Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Breakin' The Law

There are several things I can do in the States that I wouldn't dream of doing back home.  It always makes me feel slightly rebellious that I can do many of these on a daily basis, knowing I won't get into trouble or face any consequences. 

When I run in the early hours or in the evening, I carry my runner's mace.  It gives me a (probably false) sense of security that should somebody with unfriendly intentions approach, I can give them a quick spray and sprint off safely into the distance.  I'm glad to report that I haven't used it yet, but I'm also glad that I'm allowed to carry it should the need arise! 

We don't watch too much TV in our house, but I'm always shocked at what is considered to be daytime viewing in the States.  Swearing, violence, commercials for erectile dysfunction, you name it.  If I didn't have children, this probably wouldn't seem as shocking to me, so I love that the UK has the 9pm watershed on the major TV channels.  This means that shows with inappropriate content are generally not shown until after 9pm.   

I was driving on the freeway the other day.  The 2 fast lanes were going pretty slowly and I was in a wee bit of a hurry, so I overtook on the inside lane.  THE INSIDE LANE people!  Although this is perfectly legal here, I rarely do it because it always gives me major feelings of guilt and wrongdoing.

Us Brits don't really like to complain or cause a fuss.  We like to adhere to rules and regulations.  When we return items to stores, we mostly have our receipts in hand and our feelings of guilt for causing a fuss.  Over here though, it's no big deal.  No receipt?  No problem.  Returning something months after you bought it?  Again, usually no problem.  The customer is always right.  Thank you America!   

During my time in the RAF, I always enjoyed when we got to play with train with our weapons.  On the firing range, in the classroom, in the field - what a blast!  (Excuse the pun).  But after each training session or exercise, our left over ammo and empty casings were handed over and counted.  We were inspected to make sure nothing had fallen into our pockets or boots.  We had to make a special statement saying that we had nothing left in our possession.  Guns are illegal in the UK so it amazes me that you can go into your local Walmart, outdoors or pawn store and walk out with a gun and a bunch of ammo.  A new law was just passed here in Tennessee allowing people to carry loaded guns in their vehicles - even if they don't have a carry permit.  This I find really crazy.  I'm not judging anybody nor am I going to launch into a debate about gun control, because I do have several friends who are (what I would consider) responsible gun owners.  They have even changed my opinion slightly about the general public possessing guns, but again, because I'm just not used to it, gun laws here will probably always seem shocking to me.  At least until the zombie apocalypse starts and then all bets are off...

It's funny, because I've probably spent half of my life living outside the UK, but I guess because I was brought up there, the laws and feelings of British-ness will never leave me.  This isn't a bad thing, I'm very proud to be Scottish (okay, British) and it gives me a laugh every day at the differences between the way things are done both here and back home.  Incidentally, did you know it's illegal in the UK to put a postage stamp on upside down if it has an image of the Queen on it?  It's actually considered an act of treason!  Have a good day y'all, God Save the Queen :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Scottish Castles

You already know how much I love Scotland and that I like to bang on about how beautiful/fantastic/awesome it is over there.  I've been asked a few times - seriously - if I live in a castle or if I know anybody who does live in a castle.  I don't, nor have I ever, but Scotland is FULL of fabulous castles!  These are a few of my favorites, photos courtesy of Google.  If you click on the castle name, it will take you to their websites which will give you all the history and information you need to know - without me boring you :) 

EILEAN DONAN CASTLE

Eilean Donan is quite simply stunning.  Situated on a sea loch, you can't fail to be awed when the castle first comes into sight.  If you're as old as I am and remember the movie Highlander, you'll know that this castle and its iconic bridge were featured in it.

EDINBURGH CASTLE

Perched on a rock high above the city of Edinburgh, this castle is not only stunning to look at but also has so much amazing history.  I love it for the amazing views from the castle, the one o'clock gun, the Military Tattoo and even just to look up at from the gardens below.  The approach from the Royal Mile always gives me shivers up my spine, it is truly an awe inspiring place. 

CAWDOR CASTLE

Cawdor Castle is minutes from where my parents live.  It is home to the Cawdor family to this day and  surrounded by the most beautiful gardens and woods.  Well worth a visit! 


URQUHART CASTLE

Situated on Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle is one of my favorite places to visit when I'm back home.  Climbing up the Grant Tower is not for the faint hearted, but the view from the top is amazing!  If you're lucky enough to have nice weather, you can't beat a day wandering around the ruins, looking for Nessie :) 

DUNVEGAN CASTLE

The ancestral home of the Clan MacLeod is full of legend and history and also home to the Fairy Flag which is famous for it's magical powers.  Dunvegan is in a beautiful location on the Isle of Skye, surrounded by the sea and scenic gardens.

GLAMIS CASTLE

This picturesque castle is also reputed to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain.  Read about its many ghosts here.  Glamis Castle was also the childhood home of the Queen Mother and is a lovely place to visit...by day :)

DUNNOTTAR CASTLE

Just look at this place!  It is truly dramatic and in the most stunning location possible.  Again, well worth a visit. 


FORT GEORGE

Although Fort George isn't exactly a castle, I included it on my list because, well, just look at it!  Built after the historic Battle of Culloden, the Fort is still in use as an Army Garrison today and is in amazing condition having been sympathetically restored and maintained by Historic Scotland.  I am lucky enough to have worked here for a couple of years, so I do have a soft spot for this place.  Especially the dog cemetery for the regiment mascots and the officers' dogs.  History and scenery abound!  You may even see the dolphins jumping in the Moray Firth if you're lucky :) 

I always get homesick when I write these kind of blog posts.  I feel very blessed that I come from a country with such beauty and amazing history.  If you ever visit Scotland on vacation, I promise that you will not be disappointed visiting any of the above locations!   Happy travels! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Fit Of The Giggles

Us Brits are known for our dry sense of humor.   We're also known for our love of naughty/dirty humor - think Benny Hill, who seems to be on TV here a lot for some strange reason!  There are a few commonly used American words that never fail to make me giggle, simply because they are deemed to be 'naughty' words back home.  Whenever I hear these words in conversation, I usually turn bright red and have to work hard to stifle my urge to giggle loudly. 

Pantyhose.  Pantyhose!!!  I'm sniggering just typing the word!  In the UK, we call these tights.  Plain and simple.  I have to bite my lip when Americans say this word to stop myself from giggling uncontrollably.  It just sounds so naughty.  And funny.  And seriously, a 3 syllable word for tights?!

Fanny Pack.  Back home, a fanny is another word for a woman's private parts.   If  you don't like somebody, you might also call them a fanny.  So yes, if you use this word in my company, I may blush and make strange noises because I'm trying to conceal my mirth.  At home, we call it a bum bag, which still sounds kind of naughty! 

Randy.  Unfortunately for me, this is a pretty common first name over here.  Every single time I hear it, it has the same effect as described above.  I have actually choked on my dinner in the past on hearing someone talk about a guy called Randy.  To all you guys called Randy, I hope you never have to move to the UK, because you will probably have to change your name to avoid large amounts of ridicule.  Randy in the UK means you are feeling horny, sexy... you get the picture.  I'm sniggering again.    

Spunk.   Over here, it's normal for parents to describe their kids as being "full of spunk".  When I hear this word being used, not only do I giggle and turn red, I am also likely to snort.  Unmentionable matters may even shoot out of my nose.  You see, when I hear spunk, I think sperm.  Spunk at home is a slang word used for sperm.  Enough said...

Suspenders.  Suspenders to me, are what you buy in Victoria's Secret to hold your stockings up.  A fancy piece of lingerie.  So you will understand that when an American man talks about his suspenders, I usually have to pretend I'm having a coughing fit, both to justify my red face and to hide my giggles.  A man in suspenders!  Yep, I'm thinking Benny Hill again.  Suspenders in the States are what men use to hold up their trousers.  In Britain, these are known as braces.  Ha, that's another two words that have different meanings in the UK and US.  Trousers are known as pants over here, but pants in the UK are underwear - which are panties over here.  This could get confusing.  Braces over here are what you put on your teeth, but now I'm getting off totally off topic!   

So in the future, if you happen to be talking to me about any of the above things, I ask you to please excuse my strange behaviour.  Especially if your name is Randy. 




Monday, August 4, 2014

The Queen and I

Although I do enjoy meeting and talking to new people, I seem to be a magnet for strangers that ask me ridiculous questions upon hearing my accent.  This week, after standing for a long time listening to a stranger babble on to me about being 30% Scotch, 30% Irish, 30% Greek and 10% Italian (how is that even possible?!)  I was then asked by them if I knew the Queen or Prince Harry.  This person wasn't joking or having a laugh, they were being perfectly serious.  Backtracking a bit, just for the record, Scotch is actually whisky and Scottish is the proper term for being from Scotland.  But I digress.  No, I do not know the Queen or Prince Harry.  Yes, Britain is pretty small, but that doesn't mean we all live next door to each other and are bessie mates with the Royal Family!  I have seen the Queen before, albeit from a distance at events etc, but she's never invited me over for a cup of tea or a glass of champers.  Anyways, the babbling stranger reminded me of a few funny questions that I've been asked in the past by random strangers who were definitely not just having a laugh.  Here are a few gems for you!

"What is it with you Brits' bad teeth"?  Now I have been asked this in jest before and I do enjoy a bit of banter, but when a complete stranger asks you this with a totally straight face, it kind of renders you speechless.  That's like me saying  "What is it with your fat ass/hairy chin/tweety bird t shirt" to somebody I've never met before. How rude!  Sure, my teeth aren't perfect, but they're pretty white and straight with no holes!  I've seen people over here with way worse teeth than I've seen back home.  While it's true to say that us Brits aren't as a rule overly concerned about the appearance of our teeth, it doesn't mean we're all yellow and black toothed with huge holes in our smiles! 

 "My aunt's friend lives in Scotland, her name is Mary MacGregor.  Do you know her"?   A good response to this is "No, but my Mum's cousin lives in Florida.  Do you know her"? 

"Is it awful living in a communist country"?  Communist country?  Really?!  Do you remember Ronald, Maggie and the Cold War?!  There is no good response to this question which I have really been asked in the past.  A few people really do think that every country outside the US lives in fear of its government and has no freedom. 

"Is Scotland on the Pacific side of America"?  I thought this person was joking so I laughed out loud.  Unfortunately though, they weren't joking at all.  

"Do you have Christianity in Britain"?  LOL!  Although the population of Britain definitely isn't as church-going as it is in the US, Christianity in its various forms is still the number one religion there.   

So hopefully these will have given my friends, both British and American a good laugh without me coming across as being too harsh.  I have been asked countless more funny questions in the past, but I'd be here all day writing them down.  It's safe to say though, there is definitely never a dull moment when you're living somewhere you weren't born :) 



Monday, July 28, 2014

Being Mean

As I've mentioned before, I really get away with a lot of things living in the States.  Mostly because people either don't understand my accent or the actual words/phrases I'm using.  Us Brits have a lot of insults that probably make absolutely no sense to non Brits, so although I don't use the following examples a lot, I could if I wanted to - and the recipient would most likely be none the wiser.   

Minger:  Basically a word used to describe somebody you think is very ugly.  (Mean, I know). Minging is another variation, meaning nasty or disgusting. 

Chav:  Urban Dictionary describes the chav pretty well  here, although chavs can be of any age and sex really.  You don't see many over here, although some of the teenagers hanging out at the mall do look chav-ish.  Some rappers remind me of chavs too.     

A female chav


Muppet:  Another word for an idiot.  Not cute, green and fluffy like Kermit. 

Plonker:  Although this is used to describe somebody a bit lacking in the intelligence department, it can also be used somewhat affectionately thanks to the TV series "Only Fools and Horses" where one of the main characters Rodney was always being called a plonker by his brother. I do use this term a lot, mostly while driving.  

Slapper:  A derogatory term for a woman, meaning she has probably been with a lot of men.  Scrubber and slag are similar terms.




Bogging:  Gross or disgusting.  This is a fabulous word that must be accompanied with the appropriate facial expression.  Not to be confused with going to the bog which just means going to the toilet.
Yep, he thinks it's bogging...

Naff:  If something is naff, then it's rubbish or crap.  But you can also use naff when telling someone to go away.  "Naff Off"  is a more polite version of "F*** off".

Anyway, it's safe to say that if you're reading this, you're either family or one of my friends, so rest assured, you probably will not hear me call you any of these.  Unless of course, you do happen to be a bit of a plonker :)  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Stepford Wifes and Sofa Bisons

I worked until the husband and me had our first baby and then I became a stay home Mum, which I absolutely love.  Yes, that's right, I said I love it!  I've met a few people recently who have literally stared at me in horror when I told them what I do, but to be honest, I'm old enough now that I don't really give a hoot.  "What do you do all day?" "Don't you get bored?" "I couldn't stay home all day, I'd go crazy!" are just a few gems that some people have said to me in the past and so inspired me to write this post. 

First of all, I don't think I've ever actually spent all day at home.  Even when the kiddos were babies, we always had the dog to walk, playdates to go on, exploring to do (because we usually moved every couple of years and were either living someplace cool or brand new), or even just going to the gym where I got my sweat on and caught up with friends while the kiddos played in the gym daycare. You get the picture, we didn't stay home too much.  Did I miss working at first?  I missed the 'crack' sometimes I guess, but my day was still filled with schedules (of sorts), routines and lots of laughs with the kids and my friends.  It was fun and I can assure you, I was never bored.  Sure, there's always the mindless chores like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, doctor appointments and errands to run, but if I worked, I'd still have to do those things - which in reality, are part of everyday life anyway.  Was it always rainbows and unicorns?  Of course not, but the majority of time, everything was great! 

Obviously things have changed as the kids have grown older and started school.  I won't bore you with the details, but my day starts at 5am.  I choose to get out of bed way earlier than the kids so I can check my Facebook, emails etc, have a quiet breakfast and maybe go for a run if the husband is home, before it's time to wake them up to get ready for school.  Every day is different, but I'm usually on the go most of the time before, during and after school.  I still get up at 5am when the children are on vacation so that I can do the same.  I do understand that not everyone is able to stay home so I feel very lucky that I am able to do so. 

Therefore, I really don't understand why some people automatically assume what kind of person I am because I stay home.  I'm not a mindless Stepford Wife with a perfectly clean home, perfectly clean children, preparing delicious meals all day.  Nor am I a mindless sofa bison, staying in bed as long as possible every day getting out of bed only to watch TV and eat junk food.  I'm just a normal Mum.  Everybody is different and everybody does what is best for themselves and their family.  I totally understand why some people would hate my way of life, but why criticize me for the choices that the husband and me have made for me to stay home?  Live and let live people!  I admire working Mums, for they truly do have to fit a whole lot more into their days, but I certainly don't judge them or think they're doing the wrong thing - because it's their choice, just as staying home is mine!

Do I want your pity or your admiration?  Hell no!  What I'm really trying to say, is that in my opinion, there should be no competition or even debate about stay home vs working Mums.  At the end of the day, we are all just parents who love our children, doing what we think is best for our families.  No family is the same so why should we all do the same thing, or judge when people do things differently from us?   

I shall leave you now, because it is surely time for me to go and enjoy a bonbon on the sofa while watching my favorite soap opera...HA! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Learning Curve

Let's talk about education.  No, I'm not going to be debating the pros and cons of Common Core or anything like that.  Just the confusing (to me) school terms here in the US.  It seems so much simpler back home, although I know it's not the same everywhere.  This is based purely on the places I have lived in the UK and the US.

Back home in Scotland we go to Primary School followed by Secondary School.  Yep, that's it, just 2 schools before college and university people.  Simple.  Over here however...

Elementary School.  Pretty much the same as Primary School but instead of having simple Primary 1 through Primary 7, the US Elementary School starts with Kindergarten (same as Primary 1) and usually only goes through till 5th Grade (same as Primary 6).  When my UK friends ask what Primary my kiddos are in, I have to quickly count on my fingers because of Kindergarten being the same as Primary 1.  Obviously, I've never been accused of being a mathematical genius.   

Middle School.  Have you watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid?  In the words of the main character Greg Heffley, "Let me just say for the record, that I think middle school is the dumbest idea ever invented".  I would have to agree with Greg.  Middle School is for 6th Grade till 8th Grade (Primary 7 through 2nd Year at Secondary School).  So kids here move schools after Elementary School for a paltry 3 years before moving schools again to start High School.  Seems like unnecessary upheaval to me! 

High School.  Now it gets really confusing.  I'm sweating at the thought of having to remember all the different categories that make up High School over here.  When my US friends talk about Juniors/Sophomores etc, I mostly nod politely and agree because I truly have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.  Back home it's so simple!  Secondary School starts at 1st Year and goes through 6th Year, although in Scotland you can leave school at the age of 16.  I can get my head around that!  Over here though...  High School is from 9th - 12th Grade.  Easy to remember huh?  No sir.  Instead of keeping it with the numbers, each Grade has it's own special name:

9th Grade   = Freshman Year
10th Grade = Sophomore Year
11th Grade = Junior Year  (Why is 9th Grade not Junior Year?  Doesn't that make more sense?!) 
12th Grade = Senior Year

I don't even want to think about College with sororities/fraternities and everything else that brings with it.  Some of my friends talk about Homecoming - what does that even mean?  It's not when the bell rings and all the kids rush off home for the rest of the day! 

So there you have it.  It doesn't take much to bamboozle me and I will surely embarrass my children in the future for my lack of High School Year description knowledge.  I should probably start studying them now!  Or perhaps we'll be living somewhere outside of the US by the time they reach High School and I can stop stressing :)