Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Homeward bound

Yippee! This time next week we'll be in Saltburn! We are heading home for a whole glorious month: 4 weeks with family and friends up North, bookended by a night or two in London at the start and end of our trip. It is a supreme indulgence, and I am supremely excited.

I have been feeling increasingly sentimental about lovely Britain of late. As in, welling up a bit, can't quite finish my sentence as I ramble on about how Lady P will miss out on autumn mists, and school uniforms, and proper apples, and cricket. (Yes, I edit out things like UKIP, the Tory disembowelment of our welfare system, and persistent light rain).
Saltburn! Aah.

England! Sigh.

I long for home! Much more than I did last time we lived in the US. Maybe we can blame my current trash TV favourite, I Wanna Marry Harry, which is full of shots of misty fields and golden stately homes and cream teas. Sigh. Or maybe just an increasing awareness that American bread tastes like sweet, salty nothingness.

On reflection, I think something about being in the US permanently has given me permission to indulge in full blown sentimental nostalgia about home.

At the same time, being in the US indefinitely (permanently?) requires me to get to like it a whole lot more - and being settled here makes that possible. I know why we came here, and the way we decided to make it work (namely with a long stretch at home every year). I also know the many benefits of living here: the Hermosa Beach lifestyle is a very easy one to fall in love with. We're happy here - to the extent I feel almost guilty about it. Like I'm cheating on England, where I always said I wanted to live forever.

I hope we can have our cake and eat it to. That is, enjoy the career and lifestyle benefits of being in LA. And still nurture those precious relationships with family and friends - and Lady P's knowledge of her English roots - with a long trip back each summer. I wonder though. I hope our month in Saltburn just cements this feeling that this works, and we don't lose too much by being here. And not that after we leave I cry for a month...

Monday, June 16, 2014

On the move again

I have been winkled out of my hiding place, the lovely office in the back garden of the Sugar Cube. A client wants to see me in person. Damn it. This totally ruins my work-life balance: I have to get properly dressed for work and can't sneak off for a run or a nap or a potter in the garden in the middle of the day.

What's worse, the client is based in the Bay Area. So it means being away from home for a couple of short trips, this week and next. In the grand scheme of things it really isn't much to grumble about. I've worked at home every day for the past 12 weeks.

And yet, ouch! It hurts! I hated leaving this morning with barely a by-your-leave from Lady P. Today when I facetimed home she was a bit grumpy in that late afternoon way, and I wanted to be home to cuddle her so badly it turned my stomach. Luckily for Lady P (and for me) she has TLOML at home to provide all the comfort she needs. Still. Working away sucks and these two weeks are going to seriously drag.

The balance will be redressed pretty dramatically though. We are going back to England for a whole glorious month. Barring the odd babysitting session, and allowing her doting grandparents some exclusive quality time, we'll have Lady P with us 24-x7. She's really good company at the moment, full of chat - if repeating the same word at a crescendo can be considered chat - and giggles. So I'm holding fast to the treat that's instore - all that quality time, and with family and friends to catch up with too - during my enforced absence.

While we're in the UK, our nanny will be getting to know another family, who we're hoping to do a nanny share with. They will be dropping their baby off at the Sugar Cube two days a week, and she will only be 4 months old. It makes me realise, not for the first time, how lucky I am. When Lady P was that age I spent all day, every day with her.

Yes, we have had a jolly good run of quality time with Lady P, and barring the odd trip, there's no real end in sight yet. So I'll enjoy some trash TV and room service, sleep in as late as 7.30am, and be thankful that for the most part, I get to have my cake (quality time with Lady P) and eat it (that's where the salaried job comes in).

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cup Fever

Cup fever hit the Sugar Cube hard this week.

Not just the World Cup,  but the Stanley Cup too. No, dear British readers, I hadn't heard of it either. It's the NHL cup, awarded to the winning hockey team after a seven game series. By hockey, they mean ice hockey (took me a while to figure that out). If either team wins decisively before all seven games are played, they stop the series early. Which is just not cricket. I like the way the Ashes - and any other Test series - goes on and on even after the outcome has been determined. Here, once the LA Kings went 4-0 up, as they did last night, the cup is declared theirs, the series ends, and the celebrations begin.

Hermosa Beach is a big LA Kings town. Apparently a lot of the players live in the South Bay, and drink at some of the local bars. The Hermosa Saloon, our favourite local spit-and-sawdust bar, got its hands on the Stanley Cup last time the Kings won, and locals got to drink beer from it - through a straw, presumably, for only if you are on the winning team are you allowed to touch the hallowed silver.  (Another thing that makes this so very not cricket is that while the Ashes cup itself is miniscule, the Stanley cup is huge, weighing 34lbs.)

Go Kings Go! banners are almost as common around here as Keep Hermosa Hermosa ones. The bars on Pier Plaza are packed and riotous during the games. And even our planned civilised Friday night dinner with friends had to accommodate the game.
Friday night in the Sugar Cube: Schramsberg and ice hockey

And then there's that other cup, the one which just kicked off and which few Americans really care about. It makes me a little homesick, thinking of all the George's crosses that are no doubt covering the windows of ever other house in Gospel Oak. I love the buzz in London during the World Cup, when the pubs are full and you can hear the shouts from open windows, and it feels like everyone is caught up in the same event. It's a bit like being in Hermosa Beach when the Kings are playing in the Stanley Cup.

Despite protesting for some time that she has no real interest in football, our nanny arrived on Wednesday with a Brazil flag on her car and wearing a Brazil kit - and promptly dressed Lady P in yellow, green and blue for the day. She watched Brazil v Croatia in a state of high excitement, and with her mum on skype throughout. I said she could keep the TV on if Lady P woke from her nap before it was over, and so it came to pass. It seemed churlish to worry about screen time for Lady P since she's already seen plenty of ice hockey these past two weeks.

So a summer of sport has begun. The enormous TV on which TLOML insisted is proving its worth. And Lady P has learned to fist bump and shout 'Go!' at the TV like a good American. Brits shout 'Go on!' which has an altogether different tenor. It always sounds like we're chiding our teams. We're about to spend a month - and the last couple of weeks of the World Cup - in the UK. Maybe then we can train Lady P to shout 'Go on!' and 'Come on England!' like a proper Brit.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

June gloom

June is here. And therefore, so is June gloom.

Los Angelenos like the rest of the world to think we enjoy year-round sunshine. (Don't mention the rainy season.) But June really is quite gloomy. It's something to do with the marine layer, a blanket of sea mist which weather conditions hold, hugged close to the shore, throughout the summer. In Yorkshire, they'd call it a sea fret. But in Yorkshire, it wouldn't lift for days.

Here, it lifts every day, at some point. Here's how it works:
8am. I comment 'What a grey day'

10am. 'Is it lifting? I think it might be lifting.'

11am. Decide to hang the throw out to dry to reduce tumble-drying guilt

2pm. The throw is dry and I am applying SPF30 for my commute back to the house
June gloom is wonderfully predictable. The only variance is whether the marine layer lifts before lunch or after. Sometimes it doesn't lift till late afternoon - but there's always sunshine for a late afternoon stroll along the beach. It's guaranteed by Los Angeles county law, I think.

In England, there is a lot less certainty. Yes, summer is full of glorious, sunny days with bright blue skies and little fluffy clouds. Beautiful days that rival anything LA has to offer. But it just might rain at any time. Only a fool ventures out for the day without packing a brolly as well as their sunscreen. Of course, that's part of the reason those sunny days are such gems.

I'm feeling sentimental at the moment, and looking forward to our trip home to the land of 'mixed' weather. Something tells me the novelty will wear off just in time for me to return to Hermosa and enjoy the rest of summer full of boringly predictable, 70s-and-sunny afternoons.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Everything's coming up roses

Well, not roses exactly. But fruits and vegetables and herbs, which are far more useful than roses. And almost as beautiful, if you squint. In amongst the rubble and sand, despite my ignorance, I'm having more gardening success than I could have imagined.

I have loved gardening since I wound up with a little patch of earth next to my first flat. I hadn't wanted a garden, but my perfect flat happened to have one. As the saying goes, when life hands you soil, make a garden. Over the next few years I turned it from a builders' yard into a chaotic, ill-managed fruit and flower garden. Sadly my passion for my little plot was matched only with a marked inconsistency in results. My wisteria never flowered, and my peas never germinated, but my crocosmia was triumphant and I always had plenty of rosemary. Well, it is pretty hard to stuff up rosemary.

Here in the Sugar Cube nothing has failed, yet. We are already enjoying lettuce, grown from seed, and oranges and lemons. Okay, I can't claim credit for the oranges and lemons - or the grapes - as they were here long before us. Still, I didn't kill them yet.
TLOML harvesting oranges.
 Same goes for the chard, which is adding a certain dark green umami to our minestrones, chopped salads and ramen.
Chard still going strong, and rocket coming up thick and fast
The tomatoes are getting big, and the corn looks like actual corn which is thrilling to me. I grew that!

The courgette and aubergine look pretty promising too.
Already some of the biggest courgettes I've grown

When I grow up I'm going to be a Japanese Eggplant
And at last we can eat a proper strawberries. American varieties are usually on a spectrum between bland and sour, and only sweet once cut and doused in sugar. But the ones from our garden taste just like a strawberry should. If this goes on we may never have to grace the Korean grocery again.

To what do I owe these newly green fingers? I guess it's just the right environment. Consistent sunshine is a huge bonus (so long as I remember to turn the sprinkler on). So, thank you Hermosa Beach, for helping a mediocre gardener succeed.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Scavengers hit Hermosa

More goodnatured madness in Hermosa this weekend. Some guy with too much money and too much time on his hands buried thousands of dollars, hidden inside Angry Bird toys, in the sand. Each Angry Bird had 'a few bills' inside it.

He had done the same thing in a couple of other sites in California already, and has tonnes of Twitter followers waiting for clues so they can rush to the next giveaway site.

TLOML and I are not among @HiddenCash's followers but happened to be on the beach with Lady P having had brunch at Scotty's.
Our brunch spot, Scotty's, overlooking a quiet beach
A passerby tipped us off - he'd found one containing $52. I'm glad he told us what was going on because otherwise we would have been awfully confused by the scene.
About 10 minutes after the Twitter announcement stating that the money is hidden between the volleyball nets and the pier in Hermosa Beach

Another ten minutes later

I can't really understand how so many people arrived so quickly. Does Mr Hidden Cash have so many followers in Hermosa? Or had they narrowed it down from his earlier clues, and were just waiting nearby for the final confirmation of the exact location? Or was this just the buzz that spread around the people hanging out within a few blocks of the beach, with nothing better to do on a Saturday morning, than swing by and look for money? People like us, who decided to spend a few minutes having a cursory look, since we were in the area.

However they heard, they got there fast.

The money was hidden just below the surface of the sand. Most people looked by shuffling their feet as they walked, hoping to hit on an Angry Bird with their toes. Some brought rakes. But my absolute favourite scavenger was this woman, who was clearly utterly convinced that the particular square foot around where she sat was the place to look. She was just digging and digging. I hope she found some money, but I'm afraid it's unlikely.

As for us, we didn't find any money. But we did enjoy the spectacle. There's always something to look at on the beach - but it's usually skateboarders, volleyball players or surfers. The scavenger hunt made an entertaining change.