Archive for September, 2009

Unyoked Ruminations

This journey abroad has entailed far less expeditions than my previous ventures to the Old World. Bearing that in mind, you may decide for yourself whether these are legitimate contemplations, or simply the ramblings of a man who has run out of material and over-thinks the commonplace:

Yesterday I awoke to the incessant creaking of floorboards under the feet of my wife, who insists she is attempting to remain as quiet as possible. If I ask her why the tap shoes are necessary, she simply replies, “They’re my morning shoes.” Having thus been roused from sleep, I sit up on the side of the bed in time to see wife set her curling iron on the floor in the path that I must take to get around the bed and accomplish anything in the way of morning preparations. I think, “Surely this is purposeful. She wakes me from my sleep, certain that my lack of early-morning motor-skills and pirate face will inhibit my capacity to recognize a trap so simply laid before me.” I imagine the pain of actually stepping on the barrel of this contraption- my prehensile toes wrapping around, the singe of toe-flesh, and the shrill girlish screams that would erupt from my lower facial orifice. Wife would laugh to herself in the bathroom, eyeliner in hand, and mumble something about payback for stealing her giant pangolin and riding off into the jungle for battle with King Louie… then she would realize that she had scalded her husband over a dream. Fortunately for her, I recognized the setup and cartwheeled over the bed and out of the room.

When the iron had cooled, I returned to the room for clothing, as the British authorities typically frown on public nudity much like in the States. When I went for socks, however, I was shocked to find a pair that not only did not match, but one of the socks did not belong to me at all. Nearly a year ago, wife found a stray sock in the laundry room of our apartment complex and was certain that it belonged to me. Therefore, she mated it with a non-matching sock and stuffed it into my sock drawer with relish. Days later I discovered the sock, rebuked it, stomped on it, and informed wife that it must belong to one of the other 108 male residents (most likely Korean) in our complex. She nodded and used words as though she understood, but after the next load of laundry I found it crammed in the same drawer yet again! This continued for months until, after one particularly explosive scenario, I was quite certain I had banished it from this dimension. Months passed without a visit from this stalking foot-holder. So, you can imagine my shock to find it resting lazily in my sock drawer amongst its brethren as though it had always belonged there, thousands of miles away from where I had last seen it. Fortunately, fire is the cure-all for witch-socks, or so we shall see…

All of this sock-talk has reminded me of a brief account conveyed by wife the other day. In a hurry to leave for work (she rides a bike into town), Bethany was searching desperately for her gloves to keep her hands warm during the ride. Unable to find the gloves, but perfectly able to find her clogs, she stomped through the bedroom for several minutes. Then she became eerily quiet. She slowly turned her gaze toward her sock drawer and then looked down at her hands. After a few seconds of contemplation, she whispered to herself, “I’ll do it!” Covering her hands in a pair of warm socks, she peeked at her sleeping husband and slowly crept out the door. As she began her twenty-minute ride, she realized how difficult it was to hold on to the handlebars, let alone squeeze the break when one’s gloves haven’t any compartments for fingers. So, she rode into town relatively out of control, never waving when she recognized someone, and occasionally forgetting which appendages were her feet (though she would recall once she reminded herself that her head was “up”).

Socks and curling irons dealt with, I managed to get dressed and fully functional by mid-morning. My supervisor had left his dog, a cavalier named Amy, in our ward as he and his wife went to London for a preaching engagement. Regardless of whether she looks like a bug-eyed capybara with a perm, she needed a walk. A relatively old cavalier, her pace was easy until we passed a gate and I felt a slight tug backward from the leash. I turned to witness my canine companion voiding her bowels right in front of a doorway. In horror I realized I had forgotten a bag for such situations. The only acceptable, entryway- adjacent poo is that which is left by the foxes. My eyes darted around for some relief, but only found a small tissue within our proximity (I wish I had kept the sock). With reluctance and curtailing my gag-reflex, I picked up the majority of the mess and began walking quickly toward our house, which was still three blocks away. Uncertain of the proper feces-in-tissue holding posture, I just held my arm out with my hand up, the tissue perched atop my fingers as though I were offering someone a truffle, and my face angled as far away as possible. Unable to find a trashcan along the way and realizing how precariously the “event” rested upon my fingers, I finally abandoned it in a hedge of a newly sold home. Consider it a housewarming gift.

I would like to close with two further general observations I have made about British culture. The first of these is their signage in general. In the US, we have the tendency to shorten messages for the sake of concision. The UK prefers clearer communication and loquaciousness, so as to avoid confusion over meaning. For example, a traffic sign in the UK says “Give way,” whereas the US uses signs that say “yield.” On an overpass that cannot support much weight, the UK uses signs that say “Weak  Bridge,” indicate the weight limit, and make an exception for “empty vehicles,”  but the USDOT simply installs a sign with the image of a crossed-out truck and a number beneath the picture. The UK would post a sign that says “The owner of a vehicle shall not place said vehicle in this allotment, regardless of whether it be a car, truck, motorbike, or any other motor-powered means of conveyance. Any who do otherwise face a potential fine, boot, or towing unless we do not catch you in time.” In the US a “No Parking” sign would be sufficient. One finds a further example of this phenomenon in the smoking industry. It has been some time since I have seen a cigarette pack in the States, but in the UK and Europe, more generally, cigarette companies must post messages on their packs that cover half of the packet. The US will have tiny messages that suggest smoking may cause cancer in some individuals- but not necessarily, but European cigarette packages go into great detail about the certain effects of smoking, from lung and heart disease to miscarriages to gonads or ovaries shriveling up like Craisins and evacuating the body via the nearest exit. Truly the best message I have seen was in German, which referenced the failure and disappearance of “Spermatazoa” in men (obviously). At very least, cigarette companies must post exclamatory “Smoking Kills” on their boxes in 30-point font in Europe.

The pronunciation of town, city, and county names (or toponyms, for my Greek friends) is the second item of note and has caused wife and I a certain degree of confusion. The Brits seem to have little regard for the letters that appear in their own words. Allow me to demonstrate: a city near to Beeston, where we live, is titled Leicester (note “titled” instead of “called). For weeks, we pronounced it as “Lie-kest-er,” which seemed logical enough. We discovered, however, that UK residents know this city as “Lester.” Another nearby town is named Derby, but pronounced “Darby,” anything ending in “-shire” is pronounced “shur” or “sheer,” and “Nottingham” is known as “Nottingum.” It turns out that “London” was once riddled with silent j’s, three x’s, an ellipsis, and every letter had an umlaut until the mid-1950s when they simplified the city name in an attempt to decrease the number of aneurisms experienced by visiting foreigners. The basic rule to pronunciation is this: if you see any designation about which you are uncertain, remove the middle syllable altogether, exchange any vowels you like, and mutter the last syllable so that it sounds like a French “u” in a fashion that causes your lower lip to protrude. It’s better if you sound disgusted at the end of the word that you are uttering. Bethany and I have been calling our town “Buuh” and everyone seems to know what we’re talking about.

Even Steven

In all fairness to wife, I thought it prudent to include this compilation video. Unfortunately, wordpress does not have free video uploads, so check it out on facebook.

(If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste this into the address bar:

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/video/video.php?v=10100228660958421)

The Couture of a Frozen Wife

It begins

Pink is for Lady

Though she insists it’s the latest fashion, I am quite sure that the French are not wearing men’s ski socks and thermal underwear down the catwalk.

Pied l'éléphant (elephant foot)

Pied l'éléphant (elephant foot)

Wife caught unawares in her natural environment doing stereotypically feminine tasks. Is this what Rosie the Riveter killed all of those men for… wait, what?

Stiletto Repudiation

Stiletto Repudiation

A close-up of the sexy new foot-trends of my wife. Pajamas, sweaters, and giant socks. Who knows what winter will bring… I love her.

ET?

ET?

Wife in a frantic endeavor to warm herself with residual laptop radiation.

Foot-warmer

Foot-warmer

This is a desperate attempt by wife to warm her feet via posterior. Unfortunately, physics and the dimensions of the chair are working against her. She would use one of her own sweaters, but shopping for warm clothes in the past has turned into finding “cute” things that are barely thicker than rice-paper, the sleeves of which are merely for ornamental purposes.

"Seduction in the Park" or "Mustard Finger"

"Seduction in the Park" or "Mustard Finger"

Though unrelated to body temperature, I could not pass on this photo from our day in Wollaton Park.

Quotidian Gastropod Rapture

Upon first arriving in at our home in Beeston, Bethany and I ventured out into the biting cold and inconsistent rainfall of the evening that typifies our locale. I believe we were in desperate need of cookies, or adult diapers (I don’t want to talk about it). After stepping through our entryway, I witnessed a veritable cornucopia of slugs strewn about the sidewalk and brick walls that line our street accompanied by several of their cantankerous and anti-social cousins, the snails. It was as though somebody had detonated a slug bomb on our avenue (wouldn’t that be an amazing invention? Mayhap someone will invent such an apparatus. How angry could someone truly be after hearing a loud explosion to find themselves bedaubed in slime-exuding creatures, rather than seriously injured?… happy birthday, Katie) When we returned moments later, though, the rain had subsided and all of the slugs had vanished from sight.

Over the next several days, I took note of the mucus trails that painted the footpath in the backyard every morning, though it was little more than a fleeting observation. It was not until a mid-morning journey into the town centre that I confronted the issue espoused in the title of this entry. High-stepping down the sidewalk, as is my prerogative, I nearly planted my foot upon (and performed the compulsory skate/slide) a lone slug. I believe it attempted to move more quickly out of the way, but it was difficult to gauge from its facial expression or body language as to whether it was exerting itself in any way. Without thought, I found myself uttering, “What’s he doing out at this hour?” Not that I object to diurnal slug-activity any longer, as in the folly of my youth and association with such rabble prejudiced against this slithering kind. The question immediately resulted in a mental response, “Why shouldn’t he be out during the day?” and further, “Do you ever encounter slugs at midday, aside from this new friend? Where do slugs go when the darkness fades away?” or, as my wife would say, “Wey de hell de slugs is?”

I have contemplated numerous theories, and have narrowed it down to these three most likely scenarios:

1.) Slugs are daily raptured into the presence of the Lord. This means that all the amillennial and postmillennial slug believers were wrong, and that the lone wolf of a slug that I encountered the other day was the Kirk Cameron of the slug world: he was… Left Behind. Further, this means that every day is the period of tribulation, during which the remaining slugs must avoid the wrath from above, which manifests as a hailstorm of enormous mammals rain down their feet upon these plodding creatures. The slugs in heaven look down upon their brethren partly in sadness, yet also with joy for having adhered to the correct eschatology. This is of little matter though, as their lack of a complex central nervous system means that they forget the scenario every evening when the Lord returns them to the earth. Oh! If only the others knew that a theology of the end-of-time developed in the late-1800s, pseudo-confirmed by the formation of Israel (because their adherents brought about said formation), though difficult to prove by a careful reading of the text, they too could partake in the diurnal marshalling of slug souls.

2.) They are the Jekyll and Hyde creatures of the animal kingdom; able to transform from slug by night to pigeon by day. Ponder it for a moment. Though seemingly unrelated, they share several key characteristics of note: intelligence- though a biologist will insist that pigeons are of a higher neurological order than slugs, experiential evidence dictates otherwise; both are disgusting- slugs leave a trail of mucus, while pigeons have the uncanny capacity to have a bowel movement at precisely the wrong time (such as in Amsterdam when a certain someone is walking on his way to the train station); alchemy- slugs are frequently ingredients used by witches in the concocting of a special potions. In all their years of observation beside the cauldron witnessing sorcerers/pseudo-chemists attempting to transform lead into gold, is it not possible that they discovered the key to transformation of matter, but that their limited mental functions and resources led them to settle on this avian as the highest order of life? The slug I found out at lunchtime may have forgotten the spell, or not realized that it was daytime due to the sun’s inability to penetrate through the clouds. I certainly hope Jesus does not attempt to return via England as we will have no idea which way to look.

3.) Slugs have mastered hide-and-go-seek. The game involves more than a few chums staying the night, or a sanctuary at a church lock-in. This mofo is worldwide. Our roaming snail was “it.”

These are clearly the most logical conclusions that one may draw from the situation.

Aside from this observation, there is little else of note. The other day, Bethany and I passed an apartment complex called 2BM, and I thought, “That’s redundant.”

*Flash-bang*

From a religious badger,                                                                                                                                 Friar Talbert

P.S. If you are a malacologist, please do not respond to this post… buzzkill.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time and Monkey Bums

Though our time here has been too short and hectic to allow for any adventures of worth, I am constantly observing my surroundings and would like to publish these reflections. Simply put, there are a number of differences, idiosyncrasies, and quirks that distinguish the two societies that I have had the pleasure of calling home. Neither locale sustains only benefits or negatives. For this reason, I have compiled this list of “things I miss (peanut butter jelly time) and things I don’t miss (monkey bums)” while living in Nottingham (which I am sure will only expand over the years).

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Free Television– I place this at the top of my “miss” list as it is the most infuriating. In the States, even if you forego satellite or cable, one has access to basic channels that include the news, the Simpsons, etc. In the UK, if you even want to turn your TV on, you must first notify the “TV Licensing” bureau that you would like to watch your television. If you would like to partake in television programs you must pay the yearly fee of approximately £145- for basic access. If you do not want to watch television, you must likewise notify the TLB (I think I just made that up) and say “No thanks” or, “we’re just going to watch DVDs,” to which they’ll respond, “Lovely. We just need to send someone by to verify that you will only be watching DVDs. Someone will come by at a random time to examine the situation, check through your dainties, perform a surprise prostate exam, and kick you in the giggleberries. Should you not have giggleberries, it is up to the discretion of the inspector to determine which further inspection they shall perform: the upper-bunk wedgie, little piggies meet Mr. Tackhammer, the gallon challenge*, etc.” Surprisingly enough, the TLB is run by the BBC- the media monopoly of the UK. They dominate the airwaves around here and run any competitors out of business. Secretly I think that everyone in the UK hates the BBC, which seems to operate like Big Brother, or (if you don’t get the 1984 reference) the KGB, or (if you don’t get the Cold War reference) the Stasi, or (if you don’t get the German history reference) really sneaky mean guys who do things that you don’t like.

*Ask a friend, or a teenager/college student

Sun/warmth– I may eventually retract this statement, as the last week has been quite nice. When we arrived, however, it was in the midst of an inconsistent sky-tinkle that lasted 3 days. We saw the sun only on occasions of 2-13 seconds. When the sun finally came out at length, our neighbors ran outside, stripped down, and lay on the sidewalk for hours. Not wanting to be the obvious foreigners, we joined in, only to later discover in an embarrassing trip to the town center (centre) that we live in a nudist colony, and that everyone else keeps their clothes on during the arrival of the sun. Sun aside, the temperature here remains low, particularly in our north-facing living room. Having lived most of my life in Florida and California, I understand that my body is not conditioned for such weather, but that is England’s fault, not mine. You have not been very hospitable to your guest, England.

Internet– I list this, not because the UK does not have the internet, but because of the complications associated with their internet services. One cannot merely sign up, have an installation, and commence internet surfing. First, the company must determine whether they have ever had a customer at your address. If not, they have to install a phone line from their company (they cannot use another company’s phone line)- £100. Then they will charge you every month to rent their line. Lastly, you must choose how many gigs you believe you will need per month, but you better not go over! You do not automatically get unlimited access to the internet. This ties into my next point.

Phone– Though we can usually get a cheap house phone line in the States, the basic line in the UK costs a certain number of cents per minute for every call you make. Better call that inspector again, and tell him to bring his clamps. Weekends and evenings are usually free, but for us poor student families, we can only make free calls on the weekends… to the millions of people whom we do not know in the UK.

The Bathroom- I do not mention this because the British are without bathrooms and simply befoul the earth wherever suits them, but because of a general trend and a specific instance. The general trend involves their showers, which are typically elevated a foot above the floor- making it easy for the elderly to get in and out, by falling in either circumstance. Then, what passes as a water screen are four joined panels, each about 6 feet high and 6 inches across. The rest of the tub is completely open to the bathroom. I have found you can bend the panels around you into a suffocating 12×12 box, if you are concerned about water dripping on the floor. My specific issue regards the lack of distance between our toilet and the shower. The two stand so close together that the edge of the tub forces me to sit asymmetrically on the potty. The only advantage I can divine from this proximity is that I can wash my feet in the tub while relieving myself, so as not to waste any time simply sitting there.

Washing Machines- Again, it is not that the British lack washing machines, but because of what passes as a washing machine here in the UK. Imagine a college refrigerator in which the compartments have been sealed off, excluding a small cavity the size of a microwave. Then, stuff that microwave with a pillow and weasel, hollow out the weasel and fill it with marshmallows and a coffee mug. The inside of the coffee mug is the size of your new washing machine. If size weren’t enough of an issue, these European washers take a minimum of an hour and twenty minutes (no kidding) to do an espresso size load of wash. I can do without the dryer, although I have no idea how we will cope in the winter, but I do not think it fair for the British government to have taken the responsibility of manufacturing washers to coincide with the length of time it takes them to process paperwork.

Sleep– Andrew can’t sleep, but wife is doing fine. I miss sleep.

Monkey Bums

Mean People– This is a close first, when compared with the next item on my list. As of yet, Bethany and I are yet to encounter a mean person, and we even visited the local government office. We went in rather sheepishly to tell them we did not have to pay the council tax because I am an international student, and then looked down at the floor with one eye squinted and our ears prepared for a cacophony of loud noises. The woman at the counter replied, “Oh, of course sweethearts. We just need these documents from you… Lovely. We’ll send you a new bill showing that you do not owe anything.” Count it: 1 minute in line, 2 minutes talking with government lady! Take that any governmental office in the United States ever! Wife was even brave enough to ask the lady a follow-up question unrelated to our council tax predicament. I braced for cranial contact and purple nurples. But this woman said, “I don’t know, love. The lady over their will, so I’ll go ask for you.” I peeked out from between my knees to see this woman walk from behind the counter, ask the aforementioned lady our question, and direct us as to where we needed to go next. Bethany put me back in the wagon and pulled us to our next destination. What is more amazing is that we have found this to be the trend with everyone: bankers (we visited 4), grocers, school administration, my professor and his wife… the list could continue ad infintum.

Old Men Sans Mutton Chops– Need I say more? I will. What could be more incredible, more regal than a thick growth of hair in front of the ear that threatens to shut out all noise from the auditory canal, and at the same time restrict the flow of oxygen through the nostrils? It forces a man to become a mouth-breather. Men worldwide seem to lack the capacity to grow a respectable chop, myself included.

Raccoons Instead of Foxes– There is something altogether terrifying about raccoons. Sure, from a distance they’re cute with their burglar masks, their meticulous grooming and hand care, and their ability to sneak through doggy doors and steal food from disgusting little rats that some try to pass off as dogs. At the same time, however, if you have ever worked at a camp in the wilderness, raccoons can be the nastiest, bullet-evading, demonic-groan-uttering, aggressive animals this side of something intimidating that makes you take me seriously. Would I ever exchange such hooligans of the wild for the very creature that starred as Robin of Loxley, who beat up a sissy-lion and his lisping snake friend? Ne’er. I much prefer our roaming animals to be these foxes, which Bethany has determined to catch and tame. It would be a step up from the common house pet, especially since yesterday, when we witnessed a tomcat climb onto one of our decorative bushes and drench it with his urine. He just turned and looked at us, then casually strutted away. I would like to introduce him to a raccoon… and the TV license inspector. The fox, on the other hand, Bethany witnessed performing a BM on our neighbors driveway in the dead of night. Take that, neighbors!!! Haha, the fox is on our side.

The LA Outdoors– I think of this in the more immediate sense of our surroundings in Pasadena, but I do not hesitate to throw in the ridiculous San Gabriel Mountains. The most evident benefit of the British outdoors is the absence of palpable pollution. I no longer have to inhale the dark, sticky dust that comes with living in proximity to the interstate, or witness a sunrise obscured by the smog of the LA area. The second outdoors benefit of this area is a yard… we have one. No, Pasadena, a shared porch that overlooks a garage does not constitute a yard! I can romp, unclad, through my backyard, whistling with the birds, gallivanting with the foxes, and nibbling on our rosemary bush.

Natural Disasters– After growing weary of the 5-6 hurricanes we experience in Florida a year and, to a lesser extent, in South Carolina, I travelled the 2,000 plus miles to California for change of disaster scenery. Mind you, I only experienced 2 minor earthquakes, which amounted more to Brookstone massage chairs than natural disasters. When I left California, however, I would note that it was raining ash on us townsfolk below from the infamous wildfire, which has since spanned to consume over 160+ thousand acres of land along the San Gabriel Mountains. This, coupled with the 100+ degree weather, has quite literally left a less-than-savory taste of California in my mouth.

Bad Dogs– Somehow, people in the UK have generally mastered the art of handling their dogs. I believe it has something to do with the amount of time they spend outdoors walking their canine companions. No, Mr. American, your dog does not enjoy watching television for 8 hours straight and then going to bed in the same way that you do. “My dog is tearing up my furniture and doing other things I don’t like. Can this be related to the fact that I neglect his need for exercise and boundaries?” It doesn’t take a Cesar Milan to figure this out… but you should still watch him… he’s amazing.

Pedestrian Crossings– Tired of those lame, uncreative, straight-across pedestrian crossings? Then you should plan a visit to the UK. Here, you may encounter pelican, toucan, zebra, Pegasus, and puffin crossings. I’m not sure of the details, but I believe you must have killed and eaten the respective animal to cross the road at these points. Generally, this means that we have to run across the middle of the run… except when Bethany comes to a puffin crossing. I don’t want to talk about it.

That should bring you all up to speed. I will attempt to post with greater frequency, but that all depends on my given level of caring for the day. I hope you find yourself entertained. If so, subscribe to the blog so that I don’t have to send out a preponderance of messages for each posting. It’s easy, and it only requires your e-mail address. Thanks for keeping up with us.

Andrew to Deutschland… er, Nottingham… with his wife… part 3

‘ello my luverlies,

It seems that the motherland cannot keep me away. Here I return to the Old World for a third time, despite her attempts to repel, bar, forbid, stymie, or delay my entry. This journey, however, is laden with several twists- 1.) I have not come alone, for my wife has been gracious enough to join me; 2.) We have landed in England, instead of Germany, on the first leg of our journey for an extended layover… for a minimum of three years.

This is an enormous transition in our lives and I would greatly prize the opportunity to share with you all (y’all) an account of what has come to pass in the past several days. Even should you object it is of little consequence, as I have clearly published this without awaiting your permission. If you find yourself seething with rage over such lack of solicitude, consider this a scribal slap on the cheek of whichever end you prefer. The only apology I submit is in regard to the address. No one speaks like that here. Now then, ice your bum and join me on an adventure through the past with the Talberts:

Having finally secured all of the necessary documents for entry into the UK, packed our bags, and double-checked everything to ensure we had not left even a button behind, I found myself perusing the website for the University of Nottingham the evening before our departure. Unsure of how the health system works in the UK, I decided to check the webpage for the university clinic, only to be greeted with the promise of “Free Chlamydia testing” for all patients- “You don’t even need a doctor present!” I hoped to myself quietly that this did not in some way reflect the environment into which we were about to venture. Then I promptly signed Bethany and myself up for 8 Chlamydia tests each… We can’t pass up free offers.

The next day passed by quickly and with relative ease. At four o’clock we found ourselves on a plane to San Francisco. The only thing of note in the San Francisco airport are their amazing hand dryers, which are fabricated by the Dyson vacuum company- the company that advertises, “What makes our vacuums better is that they never lose suction… I have a British accent”- jerk. The hand dryers are mounted low on the wall and have a lengthwise slit in which one inserts their hands. As the hurricane force winds activate, you slowly drag your hands through for virtually arid child-smackers. Airport security frowns, however, on one dragging their buttocks or other appendages through the aforementioned dryer, regardless if they have likewise been washed in the adjacent sink. Oh, and by the way, airport security man, a person can’t be nude if they’re wearing a backpack!

By seven p.m. we were jetting to England. Not long after our departure, the food service began, and without going into any detail about my wife’s ability to “test,” I will just note that she stated, “The pasta tests better than the chicken.” So, following her recommendation (as though I had a choice otherwise), I partook of what has come to be known, in my eyes, as the foulest misrepresentation of Italian cuisine in the troposphere, or any other sphere for that matter. I imagine the cooking process went something like this: The chef boiled the ziti noodles for approximately 30 minutes. When his assistant drained said noodles, the head chef scolded him, “You idiot! These noodles are too firm. We want something more like the consistency of soggy Rice Krispies.” The noodles were then boiled for an additional seven hours, drained, and then masticated by the cooking staff, who then regurgitated the noodles and reshaped them in the image of ziti. The head chef immediately inundated the ziti with Ragu, baked it, kissed his finger tips, and sent it off to be loaded on the next plane to London, where Bethany and I managed to control our gag-reflexes long enough to consume half of our dinner.

In an attempt to relax, I perused the Skymall magazine briefly with occasional comments from wife. The most impressive was her note that a laptop stand designed to rest over one’s body while they lay in bed looked like a robot attempting to seduce the computer user. She promptly ordered one.

It was at this point that I decided to attempt sleeping. I closed my eyes and clutched our important documents pouch to my chest, as Bethany had terrified me with stories of people stealing passports from other passengers as they rested. As I sat there, I imagined a group of dwarves inconspicuously and silently stacking like LEGO blocks next to our seats as we slumbered, opening our overhead luggage compartment, and rifling through our bags only to take our passports and a pair of bikini briefs, which I assume they would use as eye-patches to feign being pirates while they jet-set around the world, abandoning our passports once they build up an intimidating warrant with Interpol. I have made it my personal mission to immediately dispatch any dwarves with whom I come into contact, bikini briefs or otherwise. Much to my amazement, I managed to sleep for the majority of the flight, while Bethany suffered enduring boredom, interrupted by bouts of jogging and interpretive dancing in the aisles of the plane. She must have been more wary of the dwarves than I. At one point I awoke overwhelmed with fear, having come to the realization that we were, in fact, moving to a foreign country, but I quickly suppressed it by inhaling an entire canister of oxygen and spewing insults at the first and business-class passengers until I passed out.

Though Bethany made multiple trips to the bathroom, I managed to limit mine to only one close to the conclusion of the flight. I have a fear of airplane bathrooms due not to trauma, but an overactive imagination. I use the toilet quickly, for I fear that turbulence will take place at the most inconvenient moment, and that I will be tossed out the door onto my face with my pants at my ankles and my hindquarters in the air, looking as though I have been romping in the mud, but I digress.

After landing, Bethany and I scurried over to the customs line, hoping to get through quickly, as we had a bus to catch. While waiting, I took note of a sign warning about the various symptoms of swine flu and their effort to prevent it from entering the UK. Only days before, I had developed a sore throat, which had matured to a full-fledged head cold and that same anxiety stemming from undersized, purloining privateers, arose once again. I was sure that the customs officer would bar me from entering if he heard a single sniffle. So, I made an effort to speak and breathe as little as possible. The customs guard did not make things easy, however, as he had come to work that day with hair that looked as though it had gotten into an altercation with a child who had been playing with paste. I saw through this trick, though, realizing that it was one of their tools for limiting migration: insult the officer and get sent back home. We simply stood before him and nodded- my wife delirious from sleep deprivation, and I nearly purple from oxygen deprivation. We’re masochists to a certain degree.

From there, we ventured to the baggage claim and were greeted by the palpable aroma of a urinal. As there was no bathroom in sight, I took it upon myself to hand-check our luggage and ensure that no one had simply gotten confused or decided to open our bag and make clothes-and-tinkle-soup. God had favored us on this day, though, and we marched on to the bus station. As Bethany has a bladder the size of a mustard seed, and the biblical principle of its potential for growth applies not in this situation, we made a quick stop at the toilet- a stop for which I am incredibly grateful. For, as Bethany entered the women’s restroom, the man responsible for supervising the restrooms turned and faced me. At first there was nothing particularly striking about this gentleman. He was of average height, a tad on the thin side, wearing a uniform, and of Indian background, but then rotated his head in my direction. Somehow this man had managed to grow what would pass for hedges upon his brow- thick, black, pinnacled eyebrows that reach toward the heavens and violently challenge his hairline to progress any further. I believe that he was revered as a holy man in his home country and has since migrated to live a life of anonymity in the UK while in pursuit of enlightenment. Bethany dragged me away, my mouth agape, muttering something about the “last time we miss a bus because of eyebrows.”

Shortly thereafter, we arrived in the central bus station with eight bags in tow and my wife left the bags in my ward while she went to check the schedule. I like to believe this is because she regards my bag-guarding skills quite highly, but I know that it’s more accurate to accept that she views me as her caveman, with at least the capability of saying, “Mine!” should someone attempt to walk away with a piece of our luggage. At the same time, however, I recognize the benefit of this arrangement, for my wife would be unable to defend our possessions with her reduced musculature, children’s wrists, and whispers. We were fortunate that the bus station shielded us from the wind, as using the leash is somewhat humiliating and I have to constantly explain that it isn’t actually a bizarre kite, but my wife overhead. At any rate, I found myself with the bags, observing my surroundings, most especially the large number of pigeons scurrying about. I found myself pondering and suspending my concept of “pigeon,” such that the longer I observed them, the more ridiculous they seem. Why must they bob their heads with every step? Though being no ornithologist, it hardly seems essential to their locomotion. Does it give them the momentary illusion that they are moving faster than they actually are? It seems bizarre that birds would have such a pace-oriented complex. No matter though, I quickly moved from observation to kicking, finding this task much easier and enjoyable than developing a philosophy of “pigeon.” The other patrons watched at length before finally imploring me to cease, not because of humane concerns, but more because of blood-spatter and feather inhalation. The wife only scolded me for abandoning our luggage.
The bus ride to Nottingham was rather uneventful, except that it provided a laminated sheet of exercise recommendations for travelers. This included extending one’s legs at an angle with knees straight and swirling one’s legs in concentric circles, though it provides no information on where one is to find the amount of room for such an exercise. The second exercise involves a person stretching out their foot and somehow causing it to vibrate violently to increase blood flow. I am still unsure what it is about British anatomy that enables such vibrative capabilities, but I believe it may have something to do with their evolutionary linkage to bumblebees.

Quickly, I must add that Bethany and I overheard a conversation between two sisters in the seats next to us that distressed us greatly. The older of the two asked (begin British accent), “What’s the name of the place where Jews pray again?” To which the younger replied, “A mosque.” “Oh, right” (end British accent)… Bethany and I awoke hours later on the curb with our bags at the university.

We arrived at our new home in Beeston around 9 p.m. and were greeted by our landlords. They were incredibly helpful. Before crashing for the evening, we made a quick stop at the local market to pick up a few essentials. Bethany grabbed the products that “tested” the best, including a quart of milk that cost us 10 pence, and a box of cereal. Little did we know that it was 10p because it was on the verge of expiring, but Bethany’s testing has proved true and the milk is still fresh. The cereal on the other hand, would benefit greatly from a reduction in sawdust and cardboard. I added a branch of Rosemary just to impart some flavor. It is now what we call “Bethany’s cereal,” as we have since purchased a brand with more than three granules of sugar that I am able to consume.

Knowing that a container of our possessions will arrive any day now, we have delayed purchasing most household goods, with one exception. Our landlord kindly provided us with sheets and a hand towel, but we have found it increasingly difficult to shower. The hand towel only dries so much of an adult body, and shared between two people strains its drying capabilities. I finally cracked when I rolled over in bed the other morning and saw my wife lying with her sopping head wrapped in her pajama bottoms on her pillow. We now possess a towel.

The weather in Nottingham fluctuates between a balmy 50 degrees and a steamy 64 degrees, with rain showering intermittently like an old man with prostate issues (is that a recycled Germany joke?) All joking aside, the whole process of getting here has been a blessing, and we have found everyone to be quite friendly. My supervisor and his wife have been more than accommodating, and we visited a church attended by several other theology students. They even invited us to a picnic where we had the opportunity to socialize! We greatly treasure your prayers and miss you greatly. This is the beginning of a path upon which we believe God has led us and we are excited to engage this new horizon. We shall update you as time allows. Please write when you have a chance, and know that there is a bed available for you here in Nottingham.

Blessings,
Andrew “Friar Tuck” Talbert
and
Bethany “Gelid” (look it up) Talbert