Monday, May 24, 2010

Q: Who Wears Short Shorts? A: Not me. But every other woman in England.

Howdy Folks!

Can you believe it is 27 degrees here today?!  Wait, what?  27?  In summer?
Oh, Celsius, you tricky dog, you.  That means 80?!  (Or 300 Kelvin, if you're into that kind of thing)  No wonder the snowpants and down jacket seemed a little excessive (and sweaty) the other day.  But one never can tell on the tube.  They see the likes of everything.  And I mean everything.

Why David, that new hair-style is just fetching.

It's been hot and cloudless the past few days.  And just to prove that cultural differences don't always run deep, the British too, shed their clothes at the first ray of sunshine.  I don't think I've seen a man with his shirt on for four days.  I am also almost nearly blind from the glare of white, white legs that are in short, short shorts.  Eight months is a long time people.   Self tanner.  Or trousers.

To enjoy the beautiful weather like a proper tourist, I went on a "Royal London Walk". Below is a photo of at least a few reasonably dressed (and by that I mean well-covered) people.

I'm off to tackle part of a creative writing project I've procured for myself.  Because surely watching TV is research.

That's all I've got for now, folks.  
Catch you on the flip side.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm a Rambling (Wo)Man

Here in England apparently walking for the sake of walking isn't enough.  It is called "Rambling".  And ramble I did this weekend.

The above is an image of the Stevenage Outer Orbital Path.  On which I went walking with Neil and some friends this weekend.  We passed a few proper ramblers (rucksacks, maps and all), but I'm going to venture we ambled more than rambled as we "kind of knew which direction we were headed" and found the car muchas gracias to GPS.  Working off the Mexican feast from Saturday night and the mega American-style breakfast Sunday morning we worked our way through six miles of sunny, green English countryside.  Add the hay-fever inducing fields of rape (ugly name, beautiful scenery), some seriously quaint churches and thatched-roof houses and it truly was any movie or the imagery from a Jane Austen novel.

Datchworth Church

In other English news, there is a new Prime Minister and a new government.  (Although it sounds strange to say new government.  Like it is finally democratic or something - really it just means they had an election).  There was some hullabaloo about the whole thing as the Conservatives (Tories-who, are quite liberal and progressive by my American standards) won the majority of seats but not enough to form an absolute majority, thus enabling them to drive through any legislation they want.  So, instead of calling another election (yes, they can call an election whenever they want over here) in a few months and hoping to secure the magic 326 seats in Parliament the Conservatives have formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats (who only secured 52 MP seats in the election), and the two have pledged to govern together.  I for one, find this to be a most pleasing solution to a major political "problem".  This forces the nutters in either party to the margins, where they usually belong, and at the end of the day I feel the policies and interests of the government cover more people in the country.  One big hot-button issue for all the parties is immigration.  And by that I mean they are all vowing to curb it, cut it and cease it.  We'll see how this plays out for all students hoping to get visas in the near future (meaning, me).  This melange of parties in power also encourages, nay, requires DEBATE.  This, for reasons unbeknownst to me, is a four-letter word in British politics. 

My favo(u)rite election poster, courtesy of the UKIP (UK Independence Party):

Needless to say, they did not sod the lot.  In fact, they got two for the price of one.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo, the English Way

which, means...doing nothing.  And reading about all the delicious Mexican food my friends and family back in the States are planning on consuming back in the States (thanks, Facebook!).

It's strange being in a country where not only do they not recognize or celebrate the holidays that have made up your life (think, Labor and Memorial Day, MLK Jr., etc.), but that there are holidays of which they have no idea of their existence (they don't bother to name their holidays other than Christmas, Boxing Day and Easter - they're all just known as Bank Holiday - and there are a lot of them).  Take Cinco de Mayo for example.  While not an official holiday in either the US or Mexico it is generally recognized (if incorrectly as the Mexican Independence day) and celebrated.  Cue the tacos and beer (I'll take a Dos Equis, por favor).

The state flag of Puebla, Mexico

Neil and I celebrated his inaugural Cinco de Mayo whilst in Madison, albeit a few days early, with plenty of Mexican-style BBQ (seriously, corn tortillas on the grill, you haven't lived until you've tried it), several salsas, guacamole, margaritas and dos equis.  Not to mention great friends, beautiful weather and even a little Spanish-speaking.  It was a beautiful evening, and it was interesting to watch someone celebrate a holiday that they didn't know existed until a few days earlier.  It just goes to show that good friends, good food, good conversation and a few dirty jokes transcend cultures and borders and I thoroughly recommend it as a formal foreign relations policy.  Seriously.  Add a little booze and I'm positive this whole Middle-East thing could be worked out in no time.

Seriously, droooooollllll

I've scoured the British countryside (well, okay the grocery stores where I live) in the attempts to find decent (because that is all you can ask for here) Mexican ingredients, and luckily I've discovered a few secrets.  The first is that at the Borough Market in London there is a stall that sells real, honest-to-goodness Mexican ingredients that are so delicious that I don't even mind paying for them what I would pay for the entire Mexican grocery at home.  If I find the inspiration any time soon, I'll post a recipe for pulled pork (made in the slow cooker!) Mexican style that is delicious, easy, and most importantly - able to be assembled with ingredients found in English shops.  Yum yum.  You'll just have to come back at a later date to check out my blog (again!) to see if it's been updated.  Check out the recipes section.

When some friends come up for the weekend I'm planning a Mexican feast and I can't wait.  So instead of an on-the-day Cinco de Mayo celebration this year, I'll be celebrating it twice, on both sides of the pond.  Once a little early and once a little late.  Once with some folks from Mexico and once with some folks who have never heard of the holiday, but both times with good food, good friends and good fun.

Hasta pronto,