The sky cried snowflakes as we departed in the dark for the train station. My eyes were damp, mostly from the snowflakes that stopped short of my protruded tongue as I stared upward in disbelief at some of the largest, lightest crystals I have set eyes upon. This has been a brilliant week in yet another new country (adding an additional port of call to my “might return eventually” list), but my bed and the the superbowl are calling me home. At least for two nights.
i made it from the airport to the train station. we went bag to pick up a bag that didn’t quite make it on time, of course it was dark the entire two hour drive. we visited a store for work; that lasted about 30 minutes. when my hotel slipped an invoice under the door, a full 24 hours earlier than anticipated, my backup plan (if for some reason all of the rooms were booked) would have been to find a place in manchester to stay the night and shorten the trip to the airport in the morning. plan b did not happen, so we’ll be taking a train back from leeds tomorrow and connect straight into the airport. i almost feel like i’ve been to manchester. but not quite.
a quick guide to what you will hear in the uk:
cheers=thanks or goodbye
g=ground floor, cause hitting 1 doesn’t get you all the way down
check=bill, they still know to get money before you leave the restaraunt, regardless
whigwham=manual card carbon copy machine
dual carriageway=two lane road (same direction) with high speeds
mobile=cellphone (capital I sound)
pint=oh c’mon, it’s a pint. more beer, less problems
…and many, many more. if i wrote them all down you’d just miss out on discovering this “foreign” language for yourself.
saw a little more of the country today. we even ventured out of yorkshire to lancashire. suprisingly there are quite a few counties, most of which i will in no way have any connection to on this trip. the cities turn pastoral very quickly on departure and there are some amazing farmhouses and stone fencework everywhere. even passed by one old farm whose owner would not sell when they decided the motorway would cut directly through his homestead, so they just ran the road around him and built a tunnel to use for getting livestock and himself out of the middle.
quick note on the roads here. in town the names are posted, but not like the us. they are at the corner of the street, usually only about three feet above the ground and only the name of the street on to which you are turning. larger roads are numbered and begin with M (motorway), J (junction) or A or B (sized between the city roads and the motorway, A being bigger than B). oh, and the post codes. imagine zip codes that begin in the center of town and work their way out systematically so that you can actually tell how far away it is from the city centre and in which direction.
dinner was consumed at Loch Fyne. fantastic sea food with a scottish background. even had glenlivet water (presumably from the same spring used to make glenlivet scotch). still and tasty.
until the last member of our team joined us, i was well on the way to making reservations with hertz to get a rental car. had that happened, i might have given up and returned to the terminal to catch the train to leeds. just leaving the manchester airport is a task left for skilled motorists. driving on the right side of the car and the left side of the road is against every instinct that i have developed since i was sixteen. well, fifteen with a permit. okay, okay… fourteen with parental supervision. geez…twelve, but that was on dirt roads at our deer lease. anyways, after a few days of observation, i’m convinced that i need to give it a go. the pedals are in the correct alignment, the gear shift pattern is the same, and as long as i don’t panic, driving on the wrong side…sorry the left side isn’t that big of a difference. the roundabouts would challenge most americans, but understanding the rules and the flow of traffic, it seems more efficient than most intersections of a grid. the oneway roads seem to lead you away from where you need to go in the sake of conserving this sense of order, but many US downtowns can easily be just as confusing. i’m not convinced it’s a better system, only that were i to live here, i could enjoy driving as much as at home (especially if i could get my hands on a tasty audi s series or a vw tdi that can’t be imported).
enjoyed portuguese fare at a restaraunt called nando’s this evening. while i abhor the language, the food was very good and the wine delicious. olives for starters and a half chicken with corn on the cob and garlic bread filled the plate. nothing i haven’t made for myself, but a little treat of spices added that I hadn’t tasted before. as the cold weather moves in, it helps that the restaraunt is just around the corner from the marriott. now to connect to the internet and get some work done.
breakfast was a full plate affair. and being the most important meal of the day, i tried not to shy away. mostly familiar food and great coffee and juice. not a bad way to start the day.
after meeting up with my associates, we discussed the deficiencies of our hotel. it’s as if it was a hostel at 5 times the price. i’m a pretty easily accomadated traveler, especially with jet lag, but as we put the pieces together, it was tough to accept exactly what the hotel was missing. no clock in the room. small beds. no parking. outdated rooms. no exercise facility. small bathrooms. no trouser press.
no trouser press?
well, no iron. no ironing board. and no trouser press, a great little machine to ensure that the crease in your pants is crisp and the rest is flat. after transporting dress clothes across the atlantic, the last thing you want to do is get up early to get dressed and go up to the 8th floor to iron and press your clothes, just to return to your room to redress.
so we’re at the marriott now. similar price, much more accomodating environment. I spent more than 120 nights on the road last year (i will probably beat that easily this year) and the last thing that you want is to feel uncomfortable in your home away from home. done and done.
patronized a pub in the centre of town called whitelochs which had very traditional engilsh dishes and beers. sausage and mash was my order, but they were out of mash (potatoes). the fries were a good substitute and went well with the john smith cask and the duscher ipa. there’s more than enough to see around the town centre without work, so hopefully i can work in another visit or two before the end of the week.
after falling asleep on the plane and changing sleep positiions 18 times (even with two coach seats, there’s still not a semi-prone position that you can relax into for some decent sleep), i woke up watching the sun rise over the atlantic. from my 23j window seat, i could see the sunrise and moonset, the view from the cockpit must’ve been phenomenal. deboarding at gatwick, i started to wind through customs.
they must have been staring at me like i was crazy. or an idiot savant. or something. it wasn’t that i couldn’t understand them. it was the fact that for the first time in, well, maybe the first time ever i had a passport stamp and they were still speaking english. no spanish, no japanese, no portuguese (if you want to count portuguese as a language). now to be fair, it is the queen’s english. you know, lifts and queues and lorries, etc. you can just hear the u’s that webster painfully took out of words like color and favorite. the accent up in leeds and manchester is definitely thicker but not nearly as horrible as something out of snatch.
after navigating two flights, one train and a
You can browse fifteen (or more, I lost count) car and motorycle magazines. You can thumb through four boating publications. But there’s only one magazine about flying.
Where are you?
Well, you have spoken and TSA has responded….yes, that’s right, as of August 4th you may carry cigarrette lighters and breast milk on board. Phew, my weekly commute just got so much easier.
Just looking at the statistics it becomes clear why the lighter ban (now at the discretion of the TSA instead of the blame being placed on a congressional mandate) is being repealed. 22,000 lighters a day? Yeah, Bic will be none too happy with this policy change. The lengthy FAQ, though, makes sure you understand what a cigarette lighter is and what to do with it when going through security. Well sort of:
Q. Does your lighter need to be in a baggie since it contains liquid?
A. No. TSA’s common-sense approach harmonizes with worldwide standards for lighters.
We’re changing our minds cause no one else does it that way. Common sense or peer pressure?
And my personal favorite:
Q. Why is breast milk not a threat?
A. Breast milk is a medical necessity and it is being classified as such. It must be declared at the checkpoint.
Did you get past the question? Because I’m sure that many a new mother has asked a TSA agent that exact question without being returned an answer beyond the excuse that it is a liquid. Now we have an answer. Because it has been reclassified.
So enjoy your lighters and your milk (remember to inform them before screening of it’s origin) and applaud the TSA when they change their policies for the better.
Why is this guy staring at me?
He just asked me a question, what did he say?
Where am I, again?
Doys? Menu en Ingles?
Ahhhh, there’s that look.
The look of acknowlegement.
The look that my pronunciation was flawlessly wrong.
Every part of it.
Except the last word.
He always gets the last word.
And the phone gets picked up, the manager dialed.
Do you speak Italian, he asks?
Or maybe it’s German or French.
Of course not, we speak Ingles.
Actually, I’m not sure my English is any good anymore either.
But for now the necessities of life must be provided.
Food, Transportation, Toiletries, Translation Books.
Goh-streeh-yah falar Portuguese.