Tag Archives: uk

Well

Hi.  Hello there.  Heya.

Everybody still alive?  Caught in a perpetual struggle between your belt and the last notch?  Sweeping up the confetti and storing it in little baggies for next year?  Good.

I spent my Christmas running around with (and occasionally being dragged by) my family all around London, taking in the sites I had avoided just so I could see them with fresh eyes with them.  We even ventured to Bath in a rented car, which, have you ever tried driving on the wrong side of the road, you will know is quite the adventure.

So now here we all are, safe on the right side of 2016.  Did you make any resolutions?  I didn’t make any formally, but I took the opportunity of a near-empty fridge and more than my fill of holiday treats to treat myself to some healthy food.  I’m not counting calories or exercising (yet – baby steps) but I’ve managed to shoehorn extra fruits and vegetables into every meal.  I’m also cutting back on carbs – not cutting them out, just eating fewer* and higher-quality ones.

Okay, I can see your eyes starting to glaze over.  Enough diet stuff.  Let’s talk about… Star Wars.

more like Poe DAMN!eron

*ahem* Sorry, I mean…

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*SPOILERS*

*SPOILERS*

*SPOILERS*

I wanted to love this movie.  I was afraid I’d hate it.  Instead, I have mixed feelings.  While I liked the characters, this first instalment had a lot of elements that were very ‘A New Hope’-y to me.  I’m hoping that’s just due to Kylo Ren’s Darth Vader fanboy crush.  A Death Planet?  That’s fan fiction stuff right there, Kylo.  Hopefully the next film will force him (no pun intended!) to come up with something more creative than ‘freeze Finn in carbonite and cut off Rey’s hand while revealing they are somehow related’.

*END SPOILERS*

*END SPOILERS*

*END SPOILERS*

Did I mention I met Jane Austen?  That was pretty bitchin’.

Oh Jane, you're such a card.

A post shared by Eileen Herbert (@eileenonyou89) on

Happy New Year!

Eileen

*Or is it less?  Are carbs quantifiable?  Yes and no, depending on the context, I guess.  Quantifiable if you mean the actual molecular compound, but not the “food group”.  Weigh in.  This is important.
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A case of the blues

When I was getting ready to move, I knew one of the things I would deal with would be feelings of sadness.  Isolation.  Loneliness.  Homesickness.  Being-a-crappy-writer-dom.  I’m also a really emotional person, so I know when I do feel like this I’m going to feel it in my whole body and if I just let those feelings fester it’s going to consume me.  I have always lived with other people so I’ve almost always had someone to turn to when I had those feelings.  But even though knowing those feelings were natural helps, I still found myself unprepared for pulling myself out of the rut when I get in it.  It’s not enough to acknowledge my pain… I must transcend it.  And here’s how I do that:

  1. Self-care: easily the most important thing I can do.  If I feel like a disgusting human being incapable of stringing two sentences together, not taking a shower or eating vegetables isn’t going to help.  It feels like giving myself the day off but what I’m really telling myself is that I’m not worth it.  Um, excuse me?  Yes, I am.  I shave my legs, feed myself real food, and clean my apartment.  Because I owe it to myself to be the best roommate in the world.
  2. Go outside: along the same lines of self-care but slightly more social.  It’s not even about talking to other people, just reminding myself I’m one soul in a sea of billions and the air is crisp and Pret exists.  It’s what separates us from the Matrix-dwellers.
  3. Buy a candle: or flowers, or a picture or any small thing that perks your living space up.  Being a writer with ADHD who can’t write anywhere near other people means I’m in my flat ALL. THE. TIME.  So if I have to shut myself away to write those last three pages of a script, I need to do it in a room that smells like I’m frolicking in an apple orchard someone set on fire with cinnamon sticks.
  4. Arrange to Skype or physically hang out with someone: a lot of the time, my loneliness isn’t a product of being alone in that moment, but not knowing when that moment’s going to end.  Even if I have to wait a week, knowing I get to see and talk to someone I love is all the encouragement I need to perk up.
  5. Go somewhere I haven’t been: I don’t know if you know this, but London is HUGE.  I don’t know if I could learn this city if I stayed here a lifetime, let alone the measly two years I’m here.  My Pinterest board has helped immensely, but I’m always taking recommendations! (*hint hint*)
  6. Talk to a counsellor or religious leader: my school has a great mental health centre and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve taken advantage of it.  Even if there’s nothing “wrong” with you, talking to someone objective and trained in the art of listening can be a great way to sort out the reasons your feelings have taken a downward turn and how to identify triggers.

Of course there are lots of little things I do, too, but these are my big, sure-fire ways of picking myself up.  And sometimes I just have to remind myself:

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If none of these are an option for you and you need help right away, you can call Samaritans at 116 123 in the UK and (212) 673-3000 in the US for someone to talk to 24 hours a day, confidentially.

You either Windsor you lose

A long time ago, a beautiful American girl got very frustrated with flat hunting and decided to leave the city behind… so she went to Windsor, drank a little too much beer, and walked around a castle slightly inebriated.

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Ticket prices to visit Windsor vary widely depending on a variety of factors (age, student status, whether you’re the Queen) but they all include an audio tour that’s incredibly detailed.  You can also book an evening tour.

I was disappointed to discover they don’t allow pictures inside the actual castle, but that’s par for the course from what I’ve seen so far.  I guess you’ll just have to go see it yourself…

Check out the rest of the pictures on Flickr.

PS: I think I need to lay off the puns… my post titles are starting to sound like ModCloth dresses.

Updates Galore!

WELL.  Now that things have calmed down a bit, I finally feel like I can update everyone on what’s been happening here at Chez My Flat (title pending).

I’ve been in school for about three weeks now.  Even though I was super excited about going back to school and getting back into the swing of things, I’ve gotten to the point where I can see and feel my lack of knowledge.  In all of my previous academic experience that was the point where I became frustrated and felt like giving up.  Now I’m trying to use it as a teachable moment: if you don’t feel like you totally get it, you’re probably heading in the right direction.  I will always feel like a fraud around other writers, like I don’t take it seriously enough, but I really think if I push myself through the difficult bits something amazing will happen.

I’m starting to get to know my classmates and they’re a fun bunch.  Lots of different personalities and backgrounds, proving writers aren’t all anti-social hermits with drinking problems.  But I think most of us would agree that burgers are fantastic.

My flat is still a work-in-progress.  I would show pictures but nothing has changed aside from the food in my refrigerator (i.e. there is some now).  A lot of “setting up” the flat was buying boring things like can openers and toilet paper.  I’ve finally gotten around to ordering ACTUAL FURNITURE so when that arrives in a week or two I’ll be sure to update.

And then there’s just London in general.  I think I’m finally getting the hang of it.  Which is not to say I have the hang of it.  I’m sad to admit this but when I first got here I was nervous about doing certain things because I didn’t know how they worked (or thought I didn’t know).  Getting registered with a GP, ordering drinks at a pub, taking a taxi… all things I was hesitant to do but eventually forced myself to.  And it wasn’t as scary as I thought.  I’ve found that if you’re really nice and apologize constantly, most people will forgive you for anything (except for murder.  I don’t recommend it.  The court case was hell).  I met someone last week and she was shocked when I told her I had only been in London a month and a half.  That was a huge compliment.  I’m assimilating.

And now, because no post is complete without an ode to food, here are some of the best places I’ve eaten so far:

  1. Boom Burger: I’ve eaten so many burgers since getting here and this is still my absolute favorite.  I’m basically free PR for them at this point, like a Boom Burger Jesus.
  2. Danny’s Traditional Fish & Chips
  3. E. Mono
  4. The Chicken Shop: Just had it tonight.  The apple pie!  The fries!  The CHICKEN!
  5. some stall in Camden Market with fresh doughnuts
  6. Paris: Just, like, the whole city.  Trust me on this one.
  7. Borough Market: Again, just the whole place. (apparently Sunday is Apple Day so… that’s where I’ll be)

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Since my sofa bed is on the way, I’m now taking reservations to stay at Chez My Flat! (again, we’re working on the title – sorry)

See you guys in London! xx Eileen

The Twelve Days of Flat Hunting

On the twelfth day of flat hunting my true love gave to me:

  • 12 cups of coffee
  • 11 flats a-looked at
  • 10 rude estate agents
  • 9 miles walking
  • 8 absolute rat holes
  • 7 diff’rent Tube stops
  • 6 complaining phone calls (to my parents)
  • 5 panic attacks

(ba-dum dum dum…)

  • 4 moldy bathrooms
  • 3 post codes
  • 2 missed opportunities
  • and 1 flat to call all my own!

I’m going to share some pictures with you, but only if you promise to keep in mind that I still have a lot of work to do on it, okay?  Good.

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Also, these are the “before” pictures, so of course they’re low quality.  Obviously. 😉

Moving abroad: tips

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  • Keep a small binder or folder with all pertinent travel documents with you in an easily-accessible location.
  • Scan your legal documents and e-mail them to yourself.  In moving from one place to another, you never know what could happen.  Have backups of anything you might need and keep them readily accessible by having them on your phone in the form of an email.  I sent copies to both my personal and school accounts just to be safe.
  • Unless you can afford a storage space or international movers (or have incredibly obliging parents) you’re going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff.  Start doing it as soon as possible.
  • Don’t trust those Pinterest infographics that tell you the best time to buy tickets is 8 weeks before you leave or whatever.  The best time to buy your ticket is as soon as humanly possible.
  • Find a temporary place to stay before you get there, even if it’s only for a week.  PLEASE don’t assume you can just arrive and find a hostel.  Don’t make any long-term living arrangements before you arrive.
  • Save as much money as you can.  I’m personally afraid to total exactly how much it cost me to move myself from the US to the UK.
  • Have a backup plan for everything.
  • A friend recently told me, when it comes to banks, multiply the amount of time you think it will take by 2 and then go up to the next unit of time.  So if you think it’ll take 2 hours, it’ll actually take 4 days.  I would say this is completely true (in the US as well as the UK).  I would also say it applies to almost anything legal or financial you’re doing, including looking for flats.
  • You’re going to need a lot of money.  How much?

Cost to move: single person, moving for school, 2 years

Visa fee = $502

NHS fee = $585

Airfare (extra miles + ticket + bags + exit row seat) = $150 + $265 + $420 + $83 = $918

Homestay, 1 month (deposit + payment on arrival) = $289 + $536 = $825

School deposit = $2346

Total = $5176

and then my plane landed in England.

Tray Frawnch

Last week I had the misfortune of taking a mandatory trip to Paris.  I know, what a bore.

Thanks to some slight miscommunication about travel times, my visa wasn’t valid until 23 August.  But, by the time I’d gotten my visa, I had a plane ticket leaving 20 August.  Therefore, I HAD to leave the country and come back in, in order to “activate” my visa.

My life is really hard, you guys.

Here are just a few of the amazing pictures I got!

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Check out Flickr to see which photos didn’t make the cut.

Eileen

A few of my favorite things

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And when I saw a few, I mean a few.  This list is not exhaustive in any way, shape, or form.

  • I’m living with an Indian couple so I eat delicious authentic Punjabi food every other night.  I’m sure you’re jealous, and, if you’re not, you’ve probably never eaten Indian food.  Stop reading, go do that, then come back and be jealous.
  • PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.  Yes, I had to squeeze through a crowd so tight last night it felt like being given birth to all over again, but otherwise public transportation is thebomb.com.  I mean, I hate driving and like day drinking so it’s a win-win.
  • I don’t have to wear shorts and I get to wear sweaters all the time.
  • Walking, walking, everywhere.  It turns out the physical activity I was made for was leisurely strolls in beautiful parks.
  • There are so many dogs here.  On the street.  In cafes.  Big dogs, little dogs.
  • The museums are free so you don’t have to feel bad about leaving if it’s too busy/hot/boring for your tastes.
  • Tea time: basically a built-in period during the day for snacking.  Such a good idea.  Also, a great excuse to eat biscuits.
  • If I had done this move 10 years ago, I would have only been able to keep in touch with all of my friends and family via expensive international calls and e-mail.  Skype, Twitter, and Facebook Messenger have been godsends these last few weeks.  So, as much as I generally and pointlessly rail against social media, it has finally proved it’s utility to me.  Two for you, Social Media.  You go, Social Media. (I mean, someday we’ll have teleportation devices and distance will cease to matter at all, but that’s probably going to be the weird generational thing I turn Luddite over so I won’t be able to enjoy it.)
  • I’m going to see Nicole Kidman in a play.  So… yeah.
  • The sheer multiculturalism of London has astounded me.  You think you know what that word means when you’ve visited New York (and, to a lesser extent, Washington, D.C. or Boston) but it completely surrounds everything that happens here.  You would be hard-pressed not to interact with someone from outside the UK on a daily basis.
  • Want to go to Paris for the day?  Done.
  • Donald Trump is an ocean away.  Now that’s peace of mind.
  • People know how to pronounce my name.  I have not been called Ellen/Elaine/Irene once since I’ve gotten here.

Like I said, that’s not even a full list.  hashtag blessed.

And also, since it feels a bit weird not to mention, there is a great way to donate to the refugees pouring into Europe, specifically the ones currently in Calais: purchase a sleeping bag, sweatshirt, or food item for them from this wonderful wishlist. (UPDATE: the wishlist has now been closed)

Eileen

Here I am!

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Well, the last few days have been exciting and hectic over here in jolly ol’ England.  The weather has been gorgeous – one day uncharacteristically hot, the other drizzly and cool, but I loved them both.  I kind of feel like I might be getting the hang of this place – knock on wood!  But it’s not all been easy sailing and I don’t expect that to change.  Despite all of my preparations, I made a few mistakes and I’ve also learned some valuable lessons.

  1. If you’re so jetlagged that you find it difficult to function, go to sleep!  I tried to power through it and made some avoidable mistakes along the way.  The fact is, there’s really no rush to adjust your sleep patterns, so don’t pressure yourself.  It’s more important to feel up to the task than to defeat jetlag.
  2. Despite all of my checking and hoping and praying that, since my phone was unlocked, I would be able to use it, none of the UK sim cards worked.  I tried 3 different carriers and it was always the same: texting worked, calling worked, but I couldn’t get it to access the network to use data.  Which is kind of important since the only way I can contact friends and family in the US is with Skype or another messaging service.  If I had a UK credit card I could have paid monthly for a phone (like the Verizon Edge program) but since I haven’t been here long enough to get one I had to buy one.  It cost about £200, which seemed to be a median price in their selection.  I would also recommend going to one of the shops specifically for whichever company you choose, versus buying from one of the smaller shops that stock all of them.
  3. Exchange any currency on you as soon as you get there.
  4. If you decide to ride a hop on, hop off tour that takes you all around central London like I did (especially on a summer weekend) start early.  Before 10 am.
  5. On that same note, don’t go to the Natural History Museum on a drizzly Sunday unless you love crowds and heat.
  6. Have an umbrella, hat, or hooded jacket (or all three) on you at all times, even if it’s sunny.  But especially if it’s overcast.
  7. Buses run less frequently at night.  Okay, okay, I know, I’m showing my suburban stripes with this one.  Yes, it was stupid to assume they run as frequently after 11pm.  Just don’t assume that and you won’t end up standing at a bus stop by yourself for half an hour.

Eileen

What’s in my carry-on?

I love flying.  I have no idea why.  I think it’s something I’ve picked up from my dad, who has always been obsessed with planes and was even working towards his private pilot’s license at one point.  Of course, he’s much more knowledgeable about them than I am – I might as well call them “Big Metal Birds With Non-Flappy Wings Way, Way Up In the Sky” for all I know about them.  Despite my lack of any workable knowledge, I’ve always enjoyed flying and gaining any new knowledge about planes.

But at the same time… flying can be a bit of a headache these days.  Tiny seats, crying babies, packets of tiny pretzels.  If you’re prepared, though, you can ease your way a little.  Here’s what I do to make the flying experience as stress-free as possible.

  1. The Outfit

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The biggest rookie mistake when it comes to flying is the clothing you wear.  You want to wear shoes that are easy to take on and off, both for the security check and the plane (do the rest of us a favor and only take off your shoes on the plane if your feet don’t reek, please).  Wear stretchy clothes: small seats feel restricting to begin with; don’t further constrict yourself with tight, confining pants and shirts.  Layer: the temperature on a plane can vary greatly during a trip, no matter the time of year, and you never know if the air vent will be easily accessible.

2. Noise-reducing headphones

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Bose headphones, $299

Poor babies.  No one told them flying would be so difficult, and then add to that the fact that their ears are popping and they have no idea why.  Still, when you’re on an 8-hour overnight flight crossing several time zones, chances are you’re going to need to sleep.  Since glaring at the poor mother trying to comfort her crying baby won’t do you (or the baby) any good, a good pair of noise-reducing headphones will help block out some of the noise and get you some rest.

3. Entertainment

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Kindle, $79

This is the one part I’m always tempted to over-do and I have to scale back.  I remember taking a flight in the early 2000’s (back in the day before iPod’s, Kindle’s, and smart phones) and my backpack was jam-packed with books, my CD player, and various notebooks for writing.  Now everything fits in one or two small devices.  I just have my phone (loaded with movies, TV shows, and radio shows) and my Kindle with a nice little cross-section of books, since I never know what I’ll be in the mood for.  That’s pretty much all you need.

4. Toiletries

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Burt’s Bees moisturizer, $12.19

Airplane air is DRY.  Maybe I’ve lived in Florida too long, but the minute I step foot on a plane I can feel the moisture being sucked from my skin.  Since dry skin is one of my fastest ways to discomfort, I always make sure to bring a face moisturizer and a water bottle.  Make sure the moisturizer is a TSA-approved size and that the water bottle is completely empty before you go through security.

5. Portable phone charger

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Sentey phone charger, $34.99

My phone’s battery can be erratic, so it’s been known to take me by complete surprise when it dies.  I bring along a portable battery pack for my phone just in case this happens.  That way, I don’t land and discover I have no battery to find my ride or let people know I’ve landed safely.

That’s all it takes!  Those five things can keep me happy on a flight for any length of time.  I hope this helps you ease your way too!