Sunday, 18 December 2011

Mispronounced letters, The Bear and more stuff


Now that I have your attention I will get onto this week's blog.

An interesting difference we have found over here is the English alphabet.  All of the letters are pronounced the same except for "h" and "z".  H is pronounced "hey-ch" and z is pronounced "zed".  The words are pronounced the same as in the US; hero is not pronounced hey-ch-ero and zero is not pronounced zed-ero.  They just pronounce them differently when they say the individual letter.  Not sure why yet but it is very weird.  Maybe I will look into it when we return from vacation. 

An update on Space Case Kalle's classes.  Last week I asked her to name her classes and she forgot a few.  So here are the ones she missed:  PE (inside PE has been practising balance or gymnastics and outside PE has been playing organised games like tennis), ICT (computers but they have not done that lately), French (speaking and writing in French), and Guided Reading & Writing.  Guided R & W is broken up into Guided Writing (writing about a given topic), Comprehension (answering questions on stories), Handwriting (recently changed to nonfiction book review), Guided Reading (reading selected books) and Library.  She also has a morning break and lunch as part of her day.  It is a small elementary school with one class per grade level and seven grade levels.  Brookfield Trivia you will never use: Brookfield Primary School is named after the Brookfield farm that was once in the area.  One of Kalle's classmates grandmother was on the school naming committee and suggested the name as a way of preserving the area history.

Now onto Karl's school day.  In addition to the classes from last week's blog, he has two breaks, one is 25 minutes and one is 40 minutes.  There is a cafeteria on the campus so he has a chance to eat at either break.  The cafeteria is more like coffee and sandwich shops than a walk down the line with your tray cafeteria.  I guess it is common for kids to get food but not drinks.  (Must be part of the culture because I see people all over walking around eating without an accompanying drink.)  The campus is set up like a college with 10 - 12 buildings total and about 2500 students divided into six grade levels.  Huge campus for Karl but great experience.  It reminded me of a college campus when Karl and I toured the school.  I will have to remember to bring my camera the next time I stop by.   

One note from Karl's Philosophy Religion Ethics class is they watched Bruce Almighty in class as part of the lesson.  Right now he can not tell me what the lesson was about which really frustrates me.  Am I the only parent that sends their kids to school and has them return with amnesia every afternoon?

I passed my UK driving Theory (written) test last week.  Yeah!!!  My Practical (driving) test is scheduled for late January.  I can't wait to get all of that behind me.  Lori is on a slower pace since she has to work while I can sit home all day and study the material or go practise driving.  One of the benefits of retirement baby.

Anybody need a laugh?  The Vauxhall has 88 HP (Lori's BMW has 122 HP for those wondering at home).  The worst part is that I test drove cars with smaller engines.  Not only do Brits have ugly cars they also use go kart engines.  I gassed up yesterday and paid 46 pounds (about 71 dollars) for 35 liters (a little over 9 gallons).  Ouch that hurts.  Even worse is my 19.1 GPM (US gallons) on that tank.  No wonder Brit cars aren't exported anywhere.  In the two months we have been here we are spending $160 - 170 per month on petrol.  Petrol goes into the car, gas is the airy stuff that fires our kitchen stove burners.

It snowed Friday for the first time but not enough to stay on the ground.  It sounds like other areas received snow but we are inland enough that the snow turned to rain before it reached us.  Snow sure does worry the locals.

I have been listening to Kerrang! Radio ( in the car lately.  I am looking for a station like the RIFF in Detroit (Yeah baaaby - Arthur P!) or X103 in Indy and this is close at times.  They don't play a lot of pop chart junk which is good but they could stand some heavier artists.  They played Alterbridge and Pearl Jam on the ride home tonight which I recognised, they also played some Brit artists I didn't recognise.  In the morning they have a funny segment called It's Only Words where they play the beginning of a famous person's sentence then cut off the audio and ask the audience to text in funny ways to end the sentence.  They have played snippets of David Cameron, Justin Bieber, President Obama, Gene Simmons and Madonna lately.  I don't always get the cultural references but it is funny at times.  Simon James and Hill is who does the breakfast show for anyone checking out the website.  I bring this up because texting is HUGE over here.  The schools use it to send informational announcements out, food chains use it to advertise.  Britain in general uses texting like US teens use it to talk.  I expected it from the teens but not the whole population.

When we attended the service last week Kalle was asked if she wanted to be in the program this week and she said yes so we went back again this Sunday.  I don't have any pictures from the program since there is a child protection law here that prevents you from taking pictures of children in public places - sorry.  The program on Sunday was cute. The best part was when a little guy got stage fright and refused to speak. You could see him shake his head to a person off stage when his line came up. After a couple of head shakes the adult pokes his head out and yells the little guys line.  Very funny and cute.  Kalle did great, she was the Inn Keeper and Shepherd #2. She had about 10 lines and memorised them Friday. You could tell she had a blast performing in the play. This is definitely one of the little kid type activities I miss as our kids get older, part of life I guess.

When I dropped of Kalle for her Saturday rehearsal I talked to some of the members who were decorating the church for this week's services and they gave me some of the church history.  I'm not sure how much is accurate since I have not been able to independently confirm what they told me so take their history with a grain of salt I guess.  The church is a Norman church meaning it was built when the Normans ruled the area.  The original church was built in the 12th century and a small portion of the original structure is still standing.  I took pictures of an original stained glass window and an original door as well as others parts of the church. 
12th Century stained glass from an original church construction wall.  I think this kind of stuff is awesome.

Close up of 12th century stained glass window.

A new stained glass window.  I keep being drawn to the stained glass windows like a moth to the flame.

"The Norman Door".  This is an original door that was re-installed when the church was remodelled.  If you look at the top block above the doorway arch you will see a vertical groove in the stone.  In the original church this was the entry door and above the door was a bell.  The cord to ring the bell ran down where the groove is now.  The groove was caused by people entering the church and pulling on the cord to ring the bell.  Eventually the cord wore a groove into the rock. 

A new and old construction picture.  The ceiling is wood panelling with wooden roof supports while the arches and walls are block.

The back of the church.

All of the older churches here have cemeteries on the grounds.  The earliest headstone I could find was late 1700's.

A small side door that looked neat.

The front of the church.  The window on the right is by the original stained glass picture from above.

After Kalle's rehearsal we went downtown to finish Christmas shopping.  We picked up some winter walking boots for our holiday trip since we did not bring ours when we came over.  We had them packed but we ended up leaving them home when the movers told us we wanted to bring more than we were allowed.  We also ate at Pizza Express ( in the Westfield Mall.  Our pizzas were good, they were lighter in sauce and toppings than US pizza's but still flavorful.

Today's Kevin Coleman picture - a 660 ml Peroni which is a 22.3 ounce bottle.  A common pop and beer bottle size here is 330 ml or 11.1 ounces.  This glass is one of the coolest pub glasses I have seen over here.  The other is a San Miguel at a Mexican restaurant.  I wish I could take samples of the glasses home with me but the places do not sell them.  Bummer.  Some of these glasses would look really good in Mark Elliott's bar.  But don't worry buddy - I've got two years to work on these stingy vendors for ya.

Kalle's 330 ml (11.1 ounce) Diet Coke bottle.  Even the Coke glasses are cool over here.

Dana Johnson pic.  I ordered a Giardiniera pizza - artichokes, mushrooms, red peppers, santos tomatoes, olives, garlic oil, tomato and pesto base.  Very good - I love artichokes.

Dana pic again - Lori ordered a Gustosa Leggera.  For the Leggera pizza's they remove the middle of the pizza and add a small salad.  The pizza had prosciutto cotto ham, light mozzarella, potrabello mushrooms, yellow peppers and thyme.  She liked her pizza. 

Dana is pretty popular in this post.  Karl ordered a Quattro Formaggi.  It had mozzarella, Gorgonzola D.O.P., grana padano, and fontal cheese although Karl substituted the Gorgonzola for pepperoni.  He said it was okay.

Here's Dana hogging the pictures again, can you believe him?  Kalle ordered a Margherita Leggera pizza.  Light mozzarella, marinated santos tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and basil leaves.  She said it was good but didn't like the tomatoes or dressing on the salad.

After church on Sunday we went to The Bear Inn & Hotel ( with the Frey's for a traditional Sunday carvery.  The company was so good I forgot to take a picture of my plate before I "dominated" it as KJ says.  Maybe next time I will remember.  Thanks to our excellent tour guide Steve for finding the place.  (You can check out his take of the place at  A picturesque drive into the hills to enjoy good food in an almost 400 year old restaurant.  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  The inside eating area was split into five or six different areas with almost all of the walls being block construction.  The rooms must have been add-ons since the floors and ceilings were not all the same level.  Very cool place though.  For the foodies reading the blog the carvery consisted of ham, turkey, lamb, beef, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, peas, sliced carrots, cauliflower in cheese sauce, Yorkshire pudding (it's still only bread Dana), stuffing, gravy, and some condiments.  The meat cutter slices off the meat and you take the plate down the line heaping it until the food precariously forms a gluttonous pile.  Okay, slight exaggeration but you get the idea.  For a beer I tried the Bear Blue Ale which was one of the better beers I have tasted over here.  The English seem to rank their beers by alcohol percent, not by flavor.  Most of the beer is bitter and similar tasting which has been a disappointment to me.   
The adult table.  No I am not twice the size of everyone else, Kalle was just closest to me.

The kid table.

Low bridge.  Typical of the older places I have been in over here.

View of countryside as you leave The Bear.  It was 4ish when we left, right now it is almost 5 and pitch black outside.  Yes that is snow on the ground.  Since we went into the hills for this country treat there was a little snow in the shady spots.

Today's Steve Frey pic.  How can we see Steve and not capture his domesticated animal fascination?

The Bear from the outside.

Est. 1735.  What was America doing in 1735 you ask?  The Evening Post begins publishing in Boston Mass; Augusta, Georgia is founded on the Savannah River; and the thirteen colonies were already established but America was still almost 40 years away from revolting against Britain.  (Sorry Mrs. Smith but I did use Wiki this time.  For those that don't know Allyson Smith she was the kids 2nd & 3rd grade teacher in Brownsburg.  I always remember both kids in her class doing their online research and finding an answer with a link to Wikipedia.  Once they realised it was to Wikipedia they would say, nope Mrs. Smith says we can't use Wikipedia and they would keep searching.  Hopefully she isn't grading my blog.)

A view on the ride back.  Lori stopped illegally on the road so I could take the picture.  You know who hasn't taken their UK Theory test yet.

Testing out the panoramic feature on my camera.  Beautiful scenery.

Sideburns update below:  "Nice... veryvery nice" to quote Bob Jacobson.  Lori still hates them.  Karl thinks I should have called them The Wolverine after the X-Men superhero but he likes them.  Kalle just looks at them and shakes her head.  I hope they come in bushy enough to qualify as Ebenezer Scrooge sideburns, I would hate to make this a two month long facial hair of the month entry.

After this week's blog I will take a few weeks off as we explore the Scandinavian capitals.  I have been planning the itinerary this week which is getting me excited about the trip.  A lot of itinerarizing (and out whips Aunt Joanie's red pen) to do yet but I am really looking forward to the trip.  Plus Lori and Kalle will finally get the cruise trip they have always wanted.  And it will give Karl something new to complain about.  I can't wait!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Thanks for listening,

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Scouts, kid's classes, and downtown Derby museums

Howdy y'all,
Kind of a slow news week.  My time has been spent cleaning the house, running errands, studying for my UK driving theory test and planning for our Scandinavian holiday.  Busy but uneventful.

Karl and I went to Scouts Wednesday night for the first time across the pond.  It was interesting and he had fun so we will try this troop for a while.  Next week is an end of year laser tag party then they are off until the new year so our timing was pretty good.  Notice that they have Scouting over here, not Boy Scouts.  The troop was formed in 2000 so they must accept girls and boys.  Mid 1990's incorporation was the cut off date for only boys in troops, all troops incorporated afterwards must accept girls.  Sixteen kids were at the meeting and if memory serves correctly five were girls.  I will expand on scouting once Karl has been to a couple of meetings and has done some activities.  This week they made Christmas cards for their parents and did some group games.  An interesting note from the meeting was one of the leaders told me that Flagg in Derbyshire is the highest elevation village in the UK.  Put that on the To Do Check List.

A school update for the teachers and educators in the blog audience:
Karl's classes are Geography, German, Science, Maths, TD (Technology Design - currently working on drawing isometric and exploded views of objects), English, History (just finished on the suffragettes), ICT (computers - currently working on data bases), Art (studying the work of John Piper), PRE (Philosophy Religion Ethics - focusing on learning about different religions now), Drama (acting out a part Midnight Summers Dream now), Food Tech (cooking class - he made chocolate truffles this week that were awesome), Music (playing keyboard or studying music genres), Assembly,  and PE (field hockey or football so far).  The school is still working out a plan for him to do his American math here so he doesn't fall behind.  The UK math is about two years behind for Karl, he left Brownsburg working on Geometry and came here to work on multiplying fractions.  Wow is all I can say.  He did say his Geography, Science and English coursework is similar to what he did in the States.

Kalle's classes are Numeracy (she is a year 6 math class), Phonics (spelling), Literacy (writing), Topic (similar to art), Assessment (like taking exams back home, this is not a weekly class), Music (she is playing the cello and really likes it), Golden Time (part of their behaviour reward system - this is free time where you can go outside and play football/basketball or stay inside and draw), Assembly (where teachers and administrators address the whole school on topics like recess safety), and Golden Assembly on Friday (where the school recognises exemplary behaviour by placing students names in the Golden Book - not sure what the Golden Book is).  Next year when she is in Year 6 the school will bring someone over from the Community School for her to learn year 7 math.

One interesting note about the schools, female teachers are called "Miss" and male teachers are called "Sir".  Kalle is still following the American nomenclature and calls her teacher Mrs. Stevenson.  It is nice that her teacher is allowing her to follow the American rules including spelling and addressing teachers.  Karl has to spell using English words which he is fine with.  Kalle's favourite English word is "rubbish" which means trash, Karl's favourite word is "Oi" which loosely translates to hey you.  You shout "Oi" to get someones attention.

Saturday was sunny and 40 degrees F so we went on a downtown Derby museum tour.  First up was Pickford's House Museum which is a 1770 built Georgian house restored to original era furnishings.  You can check out some information on Wikipedia at or on the Derby Government site at  The house museum website must be under construction so you will have to settle for a couple of second class websites and my pictures.  Sorry about your luck.

Kitchen where servants prepared meals.

Space saving drying rack in the Laundry Room - it is connected to a pulley system which raised and lowered it.

Indoor water pump and trough in the Laundry Room.

Hot water basin - under the water bowl was a little stove to heat the water. 

Snapshot of the street outside the Pickford House.  I didn't see a year on it.

Bell Service.  See next picture for an explanation.

Bell Service.  I thought this was neat because each bell had a different tone which told the servants which room to go to.  If you read the plaque it says this service ended the practise of servants sitting on hard wooden chairs in the hallways waiting to be beckoned.

One of the gardens.

Air Raid bunker.  Obviously an add on from the Georgian era.

The Morning Room.

Same room different angle.

Plasterwork on ceiling.  They sure did like their decorated ceilings back then. 

Drawing Room.

Dining Room.

Dining Room plaque out of order.

Drawing Room plaque out of order.

Working 1930's bathroom.

A lace sewing class they were giving.  Kalle picked it up quickly.  Very tedious.

Cantilevered Stairwell picture.

Silk gowns from the era.


Same room different view.

Dressing Room.  It is connected to the bedroom by the door in the back left.  Note that all of the rooms have fireplaces to heat the rooms.

Servants Room - smaller and without a fire place.

Karl trying out the toy theatre which are neat little entertainment boxes.  Each side had handles which moved the characters into and out of the stage area using slots in the stage floor.  The big handle in the back moved the background scenery.  This box has three scenes you could change by sliding the big handle left or right.  The house had a room full of The Frank Bradley Collection of Toy and Model Theatres.  You can read more about them at

You can tell the foot path by the worn areas of the steps.

Outside view of Pickford House.

After Pickford's was the Derby Gaol, or jail to us Americans.  You can check out its website at  The visit was better than I expected.  I figured it would be a ten minute look-see but we ended up getting a mini tour which was very informative.  I will leave out some of the gorier details but a few items he told us were saying origins. 

Tip of the hat, shake a leg, and off the wagon are related to hangings.  Tip of the hat - the vicar would signal the hangman to actuate the drop gate under the condemned person by removing his hat and pointing it at the hangman. 

Shake a leg (be warned - kinda gross) came about because once the drop gate opened the body had to hang by the noose for one hour until it was cut down.  Normally the neck would break right away but sometimes it didn't so the person thrashed about until they suffocated.  If this happened and the hanging person was your buddy you would go grab his legs and pull down trying to break his/her neck.  Once the neck broke and the person died their body control/muscles would relax thereby releasing all the fluids hence the expression shake a leg.  (Gross note of the day: after people died and their bodies emptied mothers would dab the draining "fluid" with their handkerchiefs and dab it on their kids skin imperfections.  18th Century Clearasil I guess.) 

Off the wagon came about because the condemned man would be brought from the jail to the gallows in a two wheeled wagon.  Per custom the wagon would stop at every pub along the route and the person would get off of the wagon to have a last drink at each pub.  At the last pub before the gallows the wagon would stop but the person would not get off. 

Another interesting tidbit was if you were convicted of lying back then you would get a large "L" carved into your right palm as punishment.  Then when you went before a judge and raised your right hand to swear to tell the truth he could see if you were a condemned a liar or not. 

The steps walking down to the jail.  Kalle stood at the top of the steps and asked if we had to go down there.  A little on the grungy looking side.

Looking down the main hallway.  My battery is dying at this point and my back up battery was dead so pictures were carefully taken after this point.

Poor picture of an original carving from 1807.

The debtor's cell.  Per our tour guide people thrown into debtor's cell were able to work on their trade in a separate room in the jail to make goods that were sold in order to pay off their debts.  They also had to make a little extra because they had to pay their jailer for items such as food, water, candles, straw bedding, opening and closing the door to let them in and out of the cell, etc.  People without trade skills would be in jail a long time.  I am sure I don't need to tell you what a woman's "trade" was.

The hangman had his own business card which struck me as odd.  Hanging were quite popular in the 1700 & 1800's.  They were like a social gathering where hundreds would attend. 

Condemned cell.  Note the lack of a window.  This was because a condemned person was not worthy of seeing the light of God.

Vernon Gate jail.  Another former jail but the only remaining structure is the facade.

After the gaol was The Derby Museum and Art Gallery.   You can check out some information on Wikipedia at or on the Derby Government site at  Both websites are pretty poor though.  The Museum was interesting, my favourite parts were the log boat display and military section.  The art gallery was poor to be kind.   

Porcelain from 1770.  A lot of neat porcelain in here, it ranged from 1760's to 1950's.

I thought this process was neat.

I also thought the Viking sword was neat.

From, St. Almund was "Born a prince, the son of the Northumbrian King Alcred. King of Northumbria after the murders of his father and his brother Osred. Known for his charity to the poor and orphaned. Exiled to the area of Pictish Scotland and later murdered by agents of the usurping king Eardwulf of Northumbria. There are six churches in England dedicated to him."  The funny part is on the SatNav's over here there is a St. Alkmund's Way and the SatNav voice turns Alkmund into al-K-mund with an overly placed emphasis on the K.  Probably one of those had to be there moments.    Northumbria is now northern England and southeastern Scotland for the geography buffs.  

The military units featured in the military section of the museum.  Karl and I thought this section was very cool, Lori and Kalle sat down and waited for us to look around.  Girls just don't appreciate old guns I guess.

WWI woollen gas hood.  They tried immersing the hoods in a chemical treatment but it didn't block the poison gases so they were deemed ineffective.  I imagine the soldiers who wore these in combat died gruesome deaths.

Remember Bonnie Prince Charlie from our pastoral walk?

Prince Charlie planning his defeat I guess.

I love these information boards.  Succinct, colourful and pictorial.  What else can you ask for in an information board?

This was cool but creepy.

Creepy close up.  The teeth are filed down because of the sand constantly in their food, common in the Egyptians of this time.  Yum.

Hanson Log Boat (  A Bronze Age boat found south of Derby.  The boat was found in one piece but had to be cut into sections to transport because it was so heavy.  I should have taken a close up of the middle of the boat.

After the last museum we stopped at a Spanish restaurant called La Tasca ( which was really good.  We went into the restaurant at 3ish and when we left at 4:30ish it was pitch black.
Our first Spanish restaurant and we weren't disappointed.

Finally a Dana Johnson pic - They served two types of Spanish food, paella and tapas.  The paella dishes cooked for 30-35 minutes after the ingredients are mixed together so we opted for the tapas.  Above is a sampler tapas where you can try multiples dishes at a discounted price.  In the middle is a salad with balsamic dressing.  Starting at 6 o'clock and going clockwise; we have fried potatoes with a sweet salsa type sauce, Spanish omelet with egg/onion/potato, chicken paella, pork/beef meatballs with sauce (my favourite), mushrooms in gravy, and chicken/seafood paella.  The food on the wooden trays were the kids meals which were very disappointing.  If we go back we will just get two sampler meals instead of a sampler and two kids meals.  

Another Dana Johnson pic -
Deserts from left to right - vanilla and chocolate gellato which I ordered and was excellent, profiteroles which came with the kids meals (profiteroles are cream puffs covered in a chocolate sauce which were okay), and churros Lori ordered and are fried pastry that is dipped in chocolate, sometimes referred to as a Spanish doughnut.  That was very good but Lori tried bucking me off again with it - there was some kind of nut flavouring/liqueur in the chocolate dipping sauce that only I could detect after eating it.  I knew I shouldn't have bought that life insurance policy from Dana.  Nothing Benadryl couldn't cure though.

Sunday was a lazy day for us.  We went to church in the morning at St. Peter's Church ( which was our first trip to a Church of England.  They had a small band comprised of three guitars, two singers, a piano, a cornet, a flute and drums.  They also had a teleprompter who was always late changing the screen during the songs which was amusing.  The church itself looked to be older, masonry construction inside and out with newer remodelling done in wood.  The arches inside looked to be original block construction but the ceiling was white wood panelling.  The windows were mostly glazed with only a few stained glass windows.  The exterior itself looked worn down.  And it was cold inside - my feet were cold by the end of the service and I almost put my jacket on for warmth.  There were about 100 people in the congregation and the vast majority were grey haired.  We went to the 10 AM service, they also had 8 AM and 7 PM services as well as a Saturday evening service.  The pews sat on a raised floor and during prayer you had the option of sitting or kneeling.  Everyone sat, probably because they weren't enough kneeling pads for all of the pews.  The service was similar to most of the churches we have been to recently.  We sang a handful of songs, there were scripture readings, a sermon, a passing of the offering plate, and communion.  Lori and I skipped communion when we saw they used the "pass the drinking cup" method.  For the bread offering they tore pieces off a small loaf of bread which was different.  I left feeling spiritually unfulfilled but Lori liked it better than the Woodlands Church.  Kalle liked them both and Karl is a typical teenager. 

After church we went to Sainsbury's to get dinner ingredients (homemade mac and cheese with burgers) and then home to watch it rain for the rest of the afternoon.  We had to get shell pasta because the store didn't have elbow pasta.  I will have to check other stores for elbow pasta now.

And finally, this month's facial hair style is ... <insert Clark W. Griswold's obnoxiously long drum roll when lighting the house Christmas lights in Christmas Vacation> ... the Ebeneezer Scrooge side burns.  I figured since we are in England and it is the Christmas month what better time to grow massively bushy 'burns as a tribute to Dickens' timeless classic A Christmas Carol?  Lori hates them so far and the month isn't even half over yet.  Poor Lori.  In my defence I did warn her what to expect if she married me when we were dating, I even pointed out my Uncle Rick as an example. 

Thanks for listening,