Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Long distance love

A long distance relationship is hard to maintain. That's why I moved from London to LA to be with TLOML after barely six months of dating. Being far from those we love is just hard on the heart. That's why sometimes I feel glum when my sister sends pictures of my nephews playing at my parents' home, or I hear of another dear friend's 40th from which I'll be absent.

The travel BigCorp requires of me at the moment is taking its toll too, although the distances involved are not so great. For most of November and December work is taking me away from home each week. My trips are usually just a couple of days long, so in the grand scheme of things it's no great hardship.

But with early starts and late return flights, I often don't see Lady P between putting her to bed on Monday night and seeing her again on Thursday morning. Which is an absolute eternity. I hate it. And I know she feels the same. I know because the first time we FaceTimed her delight on seeing me was quickly followed with a demand, 'Mummy! Up!' which is shorthand 'please pick me up, squeeze me, and make me feel both loved and also as tall as an adult'. 'I can't, I'm sorry, not till tomorrow', I said. She wailed.

Just like those (rare, I might add) disagreements TLOML and I had on Skype when we were first dating, all parties ended the call feeling sad and dissatisfied. Lady P and I still FaceTime when I'm away, because it seems better than not, but there's a 50/50 chance it'll end in tears.

It's not just Lady P who's affected. TLOML dolefully said to me as I embarked on my last trip, 'I'm going to have to start season 3 of The Wire without you I'm afraid. You're never going to catch up now'.

But Lady P is the one I worry more about. Of course I know she's in perfectly good hands. She has a brilliant time with her beloved daddy and our nanny is all round fantastic. When she forgets I'm not there, Lady P is quite content. Still, I am not. Nor will I be, till this stint of travel is over and I can revert to my blissful, working from home, seeing Lady P every morning when she wakes up, and at every mealtime, and at every bedtime, life.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Nothing very bad ever happens here

A Pineapple Express came in last week and dumped some rain on drought-shrivelled LA. Being, as it is, a desert city, LA doesn't do too well under heavy rain.  Also the people here don't cope well with bad weather of any sort. Los Angelenos drive, in the rain, as if either a) they're in the middle of a blizzard or b) they're oblivious, and it's the perfect day for taking corners really fast. There is no middle ground. So there were the usual reports of landslides in Malibu, power cables down over Pacific Coast Highway, flooded basements, and some nasty and probably idiot-induced accidents on the freeways.

Again, I had the feeling that although technically we do live in LA, we are in a little bubble far away from all that. Yes, we had rain. But people don't drive like idiots here. And although we are a town built on sand, nothing seemed to collapse. A few tree branches came down, and there was some sand run-off on the road, but nothing parks & rec won't have cleared up in a few days.
After the storm
Ugly stories of police brutality are everywhere in the news right now, and over the past couple of years violent and property-related crime have increased in California's cities. Here in Hermosa, the police are dressing their police dogs up in Christmas costumes, putting festive wreaths on their cars and bikes and pulling Santa around the neighbourhoods to give out candy canes to local kids.
Santa visits our street under police escort

Intimidating police presence
But despite all indicators to the contrary, there are some people in Hermosa who think something bad might, just might happen.

The police station open day this weekend included lots of stands providing information to keep us safe. My favourite thing was the Hermosa Beach Disaster Service Workers' kiosk, which struck me as an elaborate cover for a lot of thumb-twiddling.
I also liked the Hermosa Beach SWAT vehicle, which I suppose would be useful in the event of a riot, or zombie attack (which seem equally likely to me).
Eager worryworts pressed dozens of leaflets on us, and a child ID kit (so we can keep Lady P's fingerprints on file at home), and some high-vis bike stickers.
 It was very sweet. And it did prompt a conversation about where we turn the gas and water off, in an emergency. It's good to be prepared.

And yet, nothing has yet shaken my notion that nothing very bad ever happens here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Idyllwild, in pictures

I may have been a bit quick to say we won't go back to Idyllwild. In fact, apart from the absence of snow, it is a very lovely place.

Proper scenery, trees, mountains, etc
 There is a town monument involving a strange configuration of eagle, bear and mountain lion. And a very helpful sign.
Looking for the Idyllwild town monument?

Look no further. 
It's a town for outdoorsy types. The gun loving, horse riding, cowboy hat wearing kind.
Actual guns for sale just in a regular outdoorsy shop. Weird.
Niche market, no?

The quintessential rugged Western look, reinterpreted for today's hot blonde.
 Their town Christmas tree is the best I've ever seen. It is a real live tree, possibly even taller than the Norwegian Spruce in Trafalgar Square.
 And there's shopping for more than just guns, obscure cookbooks and dodgy denim. Unlikely though it may seem, we bought something at the Idyll-Beast Research Center Museum and Gift Shoppe.
All in all, it's a town with something for everyone. I think it's fair to say this won't be our last visit. We'll just leave the woolly hats at home next time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

In search of winter

It's about this time of year I get nostalgic for proper winter weather. I hanker for woolly socks, roaring fires, hearty soups and pink cheeks. I am also a little concerned that Lady P will think it's normal to conduct winteryactivities wearing sunscreen and shorts.

So I planned a family jaunt to Idyllwild, a haven for artsy and/ or horsey types, high up in the SanJacinto mountains east of LA. I found us a cute little A-frame cabin in some woods, by a creek, and was expecting snow: all the ingredients of a truly wintry getaway. Given that we were at 6000ft above sea level, this was not an unrealistic expectation. In other years there has been snow up there as early as October.

However, in 2014, snow has yet to fall. In fact, the weather was disappointingly balmy. Basically the kind of temperatures that wouldn't be out of place on a May day in Yorkshire.

I'm proud to say we did not let that deter us. We still wore our woolly jumpers and winter boots – we just left our coats and hats indoors. And we still lit a fire.

Something is missing from this picture... The ground should really be white

You almost wouldn't know it was 15c outside
Fortunately we weren't there just for the weather. I also wanted a weekend without obligations and errands, and some time for us to switch off (albeit from our pretty stress-free life). So we kept the sightseeing light, content with a drive up to a nice viewpoint where Lady P clambered on and off the same rock about a dozen times.
Rock climbing in winter woolies
We ate hearty mountain food, and played cards and drank whisky, and poked about downtown Idyllwild. And we didn't watch TV or go to Target. It was almost perfect. But next year I'm thinking we'll go to Aspen instead.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sledging*, Hermosa Beach style

So this appeared, about a week ago, on the otherwise flat sands of Hermosa Beach.
It's a sand dune as high as the pier and twice as long.

I asked a couple of sources of local knowledge to what end the officials of Hermosa Beach had constructed this huge sand dune. One told me it was to redistribute the sand that gets shifted throughout the course of the year. Another told me it was so the kids here can go sledging*. We're a bit short on snow, you see.

Whatever the real purpose, it's getting plenty of use for the latter. Here is the scene from the dune, late afternoon this past Saturday, with lots of kids cruising down it on boogie boards.

And here's a really festive image for you: a child in a bobble hat and a dad carrying a proper wooden sledge. If they weren't wearing shorts you could almost believe we were in Tahoe.
But Lady P knows we are not. So she stuck to 'surfing'...
 ...and pouring sand onto the boogie board...
...all the while shouting 'wheeeeeeeee'. Which was sweet, but not quite the same as actual sledging*.

*You can call it 'sledding' if you're American, or short on 'g's.