Sunday, 26 August 2007

Lament for the Sunday paper ritual

Oh, how I miss it. I woke up this morning, clinging to a waking dream of being able to step outside the door and scoop up a thick Sunday newspaper, darting back inside before the neighbors could see me in my wrinkled Old Navy sleep pants and T-shirt.

I'd go inside and climb into bed next to Cutie-Pie and we'd snuggle under the covers and divide up the sections. He'd skip straight to the opinion section to mull big issues and world events, and I'd grab the A section and make a show of reading through the headlines before tackling my real first choice: the sales papers. Because I care what's going on the world, but the sales at Target have more of a direct impact on my life. Besides, Sweetie will discuss the news with me while I browse the Lifestyle section.

In my fading memory, the Sunday paper is thick, heavy. There is section after I don't know how many sections, and that's before I pull out the hefty plastic bag holding all the sales papers and the Sunday magazine and whatever else sold some ads so they stuffed that in, too. I worked Sundays in the States, so we only got to enjoy the luxury of curling up together over the paper a few times that I happened to have the day off. We looked forward to a time when I would have all Sundays off and we could talk over the news and sales and new books and movies in bed on a Sunday morning (or afternoon) and get our hands stained with newsprint and tickle each other as we swapped sections and know that it was $1.50 well spent.

Now we live in England. I have all my Sundays off. But the Sunday paper isn't the glorious event here that it was in the States. At $4, it isn't cheap, either. It isn't even delivered to our home.

Sweetie went to a news agent when we got here (that's your basic news stand with mags, newspapers, fatty snacks and overpriced soft drinks). He was told you can get papers delivered at home, but it costs more than buying it in the store and apparently isn't done often as you see no ads for home subscription here, no papers awaiting readers on neighbors' doorsteps. And there goes part of the joy of the Sunday paper, being that it was a bargain and you could collect it at your doorstep without having to get dressed, brush your tangled locks, go out and generally wake yourself up more than you wanted to on a lazy Sunday morning. It usually cost less to have it home delivered in the States, or at the very worst, it was the same price as trudging out to buy one in a store or newspaper box. Not so here. If you can manage to get it brought to your door, you apparently pay more for the privilege.

And it's not much of a privilege, considering the Sunday papers here. They've pretty much all gone to tabloid format, one big section that I'm sure is easier to read on a train or bus or carry home from the store as you walk several blocks with the groceries you have to go buy every few days because the refrigerators here are too small to load up in one big shop.

So dividing the sections is out, unless you buy the Sunday London Times, which is the only paper all week where the Times isn’t a tabloid. And there’s no comics. And the sales papers, what a luxury we took for granted all those years! There are no sale papers in the British newspapers except for ones about pricey furniture, no coupons, no way to discover huge rebates at electronics stores on items I never knew I wanted until I found out it was only $20 after rebates. They have sales here, but not big ones, no we've-got-to-rush-out-and-get-that ones, not the ones that stores have when they've got a huge country of competitors breathing down their necks. England's a small country; you can pay either twice as much for things as you would in the U.S. or you can leave it on the shelf. Those are the choices, and the stores don't care much which way you decide. Shoppers are a captive audience competition-wise on most things. No need for big rebates and coupons, this is England. You're not going to get it so shut up already.

And so it's Sunday morning here; I'm not at work, I'd love to be snuggled up with my honey chatting over the news and comics and sales and tickling each other. But that's not the English Sunday morning. Instead, we each turn on our laptops and browse the news. Not that I'm missing out on chances to snuggle and talk and play with my sweetie, we do that every day. But a leisurely morning taking apart a big, juicy virgin paper waiting to be defiled by our eager hands isn't part of our Sundays like we dreamed. Did you know that an inexpensive, thick, sale-paper laden Sunday paper delivered to your door is part of the American dream, the American way of life? Neither did I. But it is, and I miss it.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Music to my ears

On Wednesday, Hubby and I hit a local pub for a little live music. It was just the kind we love -- close and free! It was in the 3Bs pub in Reading Town Hall (and it still cracks me up that there is a pub in town hall!).

The show consisted of a pretty young singer, her sound equipment, and some CDs for backup music. Rochelle Parker had a nice voice and even some good original songs, though most of her sets were covers, which is what most crowds want to hear in a bar. Wait, did I say crowd? More like about 10 people.

One of the 10 was a rather drunk bloke that for some reason I had thought was a masculine woman with a short haircut ... until he came over, leaned on the back of my chair, and began loudly giving his critique of the show! He hated the singer's voice, said she had no stage presence, but sure, he'd f*** her! Those where his words, that he repeated a few times. My husband and I just said we liked the show and then tried to ignore him. Which was hard, as there was a bit of a BO issue. Ugh.

But he finally wandered off to harass others, and Hubby and I just enjoyed having a drink and listening to music in a low-key atmosphere. It was nice to get out, something us homebodies rarely do.

Monday, 6 August 2007

English summers are not so hot

Summer finally appears to have settled over England. And "summer" for this country means that it's in the upper 60s most days, sometimes drifting gently up to the mid 70s, accompanied by a cool breeze. On Sunday it hit 80, but the cool breeze was still there, and it was overall very pleasant. To me, at least. I spent most of my life in Alabama, where currently in the central part of the state the temperature is 97 degrees -- but feels like 104. Which means that the "summer" weather here is what I used to refer to as "winter" (before I moved to D.C., anyway).

I still wear a light denim jacket every time I go out (and sometimes a hat to hold heat in my noggin), except for the day it hit 80. A couple of weeks ago we went to the park, and it was so cold (by our standards) that we left quickly. As we lay on our blanket shivering and trying to enjoy the free concert before the chill chased us away, I looked around -- one man was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and eating ice cream! I had on full-length jeans and my jacket and it was still too cold for me to handle. Hubby was chilly too, and wishing he had brought a sweater.

My British friend, Shaun, recently wrote me that it's too hot for him now that "summer" has arrived. Wow. One could draw from this that people really do get acclimated to the weather, whether it's the heat of Alabama or the icy cold of Alaska. But it could also mean the Brits are some type of sophisticated cyborgs whose circuitry quickly overheats in the sunlight, causing them to require cooler temperatures or else suffer system overload. It could happen. ;>