Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Some Small Gripes

I love living in the UK.  There is so much here that makes more sense than back home in America.  For instance, I work part time on a zero hour contract.  Now, in America I would be VERY unlikely to get any paid holiday time off or paid sick time off, but here I do.  That is amazing!  If you think this is stupid, next time you go to a restaurant consider that waiters do not get paid time off even for being sick, and as a result will work while ill, delivering food to you to consume.  Bon appetite!

Saying that, there are a few things that irk me here. These are mostly small issues that are really just annoyances.

1) The non-ubiquitousness of driers (or, as they are called here, tumble driers).  This may seem strange to those of you who have had a drier for their clothes most of their lives, but go without one and the small things will begin to annoy you.  I had a normal drier in my first apartment and it was great, but my second place had one with no ventilation system or lint trap.  Basically what would happen is the washer turns into a drier, but does not vent the hot, humid air, so it takes (I am not exaggerating here) 1.5-2 hours to dry 4-5 t shirts.

I do actually like to air dry my clothes now; it is cheaper, better for the environment and easier on your clothes, but it does have some draw backs: If you have to do laundry before going on vacation, you need 1 to 3 days to do it and have it air dry in time to pack; the giant clothes airers can become a permanent display piece in your home; God help you if you live with one or more people with long hair, since no drier means no lint trap to catch the buggers.  I have spent far too much time pulling long hairs off my clothes when folding them; you will notice, rather quickly, just how much lint the overage shirt has on it, as your belly button will begin to collect what the drier normally would.

Many people here do have driers, they are just not nearly as common as in America.

2) Being told you are miss-pronouncing or misspelling something.  Yes, Americans (for the most part) speak English, and yes it is named after England, but that does not mean that differences in spelling and dialect instantly equate to being wrong.  My favorite example is the word aluminun.  The inventor/discoverer of the metal was a Brit who both spelled and pronounced this metal the way Americans do now; however, the Royal Academy of Sciences (I think it was them) decided that metals should end in 'ium' and changed the spelling to aluminium, which naturally changed the pronunciation. American kept the original spelling.  Pronouncing 'lieutenant' as lew-ten-ent, instead of lef-ten-ent is also accurate and more consistent with the pronunciation up to at least the mid-seventeenth century, when people spelled phonetically (meaning they spelled words the way they sounded).  Their has never been, to my knowledge (and I have researched this), any spelling with either an 'F' or a 'PH' in it.

3) The lack of good, cheap, used books stores.  USed book stores back in the US sell used books at cheap prices, which is hard to find here.  There are only three used book stores in Stratford, and only one is any good.  Unless you want to buy a basic paperback novel, it can be hard to pay what I would consider a good, used book store price.  One book store in Stratford only takes £1-2 off the jacket price on many of their books.

I don't mean to rant, these are just small things I did not think about before moving here.  Anyway, I LOVE THE UK!!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cardiff (a year after the fact)

Last March my cousin, Alex, went with his rugby team to play in Cardiff, Wales and in Ireland.  I live only a few hours by train from Cardiff, and so I got to visit my aunt Jenny and aunt Kathy, who were traveling with Alex.  Sorry, Jenny and Kak, for taking so long to actually post this.  I had a great time seeing them!

My lovely aunties at Cardiff Castle.

Cardiff Castle's motte and bailey.

Tea time!

More tea time at a church in the middle of the city.

Aunt Jenny.

Victorian tapestry showing Empress Matilda's escape from King Stephen's castle, where she was being held prisoner, by dressing in white and sneaking across a snow covered field.  The war between Stephen and Matilda is really interesting, and if you are a geek like me, look it up.  This is in the hall of Cardiff Castle.

Kathy decided against storming the castle.  I backed her on that decision.  

The main gate of the castle seen from the entrance into the bailey.

The dining hall in the castle.

Daffodils, the national flower of Wales.

Looking out form Cardiff Castle.

Inside the bailey.  I was 'owning' the castle, ala Emily.

No longer 'owning' the castle.


This is the main living section of the castle. 

Climbing the many, many steps to the bailey.

'The castle is behind me.'

The bailey, again.

This might have been up for the 6 Nations Rugby tournament (which Wales had just won with a grand slam...meaning they won every game).

The Millennium Centre.

Dr Who is filmed in Cardiff, and this fountain is a major landmark in the show.  The guy dressed as a dalek is standing on a slab that, in Torchwood, transports people to a secret underground base.  These guys were part of a Dr Who tour that I may have stalked for a short while 

This is that fountain from farther away.

Me and the fountain.

Alcohol may have played a part in our dinner choice.  Jenny and Kak couldn't understand the guys in the chippy, so I had to translate. 

Drinks with the family.

For one day I went to see Tintern Abbey (I wrote about that earlier) and on the way back I stopped in Chepstow, a town on the river that is the border between England and Wales.  

Chepstow Castle.  This is potentially the oldest door in Britain. 

The castle is perched up on a cliff above the river.

There is a little alcove in the cliff in the middle of the picture.  Boats used to pull up there and unload cargo with winches, up into the castle

The great hall.

A better view of the supply area.


An old Norman church in Chepstow.

This beautiful church had its aisles removed by some dumb-ass Victorians for not apparent, or stated reason.  The result is an awkward looking building that feels like the inside of a thin tube on the inside.

Saturday night out in Cardiff.  Like you do.