Friday, August 15, 2008

England Trip - Trivia!

Here are more memory fragments from my England trip that fell out of the narrative.
  • There are no skyscrapers in England.
  • I bought an extra carry on bag at a luggage shoppe in Kensington to help carry the extra goods. I bought a Wedgwood pitcher (about the size of a softball) for Mom, a book of Prints from the National Gallery gift shop, a tacky painted plate from a gift shop in Stratford for my brother and his wife. I bought a T-shirt in Cambridge and army surplus coveralls from the British air force at a surplus shop.
  • The coverall, a jumpsuit, was nondescript, it didn't have a bunch of military insignias or lettering. It was a total impulse move. The dang thing was about an inch too small. It rode up in the crotch and the pant legs were a tad too short. I gave it to my roomie at Oliver Hall, Greg Merritt.
  • I saw a topless sunbather on the beach at Brighton.
  • The Bank in Kensington where I cashed my traveller's checks was Barclays. They were everywhere. They charged me a vig every time I made an exchange.
  • I never quite mastered the concept of V.A.T. - value added tax. I can't explain it to you now.
  • I tried a Wimpey burger after seeing them about London and viewing the TV ads. They invited me to sit down like a regular restaurant and a waitress took my order. I don't recall being blown away by it, but it was still better than British pizza.
  • I took a novel with me on the trip, Different Seasons by Stephen King. The paperback featured four novellas. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, The Body (AKA Stand by Me) and The Breathing Method.
  • The Onslow Court hotel was in a neighborhood where many Embassies for foreign nations were stationed. The Qatar Embassy was very close to us.
  • One commodity that seemed to be missing: girls my age. I didn't see them at the pubs or the cathedrals. I didn't meet any girls on my own the whole time I was there. But I wasn't on the make either. I sort of had a girlfriend back home. I bought her a wool sweater at Windsor castle but she never got it. Our schedules got crossed and we ran out of time before departing for different colleges. I kept the sweater, a plum pullover with a conservative stitch pattern around the neck, and gave it to another girl later, who I deemed special. It didn't fit quite as well.
  • I took up the tea habit while in country and promptly discarded it upon returning to the states. I also enjoyed many English beers but reverted to 3.2 tavern beer once back in Kansas.
  • I was forced to visit British laundromats to keep my knickers clean. I ran into a couple of Americans in the Kensington laundromat. They were on the Euro-rail program, hopping from hostel to hostel. You need clean underwear for that. I donned my jumpsuit for a trip to the laundromat in the provinces. I don't recall what town, but a kind old lady who swept up offered me "a sweet". That's hard candy for you Yankee bastards.
  • Litter and garbage were not in short supply in London. Thatcher may have been having labour problems but she chose not to employ them to collect rubbish. Trash cans were plentiful, but all seemed jammed with garbage.
  • One time Marc and I ran late and I needed to choke down some food before we started our ritual pub crawl. We went into a shoppe and I ordered a slice of meat pie to go. The pastry crust was so flaky and dry that I couldn't wash it down without a drink. I opted for a pint of Guinness, recalling my first pint a few days before on the train back from Wales. Where as the first pint was chilled, this one was butt warm and I nearly passed out from pastry/warm stout asphyxiation. In the meantime Marc kept chiding me to hurry up. He was impatient when it came to meat pies.
  • We stayed away from American chain outlets. No McDonalds. I don't think Pizza Hut was there yet. Every time we closed in on a bit of Americana, we got spanked. There was a bar in Kensington with a Texas theme. They had Lone Star beer cans stacked in the window and the whole place was done up like a western bar. We went in and sat down and ordered a beer, but they wouldn't serve it during pub siesta time. We left and never went back. Coca-cola was the lone exception.
  • The Onslow Court hotel had a cocktail-table model of the Asteroids video game in a hallway by the back stairs. It cost 10p to play (about 15 cents).
  • The USA Today was not available. U.S. news in general was hard to obtain. The BBC nightly news was very international, but not U.S. centric (and why would it be about America). This de-empahsis on America as the only show in town was one of the best lessons I learned while abroad.
  • There is no "prime-time" on English TV. They ran re-runs and first-run shows in the evening along with news documentaries and [lookout] Cricket. Blimey. Those test matches lasted for days.
  • The first day we were there, we heard the familiar British fanfare that played at the beginning of every episode of Benny Hill, but it turned out it was the network fanfare for Thames television, and it played before all the shows on that network.
  • American shows on the schedule: Flamingo Road, Simon and Simon, The Munsters, The Bilko Show.
  • Brit programmes: I caught glimpses of Coronation Street, Steptoe and Son, and Robin's Nest. Coronation Street was a prime time soap. Steptoe and Son was the basis for Sanford and Son and Robin's Nest was a spin-off of Man in the House, the inspiration for Three's Company.
  • All not available: American cigarettes. Smokers on the trip were not impressed by the local tobacco flavors.
  • Only Americans wore sneakers and jeans as casual wear. You could spot a yank from 300 yards with the Nikes and the Levis.
  • I sampled blood pudding at a hotel restaurant buffet. I question whether this was the best venue to try it for the first time. It was okay, a bit gristly.
  • I needed a passport for the trip and I waited in line at the Shawnee Mission post office but they rejected my application. I didn't have an official passport photo and you can't use a random glamour shot. I located a photographer in Mission who made such photos. He worked out of a little shop located in the concourse at the Mission Mart shopping center. That was a strip mall with Pier One and TG&Y. There was an indoor section that operated on two floors. Nobody ever went in there even when it rained but he had a storefront there. I called by phone and made an appointment that same afternoon. I was proud of myself for the extra hustle. He met me there. It was obvious that he didn't keep shop. He only showed up when he had a session. I sat down for three quick shots. I thought he'd give me a print on the spot. He told me to come back Thursday. That was two days later, but I guess it worked out. I got my official passport with photo in time for the flight to the UK.
  • There were many public appeals, signs, billboards, etc. to help the "spastics". This was the accepted term for people with cerebral palsy (CP).
  • I saw a kid on the subway in a Jayhawk t-shirt.

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