Absolute Beginner: The Adventures of a Middle-Aged U.K. Newbie

[Blogger’s note: I was born and raised in America, moved to Canada for love in the early Aughts, and recently relocated again, in my 50s, with my British-born spouse to the southern coast of his homeland. This is an occasional series about learning new tricks in Merry Old England.]

Rage Against the Machine: Battling Britain’s Perversely Popular Combo Washer-Dryer… and Losing

cofIt’s a question this exasperated expat has asked. This blogger’s vexed U.S.-born partner has asked it. Heck, I’m going all in, every American living in Britain who has used a combo washer-dryer to do laundry has asked it at one time or another. Why do these contraptions exist? And, as a follow-up question, how do we defeat and destroy them?

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Vinyl Find of the Week

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My favourite Bowie album, by a smidge over “Scary Monsters” and “Station to Station.” Picked up this copy at the monthly pop-up shop by Nothing Ventured Vinyl at Portsmouth’s coolest java joint, Hunter Gatherer. A 1983 reissue from Spain, it’s a real find for this North American expat as I rarely spotted European pressings in the U.S. and Canada during my many and far-flung record shop digs. I snagged a soulful ’70s platter by Gwen McCrae at Nothing Ventured’s pop-up last month. What treasures will I unearth at the next one?

Absolute Beginner: The Adventures of a Middle-Aged U.K. Newbie

[Blogger’s note: I was born and raised in America, moved to Canada for love in the early Aughts, and recently relocated again, in my 50s, with my British-born spouse to the southern coast of his homeland. This is an occasional series about learning new tricks in Merry Old England.]

The Madonna Syndrome: Learning When and When Not to Talk Like a Brit

Photo_talks_Send“You look to be a man of rude health,” a colleague of my spouse told me when we were introduced at a pub one evening recently. From his genial tone, typical of the Brits I’ve met since moving to the U.K., I guessed that he meant I appeared outwardly robust with no discernible signs of pestilence. But the use of the word “rude” threw me. After all, I was born and raised in the Southern U.S., where rude is never a good thing. He must have noticed the puzzled look on my face because he hastily added, “Oh, sorry, you don’t say ‘rude health’ in America, do you? You say ‘ruddy health,’ I think.” I replied with a noncommittal shrug. After his compliment, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that few Americans apart from jut-jawed New England matriarchs and Teddy Roosevelt have ever boasted about being in “ruddy health.” We’re more partial to “fit as a fiddle,” or “right as rain,” or perhaps just exclaiming “I feel good!” and then attempting a few spirited but clumsy James Brown dance moves. Continue reading

Absolute Beginner: The Adventures of a Middle-Aged U.K. Newbie

[Blogger’s note: I was born and raised in America, moved to Canada for love in the early Aughts, and recently relocated again, in my 50s, with my British-born spouse to the southern coast of his homeland. This is an occasional series about learning new tricks in Merry Old England.]

Closing Time: Business Hours Can Be Bafflingly Brief in a Seaside Town Bent on Work/Life Balance

IMG_20170530_182301“You only have five minutes to order,” cautioned the server at our neighbourhood Japanese restaurant to three newly arrived lunch seekers. “And then you have a maximum of half an hour to finish eating. We do close very soon.” As I gouged at my bento box with chopsticks at a table nearby, the would-be patrons weighed their desire for the restaurant’s good-but-not-great sushi and teriyaki fare against the time constraints and decided to try their luck elsewhere. They shuffled toward the exit, the server following impatiently inches behind.  As soon as the last of the interlopers cleared the threshold, he crisply flipped the Open/Closed sign on the door to the latter. Continue reading

Absolute Beginner: The Adventures of a Middle-Aged U.K. Newbie

[Blogger’s note: I was born and raised in America, moved to Canada for love in the early Aughts, and recently relocated again, in my 50s, with my British-born spouse to the southern coast of his homeland. This is an occasional series about learning new tricks in Merry Old England.]

My Two Cents Pence: Currency Exchanges with the Locals

IMG_20170308_174334Around the village where we live now, I’m known as “The Dollar Dimwit.”

Okay, nobody has actually called me that to my face. The denizens of Southsea, a picturesque portion of Portsmouth that abuts the English Channel, are far too polite to ridicule me directly—thus far. But I’m sure they’re thinking it as I blunder into their shops and restaurants and blurt, in my all-too-noticeable North American accent, “Is this item on sale for 12 dollars?” Or, “I’ll have the five-dollar lunch special, please.” Or, “The total comes to 3.50 you say? I think I have 50 cents in my pocket.” Continue reading

Absolute Beginner: The Adventures of a Middle-Aged U.K. Newbie

[Blogger’s note: I was born and raised in America, moved to Canada for love in the early Aughts, and recently relocated again, in my 50s, with my British-born spouse to the southern coast of his homeland. This is an occasional series about learning new tricks in Merry Old England.]

The Curious Appeal of British Commercial Radio

ultrapop-2017-02-05-10-11-40Growing up in America in the ‘70s, radio was my faithful companion. Be it portable transistor, home stereo, or car dashboard module, I was forever twisting a dial or punching a channel pre-set button, searching for the music I loved.  Commercial radio was my connection to the tunes of the day for a long, long time, the first place I heard Blondie, Parliament, Lou Reed, Devo, Prince and countless other musical heroes. But as I got older, that connection frayed. Continue reading

Record Stores I Love

Vinyl on the Side

Being a vinyl gourmand, I love nothing more than the smorgasbord of a record shop devoted solely to the spinning platter. But shops that serve up vinyl not as an entrée but a side dish can be quite tasty too. Take Dress Code, a funky vintage clothing and tchotchke emporium in Southsea, England, my new stomping grounds. Its slogan is “Fine and Fabulous Shit,” and that’s a pretty spot-on tagline. Among the denim jackets, band T-shirts, anime accessories and skull-centric jewelry, you’ll find a small but super-hip stash of used LPs. The emphasis is on ‘80s new wave and alternative—if your Siouxsie and the Banshees album collection is lacking, look no further. PIL, Japan, and Ultravox are also well-represented, plus there are a few surprising outliers including a handful of Lynyrd Skynyrd records and, on my visit at least, the terrible, horrible, no-good soundtrack to the “Sgt. Pepper” movie. (George Burns, tsk-tsk.) I snapped up a rad promo compilation of covers, in near-mint condition, for £8, slightly more than the Discogs median price, but whatevs. (See photos below.) I’ve got my eye on a couple of those Siouxise LPs, so I’ll be back soon and I know Dress Code will become one of my regular haunts. But I’ll probably pass on the skull necklaces. I could never pull off that look.

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Okay, Where Was I?

img_20160929_130020Hello again! I’m back after a brief hiatus from the blog while I moved the operations for Dugout Discs and its subsidiary holdings (wink) from Toronto, Canada, to Portsmouth, England. We’re by the sea, people! It’s glorious. And the even better news is that Portsmouth has at least four decent places to buy vinyl, including a well-stocked HMV. My two favourite shops so far are a hip little venture called Pie & Vinyl, which offers both the latest record releases and, at an adjoining cafe, tasty meat pies cooked to order; and a used record shop, Soundz, which boasts an impressive collection of records from the ’70s and ’80s, most priced around five pounds. Here you can see my very first purchase from Soundz, a classic by Heaven 17 with a cover that I hadn’t seen before in North America. Now I just have to find a new turntable to play it on. I had to give up my beloved Denon player prior to moving– the electrical current is different here, don’tcha know– but at least I found it a good home. The search begins!