Thursday, October 22, 2009

166 Days In - October Already?

I can’t believe it’s the middle of October already.

It’s a cliché for a reason that “ the older you get the quicker time goes”; and an oh so grown up conversation (on skype) with my seven-year-old niece shocked me a little. She is awesome! I, of course, remember when she was born - it really wasn’t that long ago.

But what makes it particularly difficult to notice how time is flying by is that it still looks like summer outside. My two-year-old niece (again on skype) announced to her grandma today “the seasons are changing”. Not in California.

I have seen a few brown leaves fall from the trees, but there were just as many through July and August as there are now.

There were indications that the summer season had ended: the lifeguard’s tower was moved from the centre of the beach to the edge; a chain appeared on the track that beach-club trucks took down to the sand; and, as if the Piper had been, the children disappeared.

We are above the equator, so the OC is doing its best to show us it is “fall”, bless it. Sometimes in the morning or in the evening, the air is a little cooler, or there are clouds, so I put socks or a long-sleeved top on. But really, I don’t buy it.

I am told how lucky I am, and that it must be lovely to have sun every day, but it rained recently, and that just made me smile. I love cosiness, and to get true cosiness you need cold: you need thick jumpers and wool-lined boots, hats and cold noses, mugs of hot-chocolate and roasting fires.

And I am not just remembering England with the pink-tint of reminiscing, I was never one to really complain about the drizzle that soaked through my clothes day after day. As longs as you are on your way home, or can pop into a dimly lit pub or character-full coffee house, who cares? The warming-up part is delicious.

Quite apart from the weather, So-Cal doesn’t seem to do cosy in any way. It is hard to find a lovely little coffee place to while a way your day, in a land that’s oldest building is circa 1960. They seem to knock all the history out of this place in favour for… um… I don’t know what. Character Be Gone!

So the locals talk of how the nights are closing in (pah!) and that heating may be required soon to move the temperature in the house from 70 degrees back up to 75 (that is 21 to 24). And I can’t help thinking that if you are going to do something, you should do it properly - and a proper autumn needs golden leaves, crisp cold days, rain and drizzle, fog, blustery winds, and the beginings of beautiful frost.

Friday, October 16, 2009

159 Days In - Here for Two years

I don’t know what has happened.

It has been at least two weeks since I last went for a run, I cannot remember the last time we played tennis, and there is no hope of me becoming a pie maker extraordinaire any time soon.

On the plus side, Chris’ life does seem to be taking shape. The best news is that he got into the Masters programme that he applied to - my husband, an MFA don’t you know. Actually he applied to two and he got into both. This is of special significance because, like so many of us, Chris looks back on his time at University with the shadow of hindsight and the knowledge that his degree does not reflect his ability or current work-ethic.

He also has less of a beer-gut now.

Of course I am buzzing with the pride of someone who feels their association with a successful person somehow reflects on them.

We are staying in Belmont Shore again this week. It gives Chris a shorter commute to his temp-job, and allows us to play house again. His busy-ness with coming home from work and having to deal with proper work, while I cook dinner and lay the table like a good 1950s housewife, gives me a flash of what it will be like once he has started his course.

He starts in December.

But we have to look to the future, right? To how blissful our life will be when he doing what he really wants for a living. How happy he will be; we will be…

Actually he will really fit in here now. Going “back to school” seems to be a popular thing. In-fact, from what I have seen, employees of all kinds are expected to take more classes and more exams throughout their time working as whatever it is they do. In England, we see the work itself as the experience and training.

When I paid the money and waited the days and days for my English credentials to be okayed by the Californian powers-that-be, the boxes of possible extra tests and extra credentials I could tick, but didn’t, only served to make me feel somewhat unqualified. But am not unqualified.

I did take one exam; it tested my maths skills (which have nothing to do with my credentials) and my English writing and reading skills - because my Degree is not good enough?

Apart from giving Chris more letters after his name, something to brag about at the pub, and general acceptance by the American people, his course also means that we will be here, at least, for another two years.

Not a problem, but it is just definite now.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

148 Days In - Tuesday is Gardening Day

On Tuesdays most of the neighbours are visited by their gardeners. Our residence gets its garden treatment on a Wednesday, but for some reason Tuesday is the chosen day for most others who live in this community.

From early in the morning, pick-up-trucks of varying colour, age and condition line the streets; balanced all around the edge are brooms and rakes, ladders and shears, hoses and leaf blowers. The gardeners are invariably immigrants. This comment should be taken as a fact - not racism!

I do not wish to confuse people; I know that the frustration of 69 Days In was that not enough stock is put in the importance of gardens. But I lamented over wide open spaces, and rolling lawns with children playing gaily. Here we have beds with flowers, shrubs and perfectly rounded bushes. And the reason that I know what all the neighbours gardens are like is because they are not within the confines of their property, but out on the verge, so those wandering past can see how pretty they keep their land, but they can’t themselves appreciate it from the comfort of their home.

One morning when it was cool enough to run, I pass a man up a ladder cutting random bits off a tree. Further down the hill a couple of guys chat in Spanish as they pull dead bits out of leafy shrubs. On my way home, they are still in the same places, doing the same thing. I can’t help wondering how much they are paid. I bet it is more than being a background artist!

You see, the gardening isn’t (like the gardens aren’t) quite the same as back home. If you leave sections of our green-and-pleasant-land alone, wild plants will grow in abundance; here the land is desert, and if left alone, returns to it’s natural form. Great Britain hums with conversations of which rose is now growing in this or that garden, grown men talk passionately about the British trees and are brought almost to tears at the thought of rising temperatures changing the native greenery.

So I like to think that if I hired a gardener in the UK, they would be doing the job because they were passionate about it, because they liked to watch things grow, to bring art to the outside portion of people’s homes.

Most Tuesday mornings, the most common sight is two gardeners outside of each property: one wears a pack on his back - not unlike those found on ghost-busters - but the nozzle blows at the leaves he waves it dispassionately towards; the second holds either rake, or hose, and assists the first in his arduous, skilful job of getting rid of dead leaves.

It does not come as a surprise to me, then, that once these workers have left for the week, if you look closely the façade of their work is only thin, and the rogue twigs/leaves/branches really can spoil the intended effect.

Everyone here has an opinion about Los Angeles - some might take the gardening as some sort of metaphor.