Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Same Shit...Different Ikea.

Posted: December 9, 2009 -

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a trip to Ikea, no matter where in the world, will always yield the same five things:

1) Tealights.
2) Wine glasses with an unfathomable name like 'Klumpenkont'.
3) Frustration and self loathing.
4) At least 10 things you don't want, but are convinced will make your life better. These items are usually storage related.
5) A bill roughly 50% higher than you estimated when walking around and 200% higher than you originally planned to spend


Visiting New York Ikea is no different to anywhere else, the homogenisation police have seen to that. If anything, it is more of pain in the arse for me personally because I don't have a car. There are no Ikeas in Manhattan. Manhattanites speak of craziness like getting water taxis to the Brooklyn Ikea. I do not think flatpack furniture and boats are a happy marriage and anyone that thinks so has clearly been living on an island for too long.

So I plan to subway and bus it to Brooklyn Ikea with The Teenager in tow. She has been bribed with the promise of a bedside table, but my main purpose is to buy black out roller blinds for the apartment. The blinds will cost the same price for five as they will for just one at Bed, Bath and Beyond up the road from the apartment. I am conveniently ignoring the fact that what I am planning will involve hours of travel and the eventual purchase of far more than just the blinds, therefore rending the saving nil and effectively taking me into a negative balance.

If this is my first mistake, then my second is listening to a man on a shopping related issue.

''Huneee. Go to the New Jersey Ikea, it is waaay nearer than the Brooklyn one" The American advises.
''Hmm, not sure, that's not what google maps is saying."
''I am telling you Huneee. And it's super easy. Go to the bus terminal by Times Square and there's a free bus!''

Super easy. It sounds too easy. American easy rather than British easy

45 minutes later The Teenager and I are at the Port Authority bus terminal. We have spent ten minutes trying to locate where the free bus goes from and another ten realising we need to get a ticket for the free bus, even though it is free, so a ticket seems superfluous. We have been dissed by the rudest woman ever employed by New Jersey transit and gravely misunderstood by an African cleaner. We are standing at the window of a tour company that is the last booth left to try:

''Do you run the free bus to Ikea in Elizabeth?"
''Yes we do!''
"Brilliant! When is the next one?''
"Last one went at 3."

It is 3.07 p.m. On the man's instruction we go back over to the New Jersey transit windows. I refuse to stand in line for the rudest woman ever employed, so end up in a longer line that takes 10 minutes to get to the front of.

''Hey, do you run a paid bus to Ikea?''
"In Elizabeth?"
"Last bus went 2 minutes ago...NEXT!"

It is 3.17 p.m.

The Teenager has decided a bedside table is not worth this much hassle and looks ready to attack me when I tell her we are not giving up and are going to the Brooklyn one instead.

I call The American. The American claims it will be simple.

15 minutes later we are on a Brooklyn bound C. The train stops at Jay Street and then we are to change trains to the F. Except that when we get to F the F-ing F is not working. The platform has been cordoned off with dramatic looking tape as if multiple murders have taken place there. But the only murder taking place is the one the teenager is committing on me in her head for dragging her into all this. Weekend engineering works are the culprit. There are signs taped everywhere directing passengers to a bus. A bus? I have never even been on a bus in New York, how do they go faster than 2MPH with all the traffic?


By now The Teenager can only bear to speak to me to ask to borrow my phone to call The Boy.
''We have missed our SKYPE date cos of this crap Mother."
''Just give me yer phone yeah?''

We left the house 3 hours ago and are going nowhere fast. Halfway through the bus journey I casually mention the other bus we have to change to.

''Other bus? What the fuck Mother?''
"What other bloody bus?"
''The Ikea bus!''
"We're on the Ikea bus!'
"No, we're on the bus that takes us to the Ikea bus."
"For god's sake! I want a frigging car yeah? I want a car for my 16th."
"Don't be so ridiculous. We live in Manhattan, no one drives. "
"I want a car."
"You're not getting a car."
"The American says if we all move to LA we could all get cars. Convertibles."
"The American talks a lot of shit sometimes."


We are on the other bus and after ten minutes of bumping down unfinished roads to the sound of the gangsta' rap being played by the driver- the familiar blue and yellow Ikea branding is blinking in the distance of the Red Hook sky. We get off the bus to a gang fight over the road and The Teenager is worried that someone will get shot, so makes me run with her to avoid any potential gunfire.

When inside my brain is compromised and I start to believe that hanging art Ikea prints on your wall is acceptable behaviour and that cardboard storage boxes are the road map to peace in the Middle East. Everything happens pretty fast and in the midst of it all The Amercian calls and agrees to order me a car service back to Manhattan to make up for his earlier balls up suggesting New Jersey Ikea and subsequent fuck up of not checking weekend engineering works.


Before I know it I am heading for the checkout with a trolley full of things I won't be able to even remember I bought by this time next week. All around me are similar victims. Shell shocked New Yorkers, their trollies piled high with bright plastic chairs and Lack side tables. No one knows what just happened to them.

I have forgotten something and I can't remember what it is. Somewhere in this distance my child is whinging about getting to the hot dog and ice cream cafe before the car arrives. In America it is a hot dog, frozen yogurt and doughnut cafe. An Ikea manager somewhere is loosing his bonus for allowing this flouting of Ikea homogenisation rules.

The blinds!

I go tearing back through Ikea the wrong way, which as we all know, is nigh on impossible, so I run faster so as not to get caught by the anti clockwise patrol. I arrive at a tiny selection of Venetian Blinds. Where are the Roller blinds? I scan frantically only to see voiles.
Voiles, voiles, everywhere. Panels of fabric swaying tauntingly from the ceiling. Where are the roller blinds?!

By sheer fluke, one of Ikea's three only employees walks by and I grab them, a look of panic in my eyes.

''Where are the roller blinds?"
''The Roller Blinds"
''What blinds?''

Je-susl, shall I just google the Swedish for blinds? Is my speaking the Queen's English in the manner it was meant confusing you? I make a mental note to hire full time translator so Americans can understand me.

''Black out?''
''Oh the blinds?"
''Like roller, black out blinds!''

Big pause.

''Nah, we don't do them anymore..."
"Yeah, there is some kind of problem with them and they, like, took them off the shelves. Sorry!"

And she walks away, like the last wasted 5 hours of my life are of no significance to her. I look at my watch, which has started to run backwards in the oxygen deprived rabbit hole of Ikea. 5 hours. 5 hours of my life that I will never get back.

Just the same shit. Different continent.


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Two Blind Grandmas...

Posted: December 9, 2009 -


Just when you think you've got New York figured out she reveals another face to you.

Some days she is like a pre-menstrual woman denied chocolate. Others she behaves like the exciting but slightly unhinged friend who makes you feel that fun is always around the corner.
Today she reveals, for one day only, her kindness and vunerability and I am left in awe.

The weekend before Thanksgiving and The Teenager and I travel out to pick up The Boy from JFK on a packed E train. We sigh, irritated at the lack of seats and contemplate the 40 minute journey standing up. I scan the train carriage from behind the security of my sunglasses for anything interesting to occupy my line of sight. The Teenager is stood next to me pouting in that self aware way she does, easily managing to pull off a sort of casual Brazilian-model-going-to-a-casting look. Her effort for The Boy reunion is clear; her caramel features are highlighted in peachy tints and her tiny black skirt with flat brogues is catching the eyes of both the pervs and the fashion forward. She looks so pretty, I feel a rush of love and pride.

"What the hell you staring at?" she snaps.

I take off my glasses and reset my gaze to the middle distance. I am careful not to make eye contact with any weirdos or homeless beggars. I read an advert about becoming a nursing professional six times over. I daydream about what it would be like to afford to take taxis everywhere or have a driver ferry me around in a blacked out sedan.


Then the train stops and two old ladies get into the carriage. Something about them looks not quite right and then I see their blackened eyes and their guide dogs. Everyone jumps to help them, a scary looking man in baggy sportswear, a butch woman, a snooty looking fashionista. I watch as the group of good Samaritans give them their arms, give up their seats and check where the ladies are both going, so they can tell them get off at the right stop.

Blind and on a subway train. It's doesn't get more ballsy that that. Humbled doesn't even sum it up. I whinge and moan about public transport with my two good eyes and my perfectly functioning body. These woman are more than twice my age and can't see. These women would have more right than most to take taxis everywhere or have a driver ferry them around, that would be justifiable practicality, not selfish luxury. Yet they choose to ride the subway, to put their trust in others, in New Yorkers. To let the city offer them a helping hand.

I start to tear up and even The Teenager understands. And she doesn't take the piss.

When things are not going so good and New York and I are both pre-menstrual bitches together I am going to summon up the two blind grandmas to give me some perspective. They will remind me that bravery is an everyday thing and how even a city like New York can be human too.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Hands off!' by Dating Blogger

Now this isn’t strictly a ‘dating’ issue, but it certainly is one that effects any relations between single men and women at bars/nightclubs/parties and therefore, I’m blogging about it.


I remember well the first time I experienced a Manhattan dance floor, it was after watching England lose a rugby match and the beers that that involved. My friends and I rolled into some random bar where the music had a strong enough beat for us to be able to just about move in time to, despite being somewhat hindered in the coordination department.

It was a hot, sticky place and the dance floor was crowded, but nevertheless we were enjoying ourselves until, quite out of the blue I was, for want of a better word, groped.

Now, I wanted to think it had been a mistake, so I chose to ignore the action. Only for it to happen again, more insistently. So I spun around and made it very clear that is not OK by me! Entirely without shame the perpetrator grinned at me and went in for another grab.

I immediately stomped over to the security guy to complain, only to have him tell me there was nothing he could do and I should move away.

I still vividly remember my shock. I chose to go home instead, but from that day on I have noticed this happening time and again. It’s like dancing is some code for “I’m a slapper, feel free to touch.”

Not cool, New York, not cool.


"Cut and shovel" by Dating Blogger

Growing up my dad instilled in me the importance of good table manners. Hold your fork in the left hand, knife in the right, index fingers placed on top. Cut your food holding it steady with the fork and bring the food to your mouth, not vice versa.

I always took it for granted that others were being taught similarly. Not so in the US of A it would seem.

The first dinner date I had in NYC was at a restaurant I had been eyeing for weeks, too expensive to justify going to with friends, I was delighted when my date suggested it.

We sat down and I eagerly scanned the splendid menu, we made our choices and engaged in witty small talk while we waited for the food to arrive, all going well so far.

When the starters arrived I noticed he spooned his soup towards himself in the bowl, but I could get over that, it’s awkward to eat soup correctly and he was nervous.

Then the mains were presented. Initially he did quite well, holding his fork and knife correctly and cutting his steak with grace. Then before I knew it something happened to my seemingly well brought up, attentive and attractive date; he was replaced with a hog.

His knife lay abandoned at the side of his plate, his face lowered toward the plate and he proceeded to shovel his $50 meal into his face. I was in shock. It was so disgusting to watch that I actually had to look away. My appetite disappeared and I became one of those girls that doesn’t eat on dates, not because I was trying to make a ‘good’ impression you understand, I just couldn’t physically swallow anything, I was so concerned I would vomit as a result of what I was witnessing.

Once the mains were cleared I declined the dessert menu and literally held my breath until he declared that he too was too full for pudding. Phew!

Upon leaving him, with little more than a hand shake (I wasn't getting anywhere near his steak-stained face!), I had an epiphany. No wonder there are so many sushi places in New York. It’s so ex-pats can date Americans!


"There aren't any men." by Dating Blogger

So, following the gym man-hunt disaster I busied myself over the summer looking for prospective dates in all manner of places. Unfortunately, what I have concluded is that it is impossible to ‘randomly’ meet pleasant, single, sane men in New York.

I will recap briefly on how I have reached this decision.

Supermarket: Seeing as there is no real chain of supermarkets (oh how I miss Sainsburys) I was fair and loitered around several different shops, large and small to get a better overview of the possibility of meeting guys this way. The difficulties I found were:

- Not many people in the big apple do ‘proper’ food shops, and chasing after guys who have popped in to buy milk and bread does not work.
- People are very focused when food shopping and do not really appreciate strangers striking up conversations
- Having to fill my basket with food items I wouldn’t mind a guy seeing meant I had to eat vegetables and nuts for weeks.

Cinema: Seeing as the “no talking” rule is regularly flouted in cinemas over here I thought perhaps I might be able to meet someone to go for a drink with after. I did not. I had to sit through umpteen awful action films (I figured the kind of guys I would like to meet wouldn’t be watching Bride Wars or Marley and Me) and I was covered in spit and popcorn from all the shhhhhushing. Gross.

Museums: Now, here I had a limited amount of success. I met two really lovely guys, good looking, intelligent and funny. One in the Guggenheim, one in MoMA, both agreed to coffee dates, hurrah! Problem? Both were tourists I will never see again.

Baseball: How stupid was I?! Trying to have a conversation with a bloke who is engrossed in a sporting event?!


These are just four of the places I found myself surreptitiously glancing around for potential dates. I became quite the joiner and attended events and parties all over the place and still, nothing.

Over a consolatory quadruple vodka with a smug, happily coupled-up friend, I came to the next challenge.. organised singles events. Yep, in the name of research I am ready to put myself through wine tastings and speed dating and whatever else is out there… watch this space.


"Any luck at the gym?" by Dating Blogger

In the movies women meet gorgeous men in all kinds of unlikely places. I’ve decided to put the theory to the test…

First, the gym.

I arrive excited and ready to swoon over countless men in shorts and vests showing off their rippling biceps.
I take to the warm-up area and scour the scene, within minutes I am happy to see several guys I would talk to, perhaps even go for a drink with. Problem is, how to proceed? Tough one.

I start by snagging a tread mill next to a suitable candidate, with the mirror opposite I hope to maybe make some eye contact. Keeping the setting low so as not to get too rank and sweaty, I start to jog.

Attempting eye contact leads to almost falling off the darn machine. Not good. Hotty number 1 glances at me clearly disgusted at my ineptitude.

Time for plan B. Over in the weights section I am happy to just sit and watch really, but that would no doubt end up in my being removed from the premises, so I mess around on some of the more female-friendly machines and strike up a few conversations asking how the different contraptions work and so on..

Nothing is really sparking and I am starting to regret the investment in cute work-out clothes (no, I am one of those girls that matches my trainers to my t-shirt, but my gym clothes hadn’t been updated since PE lessons so this was necessary), when all of a sudden a Madonna music video comes on the TV and every guy in there turns to look. Initially I am confused, is it the ‘age ain’t nothing but a number’ factor? (See last week’s entry) Is Madonna still hot?!

Then I twig. Gym is in Chelsea… Better luck next time, DB.


"Age ain't nothing but a number" by Dating Blogger

Never before have I come across so many couples with vastly different ages as I have since I moved to NYC.

This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Ted, a taxi driver of the best chatty sort. In the space of a ten minute journey I had learned all about his nine children and happy family life. He then produced a photograph of the lucky lady.
Upon seeing the picture my eyes immediately darted to the rearview mirror to affirm that Ted was, as I had subconsciously assumed during the chat, old. The woman in the picture was at most 35 and Ted, well Ted had to be getting on for twice that age.
Until this point I had assumed all the generation-crossing couples I had seen in the city were a result of a fair amount of gold digging going on by one or other of the pair.
This cannot have been the case for Ted and his Missus, he works 18 hour days driving a cab, hardly a lifestyle one would choose if financially comfortable.
This experience challenged my perceptions and resulted in the urge to blog on it. Perhaps Americans truly do see age as nothing but a number?!

"Men have feelings too you know" by Dating Blogger

This was the stunning statement I was met with when talking to my male (American) friend about his ex. He had been moaning about seeing her with another guy since they broke up and I was telling him to stop being such a wuss and move on.

He then proceeded to cry. Wail, in fact.

Now this is a 6ft tall, 30 year old man who, prior to this moment, I had considered a real man’s man, he a) loves sports of all kinds, b) drinks real beer and c) leers at women while partaking in a) and b) in bars.

But, he would describe himself as “emotionally available.” I quick scan of personal ads reveals this to be a commonly used description term, like it’s something to be proud of. But coming from the UK, this is something new to me, guys back home would never want to talk about their feelings being hurt, much less get upset in front of a woman. But in New York, it seems to be completely fair game.

And you know what, after years of wishing I could find a man that would let me know where I stand, who would tell me when he is upset about something so I wouldn’t have to spend all day trying to figure it out… I don’t like it. Not one bit.

What with the crying and all the primping and preening (as discussed last week), it’s just not right!


"Groom, groom, groom..." by Dating Blogger

No, this isn’t going to be a blog entry about weddings and white dresses (sigh). I am talking about grooming oneself.
Back in Blighty I went to the hair salon on average once every 3 months. I never set foot in a nail bar and body hair removal was done regularly but not obsessively.

Then I moved here.

It was a female American friend who first noted my “irregular nails,” I had never really even taken note of my fingernails beyond a quick trim once a week and a slick of clear polish if I could be bothered. On this friend’s advice I ventured into my local nail salon for a Mani-Pedi and after roughly 40 minutes of scrubbing, filing and polishing I came out feeling like a new woman and for the grand total of $30. Marvellous I thought, I could get used to this.

It was a slippery slope from there. As I acclimatised to NYC and all its nuances I began to notice the women around me, perfectly shaped eyebrows, hair so sleek you can see your reflection in it and teeth so white they glow in the dark.

Before I knew it I was spending hours and mega bucks being primped. After a few months I realised my budget could not sustain this level of beautifying. So I consulted my same American friend and was told unequivocally that if I ceased my routine, I could pretty much kiss my fledgling dating efforts goodbye.
At the time I was dating a sweet guy who was never going to be anything serious in my life so I thought, screw it, I’ll ask him.

He looked genuinely surprised to hear of the efforts I went to in terms of maintenance, but then went on to describe his own beauty regimen, which was shockingly similar to mine! Yup, it seems to make it in New York dating, you have to be preened within an inch of your life, no matter your gender, eurgh.


"Online is fine" by Dating Blogger

One thing that I quickly learned in New York is that everyone is, or has tried, dating online. It’s totally acceptable here. Not that it isn’t accepted in the UK… oh, who am I kidding? When I lived in London online dating was for the geeks and freaks who were so socially inept that couldn’t meet people any other way. If anyone ever used online dating sites in the UK it was hidden, a dirty secret never to be discussed.

Not so in the apple. With the average worker spending so much time in the office they hardly find time to call their mother let alone meet potential partners, it is often necessary to turn to the internet. Yep, the time is money attitude certainly is one of the main reasons for the common usage.

However, there is another rationale; it is also testament to the extreme business-like attitude towards dating that many New Yorkers possess. If you aren’t perfect on paper, what’s the point in meeting? And the people that demand “no photo no reply,” well, speaks for itself.

“Everyone I know has tried online dating,” my (born and bred New York) chum Beth tells me, “I was at the beach with a group of couples last weekend and we had all met our other halves online.”

“It makes for rather short ‘how we met’ conversations,” she says when I ask about any downsides to such a situation.


"You are not alone" by Dating Blogger

If you are anything like me, when you start “dating” someone, seeing them two or three times a week, texting and emailing in between, you assume that means the beginnings of some form of relationship, right? That you can count on this person not having conversations about the future and giving time and emotion to another person, right? In New York, you would be WRONG!

The term “dating” is very literal in the big apple. You are merely “going on dates.”
I give you W, a successful young investment banker my friend Sara met at a quiz night in a downtown bar. (She, of course, made the effort to meet him, see last week’s entry.) They had been on a few dates and met each other’s friends; she was starting to like him and thought he felt the same.
Now, I’m not saying he didn’t like her; in fact I am sure he did. The problem was he also ‘liked’ several other girls! He was caught at a restaurant with another lady and looked like, as Sara put it, “a puppy that had been caught chewing a shoe” when she asked him about it, i.e. aware he is in big trouble but not entirely sure why.
“He stumbled over his words and stuttered about us not being exclusive,” she reminisces. This is a term you need to be very aware of when dating in NYC, unless you are exclusively (roll your eyes accordingly) seeing each other, you can be pretty much certain the person you are dating is seeing multiple people concurrently. It is completely the norm, and that goes for men and women, so male friends have also told me.

"Girls, make some effort" by Dating Blogger

Since moving to NYC two years ago I have been consistently amused/surprised/horrified by the 'dating scene' in the big apple. I have a large group of fabulous friends in the city now and (with names changed!) have been given permission to share with you all some of their stories mixed in with a few of my own to help new-comers to the city get their head around the rules of dating in New York. Enjoy!

Girls, make some effort

Picture this, Friday night in a crowded downtown bar, I sit with two female friends nursing over-priced but delicious cocktails when in walk three suited and booted city guys. Our eyes lock and the six of us appraise each other. After a moment’s consideration, we are all undoubtedly interested in talking to one another and seeing if there may be any chance of banter and flirtation.

Now, if this were a scene in London you will next imagine us ladies remaining seated and the guys sauntering over and in all likelihood offering some terrible chat up line to get the conversation started.

However, we are in New York. And things don't work like that. We ladies are expected to give up the much coveted bar stools and make our way over to the guys. If we don't, we will likely find the blokes will simply ignore us and either hang around long enough for one drink to see if any other women will go up to them or else, they will leave pretty promptly in search of better hunting grounds.

“You’re joking!” I hear you gals cry! I wish I was. This has to be the most astounding elements of NYC dating for me; the amount of effort a lass has to go to in order to get anywhere is painful.

I clearly remember Jemima, who moved to the city less than three months ago, listening in disbelief as I explained the situation to her. I could see the frown lines clearly displaying her confusion and reluctance to accept what I was saying. Then, as if I had it planned, the unthinkable happened right behind us. Three attractive women walked over to two very average guys and struck up a conversation. The shock and disgust that filled her face in seconds as she took in this very real example of the state of affairs in the big apple still makes me chuckle when I think about it.

If you don’t believe me, try it. Go and sit in a bar and don’t make a move. You’ll quickly see that unless there actually aren’t any other women in the bars, you will be in for a lonely drinking session!


"Desperately Bad Housewife" by Emma Smith

Emma Smith is a featured blogger on Big Apple Brits


I am the worse Manhattan housewife that ever there was.

I am the wrong woman at the wrong time in the wrong place. I am unwilling and ill tempered about the inevitable drudgery of housewifery. I bang plates when washing up for the 4th time in a day and tell giant bubbling bowls of pasta that I am a trained journalist. I say sod off to hospital corners and yell ''Do I look like a fucking maid?'' at The Teenager and The American.

I am used to the world of work and don't have the self discipline to manage my time. Without the demands of deadlines my pitiful attention span is carried away by the delicious frivolities of The Facebook and The Daily Mail showbiz page. Rather than focus on the hoover in hand, I drop everything after deciding what the apartment really needs right now is some velvet scatter cushions. Like, right now.

This 24 hour city of convenience is made for those with careers. Drinks happen after work, everything is delivered at all hours and the rich but time poor can hire someone to do everything from walk their dog to press their shirts. I am a lone species in this Metropolis being neither rich or poor, but rolling in time. I am the Bill Gates of time. I don't know where you find other people like me. I am a 34 year old reluctant housewife and mother of a teenager impatiently waiting for a green card. Even in the middle of a bustling metropolis that's a pretty narrow field. You would have to travel to Prospect Park in Brooklyn to find anyone that shared my recently acquired love of Swiffer sweepers.

Even the kid thing is off. If the child was ten year's younger I could hang out in the Yummy Mummy park on Greenwich Avenue and buy $50 baby grows at all those chi chi little boutiques I pass on my way to the Gym. As it is The Teenager hates having a stay at home Mommy.

Today she arrives home from school while I am sitting on the sofa chuckling my way through Popbitch. On the way to her bedroom/pit of filth she sneers at me and says:

''Mother. What do you do all day exactly?''
''Just like... what do you do? Like, all day?"
''Umm, stuff! Loads of stuff."
''Right so what have you done today?''
"It's only 3.30."
''Uh actually I went to the gym and then on the way back I saw a shop selling nanny cams, a baby having a haircut, and a midget shouting at her kids."
''You just make all that up yeah?"
''Whatever. You basically just went to the gym then."

And with that she disappears into her room to pout into a web cam to The Boy back in Wales.

''It's not my fault I have to wait for a bloody Green Card!'' I shout at the door.

Her question leaves me reeling. What do I do all day? I have no job. No, wait, I do have a job, I am logistics manager for this family (self appointed, salary-zero). I decide it's time to set up the online vintage shop I have been talking about, get some freelance work and secure a book deal. Simple. Just one problem: rampant procrastination. I am a master at procrastination. Master-cation. No wait, that's chewing.

I storm back into her room without knocking.

''Hello! How many times Mother? Knock!"
"I just came in to say I am quite offended by your question."
"Because I do a lot of stuff, I do everything in this house!''
''You don't do the laundry. That Chinese man comes and picks it up and then drops it back off"
''I have to call them! And then put the laundry away!''
''Look Mother, I wasn't trying to be rude yeah? I was actually just wanting to know what you do all day."
Her tone is completely lacking in sarcasm which throws me to the back foot.
We pause and she looks and me and I at her and then she widens her eyes and shrugs impatiently as if to say 'anything else?' I am deflated. She looks at her laptop with annoyance as I dare to keep her from skyping with the true love.
''I will say though..." she offers, while typing frantically into her computer "It is a bit annoying that you're here when I get in from school. I just like to chill. You're like... in my face."

My child prefers to be a latchkey kid. I don't know what this says about my parenting. I was never a latchkey kid. I am not even sure if latchkey kid is an actual phrase, or just one of the many my Mother made up and then claimed where commonly used in the English language, like 'broad as it is long' and 'there'll be blood on the moon'.

With determination I grab my laptop to start all those projects but The Daily Mail website is blinking at me seductively. Jordon and Kim from How Clean is Your House are having a boob-off in the jungle! Focus. Focus! Just after I've checked my bank balance. No! Do it, don't talk about it. Top Shop website? No! No! Talk about it! No, do! DO DO DO, not talk talk talk. Oww my phone is ringing. Maybe talk for a little bit? Yeah, talk.

That's my problem. I am a desperately bad housewife. I'm all talk.

All mouth and no apron.

"The True York Show..." by Emma Smith

Emma Smith is a featured blogger on Big Apple Brits

Living in New York can feel like starring in your very own Truman show.

Tonight I stand on my stoop and breath in the hot, sticky Autumn night air in the West Village. Rain threatens to burst from the looming clouds any second. People dash past the tree lined brownstones kicking aside crunchy golden and orange leaves as they go. An eclectic crowd gathers at the gay community centre over the road. Anticipation in the air. It's the opening scene to something.

So if this were a rom com, I would be wearing a vintage Burberry mac and some Jimmy Choo for Hunter wellies. My lover would be hurrying come around the corner, his tie loosened casually, looking handsome and unflustered, ready to whisk me away to an intimate basement restaurant lit only by candles and the glow of lurrve.

But this is real life, so I am in a hoodie, The American is working late and I need to make a dash to my local supermarket for loo rolls.

Five minutes later I am standing in line clasping my four pack of Charmin while a shriveled old lady dressed in black in front of me is trying to buy a $1.25 pack of cakes. She is arguing with the Dominican check-out girl over a five cents rebate.

She marches over to the 6ft 2 burly store manager and starts prodding him in the chest with her finger and screaming at him in Spanish. The manager responds by laughing and then the lady come back to the checkout, grabs her cakes and storms out.

Then the checkout girl says this to the other checkout girl. Without pause.

"Hmm mmm girrrrrl. That lady is focking crazy, she like in-sane. She came up to me the other day and she was all like 'I want my rebate for my bottle' and I was like 'Sure lady' so I gave her the rebate for her bottle and then she accuse me of not giving her no rebate and she was all like up in my face and like 'God is watching' and I'm like , 'Yeah? God can watch, cos I gave you yo five cents rebate' and then, then she says to me 'Enjoy your five cents' and I'm like 'Are you serious lady? Enjoy my fiiive cents' you gots to be kidding me? What the fuck do you think I'm gonna do with some fiiive cents? I don't want no fiiive cents off you.' What the hell can you buy with fiiive cents anyway? You can't even go in no bodega and buy no fish stick for no fiiive cents anymore"

Checkout girl 2: "Dat's true. Fish sticks are like ten cents now"

Checkout girl 1:"I know! So I was like.' Fiiive cents? Fiiive cents? What yoo espect me to doo lady? Go in some penny store and buy some penny shit? Cos no penny shit exist no more.''

During this exchange she has scanned and packed my toilet roll, taken the money for it and given me my change and receipt. I am laughing my head off and the she smiles with me and shrugs as if to say 'what can I do?

I go outside and the gentile humidity has given way to dramatic monsoon, rain is lashing down 8th avenue like it's the end of the world. I huddle under the awning with other shoppers and bemoan out loud how I can't make it back to the apartment.

The big burly manager is stood next to me and hears my plea and runs to his car and gets out his umbrella to offer me. I thank him profusely and walk home but the brolly can't compete with the lashing rain and by the time I get home I am soaked through. And not in a sexy way. In a make-up down my face, hair glued to my head kinda way. I scrabble for my keys while over the road some trannies are kissing in the downpour.

Even in movie set New York, life is usually less like a big budget Rom Com, or even an indie movie and more just like reality. Then there are nights like tonight when you find the extraordinary in the ordinary and you know life here will never be quite what you expect.

"The Three Mouseketeers..." by Emma Smith

Emma Smith is a featured blogger on Big Apple Brits

There is nothing like a rodent in your bedroom at 3 a.m. to spoil the honeymoon.

I wake up startled and grasp The American's arm to hear scratching, rustling and the clanging of the radiator valve. Whoever invented the phrase 'quiet as a mouse' must have been partially deaf. I know straight away. I just know. This is not the first time. This is the third. The first two happened in the kitchen, more of your expected setting for a mouse. The first one got away and the second one perished at the blade of The American's Smith and Wesson knife. Yes, my husband owns a knife made by a gun manufacturer and makes no apologies. More disturbing are the details of the mouse death-which would no doubt put you off your dinner.

So in response to mouse one and two I had a few panic attacks, we sealed up all the holes behind the cooker, got an exterminator who sealed up a few more holes around the apartment and we breathed a sigh of relief. I ranted how it is possible to pay this much rent and still get rodents.We even bought a Mickey Mouse kitchen timer in the mistaken belief that one day soon we would be laughing about the whole thing.

But New York mice are not like normal mice. The brutal stabbing of one of their brood did not deter them. They are persistant furry little fuckers with attitude. And now there is one is my bedroom. My bedroom. Where I sleep. I run to the bathroom to vomit, which along with the panic attacks has become my default response to seeing a Mickey in my house.

The American gets the torch to investigate while I hide away perched on the loo. And so begins a long night where he is unable to catch the little Lynford and I am unable to sleep. It is last seen diving behind the cable box in the living room. I can't even set foot in our bedroom so climb in bed next to the Teenager and only manage about an hour of nightmare disturbed sleep. Every noise jerks my body into readiness and I silently curse the audacity of this creature. This tiny thing that terrifies me by it's invasion of my home. At least it wasn't a rat. If it was a rat I could never come in this apartment again. If it was a rat I would booking my flight back to Cardiff.

The next day The American gets up and discovers inadequately stuffed holes all over the bedroom-which in another story would be a fantastic double ententre. Then he goes to work and I am too terrified to move. He leaves me a bottle of sedatives but I push them to one side. This is mouse war and I need my wits about me. I email him later to ask if he cleared up the toffee apple he was eating late last night, I have a hunch he left the remainders on a plate on the bedroom floor. He denies it. I know he's lying.

I spend three hours researching exterminators until I find one with a rodent free guarantee. I beg, plead and cry on the phone until they agree to come later that day. The rest of the day is spent cleaning like a woman with OCD.

I call the American who is struggling to understand my feelings towards the Mickeys.

''It is not a fear,'' I tell him ''It is a phobia."
''Yeah I get that.'' he says ''Now."
"I don't know that you do get it."
"I do. I have just never known anyone this fearful. Of anything."
''It's not a fear, It's a phobia."
''Yes, you said."
"Did you leave that toffee apple on the floor?''

I scowl at the phone. Liar. This is all his fault with the late night snacking.

That night Junior and Geoff arrive, the king of New York exterminating and his able assistant. They proceed to pull out every piece of furniture and empty every cupboard and fill up even the tiniest of holes with wire wool and spray filler. Junior is cracking jokes as he goes and regaling us with tales of thumping rats to death.

These guys work the night shift, so usually they're at commercial premises, sneaking in to eateries after the customers have gone home in order to rid them of things that go nibble in the night. Their stories peak with an anecdote about an Asian restaurant in Manhattan. They witnessed a bucket of spare ribs soaking uncovered on the floor and mice leaping in and out stained the same rich red as the rib sauce. By the time they leave I have a list of no go sushi spots in Manhattan and the entire family has sworn off eating Chinese ever again.

In bed that night I am wide awake staring at the ceiling and clinging onto The American for dear life.

''Did you leave that toffee apple out last night?'

In the dark the lie is much louder.

A few days later he admits the truth. If I wasn't a newlywed madly in love I might muse how husbands and mice are not so different. They can't resist temptation, they're usually sneaky and you need to hire professional help when you want to get rid of them.

"Mrs Smith takes Manhattan" by Emma Smith

Emma Smith is a featured blogger on Big Apple Brits


There is no minimum qualification period for becoming a New Yorker.

As soon as you land at JFK you're in. In a city of great democracy all comers are welcome-the only conditions are a few dollars in your pocket and lots of attitude. This week my mother arrives and has the latter down to a tee. It starts in the back of the cab when we arrive at the apartment.

''How much?''
"2o percent Mother."
"What for? I am paying him 50 dollars already!" The cab driver is rolling his eyes in the rear view mirror. Brits moaning about tips, nothing new I imagine.
"Mum, you gotta tip 20 percent, that's the standard."
''Ten dollars? You want me to give him ten dollars?" she protests incredulously "That's 20 percent!''
"Yes mother. I know, I just said that."
''Bloody ridiculous!" she huffs and shoves a wad of notes in my hand, ''There's $56 and that's all he's getting!"

The teenager and I laugh loudly and haul her suitcases out of the cab while she waits impatiently on the steps of the apartment. God we've missed her. Lots.

The next day Mum is tackling New York via the subway, armed with a laminated map and 66 years of finely honed navigation skills. Halfway through the day she has already declared me 'crap at the subways' and informs me my Blackberry GPS is 'bloody shit'.

We climb onto a packed commuter train later and a young boy, maybe ten or so, is sitting down reading Harry Potter with his bag sat beside him on the only spare seat. Mum picks it up and plonks it on his lap and sits herself down. He is agog but she ignores his looks of disbelief.

This might be New York, but they need to move over for Mrs Smith.

On October 19th at 1 p.m. The American I get married at the Ladies Pavilion in Central Park. The gloomy cold has turned to bright sunshine and warmth for the first time in over a week and the park is movie set pretty, dappled with Autumn golds. We say our 'I dos' with New York at our feet, led by a nautical captain we found on the Internet 48 hours previously. Tourists mill around snapping pictures on their SLRs. Afterwards we take our own pics and while my back is turned Mum sprinkles some of Dad's ashes among the rose petal confetti.

We hail a yellow cab and go to Baltazhar for a $400 boozy lunch and get free champagne from the management. The freebies continue at the Gramercy Park hotel where we get a cake delivered to our room and an upgrade to a suite. Mum and The Teenager come for a cocktail at the rooftop bar where a round costs $120. As usual she is served without a blink but nearly gives her age away squealing with excitement when bumping into Terrance Howard from Iron Man in the lobby.

Mum and The Teenager leave and then it's just The American and I left to do what most newlyweds do- getting too trashed and passing out in what is probably the best hotel room you will ever stay in.

Goodnight Mr Rudolph. Goodnight Mrs Rudolph.



On Mum's last night three generations of Smith women go to Bitchy Bingo at a drag bar around the corner. Mum might be a drag virgin but when it comes to the bingo, she's got it locked. She wins the first game and secures herself top prize, which turns out to be two tickets to a gay play.

''Hello?" she shouts at the host while waving the tickets. Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. Ginger spins on her glittery platforms.
''Yes?'' she snaps back and shoves the mic at Mother
''What good are these to me?''
''Excuse me lady?''
''I said, what good are these to me?! I don't even live here!''
''Oh right." says Ginger. I clench everything, knowing the comeback is just seconds away:
''So tough shit England lady, go tell the fucking Queen about it!'' and with that she flounces off to laughter from the bar. This does not deter my mother. Amber and I exchange worried glances as we see her open her mouth to continue the exchange
''Uh excuse me! I am NOT English!''
Ginger turns around and I can tell that for a moment she is stumped. She buys herself a little more time...
''Ok, so where ya from lady?''
''I am Welsh.''
''Yeah, no one gives a shit" and then she walks away again and tells my mother she likes the attitude, but to try turning it down a notch, which causes Mum to laugh uproariously.

It's a laugh I haven't heard since Dad and thought I might never hear it again. I think through a frozen cosmo haze how miraculous that laugh and my Mum's spirit are. And that I am a married lady now. And a New Yorker.

And that both of us are survivors of several of the craziest months ever known.

Cheers. To. That.


"Coming out to play" by Emma Smith

Emma Smith is a featured blogger on Big Apple Brits

If Manhattan is an adult playground then we've defiantly earned our turn on the swings.

After tears, tantrums and some elegant accounting we have been deemed just about good enough to pay huge sums of money to rent our dream apartment, nestled on a tree lined street tucked inside the West Village. It has 5 whole rooms and proper doors and a kitchen that you could swing at least a kitten in. The walls are white and the floors wooden and shiny, a perfect blank canvas I think.

"It's a blank canvas!" says the American. I scowl and begin to worry that phrases like that mean he might want to take an actual interest in the the interior decorating.

Unlike many of the luxury prison cells for rent, It has windows in every room. It sits opposite the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community centre, which is hands down the cleanest and most aesthetically pleasing community centre I have ever seen.

The American has been preparing a top drawer for this very day. Except it's seemingly full of nothing but electronics.

''So I got us a TV.'' he offers a few days before the big move.
''But we have two TVs already,"
''Yes but there are three of us, so we need three TVs.''
''No home needs three TVs.''
''Huneee, we need one for the living room, one for our bedroom and one for the Teenager.'
''We don't."
''Well I got it anyway.''
''How big is it?''
''Huh?'' he says and tries to busy himself by fiddling with the air-con.
''The tele. How big?''
''It's kinda big'' he says distractedly.
''How big is kinda big?''

There is a worryingly long pause.

''52 inches.''

Oh. Dear. God. I swallow the orange sized lump in my throat.

''Okaaaay. So show me how big that is Matthew?"
''It's 52 inches big.''
''Yeah, I get that, I am just saying, show me with your arms.''
''I can't.''
"Cos my arms won't stretch that far.''

The American is 6ft 2.

My sulk is only halted by his promise that if I leave the electronics to him, I can do the rest of the apartment how I like.

Before we flit to Manhattan in a cloud of Marc Jacobs and cupcake bakeries I bid a fond farewell to Astoria- cheap rent, elevated trains, the Korean deli that smells of cat's piss, the 99c store and the Brazilian neighbours that put Christmas decorations up in September.

I want to go out in style so take a long overdue visit to the PS1 gallery, MoMa's hipper, younger sister located in Long Island city.

As I cross the road an amazing smell is wafting in the air, like sugary doughnuts baking in the oven. I assume it is coming from the cafe. I wonder how quick I can rush through the art in order to sit in down and eat whatever the smell is.

I needn't have worried. Aside from giant Woolly Mammoth skin suspended on scaffolding in the courtyard there appears to be not much actual art to look at.


I pay $5 to get into a building that looks like a deserted asylum and spend the next 20 minutes wandering into empty rooms or stairwells that lead nowhere, debating whether they are part of the art. I walk under the famous swimming pool exhibit and marvel at a giant room full of 2822 records. Aside from that the only art I can find is from a man who emptied his entire Berlin apartment and stacked all the furniture on top of each other. According to the blurb, everything will return to his home once the exhibition is done. I wonder what he is doing for furniture in the meantime-I hope he didn't have to go to Ikea.

I spend 20 minutes trying to locate the cafe, to no avail and then am back outside sniffing the sugary air again. A little way up the street a group of hipsters are doing to same. Is this part of the art? Smell-a-vision. It beats the usual drains and garbage smell.

On the way home a woman next to me on the subway starts breastfeeding while a homeless man snores loudly opposite her wrapped in a sleeping bag. A group of Mexican buskers in full national costume then get on and start singing. Who needs museums when New York city is like one big art installation?


I make an unscheduled visit to the American's office. There are several ginormous cardboard boxes stacked up in the corner.

''Oh Christ. Is that the tele?''
''Umm, no.'' he tries to look busy on his computer.
''Where's the tele then?"
''In storage."
''What are these things then?''
''Just a few things essentials for the apartment.''
''Oww cool, like plates and cups and stuff?''
''No, not really..Hey, did you know we have Reese Peanut butter cups in the kitchen?''
''What is in the boxes Matthew?''
''Umm. Speakers.''
The boxes are 5 foot high.
''5 foot high speakers?"
''They are really slender.''
''I don't care if they are anorexic, they are five foot high. And what else?''
''An amp."
"Anything else?''
"Maybe a blue ray player?"
''Is that it?''
"I got an ipod doc too....well, 2 ipod docks actually."
''Did you order us anything to sleep on by any chance?''
''Umm, no, but hey huneee I got us these really cool all-in-one remote controls!''
"We don't have a sofa. We don't have anything to sit on to watch and listen to all this shit''
''Don't call my electronics shit please hunnee''

I stomp off to contemplate a new look for the apartment- chav lottery winner chic.


The night we move into the apartment and I am sat on a chair we stole from The American's former housemate looking at the unwrapped beast that is the 52 inch TV.

Matt has hired two PAs from the office to help us move. They keep bringing boxes and they all have electronics in them. By the time they have finished the living room that looked a decent size is crammed full of boxes and not one of them has anything useful in.

At 3 a.m. we finally flop onto our inflatable bed.

''We did it." I turn to The American with a huge Cheshire cat grin.
''I know huneee. We got a place in the West Village. Me and you. In the West Village."
"In the village that is West?" I ask
''The village that we live in. The West Village.''
"The West Village where we live?''

This game goes on for at least 10 minutes until we fall asleep wrapped up in a duvet with no cover on and mismatched sheets. A few hours later I have a nightmare that a giant black beast is attacking me, until I wake up properly and realise it's just the TV I can see peeking at me through the crack in the bedroom door.

I get up and rifle through a suitcase until I find what I need. Several hours later The American gets up for work to see 3 Cath Kidston strawberry print tea towels draped over the giant TV.

In the adult playground, let the games begin...

"Feet First" by Emma Smith

Emma Smith is a featured blogger on Big Apple Brits.

Week two of my new life in New York and it is entirely possible I may lose my legs.

I fear they could actually fall off from all the walking. Today I saw ten apartments in three hours. That is a lot of walking and fast. People in New York walk like the pavements are made from hot coals. My legs can't cope. When I wake up in the morning they may have detached themselves from my body in protest. Why isn't everyone in New York thin from all the walking? Why aren't I thin yet?

To be fair, it's only been two weeks. At least I don't really face loosing my legs from an existing condition like the crazy, scary lady on the subway:

"I got diabetes you focking baaaastard! I may be a double amputee! Would yoo like that? Would yoo?"

She is swinging her cane around and accusing a seemingly innocent man of stepping on her foot. He sensibly escapes at the next stop. Unfortunately she is right opposite me and in my direct eyeline, so I busy myself with reading the adverts above her head. I fear any eye contact may result in her whacking me with the walking stick. She weighs about 90 pounds but I am scared.

''That's right! Look away!"'

Oh fucking hell. Is she talking to me? I am too terrified to look at her and find out. I keep focused on a Spanish advert about impotence. All the other passengers are also looking in any direction other than hers while she throws half a bottle of some prescription pills down her neck.

''Don't you all count your chickens you motherfockers! God knows. He knows!! You can't hide focking shit from him! You will all be found out. He'll get you all in the end, if I don't first!"

Oh grrrreat. My fabulous new life in New York is going to end with me being beaten to death by a crazy lady with diabetes and a cane on the Queens bound N train.

Thankfully she gets off at the next stop. Thank god, I would be really angry If I got murdered in the murder capital of America and it didn't even make the papers.


So I live another day to continue my hunt for an overpriced Manhattan storage cupboard that is known locally as an 'apartment'.

Highlights of the search so far have included:

1) An apartment for thousands of dollars opposite a housing project, with two crackheads slumped in the doorway and the remnants of not one, but three stolen bicycles outside

2) An apartment for thousands of dollars above a Chinese waxing salon with transparent screens in place of bedroom doors.

3) An apartment for thousands of dollars where someone appeared to have stolen the living room. Apparently the 2 square foot area I was standing in next to the cooker, was the living room.

4) An apartment for thousands of dollars with a park view. Unfortunately the view was compromised by a homeless guy playing air piano in the middle of the street.

The reality of what money doesn't buy you in Manhattan is marginally less shocking than the reality of the Real Estate agents. My hopes of a besuited, slick, tough negotiator ferrying me around in a sedan with blacked out windows have been more than a little crushed. I wonder where it all went wrong as I hobble behind the latest guy in baggy jeans, while developing blisters on my blisters. Not only is there no car- they take you on the subway and they don't pay for your ride. Or worse, they simply make you walk. Did I mention that? A lot of walking. At least at home you would get a cheap suit and a ride in a Fiesta Finesse.

I have a new favourite deli in my local Queens hood. The main thing I like about it is that it's clean. The one downstairs from the apartment always smells of cat's piss and The American and I regularly pontificate on what the Korean owners may be doing to cats to warrant such a stench.

The new favourite deli is Lebanese. The man there 'loves my accent.'

''I love your accent.''

"Thanks." I say, through gritted teeth. I imagine this is what it must be like to be famous. You just must hear the same thing over and over, yet you aren't allowed to get irritated because people are just being nice.

"You're Irish right?"

I spend 5 minutes explaining where Wales is to a blank face. I then pretend not to know where the Lebanon is.

''Don't worry mother," says The Teenager "everyone in my school is talking about the hot new Australian girl."

When I get home I tell The American that I was very nearly murdered on the subway earlier and should such a thing ever occur, could he please make sure it makes the newspapers.

'WHAT. THA. FUCK are you ON about you crazy Welsh woman?''
''Me. Being murdered. Make sure it makes the papers.''
''Cos I am not letting my brutal slaying in the murder capital of America go unpublished."
''Emma.'' he says ''Everybody knows that Chicago is the murder capital of America now.''
''Where are you going?''
''I have to lie down. My feet are killing me."

Big Apple Brits - British Expats Community New York City

"Welsh Alien in New York..." by Emma Smith

Emma Smith is a featured blogger on Big Apple Brits

Tuesday 1st September 2009. My glamorous new life in New York begins with me arguing in a Queens branch of Subway over a tuna mayonnaise footlong.

I ask the woman for tuna mayonnaise, but she looks at me blankly, so I ask for it again and point to the tuna, but her expression remains. So I say it again...
'Tuna. TUNA MAYO'.
She exchanges confused glances with her colleague. I am hungry and jet lagged and want my $5 footlong.
''Tuna? Tuna? TUNA?'' I say pleadingly
''Ahhhhhhh." says the man smiling 'You mean TU-na?'
"CHOO-na." I say
"TU-na!" he trills
"CHOO-na." I shout
"TUUUUUU-na." he enunciates in his Indian accent ''We call it Tuuuuuuu-na here.''
''It's a fish.'' says the girl
"Are you Australian?'' the man asks cheerily
''No! I am British! And I know it's a bloody fish. And we call in Choo-na.''
"Just give the woman her goddamn footlong!'' interrupts a native New Yorker in the queue.
''Thank you.'' I sigh.
"You should get some To-may-toes on that.'' she suggests
I don't even start.

By Thursday morning we are in Manhattan enrolling the Teenager for school in a kind of NY city educational sausage factory. I forget the passports, so we can't even progress past stage one. The American gives me evils while I protest that no one actually told me I had to bring passports. He then has to go all the way back to our temporary pied a terre in Queens and is gone for over and hour.

When we finally get to progress to stage two they tell us we need a sworn affidavit to confirm that we are living together. And it has to be signed by a notary. I am not even entirely sure what a notary is, but The American seems to know so we all follow him as he goes careering off down the street in search of one. This being New York there is a notary just one block away. So we pay a bespeckled Jewish man $2 to put a stamp on the affidavit and then it's all apparently official in the eyes of the New York city that The American and I are co-habiting.

When we return to we have to get back in line to wait for a 125 year old woman to single finger type into a laptop. It's ok though, because she loves my accent and is pretending to know where Wales is.

The Teenager is finally in the system after 4 hours and I learn that bureaucracy is not the sole preserve of the British.

On the weekend we go to the cinema. Except I have to call it the 'movies' now. As we pay $36 for tickets for the three of us, I lament the loss of my cineworld card and it's unlimited films for 13 quid a month. There is no American equivalent. What with this and marmite and Coronation Street I have a sudden pang for the homeland. It lasts about 30 seconds until I see a tranny in a micro mini queuing for popcorn, then I love New York again.

We see District 9, a film about aliens in South Africa. They nickname them Prawns. More fish. There is a theme emerging here. No one understands the Aliens or knows where they are from. I know how they feel.

I am, after all... a Welsh Alien in New York.

For more Brit blogs check out Big Apple Brits - Keeping British Expats Connected in New York City