Tag Archives: England

Shit I Learned In The English Countryside

On my weekends to try and get out more and see a little more of England I have been taking tours to different parts of southern England. I did one tour through the Cotswolds which was really beautiful, I went to Shakespeare’s birthplace and home in Stratford Upon Avon, wandered the streets of Oxford and then headed south into Kent to visit Dover and Leeds Castle. On the way I picked up a few fun facts…. here they are!

  • The phrase ‘waiting on tenterhooks’ comes from the medieval days. In the castles, the place is usually freezing cold and when the royalty arrive, they have to wait for all of the tapestries and curtains to arrive to hang over the walls. The hooks they use to hang up the carpets are called ‘tenterhooks’. As such, waiting on tenterhooks is waiting on the carpets to come in an uncomfortably cold state.
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The lovely green town of Bibury

  • ‘Curfew’ is derived from the phrase ‘curb the fire’. Back in the days of Shakespeare the people used to have fires burning inside their houses to keep the house warm. There was a time that everyone had to have the fire out by and this was the ‘curfew’ or the time to ‘curb the fire’.
  • During these times they also used rope beds. The ropes were crisscrossed in a pattern across the bed and you would lay a blanket down and sleep on it. ‘Good night, sleep tight’ refers to wishing the person that the ropes on the bed would stay tight so that you wouldn’t slouch down in the middle of the night while you were sleeping because the ropes came loose.
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The room where William Shakespeare was born. Note the pull out rope bed

  • Cherries are a traditional symbol of innocence. ‘To pop one’s cherry’ or to take their innocence comes from this traditional symbol.
  • Up until the age of five, they used to dress boys in dresses like they did girls. This is because it made them easier to toilet train. Only after the boys were toilet trained were they then allowed to be dressed in pants and were identifiable as boys instead of girls.
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A boy…. dressed as a girl… for potty training.

  • Grapes are a traditional icon of fertility. This is why they use dried grapes and fruit in wedding cakes. The top tier was traditionally saved for the christening of the first born to wish for the fertility of the child however these days most people save it for their first wedding anniversary.
  • Each of the different houses in the Cotswolds has a different fenlight window pattern above the front door. This is because in the days before house numbers, people could identify who they were visiting based on the pattern on the window.
  • There are 2600 toilets in Wembley Stadium
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The famous Leed’s Castle

  • It was the Romans that invented road signs. They placed markers along the side of the road that later became known as milestones and these told you how many miles to your destination.
  • Dry stone wall building is an incredible art and it takes approximately one tonne of stone to build one meter of wall to ensure that the rocks all fit together snuggly for the structural integrity of the wall.
  • In the small town of Bourton on the Water, they have a football match in the town every August bank holiday. The catch. They play the football match in the water…. not sure how but I would like to check this out at some point…
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Apparently the world’s most beautiful street, Arlington Row.

  • To support the wool industry of the Cotswolds, several laws were passed by the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth the first made it law that you had to wear a wool cap to church on Sundays. Charles the second made it law that if a person dies that the coffin they are buried in must be lined in wool and that the person must also be dressed in wool.

So that is it for now with the things that I have been learning as I have travelled around this glorious countryside. Stay tuned for more interesting things I have learned on my travels about the place next week!

Readjustment To Western Civilization

After spending such a large amount of time sick while I was travelling around Asia (of which there are more stories to come, I just haven’t gotten around to writing them down yet) I was done with it. Never before had I wanted the Western comforts of home more. And by Western comforts I am not talking about things like mummy and daddy and a room to myself as much as I love these things. But my first request getting off the plane was steak. Lots of steak. And brie cheese… my Achilles heel.

I arrived at the airport only to have a dispute with the arsehole immigration officer who seemed to be concerned that as teacher I was going to attempt to work in the UK for the all of 2 weeks I am here with adequate funds and my old Canadian visa and onward ticket. In true Dano fashion I said to him “seriously? Your country would ¬†sponsor me to come here and work and get paid as a teacher. If I wanted a work visa I’d have one already and you’d organize it for me. I’m her for two weeks to buy bras, eat steak and visit friends before working jobs I have lined up in Canada! Why would I lie?” He let me through. I am pretty sure he was just having an arsehole day. I wanted to tell him if the wind changed his face would stay looking like an arsehole but thought better of it, grabbed my passport and ran.

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After a ten minute interrogation, finally got my passport stamped!

So I got out of the customs area and am looking for signs of subway when I hear this familiar high pitched screaming “THOMAS!!!” At which point I am then throwing myself at my friend Tash with the railing in the way and there is screaming and crying for a 3 year reunion. At which point I then got annoyed with the barrier railing and knelt down to crawl through it with my pack still on and people staring at me while I tell her this immigration arsehole nearly wouldn’t let me in the country. She says to me “only you would make me laugh so hard being too lazy to walk around the rail and have a complaint come out of your mouth as the first words spoken… I love you!”

After getting back to her house we had a think… couldn’t figure out where to get the best steak ever but the place down the road does the best ever BBQ meat platters and I am all in! Brisket, baby back ribs, spare ribs, pulled pork… more meat than you could poke a stick at and more than two of us could eat in one sitting and being such a precious commodity, I wrapped the rest of that meat up and took it home for breakfast.

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My first meal… hordes of meat, coleslaw and sweet potato fries…. mmm… meat….

Protein was one of the many things I missed in Asia. Especially through Nepal and India, after the stress on the body from the pneumonia and secondary infections and then having to give myself intramuscular injections twice daily (a hilarious and not so hilarious story to come later – watch out for “Adventures With Needles”), I lost a lot of muscles and damaged muscle tissue. I needed protein to heal and protein in Asia is a measly scrap of chicken on a bone in a pile of curry sauce. And vitamins! I was tired, lethargic and felt shitty a lot of the time from diet. But here I was, munching down on meat and Sainsbury vitamin pills for every meal in England and became a force to be reckoned with. That force wound up in Marks and Spencers shopping for bras…. something I no longer owned and yet deemed necessary in this society.

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Protein shakes and vitamin pills. A woman’s guide to returning to normal health.

I will say this. I have a ginormous fondness for bras. When I was a teenager the only ones that fit me were horrendous grandma-type looking bras with inch thick straps and material that sat up near my collar bones. As fashion started to compensate for those of us well endowed, my love of pretty bras began. And so continued in M&S as I spent 2 hours in there trying to figure out what size I was now and what they have in my size and then pretty much trying on one of everything they had in my size. Plus matching undies because those were also novel in the unattractive teenage days. The ladies that worked in there stared at me for a long while trying to figure out who the disheveled looking woman in their store trying everything on was. I explained to them “I have been in India, all of my clothes smell and have holes in them, this crop top I am wearing is the only bra I own. I don’t know what size I am anymore”. It was like a state of emergency. They were both horrified and excited and helped me out and by the time I left I was quite a debt on the credit card and super happy with my giant bag of bras hanging off the arm down the street.

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Piles and piles on non granny bras ūüôā Ecstatic!!

So off to Primark. For those not English or unfamiliar, Primark is considered cheap and daggy, kind of like the Australian K-Mart and the North American Walmart but done up in a classier way and heaps cheaper. I headed here for basic tank tops, long sleeved tops and t-shirts. And then wound up with shorts, boob tubes, hoodies, bikinis, socks, underpants, leggings and the rest. ¬†Another couple of hours later and I emerge from Primark swallowed underneath piles of bags I can barely carry and with waaayyyy too much stuff. My friend Tash says to me “but you deserve it! You haven’t bought things for yourself in a very long time! And you need it! And…. you don’t smell like India anymore thank fuck!”

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Just a few of the clothes and shoes I accumulated….

The next days were a hunt for shoes, jeans and accessories. I pretty much bore me new wardrobe in the first 3 days of being in London and then the guilt set in. These clothes were too pretty and nice for me to wear. I am a bum. I wear clothes with holes in them. Looking nice feels weird. What if I trash these nice clothes….. ugh…. people are obviously staring at me because I look so strangely normal now…. ¬†and so the readjustment continues…

After a couple of days I started getting used to it. My largest concern now is how to get all of this junk I have to Canada after going out of control. I can check an excess bag but after my adventures of getting it to Glascow on the all too familiar sleeper bus I am pretty excited about my next stop being my last stop for a while. Bring on more work and a bit of normality. Oh and more steak. Mmm…. steak….