Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reflections and Observations About England

By Claire and Chuck
Our expectation about England and all the rest of it was that now things would be easier. We have a common language, after all and we had been traveling for 9 months. I guess expectations are meant to be dashed. Yes, this "strange" dialect of English and how they use it has been a challenge.

Here are just a few we’ve encountered along the way:

Vanilla pod ice cream—when we asked, they shrugged their shoulders. You either know what it is or you don't.
Weak bridge—we saw this sign twice—we think it means narrow; but maybe it is simply not to be trusted with a heavy weight
Hidden dips ahead—never saw them (Could these be Gary Larson's bumpkins, cowering in the bushes?)
Bottle bank—recycle place?
Orbital Road—ring road, perhaps?
New road layout ahead—when does it become old?
Gobsmacked—astonished, astounded
Dog’s Trust (seen on the side of a truck)
Bob’s Your Uncle—and there you have it
The year dot
Tour—meaning to walk somewhere rather than being led by a guide
No worries
Slip road—exit road
I'm not too keen on that—I loathe and despise it with every fiber of my being

For further information try: English (British) - American Dictionary


What are naked lights?

What's a gully and why does it need cleaning?


Navigating and Driving
There seems to be no rhyme nor reason for which side of the street you walk on. In London there were signs on the escalators telling you to stand on the right. On the sidewalks, people are all over the place. Even inside buildings where a sign will say “please stay on the left,” people generally ignore it. I get the feeling that with all the rules we’ve observed, people enjoy breaking them. We have encountered more impatient drivers here and have been honked at fairly often—flipped off, fists shaking, that sort of thing. We're never quite sure what we've done. But, driving has become so normal on the left, we're a little worried about the transition back to the right.

We are certain there are people who are difficult to understand in America. It’s the same here. Sometimes it seems impossible to understand a word. It was less embarrassing when it was a European country and we didn’t speak the language.

It was interesting figuring out how their electric plugs work. It took me awhile to realize you often have to turn on the switch to make them work.

On the whole, the electric power we received at all the British campsites was much higher than in Europe. We were able to run our beloved electric tea kettle inside Homer and Claire's hairdryer (but not at the same time). In Europe, Chuck had to take the kettle to the campground kitchen and Claire dried her hair in the bathroom. We found it odd that British bathrooms do not have electric plugs available, ever, except for shavers.

I know we mentioned the shopping carts in Europe. They do the same thing in most of England: you put in a £1 coin which allows you to unlock the shopping cart. When you return it and lock in the chain, the coin pops out. This is brilliant and keeps the carts in the supermarket lot rather than abandoned in the neighborhoods.

We've seen lots of Mini Coopers, Rovers, Jaguars, Ferraris, and Fords. However, we have never seen a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla like the ones at home. In fact, Denise in Wales had a Honda Civic only a couple of years newer than mine and it was a model I've never seen before.

England is a nation of walkers. There are footpaths (aka public rights of way) everywhere--we even see signs for them as we drive down their secondary (and lower) roads. There are over 140,000 miles of footpaths in England & Wales. I presume this network of trails is largely a traditional holdover from the early years of walking as transportation. Legally, a public right of way is part of the Queen's highway and subject to the same protection in law as other highways, including trunk roads. "In legal theory most paths become rights of way because the owner 'dedicates' them to public use. In fact very few paths have been formally dedicated, but the law assumes that if the public uses a path without interference for some period of time - set by statute at 20 years - then the owner had intended to dedicate it as a right of way.

A public path that has been unused for 20 years does not cease to be public (except possibly in Scotland). The legal maxim is 'once a highway, always a highway'.

Paths can also be created by agreement between local authorities and owners or by compulsory order, subject, in the case of objection, to confirmation by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or the National Assembly for Wales."

Kissing gate

This is called a stile

Stick with beer.

These are from Wales and called Welsh Cakes—interesting and tasty. They come in a plastic bag ready to eat. They look like pancakes to us.

Couldn’t be nicer. They are always smiling and helpful.

Free, clean, plentiful and stocked with toilet paper.

England has nice, clean campgrounds. They are very organized and you can always count on the bathrooms being well equipped. In fact, most of the bathrooms are identical—it's a bit like going into McDonalds--you know exactly what you will get. The two camping clubs (CC, CCC) are the only way to go. We especially liked the fact that even the urban sites are in a country-like setting with lots of trees and greenery. Bus service is always close by or sometimes a bike path takes you into the city right out of the campground.

London campground

This is a fairly common activity. This was a sneak picture looking through one of Homer's windows.

We saw this kind of sky more often than not. What can we say? It rains here, a lot.

We spent a total of 43 days in England. We rarely notice the accents anymore but they sure know where we come from!

England and America, two countries, divided by a common language. ~ George Bernard Shaw


Elle, still tossing stuff, & packing... said...

So now when you guys are at parties and want to be secretive, you'll have your own better-than-pig-latin phrases you can whip out, like,

"Are you keen on taking the slip road down the gully?"

Or you can smile, wink at each other and simply say:

"What a l-o-n-g strange trip it's been..."
The Grateful Dead,
Truckin' like the DooDah Man

Karin said...

When Michael and I arrived in Ireland to live, we attended our first Community Hall meeting and came home asking each other... "I thought they spoke English here, I didn't understand ONE WORD, did you?"

Once we got past the accent, then the vocabulary was always catching me up! Like being "knocked up" in the morning! HUH? Please!!! But what really took the prize is when one time I needed a "lift" and was standing by the side of the road when the village priest passed me by. He didn't stop. That evening in the pub I complained that the priest refused to give me a "ride"! ! They laughed me right out of the pub that night!

I liked your vocabulary dictionary! And agree with Elle, you can now have your own "signal language" at parties! How cool is that?

So hard to believe your almost finished. Your blog has given me months, weeks, days, hours, etc of pleasure to see the world through your eyes. And the writeups are also a very wonderful way to know the history. I know you aren't at the end yet, but wanted to thank you both for a blog more than well done!

Karin on Paros