Watergate Street, Chester
This is the main shopping district of Chester. I walk on this street everyday to and from work.
I wish I had known about this earlier! Here I am, 4 1/2 months into my stay in the UK, and I could have been keeping a journal the whole time. I will try to start from the beginning.
I left the USA on the 29th of December, 2004 to come to the UK. My reason for coming was a matter of the heart, and I found myself free of that reason after a few weeks here, and with a freedom to do anything I wanted. Around the same time I was offered a job in Chester. At the time I was living in the south in a suburb of London. "Chester? Where in the world is Chester?" Well, it turns out Chester is just about the coolest little town I could have found myself accidentally in. I hopped on the train and came for my job interview, and to check the place out. I fell in love with it in the 4 hours that I spent here, and have not yet looked back!
Chester, in Cheshire (yes, like the cat and the cheese) is a gorgeous little town in the north of England on the Welsh border and
The Canal and Longboats
This is what I see from the end of my street!
very close to Liverpool. It is on the site of an old Roman fort (Deva) and as a result it has an amazingly interesting 2,000 year history. We have a beautiful pink Cathedral, a lovely canal, the river Dee, many Tudor (and Victorian rip-off) half-timbered buildings, the oldest racecourse in Britain, the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre and the most complete set of Medieval walls in Britain (they are nice to jog on). We also have the best shopping and the best nightlife outside of Birmingham and Liverpool for this area of England. For a small town, Chester has everything you could ask for. And although it can never match a big city for culture or nightlife, it has the charm and comfort of a small, safe commumity. Maybe that sounds stupid, but after living in London for 5 months, I appreciate not being afraid of getting mugged on the tube or getting lost going home at night.
I found a houseshare with Steve, a biology teacher at a local school, and Laura, a Scottish biodiversity officer. It was amazing luck finding such a friendly and relaxed house to move into. I have become great friends with both Steve
The lovely cathedral. I often spend my breaks from working at Dutton's sitting in the gardens, and sometimes I attend evensong to hear the choir sing. A beautiful place!
and Laura. Our house is a terraced Victorian house just outside the city walls and just a few steps from the canal. Its nice to live just a 5 minute walk from the center of town and from my job (my new job anyways). When I first moved in, Laura was away with the mumps (I didn't know people actually got mumps anymore...) but it was the weekend of Steve's 30th birthday and I was immediately welcomed into his circle of friends. The first night I had dinner with 4 of them, and spent a ridiculous night drinking wine and playing Rapi-dough with 5 strangers and was hungover for my first day of work at MBNA (true English style).
Laura moved out in February and we got a new housemate, Inge, who I also count among one of my best friends here. Inge is training to be a lawyer and her father is the Bishop of Chester. Inge and I have bonded over the girliest of things: bingeing on chocolate on hungover days, obsessing over men, and (best of all!) musicals! Its nice to have someone to indulge in guilty pleasures with. I was invited to Inge's house to
Dinner Party at Mine
My friends from the Hostel -- Matt, Bart, Me, Sonia, Tina -- having dinner at my house.
meet her family for Sunday dinner a few weeks after she moved in. I got a tour of the Bishop's mansion, met the Bishop, ate a lovely meal cooked by her mother, and got to play Cluedo with Inge and her little brother.
I spent the first 2 1/2 months in Chester working at MBNA Bank, which is the essence of a big, evil, American multi-national company. With 4,000 employees it is the biggest employer in Chester, but as I found out, about 3,998 of those employees are zombies. The two people who are actually living happened to be myself and Ian Giddings, who sat next to me in my cube. I spent the whole two months sitting alone in the cube, tap tap tapping away at the computer, my only excitement coming from the rare visit from Ian, who is in charge of the grounds/landscaping and so spent most of the time away from his desk (fortunately for him, i think thats how he managed to escape becoming a zombie). His strange sense of humor and Yorkshire accent kept me in stitches when he was around, and my mispronunciations of place names in the UK kept him entertained
Hands down the best place in Chester to drink. And just a few steps from my front door!
with me. Ian officially became my one and only friend at MBNA, and the source of my only fond memories there.
I came to my senses about mid-March and realized that I needed to do something a little bit more fun with my time in the UK, and so I put in my notice at MBNA and started looking for a job with some social interaction involved and a bit less seriousness. Just wandering around town, I noticed a help-wanted sign in the window of a small restaurant that I had never noticed before. It was down a little tiny alley between the Cathedral and the main street in Chester. It looked nice enough. And so I applied, and became a waitress/bartender at Duttons wine bar.
I've been there for a month and a half now, and I don't regret leaving MBNA for a second. I have met some really nice people and have gotten to experience British culture in the best way possible; by meeting as many of them as possible. Dutton's is impossibly busy sometimes. Its been hard, challenging, but truly rewarding. I've learned the ins and outs of British taste for food and drink, including
Steve and Me
Steve, my housemate/landlord, and me.
how fussy they are about their "real ales." I've learned to pour a lager, a lager shandy, a lager top, a lager splash, a lager and lime, a lager black, and all those combinations with bitter, Guinness, and cider. I've been asked on dates, laughed at for my accent, asked "so where in South Africa are you from?," yelled at, flattered for my beauty by aged English gentlemen (nearly blind I think!), experienced anti-Americanism, experienced pro-Americanism, and just generally had fun. Starting at Dutton's was the best decision I have made so far here.
I have tried to keep myself busy here, and have been pretty successful at it. British culture involves frequent drinking, although not always drinking to the point of drunkenness (although that happens alot too) and so I find myself spending many evenings out in a pub or bar in Chester having a glass of wine or a pint (I really LOVE English beer) with friends. I live just across the canal from the best bar/pub in Chester, Telfords Warehouse. It is a fantastic place that serves great beer and usually has live music and the best DJ's on the weekends. It's the sort of place
Dinner at Moules a go go
A nice girls night out with Sonia, Me, Laura and Katherine. Fancy food, fancy beer! Mmmmm...
you can go and be sure there is always someone there you know. You can go and have one relaxed drink sitting outside by the canal or spend the whole night there dancing. Its a club and a pub in one building.
Chester is a nice place to explore the areas around because it is within easy distance of many of the major northers towns, as well as the Lake District and North Wales. I have been doing some travelling and visiting the nearby sights on my days off. I have taken longer trips to Scotland and York. I have also taken up climbing! I go once a week with a beginning climber named Jim that Steve introduced me too (Steve is an avid climber). I feel like I have seen and done quite a bit since I have been here.
All in all, I feel very settled here in Chester. Which is good and has made my time here that much more enjoyable but also gives me a deep feeling of unease because I know that I have to leave soon. As comfortable as I feel here and as much as I might like to stay, I
Matt, Tori, and Katherine
On Wednesdays I usually go to Amber Lounge with my friends from the hostel to hear a guy named Tim play Beatles covers. Tim is good and the bar is usually empty, so its always a relaxing evening.
know that I will have to leave the everything and everyone behind and just keep it all as a memory. Sigh...
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