Today has been one of those days. The kind when writing something – anything – sounds about as nice as banging myself on the head with my hole-punch. Our cat, Daffodil, has been particularly forceful in his lack of support for me as a writer today. He began with a barely-heard mewling behind my desk chair accompanied by determined floor-pacing. This suddenly erupted into a mad, caterwauling, flailing, flying, leaping, tearing, screeching melee which led me to believe that Daffodil’s vet had surreptitiously spiked his latest kibble bag with methamphetamines. I was eventually forced to leave the mental gymnastics of trying to write something – anything – and rescue him from where he inevitably ended up – atop the armoire in the dining room. Stuck. When he’s spazzy he’s no genius. I removed him from his perch and was thanked not at all. He finally calmed himself enough that he is now happily ensconced on a chair, napping for England. I, however, am antsy.
Antsy is a word for which I’ve always had a particular fondness. Here in England, I’m discovering oh-so-many additional words that I find just too perfect. Knackered (tired), for instance, is one of my new favorites. I’m also loving knickers (panties), possibly because of its similar sound to knackered. Other faves are ponce/poncey, crikey, git, moose (an ugly girl!), naff, wanker (literally, a masturbator), bloody hell and brilliant. Gorgeous, relating to how something tastes or smells, works particularly well with a lilting Irish accent. I like nutter (crazy person) and find shag and snog particularly endearing. Up the duff (pregnant) always makes me laugh. When I hear my English friends use these words they seem charming and perfect. When I try to use them, however, I sound like a bit of a nutter. … See?
Back to the writing lull. I suppose it’s not that much of a lull. I did, in fact, finish my book last week. Woo hoo! All was celebration here at Casa Biggins. Friends toasted me, Byron hugged me and I felt proud. For about five minutes. Then I realized that now the hard part begins. Edits. Re-writes. And the long slog to publishing. Thus the writing lull. I thought this morning, however, that I would whiz through chapter edits at record speed. Aside from Daffy’s insane version of Psycho Cat Tricks, it’s quiet as can be in our flat. The sun shines in through our windows and falls across my desk. I could hear a pin drop. This should be the perfect environment in which to hunker down to the serious task of preparing my book for submission. But no. I’m distracted. The next two hours go something like this:
10 a.m. – There’s a bird in the tree across the way!
10:01 a.m. – Look, there’s another!
10:03 a.m. – Wow, they just took off and landed on that roof over there!
10:04 a.m. – Is that a red spot on their chests! It is, it is!
10:10 a.m. – Ooooh, some of the neighbors just left from next door! I wonder where they’re going?! Maybe traveling to Spain for some warmth!
10:11 a.m. – I wonder what Spain would be like this time of year?
10:13 a.m. – I’ll just get on Google and find out, shall I? It’ll only take a second.
11:34 a.m. – Spain looked nice! Maybe I should also look at Portugal, just to make some sort of comparison.
12:15 p.m. – I guess I should probably have lunch now. Maybe I’ll just edit a bit before I eat.
12:17 p.m. – That should be enough editing for now. After all, it’s not healthy to work on an empty stomach.
It is at this point that Byron leaves with his driving instructor to prepare for the driving test he’ll be taking tomorrow morning. That’s right, Byron is getting his British driving license. His California license expired and he’s been here a year so it’s a necessity. The interim between Byron’s California license expiring and his British license kicking in has meant that Byron can’t really drive anywhere. This has been less than grand and here’s why: I have not yet mastered the art of driving in England. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I can do it. It just involves a lot of swearing (Byron) and a lot of swerving (me) and a lot of breath-holding (both of us). And I’ve found it’s not particularly safe to drive while holding your breath. It tends to lead to black outs (me). And more swearing (Byron). So, anyhoo. Byron is getting his license. He’s taken the written portion of the test (called the “practical” portion) as well as the computerized “hazard perception” portion. This last basically involves being shown scenes one might encounter when behind the wheel of your car. A “hazard” appears and you have to identify the hazard and click the button. According to Byron (and just about everyone who’s ever taken this test) there are about fifteen hazards in every scene and the trick is to pick out the right one and click the button at the right time. Is the hazard the enormous lorry (also love that word) coming toward you on the wrong side of the road or the pedestrian crossing illegally? Is it the cat that jumped out of that moving car or perhaps the massive road construction? The stoplight that’s not functioning or the twelve-car pile-up one block away? Apparently it’s a crapshoot. But Byron passed.
Now he’s working on the actual driving portion. He’s meeting with his instructor about three times (since he’s already been driving here for a year, he didn’t figure he needed any more than that) before the test. While it’s not that difficult (according to Byron) he does find some interesting requirements over here. Take, for example, the parking break. Which is used … a lot. Like anytime you come to any sort of stop. For example, when you’re conducting a three-point turn, you must put the parking break on every time you come to a stopping point in the maneuver. Pull forward. Stop. Parking break. Car in reverse. Stop. Parking break. Car in first gear. Pull forward. Stop. Parking break. Car in reverse. You get the picture. It’s mildly annoying and relatively unnecessary.
This gets me started on something I’ve noticed and found interesting about British culture since we’ve been here. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the English. I’ve a bit of English in my blood, in fact. But here’s the thing. And I say this in a respectful whisper: they’re a little wimpy. The parking break thing is just one example. I mean really. Live a little! Shift without a parking break! Don’t you trust your foot on the break? You can do it! Another example of this apparent cultural wimpiness is the fact that it is against regulation to have power plugs in the bathroom here in England. Yes, ladies, you heard me. And no, I don’t know where you’re going to curl/blow-dry/straighten your hair. I now do all that in our front hall. Because that’s where there’s both a plug and a mirror. Apparently there’s some concern over here that electrical outlets and bathrooms don’t mix. Now, while I know that water and electrical outlets don’t mix, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that bathrooms are the culprit. What about all the outlets right next to my sink in the kitchen? Huh? I don’t honestly believe that anyone who lives here in England is too stupid to know how to avoid electrocuting themselves if plugs were actually placed in bathrooms. I’ve met many Brits and I think it’s a silly concern. They’re very smart. Be brave, lovely Brits. Put some plugs in your bathrooms. It’ll be fine. We Americans have been doing it for years. Only the really stupid ones have had any sort of difficulty.