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.