Monday, March 12, 2018

Some Things British (or Maybe English)

Walking in the park on Saturday, Earl and I couldn't help noticing the plethora of children dressed in striped shirts with knee-high socks -- soccer tournament.
 Parents stand on the sidelines for a soccer game. No snacks at the end of games, we noticed. 
We discussed whether we missed the time when our Saturday mornings were filled with soccer games, finding the shin pads, the cleats, the right soccer shirt before sitting in a foldable chair in the rain, snow and wind (rarely the sun).
Because of the crowds, people had parked wherever they could find a few feet of space.
As we walked around the lake, a family of four cut across the field and joined the path. The father carried a cup of "takeaway" coffee as he walked with his wife and two daughters. They chatted as they walked and finally, the father stopped and said, "We need to move more quickly."
Immediately, the eldest daughter, maybe 11 or 12, crossed her arms across her chest and addressed her father.
"You did not need to raise your voice at us," she began as they walked ahead and the conversation drifted off.
I wanted to laugh. That must be the British version of raising your voice because, in my house, it would not have even been heard. I hoped that Earl (who came from an Italian family) had witnessed this conversation because we had often had a similar discussion in our house, but the voices were much louder and he was accused of yelling.

Some curious things about England, the plugs have switches on them.
The first night, we plugged in Earl's phone and the next morning, it hadn't charged at all. I tried turning on light switches at the door to see if the outlet was connected to the overhead light, but it made no difference. That's when we discovered that each plug had it's own on and off switch.

"Does the electricity leak out if you leave it turned on?" I asked, but couldn't get a satisfactory answer.
Earl did a bit of sleuthing and discovered that England does have a stronger electrical current so it could be quite dangerous. Still, annoying and I can't tell you how many times we've waited for something electrical only to discover that the plug is not turned on.

For a similar reason, the light switch for the bathroom is outside the door. If you walk into the bathroom, you will not find a light switch. You'll need to turn around, walk outside the door and switch on the light. Then walk into the bathroom and close the door.
"Did these people not grow up with siblings?" I ask over and over.
I'm sure my siblings would have been thrilled to turn off the light while I was in the bathroom over and over again. This is a sibling joke that would never have grown old. I can almost hear the "Mom" that would have followed every time.
There are also no outlets in the bathroom. From outside the door, I plug in the hair dryer and stand near the doorway blowing my hair dry. Same thing for the hair straightener.

The British/English thing is something that I'm still struggling with. People born in England, obviously. English people are British, but not all British people are English. Some are from Northern Ireland or Wales, or other places that I'm not sure enough to include here.
A guy walking his dogs once stopped and asked Earl if he was Canadian. After talking for a few minutes, Earl asked him if he was British, and the guy replied, "No, I'm English." He later conceded they were all the same, but there's no way to know if a person is English or British, unless they have a very obvious Welsh accent or something.
My friend Anne met us in London. I know that she lives in Oxford, so I said something about her being English. 
Me and Anne -- she's British. 
She immediately let me know that she was born in Northern Ireland, so she was not English, but she was British.
It just makes my head spin to try to figure it out, but maybe it isn't important after all.
For instance, we've always called ourselves American, but I've heard that can be offensive to other people who come from the continent of North or South America. The website Go Abroad lists it as number 2 on the 7 terms not to use. So I've been trying to say that we're from the States or the United States. Mostly, people know where we come from if we say American. So I'll hope that British or English people won't be offended if I call them by the wrong name.

As we walked through St. James Park on Sunday, we saw all kinds of birds in the park. Many of them were presents from various countries around the world, like pelicans from Saudi Arabia. Herons stood patiently while people took pictures of them, 
A handsome heron and some daffodils
but the real star of the park were the few gray squirrels. People were fascinated by the squirrels. And they were cute, with little patches of white on their chest and their cheeks full of peanuts, but I can't imagine being that entranced by squirrels. At our house in Ohio, hundreds of squirrels scampered up and across branches, chasing each other, stealing chunks of pumpkin from our jack o'lanterns, digging up bulbs that would have brought forth spring flowers.
It's a squirrel, people. Move along. The squirrel isn't in the picture. He's on a tree. 
But crowds lined a fence watching a single squirrel eat. The people stretched farther. I couldn't get them all in one photo.

The sun came out as we crossed the Thames before finding our train at Victoria Station. 


Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Helloo , I did have to read this. Raising your voice doesn't actually mean Yelling or shouting , the father is most probably talking a little bit louder than he usually does. "Raising your voice is speaking loud and clear (with emphasis), to point something out, mostly in a discussion (e.g. out of excitement). Raising your voice is speaking loud and clear, sharp, more of less angry/aggitated."

I don't even normally say I was born in N/Ireland , it has no bearing on my life . But my Birth certificate does say I am British , all very complicated to you know I know. Many or most people born in NI say they are Irish (I think) . Just like I found it complicated about Canada being a North American country. Are they Canadian or American .. Just to say that some people will say they are English , and wont identify being British at all ..

Oh yes the FAMOUS Squirrels , the most photographed squirrels too .. I know you couldn't understand what the fascination was , but many of those people most probably haven't seen one before ..

Of course we grew up with siblings , sometimes we mucked about with the switch but got told off. I don't want to complicate matters for you anymore BUT you can have a PULL light in the bathroom to turn the light on but not a switch ..hahahaha , sorry Paulita I had to throw that one in .

I had a fabulous time with you and Earl , thank you , it was too good an opportunity to miss up on with you being so close. Enjoy the next adventure , Take care. ( we picked a good day to meet, Rain all day today)

Anonymous said...

The electricity-free bathroom is so you don't get electrocuted.
Speaking of the strength of electricity, turns out Kosovo knocked down its power in a dispute with Serbia, which made the European grid slip from 50 Hertz to 49.95 hz or something with the result that electrical clocks have slowed by 6 minutes across the Continent. I noticed it on our stove and was miffed, because the stove is fairly new and fancy--how dare the clock be off! Then I learned that it was the electricity at fault.

Just Me said...

All so fascinating !

Lesleyc said...

If you're from Wales - you're Welsh and British, from England - English and British, NIreland - irish and British and Scotland - Scottsh and british. Great Britain is the largest island of the British Isles consisting of England and Scotland and the Principality of Wales. NIreland is part of the British Isles. Technically, we are the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. GB is a loose term covering the UK and the smaller islands surrounding it.

I imagine most people in the UK have seen the grey squirrel - they're one of the most common sights in gardens and parks and came here from the US - unfortunately decimating our native red squirrel. However, they're extremely playful and a joy to watch. An innocent pastime.

You'll be pleased to know that for various reasons the British plug and socket system is the safest in the world - it's worth reading up on the various reasons why. Our electricity plugs and sockets were a source of annoyance to Steve Jobs when designing Apple products as he found them aesthetically distasteful and made them flatter but they're more difficult to pull out of the socket.

Sim Carter said...

It looks like everyone has covered your concerns with the raising of voices, the electricity concerns (I blow dry my hair in my bedroom because of my own fears about dropping the dryer into the sink, and that's here in the US) and the group's fascination w squirrels. We have some in the yard outside the window where I write. When I'm at a loss, I have found the antics of the ubiquitous squirrels a welcome distraction.

Now that you've had the whole English/British thing explained to you, here's a pop quiz Madame Professor.
I was born in London, On the cover of my passport are the words "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

Am I
a) British
b) English
c) Both of the above
d) A wanker just giving you a hard time. (I suppose women can be wankers, although the term def. came from the boys)

Rhodesia said...

Ha ha, I was born in Lilliput near Poole, so I am English and British. On the other hand I was brought up in Rhodesia so I class myself as Rhodesian although I was not born there. Life gets complicated. Our electrical system in Rhodesia was the same as England, so no surprises for me until we came to live in France and we had no switches!!! I found that very odd!
Glad that you have met Anne we have met up a few times now.
Enjoy your time in the UK. Diane

CherryPie said...

Hi Paulita,

I came across from Anne's blog. I love your post about the oddities of being in England.

I see LesleyC has explained the British/English thing :-) She has also taught me something too and that is the Apple plug. I now know I am not the only one who has trouble getting it out of the socket after I finished charging my phone.

The reason for no sockets and switches in the bathroom is because they present an electrical hazard if the electrical items come in contact with water or wet fingers on a light socket. The potential for an electric shock which could prove fatal. But in bathrooms we do have low capacity sockets for shavers and pull cords for the ceiling lights (no chance of water getting near the electrical outlet).

Like Sim I always blow dry my hair in the bedroom too.

Jeanie said...

I love this -- and it's good to know in case I do make it in October! I didn't know about the plugs either and until you mentioned the sibling thing I thought, "Well, that's a good idea!" But no, you're right. (The advantages or disadvantages of being an only child!)

I adore St. James Park -- such a wonderful collection of birds and wildlife. I had no idea about the squirrels. I'd be happy to send them the one that eats all my birdseed!

sillygirl said...

Now that you have been exploring the world just think of how your "comfort zone" has expanded - isn't travel wonderful! I have a friend that has gone to a few places but she is going to Paris for the first time and is afraid to ride the Metro because there will be no one there to show her how and she has only ridden the system in Lisbon once. My comfort zone has grown so much since taking European tours. We all need to push the boundaries, don't we.

Paulita said...

Thanks everyone for your explanations and teasing. Of course, when I write about how things are different, I'm a bit tongue in cheek. I didn't even get to how a piece of cake was served with only a knife and I had no idea how to eat it... Oh well, you can't cover everything.
I soooooo appreciate that you are reading and commenting on my blog. Cheers!

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