Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Quick Intro

We flew to Great Britain on August 1, 2012.  That's 6 days ago.

Way back in January I was asked if I'd like to spend a year working for my employer, Rolls-Royce at its main engineering campus in Derby, UK.  My wife (Kerry - she'll be adding her words here as well) quit her job to join me, on the condition that our two cats Lucy (7) and Stan (3) would also join us.  So, lots of paperwork, money, and stress later, we had our visas, renters for our house, and plane tickets.

Packed for a year.  Two checked bags, two carry ons, and one cat each.

We're unlikely expats.  I say that because the only thing about our lifestyles that indicate we'd be good candidates for such an adventure was that we have no children yet.  We were pretty well settled in Indy and enjoying our lives.  We have an awesome network of friends and family near,we'd just renovated our kitchen, looking forward to continuing with other parts of the old house, and we were really enjoying our routine of work, CrossFit, make dinner, sleep, and repeat.  Of course, plenty of fun activities together and with friends thrown in between.

 So far it has been a roller coaster ride of emotions dealing with all the differences.  Here are my negatives first:  my US credit and debit cards don't work at the grocery store, my mobile phone doesn't work,  I have no address, and my only pan is a thin aluminum nonstick that has teflon flaking off and my only spatula is metal.  Here are Kerry's:  not having a car, no unlimited texting to the US, and being 5 hours ahead of close friends and family.  Together we miss our CrossFit clan at Indy North and all the creature comforts of home like reasonably priced toiletries and popcorn (the unpopped kernels so I can pop it myself in coconut oil). 

Here are my positives:  free rent for a year, free car for a year (well, I pay for fuel), the best tasting pastured poultry and eggs ("barn eggs"), an extra "allowance' to my salary, and experiencing the land that inspired the likes of J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, Guy Ritchie, and Ricky Gervais.  Here are Kerry's:  opportunities to travel, no work, and plenty of time to perfect her homemaking CrossFit skills.

We arrived in the morning of Aug 2, had a chauffeur pick us up with our overweight bags, then we headed to cargo to get our cats.  A quick stop at the petstore for some litter, a box, and some catfood later, we were at our hotel apartment where we crashed for a 3 hour nap.  My immediate goal was to find a GPS (SatNav) before doing anything else.  But this meant I had to drive to a store (the rental car was dropped off at our building).  So I mustered up as much courage as I had, got in the car, and headed toward the Westfield Mall, which is the beacon of Derby, visible from most roads.  About 7 wrong turns later, and 2 7-point turns through dumpster alleys, we managed to find the carpark.  While there must have been 7 stores for mobile phones, no SatNavs to be found.  Per the advice from other Secondees (US citizens temporarily working at R-R), at the mall we paid the dubious fellow at the phone kiosk who could unlock Kerry's AT&T iphone 4s so she could use it here without paying a small fortune per month.  Well, that's relative because it costs a small fortune to unlock it and it costs another one to cancel the ATT contract.  So this is clearly a lose-lose venture.  But life without a mobile phone is not worth living, I guess. 
Busy shopping day

Anyway, I did practice driving here on a business trip 4 months ago, and as we left the mall, without realizing it, I was driving past another shopping area!  This time there were big box stores.  CostCo!  Boots (aka Walgreens)! Sainsburys (aka Kroger)!  and Curry's (aka Best Buy)!  Well, not sure I got the best buy, but they did accept my credit card, so I got my my SatNav.   I'm now totally confident as I drive, as long as no one interrupts me.

The bigger car wins, luckly I drive a Peugeot 508

With my newfound confidence we decided to take a road trip to the Peaks District the Sunday before I started work.  It was only a 40 mile drive, but it took nearly 2 hours and I think I made roughly 50 turns.  It was a fun drive, and we ended up in a nice little village called Castleton that still looked like it was from the 1700's.  We hiked 6 miles along sheep pastures, up a large hill with excellent views, along the ridge of the hills, and back down through some woods, and more pastures, dodging the sheep poo as we followed the old stone fences.  At the end we found our way to the Nag's Head.  It just so happened we saw that before the Bull's Head so I can't say how they compare.  But I got my first real pint and Kerry got herself a cider and we got some decent pub fare.  My previous pub food experiences had been less than pleasant, but this was an upscale pub in the town so I was quite happy with my bangers.

Quaint cottages
Sheep fear her

First Pub
Pervil Castle

A nice farmhouse with what appears to be 300 year old stone walls and all new windows and doors

 So we're still figuring our routine and we do have to move into a more permanent rental for the year, but we've managed to get to Crossfit Nottingham twice for some real doozy workouts.  Stay tuned.


  1. Pics are awesome. Glad you're settling in. I'm guessing the green suitcases are Kerry's.

  2. Of course they are! There's a also a giant purple one behind the green ones. It's beautiful.