Thursday 31 March 2011

Roundabout Idol

Ever driven around a roundabout and thought "ohh this is a lovely roundabout"?  Or maybe you've driven around more times than necessary to bask it its beauty?  No?  Ok, me neither, until I decided to find a worthy nomination for "Roundabout Idol".  That's right - a vehicle leasing company has launched a contest to find Britain's best (and worst) roundabouts and is currently looking for nominations.

So far, someone has nominated BBC Island (the roundabout in Nottingham outside the BBC offices), saying its "looks gorgeous with its colourful flowers and trees. It never struggles to cope [with traffic] even on match days when its proximity to Nottingham's two football clubs and to Trent Bridge cricket ground means it's heaving with cars. The roundabout takes it all in its stride and doesn't miss a beat."

"Burger King Roundabout"
My nomination for Best Roundabout in the UK goes to the "Burger King roundabout" in Aldershot (the only visually pleasing thing in Aldershot maybe?) with its hanging baskets and ease of access into the only Burger King drive thru in the area. If only the Burger King was a Taco Bell it would win for sure!  

Heart Statue Roundabout
Photo: Ed O'Keeffe
But, while we're at it, why limit Roundabout Idol to the UK?  What about the best roundabout in the world?  Surely the "Heart Statue roundabout" in Almeria, Spain would win.  Palm trees, heart statue, coast line - that's even better than Burger King or Taco Bell... or anything in Aldershot for that matter.   

On a related note:  If you fancy finding the Heart Statue or other Spanish roundabouts (and why wouldnt you?), take a peek at Brit Car Hire which hires right hand drive cars to British tourists in Spain.  Just remember to go around the roundabouts the OTHER way! 

Monday 21 March 2011

Let's get royalized

With the news that Wootton Basset will become the first town in 100 years to be granted the "royal" title, making it known officially as Royal Wootton Basset, it got me thinking what other places have done to deserve their royal titles.

There are only two other towns in England (although there are more elsewhere in the UK) with the "royal" title - Royal Leamington Spa (1838) and Royal Tunbridge Wells (1909).  Both of these recieved their titles "in recognition of their history and royal patronage of their facilities", so basically they are old places that some royals liked the visit.  That's it?  Boor-ing!

So what about the Royal County of Berkshire?  Why does it get to be royal?  It was given the title simply because it is home to Windsor Castle.  But there is a bit (a tiny bit, yes I'm stretching here in a desperate effort to make this a semi-interesting post) of drama surrounding this Royal County: Apparently, the county has been using the "royal" since before the 19th Century, long before it was actually recognized by the Queen in 1958.  How dare you, Berkshire!

There are also a few royal boroughs in England, including what is now knowns as The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London (or RBKC to those in the know), which was granted the right to use the royal title by Queen Victoria who wanted to honour her birthplace.  The newest addtion to the Royal Borough Club will be Greenwich in 2012 in honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

And then there are all those random places with the suffix "Regis" after the town's orginal name.  What's this about?  Well, Regis is latin for King and this title is bestowed on towns frequented by royalty mainly as a holiday destination (how this is different from Royal Leamington Spa and Royal Tunbridge Wells is beyond me).  I know I shouldn't judge(its so insulting!), but I'm beginning to question the Royal's choice in holiday spots.  I've only ever been to Bognor Regis, and surely it was entirely different back when it was Regis-ized in 1929, but I really can't see why members of the royal family would have wanted to spend time there (royals don't go to Butlins, do they?)... surely Brighton Regis would have been a better choice?

On the off chance you're actually interested in this, here's a full list of towns/cities/counties/boroughs in the UK with royal patronage.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Tea v. Tea v. High Tea v. Afternoon Tea

Tea (the meal): Some people in England, mostly in the North of the country it seems, refer to their evening meal as 'tea' and tend to eat it earlier than those of us who eat dinner (or supper or whatever you want to call it). I don't get it and will probably say something insulting about it, so I'll stop there. 

Tea (the drink):  I've shared my feeling for this drink here and we all know I don't like it, don't drink it, and certainly dont put milk in it (ew!) so if anyone else wants to write a guest post about why the tea is great or what kind of tea is best, do let me know.  We'll revisit tea (the drink) then...

High Tea: Here's where the confusion begins... When most non-British people think of high tea, they probably imagine a gathering of fancy victorian people drinking out of their best china tea cups eating dainty sandwiches. Maybe you're picturing something like this...
Get that image out of your head!  High tea is actually mostly the same as tea (the meal) listed above - a substantial early evening meal sometimes followed by a later lighter meal.  The word high refers to the height of the table, distinguising it from low tea or afternoon tea (see below) which is often served in a sitting room at a lower table such as a coffee table.

Afternoon Tea:  Not exactly as pictured above, but similar. Afternoon Tea is generally held around 3- 4pm and includes the stereotypical finger sandwiches, scones and pastries served on those fancy tiered cake stands.  Rumour has it that back in the day, (mid 1800s) the Duchess of Bedford started having a tray of tea with bread and butter served to her in the afternoon to stave of hunger until the tradtional dinner time of 8 or 9pm.  The hungry Duchess then began to invite her other high-society friends to join her and soon  Afternoon Tea became the 'in-thing' for the upper-class women (and was served in a sitting room on a low table, like a coffee table, setting it apart from high tea. Get it now?)

In modern times, Afternoon Tea is generally served at hotels, restaurants or tea rooms rather than in someone home and is really not as pretentious as it sounds (or maybe I am just more pretentious than I think...).  You don't have to dress in victorian garb, you dont have a fake a plummy accent, you don't have to hold your tea cup with your pinkie out and you don't even need to drink tea (I drink coffee when I do afternoon tea). 

My advice? Skip the drink and the meals and get thee to Afternoon Tea.  Excellent places include The Ritz London, Pennyhill Park Hotel, and The Langham (the winner of Tea Guild's ‘Top London Afternoon Tea' award in 2010).

Monday 14 March 2011

Thank you for your comment...

I've just received the best comment of all time and thought it only appropriate that I shared it with you:

From "Anonymous" in response to my post re: Royal Warrants of Appointment: It is not the done thing to refer to Her Majesty the Queen as "Liz" and even the most common of commoners would not refer to her in this way. The majority of the British people are staunch supporters of the Queen. You seem to spend a great deal of blog time criticising the British way of life, this is insulting to the British readers who may happen upon your blog.

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for solving the mystery of who is marking every one of my posts offensive. I have been wondering about this for weeks!

Being non-British comes with certain benefits, including but not limited to, not being bound by the "done" way of doing things and not subscribing to the British idea of the class system, so I beg your forgiveness when I am not offended by you classifying me below the "most common of commoners".

If you have read more than this individual post in this blog (which do I need to remind you is MY blog?), you may have noticed that it is written in a very casual, often tongue in cheek manner, which would explain why I refer to Her Majesty The Queen as Liz (in MY blog, remember?) If you're honest with yourself, you can admit that she's probably been called worse.

As I can only assume that you have a lot of extra time on your hands, you may want to spend some of it informing the authors of this article, this article, and this one, and this one that they, like me, are bottom feeders and should show more respect.

If you find my writing offensive (and how can you? I haven't even touched on "Booze Britain" or the benefits culture yet!), I can only recommend that you step away from the computer and work on your stiff upper lip.

I claim it is actually you insulting the British people by thinking they would be remotely upset by the ramblings of a nobody blogger. If you are looking for a blog to blow hot air up your British skirt, may I suggest that this site may be more up your alley.

Thanks for reading and God Save the Queen.


A quick Monday giggle

Thank you Laura, for bringing these Royal Wedding Sick Bags to my attention!  A necessary addition to any street party.  I'm buying mine right now!
Available at

Friday 11 March 2011

By Appointment to Her Majesty, The Queen...

Anyone with a observant eye who has spent even a short amount of time in the UK has no doubt seen the royal Coat of Arms displayed on shops and products ranging from broomsticks to champagne and maybe you've felt a bit smug that you've chosen the same place to shop or the same thing to buy as the Queen herself.. or maybe you didnt even know that you've just done exactly that! 

Coat of Arms with text underneath
The Coat of Arms is displayed on letterhead, shop fronts and the packaging of products themselves when a Royal Warrant of Appointment has been issued to the supplier of the product or service. Basically, its a way bragging that the Queen (or Prince Philip or Prince Charles depending on the coat of arms displayed) likes your stuff and you supply goods to the royal family. The next time you spot one, take a closer look at it... you will see the fancy coat of arms, then underneath it will usually say "By Appointment to..." followed by the name of the royal issuing the appointment and what goods are provided.  For instance, at John Lewis, the it will read "By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen as suppliers of haberdashery and household goods"

Approximately 800 individuals and companies hold more than 1,100 warrants to the Royal Family. Suppliers must have had a trading relationship with an individual in the family for at least five years before they can be considered for a warrant. They are awarded for renewable terms of five years, though they can be revoked at any time; some warrants have been held for more than 100 years. 

I suppose its important to mention that just because the Queen issued a Warrant of Appointment for some gin, for example, doesnt mean she actually drinks it - goods can be purchased by the issuer (or the grantor as they are called)  for use by guests as well as personal use. 

So what can you buy to be like Liz?  Here's a few of the more interesting Warrants of Apppointment:  (a full list can be found here or you can search the directory here)

Bacardi-Martini Ltd - Suppliers of martini vermouth
Robinsons Soft Drinks - Manufacturers of fruit squashes and barley waters
Bulmers - Manufacturers of cider (although I am sad to say that Strongbow also has a Warrant. What a shame)
Carphone Warehouse - Supplier of mobile phone communications
Corgi Hosiery Ltd - Manufacturers of hosiery
GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare - Manufacturers of toothpaste for Prince Charles and Lucozade for the Queen.
Pots and Pithoi - Supplier of terracotta pots to Prince Charles. (who knew he was such a fan?)

Oh and do you shop at Boots?  So does Her Maj.   They hold a Warrant for being both her chemist and her dispensing optician (i.e she buys her way trendy glasses there) Who knew you and Liz had so much in common?

Monday 7 March 2011

British Stuffs Review: Pancake Day

For many people in the UK (and many other parts of the world), tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Day when people get strangely excited about eating pancakes. (Do they not realize they could eat pancakes every day if they chose?)  Almost every grocery store in the country has reserved special endcaps or erected stands for the display of pancake mixes so no one forgets to stock up on their necessary supplies. 

Historically, Shrove Tuesday* is a Christian holiday falling the day before Ash Wednesday.  More religious types will surely know better than me, but I believe I am correct in saying that Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the period where Christians are suppose to give up certain things, and apparently fat, butter and eggs are in the list of forbidden items.  So as to not waste the eggs, butter and fat one might have in their cupboards on the Tuesday before Lent, they would use the ingredients to make pancakes.  Sounds good to me. 

Before you get too excited with visions of Denny's breakfast dancing in your head, in the UK pancakes' best friend, syrup, isnt naturally included in Pancake Day.  Oh, and if you've never had pancakes outside the US, a pancake won't be a pancake either. 

Here is what you would likely be served on Pancake Day:
...and the lemon is not some avent-garde garnish.   What we have here are thin, crepe-like, pancake-ish things with sugar sprinkled on them, finished with a squeeze of lemon juice.  Blech!  What would Aunt Jemima say!?

Forgive me when I say that as nice as Pancake Day is, Fat Tuesday (the end of Mardi Gras) is a much better celebration of Shrove Tuesday!

British Stuffs Rating: 3/5 Paddington Bears

Read more of my British Stuff Reviews here.

Friday 4 March 2011

Introducing: Jeremy Kyle

Ignore those big things like, oh I dont know, not speaking the native language or maybe those pesky religious differences that one can stumble across when moving to a new country - honestly, nothing can make a person feel more like an outsider than not being able to keep up with the "celebrity gossip".  (I've always focused on the important here, you know!)   

With this in mind, I thought it might be a valuable public service to introduce newcomers to some of the local "celebrities" (and I use that term VERY loosely).

First up is none other than Mr Jeremy Kyle. 

If you have spent any time at home during the day as most of us do before beginning our jobs or whatever else keeps us busy during the day, you have most likely been privvy to his top-notch talk show which is comparable to the Pride of American Daytime Television, Mr Maury Povich (minus Connie Chung). Here's the low down:

Vitals: Born 7 July 1965 in London; went to University of Surrey; began a radio career in advertising sales, then moved to on-air work, then eventually to TV; married twice; four children

Relationships With Other "Celebrities": None.  Does that make him "down to earth"?

Best Scandal: Nothing too scandalous here, I'm afraid.  The best I can find is that his ex-wife claims Jeremy had a "desctructive gambling habit", which lead to him stealing money from her bank account, and accumulating thousands of pounds of debt to fund his habit. Big whoop.

That's a Bit Strange: He suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and has stated in his book "I'm Only Being Honest" that he "licks his mobile phone to make sure it's clean".   Yeah, I'm not sure what to say about this...

Coming to America?    Maybe!! In January 2010, ITV (the channel which broadcasts the Jeremy Kyle Show announced they'd be taking a pilot version of the show to the United States in summer 2010.  No word on the outcome of this, but it was said at the time of the announcement that if  the pilot proves successful, the show will start a North American rollout in 2011.  Oh you lucky people!  Taco Bell and Jeremy Kyle - who says you can't have it all?

Watch him in Action!

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Expat Pharmacy

Being sick isn't fun anywhere, but trust me when I say that being sick in the UK is worse than being sick in America... and not just because you don't have your mom to take pity on you and come rushing around with a care package.

Many expats report being sick frequently after they make the move.  For me, it was at least once a month for my entire first year.  My doctor was unsympathetic and blamed it on "new" germs and acclimation to the climate, but when I was suffering from expat flu, I blamed it the public bus I had to take to get to work before I became comfortable driving.   Did you know people who rely on public transportation are six times more likely to come down with a respiratory infection than those who dont?    (Reason #76 why, unless you live in London, learning to drive should be on the top of your to do list!)

Anyway.... whatever the actual reason, you will get sick sooner or later and hopefully the worst you will suffer is a sniffle and a sneeze here and there, but for the real heavy duty colds, I suggest you plan ahead and create an "expat pharmacy kit". Bring it with you when you move (or when you next go back to visit), keep it in a safe place, and do not be tempted to share it with the natives when they claim they are sick.  This is a survival kit.

Your kit should include the following:
Puffs Plus.
Don't Leave Home Without 'em

A thermometer - Yes, you can get these anywhere, but they will tell you your temperature in celcius and who wants to be doing mathmatical conversions when you have a fever??

Puffs Plus - You know, the kind with lotion infused in the tissue?  That's what you want.  Your nose will thank me

NyQuil - Don't believe it when someone tells you an inferior product called Night Nurse is just the same. It isn't. Each have three active ingredients (a pain reliever, an antihistamine and a cough suppressant), but share only one common active ingredient. I'm happy to have saved you the disappointment.

 Aleve-D Cold and Sinus - Only bother with this if you, like me, are partial to naproxen as your pain relief of choice.  As far as I know, there is no naproxen/pseudoephedrine combination available in the UK.

And remember kids - listen to your friendly NHS when they say Catch It, Bin It, Kill It. Good advice if you can get over "that" photo.