That's Amore

Wednesday, 18 August 2010
It is behaving like a typical English summer here at the moment - one minute I'm lounging in the back garden sunbathing the next I'm running inside as flecks of rain appear as if by magic. I've been told by more than one person and on more than one occasion that this is the way summers in England behave. Trust me, I get it... message received now can we please go back to having the continually hot weather we had during June? ....Please.

Saturday was just such a day except when it wasn't sunny outside it was absolutely pissing it down. This of course terrified Sasha, the dog, who apparently has a phobia of thunder and is none to keen on rain either. This is a dog that will chase cats and sheep and loves trying to attack the postman, but when it comes to a storm she behaves like a Grade-A chicken shit. Besides being a rainy Saturday it was also Lindsay's birthday. In the morning Bob, Lindsay's dad, and Pam and Mick, Ian's parents, came over with presents which she opened while we all drank tea. Luke and I got her a slow cooker, which is what we Yanks refer more commonly as a crock pot. I personally think it was the best gift, but that's just me being modest.

After the floor littered with wrapping paper had been cleared and the guests were gone, Lindsay, Ian, Luke, and myself drove to Leamington Spa for a little bit of shopping. Luke and I had a small list of things we wanted to pick up, most of which I can't remember and none of which we were able to find. Although we were able to pick up a slowcooker cookbook on sale for £2 as an additional gift for Lindsay, with a very selfish purpose, in the hopes that she would make us lots of tasty treats. We returned home in time for Luke and I to walk Sasha and get showered and made up for a birthday dinner at Piccolinos Italian Restaurant in Warwick.

Piccolinos was lovely, certainly not a fancy place but the atmos was terrific. It looked exactly as an authentic Italian taverna should look like. Were it not for the fact that we could see the rain washed streets of Warwick outside and everyone was speaking English I might have believed us actually in Italy. I found the food to be good, hearty Italian, the menu was authentic the owners, an Italian couple, didn't see the need to put anything fancy or nontraditional on it and for that I was grateful. For starters I had an Antipasto di Mare which comprised of pickled squid and octopus and a main of swordfish covered in breadcrumbs, garlic and lemon. Both were very yummy, although I think I might have preferred Luke's main dish of seafood risotto topped with skewers of swordfish, monkfish, and tuna. For dessert I had Amaretti Ice Cream which was just vanilla ice cream topped with a couple shots of Amaretto and crunched up Amaretti biscuits and toasted almonds it is also known as heaven!

Luke and I ended the night by meeting Pete and Sam at a bar in Leamington called The Duke. It is not a favourite place for either of us but it's cheap drinks are beginning to warm me to it. We had a few drinks in there and some delightful banter before changing locations where we met up with one of the boys' acquaintances who was having a birthday. This is something I'm struggling to get my head around, and that is the English's delight at going out in fancy dress for birthdays, stag dos, and hen dos. I state this because this particular group we met up with comprised of 20 toga-clad individuals. It just makes no sense to me that a nation that pretty much ignores Halloween would therefore make excuses to dress up during the rest of the year and then go out amongst normally dressed members of the public. At least at Halloween everyone is dressed up and you understand why, but I constantly find myself at English bars looking around and thinking 'why the hell is that person dressed like a [insert random outfit here]'. It just makes no sense. Every party here is always fancy dress, hell even Issac's 4th birthday party next month is going to be fancy dress... he's turning 4, I doubt he'll be thanking his parents for letting him dress up as Fireman Sam (a children's cartoon character here) when he's in his adolescence. Nevertheless the night was reasonably enjoyable and ended with Luke and I in a £20 *ouch* taxi ride back to Southam with a very friendly cabbie.

Sunday night for a change of pace the White Lion quiz group went to the Sunday night pub quiz at The Bowling Green in Southam. The question style was completely different to The White Lion and I must admit we placed at a humiliating low level which made us walk out with low hung heads. It didn't help matters that Zoe had put our quiz team name as "Got Bored of Winning at The White Lion" which suffered us a number of jeers and catcalls. Just to rub salt in the fresh wound, on Tuesday we placed 5th place, our lowest ever placement at The White Lion. 1st place was only 4 points ahead of us, which helps considering we're usually at least 3 or 4 points higher than second place not 5th. What made things worse is those 4 points were lost to us based on incredibly stupid mistakes we made. Oh piss it... it was the blasted quiz's fault! Humph. Oh well, we'll go back next week and "smash it" as Luke says.

In other news.. since Friday I have completed not one but two books. The first being Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, who of course wrote the previous book I read Sepulchre. Labyrinth is another book to add to my favourites' list, loved it just as much as Sepulchre, perhaps a little more or a little less, it depends on my mood. The second book I finished was Hunting Unicorns by Bella Pollen, it only took a day it was an incredibly easy read and one of my first dips into 'chick lit'. It told the story on an American journalist trying to capture the decline of the English aristocracy while she unknowingly falls in love with an English blue-blood. A cute romantic comedy that had me laughing out loud at a few of the witticisms. I do however have some major issues with the narration as I found the method she choose to be a major cop-out but never mind I enjoyed it and that's what matters. Next up on my reading list Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, a book that has been on there for quite some time I've just never seemed to manage to get around to it... well no more I begin today!


Friday, 13 August 2010
It is Friday the 13th and I am sitting in the conservatory with a cup of tea, listening to soft rain from overhead mingled with a little Debussy and, after I finish this entry, I'll go back to what so far promises to be a good book. The perfect rainy afternoon. As always I have been busy, sometimes I don't realize how busy I even am until I go back and reflect on my week.

Last Friday, Luke and I went and spent the night with Neil and Nic. Nicola made us a gorgeous roast dinner and for dessert we had a rhubarb and apple crumble that I think I could have eaten the whole thing if given the chance. It was nice to see them again, especially on happier circumstances as Doogal is now back home and going excellent! Doogal has made such a remarkable recovery that he is actually now a case study at Cambridge University, I've told him he's famous to which his reply was just a big lick on my face.

We returned to Southam Saturday evening because Luke's Auntie Julie and his cousins Becki and Katie had come down for the weekend which meant a barbecue on Saturday night before Becki, Luke, and I wandered down to the cricket club for some drinks with the boys. Perhaps a few too many drinks with the boys, as Sunday meant the three of us all awoke nursing hangovers and to a house full of people, including Ian's two nephews Issac (3) and Sam (1). Issac wanted to have a water pistol fight with Bob, Luke's granddad. This turned into all the adults and Issac running around the garden behaving like children while Sam sat on his grandmother's knee eating blueberries with wide eyes that suggested he thought us all crazy. In the end Luke went and filled a bucket with ice water to soak his cousin Katie through to the bone as she shrieked and Issac just laughed. All of us pretended the water fight was only for Issac's benefit but being honest I think everyone enjoyed behaving like little children.

Tuesday night as ever is the pub quiz at the 45 White Lion, and for the second week in a row we received 1st place which this time meant we won £45. I think people are probably starting to get a bit annoyed that a bunch of young people continue to beat them at the pub quiz. We're probably the youngest regular group by twenty years. I attribute our continued success to the fact that we are all reasonably intelligent and each of us has our own little area of expertise.

On Wednesday night I made dinner for Luke, Lindsay, and Ian this time using a recipe I found in an Ideal Home magazine but had never tried before. It was Salmon Ceviche served on a salad comprising lamb's lettuce, sugar snap peas, and fennel. I really enjoyed it and it helped me pacify my sushi craving... just a bit. At the moment I would kill for some I Love Sushi (my favourite sushi place for those not from Vegas) especially some Unagi and a Screaming Orgasm, don't cringe at the name it's lightly seared ahi tuna with a spicy ponzu/yum yum sauce. For some of you I sure it sounds as if I'm speaking a different language and since all this sushi talk is torturing me I'll diverge back to my original topic. The Salmon Ceviche was very good, I'd make a few little changes to it I think next time but at the moment I'm not sure how, it needed some zip like perhaps a little garlic.

My favourite day of this week has by far been yesterday, Thursday, for two reasons. The first being I finished the book I borrowed from Nicola last Friday: Sepulchre by Kate Mosse. It has been a long time since I was sucked so deeply into book. Whenever I read it, I was completely engrossed in the world of Selpuchre, I could see, smell, taste everything she was describing. I suppose for me it was especially nice because the story of Selpuchre takes place near Carcassonne, a town in the Pyrenees not so far away from Pau that I happened to pass through. The story jumps back and forth between two time periods 1891 and 2007 but the stories are intertwined. It is funny, I would get engrossed in one time period for a couple of chapters and then it would jump to the other, I would get annoyed because I wanted to know what was happening in the previous time period and then once it switched the same thing would happen. Luke was reading Selpuchre's predecessor Labyrinth and was really enjoying it but now that I'm done with Selpuchre I have taken over reading it since he reads at what I consider to be a slow pace and I cannot wait another month to read it. While Selpuchre is not the sequel to Labyrinth apparently there are some minor characters in Selpuchre that had larger roles in Labyrinth, which partly takes place in 2005 and partly in 1209. I'm only a few chapters into Labyrinth, but so far I'm loving it!

The other thing that made Thursday so special was Luke and I went up to Burton Dassett to watch the Meteor Shower. Words cannot describe how amazing it was. Luke and I lay on a blanket wrapped up warmly against the tower to block us from the wind and a thermos full of hot tea. The meteor shower was absolutely breath taking. I was expecting just a few small shooting stars but no, these looked like large fireballs in varying colours of blue, green, and orange. There were so many people up there as well, and nicely enough a lot of them were around our age or a little bit younger. It was nice to see so many people out enjoying nature!

Well that's my week, tomorrow is Lindsay's birthday and the family is going to to Piccolino's Italian Restaurant in Warwick, I have not been before but I'm sure it's going to be a good night and I'm looking forward to it.


Our House

Friday, 6 August 2010
All my fears about finding a suitable place in Worcester seem to be forgotten as of last Saturday. I was feeling a little despondent about the whole thing to be honest, all my viewings kept getting cancelled and I never dreamed that the four Luke and I had left for Saturday would produce anything worthwhile. The first property was nice, at least it was better than the hotel room I'd seen on Wednesday. It was small though, more like a student flat or bachelor's pad, not really suitable for two people. Still I was happy to see that at least some places didn't look like cheap hotel rooms in Worcester. At least this property was in a nice area of town, right behind Worcester Cathedral. Luke wasn't too pleased with the place and it wouldn't be my first choice either, so it was scratched off the list of possibilities.

When we entered the second flat, we thought we might have found the one. Compared to the first property it was quite large, in an old Tudor building a little outside of Worcester in a town called St. John's. What walls weren't covered in beams were covered in a yellow wallpaper, or perhaps it was a yellowing wallpaper, it's hard to say. While the kitchen had been recently redone the bathroom hadn't been touched since what I assume was the 70's, the fixtures were mauve. Either way the place was quirky and we liked it. We left the St. John's property thinking we might just have found the place, we enjoyed it's quirks rather than being frustrated by them.

Then we entered the townhouse, once again this place was in a nice part of Worcester a few minutes walk from the Cathedral but close enough to still hear the bells. Behind it sits Fort Royal park, a place that looks down on the entire city (quite picturesque if you ask me). The ground floor is the lounge which includes a blocked up fireplace, I already picture making a candlescape in the fireplace. At the back of the lounge is a little hall that has a closet, the stairs and a door leading out the back. In the back we have a little courtyard, complete with shed and two terraces to put plants, hang laundry, and perhaps get a little patio table so on nice days we can eat outdoors.

The first floor (or second floor in American speak) has the kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen even comes with a little breakfast nook where we can with a decent-sized table and chairs. The bathroom is basic just a toilet, sink, mirror, and shower. No bathtub, but I don't take that many baths any way. Up the stairs again is the bedroom complete with two built-in wardrobes. It's a pretty big size, at least it's bigger than our current bedroom and probably bigger than my bedroom was at home. At least it should be big enough to fit the dressing table I'm getting from Nicola! The exclamation point emphasizes my excitement at the prospect of getting a dressing table.

The place is great, all it needs is a little TLC. We're set to move in for beginning of September, but they're allowing us to go in once we've signed all the proper forms to start cleaning and painting the place. That's all it really needs, a good cleaning and some new paint. I'm sure the colour scheme might have worked great for the previous tenants but a teal lounge, plum kitchen, and baby blue bedroom aren't going to really work for us. Everyone has been really helpful here helping us get started. Lindsay and Ian have set aside things for Luke and I, like toasters, plates, pots and pans, plus we're allowed to take all of the bedroom furniture. Neil and Nicola are giving us a lot of their old furniture, like the above mentioned dressing table, a coffee table, dining table, etc. Luke's granddad is giving us a TV stand and a rug. Luke's Auntie Julie is buying us a fridge. Pam and Mick (Ian's parents) have offered to get us something, Mick suggested maybe some chairs. And Luke's dad is going to give us some money to get us started since he doesn't have anything old. Even the neighbours across the street have pitched in, they've offered us their old sofabed which has only been used twice, it's emerald green but we'll make it work!

The past two weeks have been dedicated to setting up things for the move, last week was trying to find a property, this week was securing the property, sending emails, making phone calls, filing out paperwork. While that has kept me pretty busy, Luke and I were able to make it to the pub quiz at The White Lion on Tuesday, and I'm happy to report that we got first place out of 15 teams! Not bad at all, considering we thought we'd done one of our worst performances ever. We won 40 pounds from it, split between five people it only amounts to 8 pounds a person, but still it was nice. Luke and I were at The White Lion for dinner. I had the veggie fish and chips, which intrigued me halloumi cheese fried like the fish with tzatziki sauce, a side salad and of course a side of chips. It was YUMMY! Luke had a gourmet burger, which was massive and put our burger nights at Anthem to shame. Half-pound of meat, a fried egg, field mushroom, onion chutney, I don't even know what all was on it. I just know that Luke had to press it down several times with his fist before he could fit it in his mouth.

Besides the house and pub quiz there is not much else to report, other than I'm still having trouble opening a damn bank account and just finished a pretty interesting book called The Shakespeare Curse, apparently it's called Haunt Me Still in America, which deals with the secret behind the "curse" of Macbeth or The Scottish Play as it's referred to in the theatre. Nicola gave it to me to read, she described it as a more subtle Da Vinci Code but with Shakespeare. I think that's an accurate description. It's not the best written book I've ever read but it was a page turner to be sure! I'd recommend it to anyone who has any interest in Shakespeare or enjoys books about history or like The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.
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