Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Can I Have An "L" Please?

When I arrived in California, I was told I could only drive with my British license for ten days… yes 10 whole days.  I didn’t even have any hope of getting a car within ten days, let alone the savvy and knowledge to take the driving test.  I wasn’t exactly sure I actually wanted to drive, given the fact everything was backwards and I’m not very good at remembering my right from my left.  But this being California, there was absolutely no way I could possibly survive without a car, so I had to get on with it and take the plunge.  Now, I’m not that brilliant at taking tests and I am ashamed to say I had to take my driving test five times before I passed in England – and that was before the written part was introduced.  I put it down to the fact I had been practicing for so long I had picked up some really, really bad habits that the test examiners just did not appreciate.  *smile* 

Yes, I am a learner!
There is a written test in California, but after reading the test book/handout thingy the test was quite easy because it’s multiple choice!  Just choose the weirdest answer and you’ve got it (apparently).  You don’t have to study the Highway Code for six months here…heck, you don’t even have to know how to drive to take the written portion. 

Then came the actual driving test.  I remembered what it was like in England having had so many opportunities to take that damn test and I must say, I was a little nervous.  So there we were, sitting in the car and the examiner tells me the usual “We will drive and I will ask you to make turns and if I slap my board onto the dashboard you will do an emergency stop..blahdy, blahdy, blah..”  Pretty much the usual, I thought.  So off we went – out of the test centre, up the road, around the corner… emergency stop… U-turn and then…. Nothing!  Oh dear, I thought, I've failed (again).  But no, it was back to the test centre where he told me I passed.  Wait, what?  That was it?  No 3 point turn or reversing around a corner?  No pulling away on a hill?  This has got to have been the easiest driving test in the history of the world.  W.O.W.

Fast forward a few years and it was my daughter's turn. There's not an overabundance of driving schools here, so the teaching bit came down to me. This was all very well and good, but then I realized there are no such thing as "L" plates in the good old US of A. I'd already known how to drive, so the thought hadn't crossed my mind when I was taking my test. But oh no, here there is no way of knowing whether the person driving in front of you is actually behind the wheel for the very first time, or if they are just an idiot.  [and quite frankly, there are quite a few idiots out there]

So this leaves me a little confused.  America seems to mollycoddle their children until they are adults – They don’t leave school until they are (at least) 18 and then on to college where you are still regarded as a child until you are (at least) 24,  they can’t drink, do drugs, sex and rock and roll or vote until they are 21 and yet they are allowed to get behind the wheel of a car at the age of 15.5  They have pretty much no training and there is nothing to warn other drivers that they are a learner and possibly only began driving half an hour ago – and yet they are on the freeway! *shudder*

If there ever was a need for “L” Plates then it’s here – and not just the little red “L” we get in England.  I think there needs to be a huge fluorescent sign on the back of every car saying “Baby Driving” (which can be switched out for the ubiquitous “Baby on Board” sign that everyone believes they need until their 'baby' is 26).


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Screaming for Ice Cream

Ahh… nothing says summer’s here more than the dulcet sounds of the ice cream man.  A child can hear that music from miles around. 

Growing up, there were two ice cream men that we knew, Tonibell and Mr. Whippy.  Each had their own distinctive music and we always seemed to be able to distinguish who it was by the tune.  I couldn’t begin to tell you what the tune was, but having done a search on the internet, it seems that Tonibell had their own music that was specifically written for them.  (That's all very la di dah, isn't it?)  Mr. Whippy, however, played Greensleeves, in that tinkling, old cell phoney kind of a way. 

Mr. Whippy
As a child, it didn’t matter what you were doing when you heard that music, whether we were playing around the house, in the garden or down the road on our bikes, everything stopped and we would scurry in to our mums pleading for some ‘pennies’ for an ice cream.  “Mum, Mum, it’s the ice cream man – hurry, hurry before we miss him!!”  If we were ever lucky enough to get a few pence from her, we would run back as fast as we could to the van.  Invariably you were never the first there and you would have to queue because some lucky bugger had got his money first.

Depending on how much money you had been given, you then had to decide what you wanted.  My favourite was always the 99, but I would never seem to have enough money for one of those.  They were saved for special occasions, or when you were at your nan’s house, because she always seemed to give you more money than your mum.  If you chose the regular old ice cream you would always watch him twirling the ice cream into your cornet, hoping that he would pull the lever a bit far and give you too much.  [Never happened]  Or you could have a Rocket or a Fab ice lolly, a Popeye, which was an ice cream cone with the Rocket stuck in the top of the ice cream, or a Screwball which was a plastic cone filled with ice cream with bubble gum at the bottom.  Oh, those names bring back so many memories.

Those little vans, specially built to be a ice cream vans were wonderful and always looked really, really clean.  Not so much here in California.  The vans my children had to run out to were/are dirty old banged up transit vans with stickers all over them and dodgy looking men selling lollies they just got at the cash and carry and not a whippy ice cream in sight.  I think I've even seen some of them sell cigarettes!  *Sigh*

Creepy No??

Ohh....If only I could import a Tonibell [or Mr. Whippy] van to California – I think I would make a bloomin' fortune.  Hmm…. Food for thought.  Anyone want to go halvsies - I'll give you a 99?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Not-So-Super Market

Last night I was sitting in front of my computer just looking around the world wide webs when I decided to "Stumble" for a while and see what English stuff came up.
After about half an hour, it dawned on me that there were an awful lot of Morrisons Supermarket stories mentioned.  Now, when I lived in England, I'm not sure I had even heard of Morrisons, but apparently they are taking over the world.... and they seem to attract bad luck, bad publicity or pretty much bad anything.  (In my opinion)
Take these, for example:
1.         A young girl was standing outside Morrisons Supermarket in Dulwich, London when a car ran onto the pavement and hit her.  She was taken to the hospital with a sprained ankle.  Bless - talk about wrong place, wrong time!
2.         The main offices of Morrisons are planning their very own Tour de France (in Bradford no less) as part of the Work Out at Work Day.  Who even decided this should be a day?  It doesn't sound like any fun - at all.  If it’s designed to make you want to go to work, they probably should have thought it through a bit.
3.         Morrisons in Gateshead projected a huge loaf of bread onto the Angel of the North and people have protested in a most British way, with the architect stating "I'd rather the angel is not used for such purposes, but it's out there."  Absolutely mate, no fuss - no fuss at all!
Is that a Baguette?
Oh and what about these headlines:
Supermarket swoop: Customers duck for cover as cake-craving Thamesmead bird flies around inside Morrisons
One irate customer declared "The staff were just standing there, watching and waiting while it flew around the fresh bread and cake aisle." He added: "It certainly put me off buying any cakes."    How positively rude of them.
Family Finds Live Lizard in Supermarket Salad Bag
After finding a live lizard in their bag of salad and having the manager at Morrisons believing he was being pranked, the poor husband (who only wanted a sandwich after all) said “They’ve not got back to me since and they haven’t been very impressive, to be honest.  Maybe I should have rung the RSPCA instead.  I expected a manager to come over and deal with it, but they just sent two young lads from the shop floor.”
The horror, the disappointment, the absolutely British understated anger!  Perhaps he should write to the newspaper.
The Lizard in the Lunch
Oh, you've just got to love the British!!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day - Brit Style

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the US.  Once again, I totally missed the English Mother’s Day because there is nowhere at all in America that you can buy a mother’s day card in March.  Usually, the shops are so way ahead of every holiday, that it seems a bit weird that Mother’s Day cards are not on sale in January (I’ve seen Easter eggs in January and Halloween costumes in July).  Then again, it might be that I didn’t actually go out of my way to look for one in time for the English day.  Oopsie!
But yesterday, I spent the day with my daughter who had, unknown to me, booked reservations at the Palihouse for their Brit Brunch. 
I thought I would review it, for any Brits that are looking for somewhere "like home."
Their building is in a quiet road in West Hollywood and we found parking really easily.  In fact, we were right outside the front door – how often does that happen in Los Angeles??  Gold star number one!!  The outside courtyard dining is so bright and airy and just wonderful looking.  There were a couple of tables in full sun which is actually quite nice if you are a sun loving Brit.  J
Ahh… the menu….
Just like mum used to make

  • Scones
  • Sausage Rolls
  • Welsh Rarebit
  • Scotch Eggs
  • Fish and Chips
  • Bangers and Mash
And more….. oh, the decisions!!

We wanted it all.  There was a family at a table close to us who ordered, from what we could tell, practically everything on the menu.  Oh, if only our stomachs were big enough to fit it all in.
Of course, we had to start with a couple of drinky-poos.  Not one to miss an opportunity to look a bit posh, I had a Pimm’s Cup.  Hannah had a Morning Sun, which she said was just lovely (dahhling!)
Fancy Drinks
For starters we had the sausage rolls.  The pastry melted in your mouth and tasted exactly like home.  Warm sausage rolls dipped in tomato sauce - Mmmmm.  She then opted for the Full Monty which, of course, was the full English breakfast.  It even included a bit of black pudding.  I have apparently not done my proper job as a mum because she didn’t know what black pudding was.  I made her try it and give her opinion before I told her what was in it.  I was expecting a bit of trouble getting her to try it when she said “You’re going to tell me it’s a nasty bit of the animal, aren’t you?”  Of course not, I said!!  [Does that make me a bad mother?]  Well, she tried it and lo and behold she liked it!!  Although apparently not enough to finish it once I had told her it was, in fact, blood pudding.  (*smile*)
Yes, that is black pudding next to the eggs!
I had the bangers and mash.  A wonderful  pile of mashed potatoes and sausages absolutely covered in onion gravy.  The gravy was so rich and so very decadent that I couldn’t manage to finish it all.  Needless to say, we didn’t order pudding!  (I really wanted to try the Eaton Mess, meringue and berries, but just did not have enough room).
The waiters/waitresses were brilliant and kept asking if the Englishness was good enough and if it reminded us of home.  How could we possibly complain??  We were stuffed to the gills and could hardly move, but still wanted more!  Not a pretty sight actually.
As we waddled back to the car we both decided this was one of our best 'go-to' places and we would definitely be back.  Of course, we have to try everything on that menu sooner or later.  I would even make the hour journey to LA from my house just for the sausage rolls.  Hmmm... I wonder if they deliver??

If there’s anyone in LA who doesn’t know about this little British gem, here’s a link :
Oh, and by the way, this is not a paid review (but if I could get some sausage rolls sent my way I would absolutely accept them)  *Grin*

Seychelles Mama

Friday, May 9, 2014

School Days

Just recently, well about two weeks ago, I was invited to join one of those groups on Facebook called “I Grew Up In and Around [YOUR TOWN HERE]” which seem to be popping up all over Facebook.  Okay, I thought, I’ll give it a go….Well, that was two weeks ago and as you can see by my blog posting lately, it has taken up most all of my waking hours.  Every couple of minutes I’m on there again, checking to see who’s posted and what they’ve been saying.  Looking at the other people posting on there, it’s been taking over their lives too.

The point of my discussion of this “timewasting” is that I’ve actually reconnected with school friends I haven’t seen or heard of in at least 30 years (yes, I’m that bloody old)… It’s amazing how the memories come flooding back and you remember the tiniest little things, with prompting from old friends.  The thing is, there are names on there that seem familiar, but I have no idea who they are.

Which (sort of) made me wish I had grown up in America.   Okay, calm down – I’m not saying I want to be American.  There are just things schools do here that we don’t in England, like:

 Year Books
My daughter's in there - somewhere!!
When my children were in school, they would come home every year, no matter what grade they were in and ask to buy a year book.  I would always tell them “No, you will be seeing those kids next term.”  I did relent when they left Intermediate School to go to High School and they also got one in High School…. The problem was they were at least $120 and from what I could see, all they contained were photographs of activities during the school year and a picture of each child and what class they were in.  Then on the last day of term, they would get ruined by everyone collecting autographs and scribbling notes for each other.  What a waste of money I thought at the time.
Prom - An expensive evening
Yeah, Prom is basically a school disco, but on a much bigger scale including extremely (in my experience) expensive dresses and limos.  But I’ve noticed what it is designed to do is to give the seniors a good send off out into their lives.  Everyone is there and they all get to say goodbye to each other.

Graduation is a big deal, even in High School.  Caps and Gowns and of course, a new outfit underneath just so you can walk across the field to get your diploma.  I’m not really sure what the diploma is for, it doesn’t enable you to get a job as you haven’t taken any exams to get it (but that would be a whole other blog discussion).

When I left school we did our exams at the end of term (O levels, A levels and the like) and once they were finished we didn’t go back, or look back – we went out and got a job!  There wasn't any big hoorah or even a goodbye from the school.

High School Reunions
People I work with talk about going to the school reunions.  They seem to be every 10, 20, 25, 30 years – I even know one lady who is planning on attending her 60th school reunion!  Can you imagine how many people will be at that one?  I’ve often wondered how the planners know where you live.  What a great thing – getting to see all your friends again!
But getting back to my original thought.  There are so many names I recognize in that Facebook group that I just wish I had a Year Book so I could put a face to a name.  I still might not know who the heck they are, but at least I could use it to try and jog my memory.
And it looks like there might be an actual reunion in the works!  Whoo hoo - now we too can all go and judge our school friends and pretend we are something we aren’t – which I have been told is what really happens at such events. 

I don’t know why anyone would want to judge me though, I just grew up into a tanned, blue eyed, California blonde!!!  J