Here’s a selection of stories from among the funniest moments of our road trip across England, as well as a few frivolous reflections of an American living (undercover) amongst a bunch of British a cappella singers.
Happy New Year!
Day 1: Let’s not forget about that time at the very wee beginning of tour when, ironically, the British rental car company wouldn’t take the Brit’s driver’s license (i.e. Nick B.’s) but gladly accepted my flimsy, fake ID “issued” by the State of Illinois as proof of driving ability, general maturity, sanity, etc etc. (Just kidding Laurie, it’s a real license.)
Anyway, the blokes at that car rental place clearly think too highly of Americans: although I’ve been driving since I was sixteen, I’ve only manned a manual car twice. And both times I managed to get the car to produce a mysterious, smokey smell from the hood. Being the responsible person that I am, I tried to communicate these potentially important details to Laurie via a series of hand signals, eyebrow raises and high-pitched, low-volume squeals, but he didn’t seem to pick up on my distress.
Before I knew it, I was in the driver’s seat, with a pair of keys in one hand and my iPhone in the other as I quickly tried to Google “How to drive a real car in England” before actually having to drive a real car in England. Orange’s 3G network failed me once again, and as my phone screen froze, I decided to commit to a new kind of driving experience: the lurchy, you-clearly-are-an-incompetent-driver kind.
Over the course of the next 30 yards and 15 minutes (i.e. leaving the tiny parking lot and turning left onto a narrow side street), I managed to stall the vehicle at least four
six okay probably seven times and also cause a traffic jam involving one small sedan, one large SUV and an even larger construction vehicle/tractor/truck thing. It was very intimidating and I started sweating under my armpits a bit.
After some more lurching and hybrid scoffs of awe and disdain from Laurie, I managed to get the car into a parking spot.
“Oh, life,” I signed after turning the ignition off. (Don’t worry you guys, Laurie remembered to engage the parking brake on my behalf.)
Fortunately, Callum is an amazing driver and I got to be in the car with him for the rest of tour. One time on the motorway, I got to change the gear while he engaged the clutch! It was the most grown up and capable I felt on tour — although the fact that I occasionally still have nightmares about clutch control and roundabouts probably means I’m still not ready to drive on English territory.
Day 5: England has funky street names — perhaps some of the most creative in the world. I get a kick out of imagining what conversations between American teenagers would sound like if we had streets named the British way.
Bro I: ”Hey bro, you wanna meet up at Slingsby Place later on? I hear there’s an awesome frat party going on there at 8.”
Bro II: ”Yeah, sure — I’ll call you when I’m around there. That’s close to Cackle Street, right?”
Bro I: ”Naw, it’s closer to Warning Tongue Lane. Sweet, dude, see you soon.”
[Later, around 8 p.m.]
Bro I: ”Yo Jackie boy, where you at? I’m about to go in.”
Bro II: ”Aww I’m still on Solly Street, I’ll be over in a bit! Am super-pumped to see you though. Woot!”
Day 8: An aspect of British architecture that I learned about on tour was that not all bathrooms have toilets; some just have a shower and a sink, and the faucets will often have separate hot and cold water spouts.
One time while we were staying at Chris’ house, I really, really needed to use the toilet, and I congratulated myself on finding a bathroom-esque room without asking anyone for directions. I found the
light switch tug-string thing, locked the door and turned around to investigate the toilet situation. And then I saw that there was no toilet. Ack!
Then I told my bladder to calm down and think about the situation. Of course British people wouldn’t purposefully construct functionally ambiguous rooms just to confuse unsuspecting Americans. So in a spurt of irrational daydreaming on my part, I started formulating a theory of how it just must be a ‘thing’ in England for the showers to be multi-purpose, i.e. British folk were being sustainable human beings by consolidating the toilet and shower into one. And then I came to and — fortunately for everyone — refrained from relieving myself in the shower.
Before leaving the “bathroom,” I felt I should wash my hands, just out of habit. And so I did. That’s when I learned that getting lukewarm water to come out of the faucet is particularly challenging when the faucets are separated into hot and cold water spouts. So I took my one-frigid hand, one-scalded hand with me and left the non-bathroom-that-looks-like-a-bathroom to ask Chris’s mom for directions to the nearest bathroom-bathroom. Whew.
Day 9: A one scene play.
The setting: One evening after a long day of gigs.
The cast: Anonymous, Domhnall and Chris.
Anonymous: “Hey, has anyone seen my jacket?
[a pregnant pause; no one has seen the jacket, apparently.]
Anonymous: “Domhnall, did you eat it?”
Domhnall Talbot: (defensively) “I didn’t eat it.”
Christopher Bland: “Domhnall, if it’s a thing, it’s likely you ate it.”
End scene / play
Day 11: If there’s one thing I realized while hiking in Sheffield, it was that really simple sentences perfectly suit describing nature.
Look at the golden light of the sun on the tops of those trees. The wind is pushing waves of snow over in our direction. The brown and red glint of the earth and rocks makes the landscape look like Mars. The sun is shrinking away. The cold bite of the wind is oddly comforting.
And then there was Dom’s conquest of the world…I think this is one of the coolest pictures from tour (that cross-like fixture on top of the rocks is none other than Dom himself!):
Now it’s time to get ready for our U.S. tour this spring…California, here we come! (And I will be perfectly capable of driving cars in that state, thank you very much.)