Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Red What?

We're in London this week--yes, all week. We rented a posh apartment and are both working and playing. It's a nice change from the quick trips down from Cambridge and the dash to catch a train home at night. We'll update you more later but I just wanted to jot a quick note about a tidbit from our Sunday stroll among various markets. We stopped in a pub for an afternoon pint when I was taken aback by the T-shirt worn by the college-age bartender. It was Detroit Red Wings Stanly Cup championship shirt from the 90s. "I didn't expect to find a Wings fan here," I remarked. He looked puzzled so I pointed at the shirt and said "the hockey team. "Oh, that's funny. I had no clue who this was. I just bought the shirt someplace," he replied.

That's not the only time we've seen something American worn or said without the Brits having a clue what they're doing. Just yesterday the Guardian had an article lamenting the use of the baseball cliche "step up to the plate" by English politicians. Here's part of Duncan Campbell's rant: "This is what is so disturbing about "stepping up to the plate". Have the people who use it ever seen a baseball game? What's so great about stepping up to the plate anyway? You just put one foot in front of the other."

That's all for now--the inauguration is about to start and Obama is stepping up to the plate.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Business is tough

The [recession/economic downturn/global financial crisis/gloom and doom phrase of your choice] has definitely hit in England, with today's lead story being a proposal to nationalize the entire banking system to stimulate credit. On the high street (a phrase that can both generically refer to the main business/retail industries, and also to High Street, which is what the main street in most towns, villages, and cities is called), several big chains have gone out of business or into administration (basically the equivalent of bankruptcy) -- Woolworths, Zavvi (music store), Whittard of Chelsea (tea shop), Olan Mills, Pier (UK equivalent to Pier One), and Waterford Wedgwood, among others.

Some of those stores have Cambridge branches that are now closed. We live near Cambridge's first shopping mall. A shiny new mall has opened in the city centre, and the stores in the old mall and in the pedestrian streets around it are struggling, and independents are shutting down, too. I try when I can to use the small grocers and butchers instead of the posh and expensive Marks & Spencer food shop in the mall; now the M&S is closing.

Some aspects of Cambridge are business as usual. Last week the new term started, and the city centre was full of fresh young faces, suitcase in tow, college scarf wrapped around their necks. The open-air market was bustling with parents in town to drop of their kids. In my day job, we note that this is the time to take that class you've been meaning to take, improve your skills in the work you're doing now, take stock of all the jobs you're qualified to do but maybe haven't considered. Meanwhile, JT and I remain grateful for our jobs and our situation. And occasionally discuss whether our ability to order take-out is a transferrable skill.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

10,044 miles later ...

No, that's not our mileage for 2008. That's the tally for our two-week Christmas/New Year's trip to Detroit, San Antonio, and Washington. We had fantastic visits with family and friends at each stop. We truly relaxed -- which made starting back to work this week all the more difficult. Apologies for the silence -- we do hope to keep the blog current and lively as we enter our (gasp) third year in England. Just as soon as I get over this jet lag.