Sunday, July 25, 2010

The North and South

No, this isn't a story by John Jakes.  Nor is it commentary about my Southern American angst a la "The South Shall Rise Again.."  This is a different North and South:  this is about North England and South England.  Though, for all intents and purposes of this post, 'South England' really means 'London.'

A few weeks ago, my group at work hired a new person, who is originally from Northern Engalnd-Sheffield to be specific. This now brings the count of North England people in the group up to 2, and has since become a source of commentary (and good-natured ribbing) in the group.  'Joe' is now living in London for the first time, and we've had a few conversations about the difference of where he comes from versus life in London.  Oddly, for the first time since I've been here, I think I've finally met someone who understands me when I talk about the aggression and rudness of London-as a a big city, not an English city.  Joe has commented that he's stunned at how frequently he'll get run into/hit while on the tube, and rarely does anyone offer a 'sorry'- muchless a sincere apology.  He said it would be very uncommon to walk around the North in much the same way as in London, and *not* apologise to someone if you ran into them.

Of course, the Southern American in me can't help but giggle a bit inside when I think about the inversion of the stereotypes of North and South in England-versus the Northern & Southern parts of US.  In England, it's Northerners who live a slower pace, are friendly and ougoing, and show a level of civility to their fellow man when out in public.  In the US, this is the stereotype of Southerners.  In the US, stereotypes of a Northerner are that you'll be rude, loud, & aggressive; that's also the stereotype of Southern England.

Kinda funny, I think.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Engagement Photos

I swore I wouldn't turn my blog posts into 'wedding-this' and 'wedding-that' posts, and would try to focus on the Expatriate viewpoint of said impending nuptuals.  Hopefully, this qualifies.

Last Friday, Simon and I had our engagement photos taken by an Aussie named Damian that I met at social function a few weeks prior.  We decided to go with Damian because, when I was just throwing out a few ideas/thoughts to him, it quickly became apparent that he 'got it'-and even easily improved upon the ideas that I had for the photos.  I wanted the photos of Simon and me to be reflective of our relationship-which has largely hinged on 'London.'  As much as I sometimes moan about "London", I do also clearly have "London" to thank for something great in my life.  Yes, Simon.  I'm talking about you...

So, in keeping with that premise, we settled on two locations for the shoot-the Mews we live on (we can't take any credit for how lovely it is, but we do recognize it's a beautiful Mews), and Tower Bridge.  (here comes the Expat-viewpoint part...).  Never in my life did I think I'd be so fortunate as to have these beautiful photos of me taken on Tower Bridge.  It was surreal when we were there taking the pictures, and three days after getting the proofs from Damian, it's still surreal to see Simon & I on the bridge at sunset.  I can't take any credit for how amazing the photos look-that's all Damian.  We just stood there & did what we were told! :)
Well, without further ado, here are a few of the pics. Hope y'all like them as much as we do!


Tube Musings

I have now been commuting to work on the Tube for 3 months-it's the first time I've had a daily commute on the Tube since moving to London (suck it, First Great Western! I so do not miss you...).
I can honestly say that the novelty has worn off.  I don't doubt for a minute that it's still the best way to get around London, but the daily commute has forced a few observations about humans-some funny, some perplexing-that I'd never noticed before on my weekend journeys on the Tube. To wit:
  • Why, oh why, do men have to sit on the Tube with their legs spread sooooooo wide?  Truly gents, is this your sad way of trying to say to the world: "Look at how much junk I have between my legs, world!  The only way I can possibly sit here comfortably without crushing my man-bits, is by spreading my legs obnoxiously wide to give it the space that is needed!!"
  • Tourists:  Dear tourists, for the love of god:  Stay off the Tube during rush-hour.  The museums don't even open until 10am, but yet you insist on clogging the tube when there are hundreds of thousands of us trying to get to work.  Nevermind the fact that the Tube can't even cope with the strain of Londoners using it during their commute already, now you have to overload it even further-with your prams, backpacks, and maps spread wide.  Don't even get me started on stopping in the middle of the stairs, elevator, or platform-for NO APPARENT REASON-while the rest of us have to stagger around you so we don't run over you.
  • The urgency of your need to get from point A to point B via the Tube is directly proprtionate to the likelihood that the Tube will be slow, delayed, or simply suspended due to signal failure, an ill person on the train, or even a body under the train.  Go figure.
  • One must acquire Tube Face as early into their journey as possible.  Tube Face is the way making the world think that you are lost in thought, in your own world, or simply not paying attention-largely so you can appear to be ignoring the crazy person next to you-or made to not feel like you should give up your seat to someone who needs it.  But the reality is: you're still paying attention to every little thing going on around you.  Hopefully, no one notices you blinking, or your ruse is up.
  • Just like death and taxes being inevitible, it is also inevitible that you will end up sitting next to the smelliest person on the Tube when you have your choice of seats.  Just the other day, I took a seat inbetween two men-one of which smelled of dead cow due to the leather jacket he was wearing.  The other, smelled of ash tray and booze.  Lovely.
  • If just one more person tries to barge on the Tube while there are still those of us trying to get off, I may have to commit to a random act of violence.  Wait.  Until. Everyone's. Off.  Thank you.
I've observed on more than one occasion-and even commented in my blog-that Living in London is turning me into a rude asshole.  (For the record, I don't think it's "London" doing this to me, but rather life in a big city.)  Unfortunately, I can't help but think that my new commute is going to make me even ruder asshole.  I fear for loosing my humanity; but, in the grander scheme of things, I guess I've really just traded my road-rage from when I was driving in the US to Tube-rage.  I suppose it's just the difference of having an anonymous shell of a car around you versus the face-to-face confrontation of public transport.

Good times.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Lighter Side of London LIfe

When I moved to London 28 months ago (28?  Really? wow), my exposure to British TV was limited to seeing re-runs of Benny Hill when I was a child, and catching a few episodes of Coupling on BBC America-which is *fantastic*, by the way, and makes Friends look a bit 'simple' in comparison.

Since being here, either on TV or or via DVD, I've been exposed to a few other shows that are also outstanding in their own right, and for anyone contemplating a move to the UK, here's a lighter look at some 'cultural research' you can partake in before arrival...Woefully, I'm rubbish at figuring out how to embed video in my blog, so a linked list (where a good link was available) will have to suffice-but if you go to YouTube, Hulu, or just do a search on the interwebs, you should be able to find a few clips.  In no particular order...
  • Green Wing-one of the first shows on DVD I was exposed to when I move here, this medical comedy did things that were cringe-worthy hilarious, and the character of Sue White is honestly one of the most memorable characters I've ever seen on TV.
  • Spaced-I've been a fan of Simon Pegg since I saw Hot Fuzz in the US a few years ago.  When I found out he had written & starred in a 'Singles' type of UK TV series in the late 90s, I had to watch it.  Loves it.  Loves it even more since Simon (my Simon) used to hang out in the area of town, Crouch End, where the show is set-and can point out random things about scenes of the show!
  • Little Britain-I realize this series has crossed the pond (jumped the shark?...) and a Brit-American version was run a few years ago on cable. It's crap. Must. See. The. Original.  And then begin to say, 'computer says no' at work to the confusion of your co-workers.  This is sketch comedy at it's best.
  • The Mighty Boosh-Season 3 in particular (my personal preference; everyone has a favorite, it seems...).  Another series that seems to have crossed the pond-I recall seeing a few random episodes advertised for some cable channel-super late nite-when in Seattle last year.  Absolutely hilarious.  Just thinking the words 'crack fox' makes me giggle...and I have a wee crush on Noel Fielding.
  • Mock the Week:  it's a panel comedy/news commentary show.  Sorry.  I know that seems confusing, but I know of no other way to explain it.  Frankie Boyle (one of the *best*-though most offensive-comedians I've ever heard) made the show what it is.  This program is a perfect way to quickly get up to speed on what's going on in British news-and pop culture-all while laughing your arse off.  I love this show so much, I've applied for tickets to the studio audience.  Fingers Crossed!
Unfortunately, except for Mock the Week, all of the other shows are now off the air-unlike US TV, where shows are run into the ground-and usually on life support before they're cancelled, Brit TV (though woefully, just the good shows, it seems...) likes it short & sweet.  Two to three seasons is a good run.  Except for Mock the Week, all of the shows above were before my time, but I found them thru other people.  The least I could do is pass the suggestions along, and pay it forward.

Any other expats have any favorite Brit shows worth mention?