Thursday 30 September 2010

You Capture: Togetherness

This photo serves two purposes:   It makes up for last week's lack of flowers and is an interesting display of "togetherness" or maybe more of a juxtaposition, really.  I love that these summery bright flowers can grow directly in front of (what looks like) winter holly.
High-five, Nature!

Tuesday 28 September 2010

You Tell 'Em, Emma!

As you may have gathered from my post on September 15, I have great respect for proper grammar and Standard English, so you will not be surprised at my delight when I came across this interesting article posted on the Daily Mail's (dont judge!) website regarding young poeple's poor grammar.

Emma Thompson (aka Nanny McPhee and Karen from Love Actually) has taken a well-deserved swipe at teenager's use of words like "innit" (isn't it) and "ain't", and of course, it's caused an uproar in the comments which follow the article.   I say it's about time someone put aside their fear of being labled pretentious simply for pointing out consistently poor use of the language.   From one lover of English to another - thank you Emma!

Even if you do think Emma and I are pretentious snobs, you may still be interested in a piece of research cited in the article which says some teenagers are becoming unemployable because they limit themselves to a working vocabulary of only 800 words(over-dramatic plea begins)  I beg you, if you are a parent or responsible in any way for the upbringing of a child, please remember this the next time you think its not necessary to correct or even just suggest improvements to said child's grammar and/or vocabulary.  Don't be responsible for the death of the respectable English language and your child's future.  (over-dramatic plea concludes)

Sunday 26 September 2010

An Idiot Abroad

If you are ever thinking that its hard being a expat in England, allow me to draw your attention to the hilarious new show An Idiot Abroad where in the first episode, star Karl Pilkinton visited China.  I apologize in advance if this is offensive to any Chinese people or some sterotype being spread by Ricky Gervais and Co., but whilist watching, I was feeling incredibly lucky that I'd "only" moved to England.  I could have fallen for a Chinese man and been encouraged to eat balut (Click link at your own risk. Disturbing photos contained within), chicken feet or scorpions on a stick.  Ew.

Here's a sneak peek at the show:

Although, if one wanted to eat something gross in England, you definitely have some options including the infamous black pudding, which if you aren't familiar with this offering, is not a pudding at all, but a sausage made by cooking blood with meat, vegetables, bread and other fillers and often served with breakfast.  Alternatively, you can go up to Scotland and enjoy haggis, a blend of sheep heart, liver and lungs mixed with oatmeal, onions and other things wrapped in sheep's stomach.

NOTE:  Its probably important to mention that I don't know a single British person who actually enjoys eating these things, so don't go away from this thinking that all  British people eat blood.  They don't.  (cant speak on behalf of the Chinese people though) Also, being a vegetarian (and one who steers clear of eating things that have a high probability of making me puke) I have not tried haggis or black pudding, so cannot offer a valid review of either. 

Friday 24 September 2010

How to: Go to the Pub

Yes, seriously... this seems to be an area of recent confusion for some expats. Firstly, let me say to the girls, going to the pub is for boys and girls/men and women/dudes and chicks/lads and lasses, not just for the boys.  Do not deny yourself the joy of pub-going because you may think or have been told its a "boy thing".

Step 1:  Find a pub.  I won't waste my time telling you what to look for in a good pub or how to tell if the people inside are "nice" because one man's (or woman's) perfect pub may be another's nightmare. Pubs are like a box of chocolate... I think cherry cordials are gross and will only eat them if very desperate and even then will only bite the chocolate around the cherry grossness, but someone will seek them out and eat them before touching the caramel ones. (Who are these people!?)  

Step 2: Do not dress up like you are going to a club or something. In fact, do not dress up at all unless you like pubs where people dress up and if you do, please stop reading my blog immediately. I simply cannot have you as a reader.

Step 3: Walk in confidently. The darting eyes of an "outsider" will give you away immediately.

Step 4(and this seems to be the tough one for some people): Order drinks. And yes, that's drinks with an S on the end. It is generally expected if you either went to the pub with people or met up with people once there that you will buy a round of drinks. Never just buy a drink for yourself. Never. Never.
Now, I understand buying a round has its challenges, namely remembering what everyone wants and carrying the drinks back to your thirsty friends. The first challenge has an easy solution: do the best you can. If you cant remember what someone wanted, get something non-offensive like a Foster's or Peroni maybe. Just get as many drinks as there are people and you should be ok. 
 If you have more drinks than you can carry, either take trips (no one will steal your drinks off the bar unless you've made a very bad choice in step 1) or yell at your people across and bar and usually someone will come to assist you (although this may be making a huge assumption about your friends!).
Important:  Unless you are a trained waitress and/or armed with a tray, never try to carry more than four drinks at a time. Nothing will ruin your pub experience quicker (and make you the center of unwanted attention) faster than dropping drinks on the floor, sending shards of glass and beer all over people's feet and legs. You may get lucky and drop the glasses on a carpeted floor and at least avoid the noise, but do you really want to be the one responsible for the stains on the carpet that will probably be there for all of eternity because no one will bother to properly clean the cheap carpet?

Step 5: Drink tasty beverages, maybe play some darts, listen to the effects of many drinks on an English accent and enjoy yourself.

To find some excellent pubs that you should support becuase they allow people like me to bring their dogs, check out DoggiePubs!

Thursday 23 September 2010

You Capture: Flowers

Um... is a tree a flower?  Kind of?   Not at all?  Well, in celebration of today's Autumn Equinox it is.  Hooray for Fall! 

Monday 20 September 2010

Grocery Grumbles

What is it about grocery stores/super markets/corner shops etc that make new expats freak out?  I'll tell you my theory: Most expats are actually wanting a reason to freak out and food shopping is usually one of the first chances they get.  

Let me explain... Most people in England have a store of some kind that sells food (call it what you wish) within walking distance from their home, so when a new expat can't yet drive and is left on their own for the first time, they brave a walk to the shop.  They walk in cautiously, look around nervously, pace the aisles looking for familiar items and become quickly unnerved when they notice they shelves are full of jars, boxes and packages of things they've never seen before.  If they do make a purchase, they muffle their speech as if anyone will care they have an accent and experience further angst when the person at the till (cash register) doesn't bag their items for them.   Then it seems many of these new expats run home to their comfortable computers and their virtual community of other expats and inform them all they have just been brought to tears by a trip to the grocery store.  Yes, seriously.  Don't believe me?  Send me a message.

And about that second part of my theory?  Why would any new expat want a reason to freak out?   For attention, of course!  If you don't have your first "isn't it silly what made me freak out" freak out, all the other expats and your family and friends back home cant mollycoddle you, remind you how brave you are for moving so far away (as if you've the only one who's done it) and marvel at how "weird" things are here. Duh!  

My unsolicited advice:  Don't think you're brave by going to the store - you aren't and it will just build it up to be something scary causing the above chain reaction.  Watch what other people do if you aren't sure of something.  Most stores in England will not give you bags unless you ask for them and very few will bag your groceries for you. Ask for a bag (don't be surprised if you are charged for it), bag your groceries like a big girl or boy and be excited about the cool new things you may have just purchased.   I suggest Prawn Cocktail Pringles

Thursday 16 September 2010

You Capture: Misc

We recently stumbled across an 11th century church with a small cemetery which had an interesting mixture of period tombstones and modern ones.  I took a few photos.. Here's one of my favourites (after a bit of amateurish editing).

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Mythbusting: British People Just Sound Smart

Do a quick google of  "British people sound smart" and you will see this myth plastered all over the ill-informed Internet.  One website that claims to teach you how to "make yourself sound smart in a few easy steps" (??)  says,"everyone knows British accents sound smarter" and goes on to tell it's readers to fake the accent.   Please don't. I beg you.
Allow me to put this myth to rest once and for all.

I don't remember being taught proper subject-verb agreement as a child. I always assumed it was the easiest grammatical rule that everyone just knew and never had to second guess. Even if you don't know what I mean when I say "subject-verb agreement", I guarantee that you practice it correctly each and every day (unless you are one of those who has lead me to write this post).   Basically, verbs (you know, the action words) must agree with the subject in the sentence.  I was, you were, they were, she was, it was, etc etc. Duh, right?  Apparently not.

At first I though it was only Jeremy Kyle's guests who repeatedly said "I were..." and I blamed it on poor education. I assumed it was comparable to people who say "he don't know" or " I ain't got" - something that is never viewed as correct, and is only said by the uneducated, never by a professional person. Then I kept hearing it. I heard policemen and paramedics say it on real crime TV shows, I heard characters who were supposed to be portrayed as intelligent on scripted TV shows say it and I had to get to the bottom of it. Why were seemingly well educated people saying "I were..." instead of the obviously correct "I was..."?

I found this website that informed me that in parts of Northern England and the Midlands, it was considered a dialect rather than an error.  Are you kidding me?   "She were wearing a mask"?!?   Apparently, this is what politically correct linguists call non-standard grammar, but its what I call grammatically incorrect and what makes certain British people sound anything but smart.

"But, Ms LadyLiberty", you may say "I wasn't talking about THOSE British people - I was talking about the typical British accent!"   Oh right.. you mean like how the Queen talks? 

This brings me to another myth - people in England speak like the Queen.
Here's the low down on the Queen's accent - Liz, as I call her, speaks in Received Pronunciation (RP) and is one of only 2% of the population of the UK (vast majority in England rather than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) who speak this way.  Unlike most accents, RP is not regional, but very much social - it tells more about a persons socioeconomic level than where they were raised or currently live.   Honestly, you would be hard pressed to come across a person other than Liz or someone on television who speaks with an RP accent.  It is far from the "typical British accent" and I predict it will be phased out in the near-ish future.


Thursday 9 September 2010

You Capture: Signs

Let's play a little game...  Anyone know where one can find these unusual signs less than 20 miles apart?
Hint:  N 50ish degrees latitude

Monday 6 September 2010

Attn: Katy Perry

Just as I was looking for a real reason (as if the latex dresses and complete overexposure were not enough) to be outwardly anti-Katy Perry, the woman herself has given me a beautiful gift in today's Daily Mail.  Take a look at this article and meet me back here...

I hope you were able to make it past the ridiculous gummy bear ring(s) to see where Ms Perry said "One of the first things I'll do [following her marriage to Russel Brand, one of the ugliest men on the planet] is apply for dual citizenship."  (Shame on Alan Carr for not slapping her across the face for such public stupidity).  She went on to say "I'm not too sure if I have to take a test as I've not had time to look into it."

Hate to break it to you Katy, but you should look into it and then apologize to the nation for assuming that just because you have married a British man that you are automatically granted all the rights of a natural born citizen.  Then apologize to all the American ex-pats who have to deal with people thinking we get a free ride and holding it against us.
For the record: you cannot apply for British citizenship upon marriage.  When you marry Russel (puke), you may apply for a spouse visa which will last 28 months just like mine.  Be sure to tell one of your minions to then apply on your behalf for another visa (which is currently known as Indefinite Leave to Remain) prior to the expiration of said spousal visa.   Not until you have had this ILR visa for at least one year can you then apply for citizenship, and yes, there is a test involved. 
Furthermore, you must have not spent more than 270 days outside the United Kingdom during the three-year period and no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months of the three-year period...  due to your busy performance schedule, it would appear that you may never be eligible for citizenship.  Isn't that a shame?

Thursday 2 September 2010

You Capture: Mornings

Dear Morning,

Could you please come a few hours later each day?  Perhaps you could donate some hours to Night.  You know him - hes the one who lets people sleep without being interuppted by that horrible alarm that goes off each day to announce your arrival. 

I promise I would be kinder to you.  I might even be one of those foolish people who sit up in bed and remark how beautiful you are.  I imagine even you could be beautiful after 12 hours of sleep rather than eight.

Please let me know if you are willing to discuss this further.  I am available between the hours of 11am and 11pm. 

Kind Regards