Archive for March, 2011
‘So, what’s the first thing you want to do when you get to England?’
I’ve been getting this question a lot lately and everyone expects a different answer. Nana thinks I’ll go straight to a sweetie store and buy a big paper bag of pear drops (which I loved when I was six). History buffs expect I’ll be planning to swing by Stonehenge. And die-hard shoppers want to hear that I’ll be heading straight for Knightsbridge.
But, no. They’re all wrong. The first stop on my itinerary? The Tesco in Bar Hill.
Usually I try to avoid grocery shopping, but this is different. This particular Tesco has been brought up in conversation so frequently with me now that the place has grown to mythical proportions in my mind. ‘Cambridgeshire?’ a number of people (all women, I must admit) have nodded when I’ve told them where we’re headed. And then they’ve paused and added one of the following things:
a) ‘You’ll be wanting the Bar Hill Tesco.’
b) ‘The Tesco in Bar Hill will be close by.’
c) ‘Everything you need will be at the Bar Hill Tesco. It’s a Tesco Extra, you know.’
There is never any mention of the university, or the history surrounding the area, or even the short hop to Stansted airport and Europe. Just the Bar Hill Tesco (Extra! Which means it’s kind of like a hypermarket).
In my mind, over the weeks and months, the Bar Hill Tesco has grown until it has become the be all and end all of supermarkets. On arrival, I am expecting to need a little golf cart to ferry me from the car to the door (so vast will the car park be) and have a personal shopping sherpa assigned to me, or at least an Ikea-style foldable floor plan and a little pencil (which would suit me just fine – I love those little pencils).
Some naysayers have tried to dissuade me (‘You’re much more a Sainsbury’s girl,’ one friend, a long-time resident in the England, sized me up). But I stand firm. It will be Bar Hill Tesco, or bust.
However, when I began to imagine there would be a crèche, wondered if there were Willy Wonka-style crazy slides between floors and the sherpas in my head were beginning to look a little like Simon Baker, I thought I’d better have a Google in case my frenzied excitement turns quickly to jet-lagged disappointment once I actually get there.
Well, I don’t see how disappointment is going to happen. There might not be any sherpas on offer, but the place claims to be open 24 hours a day. Peter Andre made an appearance there last year. He even sang (they couldn’t stop him)!
According to my Google search, there are only a couple of Bar Hill Tesco downsides. Apparently it’s a bit Non-U (the ‘U’ stands for upper class, don’t you know?) and I should be shopping at Waitrose, if I must shop at all. Also, you can only park there for three hours now. And when I asked about the place on a UK mother’s forum, one mother likened it to a ‘malignant mole’, swallowing up several lovely small villages surrounding it as further development continues to rush in.
It can’t be all that bad, though – it has its own Facebook Fan Page!
Then again, so does Peter Andre (he has one more friend than Bar Hill Tesco, which I’m hoping someone reading will be able to rectify, because that’s really quite wrong…).
At around 5ft 6″, I am four centimetres taller than the average Australian woman. Maybe I hang around with a lot of above average people, however, because I get a lot of comments about how tiny I am. Lining up for a photo with a bunch of other female authors a while back, I immediately stuck myself up the front of the group, because I knew from experience that I’d be the shortest. The photographer shuffled me around to a different spot, took a look at the set up and then shuffled me back again. ‘You are short, aren’t you?’ she gave me an odd look. Like I’d just shrunk on purpose.
To be frank, I’m a bit over the height thing. Throughout my childhood, I was either the tallest in my class, or up there in the top three. ‘You’re a tall one,’ I’d get, year after year, as I was placed up the back middle of school photographs. X-rays on a broken wrist predicted I’d be as tall as my aunt who was 5ft 9″. Yeah, well, maybe I would have been if I’d kept growing after the age of 13. But I didn’t. There was a few years’ grace on the ‘tall’ comments as everyone waited to see if I’d shoot up again and when it became obvious that I wasn’t going to, the ‘short’ comments started.
From what I can gather via Google, the average British woman is one centimetre shorter than the average Australian woman and the average British man is three centimetres shorter than the average Australian man. It’s not a lot. But here’s what I don’t get – height has already been a huge issue in this move. So much so, I’m starting to worry that my family and I are stepping into some kind of Gulliver’s Travels situation (still, however things pan out, it can’t possibly be as bad as that Jack Black movie monstrosity).
The first problem that cropped up was when we began looking at property rentals. Ceilings were the issue. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s always been imperative that everyone in the family is able to stand upright in their own home. And by that I mean not just in the centre of each room. I’d watched, wide-eyed as couples on Escape to the Country slammed their heads into beams in kitchens and then laughed the growing eggs on their foreheads away with a wave and an, ‘Oh, we’ll remember to duck soon enough!’. Yes, I’d watched this kind of thing happen a couple times, but hadn’t really believed it could be true. It was true. As we started to look at rentals, all kinds of odd, sloping things, or odd low-hanging things popped up in houses.
One property we were interested in boasted it had a ‘shower over bath’. This meant that there was a detachable shower-head on the wall. But the ceiling on one side was of such an angle, you’d be sitting down for that shower of yours unless you were an Oompa Loompa. As a woman, I was lucky in that I’d be sitting down to use the toilet in that same bathroom. I didn’t know what my husband was going to do. Kneel, maybe? Basically, you could stand up on the bottom floor of the house, but not in the majority of the second floor. It reminded me of an apartment my husband and I had rented for a week in Edinburgh once. It had had such low ceilings that our hands would keep darting to the ceiling in a kind of ‘Turkey Lurkey, the sky is falling’ disco move.
Just yesterday, as I discussed furniture rental with an English company, I learnt that standard UK bed sizes are smaller than Australian ones. Most of the furnished properties available seem to come with what they call ‘doubles’ or ‘full’ beds and we’d been all set to order a couple of these until we realised they were 13cm shorter and 17cm narrower than an Aussie Queen. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to work for my brother at 6ft 3″ or my brother-in-law at 6ft 2″. We opted for a couple in the UK King size. I haven’t gone to a King size before. Having always been a Queen girl, in my head moving up to a King seems dangerously close to opting for a round waterbed with satin sheets.
I can see the space thing is going to be interesting. Aussies are used to spreading out. We like a bit of room to move (and to not have every single electrical appliance we own bar a hair straightener chugging away in the kitchen at the same time – what’s with that?). But one thing’s for sure – I am going to revel in that extra centimetre of height difference. Oh, yes.