So what hit me as "new" or "different" on this last trip to the UK?
- Well, my paid-up, unexpired credit cards were refused on more than one occasion (usually in Tesco) because I don't have chip and pin. I didn't even know what the sales assistant was talking about the first time my card was handed back to me, I just made sure she said it really loudly so that the people queueing behind me would know I wasn't about to be hauled off to debtors' prison. In the US, your card is usually handed back to you before you've even signed anything, so I don't think the added security of chips and pins is going to make an appearance any time soon.
- It's a hands-down win for the UK as far as ordering and paying for meals is concerned. Having said that, the length of time it actually takes someone to come to your table at all is still just that bit too long, especially when you don't even have a glass of water plonked down in front of you. (Do I sound like a whining American tourist or what?) Anyway, I was most impressed with the hand-held device used to take orders. The waiters even read back our order just to make sure it was correct - now that's progress. What's even more impressive is that when you hand over your card to pay it's all taken care of right before your eyes - the card is inserted into the device and your payment goes through. No more hanging around waiting for your card to be returned. Well done. (And they aren't all bent out of shape about chips and pins either.)
- The TA option on the car radio comes in very handy, especially given the traffic problems everywhere we went. (TA presumably means "traffic announcements", and if you're listening to a national station like BBC Radio 2 with Steve Wright in the afternoon, the local radio station will interrupt whenever there's a problem to share.) Now this is great in theory, but if you're lost in the memory of "Seasons in the Sun" (or whatever golden oldie Radio 2 is playing) it can come as a bit of a shock when the local area DJ, usually much louder, breaks in over the air waves. It also tended to happen when I was in full vocal throttle, warbling along to a real tear-jerker, forcing me to choose between continued bliss or a potential two hour traffic jam.
- And what the hell's happened to crisp bag colour-coding? In my day Salt 'n Vinegar was always, I mean always, blue and Cheese 'n Onion was green. Given that any flavoured crisps are a novelty in the US unless you count sour cream and onion, I allowed my kids to guzzle British crisps to their hearts' content. Unfortunately, when making the purchases, muscle memory kicked in and I inevitably ended up handing out Cheese 'n Onion (in blue bags) to a disgusted flock in the back seat who were all craving Salt "n Vinegar. I mean, what are the crisp marketing people thinking of? Salt and Vinegar (I mean "n" Vinegar) just conjures up blue sea water doesn't it? Well, the salt part at least. Cheese can be moldy, which is green - ergo, green packets. Harrumph! I will have to write in and get the powers that be to correct this before my next trip back.
Lots more to write about but I'm not good at blogging on ad infinitum without boring everyone to tears. More next time.