"No true fiasco ever began as a quest for mere adequacy. A motto of the
British Special Air Force is: 'Those who risk, win.' "

Monday, May 30, 2011

English Escapades 2011: vol. 2 (Pros & Cons)

Over the last week I have been making a list of pros and cons about England in my head... Before I begin, let me re-iterate that I LOVE it over here! I also LOVE back home... So as one of my students said this year, "Don't get your panties in a wad!" (actually, he asked me what that phrase meant, which is possibly the best question I have ever been asked by a student)-- my lists are not meant to offend peoples from either nation, I just thought this would be a fun exercise. Please feel free to add your own ideas to the list! (Mine are in no particular order)

Pros about England
1. Public transportation-- be it the Underground in London, or trains, taxis, and buses all over the country, it certainly makes travel- long or short distances- much easier for those of us that cannot drive a manual car on the right side of the car while on the left side of the road. (BRAIN OVERLOAD!)

Waiting for the bus

2. Fish & Chips-- To Americans this is the most British meal there is. (I think to people of England, a nice curry is as British as it gets...) I have just this past year been able to eat fish-- certain kinds anyway... So I decided to give this meal a shot the other day. I am proud to report I ate the entire piece-- while Maddie took care of the mushy peas! (Sorry British Buds-- I just can bring myself to eat THOSE just yet!)

3. Accents-- Yes yes, let's just get this one out of the way. Any normal American will tell you that we DO love a good British accent. I will say, I've been a bit irked on this trip because a huge deal has been made about the firing of Cheryl Cole on the US X Factor because Americans could not understand her. While I have never watched this show, I have heard clips of Ms. Cole speaking, and I can honestly say I have NO trouble understanding her, nor do I think would most Americans. I believe there is a deeper issue here. I almost called a radio station here that was going ON AND ON about this, and essentially bashing Americans for their inability to recognize different dialects among the British accents. I wanted to challenge this fool ass announcer to tell me what region of the US I am from. While I can certainly turn on an amazingly southern accent, my normal dialect is not that strong. I think Americans do realize (sorry, realise) there are different sounding English accents, and yes, they would be hard pressed to tell you where specific ones are from... but I think this goes both ways.

Off my soap box now.

4. Pubs-- they just have a different feeling about them than our bars and restaurants back home. Matt would add that the real ale here is much better than most of what we can get back home. In many cases, I agree. While I do love my Coors Light on a hot day, it is awesome to get a pint of a nice stout (with a 6.5% AV I might add)... Not to mention, the drunken old men in pubs are way less obnoxious and creepy than our drunken men in bars back home.

5. TV Programmes-- Again, most English people will cringe and roll their eyes when I say that I love a good episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show and Midsomer Murders. And yes, both are a bit cheesy and ridiculous (how can ANYONE be left alive in Midsomer anyway?), but I like them--so there! I did notice while reading through my mother-in-law's TV guide that a LOT of the shows here are American shows (House, CSI, Glee...) Aside from a brief viewing of CSI Miami last night (which, coincidentally I do not even watch back home) I try to steer clear of US TV shows while here. Long live Graham Norton! VIVA Are you Being Served! Bring on Have I Got News for You! Go Gavin & Stacey! I could go on and on...

6. Cadbury's-- Yes, we have Cadbury's back home, but it is NOT the same. Ours is made by Hershey and thus tastes differently. And while I do love Cadbury's back home also, it is SOOOOOOOO much better here! Plus you have different varieties and more selection in England.

7. Cheese & Onion sandwiches-- MMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmm! I had a great one at the BCA yesterday. Best C&O I have had was probably at the Crooked House. The Black Country Museum does a good one too!

8. Walker's Crisps-- very similar to our Lay's brand back home-- but with some crazy flavours here. My favs are perhaps a bit boring: salt & vinegar and cheese& onion (are you sensing a theme?) Matt likes the prawn ones-- no thanks!

9. 80s Fashion-- While I do not feel that I could pull off a lot of the outfits I see here (both on people and in the shops), I do have a deep appreciation for the retro-feel of the clothing.

10. FUN hair colours-- Lots of bright reds, blue, purple, and pink... on men and women. It really brightens ones day.

11. Students in school uniforms-- I LOVE to watch the kids walk to school (Yes, I said WALK to school) in their uniforms. I think it just looks classier. Of course, when you see them walking home in the afternoon, ties are askew, shirts unbuttoned, pants sagging... but still...

12. Houses with names-- I love how, while walking down the street, you notice that some houses have names. And I don't mean big, posh, fancy houses... Some look rather dumpy, but when given names like Elm Cottage or Daffodil Manor it seems to spruce it up a bit.

13. Roses-- Seems like the roses, and most other flowers really, are bigger, more vivid, and just better here.

14. Liberalism-- Americans may claim to be a fairly liberal country, but to this I say PISH POSH! England is MUCH more laid back about most things. Cursing on TV... nudity on TV.... the way people speak to each other in general. And, as I have discovered in both Pelsall and Wales, with their toilet seats! You heard me! A couple of years ago I encountered a shiny, sparkly, glittery toilet seat in Wales. Well, not to be outdone, the Pelsall Labour Club ladies room has some pretty shiny, mirror-esque seats. (I just happened to have my camera in my pocket today-- I didn't specifically take it in there, but since I had it, thought What the hell?!)

1. No Diet Dr. Pepper-- I cannot understand this one! England has diet drinks, and they have Dr. Pepper-- so why not my beverage of choice? Seriously people of England, you need to get on this one!

2. Wind and Cold temps-- in late May/ early June! Actually, I have been here many times during this part of the season, and often it is much cooler than home, which really, I am fine with! (I much prefer the 60s to the 90s)... but this trip has been REALLY chilly-- mainly due to the crazy wind I think. It wouldn't be so bad except for Maddie. She doesn't really have clothes that fit appropriate for this weather-- and the last thing I want is for her to get sick while here. And ironically, we can't seem to find long sleeve things for her-- stores all have summer stuff out! We did manage to get her a fantastic hat-- maybe not Royal Wedding attire, but she certainly likes it!

3. Tiny Showers-- I've run into this issue at many hotels here too. We are staying with our buddy Pete who recently had his bathroom made over. It looks great! And really, I don't have a problem with the shower or it's size except when trying to shave. Have you ever tried to shave your legs in Dr. Who's time machine?

4. Beans-- why must they be poured on everything? Well, that is perhaps a BIT of an exaggeration-- but I am not a fan of them period, and especially do not want them on my breakfast, or my bangers & mash. ICK!

5. Coke products in the UK-- just don't taste the same, especially Diet Coke. And, as mentioned before, Diet Dr. Pepper is not an option.

6. Different electric current-- within 5 minutes of being at Pete's house this trip, my adapter broke off in his socket. Matt had to ultimately replace the entire socket, and I had to find a new adapter. It's just a pain in the ass. Of course, as Phil pointed out to me today, it is the same for them when they travel.

7. No cell phone-- Not that I like TALKING to people, but I do miss my text conversations and funny pictures. Plus, I like to have the OPTION of calling someone if I wanted.

8. No Soccer Taco/ mexican food-- it's my fav! I miss my chips, salsa, margaritas, and of course, Uncle Erick!

OK, that is all I can think of/ remember at the moment. I may update this one if more spring to mind.
Again, feel free to chime in with your comments, thoughts, opinions....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

English Escapades, 2011: vol. 1

It seems interesting things always happen while I am visiting the West Midlands. A couple of years ago I got to see a slow motion fight between two men so drunk they could be classified as retarded. The next day we watched the police hunt for someone who assaulted a woman in the toilets at the bus station. Well, it seems my streak continues!

Probably the first out of the ordinary instance of the trip occurred before the plane took off. While sitting and waiting for everyone to load, I noticed a flight attendant walk by with a tray with what appeared to be a bra on it. I then overhear 2 other flight attendants laughing hysterically and talking about it. Apparently it WAS a bra and had been found in the aisle behind a seat. Next thing you hear is a flght attendant, choking back laughter on the intercom, asking if anyone has lost a bra, size 34B.
Yesterday when coming back from Matt's brother's house we encountered a LOT of police cars near Pete's. By a LOT I mean possibly every officer in the West Midlands! The main street in Bloxwich was blocked off. We learned after asking a man on the street that a suspicious package was found on the street. The police had emptied the stores and worse, pubs. While trying to maneuver a way around the scene all officers suddenly left-- so we assume the situation was nothing. I never heard any big boms, so perhaps someone just dropped their shopping.

Happy Traveller

Maddie has been amazingly charming, as always! Going through security she wowed the TSA lady who exclaimed, "She is the MOST beautiful baby I have every seen!" She loved Maddie's passport picture too. Maddie was great on the plane, aside from one breakdown. While Matt was trying to calm her, the head honcho flight attendant came by to help. (The pilot had called attention to the attendant calling her Miss Virgin Atlantic-- apparently she is one of their best attendants, and appears in all the commercials... ) She took Maddie (who was later passed around among the flight attendants) and gave her some "calming potion"-- basically children's tylenol I think. It worked! Maddie slept, well, like a baby, the rest of the night. As we were leaving the plane, she was standing at the exit and she exclaimed, "OH! There is my FAvOURITE baby from the flight!" (This was saying something as there were about 20 babies on that plane.)

We had dinner the first night at a GREAT curry house. As we came in I couldn't help but notice that the server had the personality of sawdust. Certainly not a people person. I thought to myself, If Maddie can charm this guy, she's golden. Within 5 minutes he was smiling at her, waving at her, and even brought her a lollipop! That's my girl!

Maddie has had a great time playing with cousin Lucas and meeting all of Matt's buddies.

Cousin Lucas was very nice to share his toys

She has hit the Pelsall Labour Club twice now on her social circuit. She was a big fan of Helen who gave her some Cadbury's-- mmmmmmmm! "Uncle" Pete is a favourite, of course. I'm looking forward to her meeting the rest of Matt's family, and to heading up to Alnwick for a week.
As always, more to follow! I'm trying to update pictures on FB nightly...

EXHAUSTED after a long first day in England!