Friday, October 27, 2006

Dae It Yersel

I had a cool title thought up for this blog entry the other day but I now completely forget it. So I'm using the name of a hardware store in Dunoon that I saw the other day.

It's been rainy and windy and generally miserable for a few days now. Of course, two of those days have been my days off so that killed my plans to go hiking. It would have been swimming instead, as our chef Victor put it. This weather is, so I'm told, the typical "winter" weather for the Cowal peninsula. The weather that I've experienced before has been atypical - little rain and relatively warm, in the 15 degree vicinity. I don't think it's been ever much colder than 5 to 10 degrees with the exception of one night when it went down to a few degrees. Today it's about 11 degrees.

I have been surprised to find that I am living up to the stereotypical Canadian who doesn't find it cold when others do because I am a person who gets cold easily. I have been amused to hear people say that it's "freezing" when it's something like 8 degrees with a breeze and I have sat outside at night in short sleeves while Scotsmen and Englishmen huddled up in heavy coats and complained about the cold.

I went to Glasgow last Saturday to do some shopping and see the place. My primary shopping goal was to buy a pair of dressy black pants for work because the ones I've been wearing for work are too big in the waist despite the fact that the food here is keeping me at a solid 130 pounds, or 9 and 1/3 stone as the scale I measured myself on read.

To get to Glasgow I flagged down the bus at the hotel by standing on the loch-side of the road so that I could see it coming around the turn and then ran across the road when it came whilst waving my arm to get it to stop. Round trip on the bus from the Coylet to Dunoon costs £3.20. I got off the bus at the ferry terminal and on to the ferry within 10 minutes as the buses are timed to meet it. The ferry return ticket costs £4.80 and the trip is about 20 minutes to Gourock. It's a small ferry compared to what I'm used to so it's pretty zippy. The ferry terminal in Gourock is right next to the dilapidated train station where all the signs that have arrows on them pointing to "Trains" have had the graffiti addition of "one" in reference to the fact that Gourock is the end of a single line and so there is really only one train that heads toward Glasgow. The return ticket on the train costs £5.60, so the grand total for the trip comes to £13.60 or under $30 which is pretty good for a trip out of the sticks.

I got off at Glasgow Central station and it's right around the downtown shopping. It was very crowded so by the end of the afternoon when I had to head back I was pretty glad, having remembered what it is that I dislike about cities. I think Scottish people must be even shorter than Maritimers who are shorter than other Canadians, because although I often feel tall when around middle-aged and older Maritimers, I felt tall around young and old people in Glasgow. Except for around the occassional giant man.

I accomplished my mission of buying pants, or "trousers" and discovered in the process that clothing sizes are different here. The pants from Canada that I was replacing are a size 7/8 and too big for me; the UK trousers I bought are a size 10 and I think equivalent to about a 6 in Canada. I also bought some sneakers in Dunoon the other day and my feet are now a size 6 here instead of an 8 at home. So I got bigger overall but my feet shrunk ;)

On the topic of sneakers: my Scottish and English co-workers laughed out loud when they first heard me call them that (they're "trainers" over here) and the English fellow, Matt, has since teased me about whether I'm doing any sneaking. I do keep frightening people by approaching them undetected, in particular our manager Karen, so I think they are learning that my explanation of the name - that sneakers enable one to sneak - is quite accurate.

I had my first Iron-Bru while in Glasgow because I was really tired and needed something to give me a boost. If you don't know, Iron-Bru is an "energy drink" - one of those sweet, caffinated things (with quinnine, whatever that is). Scotland's answer to Red Bull, and it seems to be the standard Scottish hangover treatment. Some of the guys I work with, the aforementioned Matt and the second-chef Pickle (yes that's a nickname, but no one calls him by his right name), consume at least one Iron-Bru daily, usually starting when they get up. It's orange in color and taste but translucent, unlike orange pop, and it's not as carbonated as I thought it would be but it's not thick and sirropy either. It tastes a lot better than Red Bull from what I remember of the one Red Bull that I consumed when in the UK 4 years ago.

That's it for my happenings, now some musing on language differences, since they're prevalent.

What I have always called "the royal we" isn't royal, it's British. I've heard both English and Scottish people use it so far, always when asking a question. A common use would be "Could you get us a ...?" when asking for a drink.

I am picking up more terms and phrases as I expected I would. I have on a few occasions asked customers if the wanted "to-mah-to" sauce (ketchup) with their chips (fries) instead of saying it my usual way. I still insist on pronouncing it "to-may-to" around Matt because he's so insistent on correcting my pronounciation, in a typical imperialistic English fashion ;)

I have also used "hoover" in place of "vacuum" a few times and I pretty much say "chips" instead of "fries" now and "crisps" in stead of "chips". I keep forgetting and saying "pants" which can cause confusion or just amusement since that means underwear here.

I also have a feeling that I'll soon be saying "cheers" or "ta" in place of "thanks" because I often hear those words in the back of my mind when thanking people. Ditto for the word "wee" for little", and for "aye" instead of "yeah", and "ach well" instead of "ah well".

Finally for today - I have been surprised at how many people in the UK know where PEI is. I am accustomed to Americans who never seem to have heard of it, so when I was first here and people asked me where in Canada I was from I would reply "the Atlantic coast". They would inevitably enquire for more specifics and many of them would nod when I said "Prince Edward Island" (some of them of course Anne of Green Gables fans). So I have now modified my response to saying that I am from Canada, then PEI when I'm asked "where in Canada?" and if I don't see recognition on their faces I'll add "on the Atlantic coast, near Nova Scotia" as they all seem to have heard of it (it's New Scotland afterall).

I've written a tremendous amount so that's me for now.

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