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Curiosities of Transatlantic travel

Just back in Pennsylvania from England, with some strange stories about Christmas crackers, doggy bags and windscreen washer fluid.

Christmas crackers
Christmas Cracker - confiscated at the airport

Before leaving England, I packed two large boxes of Christmas crackers in my suitcase to bring back to the US. They took up more than half the space in the only case I’m allowed without having to pay $100 extra. [For the benefit of American readers, who may be unfamiliar with Christmas crackers, these are the decorated cardboard tubes, with a little parcel of gifts inside and a paper hat and a silly joke (see below). Two people each pull on an end of the tube, the cracker breaks with a bang created by the same sort of material that’s in a cap gun, and out spills the goodies.] I know crackers are not a big thing for Americans at Christmas, which is why I always bring some good ones back from England.

Well. My two boxes of eight – about $75 worth - were confiscated at the airport in London. Apparently the tiny TINY MINISCULE amount of material that makes the bang sets off the security sensors that detect explosives. So that was that. First time I’ve heard of this in 15 years of transatlantic cracker transportation. So be warned. Christmas crackers are not allowed on flights. You can, I have to say, buy Christmas crackers in the US of course, they’re listed on amazon.com and on eBay too. But they’re not the same.


Doggy bags
The Bear at Oxshott in SurreySo - the family had a Christmas lunch at The Bear in Oxshott in Surrey, an old English pub which has developed its food in a big way. The food was good, the service a little slow though for a family get-together slow service is no bad thing. But. The portions were a good size – especially for my four-year old grandson – but they would not box the surplus and up let us take the extra food home. They would not give us a “doggy bag”, as the English expression has it.

The rather mixed reasoning from staff cited health and safety regulations and we were also told that if customers took food home, reheated it and became ill as a result of not re-heating the food sufficiently – the pub would get the blame.

They would rather throw good food away than risk getting the blame if in a day or two a customer is ill.

I can’t imagine any American restaurant trying that one.


Screen wash
British screenwash is five times the price of American windshield washer

Finally… I long ago learnt that just about everything is more expensive in Britain than in the US. The rule of thumb is that the number might well be the same - but it’s £££ rather than $$$ so the currency conversion adds about 50% to the price.

But driving home from my daughter’s shortly before flying back, the screenwash ran out. I stopped to buy some. It cost me £6.99 ($11.43) for four liters (1.06 US gallons) – that’s $10.78 per US gallon. Yesterday I bought a bottle of windshield washer here in Pennsylvania – it cost me $2.09 for one US gallon (3.78 liters). The British windscreen washer fluid was more than FIVE TIMES the price!

The petrol, by the way, at £1.299 per liter (= $8.04 per US gallon) was a little over twice the price of gas in our local gas station here in Pennsylvania. Most of the extra cost is tax, of course – and Brits do have universal free health care.

Merry Christmas!

Next day: Jokes from Christmas crackers
OK, this will give you an idea of what's required in a Christmas cracker joke. They're all from the crackers left over from last year. Try them at your party - and be prepared for the groans!

Q: What do you call a boomerang that doesn't come back?
A: A stick

Q: What did the fish say when it swam into a wall?
A: Dam

Q: Why are ghosts so bad at lying?
A: You can see right through them.

Q: Why was 6 afraid of 7?
A: Because 7 8 9.

Q: What do you give the man who has everything?
A: Antibiotics

Q: What do you call someone who makes clothes for rabbits?
A: A hare dresser.

Q: How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizza?
A: Deep and crisp and even.

Q: What did the grape do when it got stepped on?
A: It let out a little wine.

Thank you, and goodnight...

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