I had meant to write about all the places we’ve been recently, but several things in the past couple of days changed my mind.  At least for now.

The first happened Monday morning when I went out to the clothes line to get a leo for my elder daughter to go to gymnastics.  That morning I was awaked by some noise outside which sounded like some metal being moved around.  It reminded me of the sound of moving metal dumbbell weights around on the ground.  I thought the farmer was doing some work outside.  When I got to the clothes line, I found two sheep eating outside the window of the bedroom.  One was making herself comfortable by lying on the ground as she ate.  They were around the rose bush and the plants we had in jars and pots around the little porch.  I frightened them and they ran towards the fence, but turned around and looked at me.  I went inside to wake my daughter but when we looked outside, they were gone.  However, I noticed that the sunflower which had taken us months to grow was uprooted.  My husband heard the commotion and came out.  We went to the living room window and saw that one jar was smashed.  It was the noise of the jars that I had heard in the morning.

My husband went out to inspect the damage and found the sheep again.  They had not gone far, probably just around the house and came back again.  They had eaten our chives and got into the carrots.  One of the sheep was on the ground again.  But when they saw him, they ran again.  Our daughter came out and they ran out our front gate.  My husband told her to shut it, but she came in without doing so.  When next they went out, the sheep were in again.  This time, my daughter shut the gate after they left.  As my husband went out with the girls, he was going to try and get the sheep back into the fields by moving them behind their gates; however, the gate at the top of the drive was open and they went that way.  He found them down by the main gates into the estate, but luckily, or unluckily, they veered off and went into the landlord’s yard.  We have seen the landlord shoo them off his yard previously, but he wouldn’t have wanted them out on the streets either.  We don’t know what became of them.  I know our landlord was busy with the electric guy because they came down to see our place and he was too distracted for me to mention the sheep.

Now, I know I mentioned using the sheep as our natural lawnmower, but we had managed to cut the grass with shears and now only the weeds are growing in between, so it was unnecessary for them to donate their services now.  Besides, they left a trail of poo on their way out the gate.  As I said previously, that was one downside to using sheep, so we had nixed the idea.  As the saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side”, and the sheep obviously believed it.  But, then again, the chives, sunflower and carrots were probably delicacies for them.

OK, it’s the first day in a week that we’ve had a little time to spend on the computer.  I have not been blogging much, nor visiting my web friends, including my old friend Peggy (all the way back to college/university), who has just started her own blog.

Now that the kids are nearing the end of their school term, we are more serious about finding jobs.  We have been living off savings (terrible situation) and the situation has become dire.  We had looked into jobs previously but there have been little available in the area.  We are considering moving, but this was difficult with the kids in school and the tenancy agreement.  But the situation is about to change.

It did not help that my mother-in-law fractured her wrist and hip last week.  We have been up and down to London to visit her and to help with errands for my father-in-law.  She was extremely independent before and there has been such a change in routine for the both of them.  He has learned to be a little more independent and tending to regular household duties.  We’re considering going up to give the dog a long walk again.  She has to learn to take things easier and only push herself gently.  She has had to have a blood transfusion, and yesterday, we found out that the surgical site was leaking.  It could help explain why she is so volume depleted and her blood pressure keeps dropping when she gets up, not to mention that her appetite was down for a while.  She is progressing well with therapy, despite the bad wrist.

Unfortunately, her bedroom is on the second floor (third floor for us Americans) and she is not allowed to climb stairs yet.  When they decide to discharge her, we’ll have to make arrangements to move a bed down to the kitchen.  Having never been in such a position before, we are starting to appreciate what many other families have to deal with when an elderly parent or grandparent becomes temporarily disabled.

We had thought that the kids could spend a week with Nanny and Granddad over the summer break while we attack the job market, but that idea is now nixed.  Unless they can be of help and not just sit in front of the TV, waiting to be served, we cannot impose on my in-laws in such a way.

I finally went down to the DVLA in Brighton to start the process for my driver’s license.  I’m not expecting anyone to need it for at least the three weeks that my passport will be gone, but you never know.  Perhaps, I’m courting disaster, but if the disaster is that someone needs to see my passport to complete the hiring process, then it’s the kind of disaster that I would welcome at this point.

Again, apologies to my blogger friends.  I can only promise that I’ll look in now and then for the moment.

Sunday on the farm was sheep-shearing day.  It was rather comical.  Forget what you might have seen at agricultural shows and demonstrations.  This was the actual daily grind sheep-shearing.

Not all the sheep were shorn that day, but those destined for a haircut were rounded up into a pen.  The farmer drags one by the chest, protesting with a “Baa!” while her colleagues return in kind, front legs up in the air, hind legs dragging on the ground (kind of reminds me of me pulling the older kid when she refuses to be moved).  The razors go on – ziiiiiiiiiip! ziiiiiiiiiiiiiip! ziiiiiiiiiiiip!  All done in a few seconds, before she can let out another “Baa!”.  The farmer’s son balls up the wool and throws it into the pile with the rest.  From far away, I initially thought he had lifted up the shorn sheep and tossed it over the fence (an amazing feat for such a small one) until I later saw him handle a ball of wool.

Without their wool, these ewes look like little goats.  They also appear somewhat scrawny, but maybe that’s because I’m seeing lines where the razors had left some wool behind and it looks like ribs sticking out.

All right, this has very little to do with Britain itself, but it’s too sweet a story not to tell.

Our little Buppa, has been quite attached to her little Pooh Bear.  It’s a small teddy with beanie stuffing.  I can’t even remember who gave it to her.  Actually, I believe it may have been given to her older sister, but it has been her favourite for a long time.  What’s funny is that we never really attached any significance to her singling this teddy out.  Recently, she showed us a picture when she was in pre-school and they were allowed to bring in a teddy and it was this teddy.  She favoured it without showing too much favouritism.  However, near the end of the time we were in the States, she did use to bring it with her to the gym and all.  But, it was nothing like it has been since then.

When we came to the UK, Pooh was one of a select few that travelled with her, rather than being shipped over.  Since then, he has not left her side.  She sleeps with him, takes him everywhere, even to school.  She clung to  him the first day and they allowed her to bring him in, but leaving him in her school bag.  She was allowed to take him out for playtime, where some of the other kids occasionally abused him.  This upsets her sometimes.  But she continued to take him.

But, yesterday, she decided to keep him behind.  I asked if she wanted me to put him in the bag and she said ‘no’.  She were confused about that and wondered if a friend said or did something at school.  This morning, she bade him a long good-bye, and my husband asked why she wasn’t taking him.  She answered, “Because there might be a fire at school”.  Then we remembered that they had a fire drill in school two days ago.

We wondered what must have been going through her head when the drill went off and the teachers told them to file out, leaving all their belongings behind.  She must have been devastated to realise that in the event of a real fire, she would have to leave her beloved Pooh behind.  So, she has made the decision to leave him at home, where he would be safe.  We couldn’t possibly tell her that a fire could start just about anywhere.  I wonder what she’ll be like if and when she becomes a real mother (many, many, many years in the future, I hope).

I’ve already mentioned the helpful motorists in times of need. Now, I’m moving on to the opposite end of the spectrum.  The rude, obnoxious drivers who inspire road rage in the best of us.

We all know Britain has narrow roads, at least, much narrower than in the US.  I cannot compare it to any other European countries.  We understand that in order to get around as safely and effectively as possible, we all need to give and take, respect other drivers, and share the road.  For the most part, it works.  But, all too frequently, we run into a road hogger.  Yes, you know the ones I mean.  The ones who think they own the road and that everyone needs to bow to their needs.  They’re willing to risk crashing into you, though they drive like speed demons that they manage to get out of your way in that last split second.

Yesterday, we drove through a small town with said narrow road.  The street was made even narrower by cars parked on the right hand side.  Sometimes, we find that even with parked cars, there is sufficient room for two cars to move through, as long as you’re careful.  I say this because there have been times when people have not been careful and being too cautious, they give too much room to the parked cars and force us to scratch our wheels on the opposite kerb.  But, yesterday’s experience was beyond belief.

We were driving down the road with the parked cars on our right.  The street was too narrow for another vehicle to pass through (unless it was an obnoxious motorcycle, but that’s beside the point).  Up ahead, we see a lorry truck coming on.  But, instead of waiting behind the parked cars until we get through (which is the rule under the Highway Code) because we had right of way, he decides to come head-on against us.  Of course, we were forced to stop, and he knew it.  Our only other choice was to climb the pavement, but we wouldn’t have gotten very far, because there was a bus shelter where the truck stopped.  He refused to budge and we had to back up 200 ft. for his convenience.  After backing up a little way, there was sufficient room on the right between parked cars for the truck to move into, but he refused to move until we had backed completely up the road.  As we were backing up and he was standing there, several other cars moved behind him.  What were THEY thinking?  Of course, they couldn’t see us, but when the road is that narrow and you see a vehicle stopped in front on the opposite side, wouldn’t you pull off to your side to let things resolve themselves?  After all, you’re driving in contraflow traffic.

It would have been brilliantly clever if we could have somehow made our car break down at that particular moment.  What sweet revenge.  He would have been cursing high and low and we would have had to make all of them back up (which was a shorter distance than what we did). But, alas, cars have a mind of their own.  That truck driver was lucky we weren’t the type of people who would have given in to road rage to commit GBH.  Our rage merely consists of declaring how stupid some people can be.

With our recent car troubles, I’d like to thank all those marvelously decent British motorists and passers-by who asked if we needed help.  Not that there was much anyone could do, especially those out walking their dogs, but we do appreciate the kindness and thought that came with the questions.  And special thanks to the gentleman who came out of his house (in front of which we had parked once) and offered his tools.  Sorry, we didn’t catch your name.  Not only did you help us on our way, you provided some temporary entertainment.

When our car breaks down, I like to turn away and pretend everything’s OK.  I’d stare out at the grass, or whatever, to take my mind off the problem.  I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of cars that stopped to make sure we were OK and the walkers who asked if we needed help.  In the US, you’d have to wait for a cop, making his rounds, to stop and help.  Sometimes, truck drivers will stop or call for help for you.

Of course, things are different in the US.  You never know who might stop and hurt you.  You never know if you might get hurt trying to help.  So, it usually does fall to the policeman’s lot to check on you.  And, over there, you have cops and troopers driving around everywhere.  You don’t see a lot of cops on the roads here, unless they are responding to a call.  (Oh, yes, in Florida once, we had a ranger stop and help us out, just minutes after we had hung up with the AAA.  At first, we thought it was the AAA, but then we realised it wasn’t.  They have rangers patrolling the highways down there and they offer basic motorist services.  He gave us some gas and sent us on our way to the next service station.  If we had known we wouldn’t have had to call the AAA.)

We are members of the RAC, but it would not have been worth the call unless we needed them to tow us.  They have been helpful when we’ve called, and they are much better than the US AAA.  For now, we are just holding on until our parts come in.

The part for the car hasn’t come in yet.  We were told that it might take two weeks because it’s on back-order.  The mechanic decided to do a repair on the pipe.  He was surprised that the duct tape had stayed on.  Anyhow, the day after the repair, the car started acting up again.  In fact, it got worse.  The repair made the pipe worse and it tore it up even more.  The car kept overheating.

In addition to frequent topping up of water, my husband had to finally resort to cutting the pipe and taking out the bit of metal that was used in the repair.  We went back to duct tape.  We still have to frequently stop and top up with water, but there are no further tears to the pipe.  We need to last out this week at least.  Luckily, the kids have half-term next week and we are expecting the part to show up by them.  I certainly hope so, because our older daughter has a gymnastics competition in a town much further away at the end of the month.

We’ve seen lots of ducklings and goslings recently.  Must be their time to hatch.  Of course, we also see lots of pheasants, some as road kill.  But it’s been a while since we’ve seen a baby pheasant.  I wonder when they breed and hatch.  I also wonder what they’re called?  My older daughter insists it’s “pheaslings” (pronounced fez-ling) and whether or not we will ever find out its real name, that’s what she will call them.  She even insisted that some ducklings were pheaslings.  And she does have her glasses on.

You don’t think about animal names when you are not exposed to them regularly.  Do baby pheasants have a special name?  What about baby badgers and hedgehogs?  Is it possible that there are some obscure names for them that we are not aware of?

Believe me, I have worse obsessions than this, but words are interesting.  Our language is constantly evolving and words are added everyday.  What do you call a baby pheasant?  If there is not a word for baby pheasant, then we’ll have to use “pheasling”.

Don’t you just love it when your car breaks down?  It’s happened so often in the last few days that I’m ready to get a new one.  Only one problem.  We can’t afford to.  It our only car and if we don’t have it, we can’t get anywhere.  The problem with living in remote areas of the villages, you need a car.

My husband thinks he’s diagnosed the problem.  We have a crack in the pipe between the coolant and the engine.  At least, that the glaringly obvious diagnosis.  Whatever else is wrong remains to be resolved after this issue is.  Unfortunately, we can’t get the part for him to fix it himself.  However, our local mechanic thinks he’ll get it in by tomorrow.  Thank God for trustworthy local mechanics.

In the meantime, the mechanic has wrapped the crack in duct tape.  We Americans fix everything with duct tape, so we couldn’t laugh at his methods.  We’re also carrying extra gallons of water in the car.  It’d be so easy if we didn’t have to drive everywhere.  I guess I should be glad we’re expecting rain.

How can you cut down on your costs of moving?  These are some lessons we’ve learned.

1.  Don’t move.  That’s simple enough and several times during the moving process, we did think about calling the whole thing off.

2.  Sell off everything and just take your clothes and whatever can fit in your suitcases. 

3.  DIY.  No, I don’t mean carry your entire shipment onto the plane (that would be terribly expensive) or ship.  You can only do this if you own your own plane or ship.  But, you can pack your own belongings.  This can be tricky, as you’ll read further.  But, it will definitely save you some money and a headache.  We had used a moving company once for an interstate move.  We did most of the packing, but they arrived early and ended up “helping” to pack.  What they did was open up some boxes and threw whatever they could find into it.  This is called “professional” packing services.  Therefore, for the international move, we used our “amateur” packing techniques, which included bubble wrapping and cushioning using our own clothes.  But, at least, we knew where everything was.  We labelled the outside of the box and made a list, numbering each box and giving a little more detail of its contents.  Using the company’s services meant you had to pay for the labour and supplies.  The cost varies from company to company.  The downside to DIY is that you are responsible for the contents.  The movers will still make their own list and the boxes need to state their contents.  Some movers require that you leave the boxes opened so they can inspect them.  Some companies, such as IntlMove, will not provide insurance cover for damages if you do any part of the packing yourself.  So, either allow them to damage your goods and you can claim for them later (if they’ll even acknowledge your complaint) or pack it yourself.  Some will allow you to deliver the goods to the docks, if you live nearby.  You do have to check with the companies.

4. Insurance?  As I stated, if you pack your own goods, some will only cover for total loss, not damage.  That means if they lose your shipment, you can claim against them.  We figured, unless the ship sinks, we should receive our goods, damaged or not, so we waived the insurance.  We found out later that everyone recommends you take the insurance.  I don’t see how that could have helped us.  I doubt they could adequately compensate for the loss.  After all, most of our goods had sentimental value, rather than monetary value.

5. Don’t go with the cheapest.  As we’ve learned, IntlMove gave one of the cheapest quotes, but in the end, we paid for a lot of “extras”.  We were lucky, however, since we actually received our shipment.  Others were not so fortunate.  I hope they took out insurance.