Monday, May 28, 2007

Ready for a summer of scorn

So I'm "studying" for my last exam right now, and the aforementioned jumbo entry is still forthcoming, but let the records show that: 1. I was told by about 65 people before I left that British peanut butter is crap; 2. I have recently bought my own jar, as I have run out of the parent-supplied Smart Balance; and 3. it does not taste like either poo, damp cardboard or a birthday party craft gone wrong. In fact, it was quite tasty (the use of the past tense being a testament to this). It was surely no Skippy, but that's hydrogenated, sugarific peanut-flavored rubbish anyway. This peanut butter tastes like peanuts. Can you handle it??

(This is where I would sigh and shake my head and grumble about Americans and their sugared, salted vices, but my overall consumption of sugar and salt, as well as my continued efforts to avoid pretentiousness, prevent me from doing so. Plus I already used the word "rubbish" in this entry so the Pseudo-Brit threshold has been reached.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

What you've all been waiting for

Yeah, I know, I'm a failure as a blogger. I haven't posted in so long, people think I've gone home already, but I'm still here for another two weeks. Two weeks! Cue panic mode! I don't want to goooo!

I've done SO MUCH in the last two months, and I'll catch you up on the interesting bits of all of it. But while I draft that gargantuan post (rather than study for my last exam), here's something to keep you entertained.


Check this out, from the mouths of "I don't want to pay sales tax/wear my seat belt/do anything you tell me to do" New Hampshirites:

And I expected no less. I'm best described as one of those "flaming liberals" your momma and Fox News warned you about, but being from New Hampshire, I have a soft spot in my heart for my home state and its unique outlook. NH gets really excited about our first-in-the-nation primary every four years, but it has a hard time setting any other kind of example. The RealID concept is frightening at best and I'm proud that my state has the cojones to stand up to it.

NH is a funny state. Not conservative in the Bible-thumping Southern way, not liberal in the hippie Vermont way, but more of a Libertarian "we don't like being told to do stuff, so THERE" kind of mentality. It really seeps into the people, myself included. I can't stand being ordered around. My dad is fairly liberal, and mostly easygoing but one day we were talking about taxes and how they are needed for things like education, etc., and he said "New Hampshire does NOT need a sales tax!!" He went from normal laid-back mode to PAWS OFF MY STATE mode in .07 seconds. I'd say that's pretty characteristic of New Hampshire in general. Taxes = being told what to do = no thanks.

A New Hampshire citizen is an interesting hybrid of a hippie and a lumberjack. Suspicious, stubborn, indignant, liberal when they want to be and conservative when they want to be. As evidenced by our rebirth as a blue state in the last presidential election, there are more liberals these days as people move up from Massachusetts to escape sales and income taxes. This fortunately tempers the conservatism that can hinder things like abortion/gay marriage etc. without messing with the taxes, or lack thereof, which NH would guard with Cerberus if it could.

My ridiculously conservative senator, Judd Gregg (ugh), actually voted against the federal ban on gay marriage, and I was surprised at first but then I realized it was because he didn't want the government telling him what to do, not because he was pro-gay-marriage. So as a subtle jab, I wrote him a letter thanking him for voting against it, it's good to see NH senators standing up for gay rights, etc. and he wrote back with a polite[r] version of "Ha, I don't care about gay rights, I care about states' rights." Cue sound effect: wamp waaaamp.

New Hampshire's got its issues (it would likely declare open season on out-of-staters if it could), and I will admit to jokingly referring to it as "the Texas of the North," but it's definitely got character. Bottom line, It's good to know my state can run itself while I'm away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Next stop, Liverpool aka the last time I will refer to anything I do as a pilgrimage

My apologies for dropping off the planet, I seem to have had a sibling infestation. We're in the clear now though. For now, some notes on the past few weeks:

My brother came for his February break, and then the next week my sister arrived to spend her spring break here. There were a precious few hours in the airport where the three of us hung out and ate and took pictures (because really what else do we do?), as my sister's flight got in at 7am and my brother's flight did not take off until 3. And since we come from farm country none of us really know how airports work so I saw each of them to and from Heathrow.

1. While my sister was here, we saw Equus, or what we have fondly termed "The Naked Harry Potter Play." Unfortunately (fortunately?) we had the nosebleediest of the nosebleed seats, and I didn't want to look pervy so I didn't use the opera glasses provided, even though we paid 50p to use them. Whatever, that's what The Superficial is for. The play itself was really intense, and Daniel Radcliffe gave an impressive performance. And let me just say, the boy has got some... uh... chutzpah for being only 17 and giving the city of London a really good look at those chutzpahs.

2. Being at Heathrow three weekends in a row without actually flying anywhere is not something I'd ordinarily choose to do, but now I can navigate Terminal 3 with my eyes closed.

3. I declined the "voluntary donation" that they tack onto your ticket price at the London Zoo, since they were soaking me enough--10.50 student price grumble grumble--but then proceeded to feel really guilty about it for the rest of the afternoon so now I want to go back, find the cashier who sold me my ticket, give her 1.50 and beg her not to think of me as a horrible person. Because even if she doesn't remember who I am, that lion TOTALLY KNEW I didn't give a donation AND I caught a glimpse of his Master Escape Plan before he hastily shoved it under a rock.

4. My brother and I trekked down to Brighton for a day, where there is a building called the Royal Pavilion which could have been featured on an 18th century version of Pimp My Crib.

5. It has been pushing 60 degrees for like 3 or 4 days in a row. I'm not complaining but it really makes me want to go out and buy skirts and sandals which is rough on Mr. Visa, and it also makes me go out midday with no jacket, which, by early evening, becomes a poor choice.

6. Finally, I have made The Pilgrimage Of My Life: I walked across Abbey Road. It's actually a very busy street, and we and other tourists holding up traffic with identical tourist photographs probably managed to make a couple hundred people really hate the Beatles. But if you aren't clever enough to have found an alternative route by now, all you posh people driving around St. John's Wood, maybe you should just stop and wait for me to take my picture, pshhaw.

Then I graffitied on the studio gate. Fandom drives me to criminal behavior.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I have to push the pram a lot

So, yeah.

Last week R and I went to Edinburgh where we spent the majority of three days 1) walking up and down hills (mostly up), 2) bickering and 3) taking [non-sketchy] pictures of local children with the added non-sketchy factor of us being female. The novelty of kids with British accents just never wears off. We saw the now stuffed Dolly the Sheep, a full rainbow, the hotel where J K Rowling finished the seventh Harry Potter book, some modern art, and some less than modern art. Also some art that is so modern that R had to tell me it was art. In an attempt to drink in some Scottish countryside, we went hiking and I managed to fall [valiantly in battle] and have left a chunk of my knee on the Salisbury Craigs.

Last night I saw Jean-Luc Picard--uh, Patrick Stewart, doing his Shakespearean thang in a rather Shackletonian adaptation of the Tempest. Which brings my Famous Person Sighting total up to about 5, which is a lot considering that before I came here, Brad Delp and Mark Hudson tied for first in the Most Famous Person I've Met category.

Also, the other day I was introduced to the concept of paying extra for one's doggie bag. I'm sorry, 20p for a little cardboard box in which to store the food that I'm already paying for? At the risk of securing my place in Eternal Spinsterhood, I have half a mind to bring a tupperware next time in abject defiance of their snooty excess charges. What's next? Uncorking fees? An extra charge for freshly ground pepper? 18% gratuity added to parties of 8 or more????

My brother has just arrived and is staying the week, which should be awesome (what, like a hot dog?) and full of conversations consisting entirely of Eddie Izzard quotes. Yesterday I went food shopping and stocked up on the four main food groups of the Limey Brother: Eggs, Milk, Cheese and Pasta. After arriving this morning and making a four-egg cheese omelette with three slices of toast, he is currently having a nap under the airline blanket he swiped. Ahh, almost like being home.

Off to Spamalot, complete with my flesh wound.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I'd better stock up on my non-perishables

So rumor (rumour) has it that we are getting snow later this morning, around 6am, which I am excited about. They have dragged me around all winter; I will see snow forecast for later in the week and by the time the day comes, the little snow icon has disappeared, replaced by a rain cloud icon, naturally. But this time will be different, I can smell it. The BBC Weather site is still listing it as "heavy snow," lasting a few hours, and everyone is aflutter about the impending "storm." I got an email from my lecturer with a subject line of "contingency plans in the event of heavy snow on thursday," though upon further investigation I discovered that "heavy snow" really means 5 centimeters, possibly 15 up north. 2-6 inches?? Please. My high school didn't cancel class during raging ice storms. My college has had one snow day while I've been there, and it was only because the waist-high snow prevented our president from leaving his house. But here, you know, two inches--sorry, 5 centimeters--is a big deal, and the Tube will probably shut down completely and the power in my dorm will probably go out again, as well as the power in the three train stations on Euston Road.

I should really lay off on the snark, though, because I realize that even after enduring 21 years of New England winter, I have been completely weakened by London weather. It's been hovering comfortably around 45 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and when it dipped to 30 the other day I nearly had a hemorrhage. Thirty degrees! Good lord man! Humankind has not endured such meteorological hardship! Whereas back home if it were 30 in January I would be shedding my coat and donning a coconut bra while humming "Mele Kalikimaka."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In true British style, the UK quietly rules the world

Contrary to what Paul told us in '82, the pound is, in fact, not sinking. My general rule when it comes to financial dealings in this country is to calmly and rationally say to myself, "Don't think about that price in American dollars. You live in a small New England town. This is a large British city. That small coffee is not three dollars, it's a pound fifty. Don't torture yourself over an exchange rate you have no control over, even if it could make the most hardened New York stock broker cry." Yes, that's right--as of today, each and every British pound can buy you 1.96 US dollars. I wince just typing it. When I was in Switzerland, it was harder to convert, as the Swiss Franc is equal to about $.80 American. Quatre francs pour un cafe au lait? Pas de probleme! Who even knows what I'm paying! I'm in a foreign country! 80% of 4.00 CHF? Too hard to figure out, no worries, won't think about it. But doubling is such an ingrained mathematical skill that I can't help but convert. Football tickets seem like a bargain at 15 pounds, and a little voice in your head says, "Wait.. that's not-- no! no! STOPSTOPSTOP DON'T CONVERT DON'T CONVERT AHHHHHHHH! THIRTY DOLLARS! You don't even LIKE sports! What is wrong with you???" Yesterday, in an effort to sample all the little shops and cafes I pass every day, I stopped by the whole foods store, which has a hot lunch bar. Load up your styrofoam tray for 89p per 100g. I have a very limited idea of what 100 grams of anything looks like, nevermind yummy vegetable curry that is calling my name, and throw in the deceptively powerful foreign currency and my sense of frugality goes down the toilet completely. My lunch, while tasty, cost me five pounds/ten dollars, which puts even the salad bar at Shaw's to shame.

And what's a whole foods shop doing using styrofoam trays anyway?? They give me a special biodegradable wooden fork which gives me splinters in my tongue (definitely not friendly to MY environment) but styrofoam? A-OK by them! So 'scuse me while I take out my recycling to make up for their glaring hypocrisy.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bread and alcohol never cease to please

So I've returned to something remotely resembling a routine, though I'm fairly sure that getting up at 11:30 am, consuming ridiculous amounts of pasta with butter and occasionally attending class is not a routine I should expect to maintain past the age of 21.

However luck has been conspicuously absent lately, in the form of last week's power outages and the ensuing madness. The day that King's Cross Station and a half-mile of major roadway (including the residence of yours truly) lost electricity was also the day it was windy enough to blow me over, the day I had to get up before the sun rose, the day my phone company decided to forget about the 30 pounds I had previously topped up my phone with, and the day that we were evacuated from our building due to the aforementioned power outage. The wardens of our dorm sagely advised us: "It is not safe here. Pack thy bags and impose upon thy neighbor." And while they indicated that if absolutely necessary they could grudgingly accommodate some evacuated students by setting them up with a basement floor somewhere, they essentially declared us all homeless for the night. Naturally we took this opportunity to stay in a cute British hotel and demand that the college pay for it.

Oh, and it was also the day I forgot deodorant. Of course.

R and I took off for Bath the next day, in the first of several planned day trips to small British cities. We channeled our inner Classics majors--admittedly a very small part of my psyche--and toured the Roman baths, we ate pasties (which, in addition to being my new favorite food, are definitely PASS-ties, as PAY-sties are something else entirely), we tried on corsets in the Museum of Costume (after eating the pasties which was a poor choice), and we breezed through the Jane Austen museum, as I have appreciated her work since I was old enough to watch Wishbone (which I would totally still watch if it were still on television). I think we also broke some sort of record for greatest number of audioguides encountered in one day. I heartily maintain that there is nothing so warm and fuzzy as prerecorded historical fact piped straight to your ears by way of a giant telephone receiver.

We then ate dinner in the Sally Lunn House which, in addition to being really really proud of its enormous hamburger buns, is also the oldest house in Bath, being over 500 years old. Forget the history, though, 10 pounds for two courses (both centering around very large pieces of bread) and wine? Yes please!

And tomorrow? Further lessons in sophistication for boorish American college students. That is, Les Mis tickets for 15 pounds. I love this country.