Month: December 2013

Expat Writer gets Motivated for 2014

Nothing like the eve of a New Year to get us thinking about what’s ahead. Though I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I do find beginnings quite motivational.

Anyone who’s ever started a new job, a new relationship, a new hobby, etc. can relate. It’s an opportunity to start afresh and perhaps believe in the ability to achieve that life long dream or just do something that needs to be done.

In any case, instead of writing about New Year’s resolutions, I thought I’d have a look at motivators for the New Year. Certainly in this inclement weather in London, those of us here could use some motivation.

As the sky bursts into tears of madness followed by roaring thunder, it is tempting to curl up in bed and pull the covers over one’s head.  But in a world full of conscientious objectors opposed to listlessness, fat chance!

All around are gadgets, devices, classes, even books that tell us to just do it! No wonder I feel inspired. Thus, as we head for 2014, I’ve shortlisted four ways to get motivated.

1) Topping my list, of course, is the Nike Fuel Band. It so happens that I got one for Christmas and have been wearing it since, figuratively. I do take it off for sleeping and showering, though some people leave it on. It’s apparently waterproof. I’ll find out soon enough when I take it out for a run in London.

In the meantime, however, let me tell you how it works. First, you charge it quite easily as it has a USB port that plugs right into your computer, set it up, (providing personal information including weight and age), set a daily goal, and sync it with your phone. It has an app for the IPhone. Then just wear it!

The fuel band clocks your movement, registering your energy burned in Nike fuel, as well as steps and calories. You will never feel good about being a couch potato again. Never!

So far, I’ve dragged out the Wii, skipped roped nightly, ran around the house and taken stairs instead of lifts on a few occasions to meet my goal. Looks like I’m on my way to gym soon.

2) But first let me tell you about the next on the list– the Run Keeper running app. There are many good running apps out there; Run Keeper just happens to be the one that got my attention. The motivating factor here is twofold – a personal champion while I am running and the data that it registers.

With this app tracking my moves, I don’t miss goals. In fact, I surpass them more often than not.

3) For those who have no interest in sports and little understanding of technology, taking a class is a sure way to get you moving in whatever it is that you want to do.

I’ve been known to take writing workshops, running lessons and chocolate making classes. The benefits here are mixing with people and occasionally competing with them. Nothing like competition for incentive, which is one of the reasons the apps mentioned above both encourage subscribers to participate in the relevant community.

4) Still, there are a few luddites who prefer to be alone. Books are tried and tested motivators for this bunch. Occasionally, I settle down with a good how to book, even if it is on the Kindle, and before long find myself ready to make a move—to juggle, to play chess, to meditate and so on.

This holiday season, I bought my dad a book relevant to something he needs to learn about and need I say more but I will. He now knows more than the rest of us all put together.

Inspiring. Now to go to the gym to rack up some fuel points all I have to do is get past the rain, the dreary feeling inside. Actually all I have to do is look at my fuel band. So I have. And I’m off now to just do it.

Christmas Wrapped Calmly in London

The Monday before Christmas lived up to its nickname, panic Monday, with last minute shoppers crowding the streets, despite the inclement weather.

Though my day got off to a calm start with a drive to Knightsbridge in record time under a dry, though dreary, sky, it catapulted into chaos by lunchtime with a tedious queue at Marks & Spencer’s car park in the pouring rain, the howling wind beating against the windows.

By nightfall, I wanted to cancel our trip to the theatre but nudge as I might, Paul and the folks at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (South Bank Centre), didn’t agree, so off in the scowling weather we went to see Fascinating Aida, a favourite cabaret trio.

The show went on and I am so glad it did. It was an evening of brilliantly scripted yet wild comedy that veered on the serious side now and again.

Founder of Fascinating Aida, Dillie Keene teamed up with Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman for a captivating show, which will run in London until January 10. After a short break, the trio will move on to Derby in February.

One song, though witty, reveals Adele Anderson’s touching story of making a major life change. According to Dillie, it took ten years to write the song, so complex and personal was the subject. That’s commitment if you ask me and certainly skill and talent.

Having seen the group perform at least three times, we weren’t disappointed. If anything, we were uplifted and ready to get on with celebrating Christmas, which included a fantastic celebration with family on Christmas Eve and a spectacular lunch on Christmas Day at Monkey Island, a remote island near Bray on the Thames, which happens to be home of two stunning peacocks.

That’s it, Christmas wrapped. New Year’s is up next. On that note, wishing everyone not only a happy and safe New Year’s celebration but also a wonderful 2014. In any case, do proceed calmly.

Two countries divided by a thing or two

George Bernard Shaw is often credited with saying that “England and America are two countries divided by a common language,” although some sources claim it was Oscar Wilde who coined the phrase and others Winston Churchill.

In any case, I’ve never felt the phrase to be more accurate than now, having recently returned from the US after a two-week visit with family and friends for Thanksgiving.

From the glitz and glamour of New York City to the warmth and hospitality of the Atlanta, rather Albany, Ga., I lived it up and managed to spend a few days in the nation’s capital somewhere in between.

However, with my experiences but a distance memory, I’ve come in for a hazy landing. No wonder I’m being teased about using such words as Jell-O for jelly, and cookie for biscuit. Honestly. And shop assistants are repeatedly asking where I’m from and struggling to understand me.

Let’s just say I’m feeling a tad bit alien. Nonetheless, I’ll stay put and reorient, since I’ve made London my home for nearly sixteen years.

Bridging the language gap, however, is only one aspect of re-entering the capital. There’s switching back to the English coins from the chunk of American change I managed to collect, and the mobile phone,  the credit cards and the chequebook, etc. Who still uses cheques? Never mind, you never know.

And then there is adjusting to the major drop in temperature. Dressed for late spring rather than early winter upon arrival at Heathrow Friday, I felt the chill coming on, not only in the air but also in the state of the airport, even it if is one of the busiest in the world.  Having been described as a zoo, certainly by me, Heathrow and those running it manage to maintain a quintessentially British equanimity, at the worst of times, making the rest of us bonkers.

Lucky for me this time, I arrived at the best of times and breezed right through. But the same time the next day, others weren’t so lucky, as Heathrow practically shut down because of a computer glitch.

Outside of the airport, the atmosphere felt bleak by comparison to the warmth of Atlanta, though the weather has turned frigid in many parts of the US, including NYC and Washington, DC. Anyhow, I soon accepted the bleakness as part of what makes London, London—formal and steely at times yet familiar and enchanting.

Speaking of formality, sometimes it comes with excessive complication. Never mind that the parking app on my phone assured me that I was paid to park today for a few hours, yet my credit card had apparently expired. Furthermore, the customer service people had no sympathy for me and robotically referred me to the automated machine repeatedly.

I know, I know, it happens everywhere. Sure it does but you have to experience it in London to conclude that shouting and pleading are futile. Futile!

As for driving, it comes second nature to me here, even more so than it does in the US. Strangely, my brain thinks driving on the left side of the road makes more sense than driving on the right side, even if it is outdated.

Now for some sleep. Hang on, hang on, at writing of this, it was not even close of business yet, even if it was pitch black outside. Worse yet, it was only around lunchtime EST. Umm, another divider, wouldn’t you know it—time, a significant part of re-entry, absolutely nothing alien about it.

In that case, I’ll catch up on my Bo Peep (rhyming Cockney) later, I mean shut-eye, or shall I say sleep, a word we can all understand. Righty ho.