Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Day in the Life

A real phone conversation:

Me:      Hello, I would like to make an appointment please.
Them:            Have you been here before?
             Yes, a long time ago...
                      Okay, what’s your name...
            Sharon Clark.
                      Shannon Clock?          
            No, Sharon Clark...
                      Shannon… can you spell your last name…
            SHARON… C-L-A-R-K...
            No, Clark….C-L-A-R-K, Sharon...
                     Okay, Clark.. Shannon?
            No, Sharon, S-H-A-R-O-N...
                      Ok.. what is your date of birth?
            8th of July 19.. (not giving that away) *smile*
                       September 10, 1953?
            No, July 8th 19___
                       Oh, let me look in the computer… you said your name was Shannon?
            No… Sharon *sigh*
                       I don’t see you, and you said it’s not September 10, 1953?
                       Hmmm… I don’t see you Shannon, maybe you haven’t been here before, let me put you in as a new patient…..

(*bangs head on desk*)

Arghhh…. How hard is it to understand my accent, I wonder?

I don’t know if she was just really that dumb, or if I was speaking particularly Cockney this morning.  Bloody Nora, some days I just want to drink .. a lot .. really early!!  *Sigh*

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Little Etiquette Please

I have often wondered why Americans don’t use knives when eating.  Having been brought up to eat properly with a knife in the right hand, fork in the left, it continues to amaze me when I see people trying to actually cut their food with a fork.  Go to any restaurant and you will see it all the time. 

But what’s even more hilarious is watching them when they actually try and use both utensils.  Totally the wrong way round, they might as well be wearing boxing gloves!  The fork is always upside down and the knife, well, don’t even ask what they’re doing with the knife.  It looks a bit dangerous, as if the food is about to shoot off the plate at any minute.  You can watch this for agonizing minutes and then once the “cutting” is over, they go back to eating all their bite size pieces with only a fork, which they have switched back to the other hand.  A bit like cutting food up for your baby.

I have often sat and watched Dave try and cut a juicy steak with his fork, leaned over and said “You do have a knife you know, wouldn’t that be easier?”  I get “the look.”  Now I’m not saying it’s the wrong way to eat (it is), but it is just so, well, awkward and looks like a a lot of hard work. 

Here’s a short and possibly quite possibly ‘politically incorrect’ lesson in using a knife and fork the Downton Abbey way. 


I find it very peculiar and funny to watch the Americans, but I will admit I get funny looks when I’m eating Pizza and fried chicken (not at the same meal) with a knife and fork. I am told “That’s what your hands are for.” But it doesn’t feel right to eat with my hands.   That'll be my "stodgy" British upbringing. 

Oh and one more thing, when you’ve finished, America, please put your knife and fork together in middle of the plate. Thank you. That’s all.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Charlie Bit Me!

We have Dave's grandchilden staying with us this week (Dave being my fiancé -  I thought I better give him a name, he was feeling  a bit left out) and it's, well, an experience.  *smile*

Our dog is Charlie and he just love, love, loves little children.  Not to eat, of course, but then he is a pitbull type of dog (okay he is a whole pitbull) but he loves to play and tends to get excited and nip at clothes and sometimes gets your skin.  So this morning I hear "Charlie bit me!" and a bit of a sob.  As I run into the kitchen Charlie is sitting looking at me as if to say "What did I do?"  And the little'un says again "Charlie bit me!" Which, of course, reminded me of this video, a classic from England.  I just had to take a look again - it's so lovely and British.  How can you not smile?  This is actually where Charlie got his name.

The thing is, it just doesn't sound quite the same in an American accent!

This is Charlie

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What Did I Say?

I shocked myself this morning as I walked into work.  When the cleaning lady told me to be careful as the floor was slippery, I smiled, thanked her and said “Have a nice day!”

It wasn’t until I was in the lift I realized what I had said…  Bloody Hell, I’ve turned into an American!!  Whatever would my relatives think?

It’s just as well I’m going home for a holiday this year – I need a top up of some good old English and then maybe next time I will say “Ta Love” or maybe just "Cheers."  She won’t understand a word of it, but it will make me feel better.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beside the Seaside (Part 2)

I previously did a post about our daytrips to the seaside here.  But I’ve been thinking it over and there are so many more things I miss that I can’t get, or just don’t happen in America.  Here’s a few:

The Shellfish Bar
I did a post about cockles and how they didn’t get to America here.  But it’s not just cockles they sell… mussels, winkles, oysters, lobster, jellied eels, shrimp, crab, whelks.  Oh how wonderful to see all that fishy seafood sitting in the sun.  Of course, it’s a British tradition to get your fish fix when you’re at the seaside.  It’s just that some of those things look a bit, well, nasty.  I will stick to my cockles.
Photo coursey TripAdvisor
Donkey Rides
How can you go to the seaside and not have a donkey ride?  We used to beg and beg our parents to please let us have a ride.  The answer was usually a “No,” but that didn’t stop us from begging.  Of course, you have to take the obligatory photograph of the donkeys, lined up in a row with poor unsuspecting children balanced precariously on their backs.  After being dragged and bumped down the beach for five minutes you were back on solid ground and your parents were out a few quid that they would never get back.  All because those donkeys are so lovely!

Doughnuts on the Pier
Ahhh… to walk along the pier and smell that wonderful scent of cooking batter in hot oil.  There was always a crowd around the window watching those sizzling little doughnuts fall into the mound of sugar at the end of the conveyer belt.  They were always tiny, but perfectly cooked.  It makes my mouth water just thinking about them.  We always ate them too fast and wanted more.  There’s nothing better than freshly cooked doughnuts still too hot to bite.  Krispy Krème try, but they cover them in slimy goop, so it’s just not the same.
Love to watch through the window
Punch and Judy
Although a great British seaside tradition, it’s a bit creepy if you ask me.  Always set up on the beach in a striped “tent” and always, so it seemed, the same storyline which includes Mr. Punch, his poor beaten wife, Judy, a policeman, who I have a feeling wasn’t there to stop her being battered and a crocodile with sausages(?).  There may have been more characters, but I could never stand it long enough to watch until the end.  It fascinated people who, in chorus, chanted “That’s the way to do it” while Mr. Punch was beating his wife black and blue.  It’s a wonder women’s libbers haven’t had it banned by now.  Used to scare the pants off me.
A bit creepy?

Saucy Postcards
How can I possibly remember the seaside without mentioning those oh so saucy postcards?  Every souvenir shop sold them and we, as children, would spend ages reading them all.  I’m not sure we actually understood many of them, but they were so risqué and so part of the British seaside experience that you couldn’t not stop and look at them.  Whether it was buxom women, fat women, skinny little old men, milkmen or doctors they were always very double entendre.   I wonder if anyone actually sent those postcards from the beach?  Something to give the postie a giggle!

Seychelles Mama

Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Favourite Shop

A few years ago, when I heard Tesco was coming to Southern California, I was so excited.  I was expecting to walk into my local supermarket and magically be transported back to England.  It turned out, it wasn't going to be Tescos at all.  It was Fresh & Easy, owned by Tesco, but designed for the American market.  Needless to say, I didn't bother going to see what the fuss was all about.

About six or seven months ago, it was reported that Tesco was leaving and all the Fresh & Easy's would be closed down.  Well of course, that peaked my interest and I just had to go and take a gander.  [they have since been brought out by an American supermarket chain, so are still here.] So off I went, with my fiancé in tow.  We walked a few aisles and I was a bit impressed.  They had great fresh ready-meals, fancy stuff and all kinds of food you didn't really see in other supermarkets here.
My New Favourite
But then I walked around the corner into the International aisle and TA DAH... the wind went out of me, my chin dropped, my knees were weak and I nearly cried (this may be a slight exaggeration).  There, right in front of me were shelves and shelves of British food.  I could hear angels singing and I'm sure there was a glow around that section of the shop.  Heinz Baked Beans, Heinz Tomato Soup, Salad Cream, Heinz Spaghetti, Bisto Gravy Granules, Paxo, pickled onions - I truly thought I had died and gone to heaven (or at least England).  I think I even squealed a little bit and I may have done a bit of a jig!
I am in Heaven!
My fiancé was a bit embarrassed and backed away a few steps.  A lady who was stocking the shelves was giving me a funny look too.  He told her "Oh don't mind her, she's English."  Of course, being outgoing Americans, they got chatting and she told us how wonderful it was at Christmas when tins of English biscuits, Christmas crackers and other wondrous (my word, not hers) items were for sale.  (I would have sheepishly smiled and moved away and never known about the Christmas goodies)   I kicked myself for not shopping there before.  What a waste of four or five years - I could have been eating spaghetti on toast all that time.  What had I been thinking?
Marmite too!!
I spent a lot of money that day, my trolley was heaving with all that English fare.  I make a point of going there at least once a month now to stock up on "my" food.  Still can't get my fiancé to try Marmite though, but I keep trying.    

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I'm Not Irish!

March 17. When I lived in England, that date meant nothing to me, I didn't even know anyone who had a birthday on that day. But apparently, it's St. Patrick's day. It's the day where the whole of America believes it's Irish.  You have to wear green, possibly a badge professing you are Irish, that you need to be kissed or pinched or that you need a drink. And of course, everyone eats corned beef and cabbage.

Now, my late mother-in-law was Irish. Very, very Irish. So much so that when I was going to meet her for the first time, I was told I "wouldn't be able to understand a word she says." Very reassuring and a much needed confidence boost!  Anyway, she was extremely Irish and in all my time knowing her, I never once saw her eat or cook corned beef and cabbage. I never saw her drink Guinness either, I didn't actually see her drink anything, but that’s a whole other story.
Corned Beef I remember
Corned Beef and Cabbage??

My point is, I had never heard of corned beef and cabbage, nor seen so much celebration of St. Patrick’s day until I came to America. My definition of corned beef was the meat that came in a funny shaped tin or in little square slices at the meat counter in the supermarket.  And St. Pat’s day was for the Irish to get drunk in the pub.  Us English wouldn’t get involved.  I think it might be different now, but when I lived there it was just another day and there was certainly no cabbage involved!

So what is it with America that they celebrate so much? I can understand those on parts of the east coast celebrating a bit since most of the immigrants from the potato famine settled there and there are huge Irish communities, but really, California, how Irish could you possibly be?  It’s all very confusing to me.  But I think I may be able to force myself to have a Harp or two.

And yes, I'm jealous. Why isn't there an “I wish I was English” day?  Couldn't you once, just once, celebrate St. George's Day (does anyone know when it is?)  Don't you know America, that we helped you settle here and we pretty much created your government.... Oh, never mind, that makes sense then. *smile*

But just so you know, you may celebrate your independence on July 4th, but the English are sneaking back in - one family at a time!

[And by the way, St. George's Day is April 23, although it's usually celebrated on the first Monday after Easter week, which changes most years... confusing?]

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Two Fingered Salute

Being English I do love a good hand gesture. 
Unfortunately most of them don’t translate over the pond.  On a few occasions, I have given other drivers the fist shaking, circled thumb and forefinger sign (known as the ‘tosser’ or ‘wanker’ sign anywhere in Britain).  This rarely gets a reaction from an American driver – they just think you are shaking your fist at them.  I tried to elaborate by sticking my tongue in my cheek at the same time, but that just makes me look strange and feel a bit stupid, if truth be known.

I have now taken to using the middle finger or “flipping the bird” as it’s called.  I have no idea why it’s called the bird – I have done extensive research (i.e. I Googled it) and couldn’t find any answers.  It’s supposed to represent a phallus, so the bird doesn’t make sense to me.  But that gesture is now my go-to hand signal while driving.  Not that I’m driving and flipping people off all the time, but there are moments when you just need to express your opinion or distaste for others' driving habits.
People who know I’m English do still get the ‘V’ sign.  It’s so much nicer than that solitary middle finger.  And it has a great history.  Also known as “the two fingered salute,” “The Longbowman Salute,” “The Agincourt Salute,” “the Rods” or a number of other names, it's believed to have originated during the Hundred Years War at the Battle of Agincourt when the longbowmen used the gesture towards the French, showing they still had their bow fingers and could still shoot arrows.  It is said the French would cut those fingers off any captured Brits.   This may not actually be true, but in good English tradition, it sounds brilliant so we’re keeping the story.
Oops Mr. Churchill - wrong way round!

It just feels so nice to shake the good old ‘V’ sign with both hands now and then that I just don’t want to give it up.  So whether anyone understands it or not, I won’t stop!

Monday, March 10, 2014

5 Things that are Backwards in USA

When I moved here, I knew I was going to have to get used to differences.  I knew the USA drove on the wrong side of the road and the money was weird.  But there are some everyday things that make you go huh?


This was probably the one thing I knew would be so different and I was expecting it to be a challenge.  Backwards driving in a backwards car!  I’ve done a prior post about my driving experiences here. 

Hot/Cold Taps

Who knew this would be different?  The hot tap and the cold tap are switched.   In America, all the hot taps are on the left and cold on the right.  This was something I would have never thought about and I have spent many a wasted hour waiting for hot water to come through the cold tap, only to find out I’m using the wrong one.  It got to the stage that in one bathroom I used an eyeliner to write ‘H’ and ‘C’ on the wall above the taps.  That was a topic of conversation with visitors, I can tell you.

Light Switches

I don’t remember how many times I’ve walked into a room an tried to turn the lights on and nothing happened.  The switches are opposite to those in England – up for on, down for off.  Quite confusing.

English - On
American - Off


Road Markings

This one continues to boggle me.  Everything is written backwards.  I was told it’s so you could read it at speed, but who reads upside down?  My brain cannot get around reading from the bottom up, so although I don’t have to say the words out loud, my mind still tells me to “Ahead Stop” or that there is a “Lane Bike.”

Written Dates

England, apparently, uses what the Americans call “Military” dates.  Where we write the dates with the day-month-year, it is totally backwards here.  I can’t remember how many times I have written my birthday as August 7th  instead of July 8th. 
Maybe I should just stick with it, after all it will make me a whole month younger! 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What's the Time?

Change your clocks!
Tomorrow (tonight) the clocks go forward in the USA.  This time of the year is confusing for me since I like to Skype with my family in England on a Sunday morning.  The powers-that-be keep moving the date and although they have a nifty little rhyme “Spring Forward… Fall Back”, it doesn’t help because England move their clocks too and I have no idea when they do it.  I have a feeling it’s sometime before America, but there again, it could be sometime after.  Consequently, the usual 8 hour time difference is sometimes 9 hours and on a rare occasion it’s 7 hours.  What is a girl to do to keep it all straight? 
When you ask someone why it’s necessary, the usual answer is “Oh, it’s something to do with the farmers.”  Which could be right, but I read an article recently which stated it was due, in part, to the Industrial Revolution when officials reorganized how daylight hours were used.  If there are more hours of daylight in the summer you could spend more time on fun activities outdoors and you would use less electricity in the house, thus saving money.  I’m not sure what the thinking was for this in the winter, especially in England when it gets dark at 3:00p.m.!

All I know is I will lose an hour of sleep Saturday night so will need an extra long lay-in on Sunday.  I won’t be getting up at 2:00 a.m. to change the clocks (why does it have to be at 2:00 a.m.?) and then I will spend all Sunday morning forgetting it’s an hour earlier than all the clocks say.  Unless of course those friendly elves change them all for me.   [for “elf” read “fiancé"]
I will be having a lay-in Sunday Morning
My sister will have to live without seeing my smiling face this Sunday morning because I won’t be able to do the maths. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Cockles of my Heart

When I was pregnant I crave, crave, craved cockles.  I love those little shellfish and I just couldn’t get enough.  (and yes, I did eat shellfish whilst pregnant – shame on me). 

I remember going to the seaside way back when and queuing up at the shellfish bar to get my tiny plate of cockles in vinegar with a little sprinkle of pepper on the top and using that weeny two prong fork to eat them one at a time.  Ahh the deliciousness of it all!  But not only at the beach, there seemed to be a cockle/shellfish bar in every market.

Not in America
Imagine my shock and horror to realize you can’t get them in California.  I’ve looked everywhere and never found them.  I wondered if they were called something else here?  I even Googled “What are cockles called in America” and came up with nothing.  Apparently they have not made the journey across the pond and are not sold anywhere!!

I’m taking a trip back to Blighty later this year and one of my stops will definitely be the cockle stall.  My American fiancé will be with me and I can’t wait to see his face when I try to get him to eat one!    If he actually likes them, it will definitely warm the cockles of my heart! ❤

With Vinegar and Pepper - Perfect!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

10 English Words I Don't Use Anymore

1.         Everso
            This expression somehow fell out of my vocabulary.  I’m not even sure what word I put in it’s place.  I think it might be “really” as in “I’m really hungry”.  It sounds more quaint when you say “I’m everso hungry.”  Maybe that’s why I don’t say it – I needed to blend in.

2.         Fortnight
            Nobody understands when you say you’re going on holiday for a fortnight.  You have to say two weeks.

3.         Holiday
            A holiday is not a holiday as we know it.  A holiday in America is Christmas, July 4th,  Thanksgiving or any other day you have off work.  A holiday is now a vacation – which is never as long as a fortnight, unfortunately.

4.         Brolly
            During the recent rain storms here in California I told someone I was looking for my brolly.  I got a blank stare until I explained it was my umbrella.  I hadn’t used that word in ages, and I then realized why.
It's my Brolly
5.         Biro
            Ask someone to borrow their Biro and you will get that blank stare (again).  Apparently Biro do not make pens in America.  You need to borrow a pen – nothing fancy, just a pen.  The same thing happens when you ask for Tippex – you need to ask for White Out, which I always thought was a snow storm.
Biro - or is it just a pen?
6.         Anorak
            I don’t use it for a jacket or a trainspotter (and I’m sure there are such things in the USA).  I tried once and it didn’t go over too well.  Rain jacket or parka are used – even though a parka as we know it is nothing like an anorak.
Parka - Not really an anorak
7.         Nan
            When talking about my nan, I don’t call her my nan anymore.  She is now known as my grandma or grandmother – which makes me seem frightfully posh.

8.         Roundabout
            I don’t use this one anymore, because if you do happen to come across one, its called a traffic circle.  I only knew of one locally and that was removed because people kept having accidents as they didn’t know how to use it.  Oopsie.

9.         Rubber
            When I started work, I was surprised to see that all the pencils had rubbers on the end (we just had regular old pencils where I worked in London).  In fact, I actually exclaimed to my new co-workers "Oh, the pencils have rubbers on the end" ... having picked themselves off the floor, they explained my error and told me that it was, in fact, called an eraser and a rubber in America is something totally different!  I quickly removed that word from my vocabulary in the work environment.
10.       Motorway
            I have to use freeway now, and suddenly it feels very awkwardly English to say motorway.

 Ten Words I Refuse to Change

1.         Garage – I will not say Gar…arrrge (with a soft g)
2.         Petrol – although I do sometimes slip up and say Gas
3.         Nail Varnish, not Polish
4.         Zebra – I refuse to say Zeeeebra
5.         Zed – not Zeee
6.         Pram – Baby carriage seems a bit archaic
7.         Lead, as in dog lead – Leash just doesn’t sound right
8.         Sellotape – I just can’t get used to calling it Scotch Tape
9.         Indicator – as in American turn signal.  I have been known to shout at people “Use your bloody indicator”
10.       Maths – why is the ‘s’ dropped?  I’ve never understood

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What's on the Telly?

Am I wrong, should I be so excited?  They’re making a Paddington Bear film and I can’t wait.  I remember back in the day sitting with my children watching Paddington on the telly every afternoon.  It seems though that most American’s have no idea who he is.  How cruel.

The film is due to be released in England in November.  I wonder if it will reach the USA?
And this made me wonder how many brilliant children’s tv programmes never made it across the pond.  It seems as if they always travel the other way and we got American shows.  How can I forget Scooby Doo and Little House on the Prairie (we called it crying day because it was always so sad).

My son was a huge Thomas the Tank Engine fan.  He had all the videos and books with cassettes and he knew all the words. (yes, it was a while ago)  Ringo Starr was his friend.  That one did make it over, but it annoys me that everyone calls it Thomas the Train.  But nobody seems to have heard of Thunderbirds and I was so sure it was an American programme.  Didn’t they all have American accents and names?  I had a huge crush on Virgil.  Oh dear my first love was a puppet!
Good grief - look at those eyebrows!
Thunderbirds are Go!

I could watch forever
While flicking through the tv guide recently, I found Charlie and Lola.  Although made for toddlers it made me stop and watch because I just can’t get enough of those English accents.  I never realized before just how wonderful English children sound.  It’s just so… well, cute!  (Arghh, an Americanism)

They say such wonderful things as "I'm really everso not well."  Perfect!
Nothing makes me more homesick than listening to English children.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pancake Day

Listening to the radio earlier, I heard a report that today is pancake day at IHOP (International House of Pancakes).  Apparently, in 2006 they invented pancake day to raise money for charity. (???)

Well, I’m sorry IHOP, I have to disappoint you.  You did not invent pancake day.  Anyone in England (possibly Europe) knows Shrove Tuesday is pancake day and in fact, it may have been invented by Jif Lemon, but I’m thinking Jif may have been invented because of pancake day.

Actually, in Olney, Buckinghamshire, there is an annual pancake race, which has been run since 1445.  It was said to have started when a local housewife, hearing the “Shriving Bell” ran to the church with her frying pan in hand.  She had been cooking pancakes and thus, the race was on.

Don't forget to flip as you run
America calls our pancakes “crepes.”  Their pancakes here are basically stodgy dollops of goo fried in a pan for a while and served with anything from syrup to fruit or even eggs and bacon.   
How frightfully uncivilized, having sweet and savory on the same plate!
American Pancakes
The Great British Pancake

Monday, March 3, 2014

Shepherd's Pie

I’m not professing to be Gordon Ramsay – heck, I’m not even Fanny Craddock.  I can’t cook.  I give it a good old British try, but some things just aren’t for me – cooking fancy stuff being one of them.  I’ve never made a cake that doesn’t sink in the middle and cupcakes, well, we won’t even go there.

So when people ask me to cook English food, I go to my staples.  I can do blinding roast potatoes and a Sunday roast.  I can make curry (with the help of Patak’s sauces) and I make a brilliant Shepherd’s Pie (even if I do say so myself).  The thing is, and I’ve never told anyone, I cheat when I make Shepherd’s Pie.  There it is – it’s out there now. 

I don’t use herbs and spices or fancy seasoning in my meat – I use a packet mix.  But not even a Coleman’s Shepherd’s Pie packet mix – it’s just a supermarket own brand stew mix!  I use half a packet and dissolve it with an Oxo cube.  Very un-English (except for the Oxo). 

This is how Jamie Oliver would make it right here.  And he says it’s simple!

Well, this is how I make it:

  • 1 pound mince
  • 1 tin carrots
  • 1 small bag of frozen peas
  • Half a sachet of Stew Mix
  • 1 Oxo cube
  • Mashed potato
Brown the meat; mix the Oxo and Stew Mix with 1 litre of hot water.  Empty peas and carrots into meat with Oxo and stew mix, cover and simmer until water has reduced.

Meanwhile, make your mashed potatoes.  Put the meat in a baking dish and put the spuds over the top – fluff with a fork.  Pop in the oven for an hour, or until the top gets crusty and/or brown.

And now I’ve given away one of my biggest secrets, my American friends will not be pestering me to come to dinner so often – but maybe that’s a good thing  *smile*

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Be My Guest

I was recently asked to do a guest blog for  I had contacted Claire to let her know how much I liked her blog and how I had been through the same learning curve - although it seems like ages ago now. 

I'm loving the stories about her son and can remember quite clearly when my son, after his first day in Third Grade, came home and disgustedly informed me he didn't want to go to school here because "They can't even find England on a map"
Oh joy!
Oh, there we are!