Monthly Archives: October 2010

A giant bag of tea

Tea. It’s the quintessential element of working in a British office. Luckily for me, I like tea. I think it’s a decent beverage. But I’m nowhere near the fan of tea that my co-workers are. I think they drink more tea than Americans drink coffee, which is a lot! There are about 40 people in my building, and they each have at least 3 cups per day, which is 120 cups every day. And since there are about 250 working days in the year, that’s 30,000 cups of tea in a year (and that’s a conservative estimate).

Now, I know that my little old box of Lipton tea contains 100 tea bags. Clearly that would only get the office through to about 3 pm, and then there would be riots. So the office manager purchases tea by the bag … a VERY big bag.  It kind of reminds me of those dog-food bags we used to buy when I was a kid. I think they were 25lbs, but they were huge!  I don’t know how much tea is in this bag (25 kg), because the weight is in metric and I still don’t understand that, but I put a bottle of wine next to the bag to get a sense of scale. That’s a lot of tea.


Oh, for a proper pumpkin bucket!

My favorite Halloween was 2004, when the CMU crew did “adult trick-or-treating” through the neighborhood in Pittsburgh. We all dressed up, and paraded around to our various apartments. At each place a signature cocktail was served (the treat bit). I’m pretty sure we all drank cider at my apartment, but I don’t remember.  I have to say, my costume of the Virgin Mary combined with Alex’s costume of a Pimp made us a great couple. (Although I did lose my Baby Jesus several times throughout the night.)  There were a lot of great costumes, including Sarah as the unibrow’d Frida Kahlo, Claire and Erin arriving as figures-of-speech (“don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” and “a wolf in sheep’s clothing, respectively) and Gary’s son Tyler dressing up as Harry Potter.

Although I know that no Halloween can ever compare to that night, I’ve been pretty disappointed by the lack of Halloween-ishness here in the UK. There are hardly any decorations anywhere. There are no piles of candy in the stores. There are no ghostly cobwebs decorating the office.  I brought in a tiny pumpkin to decorate my desk, and everyone commented about how “American” that was!  I also purchased a pumpkin bucket and some candy for the kitchen area of the office. But I’m pretty disappointed, because while technically the pumpkin bucket is orange with a black face, it doesn’t look right. It’s not the same! It’s sort of close, but not really.

This is what a PROPER (US) pumpkin bucket should look like.

This is the UK bucket. Clearly they are missing the concept. (HINT: it's supposed to look like a pumpkin!)

Don’t get me wrong, the holiday IS celebrated here, but many people look on it as an Americanization, and therefore refuse to participate. I have seen a number of articles in the paper about how evil it is to bow to corporate America, and how the UK should celebrate All-Hallows Eve in a more “traditional” way. I think the problem is that there is no “traditional” celebration … it’s just another night.

Last night my mom told me that there is snow in the mountains of Colorado. Which sounds just about right. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to go as a princess for Halloween, only to end up wearing snow-pants under my dress. (How tacky!) Well, actually, I always wanted to go as a SPACE princess, which is much more complicated and probably deserves a post of its own. My mom always made the best costumes … I’ll never forget the time when my brother went as Encyclopedia Britannica!  One year we both decided to go as Star Trek people (and I can’t believe I’m admitting that) and we put the whole costumes together and everything. We even carved communicators out of chunks of wood and painted them silver.  Or when I went as a pack of bubble gum and my brother went as a box of nerds. I wore a bright pink hat, and he wore a red balaclava (to look like the candy, of course).

The weather here is definitely turning colder, but no snow yet. The sun is setting early, and it’s dark in the mornings now. But I’ve been told that I can’t complain about the weather, because it is the one thing that makes England “English”. On Sunday … Halloween proper …  Alex and I will probably be packing his suitcase for the trip to New York. We might have a spare bag of candy in case there are any trick-or-treaters, but I doubt we’ll see anyone. Darn it. Guess we’ll have to it eat it all ourselves!

I met a real live princess!

Princess Anne visited King George School, Sask...

Image via Wikipedia

So at some point when growing up I realized that I’ll  never BE a REAL princess (although I heard that Harry is single again….) so I figure that the next best thing is getting to MEET a real princess.  Which I did yesterday.

Thanks to those of you who provided valuable fashion advice. Typically, I ignored it. 🙂  (Sorry!)  But the weather was cold and nasty, and the little black dress would have left me shivering.  So long grey skirt came to the rescue, and I think I looked quite cute. And appropriate, of course.

Princess Anne was pretty much exactly as you’d expect. She was quite formal and reserved, and extremely polished.  She was wearing gloves in the beginning and wasn’t shaking hands, but towards the end she warmed up, and off came one glove (only one), and I was the lucky recipient of a very royal, very weak handshake.

To be honest, I think the most remarkable thing about the Princess was her hair. I’m dying to know how she got every single hair in the exact same place, because if you look at pictures of her on the internet, her hair hasn’t change in YEARS.

The exhibit opening went well, and lots of old people were quite pleased with themselves. Really,  I shouldn’t make fun, because I know they worked very hard to make sure that everything went well. I was pretty happy with my contribution, even if it was behind-the-scenes.

The funniest part of the morning was that about 2 minutes after the Princess Royal left, the pest removal company showed up. Apparently the director had forgotten that he’d scheduled a roach removal for that day!  We had to turn them away, as there were still a lot of guests in the building. But imagine if the Orkin Man and Princess Anne had run into each other at the door!  Priceless!