I don\’t really have a post this week (very busy times for all of us, you know) so I thought I\’d take advantage of this down time to throw up a hodgepodge of items I had on my list but never got around to writing about.
(You can take \”throw up\” as a metaphor if you like, but I will try to make this as tasteful as the traditional \”First Week of December Turkey Casserole\” at the very least.)
Currently, I am engaging in another time-honored holiday tradition called \”Waiting in Line at the Post Office.\” I arrived just after they opened but the queue was already out the door; the only good thing about that was it has, briefly, stopped raining. So while we\’re here, let\’s talk about some unconnected trivia:
Ah, the power of my web site! After my last post, more lights have begun appearing around the town—not many, but a few. The black hole that was the Bishopric now has festive lights strung in the trees so it no longer looks like this:
but now looks like this:
How much effort and expense could that have taken? No more than half an hour and £6.00 at Poundland. Yet they had to be shamed into it by my previous blog post. (I know they must have read it and been spurred into action by justifiable guilt; what other explanation could there be?)
In other news, no one here seems to know what 1,000,000,000 is called.
Traditionally, a British billion is a million millions, or 1,000,000,000,000, which is a US trillion. Granted, this is falling out of fashion but it was the standard until a few years ago. However, no one has been able to tell me what increment comes after the American million. If it\’s not ‘billion,’ then what is it?
My boss, who was a math teacher in a former life, couldn\’t tell me, so I went to the bank and asked, \”Hi, I\’m Trish, How Can I Help,\” but she puzzled over the query and had to retreat to the back room to consult with her mates while the queue stretched out behind me and I apologetically explained that I hadn\’t meant to take so long, I was only doing it for a joke. (Now you see why my wife doesn\’t like to come into town with me.)
Eventually, I\’m Here To Help Trish returned with the pronouncement:
1,000,000 = Million
1,000,000,000 = Billion
1,000,000,000,000 = Trillion
I thanked her and, in order to keep the queue from turning in to a lynch mob, left without pointing out that the combined knowledge of the entire bank staff was patently wrong. My next stop was Waterstones Book Shop and the Oxford English Dictionary, which unequivocally states that 1,000,000,000,000 is a British Billion, though it does note this is falling out of favor (or, favour, if you will).
It did not, however, tell me what 1,000,000,000 was, and further confused matters by telling me that a British trillion is actually 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, or \”a million, million, million.\”
So what do they call a proper quadrillion? The mystery deepens.
And finally, British clothing is pants. (For those of you light on the lingo, \”pants\” is a mild insult, as in, \”having to work on Thanksgiving Day is pants!\”) Anyway, I\’ve been on a quest for pants, or underwear, lately because, frankly, the ones I brought over with me nearly eight years ago are starting to show their age. I\’ve tried British Home Stores and several brands from Marks and Spencer but, with one notable exception, they were all, well, pants.
The BHS line fell apart after a few washings, as did one M&S line. One of M&S lines, however, wore well and was every bit as snug and comfy as my traditional fruit-of-the-looms. (If any of you are beginning to suffer from Too Much Information syndrome, I invite you to move along. I won\’t be insulted, honest; I wouldn\’t want to hear about your underwear, either.)
The problem is, I can\’t find the \’good\’ line again. I\’ve looked in every M&S I have been in and even wrote down the make, model and serial number for comparison and still cannot find any. They say, \”Better to have loved and lost,\” but I would prefer not having found any good pants than knowing there are perfect pants out there somewhere, hiding from me.
Another fashion anomaly involves shirts:
British shirts do not come with sleeve sizes. You get a neck size and just deal with it. This makes me look somewhat silly when my cuffs stick out 6 inches from my suit coat sleeves, so one day I came up with what I thought was an ingenious solution: I put rubber bands around my arms just above my elbows to hold the sleeves at their proper length.
This worked well enough, and back at home when I removed my suit jacket, I expected my wife to look at the rubber bands and exclaim what a great idea they were. Instead she just looked puzzled and asked, \”Why didn\’t you borrow mine?\”
Apparently, croupier-style arm garters are standard apparel here in Britain. I now do borrow her pair (I had seen them before, I just thought they were some sort of bracelet) and I have to say it is really cool dressing like a Wild West bartender. All I need is the vest and the handlebar moustache.
The queue has moved a bit. I\’m nearly inside now and should be out of here in time for lunch. This, you see, is another British tradition—a Christmas queue filled with people mailing packages all over the world and the only time they can do it is between nine and noon on Saturday morning and the Royal Mail sees to it there are never more than two tellers on duty at one time.
Traditions: what would Christmas be without them?