Yes, what seems like many months ago my sister and I traveled many and more miles to England. I was digging through the chest at the end of my bed the other day (oddly enough looking for the USB cord that will charge a remote control helicopter) when I came across a bag from Westminster full of maps, ticket stubs, small souvenirs, and a notebook in which my sister had headlined a page: Things I’ve Learned in England. Without further ado:
1) “Cheers” has a variety of meanings, from thank you, to you’re welcome, to bloody get lost.
2) You can drink a lot and not have to worry about driving drunk, or, as I think her handwriting reads (she was scribbling this in a pub somewhere after not a few drinks herself): “People can get smashed and take the tube home.” This also is quite true, be it a rather rural village such as Goathland, which is in the North Yorkshire Moors, or in London, either you live close enough to walk or there is a cab or tube station close at hand. Imagine the number of preventable deaths just from public transport.
3) No Napkins! She writes. This is correct, there were not typically napkins provided in the places we patronized, and to ask for a napkin… well that leads to number 4.
4) Save the bartender a lot of embarrassment and don’t ask for a napkin as he will think you expect him to whip a sanitary product out of his pocket as though it had been just laying in wait for a woman with a sudden case of her period.
5) Peter has a remarkable sense of direction. This is true. I feel that I usually have one as well, but not on the night she is referring to. We’d left Mum sleeping in the hostel and set off to find some pubs and genuine London nightlife. Well, at 10pm on a Tuesday, let me tell ya, there isn’t a whole lot going on in London. After several empty pubs we finally came across one that was ultra modern and not exactly empty, though certainly not booming either. Only later did we find out that it had been a gay bar, which is fine, but explained why none of the men paid us the slightest bit of attention (we were a little miffed, even married ladies like to be noticed!) As we attempted to straggle home, through the damp, freshly washed streets, Peter allowed me to lead us several blocks in the wrong direction, before he took charge of the situation and got us home. I’d have probably led us straight to the tower or into the hands of Jack the Ripper.
5.5) Do not. DO NOT. Mess with said married ladies who are in the care and keeping of a Yorkshireman. Do not. He will stare you down and you will go away. Peter was absolutely fearsome up against a very drunk group of guys who wanted us to sit with them. It was actually very cute. And impressive. I hope he never looks at me that way.
6) No one knows what a fan is. This is correct. Apparently people do not use fans. They prefer to lay in bed in the quiet and sweat. I don’t know why.
7) Toilet paper is essentially Kleenex. It looks the same, is dispensed the same and works about the same.
8) Never make eye contact or conversation with strangers on public transportation. Being the Midwestern girls we are we thought we should make every attempt to collect penpals and friends. The English do not appreciate being spoken to on the train, nay, even an accidental eye contact is verboten. On a side note, it’s not like either one of us goes anywhere and tries to talk to people. Why would we talk to people at an airport, for example? We wouldn’t. I don’t know what came over us. We had some burning need to talk to ALL the people.
9) British men like American girls. This true. I don’t know if it’s the accent or what. The two Brits I sat next to on my flight home not only grabbed me a beer every time the beverage cart went by (though I was sleeping in what was probably a horrific tableau of open mouth, drooling exhaustion) and stacked them up in wait for when I should come round, they tried to talk to me the entire flight. I talked the T Shirt off a man in York. Yes, British men like American girls.
10) Among some of the more fun items we learned, from the lovely Karen, long time friend of Peter. We had commented on how all the men in London was such snappy dressers, and quite good-looking to boot. Karen may have revealed that they are all, to a man, too stupid to carry on a conversation with. They were dubbed (no offense) Buster in a suit. A very large, very handsome dog in a suit, is what they amount to.
11) Dogs go all the places. This is true. They go to restaurants and parks, stores, etc.
12) People are very stylish. Yes, yes they are. We’re all a bit shoddy by comparison with our jeans and t-shirts and flip-flops. The only person I know who comes close to matching the style of British women is my sister-in-law, though my sister and I are attempting to be less frumpy.
13) Bars at 11pm! it reads. Yes, we’ve addressed this.
14) Bars open are gay bars. Yes, we’ve already talked about this as well.
15) Tipping is not standard. And it wasn’t, at least not in the pubs that we visited. You see, friends, in some places even the lowly people who serve your beer and your food are paid enough to live on. They don’t need your tips to pay the water bill.
16) Peroni is delish. Yes, it is. When I revealed this astounding find to my father he was all nonchalant, oh, yes, I know, he said of my exciting discovery, I’ve had it before. Hhhmmph.
17) Blood sausage is a firm no. Quite.
18) Something about staying at a hostel and pot. I can’t make it out.
19) Only six people died in the Great Fire. This is correct. We thought probably everyone had died. Not so.
20) Killing a swan is punishable by at least 12 years in prison (I love how she has the exact number of years) even if accidental. They are the Queen’s swans. Don’t cross the Queen.
21) There are seriously no morbidly obese people. Another truth. People don’t take elevators unless they have only half a leg and are blind. People walk everywhere, to the store, to the pub, to friends’ homes. On any given day count how many people you see who are very, very fat. That condition just does not exist in England.
22) Is 21 repeated. I told you we were in a pub!
23) Nobody says ‘excuse me’ they just run into you. This is correct, shit or get off the pot, as the saying goes. One can’t stand dithering on the sidewalk.
24) People run to board public transport for no apparent reason. Also correct. At approximately 3 seconds before the train is due a flock of wheeled suitcases, very high heels, nattily dressed men and sometimes children will begin to run down the platform. Where are they going? Why? I don’t know. This is why Americans are fat, we don’t run.
And finally, my own addition. I tell my own girls that their sister is the only best friend I could make them have, they can choose all of their other friends. I tell them that no one will ever know them as their sister does, and this is true. Even their husbands (or wives if Tess and Ave get married) cannot know them so intimately not having shared the same child hood and experiences. Lastly, I tell them that the sister they are looking at is the most precious gift I could give. They may not know it now, but someday, when Casey and I are old and demented (more so than now I mean), or dead and gone, they will have each other, and the long string of memories of a shared life.
Ps: I love my sister. 🙂