Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day Seven

I've been reading Nicey and Wifey's Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down. It is an impassioned treatise on the art of tea and biscuits - a thoroughly British obsession. The way he feels about drinking tea in America is the way dedicated American coffee drinkers (like Tim!) feel about drinking the standard cup of joe in Britain: you can manage it but really, why put yourself through that? I have to admit that though I love a cup of good English tea, it's just not the same as coffee in the morning. The difference though is that if you're willing to put in a little time and effort you can always find a Starbucks in England but I can't think of any such easily recognizable tea shop in America for the Brits. This bolsters my theory that Starbucks is after world domination, one cup of designer coffee at a time.

I have been reading Rules Britannia, a tongue-in-cheek guide to being British. It's funny, but a newbie to British culture would be totally lost. You have to be already somewhat in the know to appreciate the humor (humour). Even a fairly dedicated Anglophile like me can't always get the joke.

The plan today is to go to Wells, a small town near here with lots of medieval buildings and today is there market day. It looks to be chilly and wet again today but you just never know here.

Later, from Starbucks in Wells:
We are such addicts - to coffee that is. I tried to make do with just tea this morning but by the time we got to Wells I was nursing a monster headache and needed "real" coffee. Tim has been on a never ending hunt for real coffee since we got here. Imagine our utter gratefulness when we entered charming and historic Wells, known for it's ancient architecture... and parked directly across from Starbucks, purely by chance. Now... okay, I was going to say more about the relative merits of Starbucks brew versus other American brews that I like better but I'm beginning to think that I need to just move on from this topic - like, NOW!

I love the fact that everyone here seems able to grow green things. This nation certainly loves its vegetation. Even the most shabby houses that we pass on the roads seem to have gorgeous front gardens - or at the very least colorful and well-tended pots and orderly shrubs. I'm afraid I would be rather deficient in the area if we ever set up house here. I would have to stick to herbs - I haven't killed mine at home for several years running which probably means that short of ripping them out by the roots and taking a blowtorch to them, they actually can't be killed...I'm fairly certain my mint would survive even that...

Another thing we have observed here is that the roads seem narrower than in the US. At home, I sort of dislike driving in the residential areas right around campus because the streets are narrow and you have to dodge parked cars and oncoming traffic. Here, every street is like that, even the main ones and even in London. Also, they have an inordinate amount of roundabouts and if there is any real system for entering and exiting them, we haven't yet figured it out. It seems to be the general rule that if the person with the right of way hesitates even for an instant, you have the right to catapult yourself forward past them and into the rotating traffic. The worst of these roundabouts, obviously, are the really busy ones with two lanes of traffic entering from each side. Tim's gotten fairly adept at handling them but we've taken to counting exits aloud just to be sure we've got the right one. Tim has done really well with the driving but he says it takes all of his concentration. The other day he pulled out going the wrong way and I asked, "Tim, are you on the wrong side of the road?" He answered, "Yes, I am." It was all very calm and understated. Very British. I probably would have yelled but I wasn't quite sure myself. It's happened a couple of times, but only when there wasn't any traffic around. I mean, if there were cars heading straight at you, you'd catch on pretty quick, wouldn't you?

Tim and I laughed yesterday when we saw a road sign, sort of like a school crossing sign in the States, only in was an "Elderly people crossing". Truly. A triangular sign with red edging and a silhouette of two hunched-over "elderly" people with walking sticks.

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