British vs American

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I am about as British as they come. I am currently reading Kate Fox’s book, ‘Watching the English’ and as far as I can see, am the epitome of all things good, bad and plainly odd about the English. A few examples:

. I share the same rather dry, self deprecating and ironical humour of my fellow Brits.

. I cringe at the ‘too gushing’, ‘overfamiliar’ or ‘over enthusiastic’ preferring the British understatement. (Eg when suffering bronchial pneumonia, to describe it as ‘a bit of a bother’)

. I too endure the awkwardness of replying “how do you do?” when asked the same question even though it actually isn’t a question to be answered but simply to be repeated.

. And, after twenty painful minutes of goodbyes in various forms with promises to meet up soon with someone whom we know our husband loathes, we sigh a momentous sigh of relief and swear that we’ll never do it again … but we always do, after all, wouldn’t it be rude not to?

And I haven’t even reached the chapter on queuing which I am sure is imminent.

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These are in truth, slightly strange foibles and yet having had them soaked into us by way of osmosis since birth, they are our “normal”. Nevertheless I am sure that to non-Brits they are also rather peculiar, even slightly irritating and without doubt, confusing.

And as someone who is soon to be moving to the States, I do wonder if my fellow Americans from across the pond have any interesting quirks that I should be aware of I should loathe to make a faux pas or twenty on the first day. To date I have found everyone remarkably jolly and inclusive, but perhaps they were just being polite to this strange English woman …

In order to err on the side of caution, I have therefore made some preliminary enquiries and so far have established the following:

Apparently we Brits work shorter hours, have more holiday and get up later in the mornings. However, supposedly we get more exercise and eat less pizza but drink far more tea.

Also, I understand that pants are not referring to ones underwear, but instead, to trousers.

A purse is a handbag, not a … purse.

And if you are pissed, you’re not sublimely cream-crackered or a teensy bit tipsy, you’re actually rather cross.

So with all this information to hand, I’ve told my husband to prepare himself for a long working day, to put the bowler hat into storage, and should I ever get pissed, to remind me to not try to hide my purse in my pants … it clearly wouldn’t work.

Just to clarify however …

a) I don’t get ‘pissed’ in case anyone is wanting to throw that at me (!) and

b) I don’t recall ever having tried to hide my purse down my knickers … my bra yes, but that was when I was travelling through some very dodgy areas on a particularly bad holiday many years ago … I did have to put a sock in the other side as I was a tad unbalanced and lumpy, but crikey, despite being rather broke, I found it was quite an impressively exciting sight.

Anyway, should anyone have any suggestions or tips, you could not find a more grateful recipient.

Katie x

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Knickers Again (But of the Cycling Variety …)

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Now I fear I must discuss, or at least give my view on the slightly taboo and decidedly undignified subject of knickers.

Of all the advice that I was given prior to my cycling trip, and there was a lot, the common denominator from everyone was to invest in a good sturdy pair of cycling shorts.  To this day, I’m not entirely sure if mine were shorts or knickers. Whichever they were, they did the job well.  But Mon Dieu, what an unsightly piece of clothing.

Lycra’d within an inch of their life so that they tightly suck in the wobbly bits like a vacuum packed chicken, and let other parts spill out over the top and underneath; the end result is one ends up looking like a rather badly stuffed Christmas stocking; all lumps and bumps but the only surprise with this stocking is whether one is able to take them off without the huge effort making one either puce in the face, or accidentally breaking wind.

As for the padding within, it is simply a large piece of foam which sits like a small yoga roll-mat between ones legs.  However, the result? unattractive, however not a bruised botty in sight.

But, there is one piece of advice that I was NOT given, and that was to wear them from day one of said cycling adventure. If it is left until day three, you will discover that you can’t sit down without wincing, howling and yelping. Sadly this is really rather a case of locking the stable door once the horse has well and truly bolted and frankly is in another county. This was sadly what I did.

And, whilst trying to be delicate here, it’s not just ones ‘back bottom’ that becomes bruised, it’s the ‘front bottom’ area and for want of a better word, ones ‘fou fou’. This entire region becomes so delicate, that should you be travelling on a romantic holiday with your darling loved one, you can wave goodbye to any woo hoo for your fou fou for at least a week. Or if you do, he’ll find that he got more than he bargained for, with more wincing, howling, yelping and yowling than a night in a brothel with Madame Whiplash and her whippy-stick.

I think that just about covers it.

Katie xx

Any experience of cycling knickers? No? Lucky you … 😳

FREEDOM!

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Sitting yesterday outside my coffee shop, I heard a man coming towards me. In actual fact until he came into sight, his gender was questionable due to the extremely high notes that he was singing. Indeed, the word ‘singing’ should be used rather loosely as well …

He was tall, wearing dark sports clothes and carrying a backpack with a couple of racquet handles poking out of the top. Finally, atop his head and covering his ears he wore an oversized pair of headphones. Headphones that clearly were muffling the sounds of the outside world whilst immersing him into his own wonderful bubble of music. And how he sang!

Great, sudden high-pitched screeches with wild arm movements sent fellow pedestrians ducking and fleeing in fright. Long and musically debatable notes were (loosely) held until he began to run out of breath; whereupon he appeared to grapple with deciding whether to continue on the warbling note, or to allow some much required air into his oxygen-depleted body.

His walking pace slowed, his arms raised high as he momentarily paused creating a brief silence as his audience of coffee drinkers and pedestrians alike also held their breaths in anticipation … He then took a deep and long inward gasping of breath and then burst forth with renewed vigour, passion and more animalistic wailing noises and his walking pace quickened once again. His head moved vigorously from side to side and a wide, broad smile beamed across his face.

As he passed us and went on his merry way, we all smiled at each other, brought together for a moment in time, enjoying the happiness of one individual, so deep in his own happy world and so oblivious to ours, that we almost felt a little envious. How carefree! How wonderful!

And it made me wonder, when was the last time that I felt that free and uninhibited? Indeed, when did you last feel and breezy? For me, it was cycling in France. Perhaps time has made me nostalgic, but of late I find myself pondering wistfully of my month away with only myself and Claude my bicycle to consider. The freedom was so utterly welcome, it was bewitching. I had indeed liberated, and seeing the man yesterday, made me yearn for it once again.

Perhaps the man had returned from a tennis or squash session and was high on endorphins; in which case I think I should dig out my own racquet and balls. Or perhaps, just perhaps, he was simply high on life. In which case I shall consider another trip, another adventure to bring back that glorious, glorious feeling of total and blissful freedom.

Katie x

Do you feel free?

Do you yearn to be liberated from your anxieties, marriage, commitments or depression?

Anxiety, Excitement and Looking For My Knickers.

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Anxiety … It starts with butterflies, then the clammy hands, tingling feet, dizziness and nausea, until finally in order to prevent passing out I have to either lie down or somehow get my head lower than my heart. Usually this involves bending over so far that it looks as though I am interested in looking at my knickers.

These deeply unpleasant sensations also occur if I am too hot, dehydrated and/or haven’t eaten enough.

Embarrassingly this happened on my second date with The Colonel. I had been a teensy bit overexcited, had forgotten to eat all day and was wearing a rather natty little dress of the faintly Grecian variety with lots of lengths of fabric wrapped round me. Alas, I think I had bound myself up slightly too tightly, and promptly had a little fainting episode. Not awfully sexy having your not-quite-boyfriend shove your head between your thighs, but I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t give me a fireman’s lift and douse me in cold water.

I digress … my point here is this. Apart from the dehydration and lack of food causes for these symptoms, I have found that more often than not, my brain is confusing anxiety, with excitement.

Now this anxiety is really just a way of my body and brain recognising that there is a potential danger. It is simply preparing for fight or flight. As we know, in times gone by, the Sabre-toothed tiger approaching the entrance to the cave required some serious action. A delicate fainting, reaching for the smelling salts or practicing my breathing techniques would probably have resulted in ‘Kitty’s lunchtime’.

However, it’s perhaps a little unnecessary to have these rather extreme reactions when I am standing on a chair to change a lightbulb, or kneeling on the kitchen unit trying to reach the top cupboard. It can be a fairly long winded task to change a lightbulb if every few minutes as the adrenaline starts racing through my body, I have to be upended and forced to look at my knickers again.

So I have taken to changing my thought process.

Each time I feel those dizzying, clammy, nauseous feelings of anxiety I say (out loud) …

“Oooh! I am so excited! What fun I am having!” several times and then repeat, and again …

Now slightly simple, unhinged and odd I may well be, but slap me down with a feather, it jolly well does the trick. And dare I say it, on a par with, if not better than, my previous deep breathing exercises.

It appears that by forcibly telling myself that I am excited rather than fearful repeatedly whilst doing the stressful and loathsome task, I can overcome the need for a little lie down or reach for the sick bucket.

So I shall persevere with this and fingers crossed it could be the way forward … I suppose the only worry is if I try to incorporate both past and previous remedies. I suspect that by saying, “Oooh! I am so excited! What fun I am having!” whilst my head is up my skirt and I am heavy breathing, I may well be sectioned or frankly, arrested.

Katie x

How does your anxiety manifest itself? And what do you do?

 

Shall We Hibernate Together?

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Contrary to my usual nonsensical chit chat and ditzy writings, the other day I had a brief ‘discussion’ with a fellow blogger about the hibernating habits of bees! This jump-started the rather dusty grey matter into a flurry of activity and led me to do a bit of a research, aka googling Wikipedia (that infamous source of (mostly, ish) correct information.)

It transpires that there are masses of animals that hibernate and frankly I think I/we have missed a trick here.

Whenever the nights draw in, the weather turns colder, or there’s a shortage of food, the breathing of some animals becomes more shallow, their pulses slow and a heavenly slumber ensues. Ahhh! Just the thought of it sends me into a marshmallowy soft blanket of snoring and truffling bliss.

So according to bears, hamsters and skunks (and if we were to follow in their footsteps), if the kitchen, larder and secret garage store of ginger nut biscuits is looking a tad low, this would mean that it is time for a wee snooze.

Or if it all gets a little chilly and the nights are drawing in and we were to follow in the footsteps of prairie dogs, ground squirrels and deer mice, then yup, time to pull on a duvet onesie and take a lovely two month siesta.

It certainly seems to be what my body and mind are craving. A deep, long and uninterrupted sleep.

However, (and somewhat sadly) I’m not entirely sure that this would work for me, or indeed us.

The problem is that life is short. Much too short. And unlike bears, hamsters, skunks and bats, we humans have more than just cotton wool between our ears and therefore we have the wisdom to comprehend that life is for living.

And even though a heavenly slumber to help us pass through the cold dark days might be appealing, it would be a tragic way to waste our very short time on this heavenly planet.

For myself, that feeling of wasted time, combined with a personal loathing of the onesie and the fact that I am currently in Amsterdam with a very excited stepdaughter leaves me no time for wishing my life away in sleep. Instead, there are places to go, people to meet and a life to live.

So when my inner hamster, bear or bat is longing for a wee hibernation, I shall fight it and instead remember the wise words of Dr Seuss …

You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!

Katie xx

Do you love your bed?

Are you tired, exhausted and just want to sleep?

How do you fight the lethargy that winter brings and how?

Camping Anyone?

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Now let’s be clear, camping is not for everyone.

Indeed, it wasn’t for me for the first 45 years of my life until that wretched thing called love got in the way. You know how when you’re truly smitten with someone you’ll do anything just to be with them? Hang gliding, parachute jumping, ironing their pants? Well, camping was in that category for me.

After a month of camping on my own around France (yes, I shall be bringing out that ol’ chestnut for many months to come), I became a bit of a good camper. I can get my tent up and down in a nanosecond without breaking a fingernail, can make fabulous meals on what is effectively a Bunsen Burner but with only a fraction of the gas (particularly after I broke it) and finally, can manage to ensure that standards prevail at all times in terms of cleanliness (the entire range from Clinique was hidden in the base of one pannier – a necessity but somewhat heavy). So yes, I can now proudly say that I am indeed a jolly good camper.

However, yesterday I went one step further and the Colonel and I visited the Caravan and Motor Home Show at the NEC in Birmingham. (For those not living in England, in terms of size, the NEC is like a dozen aircraft hangars all stuck together i.e. VAST).

Now I know, for a middle class lassie like me, this is not really the done thing. It’s certainly a far cry from the twinset and pearl brigade. And I will confess that it is full of sock and sandal wearers with practicality rather than aesthetics at the forefront of their minds. It is akin to being stuck in a giant IKEA with groups of anorak-wearers. And yet here I am, rebelling slightly by wearing a sassy little skirt and my fabulous Gant boots but loving every minute of it.

I have discussed and bonded with complete strangers over storage capacity within caravans, have talked and listened at length about tents, floor mats and cooking implements, and have lain down sniggering beside the Colonel on many a double bed in the Motor Homes, to see if indeed we can both fit in. (For those interested, the answer is yes, but any ‘whoo hoo’ would be fairly limited without serious injury i.e. falling out or knocking oneself out.)

So a wonderful day was had by all, with packed sandwiches in the Colonel’s very practical military backpack at lunchtime and despite having a couple of collisions with two motorised wheelchairs, I came away with perhaps not an upgrade to our current tent, but certainly with even more enthusiasm for spending more time in the great outdoors.

I will never go down the route of socks with sandals, but perhaps I shall find a backpack of my own. Perhaps something in a fantastically zingy colour and fabric other than the dreary black or camo in canvas, and fill it with a more practical, smaller and therefore lighter travel version of the Clinique range. Fabulous! I have found my inner troglodyte, but one with class!

Katie xx

Are you an outside or an inside sort of person? Indeed, have you gone camping?

Ps Apologies to all sock and sandal wearers …

Solitude … Necessary or Not?

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Without meaning to harp on about it too much, whilst cycling for the best part of a month in France, I had only myself for company.

I talked to myself, sang to myself, told myself funny little stories (and laughed at them – yes I am suitably strange) and cried to myself. I regularly bored myself stupid and craved company. The only people, until almost the end of the trip, that I encountered were of course French, and despite a fairly healthy ‘O Level’ result in the subject over 30 years ago, conversation was understandably a little limited. Of course, over time it improved considerably and particularly when I became less self conscious and more confident.

On one occasion, when lost again, I asked a family for help in the navigation department in my very best french.

“Ooh!” they grinned, realising immediately that I was a foreigner, “Are you English?”

“Oh thank God!” says I with great enthusiasm, “You’re the first Brits I’ve spoken to in fourteen days!” I wanted to hug them, kiss them, sit them down with a cup of tea and listen to their life story.

“Nah! We’re not English, we’re from Birmingham,” came the strong accent in response.

Right… Frankly I couldn’t care where they came from, as long as they could understand me and I could listen and understand them. It was a short lived conversation … I think my overly enthused neediness was perhaps a bit off-putting. Similar to when I try to chatter to the postman when he comes to the door, his eyes start to glaze over as he backs down the path. Perhaps I truly am just a needy individual.

However in the last few days I met someone who had been doing almost a parallel trip to me. A South African by birth, he said what he thought, without any filter, and with gusto. He called a spade a spade and swore like a trooper. A rather high powered physicist with a photographic memory, I did question the swearing, but he merely threw his head back, laughed like a drain and replied, “Frankly Katie, I don’t give a fuck!” I liked him enormously. But he too had been devoid of all conversation and despite being fluent in five languages, French was not one of them, so had even less of an opportunity for chatter. It hadn’t however stopped him from having an absolute ball. We then talked incessantly for three days and marvelled at the delights of having company, giggled over the best way to get in, out, and dressed in 6ft x 2ft x 2ft tent, and spoke endlessly about our ridiculous adventures. Laughter is truly good for the soul.

I am now back in the real world and find myself a slightly different creature. Having craved company, whilst I enjoy it, I enjoy it in moderation. No, that word that has never been a part of my life before and I welcome it and wonder if perhaps it might overflow into other areas of my life. There is always hope. I find that I now need a certain amount of solitude in which to block out the noise, the people, the endless nonsense which I find invades my mind and colours my mood. I can now control my own mood completely by myself which is new to me and very much welcomed, but external influences still can alter it. So partly for self preservation and partly because I simply enjoy it, I now ensure that I have time every day and every evening for a little solitude. Call it self care, call it indulgence, call it selfishness, as my South African friend says, “Frankly, I don’t give a f…k!”

Katie xx

What about you? Do you need solitude or do you loathe it? Do you control your own mood?