Thirteen Things I Miss About Scotland. I’m only sarcastic 38.7% of the time.
1. Stopping at the fuel pump. When we were there, the petrol was a very deceiving £1.07/litre. Pause with me, if you will, for just a moment to experience the ramifications of the deception. There are 3.79 litres in a gallon. The conversion rate from Pounds (£) to Dollars ($) – at the time – was $2.14 to £1. Let’s get to the point here. I paid £113.42 for a full tank of petrol on a 7-passenger car. And no, I didn’t courtesy pay for the guy on the motorbike behind me either. That’s a whopping $8.68 a gallon. Say it louder! Suddenly $3-something seems a little more reasonable. You’ll probably still hear me complain about it though.
Does this answer your burning question about why most twenty-something Brits drive about in cars the size of a Yaris? Or, in fact, they actually DO own a Yaris. Yeah. Thought it just might.
2. Stopping at Auld’s. I love Fudge Doughnuts. Fudge Doughnuts are cream-filled with a thick layer of icing on top with chocolate icing strands. [I’m suddenly wising I’d stopped long enough to grab a photo of one, but I’m a glutenous pig with no heart.] One day we went walking around my hometown looking for some souvenirs, Ian got in a huge strop and refused to go any further. As we opened the door to a kilt hire/non-tacky souvenir place, the bloke at the door said, “Aww, whit’s wrong, son?” I simply replied, “he wants a Fudge Doughnut…” “Oh, I’d be greetin’ too!” We left and went and got some. Now we were all happy. My thighs need some doughnuts.
3. Shopping. One of the first places I stopped at was with my Mum at a supermarket called Morrison’s. [If you feel a bit left out – know this: Morrison’s bought out all the Safeway locations in Scotland.] Anyway, for the first few minutes or so of casually watching my Mum sweep the aisles looking for the things she wanted, I stood in the middle and just gawked at everything, half not believing I was actually in Scotland again, staring at cakes and bread and the myriad of cheeses and (back) bacon and meat pies. I felt like a big kid and I totally loved it.
I also miss Marks & Spencer (M&S or affectionately known as ‘Marks & Sparks’), they have great food. I quietly wish the chain was over here. I also miss Tesco, despite the fact that it’s the same company as Target.
If you’ve ever lived in another country for a short spell and have been forced to stare at shelves not recognising brands or products and relied on their price to weigh whether or not they’re really worthy to sit in your trolley, you’ll know what I mean when I say glaring at a brand you are familiar with and have a history with is comforting, nostalgic and poignant all at the same time. It’s also pretty humbling.
4. Portion Control. I KNOW certain things about the UK. I know that if you walk into a supermarket to buy toothpaste or body wash or whatever takes your fancy, you’ll be staring at a smaller sized product for roughly the same price you’ll pay at least over here in the States. I know this, but when you SEE it again, you suddenly REMEMBER. During one of my moments of incredulity (it’s A WORD), I looked over at my Mum and said, “People in Britain are getting ripped off.” “I KNOW!” she replied, through gritted eyebrows.
5. Driving. I’ll say my brother is a good driver. I’ll say it because he’s bigger than me. I’ll also say it because he’s never hit anything. If you’ve ever watched Top Gear on BBC America (and if you haven’t, where the hell have you been? Get to it!), you’ll know what I mean if I say he drives reminiscent of The Stig: Skilled, but fast. One afternoon, we were driving through a residential area which, judging by the narrowness of the tarmac’d area, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a one-way. Add to that there were cars parked on the our side of the street and a car coming in the opposite direction and you’re starting to understand how my stomach could be on the roof of my mouth – well at least maybe its contents. “Aren’t you worried you’ll hit someone?” I said, almost pleading as the car coming in the opposite direction grazed past about an inch away. “Nah” he said laughing, “they have brakes too and anyway, I go this fast so the ones coming the other way will think, ‘wow look at this eejit coming!’ and get out ma way!” Comforting.
6. Weather. I never thought I’d hear myself say it, but I actually miss the rain. Now granted it stopped me from taking many pictures I wanted to take — but thanks to the rain I saw THIS in March out of my Gran’s window.
Now picture starkness and straw-yellow blandness and you’re looking at Montana the same time of year. I miss Spring. Two weeks just isn’t long enough. I don’t like too hot and I don’t like too cold. I need to move (back) to Cali. Somewhere else. But that’s another post…
7. Buses. Now that smoking on the bus is completely banned (well, it never was allowed, but when the driver is lighting up, what’s stopping anyone else from doing it?) and I’m here, riding on a bus is much more enjoyable. I did it once when we were over, just me and my Mum. The same bus driver has been driving the route since I was 11 and basically watched me grow up. I had to ride this bus to high school too, so I was always around. It was a little surreal seeing him again, especially when I walked on and he chirped, “hello sexy!” Ehhh, the name’s Siobhan.
8. Take Away. I miss having a plethora of food establishments to call on in a moment of weakness hunger. One night I phoned for a curry and had to spell my Mum’s street address.
“R-T-S for sierra D–No, D…for donkey”
Seconds later I realised I’d pretty much implied he was an idiot and tried to stifle a laugh. I then looked to my younger brother for some solice only to find him bent over like a Swiss army knife, his shoulders shaking.
I couldn’t speak and had to hand the phone off to him.
9. Electricity. There are 220 volts in the UK. I grew up fearing it. And as you know, I grew up with a FEW things dying on me: Two hairdryers and an iron. Backtrack: Not only do you plug an appliance in, you have to flick the switch too. OK, so the first day after we arrived, I plugged the power converter in and then plugged my 6-month old hairdryer in on top of that (yes, another one).
I hadn’t even flicked the switch — BANG!! I dropped to the floor with shock and made that womanly involuntary yelp-groan. We’ve all done it, don’t judge me! The hairdryer came with me. I now couldn’t use it and had to walk around with damp, psycho hair till I got to my Mum’s. I got most of it dry, but it was still pretty nasty. I then went and saw my Gran. The following day I walked in with my coiffured hair and she asked, “did you get you hair set?” (i.e. did a stylist dry and style your hair for you?) Wow. I looked THAT bad the day before? Apparently.
Incidentally, it still worked when after we got home.
10. The M6. if you’ve ever had the misfortune of driving the Utah belt of I-15, imagine this for about 8-9 hours. What a bloody nightmare. Imagine it after 24 solid hours of flights, customs and layovers and practically no sleep. Imagine my head bobbing trying to keep Bryan straight. When you understand that I never sleep in cars and only recently trained myself to sleep sitting up, you’ll know how bad I was when I tell you what a fight it was to stay awake. We had to pull over at a few Welcome Breaks just to sleep and survive. The kids were fine, they slept a lot during the flights and the drive. When we were about 3 hours from my Mum’s place, I figured Bryan was acclimated to driving in the UK again and nodded off. Yes, I’m that vindictive.
11. Chocolate. It’s amazing what you’ll let pass as edible when you’ve been in the States for 15 days shy of 8.5 years. The lovely wee chocolate companies in the UK bring out about 3 or 4 new bars a year. I had a lot to catch up on. I’ll also add it was a good thing I was also outside a lot, walking.
12. Chip Shops and the Police (‘polis’). Standing in line at a chip shop is one of the most rudimentary and stimulating pass times in Scotland. The smell of freshly made pizzas, the vinegar, pickled onions and all the fizzy drinks. I also stood in line with two on-duty officers. So there it is my friends, American cops eat doughnuts; Scottish fuzz eat fish n’ chips.
Interestingly, their uniform has also changed. It’s a lot more Spandex-y than it used to be. Gone are the days of white shirts and stuffy blazers. Nice one.
13. Rolling my R’s. After just two days of being back, I was back to my old habits. I eventually stopped rolling my R’s here mainly because I got tired of wee old women saying, “that’s so cute, say that again, dear.” I’ll say it again as I stab you in the eyes with my bony fingers, witch. It’s a good thing I’m only evil on the inside.