Monday, October 15, 2007

Nott's (not) so bad...

It's been 4 weeks since Dave and I moved into our flat in Nottingham and we're getting nicely acquainted with our new town. Dave has started classes, pursuing a Master's degree in journalism at one of the two nearby universities, and I have started work as a human resources assistant (temporary) in a college. My finding work so quickly after moving in was a bit of a surprise, but I'm pleased to be working in a field that I'm genuinely interested in. I've set up a bank account, Dave and I have registered our names for all possible utilities, and I'm on my way to securing a National Insurance number (comparable to Canada's SIN) and a health insurance card. We're getting used to living together and negotiating through the sometimes sticky terrain of co-habitating, but we're learning and growing stronger as a unit, and as individuals, with each passing day. For a pair of transplanted souls, we're doing nae bad.

I sometimes find it strange that we're living in the middle of England and it's more than a little disconcerting living amongst folks who speak like Harry Potter and Oliver Twist. What's most frightful to me is hearing little kids speaking English in their weird babyspeak. It reminds me of a horror movie for some reason and literally sends shivers up my spine. Anyhoo, I think I've taken to Nottingham quite nicely. It's quite the beautiful, old town. It's got cobbled streets, a wonderful market square (seen here at night), big, old trees to go along with the big, old houses, a castle, a legend (that of Robin Hood ,which I found out is a gross bastardization of the truth. Robin Hood was a bastard. More on that another time.), and tons and tons of fantastic shops. We live quite close to the city centre (about a 10 minute walk) in a beautifully appointed neighbourhood aptly named "The Park" and by all accounts, this is ideal place to live.


There are a few x's behind the name of Nottingham. For one, it's got the highest rate of gun crime in the UK. IN THE UK!! For a small island of over 60 million people, my adopted home is known all over as the place where there is a clear and present danger of getting a cap in the ass. But, to defend Nottingham, or Shottingham as it's sometimes lovingly referred to, it's not as bad as it seems. According to the Wiki article, Nottingham reported a spectacular 51 kills in 2003. For a town with a population of about 600,000 in a country where not even the cops carry guns, I suppose this was a lot. But I think it was a lot of sensationalistic reporting, though I wasn't here at the time. But things have calmed down, with the number of shootings falling to just 13 last year. It's good to know that people have gone back to stabbing and "glassing" one another.

My next gripe isn't really specific to Nottingham, and maybe not even England. It's the phenomenon that occurs on Friday and Saturday nights - the assholing of perfectly reasonable people. The women, who I think have such a fashionable way of carrying themselves, go through a horrifying slutification where they lose their good sense, their minds and their knickers come the weekend. I've seen women walking around in mini-mini dresses, garter belts and panty hose in the name of hen (bachelorette) parties and cleavage like you wouldn't believe. To be fair, women here are definitely NOT shy about showcasing their bosom. I went to a recruitment agency to get registered and the woman who was serving me was wearing a blouse that was too tight and too see through. I had to really focus on keeping my eyes on her face. I don't know, is it just me? I've seen my share of cleavage in my native Montreal, but here it's so OBVIOUS. Maybe because English ladies seem to be particularly well-endowed...? Of course, this observation and slight discomfort is further exaggerated by living in Japan for the past two years and seeing nothing but cotton/silk/wool up to the neckline.

Another thing that I'm adapting to is the drinking culture. In Montreal, you drink for pleasure, in Japan you drink to socialize, and in the UK you drink to get stinking assed drunk. To quote David, "So you see, it's not just my problem, it's society's problem." With recent articles and studies reporting that British people have a high incidence of problems related to heavy drinking (illness, unprotected casual sex, pregnancy), it's a big deal. Friday and Saturday nights are prime time for drinking and you'd be hard pressed not to see signs of binge drinking all over the place. To add to this, it seems that British males get highly aggressive when drunk (must be a throwback from all that historic war mongering). Take for example what happened a couple of Saturdays ago: Dave and I were on our way home from a lovely (and expensive) dinner at an Indian restaurant and we were weaving our way through the crowds of under-dressed, over-intoxicated folk. We were focusing on a particular group of mutton dressed as lamb (grown assed women wearing outfits meant for children) when this guy, a bloke with big ears and a surly expression, was looking at Dave with cold dead eyes and said: "You lil' prick."! This was an unprovoked attack and the ferocity of his conviction caught me so off guard that I burst out laughing! I couldn't help it. I'm still laughing about it nearly two weeks later. What a twat.*

Well, that's it for now. I've been remarking about the food culture here lately so I'll be sure to post something about that soon. Til next time!

* "Twat" doesn't mean the same thing here as it does back home. It means stupid or idiot. It still tastes like acidic glass on my tongue when I attempt to say it though. Incidentally, I'm doing alright with "cunt" (which means bastard or asshole)though it still burns my ears from time to time.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The journey continues...

The two months I spent in Montreal seemed to pass by in a blur. From late nights out, eating all my favourite food with all my favourite people, to hours upon hours spent by myself trying to put together all the different pieces of me, I had an amazing, if not short, time in Montreal. I also had a chance to spend a week in Toronto and a couple of days in Ottawa. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, yours truly was a busy little beaver.

Alas, all the fun in games in my home city came to an end on September 15th when my little sister, mother and I drove to Ottawa for me to board my flight to Glasgow. The following morning, I arrived in ye olde country, into the arms and the home of the one I love, and officially began my tenure in the UK.

There were so many things to take in: seeing the Hot Scot again after 7 weeks apart, meeting his family for the first time, realizing that I'll be living in a new country and seeing as much of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas as possible. Needless to say, it was a busy week, but it went really, really well. You know when you're filled with anxiety about something, then you do it and it was successful and then you're all like, "ahhhhhh"? Yeah, it was like that. I was as happy as a pig in shit.

Scotland was beautiful and green and cloudy skies and intermittent rain and castles and people saying "y'awright?" I visited some authentic British pubs, perused the aisles of Top Shop, saw a hell of a lot of sheep, got to see where my beloved was from, was awed by a bagpiper busker, and lots of various things that I'm grateful I took pics of, or else would have forgotten. It took my leaving it to realize that I was actually in Scotland. I can't wait to go back at Christmas.

On September 22, Dave and I moved on to stage two and drove a rented van 7 hours from the south of Scotland to the middle of England. The country side was breathtaking. I will put up some pics on Facebook, but I saw the rolling hills that I've come to expect from such films as Braveheart and Trainspotting...okay, maybe not the latter though I did walk down the same street in Edinburgh that Ewan McGregor ran down at the beginning of the film. Yeah, as a total movie nerd, I was pretty excited.

And that's me. 10 weeks summarized in just a few paragraphs. I've seen a lot of things and have written many posts in my head regarding my first impressions of the rose country. I will be updating this blog with more frequent (and shorter) posts and pics of all the interesting things I see and do. I probably won't go on any trips until the new year, but I'm sure there's plenty to see and do in the town I've just settled in. Stay with me as I continue on this path to...I don't know where, self-actualization? Enlightenment? Jewellery from all over the world? We shall see.