Next we had a 10am appointment with Barclays to setup a UK bank account. They normally ask for the last 3 month's original bank statements, but unfortunately ours somehow got packed in the shipping crate. Happily, they gave us the benefit of the doubt after seeing the reams of HSMP documentation we brought along in a backpack. We populated the account with some traveler's cheques we'd obtained in the US, after hearing that cashier's checks and even institutional wires can take days or weeks to clear between nations. So now we've got a bank account established, which is a prerequisite for many other accounts and subscriptions in the UK. It'll be even better in a week when we get our cheques and debit cards in the mail!
After that we went looking for cell phones. Unfortunately, cell providers are apparently NOT as trusting as banks -- maybe that's why there's currently a banking credit crunch, but telecomms seem alive and well? Anyway, they said we wouldn't be able to get proper mobile accounts until we'd been in the area a few months, so for the time being we just picked up some cheap(ish) PAYG (pay as you go) phones. They're a bit pricy on a per-minute basis, so we won't be using them heavily until we get the normal accounts. I doubt our selection was optimal, but we needed something quickly, and we can refund these toward the final phones in a couple months, so there shouldn't be much harm done.
While Laura and Christopher were taking a break, Jonathan and I watched a street musician playing some Irish jigs on his guitar and harmonica. Jonathan threw him a quid, and then we watched a little girl dance to the music for awhile. All this occured on a nice stone-paved pedestrian shopping district off-limits to cars, such as you just don't find much anymore in America. It was really a lovely morning: the sky was grey and a bit overcast, but the air was brisk and lively. There were dozens of other families out shopping, which generated a happy buzz of children's voices.
Finally we went looking for a supermarket. Our temporary housing has a surprisingly nice kitchen, but didn't come stocked with food. After some roaming (found the library!) we came across a Tesco Metro, which was more than adequate in loading us down with bags to carry back to our flat. We'll need to look into one of those little rolling carts I see other people using!
Interesting things we've learned so far:
- Maidenhead has beautiful subways (pedestrian underpasses) decorated in tile mosaics...very nice!
- Aer Lingus plays classical music during taxiing, loading, and pretty much any time they're not actually in the air
- Doors in England often don't have doorknobs
- Electrical outlets in England each have their own power switch right on the outlet
- Many English TV channels don't run for 24hrs; if you tune in too early for an evening station, or too late for a morning frequency, you just get a notice listing their operating hours
- Always bring recent original bank statements with you (in your carry-on) when moving...duh!
- It can be good to have your luggage temporarily misplaced
- Most clocks in the UK run on "military time" (24hr)
- If people drive on the left side of the street, it makes sense to walk on the right
- England has combo washer-dryers that use the same chamber (no moving wet laundry!)
- English (European?) toilets have a little button for No.1, and a bigger button for No.2