Welcome me back to the world! I felt so out of touch last week because of working. I was too tired to get online and do much of anything after my long days. Joe and I rode together to his office. He cut back his hours to 10 per day because of me. Usually he is there about 11 or 12 hours. His choice. He likes the quiet time before everyone gets there and after they leave, to work without any interruptions.
One note on the accents. When you hear British newscasters or famous British people on the TV they do not sound like the "average" Brit on the street. The everyday Brits that we have met speak must faster and with a much stronger accent. It is a lot harder than you would imagine. They also use a lot of different everyday words that are different than our terms, as I've told you before. Joe gets his hair cut in a town where they have a big street market every Saturday. So he goes to the barber shop and I walk up to the market. Saturday while walking through the crowded market I started chuckling to myself. All around me were British people greeting each other (more on that later), calling out their wares to sell, shopping, etc. What made me laugh was I was thinking that it felt like I was plopped down in the middle of a Mary Poppins film set!
What I wanted to tell you is how the British greet each other. Not only is it a greeting, but it is how you are approached in a store, restaurant, anywhere someone is trying to help you. Their "hello, how are you?" Is "Are you alright?" That's it, "Are you alright?" Except they say it like "aw you alriiiiiht?", with their voice going up an octave at the end of "right". It's weird because in stores they don't say "may I help you" they ask "are you alright?" This makes me want to tell them how I am feeling, not how they can help me! They seem confused when you say, "fine, how are you?" A little strange. I kept hearing people at the market say it when they ran into friends. At Joe's office they all greeted each other that way every morning.
Another thing that is different here is their tipping policies. When we first moved here we couldn't really get a straight answer from anyone about tipping policies. Most people just kind of shrugged and said, "you can tip if you want to". We finally decided to start asking the servers themselves. It turns out that tipping is pretty scarce here. First of all if you pay by a credit card and put the tip on the card, most the time the tip goes right to the restaurant. So if you do want to tip a waitress or waiter you have to give the cash right to them, otherwise they will likely not get it. And the servers we talked to said that less than half the people tip, and if they do it is always less than the 15-20% that we are used to giving. In a bar it is even worse. The word is NEVER tip a bartender. The only way you can tip a bartender is to buy them a drink. Everyone we asked agreed on that one. So the grocery deliverers, mailmen, trash collectors, any kind of home repair workers never expect tips and don't look for them.
Joe and I have always enjoyed watching sports and have been missing U.S. sports. Joe's favorite is baseball so he really misses that right now. (In addition to missing playing too). I can't imagine what it will be like when football starts. We have enough trouble keeping up with who the Redskins let go and brought in. Thank goodness for the Internet. Right now we are enjoying the World Cup though. The English are CRAZY for their futbol! Flags, signs, and nutty fans are everywhere. They take off work so as not to miss the games and everything! England played at 3:00 today and I had a cable guy here at 1:30. He was very excited saying I was his last customer and then he was going home to watch the game. I had to watch it at home by myself. England won. USA played at the same time, but it was not televised. They won also so right now USA is in first place and England second in their bracket. It is quite addicting once you start to watch certain players and see the team play. Up until now I never payed much attention to soccer. Joe went to play golf after work today. I told him the golf course would probably be deserted. It is now the next day and I have a locksmith here (always something) who said he's going to die if the World Cup doesn't end soon. They apparently can't take the stress of watching the close games! So funny.
The weather is really nice here. We are enjoying the warm comfortable days, in the 60's and 70's and then the cool evenings that go down to the 50's. It really hasn't been rainy either like they say it is. I guess that will come. I don't know how I'm going to stand going back to that hot and humid weather that we have in Maryland. No one has air conditioning here. At least not in the houses. It really is not needed. I was a little bothered when I realized that none of the windows in the house have screens! I asked every person that came over (plumber, hedge trimmer, movers) how people have their windows open in the summer without screens. I got some more of those strange looks that I am getting used to. Everyone had the same answer. "There are no screens on any windows". I wondered about flies and bugs. They acted like it was no big deal and said there weren't many flies! I finally had to get some air one day and opened the windows. They were right! Sometimes I'd see a fly or two but I also see them flying back out! Haven't noticed any new bugs really to speak of. The air is comfortable and usually has a breeze. Even when it gets dark we don't see any more bugs. Although I do close them at night for security reasons. No use inviting someone in!
I had a good laugh the other day. Gary was over at Brian and Crystal's house doing his laundry in their machines. Apparently something happened and the washing machine quit working. He and Brian were trying to look at it and couldn't figure out what was wrong. They decided to call Melanie to see if she could help them. When they called her and told her what they wanted she said, "Oh, I have my first Mom and Dad call". How true!! She probably was expecting these calls. I just thought that was so funny. And you know what? She told them to go online and google the problem to see if they could get some answers. They did and were able to fix it. Pretty smart, huh? You can find out almost anything you need online. What did we ever do before computers!
Now I will tell you about one of the Brits favorite menu items. (You see we haven't gone anywhere in two weekends so I don't have any places to tell you about.) They are called "Potato Jackets". It's just baked potatoes with a variety of things on top. They are always on the menu (even at the Costco snack bar) and very popular. The number one thing they put on the potato is baked beans. The Brits love their baked beans. They are on every breakfast bar (hotels, B&B's etc.), they eat them with eggs, a woman at Joe's work eats them on toast every day for lunch. But back to the potato jackets. They have them with baked beans and cheese, chili, salsa, tuna, coleslaw, sauteed mushrooms and cream, cooked prawns mixed with mayonnaise, beef stew. Almost anything you can think of can be put on top of the potato. I know we have Wendy's at home that does their potatoes but I can't think of another restaurant that does it. Here, they are like a main staple. We love them. The English potatoes are delicious too. Every time I make them Joe asks why they taste so much better than ours at home. I made some ham and bean soup recently. Joe doesn't really like soup that much because he thinks it's not enough food for dinner. He loves his meat and potatoes. It was kind of a thick soup so I baked some potatoes. When he got home he looked in the crock pot at the soup and didn't say much. Usually he exclaims happily at whatever it is I am cooking. When I called him for dinner he sat down and saw the big potato on his plate with the soup covering it and was very happy. He said, "OH! You didn't say the soup was for jacket potatoes!" Silly man.