Car Park Robbery

A new restaurant opened up in front of our apartment block a few months ago. We have been watching them renovate the place since we moved in, over a year ago. The day after they opened a team of ten or so people turned up to rip up the car park and resurface it. The work started at 7 am…7 am I sat bolt up right from my beautiful slumber to the sound of metal being scraped along tarmac. Think nails on the blackboard times a million. This lasted the whole day, the next day large lorries turn up with tarmac and large roller machines (much to the excitement of the kids). And bosh, job done! 26 car lot complete in two days. Super quick huh?!

The evening after, opening hours and a valet service turns up to take cars from customers and park them so they don’t have to. Now, here is my issue. It’s a 26 car lot. People are paying $5-$6 to let a man park their car between one or 20 meters from the entrance of the lot. They are also then waiting in line to have this unnecessary paid luxury forced upon them. Every time a car comes into the lot I have to use every bone in my body to restrain myself from screaming “free street parking, FREE STREET PAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRKIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGGG”

Have they gone mad? It seems like a big scam to me. Not even a clever one. Just one that everyone here has accepted, it’s car park robbery, or parking lot robbery. Does everyone one here need to feel special and valet parking is one of the ways to meet these self inflicted standards.

Being true to my Scottish self. I won’t pay for parking. I’ll park ten blocks away and walk for 20 minutes to avoid this unnecessary evil. I sometimes even use PUBLIC TRANSPORT…really naughty words to typical Los Angelenos.

A while ago I suggest to someone that we take the bus along the road (a 10 minutes journey) to avoid paying a $20 parking charge that the establishment we were going to charges…the bus costs $1.75 so for the two of us that is a $16.50 saving. That’s a few drinks, a family outing to Menchies, a burger for one. So many possibilities with that $16.50. The person in question looked at me as though I had actually gone mad and said “well I’ve never been on the bus so, let’s just drive”

Why do people fear the public transport system here? The buses are fine, the trains are super quick. Let’s ride public Folks!

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Medical Mayhem

It’s nearly three weeks into the ten week summer holiday and I’m sitting on my balcony, listening to the sound of kids across the street playing on their skateboards. Their trucks grinding along the side of the curb. The sun is beaming down on them. Honk of car horns from Ventura Boulevard. It all seems so very California. My lot are happily at zoo with Jacob. All except Summer. She has an ear infection which means spending the day with me in the house watching endless episodes of Jessie – that’s the reason I’m on the balcony!

I have a hundred and one things to do. Well a hundred and two if you include this blog (which I have been neglecting) I should really be making this time minus two children about getting ready for our shipment coming. Yip, our bloody stuff is in port. It is in the USA and within the next couple of weeks will be delivered to our home. By delivered I mean brought to the apartment block and if we live higher than the ground floor (which we do) we will be charged extra for it to be brought inside. I have decided that I would rather bribe all of our new, friendly, noisy, happy neighbours with beer than pay anymore to a company that has taken six months to get our stuff to us. So I will be knocking on their doors and asking for help.

Let me move on to Summer’s ear infection. Bear in mind that a couple of months ago I too had an ear infection. I was prescribed antibiotics, A 10 day treatment to the cost of $9. Now for the same antibiotics but in liquid form for Summer cost $40, down from $75 with some pharmacy discount. She also has a slightly red eye. Not like crazy pink eye or anything but the doc said she needed eye drops which would cost a whopping $300. I have opted out of this over prescribed expensive nonsense. I got all NHS on them and said “let’s just watch it for a couple of days and see what happens”. Sure enough within one day the eye had healed itself. Damn money making corporate doctors.

However, the doc did do a full medical on her, not just looking in her ear like they would in the UK. He also found that she has a little heart murmur. Which is pretty normal in growing children but also something that can be checked and monitored if it continues. This has never and would never be picked up on in England. Given that a our old GP in London would speak to us for a matter of seconds, then send us packing.

From doctors to dentists. My filling popped out, and I had to go get it fixed. I was recommended a place nearby, by a great neighbour.

I walk in to the surgery and fill out a mountain of paperwork. I am then taken to a room where I am given about 20 x-rays by a nurse. So that the actual dentist can just walk in and see everything. Personally, I think this is a bit over the top but given that everyone here has amazing pearly whites then I’m willing to go with it. I then wait for the dentist to comes in and she recommends a treatment plan. My new treatment plan looks like this –

Get crown fitted

Two wisdom teeth extractions.

An implant.

Braces

I explain that I just want a filling but they insist a crown is necessary and they can do it at a discounted cash price of $950…Eh, Bargain, right, emm!!!

I never thought that my teeth were that bad. Yeah, a little squint at the bottom and yes an implant would be great for the missing one at the back – I had a bad dentist when I was 18. He thought it is easier to take the offending tooth out that I broke while munching on a pork chop. Rather than actually repairing it. Total NHS asshole!

So, what do I do? I’ve have thought about getting all the procedures that she recommended. But I also believe that they were not really necessary. They are just aesthetics after all!

I seem to have mentioned the NHS a few times now. I guess there are pro’s and con’s to both systems. In the US, medical treatment is overpriced and the medicine has a higher markup percentage than a cup of tea in the UK. But they seem to go the extra mile here. I guess they have to, to be able to charge such bank busting prices. The jury is still out on which system I think is better. Maybe neither. Maybe a combination of both. Maybe nurses, doctors, dentists, (the list could go on) in the UK should be paid more – then they might give more of a shit. Maybe people’s taxes here in the US should go towards the American people and offer them free or affordable health care.

We can dream!!!

It’s all about the kids.

After spending way too many years in London, I felt like I lost my identity. A lot of this also corresponded with becoming a mother and stopping that crazy thing called work, because before that I really did feel like I knew who I was. I was a ballsy bass playing grunge rock gal. I wore clothes too tight, drank like a fish and swore like a fishwife (sorry mum!). This move to another city is making me remember what it was like when I first moved to London – that excitement – but this time I get to share it with four other people, all of whom are having their own individual reaction to the change… well, not Silver really – she so little and is pretty much just happy as long as I am nearby.

Summer starting at the local school was probably really hard for her but she a tough nut to crack. She is really friendly and always wants to please everyone so I was not too worried about her. There was always going to be an adjustment period. She stands out a little with her London accent. The other kids have been together since kindergarden so they have pretty tight friendships going on.

Summer mentioned once that she had no one to play with during break but what seven year old kid doesn’t say that every so often. We had a little chat about it and now she is bouncing to school, not needing those extra hugs in the morning…I miss those hugs!

The school itself is really really good. She is back to getting weekly homework, which her London school stopped for some reason in favour of termly homework. Her teacher is beautifully scatty, super easy going but gets the work done. What stands out the most though is the after school clubs. There seem to be hundreds of them. My experience of after school clubs is that you sign up for anything you can and they allocate you a place on one…the one the school choose for your child. Here things are a little different. There’s Drama, Glee, Dance, Art, Knitting, film making, lego robotics, woodwork…the list goes on. It is so interesting, the schools are used as a community. They don’t lock down at the end of the school day, they open up. There is a tuck shop with a massive queue all the time. A running track with kids counting laps for others. A stage where some make up dance routines. Every inch of the campus is covered with kids having fun.Their parents are able to be there, sitting in the sun enjoying a popsicle.

The acting, singing, theater after school enrichment is run by a wonderful but crazy lady. I never really knew what to think of her until Saturday past. Summer and I went along to a kids production of ‘Wicked’ in the school auditorium. The whole thing was so elaborate. The costumes, the lighting, the set. So much effort was put into this. It was more like a theater production in the East End rather than a simple school play.

The drama teacher sat in front of the stage the whole time, she knew the performance back to front. Helping anyone that got a little stuck for words. You could tell the kids doated on her and that she really cared. She had so obviously been up all night going over things in her head – and yet her energy was through the roof!

What struck me the most though was that all the children were in charge. Even the back stage. The ones not in the play were doing makeup and wardrobe. Some choose to do lighting so had a spotlight that was theirs. They all had little ear pieces and mics to communicate to each other. They were trusted to do the adult jobs. They sell the tickets, they man the door, they smile and help.

A few Americans have said to me “why have you moved here from the UK? The UK has a much better school system” and that may be right. I am yet to find this out. It’ll take longer than a few months to really see if there’s a difference in class room education, but for community spirit and child involvement, it’s one up for America.