I’m starting to realize there is a perpetual layer of clouds covering England, thanks to the jetstream, and that the sun only comes out first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening, when the light can sneak under it horizontally.
Meanwhile, everyone I know in the american universe is complaining about there being oh so much sunshine and heat. I’m super jealous. I cannot believe I even packed my summer clothes to move here, because it’s been so cold I’ve rarely been able to open the windows this summer without a sweater.
I’m starting to find myself feeling a bit bored over here. Freelancing is pretty great, but the way our work gets divided, I find myself with weeks-long gaps with barely anything to do. Coming from a history of 70 hour work weeks, I am getting pretty restless, so I’ve kind of casually started looking for a low-stress job that I can work around my freelancing.
A friend pointed out that I’m the only person they know who says, “Yay! Free time! I can get more work!” but well, it’s just how I’m wired. I like to work and if the job is weird, that’s even better. I’ve worked in a lot of fields and while it makes my resume look a bit odd, I’ve met a ton of interesting people and learned a lot that way.
For a laugh, I started reading Gumtree ads last night. I had a long debate with my sister over Skype about the benefits of cleaning 40 guest rooms at a hotel in the lakes, and how long I might last as a temporary shepherd. (And hey, seriously, I considered it, what with all that fresh air and access to open farmland. I’m no Paris Hilton.)
Gumtree is no Craigslist and after weeding out door-to-door flyer jobs, cold-call cruise sales, and other assorted pyramid scams for stay-at-home mums, I was left with about 2 ads which were not up my alley, and ended up wandering into my favorite classifieds section of all time: Personals.
The personals are always kind of a train wreck, which is why I read them even when I have no practical business being there. I like to read between the lines to see what people are really after, and have been known to answer one here or there to give advice about how to improve their search. I just can’t help it. Some people bite their nails; I do this.
Again, the Lancashire Gumtree ads are about 2 pages in total, so I ended up wandering through Missed Connections, Desperately Seeking and Dating pretty fast into Friendship Only. While there I saw a very sweet ad from a young single mum looking for girlfriends for a night out at the cinema or dinner once in a while, etc. I get to the bottom of her very lonely sounding ad and find a line which states, “NO FOREIGNERS.”
You know it’s impossible for me to keep my mouth shut at that, right?
So, being a bored jerk at 3am, I wrote her back about how much fun we could have, as I’m a young lady with naught to do myself most nights and really MISS having girlfriends who could hang out over a bottle of red and laugh on the sofa. And then I made sure to point out that I’m not from around these here parts, and what a pity it was that by being foreign I would be immediately eliminated from her potential BFFs.
Today, she wrote me back to tell me that I would be ok, it’s just that she doesn’t want to talk to any Polish, African or Asian people, because it’s hard to pronounce their names and they take advantage of nice british girls.
Dont brand me a racist or anything but if you were born here and lived here for 20+ years you would know what i mean. So hey thanks for your email and good luck surviving in this shite country with scum like that.
Ahhhh… welcome to the neighborhood! It’s only racism if you include the WHITE people! I get it! I was pretty tempted to write her back and tell her to enjoy life with the Daily Mail, but I’m busy reading the classifieds.
Courgette = Zucchini
Vegetable marrow = Summer Squash
Coriander leaves = Cilantro
Aubergine = Eggplant
Spring onions = Scallions
Having been born and raised in Belfast, Mr. Tea was especially pleased to learn that I am naturally inclined to call a scallion exactly that, as nobody in these parts use that word except for the irish. I had to point out that a) I come from an irish family and b) so does most of Chicago (and a good portion of America.)
I’ve decided to stop following Tumblrs who are too lazy to provide attribution for the almost surely copyrighted photos they’re reblogging. FFS, it’s mindless to provide a click-through if you’re using the bookmarklet. You’re already posting someone else’s work. The least you could do is mention who DID the work to begin with.
We spent the day driving up the Cumbrian coastline today. Having grown up in ultra-flat and landlocked Illinois, anything involving water or hills makes me giddy. Not even my usual bouts of carsickness (always worse in England thanks to riding on the other side of the car and road on much tinier and twistier roads) could have ruined today.
We popped into Muncaster to see a castle, an owlery and some exquisite gardens. We made it to Whitehaven for tea, and ate fish and chips on the harbor with some seriously aggressive gulls. I love seaside towns here and how they’re always awash with pale colors. Lancaster is all stone and can be kind of bleak when the sun isn’t out.
Random fact: George Washington’s grandmother was buried in Whitehaven. It’s also the location of the only American invasion of British soil in 1778. (Us yanks were only forgiven for that trespass in 1999, by the way.)
After that, we pressed on to Castlerigg, where we saw a 3000 year old stone circle with an incredible, pristine 360 view of the mountains. I think it’s the first time I’ve been to a National Trust site that wasn’t overloaded with tea rooms, gift shops and tourists. It was pretty awesome.
And then the familiar drive back through Grasmere and Ambleside, both of which are incredibly cute and charming and chock full of tourists this time of year. Windermere, which has been very misty the other times I’ve been, was clear as a bell and sunny today, and quite pretty.
Not a bad day for something we decided upon at the very last minute.
I spent yesterday at Manchester’s mecca to consumerism: Trafford Centre.
I have to admit - even as a girl who comes from mall-country - it was pretty impressive. Still, what is up with the horrible pseudo-roman statues and decor? The food court was like walking through a Las Vegas hotel.
We did have fun, though. It was my first time at a Selfridge’s, so that was entertaining, and as you noticed yesterday, I was delighted to find their stocks of American food. Aunt Jemima! Real syrup! Grape jelly! Marshmallow Fluff! Yum. I do have to tell you guys, though: Nobody in America buys hot dogs in a jar. It’s gross. They come in blister packs.
On that same note, they had those jars that come with peanut butter and jelly together in stripes. Peanut butter and jelly (with Kool Aid) is absolutely what an american childhood tastes like, but we think it’s icky to get them both in the same jar. At least, everyone I know finds something about it off-putting.
I have been craving sushi since I got here almost eight months ago, and haven’t found a local place yet, so I beelined for their sushi bar. Food always tastes better when it’s tiny and cute and on a conveyor belt, no? I ate so much and we taught the lady sitting next to us how to eat edamame. I think she was a little scared when we offered to let her try one.
All in all, a very good day.
It’s beautiful out today. It’s barely noon, but we’ve already grocery shopped, cleaned house and did a bit of gardening. We were supposed to take the car back at eleven but it’s sunny and lovely and on a whim we decided to keep it all weekend. I expect a joyride to the lakes this afternoon, maybe to look for scenes from Withnail and I.
It was so funny last night when we watched it. That scene after they get to the cottage and go out in the daytime to look over the lake. Mr. Tea goes, “Oh, I know where that is.” The last time he did it, it was the Cliffs of Moher in The Princess Bride. I remember being amazed that he’d not only been to a place so beautiful, but had grown up near enough to it that he’d been there frequently as a child. We hadn’t even met in person yet but he promised to take me there one day, and he did.
That’s just how things work with us.
Try again to watch Withnail and I, but this time not pass out drunk 20 minutes in.
At the rate I’m going, I bet I do it again.
This isn’t true. It’s not all the swans, only the mute swans that live in the wild. She doesn’t own any of the other species of swans, or the ones owned by other people.
(Currantly is Mr. Tea’s tumblr, by the way.)
- Professor Henry Higgins: All right, Eliza, say it again.
- Eliza Doolittle: The rine in spine sties minely in the pline.
- Professor Henry Higgins: [sighs] The *rain* in *Spain* stays *mainly* in the *plain*.
- Eliza Doolittle: Didn't ah sy that?
- Professor Henry Higgins: No, Eliza, you didn't "sy" that, you didn't even "say" that. Now every night before you get into bed, where you used to say your prayers, I want you to say "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" fifty times. You'll get much further with the Lord if you learn not to offend His ears.
We went to an all-you-can-eat buffet today.
This is a regular event in the states. You can find buffet places that do “normal” american food, and chinese and indian buffets are pretty common, too. I even know a place in Chicago that has a pretty awesome japanese buffet complete with fresh sushi.
We love them, but not only for the obvious benefit of stuffing yourself silly for a low price. They’re also awesome because you can try a little bit of everything and maybe find something new to order as a whole dish another time. It’s also perfect for nights when nobody can agree on what to eat for dinner, and you never have to wait for your food to be cooked.
England seems to be slightly new to buffet eating. At least, there were instructions on the table about what the heck to do in a place like that, which leads me to believe so. I didn’t think it was hard to grasp the concept of “get a plate, fill it, eat,” but I suppose I take it for granted.
I have to say that overall, the experience was a bit pale compared to the ones I know from Chicago. The food had been under the lamps for a while and while I suppose it might be better if we had gone in a busier time of day, I doubt it’d be THAT much better.
I noticed while I was there that salad bars are very different here, too, mostly because when people this side of the pond say “salad” they can mean lettuce, but just as frequently mean something like pasta or egg salad. The salad bar today, for example, had a bowl with some wilted greens, another with just some chopped peppers in it, another with some cucumber and yogurt.
An american salad bar would generally offer a couple kinds of green lettuce, a massive array of fresh vegetables or fruits, shredded cheese, croutons, olives, bacon bits, crumbled hard boiled eggs, etc. At the end, you’d have oil and vinegar, but also at least half a dozen salad dressings (ranch, french, italian, blue cheese, etc.) My choice of salad dressing today was “Salad Cream” which is like a ketchup packet with Miracle Whip in it.
When in Rome, I suppose.
Ah, cultural issues.
See, in the states, a cut and color for me can easily cost me more than $130, and I usually wouldn’t dream of tipping my hair girl less than 20% of that. I’ve been known to give her fifty bucks if it’s a really good job and I look gorgeous at the end of it.
Answers from brits today about hair tipping are generally about five pounds or less.
While Mr. Tea was settling the bill today, I just hunted down our respective stylists and asked them, figuring they’d know best of everyone what they can usually expect. They seemed horrified that I’d even ask, and totally embarrassed. Hi, I’m american and nosey. They tell me that people just “give them whatever” and that “you don’t tip in England.”
I was still going to give them a fiver each until we realized that the salon can’t put the tip on the bill with the card, and we had no cash. So, we didn’t tip in England today. I feel horrible about it and think I might stop by tomorrow to bring them something nice. I’m sure that’s probably the wrong thing to do, though, as I’m learning that tipping people here isn’t even about the amount so much as finding a way to do it that isn’t embarrassing for the recipient.
Um, but in other news, Mr. Tea cut off a literal three FEET of hair today, and oh my, he looks delicious.
How much, if any, am I supposed to tip a hair stylist in the UK? Does it vary for a men’s cut vs. a women’s?
It’s always about the tipping, my friends. I swear, when I master the art of gratuities here, I will know that I’ve lived here a long time.