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Showing posts from November, 2009

Bits and Bobs

I’ve been washing my hair with 12p shampoo for a month now, and it hasn’t turned green or fallen out. Hurray for cheap stuff! I never thought I’d find such items here in the UK. I was under some illusion that there were no generic brands or something, but really some of those ASDA prices would make Americans go crazy.

One thing I have found (or not found) is solid deodorant. Now, hear me out. I know it’s random, but after noticing that I couldn’t find it, I realized I really couldn’t find it. I know I have a history of standing in stores staring blankly for unusual amounts of time, but the deodorant aisle doesn’t usually hold my attention. After careful evaluation (far more careful than someone of my age should take), I ended up with an aerosol can (which is the prevailing choice next to roll-on). And let me tell you there is nothing like: a. spraying freezing cold liquid onto your skin, b. having the first ingredients of deodorant be methane and butane, or c. inadvertently br…

The Switch On

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Tonight was Coventry's Christmas light "switch on." It's a nice event held in towns across the UK where people get together, entertainment is provided, and a semi/real celebrity pushes a button or something to switch on the city's Christmas light display.
During the day today, Cov had a Chinese Market, a display of real reindeer and penguins, and a lifesize gingerbread house (disappointingly not edible.)

There was entertainment by some singers I'd never heard of, mostly because I've never seen x-factor or Britain's got talent. The switch on was done by Wallace and Gromit, the Mayor and his wife, and that guy from "A Hitchhikers Guide." So, not a bad line-up! It was a pretty nice atmosphere and not too cold. I was actually surprised that so many people turned up, but it probably shows my inexperience with such events.
Afterwards I went to the "Light in our Darkness" service at the cathedral to mark the beginning of Advent. I can&…

York

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I wasn't thrilled to learn that York is almost a three hour drive from Coventry. Also, heading north, historically has meant rain. But, when we arrived it wasn't raining. In fact, unbelievably, it was sunny. I almost forgot what that looks like. Seizing the good weather we went to climb the tower of York Minster, a huge church and major landmark in York.
The whole Minster took me about two hours longer than I expected to, but in the best way possible. We started by climbing the 275 spiraling steps of the tower which was really nice, and gave us great views of the city. From there we went all the way down to the crypts. Here you can see parts of the original foundation built by Romans, and also the foundation of the church build by the Normans in 1100. The current building was completed in 1472, which really wasn't recent, unless you compare it to Roman times.
We then went into the minster itself to enjoy the enormity of the place, and its intricate wood and stone ca…

Oo-de-lally

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According to my favorite Disney classic, the 1973 Robin Hood, back in the day, "oo-de-lally" was a commonly used phrase. After spending an afternoon in Nottingham, I can attest with certain authority that no one says it anymore (if ever). Also, sadly, we didn't find a troubadour rooster, or an outlaw dressed as a stork with an uncanny talent at archery.
What we did find was Nottingham castle. Like many English landmarks, it is a much changed place from it's original buildings, but now houses a nice museum focused on the history of Nottingham. When we'd had our fill we enjoyed the city center all set for Christmas with an ice rink, and (the now ubiquitous) German Christmas market.
It was really nice and only rained a little. We went into the St. Stephens church, and wandered through some of the charming streets, ending at another museum, more dedicated to Robin Hood. Did he exist? Did a "Rob Hod" exist? Who knows? Although I love Disney's vers…

A first time for everything

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Thanksgiving this year was inevitably a strange one. I was very excited to share it with new friends, none of whom knew what thanksgiving was all about. I don't think I had the best explanation of this highly evolved holiday. I like to say it was a utopian couple of days when the "pilgrims" and "Indians" lived in peace, after the Indians kindly saved the remaining pilgrims from dying. More or less immediately after the first Thanksgiving was over the pilgrims set to spreading disease to the Native Americans, and generally killing them in any other way possible.
But, it really is a great holiday. I was able to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade via live webcam feed on Times Square. It was the best way I've ever watched it, as it was completely without annoying commentary and periodic broadway performances. I could see the baloons, listen to the bands, and watch Santa arrive in peace.
I got up early and for the first time made my Mother's s…

How you say? Show.

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Today I rode the bike to the Emergency Services Show. It was about six miles away, and about three miles in, the traffic was backed up. I figured there was no way it was for where I was headed (but it was!). Happily on the bike, I cheated and rode on the "pavement" passing many trapped motorists. Unfortunately about 1/2 a mile away I ran out of pavement, and after riding in the traffic for a while found a path to the entrance I could take. Of course it involved lifting the bike over a fence, and in the end was completely not worth the time it took, but I still enjoyed leaving the road.
The expo was great. Outside of getting tons of free pens, I also got some cool keyrings, lots of information, got to play with a lifepak 15 (awesome) and saw more emergency vehicles than I will in a year. From motorcycle ambulances, to helicopters, to police jet skis, it was all there. Even a rescue kayak! Yes!
It goes without saying that it was super squirrely, and I'm very glad I we…

A labor of love

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If you have ever mused: "I wonder how much fun it would be to ride a bike 3 miles with a 13 pound frozen turkey in my backpack while its raining." then look no further. I can attest that there is very little fun involved in riding your bike while carrying a 13 pound turkey in the rain. It is probably more fun that riding 3 miles with a live turkey, though. Ah, silver linings.
It is thanksgiving week and although I am looking forward to sharing our traditions with the rest of the world, I am a bit nervous about all the people who are coming over. I mostly has to do with the admittance that I have never cooked a turkey. Everything good I had to eat in college was made by the uni or my roommates. Not me. Every past thanksgiving I have kind of helped out, chopped, or stirred, but never really was a part of the big thanksgiving picture.
Also, our kitchen is sparsely stocked with a few plates, random silverware, and a strange assortment of pots. I'll be borrowing a few t…

Chester

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On Saturday I visited the town of Chester. It's a very charming town with (like many charming English towns) a long interesting history dating decidedly back to Roman times. They had built a wall around the town, many buildings, an arena, and lots of columns (as was their custom.) The Normans made their contribution with the Chester Cathedral which is absolutely beautiful and huge. In the Tudor period they build plenty of those "black and white" buildings. Many were rebuilt during the Victorian era, because they looked quaint. Also, a great covered shopping area was perfected over time now called the Chester "rows" Basically, the 1st floor of buildings has a covered area on the facade that allows shoppers to wander around in dry comfort.

We had a nice tour in the morning, then in the afternoon, I convinced some people to nerd it up with me in the local museum. It was really nice for a small town museum, and I'm feeling a theme of such places, that t…

Bulk food Awesomeness

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When I first moved to New Hampshire, I wanted to find some familiarity. Stores, the landscape, the climate, many things were different than what I was used to. But, when I visited the local Costco, I found it to be a familiar and happy place. I was also at the time overcome by discovering their beer aisle. How naive I was!
Today I visited a UK Costco. It was a bit of a pilgrimage as I had to take the train to get there, and then walked quite a distance, but when I arrived, I knew I was in for a foreign bulk retail treat.
I did find it strangely familiar with almost the exact layout of my store at home, and extremely similar products and brands. I found myself looking for my usual Costco shopping companions, which did make me feel a bit sad.

So, I spent an unusual amount of time combing the aisles for differences. I indulged in many samples of course, most notably, alcoholic beverages. Where the NH store had beer and wine, the England store surpasses it with liquor. Jameson to Ba…

Leeds

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Last week I went again into the north to Leeds. I didn't really know what to do here to take up all of our time, but we started in the local art gallery. Unfortunately much of it was being constructed upon and some galleries were closed. They did have some nice modern sculpture. From there we went to the Leeds City Museum. This is a very nice place that takes you through the history of Leeds, and I mean history. From the movement of tectonic plates bringing the UK out from underwater, to local Roman artifacts, to a unique collection of taxidermied wild animals. By the time we finished there it was raining. Surprises.
One thing Leeds does have is malls. Whatever you call them, downtown Leeds is full of malls, they are around every corner, in various degrees of posh. We spent most of the rest of the day seeking refuge from the rain in these various malls and got really good at wandering in circles. Leeds also has a great huge market. So I enjoyed seeing all the weird thin…

By the Sea

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Before I got there I knew a few things about Blackpool. It had a beach, they lit lights in the fall, and James May had never been there because he ran out of gas.
I know a bit more about Blackpool now. In November, the lights are beautiful, the sea is cold and turbulent, and it never rains. No wait, wait, I mean, it always rains.
It was sunny blue skies for most of our journey to the northwest coast of England. Then we made a turn and, welcome to North England: it's raining. I didn't mind, figuring it would be just like in Cov; rain for 10 minutes then clear up. Oh how wrong I was.
I did feel quite excited to be on the coast, thrilled even to see hear the incessant waves and seagulls. The rain was off and on throughout the day, but mostly on. We had a nice blue badge tour of the high spots. The guide did her best to keep us dry, touring more inside than out. We finished in the center of the city and immediately found the closest chippy as it was raining again. Fish an…

Brom

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Last week I met my friend who graciously showed me around her hometown of Birmingham. I had heard a lot about it, as far as I can tell, Birmingham really gets a bad rep. I found it to be pretty interesting; full of shops, history, art, and industry like any good European city.
We stopped in the modern art gallery, Ikon, where I didn't understand anything that was going on. We also went through the symphony hall, the war memorial, and to the other art gallery to see an exhibit of old photographs of the city.
A large portion of the city center is pedestrianized, making it very pleasant to walk through. Now, to the "pincushion" (pictured above). I got the feeling that the city has mixed feelings about it, and my environmentalist guide could barely look at it without needing a place to be sick.
I think it's kind of cool looking, which is high praise for a building that contains a giant shopping mall. I also think it's a little out of place, virtual yards from the…

Remember, remember

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Thank goodness, in 1605, some Catholic extremists decided to blow up parliament. Thank goodness one of them lost his nerve and caused them to fail. If that hadn't happened, there wouldn't be a November holiday in the UK! Traditional Guy Fawkes day, or bonfire night, is celebrated with a bonfire including burning and effigy of Fawkes, and a fireworks display. What an impact on history he's had here, to have a whole holiday named after you, still celebrated 400 years later?! Wow.
Anyway. Thanks to Guy and his friends I found myself this evening pedaling 4 miles in the rain to Longford park to take in a proper English fireworks display.
My nerve faltered when it was so cloudy, but I was assured it would go on rain or shine. So, armed with my waterproofs, high-vis vest, and blinking taillight, I set off into the unknown.
I found the park without a problem other that by the time I got there I was an hour early and it was raining. A lot. I hid for a while under a bus stop, …

Change

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The other day I spotted a coin on the floor and victoriously went to pick it up as finding coins on the floor is my only source of income. I turned it over in my hand and found it be American dime. So I had made a pointless 7.5 pence. But really, how weird.
Change here is an important part of the culture, I think. Mostly because there is so much of it. In the US $1 coins do exist, but are barely legal tender. When you use them, people look at them as strangely as if you'd handed them Monopoly money. After careful scrutiny, they relinquish and take it, still skeptical and wondering who Sacajawea is.
Here, on the other hand, they got rid of the pound note about 20 years ago and never looked back. Now, and probably then too, there are commonly used two pound, one pound, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, and 1p coins. That’s a lot of change! (I miss the quarter myself.) There is always a healthy amount of change jingling annoyingly in my pocket.

Over the last week, unbeknownst to me, I recei…

I miss EMS

We were called out a 4am for a sick person. When we got there we went to the door and rang the doorbell.
An inquisitive “Who is it?” came from inside.
Were you expecting someone else at this hour?

We were called for shortness of breath. When we go there we went in and found the patient in moderate distress but able to say:
“I have oxygen here, but I didn’t put it on.”
That’s when I picked up the tank and smacked him in the head with it.
Cured.

We were called for a psych problem and arrived to find a lady rolling on the floor, shouting, and being generally uncooperative. Her friend came over to help us calm her down.
Friend: “It’s okay, it’s okay...you’re just crazy.”
Thank you, captain obvious.