UK


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…)

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.

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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…)

When I moved to Scotland over two years ago, one of the things I purchased on my very first trip to the grocery store was a bottle of Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky, aged 12 years.  The handsome green bottle was encased in a tall, serious, emblazoned tin, with the prestigious history of the whisky detailed in gold lettering on the back (for quickie course of the proud tradition of whisky/whiskey, the Wikipedia entry is as good as any a place to start).

I stocked up on a number of basic necessities that initial trip – it was a new home, never mind a new country! – but the bottle of whisky still made the list of must-haves.  I was already entertaining fantasies of newfound friends, colleagues, and yes, gentleman callers, popping round for a chat, a smoke, and a civilized drink.  I was ready to embrace Scotland, and if Scotland would embrace me, I would greet it with a glass of decent Scotch and amusing banter!  I was ready for this new life, and eager to partake in the cultural mores of my new home.

Ignoring the fact that I was never actually swept up in my envisioned social whirlwind (due to my inherent loner tendencies and the reality that it was so freezing cold six months out of the year that I left my apartment only to go to work and Blockbuster), the whisky did not go down as smashing a treat as I had imagined.  Oh, I did have people over, but I quickly discovered that the offer of whisky was far less compelling than the offer of beer, wine, or a vodka mixer (all of which I fortunately kept on hand).  It turned out to be a good thing I never sprung for a proper whisky tumbler, after all, as I couldn’t convince anyone to drink the stuff. (more…)

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