All At Sea

I just finished listening to All At Sea (from The Moth podcast) with comedian Tim FitzHigham, and it makes me so happy to live in the UK. Where else would you have someone rowing in a bathtub and getting this kind of support for it?! I recommend you listen to the whole story, but here’s a taste:

The second problem is that half of the English Channel turns out to be owned not by Great Britain but by the French. Now, I wrote to the French government and I said, “Now this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to row the English Channel in a bathtub. And they were kind, and they were generous, and they were helpful. They sent me tons of stuff to read. And all the time they were going in to the French Parliament and passing a new clause in the Shipping Act of France making it illegal to row a bathtub in French water. So what I did is I went to the Ministry of Transport in Whitehall and I said, ” Now this is what we’re going to do gentlemen: we are gonna register my bath as a registered British ship.” And to my shock, horror, and amazement, they said, “Yeah, fair enough Tim, that’s a good plan, yeah.”

Discovering New Growth

I just got home from several weeks away, and it was such a pleasure to come home (even though there’s still a definite chill in the air here). All kinds of flowers have come to life while I was away — including a whole army of dandelions! Thankfully, digging up the dandelions gives me an excuse to check out all the other plants:

Azaleas
Azaleas
Japanese Laurel
Japanese Laurel
Pieris
Pieris

… you tell me?

Pronunciation

How is it that when I say the word croissant without a French accent, people in Britain will look at me quizzically and correct my pronunciation, but they don’t hesitate to butcher the word paella practically beyond recognition?

Gordon Ramsay, I’m looking at you:

Bodnant Garden in March

After a rainy morning, the clouds opened up and we saw a beautiful blue sky that we couldn’t let go to waste. So we jumped in the car and drove to Bodnant Garden for a short afternoon stroll. It was well worth it (especially since we’re National Trust members). We were greeted by tulips and hyacinths, a field of daffodils, camellias, magnolias, hellebores (a new favorite!), and even some early blooming rhododendrons. Quite the show for March.

Voting Abroad

US expats have to walk a fine line when it comes to anything related to our former residence in the US. We are still tied to our last state of residence (in my case, California) for various official purposes, but if we cross the line that state can charge us state taxes.

Here’s an example: for federal elections, our votes are counted in the last state we lived in before moving abroad. If we cast a vote there, we’re OK – we’re considered residents for voting purposes but not tax purposes. But if we start voting in state or local elections, the state can tax us. (If you have questions about your state tax liability, talk to a tax professional. It can get tricky depending on your state and situation.)

State primaries were always a grey area for me. It’s a federal race, but the primary delegates are at a state level. Since California is fairly aggressive about claiming residency, I just avoided it. But not any longer! It turns out there are delegates just for citizens living abroad – at least, as long as you’re a Democrat.

Democrats Abroad represents US citizen expats in the Democratic Party. It holds a Global Presidential Primary and sends 21 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. It gives US citizens living abroad a collective voice! For me that’s even more meaningful than voting along with my former state of residence in the general election (although if I had last lived in a swing state I might feel differently).

In any case, if you are a US citizen and a Democrat living abroad, it’s not too late! You have until March 8 to join Democrats Abroad and vote in the primary. And you can even send in your ballot via email. So no more excuses: vote now!