Posts Tagged ‘Bethany’

The Restless Spirit of Zinedine Zidane

Our time in England has been decidedly marked by sleeping difficulties in the realm of Andrew (that’s the right-hand side of the bed). Bizarre dreams aside, I am not sure what contributes to this faux insomnia. It may be due to caffeine consumption during the day, or electrical wires reverberating their energy out from the walls and into my brain, or that an incredibly petite wife inexplicably becomes enormous in the middle of the night such that I find myself all-too-often forced to the edge with wiry, sharp limbs jammed into uncomfortable areas of my body, or a chemical imbalance, or perhaps  the temperature irregularities instigated by the near freezing air-temperature on any Nottingham evening coupled with the comforter stuffed with goose down, burning coals, Satan’s dandruff, and powered by steam heat that wife insists on using I am unable to discover a comfortable temperature balance, and thus sleep uninterrupted. Who knows? But my current state of sleeplessness is not the focus of this entry, though it is in part the cause.

You see, several nights ago, I found myself awake in the wee hours of the morning spasmodically shifting positions in a desperate attempt to find the elusive and mystical slumbering position. Not realizing how near wife had moved to me in the course of the night, I rolled my entire body sharply to the left, aided by the weight of my enormous head, and met another force with the apex of my forehead. The fact that it did not yield to the advances of weighty cranium, coupled with its warmth and the “Ow!” that issued forth from the vicinity of where I made contact was an indication that I had indeed headbutted wife in her sleep. In the midst of the turmoil, I could only simply echo her voice and collapse back in my minuscule sliver of mattress. I am not able to divine for certain, but either the satiation of violence or the blunt force trauma quickly put me back to sleep. It seems that I have found my sleeping solution.

Nocturnal Cranial Magnetism

The next day, wife had a distinct memory of the early-morning assault and noted that I had successfully affronted her skull without so much as an apology. I assured her that it was an accident and that I do not bear full responsibility for what happens in the grogginess of semi-sleep… and that it may happen again, should the need for sleep arise.

Later that same day, wife sent me a carefully composed song set to the melody of “Little Bunny Foo Foo.” We will close on this and with a rightful victory for wife:

Little mandrew Andrew shuffling through the bed sheets

Cuddling next to Bethany and bonking her on the head.

Down came baby Jesus, and he said,

“Little mandrew Andrew, I don’t want to see you, picking on little Bethany and bonking her on the head.”

Bethany beware! I have a rake!

Recently, I have had some difficulty sleeping through the entire night. On those evenings when I have a relatively uninterrupted stretch of slumber, however, I tend to have vivid and notably bizarre dreams. The morning after a series of bizarre dreams, I recounted to Bethany over breakfast the journey of my mind only hours before while I lay in bed.

The dream was structured in two unrelated parts that simply ran from one to the other. In the first part I found myself with a friend from California, Robert Bruce (as a side note, it turns out that my ancient ancestor, Angus Og, protected his ancient ancestor and namesake- an act which eventually enabled Robert the Bruce to become the first king over all of Scotland- For this reason, I believe he owes me five dollars) standing outside in a small field surrounded by a forest next to a large concrete structure. It looked like an open-air hallway that stretched on endlessly. It had a plain, tall, concrete wall on the left and a partially-canopied series of recesses in the wall on the right, where dumpsters were stored. The hallway was filled with enormous sofas (about 15×30 feet), which were tipped forward and the dumpsters were filled with smaller sofas. I asked Rob, “So, what happened with your jobs?” To which he responded, “Well the first one fired me, but then they hired me back, and then the second one fired me, but then they hired me back. They said I was the only intelligent person to work for them and that they should not have fired me in the first place.” I agreed. After our conversation, Rob hopped on top of the nearest sofa and began running, hopping, and somersaulting across all of the sofas toward the end of the hall. When he got near to the end, he turned to his right and saw a panel of judges sitting in one of the recesses (I could now see though his eyes). It turns out this was part of his job interview, and the person who moved across the sofas the quickest would get the job. At first, Rob was worried, because he had been goofing around and didn’t realize it was an interview, but then he remembered how out of shape everyone else was with whom he worked, and assured himself that the job was in the bag.

The interview process

Following this bizarre job-interview, I found myself in a car with two  friends from high school. As we drove around, we conversed about various unmemorable things until the two asked me, “What would you do if Bethany ever left you?” I quickly responded, “Oh, Bethany would never leave me! You see, we have a contract, a prenuptial agreement, which states that if she ever leaves me, I am allowed to hit her on the bottom of her bare feet with a rake every day.” I awoke at this point and ended my dream quite abruptly.

As I finished recounting this to wife, she responded, “Oh! I just remembered my dream!”

“I was eating some toast… that’s all.”

I am now enrolled in courses on dream interpretation, anger management, and “appropriate usage of gardening instruments,” while Bethany has enrolled in two courses on storytelling and arithmetic, with an emphasis on ratios.

A Thunderous Compadre and Sage-esque Advice

At long last, I am able to sit and write, to ponder, pontificate, reflect, and furrow my brow in pretend depth-of-thought (consternated squinting might be a more accurate description). I have been distracted from my responsibilities as blog-master by a series of harrowing experiences that have involved the rescue of numerous orphans, impromptu muay thai fights, and hijacking prevention- all of which concluded with my shirt in tatters and my vascular musculature pulsating as a passing breeze warmed by a blaze in the background gently wafts through my hair and wife embraces my left bicep (*fade to black). In another reality, it turns out that living in a foreign country differs vastly from globetrotting adventures that force one into awkward and hilarious encounters, especially when there is the persistent absence of a hilarious cousin or a Norwegian giant. The reality of “living” in Nottingham has finally taken root. Be that as it may, “living” was not able to prevent the following day from elapsing:

Shortly after wife had left for work, I hopped on my über-masculine bicycle and headed to the university. While on the ride I recalled my humiliating journey into the town centre only weeks earlier and rejoiced at not having to endure such embarrassment on a regular basis. It was during this reflection, however that I began to observe the frame of my own mode of conveyance and realized it bore striking similarities to wife’s bike. Dentritic connections fired throughout my brain, a small mass grew into a large lump in my throat. I swallowed this welling sadness and involuntarily uttered, “I own a lady’s bike.” Unable to abandon the cycle, I attempted to encourage myself and weigh the positive aspects. Should I ever fall forward from the seat, the low frame will prevent fatherhood-ending injuries. Why did I have to buy a fuchsia chain? Fortunately, the parsimonious penny-pincher in me was quick to remind that the bike came free of charge. So I rode toward the university with my head raised a bit higher.

As a side note for those of you who doubt, let me assure you that making motorcycle sounds with your mouth actually increases your velocity exponentially. My record-setting speed on this morning, however, was inadvertently obstructed by a young Asian man travelling at a leisurely pace… in the middle of a bike path. I am unsure of why this happens with ever-increasing frequency, but nearly every morning I avoid a collision only barely with a person of similar ethnic descent on the same path. Perhaps it is a conspiracy hatched by the Chinese to infiltrate the world’s cycle route system, causing mass-pandemonium, and preventing university attendance in other countries while their own students excel at home. I’m on to you. You may have Tibet, but Nottinghamshire is beyond your reach. Anyway, as this thought passes out of my cranium, I take note that the young man has ear buds in situ, which prevent him from hearing my approach. I briefly contemplate the increasing individuality/reclusiveness that such products breed, but that is quickly replaced by the blinding fury that this gent unconsciously steps in concert with my every attempt to pass him. It turns out that simply crashing into the person speeds the process along, but the number of witness and the fact that my tires aren’t designed for such off-road/over-body expeditions generally militates against such a decision.

I slowly wheel onto campus as the massive herds of undergraduates migrate across the field below the theology building on their way to their morning classes. Nearly every morning I pause for a moment to take it all in, imagining how lethargic they must be from a night of cramming, or staying up all night to not do any work… as I imagine some students do in college. Then I picture a T-Rex crashing through the tree line, and chasing after the helpless students. He grabs them in mouthfuls. You can’t escape, freshman! Your backpack is too heavy- but you won’t drop it because your books were too expensive. That’s why you eat Ramen for every meal. I chuckle to myself as I imagine high-fiving Rex, and then I begin pedaling toward the post-graduate building. The entire experience is quite cathartic. Know that this imagined scenario does not stem from a dislike of undergraduates, so much as it does for a predilection of dinosaurs.

After a few relatively productive hours, it becomes necessary for me to venture into the town centre for a bit of shopping. It is here, while at the vegetable stand, that I begin to notice something has caused the majority of young males to abandon all vestiges of masculinity in preference for their disproportionate, skin-grabbing, movement-restricting skinny jeans. It was as though a designer said, “I know, let’s take some pantaloons and stuff them into a pair of knee-highs! The kids will go crazy over them.” The only benefit from this fad is that it has become abundantly apparent that my brother and I are now in the majority of average leg-size (if not on the larger end). Do some calf-raises, son! The rigidness of the legs runs the risk of causing widespread gastrocnemius atrophy, for the pants render the use of leg muscles unnecessary until the hip. Fathers, where have the initiation rites into manhood gone? Take your son hunting, or on a coming-of-age fishing trip. Drive him deep into bear-country, toss him a pocketknife, tell him to find his way home, and peel-out as you abandon him there in the woods. At very least take him camping and discuss with him at the fireside that it should not appear as though he has put on a diaper over pantyhose and then loaded it up. I weep for this generation. After drying my eyes, I made my way out of the shop and headed home for a trip to a nearby locale with wife and some friends.

We arrived at a place called Southwell (pronounced “Suh-thull,” which you would know if you read my British pronunciation guide), and began a walking tour through the town. The

Kindred spirits

Bethany befriending a tiny, inquisitive man

area is known for its wealthy inhabitants, mostly old ladies if the “pant-suit, gaudy hats, and high-collared shirts only” stores are any indication, and their Cathedral. We toured the building, perused the grounds- here Bethany met a kindred-spirit; a fellow gold-digger, if you will- and had a tea before the Cathedral’s evensong. Having had our fill of “Sul,” we stuffed ourselves into the car and made our way back to Beeston.

That evening, we attended a local, more contemporary church service in Nottingham. It was here that I realized that people in the UK have never gone through a phase where singing was awkward or embarrassing, so one simply mouths the words quietly in an attempt to deflect attention. So far, the congregations we have visited sing at full-tilt in a way that always surprises me. It’s refreshing when the crowd is louder than the speaker-system. At the same time, I am used to singing just barely louder than my neighbour, so this experience has raised the bar. I find myself on the verge of screaming in order to contend with these warbling Brits. The veins in my neck protrude, my head turns crimson, blood vessels in my eyes rupture, and it tends to conclude with a coughing-fit. The whispering wife, on the other hand, usually passes out from over-exertion by the first refrain. I mumble something about the Holy Spirit to our neighbours and they tend to ignore her.

During the ride home, a glance at my bike chain invoked some memories of my mother. You see, mom had the tendency to occasionally stretch the truth in situations- sometimes to protect her children, sometimes for her own entertainment. I tend to realize the elasticity of these adages as I am announcing them with confidence to another person, only to taper off at the end. Here are some of my favourites (siblings, please help me fill this out):

1. If you ride your bike barefooted or with sandals you will cut off your toes.

2. If you pick at a scab you will contract impetigo/flesh-eating bacteria.

3. All of the foam that washes up on the shore is fish spit (I unreflectingly believed this up through part of high school… all of high school ).

4. If you chew your fingernails you will get fingernail worms.

5. If you eat without washing your hands you will get worms (there were a lot of Beth-razors that resulted in worms- I miss you mom).

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