Sunday, 4 September 2011

Immigrating to Europe | When The Delusion Spreads.

So I'm delusional. I get that. Completely insane, mental- I'm a self-confessed nutter. Remember Sandra Bullock's character in Demolition Man and her fascination with 80's paraphernalia? I'm the same way but with Europe. I just finished my LED lit Euro shower complete with hand sprayer. My bathroom is painted in the colors of Tuscany, and my Kitchen is Italian yellow with black cupboards. All this is really nothing more than a drug to give me a "fix" to keep my true desires from rising to the surface and making irrational decisions. Forget the roaming Daleks in our house my son owns, John Barroman's framed signature on the wall or the streaming French radios station playing from my purpose built server on the flat screen that multi-tasks to allow us watch British TV. Forget it all. Because it just got worse. I've just pulled others into my delusion. Like Freddy Krueger in a Nightmare on Elm Street I'm screeching my nails across other people's minds and sucking them into my own mad psychosis.

That's right, before it was mostly just me. Something has changed now. I think I sucked my spouse into my life damaging delusion, because all she can talk about now is moving abroad too. She's always been a bit partial to my ideas, but now it's almost like she's weighing those irrational options just as much as me. 

    Option 1: Live out our lives in peaceful bliss satisfying our Euro drug use with British chocolate, Spanish wine, and a occasional baguette here in the States.
      Problem with this is of course the more drugs you take, the higher your tolerances... eventually it will become impossible to self-medicate and it's not likely to be effective, nor financially possible.

    Option 2: Run far, far away and live in a cardboard box somewhere hoping immigration never figures it out.
      As great as this sounds, and they do give all the homeless free puppies in Brussels, it's probably not the best parenting.


    Option 3: Show up somewhere, renounce citizenship, apply for a Schengen visa and never come back to the states.

      Honestly... I'm not past doing this.... We will list this one under our "last resort" list.

    Option 4: Find a legal way to get in to a foreign country.
      There are none. At Least not for retarded farm girls like myself.


    Option 5: Go to school and pray despite not being all that religious.

      Pursuing this... I just don't have a crap load of patience, but I'm working on that.

    Option 6: Get pregnant while abroad.
      Baby tourism... Hmmmm..... I'll think on this one.... it's not a question of if, it's a question of how?

    Option 7: Divorce my spouse and marry someone abroad.
      Don't think we both haven't thought about it..... It's just we don't really like anyone else all that much.

    Option 8: Commit a heinous crime and get incarcerated abroad.
      What does it say that foreign prisons seem more enjoyable than living in America?

    Option 9: Become a missionary.
      The whole "I don't believe in God" thing sort of gets in the way. Though I'm willing to pretend.

Of course we're taking suggestions for the list.

So back to the matter at hand. I've done so well at convincing Shannon of going, I've sucked her in. Her hopes and dreams are now riding on a company transfer. Of course we both know, if we're honest, that's not likely to happen. It's like playing the lotto though... for a moment you get to dream. Sadly I don't know what we're both going to do when the dream isn't realized, and we're still here with nothing but a refrigerator full of imported cheese and wine. I'm worried... it's a virus, the worse disease ever, a mental mind-fuck which totally screws up the individual, and I'm spreading it like a lesbian monkey with a STD. In fact I recommend that readers stop reading what I write immediately in fear of coming down with it yourself. I suppose I've said too much already, and I must now go crawl up in the fetal position in the corner of my Euro shower with it's rotating LED light show, a bottle of Spanish Porto all the while I listen to George Micheal playing out of 88.3 streaming from Brussels. George Micheal?

Trapped in My own BBC Television Show.

The last thing I remember before it all went dark was that tiny little uncomfortable airplane pillow they give you, a paper towel covered whoopee cushion which you'll spend endless hours unsuccessfully attempting to rearrange like a Rubrics-Cube, into some salvation from the medieval torture device you're buckled into. I stood up from that horrid British Airway's airline seat to seek the lavatory in the aft of the aircraft, just as the pilot announced some incomprehensible message that everyone ignored. At this point, I was less concerned with my own internal relief, as I was the possibility of escaping the row in front of me containing several drooling, and snoring old women, all of which had their seat-backs in full recline. As I stood in line for the toilet, there, near the rear emergency door of the aircraft, I peered out the window. My future below, somewhere down there in the flickering lights between the hazy clouds of dawn. The lavatory door then folded open just a the plane shook with a bit of air turbulence. The woman exiting, immediately screamed “Oh Jesus” so loud, half the cabin woke up. I laughed as I closed the accordion door behind me, then winced as I realized the metal knob was still wet. Such are the joys of travel. We were less than a couple hours from landing at London Heathrow, and somewhere over the Irish Sea as I stood staring at my distorted face in the scratched-up lavatory mirror. I wondered if the scratches were the result of passengers who accidentally got locked in and panicked. I took my time with absolutely no interest in hurrying back to my seat. I was beginning to pray that my four hour train ride to Manchester would be more enjoyable than this flight, if only so that I could prepare for my late afternoon meeting at Red Entertainment, to pitch a new television series. And then suddenly, as I was studying the size of a single pore on my nose, which had greatly expanded due to the the air-pressure of the plane, it all began. I could see the toilet seat lift off the toilet at the moment it felt as though the floor fell out below my feet. I got a little giddy, as the turbulence junkie inside me cheered on the almost roller coaster feeling of the ride. Besides, no one has ever died from a rough flight yet, was my cheeky argument. As I, and the toilet seat slammed back down with a bang, I could hear the cabin erupt with chaos. I reached for the wet handle, only to be, yet again in some sort of lavatory vortex, unable to open it. I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole as I finally managed to open the door, and land face first into the uniform of our French accented flight attendant, who was now dangling with one hand from an overhead bin, and the other holding the intercom, screaming into it “Get to your seats NOW!” As I carefully stumbled my way back to my seat, climbing over random objects thrown in the aisle way, gripping each seat back for balance, I could hear the engines rev-up in their quest to maintain altitude, and the fuselage groaning as it twisted under the immense stress. I could see out the windows as I was tossed into the laps of my fellow passengers several times, the wingtips of the plane intermittently bending almost ninety degrees as it caught the plane between the pockets of turbulence. I had almost made it back to my seat with its miniscule little pillow and the brigade of permed grandmothers, when I felt that feeling in my stomach one more time. That feeling like when you jump off the high-dive as a child at the pool. My head then slammed against something very hard and everything went completely black.

When I awoke, I was alone and in a hospital room, my head throbbed as my fingers felt my scalp to discover a large row of stitches. I slowly stood up and walked over to the window. Where was I?- I wondered, as the pupils of my eyes adjusted to sunlight. Cardiff? I asked myself, as I instantly recognized the vista before me, yet had no comprehension of how I got here. For a moment I contemplated that the plane crashed, or that I was just mentally ill. “Is this how I die? Do I slowly go insane?”- I murmured under my breath as I cautiously unplugged the IV from my arm, then opened the hospital room door to find myself facing a nurses' station. A nurse, busily involved with something other than me, looks up and stares. We share an awkward silence. She doesn't seem to care that one of her patients is roaming around. Perhaps it's normal here in the U.K., I suggested to myself as I asked “Am I in Cardiff?” I of course already knew the answer, but decided this was the best way to test the lucidity of my reality. The nurse, replying back in her unmistakable, native Welsh accent, and who is ironically amused by mine, laughs, “Listen to that accent! An American, well that explains a lot!” The nurse now standing from curiosity, comes around the counter and grabs me by the arm to lead me back to the room. I stop her and ask, what happened. “How did I get here?” She replies back to me as if I should already have known the answer, “By ambulance sweetheart, how else would you expect?” She then grabs the medical chart on my door, and reads the content making several “uh huhs”, and “okays” in between head nods. “So you're the one that bumped your head... and you're a Jones? You know, I'm a Jones, we're all Jones!” as she tapped on her name badge. “I know,” I proudly declared back, taking my place in the country where everyone's last name does seem to be Jones. After some further explanation from Nurse Jones, I was told our plane did not crash, but ultimately had to make an emergency landing at Cardiff Wales, and I, who was unconscious at landing, was transported here where I was then admitted into the hospital. I advised Nurse Jones that I was now feeling fine and wanted to leave, when she abruptly stopped me mid-sentence with the tone of my own mother and asked “Are you mad? Are you stupid? You came in here with the clocks stopped and the mirrors covered, and the first thing you wants to do is escape and go where? “ Eventually after much negotiation, and meeting with the doctor on staff, Nurse Jones agreed to my “pure lunacy” as she put it. As I signed the release forms, she gave me a cwtch (a hug) and wished me a safe journey back to the States, the country she described as “the magical land of deep fried Twinkies, Hummers, and Wal-Marts.” She was also was kind enough to let me to use a phone so that I could explain the situation to the production company. Luckily they were understanding of my conundrum, since apparently my plane had made the BBC news. I believe their exact words were “Holy (expletive), take all the time you need Liv!” My meeting was now rescheduled for the following day giving me enough time to catch an early morning train tomorrow at Cardiff Central Station, and relax tonight down by Cardiff Bay. It also meant I was back. Back by some random odd coincidence of the universe. Back in the land of my forefathers. Oh yes, and if I had failed to mention it earlier, I'm not really crazy, I'm bloody Welsh... at least by blood, and I love this city, its people, and this country so very, very much. A sense of hiraeth had brought me here the first time, and had created in me a pregnancy of curiosity towards living here permanently. Unfortunately one cannot just decide to move to another country. There's rules and regulations. Visas to be had, and an large sum of money in paperwork fees before the governmental bureaucracy allows anyone to live here. This also meant finding a job in the U.K. Which brings us to why I was on that plane in the first place. This meeting was more than just a chance at a job, it was a chance at a dream.

As I exited the hospital, I headed in the direction of a cheap hotel, the Mecure Lodge, which is adjacent to the Atlantic Wharf with its abandoned red iron crane. I love it down here by Cardiff Bay, known locally still to this day by its original name, Tiger Bay, from Cardiff's coal mining boomtown days. Just a block up the brick path was Mermaid's Quay, the Red Dragon Centre, and the Millennium Centre (Cardiff's opera house), all of which make up the reinvented urban center which modern Cardiff has become. That evening, I went and visited my old friend who works at Demiro's Restaurant, a fashionable upscale cafe, where if you're lucky you might run into one of the stars of the television show “Doctor Who.” I was there however, for the Welsh food: cocos a bara lawr (cockles and laver bread), and my priceless view of the bay. Unlike previous, more planned trips to Cardiff, where I drank the night away on Saint Mary's Street, stumbling out of the pub after one too many “Dublin car bombs”, tonight after dinner I'd just take a stroll alone, in this light rain on the boardwalk. Dancing with my arms out, underneath the Torchwood water-tower, as the pink and blue lights glistened in this almost perfect night. Then just before I could become anymore consumed in the moment, I caught my reflection in the water tower, my battered and bruised forehead which I had forgotten, a reminder of what happened earlier this morning. “What am I doing? I almost died!”- I chastised myself, while channeling Nurse Jones. Perhaps it was that small bottle of hydrocodone pills, combined with the hypnotic spinning of the Carousel, and the smell of the salt water in the air that made me lose myself for a moment. Yet I had to wonder, out of all the chaos of the day, all that confusion, how could I take for granted any day which ends being wonderful, transcendental, maybe even beautiful? I mean, in the last twenty four hours I fought with an evil pillow, dealt with a quartet of snorting old women, shared germs with some wet hand screamer, and was tossed around the cabin of a 747 airplane till I was knocked unconscious. But then I met the wonderful Nurse Jones, spent the evening at one of Cardiff's best restaurants, and stared out at the other side of the ocean from the place I had longed to be, yet did not quite yet belong. Fate had brought me here for a reason, and no matter what happened tomorrow, I was determined that I'd come back to Cardiff to live out my the remainder of my visitor's visa... or at least until the money ran out.


As I got back to my hotel at about 1 A.M., overwhelmed with my epiphany, I stared at the big fluffy, welcoming pillows on the bed, a paradise to my abused head, calling me, beckoning me, like Cardiff had done early that morning on the plane. Tonight I would dream of Cardiff Castle, of running through Pontcanna Fields, and eating a Clarkies' Pie. Most of all I'd dream that when I woke tomorrow, I could find a way to say to myself, dreams really do come true.

And as I slowly drifted off to sleep in that hotel room the last thing I remember hearing was the sound of the plane hitting the cold water of the Atlantic, the screaming grandmothers, and the prayers of all those passengers as we committed ourselves to dream-land for our final destination.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Holiday's Rosehill Cottage | Shere, Surrey

Rosehill Cottage.
We spent last night re-watching the movie "The Holiday" before it has to go back to the store on Tuesday. Best movie, ever! I may even watch it again today. I Love this movie! It was actually a unexpected surprise since I did want to see it in the movies, but never got around to it. Shannon actually ended up bringing it home a few days ago, and we fell in love with the story.

 If you haven't seen the movie, which due to its cross cultural play on the fantasies of us women on both sides of the Atlantic, became hugely popular; the plot is basically about two women (Iris played by Kate Winslett and Amanda played by Cameron Diaz) and their love stories as well as the people they love. The plot revolves around how their fates intertwine when the two of them swap houses as part of a holiday home exchange program. Oddly such a concept does exist, and it seems quite interesting till you realize, somebody will be rummaging through pictures of you in your closet. (I've been told to get a closet with a locking key!)  So last night while the DVD was playing, I had a thought. A question actually; does this house, the Rosehill Cottage that Amanda rents, does it really exist?

Meant to be an idyllic Christmas cottage.
 It took me a while, but eventually I discovered the answer: unfortunately no. The whole idea of a romantic, quaint little Christmas cottage in the middle of a field is nothing but Hollywood fantasy. Apparently the whole house is a fiberglass set built in a field in Shere (or Sheire or Shire), a village on the river Tillngbourn in Surrey, England. Worse yet, for our little fantasies, the interior of the house was actually constructed on a sound stage in Los Angeles.
"They wanted a cottage and they couldn't find one so they built one in a field outside Shere," he said. "Shere feels like this little isolated village and we found this lovely spot on the hill over-looking the village where we built this cottage. That was perfect." -Surrey Online
A rather unique view inside Iris's living room.
The ironic thing about the whole movie is in the final climatic scene where Amanda (Diaz) is running back into the Rosehill cottage in a feverish panic, she's doing the running in Shere, England. Then as soon as she walks through the door, she's suddenly in Los Angeles, I'm even fathoming a guess that the scene was shot back to back with other interior shots, meaning everything, all that this requiem-of-a-chick flick is, is nothing but some faux fantasy created by the writer, Nancy Meyers. This is unfortunate for the congregation of romance fiction fans, both in the UK, and the US, who for some reason or another was hoping this was actually a partially factual realization, or at the very least held some element of reality. Apparently, hoards of women (and men) who don't know this, call the town's phone number and asking about the Holiday house.
Shere feels like this little isolated village and we found this lovely spot on the hill over-looking the village where we built this cottage. That was perfect." He said they are also filming in Godalming and that scenes from the two villages will be sewn together in the film to make it look like one place.
Iris's House in the Holday.
 Apparently the film has caused such a response, that this tiny little village was forced to post tourist information on their website for individuals wishing to visit the area and walk in Iris's and Amanda's footsteps. But it appears all is not lost for us die hard romantics. Even though Nancy did create a Holiday universe in which Cary Grant was born in Surrey, (In reality he was born in Bristol.) indicating a fictional world for this film, several aspects of the film do exist in this little village of Shere.

Love does not go on Holiday.
The field, the cemetery, Saint James Church, even the White Horse Pub (bar) that Graham (Jude Law) makes his way back from drunk and on to the steps of the Rosehill Holiday house, all exist in real life. Even the cottage in the movie appears to be patterned after many cottages in the area, although not isolated in some snowy idyllic location. (Which is the reason they constructed one there.) Many of these cottages can be let for about a thousand-dollars (U.S) a week for your own personal "holiday." Surrey, oddly enough, was the also the film site of some scenes from Harry Potter, The church in the Omen, and the opening scene from the movie Gladiator; not to mention the Diary of Bridgette Jones, and the now defunct television series Will & Grace.

As appealing as this little village seems on DVD, I can't wait for my opportunity to find my own false romantic notion when I get to visit the set of the Holiday in Shere Surrey.

This was one of my personal photos on my visit to Shere
So a couple updates to this post, as in 2008, I visited the site of the Holiday in Shere, (a highlight of my life) and loved it. The town is very small, and the hill sans the house is there, as is the White Horse Pub. Loved the place to death, and was sad when I had to leave. Would go back in an instant if they'd ever find a place for an American such as myself there. I've also received tons of fan mail for the movie here, with corrections and other facts I wanted to post:

Mill House:
From Katie:
Mill House does exist in Wonersh, Surrey. It is a Grade II listed building from the 15th century.
The Shop "K, Lawson Bakers":
There is some conflicting information on "the shoppe" from the Holiday. It does exist, though not in Surrey, we are sure of that. It's on Church Street in Godalming, (a town about twenty minutes from Shere) which was renamed "High Street", and one of the shops in the filming was Cafe La Creme, though we've had various reports saying the actual Christmas themed store in The Holiday, was a tile shop. 

NOSH! - The International Cookbook