Sunday, November 21, 2010

An American Girlfriend In London Pt 1

Moving to London from my home America for the winter (to be with the BF), aside from the actual mileage of about 3000 miles, isn't really that big a leap….or at least I didn't think it would be. The language is English, so the fear of not knowing what anyone was saying to me wasn't there. I grew up around British, Scottish, and Irish friends & family, so understanding various accents/dialects wasn't going to be an issue for me…. but I will still, probably forever, crack up at the handful of words out there that are pronounced with obvious differences depending on region/country - "oregano," "aluminum," & "Tunisia" are three that stand out as favorites on that list. There is also inflection. I never noticed the difference till I was living in Scotland a few years back and a friend of mine tried to use that line that has become synonymous with the character "Joey" on "Friends": "How you doin'?"  Even as I type that I can hear it being said… but my Scottish friends just COULD NOT get the inflection right. No matter how many times I repeated it for them it would come out "how you doin' ?"  I know it's kinda hard to get that one across when writing it, as opposed to saying it out loud, but you understand what I'm saying', right? It's just funny. Not a big deal, but still funny.


I know I've mentioned before that when I lived in Scotland I would, upon meeting someone new, either lie & say I was Canadian, or lead off the "nice to meet you" handshake with "I didn't vote for him" (George W. Bush was President back then), but aside from being embarrassed by having a President (at the time) who was the laughing stock of the planet (ok, the whole f'n solar system), I was sad that so many people in Europe seemed to hate Americans, and were NOT (ever) silent about the fact. In my presence there were a lot of "well, not you" and "you're the exception, of course" (of course…) sentiments. I remember sitting in the local pub up in the highlands asking my friends there why they had so many preconceived notions about Americans, and they all, with out a moment to think about it, said "television." They based their ideas on what Americans are like by watching American TV on cable. (WTF?!) My reply to that? "Well, good thing we don't do that in America or we'd all think you were "Groundskeeper Willy!" Of course as I said it, and looked around the pub in that wee "blink & you'll miss it" village in the heart of the Cairngorm mountains, I realized that just about everyone in there was indeed practically identical to "Groundskeeper Willy." Irony?

Now I'm in London, not Scotland (though I am aching to go back and visit some friends there soon), and I am noticing the strangest differences. Things I didn't foresee, or even consider would be as head scratching as they are. I believe now, after the BF suggested the point, that perhaps because the wee village where I lived in Scotland was so close to Aviemore, a HUGE tourist town because all the skiers go there for their goods, that a lot of familiar things I found at the local Tesco & nearby shops were due to the fact that they catered to tourists and foreigners. In the area of London I am living in this winter (Hackney) I am noticing little things like the other day when the BF & I  went to the grocery store to get ingredients, so I could bake a cake I had brought a recipe for, not only was I totally unable to find a regular ol' box of Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker "yellow cake" mix, but they didn't even have Jello® pudding! THEN when I finally agreed to try/use some things the BF suggested, I couldn't for the life of me understand the measurements. I grew up using cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, etc… not metric. Don't even get me started on trying to figure out the oven at the BF's place… he scrubbed it so clean a while back that he scrubbed off the markings and everything was stuck in Celsius since they didn't know which buttons to push to get Fahrenheit back (the only thing I know in Celsius is that water freezes at 0˚ and boils at 100˚ as opposed to Fahrenheit where it freezes at 32˚ and boils at 212˚). We couldn't figure out how to set the oven for 350˚F, and since we don't have internet at the house, and I couldn't turn on my American cell phone without incurring MASSIVE phone charges to google the answer (last time I was here I made the mistake of using my phone a few times and incurred a bill of over $1200!! -holy shit!)… we had to wait for the BF's friend (Kenny) to arrive for dinner (I made a tomato & beef stew) and look it up on his phone. (It was 180˚C btw). I should add here that the cake was PHENOMENAL! For real, it was freaking' delicious. Even better than the first time I made it over a year ago… and I do not like chocolate AT ALL, but this cake was slammin'!
I'm gonna give you the recipe right now so you can see for yourself, mind you it'll be the "American version" :) :

Baileys Irish Cream Cake

     1 box of yellow/vanilla cake mix
       4 oz instant chocolate pudding (basically a box of chocolate Jello® instant pudding)
     3/4 cup  vegetable oil
     1/8 cup  water
     1/4 cup  Vodka (an "airplane bottle" size will work)
     3/8 cup  Bailey’s Irish Cream (totally used more than that.. just eyeballed it… with "I ♥ Baileys eyes" )
       4    Eggs
Combine cake mix, pudding mix, oil, water, vodka, Baileys and eggs in bowl.  Beat until smooth.  Pour into greased and floured 10″ Bundt pan. Bake at 350˚ for 40-50 minutes or until done.  Remove from pan and cool completely.
Mix a glaze of Bailey’s and powdered sugar to a thick consistency and drizzle over cake…. then try not to devour the entire thing in one sitting…. trust me, it's damn near impossible. Seriously.
(if you make this- & you should since it's ridiculously easy, I really do not only want your feed back, but want to hear about how much your friends/family loved it… and, uh.. I'd like a slice)

Now… back to the random "this is odd" ramblings…(this may very well become a series of blog posts since I am stumbling upon new things every day)… 

I knew that where I lived in Kincraig (that's the wee village in Scotland where I was living) was very "out of the way" and therefor didn't expect a lot of amenities I may have been used to back home. The tiny fridges were the first thing to boggle my mind. Everyone had refrigerators that were the size that most of us in America would have in our dorm rooms in college. Of course I soon came to realize that because Europe doesn't have the craptastic food that permeates every aisle of the US's local grocery stores, oozing with chemicals & pesticides, that food not only will spoil quickly if not used/eaten in a timely fashion… but a lot of it doesn't need to be refrigerated. Plus houses are decidedly colder and when you "accidentally" leave the milk out on the counter in the kitchen… the fear of it being all spoiled and lumpy isn't really there like it is in America. I love that the food in Europe is, on average, pretty much chemical free. It's awesome to be honest… but it's still like a weird edible Jenga® game when more than one person goes grocery shopping on the same day you do and needs to put stuff in the fridge too. 

Another one of the "ok, that's different" things is laundry. Back home I can run a fairly large wash load and it will be ready for the dryer in about 30 minutes whereas I have used tiny machines in the UK that take just over an hour. Of course the big ones at the local launderette are faster, but man they cost a lot! I took some wash there the other day and it cost me £4 just to do a load in one of the big washers. (That's like upwards of $6.50!!… don't even get me started on the dryer that took £1 for every 15 minutes!) .. at the BF's there is no dryer, just a clothes line out back. This is fine by me, 'cause I happen to love the way clothes look and feel after drying in the sunshine. So what's the problem? I don't think there has been a full 24 hours of no rain since I arrived. There are currently a lot of wall heaters in the house covered in various articles of everyone's clothing right now. Maybe we should try to be more creative about where we put our clothes? You know, the living room could be "the sock room", the bedrooms can be for underwear, the kitchen can be for towels… not the bathroom… that room is not heated (holy crap is it cold in there!… and, as you all might remember, a perfect habitat for growing mushrooms. Yes, that's what I'll do. It can be like our own poorly merchandised charity shop… where all the items are in some state of dampness.

I really just think the one thing that is going to make me crazy is the inability to hop on line whenever I want. I miss that the most.
Truth is I don't miss anything from back home other than some friends/family… and WiFi. I can not even begin to tell you how many times in a day I have a thought that is followed by "oh, I should google that" and then realize I need to write a note to myself to remind me to do that when I get to the cafe here where I use the internet. Apparently it takes WEEKS to get the internet installed in private residences here, and now we are all just waiting for the BF's newest housemate to order it and get it installed. ('Cause he said he would…) I have a feeling it's not going to happen while I'm here, so if it doesn't… at least now I will have a minimum of one thing (other than friends/family) to look forward to upon returning to my home in the states. The only other non-living thing at the moment that I miss is my job. How weird is that? I actually LOVE my job, but it doesn't start up again till around Memorial Day Weekend (end of May) and lasts till just after Labor Day. I really should try to find something else to help supplement my income, but right now I'm sorta coasting through and trying to figure out where/what I want to be/do with my life. This is probably why I'm so keen on asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, I'm looking for suggestions.

Got any?


  1. I love hearing about your adventures in ol' blighty. i bet that fat cockney twat doesn't appreciate you like he should.

  2. I was in London this summer and I loved it! Since I'm from Slovenia which is in Europe (you can google it :P)the biggest thing to adjust to was driving on the wrong side of the road and their weird faucets.