They say it’s the little things. Yes – every night I just want something little. Not a little piece of chocolate on my pillow and not a little shot of liquor to put me to sleep. I just want a little square of cloth to wash the mascara off my eyeballs. In Barcelona I got some from the hotel desk as they were not in the room as in U.S. hotels. In Paris they flat out told me “no.’ In Cambridge, the hotel had washcloths and I cherished them like a meth addict cherishes their last tooth. But after we left Cambridge I realized I should have stolen the washcloths because the luxury would vanish once again. Once again I found myself stuck using the end of a hand towel. My middle child would say this is a first-world problem. Others would ask why I haven’t joined the modern world of moistened face towelettes. Simple. I have to use what I call eyeball wash for my “dry eyes” – so I guess I better start packing my own washcloths. Or do they call them flannels here?
And the horror continues. Of course I’m jesting. I love England. But as one ages we get used to having things a certain way. Like coffee….
Coffee: It is very easy to find a Starbucks or any number of coffee houses here. But when you wake in the morning it is nice to have a coffee maker in the hotel room. Often, U.S. hotels have a mini-maker that makes a cup or two. Here, the hotels give you INSTANT coffee!! Shudder. Wince. Wonder. Ponder. This has happened in Barcelona, Paris and all cities in England so far. Instant coffee. Granules of dehydrated coffee. 1970s Sanka style. People drink this on purpose? I thought this was what you packed for the apocalypse. This is what my granny bought because she was being thrifty. This is emergency coffee. This is Army coffee. I bet the Army has better coffee than this. I’m not really much of a coffee conoisseur. But I’m a step or two above instant. And Folger’s. I drink about two cups a day at home. I try to avoid Starbucks at all costs because I’m saving for retirement. Anyway – the takeaway thought. Brits serving Americans instant coffee is like Americans serving Brits instant tea. But I do admit that when Brits come to the U.S. they are most certainly horrified by our tea bags. From what I understand, Lipton tea bags are more like bags of tea dust. We don’t serve loose tea in a pot to be poured through a strainer. So I suppose we are even. At least I can get a good coffee on the street and Brits can get good loose tea at most groceries in the U.S. nowadays.
Some other interesting observations: the shelves at the Airbnb place we are staying at now are very cute. I love the Bob’s Big Boy stuff. The character with the black hat is from a flour company – according to our hostess. We have stayed at three different Airbnb places. One in Worcestershire (not far from Stratford-upon-Avon) one in Cheltenham and one here in London. It is much cheaper than staying in a hotel. All of them are a bit off the beaten path but it’s nice to save the money as we are going through it quickly. (Airbnb is an online site where folks list their own homes like a bed and breakfast.)
Gas: Yesterday, Pat filled up the tank of the Ford we rented. It cost $120 to fill with diesel. And gas here is $8 a gallon. He said that was for about 3/4 of a tank. There’s also no pay-at-the-pump. At least not where we were.
Vacuums and dryers: It’s adorable – they call them Hoovers here. I guess kinda like we call them Kleenex or Band-Aids. “I’m going to Hoover now.” It’s also a verb from what I understand. And everyone here seems to hang laundry to dry. Not too many ‘tumble dryers’ around. Clotheslines and lines inside houses. I had to explain to one lady that our neighborhood doesn’t even allow clotheslines. I also had to explain that in the middle of the U.S. (where I lived for a long time) 4-year-olds don’t carry guns. 🙂 Also, the washing machines are often in the kitchen and they are the front-loaders.
Cheese: The cheese here is “matured” while the cheese in the U.S. is just “aged.” I think I’d rather be mature.
Take-out food: Here they ask if you will “take-away.” The other day I ordered a “toasty” for breakfast (cheese and tomato toasted on bread) and I noticed it cost more to “eat in” than take away. I asked about it and the gal explained they charge more if they have to clean up after you – as in do your dishes. So we ordered it take-away but they brought it to us on plates anyway. It was very sweet. I seem to be asking people a lot of questions. I take pictures of toilets and ask questions.
Water: I have spent a considerable amount of money on still water in the last two weeks. I blew the budget so when we get home, my third child is going to have to survive on Cheerios and instant coffee. I know London tap water is fine – so my guess is the scam to only sell water must be tied into the taxation system somehow. The Duke of Dukeington must be getting rich somewhere.
Food names: I take it the salad cream is like Miracle Whip. The Ma-a-Mite is Marmite which is like Vegamite. They say you love it or hate it. I think I could learn to like it. It’s a yeast spread that smells like vitamins in a jar to me. The OJ says it is “with bits” or “smooth” which is very cute I think.
Pub food: It’s all been very good. The odd thing is the lack of waitresses at pubs. A pub looks like a typical American bar and grill. Tables, chairs, a bar, stuff hanging off the wall – you get the idea. But it’s different because you seat yourself which I am not used to – and there are menus at the tables. But you order at the bar and pay – then they deliver the food to your table. You get your drinks when you order. Luckily my husband knew this; otherwise we would have been sitting there for a long time.
SHEETS: Oh my! I noticed in the U.S. that some of my European friends don’t use a top sheet on their beds. They just use a comforter covered by a duvet. That seems so odd to me. What? That is just insane. How could this be? Then you have to wash the duvet rather than just a sheet and go through the rigamarole of putting the damn duvet back on the comforter. I do love duvets for the purpose of giving a comforter a new look but the lack of a top sheet I just can’t abide!! And the lack of a top sheet kept me from a good night’s sleep a few nights ago. In Cheltenham, the place we were staying did not have AC (which makes sense since England is not hot for many days per year). So, the bed had the fitted sheet on the mattress and the comforter/duvet. It was too hot for the comforter but too breezy (ceiling fan) for nothing. Perfect example for the need of a top sheet. So all night long I was pulling up the comforter and then kicking it off and freezing. Ug. Same thing at this place – but I asked our hostess for a top sheet and she had one. She even bemoans the lack of ease in finding one here.
Phrases: Some of the words are very cute – like “Brilliant” and “Cheers.” I’ve heard those two the most. Last night a waiter brought me a drink he thought I would like and then asked how I liked it. I said it was good and he sounded disappointed – so I said – “Oh sorry, it’s brilliant!” That seemed to make him happy. I also heard “up the duff” for being pregnant and “throwing a sickie” for calling in sick to work. There are a bunch of others, but I can’t spell them correctly and even if I could, it wouldn’t work in print due to the fact that I’m not there to mispronounce them for you.
But how does anything get more adorable than Fairy dish soap. When I go shopping abroad, this is the stuff I want to bring home. I bought a purse in Paris ($113) and a watch in Cambridge ($105) and I will spend a bit of money on hand soap here. I know. I’m nuts.