Sunday, October 25, 2009

24 Hour Fever

This week, we thought we’d jump on the 24 Hour Bandwagon, especially since Mike, ahem, gave it a bit of a push. Marsha Moore’s book, 24 Hour’s London is going on sale soon. We both endorse this book--it is a fun read, even if you are not visiting London, and essential if you are. To help kick off its debut, we’re doing our own version of 24 Hours.

So buy the book, and while you’re at it, buy ours, too. Really, you need each one of them: Rules, Britannia, for what you must know if you don’t want to look like a pillock, Postcards From Across the Pond for what life on the ground is really like, and 24 Hours: London for what to do while you here.

They would make a great gift-box set for… say, isn’t Christmas just around the corner? (hint, hint).

Mike: 24 Hours in the Life of a Cyberspace Celebrity:

10am: Wake up. Send manservant to check the post and download the receipts for the week. It’s not as much as last week so you’ll have to scrape by with only £746,837, but in these hard economic times everyone has to tighten their belts.

11am: Sooth aching ego with a brunch of caviar and French champagne.

12pm: Gather lackeys and head for the stables to check on the polo ponies. Engage in pick-up game with lackeys. Make sure they let you win.

1pm: Have servants fill Olympic-sized bathtub with scented water and rose pedals. Invite a few “special” lackeys to join you.

2pm: Snack on canap├ęs and brie on the east portico. Have servants release the hounds to keep gawking admirers at bay.

3pm: Off to your private golf course for another golf lesson from Tiger Woods.

4pm: Write Pond Parley article.

5pm: Show article to lackeys. See to it that they laugh hysterically. Fire those who do not.

6pm: E-mail article to Toni; she’s not busy, she can post it.

7pm: Take stretch limo to Brighton for private dinner at the Brighton Pavilion. Have lackeys follow in a bus.

8pm: Leave Brighton for London. Don’t forget copy of 24Hours: London.

9pm: Hunt for ghosts with London Paranormal: www.londonparanormal.com

10pm: Naked disco dancing at Starkers ( www.starkersclub.co.uk ) with “special” lackeys. Send others out for a kabab.

12am: (I know I missed an hour; but naked disco dancing deserves more than 60 minutes) Rent a Thames Clipper ( www.thamesclippers.com ) for you and your entourage. Pay the skipper the let you drive. After unfortunate incident involving tower Bridge and the Marine Support Unit of the Metropolitan Police, pay skipper to say he was driving.

1am: Pop over to the Mahiki Club ( www.mahiki.com ) for a chat with Prince Harry; he may be boring but it never hurts to be seen with him.

2am: Back to limo to leave London—the police insist. Seems the skipper spilled the beans.

3am: Dinner of fresh Maine lobsters and salad greens plucked from the allotments next door served by the poolside. A few of the lackeys are fading; fire them.

4am: Check e-mail, evaluate offers. Write a paragraph or two of some promised article.

5am: To bed. While drifting away on satin sheets, wonder what Toni is up to…


Toni: 24 Hours in the Life of a More Typical Blogger

5am: Wake up, two hours before I should. I hate when that happens.

6am: Finally drift back off to sleep after having mentally galloped through the day’s to-do list

7am: Alarm goes off. Hit the 5 minute snooze button. Prepare to be metaphorically shot out of a canon.

8am: Leave for school with Little Guy, after emotional debate about “cool” versus “warm” clothing. Teenagers have already left although one has left his glasses and the other her violin. Neither has taken keys. Think I will be “out” when they come home at 3.30pm.

9am: Allow myself an hour to do bloggy stuff. Having back issues helps here as I can’t sit for much longer.

10am: Jjump on treadmill. Deliberately donned workout gear first thing, so might as well make use of it all. Plus hair needs a wash.

11am: Apparently, I’ve pulled something.

12 pm: Having burnt off about three million calories, now famished and trying not to devour entire contents of fridge (which would be this week’s leftovers.)

1pm: Write something for PowderRoomGrafitti (dot com). Print off a chapter from next book and rearrange paragraphs for the tenth time. Deal with Mike’s half of Pond Parleys post. (Tut)

2pm: Head for shower. Stop off at laundry room and attempt the west face of the “mountain”.

3pm: Finish laundry and decide shower has to wait. Put on lipstick to distract from hair stuck to head and skanky workout gear. Head out to pick up Little Guy.

4pm: Sit in kitchen and patiently listen to teenage diatribes against school, homework, music practice and the world. Help Little Guy with “oo” words.

5pm: Stare hopelessly into fridge looking for dinner inspiration. (No, I’m not one who plans a week’s menus in advance.) Set to.

6pm: Gather everyone for raucous family dinner; phone keeps ringing about “team” science project that one team member has left until last minute and now everyone else has to jump. Make sarcastic comment to caller about “team” work forgetting that sarcasm is a lost art here.

7pm: Run bath for Little Guy and boot up computer nearby. Bloggy comments time. Teens look over shoulder and mumble about Expat Mummy (in terrible English accents).

8pm: Little Guy in bed. Glass of Pinot and perhaps inane “news” show on TV.

9pm: Tidy up stuff; look at list for tomorrow; shower – finally.

10pm: Bed. (No seriously). Half an hour of reading; get up and tell teenagers to go to bed.

11pm: Tell teenagers to put lights out.

12am: Still awake.
1am: Woken by Ball & Chain turning over and lacerating my shoulder as he drags duvet with him.

2am: Karaoke in nearby pub lets out. Louts singing the Macarena loudly.

3am: zzzzzzz

4am: B&C gets up to pee. Shuffles feet loudly on the floor in attempt to be quiet. Pees with door open; even louder.

5am: You know the drill…

To join in, write your own '24 Hours' post and send the link to marshawrites@gmail.com - she will link to the post and on 4 November, when the book is launched, one of the entires will win a '24 Hours London' T-shirt and a copy of the book.

You can also comment below. We like comments.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And finally - The Ten Things We Lurrvve About Our Host Culture

To round out our “Ten Things” season, we are listing the habits, customs or general idiosyncrasies of our host culture that we have readily adopted as our own.

Toni:

1. The fabulous hose attachment on my kitchen sink. I know this makes me look like a saddo, but until you’ve used one, well, you’ve no idea. It’s great for rinsing dishes (see previous post), washing the sink down, blasting food off things that don’t fit in the dishwasher, and squirting small children when they get on your nerves.



2. The casual dress code to most things. In general, (and that means there will be exceptions) whether it’s a meal out, a sports game or a shopping trip, Americans dress fairly casually. This only serves to make me look slightly well-groomed when I put the effort in.

3. The atmosphere at sports games. I’m a baseball fan, but this applies to most sports I’ve been to – everyone’s in a good mood. Grannies, small children and anyone in between feel comfortable in going to such events. Heck – they even come down the aisles serving beer.

4. The fact that I can swear at liberty and be told that it “sounds so much better”. Not that I do, but I could. I can also say whatever the hell I want to, even when sober, because everyone thinks we “Europeans” are a little bit different. When everyone else is holding back and biting their tongues, I can be the one to come out and name that elephant in the room.

5. I’m easy to remember because I’m “the English woman”. When I’m not trying to look fabulous, (see point 2) I can look like any other harried 40-something mother, but people remember me as soon as I open my mouth, which can come in handy.

6. My phone system, which may be available in England but I haven't heard anyone raving about it. Because I have phone, Internet and TV all with the same company, I can see who's calling on my TV screen. Which means it's even better than Caller ID. I don't even have to get up to see whether or not I want to answer the phone. I'll admit, the first time it happened I was a little freaked out as I was watching Wimbledon tennis and my neighbour's name came up on the screen. Very weird.

7. When you knock something over or break something in a shop, you’re not in danger of being hauled off to prison. No signs saying “You Break it, you bought it”; in fact, the sales assistants usually apologize and tell you not to worry about cleaning up.

8. You can use the loo in shops, restaurants and bars without having to buy something. OK, so I still have to look over my shoulder to make sure the manager hasn’t followed me in but it’s good to know that when I get desperate I can avail myself of their facilities.

9. When you want to go out for a "quick bite" it's very easy. Sometimes it really annoys me because I don't always want to give myself indigestion, but when I need to be in and out of somewhere in half an hour, by god you can rely on American restaurants to deliver. (So to speak.)

10. Americans’ glasses are always half full. Every so often I want someone to moan along with me, but in this part of the country at least, it’s always Sunday, every day’s a new day, and there’s always someone else worse off. Sure it gets right on your ta-ta’s, but it puts things in perspective


Mike:

1. The three B’s: Bloody, Bollocks and Brilliant. I may not be able to say “Mate” or use “Cheers” in the appropriate manner, but I have adopted much of the local idioms and sayings, and I use them in general conversation, not just to take the piss.

2. The food. Where do I begin—haggis, steak and kidney pudding, custard, sticky toffee pudding, beans on toast, full English breakfast, black pudding, Cornish pasty, curry, scones (plain), steak and ale pie, suet dumplings—where do I stop?

3. No ATM fees. You can get money out of ATM machines (hole-in-the-wall) and the bank doesn’t ding you £2.50. They tried instituting fees a while back and everyone screamed blue murder and they had to back down. C’mon you Americans, get some backbone, make those thieving bastards stop charging you.

4. The sense of history. Anytime I visit any town or area or street or hillock in the middle of a pasture, someone will tell me about something of great significance that happened there, oh, a very long time ago. And there are all these castles and Roman ruins and Iron Age hill forts all over the place. Perfect for a history anorak like me.

5. The beer. Confession time; I didn’t really move over here to get married, I just liked the beer so much I came over so I could be closer to the source.

6. Public transportation. The worst in the EU, but far better than anything the US has to offer. I travel for work, to Wales, Nottingham, Devon, Suffolk, et al, and I always take the train. On a more pedestrian note, I just returned from a six-hour “meeting” at The Dorset Arms in Lewes and didn’t have to worry about getting arrested for driving home drunk because I took a train.

7. The accents. Even after seven years, I still like the sound of all the different dialects and regional accents.

8. The comedy. I love the British humor; they are sharp and quick-witted and do irony very well.

9. The weather. If you’re from southern California or Florida, you may find it a bit cloudy, drizzly and cool during the winter, but spend 46 years in upstate New York and this weather will seem like paradise in comparison.

10. It’s so pretty. It’s hard to put into words just how beautiful the countryside is over here; you’ll just have to come and see for yourself.


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Sunday, October 11, 2009

10 Things We Cling to From the Mother Country

This week we turn the tables and ponder the habits we still adhere to from the countries of our birth:

Mike:

1. My flag: I had an American flag flying from every place I lived in the States and I see no reason not to have one here. The only concession is, now that I am a dual citizen, I put up the Union Flag on Remembrance Day and replace it with the American flag on Memorial Day. My neighbors think I’m a nutter.

2. The “H” thing: Sorry, but it’s “urb” not “herb.” Herb is short for Herbert. And besides, it drives my wife potty, like when I say “a LUM in um” instead of “al u MIN i um.”

3. The “Z” thing: Whenever possible, when making an example, I say “Company XY ZEEEEE,” instead of “XY ZED,” just to let them know they say it wrong.

4. Coffee: I brought a thermal pint coffee mug over from America with me. I still use it.

5. Thanksgiving: if you’re an American, it’s in your genes; you must celebrate.

6. Rinsing the dishes: I know this tradition of leaving soapy dishes in the dish drainer is becoming out-dated, but many people—my wife included—still subscribe to this habit. To an American, it is just wrong. Consequently, I do the dishes.

7. Fruit of the Loom underwear and white tube socks: Just before I moved overseas, I went to Sam’s Club and bought a bale of each. I still have them.

8. Ketchup: The universal condiment; it goes on everything, except French toast.

9. Expecting good customer service: If we go into a restaurant and no one comes to take our order in the first ten minutes, I’m ready to walk out.

10. Driving on the right: I still drive on the right side of the road, as God intended. It keeps my passengers alert and the looks on the faces of the people in the oncoming traffic are priceless. (Note to the serious minded: I’m just kidding.)


Toni:

1. Saying "Please", despite the fact that it sometimes sounds either very needy or just plain ridiculous. Now I know some Americans are going to take exception to this, so please do your own private survey. I have been taking notes on this specific point for over ten years, all over the US. I have found that Americans rarely use the word itself when making a request, although no rudeness is intended. In fact, because of the intonation, they usually sound very polite. As a Brit however, I'd be looking over my shoulder for my mother if I omitted the word.

2. Making my kids say "Please". Parents all over the UK are seen withholding treats until the magic word is heard. Despite years of doing this and role-modelling the use of the word, my kids still seem to think it's optional. Apparently they warn their friends before coming to the house, that a "please" now and then would be a good thing.

3. Spreading butter or margarine on bread when making a sandwich. I have had little 6 year olds recoil in horror when I do this (and yes, I make them another one). My question is, how do you get the ingredients to stay in there without the marg?

4. Booting my kids out of the stroller/pushchair before they start school. Living in an urban area where everyone walks, it's quite common to see young children the size of small adults, being pushed around everywhere. If they don't want to walk, get one of those plastic wagons for cryin' out loud.

5. Walking instead of driving. In the interests of time, I sometimes drive when I could easily walk, but we live about an eighth of a mile from school and I never drive them there. It would take longer to get the car out, and by the time I found a parking spot, I'd be right outside my front door. However, other parents never fail to tell me how "good" I am because I walk.

6. Hankies up the sleeve. Yes, I know it's a disgusting habit and I am getting much better at not stuffing the hankie up my sleeve, but I don't always have pockets. (OK, OK, I know.)

7. Things on toast. Beans, scrambled egg, poached egg, spaghetti hoops. You name it but most Americans don't touch it, including my kids. It's a real shame because anything on toast makes a great, quick meal. (The Little Guy will have beans next to toast, but not on it.)

8. Food pronunciations. I can say "bayzil" without much of a problem but I can't make the transition to the American "tomaydo". There's just too many letters to change in the one word. First the "a" becomes an "ay", then the "t" gets the "d" sound. No. And I pronounce "herb" with an audible "h" because, well, it's there.

9. Almost laughing when someone calls me "ma'am". When I first lived in the States I was in Texas where everyone (including other women) calls you "ma'am". (If you're female that is.) In the mid-west it's still heard and I always have to check to make sure someone's not being funny.

10. Calling myself English. I know my passport says "British" but back when I lived there we pretty much all referred to ourselves as English, Irish etc. Now, if someone asks if I'm British (as opposed to Australian and South African, which I also get) I inadvertently say "English actually".

Got any you'd like to add? Leave a comment; we love hearing from you.


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Sunday, October 4, 2009

10 Things We Haven't Succumbed to

This week we ponder the habits we haven't adopted in our host countries.

Toni:

1. Not saying “Please”.

2. Baseball caps on a bad hair day. My ears stick out and it looks generally, well, ridiculous. I also don’t do the pony tail thing so I basically have to make sure my hair is somewhat clean!

3. Green bean casserole at Thanksgiving. Green beans, canned onion rings smothered in canned mushroom soup, or something like that. Yuck!

4. Walking around with a pint size cup of coffee. Who needs that much caffeine?

5. Walking through my front door straight into the living room. I have three noisy kids. I need walls and doors as a buffer.

6. Wearing seasonal clothes. OK so not everyone does this, but I will never wear a leafy sweater in the autumn/fall, red and green at Xmas, or red hearts on Valentine’s Day. Unless it’s a school-enforced thing, and even then I won’t be happy.

7. (American) football. No clue. Nor do I enjoy the beer and cheesy nachos that seem to be de rigeur when viewing.

8. Interspersing my sentences with “I was like…” to describe my emotions.

9. Cutting all the food on my plate into bite size chunks then eating it with my fork. I always serve a knife and fork even when people claim not to need the knife. Ever seen someone trying to cut lettuce with a fork?

10. Maple syrup drenching everything on my breakfast plate. I don’t have a sweet tooth anyway but maple syrup touching my sausages? Yuck!



Mike:

1. Saying “Cheers”: This is a shame, because it is such a handy word. It can be used for “Hell-o,” “Thanks” or as the closing in a letter or e-mail. But to my ears, when I say it, it sounds out of place, except if I’m clinking pint glasses with others in a pub.

2. Brown Sauce: This is something you need to grow up with, otherwise it simply tastes awful.

3. Kebabs: This is a food not meant to be eaten sober, and I rarely get drunk enough these days to appreciate the nuances of flavour and texture one provides.

4. Layers: To cope with this changeable climate, you learn to wear layers that you can take off and put on to keep yourself comfortable. Well, some people do.

5. Coffee: I’ve gone through half a dozen coffee makers and none of them can brew a decent cup of coffee. I have, therefore, made my peace with instant.

6. Glassing: This charming hobby involves smashing your pint glass against the bar and shoving the jagged edges into the face of the guy (or girl) who disagreed with you, looked at you funny or just happened to be standing nearby when the mood struck. I cannot claim to have ever seen this happen in real life, but it is reportedly so prevalent in places that they are considering banning pint glasses and making the patrons drink from plastic cups. Apparently I don’t visit the right pubs.

7. Pounds and pence: I don’t have any trouble in shops or in doing the conversion in my head, but whenever I start talking about money—what someone paid for a new house, what it cost to fix the car, things like that—I always revert to dollars and cents.

8. Tipping: Much to my wife’s chagrin, I still tip like an American.

9. Eating left handed with the fork held upside down: What is up with that?

10. Ketchup on French toast: That’s what maple syrup is for.

Care to Add yours?



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