Britishisma


My lips, this cricket

This is a post designed exactly so that people can weigh in on the most exotic foodstuff they’ve consumed.  It’s going to fall heavily on the side of carnivores, for which I apologize in advance, but if you have tasted fresh rowan from the Himalayas, by all means, speak up.

I’ve dined twice at this restaurant in London, Archipelago, which specializes in exotic cuisine.  The first time I went, I was too embarrassed to take photographs of our meal, because this is desperately uncool.  The second time I had no such compunction and snapped away, as I was truly regretful I had not documented the first time I ate crickets.

While by no means cheap, it is reasonably priced for the quality and rarity on offer, and a great place to bring out-of-towners looking for a bit of a treat.  My first visit, I had the ostrich starter (ostrich is always amazing – thready and flavorful) and the zebra steak.  (more…)

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So, today was a big day for me.  I took some time out of work for a much-needed wardrobe replenish, and the logical place to go here in the UK for an office-appropriate, sartorial pick-me-up is the ever-tasteful Marks & Spencer.  After two hours of browsing and 20+ items in the dressing room, I walked out with a killer black, belted dress, a deep purple cardigan, and a fresh reminder of why, exactly, I hate shopping so very, very much.  It’s because I have to try on 20+ pieces of clothing to find two that even attempt to flatter me, and I generally walk out cursing my bizarre, awkward body and the fluorescent lighting that has highlighted its flaws in such loving detail.

But that wasn’t all.  I also arranged for an afternoon appointment in the lingerie section with one of those legendary Bra Whisperers.  You’ve heard tell of them, if you are a woman – you walk into an upscale lingerie store and, with the wink of a beady eye and a quick snap of a tape measure, they inform you that the bra-size you’ve called your own for the last ten years is, in fact, dreadfully mistaken and then, while you sputter protests, they conjure up a host of beautiful delicates in some combination you’ve never considered, and suddenly, magically, you are harnessed into the bra of your dreams.  Your tits are caressed by angels’ breath and the support is like flexible steel girders, and, “Ooh,” you breathe, “I never knew it could feel like this!”

So, yeah, my expectations were high.  After a lifetime of 34B (high B, low C!), I was ready to discover my true bra size.  I’ll admit, I was having fantasies that the Bra Whisperer would eye me up and proclaim me a 32C, although this was unlikely, as my 34Bs are normally straining at the last hook of the strap and runneth over my cups do not.  Still, while the grandmotherly Whisperer dispassionately assessed and measured me, I sent up my prayers.

My regular old Calvin Klein bra, with light padding - this is what I wear most days.

(more…)

This video was emailed around my UK office yesterday and you could tell when someone watched it because of the audible gasp, even though we had all read the accompanying headline and knew what we were about to see.   That headline?  “Cat owners hunt for woman who put pet in wheelie bin.”  Here’s the video:

The mystery middle-aged white woman in Coventry (quickly identified as Mary Bale after the video appeared all over the web) was captured on a family’s security camera dropping their cat, Lola, into a garbage bin.  Walking by, Bale stops to pet the friendly kitty before looking around for witnesses, gripping the cat by its scruff, and dropping it into the garbage before walking away.  Darryl and Stephanie Andrews-Mann searched for the family pet for 15 hours before finding Lola, and were flummoxed as to how the accident occurred – until they reviewed the tapes from their home security camera, which they had installed two years ago after their car was repeatedly damaged by drivers-by.

Darryl, 26, said: “I’d like to know how she would feel if she was stuck in a bin for 15 hours without food or drink.

“It was really hot day outside. I searched nearby alleyways [for Lola] but suddenly heard a tiny meowing coming from the bin. I looked inside and I found her in the bin. She was terrified and covered in her own mess.”

Unsurprisingly, a large crowd was reported to gather outside Bale’s home and death threats were received as the video spread.  The Metro reports that Bale is under investigation by the RSPCA, and her mother was in the unenviable position of defending her daughter’s actions: (more…)

A few months ago, I was scared out of my wits when a heavy hand thudded on the door of my apartment.  I live in an apartment block with four top-to-bottom flats, accessible only via a secured entrance from the street, so my first thought was that it was a neighbor coming to complain about something, or possibly my landlord conducting a random spot-check.  Either way, it is an unusual enough occurrence (actually, no one had ever knocked on my door before – we are not casual, drinks-party neighbors, but the type who actively avoid each other in the stairwell) that my heart immediately started jackhammering in my chest.  The second rapid-fire thought, naturally, was that it was someone announcing their intention to rob and kill me.

My third thought would probably have been of the gas meter man, had it not been 8:00 at night and a gruff, muffled voice then announced, “Police.”

I can’t think of a single good reason that police would be calling at your home.  They don’t send police to tell you you’ve won the lottery.  They don’t sell cookies.  They’re only there to question you, arrest you, or give you bad news.

Or, someone pretending to be police is there to rob and kill you, possibly after they robbed and killed whatever idiot neighbor buzzed them into the building.  In any case, one opens the door with great reluctance, sometimes hiding a kitchen knife behind one’s back.  This is embarrassing when they are, in fact, real police, and one makes them hold their badges to the peephole and stand five feet back on the landing before one will crack the door two inches to eyeball them, sweaty fingers clutching the most lethal-looking implement from the butcher’s block. (more…)

A week ago I had an appointment with the British Home Office in Croydon to upgrade my immigration status from a sponsored Work Permit to Tier 1 Visa as a Highly-Skilled Worker, for which I am newly qualified.  My reasons for this are two-fold:  for one, I am job-hunting, and this grants me the ability to work for any employer in any industry within the UK, rather than relying on new sponsorship within my current profession; secondly, although I still have over two years remaining on my Work Permit, I thought it best to get in there fast to take advantage of the recently relaxed requirements for Tier 1 qualification before the new Tory coalition government clamps down on immigration policy.  It means that I can continue to live and work in the UK without dependence on a company or a partner, which is a pretty sweet deal, even if it does cost £1095 for the privilege.

Like anyone would, I jumped at the opportunity to combine my passion for navigating bureaucratic red tape with the thrilling roller-coaster ride that is the uncertainty of employment and immigration status.  It’s like visiting the DMV, but with your livelihood on the line!  Already a “highly-strung” personage, I’ve found the experience to be nerve-wracking, especially on top of the dozen job interviews I’ve had over the last couple of months.  I feel like I’ve been living in an uneasy state of limbo and have been hopeful that at least settling this aspect of my existence here in London would bring some clarity.

Alas, it was not to be.  Here’s what’s happened so far. (more…)

I guess I’m going to get used to looking at this man’s forehead because David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party here in the UK, has just left Buckingham Palace as new Prime Minister following Gordon Brown’s resignation.  The Liberal Democrats have formed a coalition with the Tories to take the Labour Party out of power for the first time since Tony Blair’s historic election in 1994.

I’d love to offer some devastating and insightful analysis of this development, but even after attempting to follow the debates and news programs for the last two weeks, I’m still scratching my head.  Since I can’t vote here, I spend much more time and energy keeping up with US politics, but here’s the wee bit that I’ve gleaned: (more…)

I am an attractive young woman.  Evaluations of my level of attractiveness and the relativity of my youth will vary from person to person (not to mention day-to-day), but generically speaking, this is a fair statement.  I am also a professional in an industry populated mpstly by men.  As such, I am largely at a disadvantage, but retain one *unique* advantage based on my personal presentation, if I choose to cultivate it.

This is a song familiar to a lot of you.

My office wear is carefully calculated to appear appropriate in the service of my own physical and mental comfort.  Any aspect that could be challenged as “alluring” or “radical” is studiously balanced out.  If my pants or skirt are form-fitting, my sweater or blouse is loose or non-confrontational.  If my shirt is vee-necked and tight, my trousers are wide-legged and paired with a blazer.  My hair, which is highlighted red and blonde, is subject to much comment by male colleagues (usually that it is too red and they prefer me blonder).  I take it into consideration, but still wear silver-hooped earrings every day, because I like them, and their size and shape belies how much my ears stick out (I hate my ears).  Every day, I wear an extremely high-quality, fake silver Rolex and a tasteful silver ring I bought on the street in Barcelona.  I take pride in the fact that people who have worked with me for years are surprised to find out I have a tongue stud, because I chose a subtle one ten years ago.

Pantsuits and pearls are for client meetings, with discreet pearl-drop earrings and straightened hair.  I have one gray suit and one black pinstriped suit.  I wear them with shined, heeled black boots for external meetings, or burgundy Franco Sarto heels for meetings in the office.  I bought both suits half-priced in a sale for $300, and then spent $100 in alterations.  I don’t own a skirtsuit because I haven’t found one that fits me well enough to merit alterations, although I have a gorgeous turquoise shift that my mother bought me from M&S when she visited me last year, which is very professional without looking matronly.  I keep it in the coat closet at work with a spare set of pantyhose, in case of an emergency client meeting.

Having been compared to a librarian, a schoolgirl, and a flight attendant at the office, I am careful to ensure I don’t look too costumey.  I once wore a tight black sweater over a crisp white shirt, with a black skirt and buckled leather boots and realized, mirthfully, that I looked like a Pilgrim, but no one noticed. I wore that outfit again for Thanksgiving, for my own private tribute, because I am an American in the UK. (more…)

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