Niemo Invades England | UKan’t Stop This

The Rough Trip Home:

Let’s just say my ride home was not a pleasure cruise.  After a smooth seven weeks in England, the last few days and plane ride were rough seas.  First I had that stomach bug previously mentioned that had me glued to the toilet, then I had to deal with Virgin Atlantic Flight 021.

As I was laying in my hotel room the night before my flight back to the States and as soon as I saw Steven Seagal and Kurt Russell, I knew I had my next few hours set.  The movie, one I’d seen before, was Executive Decision.  After a while I realized I was watching a movie about an international flight hijacked by terrorists that was being flown to Dulles Airport, the same airport I was flying to the next day.  Bad omen?  Bad karma?  Hmm…

Tuesday morning I made it easily to the terminal with my backpack and three suitcases.  I found out I’d have to check all three suitcases (I had put on a lot of luggage weight) for a cost of a cool $200.  Thank goodness that wasn’t on my tab.  After some down time I made my way to the plane and boarded with no issue.  But what had been an empty back part when I was checking in online the day before, was now completely packed with many people that seemed neither English or American, including the South African choir.  Oh, well, I had an aisle seat and Virgin Atlantic features all you can watch second run movies.

Issue #1: I quickly realized the in-flight entertainment wasn’t working.  Instead of being able to watch Due Date or Family Guy, I had to read.  Ugh.  But never fear, they announced they were working on it and if they couldn’t easily fix it, they’d just reset the system which would take a half hour.  It’s an 8+ hour flight, so no biggie.

Issue #2: About 3 hours into the flight I suddenly thought I was watching a 4D movie.  The seats were a rockin’!  The next 20-30 minutes were full of some of the worst turbulence I’ve even experienced.  The plane was up and down more than an elevator, and I was pretty sure we were headed all the way down soon.  We were facing a strong wind against us.

Issue #3: The extreme wind, which caused all the turbulence, slowed us down, adding additional time to our flight and pushing it over the 9-hour mark.  Great.  And, still no in-flight entertainment.  They eventually game up and just offered us $32 off our next flight or 4,000 miles.  Yeah, that makes up for 9 hours of nothing to do.

Issue #4: As we were getting ready to land, the South African choir member next to me, who had recently switched seats with another member to get the window, started throwing up onto the side of the plane.  Apparently she wasn’t aware of the air sick bags, which I had to provide.  She spent the final 20 minutes hurling and had me wondering if I’d now have some rare disease soon, as if I hadn’t dealt with enough this week.

After landing, I had the biggest smile ever on my face.  It was good to be home, back in the US of A!  But then I had my next issue to deal with.  I had too much Scotch and a lot of goodies from the UK I didn’t want to declare.  I hid my receipts in a secret pouch in my backpack and prepared for the worst.

Then, I couldn’t find my iMac.  Both other suitcases had come out, no problem.  But no Mac.  Finally I decided to walk around and found they had set it off to the side.  Yeah, that’s smart, so someone else could just walk away with it.  At least I had everything – now on to customs.

Customs: “Form and passport, please.”

Me: “Here you go… great to be home!”

Customs: “OK, carry on, have a nice day.”

I almost started to argue with them.  This was too easy.  They were making it look too obvious.  We had to at least put on an act like I wasn’t smuggling things in.  Someone would be the wiser.  But finally I decided to shut up and keep going.  Apparently I must have a clean record.  Fooled’em!

And so I was home.  Seven weeks later, I was back in my friendly confines.  And man, does it feel good.  This really is the best country in the world, hands down.  Wall to wall sports, welcome home!

Wrapping up the Final 3 Weeks:

I had a case of writer burn-out, but here are some highlights from my last three weeks in the UK…

St. Patrick’s Day:

DuffHokie headed over for the weekend and got to London on St. Patty’s Day.  It was good to be able to speak American again.  ‘PRO-cess’ became ‘prah-cess’ and ‘to-mah-to’ became ‘to-MAY-to’.

London was a lot of fun for St. Patrick’s Day, and yes it is a big deal over here and yes they drink a lot of Guinness.  We uncovered a few interesting things — pubs close when they want to and set their own drinking age (as long as it is over 18).  In the rougher areas, pubs will set a higher drinking age to keep out the young hooligans.  And since there is no set last call time, pubs had staggered closings.  So DuffHokie and I would stagger to the next pub to resume our drinking.  This included scoring an upper level table over looking the dance floor at a dance club.  Let’s just say Brits can’t dance.  We enjoyed our table service from a 6’7″ Russian in a corset.

The funniest part of the night came when we jumped in a cab and asked the taxi driver to take us to a club we had heard about.  He pointed out the left side of the car and said, “It’s right there.”  We hopped out and tried to go in, only to find out you cannot wear ‘trainers’ (sneakers) to the nicer clubs.  Uppity Brits.

Then it was back to DuffHokie’s hotel — which was in an old gentleman’s club.  We had four beds in two bedrooms for a very reasonable price.  Why shouldn’t we enjoy the best?

Weekend #5:

DuffHokie and I went north to Manchester.  On Saturday, we attended the Manchester United game at Old Trafford, or the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ as they call it.  I scored tickets dead midfield in the second row of the upper deck off the UK StubHub, but I had to become a ManU member to do so.  The stadium was pretty cool — a large part of the roof was covered like Cowboys Stadium, with a big hole in the middle.  I wonder if that was there for the same reason it was in Cowboys Stadium — so God could watch his favorite team.

DuffHokie and I decided to spice things up a bit by gambling on the action.  As I mentioned in my Arsenal game trip, you can (legally) gamble inside the stadium.  I had six bets on the line.  The most interesting one was the timing of the first goal — I had minute 11-20 which DuffHokie had 21-30.  I also had Wayne Rooney scoring the first goal of the game.  At the 19:54 mark he had a great shot at an open net but missed by a few feet.  I was that close to win two bets with high odds.  I jumped up and let out a huge expletive.  Luckily, people are so soccer crazy here, no one though a thing of it.  They’ll moan and curse about a poor pass.

I ended up losing all six bets.

With 80 minutes gone in the game, it was still scoreless.  So in two English Premier League games and over 170 minutes of action, I had seen exactly one goal.  And they wonder why we hate the sport.

After crippling a USA star (Holden) and ManU getting a red card, ManU took it to Bolton and scored a late goal to win 1-0.  Two games, two goals.

The highlight might have been the ManU team song which is set to “Glory, Glory, Alleluia”.

That night we went out to the local hot spots.  We ended up at a huge dance club late night.  We should have known we were in for it — there was a group of ladies with pirate costumes on with the bride-to-be in a parrot outfit.  Inside there were about a dozen bachelorette parties, along with about a half dozen transvestites.  We decided it was time to head back to our hotel at that point.

Sunday night we were back in London.  After tooling around the usual haunts of Leicester Square and Covent Garden, we took the tube back to Heathrow Airport and his hotel — it is 20 stops.  I, of course, had to pee on the way.  This presented a problem until DuffHokie suggested I look for an empty bottle on the train.  I found one, and after the last other passenger on the train left, I took care of business.  A tube worker got on towards the end, sending me into a severe sweating fit, but he had no knowledge of my exploits and didn’t notice the golden-filled water bottle.

Week #6:

This was my final week working on the project.  On Wednesday I instituted ‘WOW’ – White on Wednesday.  I talked a couple of co-workers into wearing white dress shirts.  On Thursday, I hyped up ‘POT’ – Purple on Thursday.  Pretty much my entire team of 12 wore purple shirts or blouses as part of my final day on the project.  They were honoring me.  It was hilarious.  We looked like a Barney convention at lunch.  Then, I changed into a red, white, and blue shirt at lunch, announcing my re-Americanism.

That night we went to a Beer Festival in Milton Keynes at a locals’ pub.  Despite it was a Thursday night, there were about 8 people there, including two kids, when we got there at 7 PM.  We tried some interesting beers like ‘Babboon’s Breasts’ and ‘Purple Monkey’.  It was a solid night.

Friday I drove to see a bridge 2 1/2 hours away.  Yeah.  Big mistake.  I did get to drive over into Wales, though, marking my second of the Four Nations.  They’re signs are also in some local language that look Dutch and would score very well in Scrabble.  That night I headed down to London for a Qedis (the company I was working with) Happy Hour.

Weekend #6:

Erin headed to town.  I talked her into going to Stonehenge, which was just an hour away from Heathrow Airport.  It was pretty cool, though there is nothing else out there.

Saturday we walked around London.  Of course, there were 500,000 protesters there that forced us at times to be locked in stores while they streamed by.  Violence of course erupted with hundreds of arrests, but we were safely gone by then.

Sunday was Stratford-upon-Avon.  It was the town Shakespeare was born, and died, and was buried in.  We toured his house but couldn’t see his grave — which was closed.  Cool small town though.  Took a barge tour up the local river.

Worst joke I heard: Of the Four Nations, which is the only one sure of their nationality?  Answer: Wales.  The other three are ‘English’, ‘Scottish’, and ‘Irish’.  Get it?  -ish.  Yeah, rough stuff.

Week #7:

SCOTLAND:

How to sound like a Scot: Think of how a word should be pronounced, and then pronounce it completely differently (see Edinburgh and Islay below).

Headed up to Scotland and Edinburgh on Monday.  This was my third of the Four Nations.  Scottish people are extremely nice.  A guy saw me looking at a map and came up and helped us find our hotel.  I was holding on to my wallet the entire time, waiting for his angle.  But after he had helped us, he padded me on the shoulder, wished us luck, and headed off.  Still not trusting anyone.

Tuesday we rented a car and drove the Highlands of Scotland.  Let’s just say I greatly misjudged how far away they are, and how bad the roads are.  There are no motorways.  We mostly drove on two lane (total) roads that frequently had construction, knocking them down to just one lane for both directions.

We did get to see the Glenlivet Distillery, my fav Scotch.  Of course, it opens the week AFTER I leave so I couldn’t go in.  Hit up the Aberlour and Macallan distilleries.  The guy at the Macallan gift shop took one look at me and decided I wasn’t wealthy enough to afford the finer Scotch’s.  Didn’t even bother giving me a price on a 1975 bottle.  Thanks, jerk.

Then we drove to Inverness (‘IN-ver-NESS’) and Loch Ness.  Yep, the Loch Ness.  We dipped our hands in the Loch.  No monsters thought it was a worm and tried to bite my fingers.  Oh, well.

After failing to find a major tourist place, we headed back.  We left at 8:30 AM, got back at 10:30.  I basically drove for 75% of those 14 hours away.  Yikes.

Wednesday was touring Edinburgh, including the Edinburgh Castle.  Oh, it is pronounced ‘Eh-din-bur-oh’.  No idea why.  Erin asked what town that was.  I explained it was the same place.  She didn’t believe me.  Oh, and 12:30 plus 5 hours is 5:30 (inside joke).

The bars all seemed shady.  But they had more bourbons than England which made me happy, along with every Scotch you could imagine.  Laphroig (la-froyg) is a new fav, a very smokey and peaty Islay (‘I-lah’) Scotch that is described as ‘medicinal’.  The food is better than England, but then again that’s not saying much.  Haggis, which apparently is banned in the States because it is heart, liver, and lungs, isn’t half bad if you can forget what is in it.  And black pudding I’ve already described (congealed pig’s blood).  But any country that has Scotch eggs (a hard boiled egg wrapped with sausage and bread crumbs) is alright in my book.  And yes, we say a fair amount of kilts.

IRELAND/DUBLIN:

How to sound like an Irishperson: Talk a lot and slur your speech.  Oh, and don’t pronounce the ‘h’ in a ‘th…’ word.  33 is pronounced ‘tir-ty tree’.

Thursday we woke up in Scotland, spent the day in England, and went to bed in Ireland.  All Four Nations visited – check.

That night we headed to an Irish Bar.  Well, I guess you can just call it a bar since they are all Irish Bars over there.  The Temple Bar area is the place to be and that’s where we hit.  Again, Irish people are extremely friendly.  The bartender was hilarious.  I downed my first Irish Car Bomb (in Ireland, that is), and introduced them to the Bear Fight.  Even with their prolific drinking, they thought it was excessive.

Irish people love to talk.  Taxi drivers will not shut up.  They’ll even sing.  And everyone is a comedian.

Friday was a bus tour of Dublin.  We hit up the Guinness Brewery which was cool.  I am now a Perfect Pour graduate!  I also got to suck down a couple of Guinesses since Erin had some sort of stomach flu.  FYI: 14 million pints are consumed a day.

The food in Ireland is better than England, but not great.  Corned beef and cabbage is OK, and they have ‘boxty’ – a potato pancake.

It was a brilliant week — great having Erin over to experience these journeys with me and a fabulous cap to seven wonderful weeks.

Weekend #7:

Saturday was back to England.  After dumping Erin at Heathrow, I headed back to Milton Keynes for my final weekend in the UK.  I decided not to cram Paris into basically a day and instead try and catch up on seven weeks of missed sleep.  But that’s when I got the UK version of Montezuma’s Revenge.  Between 8 PM Saturday night and 4 AM Sunday, I would awake every hour with an imminent Code Brown and hurl about to explode from my body.

If you have ever run to the bathroom and had to decide between two orafice projectiles (the back and upper ones), you know my dilemma each hour.  Both were screaming to be let out.  Each time I dropped to my knees and sent the upper dilemma vaulting into the toilet while desperately trying to seal the back doors and my itchy trigger anus.  Let’s just say the boxers I was wearing that night won’t be making the trip back to the States.  I’m hoping I’m not in the flat Monday when the cleaning lady comes — I’d hate to see her face when she witnesses the carnage in the bathroom (and finds the boxers when she empties the trash can).

Sunday though I was back to normal, though weak, and started preparing to head back to the Status.  That was until I decided to eat a normal meal (burger) and basically another thunderstorm broke out in my boo-boo tummy.  In 24 hours I’ve blown through an entire box of Imodium and a whole roll of TP.  The toilet bowl looks like an impressionist painting from Tate Modern where the artist only used brown paint.

But, my time here in the UK is coming to an end.  Time to head back to the States, my home sweet home.  What a wild seven weeks it has been, but I’m ready to be home.  Listening to baseball games on the internet is great and all, but I’m ready to be back in my usual spring routine of baseball, baseball, and more baseball.  So crank up the P-Diddy, I’m Coming Home!

I’ll have my Top 10 from the trip soon.

FIRST 4 WEEKS:

Day 23 and 24 (Gas tank on empty):

One more day to go until we submit our first deliverable on my project.  I’ve been working until 10:30 or midnight almost every weeknight for the last two weeks on that and my semi-annual review.  I put in more hours in 2 days than I do in most weeks back in the States.  My body is going into shock. Just 24 hours to go (I have the 24 TV show clock noise going in my head)…

Talk like a Brit: ‘crisps’ – fries = chips, potato chips = crisps.  Whatever.

How to Sound like a Brit: ‘tomato’ – pronounced ‘toe-mah-toe’, not ‘toe-MAY-toe’.  But the dumb thing is they pronounce potato as ‘po-TAY-toe’.

Random things that annoy me over here:

  • Top 10 Music Lists – this weekend they played their top 10 on the way to/from Oxford (twice fully through).  They will count remakes of the same song as different songs, so a song by Lady Gaga and another by Adele were both in the list TWICE.  Heard them 8 times on my trip.  Ugh.  Speaking of…
  • CDs/DVDs don’t work over here.  I’m in zone 2 now.
  • Keyboard – their keyboard has an extra key on the left and two extra columns on the right.  Takes me 2-3 times to successfully login to anything.
  • Shopping centres: People take their shopping carts all over the mall/centre.  So if I’m walking around I’m constantly dodging these idiots.  And they’ll even bring them into a fast food place like Subway, totally blocking your way.
  • Washer/dryer – they don’t have top-loaders over here.  Just combo units.  Takes me 4 hours to do one load.  I wish I was kidding.  Sounds like a jet’s taking off from my flat, too.
  • Clocks – all in military.  Forces me to do math.  Freaked out the first time it went to 00:00.  I thought Jack Bauer was going yell, “Get down!” and something was going to blow up.
  • Scottish accents
  • Coins – they don’t have a $1 bill so I’m constantly overloaded with coins.  I sound like a piggy bank walking around.
  • My sink – no garbage disposal.  Apparently those are rare here.  Wish I had known that off the bat.  Water moves through my sink like bills move through the House of Commons.
  • Bedding – no flat sheets here, just a fitted.  I end up sweating a lot.
  •  

American Lunch Thursday - Subway was pretty solid.  Actually gave me an ‘American’ size drink.  I had the Fireball sub – meatballs and pepperoni with hot chilli sauce on it.  And I had nachos that were nachos in name only – there were crisps, and cheese, and some form of salsa.  But calling it nachos is like calling a Lunchables pizza ‘pizza’.

Day 21 and 22 (They Tread on Me):

Talk like a Brit: ‘safe’ – Means ‘I agree’.  How the hipsters talk.  “Should we head to the canteen?”  “Safe.”  I’ve been improperly using it like crazy (and probably am now).

How to Not Sound like a Brit: ‘bloody’ – they don’t really say this anymore unless it is followed up with “American”.

Holy crap it has been sunny three days in a row.  Where am I?  I’m struggling to come up with complaints right now.  Oh, wait, the food is still terrible.  But at least it is sunny!  Still has only made it north of 10 Celcius once, but it is sunny!

So anyway, his first day I’m sitting at the desk I’ve been at for 3 weeks.  We had 10 people at 8 desks, so it was crowded already.  Well, one of the older guys on Monday who sits on my right asks me to move so the new guy can sit next to him.  You should have seen the look on my face.  They are moving me for a new guy?  I was ticked.  I move.  Then, later in the day I’m coming out of a meeting and the new guy has set up in the seat I had moved to because he needed to be near our whiteboard.  Niemo’s getting upset!  Now I’m playing musical chairs each day.  At least it is sunny outside.

Day 19 and 20 – Weekend #3 (Cambridge and Oxford):

After hitting up two of the finest universities in the world this week, I feel like a Rhodes Scholar!  I can tell I’m smarter!  In fact, in an isoceles triangle, the sum of the squares of the lengths of the two legs is equal to the square of the length of the hypotenuse. Peanut Gallery: “That’s a right triangle.”  Oh, my bad.  Maybe, I’m not smarter.

Talk like a Brit: ‘punting’ – Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with ‘football’.  It means to be pushed around by a pole in a boat.  They have this on the small rivers or canals here, kind of like what they do in Venice.  It is the way to see the sights of Cambridge and you get hassled every 20 feet to sign up for a punting trip.

Sound like a Brit: ‘Emirates’ – this is the title sponsor of Arsenal and the stadium is named for them (I think they make planes or something).  It is not pronounced ‘Em-eh-rot-ehs’ as I said to the hysterics of locals.  It is ‘Em-eh-ret-Ees’.

McDonald’s breakfast - they have the usual goodies.  Sausage Egg McMuffin was a true taste of home.  They even have a double, a rare time they are more glutonous here.  They also offer a bacon sandwich that is on a long roll, but comes with just 2 oversized pieces of Canadian bacon.  Not much meat on it (my Mom would love it) and then you add brown sauce or ketchup.

Street meat - bought a pastry filled with steak and merlot yesterday in Oxford.  I was concerned until the vendor assured me they use only the finest street meat suppliers.  If you like lukewarm and chewy, this was the dish for you!  I find myself eating American more and more now.

Cambridge v Oxford - Cambridge pones Oxford.  It is more compact and more ‘authentic’.  Everything looks like it is out of the 16th century, including the very impressive King’s College Chapel (pics on Bookface), which is in fact from the 16th century.  Both universities are made up of colleges.  It is kind of cool – you walk through a gate or big wooden door and into a courtyard with all the buildings and dorms inside.  It is like colleges within a college.

Oh, I used the cheap sunglasses I bought on Day 2 for the first time on Day 19!  Again, umbrellas you need here, sunglasses you don’t.  Hopefully the weather is turning for the better.

Sheep - do not like it when you run at them.  I was parked highly illegally on a road and tried to run over to get some pics of sheep.  They promptly took off away from me and started ‘bahhhh’ing at me like crazy.  If you walk up to them calmly, they’ll just stare out you, trying to figure out what the heck you are doing.  And they do ‘bahhhh’ a lot.  It was interesting driving the English countryside.  Somewhat similar to driving on I-81 in Virginia, but with sheep everywhere instead of cows and green, green grass from the 320 rainy days per year.

Day 16, 17, and 18 (Denied!  Niemo 0, The Establishment 2):

Niemo struck out on his trip to London on Day 18.  Let’s break it down:

  • Tried to purchase breast milk ice cream.  Yep, you red that right.  There’s a place in London near my sister company’s office called The Icecreamists.  They were planning to offer a flavor called the ‘Baby Gaga’.  They had already collected the breast milk (yep, from humans) and combined it with vanilla pods and lemon zest.  But the government made them pull it while they tested it.  Also, Lady Gaga is NOT happy about it.  It is a huge story over here and of course, your crack reporter was on the job.  If and when it is back on the market, I’ll be there.  But don’t worry, it only comes from the finest and freshest free range titties.  Instead, I got an ice cream infused with chili peppers and ginger (called Cold Sweat).  Took me all of one bite to realize I had made a terrible mistake as the inferno started in my mouth.
  • Baby Gaga Banned
  • Lada Gaga Threatens to Sue
  • Tried to go to the first ever NBA game in Europe.  The game featured the 17-44 Toronto Raptors and the 17-43 New Jersey Nets.  Yet there were no touts to be found outside the O2 Arena.  So I couldn’t get in.  Yep, a Nets/Raptors game was packed to the brim.  Only in London.  Oh, the ground where the O2 Arena sits is where Full Metal Jacket was shot (the late scenes that were supposedly in ‘Vietnam’.  It was an old industrial waste park sitting idle.)

Things I hope my co-workers haven’t noticed: Me dry-humping the badge scan.  I tend to tuck my badge under my jumper and rather than take it out to scan myself in, I basically molest the crotch-high scanner.

Talk like a Brit: ‘jumper’ – what they call a sweater or pullover.  I got compliments for my ‘robin’s egg jumper’ at work the other day.

Sound like a Brit: Leicester Square – pronounced ‘Les-ter Square’.  Just mumble and you can pass for a Brit.

They said what? Someone asked if I was Australian today.  Seems to be the theme of the week – I had an Aussie burger this week – they put beet-root mayo on a plain burger.  Yep.

Random: Have you ever realized you were becoming addicted to something?  That was me last week with Lucozade.  Think Red Bull meets Sunkist.  Tastes great and gives you pep.  Well, Wednesday I was hurting pretty bad after staying up to 5 AM to watch VT get pummeled by bc.  Since I was leading a 2 hour session the next day I need an edge.  I drank a litre (yes, a whole litre) of the stuff after only having a small sampling before.  Not a good idea.  By the start of my session I realized I was either go to have a heart attack, poop my pants (not because of Lucozade… just general IBS stuff), or spontaneously explode.  Luckily none of those happened but it made for an interesting, and fidgety 2 hours.

Oh, and in case you were wondering if Lucozade rehydrates you, they answer that pretty clearly on the label…  “Lucozade is not appropriate for replacing the fluid lost during diarrhea.”  Glad we got that cleared up.

Weather: Was sunny all day today!  Day #2 of sunshine out of 18.  Of course, the high was 6 but I won’t complain at this point.

Day 14 and 15 (More Sightseeing):

And before you ask… yes, it did rain with high winds as I was sightseeing Saturday…

Talk like a Brit:

  • bits – they’ll use this in place of parts, pieces or buckets.  ‘The newspaper is made up of four bits: news, sports, weather, and TV.’

Sound like a Brit:

  • vitamins – pronounced ‘vitt-ah-mins’ here, not ‘vI-tah-mins’.
  • Also, it is hilarious to hear a Brit pronounce ‘figs’.

Look like a Brit: Sweaters, lots of sweaters.  They love the collared shirt and sweater combo, then throw on a popped collar coat and you are set.

Random food difference:

  • Pears here are slender, not frumpy.  Made me laugh – it is like the difference in physiques between fat Americans, and the girlish-ly skinny Brits.
  • Ice cream – there’s a place at Covent Garden, the one top five sight I haven’t been too, that has breast milk ice cream.  Road trip!

Coolest Things I’ve Seen Over Here So Far:

  1. VT beating #1 duke in hoops.  You can take the Hokie out of Blacksburg, but you can’t take the Hokie out of him.
  2. Arsenal soccer game – I don’t always like soccer, but when I do, I prefer the Red Army.
  3. Top of St. Paul’s Cathedral – view of the entire city skyline.  Plus I conquered my fear of heights, tight spaces, water bridges, and exercise at the same time.
  4. Tower Bridge – really cool architecture.  Now I just need to overcome my fear of water bridges again and walk it.
  5. The House of Lords.
  6. The 530-karat First Star of Africa, part of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.
  7. Big Ben – come on, everyone loves Big Ben.
  8. The 24,000-pound (that’s the cost, not weight) trunk at Harrod’s, the super luxury department store.
  9. The real Rosetta Stone at the British Museum.
  10. Everything.

Rugby vs Soccer: I figured the England/France rugby match this past weekend would be wild.  But a co-worker told me the rugby fans are much more civilized.  I said this surprised me and he said it is, “Because they come from money.”  And the good universities.  Make sense.

But the match was pretty interesting, despite the fact I didn’t understand it and was at a pub called ‘Coal Hole’:

  • Two people were knocked unconscious in the first 12 minutes.
  • The trainers came on the field 6 times in the first half to drag a body off.
  • They fought 8 minutes in (well, pushed and shoved).
  • Play went on while a guy was laying crippled with the trainers around him 5 feet from the action.
  • England won.

Weather: they say it is easy to be a weather person in Southern California, and it probably is.  But it isn’t much harder here.  I’ve been here 15 days and I would guess that it has precipitated in some way on 14 of those days.  The sun has been out for more than an hour straight twice.  Once was Sunday.  I was made since I had gone to London three times leading up to that, and it had rained all three days (and I wasn’t going Sunday).  Then I turned around an hour later and it was pouring.  So much for my Hungarian co-worker’s trip to London.

There’s two types of weather here:

  • Raining
  • About to be raining – even when it has just stopped raining, chances are it will again soon.  Have faith.

Day 12 and 13 (More Sightseeing):

And before you ask… yes, it did rain with high winds as I was sightseeing Satuday…

Talk like a Brit:

  • surname – they don’t call it your ‘last name’, it is your surname.
  • diary – calendar.  ‘Put a meeting on my diary.’

Sound like a Brit:

  • ‘mind the gap’ – at every tube station the attendant reminds you to ‘mind the gap’, the space between the platform and the train.
  • ‘pikey’ – a gypsy person.  Real insult to call someone this.

Look like a Brit: Poppin’ fresh!  Oh, you gotta pop that collar over here.  Literally everyone pops the collar on their winter coats.

Went back to London on Saturday to knock out some more touristy sights (lots of pictures up in Bookface).  Here’s what I saw:

  • Tate Modern Art Gallery – housed in an old power plant.  Seriously, some of this stuff looks like a third grader made it.  Red circles where the paint dripped?  And the featured item was millions of handmade/painted sunflower seeds spread out on the ground that didn’t form anything (yeah, well worth the effort).  Saw some cool stuff, though, including a guy that had taken an architecture book and made origami from the designs.
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral – climbed all the way up to the top.  I’m now been up to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and St. Paul’s, the two tallest in the world.
  • Big Ben – joke of the day… What do Big Ben and Ben Roethlisberger have in common at dusk?  They both have their hands at 6 o’clock.
  • Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament – toured where British policy is made.  This was really cool – saw where the Queen preps for her annual visit and the House of Lords is an extremely ornate room.  This is the New York Yankees of legislative facilities.  House of Commons was much more… well, common.

Things you cannot call someone in the House of Commons during debate:

  • liar
  • stool pigeon
  • squirt (huh?  I may have to look that word up)

Conquering your fears: I’ve always had a fear of water bridges, narrow spaces, and heights.  So what did I do Saturday?  I walked over a narrow foot bridge over the Thames river in high winds and rain (I basically had tunnel vision crossing it – wouldn’t look to either side), then climbed up the 505 steps to the three levels of St. Paul’s Cathedral (up shoulder wide winding stairs).  At this point I was in a controlled panic.  I kept waiting for someone to drop a box of snakes on the stairs to really take it up a notch.  But the views from the top were well worth it.

Evacuation – they had us evacuate the rear train car on the way to London… at 100 MPH.  Apparently one of the doors was faulty.  Yeah, that sounds safe.

Rugby – Rugby is second to soccer here (not sure where cricket fits in).  The Six Nations Rugby Cup is going on right now.  It is England, France, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Italy.  England played France this weekend, a huge game, so I went to a pub to watch.  I went to a pub called ‘the Coal Hole’.  They didn’t seem too into the match though.  Hmm, maybe I picked the wrong place.

Train station bathrooms: Had to take my first yankee stool at a public restroom at a train station — about what you’d expect, there was already a log in the bowl that wouldn’t flush when I got in there.

Day 10 and 11 (What is that strange orange orb in the sky???):

It only took 10 days, but I finally saw the sun over here for more than a New York minute.  It was sunny, and actually pretty nice (North of 10 degrees Celcius, which is 50 to you and me) for a day and a half.  But don’t worry, it’s back to raining and cold tonight.

Talk like a Brit:

  • biscuits – what we call cookies
  • brackets – what we call parenthesis.  What we call ‘brackets’ [ ], they call square brackets.  Yep, very confusing.

Sound like a Brit: literally – pronounced ‘lit-trah-LEE’.

I ate what?:

  • Black pudding: I had black pudding this morning; a traditional British morning dish.  After I had finished eating it, my British manager informed that it is blood sausage.  In other words, they take the congealed blood from a pig, combined with pork rind, pork fat, some oatmeal, wheat and spices, and slap it together.  Glad I didn’t know that beforehand, or I wouldn’t have eaten it.  I wondered why you ‘fry’ pudding.  Hmm, how drunk will I have to be this weekend to eat the last two?
  • Traditional Beef Lasagna: I have been taking my lunch to work most of the time since I’d rather pay 3-quid for my lunch than 10-quid.  But then I saw the canteen had lasagna the other day.  Turns out it should have been called Traditional Beef Lava.  I still have no feeling in my tongue.

Updawg: Got my first British victim.

  • Me: Do you guys have updawg over here?
  • Brit: What’s updawg?
  • Me: Nothin, what’s up with you?!

American Lunch Friday – I instituted American lunch Friday at work.  I told my team of 11 I’d drive anyone that wanted to go to an American place for lunch.  Guess how many went… 1… the Hungarian (who is the heaviest guy in the nation along with me).  We hit up McDonald’s.  Eff the Brits.

Random things that make my life miserable:

  • Roundabouts: Yep, I hate’em.
  • Keyboard: Their keyboard is different.  It has any extra key on the left where the Shift key should be, and two extra keys on the right where the Enter/Return key should be.  You need pinkies as long as a banana to type over here.  I keep getting locked out of my accounts trying to enter passwords.
  • Roundabouts
  • DVD Players: Won’t play US DVDs.  Seriously, what’s the difference?  It’s a DVD!  Says ‘wrong region’ and goes back to sleep.  Like I’m really going to go buy British DVDs.
  • Toilets: weird, pushbutton toilets.  Took me an hour to figure out how to flush.
  • Trains: I never know when to pay or not.  I bought a ticket each way Wednesday to the soccer game, yet they never checked my ticket.  Of course, the one time I don’t buy a ticket, I’ll get thrown off the train.

OK, I hadn’t been paying attention to the TV, but I just looked over and there’re two shirtless guys standing around.  Pretty sure I need to go… FYI: Our TV shows DOMINATE their channels.  75% of their programming is US-based and most of the music on their main music station is US.  USA!

Day 9 (My first ‘football’ match):

Talk like a Brit: canteen – same as a cafeteria.  “Let’s go grab a terrible sandwich with 2 pieces of fluffy meat and mature cheese and pineapple that will give us terrible yankee stew at the canteen.”

Sound like a Brit:  ‘hello’ – pronounced ‘eh-low’

I’ve been to soccer games before, but tonight I went to my first ever ‘football’ game.  And while I can say ‘prO-cess’ or ‘lih-uhl’ or ‘don-gle’, it pains me to call soccer ‘football’.  But I have to admit that tonight was the highlight of my trip so far… by far.  Here’s how it broke down [pictures are up in Facebook].

  • 3:15 PM – left work – first time I’ve left work during daylight (or should I call it ‘cloudlight’ over here?).  These Brits work way more than us… well, me
  • 3:16 PM – start my 1.8 mile walk to get my new rental car.
  • 3:16:05 PM – realize I made a terrible, terrible mistake by not calling a taxi.
  • 3:35 PM – lose the trail… no, wait, I find the trail again… I just have to climb down a ravine.  But the ravine is 8 feet downhill.  And I have to walk on the top of bushes.  Yes, I literally walk down on bush tops.  Amazingly I pull it off but then Ed Rooney (get my black dress shoe stuck in the mud).
  • 3:47 PM – finally arrive at rental car place.
  • 4:15 PM – roll out with my Honda CRV!  Yep, I have a car bigger than I have at home that gets terrible gas mileage in a country of tiny roundabouts and really expensive petrol.  Let’s roll!
  • 4:53 to 5:25 PM – time it takes the train to reach London Euston (You-ston).  Yep, their train service is awesome.  Did I drink a tallboy on the way down?   Seriously, did you have to ask that?  John Smith’s… see ya!
  • 5:35 PM – take the tube one stop to the Picadilly line to Cockfosters… giggity.
  • 5:45 PM – squeeze on the Picadilly train.  It is so packed I have to turn sideways and crane my neck to the left for the doors to shut.  I may or may not be molesting the guy in front of me.  Those pillows are very soft.
  • 5:55 PM – at Arsenal.  There are police EVERYWHERE.  Real nervous about scalping tickets.  Where are the touts?
  • 6:15 PM – haven’t seen anyone selling tickets.  Head to a pub.   Grab a Pilsner and sit down at a table.  These two old guys are looking for a table.  I invite them over (no, this is not the start of a Penthouse Forum letter).
  • 6:20 PM – Eddie and Patrick are now like grandfathers to me.  We talk US/UK.  Pretty sure I win.  USA!  Eddie realizes his buddy had an extra ticket.
  • 7:15 PM – rolling to the game with Trevor and Dave, Eddie and Patrick’s buddies.  They are about my age.  Don’t know these guys from Adam.  I keep thinking it is a little weird I’m going to a match with them, but hey, I got the ticket for face.
  • 7:17 PM – Trevor, Dave, and I are BFF’s for life.  We are sucking back Fosters at the concession stand like they were going out of style… well, they are.  At EPL games you can only drink in the concourse, not the stands.
  • 7:25 PM – everyone they introduce me to they say “Jay from America.”  It’s apparently my new full name.  This included warning the ticket-taker I guess in case I completely blew that complex process.
  • 7:44 PM – head to the stands.   Kickoff is in a minute.
  • 7:45 PM – realize I have 13th row lower level tickets.  This stadium is very impressive, fairly new (four years old), and is packed with 60,000 people for a Wednesday night game against the equivalent of the Detroit Lions of the league. If only I gave a crap about soccer.
  • 7:46 PM – the crazy chants start…

Seriously, the Brits (or Arsenal at least) have a cheer for everything.  Here were some of the better ones:

  • [one of the Stoke City players had broken an Arsenal player's leg earlier in the season so every time he touched the ball...] “Hey, short kick, you’re a wanker!”  (yeah, well, it was funny to hear, not sure what it meant)
  • [Arsenal hates Tottenham, another Premier League team in London - pronounced 'Tot'en'em"]  “What do you think of Tottenham?”  Response: “$hit!”  “What do you think of $hit?”  Response: “Tottenham”… they weren’t even playing Tottenham.
  • [Stoke City guys roughly tackles an Arsenal guy, causing 6 men to have to come on the field and carry him off] “And you’re a wanker, you’re a wanker, you’re a wanker and you know it!”
  • [Referee makes a bad call] “The referees a wanker!”
  • “Red army, red army, red army.”  [their nickname]
  • And they make for of us for only having one cheer… “Let’s Go ”  I’m pretty sure you can just add ‘wanker’ to anything over here and that’s a cheer.
  • My favorite though was they’d take songs and insert ‘Arsenal’ in for every word.   Try this out… “Arrrrrr-se-nal, Ar-seeeee-nal, Arsenal Arsenal Arsenal”  Yep, that’s a song.
  • I was impressed that they didn’t do that ‘ole ole ole’ crap, not even once.  Props to the fans.

Whoops, it is almost halftime.  Time to sneak out to the concession area and pay $12 for a hot dog ‘Beer’ Meal, except the Indian guy behind the counter thought I said ‘Deal’ Meal and gives me a Pepsi instead of a beer.  I repeat, ‘Beer Meal’, to which he replies, ‘yeah, Deal Meal’ and hands me a Pepsi.  Wanker.

Trevor and Dave thought I had gotten lost because I skipped the final 10 minutes of the first half to walk around the stadium.  They really don’t think much of Americans.

FYI: Strongbow is terrible.  It makes Foster’s seem like Kronenbourg 1664.

YOU CAN GAMBLE INSIDE THE STADIUM!  I’m not kidding, they have a betting booth inside the stadium.  You can bet on who scores each goal (not hard to do in a 1-nil game, which this was), how may corners, how many offsides, etc.  Wow, no wonder the US banned this.  No way we could trust people (me) with this kind of liberty.

All in all, it was an awesome experience.  I left a game that started at 7:45 PM a few minutes early, had to tube to Euston, take the train 55 miles, walk another mile, and was home in my flat before 11 PM.  These Brits have something right.

Oh, and the Six Nations Rugby Cup (or whatever it is called) is going on and England plays France at home in London this weekend.  Should I go???  Text 99999 to ‘DongleLover’ right now if you think I should go, or 07734 to ‘Wanker’ if you think I shouldn’t.  Standard dongle texting rates apply.

I learned new racial slurs for the Welsh, Scots, and Irish tonight.  Oh, and the Brits really hate the frogs, which makes this weekend’s rugby match all the more important.

And yes, I did get a tallboy on the train ride home (tipping is offensive here — they actual pay their service people decent wages).

So let’s break down soccer:

  • Pro: Lots of boozing
  • Con: They wear scarves
  • Pro: You can gamble legally inside
  • Con: 1-nil is the score… a lot
  • Pro: They got 60,000 on a Wednesday night against a bad team – sure beat the 15,000 they get for the MAC Wednesday night college football game of the week in the States (Holy Toledo)
  • Con: They have no other sports
  • Pro: They have hilarious chants
  • Con: You cannot drink in the stands and they haven’t learned the ‘sock’ method yet

All said, I give tonight an A+.  These fans are really passionate, and friendly.  Tickets for the top clubs like Arsenal are impossible to get, no matter the game.

I did slip up and call it ‘soccer’ quite a few times tonight, but they didn’t seem to mind (I had been warned they did) and even called it that themselves at times.  But it is still soccer and I’ll go back to watching my ESPN America.  Time to check out rugby.

Day 7 and 8:

Talk like a Brit: (2 words for two days)

  • ‘tout’ – what they call a ticket scalper.  Apparently the term ‘scalp’ in reference to Indians doesn’t exist over here, probably because their Indians are actually from India.
  • ‘rubbish’ – trash.  I’m looking for a rubbish bin.

Sound like a Brit:

  • ‘status’ – pronounced ‘stay-tuss’
  • ‘wash up’ – we have a ‘wash up’ meeting at the end of each day.  I guess it is similar to a touchpoint or ‘end of day’ meeting.  I called it the ‘shower’ meeting one day accidentally much to the Brits’ amusement.

Understanding People: I can understand the Brits fine, but I had not clue what this Scottish lady was saying….

  • Scot: asdfj asdj fasd jfaj ewr masdjojue owerumj
  • Me: Talk slower.
  • Scot: ero         eroe      cxvj        erij         sdjfls     eroe
  • Me: Great, let’s move on.

Weather: Here’s your AccuNiemo Forecast for the UK thanks to the Niemo Dongle 3000…

  • Yesterday: overcast, cold, drizzling (or maybe they spell it drissling over here since they’ve banned the letter ‘z’)
  • Today: overcast, cold, drizzling
  • Tomorrow: overcast, cold, drizzling
  • Eternity: overcast, cold, drizzling

Seriously, every day is the exact same.  I’ve been here 9 days and I’ve seen the sun twice (that’s two appearances, it wasn’t out for more than a few minutes).  I joked yesterday when the sun was behind a thin cloud that this must be the weekly sun appearance.  It is like living in pea soup.  It does rain a ton, but it is constantly misty.

What We Learned From Week 1:

  • Does it always rain in the UK? Answer: Yes.  It has rained every day but one at some point, although usually it is just a drizzle unless I happen to be sightseeing.  And I’ve only seen the sun on one day… I’m talking at any point in the day… so far.
  • Do all Brits have bad teeth?  Answer: Yes… and bad breath.  Not sure if an orthodontist would make a killing here or go broke.
  • Driving on the left side of the road isn’t that hard, it is the stupid roundabouts that take a lot of getting used to and almost got me wrecked at least a dozen times.
  • It is called ‘American Fried Chicken’… ha, guess they didn’t want to be associated with KY Kentucky.
  • Subway has the most fast food units of an American chain that I’ve seen.
  • The train system is awesome, the subway system is slow and very run down and crowded as heck, but literally goes everywhere in London.
  • Food here isn’t that great, which goes along with what I was told.  And it is very expensive.
  • Their TV is US dominated.  A lot of US comedy shows are shown here.  ESPN America shows more hockey than college basketball, which is annoying.
  • Brits go out of their way to help you, even if it takes them off track.
  • The creepy guy in the flat across from me is ALWAYS in his computer chair.  Pretty sure he saw me moon Skype.

DAY SIX: Got Me by the Dongle

Talk like a Brit: ‘tube’ – what they call their subway, the London Underground.  “Where is the tube station?”

British Phrase of the Day: ‘top up’ – to add onto.  “I topped up my fuel tank”, or…

Conversation of the Day:

  • [backstory - I used up all the data on my mobile broadband account, which was supposed to be enough for a month, in five days]
  • Me on the phone: “I need to top up my dongle.”
  • Vodafone Lady: “I can help you with that, sir.”
  • [see below... dongle is what they call the broadband USB stick and 'top up' is defined above]

Day 6 Highlights:

  • Visited the Tower of London (a former prison) and saw the Crown Jewels (see my pictures on Facebook) but here’s what I had to do to get there:
  • Drive 55 miles to Heathrow to dump my rental car (at which point they showed me damage on the left side… thank goodness we figured out it was already there before), took a shuttle to the airport tube stop, took the tube for several stops, had to transfer to a double decker bus because the line was being worked on, back on the tube for four more stops, switch tube lines and go 10 more stops.  Yeesh.
  • At the Crown Jewels, they have the Star of Africa, a 530-karat diamond!  It is in a scepter for the Queen. [Deportation Disclaimer: The pictures on Facebook of the Crown Jewels were taken by someone else, let's call him 'T-Bone', and then given to me later.  I, in no way, would violate the rules of this country and the good people that enforce them.]
  • Also saw the Crown of India and some other cool crowns.
  • Got to see the Tower Bridge but didn’t have time to walk it.
  • The last stop on one of the tube lines is ‘Cockfosters’.  I think I giggled every time the lady said it.

DAY FIVE: UK Travel 1, Niemo 0 – Niemo Heads to London

Talk like a Brit: ‘let’ – You don’t say rent, you say ‘let’.  I let a flat (what they call an apartment) or storage space.

British Phrase of the Day: ‘give way’ – to yield.

Conversation of the Day:

  • [backstory - I'm in the train station bathroom peeing at a urinal when a Brit comes up to the urinal near me and then takes a phone call...]
  • Guy Peeing: “Hey… I’m standing here with my dongle in my hand right now!”

Day 5 Highlights:

  • The Brits kicked my butt today…
  • It was raining all day.  What a great first day to get to sightsee.
  • OH, $HIT moment: I was waiting for my train to London and was looking to the left about 3-4 feet from the tracks.  All of a sudden a train blows by me on that track from the right at about 100 MPH.  Pretty sure I cussed and jumped back about 10 feet.
  • Definitely had a beer on the train ride down — they have tallboys EVERYWHERE in this country.  Digging Kronenbourg 1664 – it is the Premier Beer of France, so its gotta be good!
  • My does our train service stink so much?  I made it to London in 35 minutes from 55 miles away.
  • The toilet at Euston station (the tube station near the trains) is a PAY toilet – 30 pence.  Wow, they have my number.  I’m going to be in trouble if there are more of these.  I almost forced a grumpy to get my money’s worth.
  • Visited Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guards… which was cancelled because of the rain (Seriously?!  The guards can’t come out in the rain?  No wonder we kicked their butt in the Revolution.).
  • Walked seemingly 5 miles to the British Museum – got to see the Rosetta Stone and a bunch of stuff that was really, really old (as far back as 13,000 BC).  See pictures in Facebook.
  • Walked through the big shopping district.  Checked out the Burberry main store… REAL expensive.  I saw a sweet $1000 jean jacket.  Talk about a fancy Canadian tuxedo!
  • Hit Harrod’s a department store the size of Philadelphia.  Has six floors and is an entire block.
  • Had Yoo Moo – the best frozen yogurt I’ve ever had… for 8-pounds.
  • Saw a 23000-pound suitcase (that’s the cost, not weight!).
  • Paid $20 for a pair of socks.
  • Definitely got dry humped on the packed tube.
  • Definitely had a Kronenbourg tallboy on the train trip home.
  • Met my flat neighbor, Luke (I think).  Now I know more of my neighbors here than I do at my townhouse back home that I’ve lived in for 6 years.
  • They sell condoms in EVERY toilet here.  I’m talking grocery stores, subway stations, museums, etc.  If you need it, you got it.

Every crappy American movie has been turned into a musical over here:

  • Grease
  • Mamma Mia
  • Legally Blonde
  • Billy Elliott
  • Shrek (I’m not kidding)
  • The Lion King
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Chicago
  • Jersey Boys
  • Wizard of Oz
  • (I can’t wait for Justin Bieber the Musical!)

Food of the Day: Scotch Eggs – it’s a hard boiled egg (peeled) wrapped in sausage meat and bread crumbs!  Now you can get your entire breakfast in one entree!  Oh, the efficiency (and the heart attack).

DAY FOUR: USA 1, British Buffet 0

Talk like a Brit: ‘quid’ = 1 pound, so like us saying a dollar.  They don’t really call their money “pounds” much.  [using it in a sentence] When I asked for a refill at McDonald’s, they told me that would be one quid.

Sound like a Brit: ‘dongle’ – pronounced ‘dohn-guhl’.  First off, I had no idea what my landlady was talking about.  I found out a dongle is, “anything you stick in your computer.”  In my case, it is the air card for my wireless.  It could be pretty much any USB connection.

Day 4 Highlights:

  • Visited my first English pub  - The Talbon Inn: From what I can tell, pubs are not like bars, really.  The ‘bar’ isn’t meant to be sat in front of.  People just walk up, order their drink, and then mill around the area.  I haven’t found a packed pub yet though.  Interested to see how those work.
  • English Buffet Carvery: Ha!  They are used to these pasty tea-bag Brits at the buffet I went to that can’t eat more than a few bites of food.  They probably make a killing off those guys.  But then the old red, white, and blue strolled in today.  I polished off a plate of Norfolk (not VA) turkey, pork, ham, chorizo sausage, some weird muffin that seemed to be made from pudding, and the Welsh rarebit.
  • I’m Choking! I had a sandwich for lunch that even my Mom would have thought was weak.   It was a long roll with maybe two pieces of ham on it and some cheese.  Seriously, these people eat like birds.  I started choking on the bun at one point and then realized, do they know what the Heimlich is?  Or am I going to have to explain it to them through interpretive dance while this roll is stuck in my throat?  Luckily, at that point, I sneezed up the roll (yeah, that just happened).
  • REALLY came close to plowing into a car: I thought I was going left at the roundabout, but then realized I needed to go through it.  That was about 10 feet before I got to the roundabout and at about 30 MPH.  Luckily the dude in the roundabout (that I hadn’t seen) saw this crazy American stunt man coming at him and pulled into the inner lane, clipping the curb and slowing way down while I blew through the roundabout and off up the road.  I wish I had had an American flag on my window.
  • IBS: Apparently they love ‘mature’ cheese over here.  That is NOT sitting well with my system.  Five trips to the can yesterday at work.  Luckily I store an emergency Imodium in my wallet.  Oh, and I’m pretty sure Brits don’t crap.  Never once was anyone else in there.  And these toilets are ill-prepared for my yankee stew.

Favorite conversation of the day:

  • Me: “Is there a restroom in [this grocery store]?”
  • Grocery Store Clerk: “You mean toilets?”
  • Me: [giggle and rye smile] “Yeah.”

Here’s some more stuff from McDonald’s I forgot to mention yesterday:

  • Good news!  My PlayPlace/Ball Room ban doesn’t apply over here!
  • Yes, it is called the Quarter Pounder here (even though I’m pretty sure they use the metric system for weight).
  • Yes, they have the Big Mac, but they don’t really have the salads.  Salads aren’t big here.

DAY THREE (a taste of home):

Talk like a Brit: ‘knackered’ – means ‘tired’.  It was originally used to mean horses that were past their prime.  On Tuesday, it was said of me since I looked like death warmed over after the red eye flight.

Sound like a Brit: ‘little’ – pronounced ‘li-uhl’ or ‘lit-uhl’.

McDonald’s Day! – Sweet land of liberty, of thee I eat.

Here’s a run down on UK McDonald’s:

  • Yes, the Drive-Thru window is on your right side of your car.
  • Pretty much the same menu but instead of the anus burgers, they have the Big Tasty (similar to an old school MickeyD’s burger in the states.
  • They have some chicken sandwich called the “McGrillStar”.  Didn’t get it.  I got the bacon Big Tasty.
  • No free refills.  I went up with my cup, said more “Coke Zero, please”, and then had to hand over another coin with the queen on it.
  • Fries are very comparable in taste.
  • The patties are WAY smaller than ours.  Everything is super thin.  It is like these people don’t want to battle obesity or heart issues.  Yeesh.
  • Their sizes are one size smaller than ours.  My medium was an American small.  To be fair, our sizes used to be smaller but thanks to Hardee’s and their thickburgers, all US fast food joints decided all Americans needed to be fatter!

Speaking of fatties, I have only seen one person here in three days I would consider ‘American’ fat.  One.  It is easier finding a ‘z’ in this country and a blimp.  Unfortunately, I think I’m fat over here along with my co-worker from Hungary (he apparently hasn’t gone ‘hungary’ very often).  Though it is nice knowing I could put the beat-down on 95% of the dudes here.  Maybe I’ll even arm-wrestle some men in bars instead of women.

Roundabouts: So the one time I needed one today after missing yet another turn, I end up on 5 miles of straight road with no roundabouts.  They are truly my ultimate arch-enemy.  Then I had to drive 3 of my British co-workers to the train.  I showed them what red, white, and blue is all about.  After a SUV cut me off, I switched lanes, blew past the guy, then vaulted us into a roundabout at 40 MPH, clipping the curb while laughing.  Yee-haw!  Those pasty Brits got a lil bit paler.  Don’t tread on me!  Never seen Brits run that fast since the Battle of Saratoga!

DAY TWO (why did I stay up until 3 AM last night):

Talk like a Brit: ‘pissed’ – means you are/were really drunk.  They also say pissed off but usually they mean hammered.

Sound like a Brit: ‘process’ – pronounced ‘PRO-cess’ instead of ‘prah-cess’

12:55 AM – internal Hokie alarm goes off.  I get up and decide to watch the maryland @ VT game online live at 1 AM.  No way I’ll regret this!

3:10 AM – Hokies sweep the terps!  I don’t regret staying up!

3:11 AM – slugging down sleeping pills.

4 AM – still excited about the Hokies, no sleep in sight.

7:40 AM – alarm goes off.  Uh, oh.  Regret forming.  Nah.

8:30 AM – leave for work but realize I’m locked in.  Yes, you read that right.  Apparently the third attempt at locking my door fixed the outer lock, but now it is stuck.

8:40 AM – finally get out.

9 AM – have my first accident… no, not in a car.  But apparently people walk on the left in hallways over here, too.  Luckily, I was the big train in this crash and the puny Brit is stinging.  USA!  Don’t tread on me… Oh, our Program Director got hit by a car while on a bike Monday.  Snapped his fibula.  Amazingly, I wasn’t the one that hit him.

12:30 PM – these Brits eat like birds.  No wonder they are all built like Kyle Singler.  I had a man’s lunch – tuna and macaroni and cheese.  They would eat a baked potato (not even loaded) or something I would consider a side.   They had to wait for 10 minutes while I shoveled my food down.

7 PM – dinner at a ‘Caribbean’ place.  Uh, yeah.  I’ve been to the Caribbean, and this, fine sir, is not Caribbean.

8 PM – Hmm, should I watch Arsenal v. Barcelona in some sort of cup round of 16 game from London, or Simpson’s for the 100th time?  Yeah, you know what it is.

8:30 PM – ESPN America in the house!  Oh, wait, all they have is taped hockey games.  Need baseball season to start so I have stuff to watch this early American time.

9 PM – Still haven’t figured out how to open my balcony door.  What is the deal with doors here?  I basically live in the Reston Town Center of the UK (take that any way you want).

DAY ONE (the never-ending coma):

Talk like a Brit: ‘motorway’ – same as an interstate in the states except people all drive like Floridians.  They haven’t figured out how to put roundabouts on the motorways yet but I’m sure they will soon.

Sound like a Brit: ‘water’ – pronounced ‘wuh-ter’ instead of ‘wah-ter’. [apparently they are like New Englanders here]

7 AM – landed in London.  Four hours of crappy, airplane sleep.  Let’s do this!

8 AM – in my rental car.  Of course, I opened the left side door first.  Then I remembered the steering wheel is on the right side.  Had to play it off and put some luggage in on that side.  I have 45 miles to go to get to Milton Keynes.  My insurance was $50 per day.  Seriously???  So in 3 days in England, I’ll pay the same for auto insurance I pay in a month in the General Lee.

8:04 AM – encountered my first roundabout… I took the wrong turn.

8:05 AM – honked at for the first time after making a U-turn in the middle of traffic at the airport rental car area.

8:20 AM – still in the airport going in circles.

8:35 AM – officially missed the motorway and am heading north on the side streets of London.

8:45 AM – by this point I realize I must have selected ‘Take me the longest, most heavily trafficked, and narrow way with a minimum of 1000 roundabouts’ option on my GPS to get me out of London.  At least by this point I figured out if I keep going around a roundabout I can eventually figure out what turn my GPS meant.

8:55 AM – pretty sure my GPS just told me to go [eff] myself for missing my 10th turn in a row.

9:10 AM – I finally figure out why I’ve been honked at 5 times already – even though I’m on the right side of the car, I’m positioning myself in my lane like I’m on the left side.  And these lanes are narrow.  Almost hit a truck.

9:15 AM – seriously, if I hit another roundabout I’m going roundabout someone’s head.  Who designed this country?

9:20 AM – finally on the motorway and I’m motoring.  This left side of the road thing isn’t hard at all – just follow the car in front of you.

9:40 AM – 80 MPH is nothing to these Brits.  Not pushing it though since allegedly they have timed cameras.

10 AM – at my flat but the key doesn’t work.

10:01 AM – Hounding #1 of my landlord to order ESPN America for me

1 PM – finally, after two failed tries, my landlord gives me the master key to my door and I’m off to work.

1:01 PM – Hounding #2 of my landlord to order ESPN America for me

1:30 PM – sitting at my client site.  What a wild day it has been.

1:31 PM – fall asleep in client chair.

3 PM – discover I have a 5:30 PM team meeting.  Now I’m not sure who I want to hurt worse – the inventor of roundabouts or my manager.

7 PM – buying Jack Daniels (and Guinness) at the supermarket – what a country!

7:30 PM – really, these Brits LOVE CSI and the Simpson’s.  They pretty much run non-stop here.

8 PM – Hounding #3 of my landlord to order ESPN America for me as they put in my third lock of the day.

9 PM – about to go to bed but guess what… The movie Cobra is on!  Who said British TV stinks?!  This is Sly at his finest: “you’re a disease, I’m the cure,” “you’re a good citizen,” “hey, dirtbag!”

DAY ZERO (the flight across the pond):

Talk like a Brit: ‘locker’ – as in overhead ‘locker’ on a plane, not compartment.

Sound like a Brit: ‘schedule’ is pronounced [shed-shoe-ule]

I had my last taste of America before boarding – a Fuddrukkers burger.  Definitely regretted this decision, especially after 30 minutes into the flight I realized someone had spewed in the coach sink and the bathroom got shut down.

There was a family of some sort of rural (PA or WV) religious family in front of me.  They had weird hats and all the women looked like Dwight K. Schrute from The Office.  They also laughed hysterically at the flight safety video and clapped at the end… I moved as soon as we got airborne.

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