What did I do yesterday, you may ask. Well, you probably wouldn't, but I'm going to tell you anyway, labouring under the belief that, as you came to visit my blog, you have some interest in reading whatsoever I should choose to write.
I started the day by discovering that the electricity key had run out. Not unforeseen, but unfore-done-anything-about. The gas and electricity in the flat are run on prepay meters, which you must take to your local paypoint and "fill up", so to speak. Although I was waiting on the mail to arrive (or, more to the point, waiting on Sainsburys to deliver the bookcase et al I ordered eons ago), I nonetheless pulled on a jumper, coat, and gloves to walk down to Gipsey Hill to find my local paypoint. (Is it sad that it took me this long to realize why "Gipsey" looks wrong?) I found the local "CostCutter" and put cash back on the keys, while being asked by the shopkeep the eternal question: "Are you from the States or Canada?" Although the Brits mock us for not being able to tell the difference between a UK and Australian accent (which I personally don't understand, because they are PHENOMENALLY dissimilar), we can mock them just as much for not hearing the difference between a US and Canadian accent... eh. (Though, to be polite, I generally answer back that I'm from the States, but right by the Canadian border - this makes everyone leave the conversation with a bit of dignity)
I headed home, reveling in the glorious sunny morning - I had a bounce in my step and a song in my heart... until, of course, the electric key didn't work, and I had to call EDF, only for it to work after I'd been on hold for ages... ;) Nonetheless, the electricity was back on, the gas was available for cooking, and I managed to finish up DH Lawrence's "Women in Love" before the post arrived.
Since Tuesday, I've managed to finish two books from the library, and am halfway through a third. "Women in Love" was fantastic - granted, Lawrence does have rather a reputation and - oh my yes, he did live up to it in a few scenes. However, it was a lovely portrait of love and relationships, and how some relationships can fulfill and satisfy a life, while others can make you actively plan to murder the other. We've all been there, eh? "Stories from Thurber Country" was a collection of short stories by James Thurber; charming and witty, yes, but I kept feeling that his style was something of an American PG Wodehouse, and I kept thinking, "If I wanted PG Wodehouse, I'd read PG Wodehouse". Probably didn't help that I was still expecting passionate embraces under the stars whilst discussing the existentialism of life, not "isn't it funny how men can never find anything in the kitchen?" Amirite?
I have since started "Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing of the Dog!)" by Jerome K. Jerome. Absolutely, utterly, fantastically charming, and highly recommended - the story of a peaceful, relaxing holiday spent boating up the Thames gone horribly, horribly wrong. For anyone who's ever attempted camping or other holiday excursions that do not involve down quilts, microwaves, and DVD players, this rings oh-so-painfully true. Oddly enough, it still feels completely modern, as though it could have happened yesterday, despite the fact that it was written in 1888 - I guess the delicious schadenfreude of reading about other peoples' misery on holiday goes beyond any specific time period, after all. Anyway, if you can find it, it makes for lovely pre-bed reading, as you cannot help but turn out the light and snuggle into bed, all the more happy to be indoors.
The post arrived, as I said; I gathered up the paperwork to turn my water and Council Tax bills into Direct Deposit, and put those in the "to mail" pile. I had to spend several minutes examining the water bill, surprised by the system here - while I am prepaying for all of my electricity and gas, I am - in an odd other way - prepaying for water, as I received the bill for October 2009-March 2010. They don't actually bill me based on the water I use, but merely by the amount of water they think I will use, based on being a single occupant household. As it comes out to about £15 a month (as I was expecting), I simply filled in the Direct Deposit card and thought, "Silly mortals - they don't realize that I love long showers... *mwu-ha-ha*". Council Tax is a fee, basically, for simply living in the UK - depending on where you live (area) and where you live (the value of the house/flat you live in), you pay a certain amount each month to the city/borough you live in (in my case Lambeth) in order to allow for upkeep of the libraries, aid for the elderly and disabled, NHS coverage, etc. I receive 25% off for living in a single person arrangement (hooray for some small financial reward for singlehood!), and - again - I got the Direct Deposit forms filled out and stamped. Look at me go - Gas, Electric, Water, and Council Tax, all done in one morning.
As the post had shown up (without any bookcases, grumble), I headed over to my local GP to get the paperwork filled out, so that I could once again be part of socialized heathcare in a country where, whatever Glenn Beck decides to say to the contrary, the healthcare system actually WORKS. A lovely five minute walk, no wait to get up to the front counter, a few forms to fill out (no, I don't smoke; no, I don't abuse alcohol; no, I don't have diabetes or swine flu or typhoid fever), I handed in my old NHS card (from back in Bournemouth) and - as I didn't need to see a nurse or doctor right away - I was scheduled to come in for an informal chat with a nurse to finish the paperwork and find out what all they could help me with next week. (Though, I was informed, I was now in their system and could call up to get an appointment if I needed one sooner for any emergencies) My new NHS card should be arriving early next week, and - tada! - I'm back on the grid.
Back home again to drop off the paperwork, then out again in the opposite direction. I headed up to the library to drop off Lawrence and Thurber, and checked out Waugh and Stendhal. The danger of not having internet at home is that I'm reading again - meaning, once I have cash flowing in again, I will be requiring a trip to the local bookstore. They didn't have any available internet slots apart from several hours in the future, so I simply popped over to the post office for stamps and headed back home. Just about arriving at my street, I ran into the little old lady of #6, who I still haven't gotten the name of. At this point, I think I will forever be doomed to play the "Avoid Saying the Name" game, until such time as she receives mail and I can peek at the addressee. I did, however, learn the name of the pekinese dog she was "walking" (and, by walking, of course, I mean holding as she walked up and down the street since, "Piksy" was afraid of the traffic). I once again listened to her list her woes for about twenty minutes - to be fair, it sounds as though her husband died within the past month, and she's not terribly close to her sons' wives (seriously, NBC, ABC, FOX, whatever - if you want a new comedy that will make millions, simply film an Englishwoman who can't be taller than 5'2" or weigh more than 70 pounds, holding a pekinese, looking terribly sweet, and whispering that those women are "bitches!" - funniest thing EVAR); in the middle, we had a few minutes talk about me (she was delighted to hear that I worked in theatre "so lovely to see young people doing something artistic") and we spent probably about 5 minutes simply arguing back and forth as to whether or not I had a boyfriend ("Lovely girl like you, I can't believe it!") - I finally managed to convince her with the sentiment that I haven't been in the UK very long, but I think she probably still suspects me of hiding him away somewhere.
While we were chatting, a Home Delivery van pulled up - caloo calay! - I headed inside and watched him load four boxes of various sizes up to my flat, signed for them, then rubbed my hands together in glee. First things first, I opened up my new little tool kit - ah, there is no joy like the joy of a young girl's heart when she receives her very first socket wrench, I can tell you. I opened up the next to pull out my clothes airer - basically a little wire contraption thingie that holds your clothes up as they dry, so that you don't have to have them lying about on the couch and tables and all over the floor. There is *technically* one already here in the flat from the landlady, but it's sitting out on the porch and, as they say, has become tan from standing in the English rain. Seeing as rust strains on clothes are not generally deemed good for interviews (or health in general), I had ordered a new one, and here it was. No construction needed, I simply popped it under the bed.