24 July 2012

About f*cking time...

This is just a short service announcement to let you know that summer has finally arrived in the UK. It's OK to visit us now. Pack some sunscreen and shorts but don't forget your umbrella and your finest wool sweater because, you know, it's Britain...shit can change.

This is also the England of My Imagination...all this is missing is Mr. Darcy wet from the pond.

19 July 2012

The Scouser and the American go to a reception

So one of the other things I had always wanted to do once I got to England was to go to an English wedding. If I'm to be honest, the reason for this completely had to do with the elaborate hats the women in this country wear to such events. Somewhere deep in my soul I wanted to have a reason to wear multiple feathers and flowers and hell, throw in a live bird since we're all here, on top of my head. Oh sure, I can at any time wear feathers and flowers and for all intents and purposes a live chipmunk on my head because it's my right as a human to, but it would be without reason. Not that I haven't done things without reason before, but when you get to live animals perched on your noggin perhaps it is best to have an explanation.

I could totally pull this off.

This past weekend Andy and I were FINALLY invited to an English wedding. Well, we were only invited to the reception which means I am still looking for a reason to wear a fancy hat on my head, but at least I got to see all the other women's hats up close and personal like. You know, to weed out (pun intended) what I liked and what I didn't when it finally came to my moment of glorified hat wearing.

The wedding reception we were invited to was being held by one of Andy's friends from back in California. His friend is British and was working in the States on a work visa until he was downsized from his job. As per the stipulations of his US work visa, he had to leave the US pretty immediately (Andy and I can't remember if it was 10 days or a whole month but it was a fucking short period of time to get your whole life together to move back to the UK). While the whole being kicked out of the country because your employer can't keep you sucks some major ass, it ended up working out for the guy as he reconnected with his university girlfriend, had a beautiful baby girl, and obviously got hitched. Yay him. And yay us, as we got to go to the reception.

The dress...that train was kept out for the entire night.  Yes, I may have stepped on it a few times.

Now to clarify, as I had to have Andy do to me that day – the reception in British terms doesn't seem to be the complete same as in American terms. In the States it's not completely uncommon to have a small family-only type wedding ceremony but then have an everyone's invited to the reception type thing. The reception being both a sit down dinner (or buffet) with the drinking and dancing afterward. In British terms it appears to be a 3 part affair – the wedding ceremony, the wedding sit down dinner, then the reception. People who are invited to the ceremony are invited to the sit down dinner. People who are only invited to the reception do not get dinner (though we got some pub grub buffet style late in the evening).

The groom and my groom.  Groovy.

The reception was in Burnley, which is a small town about an hour out of Liverpool. If you've never heard of Burnley, that's alright. It's Burnley after all, which meant the next morning I was very content staying in bed for an extra couple hours because I was in no rush to get up and explore Burnley. The actual reception was in one of those old stone, not quite a castle, hotel type places with high ceilings and furniture from your great grandfather's time. They did have a very gorgeous atrium which screams of the England of my imagination and I spent a lot of time in there drinking cider. Bulmers No17 if I'm to be specific, and the 80 year old bartender corrected me every time I ordered it. “It's not 'balm-ers', it's 'bull-mers'.”

 I love me a nice atrium.  It's like being in nature but with less bugs.

Andy gets very poetic around nature.  Which is why we try to keep him out of it.

Nature just makes me giggle.  No wait, that's the cider.

Obviously we didn't bring Henry with us because we didn't feel like being responsible that evening. As it was, 80% of the people we talked to either had kids there or had kids sleeping in the hotel room upstairs with their nans. It also happens that these kids all seemed to be around Henry's age so even though he wasn't there, he was talked about quite a bit. Parents of small children don't have much in the way of lives so we talk about our kid's lives instead. I basically came away that evening knowing that there isn't a kid in the history of the world that sleeps properly and I kind of feel better about it now.

I hid behind Andy because my dress showed off too much of my tits.  No really, it did.

That was a big part of the evening. Andy and I actually got to talk to people. Oh sure, it was mostly about our kids but we were talking. And what I found peculiar is that it appears in a social environment like a wedding, English people are more than happy to give you their name! Hurray! Not that I remembered any of the names, I was drinking cider, remember?

About the time things got really REALLY fun.

The best bit of the whole evening though came towards the end when this drunken women stumbled outside where we were all smoking cigarettes in the rain. “Oh hey!” she said to Andy and me, “You're the Scouser and the American, right?” I don't know why but I LOVED that. The Scouser and the American....that's totally a movie title right there.

Anyhow, we ended the evening shortly after midnight after the hotel bar closed down.

“We'll take a pint of Carling and a Strawberry Balm-ers please.”

“We aren't serving anymore.”

“Andy! Hey Andy! I think it's time we head back to the hotel.”


“They aren't serving anymore.”

“You know, you're right. We should probably head back. We have a bottle of wine there, right?”

“Absolutely. And egg mayo sandwiches!”

 Best wishes to you both.

I didn't get to wear feathers, flowers, or a live kookaburra on my head, but it was still a really great night.

05 July 2012

British Bits (Non-Dirty Version)

So I've been saving little bits I've come across in my British life and tucked them away for a rainy day when I didn't have much else to write about. Since it's been monsoon weather for the last forever days, the “rainy day” analogy is quite apt. Also, since it's been raining (and raining and raining and fuck me it's never going to be summer again) and we haven't done anything more than look mournfully out the window wondering if the sun still actually exists, I think it's time I whipped these bits out. That sounded dirty. Heh.

As a quick side note: Seeing as my peoples in Wisconsin are suffering through 100+ temps with humidity, this is all I'm going to say about the rain* we've been having (rainy-est summer since 1910!). I will forever trade 'never feeling dry again' to 'sweating my tits off while never feeling dry again'.

BRITISH BIT #1: The Milk Man

From my understanding, you can still get milk delivered to your door 1950's style in the States. I personally have never seen such services advertised, nor have I seen any deliveries around the neighborhood in the States, nor do I know any milkmen, save the dead kind (punk joke). I hear it's still done though so if you are interested, I'd start doing some web searches. Here in England, milk delivery is certainly not as popular as it was 50 years ago, but it's still going at a fair pace. We have some elderlies who live next door to us who get their milk delivered so every few days one of these pulls up outside:

This is called a 'milk float'. I don't know why. It's an electric powered vehicle (like a golf cart or Duffy boat) and I think the top speed is something like 20 mph. You see, if you are delivering milk at the ass crack of dawn, you need a quiet motor. It's also an open setup so the milkman can get the milk easily without a noisy door opening and closing all the time. This also means that if you are crafty enough, you can nick yourself a bottle.

I Do Not Condone the Nicking of Milk...I'm just saying, you know, in general.

Seriously though, I have never stolen milk. I stole a singing, jiggling, light up spider from Target once when I was 16, but never milk off a milk float.

BRITISH BIT #2: Informative AA signs

Before Beth asks (and I know she will after seeing the picture), the AA is the British Motoring Association. Basically, it's the UK version of AAA (Pronounced to the non-Yanks as 'triple-a'). There isn't a single person in the UK over the age of 25 (including those who do not drive) who do not have a waiting for the AA tow truck story to tell you. You could probably get that story from them two years before you get their first name so you know, it's something to start a conversation with anyhow.

Unlike the States, in the UK, it appears that the AA has full right to put up legal road signs directing one to attractions they think drivers might be interested in. For example:

I like to think of it as driving along the I-5 in LA to see proper road sign telling me that 'Stan's Medical Marijuana is 2 miles, next left'.

BRITISH BIT #3: You tell me what 24 hours means

Ah Tesco...open 24 hours except on the weekend when, you know, it might actually be useful.

BRITISH BIT #4: The after effects of rain can be pretty

I took this from our back patio (sorry, back garden)(there is no plants or grass in our garden, it's just concrete so I don't know why I have to call it a 'garden') after we've had a bit of rain (ha ha...it's always raining). I liked this picture a lot, so I modified it to have a fancy frame so you can tell me how awesome my photography is. It obviously didn't look as impressive without the frame. See if you can spot the magical fairies!

Just kidding, there are no magical fairies in this photo. It's still pretty though, right?

BRITISH BIT #5: Tequila

Even though the weather has said otherwise, it is technically summer. When it turns summer, an old girl's thoughts turn to margaritas. You thought I'd say strappy shoes and light salad dressing didn't you? You didn't? Oh, bless you, you are starting to know me. Finding a place that serves margaritas is, well, difficult. When you do find a place that sell them, they are overpriced and never taste quite like the ones back home. Not knowing how to make a margarita is, quite frankly, appalling. Next the barmen here will tell me they don't know how to make a Harvey Wallbanger or a Monkey Gland. However, the overpriced bit, well, I kind of understand.

Below are the prices for the smallest (50cl or 16 oz) bottles of tequila. Oh, who am I kidding? In 3 stores, this was ALL they had for tequila. If you went for the cheapest bottle there, you'd still be paying $16.50 for it. That bottle of Jager? $28 US dollars. Thank god I'm not 19 anymore or I'd be really bummed about that.

On the upside, if I was 19 I'd be happily enjoying these WKD, commonly known as 'alcopops'. My 19 year old self – holding a sad looking, heartburn inducing wine cooler in my hand – is jealous. My 38 year old self is appalled at the youth of today.

BRITISH BIT #6: Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah

If you are an anglophile you probably already know of HP Sauce. You probably have a bottle of it in your fridge right now, bought from the Cost Plus World Market saved for those rare times you pick up a couple of Cumberland sausages from the specialty butcher. Hey, I'm not making fun of you – I WAS you. You probably also love Guinness because there is a rare anglophile that doesn't. Well Anglophile, this is for you. Actually, it's not for you because you don't live here. Ha ha ha ha ha!!! Don't get too depressed, I'm sure you got to wear shorts sometime this year already.

BRITISH BIT #7: This is fucked up in any country

When I'm in Liverpool One wasting time with Henry, we always end up going to John Lewis at some point because they have, hands down, the best toilets. That is to say that they have a lot of toilets and many of them are big enough to fit myself and Henry's stroller in. I rarely buy anything at John Lewis – even though I really love their shit – because it's expensive. I once bought something there on sale for 4 pounds and twice I bought FUCKING HELL, HOW MUCH? pajamas for Henry because I couldn't find any other place that had footy pajamas with zippers (I know, right?) even though I fucking looked (I paid 18 pounds ($28) for a single pair of pajamas – and we used the SHIT out of them, I made sure of it). What I'm trying to say is, John Lewis is great if you are the type that has extra money that you're not really doing anything else with. If I was rich, I'd shop at John Lewis all the time. I would not, however, pay 225 pounds ($350) for a trash can.

Don't believe me? Here's the close up:

When I walked through and saw this, I stopped to examine the bin. Was it automatic? No. Did it self clean? No. Did it come with a butler service to empty it for you every day? Sadly no. It is a metal trash bin with a non-slip base. Apparently it has a 5 year guarantee. Whoop-fucking-dee. For that price it ought to be big enough to hide in in the event of a nuclear war.

So that's what I've got for you this week. Oh, apparently a 'somersault' is called a 'roly-poly' here.

*I still ended up complaining more about the weather. Go figure.