A Helpful Washing Guide for Britons

To celebrate the final washing of the year, this establishment has put together a comprehensive tour of the facilities that Britons may encounter when visiting the colony for an extended period.

Your first encounter with an American washing machine will be a disconcerting experience. Unlike in Her Majesty's Empire, wherein the drum is mounted on a vertical axis, allowing your garments to spin up and down freely, the colonial machine appears to be mounted horizontally. Clothes will then, therefore, spin to the outward extreme of the drum, and tend to stay there in a wet crumpled heap after the alloted washing time has elapsed

Empirical testing seems to suggest that the Imperial method provides a better wash, but this research could be compromised by the next difference that we urge Britons to observe.

It has come to our attention that American detergents do not clean as throughly as the fine products you find at your local corner shop. Again, more testing is required, but three different brands failed to clean lightly soiled fabric in one cycle. This state of affairs seems to be acknowledged by the companies of the New World, who suggest adding more of their product to produce a cleaner wash. This publication urges caution at this advice, especially when using detergent in tablet form. On occasion, the washing machine will fail to utilise enough water to dissolve all the tablets, leaving your clothes with a disturbing layer of hardened soap.

Finally, we must make a note about tumble dryers. These abound in the Americas; the time-honoured tradition of the humble clothes-line appears to have died out in these lands. Our advice is to experiment with a selection of different dryers before settling on one to use for the rest of your time abroad. Although they may appear identical, certain machines seem to be better at their task than others, so experimentation is vital.

We hope that you will be able to put this humble guide to some utility. In closing, we would like to remind the reader that exposure to different cultures is all part of the travelling experience, and to bear this in mind when extracting a soap-encrusted trouser leg from the washing machine.

currently playing: PJ Harvey - Down By The Water

Dr. Pepper: Anti-Personnel Device

WARNING: Contents under pressure. Cap may blow off causing eye or other serious injury.

You know, I'm not certain I want the drink anymore…

currently playing: Blur - Song 2

Consider This A Warning, Phlebas

It's only fair to warn you that this blog is likely to become increasingly maudlin over the next few days. In some respects, it would have been easier to leave in December; now that I've got to know people, it's going to be a jarring experience. I'll probably never see many of these people again. I'm trying to scrounge as many IM accounts as I can, and then there's the top secret Insane October Plan, but many of the UNITAS group are graduating this year, scattering all across the globe like fireflies in the night.

Today's job was to try and get rid of the junk I've managed to pick up over the year. Lots of receipts, tax guides, cardboard boxes, and lecture notes all fed to the hungry recycling bins. That leaves me with a VCR, a microwave and a fridge to find homes for before next Friday…

currently playing: The Beat - Tears Of A Clown

Live From The Pit

I love to say that the lack of an update yesterday was due to not being able to squeeze it in among the hectic events of the day. I'd love to say that, really. The truth is more mundane: I didn't have anything to write about. Still don't, really, but now I can write about why I didn't write yesterday. Aha!

There's nothing quite like sitting outside in the sun, talking with friends on IM, buying music from the fabulous new Apple Store, and wondering what I'm going to do next. Which reminds me that I should start looking into buying that wireless router for back home.

Back to writing my goodbye letters now. It's turning out to be quite difficult. I spent five hours working on two yesterday (not spending all five hours on them, but writing a little, wondering what to say next, ripping it up and starting again, going off and doing something else for a while...), which seems like an extraordinary amount of time for two one-page letters which aren't exactly mind-blowing. I've now finished Rishi's, Laura's and Sona's, so just Kavi and Shafaq to go now. But I think I'll have some lunch right now, as I've just realised that I haven't eaten food since yesterday morning...

currently playing: James Taylor - Fire and Rain

For Future Reference

When somebody asks you to join in with a football game, it's probably a good idea to remember that a) you haven't played football for over five years, b) you're really unfit, and most importantly c) that hip thing can come back at any time.

Now, where did I put the antiseptic?

currently playing: Saint Etienne - Boy Is Crying

Reach For The Sun (People Are Great)

There should be more people who believe in unbridled optimism and make wide-eyed, starry statements. There's so much cynicism about these days.

Which, in a fortunate coincidence, brings me to my current musical obsession:

You can mock all you like. This record is fabulous. It's just so earnest, so musically pure and heartfelt, yet maintains a sense of humour about itself, so it doesn't feel like the group is trying hard to "keep it real" (unlike, say, refusing to use any sonic equipment made after 1963, which is just stupid). Instead, they acknowledge their sentimentality, embrace it, and refuse to apologise for their actions:

But if you see a man crying, hold his hand, he's my friend.
If these words sound corny, switch this off, I don't care.

The album is filled with wonderful tracks: "The Celtic Soul Brothers" is as good as an opening song as you'll ever going to hear, delineating the record's intent with broad strokes; "Jackie Wilson Said" (a Van Morrison cover) is transformed into a majestic love song, full of bombast and swing; "I'll Show You" contains the quote mentioned above, and is a lament on all the people left behind in today's world (or Thatcher's world, if we're considering the time period, but anyway).

And, rounding off the album, there's "Come On Eileen". Taken in context, the song is altered beyond all recognition; it transcends the "song played at weddings after Wham!" label it has been afflicted with, and becomes an affirmation of the album's principles; a joy-filled celebration of soul, pure and true.

I'm off to enjoy the sunshine.

currently playing: Dexy's Midnight Runners - This Is What She's Like

Spanish Chilled Apples

If you thought that my going to a frat party was amusing, I have just two words: salsa club. I know I'm not supposed to be putting myself down, but come on.

Enough of this negativity. Instead of remembering the bits where I wanted to run out the door, let's remember the parts where I was having fun, shall we? Good. Let's move on.

Apparently, every year, Chapel Hill holds an Apple Chill fair. The main section of Franklin Street is cordoned off and filled with stalls selling pots, jewelry, and food. And more food. But no apples in fridges, so the name remains a mystery. In further attempts at cultural exchange, I had my first funnel cake (a huge plate of fried dough covered in powdered sugar — one serving is enough to double your cholesterol level instantly), and I explained that cotton candy is known as candy floss back in Britain. They didn't like the imagery that the different name conjured up; I'd never thought about it before, but they do seem to have a point there.

The weirdest food choice would have to be the corn. Yes, corn-on-the-cob. On a stick. Not something that I expected to see. Or that there would be a queue for that sort of thing.

We arrived fairly late, so when we got to the merry-go-round, it had just closed. But it wasn't playing any carousel music, so we convinced ourselves that it wasn't all that good anyway, and we didn't mind missing out. Denial is such a great thing.

Hurrah! Another fire alarm. I suppose I should leave, before the flames consume the building. Or, more likely, when the firemen turn off the over-boiling pan...

currently playing: Manic Street Preachers - Enola / Alone

Do You Want To Know Something Else That's True?

Okay, so I've been staring at a blank screen for close to an hour now. Maybe I should think about writing something.

Last night, then. It began with a comical UNITAS dinner in a fairly small Chinese restaurant. The expression on the proprietor's face when we casually requested a table for fifteen was priceless. They eventually managed to squeeze us onto two tables. If nothing else happened this past year in America, i have discovered the joy of sesame chicken, so it hasn't been a total loss.

As far as I was concerned, that was probably going to be it for Friday; Rishi was on duty, and so couldn't leave the hall at all (he wasn't best pleased about missing the final Friday of the term). He's the one who normally organises these things, so I wasn't expecting anything to happen. Not that I minded too much, either, as Thursday's outing had turned out to be more depressing than enjoyable.

Having said all that, when Laura asked me if I wanted to go to the Carolina Coffee Shop with her, I didn't hesitate in saying yes. She was writing a feature on somebody for one of her courses, and he was performing at the Coffee Shop that night. I'm not exactly sure why she asked me, of all people, to go along with her, but I'm happy she did.

We spent an hour or two at the coffee shop (which, incidentally, doesn't sell coffee. It's all very confusing), talking about music, stalking, politics and other weird and wonderful subjects, before going on to her friends' doom room. They live in a triple-bed room, but there's only two of them there, so they turned the third bed into a bar. Seriously.

I'd just like to pause here and point out that I've now spent five hours writing this entry. It doesn't show, does it?

Anyway, it seems that there's a competition between Laura and her friend (I'm fairly sure her name was Nicky, but I'm so hopeless with names I can't say that with any certainty) about who is the most English. Even I was beaten into second place behind Laura, as both her parents are English, but I was given bonus points for having an authentic accent. It's good for something, i suppose.

After roughly an hour there, we all decamped to go to the "Moat Party" in the Greek area of the university. Yes, that's right, a frat party. You can pause for giggles as you try to imagine me at one of those things, if you like. I'll be over here. The idea behind the party is that they create a moat around several of the Greek houses and… actually I'm not sure if the reasoning gets more involved than that. I presume that they imagine that the combination of water and alcohol needs little explanation. Of course, as the weather had been rather miserable all day, the moat was sparsely populated, and looked more like a large children's paddling pool, but these things never quite work out in reality.

We didn't hang around too long (did I mention that it was a frat party?), instead choosing to go back to the hall and watch Office Space with Rishi and Shafaq. At 2am, naturally.

I'm going to miss this place, and the people. My main regret is that it took me so long to come out of my shell, and by then, it was already too late. Oh well.

currently playing: KLF - What Time Is Love?

End of Term

That was quick.

currently playing: R.E.M. - I Believe

Less Hyperbole, More Feeling

All I'll say is that I knew that my knowledge of fairly obscure British bands would get me in trouble eventually.

Something I tend to forget is that, although the site has a regular audience of under ten, people who you'd least expect also come through here every now and then. So I shouldn't have been too surprised when Allison mentioned that she'd been reading the site. I apologise for not having been to the cinema for over two months; there just hasn't been anything I've considered worth watching. Hopefully that should change this weekend, as I'm going to try and see All the Real Girls and Better Luck Tomorrow (recommended by the normally-reliable Charlie Chu).

Re: the last entry: still have Michael Collins quotes lodged in my brain after ten years…

currently playing: The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic