Friday, 24 October 2008


Odd and interesting the way things change around the world...the English language, toilets, taps, cars, light switches, door latches, power-points, breakfasts and roads to name a few.

Bathrooms are the things I have had most trouble with and, in fact, at Roger D's I had to give up on turning on the shower and get dressed and go and ask him to show me how to turn on the don't turn the tap, you pull it...hard! Toilets come in many shapes, sizes and flushing systems. I got quite a shock in the Washington airport when the toilet flushed suddenly and with great gusto, all by itself! On a train in France it took me ages to work out how to flush it.....I think it was a pedal... or was that Singapore? Toilet bowls vary enormously and of all those I have seen, I like the American and Canadian ones for water efficiency and design. There are a myriad of showerheads and temperature control methods but give me an ordinary Australian set of taps anytime!

And if you want to turn on a light, search all nearby walls carefully (and some not so near!) and then turn the switch up, for on, not down, as in Australia. Now, after all this time, I am so confused about light switches I spend some time wondering where I am and in the end just flick up and down until it all comes good! Apart from the different voltages and pins on the power points of every country, it was interesting to see that there is no switch in a lot of places.....when you plug something in, it is on. Some places have a switch so tiny any normal-sized finger refuses to operate it. On the whole, people have a lot of power points and I could always find somewhere convenient to plug in the laptop, even in 1000 year old farmhouses....better than a lot of Australian homes and hotels.

In the UK and Europe the cars drive on opposite sides of the road and people who drive on both deserve a gold medal. They can also have cars with steering wheels on either side.....I was a totally confused passenger many times. It is scary going around a round-about the opposite way the first 100 times and I have never quite mastered looking the right way before crossing the road, so I look both ways a lot. Car door handles can be interesting to use too. Some open from the middle, some from the outer edge and some are just difficult to find. And the road rules are often a total mystery.....what with some places having one flashing red light hanging in the middle of the road, some having flashing green lights and the French having traffic light poles as short as an old Frenchman, just here and there so you have to search for them to find out what you are supposed to be doing! The French also put their street signs on the side of the road where they if you don't know which way you are going to have to turn you have to scan both sides of the road for a sign! Unlike in Australia, most often drivers will stop for a pedestrian who is anywhere near a simple crossing marked with white lines.

One minute European drivers have to negotiate very narrow and contrary "roads" originally made for a horse and rider and must park in spaces shorter and narrower than their cars! The next they are expected to drive at 130km/ hour on multi-laned motorways, manoeuvring between dense traffic, including hundreds of enormous trucks, all travelling at equally hair-raising speeds! They get my vote for the best drivers, in my experience. And navigating through the villages of France is an experience that requires a lot of patience and preferably the help of a GPS aid, such as Lucy who is Ian's constant companion and who gets very agitated when she tells Ian to turn up what turns out to be a one-way street, the wrong way, and Ian calmly says "No, Lucy, we will try the next street" . Meanwhile, Lucy says "Turn around....turn around ..... recalculating...recalculating..." in a very insistent English voice. Once though, Lucy suddenly turned American and made us laugh and wonder if it was all too much for Lucy and she had quit the job and handed over to an American woman who we called Billie-Jean. After a bit of adjustment though, we found Lucy again and decided the break had done her good as she wasn't quite so loud and stressed as before!

Of the 1500 or so photos in the web album, I have none of any of these ordinary things and now that I have left them all behind, I wish I had taken some. Maybe some of the people I have stayed with could take some photos for me and send them to me and I can insert them here....that would be very nice.


Ian said...

Hi Kate,
I'll tell Lucy that you have made her famous. She'll be very happy and maybe just a little less insistent....
I think we scared Billie-Jean away though, she's not been seen since that one appearance, but Lucy seems happy to be back, although she did throw a temper tantrum just after you left and dumped my address book in the bin...

Anonymous said...

Hi Kate, you are back already and no doubt settling in... as I had some time to spare tonight I have had a bit of a peruse and ... to my delight discovered a very "Kenny" type adventure of discovery... you do make it all sound so interesting!..
PS - the cat was unkind to my attempt to sow some seedlings for you... so I will try again when I get something interesting which actually makes it to 'teenagehood'.
My wicking beds are doing ok at present but I confess it was a bit of a rush job (or things are less likely to get done) and there are a few design flaws. The experiment continues but so far I am pleased with the plants progress with no more than a water once a week.