With the frequent back and forth across The Pond, my instincts will forever be slightly off I fear. Only last month I noticed that I still don't reflexively introduce myself in conversations with new acquaintances. In Texas this is odd. Now back in London, I am irked by things which I once routinely dismissed.
When we lived here, it took something like a five minute violation in a luxury store to catch my attention. Since the last six months have been my longest, and unintended, absence from London, low level rudeness grabs my attention just like when we first moved here.
Two stories from the last 36 hours:
Cupcake and I went to Waitrose for a grocery shop. Before, I would have blown off ("dismissed" for the Brits, not, well, you know...) the half dozen checkout lines three and four shoppers deep. Now I notice them once again. One of the reasons the lines were so deep is that customers routinely empty their baskets ("trolleys" for the Brits) and then leave them at the top of the conveyor belt, blocking the next person in line. When Cupcake and I got to our checkout, there were three empty baskets blocking us from unloading our groceries for checkout. So I moved them together and asked Cupcake to move them to the wall, out of the way. A few seconds later, a well dressed British man, perhaps 60, tried to maneuver around her to get to the checkout next to us. Once he realized that I was 1) not the offensive basket abandoner, 2) not allowing my daughter to play in the line of traffic, and 3) was actually instructing her to clear the obstacles to the checkout, then he relaxed his pursed lips, but--and this is the part that shocks me--did not offer to help and continued to try and work around my daughter. I lost a few moments just staring at him, dumbfounded. (That contributed to the line sluggishness as did the checkout girl waiting until I had unloaded my entire basket onto the conveyor before starting to ring up my groceries. I was confused until I remembered that customers sack their own groceries here. She was avoiding that awkwardness when a checkout person is finished ringing up items but just sits there waiting for the customer to pay, sack, and contend with children, handbags... But this isn't rude; it's just the customer service gap.)
Then, this morning I got off the Tube at South Ken. Due to proximity to various museums, V&A, Science, Natural History, demographics of the area, and the relatively few stairs, the South Ken station gets more buggy traffic. It is hard to retrofit wheeled access to Tube stations so you have to bump the buggy up the stairs or carry it up, which is a two person job. Myself and a blue collar guy helped a pair of mothers up one set of stairs, all the while men in suits, and inexplicably other women, pushed past us. One man even got annoyed when I had to swerve in front of him because someone had jostled the buggy, upsetting the balance and possibly the baby. I helped another mom at the exit, again as strapping men brushed past us.
I can hardly imagine either story happening in Texas, and all possible scenarios involve someone in the vicinity scolding the unhelpful. Like the story about tennis courts, this is not just unacceptable social behavior, but inconceivable social behavior. Two years ago, I would have simply accepted it as part of living here, but after almost a year at home, this screams out to me. UPDATE: I was just over at Texpatsabroad--she's started blogging again--and her recent post about culture shock reminded me that I must remember this rudeness lives in London alone; it is not part of the English character. None of this would happen in Devon.
Then there is the weather. I should have brought our Uggs and my cashmere tops. In Texas in June, however, the thought of anything but cotton against one's skin causes a Pavlovian sweat. So here I am in grey London (can you see the wet and the grey through my window?) with half a dozen linen pants, closed toe shoes (I am not so forgetful that I packed only sandals), and some cotton cardigans.
Piling on the annoyances, I did a pathetic job of planning and prep. Normally I would have emailed friends and arranged playdates, child and grow up ones. This time I didn't even know we were arriving on a bank holiday, much less during Hill House's half term break. No matter, everyone returns this weekend and, continuing my double life of being an active London mom but a slacker Houston mom, I still managed to have 14 kids in our house yesterday afternoon. Tomorrow I need to run to Peter Jones for a few necessary items like a Mac power transformer. I have my UK Mac plug, but not the white brick part of the power cable.
As mentioned, not my best show of travel prep. One positive development, my lack of laptop charge sent me on another search for a way to blog from my iPad. If these links work, then I am going to write a rave review on the Blogsy app page about how it finally made my iPad my blogging device of choice.