Tag Archives: london

End of the year round up

In the spirit of pre-New Year’s reflection, here’s what I’ve learned about the British so far:

From television I have learned that head lice is still an issue here

Also from TV, it is totally fine to have a drunken one night fling at the company holiday party – just make sure a condom is used

You can buy alcohol pretty much anywhere

Speaking of that, “supermarkets” here devote 1/3 to 1/2 their floor space to alcohol

All alcohol sold has a little symbol on it that says how many “units” it is… men should max out at  3-4 per day, women 2-3

The A-Team and especially Mr. T still have a decent amount of advertising pull

It is pretty common for drunk english men to piss wherever they want…  like shockingly common

Every alley, passageway, mews, court, footpath, or trail no matter how narrow or short gets a name and street sign
most of the jobs here are filled by using recruiters

West London is prettier and has more parks than East London

The windows here do not have screen on them

It does not rain as often as people think it does

There are 7 large Victorian era public cemeteries here – so of course they are called the Magnificent 7

British television is not that good.. and there is a surprising number of american TV shows available

Trying to find a job is time consuming

Most anything you need you can get at a corner shop

There are pelicans in St. James’s Park and they never leave, even though theoretically they could.  They must understand that they have a good thing going.

If adding an “s” to a word that ends in “s” you can’t just put an apostrophe after the “s”… you have to add an apostrophe “s”, even though it is terribly redundant. As in St. James’s Park instead of just St. James’ Park.  Also, you pronounce the extra “s”, so it is Saint Jameses Park, so it sounds funny as well as looking funny

There are a slew of pronunciation rules here that unless you grew up here you will never learn.  Most of them relate to silent letters, the best example being “Worchestershire” pronounced “Wooster” yes, you people on the east coast know what I’m talking about.

I’m sure you all know that a car’s trunk is a boot here, but did you know that the hood is a bonnet? and the roof is the hood?

The US is good at making cars that go fast in a straight line, but can not make a car that turns

If you want to stand out from the automotive crowd you need a bentley, an aston martin, a ferrari, or maybe something like a TVR.  Porsches? yawn. Alternately you could drive something that is just goofy – like the V6 clio, the “fast” smart car, or an old fiat or triumph.

Ferraris in the city sound like motorcycles due to the reverb from the buildings

It is faster to change from the district line to the piccadilly line at earl’s court than at south kensington.

If you are going to covent garden it is far better to get off at Leicester (pronounced Lester – see above comment) and walk for 5 minutes instead of getting off at covent garden and having to be crammed into a elevator (or lift as they like to say here)

On the old tube lines, the stops all have a different color and pattern to the wall tiles so illiterate people know which stop they are at

London is in a CONSTANT state of repair – there is scaffolding everywhere.  I defy anyone to find 100 consecutive meters where there is not scaffolding set up or some other construction going in

The water here is exceptionally hard and has a lot of calcium in it. This may have something to do with the city’s water mains being installed in Victorian times and thus being over 100 years old.

If you are overwhelmed by people and crowds in the center of the city, you can make about 4 random turns and be all by yourself – this is especially true in the square mile.

There is not a lot to see if you walk from chelsea to Westminster

London dogs, for the most part, are amazingly well behaved

In the city center and / or square mile, you’re never really more than about 5 minutes from a tube station

Heathrow terminal 5 is not nearly the giant pile of crap it has been made out to be in the press

Europe loves Obama

So there you go. I’m sure there’s more but those will have to do for now.


The aborted first attempt (3 – 14 october 2008)

So I get to the flat on Friday the third of october, after almost missing the plane and being chastised by the gate agent for not being at the gate 30 minutes before scheduled takeoff. Oops. So the gate agent tells me that my luggage “may or may not” be on the plane and there is no way to check so I’ll just have to wait and see if my luggage actually shows up at Heathrow. What a fantastic start.

When I get on the plane, I ask the stewardess cabin attendant if she can tell me if my dog is on the plane.  She comes back a bit later and says that the documents are in the cabin and the pilot is busy so she’ll get back to me once the plane is in the air.  Fair enough.  So she comes back and tells me that yes, indeed, my pup is on board. Hooray!  After hearing my story – that I am moving to London – presents me with a congratulatory bottle of champagne.

The plane lands, I get off and miracle of miracles, my bags come down the carousel.  I exit and joyfully meet up with Verena and we get on the train to head to the flat.  Cae the dog will take 5 hours to clear customs, so the plan was to go to the flat, have some food and then head to the Animal Reception Center to collect her.

At the flat I get a call from the people at DEFRA (the UK equivalent of the USDA) who tell me there is a problem with Cae’s paperwork and she either has to go into quarantine for 6 months or go back to America.


“Well, yes, you see in 2007 her rabies vaccination was given on January 4th and in 2008 it was given on January 8th. So unless the rabies vaccination was a two year vaccination, she is not eligible for the PETS program and she will either have to return to America or go in to quarantine for 6 months.”


“Yes, well, terribly sorry, but those are the rules.  We are an island nation and rabies does not exist here and we can’t be too careful”

“So, there’s nothing I can do?”

“No, not unless you can prove she was protected from rabies for those 4 days”

“Right, well, I will see what I can do”

To make a horribly boring long story short – I head to the internet cafe (the internet at the flat was not turned on yet) do a bunch of research, call a bunch of people in the US and generally fail miserably in my attempt to find some way of keeping my dog with me.

The best idea I had was to suggest that we re-test her here and if she has the acceptable number of rabies anti-bodies, wouldn’t that prove that she was inoculated and rabies free? I call a DEFRA vet and they say well,  there is no way to tell if the anti-bodies are from an infection or from the vaccine.  Furthermore, the “no vaccination gap” rule is under consideration for change, but as it stands today that is indeed the rule and  so I’ll have to either return my dog to America or put her in quarantine for 6 months.

Since it was about $500 cheaper to book a round trip flight instead of a one-way I oh-so-thoughtfully booked my return to be Tuesday the 7th of October.  So I spend an enormous amount of money to have Cae transported back to America on the same flight as me and we arrive in Minneapolis St. Paul International later that day.

And… more drama at the airport.  Going through customs I hand my passport to the annoyed looking border patrol agent and the following exchange ensues:

“Do you have any checked luggage”

“Yes, one bag, and I am bringing a dog, but I was told I need to collect her at the cargo receiving center.”

“A dog?  No, you’ll pick her up here”

“Are you sure?  My cargo agent said I will need to pick her up at the cargo receiving center.  She was loaded as freight cargo, not as checked bagge”

“Look, I’m here all day, all dogs come up here, talk to someone in baggage claim”


So I go into baggage claim and talk to another pair of border patrol people and basically reiterate that I was told that I need to get my dog at the cargo receiving center, that my dog was booked as freight cargo, not as luggage and they tell me, that she’ll be here in the airport.

I ask a baggage handler if they know what the deal with my dog is –

“Dog? Big dog? Yes, big dog on the plane.” says the guy.

“When can I get her?”

“I’ll go look”

10 minutes go by, the guy comes back and says “Wait 10 minutes.” So I wait 15 minutes, find the guy again and he disappears for another 10 minutes and comes back empty handed.  He points at a red jacketed northwest helper person and says “Talk to her”.

Oh, hey, guess what, yeah, I need to pick her up at the cargo receiving center.   So I get my rental car, go the the cargo place and I have to wait until wednesday morning to pick her up because the customs office in MSP closes at 5:00 (how does that make any sense at all?

Wednesday morning I get Cae, she looks a little worse for wear but overall pretty good. We go back to my friend’s house in St. Paul and have a bit of a nap and then head out to my friend Matt’s place in Madison, well, really Stoughton, Wisconsin.  And that’s where she is now and she seemed happy to have people and cats around her. Matt is awesome for watching her.

I left her on tuesday the 14th and returned to London.