• [Forks, Fences, Foolish Ads]

    S&M Files, Episode 7: December 30, 1999
    “Painted with Anti Climb Paint”

    A local house is identified by this sign outside. I never had
    the urge until now. I can hardly wait for my rock climbing shoes
    to arrive.

    Fork Up

    In Britain, by law, you must pay more to eat in some place

    A patron at a local Grease & Chips shop had to fork out
    more dough between mouthfuls. He apparently sat in the “nice”
    seats, where he had access to amenities like cutlery, padded
    seats and a table at the right height. If he were clever, he
    would have perched against the wall on the stools up front with
    the rest of the lepers and common scum. I know I would have. Not
    good enough for us lepers, hmm?

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  • [Extremes]

    S&M Files, Episode 6: December 23, 1999
    Extreme Sports

    What a cute notion to fly a kite next to the crashing surf.
    But these were not ordinary kites. The kites themselves were
    little parachutes, and their masters were decked out in extreme
    kite wear. The huge contraptions seemed to take great joy in
    launching their captors high into the air and then dragging them
    across the beach. As I recall, sandpaper is made from sand.

    Fortunately, Brighton does not have sand.

    Brighton has pebbles.

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  • [Food, Furnishing, and Freezing]

    S&M Files, Episode 5: December 12, 1999
    Perish the Thought

    Food must either go bad faster here, or we North Americans are
    used to rancid. The roast chicken is labelled EAT WITHIN 24
    HOURS. It’s good for up to an hour unrefrigerated. My grapes
    almost expired by the time I got home. :)

    On the plus side, food seems to be less Americanized here.
    That is, the ingredient list does not take up two panels of the
    cookie box. There is also a lot more organic and vegetarian food
    readily available. Well, readily if you are readily rich. Grapes
    are $6 a pound. It’s cheaper to fly to Spain for $125 and pick
    your own.

    Our fridge is small. You might know this, but you do not
    understand this. It is SMALL. We have two (2) shelves. Neither is
    big enough to fit a 2- litre carton of milk at any angle. The
    crisper is the size of a very large hamster. I would kill for the
    bar fridge at the office.

    In a way, it’s very much like camping out. You carefully pack
    and unpack your food each time you need some, taking care not to
    create empty pockets. You light your stove with a match. You wear
    multiple layers of clothing. It’s the West Coast Trail X 2.5.

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  • [Terrible Taste and Britain's Best]

    S&M Files, Episode 4: December 6, 1999
    Food and Being English

    Indian Pizza. Not surprisingly, and more to my delight than
    Michelle’s, Indian cuisine is prevalent here. The local Safeway
    has a complete Indian dinner for two next to the frozen pizzas.
    I’m curious to discover what lies in the “ethnic” foods

    Fish and Chips. Still waiting for decent fish and chips. The
    local shop downstairs seems to believe in a long soak in grease
    followed by a gentle warming.

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  • [Housing, Heating, & Happiness]

    S&M Files, Episode 3: December 2, 1999
    English Life: Housing, Heating, and Happiness

    Now that I’ve been in England more than one week, intending on
    being a permanent resident, I feel I have the right to make
    cryptic, cynical pronouncements about life in England. Enjoy this
    humorous and somewhat barbed rebuttal to Stephen’s earlier

    We were fortunate that Stephen’s cousin Julian offered to
    put us up for the first two weeks after our arrival here in
    Brighton. Of course, if one is to believe Stephen’s account of
    Julian’s apartment, perhaps the offer wasn’t all that fortunate
    after all. :-P Myself, however, being made of far sterner stuff than
    Stephen, I found Julian’s apartment to be perfectly fine for a
    cheap place to live. Now, you might not think that a £600/month
    place is a “cheap” place to live but, given the housing situation
    here in Brighton at the moment, and the fact that Julian has a
    3-bedroom, 3-storey house, £600/month is almost reasonable. Cheap is
    what enables us (and Julian!) to save so splendidly on heating.
    After all, if the heating doesn’t actually function, then you can’t
    spend a fortune on electricity attempting to use it, right? Cheap
    is also what enables us to almost never have to vacuum. When the
    carpet throughout the house is the colour of dirty sand, you just
    don’t easily notice the dirt on it. Ahhhh! The luxuries of
    the bachelor apartment!

    For a cheap place, though, it has large windows everywhere,
    single-paned to be sure, but large windows nonetheless. The walls
    and ceiling even bear evidence of recent painting too. What more could a
    bachelor ask for? Cable, mobile phones, PlayStations, VCRs,
    stereo equipment, and sound editing equipment apparently. The
    sandy floor in the living room (or lounge, as the locals
    refer to it) is festooned with high-tech music equipment, two
    televisions, a PlayStation, and a digital equipment cordless
    telephone (DECT phone). This is very amusing when you consider
    that the actual inhabitants of this flat spend far less time
    here than we do. Maybe they’ve figured out how to use this
    stuff remotely?

    I hope that the picture I paint of Julian’s flat is neither too
    contemptuous nor unflattering. I rather like it except for the heating and
    the carpet. I had secret plans to sell all of Julian’s stuff and just take
    over the place in order to solve our housing problem. I figure that any
    place that is not home to more than 20 species of bugs (unlike some other
    places in which I lived) is a fine place to stay. Any place where the roof
    doesn’t leak into the walls is also a fine place to stay. Any place where
    turning on the microwave doesn’t interfere with television reception
    because of ‘noisy power’ is a fine place to stay. If you manage to not
    have all these problems in one place then you’ve found a fantastic place to
    stay, even if it doesn’t back onto a ravine!

    For some reason, completely unfathomable to me, Stephen decided that
    finding a place of our own in which to live wasn’t that high of a
    priority. After all, what can you do with your own personal place:
    open a bank account, have proof of address to get cell phones, have a
    place to forward your business calls to, have a place to put all
    of your stuff coming by container from Canada, have a place to
    sleep after your relatives boot you out on the street? Those don’t
    sound all that important, right? Well, apparently they weren’t
    to Stephen but luckily I convinced him that we absolutely needed to
    find our own place to stay as we could only stay with Julian for
    two weeks and then with Anna, a friend from Sussex University, for
    the month of December.

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  • [Trees in the Toilet]

    Last night I dreamt of toilets, toilets and toilets and it’s all Eingang’s fault.

    Some time back, bemoaning the lack of trees in our neighborhood, we adopted a couple of stray Christmas trees and lured them back to the flat. (They were lost on the street and it was either that or take them to a shelter or, well, firewood.) Luckily they came with their own pots full of dirt.

    These Christmas trees relate to toilets in a way you just don’t want to know. Hang in there.

    One of the trees blossomed under our loving care but the other sadly was losing its lust for life. We thought perhaps it had been affected by salty ocean spray. You see, when I found it, it was taking a not-so-thoughtful sojourn to the sea-side.

    The Ein had a cunning plan. We would wash the tree. Not only would we wash the needles, but we’d, um, wash the dirt and rocks in the pot. And to make the poor distressed tree even happier, we’d kick his brother out of his nice pot where he was happily thriving and trade pots.

    “You’ll kill both trees and plug up our septic system,” I pointed out. I had my doubts about the ‘cunning’ in the cunning plan.

    “Maybe everything will be OK, ” she beamed, “and we’ll have lovely, lush trees!”


    Well, we washed the tree, the pot, the roots. Despite our best intentions most of the dirt and crap seemed to disappear out of the tub. And now the toilet makes funny noises every time we flush.
    You see, our toilet, being a late installation doesn’t flush down. It flushes up. A little pump valiantly lifts all the water and stuff over the wall. Normally it goes “whirrr whirrr whirrrr” combined with a satisfying “grump grump grump” of stuff being pushed up and over.
    Recently it started going “whirrr whirrr whirrr” with not so satisfying addition of more “whirrr whirrr whirrr” followed usually by “whirrr whirrr whirrr”

    Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirr
    Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirr Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirr Whirrr Whirr
    Whirrr Whirrr
    Whirrr Whirrr Whirrr Whirr Whirr Whirr Whirr Whirr

    “Perhaps we could suggest to the landlord that the pump isn’t working so well anymore”, Michelle suggested last night.

    The last tenants who did this had the pump taken apart and it was found to be clogged with several hundred condoms! We’re not quite certain how he explained this. “Condoms? I have no idea how all those condoms got there! What kind of guy would flush a condom?”

    I have visions of the pump being opened up and us having to explain how it came to be covered in pine needles.

    “Maybe it wouldn’t be covered in pine needles,” Michelle suggested optimistically, “Maybe it’s covered in rocks!”

    “Pine needles and rocks?, ” we would say, “in our pump? No we haven’t been flushing dirt and rocks down our toilet. Of course not. What kind of idiot puts dirt and rocks in the toilet. And we, of course, haven’t been washing Christmas trees or anything like that in the toilet. That’s just silly. They would go round and around when you flushed.”

    Of course, if they asked us if we were dumping rocks and needles down our bathtub we’d have to ‘fess up and it would be the end for the adventuring S&M.

    The dream? Oh, of course. After a conversation about this right before bed I proceeded to spend the night dreaming about an airplane flight where each window seat had its own toilet conveniently placed at about elbow height into the wall. The toilets were used as a kind of messaging and transportation system. You shoved an object into the back of the toilet next to your seat (at convenient elbow height) and it would be magically transported to one of the other toilets for retrieval. A very classy airline.

    I was debugging Michelle’s toilet and was having trouble getting the Hot Wheels car suitably in the back of the toilet. It was clogged with thick mud, rocks and shit. So to speak. As I was up to my elbow into the muck, trying to place my Hot Wheels car, it occurred to me this transportation system may not be too popular with the ladies. Just another crappy airline.


  • [Adventures Across the Atlantic]

    S&M Files, Episode 2: November 27, 1999
    Continued Price Shock

    Hearing price shock from me is not surprising. What is surprising is how it continually sneaks up and waps me upside the head.

    Mini Doughnuts: Remember those little doughnuts that float about the deep fryer on little conveyer belts and pop out fresh and hot at $2 bag or 3 / $5. Well, surprise! The Toonie-sized wonders are here for a reasonable pound note ($2.60). Oh wait, that’s £1 for 3 donuts. Count them: 1-2-3. Ha! Ha! Three little donuts. For those that can’t afford that kind of extravagance they can be purchased *singly* for a mere 35p (86¢).

    Coke: Needing my fix, I hit the local Safeway and found cans of Coke on sale. Say, that’s pretty reasonable: a pack for about $4.50. Safeway normally discounted a 12 pack to $4.00 back home. It wasn’t until I tried to pick it up that I found out it was a 6-pack.

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  • [Essaying England]

    S&M Files, Episode 1: November 24, 1999

    England is well… England. The stereotypes are all true.

    Little lanes
    Wet weather
    Tiny shops
    Small cars
    Outrageous prices
    Little red chimneys
    British countryside
    All those silly Monty Pythoners everywhere. Two on the corner. One
    serving me at the store. Two figuring out how to hire a shopping cart.
    Help! I’m stuck in a skit.

    It’s like an overdone Hollywood set brought to life.

    Flew in from bright sunshine and fluffy into a slow descent into wet and
    drizzling. Welcome to London, Stephen Dodd.

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