Tuesday, December 11, 2007

God Save the Queen

On Friday, December 14, I'm heading home to Minnesota and I'm not coming back until January 5. That is basically three full weeks of vacation, or what the average American earns after 20 years of work for a company. Now, since September I've also had a full week off for "half-term break" and I've had two four day vacation weekends.

The beautiful thing about this three week vacation is that I'm only taking one of my actual vacation days. Since I work for the Catholic Church I get a full week off for Christmas, a bank holiday for New Years Day, and the rest of the time my work is giving back to me as days they owe me for overtime I've worked since October (I didn't track my September hours, but if I did I probably won't have to use any of my vacation for my three weeks of vacation.)

Now, beginning in March, after I've worked this job for 6 months, I'm automatically upgraded to 3 weeks of vacation. This means that I need to use my 2 weeks - minus one day - before March because they become void after that. So it looks like I may end up being the "typical American" and not using all my vacation days. I suppose I'll just have to settle for the 5 weeks of vacation I've had since starting here in September.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Same Difference

I watched the tv show The X-Factor tonight (basically Britain's American Idol) and I discovered the group "Same Difference." Same Difference is a brother and sister singing pair who are two of the most annoying people you will ever see. They make bubble gum pop look depressing, and in a year every American who earns babysitting money will own their CD.

Needless to say I love them because they love everything.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Bridge Under Troubled Water

Some things in life you can't understand. One of them happened to me last week.

I was crossing the Chunnel, listening to the 59th Street Bridge Song, and I suddenly had the overwhelming feeling that I need to have Art Garfunkel's solo album. I am positive that this album has all the answers to any problem in my life, but I can't name a singe track on it. If there was a record store deep below the earth that you could access by riding in a bus that was loaded on a train halfway between England and France, then I would already own every track that Art ever recorded, but as it is, I'll have to wait to find out what Art's wisdom entails.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I´ve been in Barcelona for 3 hours now and here´s whats happened.

At the airport in Luton four old ladies - the youngest of whom was easily in her 50´s and called another one "Mum" - were checking in before me. They were having a problem with one of the suitcases because it was mysteriously shaking. The "mum," with no embarrassment in her voice, proudly exclaims, "Oh, it must be my vibrator." This led the other old ladies, all easily 70-years-old, to discuss how they hoped their vibrators didn´t go off too or else they might be out of batteries by the time they got to Spain. (I swear I´m not making this up). The friendly woman checking me in was laughing so hard that she gave me a free Ryan Air "Priority Boarding" pass so I got to get on the plane first and choose my seat. It´s like getting up graded to the first class in an aerial cattle car because you had to spent check in dry heaving.

When I got on the plane I chose and exit seat because it has the most leg room. The plane slowly filled up and eventually a man asked me if anyone was sitting next to me. This man was probably 45-years-old and wearing a flourescent orange running jersey, and he was traveling with a normal looking woman who was about the same age. The woman clearly wanted to sit in the back, but the man had his eyes on the leg room that I was enjoying. The man sat down and the woman went to the back. The man then chased the woman down, brought her back, made her sit in the exit row and spent about 45 minutes trying to convince her of the advantage of having more leg room. Now, before we took off this little man had to get out of his seat roughly 6 times. This was perhaps the quarter mark of the 24 times I actually had to let him out. I didn´t mind letting him out of our little isle though because for the 3 minutes when he would go to the bathroom or rummage in the overhead bin he wouldn´t be snogging the woman he was with. For most of the flight I had a forty-something couple necking next to me.

I get to Barcelona and on the way down my ears don´t pop. This has become known as Brandon Till Syndrome and once led to an ear drum rupturing. I take a bus to Barcelona and now I have to find a place to sleep. Apparently at 25 I don´t have enough foresight to book a hotel in advance. So I find some free maps in the bus station and find the metro. Unfortunately, the metro is closed so I have to take a cab. I figure this is ok because I don´t really know where I´m going anyway. My cabbie doesn´t speak English, but with my broken Spanish I´m able to communicate that I need a bed. He offers for me to sleep in his taxi for 20 euro. I´m not sure if he was kidding, but I have reason to believe he would have let me. I get in the cab and he does´t turn on the meter. I repeatedly ask him to, but he says "No Problem." That much English he knows. At the end of the cab ride he tells me I owe him 20 euro.

Sorry I´m out of time on the computer in the hostel. But more to come. It has 2 prostitutes in it!

So now that I´m in Barcelona I´m dealing with that and I decide, at 1.30 in the morning, to find a pharmacy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tottenham Hotspur

I am a Tottenham Football fan. (By this I mean, of course, that I support Tottenham Hotspur in soccer.) The strange thing is, I don't know why I support Tottenham. I know that I had no allegiance to any English Premier League team before I came here, and it would make sense to support Arsenal who trains near where I live and is the top team right now (when I started supporting Tottenham they were third worst), or even to support Chelsea who's stadium is not far away and is a top three team, but I whole heatedly support Tottenham.

I can't tell you where Tottenham is on a map, why they are called Hotspur, name a single player on the team, or even tell you the color of the Tottenham jersey. Admittedly, I have never seen them play a game. But for some reason it feels like I have always been a Tottenham fan. In actuality I decided I was a Tottenham fan on Sunday, October 28, but I'm not sure I can vividly remember a time when I didn't support Tottenham. I suppose when you know something is right, it's right, and it's been right forever even if it wasn't realized.

So GO SPURS! I hope our best player scores many goals in the next match against whomever we are playing, and I hope my team wears those one jerseys I will inevitably like, and I hope to be watching it while sitting in The Bull (my favorite pub) surrounded by other life long Tottenham fans.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Controlable Urges (with parentheses)

I'm not sure why, but lately I've had the urge to do the following things:

1. Throw a chair across the room as a dramatic statement. (See Bob Knight.)

2. Drop kick someone. (I think this would be a really powerful fighting maneuver, especially as an unprovoked attack.)

3. Sing karaoke. (But this is nothing new.)

4. Laugh when I see people's underwear, especially thongs. (Like the fit teacher who showed her entire class her black thong during a morning prayer.)

5. Embrace the American lifestyle. (We all go into boxes . . .)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tape of Love

I don't remember what possessed me to paint my room in the first place, but at this point I have to think that the reason my bedroom is half green and half white is because of insane customs laws in Belgium.

I was fortunate enough to spend the half-term break with my Uncle in Belgium. He works for Master Card (yet for some reason my entire extended family uses Visa) and happened to have a business trip to Brussles the same week that I had off. A few days before I leave this country I get a good number of Polish and German people drunk in my room and, as Polish and German people won't to do, we start rearranging furniture. This leads to talk of painting the room, and somehow, one day later, I am painting my room green.

When I leave for Belgium the next day my room is half-green and half-white so on my way out of Belgium I buy three rolls of masking tape at a stationary store so I can do what has been called Polish edges (clearly I have no idea how to paint a room).

Now, I fail to consider the incredible risk of me bringing such an amount of tape on an international flight, and when going through airport security all three rolls are confiscated. I can understand taking away the expensive perfume away from the girl in front of me, Ryan Air doesn't want fresh smelling airplanes, but I am a bit surprised to see my masking tape is also illegal.

At first I was upset. After all, I'd only owned this tape for 10 minutes. But as I think about it more, I think that the woman who took my tape at the security check was paying me a compliment. She looked at me and apparently thought that I was capable of hijacking an entire aircraft with only three rolls of tape. I figure it is either that, or any pilot who's plane is taken from him/her by a guy armed with masking tape would never live it down, so as to not potentially embarrass the pilot, no tape is allowed.

So enjoy your flight, but don't plan on taping anything along the way.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

14lbs to a Stone

I was talking to a teacher today who was commenting on how small one of her students is. She asked, "Sophie, how many stone are you."

To which Sophie's reply was, "Six."

Now, I have come to value tradition slightly less than the average person, but to still measure in stone is just unreasonable. Alright, time to get my 12.5 stone frame to bed.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tilley Till

I have a new niece, Rayna Cathryn Stecklein, who is also soon to be my Goddaughter! Little Rayna (although 9lbs+change is not exactly little) has started me thinking a lot about names. At the same time, I've become aware that Tilly, while not a popular name per say, is not unheard of in the UK. So my new mission here in England is to find a Tilly and make her my betrothed.

I imagine Tilly Till describing the day she converted her name to ridiculousness as "The greatest in her life."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Quote Me if You Can

I've had the last week off and I spent it hanging out with my Uncle. I've got a few stories to tell, but until then here are some quoteable moments from the last few weeks.

"You say you have problems, but she's the one who's Nigerian."
~6th Form Student

"Brandon, that teacher was checking you out . . . and she's kinky."

"Hey I know you. You just kicked us out of your bar."
~Uncle Randy

"I admire George W. Bush."
"Because he is not very smart, but he's still made it a really long way."
~6th Form Student

"This weekend I will be doing Sweet Fanny Adams."
"I have no idea what that means."
"Sweet Fanny Adams? It means Sweet F.A."
"I have no idea what that means."
"Sweet Fuck All."
"Will you just tell me what you're doing this weekend?"
"I'm doing nothing. I have no plans."

"Whatever you do, don't say you are wearing khaki pants in England."
"Khaki means poop and pants mean underwear."
~Jeff Bazarko

(While trying on hats)
"Would you like to buy a flag?"
~Belgian salesman with a strange sense of what items people are actually interested in.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Golden Compass

This isn't a bad deamon for me, but it could be better. Take a minute to click the link and help me out.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

No Taxation without Representation!!!

I bought a flight to Barcelona so I can spend Thanksgiving with my friend Mike and his family. Because European airlines seem awesome, the flight cost £0.01 each way (about $0.02 round trip). Now the total cost of this flight was not £0.02. After taxes and whatnot, I paid £23.90 or 1195% of my purchase price. 1195 is not a number that should exist in percents. Technically, nothing above %100 should exist, especially in reference to taxes.

Until now, I'm not sure I understood the reasoning behind the American Revolution. It seemed to me that colonials had a powerful government protecting them, setting up roads, post offices, swimming pools, etc. and everyone got pissed off over a tea tax. Now that I know the tea was probably taxed 1195% I don't blame starting a war over it. On my trip to Barcelona, I think I'll take a note from my forefathers, dress up like a Native American, and throw the airplane into the sea. Overall, not a bad way to spend Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Caffeine Clean

So this morning, like every morning, I'm dead tired when I wake up. But unlike every morning, this morning I decided to take a shower, and I had an idea that might make me millions. I want to invent caffinated soap. In the morning you could absorb caffeine with every pore of your body before you even have your cuppa. Brilliant.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Hi, my name is Brandon, and I am from the future."

When it comes to the entertainment industry, the UK is like the kid brother of the US. Everything here is hand-me-down. Movies come to theaters six months after the US release date, and American TV shows come out nearly a year after the US is finished with them. This makes me feel like I am from the future.

I always assumed that being from the future would be a huge advantage. I could find my past-self and warn me away from heartbreak, traffic accidents, and Aero bars, or I could clue me in on some sports betting (although you don't have to be from the future to know it's not a good idea to bet on the Irish in 2007, that the Gophers will always find a heartbreaking way to blow it, and that England will always beat Estonia in soccer). I thought that when I found a way to open portals to the past, then I could use Back to the Future as my hilarious guide on how to handle sticky time travel situations, and in my most advanced fantasies, I would end up as some type of clairvoyant demigod.

But now that I am from the future - I regret to inform you - it's rather disappointing. The other day some friends were excited that I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is opening in theaters, and I already know it's a crappy movie. Some kids were talking about High School Musical, to which I mention a dance from High School Musical 2, but they don't want to talk about it because it's not out yet (I realize that this was actually a winning situation for me).

This is the brutal but true side of being from the future that Doc Brown failed to mention. Having knowledge of things that have not yet happened makes you an outcast. No one likes the guy who can ruin the ending of a story, or tell you the final score of a sports game you haven't seen yet, or warn you against disappointing foreign candy. I'm from the future and nobody likes be because of it.

I suppose I should change plans and use Back to the Future II as my time travel guide, but the UK is still awaiting its release.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'm bringing sexy back . . . for now.

My friend Rafi, our Polish chef who changes his hairstyle weekly and worships Britney Spears, sent me some songs on my new cell phone so now I have "Sexy Back" as my ring tone.

Inevitably, this will be a decision I regret.

When, exactly, I forget to put my phone on silent and why I'll end up regretting this decision is thus far unknown. But until then, help me bring sexy back. Call me for free from the US : 952-232-0649.

(And if you are the person who called me at 5:45ish and/or 6:30ish today, sorry I missed your call. I just set up my voice mail so call again and leave me a message.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Karma of 1000 Dead Rabbits

So the other day Terry, the rabbit slayer, (see my old post about rabbits if you don't know what I mean) cut off the end of his thumb with the paper cutter. Apparently he decided the saftey was an optional feature and took it off for his paper cutting needs. He was rushed to the hospital, had his thumb glued back on, and is left with the inconvience of a sore thumb, but is fine all things considered. I suppose that's easy for me to say because I didn't cut off my thumb.

I mention this for two reasons. First, Terry just came into my office to show me how to make origami houses and in doing so cautioned me in using the paper cutter. And second, I imagine all those dead, blind rabbits that parished (mercifully) at the end of Terry's shovel, and all I can think is that Karma's a bitch.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Cock

I went to the town of St. Albans this evening, and I went to a pub called "The Cock."

Ok, seriously?
I mean - seriously!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I Look to My Eskimo Friend

Tonight I went to see Damien Rice live at Wembly Arena, and it was fantastic. Don't get me wrong, it was a bitter, depressing, and angry show, but I loved every minute of it. The beer vendors at the arena walked around with an insulated keg strapped to their backs and sold cups of keg beer to people in the stands. This seems like a lot of work, but whatever.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Top Two of My Day

Today a group of East enders came to SPEC, and on the groups break time I wandered around and found dance off going on between the African students and the Caribean students (the African students won btw). That was probably the second best thing to happen to me today. The best was seeing this commercial:

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Plight of Foregin Nationals

I tried to get a cell phone the other day (and I will continue to call it a cell phone till the day I die) but I was denied because I am a "foreign national." Apparently you have to live in the country for about three years before you can get a phone contract. It's good that my new thing is not taking rejection at face value so we'll see if the phone companies have any way to detect the bold face lying of immigrants.

Moral: Be nice to your foregin nationals, they belong somewhere.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Things people have never said to me . . . before now.

"I love your accent."

"You look like Mika" (http://www.mikasounds.com/)

"Do you fancy her?"

"What's a Twinke?"

"I can't wait to go to America. I want to go to Alabama."

"He's the bloke who always wears tight trousers."

"Were you rat-assed last night?"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Killing Rabbits with the Third Reich

Tongiht I ate dinner with Terry. It was a little bit awkward because I know that before dinner Terry likes to go outisde and kill blind rabbits with a shovel. It was perhaps even more awkward - perhaps - in that Terry spent part of the meal listening to the National Anthem of the Thrid Reich on his iPod. Let me explain:

I got the chance to go for a run the other day, and I ran into a rabbit. Actually, it'd probably be more accurate to say that a rabbit ran into me. On the 72 acres where I live there are loads of rabbits - loads - so seeing one is not a rare occurance. But apparently the rabbits here have developed a disease called myxmatosis which, among other things, causes them to become oddly bumpy until their eyes swell up and they go blind. It then takes the blind rabbit roughtly 13 days to starve to death and rot into a hollow, bumpy, rabbit shell.

Anyway, I began my run on a trail through the woods with a very narrow entrance, and I was not surprised to see a rabbit standing in my path. After all, there are loads of them here - loads. But I was surprised that this rabbit didn't move out of my way. I stomped the gound and yelled, "Hey, Rabbit!" in my most Terry-sounding voice until this rabbit could sense it was in danger.

The rabbit then shot off to the right about four feet and crashed head first (as head first is the only way rabbits travel) into a fallen log. Looking bumpy and confused, the rabbit then turned and, more cautiously this time, hobbled into my feet. The third time was a charm and the rabbit found it's way into wooded saftey.

As I continue my run along on the beautiful English earth, past a few hollowed, bumpy, rabbit carcases, pondering "Hollow Rabbit" as a band name, I run into Terry cleaning the blunt end of a shovel in a rain puddle. His eyes lit up when I told him the location of my furry little friend, but at dinner he relayed that he could not find it. As for Terry's music selection, I have no idea what the hell was going on there.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Have you felt the bubbles melt yet?

I had a candy bar the other day called "Aero" with the tag line "have you felt the bubbles melt?" I thought this sounded like an exciting adventure into foreign candy land, and I imagined a candy bar with the frightening yet harmonious marriage of chocolate and Pop Rocks. I thought that my experience with this candy bar would be equal to that of the first American who heard the Spice Girls and thought, "Wow, the UK has something really special here. I can't wait to bring this to America."

Needless to say, I was disapointed to discover that an Aero bar is a chocolate bar infused with, well, nothing. It is chocolate and air. The "bubbles" are just air. "Have you felt the disapointment melt yet?" Chocolate with air bubbles will do the trick. It's a good thing the Jelly Babies I bought were awesome, or I might have to boycott English candy (sweets as they'd say) all together.

Friday, September 21, 2007

After the first retreat . . .

The retreat with 80+ girls (and 2 boys) from South London (who were almost all black btw - not that it mattered, but I was wasn't expecting to overcome both a cultural and racial barriers) could not have gone better. Instead of boring detalis, here are some quotes that made me laugh:

"Sit on your Mum!" ~Girl being mean to another girl

"Can you say, 'I'd like a cup of tea,' in an English accent?"
"I don't think I can't say that in an English accent."

"Can you speak in an American accent?"
"Totally awesome dude."

"Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop!" (with two-handed finger guns waving overhead) ~apparently this means that you are somewhat dangerous, and it's a celebration.

"Where is the bloody sugar?" ~Beth, SPEC Volunteer

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Day 1

At this point I feel like I'm up eleven days past my bedtime. I'm becoming delusional from no sleep, and I feel like I hear Oasis songs everywhere I go. Actually the people in the hallway are just listening to Oasis which is an awesomely stereotypical. Tomorrow I will be leading a group of 80 to 100 16-year-old English girls, and I think I've figured out what Sandra ment by "You'll be getting right into it."

Monday, September 17, 2007


So after 2 attempts to get a visa the Brits have finally decided to let me into their country. Bon voyage America.