Thursday, August 31, 2006

Arrival in Texas

Well, we made it to Austin. The flight was pleasantly uneventful. 10 hours to Dallas on a Boeing 777, then hang around for a while and 30 minutes to Austin on an MD-80. We arrived about 18:30 Austin time (GMT -6), got our hire car (a Chevy Cobalt) and drove to the apartment. Michele met us there as she had collected our keys earlier - the office was shut by the time we arrived. She had also put loads of food, beer and furniture - including a bed - into the apartment for us. What a star! That was so nice.

As I write, that was only last night. Seems like ages ago already. We have had a busy day trying to sort out things that need to be done.

Breakfast started with fruit from the fridge (thanks Michele!) followed by coffee and bagels at Quack's which was marvellous. Alan reckoned it was one of the best coffees he'd ever had.

First post-breakfast stop was the Cingular shop to try and get cellphones. Here is where the ol' social security number thing raised its head once more. To get a phone contract, you need a credit rating etc. To cut a long story short, we had to put down a hefty deposit on our contract. I also ended up having to get a new handset which was annoying. I have a lovely K750i phone which is triband, and Alan has a K800i which is the same but quad band. Guess which frequency Cingular uses? That's right, the one missing from the K750i. So I now have an LG CU500 flip phone which is about the best one Cingular had (without going to a full on smartphone organiser thing). It seems nice in its own right. It's a 3G one so it will be fast, but doesn't have the 2MP camera of the K750, or many of its customisable features. However at the end of the day I need to make and receive calls, so here we are.

Next, we went to the bank to change our address on our account. Simple enough, but after talking to the banker we ended up walking out with an upgraded account and various bells and whistles. So far so good.

Next stop was trying to get the electric sorted. Oh dear. Although the electric is on in our place, we have to get an account set up with Austin Energy ASAP as the apartment people won't stave them off forever. However nobody told us about the things they require to set up an account. Of course, naturally, without a social security number we can't set it up on the phone, so we have to trawl down to the office to do it in person. We eventually find this office - it's tucked away at the back of a community centre - and join the line. There's a big sign saying "All enquiries, join this line". After 30 minutes in this line, they rebuff us to join a different line. It would have been so nice if they'd told us this in the first place. This second line appears to be going precisely nowhere; nobody is seeing anyone in this line. Eventually a chap appears who checks everyone in the line - we're all trying to get new accounts. It turns out we need to show a copy of our apartment rental lease, $200 deposit and passports for each leaseholder (in the absence of other Texas ID). Quite what business the electric company has in knowing any of this stuff is beyond me. Surely it would be enough to provide an address and some money like everywhere else??? Needless to say, we left there in a less than cheerful mood.

Still, the day ended a little more positively. We managed to get some stuff for the house - pots, pans, ironing board, food, beer, shower curtain, coathangers etc. We got a good deal on the pans which was nice.

Light switches still work the wrong way here. They are upside down to us. We have a big fridge though with an ice maker on the front. We almost had a pet dragonfly which wandered in but proved too noisy, so got evicted. There's loads of them nearby, flying around the lake below our windows.

I'm rambling now so it's time to quit.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Just a quick update this time. We had our party at the Rugby Club on Saturday evening. It was actually really good; loads of friends turned up and it was great to see them again. Jill and Bobby couldn't make it but sent a fabulous cake for Alan's birthday, decorated with cars, aeroplanes and a signpost to Texas. It was an 80's night and those of us not living out of suitcases dressed accordingly, with some very mad costumes.

Early Sunday morning, Terry arrived and whisked me off to my last aviation event in the UK (for now, anyway). Alan stayed behind for a lazy day with Paul and Sarah. We headed north to Nottingham Tollerton airfield, where friends Steve and Andrew were at the fly-in there. About 120 aircraft showed up during the day. It was just very pleasant indeed to sit in the sun with friends surrounded by aircraft :-)

It's a bank holiday Monday today. We have timed this journey right as it's Labor Day in the States next week so we get two holidays in a row. We need to figure out what's going to fit in our cases and make a parcel to send ourselves tomorrow as we won't have room for everything. Tonight we are having a last gathering in the Masons' which will be very pleasant.

We're being picked up at 14:00 tomorrow by a car which will take us to Gatwick Holiday Inn. We'll stay there for one night so we can check in at sparrowfart a.m. the next morning before our flight. The next post should hopefully be written in Texas :-)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

We have moved out

Well, it's the first time in over a week that I have had a few minutes to spare, a computer and an internet connection all at the same time.

Last week was hectic. Thursday and Friday, I was in Kemble with some chaps from work, setting up our company's stand at the PFA Rally. Throw in a burst trailer tyre, a burst radiator, a tent, rain, friendly pilots in the bar and plenty of aeroplanes and it makes for a busy 24 hours. I managed to get half an hour to get some aircraft photos but the rest of the time was spent on the stand. It was good fun but tiring.

I got back too late on Friday to join Alan and his folks for dinner, but they had a nice evening. We spent Saturday with them and Tracy and Paul in Ipswich. A walk along the harbour front and an afternoon's bowling, with Chinese for tea. Very pleasant.

Sunday saw me at Rougham for the airshow. Our friend Terry came along too. The show was very cool; lots of excellent aircraft. Some heavy showers caused great lighting conditions - bright sunlight on the aircraft, rendering them colourful against dark clouds behind. Then it was back to the Mason's for a curry evening. Yum :-)

We spent Monday trying to get things sorted in the house. Trying to bin stuff we didn't need, sort through clothes, take things to charity shops etc. How come it's so hard to give things away? You can't give electrical things away for love nor money. There's no point in us taking a lot of electrical items as they won't work in the US.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw the packers arrive; Nick and Andy, who did a sterling job packing up everything we own into boxes and bubble wrap. If it wasn't nailed down and you weren't quick enough, it got packed!

A big pile of boxes
Here's Nick with just one pile of our stuff. There was more in the front room and more upstairs.

On Thursday, a truck arrived at 09:00 with a 20-foot container on the back. Andy and Nick spent the morning loading the container. We were a little worried it wouldn't all fit in, but it did, with room to spare. So now everything we own is headed for Felixstowe, to be put onto a boat and sent across the water to Houston. We will see it again in six to eight weeks' time.

A container truck
The container truck pulls away with our things on board.

We spent the rest of Thursday cleaning the house and taking junk to the tip. Five trips, that took. In the peeing rain. We were so tired at the end of the day. We were left with our suitcases, which we took round to Paul and Sarah's house; friends who are kind enough to let us stay for a few days until we go to Gatwick on Tuesday. We had a few beers that night, some with John in the bar. They were very welcome!

Friday morning, we made one last trip to the house to check it over before the new people took it over. We left the keys inside and closed the door behind us. Bye, house. it's been a great few years.

Later, my parents arrived for a visit. They stayed in the Cannon Brewery. We spent the day moseying about town. We had to do various things like collect our cheque from the solicitors and put it in the bank. We had dinner in the Turkish place, Nazar; always good.

So now it is Saturday, my folks have gone home and we are trying to gear ourselves up for a party we are holding this evening. It's a joint bash with Kate and Mel for their's and Alan's birthdays, at the Rugby Club. We are pretty tired already but I'm sure it will be fine once we get there. We are looking forward to having a couple of days after this to recover before heading off again.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Jo finished work

I finished in the office today. It was kind of wierd; it felt like a normal day. I even went in early to make sure I got a bunch of stuff finished that I needed to do.

We all went out at lunchtime to a local village pub by the river Stour, called the Henny Swan, which was lovely. We enjoyed a fine lunch (steak, lemon sole, salmon, cheesecake, chocolate brownies etc - yum!)

My workmates were very generous and gave me a shiny new watch as a leaving present, along with some champagne and flowers. So nice :-) The watch is a cool surfers one which will find its home very well in Austin.

Now I have a couple of weeks off work to sort things out before we move. We are due to exhibit at a big aviation event next week so my work in the UK isn't done quite yet. Camping on airfields is always good though ;-)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


It's been a while since the last update and that one was probably a little confused. It was written at the end of our trip to Austin, where we were househunting.

We found an apartment up on 45th Street, so it's nicely downtown and within reach of plenty of shops/bars/entertainment. Cool.

So we returned home to the UK and got on with selling our house. This was achieved in 10 days of putting it on the market! OK, it's not actually completed yet, but the new people have been round to measure for curtains etc...

We've come upon the issue of the Social Security Number (SSN) already, even though we're not living in the US yet. Everything revolves around it. We are meant to have electricity connected before they will give us the keys to the new apartment. Alan phoned the electric company and they told us we can't have it without the SSN unless we turn up in person wielding our passports (and visas) for ID. Luckily the apartment people will let us in but we have to go round to the electric company the next morning after we arrive to sort it out.

We got our visas last Wednesday. Went down to London, picked up our paperwork, took it to the US Embassy and waited in line for the requisite four hours or so. They have given us 5-year visas, so we are happy :-)

Now we are in the process of starting to cancel everything in the UK. Phones, electric, gas, roadside assistance, doctors, dentists, direct debits, credit cards, using up our store card points etc etc...

The shipping people have been round to evaluate our stuff for packing. They think it will take almost three days to pack it all! We get a 20-foot container all to ourselves. That's going to be fun.

So now we have to sort everything we own into various piles: Taking on the plane, air freight, sea freight, giving away, charity shop and The Tip. Joy.

Still, it'll be worth it.