Three Random Things - October 13

Since moving overseas, many of you have emailed telling me how much you enjoy the tales of life in England. I've decided to use that as motivation to start a weekly blog series called "3 Random Things" where I'll share 3 random stories about life abroad. Warning: These random things may not be relevant to photography, but I promise they'll be interesting an often very funny!

1. Holy Squirrel
We visited London this weekend, which was a really different experience from my previous visits to the city. Normally as a tourist you have the pressure of go-go-go to see all the attractions, but when you have the ability to visit as often as you'd like, the sensation of "I must see everything" gets replaced with "lets take our time." Ah, what a pleasant change.

Anyway, we were walking through one of the 800 parks surrounding Her Majesty's Palace and kept seeing Europeans (I believe they were mainland Europeans vs Brits) playing with squirrels.

Little kids were coaxing them onto their laps while their parents took pictures....
Adults let the squirrels climb up their arms to sit on their shoulders.....
Teenagers held out peanuts and pocket lint, hoping to coax the squirrel closer......and
I saw more than a few crowds gathered around one squirrel snapping away happily with their iPhones.....

Man, that's gotta annoy the hell out of the mimes and street drummers. Here they are working to get a pence and the crowds are gathered around a rodent. 

Granted I don't see nearly as many squirrels here as I saw back in DC, but a rodent is still a rodent, no matter what continent it's on. Of course, I didn't care for a picture of the squirrels, but I sure did want a picture of the crowds gawking at them. There's probably some potential for an outgoing individual to market T-shirts saying "I pet a squirrel and all I got was rabies".....

This whole exchange made me stop and consider if I was traveling someplace and saw a _____ in the wild, would I let that animal climb on me? The only thing I could come up with where I'd answer 'yes' was a Koala Bear....

 A squirrel performing for his captive audience of mainland Europeans.....

A squirrel performing for his captive audience of mainland Europeans.....

2. The London Tube

Brits are an efficient society, and that was clearly demonstrated by traveling through London via the subway system, aka Tube. All major US cities should bow down at the alter of subway and pray that the London Tube Gods come bless their systems. The Tube was clean, didn't have the funk associated with subway systems, was very fast, and was very efficient. It helped that I had an iPhone app that helped navigate the myriad of lines so that I didn't have to consult the subway map that resembled a depiction of DNA. If you ever travel to London, download the app. 

The only ding I'd give the Tube is the naming for some of the stations. In DC, you could exit at "Smithsonian" and have a pretty good guess what you'd find above ground. But "Mansion House" is the stop closest to the cathedral? Never would guess that. 

PS- I did not attempt it myself, but I did not see any school aged children run at barriers in the stations and successfully pass through to the Hogwarts Express. 

iPhone panorama inside one of the London Tube stations

3. Driving an American Car on the "Wrong" Side
Before we left the US, we decided to ship my US-spec Subaru here and purchase a second UK-spec car on our arrival. After months of waiting, my Subaru finally arrived and now entered the process of being made UK legal. There's nothing wrong with driving a car where the steering wheel is on the left (they drive with right hand steering wheels here); in many ways driving a US spec car is a little easier. The first time I drove a UK spec car was a very white knuckle experience; I kept looking up and to the right for a rear view mirror and trying to work an invisible shifter. After some practice I got comfortable with driving the UK Volvo we purchased, but I still prefer the US car - it's easier to hug the curb on the narrow roads when I sit on the same side as the curb.

Making a US-spec car legal in the UK means having the headlights adjusted and making sure you have a rear fog light. Thankfully, they sell the same Subaru model here in the UK, so making it legal just meant swapping out a few factory US parts for factory UK parts. 

The biggest challenge with driving a car when you're suddenly on the "wrong" side of the road comes when you approach drive through windows or ticket machines. Today I went to pull into a pay-by-the-hour parking lot and realized the ticket issuing machine was on the passenger side. I had to put the car in park, unbuckle the belt and stretch across the car like superwoman to push the button and get my parking ticket. I'm sure the guy behind me had a good laugh as he watched the spectacle unfold.....