Wednesday 7 December 2011

Awesome new thing: #10

I have discussed before my dislike for the traditional British Christmas dessert, Christmas pudding, but I don't think I mentioned that there is one thing great about Christmas pudding - it's usually served with brandy sauce.
Stuff on top = brandy sauce

I'm not actually a fan of brandy (unless you're talking about my childhood dog named Brandy - she was the best), but creamy brandy sauce is delicious. I have even been known to accept a bowl of icky Christmas pudding just to slurp the sauce that settles in the bottom of the bowl.

But, as good as it is, brandy sauce is not awesome thing #10... This is:
Yes, folks, this is brandy flavoured spray whipped cream (or aerosol cream as it usually called around here). Spray directly into mouth. Swallow. Repeat.   Ho ho ho yum!

ETA:  I am sorry to report that this stuff is GR-OSS!  Still an awesome idea, but gross. Do not try this at home. 

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Just another Thursday?

I've always liked Thursday.  It's almost Friday and it used to be "ladies night" at a few bars I frequented in my younger days which holds good memories of $1 vodkas and very bad dancing. 

However, tomorrow is Thursday and I know I'm going to hate this one.  As you are probably aware, tomorrow is also Thanksgiving in America - a Thursday like no other - where Americans gather with their families, eat too much food, maybe watch football (if you're into that kind of thing) and remind themselves or eachother how thankful they are for even the littlest things... like your uncle throwing manners aside and tossing a roll in your general direction becuase its so much easier than passing the bread basket all the way down the table, your mother secretly counting how many glasses of wine you're drinking, or simply sitting across the table from your father.

I know the best thing to do would be to share the tradition of Thanksgiving with my British husband and friends (since I suppose they are my family here), and we are having a meal on Saturday with traditional Thanksgiving dishes, but trying to replicate only reminds me how impossible it is to replicate.

I hate you, Thanksgiving, for making me want to hug my real family and for reminding me that a Thanksgiving meal will happen just as it always has, only without me.

I hate you, Thanksgiving, for calling attention to the fact my father will have dinner by himself this day because I went off and left him.  The image of him eating yams alone is haunting me like your happy-turkey-togetherness could not possibly understand.

I hate you, Thanksgiving, for ruining Thanksgiving, and Thursday.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Awesome New Thing: # 9

For those of you who think it rains too much here in Blighty (and don't care if you look like an idiot) I have the best new invention for you.

Introducting the Umbrella Rain Coat:

Photo: DailyMail Online
It ensures your hair stays dry with a pop up, hands-free, rigid umbrella, but what your legs?   Yes, it protects them too!  Check it out:

Photo: DailyMail Online

Havent you always wanted a coat that keeps you warm, dry AND makes you look like you've come straight from Fukushima?   Unfortunately, the one shows in the photos is only a prototype and I somehow doubt they will ever make it to market, but I admit - I kinda want one.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Awesome New Thing: #8

I'm taking the easy way out on this one... Just read this article

The best combination of pure awesome and that famous British "quirkiness" ever.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Are we really that different?

My husband recently bought an iPhone 4S and I couldn't wait to play with Siri, the new virtual assistant who was supposed to issue reminders, verbally send text messages and much more.  We spoke of Siri before buying the phone and both of us called her a "her". "She will do this..."; "I'll ask her to remind me of that..."   

You can imagine our shock and horror (ok, maybe it was just borderline surprise) when Siri first spoke in a man's voice!  A male Siri!?  What on earth?   Soon after, I heard from a friend in America who was still calling his Siri a "she" and then it hit me - the US Siri is a woman and the UK (and apparently the French also) Siri is a man. 

What's this about?  Are we really that different that some marketing or development executive decided that British consumers want a male assistant and American ones want a female?   Surely this took more work to develop the two voices, so why bother?

I did a bit of research and found most studies on the topic of robot voices say that female voices are more pleasing and easier to understand. Some research puts this down to hearing the mothers voice in the womb.  Other theories related to the use of female voices in robots and computers hark back to World War II, when women's voices were used in airplane cockpits because they stood out among the male pilots. Also, since telephone operators have traditionally been female, many people have become accustomed to getting assistance from a woman's voice. 

This all makes sense to me, so why is the UK (and France) any different??

Apple refuses to comment on the UK male voice and the only theory I have come across was in the Guardian which claimed the reason for the difference is that 'British people mumble and obey authority, so they need someone authoritative'.  Huh?  I'm not buying into this, so my confusion remains...

Any thoughts from my loyal-ish readers?  (or am I the only one perplexed by this?)

Oh, and if you are in the UK and would perfer a female Siri, you can simply change the language to US English, but this will also change the accent of your new friend.  There is currently no option of getting a female British-accented Siri.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Awesome New Thing: #7

We've had a bit of a lull in the awesome category lately and I apologize for that.  I haven't found a single awesome new thing to share for three weeks now, but I've got a good one today.

Allow me to introduce the very awesome GlossyBox.

You know those Graze boxes that you can have delivered to your home or office that are full of "healthy" snacks?  I used to get those once a week, and loved them, but then the evil Middletons sucked me into the idea of the Dukan diet and Graze boxes are not very Dukan friendly.   I've been missing the special deliveries that made me clap when the postman came in, so was thrilled when I learned about GlossyBox.  The contents of these boxes are calorie and carbohydrate free because the box is filled with make-up!  Yay!

They aren't cheap at £10/month, but they come in a lovely box with a bow and tissue that is fun to open and makes all the other ladies in the office 'ohh' and 'ahh' when you open it. 

Here is my first box:

Dermalogica samples (and bag), full size nail polish, perfume samples and full size Stila eye liner. 
Oh and boys, they haven't forgotten about you - there is a GlossyBox for men too!

Friday 14 October 2011

Thank you Mrs Thatcher

Are you one of those wierdos who likes ice cream right out of the tub?... you know they ones who actually kind of chew ice cream?   If so, then you won't care about this, but if you are like me and much prefer soft serve ice cream (think McDonalds or Mr Whippy), did you know that you have former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to thank for that glorious form of ice cream?

According to a new book, The Book of Celebrity Inventions by Mark Champkins, Mrs (or is it Baroness?) Thatcher, who has a degree in chemistry from Oxford, is responsible for research done into whipping more air into ice cream to make lovely soft serve ice cream that can be distributed through a machine! 

McFlurry anyone??

Monday 3 October 2011

Oh the Places You'll Go: London Edition

Recently, I have had two Facebook "friends" I once knew in high school tell me they were planning on visiting London and asked me what they should do when in town.  I fought the urge to tell them how the rest of the country is where the "real England" is and shared a few bits of pseudo-insider knowledge to save them from Big Ben or Buckingham Palace being the highlight of their London vacation.

Are any of my loyal(ish) readers are planning your first trip to the big city?  Here's my take on a few things...

On the Beaten Track:   Skip the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace - its a strange performance for the sake of tourists only, not a genuine exercise.  Go ahead and do the Tower of London, take your photos of Big Ben and the Parliament Building, even take a ride on the London Eye if you're so inclined, but if you ask me the best thing on the beaten track is Tower Bridge.   I LOVE Tower Bridge.  Check here before you plan a visit and do your best to make sure you are there at a time when the bridge lifts.  Eat some ice cream (there is always a Mr Whippy van around there no matter the weather)  and watch the bridge do its thing.

Off the Beaten Track: You can pay your respects to Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher who argued in favour of worthy causes such as animal rights, separation of church and state, equal rights for women and decriminalization of homosexual acts.  What's so interesting about yet another dead historical figure, you ask? Well, Mr Bentham's remains won't be found in a grave yard or a cathedral even, but on public display at University College London.  Per his request, Bentham's body was dissected in a public lecture and his skeleton is now stuffed with hay, dressed in period clothing and displayed in a wooden cabinet. It even has been listed as "present, but not voting" at some University meetings.   The display is known as the Auto Icon and can be visited at the end of the South Cloisters of the main building of UCL Monday-Friday from 7:30am - 6:00pm

Shopping: Go to Harrods, but skip all the shopping and head for the food hall - it's heaven (and the only reason to bother with Harrods).  Do yourself a favour and also skip Oxford Street (unless you're going at Christmas time and are a big fan of Christmas lights)  I'd suggest you spend your shopping time and money at Spitalfields Market instead.  You will find the best gifts for family and friends and if you're haggling skills are better than mine (which doesn't take much), you can find some mega-bargains too.   Oh and grab a bite to eat at Leon's while you're there - you will thank me, I promise!

Drinking:  If you want to get dressed up and "be seen", Kensington Roof Garden is the place for you.  If you are a bit more casual like me, head to Shoreditch and enjoy a sure-to-be-fantastic night at the Book Club (no reading required... as if I'd go if there was!).  The Book Club has something for everyone's drinking tastes, but don't leave without trying one of the signature cocktails.  Yum yum!

Staying:  Here's where I can't help much since I am lucky enough to just go home at the end of the day, but the folks at would be happy to help you find a hotel in London.  And no, you can't come stay with me!

Friday 23 September 2011

British Stuffs Review: The British Alternatives Edition

As we have discussed a few times before, one of the first things any expat is faced with when they move to England (or anywhere else for that matter) is finding food products they are used to in the native country.  Instead of whining about it and searching high and low for the familiar products, I try to spend my energy finding easily available alternatives and have had varying degrees of success...

Miracle Whip
I don't know about you, but in my world, mayonnaise doesn't hold a candle to Miracle Whip, but in the British world, Miracle Whip doesn't exist.  So what's a tuna salad eater to do?   Try Salad Cream. Don't be alarmed by the colour -  it won't be lovely and white like Miracle Whip, nor is it quite a thick, but the taste is very similar.

Does it measure up?  In tuna salad, pasta salad, regular salad - yes.  On sandwiches - not so much.

{Insert the name of your favourite Mexican restaurant here}
I have blogged before about the expat's mission to find quality Mexican food in the UK, and then about how curry can actually cure your cravings for Mexican, but if you are still feeling deprived of your favourite Mexican restaurant, may I suggest Chiquito.  Yes, its a chain and yes it used to be really bland, but they have recently revamped their menu and either A) I have lived here too long and my taste buds aren't as refined as they once were or B) its actually good!

Does it measure up?  If you aren't "fresh off the boat" with the taste of Mexican spices still lingering on your tongue, then yes, it's a totally acceptable alternative and completely delicious!  May I recommend the sharing nachos?  (sharing optional and not recommended)

The "other" stuff
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
Once upon a time (like back in 2009) you used to be able to buy blue box Kraft Mac and Cheese in Asda.  I don't know what happened, but at least in my area, it is no longer available.  However, you can sometimes find an alternative creatively named Cheesy Pasta. When I first spotted it, I figured it looks florescent orange, its also made by Kraft, it must be the same product, but to my tastebuds, it's not exactly.

Does it measure up?  Maybe it's just the colour of the box or maybe the recipe actually is different, but for me, its just not the same.  I still buy the real thing at the American food store near me.

Cool Whip
I am hoping someone will tell me that I am not the only person who can happily eat the majority of a tub of Cool Whip straight from the tub with a spoon (or finger in times of desperation)... After all, who said its only a topping?  It's a dessert on its own! ... and you can't buy it here.  Even in the various American food stores - its simply not available, which I am sure you will agree is a damn shame.   In my quest to find something else to top brownies and fill my lonely dessert spoon (aka the biggest spoon in the drawer), I was encouraged to try Dream Topping.  On the packet, it looks like it may be a suitable alternative, but to be honest, I never even got around to using it on any food because I couldn't get it to thicken and become fluffy like my old friend Cool Whip.  Maybe you're a better whipper than me and would  have better luck.

Does it measure up?  Hell no.  Stick with the spray whipped cream here.

Read more of my British Stuff Reviews here.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Would you put that in your pasty?

You may remember when I did my best to explain the pasty and mentioned a pasty can be filled with pretty much anything, but I had to do a double take when I saw this poster yesterday:

That's right - a breakfast pasty filled with beans and sausage.  Does this make anyone else but me want to barf?

Tell me - what would fill your dream pasty?

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Awesome New Thing: # 6

I suppose I should apologize - this week's thing isn't really "something new" per se, but it is totally awesome.  Forgive me?  Thanks.

Before I moved here, my husband always told me that British people have an unbeatable sense of humour... then he made me watch a Carry On film and I never beleived anything he told me ever again.

But then I heard about this recent occurance:  a man bought a sandwich at Marks and Spencer (think Target, but only about 60% as great and seemingly targeted at people at least 10 years older).    He was overcharged for the sandwich and wrote a letter to M&S customer service to request a refund.  He was told they would be sending him a gift card, but it never arrived.  Not one to give up, he wrote again this time requesting a "hand-drawn picture of a smiley dinosaur".  He expected his request to be ignored, but soon after, he recieved a £5 gift card in the post along with this -

How awesome is that?

Thursday 8 September 2011

Awesome New Thing of the Week: Week 5

I have been doing a lot of traveling this summer (more on that to come later) and have come across a fantastic new website for searching for hotels (and flights, too, but the hotel part is the awesome part) called

I know what you are thinking - "not another search site; they are all the same...", but wait, this one is different. I promise. (and no, I'm not being paid to write any of this)

If you are anything like me, you probably search on Kayak or Trivago or something for hotels you can afford, then you go to Trip Advisor and see if they are any good, right?   You look on Trip Advisor for key words like "clean", "helpful staff", "comfortable beds" and always "good location"... but then if you are even more like me, you start to wonder about the location part....  Did Alice from Geneva think the location was good because it was close to museums and art galleries when my "good location" would be close to restaruants and bars and other places where I could have a delicious drink at 11am because I'm on holiday?  

Here's where comes in - their map solves the age old problem of location, location, location by displaying a heatmap over the city map to show where certain types of things may be congregated.  Wow that's a shocking bad explaination - just look at the image below:

See the heat map hot spots?  I've asked it to show me where the bars and nightlife are in Oslo and now I can pick a hotel near one of the hot spots.  You can also ask it to show you where restaurants, shopping, general tourism sites (like landmarks and major attractions) and casinos are congregated and it will generate a different heat map for each category.  Awesome, eh?? 

I'm off to Oslo tomorrow - let's hope Hipmunk has advised me well!

Monday 5 September 2011

Fun with Conkers

I remember the day back in September 2009... I had just started my new job and was walking around the corner to the shop with my head down probably wondering that the hell I was doing here and if I'd ever remember to ask people for their surname rather than their last name when I noticed loads of spikey rounded "things" on the ground.  I wondered first if they were shells protecting a living thing like a tiny spikey shelled turtle, but when I gingerly picked one up, it was empty inside and I was perplexed. 
My spikey find
Image: mine
I took my spikey "thing" home to my husband and he infomed me it was the outside of a conker (a horse chestnut). They grow on trees and squirrels (and maybe birds?) eat the conker (its a seed really) inside and leave the spikey bits on the ground which is why I kept finding them empty...until today!

I have finally found a lovely whole conker in it's spikey shell!   Why is this exciting, you ask?  Because now I can play conkers!  Hooray! 

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention -  a conker is the seed inside a spikey shell that squirrels eat, but is also a game that children play with the seed part. To play conkers, you need a large whole conker (just the inside) which you will drill or skewer through. Then put a string through the hole and tie at the end creating a conker on a string.  Your opponent will have the same thing and one of you will hold your string at the top letting the conker dangle down while the other swings his and tries to smash yours to bits.   (just a side note, before this was properly explained to me, I thought kids played with conker still inside the spikey shell which I still think sounds a lot more exciting than the real version of the game!)

Conker swing in action
Image: Ashton Conker Club
Once you have defeated another conker, yours is upgraded to a one-er (one victory), and then the next win makes it a two-er and so on.  Also, if you beat another "ranked" conker, you take on their victories too - you keep your victories (two), take their victories (five) and then get a point for beating them (one) making you an eight-er.   Note: the conker adds up the victories, not the person!

Since my new conker hasn't beaten anyone, he's called a none-er.* Boo-hoo.  And here he is as found:

Conker hiding in his shell
Image: mine

Looks like a winner to me!  I peeled back the shell (its not really a shell since its quite soft, but I dont know what other word to use) to reveal this...

WTF mutated tiny twin testicular conkers?!  Those won't beat the kids on the playground!

Guess I'll keep looking.... My first game will have to wait.  I'll keep you posted.

*Regional verbage may vary

Thursday 1 September 2011

Awesome New Thing of the Week: Week 4

One thing most expats get very used to is traveling.  Back and forth, back and forth...

I have to say as much as I like going places, I hate the actual act of traveling - the actual process of getting to place A or B really irks me.  I hate it more and more each time and one of the biggest reasons is becuase people don't know how to properly board a plane.   They stop in the aisle for what seems like an hour figuring out where to put their carry-on luggage, opening the overhead storage compartments that have already been closed becuase they are full, struggling to lift their oversized/overweight bag completely oblivious to the fact that a line of about 20 people has formed behind them (even when I huff, puff and tut loudly in their direction).  Then, and only then do they notice that someone is sat in the middle seat when they need to get past them to the window, so they hold up the whole process even further while they stand in the aisle waiting for the person to move before they even begin to settle themselves in their assigned seat. 

Note to fellow travellers:  Get the hell out of the way!  Look if your path to your seat is clear immediately upon coming to your row, ask the person to move as you are messing with your bag(s), only pack a bag you can handle with ease, throw it up as quick as you can even if it isnt the compartment directly above you and sit your butt down.


Enter John Steffen, an American astrophysicist who has worked out a method to board a plane twice as fast as the currrent method.   He says people should enter the plane from the back, each taking a seat on every other row on one side of the plane first starting with the windows until every other window seat is full. Then do the same on the other side, then switch back to the first side to fill the remaining window seats and then back to the other side.  Once all window seats are filled, do the same for the middle seats and finally he aisles.  Three and a half minutes - done and dusted! 

See the Steffen method boarding process in action:

Sure you cant sit with your travel companions and people would no doubt mess it up and make an even bigger disaster out of this than the regular block method, but the fact that Mr. Steffen even did the research in the first place is this week's Awesome New Thing of the Week!

Thursday 25 August 2011

Not just any weekend... Bank Holiday weekend!

For those of you outside the UK, a Bank Holiday is similar to a Federal Holiday in America - you know the kinds where all the post offices, banks and government buildings are closed.  In America, we always pretended there was a reason for a Federal holiday and gave them a name like Labor Day or Memorial Day. In the UK, they've just assigned them randomly because as L'oreal says "we're worth it".

We've got a Bank Holiday on Monday* which means ... its Bank Holiday weeeekeeeennnnddd!!   Many people will stock up on BBQ supplies and pray for sun, others will brave the traffic and go down to the coast and pray for sun, loads of people will go to the Notting Hill Carnival* and hope its riot-free, but if none of those activities inspire you, may I suggest a few unusual events?

England's Medieval Festival
Held at Herstmonceux Castle (which is cool because it has a moat), I imagine it's like a Renaisance Festival you may have attended in America minus all the very bad fake British accents.  Oh, and there's also England's largest medieval battle, The Siege of the Castle, with over 1000 reinactment participants. Cool or nerdy?  You decide.

Portsmouth Kite Festival 
I love Portsmouth and Southsea, but sadly, have never made it to the Kite FestivalThis year is the 20th anniversary and according to organisers 'Flyers from as far as Singapore, India, New Zealand and America will be coming together to put on this annual spectacular. On Monday, 29 August (bank holiday) there is free-flying and a free dog show.  The festival, which is held on Southsea Common, has been recognised as one of the biggest of its kind in the world, and is even playing host to a UK record attempt this year.'

World Bog Snorkelling Championships
Who knew there even was such a thing!?  The World Bog Snorkelling Championships are being held in what claims to be the UK's smallest Town, Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales (that reminds me of when we talked about the smallest, longest, etc villages...Read this post if you missed it) and promises to be bigger and better than ever. Apparently, competitors wearing goggles, snorkel and flippers have to snorkel two lengths of a 60 yard trench in a peat bog. The rules state that 'conventional swimming strokes (e.g. breast stroke, crawl) are not allowed, so flipper power is the key.'  It would appear that fancy dress is encouraged, which basically ensures that this will be an awesome, albiet very strange, Bank Holiday event! 

Did you know:
  • Under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 (the current act that regulates bank holidays), bank holidays are proclaimed each year by royal proclamation. Royal proclamation is swap the day a holiday is observed in the case that the actual day falls on a weekend.  Thanks, Liz, for taking our bank holidays seriously!  
  • The Department of Culture Media and Sport seem to be interested in adding a bit of patriotism to the bank holiday schedule as they have suggested moving the May Day bank holiday to a date in October, and calling it "UK Day" or to "Trafalgar Day" (21st October) or move the holiday to St David's Day (for Wales)  and St George's Day (for England) 
  • We will get an extra bank holiday in 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee! The 2012 late May bank holiday will be moved to Monday 4 June 2012 and an additional Jubilee bank holiday will be on Tuesday 5 June 2012 giving us a four day weekend. Yippee!

*Pedantic note: There are different bank and public holidays in different parts of the UK - this Monday is not a holiday in Scotland. 
*the one year we went to the Carnival, I had to look at photos on my camera to remember what happened and how I ended up where I awoke in the morning... and still didnt remember... so you will not find me at the Carnival again any time soon.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Awesome New Thing of the Week: Week 3

I would be willing to bet that I have cried on an airplane more times than most people (being apart from the husband back in the day), but as I understand it, crying on a plane is actually something most people try to avoid doing... it makes your plane-mates uncomfortable, it makes you look generally loony and it probably makes the flight attendants argue over who has to serve you.

This week's awesome new thing can't help us not miss the loved ones we expats always seem to be leaving behind, but if you are the cry-at-movies type, it can help you decide on tear-free in-flight entertainment options.

Since they have realised that people are often in heightened emotional states when flying (either due to fear of flying, excitement of the pending vacation, or boyfriend/mom/dad/best friend seperation anxiety) Virgin Atlantic has introduced a new service that warns passengers if the movie they have selected is a tear-jerker with this screen appearing before the movie begins:

Photo: Virgin Atlantic

How nice.

I would now like to issue an official Beyond the Queen and Driving on the Left Challenge (shall we call those BQDLC?) to anyone who travels on Virgin Atlantic to ask the cabin crew for a cuddle after watching a sad movie.  Your reward will be the cheapest piece of tat I can find and my respect for all of eternity.

Monday 22 August 2011

Can I Eat This?

The time of year has come again when I start to see middle aged and older people scavenging through bushes on the side of busy roads, inside roundabouts, on country lanes... pretty much everywhere (at least in this part of England). This used to really confuse me until I realised they were picking berries!  Duh.  (but it still looks a bit strange)

As I was walking my dog, I came across a few different varieties of berries and thought I would try a bit of berry picking myself. I ripped off a few small pieces of three different bushes and was feeling very Laura Ingalls wishing I had a basket, but then was struck sudden fear... Are berries like mushrooms? Could these be poisonous berries?! 

Here's what I found... anyone know if they are of the deadly variety?

Thursday 18 August 2011

Assimilation Failures (The two-year anniversary post)

I have officially be in the UK for two years as of last weekend.  As stupid as it sounds (and I know how stupid it sounds), I actually have a hard time remembering what it was like to not live here.  I try to think "what would I be doing at this time of day when I lived back in Colorado?" and I can't do it.  I suppose its easy for your mind to not use up valuable memory space on things you took for granted. 

I think I've done very well with my "assimilation process" as my father-in-law always calls it (right before he reminds me that I will never truly be assimilated... gee thanks, FIL.) I've learned to drive, I've held down a job with very few embarrassing culture clash mistakes*, I've (mostly) stopped saying things like "I hate this country"* when I have to actually walk up to a bank instead of drive through it and I've realised that shops closing at 4:00pm on a Sunday is not really the end of the world.

But... there are a few failures in  my assimilation process that I am prepared to share with you now:

1. I still call the hair that hangs over your forehead bangs.  I never remember to say fringe even when the hair stylist is holding up this part of my hair and asking me what to do with my fringe, I still say I'd like long-ish bangs.  I also can't naturally call a wallet a purse or a purse a handbag, and the pants/trousers thing still causes me grief.  Oh, and the place one parks there car is always a parking lot to me - my mouth just can't seem to say car park.

2. Speaking of parking, I can't park to save my life.  I used to be able to swing in to a space with no fear of smashing into the car on either side, but now I do it like an old lady and probably piss off everyone behind me (especially when I have to reverse and do it again... oh the shame).  I blame it on the smaller parking spaces, but are they are actually smaller, or am I just a really crap right-hand-drive parker?  Don't even mention parallel parking... I coudn't even do that in America.

3. I have not developed the appreciation for clothes dried in the sunshine.  Even when it is sunny and "perfect" conditions to hang laundry out on the line, I use the dryer.  Dryer sheet softness beats clothes with peg marks and potential spider hazards any day!  And using those drying rack things is enough to make me want to slit my wrists.  Take my advice: buy a tumble dryer - even if it has to live in your garage - buy one - it will change your expat life.

4. I still have to think for a moment when I order a sandwich and am asked "with salad?"  I used to say no (clearly, I wanted a sandwich, not a salad) until I realised they meant "do you want lettuce (and sometimes other salad-y type items) inside the sandwich".  Yes please I do, but forgive me for taking longer than necessary to answer your simple question.

5. I totally suck at Celsius temperatures.  Yes, when I stop to think about it, I know that 0C is 32F, 10C is 50F and anything over 30 is what I consider too hot, but somehow all temperatures in the middle mean nothing to me.  Case in point: it's raining and quite chilly today - the postman came in my office and said "my car reading said it was 11 degrees", and when I didn't respond with the surprise he expected, he said "only 11 degrees!" and only then did I know I was supposed to complain with him about how cold it apparently is.
(Thank you, Steve Jobs, for at least allowing me to display degrees in Fahrenheit on my iPhone - its the only way I know how to dress myself in the morning!)

*minus that time in my second week that I asked if extra postage was required for a letter to be sent to Wales. Doh!

* I must admit, I did "hate this country" just yesterday when I was made to feel like an first-class idiot when I made a joke about cooties and no one knew what cooties were and then didn't understand at all when I tried to explain them.  C'mon - they're cooties - who has ever had to explain cooties before!?

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Awesome New Thing of The Week: Week 2 - Running Couriers

I've always said I would never drive in London.  It's a snarreled mess of cars, trucks too large for the streets, pedestrians reading books while they walk, tourists who don't know which way to look for traffic and the worst of all: cyclists and motorcyclists darting in an out of traffic. No thanks, streets of London.

Today's post is not a boasting annoucement that I have mastered driving on these fearsome streets, but to give props to Addison Lee who has come up with a genius idea of using runners as couriers.  Yes, the baguette machine from last week is still a better idea, but what a fab way to get a few of the often used bicycle and motorcycle couriers out of the way.

Clearly this blog is not important enough for Addison Lee to have paid for my endorsement of awesome-ness, but the next time you need something couriered around London, do your bit for those of us who are annoyed by cyclists and motorcyclists and book a runner!

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Awesome New Thing: # 1 - Baguette Vending Machine

Smoothly skipping over all the riot talk dominating the news recently (seriously could I be more bored of riots??), I thought I'd take a moment to introduce you to my new hero: Jean-Louis Hecht.  As you can tell by his name, he's French, but we'll forgive him for that.*

Never heard of him?   Well, he's inveted this

The world's first baguette vending machine!   It dispenses fresh, warm baguettes 24 hours a day for only one euro.  There are only two so far, and they are both in France, but how awesome is this?   I bet those Dragon's Den panelists are crying in their tea that they weren't asked to invest in this one.   Channel hop anyone?

*Calmer. Son seul une blague.

Friday 29 July 2011

Up Next: The Americanized High Street?

I am growing more and more disturbed by something - no, its not the apparent final breakup of Cheryl and Ashley Cole, its not that Colleen Nolan is leaving Loose Women, its not even how Amy Winehouse's father is handing out her clothing to fans in front of her house - what has me disturbed is the influx of American stores and products to the UK market.

The first major introduction (or re-intoduction actually) was in June 2010 when Taco Bell opened at Lakeside. Americans all across the UK rejoiced and begged Taco Bell UK to come to their town, and I will admit "back then", I was rather happy about this and pledged to go ASAP (although I never actually went until last weekend and strangely enough, honestly, it wasnt very good). Then you started seeing Mountain Dew (albeit some icky energy drink version) in every store, then I discovered (with absolute delight and now incredible guilt at my delight) that Bucca Di Beppo has a few restaurants in the UK, then Forever 21 opened on Oxford Street and news broke today that William-Sonoma will be coming to London in early 2012 ... and now disturbia has set in...Where does it end??

What's wrong with what is already here? I don't want my High Street looking like an American shopping mall. I don't like the idea that something is "better" because it's American. I like embracing the British alternatives for things I used to enjoy and discovering new things to crave. I like going back to America and re-enjoying things I used to love with new vigor and appreciation. I've already lived in America; now I live here and I don't want it to try to be the same place.

Am I the only American expat who doesnt embrace the Americanization of her new country? Am I the only one who now wants to go buy cheap clothes at Primark, eat at Zizzis and buy some overpriced kitchen items at Harrods in protest of the new American options?

I'm afraid I probably am...

Wednesday 20 July 2011

The post in which I applaud the UKBA

Not that you would have noticed since the media is wall to wall coverage with "Hackgate" ( I am so over it personally), but there have been two rather interesting news pieces regarding immigration in the last week.

It started with the UKBA's consultation on family migration which laid out suggestions (only suggestions at this point) for some changes to the family migration path (spouse visas, family visitor visas, dependent children, elderly depenedent visas, etc).  The document is wordy, but you really should read it.  The following suggestions stood out the most to me:

1. The creation of something that resembles a UK Bill of Rights which will superceed ECHR article 8.  The consultation reads: This government believes in human rights. Everyone has a right under ECHR Article 8 to respect for their private and family life, but it is not an absolute right. It is legitimate to interfere with the exercise of that right where it is in the public interest to do so, and in particular where it is necessary for public protection or for the economic well-being of the UK, which includes maintaining our immigration controls.

2. The consulation also appears to suggest that the maintance requirements will be increased and that the sponsor in the UK shall not be reliant on public funds.  Family migrants must have access to enough money to support themselves, without their British citizen or UK-resident spouse or partner seeking, or needing, help from the taxpayer. We do not want to see migrant families struggling to get by, living in overcrowded housing or dependent on welfare. If as a British citizen or a person settled here, you cannot support your foreign spouse or partner in a reasonable way of life in the UK, you cannot expect the taxpayer to do so for you. This consultation paper sets out how we propose to change the maintenance and other requirements for those sponsoring a spouse or partner to ensure that this is so.

It goes on to quote the maintenance requirements for other countries including Denmark which says that all sponsors be able to maintain spouse and the sponsor cannot have claimed benefits in the three years prior to a marriage application.  But the Danes don't stop there - the sponsor must also post a bond of around £12,000(!) against any future claim on public funds. 

3. There is also a suggestion to extend the probationary period before spouses and partners can apply for settlement (ILR) to five years.  I have to say that eventhough I am just about two weeks away from being able to apply for my ILR, I totally agree with this suggestion.  In the instance of a sham marriage or "marriage of convenience", two years is not long enough to test the genuiness of the relationship.  Nor, in my opinion, is two years long enough to have "earned" access to all state benefits (especially if the migrant has never worked in the UK).  The consulation futher explains:  Access to the labour market, to the NHS (including maternity services) and to schooling will be unaffected by this change. Family migrants in work will continue to have access to contributory benefits (for example contribution-based jobseeker‟s allowance, statutory maternity pay, maternity allowance and widow's benefit) once they have made at least 2 years National Insurance contributions, and the entitlement of the spouse or partner who is a British citizen or is settled here to child benefit and child tax credit will be unaffected.

4. In the instance of a spouse visa, the couple should be in a relationship for at least 12 months before applying and the applicant should have an "attachment" to the UK.   Where the couple cannot meet this criterion, for example because theirs is or will be an arranged marriage and they have not yet been together as a couple for that period, we could grant 12 months‟ initial temporary leave to enable them to meet this criterion, and ask them to apply for further leave after 12 months. This would enable a further assessment to be made at that point of whether theirs is a genuine and continuing relationship. The document again quotes the Danish system re: the "attachemnt critera":  In order to meet the attachment requirement, the applicant for a marriage visa must have visited Denmark at least twice and the sponsor must have resided legally in Denmark for 15 years. The attachment requirement is not applicable if either party has held Danish citizenship or resided legally in Denmark for at least 28 years.

I won't bother too much with my own opinion since it matters very little, but bravo, UKBA, bravo.

In other news:  An American woman apparently thought it was ok for her to come to the UK on a visitors visa, settle permanently and start a family and is now arguing that she should be allowed to stay without ever being granted a settlement visa.  Tragically, she lost her baby, which is very sad, but I am glad that the UKBA don't appear to be ready to allow her to use the baby's death as reason why she should be allowed to skip all the proper steps of immigration.  I think she should consider herself lucky that all they are asking is that she return to the US to do things the proper way.

There.. now don't you feel very well informed? :)

Tuesday 12 July 2011

So You Want to Expatriate...?

...but can't decide where to go?   I'd cross Luanda in Angola off my list if I were you as its just been named the city with the highest cost of living for expats. 

As far as I can gather, this survey is done mostly for global companies who may be moving staff to various places around the world. Cities are ranked by the "strength or weakness of the relevant currency against the US dollar over the prior 12 months" and "price movements over the prior 12 months compared to those in New York City". 

The top five most expensive cities are Luanda, Tokyo, N'Djamena (Chad), Moscow and Geneva.  (I'll give out major brownie points to anyone smarter than me who can figure out why it would be so expensive to live in Angola or Chad)

If you're sure you want to end up in the UK, it will come as no surprise that a move to Scotland or Northern Ireland would be much more affordable than living in London. (duh).   The UK cities on the list included London (18), Aberdeen (144), Glasgow (148) Birmingham (150) and Belfast (178).

Wondering what the least expensive place to live is?   At number 214, Karachi in Pakistan is at the bottom of the list. 

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Summer Solstice (and something much better)

Today is the Summer Solstice - the longest day of the year, the day the Earth's and the moon's axial tilt is most inclined towards the sun, and the day a select group of people (druids/pagans/whatever they wish to be called) gather to watch the sunrise at Stonehenge.  

Here's some photos of this year's celebration, but truthfully, I really couldn't care less about the Solstice or Stonehenge, I just needed an excuse to tell you about this place that is much much cooler...

Photo: Wikipedia

Behold Carhenge! A Stonehenge "replica" in Alliance, Nebraska built using 38 vintage American cars  painted grey and errected in exactly the same positions as Stonehenge's stones.  Oh and unlike Stonehenge, its absolutely free to visit.

Totally Awesome.

Saturday 18 June 2011

The Next Big Thing

In honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 (a celebration of 60 years on the throne), a current town in the UK will be crowned a city. This may sound a bit odd to those of who not familiar with the idea of city status in the UK, but to the cities who have applied this is a big deal.

As you may know, historically, a place in the UK could only call itself a city if it had a cathedral, but now there are a variety of factors (including, but not limited to population) that determine whether a town can be called a city and city status isn't handed out willy nilly.  There are actually only 66 cities in all of the UK (A full list can be found here).  The newest additions to the City Club are Brighton and Hove, Inverness and Wolverhampton which were given the status in 2000 to mark the new millennium, and Preston, Stirling and Newport which were awarded city status in 2002 for the Queen's Golden Jubilee  In total, only 14 new cities were created during the 20th century.

Twenty-six towns are in the running for the Diamond Jubilee City Upgrade (it's not really called that, but seriously, what else do you call it?) including Chelmsford, Milton Keynes, Coleraine, Perth, Doncaster, Croydon, Bournemouth and Reading.

My money is on Reading - literally.  They are the odds-on favourite according to Paddy Power at 11/2, followed by Doncaster and then Bournemouth.   Wait... Whats that?  You didn't know you could place bets on this kind of thing?  You're telling me you've never been in one of the millions of betting shops you see in every town and probably pass by multiple times a day?   Well, listen up -  I'm not normally one to advocate potentially addictive activities such as gambling, but you really haven't lived until you've placed a bet on the colour of the Queen's hat at her next public appearance or the nationality of the next Pope.   

But back to this city thing - what will the winner get?  Well... nothing really, except I suppose they could do a "nanny nanny boo boo" dance in front of the lowly towns, and probably more importantly, I think they can then have a city council which gives them a bit more power which apparently can even usurp the power of the county council (surely another reason to do a "nanny nanny boo boo dance"!).

Go Reading!

Friday 17 June 2011

Mythbusting: Royal Ascot is Posh

I went to Royal Ascot last year and I think if I'm honest, I expected something very high brow, very proper and very British. What I experienced was indeed very British, but to say it was proper or posh would be a lie.  I'm sorry to any of you who think otherwise, but unless you are in the Royal Enclosure, the truth is that Royal Ascot (even in the Grandstand) is a glorified piss up.  It's usually good fun and the best reason to buy a new dress and head piece of your choice, but posh it is not.

I didn't go this year, which is probably for the best because a) it rained heavily the morning of Ladies Day and that would have totally ruined my hair and b) THIS happened:

Royal Ascot Brawl
Photo: Daily Mail
I'll leave it to the Daily Mail to fill you in on all the details, but basically some drunken hooligans got in a huge fight, at least one person was arrested for Class B drug possession and the organizers of the event have introduced a "drug honesty box", asking racegoers to deposit their drugs in said box before entering the gates.  Yes, seriously.

Sure, there's a dress code, so most people are dressed in their best (a highly subjective term), and the Queen is usually there, but contrary to popular belief, it is not an event reserved for the poshest of the posh. 

I think an older gentleman I met at last year's Ladies Day summed it up best when he glanced at the woman next to us with her orange skin and poorly fitting dress, shoving a sausage in her mouth and said "its true what they say - you can't polish a turd". 

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Scampi vs. scampi

I am sure there is some psychological term for this, but ever since I heard the news that there is a looming scampi shortage, all I want is scampi; and lots of it.  

As I was munching on some last night, I remembered the first time I ordered scampi in England and thought I might be kind enough to save any other American newcomers the potential confusion. 

When most Americans think of scampi, they probably envision a heavenly dish of shrimp/prawn in a cholesterol busting garlic butter sauce maybe with some white wine and possibly served over some pasta or with a hunk of bread to soak up all the buttery goodness.   This is what I wanted when I ordered scampi in a pub (ok, it was a Harvester restaurant if I'm honest, and probably an early bird special if I'm really honest):  
American Scampi; Photo: Jon Sullivan

Talk about a school girl error!   This is what I ended up with:  

British Scampi; Photo: FishFanatics
British scampi are equally delicious, breaded, fried, fishy bits... maybe sort of comparable to large popcorn shrimp, but they arent shrimp at all.  British scampi is supposed to be meat from the tail of the Norway Lobster (sometimes called a langoustine) and if you see it sold as "whole tail scampi", this should be what you get, but otherwise it could be any form of breaded and fried fish/shellfish chunks.  Tip: Stick to the whole tail stuff if you can. They are usually served with chips (french fries) and peas if you are unlucky enough to not get a substitute (I hate peas!). Dip them in tartar sauce and they are tasty tasty! 

Do you think I can clear out enough space in my freezer to stock up on scampi to get me through the pending shortage!?

Thursday 9 June 2011

Introducing: Prince Philip

So, he's not exactly an obscure pseudo celebrity as the other people featured in my Introducing series, but on this day before his 90th birthday, what do you actually know about Prince Phillip? 

Photo: Daily Mail
Vitals: Official title - Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.  He was born 10 June 1921 in Greece as Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, but does not consider himself Greek (he says he's Danish) probably because his family was exiled from Greece following the Greco-Turkish war.  Philip spent his early years in France and attended an American school in Paris before being sent to England at the age of seven.   

Relationships With Other "Celebrities": You may know his wife, The Queen of England.  They've been married for 64(!) years and have four children... You may know them too - Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.   In order to marry Liz, Philip denounced his Greek and Danish titles, converted to Anglicanism and naturalised as a British citizen. He also adopted the surname Mountbatten from his maternal grandparents.  (learn more about royal surnames here)

Best Scandal: He has a bit of a loose tongue, to put it mildly.  I'll let the Daily Mail recap some of his best gaffes.  Don't skip this bit!  Trust me.

That's a Bit Strange: Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are actually third cousins through Queen Victoria.

Coming to America?  Somehow I doubt it.

Happy Birthday Old Chap!

Monday 6 June 2011

The ____-est villages

We spent a bit of time in the Cotswolds recently and came across a village with a strange claim to fame....
Photo: Jon Le-Bon
In true LadyLiberty fashion, I failed to take a photo of this sign, so am left with a watermarked one that clearly belongs to someone else, but as you can see, Brinkworth in Wiltshire is the longest village in England!* Who knew? We took a drive through to see what all the fuss was about and left disappointed - it certainly didn't seem any longer than any other village I've ever been (its supposed to be six miles long), but I'll take their word for it.  

Perhaps more interestingly, this got me thinking - what other ____-est villages are out there? 

Longest Name
The village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in Wales has the longest name of any place in Europe.  Wikipedia can give you a pronunciation and a lot more info if you are interested.

Largest Village
Since there is no official definition of what is a village vs what is a town, there is stiff competition for the title of largest village in England.  It would appear that the two front runners are Kidlington (pop. 15,000) in Oxfordshire and  Ecclesfield (pop 31,000) in South Yorkshire.  Both have never taken on a town charter and are still run by a parish council rather than a town council so technically they can still be called villages, BUT Ecclesfield is actually a suburb of Sheffield, so I am going to disqualify it and give the title of Largest Village in England to Kidlington.  Congratulations Kidlington-ites!

Smallest Village
St John The Baptist Chuch, Ault Hucknall
Photo: Geograph
Again, we've got a bit of competition here and more semantic game play since just as there is no definition of when a village is a town, there is also no definition of when a hamlet becomes a village.   I'm somewhat reluctantly giving the title to Ault Hucknall in Derbyshire which apparently has only four dwellings and a church.  Depending on who you ask, it is because the village has a church that is can be considered a village, although to be totally happy with this distinction, I'd ideally prefer it to have a pub before calling it a village. 

Wettest Village
According to the Met Office, the village of Glenfinnan in the Scottish Higlands is the wettest village in the UK (and the third wettest place).  This village located on the edge of Loch Shiel recieves an average annual rainfall of 118.98 inches.  Oh and if you like that show Highlander, you may be interested to know that Connor and Duncan MacLeod (whoever they are) were both supposedly born in Glenfinnian.

Friendliest Village
In 2008, some researchers from Sheffield University named the village of Bramhall, near Manchester, the friendliest spot in the UK.  According to their report, they "found very little evidence of community division or people feeling isolated".  Conversely, the report named Edinburgh as the place with the weakest communities, followed closely by Headingley in Leeds, the Hyde Park area of London and the university area of Cardiff.

*There is some debate about this as a few other places claim to be the longest village in England

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Olympic Ticket Trials

If you don't live in the England (or maybe you've just been living under a rock somewhere) you may not know that today was the last day for people to find out if they have been allocated tickets for the 2012 Olympics.

Back in April, residents of the UK were given the opportunity to enter a ballot for tickets for all Olympic events.  We were asked to request all the tickets we'd like, but were not promised any at the time of the request.  Starting in May until midnight this morning,  ticket buyers' credit cards were charged for the tickets they were allocated, but were not told what tickets they'd just paid for. 

My card has been charged for a fraction of the amount of the (mystery) tickets I requested, which is wonderful because apparently 250,000 people who entered the ballot have not been allocated any tickets at all.  Those who have come up empty handed include London Mayor Boris Johnson and some even some family members of competing British athletes.

On the other hand, some people were a bit luckier...or unluckier (is that word?) depending on how you look at it.  Case in point - Steven Hunt - the gentleman who requested £36,000 worth of tickets back in April, expecting to be allocated a very small amount, but ended up with £11,000 worth of mystery tickets! Woopsie.  Let's hope he has a lot of patience for crowds and really enjoys listening to random national anthems.

Don't worry though if you didn't snag any Olympic tickets of your own, anyone who entered the ballot and was not successful will apparently be sent an email containing details of a second chance purchasing opportunity.  

422 days and counting...

Wednesday 25 May 2011

The Great Unknown

I know I act like a big know-it-all most of the time, but there are still a few things (and way more than are included in this post) that baffle me about my new-ish country.  Maybe you can help me figure it all out.

Painful Pumping
I've touched on this before, but why oh why do gas/petrol nozzles not have those little flippy bits that will keep the gas flowing for you without having to hold it the whole time?   Yeah, yeah, I'm sure its a health and safety issue (isn't everything?) and that my pro-flippy latch campaign isn't helped by the fact that it seems California has done away with them, but seriously, my hand hurts after filling the tank!  Is there no health and safety concern for my weak hand muscles?! 

The Placebo Effect
I recently had an appointment to change my birth control pill (sorry if that's a tad TMI) and innocently asked if the new pills would have the week of placebo pills included.  I was shocked when the told me all but two brands of birth control pills in the UK do not have this extra week.  What is this about!? Doesn't everyone know that not taking a pill (sugar or real pill) interrupts the all-important habit of taking the pill at the same time every day and greatly increases the risk of forgetting to take the pill again for the next three weeks?  I asked her why there were no placebos and she told me (I'm so not kidding!) "I guess we're more responsible here."   WTF!?

I wish I had known then that, according to recent reports, there are almost 400,000 unintended pregnancies in the UK every year with 40% ending in abortion.  I'm not saying that the inclusion of placebo pills in birth control pill packs would lower the rate any measurable amount, but I can't seem to understand any argument against them.

Will Work For Tea
Dear Mr. Workman - do you get paid when you come to my house to fix my boiler?  Oh you do??  Then why am I expected to also feed and water you whilst you are WORKING at my house?

Seriously, what is it with this?

 If you've not yet experienced an English workman, let this be a warning to you that you will be expected to be both his client and his wife.  I have no idea where this whole thing started and even less of an idea of why it still is the norm, but much to my displeasure, workmen are supposed to be given tea (and biscuts if you are really nice I guess) while they are working in your home*.  Now, correct me if I am wrong, but a workman drinking tea isn't a workman fixing my boiler, so why on earth would I want to pay someone to drink my tea and create more dishes for me to wash?  We even had a guy from the phone company at our office the other day and he called us out on the fact that we didnt offer him tea (because we were all very busy!) and when he mentioned it, all the ladies in the office jumped up and immediately apologized and frantically made tea. Apologizing for doing your work and leaving a man to do his work?  Really? 

If you really need to be drinking tea instead of working for the hour or two while you are at my house or office, first of all - you have a serious addiction and should probably know that tea stains teeth; and second of all - bring it yourself.

*Yes, I am sure there are some very polite people in America who do this as well, and if thats you, spare me the "I even do this and  I'm American" comments.  Clearly, you are just nicer than me, which lets face it - isnt very difficult.

Thursday 19 May 2011

When British Really is Best

You may not have noticed, but this week is British Tomato Week! (seriously why would you have noticed?)

Apologies to anyone in the British tomato industry, but I can't say I have really noticed the difference between British tomatoes and, well, any other tomato, to be honest. However, this Tomato Week has got me thinking about other British produce that is actually worthy of celebration:


I guess I've always looked positively on strawberries, but I could really take them or leave them... until... I tried a British Strawberry. Absolutely delicious! There are at least 12 varieties of British strawberries and I'm not sure what variety(s) I have eaten, but they are always sweet, perfect firmness and extra extra yummy.

Apparently, strawberries have been grown in Britain since 200BC and were eaten by couples on their wedding day as they were believed to be an aphrodisiac. Oh la la.

Sadly for British strawberry fans, they are usually only in season from June - August. Although this year, due to the very warm April and May, they have come up a bit early and are in stores NOW! I highly suggest you go buy some (be prepared to pay a bit extra for them - its worth it) and try one (or all) of the following enjoyment methods:

Strawberries and Cream
Photo: ITV
Strawberries and Cream - this traditionally British combination is a must-have at many summer time events (think Wimbledon, especially). Don't be surprised when the cream isn't like Cool Whip though - it will be unsweetened, but still quite good. Enjoy with a glass of Cava (don't tell anyone I like it better than Champagne) and if you're feeling extra fancy try this recipe for Brûléed Strawberries and Cream. omgyum.

Eton Mess - this dish, which has been served to the students of Eton College since the 1930s and is traditionally served at Eton's annual cricket game vs. Winchester college, is made up of strawberries, meringue and cream.

Eton Mess
Photo: Guardian
According to Wikipedia "the word mess may refer to the appeerance of the dish or may be used in the sense of "a quantity of food", particularly "a prepared dish of soft food" or "a mixture of ingredients cooked or eaten together". I'm in the mess = messy looking dish camp which is good because it means anyone can make Eton mess. There are no points for presentation on this one and you can't mess it up. Just put some crumbled up meringue in a dish/bowl/cup/your hands/whatever, add some sliced/chopped strawberries and pour cream over. Done. Eat. Yum.

Oh, and remember when we all decided that Surrey is the best? Here's another reason and another British best - The Chalk Ridge Rosé produced at Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking (Surrey) has beaten more than 360 challengers from 21 countries to claim the still rosé gold medal prize in the International Wine Challenge, the world's biggest and most influential wine competition.

Strawberries go nicely with rosé, dont they?