Friday, September 28, 2007

Notes from a small island!

1. I received a leaflet under my door advertising the Norwich Green Party. I thought about Mr. Romanelli for a few minutes, and I shed a tear.

2. We were recently issued recycling bins, but we have not used them. I admire the way Londoners recycle: On every underground train, people leave their newspaper behind in a crevice between the top of the seat and the window. This allows one newspaper (most of them here are skanky tabloids, but I'm over that already) to be read by multiple people. In America, if you left a newspaper behind, you'd probably be yelled at by a transit worker or fined by a cop for littering.

3. The police in the UK can put you away for UK against eating and driving as well as smoking and driving. Apparently the fines are harsh too, up to a few thousand pounds. But at least they've decriminalized marijuana over here.

4. There is a good chance that I will be playing American Football for the Varsity equivalent team at the University of East Anglia. Expect me to gain fifty pounds of pure muscle within the next few months.

5. My new favorite beer is John Smith's. The days of only drinking red wine may have come to a close. John Smith's reminds me so much of Kilkenny, which was my favorite beer from the good ole days of working at Bruxelles in Dublin, Ireland.

*Note: The reason for my lack of updates is that I've been trying to get my act together in terms of settling into school. Prior to departing for the UK, I was deciding between taking two different courses (Creative Entrepreneurship and Creative Writing), but now that I have arrived here, I am confident that I can handle taking both courses simultaneously. The British Higher Education system is not used to someone requesting to take two courses at once, so I am hoping to do everything possible to become a maverick student at UEA. The Creative Writing program here is world renowned and the Creative Entrpreneurship course is new and highly innovative. I am hoping that I can have a chance to partake in both opportunities.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On personal space, cycle laws, and supermarkets.

In the past few days, I have found myself in a bit of a quandary. On both of my National Express bus trips and today while waiting to catch a train back to Norwich, my personal space has been grossly invaded. In my first bus incident, I was trying to sleep, curled up next to the window and listening to my I-Pod, clearly on my half of the pair of seats. However, the man seated next to met bumped my arm, elbow, and leg no less than thirty times during a two and a half hour ride, causing me to never quite fall asleep. I didn't say anything, because I didn't want to cause trouble, but I wished I had. The following day, on my return journey, I was seated next to a fellow who insisted on reading his newspaper but clunking into me every time he turned the page, clearly extending his body into my airspace. This was outrageous, but once again, I didn't want to cause conflict. After today's incident of a similar nature, I have come to a conclusion: This behavior is curiously acceptable in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps Americans' strategy of mutually assured destruction (we never know who we are seated next to who's carry a nine millimeter handgun or a Glock or a Smith & Wesson revolver) prevents such infractions from taking place. But I am 100% sure that if I literally rubbed against someone the wrong way in Philadelphia, I could expect not only a verbal lashing, but maybe even some physical violence directed toward me.

Stay tuned for future updates concerning British Supermarkets and Cycle Laws!

Taser what what!

I woke up this morning and briefly read about a student who was hit with a Taser gun for asking some pointed questions to John Kerry. This absolutely apalls me. Putting politics aside, there were many ways that this student could have been supressed without arresting him and without using force. I identify with this fellow because just a few months ago, it could have been me, as I was protesting Norman Finkelstein's visit to Penn. Thankfully, Penn has open expression guidelines, that when followed correctly, enable students to protest against speakers while not causing an event to be ruined. May an incident like this never again result in such a blatant misuse of force!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bums and degenerates running amuck!

OK, England, we need to talk, now! In general, I like your bums. They have pleasent accents and they aren't scary like many American bums (it baffles me that our bums still manage to be hungry AND fat at the same time)...nonetheless, there is one group of vagabonds who seriously irk me: The degenerates I see selling a magazine called THE BIG ISSUE.

OK, I have just put my foot in my mouth...I didn't understand why it seemed like every salesperson of this magazine was homeless with a mangy mutt barking at their ankles, but now I see, that indeed this magazine is designed to be sold by the homeless! Imagine that, and to think that I may have considered applying for an editorial position there!

If I do in fact need a job, I guess I can always throw on my rags and work for THE BIG ISSUE!

British Society Ups and Downs: I think it's really cool that you can have your bus ticket texted to your mobile phone. But when it came time for me to change my ticket the other day, from one time to an earlier time, I experienced my firsta true taste of British beaurocracy. When I arrived at the bus station, stating that I wanted to leave a few hours earlier than planned, I was told that personell at stations do not deal with tickets that are purchased on the internet or by telephone. This is absolutely ludicrous. I was forced to call a number (to the tune of two pounds for the call) to change my bus ticket. Not only did it cost 3 pounds to change my 10 pound ticket, but I was also charged 8 pounds fora new ticket. In essence, the transaction cost me 11 pounds plus 2 pounds to make the call for a total of 13 pounds. For that price, I could have purchased a whole new ticket, and an order of greasy fish and chips! How do Brits tolerate these kind of shinnanigans? For a spell, I even wished I was back at home riding the Chinatown Bus or Greyhound!

A first class lesson: I learned yesterday that the conductors don't really care if you sit in first class on the train from London to Norwich if it is an offpeak time, so from now on, I will be enjoying my free extra 10 inches of legroom and 8 inches of width while leaving all my plebian bretheren to suffer in agony in steerage!

Be a star in Iran, they need you!

In my hunt for a decent job, I was looking through The Guardian's web site and I came across this advertisement. I figured it was some new satellite news network that I'd never heard of, but after simply googling the company, I discovered it is some new outrageous Iranian propoganda network. Check out http://www.presstv.ir/

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Life is easier when you're on the dole.

Socialism. It's ubiquitous for me these days. And I'm not just talking about in McCarthy-era witch hunts and Eugene Debs biographies. Cradle to grave protection. That's how they define it over here. And since it survived Margaret Thatcher, it will probably survive until the destruction of the United Kingdom. I don't want to live on the dole though, a term I haven't used since I read Angela's Ashes back in Mrs. Antoinette's 9th grade English course. I want to make some pounds (while losing a few of the other type of pounds)!

Having now found a place to live (a palace of sorts) and acclimated myself with Norwich proper, it is now my duty to find some type of income-earning activity/scheme to occupy my time while I am neglecting school works and this very blog.

I've searched left and right, but in a city of 127,000 (according to the almighty Wikipedia) this isn't always easy.

I don't want to think of work as a job. I want to think of it as a learning opportunity - but I am faced with a paradox. One part of me, way deep down inside me wants to use this year to fulfill my occupational fantasies (read: become a fighter pilot, sushi chef, detective, war photographer, etc.) while the other part of me wants to find a temporary career that will further my more immediate life's goals (whatever they may be).

I know my strengths (ability with words and people skills) and my weaknesses (attention span), so now I only have to find the perfect job for me.

One option I've been considering is working as a pot washer at The Last Wine Bar, because it has a fantastic reputation, it's always crowded, and head chef Dory Masri was as enthusiastic and interesting in person yesterday as I hoped he would be having read about him on The Last's web site. I've been cooking up a storm lately, and quite frankly, I've realized that I can produce better tasting/healthier foods than many of the restaurants in Britain (this is not arrogance - the British are simply not known for their cuisine, but rather their ales). Working at The Last would be an exception to this rule as Masri's cooking is eclectic (Middle Eastern/Spanish influences) and healthier than the other menus I've checked out around town.

I've always been interested in food and drink, but I've manifested this interest since I was 14 by first writing the Morse's Morsels column for the Sider Press at Oceanside High School and then many food and drink reviews before being promoted to f&d editor at 34th Street Magazine.

Stepping into the kitchen has always been more of a fantasy. For Americans reading this, you may think that starting off as a pot washer is incredibly lousy. But in a country with socialistic virtues, there's very little difference between serving in a higher position and starting at the bottom of the ladder. For instance, waiters and waitresses would make the same 5.50 pounds per hour as me, and on top of that everyone (from head chef to head waiter down to me scrubbing the pots and pans and counter tops) splits up the tips equally, for a total of 7 or 8 pounds per hour. And this money isn't bad at all, considering bartenders in the UK make about 5.50 pounds per hour and rarely get a single tip!

But I wouldn't be taking this job for the money, rather for the learning experience, so I can first learn to cook in a style that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life. I also hope to learn a thing or two about the operations of a successful restaurant and wine bar, with the hopes that one day, with a few angel investors, I'll be able to open one of my own too.

If anyone in Norwich is reading this and wants to hire a witty, hardworking, innovative, easy-to-get-along-with American chap, just contact sidneymorsels@gmail.com, and I'll have my CV sent over to you immediately!



Goal for tomorrow: Find the symbol for "pound" on the computer!

Monday, September 10, 2007

There's a New Sheriff in Town...Me!

Contrary to popular belief, I am not the new Sheriff of Norwich, in fact I don't even know if such a position exists, but I am the new Blogger for the Eastern Daily Press, England's largest regional newspaper, serving all of Norwich, Norfolk, and the rest of the East of England.

The basics for my new readers: I am a 22-year-old American, about to embark on a post-grad course at the UEA. I hail from New York and attended college in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, where I blogged for The Daily Pennsylvanian and 34th Street Magazine...

Now for the nitty gritty:

I am excited to jump back into the blogosphere, mainly because I've learned so much in the week since I've arrived in Norwich. The people are friendly, the drinks flow steadily, and the weather has been absolutely perfect (lots of sun and in the 50s and 60s). I've been riding my bicycle (a Raleigh classic from the 1960s) up and down the streets of Norwich, getting lost in every which way, even with my city map. But the locals always assist me, sending me to the "top of the road" "over the fork" "down to the bottom of the road" and back again, because I don't know what these terms mean, though it is a priority of mine to figure it out soon.

Slowly, the lingo from this part of the world is coming back to me, as I haven't been in England since a fine Thanksgiving Week in November, 2005 when a dozen or so of my friends were studying abroad in London.

Though I'd like to make my blog controversial, I haven't had the opportunity for much controversy, as I've been trying to learn all I can about the town - but here are a couple of thoughts anyway:

Drinking and Driving

I've heard from my housemate Bradley that while riding a bicycle, you must follow all traffic laws, otherwise you will be fined. If this is enforced, I'll be in big trouble, especially at midnight when the roads are quiet and Alex and I come zipping back from the bars down the hill on Dereham Road toward our house. (Yes, people ride their bikes to get out at night and it is fantastic: 1. The coastal wind in my face reminds me of the Long Beach Boardwalk back home as well as my former days as an amateur sailor in the Berkshire Cup Regatta. 2. A cold beverage tastes so much better after you've ridden two to three miles to get to the bar. And at the end of the night, you feel like you've burned off some of the calories that you've consumed while out.

My next mission will be to find PAM, or some other type of no-calorie cooking spray to prevent food from sticking to the pan. It seems that this product never made it over to Norwich, as the folks at Asda suggested I use olive oil, which I have been using...

To be continued - For additional posts, and some that may be a bit more opinionated, truthful, and raunchy, add www.sidneymorsels.com to your RSS feed for regular updates.

PS - My buddy Alex (who moved here with me) and I are looking for British young ladies to court. We love reading, writing, movies, travel, cycling, tennis, and baseball - and we'll even teach you how to play the latter. We're 22 and loads of fun, and we'd love for people to show us your favorite places around town. Contact sidneymorsels@gmail.com with any questions or comments.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Social Welfare 101

Today, Alex and I did a whole lotta shopping at Asda, the UK equivalent of Wal-Mart, which is in fact owned by Wal-Mart. There's one major difference between the two stores: Asda's employees are covered by the government when it comes to healthcare, whereas Wal-Mart employees are not. I've noticed that the Asda employees are generally much more friendly and knowledgable than their American counterparts too - and here in Norwich, the store provides aisle after aisle of organic produce, perhaps because this is what the citizens demand.

Having been in town for about 4 days now, it seems that most jobs in Norwich are paid around minimum wage (5.35 pounds per hour - the equivalent of $10.83 according to current conversion rates). This isn't too shabby for people, and it seems that people working menial jobs are much more content (rather than bitter, uptight, mean, or incompetent) as they tend to be back home. Perhaps this "living wage" actually improves worker productivity.

At the same time, Trade Unions haven't been popular in the UK since Maggie Thatcher killed them back in the day. And having watched construction workers in Philly lay about one brick on average per day on any of Penn's buildings, and having witnessed New York's MTA Strike a couple of years ago, unions make me sick to my stomach. How can token collectors at subway stations make $50,000 per year while police officers, soldiers, journalists, political aides, and so many other noble people make far less? It's a crock. The one exception I make is for teachers - the teachers need a union, or they would make about 4 cents per year and never be appreciated by the masses...

A less serious and more humorous post either tomorrow or the next day: To London Town tomorrow!

The Graveyard of Ambition

Mr. Weinstein and I have settled in to a 5-bedroom house (brand new actually) at Norwich's Whistlefish Court...it feels good to be settled at last.

Last night, I was out seeing a range of performers in town, ranging from spoken word poets to a crazy bunch of Brits in a string band with banjos - 8 acts in all, and very impressed by the local culture scene.

I've also been out and about meeting various people. One (who will remain nameless) referred to the University of East Anglia as "The Graveyard of Ambition." He said, "Everyone arrives there wanting to change the world, but sometime while they are there, they become happy and content with Norwich, and never leave, and end up working in a pub or at a restaurant." (Note:That's not verbatim, but as best as I ccould paraphrase.)

The above comment seems to be a mixed blessing. I only learned yesterday that in the UK, if you want to work more than 37.5 hours per week, you must give up certain rights etc. Full time is considered 37.5 hours per week, and that is that. There are no 80 hour work weeks or even 60 hour work weeks. They don't do overtime either. Just some horrid British food for thought...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (turn and face the strain)

Ups downs outs abouts. There's a movie out called This is England. I won't see this movie though, because for me, right now, my life is England. I've been forgetful about my experiences in this part of the world - since I was last here in 2005 for an amazing Thanksgiving week in London.

Food: I've been known as a foodie my entire life. In fact, this year, on our Royal Caribbean cruise ship in March, I coined the term "diagonal" to refer to my eating everything in a diagonal line that was offered on the menu. But, since then, things have changed as I have become much more health-conscious. It's so difficult to eat right here. For instance, at lunch yesterday, I ordered a salmon sandwich with cucumber. The packaging on the sandwich clearly said "No Mayo" - I was a bit surprised to see that despite the "No Mayo" claim, my sandwich still had butter spread along the inside. Yuck. And I succumbed to chips (french fries) with dinner two nights ago, after avoiding them for well over a couple of months.

Never again! That was my thought when I ate fast food pizza yesterday from some kebab place - by far the worst single pizza I've ever eaten in my entire life. I ordered a "seafood" pizza to get some protein and though it was supposed to consist of shrimps (prawns), tuna, and anchovies, all I could taste was the complete saltiness of the latter. I must move on, as thinking about this grease-fest is unbearable.

Goal for today: Find a place to live and start applying for jobs. Having hung out with some locals last night, they all discouraged me from bartending, and encouraged me to work as a waiter. Apparently it's easy to get both type of jobs at this time of year, but bartenders make minimum wage (5.35 pounds - I don't know where the pound key is on the keyboard), while waiters make about 8 pounds per hour because Brits tip about 10% of meals and 0% on drinks.

My goodness my Guinness. I succumbed to two Guinnesses last night as well. They were glorious, and the days of Wino-Me-Morse may have come to an abrupt end.

Has this turned into a British food blog? Uh-oh.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Norwich witch is which?

I've arrived in Norwich, UK safely. This was the first time that I've taken a transcontinental flight without a baby screaming at some point during the duration of the flight. Perhaps this was Divine intervention, or perhaps my luck is simply changing. I visited the University of East Anglia, referred to as "The UEA" though I've mistakenly been referring to it as simply "UEA" for the past few months, oops. I was inspired to go to this school because of Marc Lapadula, my first ever screenwriting teacher. I've realized that eating healthy foods here will be a challenge, but I am ready to face the beast. I am here with the indefatigable Alex Weinstein, who will be finding a job (the few bars we inquired at were all hiring). I am jet lagged, but not bitter. The future looks bright, except for the rain forecast for tomorrow...but that wasn't surprising. Fall is my favorite season, by far. I love fall, and it is already fall here, so I hope it lasts forever!