Victoria: June 2008 Archives

Hello, Dolly is a catchy musical. I still have that song in my head.

Seriously, spoilers may be after the jump.

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How I was addressed in England:

  • Madam
  • Miss
  • Mum (as in Ma'am, not as in Mummy)
  • Luv
  • Lass

I was kind of hoping for "milady," but it didn't happen. Also, the already-mentioned Scottish waiter called my beverage a "wee half-pint" (since everyone else ordered full pints). I believe there may have been collective swooning at that. Except for Mike, of course.

The last day might be the easiest day to recap, because we weren't allowed to take photos in the morning, at Westminster Abbey. If you want to see what it looks like, just go back a few entries. Or, you know, use Google.

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Things I miss about England:

  • Cider with ice
  • Hobnobs
  • Having a pub down the street
  • Mars Planets candy
  • Everyone being polite
  • Cadbury chocolate bars (Can you get those here?)
  • Trashy British celebrity news. Explanation: For the week we were there, the Daily Mirror was offering Doctor Who stickers every day in the paper. So we bought it, and sometimes I read it, and I became kind of fascinated with the crazy British celebrities that we never hear about over here. How will I find out what Peaches Geldof is up to? And what about Roo and Coleen's wedding?

On Thursday morning, I took an informal poll of the group: what of the things on our list to do was the most important to them? The overwhelming consensus was the Tower of London.

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If you had asked Mike a few weeks ago where he would most like to live out the rest of his days, he probably would have said somewhere in New England or Arizona. Now, I am fairly sure the answer would be Edinburgh.

I wasn't sure at first if it made sense to take a day trip up to Scotland, because we had a packed schedule as it was, and the train takes four and a half hours. So in the best case scenario, which is how it ended up working, we caught the 8 a.m. train, arrived at 12:30 p.m., and walked around until the 5 p.m. train back. But everyone who has been to Scotland convinced me that I had to go, and I think in the end, everyone was glad we went. It was also nice that we saw the three parts of the island: England, Scotland, and Wales.

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After a week in England, I was very nearly assimilated. Although I didn't have the accent, I had adjusted completely to the time difference. I could distinguish between the many coins with ease. I was comfortable ordering at pubs and deciphering train timetables. But two things continued to mark me as an American: I always asked for ice with my soda and I could not correctly pronounce Stratford-Upon-Avon. I didn't pronounce Avon like the American cosmetics company, but I did tend to give equal weight to both syllables, and it is correctly pronounced by stressing the first.

Thanks to the train and the Underground announcements, I also learned how to pronounce other mysterious things like "Madame Toussards" (strangely, Two-Swords), "Marylebone" (Marry-libin), and "Tottenham Court Road" (Tot-nam).

I also picked up the British habit of saying "Pardon?" when I wanted someone to repeat something to me that I couldn't understand. Sometimes this was due to their accent and sometimes due to cultural differences. A nice Frenchwoman asked Mike and I if she could borrow our Helpy (? some kind of cell phone ?) at the Tower of London. We were flummoxed until we told her we were American, which seemed to let us off the hook.

So, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Apparently some guy named Shakespeare was born there.

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I wonder how the release times for U.S. movies and television shows are determined in the U.K. While we were there, they were showing in theaters movies that had just been released in the States (like Sex in the City), and movies that had been out of theaters for months here (like Gone, Baby, Gone). They were also advertising TV shows that I had never heard of as "phenomenal hits" in the States. Not that I am always on top of U.S. pop culture, but I suspect some marketing genius at work.

This is all working up to say that I forgot to add something else we did on Saturday night: we watched Doctor Who on one of the BBC channels. The episode we saw was three weeks away from being shown in the U.S. So we have seen the future, and it was pretty awesome.

On Monday, we went to Bath.

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  1. I did not acquire a British accent while in England. But by the end of my time there, I did notice that my vowels were a little rounder than normal, and I was dropping some consonents. It's hard when you are surrounded by people talking differently. I have perhaps some small sympathy for Madonna now.

    After I had been there for a few days -- especially in Oxford, where there were mostly British people about (most of the other places we visited in London were such tourist landmarks that you heard accents from all over the world) -- I did start to notice that my own accent sounded strangely nasal to me. I'd read that was the case with American accents as compared to British, but I had never noticed it until I was actually speaking with my own accent while surrounded by Brits.
  2. I did not actually stalk David Tennant while in London.

    Doctor Who

    However, I did put myself in places where he might be likely to be. Unfortunately, this didn't work.
  3. Number of times I was told to Mind the Gap: 6,879,892
    Number of times the gap needed minding: 5
    Number of people tragically injured last year for not minding the gap (at least according to the posters in the Underground): 57
    Number of those that must have been completely wasted at the time: 57

    Apparently, you used to be able to carry and drink alcohol on the Underground, and that law was recently changed. I think this makes the Underground the only place in England where you can't get a pint. Seriously, the snack trolleys on the trains carried alcohol.
  4. I wasn't listening to a lot of music while I was over there, but the following songs were constantly in my head: various parts of Sweeney Todd (more understandable since we had just seen the movie), "A Foggy Day in London Town," and "Wouldn't It Be Loverly." Apparently these are the songs my brain associates with London.
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So one of the best things I think we did on this trip was buy BritRail passes for the week. We had planned a bunch of day trips, so it was cheaper to buy the passes than to buy the individual tickets, for one thing. It was also more convenient; once you had the tickets validated at a station the first day, you could just hop on and off the train for the rest of the week. It also came in very handy when your plans change suddenly, as happened on this day.

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--
OK, so we are already back in the States. But I am going to post these by days anyway. After we moved on to London, the combination of infrequent internet access and long, long days of sightseeing killed my plans of frequent posting.
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Day Three

Day Three was the conference day. It seemed to go pretty well, and I have high hopes of coming back next year. There is the chance that this will become an annual event.

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Today I actually had to do work. We ordered in room service for breakfast (scrambled eggs, croissants, toast, oj and a pot of Earl Grey), and Mike and I walked down to the professor's office for a meeting. I didn't mention this yesterday, but I got lost trying to get back to the Business School to inspect the conference room. While trying to get to the meeting this morning, I got lost again. Usually I am pretty good at finding my way around, but Oxford is defeating me. The names of the streets change every time there is a cross-street, my map was incorrect, and there are all of these little alleys and backways that defy comprehension. Fortunately, I left early enough that I got to the meeting on time, despite getting lost.

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We arrived yesterday completely exhausted. The flight can be summed up in two quick sentences: There was an unnecessarily loud group of twenty-somethings seated all around us, and I did not sleep at all. Mike slept for at most 10 minute intervals before waking up. So by the time we landed, I had been awake (with only six hours of sleep on the previous night) for over twenty-four hours. Barb and Kris, I know you are planning to be ready for anything on Saturday after you arrive, but trust me. You will be ready for one thing only: sleep.

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From Sweeney Todd:

Okay, so if you are going to make a movie based on a musical that is almost entirely sung-through, it doesn't make much sense to me to cut out almost half of the score. The score of Sweeney Todd is fairly complex, and even the set-piece "songs" that were extracted sounded strange to me out of context, even though I like the musical and the music taken as a whole.

Also, considering the fact that none of the actors could sing*, why didn't Tim Burton just make a movie of the play that the musical was based on? The atmosphere and the story seemed to be what interested him, and you have gotten that without the music. Either that, or filmed the entire musical, with people who could actually, you know, sing.

* Strangely enough, I wasn't bothered so much by Johnny Depp as I was by Helena Bonham Carter, whose breathy little-girl singing voice was just crazy inappropriate.

From Interiors:

I really, really would like a Long Island beach house. Seriously. I don't even remember anything else about this movie except my lust for the house it was filmed in.

Other stuff:

I put some photos of the Wild Ponies of Corolla from our North Carolina week of vacation up on Flickr (right sidebar). Evan scolded me while we were down there for not taking notes on the witty conversation like I did last year, and I am regretting it now. I feel like there were so many quips that could have been immortalized, but instead have been forgotten.

Also, we leave tomorrow evening for the ten-day England adventure. I am hoping to have internet access so you can play along at home, kind of like Pax did in L.A. However, I am also lazy. We will see which wins out.

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Special guest Evan joins us for Podcasts 7 and 8!