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And a week went by…

After a long post last weekend, almost a week-long silence. To my regular audience – and I know who both of you are – my sincerest apologies. I had planned on writing the blog at the end of each workday, but there is too much stuff to deal with during the day and it is too hard to force myself to stay in the office for a bit of creative writing…

But, hey, I now have my home computer and a broadband connection, so, hopefully, I’ll get to be more diligent about writing.

Anyway, what happened to me during this week?

I can honestly say that life is already taking a shape of routine.

I am timing my commute quite well. Sadly, the trip back always hovers around 45 minutes, as I have to leave some buffer in order to make sure that I catch the once-in-30-minutes train at Lewisham. On Thursday, actually, I took a different train out of Lewisham – 20 minutes earlier than mine – which brought me further away from the house (but still within walking distance). When all was said and done, I walked for about 20 minutes, arriving exactly when I would had I waited for the right train.

The morning commute is normally less than 40 minutes. Yet, DLR was packed more than usual this morning, which resulted in extra time at stations, which brought the total time to [sigh] 45 minutes.

So much for the initial idea of being 30 minutes away from the office. I keep reminding myself that on a good day, I will still be saving over 2 hours in total over what my New Jersey commute used to be. In other words, “Look at the bright side”.

Then, there are things that really turn out to be easy and pleasant.

Such as selecting a school for Kimmy, for instance. The education advisor working with me found that one of the primary schools in close proximity to the house had open spots. The school is also doing comparatively well as far as level of education. I called and arranged for a visit. The headteacher (i.e. principal, директор ) spent a whole hour with me, introducing me to the entire stuff (including the cook; I’ve heard so many Mrs.This and Mrs.That that I honestly couldn’t put a name and a face together if I tried), walking me around the school, extolling the features and benefits of the school’s approach to achieving its mission (it’s not a joke – every school in UK starts with a mission statement), and basically leading me to saying “I certainly would love for Kimmy to become a student here”. I was only happy to oblige. It must be me having a soft spot for older women being nice to me…

In truth, I have not seen a school closer to the house than this (it should be noted that British educational authorities consider proximities in straight lines, so there may be another one that is technically closer), it looks being taken care of, I have not seen anything unpleasant as far as surroundings are concerned, and I surely wanted to have at something turn out not be a hassle. So, come October 30, Kimmy is a Year 2 student at Middle Park Primary School in Greenwich.

Finding a school for Becky is more complicated. She is going into Year 7, which is the first year of senior school. The process of applying to senior schools starts in October of preceding year, and all good schools are obviously oversubscribed, which means that there are currently no open spots in any public school that has good educational results.

In UK, your place of residence defines your “catchment” – the primary local area in which the kids are supposed to go to school. However, you are neither required to stay within your catchment, nor are you guaranteed a spot anywhere. Proximity to institution plays an important factor in being placed in a particular school, but if you do not live on the doorstep of a school, you may be offered a place pretty far away. And with good schools, it is doorstep or forget it.

We are not close to any senior school, but it is hardly relevant, given that there are no really good schools in Greenwich (which is our catchment). Nearby Bromley has several schools that are better, but neither are they close by nor do they have open places. The best public senior school available to us is actually not too far (maybe, a mile) and is quite ok by Greenwich standards (but still slightly below national average as far as educational achievements). We will consider it, but we are not too excited.

We are additionally looking at private schools (they are called “independent” in Brit-speak). Quite expensive, but also quite a different level of education. I am visiting one of those on Saturday for an open-doors type of thing (for those who is not paying attention, it is October – i.e. the application season for the next year; most schools – public and private – are having open-doors days throughout the month). Becky will have to go for an entrance exam there. At another independent school, there is a two-day trial for which she is already scheduled. We’ll see how that turns out.

But I digress.

The other highlights of the week had to do with getting broadband equipment. First, picking up a parcel from a post office. In our suburban area, a post office is almost always a convenience store, looking nothing like what you’d expect from a real post office. I honestly thought at first that the sign “Post Office” was the name of the store, like “Hallmark” or something. But it really fulfills some of post office functions. For instance, if you cannot receive your parcel at home, you can arrange to pick it up at the post office, which is half a block away from the house.

The package from British Telecom contained a broadband router (which is kind of flaky when installed and configured wirelessly, but otherwise is very simple to set up and use) and a decent cordless phone/answering machine combo. There was also a note indicating that I was supposed to get a super-duper broadband phone instead, but it being out of stock, a temporary substitution was made. I am pretty sure that the terms of my phone/broadband contract do not include any charges for equipment. Without having experienced setting up similar connection in the States recently, I find it pretty amazing that a router and a phone were included with the new line for free. Maybe I am up for an unpleasant surprise when the bill comes…

And the rest of the week was work, work, work. Although I did go out with some colleagues on Wednesday, and even paid for a round of beers.

Tomorrow, after school visit, is the continuation of car search. I am test-driving a couple that I did not get to last week, plus I found a Volkswagen dealership that evaded me previously, and I want to take a look at a Jetta.

Posted in Chronicles, Expat Archive

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