Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sporting Events

I went to my first live sporting event with my father today. We went to the Fulham VS Portsmouth football game (that's soccer for you silly Americans). The stadium has capacity for about 25K people. It wasn't a sellout but it was fairly full.

There is an entire section designated strictly to the away team. Warning signs posted throughout the stadium that visitors caught in the home stadium seating would be removed from the stadium. Oddly enough they were more vocal than the home team was . Maybe the fact that they were winning for 87 minutes of the game had something to do with their vocal level.

Within a few minutes of the start of the game Portsmouth scored a goal. The goalie looked like he expected the goal to miss by a mile or at least be called back as a result of a foul. Neither of those occurred and the score was 1-0 for the majority of the game.

The game started promptly at 3 pm. No national anthem, no coin toss, no delays. It was great. The stands fill in about 5 minutes prior to the game start time as most fans are socializing outside the stands drinking as no alcoholic beverages or smoking is allowed within the stands. A few minutes prior to halftime the stands start emptying as the fans are going for a drink or a smoke. Right before the second half starts everybody is back in their seats.

My next sporting event may likely be the Boston Celtics game in October. The NBA is doing a European tour and the Celtics are playing the Minnesota Timberwolves at the beginning of October.

And now for the first posting by a guest blogger: " I am here, having fun and enjoying myself." Maybe the next guest will have something more exciting to say :)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Only in Holland

No, I'm not talking about the coffee shops. While on another visit to Holland the following caught my attention.

Ads for a romantic candlelight dinner cruise of the red light district. Don't worry if you don't have somebody to go on the cruise with you can pick up a date in the red light district (they didn't advertise that on the poster but one can only imagine).

Smoking rooms in office buildings. Every floor in the office building I was in had a small glass enclosed cubicle where you could smoke. I guess it saves the effort of having to walk outside for a smoke break.

One set of stop lights for cars, one for pedestrians and one for bikes.

Signs telling you where you're not. Periodically while driving there would be a sign with a city name on it with a big red slash through it. I wish I could have taken a picture of this but I was riding in a car with others and they would have thought me strange if I asked them to stop so I could take a picture of a street sign. I can only guess that these signs meant that you were leaving the city.

A man walking a truck down the street. OK he was actually just washing the streets but it looked like a truck on a leash.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Wonders of Technology

Yesterday I gave my Grandmother and Aunt a tour of my house with my webcam and Skype. It's great to see that even though there's an ocean that separates us they can be in the house with me.

While my 2 year old niece has grasped the concept of skype and blogging, she is still trying to grasp the concept of the webcam. She thinks because she can see me I can see her. She's always trying to show me things which I can't see. Luckily by the end of the week that problem will be solved because her loving aunt bought a webcam for her. How many 2 year olds do you know with a web camera? She already had a digital camera so I figured this was the next logical step.

Friday, March 23, 2007

In the News

A couple of articles in the news today may make it easier for me to travel between the UK and US. An "open skies" policy that just got approved will increase the number of flights between the US and Europe. More flights will be allowed to fly into Heathrow in additional to the 4 airlines that it is limited to currently. Additional airlines will be able to fly from the UK to the US potentially lowering the cost of fares between the two countries. The agreement does seem to favour the US slightly in the fact that US carriers can continue on a journey to another country after landing in Europe whereas European carriers cannot continue their journeys. Virgin Airlines may be the only carrier that benefits as they recently got approved to fly in the US as Virgin America.

In takeover news ABN Amro has received a buyout offer from Barclay's bank. Some believe that this may propel Bank of America to make an offer for Barclay's. Banking with a firm with branches in both the UK and US may make eliminate some of the charges incurred when travelling between countries. Of course I may just being a bit optimistic.

( My apologies for not including links to the relevant news stories however the last 2 times I tried posting the links I received error messages and my postings got erased).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Accents and Languages

There was an interesting article on the BBC website yesterday regarding British accents and their appeal to Americans. I personally think that any accent that is different from your own can be appealing or fascinating, depending on the person. I've met a number of people that love my accent, or a French accent or an Italian accent.

There are a few people at the local pub who are always asking me questions about American politics or current events they're intrigued by anything American. I've even had conversations with a taxi driver about the travel habits of Americans. He was told that only 10% of Americans have passports and asked me if that was true. I think that may be kind of low but I know a lot of people that have only gotten passports recently, and some that still need to get their first one (you know who you are).

Accents can be exotic and lead one to dream of travels to faraway places, or remind you of home. I know every time I hear an American accent my ears perk up a little bit. Of course once it was a Canadian accent, but close enough.

Being in Holland this last week I have heard a number of different accents in the various trains, hotels and airports. Most interesting was a group of tourists from Mexico that were on the same train I was from the airport. They approached me and asked if I spoke English. They had gotten on the wrong train at the airport and were in need of help. During our conversation they switched back and forth between Spanish and English but I managed to understand it. That has just re-affirmed my desire to brush up on my Spanish.

It never fails I posted this last night and then on the plane an our later another event occurred on topic so I decided to amend the post. I thought I was becoming pretty good at identifying accents. The gentleman next to me sounded like he had an Irish accent, when I asked him how long he had lived in Holland he said "All my life." He says he gets that question all the time as it is not common to find a Dutchman that speaks English with an Irish accent.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Adventures in Amsterdam

I traveled out of Gatwick airport on Monday for what was supposed to be a quick trip to Holland and back. I'm still here and won't be leaving until Thursday but I digress. At the airport and on the plane I encountered examples of capitalism at work. There were vending machines in the airport that were selling books. This of course was in addition to the book stores in the waiting lounge, I didn't stop to see how much the markup on the books were.

My second encounter was capitalism masked as charity. The flight I was on was selling lottery tickets where all proceeds from the tickets went to charity. As they went on to explain if you won between 1 and 20 pounds that was redeemed on the food for sale or in the airmall store. Of course trying to buy something for the exact amount you won was probably going to be quite a challenge which most likely would result in spending more than your winnings. In case you're wondering I did not buy a lottery ticket.

As I mentioned earlier I was supposed to be in and out in a day but once I got here other items popped up which required me to stay for the week. The hotel around the corner from where I was working is booked for the week so I stayed in a "city hotel." It was a very basic accommodation no reception, no bar, just a bunch of rooms. The rooms were nice however the beds were 2 twin beds pushed together. Not very comfortable especially since there was a gap between the beds. Since I had a meeting in Amsterdam on Wednesday morning I decided to stay in the city tonight, I even managed to walk around for a little while. Across from the train station was a 3 storey parking garage for bicycles, thousands and thousands of bikes were racked. Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera.

At lunch I generated a number of laughs at my strange eating habits. When they opened the cupboard to take out the bread and peanut butter I saw bags and bags of chips. I asked if I could have a few and they were stunned that I would want to eat chips with my sandwich. Chips are for eating with drinks from what I was told. Nobody would even try having chips with lunch, however I get talked into trying all kinds of different foods.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mothering Sunday

Overall this was a busy weekend for people in the UK. Friday was "Red Nose Day" a fund raiser for Comic Relief. Saturday was St Patrick's Day and the final of the 6 nations tournament, and then today was Mothering Sunday. It's been interesting to see the commercials and gifts for Mum's and Nanna's. After doing a little research on wikipedia I found out that different countries celebrate Mother's Day on different days of the year. Father's Day however is celebrated on the same day in the UK as in the US.

Friday, March 16, 2007

French Follies

Last night I had a chuckle at a Paris restaurant over one of the translations on the menu. As an appetizer the menu listed old ham, didn't sound very appetising to me. I think aged ham would have been a better description. There are some words or phrases that shouldn't be translated literally.

Today started off as a normal enough day, my alarm clock went off I got out of bed and that's where things got interesting. I had to iron my shirt as it was wrinkled from being in my suitcase for a couple of days. When I plugged in the iron it blew a fuse in my hotel room. I didn't feel like calling down to the front desk so I put on the wrinkled shirt and headed down for breakfast.

I saw a basket of hard boiled eggs at the buffet and grabbed one. When I sat down and cracked the egg open it wasn't hard boiled after all but raw. When I went back to the buffet to get something else to eat I realized that further down the buffet was a basket for you to boil your own egg. I hadn't seen it earlier as there were other items between the basket of eggs and the boiler. I'm not sure I would have realized I had to cook the egg even if it was right next to the basket of eggs.

The flight back from Paris was a little delayed as the flight attendants had to keep coming through the aisle and counting the passengers. An announcement was then made confirming that the flight was going to London and if any passengers were on the wrong plane to please ring the attendant button. When nobody rang the button we were then informed that we all had to take out our boarding pass and they were coming through to confirm that everybody should be going to London Luton airport. While the boarding passes were being checked we were told that there were more passengers on the plane than there should be. When that check confirmed that everybody was destined for London they came through a second time to make sure it was the correct flight number. That check again confirmed that everybody was supposed to be on that flight. A final pass was made through the cabin to count the passengers after which time an announcement was made that there was an administrative error and we could now take off. A 20 minute delay all for the fact the cabin crew was given the wrong count of passengers.

Number of Flights YTD: 23

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A touch of America

It seemed like everywhere I turned this weekend there were reminders of home. A co-worker was heading to NY on Friday afternoon. On Saturday, I sat across from a guy on the tube wearing a New England Patriots cap. On the way to the tube I was walking behind a guy wearing a Boston Red Sox cap. As I looked out the train window today I saw the American flag hanging in a window. Finally this afternoon I heard one of my neighbours down the street talking with an American accent.

Since the weather has been warmer I've been wearing a light fleece that says San Francisco. When people see it and hear my accent they automatically ask if I'm from San Francisco. When I see people wearing clothing from US teams or locations I don't automatically assume they're from those locations, it must be my accent.

Friday, March 9, 2007


Don't forget to vote for your favourite British blog. That's mine in case you were wondering. The Metro in the UK is holding a competition for the best British Blog I mean what's better than an American blogging about life in Britain.

Today I bought tickets to see my first sporting event in the UK. I'm going to see a football game (that's soccer to you Americans) at the end of the month. Don't know anything about the 2 teams playing that's part of the fun and excitement. I'll let you know if I survive the adventure.

As I write this I am watching some telly. A lot of the shows are aired multiple times over the course of the week. Special programs as well as regular serials are displayed a couple of times in case you miss the first one which can be good, however when you only get a couple of stations seeing the same programs repeatedly can become a bit of a bore. There are a few American programs that air here, although a couple of weeks behind. Recently aired here are Christmas episodes of Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives, American Idol is only a few days behind. This weeks episodes are airing here tonight, the only difference is the logo on the coca-cola glasses in front of the judges are blurred so you can't see the logo. I guess coca-cola doesn't sponsor American Idol in the UK.

And in summary a quiz for all of you. Explain the difference between England, Great Britain and the UK. The winner gets bragging rights.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Rules and Regulations

I got a nasty letter today from the Television Licensing society stating they've sent me numerous communications and my property is still unlicensed. Keep in mind I've had the television for all of 2 weeks and this is the first time they've contacted me. I receive a bunch of mail for former residents of the flat and maybe one of those letters was regarding the license.

I knew I needed a license and thought I could get it at the post office, however when I went to the post office I found out that you can no longer get licenses there. I swear I had it on my list of things to do this week. After the letter I went on-line and bought my license, hopefully I won't get arrested now.

Next on the list is to find a doctor. I spoke to a co-worker tonight and got information on the nhs website where I can find a local doctor. We'll see if I can get my prescription for my allergies before the season hits. We'll see how long I have to wait to get an appointment.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Weekend Projects

You would think since I didn't have to unpack any boxes that there wouldn't be that much to do. However the hardest part is figuring out where everything goes and assembling the furniture. The excursion to IKEA was a success as evidenced in the pictures below.

In order to put the desk together and get the study set up I first had to take the bed apart. I've called the property management to see if they will take the bed out but I haven't heard back from them yet. I didn't let that stop me disassembling the bed. Since I've always thought I'm a princess I have put 2 mattresses on my bed - however there's no pea under the mattresses.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Lunar Eclipse

Tonight there was a full lunar eclipse. Those of us lucky enough to live in Europe and the Middle East were able to witness this event. The last lunar eclipse I saw was the night the Red Sox won the World Series.

I ran out to snap a few pictures. I'm not quite sure where my tripod is at the moment so I had to create a makeshift system with a cardboard box and a brick wall. It wasn't perfect but it had to do. To further complicate matters the battery on my camera was dying so I was trying to work quicker than usual. Those are all of the excuses I have for why the moon appears 3 times in the photo - or maybe I meant to do that.

Friday, March 2, 2007

My house is becoming a home

The movers arrived this morning at 9 AM with 38 boxes of my belongings to unload and unpack. All I had to do was sit back and check off the inventory as boxes were brought into the house. I directed them to the appropriate room and they unpacked the boxes. It's nice not to have boxes and paper lying around that I need to dispose of. The movers carted all that stuff away with them. I should move like this more often - NOT.

The hard part now is figuring out where everything goes. I think a trip to IKEA is in store for the weekend to get some bookshelves, a desk and a whole host of other things.

Don't you now wish you volunteered to come help me unpack this weekend - nothing to unpack just shopping to do.

Random tidbit of information in two months I have been on 20 planes.