for the refinements. So this morning I took them out, brushed them and left them in the cupboard because I don’t need to wear them during the day now. All morning I felt naked, like I was missing them. I seemed to be experiencing a form of dental Stockholm Syndrome, I wanted to go home and put them back in. I have resisted, but I did brush my teeth after lunch because I just can’t help it.

I won’t share a picture, I haven’t come that far from my British roots, but maybe I should change my name from nyc-newbie  to ‘previously British teeth’ instead.


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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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Santas everywhere

It has been very surreal in New York today. The subways and streets are filled with people dressed as Santa. Some have just donned a hat, others have added a beard and full fur trimmed outfit. There have been some liberal interpretations of what a Mrs Claus might look like and quite frankly if many of these wanna be female Santas were working in the North Pole for real, they would freeze to death!

Santas crossing Madision Avenue.

Santas crossing Madision Avenue.

And the reason for all this merriment? Well today is New York’s annual Santacon. This is basically a pub crawl through Midtown Manhattan in fancy dress. It’s funny how seeing them on the subway on the way out for lunch in Korea Town it seemed quite odd but by the time you’ve seen a hundred of them, it all seems quite normal.

My favourite Santa was hanging out on the platform at 59th Street. He/She was wearing an outfit that showed Santa’s muscles, bare arms, bare torso and bare legs, just wearing Santa red shorts. Coupled with white wig, beard and glasses, the only hint it might have been a girl under it all was the purple nails, but even then I couldn’t be sure. Kind of like a Marvel style Santa, with special powers to visit every house in the world in one night. Maybe.  Such a shame I didn’t get a photo to share here.

Ho ho ho.