Comfy

I am so happy with my accommodation in Brighton! So I got that upgrade last night to the larger room at the back of the house with a better bed and that in combination with two glasses of wine meant that I slept eight hours straight! I was so surprised when I looked at the clock this morning. I can’t remember the last time I slept the night through.

My host makes me feel so comfortable in her home that mornings are a relaxed thing here, just as if I was on my own. I get up when I’m ready and then go to the kitchen to make coffee and breakfast. This morning, I got ambushed by the ancient, senile, and deaf cat who greeted me in the near darkness with a scream that made me jump high enough to hit the very high ceiling.

Meet Charlie. This is from four years ago, “before he was senile.”

Now, imagine being startled by that meowing, but about ten times louder. That got the adrenaline pumping this morning!

I had a stupidly full day of work to do today and hadn’t factored in the North American time change that made me lose an hour on my deadlines! What didn’t help matters is that I didn’t do the work I was supposed to do when I came in from Lewes yesterday. I’d left it since the jobs for that client are normally super easy and take an hour. What awaited me was a rare difficult file that would take almost two hours! I was just bushed, so I contacted the client and requested an extension, which was no problem. Not very professional of me, but she’s really lax and I know that weekend deadlines are pretty soft. So that meant extra work today.

My host and I had sort of thought to go to a nearby Indian restaurant for their buffet for lunch, but she wasn’t in the mood by the time lunch rolled around. England has been bad for my waistline, so I decided a buffet wasn’t a good idea, plus I didn’t have much time for lunch anyway. So I ran down to the Tesco Extra to grab a quick something for lunch and figured that since I now had curry on the brain, I could get one of their prepared meals for dinner. My host didn’t have a microwave when I arrived, but she asked me if that’s something that would be good if she has Airbnb guests and when I said yes, she ordered one. The machine was due to arrive this afternoon, so I took a chance on Tesco’s 2 for £4 curries that are meant to be nuked, figuring that, worst case, I could heat them gently on the stove.

I came out of there like a bandit since I got two of their pizza-type puff pastries for just £0.62 for my lunch, plus the two curries for £5. So that was three meals sorted for half of what I would have paid for the buffet. Getting ready meals is definitely not as cheap as cooking from scratch, but it’s a good compromise between that and eating out, especially since prepared foods in Europe tend to be fresh and made with real ingredients, just like you’d make at home. Not having a pantry full of spices and other staples, it’s also a great way to get some variety and try new things.

When I came in, I helped my host take apart the bed in the room I was in originally, which she’s been letting me use as an office since the new room doesn’t have a desk. Talk about a double upgrade! That done, I went back to work.

A couple of hours later, she came to ask if I wanted to go with her to Asda, kind of like their Walmart (even carries the George brand products), to go pick up the microwave. I must have been a dog in a previous life because all I could think was, “Ooh, I get to go on a car ride!” It wasn’t until we were in the car that I realised I’ve never ridden in a car in this country, just a bus, and let me tell you, it’s scarier close to the ground to be on the wrong side of the road! 😀 Unfortunately, I never did manage to get to drive here on this trip since all the driving schools I contacted for lessons were booked solid. 🙁

The collection process at Asda was very sophisticated. There’s a touch screen flat panel by the entrance where you can put in your order info and then someone brings it out to you on a cart. He checks your ID and you’re good to go.

I didn’t feel like having a poke around Asda since it’s so like Walmart, so I declined the chance to do that, but I did accept the invitation to pop into a Marks and Spencer a little ways away since I’d heard so much about them. They sure carry some nice things! I was tempted by the sushi, but resisted! We did both stock up on heavily discounted pastries so I have a nice pain aux raisins waiting for me tomorrow and the almond croissant will go to the airport with me on Wednesday (it’s in the freezer, so it will stay fresh).

We also popped into another Tesco Express that she said is a good source of discounted stuff at the end of the day and that I should seriously consider checking out on Tuesday to possibly get food for the plane trip. It’s nice having a local guide!

The outing was a lovely break, but I really had to get back to work when we got in and I finished with a half hour to spare before the deadline! I still had another hour to do for the client who had given me an extension on yesterday’s work, but that would be an easy file. So I took another break to have dinner, breaking in the new microwave to heat up a ridiculously good coconut chicken korma curry with rice. I am going to really miss Tesco. Hope my tikka masala tomorrow is as good!

After dinner, I finished my work and then was finally able to take a hot shower to work out the kinks and slip into my jammies before joining my host in her lounge to watch some crap telly. I made sure to confirm that she wasn’t just being polite, but she said that it’s nice to have the company, one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. She got up at one point to grill me a small hot cross bun that she’d bought at M&S a few days ago that I simply had to try as it had caramel and chocolate and was divine. She wasn’t kidding. What a yummy treat!

With the weather being miserable today, I was very happy to stay in and make some money. The next two days are supposed to be sunny… I have quite a bit of work left ahead of being off for a while, so I think I’ll focus on that tomorrow and then go out all of Tuesday to properly explore Brighton. But I might be able to do another wander around Hove for a break tomorrow afternoon depending on how late I get started.

Now, here’s hoping I sleep well again tonight!

A Ten-Year Anniversary

It was a bitter cold morning ten years ago today that my dad died. Ten years! I’m not going to ask the cliché question of “Where did that time go?” when I know exactly where it went.

I think he’d be delighted that I’m in England today, just as he would have happy for me to be in Mexico, the US, and western Canada in years past, all because that meant I had finally found my way out of that old life that made me so unhappy.

I went down to the village this afternoon for a little human interaction and shopping and treated myself to fish and chips because Dad would have loved them. I still have all the letters I wrote him from Scotland nineteen years ago. If I was writing him today, I’d just have this to say:

Hi Dad!

I’m finally learning to speak English! I was at the supermarket today looking for crackers and asked someone, “Please, where may I find the cr…ispbreads.” Crackers here go boom!

Miss you and wish you were here!

Love,

Shortstop

CIBC Is a Great Bank for International Travellers

When I read about picking a bank for international travel, all I ever see is discussions about their rates and fees. If I was to judge CIBC, with whom I’ve been banking for more than 20 years, by only that standard, they would fail. But in terms of things that really matter, CIBC has been a winner across the board. I’ve now that three events while overseas that could have been stressful or embarrassing that CIBC took care of without my having to do much.

First of all, there was the time in Mazatlán that an ATM debited my account, but did not give me my money. While it was stressful to be out that money for the time that I was, but CIBC went to bat for me on this issue and got my money back and they credited me for some overdraft fees and the ATM withdrawal fees. I was so stressed during the initial call to report this and the person I spoke to made it seem like such a not big deal for them that it made me confident that there was actually hope of seeing my money again.

Then, there was the time in Bulgaria where I found out my credit card had been compromised. CIBC promptly rejected the charges that weren’t mine and I did not have to fight to not be held accountable for them. They then sent me a new card to Bulgaria. I’ve read accounts recently of this happening to folks with other banks that wouldn’t send them their new cards while they were abroad!

What happened today was more embarrassing than anything else. I got a call from a guy at Tesco letting me know my payment was declined despite being preauthorised last night. It was 5AM on the East Coast, so CIBC’s call centre was closed. I did a quick search for the emergency 24-hour number to report a card stolen and called that. I explained the situation and apologised if it was inappropriate to use the number to have a security card hold lifted. The man I spoke to put me at ease and said it was absolutely fine and they get calls like that from Europe and Asia all the time. He then quickly lifted the hold. When I called the Tesco man back a few minutes later, the payment went through. He was standing there with all my shopping ready to go, including cold goods. Had I not been able to reach CIBC, they would have had to start all over. I doubt I would have had a penalty for that, but, really, not good form!

I can also add to this list that I got an email from Caroline back home letting me know that she’d received a new debit card for me. My current one expires at the end of March, so I suggested that it be dropped off at the CIBC in Assiniboia to be sent through interoffice courier to the one in Chambly for my stepmother to pick up. I expected to be told that would not be possible for confidentiality reasons, but it wasn’t a problem. So my new debit card will be waiting for me when I arrive in Quebec and no one had to make a special trip or pay for postage to get it to me.

My only complaint about using CIBC overseas is that they charge me $5 for withdrawals, which is why I now have a Scotiabank account from which to withdraw money in countries that are part of the Global ATM Alliance.

CIBC has proven to me time and time again that they have my back. I feel like a valued customer and that I get something for my monthly account fees (which, by the way, have dropped significantly!). My life has oftentimes felt chaotic since it took a peripatetic turn and CIBC has really helped me to greatly simplify one part of my life. It will be interesting to see how our relationship goes when I’m in Mexico full-time and having to rely more on Scotiabank. But with the few times I’ve had to call Scotiabank for trivial matters and it being a huge production, I really doubt that they’ll ever get more business from me than the basic chequing account I use for international withdrawals.

Expectations

The vitriolic response to my post yesterday met my expectations for my social experiment. I really hoped to be proven wrong, but a trend I’ve seen in larger forums was confirmed in the intimate community that is this blog.

I want to say thank you very much to those who reached out and told me deeply personal things about your own situations that were none of my business. Those words came from a deep well of compassion. You embody the little hope that I have that our world could one day be better.

Yesterday, I wrote:

I was disappointed by the lack of response to that post. I can think of a lot of very valid reasons why people chose not to contribute and so that’s not what bothers me. What does bother me is that the post was almost completely ignored.

The comments I got yesterday completely ignored that, but gave me exactly what I was hoping to get from the original post,. So I guess I should thank you, too, after all?

I am going to address comments right here so that they and my responses are not lost.

Linda in NE wrote:

I will admit that this one rubbed me the wrong way. Instead of going into all that I would suggest that your friend really research the cost of living in blue vs. red states. I believe she will find the cost of living much lower in the red states.

Jersey, also a very long-time friend of Bast’s, responded to that:

Red states are THE poorest in the nation. Their social programs generally are awful and likely to get much worse. In many Blue states, there is better public transport outside the cities, more job options, better township, county, state social services. Perhaps Linda wouldn’t have made that comment if she’d known Bast has lived all over the US, and is well aware of cost of living.

Thank you, Jersey!

Kelsi said:

I will only speak for myself. I ‘ignored’ that post because it was ridiculous.

Ridiculous: deserving or inviting derision or mockery; absurd.

Yes, you’re right that it is deserving of derision and mockery and absolutely absurd that a family living in the Western world cannot get access to things like healthcare and food.

Yet you eat out in restaurants frequently, at least once every couple days – something our family rarely does, because to us, that’s a major luxury.

I really love when people comment on how much I eat out without considering the rest of my budget or their own budget for that matter. It shows the exact kind of tunnel vision that I expected.

But you feel it’s okay to ask your readers/friends for cash to fund your causes? And when no one responds you feel ignored. The word that comes to mind is hypocrite.

Hypocrite: a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

Being a hypocrite would be bringing up this basic income idea without contributing to it. Shall I show you how much I have helped Bast and her family over the last 15 years or so? Even when I literally have had no food in the house, I have always had more than them and have given them what I could.

Why are you judging your readers/friends?

If you are feeling judged, that is very telling.

And to me, this sentence from your post says a lot. “I was really hoping to go do a Women’s March today, but really couldn’t get away…”

Try freelancing for a couple of years and turning down a huge job for a major client after a month-long dry spell to go marching instead, and then come back to me on this.

Yvette wrote:

Marched in San Diego today with a bad knee and hip. Just brought my cane and took it slow.

Thank you!

And then Cindy Brick came in with a lot of ideas of how to survive without a furnace. Bandaid solutions for a greater issue.

I do not feel ashamed or chastened or angry this morning reading your comments. No, I genuinely feel sorry for those of you who are utterly lacking in compassion and unable to see past your own past situations. I shouldn’t have to say this again, but I will — I’m not talking about the lack of financial contribution. What saddens me is that instead of saying, “Wow, I’m sorry this family has gone through this. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for them to swallow their pride and let you do this,” you felt an appropriate response was to call the request ridiculous, hypocritical, and ignorant. Please take a long look at yourselves.

What will stay with me most about this experiment is an email that I received after my original post that detailed why this reader had decided to contribute. You know who you are and I cherish that email. I don’t think it’s right to reproduce it here, even without citing you, as I believe you would have commented if you had meant for it to be shared. But I will say it is one lovely missive that embodies the spirit of my request and that it trumps every one of the hateful comments I received thereafter. You are a flame of hope in a very, very, very dark age. Please keep that fire going as it is badly needed.