London: is this English? (by me)

cig

“Ends” just sounds better than “butts.”

I must say I do like England.  Quite.  It’s quite jolly.  OK – I haven’t heard anyone say any of those – nothing involving “quite”  or “jolly.”  Bloody hell.  Haven’t heard that either.  But last night at a pub in Cambridge I did hear “fuck off.”  Not in a nasty way.  A group of college-aged kids were having some drinks and telling stories.  This is before two of the girls started kissing to entertain the boys.  The boys didn’t really seem too shocked or entertained.  We all have cable now don’t we?  Then I had to go to the loo.  I’ve had to pay a few times this trip – but this would be a freebie as I was a cider-drinking patron of this pub.  I always find it interesting to see what’s for sale in the ladies WC (water closet).  This time it was a box of three condoms for 3£ (about $4.50) or a box containing one sanitary towel (interesting term) and a tampon (nice combo) for the same price.  Holy shitballs!  For that price I can get a whole box of tampons in the U.S.   – Wow, that sounds like something a mother would say.  Oh.  I am a mother.

As far as British words are concerned, one of hubby’s work mates did say ‘lorrie’ when talking about a truck.  I asked him about it.  He said those who drive them are called ‘truckers.’  Go figure.  We also noticed on a pub window it said “free house” and wondered what that was all about.  We wiki’d it and found out that pub means public house – a place for all to drink rather than a private club.  And the free part may also refer to the idea that the place is not affiliated with any particular brewer.  Could you imagine if there was a bar in the U.S. and the only thing it served was Natty Boh?  (That’s cheap stuff in the Maryland area for those of you unfamiliar.)

eggs

breakfast – eggs and salad?

 There have been many peculiar things I keep noticing on this trip.  The toilet thing is very interesting.  They are much smaller than the American counterpart  – but the main thing is the amount of water they use.  I think the Europeans have it figured out.  Less water and smaller toilet.  Less to clean and less wasted water. And there’s no tank.  Just a toilet coming out from the wall.  I guess the water fairy delivers water magically when one flushes.   But there are some other things here that I don’t get – like the bacon.  I mean, the Bacon.  Kevin Bacon.  I love watching TV in other countries and he’s been popping up on iPhone spots – or are they spots for a cell service?  I guess this is like David Hasselhoff being huge in Germany.  I also saw Al Pacino – yes, Al Pacino – in an ad for an internet company!

Regarding bacon – Pat (hubby) warned me about the English Breakfast.  He ordered one the other morning:  bacon (more like ham), sausages, eggs, bread, a tomato, and beans.  Well, he skipped the beans.  Beans?  Who the hell eats beans for breakfast?  Yesterday I ordered a simple breakfast – two eggs and toast – and it came with salad!  Who the hell eats salad for breakfast?  We’re talking a full blown salad; tomatoes, olives, and balsamic vinaigrette.  I ate it.  When in Rome –  or close enough to it.  Or, when needing something green in one’s diet.  Or, when knowing an order of fish and chips is coming for dinner.  Other oddities:  the system of measurement is metric I believe.  I haven’t purchased fruit yet, but I think it would be weighed by the kilo.  And I think height is given in meters. So, on the highway the other day with hubby driving a Ford (slightly ironic we would leave the U.S. just to drive an American car) – I noticed the speed sign said “60.”  I thought – Gee, that is really slow.  I generally just take the kilometer reading and divide it in half.  So in Sweden (for college) when I read 110 I knew it was about 55 mph.  So, the sign said 60 but it felt like we were going 60 mph.  How odd.  I knew we were not doing 30 mph.  So I asked Pat.  He told me they did speed on the “motorway” in miles per hour!  Hello?  I’m just an American trying to figure out the funny-looking money – now I’m really confused.  And this Ford is a diesel.  And the ice cream truck is a Mercedes…..

I could live without ice cream.  But the ice cream trucks over here are gorgeous.  I really liked the one with Snow White …….

dammit – I digress.  This keyboard is driving me nuts.  The shift key is not where it’s supposed to be and neither is the @ symbol.  It’s cool that it has a £ sign and a Euro sign – but I can’t figure out how to make it work.  Some other stuff is moved too.  So bear with me.  And the wifi is really spotty.  Yesterday it took me a few hours to send the pics from my iPhone to my email account.  And then I had to use the business center at the hotel to download the pics to some temp file in order to write this. But I know if I don’t write now I will forget. 

twinkies

$22 for a box of Twinkies

snowwhite

pretty woman luring you to eat ice cream – she left the dwarfs at home

Back to ice cream:  The trucks are very pretty.  And many of them are Mercedes.  One truck was called Mr. Whippy.  I think the one with Snow White was there just to lure people in.  With her innocence.  Bitch.  Maybe they should just show us the cellulite growing under her white dress.  It’s kind of a loose dress now isn’t it?  And the candy stores!  Oh my!  Luckily my sweet tooth has diminished as I’ve gotten haggard.  Good thing.  The Hardy’s Sweet Shop here is like something out of a movie.  It is like a tribute to the seven deadly sins.  Gluttony? (I’ll have a kilo of everything pink please.)  Sloth? (Then, I will sit around and shove stuff into my mouth while I watch Beverly Hills 90210 – on TV here)  Lust?  (I will have sex while eating chocolate bon bons while fantasizing about a well-endowed, life-sized nutcracker made of toffee.) Wrath?  (I will tar and feather anyone who touches my Twinkies or Swedish Fish.)  Envy?  (I will go back to the states and curse all Brits who live near a Hardy’s.) Pride?  (I am much better than you because I have been to Hardy’s you lame fool.)  Greed? (I must have more sherbet lemons!  Screw the poor kids starving in ___________.  I will give my charitable donation next month.)  Speaking of Twinkies – Hardy’s has them.  And it seems they were made by Hostess.  Must be old.  Oh yes, they were known for shelf life weren’t they?  The price on the box was 15£ – that’s about $22.  I forgot to look to see how much they cost individually.  I left the shop with a bag of fudge.  One of the workers let me taste a “banana.”  It was a yellow piece of candy looking like a banana. I told him it tasted just like what we call circus peanuts.  What the hell is a circus peanut?  You’d think one would eat actual peanuts at a circus.

FB exit

Another funny thing are ads and signs.  I love good advertising and I wrote my Master’s thesis about ads – so I think I pay more attention than most.  So I noticed when I saw an ad that said one could “stick them on Facebook.”   Huh?  I tried to figure out what it meant by looking for context clues.  The ad was about sharing opinions and it followed a line about tweeting and fell before a line about starting a blog.  I even looked for an explanation online.  Does it mean “follow” them on FB by “liking” them?  Who knows.  Great ad though.  It even mentioned “ocelot colon” when talking about making a fancy modern sandwich.  Who doesn’t love an ad with that?    I also love the different signs in the subways.  You see “sortie” in Paris and “sortida” in Barcelona.  In London I figured I’d see “exit” as it’s an English-speaking country.  Wrong. 

underground_logo

Speaking of metro systems (subways) in general, Paris had beautiful light fixtures near the entrances to theirs. I also liked the way London uses the same Underground logo for all of their communication.  If the word “Underground” is not in the blue space, then another word is – such as the name of the stop, or some sort of announcement.  And Pat had already brought me a “Mind the Gap” t-shirt.  You hear it all the time on the trains.  They don’t want you to step into the space between the train car and the platform.  Barcelona had air-conditioned trains.  The hottest Missouri summer I ever spent was a week in Paris and London metro cars. 

Pat and I had to get from the St. Paul’s Cathedral area to Heathrow Airport to “hire” a car. (We were renting a car to drive from London to Cambridge.)  A taxi would be very expensive.  So I talked to a guy at the metro station who explained the Oyster card.  We had to pay £5 for each card; which he said we could sell back at the end of our trip. It would let us get to the airport cheap – for about £2. We would just have to get our suitcases up and down some flights of stairs and change trains lines once.   Luckily it wasn’t rush hour.  I took the two carry-ons and Pat took the suitcases when we hit a staircase.  In the London metro system (as Mr. Oyster man explained) we needed to scan the card as we entered the line AND when we exited.  That way the system would know how much to charge the card.  If I hadn’t gotten into the info line, it would have been £4.5 (about $6) each way every time we got on the metro!  It’s quite a discount to use this Oyster card.  I keep thinking of what other stupid travel things we must be doing. 

When I was in NYC a few months ago I realized I’d been riding the 7 train across town for years instead of the shuttle.  Duh.  Today I paid $7.50 for a cup of coffee.  $4.50 for the coffee at the hotel bar.  The rest was a tip.  She looked stressed.  This waitress in question had also put some of my leftover food on a plate so I could eat it for breakfast.  Apparently this is not a normal request.  It was not heated.  Apparently, a microwave is not a common thing here.  Hello?  If any hotels in Europe had microwaves in rooms, then crazy Americans would not have to go downstairs and ask for such odd things – like – can you put this on a plate and nuke it?  Anyway, cold Chinese is not good in my book.  Cold Chinese and an overpriced Americano coffee for breakfast.  Hmmmm.

OK – I have some errands to run here in Cambridge before we head to Stratford (the one upon Avon).  We did go punting yesterday with a guide.  That is when you ride in a shallow boat along the Cam River (I think) and hear about the history of Cambridge University.  The boats are pushed along with poles.  Lots of the tourists do it.  Oh, apparently Pink Floyd is from here – I guess they played everywhere!

Tally Ho!  (haven’t heard that one either)