M is for Mailbox

Cue music…

I used to say post it, now I say mail it,

I used to say postman, but now I say mailman,

I used say post office,  but now I say… um… hang on a mo. Cancel the music. What do I say nowadays?

Actually I still say post office. In one of the many quirks of transatlantic differences in English, although I can now only send and receive mail (not post – a post here is a thing sticking out of the ground) I send it using the United States Postal Service (USPS). But what I never do, is pick up my letters from the door mat because I don’t have a letterbox. I have a mailbox instead.

The best thing about having a mailbox is that it comes with a red lever on the side. If I want to post (mail!) a letter and I have the right stamp, I can pop it in my own mailbox and lift up the lever. That tells my mailman to pick up as well as drop off my… mail. The worst thing about it is going out to get the mail in the rain – a first world problem, I know. But what I love about mailboxes is the whole world of opportunity for self-expression out there – in mailbox choices. Here’s a snapshot of the range available, all spotted during our dog walk yesterday. It made me think of this guy:

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So let’s start with the GOOD ones we saw. There was this one. This was my favourite:

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Now we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so to allow for variance in taste, I will also add this one:

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I don’t love it and suspect it might be their summer mailbox. Yes. I kid you not. People have seasonal mailbox in these parts. I am not making that up. Anyway, that goes in the good category, I think, along with this one:

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I have NO idea why there is a mummy mailbox and three little baby mailboxes here, but it does look cute and there are many examples of shared mailboxes (although generally they are all of a similar size). This one I thought looked good.

But what about the BAD mailboxes? Lots of them are pretty bad to be honest. Ours is just a metal can on a stick. It wobbles and is so boring I couldn’t be bothered to take a photo of it. Everyone else on our little street, however, has one like this. I don’t like ’em. Way too much function. No sign of aesthetic taste whatsoever:

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This is a bad mailbox. And it is common. We even spotted one with no house anywhere in sight. What’s that all about then??

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And finally I have my two offerings for UGLY. These two are on the same road, almost directly opposite each other. I wonder which came first. Is there a story here – of neighbourhood tension and one-upmanship perhaps?

The one of the left is a slab of something. Slate? I’m not sure. Anyway it’s ridiculous. And the one on the right seems to me to be taking stone-cladding to a whole new and hilarious level. Both ugly. But which is the worst? You decide.

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L is for Letterman

Some days – not everyday – it’s all a bit like living in a movie. Normally I feel this way when people start talking about their country club membership (think Caddyshack) or proms and homecoming (think Grease, Back to the Future, Peggy Sue got married etc etc). But this weekend, Child 1 brought home this:

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It’s a furry letter. About 8 inches tall. And all I could think of was this:

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See that jacket Emilio Estavez is wearing? That’s a letterman jacket and above that, is the furry letter that Child 1 has brought home because he’s on the school swim team. Here is what Wikipedia has to tell me about Letter jackets with some my comments…

“Letter jackets are almost never purchased before a student has earned a letter. (What the?? Now I have to buy the jacket??) In schools where only varsity letters are awarded this is usually the practice in a student’s junior or senior year. (No idea what THAT means!) Recently, however, many student athletes have been awarded letters during their sophomore and sometimes freshman year, (Yes! He’s a freshman. This bit applies to me) leading to the need for a jacket much sooner. (Oh Marvellous! – said with heavy sarcasm) Still, the actual jacket isn’t usually purchased until the sophomore year at least. (Wait… what?) In schools where junior varsity letters are awarded, (and how do I know about that??) the jacket may be purchased by junior varsity letter recipients, though the letter is placed just above the left pocket, leaving space for a future varsity letter.” (Seriously? This is way too complicated. It’s a minefield!!)

For those who want to know (and I can’t imagine there are many of you) Child 1 has informed me that at his school – the name of which begins with the letter U – if you are on the American Football team, you get given the jacket in your Junior Year (second last year at school) with the letter already on it. This is good. No sewing or purchasing required. On the other hand, he also said that the boys are given the jacket at the end of year banquet and – wait for it – each boy’s mother gets up and puts the jacket on their son!!! Oh my. I can barely wait. Already gritting my teeth over it.

Funny side note. Last night there was an advert (commercial) on the TV where they played “Don’t You forget About Me” by Simple Minds. “Oh!” pipes up Child 3. “That’s from that movie – The Breakfast Bunch” Aaah. Our own little Mrs Malaprop 😉

L is for Lip Dub

Oh my, I feel old! I have toyed with not posting this as I did find a lip dub made by a college in the UK on YouTube, but that was only one. Here, it looks like every high school does one. What is it? Well it’s a lip-syncing video made by high school kids on a grand scale. The key common factors seem to me – in the poll of three lip dub’s I have just managed to watch (although I only made it through all of one of them and that was the one Child 1 was in so I felt somewhat obliged to view it all) – to be as follows:

  1. Whole school participation – already I’m thinking this is a massive waste of time when kids could actually be learning something.
  2. All the chosen ones – those that actually lip sync, rather than the hoi polloi lining the walls or doing stuff – have to walk backwards. That’s practically dangerous.
  3. The stuff they do. Apart from the lip sync-ers, there seems to be a heavy emphasis on cheer-leading cheering and football players looking manly. Quite a lot of balls get thrown. Mr T says he likes the school band, (so we are BOTH getting old, clearly) but where are the chemistry labs?? This is a school people!!
  4. Dodgy camerawork. I can only imagine the fall-out after this. In the ones I’ve seen the camera flies past hoards of desperate looking teenagers, all consumed with hand clenching excitement at being in this video. How many hopes and hearts across the land are crushed each year when these poor kids find out that they are a) barely in focus, b) grinning inanely or c) that they just bent down to tie their shoe at the wrong moment and missed being in the Lip Dub altogether. No. It’s just too painful thinking of all those young dreams being shattered.
  5. Littering. In my sample, again, admittedly small, there was a lot of little bits of paper being thrown over heads. What’s that all about? And who had to clear it up, eh?
  6. Apart from that it’s great 😉 School spirit! Yee ha. Yay. etc.

If I haven’t put off all right-thinking people already, here is the Lip Dub for Child 1’s school this year. Given that it is another seven years before Child 3 finishes high school (known as graduating in these here parts) I don’t think this is the last lip dub I’ll get to enjoy….

H is for Homecoming

This weekend Mr T and I had plans to go to a local brew fest with some chums. Tickets bought. Date marked on calendar. Weather forecast – bearable. But it has all gone wrong. We have been derailed by this American thing called Homecoming.

Homecoming is an event that takes place across the country in colleges and universities every Autumn. It’s billed as a chance for institutions to celebrate their ‘spirit’ by welcoming home alumni. The central activities are a football game (in our case that’s on Friday night) against big rivals and then a dance on the Saturday night. I have looked it up and it seems to be a pretty entrenched tradition, having started ‘way back when’ with the annual grudge meeting of the Yale and Harvard football teams.

harvard-yale-1903Well what is the problem, I hear you ask? Why would a football game and a school dance get in the way of an afternoon of merry brew-festing? The answer is Child 1.

Not only must Child 1 attend the football game on Friday night, where his girlfriend is a cheerleader (hear me groan!), he is also going to his first Homecoming dance with said girl and a bunch of other highly social 14/15 year olds. Which means we are driving. Living abroad teaches us that there are lots of differences between the States and the UK, but there are also things that don’t change wherever you roam. The joys of parenting teens is one of these things.

And while I am on about Child 1 – and since there is no chance of him reading this – here’s a bit more about him and Homecoming. As part of the ‘spirit’ we are enjoying because it’s Homecoming, the school has encouraged the wearing of different themed clothing each day this week. Monday was… (in fact I’ve forgotten Monday already!), Tuesday was Hawaiian day, Wednesday was ‘way back when’ day (that had to be explained to me) and today is purple and gold day (school colours). Kevin the teenager surprised me by being prepared to engage with this jollity but here he is maintaining his teenage aversion to having his photo taken in his ’70’s shirt for ‘way back when’ day.

IMG_5222See how he has spotted me taking his picture and is giving me the v-sign? Cheeky boy. And definitely still that wee bit British 😉

B is for Bob Barker

Who?

Well it turns out he’s a game show host. I’m thinking that if Bruce Forsyth was into animals, this would be him. And then the 9 year-olds of Britain could be writing biography projects about Brucie for school, as Child 3 has been, over here, about Bob.

Here is Bob:

2013-12-27-BobBarkerAnd here is my UK equivalent:

showbiz_bruce_forsyth_career_8Just look at how similar they are! Look at those pin-stripes, look at those smiles. Awww.

Bob Barker retired from US TV in 2007 so us Johnny-come-latelies (or should that be Johnnies-come-lately??) to this country have really missed out on knowing Bob. That he is as significant a cultural icon as Brucie, though, was made real for me when my dear chum across the road (who is by now quite used to my British-ness) turned to me and said, “Really? You really don’t know who Bob Barker is? Really?”

Still I’m sure he’d be thrilled to know that as we looked about our daughter’s classroom last night and saw biographies and drawings the kids had written about famous men and women like Helen Keller, Charles Darwin and Alexander Graham Bell, our UK import, Child 3, had selected Bob, because of his animal activism. Hurrah. I am so, so proud. Here is a little YouTube moment of Bob’s famous signature line…

And here is mad Child 3 wearing her Bob poster. Did I say we were proud? So proud.

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P is for Presidents Day

How’s this for an excellent example of the cultural differences between the US and UK… This week we have celebrated Presidents Day with a day off school. Presidents Day used to commemorate the birthday of George Washington on February the 22nd. Nowadays it combines Abe Lincoln’s birthday (Feb 12th)into a wider holiday also remembering Lincoln and other Presidents depending on where you live. Depending on where you live? That’s weird, right? To be honest, the wikipedia entry for Washington’s birthday (now Presidents Day) waffles on about federal holidays and state holidays and celebrating Lincoln and not celebrating Lincoln and generally gave me a headache. Not to mention apostrophe anxiety. Anyone who wants to know more can go get their own headache here.

What really interests me, however, is trying to imagine any kind of equivalent day being set up in the UK. I mean everyone loves a holiday, but to celebrate a P.M.’s birthday? It’s really a stretch. I suppose I can almost imagine there being a commemoration of Churchill’s birthday but I have looked it up and it’s… Hallowe’en! I don’t know why I think that’s funny, but I do.

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Anyhoo, on Monday I tried to relieve my wikipedia headache by doing an NPR picture quiz to name ten presidents. In my defence I was doing this on my phone and did not see the clues provided. But honestly, even with the clues I’m not sure I would have got more than the 1 out of 10 I guessed correctly. So today I thought it would be fun to pair up some presidents with their UK counterparts and see how many of them are recognised by anyone on either side of the pond. Here they are…

1.

The_Right_Hon._David_Lloyd_George             wwilson

This is the easiest one (I think). Not saying which is the American and which the Brit though 😉

2.

Ramsay_MacDonald_ggbain_35734          Herbert_Hoover_-_NARA_-_532049

This one shows definite differences in hair fashion across the Atlantic.

3.

08_Martin_Van_Buren_3x4       NPG 941; William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne by John Partridge

Whereas silly hair and sideburns were in for both these men. But who are they??

4.

william-gladstone      Ulysses S. Grant

Anyone else noticed that none of these people are very smiley? Unlike the next two…

5.

David-Cameron-2020309     barack-obama-smile-3

Answers on a postcard please…