The following is a story about towels with a happy end. As with the
previous post, I shall recount the story chronologically. Unlike the
previous post, the "payoff" occurs somewhere in the middle of the story,
so you can't simply skim to the bottom.
Our previous story, gentle reader, left me nude from the waist up in the
kitchen of my new flat, holding a damp t-shirt, listening anxiously for
the promised female flatmates to walk in the door. Sadly, it appears
that the whims of fate did not support the comedic (and quite possibly
romantic... or at least sexual) script which was clearly written for
such an event.
I finished my meal and retired to my room. I had a shower, then spent
the next half hour shivering in my room as I slowly dried. I had know
that my room did not come with any towels, and therefore brought a small
hand towel, but could not fit a bath towel into my luggage. My brother
had assured me that it would be easy to find a towel in the fair Kingdom
Did you hear thunder in the background, gentle reader? You should have,
although as previously noted, the whims of fate do not always follow the
proper comedic script. I must confess, a chill ran down my spin and I
wrote those fateful words, despite knowing that a "happy end" was in
store for me.
In the morn, I dilly-dallied my route to the university. I still lacked
a key to the lab, so I did not want to arrive before others. I marvelled
at the Kelvingrove art museum history thingie, with its intricate gothic
arches and pointy bits. I revelled in the gentle parkway promenade, with
its explosion of green and gentle brook. I smiled at a broken-down
graffiti-covered building -- in this country, even structures slated for
demolition are incredibly charming!
I stopped at a cafe. I stumbled a bit with the protocol -- I never known
whether to get food at the counter, order food at the counter and sit
down, or sit down and wait for a server. I thought this was the first
kind of establishment, but apparently it was the third.
I had some most agreeable English breakfast tea with a ginger icing'd
thing. At two pounds fifty, though, I began to wonder about the
university's claim that students should budget seventy and one hundred
pounds per month for meals. By that measure, I had just blown half my
day's food allocation breakfast!
At the university, the lab was already occupied, so my lack of key was
not a problem. We chatted for a bit, picked up my new desktop, and I
occupied myself with setting it up.
Lunch was at a traditional pub (which apparently was the second kind of
establishment; I thought it was the third). My supervisor warned me that
my burger might not be up to North American standards, but I found it
one of the tastier burgers I had consumed. Interestingly, the meat was
not ground beef, but appeared to be a whole piece of beef. It was not at
all tough, though.
I repaired to my room at 4pm, pleading jetlag. I enjoyed another
post-shower shiver, and went to my bed with still-damp hair. I resolved
to find a towel on the 'morrow.
Did you hear that, gentle reader? I most definitely heard some deep,
ominous laughter from afar.
With the marvelous power of the Web which joins the whole Wide World, I
determined that Sainsbury's operated two types of establishments: S and
L. Amusingly, the Esses were "superstores", while the Ells were "local".
These abbreviations must have been chosen deliberately to confuse
foreigners accustomed to Small and Large drinks!
Anyway, having established that a "Superstore" operated by Sainsbury's
would be open at 7am, I set off shortly after dawn. I discovered a most
delightful walk across the countryside (just to the north and west of my
residence), and found the store with only a small amount of detours. The
walk was approximately one mile of length.
The "Superstore" was a mixed find. It was definitely not a superstore by
North American standards; with approximately 8-10 checkout counters, it
was definitely a normal residential market. It definitely was nowhere
near a North American (or Singaporean) superstore, which would have
upwards of 20 checkout counters (and in some cases, more than 40!).
However, it was oddly (or perhaps not oddly at all!) comforting. There
was plenty of room to walk down the aisles, a large selection of items,
and the whole store was brightly lit. The exterior was also familiar;
this store was part of a mini-mall with a moderately-sized parking lot
(200 stalls; again, a normal small lot by North American judgement).
Other stores included Boots (which apparently sells cosmetics, not
footwear), Marks and Spences, and a McDonalds.
Sadly, although the Sainsbury's website listed towels (and mobile
phones), and although the North American Superstores would include such
items as well, this store only had groceries. Or rather, what a North
American would call "groceries"... I suspect that the term "groceries"
has a more specific meaning here than merely "food and stuff".
Defeated, although much better provisioned, I walked home. There, I
picked up a letter establishing my UK residence, then travelled to a
... to be defeated again! Apparently, opening a bank account requires an
appointment! I must admit that I was not unduly hopeful that I could
open the account on Saturday morning (although the bank definitely was
open), but I had expected to be told to return on Monday morning, rather
than requiring a formal appointment.
After leaving the bank, I continued to walk in search of a store which
Finally, I spotted it! "The Bathroom Store". I crossed the street via an
underpass created for a nearby underground station, entered the store...
and discovered that it was for furniture only. I continued to walk.
Finally, I gave up and turned back. I have a good sense of direction, so
in order to make the third side of a triangle, I began walking towards
But then I discovered the most marvelous thing -- a store selling
household goods (pillows and mats). What's more, it appeared to be
fairly large (by normal street-side store standards). But the final
sign, a most definite stamp of approval from the whims of fate -- they
were having a sale! What could be more welcome news to me?!
I eagerly entered the store, and quickly located the items I sought. I
pondered a bit between a bath towel on sale for £5 and a fluffier
bath towel for £10... and decided to splurge. I had walked so far,
spent so much time looking, that I deserved a good towel. I bought other
items, though, which were on sale. A hand towel, plastic food
containers, and a laundry bag.
Upon returning to my residence, I checked my route on google maps. All
told, I had walked one and ten kilometers, or almost seven miles. Since
I had been awake for twelve hours, I fell asleep before even having a
I was woken around dinner-time by flatmates greeting each other. I
wandered out to join in the greetings, then got dressed and went out to
eat (I must admit, Subway for the third day in a row -- although in this
case, it was merely because it was right next to the Tesco's Express)
and buy some more groceries. When I returned, I filled out my Tesco
membership point card, and indicated my special dietary preference:
Indeed, this country considers people who refrain from drinking alcohol
to be in the same category as those seeking vegans, halal, kosher, or
diabetic diets. I begin to suspect that my brother was not overstating
his warnings about alcohol consumption in this country!
Awake for merely two hours, I fell asleep again.
I woke some time after midnight, having slept for over eleven hours
(after subtracting the dinnertime shopping). I remain amazed at those
who travel to other continents for vacations and conferences -- how do
they adjust to the new daylight so quickly? There is not much to see in
an unfamiliar country at 3am!
Sunday morning was occupied with academic work. Eight o'clock found me
back at Sainsbury's, this time purchasing garbage bags for the flat,
along with more food. I returned, did more work, and tried to find a pub
or cafe for lunch -- to no avail. Almost every store was closed on
I returned to my flat and ate bread, cheese (orange Cheddar, just like
home!), and strawberries (tiny ones). After this, I occupied myself with
chores (washing dishes, vacuuming), then went to bed again.
My pattern seems to be established: sleep from 3pm to midnight. It may
not be the most convenient pattern, especially for any kind of social
life, but at least it's stable -- for the first few days here, I could
not sleep for longer than 4 hours at a time.
Perhaps more importantly... and quite possibly closely linked to my
sleep... I have finally caught up on my fluids. Flights leave me
extremely thirsty, and I must admit that I did not drink sufficiently on
my first two days here. All the drinks are so small! Even the Subway --
a North American franchise -- had tiny cups, with no larger sizes of
cups visible. I should have asked for two drinks.
Anyway, I have regained my health. Walking was somewhat painful for the
first few days but this is now pleasurable. In retrospect, I should have
spent more time walking before coming here -- in part because walking
uses slightly different muscles than running, but mostly because I had
not "broken in" my new non-running shoes.
I have time for four more hours of work, quite possibly while doing
laundry, and then I depart for my first full week of university. My
first task shall be to get a keycard for the building: it is locked
outside of normal business hours.
PS: if you don't know what a "happy end" is, then... err... actually,
don't worry about it. I'm not going to spoil your innocence. :)