Monday, June 02, 2008

London Bits

The weather was cool. The wind would whip by and make you think of November instead of May. In Oxfordshire on the Bank Holiday, I never took my sweater off, even indoors, and thank god I brought a rain jacket. Plenty of winter coats were in evidence and I could have used my Mistress of the Stables boots.

I don't think anyone goes to England for the food (although a friend of mine prepared a fabulous roast beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding--it's a little like what we would call a popover). I tried everything that seemed traditional, including a cheese plate, a Ploughman's lunch, fish and chips, and bitter ale. Lager has fizz to it and bitter doesn't--that's how it was explained to me. They like to serve mushy peas and baked beans with everything and on all tables you will find this brown sauce.

Here it is next to the ketchup.
It's a little like barbecue sauce or A-1, but thinner and sweeter. I liked it.
I ain't big on beans, though.

They always give you vinegar, too. Note my chic scarf. I am into scarves now, though it's a little hot for them in Massachusetts.

This was our regular pub, the Prince of Wales near Belgrave Road. The back entrance had a tiny cement step in front of it, over which I tripped several times. There's nothing like a dramatic entrance, which I have always known. We were in there on the night England played the USA in soccer ("football") and the place was jumping. Actually, it was jumping every night. I could definitely get into it.
Brits wear "trousers." They don't say "pants." In fact, a friend whispered to me that "pants" are worn, well, underneath. Oops, didn't know that. I was probably spouting "pants" "pants" "pants" without a break.
Brits don't disembark from trains or get off them, they "alight." I love this. 'DO NOT ALIGHT HERE. It makes me feel graceful.

A road detour is a "diversion," which I also love. I expect to see a group of people around a table playing cards and amusing themselves. Or someone doing magic tricks to try and take your mind off the traffic.

They don't say "exit." They say "Way Out." I have brief flashbacks of the 60s/70s hippie era when I see this--far out, man. WAY OUT, DUDE.

"Baggage Reclaim"makes me ponder. I suppose this is more correct than "Baggage Claim," and I don't know which I prefer.

An "inky swot" is a bookworm. Someone who studies night and day. Isn't that great? THE INKY SWOT could be a book title for sure.

After being so polite in some of their terms, it's a bit jarring to see the word "Toilets" displayed prominently. We Yanks are far more inhibited and modest in some ways--Ladies' Room, Rest Room, geez, we make it sound like we're going to sleep in there. I guess we don't like to mention what really might be happening. Sometimes the Brits say "going to the gents" and I don't know if there is a parallel term for females.

Only the lower classes hold their pinkies up when they drink tea. Who knew?

Scones are good.

They don't say "Yield," but "Give Way," which seems quite elegant and deferential, like nodding one's head.

Some signs resist translation.

In the very busy sections of the city, when you approach a street corner, you can look down and see LOOK LEFT or LOOK RIGHT painted on the street itself. This is very helpful. However, when it is NOT there, I tend to bolt out into the middle of things without thought. That's always been how I lived anyway.

Driving on the lefthand side seems very dangerous.

They don't have garbage cans, but "bins." I know we have bins too, but I think we keep things in them. "Put this in the bin" would tell me to store the thing, not throw it out. And speaking of that, there are precious few places to throw things out in London. Come to find out, garbage receptacles have been used to hide bombs in, so that makes sense. You just have to keep your gum wrappers in your pocket until you get to your home or your hotel and throw then out in your own "bin."

It's very expensive just now for an American in London. Yikes.

A six-pound inexpensive something-or-other doesn't seem so cheap when you realize it is twelve bucks. Fifteen pounds for fish and chips and you are having a thirty-dollar lunch. After a few days, who the f cares?
I wish I was still there. A bientot, dear reader.


At 11:28 PM , Blogger sandman1 said...

We ended up with a regular pub too -- the Black Swan I think it was -- so much better than a regular McDonalds!

They actually call it "brown sauce", don't they? I think I saw it printed on a little packet once, like you'd get at a cafeteria next to the ketchup.

I like "WC" as a good compromise term between the blunt (toilet) and the silly (restroom). Or, "I say, that old inky swot sure spends a lot of time in the loo!"

At 5:15 AM , Blogger Becky Motew said...

Oh, I didn't know that about "brown sauce," sm. Or I wasn't paying attention. The bottle sometimes says HP, which means Houses of Parliament, but I thought that was just a brand name.

WC is a good compromise, though I didn't see any signage for it. Probably no one would know what was meant, so "toilets" is better in that sense.

Still wish I was there. Sigh.


At 11:35 AM , Blogger Kristina said...

I love these updates! I shall have to live vicariously since my own trip got cancelled.

A traveling blog from you would be about the most hilarious thing I can imagine.

At 12:25 PM , Blogger Becky Motew said...

God bless you, my child.

Wouldn't I love to do a traveling blog--as I enlarge to the size of a house.


At 11:29 PM , Blogger sandman1 said...

Maybe I'm wrong about brown sauce and the UK -- it's possible that packet I saw came from somewhere else (a souvenir from my mother's trip to Iceland perhaps). I say this because the wikipedia suggests it's primarily found in Scandinavia (plus France). I have to admit I don't remember seeing it at all when I went to London, though I do remember the vinegar. Sorry for the mis-info!

At 6:21 AM , Blogger Becky Motew said...

It's a first, sm!!

And we'll probably find out something that proves you were right in the first place anyway. :)


At 8:45 AM , Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

We call it HP sauce or Black sauce sometimes Boss Sauce ... a lot of things in common with Britain in NZ. (including the definition of 'pants'!!) I laughed at the differences - you should write that book; you've definitely got one of those quick-to-notice minds.


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