Thursday, 3 May 2012

Current Location, UK

My current location is in the UK.  Oxford to be precise.

My two month stint started a month ago.  It's fabulous.  Not just the lovely old buildings, the lovely weather (after being in super hot Saudi one doesn't mind the cold, wet and windy English weather at all) the beer and the fact that all my expenses are being paid by someone else (not Hubster - something he is extremely happy about).  It's nice to be around familiarity - green grass (even if you can't walk on some of it)....

... catching trains and buses, being able to walk and ride bikes, not wearing an abaya, catching up on my blog writing and having normal conversations with anyone I please  - all that kind of stuff.

My 'job' is as chaperone to a lovely young lady who is learning English.  We have become friends in Saudi and now her husband considers I am a sufficient trustworthy role model to be chaperone while his wife settles in to England.  My husband thinks he should properly enlighten her husband. 

Our first week was spent in a hotel until our flat was ready.  The hotel had a swimming pool, steam room, sauna and jaccuzzi.  It was so nice coming back, after a hectic day familiarising ourselves with the area, and taking advantage of the available facilities.   Our flat, we knew, did not have such pleasures nearby so we decided to make the most of them.

Once in the flat, which is lovely and much better than the picture on the internet, a couple of issues became obvious that had not crossed my mind at all while we were searching for a flat in Oxford.

The first was the curtains.  Lovely Lady closed every single one of them when we first moved in.  She didn't want any male who may be walking passed being able to see her uncovered hair.  Once she realised we were on the first floor of an old building with smallish windows that no-one can see in she chill-axed a little.

The view from our window
I'm extremely grateful we don't have a ground floor flat else I would spend a large percentage of my time indoors sitting in a lounge dimmed to a dull amber by the yellow curtains shut tight over the windows during the very long daylight saving days. 

Second issue was the bathroom.  There is no hose or bidet for cleaning oneself after toileting.  She thinks English arses must be very dirty.  I prefer not to visualise.  We have decided to go buy a shower hose that can be plugged onto the handbasin tap.  That should do the trick and help make her more comfortable and, I have to admit, I'm finding that reliance on toilet paper alone really doesn't do as thorough a job as it used to.  Hubster thinks my problem is due to an aging issue  - lack of flexibility and reach.

Apart from those two things, the flat is great.  It's a 15 minute walk to the city center, or 5 minutes by bus.  It's fully furnished, clean and the heating works.  It also has an area by the gate where I can keep my bicycle under cover.

Cycling in this city is the best way to get around and there are bikes everywhere.  You're more likely to get run over by a bike in Oxford than anything else. 

Cycling is not permitted in Saudi, not for women anyway - we might break something that should only be broken on your wedding night.  You'd think with this rational the 'no riding rule' wouldn't apply to married (or divorced) women in Saudi, but it does.  

I guess there is a real risk the abaya could get caught up in the chain causing mere female to fall off the bike, though I'm fairly certain this rational is not number one in the Religious Rule Book under B for Bicycle.  Number one rational for the 'no bike riding' rule (as mentioned above) is likely closely followed by rule number two - the extremely dangerous risk of flashing an ankle while peddling. 

Such warped thinking makes me really appreciate being here in the UK.  Once I realised cycling was a way of life in Oxford I decided I was getting a bike, pronto, because I love cycling.   The bike I purchased is a secondhand Oxford classic - which means it's old, rusty and rattly and I probably paid too much for it.  But it goes like a bomb. 

My Oxford classic.

Heading out most days, riding in the chill Oxford air, meandering around streets just to see what's down there is my idea of a fab way to pass the time in my current location in the UK.


  1. I wish I hadn't read this - it makes me feel soooo jealous!! We went to a cultural festival at the university on Wednesday evening. The female students had specifically invited G. We were there early and got almost all the way round the upstairs area where the girls were before the female security caught up with us and told us that men were not allowed. The girls were mortified that their teacher was being sent away. Then we got almost all the way round the downstairs area where the men were before same female security caught up with us and told us that women were not allowed downstairs (I always go through there during working hours, as do other female staff who need to speak to the men staff), so it was time to leave. The students had put sooo much effort into their displays and were really enjoying sharing it with us. We were staff supporting the students' efforts. It left such a bad taste. In other ways I am having a good time, but a swimming pool would be appreciated.

  2. Typed a long comment and lost it when I had to log in to publish it!


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