Further Observations

Further Observations

Just after our arrival in England, I made a list of strange things we noticed. Now that we’ve had some time to settle and really take in our surroundings, we’ve noticed a few less-crazy weird things, some of which we’re actually fans of.

By Any Other Name
While wandering the streets and neighborhoods of Wokingham, we noticed many of the houses have labels. These little signs don’t have the year the house was built or proclaim the names of the owners or businesses that inhabit them. Rather they bear the names of the houses. At first I thought this was isolated to large apartment complexes, but then we started to notice them on small houses while we wandered through secluded cul-de-sacs.

Still, I thought it was strange seeing signs outside the door proclaiming “The Lilac Cottage” until I found this passage in Good Omens:

“My aunt’s Bungalow’s called Shangi-La,” said Wensleydale.
Adam snorted.
“Not very clever, naming a valley after some ole bungalow,” he said, “might as well call it Dunroamin’, or, or The Laurels…”
“I expect it’s the same place. Prob’ly got both names,” said Pepper with unusual diplomacy. “Like our house. We changed the name from The Lodge to Norton View when we moved in, but we still get letters addressed to Theo C. Cupier, The Lodge…”

So apparently giving houses names is normal here. I think I’ll give our next house a name, no matter where it’s located.

Strange Doors
This is actually a pair of observations. The first is in regards to entryways. Most of them don’t have regular door knobs. Instead of the lock being located in the center of the knob, there are dead-bolt locks instead. Except you don’t unlock the deadbolt and then open the door, the key needs to be in the lock in order to open it. Sometimes there’s also a handle to turn (our door requires you to do both and so requires two hands to open). The lock, then, takes the place of the door knob and you cannot open the door without the key (which seems more secure to me). At the Hope and Anchor, we had to turn the key in the lock and it had a knob you could grip, but it was in the middle of the door and didn’t turn.

This results in some interesting circumstances. Our friends in Portsmouth warned us they’d be locked in if we locked the door when we left their apartment. Apparently, if someone locks the door from the outside, it’s impossible to open it again until it’s unlocked from the outside. They discovered this when one of them inadvertently locked the other inside the apartment for the day.

The second observation is the interior of British apartments have an abundance of doors. In North America, we’re used to having doors on closets, bedrooms and bathrooms. But in England even the living room and kitchen tend to have doors. At first, this surprised and confused me. I thought, perhaps, it was so that rooms like the living room could be used as extra bedrooms for house shares. But now we’ve spent a few months here, I think I’ve figured it out. It’s so humid in England, condensation and moisture control is a big deal. Some places don’t even have extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom (such as our flat). Being able to close the door to all the rooms keeps the steam contained when cooking and showering, helps control the temperature and mitigates moisture damage.

Let There Be Light
One thing that’s taken some getting used to are the switches on outlets. Instead of unplugging appliances to conserve electricity, you simply turn off the outlet (but you have to remember to turn it on when you want to use it. I’ve forgotten more than once). The light switches are opposite what we’re used to. But the thing that takes the most getting used to, are the light switches in the bathroom. Or rather, the lack thereof.

Instead of light switches, it’s common to have a pull chord in the bathroom. I have no idea why and, I have to say, I’m not a fan. Our pull chord malfunctioned our second week in our new flat and an electrician had to come and replace it with a new one (which luckily works like a charm). It sure was fun brushing my teeth in the light of the mobile phone flash light for two days.

Across the Way
I mentioned the narrow, winding nature of British roads in my last list, but I’ve noticed something else in recent days. Many corners, especially near roundabouts (which is many, many corners), seem to have a two-part crossing. This allows you to cross half the street, pause on a small bastion in the center of the road, and then cross the other half of the street. When that happens in North America, it’s generally because someone tried to cross the road when they shouldn’t have and got stranded on the barrier. But here it’s by design, so you don’t have to run across the roundabout, or in case you have to cross catty-corner. I rather like it because you only ever have to worry about one lane of traffic at a time, which makes crossing the road a lot less stressful.

2 Replies to “Further Observations”

  1. Very interesting observations! I recognize a few of them, but not all. I actually like the idea of naming one’s house and have been trying to come up with a good one for ours. :)

    1. I’d love to hear what you come up with! I’ll have to wrack my brains when the time comes. I kind of feel like I have to be living in the house to name it, so stocking up on ideas ahead of time might not work ^^;;

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