Parallel Universe

Friday, June 26, 2009

I know it's been a hundred years since I posted; please forgive me. I am at least trying to update the Twitter feed a couple of times a day, since it's quite easy for me to dash off 140 pithy words on my cell phone than it is to find the time to sit and write something as long as a blog post. Please check out the Twitter if you want a more frequent fix of GSRED adventures. In the mean time I'm sure you'd like stories about all the things I've seen and lovely pics of Buckingham Palace and such. Too bad. I will try to upload more pics to Flickr soon, so if it's pictures you want, try there. Instead you get a post with just one largely unrelated picutre, here:

Gratuitous photo of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

England is very much like Canada. Or, I suppose it would be more proper to say Canada is a lot like England since, to be fair, they were here first. I feel quite at home, which makes it that much stranger when I'm confronted by the things that are different. It's like I'm in an episode of "Star Trek" and have been transported to a parallel world where only the smallest things betray my alien-ness. Things like this:

"Two countries, divided by a common language". There are a lot of expressions that are unfamiliar, but still make perfect sense. It's not that the worlds are unknown, they're just used with different frequency. We might say "garbage", here they'd say "rubbish". We both know what the other means, but there's a slight twist. Dish soap is washing-up liquid. A store is a shop. A highway is a dual carriageway. Take-out food is take-away. Dessert is pudding (whether or not it is actually pudding, and don't get me started on the meaning of "pudding", which has decidedly little to do with Jell-o). I could go on and on. Having grown up with English relatives, it seems quite homey (homely) to me, but it's still a few degrees off-course.

Of course there's the obvious: they drive on the left here. It's surprisingly hard to get used to. I'm always second-guessing myself about which way to look when crossing the street. It's easy to say "Just look both ways, you idiot". But if I look both ways, I'm still looking with a North-American trained brain, and my eye automatically checks the far lane looking right and the near lane looking left. I can't help it. In lots of parts of London they actually paint "Look Right" in big letters on the pavement at pedestrian crossings. This helps, but it can't completely overcome 40 years of ingrained instinct. It's especially bad when running, and I'm always looking the wrong way up the street when waiting for a bus.

Also, I am constantly walking into doors when attempting to leave buildings. Exterior doors here open in, even on stores (shops) and public buildings. I'm told this is to lessen the chance of a smacking a passer-by with the door if you exit with excessive exuberance. I can't help but think the consequences of that are much less serious than the consequences of being crushed to death between a door that opens in and a mob fleeing a burning building. Obviously the impoliteness of an occasional smack outweighs the fear of burning death here. Generally speaking, the English would rather have their toenails removed with needle-nosed pliers than be perceived to be impolite.

The obviously alien sport here is Cricket, which I won't even attempt to explain. It's vaguely like baseball, except that games can last for up to 5 days and still end in a tie (draw). And even the players stop for a drink every once in a while. Cricket is NOT something that's sorta-different. The sport that I find most intriguing in a parallel universe way is rugby. It's a lot like hockey (ice hockey). It's fast and brutal and exciting. It's played nation-to-nation, and it's played on a recreational level by ordinary guys (blokes). Women even play now, though I'm not sure how recent that innovation is. It reminds me a lot of the rise of women's hockey in Canada, especially since the English Women's rugby team are completely dominating world play right now, just like the Canadian women did when international play for women was first introduce. Rugby's scoring system is bizarre, but not stranger than football (American Football). I'd like to see a game live but (like hockey) it's a winter sport, so there's little chance of that.

I could go on and on, but I've got a life to live here. Suffice it to say that if I was reporting back to the Enterprise, I'd have to say, "It's life Captain, but not as we know it."

Now it's time for a stroll up the High Street, and maybe some sweets and a squosh.


Heather Moore said...

Do the English do anything with excessive exuberance? I can't see people in Britain barrelling out of a "shop" like that. ;)

Robert Hamilton said...

How are you managing your finances while travelling? I saw on your photos a reference to Citizen's Bank of Canada - is that what you are using because of the no fees for international withdrawals? I am asking because I think I should get an account other than CIBC where I am pretty sure they are hosing me every time I do anything.

Your trip sounds FAB-A-MUNDO so far. Keep having tons of fun.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Make sure you run along the sea at Deal if you haven't already. Where are you staying in Deal? The Deal Castle is kinda cool too.

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