There was an error in this gadget

26 September 2010

Kim's tips for living in England!

So, halfway through my existence here, I think I just might be a bit qualified to offer tips for anyone intending to have an extended stay here in the UK.

First and foremost, tumble dryers are few and far between! They are energy sucking monsters that have no place in an energy conscious society. Never mind the moist environment in which clothes take many days to dry, even when hung above the radiators (which should probably on for 8 or 9 months of the year!) or on a washing line in the sun! Consequently, clothing shrinkage is not attributed to heated drying, but to the washing process itself! I have to admit, I do miss the ability of the dryer to remove hair from horsey garments, its dryer sheet static removing properties, and the softness and warmth offered by freshly dried clothes (crunchy towels, sheets, and jeans are just not on!); not to mention the last minute ability to wash and dry clothing imperative to ones day.

Secondly, Britons are very keen to keep their cars and gardens quite tidy! There is no place on this island for an unkempt lawn, an untrimmed hedge, or a dirty car! Never mind that I am most obviously American, and Kim-ish, in this regard as my car looks much like it did in the states and only gets the occasional rainwater or ford water rinse! And the lawn?!? Wow, many lawnmowers here are electric. Yes, folks, they plug into the wall, with a cord. Hmm, cords and blades together?! Does that strike anyone as a bit ironic in the land of health and safety?!? Oh, and did I mention that this is an energy conscious society thereby finding outdoor outlets utterly abominable. So, yes, it's a bit of a chore to mow the 6 square meters in the back garden and about the same in the front with an electric mower and no outside plugs!!

Thirdly, when in need of conversation, just chat about the weather! Whether it is beautifully sunshiney or utterly miserable with rain chucking down, Britons love to take notice of the weather. Likewise, if in need of a good laugh, check out the daily weather forecast! It generally reads a bit like “periods of sunshine, with occasional gusts of wind, somewhat breezy, with a chance of showers at tea time.” And in case you are not versed in “the Queen's English,” it's always time for tea (or coffee, which in most instances is instant! Finding a good cup of filtered coffee is next to impossible in my experience!)! Furthermore, dinner is often referred to as “tea” as is lunch as are breaks throughout the day. The forecast and recorded high temperature also usually only occurs for about 20 minutes, in an area sheltered from the wind, but in full sun. I do believe there might only be one such place on the island! In other words, throughout the day, you are likely to experience all versions of weather, so dress appropriately in warm, sheddable layers with a waterproof outer! This is not a place for cotton socks or non-waxed leather boots!

Also, to debunk the myth that is is always raining here, I can attest to as many dry days as wet ones, and when folks refer to rain, it's not the kind of rainstorm that we are used to in the Southern US, it's just misty and miserable, and usually bone chilling as it just doesn't let up and usually comes with an equally annoying wind/breeze. In fact, the windscreen wipers on my car don't go nearly fast enough to be traveling at speed in anything more than a bit of a shower (and since my average speed, according to my sat nav is less than 40 mph, this is not an issue most days!). It might rain cats and dogs once in a blue moon, but it is rare (thank goodness as the country does not have the infrastructure to support water on the roads... more on this later!). I think I have experienced one proper summer storm that included sun, rain, hail, thunder, 2 flashes of lightening, and a subsequent rainbow. It was almost like a taste of home except that the cool that followed it wasn't a welcome relief from the sweltering heat and humidity that often blankets the south before one of these fab summer storms, but a bitter chill that I could've done without!

Furthermore, I am convinced that any thermometer found in this country is part of a greater conspiracy to increase public morale in that the temperature reading ALWAYS reads at least 10 degrees (farenheit) warmer than it actually feels! I am slowly grasping the difference between celsius and farenheit, but it's amazing how units of measure become such an ingrained part of a person. I have no idea how, though, the temperature can FEEL so different! C'est la vie! And, though I may still be bundled at the equivalent of 70 degrees Farenheit, it seems to be compulsory for UK men to disrobe and run around shirtless at any temperature above 70 degrees! Thankfully, I think it managed only to be warm enough for about 5 days in July, and then a further 3 days during the Indian Summer of September! You have never seen skin as pale as that on a UK native on those 8 days a year the skin cells are graced with UV light!

As a result, from the horse's perspective, every day is a fashion day! The articles of clothing owned by each horse in a livery yard is impressive! They must have a summer day sheet with and without a neck, a rain sheet (potentially with a removable neck), a fly sheet, a stable rug, a lightweight turnout rug, a medium turnout rug, and a heavyweight turnout rug with a neck. Depending on who you talk to, rugs are either to be layered extensively or not at all! Most yards, however, layer horses with no fewer than 4 rugs in the winter time! Poor Bear will look a bit like a tick when he wears all of his layers as I have been collecting (off Ebay of course!) since his arrival! He has found it quite ironic that he has to wear clothes at night nearly every night that he has been here, and has been dressed for turn out more days than not! A fly mask is absolutely essential, and sometimes even a fly rug, because while the flies are different here, they are definitely more aggressive and love to just cluster around the eyes and feast upon any moisture there. So many times, white faced horses appear to have black faces for the sheer number of flies attached! Tate's wardrobe has been stripped down, but he will still have his Rambo Duo for the winter and will spend the next month or so being “roughed out” in that he will stay out no matter the weather and will not be groomed, thereby allowing the coat to grow and become oily and thus more protective for the winter months.

Now that we've addressed equine fashions, on to the human ones! Perhaps I should preface this with a recent BBC survey that found Britons to be the worst dressed on holiday. For those curious, the Italians topped the list as best dressed and the Americans were somewhere in between (fairly near the Britons, unfortunately!). Regardless, if you are ever wondering, wellies go with everything! Not just the posh Dubarry style leather ones, even the plain green rubber Hunter ones, or the pink Joules ones, or any patterned version in between! That's right, skirts, tights, jeans, shorts, no matter, feel free to don your wellies! Furthermore, scarves are also always in fashion. Thick fleecy or wooley ones in the winter time, and lightweight silky ones for the rest of the year. Again, layers are the way to go. Even in the summer, one should wear at least 3 shirts because you will need them throughout the day. Skirts go with anything from thick tights to ¾ length spandex-type pants depending on the time of year as we've already addressed that the fact that the weather forecast is not dependable. Tights go with everything as well and come in every weight imaginable. You can take your most favorite summer fashions, throw on a pair of heavy tights/leggings and be right in style year 'round! As a result, I think the recent fashion trend toward jeggings started here with individuals wearing only heavy tights and cropped tops!

On to grocery shopping! Even though a store may be “open” for 24 hours, it's not necessarily staffed with tillers, so while you may browse for 24 hours, you can only purchase items within certain hours! And while the corporate giant Wal-Mart owns a chain called ASDA, it is nowhere near the same “meet all of your needs” mega-store that it is in the States. Furthermore, many grocery stores charge for plastic bags in which to carry your groceries out in, so having your own multi-use eco-friendly grocery bags is a necessity! If they don't charge for bags, the ones provided are often so flimsy that you are lucky to make it to the car park with your purchases still ensconced in their bags! They are often fashioned of biodegradable or very thin plastic to encourage shoppers to recycle and provide their own bags! And finally, stores close at 4 PM on Sundays, if they open at all!

While I'm on the subject of food, and we all know that I'm not the world's greatest in the kitchen, I do know a few things. Refrigerators on the whole here are quite small (as are the kitchens, the houses, the island, the country etc!) so shopping is done little and often. Consequently, fresh vegetables and fruits usually remain so as there is no space in the fridge for them to become misplaced, and they are eaten within a few days of purchase! And, as I'm no Martha Stewart, I very much miss the ease of popping into town for a reliable meal from a favorite restaurant! Chain restaurants are few and far between here, so if you want a good sit-down meal, you'll likely have to visit your “local.” (A brief aside, when someone asks you about your “local,” they are not referring to your place of residence, but to your local pub :) And though there may be several pubs in a town, your “local” often suggest things about your personality since each pub has its own clientele, and thus reputation!) Unfortunately, most don't serve food before 7 or after 9:30 PM, so you must not be seeking an early or late meal in order to have hot food or table service! Also, most tables are booked in advance, so unless you have a reservation, you might not get table service at all, and you might be lucky to even have a meal at the bar! Additionally, Sunday lunch is served at almost every pub, but often there is not a choice as Sunday lunch is traditionally a roast, potatoes, and seasonal vegetables. Also, steak is traditionally served with “chips” (i.e. french fries) and it is a complete faux pas to order steak and “mash” (yep, you got it, mashed potatoes!).

And finally, to the washing up after a meal. Dishwashers, like tumble dryers, are few and far between as the kitchens are not fitted with the appropriate plumbing, and usually aren't big enough to waste the cabinet space on such an energy sapping convenience! However, most taps have hot and cold water separate, and though this is an energy conscious society, there is not an “eco” setting on the hot water heaters as they are usually “instant” and not of the storage type, so once the water starts running hot, you only have seconds before it is running boiling! And, since you often can't mix the cold in with the hot since they come from two different taps, you are either stuck burning or freezing your hands off as you hand wash the dishes!

Oh, and when you severely burn your hands, or walk into a rough “local”, don't call 911 as it won't help you, dial “999” for emergency assistance!



  1. Well, I think you have given us enough reasons to never want to live in England, maybe come for a short visit only! It does not sound like they are in the 21st century but the 19th. Guessing you are appreciating what you had here a little more and will be glad to come back home to tumble dryers, dishwashers, 24 hr. grocery stores and hot and cold water from the same spigot.

    Are you wearing skirts, tights and wellies now instead of your jeans? If so, we need pictures!!



  2. Found your blog through a recommendation on the COTH Forums and have no idea who you are but am greatly enjoying it as a Brit turned American turned Brit again.
    Advice on dishwashing...
    Fill the sink up with a mixture of hot and cold water, add soap and wash away! If you don't have a functioning plug get one of those things that fits in the sink for washing.
    Advice on take away meals...
    Next time you go to the super market try the ready made meals. If there's a Waitrose or Marks and Spencer nearby, better still. They do the best ready meals. Especially if you like Indian, these are awesome. On that note, your village should have an Indian Restaurant, and even if they don't advertise it they usually do take aways. As do the local Chinese, Thai, Italian, etc. Ready made Pizza Express Pizzas purchased at the super market are really good too.
    Try and buy veggies from the green grocers if you can, much better.
    Check out Jamie Oliver for cooking ideas - his latest tv programme 30 Minute Meals is awesome, as is his Ministry of Food cookbook. Can be purchased on Amazon very cheap.

    Enjoy the rest of your time in the UK - as I'm sure you'll discover, both countries have their advantages. There are things I miss about the States while I'm here (like driving and being able to afford horses! Not possible for me living in a city), and things I miss about the UK while I'm in the States.