Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Begging, Borrowing and.... School?

Its around that time again in America when the kidlets go back to school after having done pretty much nothing the whole summer. Bad news for me - I don’t have any children at school anymore, but my journey to work will be lengthened by at least 25 minutes. Parents here don’t walk. It seems like every child, no matter how close to the school they live, will get a lift from their parents who dutifully queue in their cars so their bundles of joy can be dropped exactly in front of the gate. It makes for a long journey to work, especially if you have to pass more than one school. And it doesn’t matter if it’s an infants school or a high school – its all the same!
Every year at this time the shops are just crazy with parents running around trying to get ready for the first day of school. Not only do you have to buy a whole new wardrobe because there are no uniforms unless you pay for your kids to go to a fancy schmancy private school, but you also have to buy school supplies! Now I was under the impression that America was one of the richest countries in the world, but apparently not rich enough to provide schools with what they need.

Not content with having you provide your own paper, pens, pencils, crayons, rulers, folders and sometimes even books, on that first day you get a "wish list" of what the teacher would like the class to bring in which can be anything from tissues to hand sanitizer. I’ve even heard of one school asking for copy paper and printer cartridges, which is a bit bloody cheeky if you ask me.

A bit cheeky?
Then, about a week later the fundraiser packets will start to arrive – sent home as ‘homework.’ Not content with the handouts for the teacher, you now have to raise money for the school, whether by selling magazine subscriptions, cookie dough or wrapping paper. Each child is expected to sell as much as possible. To top it off, they have an assembly where they are told if they sell a certain number of items or dollar amount, there will be prizes involved. Yes, prizes - talk about motivation! Not only that, they bring in the 'prizes' to show off so each child can really see what they’ll be missing out on if they don't sell anything. Mind control at it’s very best! (And yes, there was that one year I had to buy enough items myself so my daughter could become the proud owner of a Razor scooter).
Oh how I miss the English way of fundraising…. The wonderful school fete! Parents donate a tin of spaghetti hoops for the tombola and that’s the end of it. No begging your family to buy some really expensive wrapping paper they will never use or some overpriced piece of junk that looks good in a catalogue, but never works how it’s supposed to. 

But then again, as someone mentioned the other day – there are only thirteen (yes 13) weekends until Christmas…. Better get buying some pressies.

Hold on, I know someone with a kid who’s fundraising!!!! J

Seychelles Mama

Monday, August 18, 2014

That's a Bit Different - USA v. UK (Part 2)

A few more eye openers from while I was back in Blighty.

Sales Tax

I love the fact that in England the price you see is the price you pay for anything.  I remember when I first got to the US I would go shopping and at the cash register, have the exact amount of change in my hand only to be surprised when the tax was added and I had to dig around in my bag for more money.  It's very inconvenient, not to mention a bit bloody annoying.  I like to see what I’m paying straight away, not have to get out the calculator to work out the tax (which tends to be different in every city). 
Shopping is supposed to be fun and not include maths (which is not fun - at all).
Air Conditioning
While we were in England, it just so happened that it was one of the hottest times of the year so far.  My American fiancĂ© kept commenting that it was hot and stuffy in the house and he didn’t understand why nobody had air conditioning.  Well, it just seems a bit expensive and a waste of money to have air conditioning that you will only use maybe once or twice a year, doesn’t it?  
Not so in America where every house, car, shop, office, petrol station, restaurant and possibly dog kennel has air conditioning.  You just can’t get away from it.  My main complaint about this though is that it’s always set so flamin’ low, it's absolutely freezing.  I sit at my desk at work with a heater and a thick cardi to keep me warm.  The hotter is it outside, the colder it is inside.  Sometimes I think I can actually see my breath.  And as for going to a restaurant in a t-shirt, you can forget that.  Every flippin’ restaurant has the coldest of cold air and it’s just not very comfortable or easy to eat when you’re wearing a parka and mittens.        
This is me at work
Although having travelled on the tube a lot during the time we were there, I must say it would be nice if there was at least a little air conditioning in the trains and I am sure my daughter would agree seeing as she nearly fainted from the heat while we were on a broken down train on the circle line!
Ahh… this is the very best thing about eating out in London.  You don’t have to tip if you don’t want to.  There is no set rule that you must and the waiter will not chase you down the street if you don’t (yes, this has happened to a friend).  To just pay and walk out without feeling guilty that you might not have left enough tip is a wonderful feeling. 
I’m not saying I’m a stingy tipper or that I don't tip, but it just irks me a bit when you're expected to leave a tip, no matter what kind of service you get.  My daughter works as a server (which is just a fancy name for a waitress) and I know how hard she works, but she's good at what she does.  Sometimes the waiters are just crap and don’t deserve to be tipped.  One day, I would like to leave a little note saying “Wear a hat when it’s raining!”  That’s the only kind of tip some of them deserve.  

Apparently, the English have been there
Shouty Newsreaders

I actually thought I was going deaf the first few days I was back in England.  While watching the news,  I noticed you really had to listen because the news readers spoke in their normal voices.   I’m not saying the ones in the US use Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck voices, but they SHOUT.  Literally, sometimes you have to turn the telly down because they are shouting so loudly.
I really do miss the subtlety, Britishness and professionalism of Angela Rippon!
Angela Rippon - First ever lady newsreader

Monday, August 11, 2014

That's a Bit Different - USA v. UK (Part 1)

While I was back in England, I realized there were a few things I had actually forgotten all about or things that I really, really like. Here’s a few:


Now I know every American tourist complains about the lack of ice in drinks and warm beer, but I had totally forgotten that when you order an alcoholic beverage in a pub, not only is it in a tiny little glass, you only get one or two ice cubes. It threw me for a minute. Then I realized that although my glass was tiny, I still had the same amount of alcohol, minus the half a glass of ice you get everywhere in America. There are two upsides to this: your drink doesn’t get watered down so fast (if at all) and you can actually drink more (*smile*). Although this will tend to cost you more, but hey.

As for going out to dinner, there was never a time when someone just dumped a huge glass of ice water in front of me without even asking. I never drink water with my meals, let alone a frosty one and it annoys me that waiters just assume I want it. What a waste. Anyway, back to my point, when you did have water with your meal, it had no ice and that was really nice (for me anyway).
No Ice Please
Serviettes (or should I say Napkins?)

I don’t think I am a messy eater, but having lived in the good ole USA for 20 years, I’m apparently rather used to the overabundance of serviettes everywhere.  You go for a meal and the waiters are continually bringing you new 'napkins,' go for a burger and you get about ten in your bag.  Even at home, I am now used to using a bit of kitchen roll while I’m eating.  (I don’t think of myself as posh enough to use serviettes – kitchen roll is perfect for the job).
You can only have ONE!
So when going out to eat in England, I realized you only get ONE serviette – and not a very big one at that.  You better not order anything messy, because you will regret it later when you have dirty hand prints on your clothes from wiping your hands.  (I find it’s a bit rude to use the table cloth).  Even when eating at home (my sister’s house) I found myself getting a bit of kitchen roll.  I’m not sure what’s happened to me that all of a sudden I am a sloppy eater who needs to wipe her face and hands all throughout a meal.  Nobody else seemed to have a problem.  I think I’ve become brain washed by American-eze.

Toilet Roll

Ahh, what a lovely surprise when I walked into my mum’s bathroom and saw green toilet roll!  Yes, green!  Oh hello coloured loo roll, how I have missed you.  When we went to the supermarket, I even stood in the tissue aisle for a while gazing in wonder at all the lovely colours: peach, blue, green, yellow…..I have become so used to only having boring old white.  What is that all about?  Why does America only use white toilet roll?  I Googled it (obviously) and the only definitive answer was that apparently white was more popular (oh, and apparently the dye might cause irritation or bladder infections to the overly anxious Americans)  Hmm…. okay.  Maybe I should have brought some coloured stuff home with me. 

Although, I did find out that National Toilet Paper Day is on August 26 and there’s something I never knew.
Give me some colour
 To be continued.......