Sunday, January 31, 2016

The all new South Park

All hail, the advancing gentrification of 'South' Hermosa.

I'm not sure whether a town that's only two square miles merits a North vs South demarcation, but ever since we moved south of Pier we noticed the invisible line. Yes, the Strand down here is still lined with multi-million dollar bling pads, but a few blocks east of the beach there are far more renter units, scruffy old beach cottages and yes, that sad excuse for a park I posted about last year.

Finally, our end of Hermosa has a beautiful park all of its own. The new South Park is open, and it's pretty amazing. There's a tot lot, a long slide down a little hill that has 'sensory huts' on top of it, a roundabout that can hold about a dozen kids, a climbing net, and a strange see-saw. Oh, and rocks, and sandy areas, and a 'dry creek bed', and just all sorts of cool spaces for kids to run about in.

 South Park was absolutely packed last weekend, and I think it might be a place where Lady P gets to know some of our neighbourhood's kids. It's also a big step up from her former outdoor playspace, the workout station she wistfully called 'the seesaw'..
'The seesaw' at the end of our street: no longer the best park in our 'hood

... or hunting for Gruffalo caves on the greenbelt which was my go-to solution for those times when I felt she needed to play outside for a while but couldn't be bothered to schlep to the beach.

Now we have an incredible park just 5 minutes walk from the house, we feel very spoiled. Lady P is delighted and I'm sure will spend many happy hours of play and adventure there. And I'm sorry that we're so prosaic, but we think it might have increased our property value too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

No-one's going to give me 5 stars in TripAdvisor anymore

We try to be good hosts. When family and friends visit us for the first time, we like to show them the sights.

When we lived in Malibu we always took guests into Santa Monica, mooching around the canals in Venice, for a drive and a shop in Beverly Hills, a hike by the Hollywood sign, and so on. Now we're in the South Bay we can easily get into Downtown LA for cultural and culinary experiences, or drive down to Long Beach, or take a bike ride to the Marina.

But if you have such a good time that you decide to return, be warned. We may not go quite so far on your second visit. By the laws of diminishing returns and thanks to the lure of Hermosa Beach, returning guests are lucky if we even drive a couple of miles south to Redondo Pier. After all, we reason (/post-rationalise), there's nothing wrong with just hanging about in Hermosa Beach, enjoying the life of a Hermosa Local.

Our most recent guest, Lady P's godfather, was the perfect example. We only left Hermosa Beach once in ten days. For the rest of the time, we worked out together every day (very Hermosan), walked to downtown Hermosa for lunch, or drinks, and generally just enjoyed some quality time. As far as I'm concerned it's the perfect holiday. I hope he - and any future returning guests - agree.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Progress report: Lady P

We had Lady P's first parent-teacher conference last week. Yes, providing a progress report on a toddler seems ridiculous to us too, but since Lady P is our favourite topic of conversation we were really looking forward to it.

We weren't completely disappointed. Only a little. Unfortunately for TLOML's 'Tiger Dad' ambitions, Lady P is not off the charts, genius-level. Instead she is pretty much where she should be in most academic areas. To be more precise, she's a smidge ahead of the curve - enough to satisfy her reasonably well-educated parents, not so much we have to worry about paying for college five years earlier than planned, nor the social trauma that I suspect accompanies child genius levels of attainment. Sadly this means she is still some years off being able to read alone and therefore amuse herself for any length of time

The best news came in non-academic areas. First of all, her manners and socials skills were heavily praised. I was delighted. Like all middle class Brits I have been drilling 'please' and 'thankyou' into her since she could speak. I don't think people do that so much here. Which isn't to say that Americans are rude, but just that the social norm of politeness doesn't always include 'yes please' ('sure' does just as well) and 'no thank you'. Despite that Transatlantic difference I believe basic old fashioned politeness goes a long way anywhere, so was very pleased to hear that Lady P is ticking all the boxes there. She's kind to her classmates and gets along with others too, which is good to know. God knows what happens to kid who at two years old is falling out with their peers - by the time they're a teenager I imagine they're really battle weary.

But the crowning glory was her performance in 'food prep', which is an area her teacher said she needed to work on. Food preparation at Montessori might include choosing different chopped fruits to put into your own fruit salad, to give an example. Apparently, Lady P is not very good at waiting till the permitted time to eat her prepared food - instead she scarfs the ingredients as soon as she can get her greedy little hands on them. We nodded gravely in support of 'working on' this. But as we left the conference congratulated ourselves on raising a daughter who sees something she wants to eat and grabs it. What more important life skill for a toddler is there?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Preparing for the worst

Hermosa Beach is battening down the hatches in anticipation of some El Nino storms and heavy rain. Free sandbags (10 per household) are being given away at City Hall, and the gateways in the low wall that runs along the beach have been bolstered with heaps of sand. We are advised to keep the petrol tank at least half full, and to make sure we are stocked with enough food and water to keep us going for a few days. So far we have survived a couple of days of intermittent rain, but apparently there is more to come.
Lady P doesn't mean it, of course: the thrill of her life is a rare rainy day

At the risk of sounding complacent, I don't think we have too much to worry about. Our house is on the crest of a hill and elevated from the road, so someone else is welcome to our ration of sandbags. We have - as always - enough food to keep an army marching for at least a week. And if the town is flooded so badly the gas stations are shut, I won't want to drive anywhere, so I am not worried if the needle on the gas tank dips below halfway.

Perhaps some of this complacency also stems from a sneaking suspicion that the people of Southern California overreact somewhat to bad weather. Playtime outside is cancelled at Lady P's preschool when it's raining - a shame as it's not often she gets to wear her favourite red wellies and her cute little rain coat. Loved ones (who shall remain nameless) say things like 'Are you sure we should go, in this weather?' even if where we're going involves getting into our car inside our (weatherproof) garage, driving a couple of miles, and walking 20 feet into a (weatherproof) restaurant. People drive inexplicably slowly, as if through a blizzard. The big joke at the gym is when the coach says 'Okay, go warm up with a 400m run... Ha! Just kidding! I'd never make you run outside in this weather!' because it drizzled a bit earlier in the day. And then I see footage of the Cumbrian town my sister lives in, flooded again, and everybody just going about their business and getting on with it and can't help but roll my eyes a little at the softies of SoCal.

It's probably not just people being soft, to be fair. This town is not really built for wet, cold weather. Lots of people keep a lot of stuff outside - toys, cushions on their deck furniture - all year round. Many of us don't have much clothing to straddle the gap between beachwear, and full on ski gear. Half the seats at half the restaurants in town are on outdoor patios - currently blasted with heatlamps to recreate that balmy feel that comes naturally the other 9 months of the year.

I do know, that El Nino is an actual phenomenon. And one which has caused carnage in many places, in other years. And while I teased the apparent overreaction to Hurricane Irene in Manhattan, I know Sandy more than vindicated that response. But in this city of high drama and easy living, I suppose I'm just hoping it will be a few days of the kind of weather Yorkshire people describe as 'spring showers', and that sandbags and emergency supplies will be left unused.

Monday, January 11, 2016

January blues

Much to TLOML's dismay, I've been more than usually homesick this Christmas. I'm craving flavours you just can't get here, like blackcurrant and liquorice, treacle toffee and Betty's Fat Rascals. I'm hankering for leaden skies, dark afternoons in front of the fire, and crunchy frost underfoot. I miss the gurgle of a hot water filling radiators (our house is heated by soulless and noisy hot air). I'm more irked than ever by the inefficiencies of the health system here, and miss NHS waiting rooms and practitioners like you wouldn't believe. No, really. And - as ever - I'm yearning for some quality time with family and friends.

I don't know why I'm so much more maudlin about being far from home this year. It could be the dawning realization that this move is permanent. I know, you'd think the green card and home purchase would clued me in a little sooner. Reality is setting in.

Hermosa is trying to keep me happy though. We had three glorious days of grey skies and rain last week. I ran along the woodchip in the mizzle and for a moment could imagine I was running on the Heath or the Valley Gardens. And Lady P's godfather, one of my oldest and dearest friends, is coming to stay, bringing the promise of London gossip over G&Ts.

And yes, I know if we ever moved back I'd miss the almost constant sunshine, wonderful service, incredible quality of kale salads and avocado toast, and all the good friends we have here. I know. But I am still enjoying my maudlin mood, so please indulge me. I'll be back to posting about palm trees and flipflops in no time. And absolutely do not pity me: instead, pity TLOML who has to put up with this kind of talk almost constantly at the moment. I would go easier on him but I remember all the days he cursed English weather, service, and so on. I think I'm still owed a few more moans and grumbles yet...