I got ICE in England and I made a Fabulous Frenchmen fall over

This might have to be my last post about the ICE issue because I actually got some. This is certainly my first story about making fun of a Fabulous Frenchie.

So I was at a pizza place the other day for lunch and, as usual, my kids and I made fools of ourselves. We were eating foods and quizzing each other on times tables and then I knocked Little Stormbringer’s drink over and we all got wet. Good times.

We like to play a little game when we go to restaurants. It is called “How Many Euro-Cubes Will We Get”. So when they deliver our drinks we shout: ‘Two Euro-cubes! One Euro-cube! No Euro-cubes!’ depending on what we have. Usually the inefficient Brit that has brought us our drinks has wandered off by this point.

This time the Brit was still near by. He was confused. I explained about the ice issue. (see here, and here if you haven’t already)

“Oh, you see, in America, they fill the glass with ICE first, then put the drink on top. We always count our euro-cubes because it is funny that there is no ICE here. ha.ha.”(I’m not socially awkward at all. nope.)

Then he smiled and said ” I will get you some ICE!” I have heard this before, people.  This never ends with ICE. It ends with four euro-cubes of ICE. I let the silly Brit go and get me some ‘ICE’. The kids and I laughed, knowingly. Then this motherfucker got me some GOT’DAM ICE. I could not believe my eyes! A whole glass! A whole glass filled to the top with Euro-cubes! It was unbelievable! I took a fucking picture of the glass and then one of the Brit next to the glass of ICE. He was a bit confused, I think, but maybe hoping for the first tip of his life from the silly Americans. (he got one)

I was overjoyed, but now I am a bit sad that I can no longer say that there is no ICE here. Oh well. We got ICE in England. It only took me five years.

When I was on holiday in The North we went to a french restaurant. Our waiter was very French and pretty Fabulous. Terrific. We are going to get some super service here, right? (no, i did not get a single euro-cube, but who puts euro-cubes in champagne? Oh, just me? OK. )

Manboy got an ‘A’ in french and I did some in high-school. Oh wait, I slept through that. Manboy, however, can speak it and did all of the ordering. I do not attempt to pronounce ‘fougasse a l’ail’ or ‘moules mariniers’ and do not get me started on the ‘frites’. Frenchie became all snooty and sniffy about Manboy’s pronunciation. I do believe he came to regret this.

‘Shambolic’ does not come close to describing the experience that we had that evening. If this meal had happened in America, not only would it have been ‘comped’ (free for my UK boos) but we would have had vouchers for our next meal, a massage and at least one bottle of champagne sprinkled lightly with unicorn tears. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Frenchie only managed to order some of our food, so the first course was a mix of one drink, one starter, a bit of one main and something we did not even order. None of it was cooked properly. None of it came with the right sauce, no one got a complete meal and I think the salt was in the pepper grinder.

Frenchie-Fabulous was beside himself. He was flapping his fabulous hands and being all french and wailing about how ‘zis is no szupposed to be like zis! I will get yoo a free bev-er-aj! Please wait a momenz!’

Then on his seventh trip to the kitchens on his useless mission to actually bring us the food that we had ordered, in the right order, and OMG actually bring us beverages, he had his literal downfall.

We had done the unthinkable and brought our souvenir shopping with us to dinner and placed it neatly at out feet while dining. Flapping Fabulous Frenchie managed to hook one of his feet around one of our bags and launched himself into the air and onto the ground. I would like to say that we didn’t laugh at him. I would like to say that my kids totally did not snort into their milk and shout ‘Sacre Bleu! LOL!’

The sound that came out of Manboy at this point made me laugh so hard that I pulled several muscles. I think that it was the most evil, malevolent laugh that I have ever heard. It was at an almost comic-book-villain level. Totally a well deserved laugh on our part. I think our waiter went out-the-back and had a quiet, private cry.

So when we turned up for dinner again two days later, Frenchie-boo spotted us and singled us out. He wanted to redeem himself. He wanted to give us decent food and service. He wanted us to have a Dining Experience.  He did actually manage that last one. A Dining Experience was had.

We had booked the kids in for an activity that evening. (Centerparcs, I love you,man!) I was going to have dinner, alone with my husband, for the first time in almost a year. So Excited! Ordered a bottle of champagne. Happy days!

What followed was chaotic, disorganized, and mismanaged. I actually had to point to my empty glass and then gesture to the bar where our beverages were waiting. I ordered a rare steak and got one well done. (Gross!! you know that shit got sent right back to kitchen for reals) We ordered food that never came. We ordered drinks that never came. I had to have Manboy steal a salt grinder from another table. All of this is true and I cannot type all of the things that went wrong because there is not enough blog space in all of the world to hold the tale of how genuinely fucked-up-the-eyeball this meal was.

We ordered in the standard way:

1) Order drinks then read menu

2) Order starters and mains (appetizers and entrees in American)

3) Drink drinks and wait for first course

So what do you think should happen when you follow these three simple steps? Would you expect to get drinks, then starters, then more drinks perhaps, then your main course? That is kind of what I expected to happen. After all, our-man-Frenchie was on the job and ‘determainez to gets zis rvight!’ Nope. None of that happened.

The good news is that we were having so much fun on holiday that none of this made us even slightly annoyed. Had this happened to me at any other time or place I would have set fire to the tablecloth and shot a hole through the bill. However, this was somehow entertaining and made us just giggle and shake our heads in amusement. And poor Flappy-Frenchie even got a tip. Hilarious. Maybe we should drink champagne more often.

One Year I was in charge of a camping experience for the Retarded. (this won’t upset anyone, I am sure)

You have no idea how difficult and gross this was. It was also incredibly rewarding and also a bit sad.
I need to credit the great Gweenbrick here. He has given me the courage to post this. Do not blame him though. He writes about his work with the less gifted. (and other hilarious stuff. He also has fantastic comics. Go check him out and say hi. )
I worked with the DD (developmentally disabled)  and Old Folks for many years before I had kids, and (strangely) hope to again someday. Or maybe Dementia. Or Fostering. Nothing has ever been so hard and awful, but, somehow? Rewarding in a way that…what am I saying? That was years ago so I must just have blanked out everything and be remembering it fondly like a bad acid trip or a toddler.
ANYWAY…
So, I signed up for four weeks of *volunteer* camping ‘experience’ to help further my career, and because i wanted to see my people in the great outdoors.
Six adults and two carers. In wooden platformed tents. With port-a-loos. And Poison ivy. And swimming and canoeing. I would like to remind you that I signed up with no pay.
Week one was awesome. We had your usual DD and one Downs and one GIANT man who looked like Shrek. They were awesome. They loved making fires (GASP!) and singing and even eventually went to sleep. They ate foods and we wiped butts and they were weirdly making ‘boy/girl friends” and it was totally OK. (omg so not ok)
We had also reserved a Christian Camp for this. This means it was extra weird at ‘vespers’ and meal times.

Believe it or not, it gets weirder.
The second week was…i kid you not..’Clown Camp Week’. We all dressed as clowns, did makeup, juggled (bwahaha..i still have the scars) and basically consoled the extremely confused retarded campers who had just been thrown into one of the seven circles of hell as far as they were concerned. I agreed.
The third week we got a lot of high functioning Downs and a few elderly DD. This week went well. Except my male counterpart was from Nigeria and spoke ‘only some’ English. We had a  lot of sing-alongs at the fire and no one got poison ivy that week because My Nigerian Boo was All About Fels-Naptha on the hands. I had to explain foxfire to some of them, got to stargaze with the weirdest of them and no one fell out of a canoe.
The fourth week was when we got the ‘rest of them’ from the group home. I felt so bad for these kids. Kids are the only way to describe these folks. I can remember one young-ish manboy in a chair that used to slap and drool furiously when we sang koombyya (or whatever it is called, i have had to have wine to even type this out loud to other humans so whatever)
It is a weird thing, working with persons with no verbal skills. One never knows how we are affecting the non-verbals. Maybe they had fun! Maybe this was awesome to them! Maybe they wanted us to all just shut up! Maybe they wanted to go home, but judging on how much they flapped at the fire? They had some clue that this was different and interesting. One hopes.
But six of them? CAMPING? Drooling and shitting themselves? Being sprayed with chemicals to keep the mosquitoes off? Shoveling food into them then lowering them into a pool? Taking EVEN ONE of them in a canoe? FIRE MAKING?
I don’t know if you know what these folks are like.  I hope you can look on them with respect and humor, because they are awesome.  But, can I just repeat, six non-verbals, two of them in chairs camping in the woods with port-a-loos and fire. Sleeping in cots, in tents, with only two caretakers. .
FOR SEVEN DAYS
I remember one boy, Paul, who was profoundly handicapped. He had such dark hair and such a horse like, almost noble face. He used to slap his arms together in an awful way whenever we started a fire. One time He somehow gestured to me in a way that made me think he wanted the marshmallow that I was roasting out of desperation.
I cooled it off and attempted to let him have a bit in his ever drooling mouth. *I think* what he really wanted was the burning stick which he grabbed in one of his malformed and *not functioning* hands and then burned me with it. I have never heard a laugh so guttural, so visceral, so cruel and well deserved EVER.
I imagine he was thinking  ‘BITCH P00ned you ya’cunt!’
After the four weeks were over the staff had a get together where we made fun of, and laughed at every one of these poor son-o-bitches and defragged ourselves.
Sometimes you just have to laugh.
Look, I gave you a story about compassion and kindness and laughing at the retarded. I must be insane.
Ready for the hate mail but if you have never been related to them, worked with them and BEYOND ALL never camped with these fuckers,,,just laugh and do not judge. We are all funny and retarded in our own way.
comment anything, you guys?

How to make nice and be Friends with the British

I had an email from a reader expressing her frustration at being an American expat. I was thrilled and touched, of course, so I emailed her back. She had questions. She was also a bit confused about not having made any friends in the UK yet.

But she is from the Midwest like me, and, like me,  she Is So Friendly.

Brits, are you seeing the huge problem here?

I didn’t when I moved here. I was Super Fantastic and Friendly All Of The Time! Why didn’t they want to talk to me? Why did they seem to visibly shrink when I greeted them? Why didn’t they want a hug for Christ’s sake!

Now, clearly this girl isn’t as bad as I was. I was bad.

I would go on the dreaded school run and try and..ya know…talk to people. Introduce myself, ask them about their kids, ask about their lives, tell them about mine. This is how I had spent my entire life in the US interacting with other humans.

This is not how you interact as an American ‘Off the Boat’ and trying to make friends in the UK. Not if you want friends, that is.

Over several years of reading Expat blogs from both sides of the pond, experimenting with British-life-forms and talking to my husband and his circle of friends, I came up with the following fool-proof method of ‘cracking the ice’ in the UK.

Mind, this takes 6-8 months not minutes. (in the US it might not be even that many minutes!)

Here’s the tip:
The first six months of ‘knowing’ someone, The Weather is the only acceptable subject for you to talk about. 
Pro Tip: The Brits LURVE hearing about how awesome we (Americans) find the weather here. 
example: 
Scene: School Run/Bus Stop/Neighbours/delivery guy
“Wow, it is a bit rainy/sunny/cloudy/windy today! (smile)”
Then the brit grumbles or agrees
“sure was better/worse/same yesterday! Hope it is better/same tomorrow!” (smile)
Brit grumbles or agrees
 
 After you have known them for a bit,  add on the following;
 
“But, I  think the UK has the best weather in the world! I love it here! Really, I would never leave! “(grin)
They will then stare at you, trying to decide if an American is smart enough to be taking the piss. They might even raise an Eyebrow and say…Really?
Then you say
“yeah my mum has 3 feet of snow/tornadoes/hail/heatwave/mosquitoes/sharp shower of frogs!” (basic midwest suck-weather)
 
 
then just shrug and say, yeah, best weather in the world. (no exclamation. this is important.) (smile)
You may find that they even talk to YOU next time!
The thing is, the British ARE friendly. You won’t find better friends. They are extremely loyal, forgiving, funny and inclusive. Once you find yourself inside their bubble and under their wing, you will not be disappointed. You will feel included in ways that you never thought that you could.
Don’t give up if you are an Expat anywhere. Just keep trying, but get as much advice as you can. After 5 years here I have found my best-est friend evar and I am truly blessed.
As always, feel free to leave your experiences in the comments, or just to me. Ask me anything.  I get it, I really do.

I Blog Because… I am an embarrassment, a spokes-person and a goodenough mum.

God I love the emails from folks saying ‘wow, awesome, I hear your voice, it speaks to me’.

I should do stand-up. But I don’t. I blog. So lemme tell you a funny story.

So the other night, I put the kids to bed. Manboy makes dinner. I am playing the Sims 3. I do this most nights. Look, if your choice is Coast, or playing PC games…what would you choose?

I choose Sims. Now, I have been playing The Sims since 1997. OK? So I know my sims. I know Sims, also sims 2, 3 and (thank the gods above) the new sims 4.

These sims I made? They were the most racist, horny fuckers I have ever encountered. And I have partied in New Orleans, Alabama, Ohio, New York and England.

These Sims? just wanted to ..uh…’make love’ and also be as racist as possible. One of their ‘uncle toms’ died and they just Buried him out back. SIGH.They steadfastly refused to have any housekeepers that weren’t black, and if I left them alone for 10 seconds they were all DOGGING lets DO IT …OUTSIDE!

This is very disturbing to me.

Manboy asked me what was wrong,. as I continued to sigh at this foolishness. I said “it is like Gone With The Sims” up in here!

I actually thought he was going to break his back laughing.

This is why I do not do stand up.

The top ten things I miss about living in America (England bashing again)

I love the UK. I never want to leave. No, really, I am never leaving Devon. If I need a passport, then no.

BUT, there are some things that I would love to have here. My top Ten list starts with:

1. A dryer. look, my man is buying me a new washer-dryer thingy. cause he loves me. But it will still be a euro washer-dryer thingy, powered by wind and sadness. See my illustration on why USA  has better appliances. COAL and NUKES. just give me dry clothes. *sob*

2. A refrigerator. Could I please have a fridge that holds food and keeps it cold? Like, if i have food in, could it keep it cold for a day or so?  If i buy apples or meat, I would like them to stay OK for two days.

3. Ice. just ice. I have given up on ice in the UK. Ice tea would be awesome. I will never realize this dream.

4. local news. Can I have the weather for my city? Or tell me what is happening here? the BBC is great and all, but what happened today in my city? no idea.

5. sport. I am so tired of football. (soccer) Rugby is where it is at. and they put the ball backward. At least I didn’t have to live thorough March Madness. But at least, in the US, I understand the rules.

6. Police. in the US, when you call them, they come. In force. With help. Helpfulness.  I cannot overstate this.

7. school busses. Yellow, pretty busses. They pick your kids up, then drop them off. At/to your door. USA USA!

8. I am struggling here…OK, Food. massive food. when you go out for breakfast you embark on a food challenge. With 4 eggs and hash browns.

9. lack of actual fascists/communists.  you think you have them, but, i promise that you do not.

10. Patriotism. Please, can we have some of it in the UK? I miss it. I want to cheer for my side.

So, ten reasons I miss the US. I could give you as many that I would never move back, but I didn’t . Keep calm and have a well deserved seat. ❤

I think I may have committed a dog crime. I need advice.

By now you all know that I was trapped in the USA for almost four months. Yeah, there are rules for immigrants to the UK. (As long as you are American that is) Many , many rules.

Anyway, so I was minding my own  wine business when a hound happened. It was a Saturday and my kids and adopted dog were out playing. suddenly a hound appeared. It had a shock collar on, but apparently it gave zero fucks about that and had just run through the pain. It seemed entirely pleased with life and was happily playing with the other dogs and kids.

Except there are no stray dogs in my mothers gated community. This was now A Problem.

Take off shock collar. Check the hound’s collar. Has a number. Call number several times. Wait.  Leave msg. Wait. Have more wine. Call the pound. Wait.  Call Animal Control. Wait and wine. Use Google maps to find the hound’s house. Tap fingers. (meanwhile, hound is either running around the house eating cats or locked in the garage destroying everything)

So naturally I say to my mother “I’ll just walk it home then, shall I?” Seams reasonable. I can at least put it back in its yard and hope for the best?

This hound is not leash trained. And by Not Leash Trained I mean it is trying to kill itself on a lead. This hound acted like it was on a hunt and needed to Go Faster and/or was a sled dog and needed to Pull All Of The Things. We both nearly died walking down the damn driveway. I am so sure we are never going to make it the three blocks. (this was after the raccoon so I am expecting the worst, people)

One of my mother’s neighbors drives by. She owns many hounds. She sees me basically flailing a hound down the road and stops. I explain and she offers to drive me to the house. With her hounds in the car as well. I am now officially in insaneville and wishing I had either more or less wine. We get to the house. Car in the driveway, garage open. No one home.

The hound is clearly excited to be home! (the hound is excited by everything) There is a similar shock collar in the garage. There are fucking cabbage patch dolls and collectible ‘dolls’  all over the inside of the house. I know, I banged on every door and yelled at every window. No one is home. I check to see if the door is locked. It isn’t.  I put the hound in the house. I leave.

Just to re-cap here: I have put a dog inside of someones house. I realistically have no idea if this house belongs to this dog. I mean, sure, it was an educated guess, but still a guess. I am wondering if this is an actual crime. I still have no idea if these people got home and said “huh. I put the dog out this morning and now all of my dolls have been eaten” or perhaps “Oh good! Benji is HOME!” or worse, “WHAT?!!? Who put this motherfucking dog in my motherfucking house!”

Well? What would you have done? Please, please tell me. I am sure someone out there would have had less wine  is more sensible than me.