Monday, July 4, 2011

Cell Phones and the First Pub

Today we celebrated the Fourth of July by doing that most American of things, being consumers. We bought two cell phones so we could be in touch with each other during the day. And we had a nice meal with our sponsors.

After visiting a bunch of stores a few days ago, I decided to shop at the store whose name seems quite old-fashioned, The Carphone Warehouse. Who calls them carphones anymore? My automatic spell checker even thinks "carphone" is a misspelling! They are thoroughly up to date in every other way, rest assured.

They sell unlocked phones (which are very common here) with SIM cards for the various providers thrown in to get big discounts. We decided on pay-as-you-go phones.  We never used up all our minutes back in the States even with the most minimal monthly plans possible, so it made sense. Also, our sponsors gave us a SIM card for Lebara, a popular cheap way to call internationally from the UK. So we will be swapping that SIM card into our current phones when calling home.

The staff was very professional. Well, at least to me they were professional. Some bloke came in asking if they could fix what looked like a USB flash drive. It seemed the cap came off and he couldn't get it back on. One of the staff said, "Oh, so those guys at Carphone Warehouse have nothing better to do, why don't I just bother them?" and the other two guys joined in on some good-natured ribbing. They all (including the hapless customer) had a good laugh. Then they explained to me that he comes in the store all the time and you don't get that sort of service without being an extremely regular customer.

Another of the staff guys said, "Hey, isn't it Independence Day? Happy day." He wasn't very enthusiastic, but what can you expect at 9:30 on a Monday morning from a Brit for the Fourth of July? I said thanks and finished my purchase. It was a great shopping experience.

Later that day, we went to a pub with our sponsors, The Pine Marten. It was very nice, not quite what you'd expect from a British pub. It was more like a regular restaurant, except they had a nice bar and rooms to let upstairs. They had some outdoor seating with a pond containing three water fountains and lots of big fish. The kids enjoyed sticking their fingers in, especially when the bigger fish swam by. Jacob, of course, visited the potty several times, even using the hand dryer when he went with Mommy. The Gent's dryer was too loud. At least he went in the Gent's room with me and did his business without complaining about the dryer. He washed his hands and, don't tell anyone, he dried them on his pants. At least he didn't run out of the bathroom as soon as he saw the hand dryer. Definite progress is being made on that front.

The food was pretty good and we had excellent British desserts--sticky toffee pudding and banoffee pie (banana, cream, and toffee in pie form!). Sticky toffee pudding was a favorite for my wife and me from our last visit to England. It's just as good as we remembered. Our children didn't even want to try it, which was fine with us, because it meant more for us!

It was a great Independence Day, all that was missing was fireworks. I hope your Fourth of July is (or more likely, was) lots of fun, even if you don't celebrate the day.

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