As my week can only get worse, I thought I’d better blog again while I’m still somewhat coherent. I don’t want a single email complaining ‘Jeano, you haven’t blogged for ages’ for at least a few days.
As if Sky and British Telecom weren’t enough fun, I had to change my address with Her Majesty’s Royal Mail. I am now quite nostalgic for the good old days with those wonderful folks at the U.S. Postal Service.
First…the change of address form; it was four pages long. “I’m not applying to colonize Mars; I’m moving around the bloody corner” I told the bored clerk at Pakistani Pete’s Post Office & Olde Englishe Corner Wawa Shoppe.
Apparently, Italian Me can have her mail forwarded; American me is shit out of luck. American Me doesn’t officially live here. The clerk was intractable. A passport, driver’s license and warm & fuzzy letter from the American Embassy were not acceptable proof that two of me are living here. I gave up. The queue behind me was now three blocks long and people were mumbling about ‘tarring and feathering’ and ‘bonfires’.
And get this; you have to pay to get your mail forwarded. I guess Her Majesty doesn’t believe in just doing stuff as a favor, or, God forbid, a service. I might have stayed put if I’d known exactly what moving entailed.
I paid, ungraciously I have to admit, for Italian Me’s important advertisements from Pizza Hut to be redirected, and Indira Chadawhari or whatever, handed me a till receipt.
“Excuse me” I said. (The queue started burning miniature Stars & Stripes en masse.) “It says on your official Her Majesty’s Royal Mail ‘Request to Explore Far, Distant Planets Whilst Getting One’s Council Tax Bill Redirected Expeditiously’, Page 3, Section IV, Category 8, Subsection 2.ii.#.MCXII that you will complete and stamp Section 52.p.PMS upon payment of a shamelessly exorbitant extortion.”
“I gave you a till receipt” she answered, rather sulkily I thought.
“Well, it’s not like I don’t trust you or anything, but I don’t trust you. Fill out the bloody form and notarize it” I ordered, trying to be pleasantly Italian and not irritated, not as charming as usual, American. I fear I may not be welcome at the Post Office any more.
No wonder they lost the Empire. Nobody could decipher the forms for ‘Renewal of World Domination’ and come up with the fee.
And while I’m complaining about other countries, I got a letter from the Italians…something about my AIRE, which is my official registration with Colli A Volturno, my hometown. They need to always know where in the world Regina is. It’s the law in Republica Italia. Poor grammar, I know, but aptly worded.
I would share the details, but the official letter I got is in Italian, for some obscure reason, and I don’t know what the hell it said. I would mail a copy of the letter to Nicola at Italiamerica for translation, but I think the folks at the Royal Mail are now simply trashing all of my post. I hope Italy hasn’t changed it’s mind and I am still Italian.
When I filled out my AIRE here in Britain, I was foolish enough to give the Italian Consulate my email address. It’s not like they ever email just to say ‘Caio, Paisano!’ Come sta?’. Nope, the Consulate passed it on to every Italian company in the world, and now they’re all emailing me. I assume they’re trying to sell me stuff. The damned emails are all written in Italian. At least the American Embassy writes to me in good old American– or English—whatever the language is that I usually speak, even if certain people criticize my pronunciation.
It’s really no wonder I’m often confused, is it?
Sunday night I went to my first ever Burns Supper. It’s surprising to me that I am still, after a full year here, able to have ‘firsts’.
I had heard about the custom, of course, of celebrating the life and poetry of Robert Burns. It was quite a spectacle, much more than I expected. It’s always held on or near Burns’ birthday, which is January 25.
I did a little research in advance so I’d be prepared. I didn’t wear tartan (I almost bought a divine skirt at Sam) as I was warned that only people with Scots blood should parade their colors. But it was a large party, and there were several men in kilts (big sigh).
The hostess was my friend, Netta. And since I’m keeping score, I actually knew six people at the party. I adore living in a little town. One of the first things anyone said to me was “Did you finish that piece for Haderech?” There were two couples there whom I knew from shul. (Thankfully, I was able to say “Yes; signed, sealed and emailed.”) And I knew two people from my Hospice volunteering. Make that seven; a guy was there whom Netta and I met on Christmas Day at the Salvation Army; they’re now dating.
A Burns Supper follows a set pattern, with minor variations.
First, the Selkirk Grace is recited. Netta had engaged an professional entertainer to do the ‘customs’. I’m noting it here:
‘Some hae meat and cannot eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thank it.’
Then the Haggis is brought in on a silver tray, piped in by a Bagpiper. It was so cool. If you don’t know what Haggis is, look it up. I’m not explaining.
Duncan, the entertainer, recited the ‘Address to a Haggis’. At the line ‘his knife see rustic labor dicht’ he draws out a knife and wipes it. At the line ‘an’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht’, he plunges the blade into the haggis, slicing it from end to end.
Then, everyone toasts the Haggis with a rather large ‘uisge beatha’ (water of life), Scotch whiskey, which flowed quite freely during the entire evening.
Dinner was then served. Traditional veg are ‘neeps and tatties’, which are mashed potatoes and mashed turnips.
When I’d mentioned that I was going to the Burns Supper to people, almost everybody asked if I was going to sample Haggis. I’d already eaten it, when I was in Scotland. Haggis doesn’t faze a Philly Girl; it tastes almost exactly like, though it looks a little different than, scrapple. Duncan, who in his non-Burns life is a dairy industry consultant, goes to the States frequently. He is intrigued now to try scrapple when he gets to Philly next. Maybe he’ll bring some back for me. He did keep calling me ‘Bonny Jean’. (That’s what Burns called his wife.) Yeah, I thought that was really cool, too.
Oh…and he knew that ‘Philadelphia Cream Cheese’ is not, and never was, made in Philadelphia. That was a refreshing change.
Please don’t make me explain that yet again.
Dessert, also traditional, was clutie dumpling (a fruitcake boiled for four hours in a cloth), tipsy laird (a sherry trifle) and oat cakes and cheese.
After dinner, Duncan and some of the other Scottish guests sang and recited Burns poetry. I almost started to think fondly of those nice people at Sky.