Happy Anzac day!

More cultural learnings today from the Aussie coworkers – Anzac Day!

Here’s a quote, to give you a flavour:

“Anzac Day is a day when we actually pause and remember those who made that sacrifice for us, and go and have a beer and a friendly game of two-up afterwards,”

It’s essentially like Canada’s remembrance Day, except there is a significant drinking with veterans component.  Or at least that’s what my Aussie coworkers tell me.  Wikipedia sure doesn’t make much mention of it.  But either way, it brought my Aussie coworkers to the pub a bit earlier today (is 11am too early?)

Lady of Leisure – Day 2

Some sort of bizarre eye infection proves what happens in Vegas clearly doesn’t stay in Vegas. So Day 2 starts with taking Jason to the chemist (= pharmacy in Canadian) for some eye rinse. For this errand, my services were needed essentially as a seeing eye dog. Without contacts Jason’s peripheral vision is quite limited and in a city where bus drivers speed up at the sight of pedestrians, it’s best that I’m there for road crossings. I got breakfast out of it though and proof that on a Monday morning it’s really just old people out at restaurants:


A bit later I was at Westminster’s equivalent of the YMCA for a swim. Seems 11am is the prime time for school kids using the pool (I’m guessing it’s schools that don’t have their own on-site pools?) and mom and tots having lessons. This all translated into a fairly empty lane of swimming my laps, but a change room that sounded like Romper Room and smelled like a Diaper Genie.

Next it was lunch in The City with Kaila and Heather:


With my lunch dates heading back to work, I headed across the Millennium Bridge and went to the Tate Modern. I’m a day late to see The Louise Bourgeois exhibit, it closed yesterday. But having seen her Maman sculpture (the giant spider) in Ottawa last year I was more amused to watch it being disassembled by cranes:


Inside the main event is Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth, better known to London as “the crack”.


I’ll spare you the discussion on it’s representation of racial separation (read about it on wikipedia if you’re curious).

After crawling around the floor myself and making my own conclusions I spent the next while watching other people. After it initially opened enough people fell into the crack that it hit the press, and they now have warning signs. So I was curious to see what other people do:

The majority take pictures:


… but people also like to get in and get a close up look:

.. and many do the straddle walk, although one lad in this trio decided to take a call as well:


Overall, symbolism or not, it’s quite interesting. As for the rest of the Tate Modern the exhibits are quite good. The museum itself is surprisingly small given it’s a converted power plant.

I next made my way back to Belgravia to pick up 3 batik prints that we had framed. We bought these in Malaysia and of course spent exponentially more money getting them pressed and framed than on the actual print. Hulling the 3 large frames back home on the tube, I contemplate the strange things I’ve transported on the tube. Just last week I went up to zone 3 to buy a new vacuum cleaner and carted that giant box home. I’m sure the tube staff have seen all sorts of weird things.

Back up at Kings Cross Jason and I went to register ourselves at our local NHS doctors office (which the Brits like to call a surgery even though no operations take place, silly, silly) Yes, this is something we should have done when we first arrived but until this eye infection we haven’t really had a reason.
They gave us some forms and a little pee cup to bring back – filled – when we have our new patient exam in a few days. I’m going to assume (and hope) that the pee cup isn’t just a Kings Cross thing.

Stones? What year is this???

Yes, I’ve heard the Brits use the word stone to describe their weight before (a coworker wants to loose 2 stone) and i even know what is means (1 stone = 14 lbs, by the way).

But today, I’m flipping through the channels on TV (skipping by Friends and Big Brother, yes they really are ALWAYS on!) and I pass a show about weight loss makeovers. I happen to pause at the exact moment that the rather large woman is getting onto a bathroom scale. And what do I see? A screen shot with her weight … in Stone!
Here I was thinking that the use of stone was simply a colloquialism, something leftover in British speak, and now I’ve learned it’s so much a part of their vocabulary that bathroom scales are made to report this bizarre form of measurement.

What’s next? Cubits, furlongs? quarts? Shillings? Fortnights (damn.. they still use that)

I shouldn’t be too surprised. A quick snoop on wikipedia and I learn that the UK decided to go metric only 43 years ago, and is still in transition to the metric system! 1995 was the first year all packaged goods sold in Britain required to be labelled in metric units. 1995? Christ, Algeria has been metric since December 1842 but 153 years later I can only just get a bottle of corn syrup in liters. Bravo England.

And if you have time … look at this:

A Change of Season

You can pack away your tank tops (or vests as these crazy Brits call them). Summer seems to be over folks. Maybe I shouldn’t call it Summer since we never really had Summer. No, I arrived in March and suddenly the jet lag faded and Spring hit us with a warm smack upside our heads. I remember April lunches in the city parkette across from my work and the weekends with Jason trying each park on London’s leafy menu.
But it never really got warmer than that. I think we had Spr-ummer. Which is probably why I’m more aware of of this change of season.

It’s cold alright, early November in Toronto cold.

I don’t have much else to report. We might be moving soon, but I don’t want to share too much. We haven’t seen the lease yet and I don’t want to jinx it. We’ve come so close to renting a new place twice now, I can’t bare the thought of having to start the search all over again.

For now, I wait for my lease, pull on a jumper (that’s a sweater don’t yu know!) and watch the MOBO awards on BBC Three. How can such a powerful voice come from such a tiny shell of a body?? Amy Winehouse, put down the heroin and pick up a Banger in a Bap (..bap! see, I’m learning).

Backpacker Season Has Begun

I guess it’s the right time of year. We saw our first batch of backpackers today at Paddington Station. Giant clean backpacks (rucksacks as the Brits call them) obviously new. So full of stuff they don’t need (such newbies). And they even had big maple leaf patches sewn on. Of course that made me assume that they must be Americans, but on closer inspection they were carrying MEC packs! (sniff) Real Canadians. I Got a bit nostalgic seeing them staring at the Tube map in confusion. It will be 5 years in June since I did my cliche backpack around Europe trip.

English Lesson of the Day: Bap

It’s lunch time, the weather is of course gorgeous (i’m beginning to believe that London is the modern day Eden, and not just because I ate lunch in a lovely garden). I’m in a little sandwich shop cafe near work because sandwiches seem to be the lunch time meal and the guy behind me orders curry chicken on a bap.

Bap: a large soft roll, say 5-6 inches in diameter. Looks like an obese dinner roll.

English Lesson of the Day

Pull: used to describe the successful act of attracting a person to such an extent that you would be able to snog or perhaps bone or even shag them if you so desired.
Going on a Pull: To attempt to attract a member of the opposite sex. Cruising, out on the prowl.

“I’m going out on the pull tonight.”
“I’d sooner stay in with my embroidery than go out on the pull with just one single friend”

First discovered by me today in TheLondonPaper (freebie newspaper)

Finally, a company that recognises my status

(Please note that I spelled “recognises” the British way. I’m learning!)

I’ve always thought that the title “Mr” never really summed up exactly who I am. It always felt a bit common or pedestrian to describe myself that way. Not that I want to be called “Mrs” or “Ms” of course: I’m fairly certain that I am male, but let me check…yep, still male. It’s just that I wanted a title that better defined me as a person. “The Reverend Doctor Jason Slaughter” always appealed to me, but I’m not religious…or a doctor for that matter.

Thankfully British Airways–everybody’s favourite big-business airline–knows that the members of its “Executive Club” frequent flyer program are a special breed. Like me. So when I signed up and selected my “title” from their little pull-down menu I was pleasantly surprised to see not just the bog-standard Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss, Dr, Herr, Monsieur, and Frau, but a list truly deserving of the nose-in-the-air crowd.

The military is well recognized by BA. They’ve got Admiral, Lieutient, Sergeant, Corporal, First Officer, and even the dreaded Rear Admiral. They’ve got politicians covered with titles like President, Senator, and Governor but strangly no Prime Minister. Royalty are well taken care of with titles like Her Majesty, His Majesty, Prince, Princess, Her Highness, and His Highness. They’ve got wacky foreign titles like Jonkheer, Khun Ying, Hajim, Puan Sri, Embajadora, Tengku, and everybody’s favourite Tan Sri Dato. The religious are served with titles like Father, Rabbi, Reverend, and Pastor. They even have The Hon Justice, His Holiness, Deacon, Lord, Viscount, Brother, Sultan, Dame, Judge, and Justice.

It was a long search, but I finally found the title that suited me best. Thanks again BA for recognising me for who I am:

Crown Prince Slaughter

What title are you?

Everyday is the weekend

Went up to Cambridge yesterday to meet Jason at the bank and get added to his account (approved!). We learned that Barclays JUST changed their policy yet again about credit cards. Apparently we now need to be living in the UK for 12 months before we can apply. 6 months and 1 day ago they said the amount of time was 6 months. Awesome.
Since one of us needs to bring home the bacon, Jason went back to work and I wandered around the city. Cambridge really is as lovely as everyone says it is. The town is old, beautiful and full of cute shops, restaurants and pubs. Oh, and with the odd old historic building thrown in here and there for dramatic effect.

Of course the obvious question came to mind, why are we living in Loud London and not in Cute Cambridge? It sure would be a lot cheaper to live in CC (probably a ratio of 4:1). But then I think of our plans for tonight. We’re going to see Avenue Q in the evening, perhaps grab some dinner with a few people and then drop in on a house party at a friends (or mates as the brits say..) place who lives v close to Baker Street. Then I imagine on the way home we’ll see a pile of drunkards milling about our neighbourhood before passing out at home to the quite hum of the Piccadilly tube line underneath our bedroom. And then I sigh. And remember, yes. I really do prefer big cities, crime, dirt, vagrants and all.

Anyway, back in CC … I was really annoyed that I forgot my camera, because the weather even cleared up. I did take some quality shots with my mobile phone, but if I could just figure out how to unlock the mysteries of bluetooth, I would share. (tech support is out right now). So it was 4 great hours to myself in Cambridge, truly a lovely Friday afternoon. I’ve started to read Letter to a Christian Nation. So far I recommend it, although I would love to read a good argument from the Christian Right. I met up with Jason’s co-workers at their local and of course, the conversation had to turn to the way us Crazy Canuks pronounce things. So far on the list of wrongs: Coffee, and Tuesday

Some new Brit speak:

Zip = zipper
Anorak = rain jacket, but also slang for nerd (?!)
Wallet (ladies) = purse
Purse = handbag (i’ve noticed the americans use handbag a lot too)

Oh! And in other good news, my contract for work arrived this morning. Yes, oddly enough we get mail on Saturdays.

Bicarbonate Of Soda

Went to Tescos today to pick up a few things needed for making some banana bread.
I noticed that the only vanilla extra I could find was called “Vanilla Flavouring” and came in the smallest bottle imaginable. So the hunt is on for a large size bottle of vanilla, Because seriously, 2 batches of pancakes and a loaf of banana bread later, and and that Visine sized bottle of ‘flavour’ will be dry.
Baking soda was a bit harder to find. I had to scan the baking aisle twice before I found Bicarbonate of Soda.


I guess I shouldn’t be completely surprised, last week I discovered that sour cream = soured cream, but I figured I would need translations into British-ims for more obvious things like transportation (lift not elevator, alight not exit, carriage not subway car) and day to day expressions (lost his plot, no I’m having kittens, does what it says on the tin). I didn’t expect Brit speak to spill into the world of baking ingredients.

Hamstead High Street & the Heath

Today we took the tube up to the much recommended Hamstead area of London.
I made an attempt at London fashion today: skinny jeans + coloured flat shoes. We arrived at Hamstead to discover that I forgot one key accessory – my pushchair (translation baby stroller). It seems Hamstead is THE place to be for young mothers, their well dressed children and pimped out pushchairs.

The High Street as you can see was very scenic:


However I did notice an excessive amount of yuppy patisseries (£21 for a raspberry topped mille feuille cake?!) and high end maternity stores.

The Heath on the other hand (which I thought was British speak for a park until I looked it up on wikipedia) was quite rustic. Very few paved paths, no sculpted landscapes, just mostly raw green space:



We did get further into the Heath and ended up in a wooded section that was really nice.

Shame I wore those silly flat shoes.

A New Word! Hoover = Vacuum

From Wiki:

In Britain Hoover has become so associated with vacuum cleaners as to become a genericized trademark. The word “hoover” (without initial capitalization) often is used as a generic term for “vacuum cleaner”. Hoover is often used as a verb, as well, as in “I’ve just hoovered the carpet”.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised with this one. In Canada we use plenty of genericized trademarks like: Kleenex, Q-tips and BandAids, but it still surprised me. I bought a used vacuum cleaner today from some guy online and he used the term hoover which totally confused me. If anything, to me, Hoover is either a name of a dam or something I associate with defensive eaters like my friend Cernik enjoying a big tray of poutine.


(English) Muffins

They actually call English muffins… “muffins”.
At least they taste the same, or at least the Tesco brand ones I bought do.
Rumour has it muffins are called ‘buns’ by the brits. Well that’s just insane.

What’s also nuts is that I need to turn on a light switch to get my stove to work.


It does what it says on the tin

This is one I hadn’t heard in Canada: “It does (exactly) what it says on the tin.” The meaning is immediately obvious; it’s something that does exactly what it purports to do. It’s generally used positively (that something purchased worked as expected) but it’s occasionally used negatively to mean that the product works just barely well enough.

It does exactly what it says on the tin

What’s for Pudding?

“Pudding” here is not just a creamy dessert, it’s just dessert in general. It’s like going to the States (especially the South), asking for a “Coke,” and getting the response back “What kind’a Coke do ya want? We gots Pepsi, 7-Up, Dr. Pepper…”

Notable Example:

“how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”

-Pink Floyd.