Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 625

Twirly-wirly padlocks

Let me tell you a little story about me and the twirly-wirly American padlock. Every Friday I work at a gym that has a locked cabinet that contains the stereo. Every Friday I have to do the combination on the padlock to access the stereo. I arrive 15 minutes earlier than I need to do this. I know the numbers off by heart, but can I open the twirly-wirly padlock. Can I heck!

American high school students use these combination (twirly-wirly) padlocks for their lockers at school so Americans are pretty au fait with how they work. I, however, and many Brits I know out here, cannot work the damn things. We do not have diplomas in twirly-wirly padlocking 🙂

Combinaton / twirly-wirly padlock

Combinaton / twirly-wirly padlock

This twirly-wirly padlock does my British head in! Every Friday I try 8-10 times and every Friday I ask someone else to do it for me. I just can’t work it out. Right, left, past the number, back past the other number or whatever. I just can’t do it! America, you have stumped me with your twirly-wirly padlocks.

I only have to teach this class four more times in my USA time here, so that’s four more mornings where my head is done in! Poor baffled British me 😉

From America to England

Over the next few weeks I’ll be transferring my blog writing to my new UK blog, From America to England, charting my repatriation to the homeland! Make sure you sign up to follow this blog for my British adventures!


One more TV show

I’ll be appearing on the Fox 45 news channel one more time on Thursday this week before I leave the USA. I’ll be talking about ‘Sins of Summer’ and how to cope with the extreme heat. I need this, being a professional sun worshipper and all that. Today we reach 99 degrees in Maryland. Holy cow!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 624

Canada vacation

So, I think I’ve been to Canada three times before in my life, because in the 1970s half of my family decided to emigrate there. My mother took my brother and I on a six week East to West Coast roadtrip visiting various folks and cities and lakes in the 1980s. I remember quite a bit of it and I loved it then. Then my brother and I travelled on our own to Vancouver Island, age 13 and 11. That’s pretty cool and I do believe we returned to the UK telling all our friends we were now Canadian. And then I took a trip there again with my mother in 1998. So, it’s been a while! A visit was overdue!

I find the relationship between Canada and the USA fascinating. So close, and yet so different. I mentioned to a Canadian the differences in Canadian and American sensibilities, culture and personalities that I had encountered so far on day two of my trip there this last week, and he replied: ‘I should hope there are differences between Canadians and Americans; we define ourselves by these differences.’

So, here goes: Why I love Canada (note: long list of generalisations to follow!).

I love that no one undertakes on the highway!

I love their politeness.

I love their silent inner peace.

I love their engagement.

I love their countryside.

Lake Orillia

Lake Orillia

I love their massive lakes.

I love that French is a big part of the culture (where we were) and that they admired my poor A level attempts. But I messed up the USA to Canada declaration form by attempting to fill in the French side rather than the English side and no one seemed to know where la boulangerie was 😉 .

I love the way they love poutine and yet I think of it as similar to a Friday night post-drinking munchie (it’s gravy, chips and cheese curd).

Poutine - or chips and gravy :)

Poutine – or chips and gravy 🙂

I love their softness in the way they speak.

I love their cultural cities. I love that Ottawa reminded me of Geneva.

I love their hippy towns and their festivals. I love that you can walk to places!





Orillia Doors Festival

Orillia Doors Festival

I love the cottaging culture (we explained that back in the UK ‘cottaging’ has a totally different meaning – see British definition of Cottaging! here if you dare!).

I love that they love Beaver Tails, and we thought for one moment they actually meant real fried beaver tails, which I was momentarily shocked at. But no, it’s a sugar pastry thing!


There is a lot to love in beautiful Canada.

And, yes, it is different from the USA. When we arrived back to DC I felt a slight manicness appear again in my life. DC or the way I live my life, who knows?

Merci beaucoup for the visit, O Canada!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 623

The American Yard Sale

Well, Yard Sale’s aren’t just a thing here – they are A Thing! Like A Big Thing.

I think I underestimated what A Big Thing they are in Americaland.

Holy wow, there are some sure-fired yard sale pros out there, bartering and snooping, making their decisions. They are hard core and turn up way early. And then there are the mooching yard salers (I use this term ‘mooching’ in a British way, as in to meander and stroll and browse, and not in the American way which means to steal, cos if they did that I would be yelling at them down my driveway like a mad British fishwife!)

My fabulous yard sale!

My fabulous yard sale!

Anyway, the long and the short of it with the yard sale is that I’m not a pro seller, and in the end I gave away for free what was left after 1pm (because, please note, no one comes after lunch!).

I’m glad it’s all over!

Off to Canada

It seems a bit rude not to head up to Canada whilst we are in America-land, especially since half my family live there, so we’re off to Ottawa and Orillia to see the Canadian sights. Rather looking forward to it, I am 🙂

Many of my Canadian family and some of my Canadian friends are adamant that ‘we are soooo definitely NOT like America’, and since it’s been 16 years since I last went to the borough of Canada, I need a reminder if this is so or not, having now experienced the crazy place that is USA for myself.

Buddies really :)

Buddies really 🙂

So, how different will Canada feel to me? Bring it on, O Canada!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 622

My Americanisms

The other day I emailed my British chum to ask for her ‘cell phone number’. How she must have laughed. ‘Of course, she means ‘mobile phone’, silly thing with her funny Americanisms,’ thought she.

This will happen a lot when I get back to the UK, so I wrote a list of all the things I apologise in advance for saying when I get back home and here is that list, as featured on top expat site Lost in the Pond

That's me!

That’s me!

Enjoy, and, er, sorry! 😉

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 621

The school tie

Oh lordy, I’ve found out that young Mr McGill definitely does have to wear a school tie to his new junior school in Englandland.

This is going to severely test my parenting skills.

My question is this: can the tie be on elastic? That would save us a billion seconds every morning and for him at PE time. The answer, I found out, is no, it is not allowed to be on elastic. Are they having a laugh? Oh my gawd, my British reserve might pop at this juncture!

Despite this tie issue (yes, I’m sure it will be fine!), and however much I love the ‘dress in whatever you want’ for school (including a self-designed ‘Fart Man’ t-shirt 😉 ), I am a big advocate of school uniforms cos it makes sense, no? I’ve heard many rightful rants from parents, of young ladies especially, who are having problems with the dress code at school here in Howard County.

School uniforms UK style

School uniforms UK style

As I once said to my boss at Bath University Students’ Union when she commented negatively on what I was wearing, I replied: ‘It’s not what I’m wearing, it’s the way I wear it that you don’t like.’

The stress of repatriation

I’m not going to lie, heading back home with endless To Do lists is very stressful. That is why I have booked in some stress-reliving pool-watching time at my friend’s house this afternoon, because I am kind and selfless like that 😉

Anyhoo, from sorting it all out this end, to making sure things are progressing the other end, it can make your British expat head swirl!


Four more days of school

Harry has four days left in his American school. Don’t tell anyone, but I am really, really glad this bit is over. This is the bit of our expat journey that has been the biggest struggle for all of us. No more Common Core Math! Yeehah to that sucker! No more ‘criss cross apple sauce’! I have no idea what they say in England nowadays, but I know it won’t be that! No more recess time! Just playtime (and more of it!).


I’ll be writing a guest post for Expat Child about our US school experiences shortly, so I’ll let it all rip then, folks! (Sure, some of it’s been a joy, but it’s also been very, very different and not always in a easy way!)

Gotta go pack some boxes and wotnot.

Peace out!

Posted in American, British American differences, England, expat, Repatriation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 620

In America we call this….

My American friends love hearing all the different words we use for various things. You know, like ‘pavement’ and ‘mobile phone’. However, recently I met a chap who loved to tease my Britishness in the USA as a foreigner. We did a race together this weekend with a bunch of friends and his banter went like this…

[Having a picture taken before the race]

‘Claire, in America, we call this a PHOTOGRAPH.’

[Whilst we are in the race]

‘Claire, in America, we call this RUNNING.’

It made me laugh and made me realise how we do spell out stuff for other folks who don’t always speak the same language.

In America they call this 'the finish line' ;)

In America they call this ‘the finish line’ 😉

My husband’s accent

Oh, how many times Americans have told me that my hubby’s British/Cockney accent is hard to understand. It’s not just the accent, it’s the use of colloquialisms, and on the phone it’s even harder to interpret. They told me they have to really concentrate on what he’s saying and try to lip read him if they are one to one. Bless his little Cockney socks.

Alwight geezer.

Alwight geezer.

Yard Sale

Yes, America, we’re packing up and getting rid of stuff, so this weekend I’m taking on the American Yard Sale. I’m not sure if it’s woohoo or argh! Whatever happens, the stuff has to go cos there is no room for it in our iddybiddy British house!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 619

A Brit’s Midnight Musings on the American Dream

It’s been so interesting to read everyone’s comments on the American Dream from my previous blog this week. I am so very curious about it. It fascinates me muchly since I never really thought about it in any way shape or form before I arrived in the USA. Honestly, I just heard the phrase back in Blighty and it never really registered with me until I started living with Uncle Sam (note, I have not moved out of the family home and moved in with my ‘uncle’, I am simply referencing the US0fA in one of my favourite ways!).


The concept of it all fascinates me. A discussion I had about it yesterday intrigued me when an American co-worker suggested that ‘it’s a bit like heaven; everyone has different ideas and ideals about it. It doesn’t exist in one form.’

So I wanted to share with you my thoughts, questions and musings about the American Dream that I had last night at midnight. They might not be coherent and they are in no particular order. They’re just comments and questions that popped into my mind, and yes, I wrote them down (as Dr Oz suggested so that they didn’t keep my awake any longer!).

If anyone has any answers or comments or suggestions, feel free to share! None of this reflection or cogitation is meant to offend or criticise; these are simply the bunch of thoughts that whizzed around in my little British head at midnight. You know, as it does.

  • What does it actually mean and how is it defined?
  • How is it different for different races, genders and creeds?
  • Has the American Dream changed over time and does it still exist?
  • How many versions of the dream are there that have been ‘logged’?
  • Is it one dream for everyone or are there a million squillion different versions?
  • How does the American Dream function and impact on individuals and society culturally, socially, psychologically, philosophically, anthropologically and spiritually?
  • How is success defined in the dream?
  • Is there a British dream? Or do we dare not dream for fear or losing our ability to reason and rationalize everything in our very stoic British way?
  • What if you don’t achieve the dream?
  • Is the dream just American or is there a universal dream or has the world adopted a version of the American dream
  • Are those who have achieved their dream content or do they wish for more?
  • When does the dream jeopardize others and the planet and when do we allow our lives to be driven by the quest for the dream.
  • Is it really attainable?
  • Do we set ourselves up to fail?
  • Is one person’s dream is another person’s nightmare?
  • Is real happiness achieved with the dream or does is mask other fears and areas of life
  • Who coined the phrase American Dream?
  • Can we log our dreams and set ourselves goals like in an American Dream Book? 😉

So, that’s what I contemplated last night.

And for the record, I don’t know if I have an American Dream. I just have my dream. Although, to be honest, after this kept me awake last night I don’t think I dreamt at all!


My final note on this is something that I read on the Library of Congress’s website:

‘James Truslow Adams, in his book The Epic of America, which was written in 1931, stated that the American dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” (p.214-215)

The authors of the United States’ Declaration of Independence held certain truths to be self-evident: that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Might this sentiment be considered the foundation of the American Dream?

Were homesteaders who left the big cities of the east to find happiness and their piece of land in the unknown wilderness pursuing these inalienable Rights? Were the immigrants who came to the United States looking for their bit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their Dream? And what did the desire of the veteran of World War II – to settle down, to have a home, a car and a family – tell us about this evolving Dream? Is the American Dream attainable by all Americans?

Some say, that the American Dream has become the pursuit of material prosperity – that people work more hours to get bigger cars, fancier homes, the fruits of prosperity for their families – but have less time to enjoy their prosperity. Others say that the American Dream is beyond the grasp of the working poor who must work two jobs to insure their family’s survival. Yet others look toward a new American Dream with less focus on financial gain and more emphasis on living a simple, fulfilling life.

Thomas Wolfe said, “…to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining, golden opportunity ….the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him.”

Is this your American Dream?’


So, that’s it. I just wanted to share that with you so you might want to pootle off and have your own set of musings on it all. You know, like when you’re supposed to be at work and then you drift off and start contemplating the meaning of life and wot not. It appears from this Library of Congress note that the suggestion is that everyone has their own interpretation of the American Dream.

I like this idea and I shall take it away with me for more midnight musings, or perhaps over a nice cup of tea 🙂

Peace! And keep on dreaming!

Posted in American, American dream, British, expat, expat life, UK, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments