Archive for ‘English Stuff’

November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day Poppies

One tradition I’ve observed here that I really like is the wearing of poppies on Remembrance Day.

In the weeks leading up to the 11th November  holiday, poppies like the one in the photo are sold by volunteers or available at store tills (registers) in exchange for a donation to veterans’ charities.

While writing this post, I read that similarly is done in the US, I have never seen it, really.

In England, however, seemingly everyone buys and wears one.  It’s nice to see so many people participating in this show of support for the members of the armed forces who have protected and continue to protect us.

October 19, 2010

The Magic Roundabout

That's right... five mini roundabouts! (Thanks to DickBauch for this photo)

I was out for drinks last night, relaying tales of my driving lessons. Naturally, I had to bring up the infamous double mini roundabouts of my recent adventures around Islington.

I was immediately alerted that two mini roundabouts is nothing! That there are, in fact, places where there are five, which unite to create a gigantic, “Magic” roundabout.  (This one is right outside of Swindon, if you really wanted to know)

Are the Brits roundabout mad? Very likely! There’s even a UK Roundabout Appreciation Society, which produces an annual calendar of the country’s finest offerings.

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October 12, 2010

Roundabouts and Roundabouts

Among the many delightful things to be encountered on UK roads are roundabouts, better known in the States as rotaries.

In my driving lesson today, I had a new experience!

The Exchange went something like this:

Instructor: Up ahead, there is a double mini roundabout, please take the first exit of the second roundabout…
Me: <Hysterical Laughter> Double! Mini!

Indeed, I had the joyous experience of encountering the Double Mini-Roundabout, which I believe is actually a practical joke inflicted upon the populace by a civil engineer who decided to take the piss out of the roundabout-laden system.  (The first mini roundabout was implemented in 1960).

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March 31, 2010

Reversy Percy

Just when I stopped expecting further innovation on the M&S Percy Pig, further deliciousness appears.

Reversy Percy may even be better than the original.

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February 17, 2010

The BBC Weather Ball

The glorious forecast

I’m generally very quick to correct friends who envisage London as a place of frequent and torrential rain, perpetually gray skies, and a national umbrella- toting hobby. When a visiting friend asked if rain boots would be a wise thing to pack, I actually laughed.

London is all about drizzle. It’s not constant, and it’s generally just enough to turn my hair (in the absence of chemical processing) into a frizz so massive that it would be the envy of any 80’s hair band.

That said, I believe that Wednesday’s sunny forecast is really just a trick to enliven the national spirit. Planting a seed of hope of just a few sunny intervals could restore my faith that spring may someday come.

This sort of bold fibbing would be unaceptable in the US, where the weather forecast is considered a reliable indicator of the climate during the day ahead.

Such is not so in the UK, where it seems to be generally accepted that the weather forecast, much like a newspaper horoscope or the wisdom of the Psychic Friends Network is for entertainment purposes only. People dress for all possible weather outcomes. Umbrellas are carried daily, as are sunglasses, just in case.

The Ball Knows All

In fact, I’ve found that the single most indicative feature in a BBC weather report isn’t the weather map, the sunny and rainy icons, or even what the newscaster is wearing during an outdoor broadcast.

It’s the BBC weather ball!

That sphere behind the broadcaster may look like a giant bowling ball, or perhaps Earth as viewed from space, but it is neither. That ball contains the most accurate weather forecast available on BBC.

One can see that while London is clearly promised sun in the BBC five day forecast, the weather ball offers only rain and clouds.

I’ll be dressing per weather ball tomorrow, a photo supporting my hypothesis will follow.


Warning: this might end up turning into an entire thread as I embrace the local hobby of weather obsession.
Wednesday outcome: (photo on right)
Sunny through the afternoon– The Weather Ball disappoints!

I believe I may have documented the “current state” weather ball, displayed at the start of the weather report, rather than the “future state” ball, displayed at the end of the forecast.

Further analysis to follow… something about stubborness….

June 23, 2009

Wimbledon: Tennis on the Tube

Advantage: Southfields

Just in case someone forgot that it’s Wimbledon time here in Southwest London, HSBC has kindly jazzed up a local tube stop in honor of the occasion.

I could get used to the astroturf, umbrellas, and flowers.

May 3, 2009

The Tea Cake


The tea cake is the one UK sweet that I remain powerless in the presence of.

Take a cookie, place a gooey marshmallow on top, and then cover the lot in either milk or dark chocolate, and you have a teacake. My favorites (above) are made by Tunnock’s, a Scottish company.

They’re a bit like the American Mallomar, which is only made seasonally due to its low melting temperature.

Thing is, the Mallowmar’s marshmallow is very firm and feels somewhat fake, whereas the Tunnock’s marshmallow Fluff– like filling tastes much less synthetic. The addition of English chocolate, which is much less waxy than that in the US, puts the Tunnock’s version in a league of its own.

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April 22, 2009

M&S Percy Pig Cupcakes

I really haven’t devoted enough effort to my love of the M&S Percy Pig here. I’ve always expected that there would be plenty of time for me to craft an ode worthy of the best gummy candy on this island.

I may have been mistaken. You’ll have to just imagine the magnitude of my affection based on my ownership of both a Percy Pig mug and Egg Cup.

Not expecting any developments in this area, this pink box on the coffee table a few nights ago came as a surprise.

Percy Pig Cupcakes?

Let me get this straight…
Marks and Spencer, which I already know can make a fine, fine cake, is now selling a vanilla cupcake with pink frosting, adorned with my favorite M&S candy?

The idea initially leaves me feeling a bit conflicted.
How can I be expected to beat my train home when there are cupcakes such as these to be eaten?
How can I do anything but take the box and vanish into my lair like an predator having claimed victory over its prey?

Two days later, I’ve had 3 of the four cupcakes. I’ll eat the last one for breakfast tomorrow. They’re every bit as good as I hoped.

If I ever leave England, M&S food is among the things I’ll really miss.

March 23, 2009

Walker’s Cajun Squirrel Crisps

Just when I start thinking that maybe I’ve run out of supermarket amusements, another one presents itself.

We were wandering though a BP station when we stumbled across these Walker’s Cajun Squirrel flavored crisps (American: Chips). Having no self- preservation instinct, I insisted that we buy them immediately and investigate.

Upon closer inspection of the bag, we determined that the squirrel chips contain not squirrel, but “Squirrel Seasoning”, whatever that is. I gather it’s the rodent- equivalent of Cheez. The chips are also suitable for vegetarians, which was a bit of a disappointment.

Moving on, it was time for the eating of the Squirrel Chips.

They look pretty ordinary, not like they’re packed full of squirrel-y seasoning.

And how were they?

They’re pretty good. I’m not sure if that’s squirrel favor we were savoring, but whatever it was, we liked it.
Here’s my bro digging into them before catching his flight home:

Walker’s currently has a contest on for a new crisp flavor, among the contenders is this Cajun Squirrel, Fish & Chips, Chili & Chocolate, and a few others. One can read up and vote here.

February 26, 2009

More Fun with Food: Stagg Chili

Even before we moved to London, my husband made many a reference to Stagg Chili. He still does.

Most of the time, these mentions have come when I am out of town, and he is regaling me with tales of his home alone status and accompanying chili-laden man diet.

I’ve lived in England for over a year now, but even back in New York, I had always assumed that the, “Stagg” in Stagg Chili was actually, “Stag”, and that this was all just a funny reference to some form of bachelor chow. This assumption was further supported by the fact that bachelor party is termed a, “Stag Do” here.

Today, I came home from work, went in the kitchen, and discovered that Stagg/Stag Chili IS real.

I was shocked. There it was on the counter, full of promise, offering an, “Authentic American” recipe, and, “shaped minced beef”.

I don’t know why minced beef would need shaping. It makes me a bit nervous. Still and so, the back of the can claims a legendary taste experience awaits me inside of this can.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to report on how the chili actually tastes. It was made quite clear that it is not for me and that there will be no sharing.