Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Size matters

Since the vast majority of my clothes and shoes are still on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, as far as I know, I have had to do a little shopping. One of the challenges of shopping, however, has been figuring out, all over again, what size I am.

For shoes, sizes are roughly two sizes smaller.

For dresses and trousers (not pants!), you're a size larger. So if you're normally a 6 in the U.S., you're an 8 in the U.K. That's pants! Why can't it be the other way round?

Stay tuned for more random fashion rants...


Pounds vs. dollars

Who ends up on coinage and paper money says a lot about a country. So let's do a quick rundown of who's on certain denominations of pounds, compared with dollars.

One pound coin vs. $1 bill
Two pound coin vs. $2 bill
Five pound note vs. $5 bill
Ten pound note vs. $10 bill
Twenty pound note vs. $20 bill

They put scientists and social reformers on their money (and OK, the Queen, but she HAS to be on there, it's one of the perks of the job), while we put old dead politicians on ours. Plus, their money is pretty!

Free association Tuesday

The following images are connected in a very real and thematic way. Can you name it?

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

(Wild guesses are encouraged.)

It's the coat I was born to wear

Image hosting by Photobucket

Twenty-five pounds from a vendor at Old Spitalfield Market. It's an old Soviet coat, complete with hammer-and-sickle buttons on the belt. The front secures with hook and eye closures, probably because it was cheaper. The closures only go down to about sternum level, to allow the bottoms to swing rhythmically as you goose-step across Red Square. Take off the commie buttons, slap a Harrod's label on the inside, and it would sell for 200 pounds.

Anyway, it's like wearing a blanket. I almost don't want winter to go away because the coat and I get along so well. I no longer fear the winds on Highgate Hill.

The Brits all scream for ice cream

Yes, we are food-obsessed, but this is merely an observation:

I have seen more people consume ice cream outdoors in the middle of winter in the space of six weeks here than I have in my entire life preceding the move. At last week's British Cross Country Championship, as I turned away from the finish, shivering, to walk home, I saw a guy putting about half of an ice-cream cone into his mouth.

According to this document, UK residents consume less than half of the ice cream per capita that Americans do, and less than one-third of our fellow Anglophones, the Kiwis. Perhaps the English are only eating it during the winter, which makes no sense at all.

Things I thought I'd never have to do ...

1. Explain to an Englishman where Serbia and Montenegro are.

2. Explain to an Englishman that neither is close to Lithuania.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Television ...

... teacher, mother, secret lover.

(For the first time in a month, we got to watch TV tonight. Three Simpsons, two Scrubs. Ahh.)

Monday scooterblogging

Image hosting by Photobucket

Yesterday afternoon, Tabernacle Street.

Light blogging again ...

Getting a lot of work is good news/bad news. I won't be able to blog much this week once again. I have some thoughts on the continuing saga of English customer (dis)service I'd like to blog, and a few other bits, but I may be locked down with several deadlines this week.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

British national cross country championship

Image hosting by Photobucket

By coincidence, while trying to look for some running races to enter, I learned this morning that the British national cross country championships were being held today in Hampstead Heath, which is my backyard since I no longer actually own a backyard.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Those of you who know me know that running has been part of my life for 26 years now, which is roughly two-thirds of my life. The discipline of cross country is the passion, though. Nothing in running is as much fun as cross country. Tragically, however, my spikes are inside a box, which is inside a crate, which is inside a shipping container, somewhere between here and Felixstowe. So it probably would have been a bad idea to go out and run with these chaps.

Image hosting by Photobucket

No way I could have kept up with them.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Or maybe ...

Image hosting by Photobucket

... I could have been somewhere in the middle of the field?

Image hosting by Photobucket

Most assuredly.

But never mind that. It's time to watch the action. Here are the runners at about halfway through the 12 kilometer (7.5 mile) course.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Notice the tape snapping in the wind. If you weren't running, it was pretty windy and cold out there. If you were running, it was pretty windy.

Here's your winner. I think they said his name is Peter Riley.

Image hosting by Photobucket

And the reward of a job well done.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Friday, February 24, 2006

English as a second language, yet again

Pear-shaped: Americans use it to describe somebody who's fat in the hip region, thin elsewhere.

The British use it to describe something that, through no fault of anyone, turns into a disaster.

(Oddly, this is related to our efforts to get a TV. I won't try to explain, because it's just too complicated.)

Working for Free

Are you British? If you are, the Trades Union Congress claims that you've been working for free until today because of the amount of unpaid overtime workers log in the UK. So today, the TUC is urging employees to work only their contractually obligated hours.

(Mrs. Werbenmanjensen went in even earlier today.)

As for me, I have a name for the work that I do for free. It's called "blogging."

Friday Viewblogging

Image hosting by Photobucket

View from the Archway Bridge.

The rocket-ship shaped building on the far left is the Gherkin, an ambitious building with a troubled past. The dome on the far right is St. Paul's Cathedral.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

You eat what on toast? (cont'd)

Image hosting by Photobucket

Commenter schmutz (whoever she is) is taunting me with this.

Fun with maps!

Image hosting by Photobucket

The London Underground map is an iconic symbol, mimicked by many, equalled by none. You can find it on T-shirts, teacups, coffee mugs, purses, overnight bags, pencil cases and various other touristy tchotsckes. D.C. has attemted to duplicate the iconography of the Tube map with T-shirts and mouse pads of its Metro map, but as with many things, nothing matches the original. (And I've never seen anything similar for New York's subways or Chicago's El. Readers can correct me on this point if I'm wrong.)

And as with all things iconic, the Tube map spawns many fun imitators. A recent meme on London-centric blogs of late has been the variety of ways in which people have spoofed the Tube map. London Underground Tube Diary now has a map that supposes the various ways corporations could buy sponsorships of various stations, while London Geezer (Feb. 11 post) links a number of various other spoof maps, including one that is described as "sweary." (Do not click on the "sweary" link unless one can watch the Comedy Central show "Drawn Together" without gagging.) My favorite: the musical version.

Random photo of the day

Image hosting by Photobucket

The foot tunnel under Hyde Park Corner into Hyde Park contains a series of paintings giving an artist's rendition of the Battle of Waterloo. I choose to publish this one, because it's always the cost of warfare.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Two words

Spotted dick.

Yes, I ate this for the first time today. Not too shabby, for a "bread pudding."

Yes, I am food obsessed. You gotta problem wit dat?

You eat what on toast?

Image hosting by Photobucket

We here at Americans Amuck don't want to be accused of being
obsessed with food. But we may be leaving the impression that we are obsessed with food. So be it. If we're trying to understand a culture, understanding its cuisine is an important part of that. Could you understand the Italians without understanding pasta? The French without wine and gastropods? The Germans without ... uh, German potato salad? Oh, yeah, sausage is a German food. Anyway, all this leads me to the next conclusion: Understanding beans on toast may be an important part of understanding England.

Beans on toast has already made an appearance here (in the comments of this post). But in the most recent Time Out London (sorry, but the article is behind a pay-per-view wall), writers plunge into a growing controversy over beans on toast: How much should an eating establishment be able to charge for beans on toast, and is it allowable to "dress up" beans on toast?

For a dish that can be had for a few pence (or cents) worth of groceries, the notion that a restaurant in Shoreditch put beans on toast on its menu for four pounds 75 pence ($8.29, to you American readers) seems a little absurd. When Time Out questions him about it, one of the partners in the restaurant says, "If we can be bothered to make our own baked beans with our own tomato sauce--rather than opening up a can--we should be able to charge for it. If we were serving tinned baked beans we'd charge a lot less." Another restauranteur (at a different restaurant) chimes in, "If a restaurant is serving Heinz beans on toast and charging a fiver, that's wrong. But if they're own-made beans, then why not?"

As far as dressing up beans on toast is concerned, "comfort food expert" and published author Tom Norrington-Davies offers this thought to Time Out: "People only start jazzing things up when they've lost respect for them."

Evidently expressing its contempt, Time Out publishes suggestions from five chefs and food writers on their suggestions. One of them: "Bake the beans in the oven with a couple of eggs cracked over them and the lot covered in double cream."

It's gonna take me awhile to get into this dish. But anybody who can eat haggis ...
Image hosting by Photobucket
... and live to tell about it can probably handle beans on toast.

Wednesday Gravestoneblogging

Image hosting by Photobucket

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
If you come too late to see my bones
They'll lock you in with me, alone

(Lesson for all visitors: Don't wander into a London cemetery after 4 p.m.)

William Blake's remains are in Bunhill Cemetery, in (somewhat) Central London (technically in Islington). He shares a resting place with Isaac Watts, Susanna Wesley (mother of John and Charles), Daniel Defoe (but not Willem Dafoe), and John Bunyan.

Obviously, I did make it out of the cemetery. The attendant who failed to notice I was in the cemetery when he locked the gate finally noticed me as I was standing at the gate, considering how I could scale the fence to escape. It was one of those metal ones with the spikes at the top. I really didn't want to end up like the infamous "Spike Boy" of New York fame, so it was a relief to be able to walk out through an unlocked gate.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

There oughta be a law

The Keats Pub at the Globe on Moorgate Street was, and I quote, "out of fish and chips" this evening.

An English pub should not be "out of fish and chips." If it's not a violation of common law, it certainly is a bloggable offense.

("Out of beer" should be an offense worthy of state confiscation. Thankfully, they had lots of beer at the Keats Pub.)

This is commitment to a cause

From the Guardian (kinda NSFW):
If the certainty of having your collar felt, metaphorically of course, by the local police every few days is not enough to put you off walking the length of Britain naked, then the February wind blowing off the Pentland Firth should at least be a deterrent. So, as the Naked Rambler and his girlfriend finally arrived at the northernmost tip of Scotland yesterday, their first thoughts turned to clothes.

"Quick, get them on," said Stephen Gough to his partner, Melanie Roberts. It is a phrase that has been muttered, without success, by a good many people since the pair set out in their birthday suits from Land's End last June. The lady in the shop in Shropshire where they stopped to buy piccalilli said it. The kirk minister affronted at their flesh said it. The local magistrates said it. The prison governor said it. But where man failed, only nature could prevail.

Free-association Tuesday

The following three photos have a common theme. If you know what it is, answer in comments. The actual answer will be posted in comments tomorrow.

ADDED at 10:20: OK, looking at this again, it appears that the common theme is probably too easy (center and bottom photo are a giveaway) so you have to state what each photo has to do with the common theme.

No fair using Google, although I have no way to monitor use. If you want, scroll down and look to the right and you'll find a Google search button.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

Monday, February 20, 2006

My second-best friend

Image hosting by Photobucket

Mrs. Werbenmanjensen suggested as a headline for this post "The Best Technology the 1930s Has To Offer," but clearly this radio has transistors and thus is the best technology of the 1950s. In any case, this 5-quid radio from the DIY on Archway has become my new second-best friend (Mrs. W being my best friend, of course). While Mrs. W is able to immerse herself in the Englishisms in her new office culture, my interaction with the new culture consists of daily runs to the newsagent for a copy of the Guardian.

(It's ironic, but true, that I interact more with Americans on a daily basis than I do with Brits. This is the interconnected world we live in.)

At home, without a TV, I feel a little cut off from the culture I hope to immerse myself in. But at three and a half inches by two inches, the little radio pictured above is my way of hearing English accents and learning about the news of England that I'm not getting via the Guardian and online sources. I like listening to BBC 5 Live, simply because it is headline news and interviews, so I'm getting that news fix I so greatly need, and it puts me in touch with the culture I'm now a part of. But if I need to focus, such as when I'm trying to write something that requires concentration, I switch over to Radio 3, because there are fewer voices to distract me.

I guarantee we will have a TV within a fortnight. Mrs. W will not miss the Oscars.

I don't want a holiday in the sun

Today in the United States is President's Day, something the British will not be commemorating for obvious reasons: They won't want to celebrate the general who used volunteers to beat the best Army in the world, nor will they want to celebrate the president they tried to undermine in the midst of the Civil War.

As we mentioned before, in the UK it's a long slog between New Year's Day and the first bank holiday (Good Friday). And I can't really call in sick, because I'd just be calling into myself.

"Hi, Smitty, this is Smitty. I'm not feeling well today, so I don't think I'll be able to walk from the bedroom to the office."

Monday scooterblogging

Image hosting by Photobucket

The backstory: In my first visit to Camden, I walked past a scooter/motorcycle shop that had in front of it a scooter that was missing nearly all of its body panels--just a bare frame and wires spouting out of it. I stopped by the same shop last week looking for it, and it wasn't there. I should have take a picture of it the first time. I went inside and asked about it. The mechanic I asked was Czech. He asked, "You just want to see a wrecked scooter?" He waved me back into the workshop. "This was stolen. Just somebody out joyriding. I reported it to the police. A day after they found it intact, they called me. In that day, somebody came by and smashed it with a brick. It's my baby."

Lighter blogging this week

I have a couple of paying projects coming up this week, so I may not be able to blog as frequently. Please enjoy the links on the right if you're looking for bloggy goodness.

Also, I would note the following: I am about to submit an invoice for my most recent paid writing at a rate of about 53 cents (U.S.) a word (and that's low, given that I am charging a flat rate for the article and wrote more than is allotted for it). Based on that, last week, given that this blog delivered about 5,000 words, readers received nearly $2,700 worth of value--for free.

We're giving people.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Babyshambles and other bands I'd never heard of before

It's about time we had a post on the music scene here. While American acts like Madonna (or is she English now?), Bon Jovi and 50 Cent (yes, they're showing his movie here too) can be found on billboards around London, I am also seeing ads for bands I've never heard of before. Like Babyshambles.

Ok, the main reason I have heard of Babyshambles isn't because I heard them on the radio and loved their single "Killamangiro." It's because their lead singer was dating model Kate Moss when she allegedly snorted coke. Intrigued, I went to iTunes and sampled some music. Not bad.

Other UK acts that intrigue me (because they are getting a lot of press) are the Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, KT Tunstall and, well, Robbie Williams. He is like ridiculously popular and wealthy but is completely unknown in the U.S. It's not like he's less talented than Bon Jovi. Plus he's kinda cute!

Quick hit Crouch End photoblog

It kinda turned nasty out today, so there weren't a whole lot of good photo opportunities, but we did walk over to Crouch End for some window shopping.

The clock tower
Image hosting by Photobucket

And the artful demitasse (with an espresso macchiato) at Figo's cafe
Image hosting by Photobucket

I want my Babybel Babybel Babybel

To continue my obsession with the food here, let me say that one thing they do well here in spades is cheese. Sure, the cheese section of my local Whole Foods back in the U.S. had quite the assortment. But even the tiniest Tesco has Cheshire on the shelf. At the Pret a Manger, you can get a sandwich with Wensleydale on it (or is that at the Marks & Spencer?). And let's not forget those mini Babybels. Like Mr. Pibb + Red Vines, they're crazy delicious!

But still no substitute for Chipotle... Oh, how I long for your guacamole goodness! I love those burritos like McAdams loves Gosling! I guess I'll just have to buy some stock and hope I can make enough mint to open my own here.

This Bud's for you

London--the Land of Many Beers. Walk into any free house and be stunned at the staggering lineup of ales, pale ales, stouts, bitters, German hefeweissens, scrumpy ciders ... and alongside it all, Budweiser.

Yes, Budweiser is shockingly popular here. I thought the English attitude about American beer was summed up in the Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl when Professor Bruce of the University of Woollomoolloo compares American beer to making love in a canoe: It's f---ing close to water. But there Budweiser is, a watery, bland, beechwood-aged disappointment alongside the Abbott Ale, Fuller's Pride Bitter and Scrumpy Jack cider.

There's a European connection, of course: The Wikipedia entry on Budweiser notes that Budweiser is merely an adjective that describes anything that comes from the Czech city České Budějovice (in German, it's known as Budweis). As a beer, budweiser is a style of lager that has been brewed in Budweis since 1265. A company in Budweis manufactures a brand called Budweiser Budvar, which of course has made it the target of always-litigious U.S. corporate lawyers, according to Wikipedia:
Although Budějovický Budvar was founded in the 13th century, Anheuser-Busch claims it has only been distributing Budweiser as a commercial brand since 1895, 19 years after the Budweiser brand was first brewed by Anheuser-Busch. The Czech company contends that its history, and thus its claim to the Budweiser name, goes back even further. King Otakar II of Bohemia granted independent brewers in the city of Budweis the right to produce beer as early as 1265. They did so in a style that became known as "Budweiser," much as beers brewed in the fashion of another Czech city, Plzeň (German: Pilsen), are referred to as "Pilsner", the company says.

In many countries, the beer produced by Budějovický Budvar is the only beer that may be sold as "Budweiser" - in those countries, the American Budweiser is usually marketed as "Bud." Since both Budějovický Budvar and Anheuser-Busch have trademarks for the name "Budweiser", they have been party to many lawsuits in a number of countries. In some places where it competes with the American Budweiser it is marketed with the names Budvar and Budweiser Budvar.

Budějovický Budvar recently started having limited distribution in the USA and Canada under the name Czechvar

Budweiser of course has purchased itself some visibility. Note a small advertisement in this photo from Piccadilly Circus:
Image hosting by Photobucket

That's right: U.S. Budweiser is the official beer of the FA Premier League. That would be like Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais being the official beverage of the NFL.

If ever there was a reason for a soccer riot, that would be it.

Unguided tour

Time Out London told us, with great confidence, that there would be "Blue Badge walking guides" outside the Leicester Square Tube station (and seven others) leading guided walking tours around various neighborhoods ("part of (Mayor) Ken Livingstone's scheme to make London the walking capital of the world by 2012," Time Out told us. "You'll find them--holding blue balloons for easy identification.")

This is more or less what we found when we got out at Leiscester Square:
Image hosting by Photobucket
But no blue balloons.

But we have our Mini London A-Z atlases! We don't need no steenking bahdges! So we set off toward Trafalgar Square for a look at Admiral Nelson's column, wondering why we couldn't find the blue balloons in Leicester Square.

Oh. I wonder if this has anything to do with it ...
Image hosting by Photobucket

Ah yes, the second demonstration in three weeks, about cartoons published in a newspaper in another country, five months ago. At least nobody dressed up like a suicide bomber this time, because that's about as funny as pancreatic cancer around here.

(Note: My favorite sign was "Jesus and Mohammed: Prophets of Islam." I honestly think that was an intention on the part of the sign holder to make friends with Christians, only I think it will fall flat with most Christians given that most Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Prophet? Son of God? Big difference.)

So, we decided to try to move away from the hubbub and were surprised to learn that Texas actually does view itself as a separate country after all ...
Image hosting by Photobucket

Note: Maybe that'll be a good location for Mrs. Werbenmanjensen to satisfy her jones for a burrito.

Here's a statue of Robert F. Scott ...
Image hosting by Photobucket

... whose fate, I hope, was different than will be the fate of Ben Saunders and his teammate Tony, who I met last week.

Into St. James Park, where we got directions to the place where we're not allowed to fight ...
Image hosting by Photobucket

... saw a coot ...
Image hosting by Photobucket

... but not a curmudgeon, and got this nifty view of the London Eye ...
Image hosting by Photobucket

... over top some of the government buildings in Westminster.

St. James Park naturally leads us toward Buckingham Palace ...
Image hosting by Photobucket

... fronted by this rather stern sculpture of Queen Victoria ...
Image hosting by Photobucket

... which captures in marble her performance in the screen test for the "Life and Times of Carry Nation" ...
Image hosting by Photobucket

Buckingham Palace naturally led us toward Hyde Park, where, despite temperatures around 7C, park-goers were out on the water ...
Image hosting by Photobucket

... and the flowers were still pretty.
Image hosting by Photobucket

It was at this time a slight drizzle began to fall, so we wandered back toward Speakers Corner, where we discovered that, uh, the earlier demonstration had marched there because, well, demonstrators speak. Or something. We plunged into the Tube and came home.

Mayor Ken doesn't have to try hard to make London a great walking city. It already is. With a map in hand, anybody can come out of a Tube station in Central London and stumble over centuries of history.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Speaking of customer (dis)service

A propos of my post yesterday on poor customer relations at English banks, London Geezer has a good one on Tube staff customer service (scroll down to the Feb. 5 post).

Saturday rainblogging

Image hosting by Photobucket

The busy West End on a drizzly Saturday night.

T-shirt ideas

We're thinking about making Cafe Press T-shirts to market Americans Amuck. Some slogans under consideration:

"The Epiglottis Stops Here."

"Now With Less Mayo!"

Mrs. W doesn't like another of my proposals: "Who is Smitty Werbenmanjensen and Why is He Taking Pictures of my Motorscooter?"

Ideas, readers?

Friday, February 17, 2006

English customer (dis)service

I like almost everything about the British so far--but they have a lot to learn about customer service. Mrs. Werbenmanjensen has summed it up so far when she said (I'm paraphrasing here) she understands now where a lot of the Monty Python sketches come from, because the English (particularly their banks) are a maw of useless bureaucracy and paperwork.

Mrs. Werbenmanjensen's employer has a close relationship with a bank that, in theory, made it easy for her to open an account without first obtaining the archaic letter of credit (mind you, in the United States we owned a house now valued at a half-a-million dollars, among other assets, but never mind that, we're in England now, and they're evidently incapable of pushing the necessary computer buttons that will allow them to find our paper trail). This bank has been nothing but a burr under our saddles for the better part of the month we've been here.

Now, for reasons that are a little bit too complicated to explain even in a longish blog post, Mrs. W has suffered more from this than I have. But as an example of the silliness: When I arrived, Mrs. W had, of necessity, already opened a bank account. I needed to be added to the account once I arrived, however. We went over there to the branch near her office. Now, it was a busy downtown branch at lunch hour, so a long wait was somewhat expected. There were forms to fill out, sure, that's understandable. But at the conclusion of the form-filling-out, the clerk asks, "Now I'll need to see some proof of address."

Mrs. W and I look at each other dumbfounded.

The clerk continues: "Since you're not married ..."

We say in unison: "We are married."

Now, in our real lives, Mrs. W and I don't have the same last names, but we've never been asked to prove this to anybody. But oh no--this is an English bank, so I have to present a marriage certificate to them. (I expected this of immigration when I arrived, but not the freaking bank. Immigration was easier: They just asked, "Who's the work permit holder?" and then didn't even bother to check that.)

Today was a breaking point for me. I've received neither debit card nor credit card for this account, so I'm more or less reliant on Mrs. W to give me my allowance and do things like pay for dinner and such. While I'm a sensitive 21st century man, and I realize it's community property, it's still nice to "buy" your wife dinner, and I'm sure it's annoying for her to keep having to give me cash. I have U.S. credit cards--but the account backing one of them is being kept alive only to pay a couple of things in the states and is dwindling rapidly. I can't use them online because the cards are associated with a U.S. address. In addition to that, the UK has moved over to the chip and pin cards, rendering my U.S. cards somewhat obsolete. In short, I need UK cards.

So I call the hell spawn at this bank to ask them where my cards are. We have the usual security questions: full name, then date of birth. And then this question: Can I name a transaction since the last statement?"

Me: "Does a deposit count?" (I made one two days ago)
Hell Spawn: "It must be a debit."
Me: "Well, you see, there's a problem with that in that I can't possibly make a debit because I don't have a card."
Hell Spawn: "You need to have that in order for me to be able to answer any questions about the account."
Me: "I can't possibly do that because I haven't made any transactions, because I don't have my cards. That's what I'm calling about."
Hell Spawn: "If you can confirm from your partner ..."
Me (bright idea--try The Magic Customer Service Words): "Can I speak to a manager?"
Hell Spawn: "He's going to ask the same questions."
Me: "Can I speak to a manager?"
Hell Spawn: "He's going to ask the same questions."
Me: "Can I speak to a manager?"
Hell Spawn: "Hold on."

Silence. No comforting Muzak.

Hell Spawn: "My manager says he will ask you the same questions."
Me: "Can I speak to a manager?"
Hell Spawn: "My manager says he will ask you the same questions."
Me: "Are you telling me I can't speak to a manager?"
Hell Spawn: "He'll ask you the same questions."
Me: "Are you telling me I can't speak to a manager."
Hell Spawn: "He stepped out."
Me: "So I can't talk to a manager."
Hell Spawn: "He'll ask you the same questions."
Me: "Can I speak to a manager then?"
Hell Spawn: "He stepped ou--"

It was at that point I ended the conversation.

Seriously: It was kind of like a cross of the Python cheese shop sketch and the dead parrot sketch. What I really wish is that it had been the room for hit-on-the-head lessons, only I wanted to hold the hammer.

Labels: ,

More on John Wesley

BBC 5 radio just interviewed Jim Wallis, who named as his heroes Martin Luther King and John Wesley because of their pursuit of social justice.

Meet John Nash

John Nash was the royal architect for George IV. He left his mark on the city by designing Regent's Park and creating a grand boulevard on Regent Street, a project that, A Traveler's History of London says, "required the demolition of 700 small shops and houses."

Nash, the history says, was not formally educated in architecture, nor had he traveled extensively to study the great buildings of the world, but he was "in many was as vulgar, flashy, and affected as his royal master, (and) was similarly a man of vision and bravura style."

Image hosting by Photobucket

This church, All Souls, is a Nash-designed edifice on Langham Place where Regent Street curves into Portland Place. It's a bit of a running joke among architects for its jarring jumble of styles--the pointed spire on top of a Roman-style portico. The traveler's history quotes Prince Puckler-Muskau making observations about All Soul's:
The church, for instance, which serves as point de vue to Regent St, ends in a ridiculous spire ... It is a strange architectural monster.

Friday viewblogging

Image hosting by Photobucket

You can't see my house from here, but you can see Central London from here.

Taken Tuesday in Waterlow Park, the "garden for the gardenless," a few steps from our flat.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Now with less mayo!

I went to a nearby sandwich joint today, one I go to often. I didn't want to go there, but I was forced to by a freak hailstorm. As I scanned the shelves of pre-made sandwiches for the one that would fill my belly, I spied the classic club sandwich, advertised as "now with less mayo." In the U.S., that would not be advertised. The proprietor of the establishment would hope no one would notice that he was skimping on the creamy white stuff.

As I munched my lower-fat lunch, safe from the small pellets of ice descending on businessmen who were walking sans umbrellas as if this happened everyday, I felt a yearning deep within. A feeling as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I wanted Chipotle.

What I wouldn't give for some spicy shredded beef, braised with chipotle adobo, smothered with guacamole, sour cream, salsa and wrapped in a tortilla. Mmmmmmmmm. Mmm. I love Chipotle! Sigh. Excuse me while I go eat my toad in the hole and drink my Pimms and coke now.

Another new doohickey

I've added a new link to the blogroll on the right: RightCrossPuns. I have a feeling that GaryK, the author of that blog, would not see eye-to-eye with me on a lot of political issues, but he does us a kindness by listing us, so I shall return the kindness. I will note for the record that I'm just as surprised as everybody else to find myself listed so close to National Review, and I have a feeling that William F. Buckley would be spinning in his grave over such an event right now if he didn't continue to cheat death by harvesting the organs of poor children. (I keed, I keed!)

In any case, welcome to the Americans Amuck blogroll, RightCrossPuns. As with my cautionary notes about the two political blogs that precede RightCrossPuns in the blogroll, if you fear you might be offended by any of the discussion over there, please don't click the link. We are not responsible for what goes on over there. We just happen to like the guy.

Yes, it's true ...

Where's our stuff! (cont'd)

Customs form C3 from HM Customs and Excise asks if we've brought in the following products:
-- Spirits
-- Wine
-- Perfume/toilet water

Leaving aside the jokes I could make about toilet water--wait, wait, here's one: I had to bring the toilet water in because English toilets are so lousy--I haven't the faintest idea of whether and how much in spirits were packed by our movers. That is in part because I had to patrol the house making sure they didn't pack things we can't use in the UK, but also because I didn't know they would ask that!

I'm gonna give it a best guess. I just wish they'd asked about stuff we weren't bringing in.

Meet John Wesley

Image hosting by Photobucket

As readers of this blog may have figured out (from this post), I am Roman Catholic. I was not born to it, however. Baptized and raised United Methodist (half my family remains in the church), I was after that (in order) atheist, agnostic, Presbyterian, too lazy to go to church, agnostic (again), Buddhist, and finally, Catholic. Mrs. Werbenmanjensen, who is Catholic like she is an oxygen breather (she can't imagine life without either), awakened me to the joy of the Original Christian Church, and while I sometimes question the judgment of the Church's leaders--to the point where I sometimes consider the Society of Friends next--I am usually happy the Church let me in.

But I always delight when during Mass we sing what I consider "Methodist" hymns because they were among the 6,500 written by Charles Wesley, brother of Methodism founder John Wesley. One thing I enjoyed most about going to our little Methodist church growing up was the singing, and even though I don't sing well (although some people ask that I sing solo--so low you can't hear it) I liked that almost everybody in the tiny congregation actually sang. (Most Catholic congregations in my experience are, at best, unenthusiastic singers.) So suffice it to say that when I learned from A Traveler's History of London the Wesleys' base of operations in London--the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Square of Methodism, if you will--had been preserved, I knew I had to pay my respects.

Image hosting by Photobucket

I suppose I should have learned about the history of the church in Sunday school, but I was probably too busy undressing the girls in my class with my eyes.

Like the original Christians and Judaism, the Wesleys did not want to break away from the Church of England, but wanted to re-energize it from within, believing it moribund and undemanding of its parishioners.

Wikipedia's entry on John Wesley notes that Methodism "was the first widely successful evangelical movement in the United Kingdom." The focus was on the formation of small groups of believers (indeed, Charles founded a prayer group at Oxford later joined by John that was referred to derisively as the "holy club" or "the Methodists," the second because of their methodical habits) and traveling preachers who spoke in open fields (because early in their evangelism the parish churches were closed to them). Wikipedia notes:
These open-air services were very successful; and (Wesley) never again hesitated to preach in any place where an assembly could be got together, more than once using his father's tombstone at Epworth as a pulpit. He continued for fifty years — entering churches when he was invited, and taking his stand in the fields, in halls, cottages, and chapels, when the churches would not receive him.

Image hosting by Photobucket

The split with the Church of England came after the American Revolution, Wikipedia says.
the Church of England cut off its American members and refused to ordain ministers for them. Wesley sent Thomas Coke to be superintendent of the Methodist people in America, but since Coke was not a bishop, this role put him at odds with the Anglican Church's principle of Episcopalian church governance. Coke and other early American Methodist leaders subsequently formed the Methodist Episcopal Church. Wesley, however, never ceased to be or to act as a priest of the Church of England and died an Anglican. He chartered the first Methodist Church on February 28, 1784.

Image hosting by Photobucket

When he died, the movement had 135,000 members and 541 ministers who called themselves Methodists.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Today, it is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States, with 8.6 million members. There are 11 million members worldwide.