Thursday, February 2, 2012

What's the difference?

This post is dedicated to me explaining how utterly different so many things are over here as compared to back home. I thought I'd best do this while I'm still a newbie here...before too long things will seem totally normal and I won't be thinking about it any more.

I'll start just by taking you on a virtual tour of my flat. First thing I noticed when I walked in last week: the light switches. At home, we have switches right by every door. Easy peasy...convenient. Not here. ONE switch in most rooms. In the living room there is a switch by the front door, and another going out into the little middle room (not sure what I'm supposed to call a foyer in the middle of the flat or something). But that's the ONLY room. The light switch to the bathroom is a pull-handle. The kitchen: one switch near where you come in from the foyer-thing. However, being as I park outside the back door (which is out the kitchen into the alley), in the morning when I leave I have to open the door, which swings WIDE OPEN btw, like the house isn't level or something (which is actually needed cuz my small refrigerator would be totally blocking my exit if it weren't wide open)...and then I have to go back across the kitchen to hit the light switch and work my way around the refrigerator in complete darkness...oh...and the door opens the wrong way, so I can smack it good with my face/head/ it opens INTO the kitchen instead of towards the wall. Also, being so cold (right at freezing every night), if I start the car up to warm it up before I jump in and drive, when the door swings wide open, the exhaust pipe of the car is about 18" away from the wide open doorway now...and the exhaust is just blowing right inside.

Bathroom: the shower is the tub. Free-standing thing. No curtain, privacy whatsoever. It does have a little half-glass piece-swing-away thing that separates where you stand under the water from the toilet. When I first saw it I thought "no way on earth that small glass piece is keeping the shower water in the tub and not all over the floor". I was quite wrong. You see, for that to happen, there'd have to be water spewing out of the shower head with some sort of shower is a very gentle affair, and I swear I can spit harder than the water coming out. It's also an "instant heater" unit, vice a hot water heater. So I hit a button and the water starts to gently fall out of my shower head. However, it IS the perfect temperature, day after day with no adjustment needed (there is a knob that you rotate...more blue colder, more red warmer). So that one's a toss-up.

More bathroom. OK. The sink. It's a sink. Nothing else. No cabinet, anything. Nowhere to put stuff except around the faucet handles (and I mean TWO faucet handles). I'm not sure what century the hot/cold water coming out of the same spout was invented, but that hasn't gotten here yet apparently. I have either REALLY FREAKING COLD, or REALLY FREAKING HOT water, each coming out of their own spout....separated by about 10 inches of air. Wash your hands in that. And I'm not kidding either about how HOT and COLD they are. Amazing they can be that far apart in temp. The good part is the icy cold water feels somewhat good on your scalded hands. Next: the back of the toilet. Back home: flat (so I can put stuff on it, such as a spare roll of TP and some air freshener, you know...stuff like that). Here, it's they are afraid you might try to actually put stuff on it. Must be some kind of forbidden zone. Thank goodness I have like 5 things to store. They are all herded together in the tiny real-estate available on the sink.

Next up: power outlets. OK....sure, these ARE 230 volts AC...but do they need to be so BIG?? Great googly moogly! I plug any of my 110v plugs into one of the adapter plugs, and it looks like a VW sticking out of a dump truck or something (in size comparison). That is one HUGE plug! And while we are talking about plugs, how about a few more please? On my kitchen counter, I have ONE plug plate with 2 outlets...however ONE of them is taken up FULL TIME becasue the TINY FREAKING GAS STOVE needs an acutal wall plug! Thus, I have ONE plug left to share between the microwave, coffee pot and toaster (and anything ELSE I might use). Gotta have more plugs folks! Same for the walls...not EVEN one outlet per wall..some have NONE! Like the outlets (and light switches) were made of gold or something. Oh, and speaking of the TINY FREAKING GAS STOVE, I cooked some tater tots last week. There is a conversion chart I need to use. There's NO temperature's on the oven. Just a tiny character of a big-flame, three dash marks, and a character of a small-flame. THAT's IT! I'm supposed to figure out what temp to cook a pizza, or a chicken pot pie with THAT? PLEASE!!!!! I'll be lucky if my pot pie and pizza's aren't burned to a crisp (no timer either).

Heating. Wall mounted hot water radiators. There is a wall mounted thermostat (in Centigrade) in my little middle-room thing, but I can't even figure out what that is controlling, being as there's no furnace. EACH radiator has it's OWN temperature control knob...and those are adjusted to either I, II, III or IV  (or off, though it doesn't say that...I just figured that part out if you turn it slightly below the I setting). Maybe the thermostat controls the temp of the hot water, and the individual controls set how much each room gets?? That's my best guess.

Fireplace. Not even a real fireplace. Not even a real gas fireplace. Just a little contraption with some fake logs on it, and you have a few choices when you turn on the main switch: Light only (which lights below the fake logs, giving a nice fake impression of actual fake logs lying on a fake fireplace), and heat. Or should I say heat, HEat, or HEAT...depending on how many of the switches you turn ON. It does actually give out a nice little blow of heat (electric)....being as it's 230V, electric heaters are MUCH more effective than back in the US. Being as I setup my laptop on a little table right next to the fake fireplace, it's actually a nice little space heater...tho the fan is a bit noisy. But still, FAR better than nothing. This way I can leave the house slightly chilly, and turn on the 'fireplace' for a bit when I get home to toasty-things up some.

The TV. Or more accuratly, the guide...when you hit guide, whatever you were watching goes away. Back home it stays on in the corner of the screen, audio still there. Not you search (in vain usually) for ANYTHING to watch, you have total silence. And then when yo DO select a channel, you have to push yet ANOTHER an "are you sure" button. VERY annoying. I already PICKED that channel! Geez...the troubles I go thru...hitting the same button TWICE to watch a show! Will these trials and tribulations NEVER END?? ( I spoiled or WHAT!)

Storage space. I guess some of the flats have actual closets or such. Not this one. My Samsonite suitcase is sitting against the wall in my little middle-room, cuz I have nowhere else to put it. when my bike gets here, it will be joined by the hard-shell S&S case. The bike itself will most likely hang out in the kitchen. For one, that's about the only place with a piece of wall long enough to put it (that isn't already occupied by something else), and two: it will be going in/out of the back door anyway. And three...the kitchen has lovely linoleum floor, impervious to any wetness and such...whereas the rest of the flat is carpeted (except for the bathroom).

The refrigerator. It's pretty freaking tiny. If Jeannie were here, we'd be way-packed in there...thankfully with just me (and my BACHELOR foods), it's not too shabby. However, there's NO SHELF tall enough to put bottles of beer. HERE! In the BEER CAPITAL of the world!! What's up with THAT????????? I have a small drawer that can hold THREE pints, lying down. The rest have to sit on TOP of the refrigerator, as I have NO OTHER PLACE to put them. Speaking of no other place, NO PANTRY! I have my dry-good foods up in one of the dish cupboards, and re-arranged the other one to hold all the stuff I needed to move so I could have SOME space for my canned/dry goods.

Beer. Oh, did I mention that before? Hmmm...I MIGHT have.....tonights selection of the nectar of the Gods is a bottle of Bellhaven Wee Heavy. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

On the label it says "Brewed by Scotlands oldest surviving regional brewers. Bellhaven Wee Heavy has a rich deep flavour (yes, flavor is spelled with the "u") that derives from the greater proportion of malted barley to hops which characterised Scottish Ales of the 19th century. A beer to be sipped and fully respected. (note: it's 6.5% alcohol). On the whole, VERY NICE! I'll be buying more of these I can assure you! It has a slight sweet hint to the malty taste. Nice color too...a good copper ale if there ever was one.  OK...that was my beer review for today. Get some! (note: Bellhaven brewery doesn't even know I exist and there is nothing in this for me, except for the right to buy MORE beer!)

Well gee...that about covers everything INSIDE...I'll do a post on the driving it will easily be it's own post. Hope everybody is having a nice week....we are supposed to get winter now...a storm is predicted with temps at -7C (that's about 19F). There could very well be snow...there's snow still on the ground less than 30 miles away up at Grassington...(where I will be riding my bike thru when I ride around in the Yorkshire Dales....WHEN it warms up just a tad I mean). I hope this post didnt' come over as me being a whiney-baby American...(not saying I'm NOT, just that I didn't mean for it to SOUND that way)'s just amazing the simple things we take for granted on a daily basis that are so different.

OK...time to finish my TASTY BEER and get some shut-eye. I only work a half day tomorrow (Friday) as I worked 9 hour days Mon thru real plans for this weekend...might go driving around some...that's always fun!

Have a GREAT weekend!



  1. Matt- The Brits may be onto something there. According to Wikipedia the British use half the per capita consumption of energy that the US does. Maybe we don't really NEED an electric backscratcher.

    As for riding I had this link and thought of you:

    Looking forward to more beer stories.

    1. When I moved in with Jim, he has what I would call, a bachelor frig. It's not even as tall as I am. It is NOT normal for two people eating Jenny Craig food, because the freezer is so small!! And most stuff has to be laid down to fit.
      I'm just sayin''s very annoying!

  2. The FEDS have finally decided to STOP WASTING OUR MONEY & have dropped the charges against Lance. 'Bout time.

    LOVE your reports! And photos! LOVE LOVE LOVE. I had hoped to chat/write this week but work keeps interfering! Next week.

    Will you be able to watch the Super Bowl? Who ya rootin for? I'm leaning towards Eli & the Giants this time. Although I do love that Gronk! The guy is freakin HUGE!

    February 3, 2012 3:06 PM

  3. Love your pictures and dexcriptions Matt. Hope you are feeling more acclimated and rested. Now I am wondering just how old this flat is? My own house was built in 1941 and has only 2 outlets per room-- I added 3 more to the family room for the computer, printer, another lamp...I also remember the sinks with two faucets, one hot & one cold. We would hold the washcloth under one to get it wet, then under the other to get it to the right temperature!

    As for the room for beer in the fridge--well you know that you are not supposed to drink it at home alone! That is what the pub is for! (I don't remeber, do the Brits drink their beer cold? I don't think I had any cold beer in Holland)

    So, the federal grand jury didn't find merit, but the USADA still has the other shoe to drop! Still, what can they do to LA now? I would worry more about what they might do to riders who are still active, like Hincapie

    1. Anybody that talk too the USADA, because of Floyd, was given amnesty. That was the deal for the information.

  4. David, I don't doubt that pretty much EVERYBODY uses less power (and less waste/etc) per capita than we the spoiled in the US. You don't really see it until you travel.

    I rented a mt bike when I was here 5 years ago (in Sept/Oct). It was rather fun, tho radically diff than the trails I ride back home. And there's just NO staying dry and clean, which is a prob when you live in a flat and have a rental bike they want back clean. I had to put it in my bathtub..what a MESS!

    Sooz...welcome back! I know you've been busy but I've REALLY missed your rants! It's great to know you are still checking in tho. Jeannie has recorded the Super Bowl for me (however it's on in the middle of the night here)...I'll watch it prob Monday after work. I'm also rootin for Eli. I LOVE it that he's finally totally out from the shadow of Peyton. He has been flat out ON FIRE the last half of this season! Plus, I have no love for the Pats...I have a LONG memory (uhm, well, in SOME things I mean)...years back the Raiders n the Pats in the AFC Championship game...when Goose (big blob of a defensive dude) tackled Gannon, then augured him into the ground purposely...Gannon was hurt and out of the game, and Goose got a penalty (and later a fine by the league)...then he was bragging about how it was the best money he ever spent.


    But's just a game and I don't really care who long as it's a good game (HA! Had my fingers crossed when I typed that! DESTROY! DESTROY! DESTROY the Pats!!! GO ELI!!!!!)

    And as to how old this place is (was that you Rae? Your comment was cut off mid sentence)... I'm guessing OLD. Not much here isn't. Things prob get renovated twice a century or so. And as to beer in the fridge...I could surely be out hitting the pubs every night, but that kind'a eats up the purpose I came on this trip (to SAVE some $$....this trip will get me out of debt and give me spending $$ for the whole year!). I'll go out tonight & have dinner & a few pints big Saturday night out.

    Also, no the beer isn't 'cold' by US standards (that's cuz REAL beer doesn't need to be cold). Real pubs have a beer cellar. Not too cold, not too warm. And the Cask ales...ahhhhh! Not too bubbly, SUPER smooth & creamy...pulled from the cask w/ the hand engine....mmmmmMMMMMM!'s only 8:30am and now I'm jonesing for a beer!

  5. Holey-Moley, we've got COLD WHITE STUFF! Prob only about 2 or 3", but I'm guessing that's a LOT here. Takes me back to my WY/MT days as a kid.

    And to make my weekend complete, I got a lovely letter from the Royal Mail on Sat afternoon...seems my bike is being held hostage. The UK seems they deserve TAX on it. They want 63 LB customs duty, and 353 LB VAT (Value Added Tax). And an 8 LB clearance fee. Total ransom: 424 LBs (roughly $640). I think there must be a MISUNDERSTANDING...this is MY used bike, not a new bike, nothing being sold or anything. Just my personal belongings being mailed to MYSELF for use while I'm here). HOPEFULLY I can talk to somebody on the phone and get this worked out...I've already paid all the taxes on it that I'm gonna. Shipping was also pricey...NO MORE FEES! Otherwise they can just ship it right back to the sender (ME!). This is ridiculous!

  6. Matt, we live in a house built in the early 50's. Some plugs have been added, and what is considered a closet is extremely small. The whole house is small, but roomer that my 1978 duplex!
    But the duplex has two bathrooms!! And a regular sized refrigerator. Yea, we are spoiled.

    I can't believe the TAX misunderstanding!! You may be renting bikes while you are there.

    Oh, my Dad is from Belgium, He doesn't believe in ice or cold anything. He does understand the rest of the family likes it!

    And I rooted for NY since they beat my Packers. And they won by 4 pts!!

  7. Oh, and that's the afternoon POST.

  8. Monday NIGHT, 10pm, JUST finished watching the Super Bowl...had a brutal day NOT hearing who won, as EVERYBODY wanted to talk about it...and Jeannie had recorded it for me on the DVR so I could watch it tonight. WOW! I was holding my breath at the end! I can't figure out why the Giants even TRIED to run the ball in at the end...why Eli didn't just kneel on it and MAKE the Pats take another time out...then give it one try for the end zone, and if not kick the field goal w/ time nearly running out. Giving Brady even a minute is VERY DANGEROUS! But it worked out in the end...I can breath again. And nobody can complain about a blowout.

    OK...that's it for tonight...time for some sleepy-time. One of the guys I work with (he's only 20 yrs old) stayed up last night for the game...he got to bed about 4:30am, up at 5:30am...and he survived the day. be young and crazy again! I almost need a nap just THINKING about doing that!


  9. So... just heard the news about Contador...

  10. Yes, can't quite figure out what to say about the AC case...I am conflicted.

    Okay, I see that he did test positive, and wasn't able to prove a source of contamination, so zero tolerance. I guess it is just that he was let off by the Spanish federation, and allowed to ride, then the thing dragged on for so long, plus if he had been tested at any other lab there would be no positive... So now Andy has finally won a race!

    I guess I am most unhappy with what this will do to Saxo. There is talk of stripping the team of all the WorldTour points earned by AC, and maybe taking back their WorldTour status....that seem so unfair, as the violation didn't even occur while AC was at Saxo--he was still on Astana. It is all the Schleck's fault, really...


  11. WOW! Hadn't heard about the Contador decision until I came home today and looked here...(don't get any computer time at work here). I was afraid it would happen, but hoping for otherwise. I don't know if he did or didn't do it, but all this time later it just doesn't matter, except that to take away all the OTHER results he's had since is a travesty. I can see how it can be looked at both ways, but nobody can deny that SINCE that ill fated TDF, he WAS pretty much the man to beat, and you can't tell me he was doping THEN! Not with all the testing he was getting. So did he cheat in THAT TDF? It would appear he didn't need to. Just IMO. Makes me even MORE frustrated w/ the entire system/sport than before. And even in the CAS ruling they said something about how there was no real evidence he DID cheat, and still gave the sentence. Thank god they aren't deciding death, we don't have any evidence you did it sir, but we're going to put you to death anyway. The entire system is just crap.'d have thought the entire WADA doping system was created by our US Congress! ( political there). But it seems both are pretty screwed up. Again, just IMO. Not a good day for cycling.

  12. LOVED your post again Matt!! And I'm SO glad to have you back, T!

    Wow, lots of cycling news and drama the past few days! The Twitterverse has been in an uproar too. It does sound like WADA and/or USADA will be picking up the LA case. Sounds to me like they think that they can get most of the information collected during the past 2 years of investigating. Hope you're right T about the current riders who gave testimony...

    I'm pretty sure that I don't have the most popular view of AC and the CAS decision - but here goes...
    I happen to think that he got off pretty easily in comparison to others. Mostly due to the mess that is UCI/WADA/Nat'l Agencies, riders do not face the same penalties to the complete detriment of the sport. Contador was allowed to continue riding and RACING throughout this process instead of being immediately banned, as others have been, and has never had to lose his racing form. He'll only be really suspended from riding (even though his results will have been removed) for 6 months. Now, I believe I've said here several times before that I don't agree with the zero tolerance testing - nor do I believe that a rider who can prove where the drug test positive came (not necessarily AC) in the form of say tainted supplement or anti-baldness medicine, should receive the same penalty as someone caught doping with performance enhancing substances. BUT....those are the current rules! And if they are going to give Tom Zirbel a 2 year suspension and that poor skeleton guy with the hair growth product got the same I believe, then it seems like it would be incredibly unfair to judge that AC has suffered enough and can just return to business as normal. I DO believe that those rules should be changed and that they're unfair. But they should be changed for EVERYONE and not just in the case of AC. The mess that we now face, with points taken away and awarded to other riders, questions about Saxo Banks license, and the unfairness to everyone who both rode against and rode in support of Contador during that time, is because of the way that they have the system set up. Spain didn't feel that they needed to follow the WADA code.....and this mess has ensued in the aftermath. NOT fair to anyone. Not at all. Not sure if I put that into words very well, but as Matt would say, just my 2 cents.

    On a more pleasant note
    Has anyone seen any of the online coverage of the Tour of Qatar? Cancellara REALLY split the peloton in the wind today(yesterday?). I love to watch that guy ride!! Boonen looks really good and I'm hoping that he can maybe stay healthy this year. Poor Tyler F had a puncture close to the end and came in 30 seconds back - with a loud expletive at the finish ;) So nice to have some racing to watch!

    Happy Friday all!