Christmas is here! We’ve just had a nice turkey meal followed by cozonac (Romanian cake) and Christstollen (German cake), followed by a nice walk into the country park and now we are back on the Internet ๐Ÿ™‚ !

We have again a very nice tree this year:

On 2 November we went to see Mariza at Barbican in London. I posted some photos here. Her voice is very impressive. I did listen to her before but she was more impressive in concert. I liked this concert much more than the one I saw on DVD, where she was singing with a symphonic orchestra. In this one she had 3 guitars, drums, piano and trumpet. The concert also included solos from the others, which were very good. One of the most impressive things was when she sang without amplification. I have no idea where that voice is coming out from!

Today I decided to get a gmail email. It probably does not sound like a big deal but since moving to US, in 1996, I had Yahoo email and over many changes and moves it remained one of the most constant thing I’ve had.
But lately I feel that Yahoo is loosing it. I used to admire their innovations, the new services they brought to the web but there is hardly anything new anymore and what they have does not seem to be improved. They have options in the Yahoo!Mail that haven’t been updated in years. It feels sad, but I will probably start moving my emails to gmail in the future.

On Sunday, to take advantage of the nice weather (sunny and cloudy), we went down to London. We met with our friend Andrei, had a stop at Pizza Express (as usual) and then went to explore Regent’s Park. We had a walk around the park, witnessed some police men and helicopters looking for something with their scarry guns and, eventually, we got to Queen Mary’s Garden. It was supposed to be a quick stop, just to see what’s there, but we ended up spending a couple of hours there and taking about 400 photos. There were thousands and thousands of roses, of all sorts of colours, sizes, height and smell. Absolutely amazing experience. Here are some of the photos I took.

Sad, but it seems that we do not find the time to write in this blog too often. It’s also quite hard to keep up as I still fail to find the motivation for blogging.

Anyway, I thought I should mark our 1 year in UK (which actually was almost 1 month ago) with a post. So, after 1 year here we still like it! Actually, now I start liking it even more, which is not hard because last year was quite annoying for me: no job, no cats and sometimes even no Internet and TV.

The PhD goes forward and I start clearing up in my mind what I would like to do. We started to go more around (we now became National Trust members) to see castles and gardens and it’s amazing how much care they take of gardens here. In March we took my parents to Devon and it was really, really beautiful there. We are now going again to Exmoor at the end of June.

London is full of events and nice places. Whenever we can, we try to go and see something or just walk around. It’s quite hard, though, to decide what tickets to buy (no complaining though)!

Travelling to the rest of Europe got so much easier now and it does not even feel like leaving the country anymore as it takes us less to go to Brussels or Paris than it took in US to go from Boston to Virginia. We definitely like our house and our small garden and we start appreciating a lot the British countryside. It’s quite hard not to, as it is totally different from any other type of countryside I’ve seen so far. It’s very green, calming and relaxing.

Hope things will go well here and we’ll stay around because we have lots of things to see and do!

Since I have not been very active in bloging lately, just thought I should make a summary of most important events. As Dirk already wrote, one of the most important events was that we moved into our new house. The whole unpacking was quite tiring as it’s the first time we moved into a house with levels, and dispatching things meant going up and down the stairs all the time! After 3 days of doing that, I was quite tired. Luckily, we did not have to move all the stuff in one day. Since our rental was not occupied, we had enough time to move the things. Moving also meant another disruption in connectivity as the phone took one week to start working and the Internet about 2 weeks. The TV took longer but that’s not really a big issue for us. We barely watched any TV since April because we did not want to make a subscription knowing we’ll not be in the rental for too long.

Once we more or less finished moving the things, we went to get the cats from Romania. The 6 month rule for their blood test expired on 12 September and we could bring them here. We first wanted to get them with British Airways Cargo, but the price was quite high, so we eventually arranged to go from Brussels and then by ferry. I have to note that in Brussels we had a very bad experience the first evening, when we get to the hotel Dirk had booked through BT. The Aristote hotel, as nice as it looked on the website, was quite crappy. We spent the evening trying to get another hotel and get out of there. The standard was like a highway motel. Really shaky beds and old blankets. The bathroom was very old. Anyway, eventually we found another hotel, with the help with Dirk’s brother that did some search on the Internet, and we left. Of course, we had to pay one night, which was insanely expensive for the conditions they offered. The location, even though it looked very close to the center, did not impress me at all. Many of the buildings around there (Stalingrad Ave.) were quite passed their prime. Anyway, once we changed the hotel all was nice and sunny again and we had a very good time in Brussels ๐Ÿ™‚ BTW, Brussels is a very nice place. In terms of cafes and restaurants I like it more than Paris because you can find very nice places, lots of patisseries, bakeries, with friendly waiters.

The trip to Romania was mainly for getting the cats so we only stayed 4 days. We also saw a concert as the Enescu Festival was taking place. This year they brought very impressive names, some of the most important currently performing artists, like Maxim Vengerov, Martha Argerich, Murray Perahia, LSO (London Symphony Orchestra), Jose Cura, and others. I would have liked to stay a bit longer and attend some more concerts but the timing was not right.

The trip with the cats back was quite ok, as Dirk described. The only annoying thing was in the Bucharest airport where I needed to go and talk to a vet, that just put a stamp in their passports and asked me for 55 RON per cat (there are about 3.5 RON per 1 euro). Obviously, he did not give me any receipt and the money was just put into his drawer. Then, another dubious person that was near the Tarom counter said he will help me not take the cats out of their bags when passing through the security, since I was a bit afraid they will go nuts. Of course, he asked for bribe for him and the security person. Once we got to the security, the woman wanted to put the cats in their bags through the X-Ray machine. We were both shocked! On that machine there is a very clear sign saying that no parts of the body should be put through it but she said it’s no problem. We did not want to do that so we had to get the cats out. I got very annoyed and I asked to have my bribe back. The cats were amazing and very easy to handle. Dirk got one at a time through and the cats were surprisingly quiet and said absolutely nothing.

Getting them in UK was very easy even though everybody kept saying how bad it is. However, they had all the records in order, so we just had to read their microchips there, give the passports and that was all.

It was quite a long and tiring trip for all of us ( we left from Bucharest at 4am and got in Colchester around 5pm) but that was the end of our move here.

As we are now in the process of buying a house in UK, we get to know the local system and what we see is quite scarry. Of course I cannot even try to compare it with Finland, where you can buy a house in a week, but it’s even scarier than US though very similar in some parts.

The scarry part is that the offer acceptance is not binding, which can lead to what is called “gazumping”, where the seller or the buyer can jump off at any time before the contracts are exchanged, without any penalty. And it takes quite some time till the contracts can be exchanged as all the local searches and other surveys have to be done before that. Also in US you could jump out but there was a certain small fee you had to pay. Here, nothing. It does not matter that in the meantime the buyer has to pay the solicitor (lawyer) for certain fees. If the seller changes his/her mind either because they found somebody that paid more or just because, you are screwed! And nobody does anything about this. It sounds more like corrupted countries to me. It has nothing to do with free market. Of course, that generates all sorts of blackmailing strategies, where the seller or the buyer can try to re-negotiate the price at any time.
All would be still ok if the exchange of contracts would be done soon enough so that you won’t have to live in this panic phase for too long, but here is where the whole process seems like US all over again. Getting a mortgage approved could take about 3-4 weeks and getting the contract drafted by the solicitor would probably take something similar. Not sure what they’re really doing, but they really take their time!

Well, these being said, I am still hoping for the best and hope that we manage to buy this house without any problems. On the positive side, the further we go in the process the more security we get, as the seller would probably not like to find somebody else and start the whole process again. So, let’s see…

Today we got Internet at home so here is the first post about our move from Finland to UK! We’ve been here for two weeks now but we’ve been quite busy getting settled, finding relevant stores, unpacking and repacking household items (they don’t all fit in so we’re using a storage also) and also getting sick (me) and now getting better.
I will try to summarize our own experience of moving to UK. First of all, I did not have to do anything like registering since I am currently not working and I am an EU citizen :-). That was easy! The bank account was very easy to open for Dirk. It should have been also easy for me if the bank (HSBC) would not have misplaced my paperwork. Now I redid them all and I hope I can soon get everything needed. We had to take care of utilities, ordering phone and Internet, etc. To my surprise, the BT guys were very good: they came here exactly when they said. The phone was installed last week and the Internet today. It took more than twice this time to get Internet working in Helsinki!

Some unpleasant surprise came when I wanted to get a mobile phone subscription as I need some kind of statement or utilities bill, which are harder to get so soon. Well, I hope that will also be solved soon.

Ipswich proved to be much nicer than I imagined. It’s small but has lots of stores and nice houses. We live near a big park full of trees and, what they call, British landscape (hilly lawns and trees).

The apartment where we live has a very nice back garden with birds and squirrels. The weather has been exceptionally good. Sunny every day and nice temperatures. The spring is here beautiful. When we came here we could not believe that in a few days the outlook can change so much: Helsinki was still brownish-dusty and cold and here it was all just leaves and flowers. Amazing!

Our move to UK from Finland went actually through Romania, as we have to leave the cats with my parents for the next 5 months. The cats survived very well the flying experience but were very confused by the change of place. It seems that now are getting used to the new place. We spent just a day and a half in Bucharest (which was also in full spring) before we flied to London, rent a car and drove to Ipswich. Dirk has been driving now twice British cars and, since last week, our own European car. Unlike various panic-ed opinions we saw before on the web or heard, there seems to be no problem to drive in UK, no matter where the steering wheel is. The easiest is on the highway, as not too much is different.

On smaller roads you have to be a bit more careful but mainly because Brits love roundabouts!!! I have never in my life saw 2-3 roundabouts one after another (i.e., connected to each other). Even if you look on the right side it’s just getting too much to figure out where to go plus figure out that you have another roundabout starting before the other one finished!

Anyway, the traffic was very civilized from London to Ipswich. They have really good markings on the street, with big and clear arrows. Cars passed only on the right, unlike in US where you get cars passing from both sides.
We did not really have too much shopping trips at bigger malls, as we did not have the Internet to help us search. (Life without Internet was quite bad, I have to say. It’s amazing how much I got to depend on it!) However, we did go to some computer and appliances stores and they reminded me of US in terms of choices. If felt good to have again lots of choices ๐Ÿ™‚

Overall, the move went very smooth. Our things came really fast this time, so we had to stay with an empty house only for 1 week. This was a huge improvement over our move to Finland where we had to wait for more than a month… We enjoy it here and look
forward to start looking for a house closer to London and start some London trips in the near future.
So, we did not miss Helsinki too much. We had a nice time there but we did not take the decision lightly so we know we did the right thing. Plus, it’s nice to be able to understand what people talk about on the street. It’s true, we had big problems in understanding some dialects we heard around but it can be done. The only weird thing was me not having a job. It’s hard to describe how I feel, but sometimes it seems like all I’ve done and learned over these years got out of my head during these past weeks when I did not do any work anymore. Then, when I discuss, read or think of something again I realize I still remember everthing but I definitely need to get back to daily intelectual job soon. I am clearly not housewife material ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ll see what’s in store for me in the future. I will start exploring the options soon.

For now, on Wednesday we leave again to Romania for a week. We miss the cats ๐Ÿ™‚

Back soon…