London in “Two Hours”

As I was in London for work recently and had a couple of hours to spare, I took a very quick tour (it was supposed to be two hours, but just like Gilligan’s Island it took longer. I think it had something to do with the exchange rate or something, but the two hour tour was 3 hours and 45 minutes), and absolutely worth it.

Highlights included riding at the top of a double-decker bus (note: bus drivers in London are usually aggressive, and so half the time you would absolutely swear they were going to a. run someone over or b. crash into a car. The fact that this didn’t happen while I was there does not mean it doesn’t happen), walking across two bridges (one which had fantastic views to one side of “Old” London, including Big Ben, and one which had fantastic views of “New” London, including, well, the new stuff), and stopping at Buckingham palace to watch the front door guard sleep whilst standing, and the front gate guard ponder at the two women pointing and waving at him. (Yes. One was me.)

I went to a real live pub (well, a couple…), discovered that if you order wine you must order it in “large” or “small” (my kind of country), had a tasting of beer (warm beer?), ordered fish and chips (plaice), and was introduced to a butty. This would be a sandwich of butter and French fries. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s in the country and you should absolutely try it.

Oh, and then there was the lunch run to Marks and Spencer’s, where apparently nice girls buy underwear and/or sandwiches to go; the walk past Harrods and Fortnum and Masons, where one gets a hamper at disgustingly large prices, the attempt to get into the Ritz for a drink to be told that jeans, even fancy ones, are not allowed.

I had a translator for most of this, whom I shall herein dub The Honourable Lynne, and I am doing so because it allows me to bestow a title I don’t get in a spelling I don’t normally use. While they theoretically speak English in North America (note: in England, you have to distinguish between “North America” and “South America” – because they (accurately) recognize there are more than one), they do not speak the same English in England. You don’t walk on the sidewalk, you walk on the pavement. The road is not made with asphalt, it’s made with tarmac. You ride a lift, you take out the dustbin, you use a brollie if it’s raining and when walking on the pavement next to the road be sure to look both ways lest you get hit by a passing lorry. If you nearly do you may visit the loo (or washroom, but no one rests there), and you may need to wait in the queue for it.  Mashed potatoes are called “mash”, French fries are “chips”, chips are “crisps”, cookies are “biscuits”. There is something called a “digestive biscuit” which purportedly aids in ones digestion and can be eaten plain or with butter and cheese. You have to love a civilization where they acknowledge the improvement of things with butter and cheese.

It was fascinating to be the person with the accent. Me. I had the accent. In an office building of hundreds of people (or in the M&S, where it felt like there were hundreds of people), I was the odd (wo)man out. Let the record state that I did not pull a Madonna and start affecting an accent.

Everyone I talked to was sweet, polite, and assured me that if I loved London (did/do), I would love Devon/Bath/Cornwall/etc.; that will have to wait for another trip.

For this trip, I was working. And despite my four or five hours off-sides, I spent 90% of it working to two time zones (at least the jet lag helped), meeting a double dozen people, and marveling at how, though I live in the land of Starbucks, the coffee makers in London were ever so much better than those back home. In the space of four days I eradicated six years’ worth of decaf-only coffee drinking, much to the dismay (I’m sure) of those I work with. There’s a metric ton of exciting things about at work this next year – naturally, can’t talk about it, except to say that you the consumer will undoubtedly benefit – and the last thing anyone needs is an over-revved Bobbie engineering things. To those who work with me I apologize in advance for the emails, meetings, and over-engineering. The good news is I’m back to only working 1.5 time zones, and it may help if you switch up my coffee.

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