Tuesday, October 30, 2012

This Is Scary


Check out my new Halloween costume.  I'm thinking of wearing it to work--even altered my identification badge so that my profile picture is the same skull mask I'm wearing here.  I just hope security doesn't have a problem with that.

     But I doubt if I'll truly scare anyone.  There are things scarier than the visage of death dressed in formal attire   For me, it's flying.  After our recent trip, you can add airports themselves.

     It's all that security now.  Wendy and I had trouble this time cruising through customs and all those checkpoints.  Okay, it was partly our fault.  It started when we filled out our visitor card before we landed at Heathrow in London.  Wendy listed my occupation as my official work title which is reconciliation specialist.

     The customs agent at Heathrow looked at the card we'd completed.  "Reconciliation specialist.  Do you work with couples having troubles with their marriage?" he asked.

     I shook my head, explaining that I did more like a financial reconciliation of a company's books.

    "Divorce is very expensive here," the agent said.  I nodded in agreement though how was I to know.

    Preparing to leave Heathrow after our ten-day visit to the U.K., we again ran into a snag of our own making.  While rushing through the security checkpoints we were bombarded with, "Take off this, empty your pockets, take this or that thing out of your purse or carry-on, etc., etc."

    For some reason, Wendy's purse was not cleared through the checkpoint and instead was tossed into a separate nearby bin.  Soon we were called up and a very serious-looking middle-aged woman dressed in official security attire began scanning Wendy's purse with a curious looking handheld wand.

     She pulled out wads of receipts and other papers from Wendy's purse.  By the way, I keep pretty much every receipt, ticket and scrap of paper I get from businesses, restaurants and shops as cheap souvenirs to be taped into my trip journal.  And this lady pulled most of them out and put them aside.  Everytime she pulled out a wad of papers, she would scan the purse again with her wand.

    And there were lots of compartments and pockets to be checked, zippered and otherwise.  The lady never looked up or asked any questions while she quietly went about her work.  Finally, she opened up a pocket and pulled out an Ipod.  Then her eyes rose and met Wendy's as if to say, "Busted."

     "Sorry, I forgot about that," Wendy responded.  Ipods were supposed to be removed from purses prior to being scanned by the x-ray machine.  Boy, would we be happy to get back in the good, ole USA.  But security wasn't done with us yet.

    Back home in Detroit, we claimed our luggage and headed for the exit but first had to made a stop at customs.  Again, something on the card that Wendy completed reporting what we were bringing back home triggered a red flag.  We were directed to another line where a customs agent asked about a can of haggis that we had brought from Scotland as a souvenir gift for our son Scott.

  The agent wanted to see the can and check the ingredients.  This time he had to dig through our big suitcase, probably as difficult as digging through Wendy's purse, and more embarrassing since we had a week's worth of dirty clothes tightly mixed in there (never did find a laundromat in the UK).  Finally he found the haggis, checked the label and said it was forbidden because it contained lamb's meat.

    Apparently, because of Britain's experience with Mad Cow disease, canned meat can't be brought back.  But . . . it's not Mad Sheep disease, is it?  And it's not like we going to feed this haggis to our pet heifer.  C'mon.  But no arguing with the guy, and he confiscated our can of haggis.

     Now THAT'S scary.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pictures From Our Trip

Above are some of the usual iconic tourist stops we made.  There's Venus De Milo and Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris.  I also took a picture of the crowd around Di Vinci's best known work.  Our guide told us to use our elbows if necessary to get a picture.  There's also Stonehenge and the restored Cavern Club in Liverpool where the Beatles entertained some 50 years ago.

    During our tour of the Scottish highlands I learned that there's a free-to-roam law in Scotland that gives hikers permission to go anywhere they wish, even to cross private land so long as they don't do any damage.  Contrast that with all the 'keep out' signs you find in the U.S.  Seeing Loch Ness has been on my bucket list since I was in elementary school so I had to include a couple photos of the infamous lake including one of Castle Urquhart where the monster has been spotted in the past.  I brought a pair of binoculars to scan the loch myself but didn't see anything strange.

     I was looking forward to enjoying some traditional U.K. menu items.  On that menu pictured (from a cafe in Liverpool) I ordered the Lancashire breakfast which included black pudding that according to Wikipedia is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. That wasn't nearly as bad as it sounds and that's NOT what's on my plate pictured below the menu.  The pictured breakfast was served to me at a bed and breakfast in Inverness, Scotland.  That round black sausage there is haggis, also not as bad as I thought it would be.  There's also an interesting looking potato scone along with the sausage, scrambled eggs and field mushrooms.  But the host also gave me some Marmite to try.  My stomach still has nightmares.  If you're ever offered Marmite, just walk away.

    Funny story about that menu above.  My wife Wendy is not nearly as adventurous when it comes to trying unusual foods, so she thought she would play it safe and ordered the scrambled eggs on a toasted bagel.  She totally missed that it came with the item above it on the menu.