Wednesday, June 18, 2008

'Ello Loves!

And how’s your world?
I’m not sure how much press this got outside of the UK, but the government decided that (gasp) people could no longer drink of the subways (the tube) here in London. The night before the big change, about 17,000 people had a “party” riding the underground that night, with a few hundred arrests for drunken behavior. I’m not sure how much affect it had, in that I saw heaps of people drinking on the trains the week after the law changed. Beer and wine mostly… but old habits die hard.
Yes, there have been great strides in food here. I remember the first time I came here in 1972, and it was all steak and kidney pies and peas. It’s still that, but you can find more variety now – although most if it is bland, too. We ordered in Chinese the other night, and even the “spicy” stuff didn’t have much kick. Maybe I’ve just had too many jalapenos.
I did have my first crumpets, however! They’re sort of like English muffins, but a bit doughier. They’re often served with “golden syrup,” which is a bit like a mix of honey and maple.
Last weekend, I took the train down to Chippenham in Wiltshire, to see my friend Julia. She and I met in 1983 in New Zealand, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Her husband, Tom, sells French wine, mostly from the Loire, and they have two wonderful kids, Olivia and Alexander. Alexander tried to get me to play any sport with him: soccer, cricket or tennis, but he discovered how the sports gene skipped me. Still, I had to laugh at his honesty when he finally realized I couldn’t connect my foot to the ball, and he said in exasperation: “You’re pathetic!” When it comes to sports, he’s quite right.
Julia and Tom have been renovating and enlarging their home, and I was there to “celebrate” the one-year anniversary of the work being started … and they still have at least another 4-5 weeks to go. In the end, it’s going to be an incredible home.
On Saturday, we went to a “Fete,” pronounced more like “Fate,” which is a thing they do here as a fundraiser for the local church. It’s part rummage sale, part carnival, part bake sale. One of the many offerings was a game (for 50 pence) where kids got a handful of golf balls which they could then throw at china plates and break them. Another game had people trying to throw a tennis ball to get it inside a ring of circles, and the closer you got to the center the more points you earned. Then your name was entered in a notebook, and the winners would be announced at the end of the day. I said that Americans would never stand for that – we want instant gratification. But Julia noted that British people are, if nothing else, patient. They’ll wait to find out who won.
Another huge story here has been the fact that Ireland turned down the proposal for the EU (European Union) constitution, which could throw the whole process of a unified Europe into the trash bin. There’s obviously deep fears about the growth of the EU, which does seem somewhat justified. The EU has opened the borders, but that means many low paying jobs are now going to Eastern Europeans, and all sorts of rules are coming into play now. One example is that bed and breakfast owners are no longer allowed to keep their dogs inside the house, for sanitary reasons. Many B&B owners have sworn to close down before they’ll put their dogs outside.
Another concern here are with the gypsies. They’re Romanovs, from Romania, and they’ve been a part of the English countryside for years. I remember seeing the horse drawn carriages many years ago. But the new breed of gypsies are not as concerned with keeping their camps clean, and their reputation is that of thieves and scoundrels. Many communities are passing legislation that wouldn’t allow any gypsy camps in their villages. A Brit version of NIMBY (not in my back yard!)
Wimbledon starts next Tuesday! On the heels of Euro 2008, which has something to do with lots of soccer, I mean “futbol.”
Prince William became the 1000th knight in the Roayl Order of the Garter, a custom that has gone on for over 600 years here and shows how much more he’s becoming a working member of the royal family.
Favorite phrase heard on the telly: A woman was talking about how much she enjoyed getting catalogs to look at, which she described as “groinal warming.”
I’ve seen this work “bespoke” used, but I couldn’t quite figure it out and finally asked. It means “custom made,” as in you have a “bespoke suit” or you can have a “bespoke chair,” which means it’s been custom designed and made just for you. Now you know.
Of course, watching the telly is always amusing. Tonight, in prime time, was a show about a guy who was making tea from the pods of the baobob tree. That was followed by a show about the nature of food phobias with British kids, and ways to get them to eat all that bland British food!
Weather report: what else, but partly cloudy with a chance of rain!
Tah-tah for now!