Posts Tagged ‘Mutton Chops’

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.