Capstone Park (Kent) Pics and Some Freaking Chicken Soup for the Whatever Soul

(27 May:  I’d made this post back in March and then decided it was cheesy.  But since I’ve been so horrible about not posting this May, I’m posting this one…plus, it’s Capstone Park.  Very pretty.)

We recently went to Capstone Park, a nearby country park, and in honor of the first week of spring I’m posting pics as well as some of the contrasting winter’s snowfall at Capstone.   Humor me if you will, too, as I’m including a few quotes that might be inspirational, or just maybe something to chew on.  It’s easy to become mired sometimes, going about the day.   Especially for those of us clicking away at the screen, looking for work and whatnot.  Here’s to a brighter page, and thanks for letting me get a little Hallmark on y’all.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

— Michael Jordan

Three Rules of Work: 
Out of clutter find simplicity; 
From discord find harmony; 
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

— Albert Einstein

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

The self is not something that one finds. It’s something one creates.
— Thomas Szasz

“If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, then walk.
If you can’t walk, then crawl.
But whatever you do, keep moving.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

— Stephen King

It is good to love as many things as one can,

for therein lies true strength.

–Vincent VanGogh

British Vs. American English

I decided that I need to start a list of words that I come across, so here we go.  I’ll update it from time to time.  If I’ve misunderstood a word, please let me know and I’ll correct it!


  • Hen party–bachelorette party
  • Leaving-do–going away party
  • Till–checkout counter
  • Tip–the dump
  • Petrol–gas
  • Biscuit–cookie
  • Nappy–diaper
  • Prawn–small shrimp
  • Courgette–zucchini
  • Coriander–cilantro
  • Trainers–tennis shoes
  • Dolly shoes–mary janes
  • Digger–bulldozer
  • Lorry–truck
  • Plaster–bandaid
  • Garden–yard   (and garden for garden)
  • Trolley–shopping cart
  • “The shops”–instead of saying “grocery store”
  • Gammon–ham
  • Uni/university–university but not college.  College is around age 16-18, before university.
  • Roadworks–road construction
  • Motorway–highway
  • Indicator–blinker, or turn signal
  • Chav–derogatory term.  “trailor trash”
  • Cinema–movie
  • Carrier bag–plastic bag from store
  • Proper–as in “We’ll get you a proper carry-on next weekend.”   or   “It’s a proppa sunny day innit.”    I don’t think there’s an American equivalent here; it’s a colloquial term.
  • Hoover–vaccuum

Note:  Julia has some great comments in the comment section about the variants of cookie/biscuit (how gooey center is, etc.), gammon (a cut of ham), and digger/bulldozers.

Some British words that I particularly like:

  • Wanker.  ”Yeah, it’s probably from the wankers over at Fox News.”
  • Moreish. Something that’s so good you want more of it.  Have only heard it used in relation to food so far.  Thai prawn crackers to be precise.  ”They’re rather moreish, aren’t they.”
  • Bloody.  No explanation necessary.
  • Sod.  (While we’re at it.)  ”S*d off.”
  • Lollipop man/woman. (see last driving piece for pic.)  This is a crossing guard.   Now what do you want to be when you grow up?
  • Sorted. This appears to be a favorite, and I can see why.  It’s just like the US “settled,” but fewer Little House on the Prairie connotations.
  • Dodgy.  Quite a variety of uses, but probably best US translation is “sketchy.”
  • Whingy. Whiny.  Very satisfying word.  Sounds just like an annoying, creaky gate.
  • Pants.  As in “This website is pants.”   Or “Oh, pants.  I forgot my keys.”
  • Torch.  This is a flashlight.
  • Beaker. Plastic cup.
  • Brilliant. I can’t do the accent for this at all, but it’s wonderful.  Tomato soup can be brilliant.  A crouton can be brilliant.  It’s also a good sarcastic word, like if a train is cancelled.   It’s sort of the British version of great.
  • Gorgeous.  Likewise, a salad can be gorgeous, even if it’s not pretty.  Sort of a synaesthesia kind of thing.

And some that I’m not used to yet:

  • Whilst.   This makes me feel like I’m in a Jane Austen novel wearing a corset, riding in a bumpy carriage, unable to breathe at the thought of my domestic plight.  Just sounds very formal.
  • Jumper.  This is a sweater, I think, but I’ve also heard it used for a sweatshirt or a hoodie.  I always think of a horrible, shapeless plaid dress, which is what jumpers are in the States.
  • Nice.  I’m not fond of this word anyway, unless it’s used for the weather or maybe a shirt.  But I’ve noticed that here it’s used for anything from a cookie to chicken salad.   Because so many Americans use nice as a euphemism (saying, for example, “Oh, she’s nice,” when really you don’t like the person and so you say that she’s nice), I always think that any time food is called nice, it’s sarcastic, even though I know that’s not the intended meaning.  Just one of those connotation issues.
  • One-off.  At first I heard this used as a one night stand, but then I heard it in other contexts, so I’m not entirely sure of the scope.
  • Bespoke.  This drives me insane.  I guess it means “custom,” as in “custom-made tires” or something.  It doesn’t seem to mean anything and just seems shoved in front of nouns with the notion that it will distinguish them, especially in terms of advertising.
  • Adding, “don’t they,” or “haven’t I,” to the end of a sentence.  Depending on the intonation it can sound quite snarky.  Maybe Brits feel similarly when Americans say, “you know?”

Added by readers:

  • Tosser–jerk, or maybe worse..?  I’m not sure if this is really impolite or just kind of.  Like would you say it around your grandma?  (Was notified that wanker is worse than tosser.)
  • Snog–make out
  • Shag–have sex
  • Postcode–zipcode
  • Subway–pedestrian underpass?
  • Roundabout–traffic circle
  • Single (ticket)–one-way
  • Return (ticket)–round-trip
  • Pavement–sidewalk (not sure we really have the equivalent of American “pavement” … maybe just “the road”)
  • Rubbish–trash
  • Bugger–“bugger off you bloody sod”
  • Spanner–wrench
  • Skirting–baseboards
  • Made redundant–laid-off
  • Skip–dumpster
  • Central reservation–median/median strip
  • The High Street–downtown
  • Aubergine–eggplant

Other notable words and phrases:

  • “Gone all pear-shaped”     This is when something’s gone wrong.
  • The big one:  trousers vs. pants.  Pants=underwear here.  Our pants are always trousers.  At some point, I’m going to embarrass myself, probably the first day on a new job, by telling someone that I like his or her pants.   Hasn’t happened yet, but it will.
  • Ginger ale=ginger beer.  I think.  But I still hear ginger ale sometimes, so I’m still a little confused by this one.
  • Cake.  Still figuring this one out.  I made cornbread for a family meal, and even though I kept telling C. it wasn’t cake,  it was cake to him.   He also calls cookies cakes sometimes, which confuses me.  It seems that a lot of things can be cake…?
  • Pudding.  This will require at least two more years of study.  Basically, pudding covers lots of desserts eaten at the holidays, some drenched in liquor to keep them moist and then sometimes lit on fire at the table.  They look like bundt cakes and the chocolate ones can be moist and delicious.   (Note:  Dan A. says that “Pudding is any type of dessert eaten after a main savoury course often with custard. For example bread pudding, queens pudding or the venerable spotted dick.”   This helps Dan!)
  • Tea.  Tea is tea, but it’s also dinner.  ”I’m eating my tea.”  Very confusing.  (Is your tea frozen??)    Nope, it’s just dinner in England, where you eat tea in the evening.

I know there are more that I’ve come across.  There are usually a few a week.  Add any others you can think of in comments and I’ll post ‘em to the list!

The Art of Complaining

Ok, I give up.  I’ve tried to be a bit more soft-spoken, but apparently you can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the brash American out of the girl.   And the brash quality I’m missing today is complaining.   I’m sure there are Brits who can complain with the best of them, but unfortunately, I’m currently in a microcosm of character.  The nerve of these people, what with their gratitude and discipline, talking about how fortunate they are.  Don’t they know that it’s all a race to get as much as possible in this life?   Haven’t they heard of self-centeredness?  Sheesh.

Last night I was flipping channels, killing my usual zombie time where I can’t sleep but I’m just waiting to get sleepy, and I found Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.  He was showing the footage that didn’t make earlier shows—asides about how much he felt like retching from the previous night’s debauchery.   He had one great line, coming out of his hotel in Iceland to a pitch-black, bleak morning, wearing a puffy jacket and sunglasses, joking about how what he really felt like in that moment was being around lot of people and cameras, being friendly, and consuming the grilled intestinal parts of various animals.

Yeah, I guess it sucks to be even Anthony Bourdain sometimes.

Poor you!


But it got me thinking as to why he’s so refreshing lately, and it’s gotta be because he doesn’t hold back with the complaints.   I think I’ve said this before on BPRB—I really miss fast-paced, neurotic, dramatic people.  Throw in some well-placed complaints and I will worship at your feet right about now.

Here’s what the Brits don’t seem to realize about complaining—it’s an art form.  With hyperbole, a flair for character and jabby one-liners, it’s just street theater.  And who doesn’t like a little street theater?

Can we all just please stop and acknowledge how much it sucks to be herded into the Tube Station at Oxford Street during rush hour like a herd of cattle to slaughter?    Can we?   Oh please?

Shoot me.

I don’t cram myself down to the platforms every day, and would be so much more crabby if I did.  Is that possible?   More crabbiness?   (Ah, the neighbor kid just started playing his video games two feet from where I’m sitting, on the other side of the wall.  Beep, beep, boop, beep-boo-bee-bee-bee.   Yes, heightened crabbiness is possible.)

That was one good thing about teaching high schoolers.  A lot of them didn’t have game faces yet.  They’d come fainting in to my classroom, surrendering their massive backpacks to the desk with a thud.  Then they’d launch into a monologue about their horrendous day.    I don’t miss a lot of things about being in the classroom, but I do miss the teenage sense of drama and melodrama, a quality I’ve decided to hang on to for, oh, maybe just a few decades longer than necessary.

Perhaps the best moment of British complaint I’ve seen was on the television shows Grumpy Old Men and Grumpy Old Women.

I am a grumpy old woman trapped in the body of a not-yet old grumpy woman.

As curmudgeons go, they’re ok, but I think Anthony Bourdain might have them beat, with the ability to sun himself in the Mediterranean, devour the best food on the planet, and still somehow maintain his capacity for the tragic.

Anyone know of any local complaint-friendly venues?   Complaint salons?   Any pound-per-minute complaint hotlines?

The irony is that the Brits, as far as I’m concerned, should get a free pass to complain whenever they want with the gloomy weather. That’s enough right there.   Add in the ultra-crowded conditions and ridiculous cost of absolutely everything, and everyone should have a Recommended Daily Allowance of complaining.   You should take it in the morning with your Omega-3 Fatty Acids or your flax seed.  Truly, they’re looking a gift horse in the mouth.   I guess someone else will just have to do their complaining for them.   Good thing I’m here.

Signs of spring–Riverside Country Park

I’m not getting too excited after last August’s mitten-wearing in the house, but it just might be getting a little bit warmer some days, and I have seen some traditional signs of spring–daffodils, crocus, and fresh growth on the boxwoods.

Near Riverside Country Park, on the path along the Medway Estuary, more signs:

Not particular to spring, but I like this little logo for some reason. I think it's just exciting to think of the Anglo Saxons hanging out on my block.

Near Horrid Hill. Origin of name not certain.

C. thought it would be entertaining to tell me that the ruins of the boat above were probably from the Romans.   When would that have been, honey?  Like the thirteenth century or something?   Gosh, history is so hard.


Didn’t see any flowers at Riverside on this walk, but I had caught some snowdrops a few weeks ago:

Vavasseurs Wood, Knockholt (Kent)

There was also a huge redwood tree in this area.  I’m told that Charles Darwin had a house near Knockholt and that there were all sorts of imported species of flora to find.  Will have to go back to look.

For now, it’s Riverside and Capstone Parks.   Pics from Capstone soon when I can catch it on a day with a bit of sun.


The Goods Shed, Canterbury

The other weekend, after a long and frustrating morning changing our Sunday plans eight billion times before noon, C. and I decided to go to the Dockyards Art Show in Chatham.

Even though it’s 15 pounds for a year, we’re on a bit of a spending moratorium right now.  So, we bailed on that, and decided to go to Tunbridge Wells, which is supposed to be pretty.

But it was a really cold, crappy day, so I wasn’t that thrilled about walking around outside.

I’m a sun-worshipping American, OK?   C. would call almost every day either “quite mild” or “quite pleasant.”  The closest I’ve ever heard him come to a weather complaint was that it was…wait, I can’t think of anything.  Even on the most bitter days, or once when he had to walk five miles back in the snow when the train stopped, there was no complaint.

Warning, warning Will Robinson–you have married a charming android.

So, we get on the highway, or, as they say here, the motorway, and about 3/4 of the way there we changed our minds again and decided to go to The Goods Shed, a food market and restaurant I’d seen online.

We’d make it about an hour before they closed.  I was psyched.  A few pretty views along the way, sheep, etc. and we arrived.

So nice.


We got some local honey to help with springtime allergies, some nettle tea, and had a few bites of a spicy falafel patty.

The solution to all life’s problems?

I love you, beautiful Goods Shed peeps.

We then walked towards the town center

and met C.’s friend, on a whim, at Café Boho. That was nice.  I had some Thai sweet potato soup with cilantro, which I am definitely going to try and make at home.  (Sorry–camera battery ran out–no more pics!)

And then we talked to C.’s pal about living in Canterbury, still not sure where we’re going to live, and added it to our list of places to research.  The tourists in summer would be bad, but so many great little restaurants and cafés.

(Note–looked it up later and it’s off list due to $$$.)

The trip really did cheer me up.   I’ll definitely head back to The Goods Shed.  Even though it wouldn’t pay that well, I kind of wish I could work there just to be in such a beautiful place for a while.  Maybe a few summer hours…?

Mystery Veg

Took this at a small market in Canterbury today.

What are these?

A type of parsnip?


WE HAVE A WINNER!!   They’re moolis.  And if you want to listen to them (in their human band form), go here:

The Rules of the Road, UK Style

Guess who got so irritated at not being able to drive herself to the gym yesterday that she just up and did it? Yep.

And no one died. In fact no one even honked, and husband’s car was returned intact. Very, very exciting.

After calling C. for help in getting the car started (the wheel tends to lock and then the door locks all click over and over instead of the ignition starting, which is kind of freaky), I inched out of our jam-packed street and prayed to whomever felt like listening that I make it to my destination without mishap.

I’ve pretty much got the pedestrian crossings down now–the pelican, zebra and toucan. One thing that I really appreciate about England is the walking culture. People take their walks seriously (country walks, historical walks, etc.), and pedestrians are considered valid life forms with an inherent right to be on the road and the pavement (sidewalk).

One must stop at all zebra crossings and wait until the pedestrian has arrived safely at the other side of the street. Even if someone looks like they’re waiting to cross, cars must stop. This still gets me when I’m walking. I’m always standing there waiting to be waved on and shocked when I realize that they’ve stopped and are giving me right of way.

Zebra crossing. Short "e," which caused all sorts of confusion the first time I heard it.

There’s a puffin crossing too, which, I have to admit, made me chuckle. The Brits love their birds, which, as an amateur enthusiast, gives me hope that I’ll find other twitchers like myself.

Toucan crossing. Fruit Loops not provided.

Perhaps my favorite crossing-related word in the UK, though, is lollipop woman and lollipop man.

Crossing Guard in the US, lollipop woman in the UK. Very Willy Wonka.

But back to roundabouts—Monday’s dragon. At rush hour, they’re especially terrifying. I was so relieved to chat with a retired woman last night who agreed that one just sort of hopes for the best and rushes out into a Cyclops-like whirligig of cars flying around a circle at about thirty miles an hour. So it’s not just me.

Just one of the many circles of hell.

It’s hard to tell if one can go or not, and everything about the roundabout feels arbitrary. I think it’s sort of like building a nest–one’s just born in England with the knowledge of how to navigate each local roundabout as each seems to have its own rule. Maybe the right lane is a certain death, or one lane filters into another. Maybe there’s another roundabout right *after* that roundabout, so you need to know which lane to get in immediately upon exiting. The goal for most on the roundabout seems to be to scare others out of their way. And frightened I am. I like to hang out on the edge and wait for a nice, huge gap while the people on the right zoom in. It’s almost like they’re eager to get in there, like there’s a prize on the other side.

At least I’ve got my nice magnetic “P” to slap on the front and back of the car to warn folks that I’m only a permit driver. So far the others seem pretty sympathetic, letting me in and generally tolerating my creeping along.

In one, the notorious “Tesco Roundabout,” (similar to pic above) the right lane is bad news unless you have to go all the way around. Then it’s good. Otherwise, given that there are three lanes INSIDE the roundabout, you don’t want to be there because then you’ll have to scoot over two lanes to get off. Or, instead of scoot, just “drift,” as my instructor says.

But the notion of drifting seems all wrong on the roundabout. Drifting is for manatees or tree branches in rivers. Instead, think verbs for fighter jets. Roaring, zooming, edging maybe, but no drifting.

It’s going to be a while before I’m on the highway–probably a long while–but for now my next dragon is that Tesco roundabout. And soon…the theory test!

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