10 Things I Learned in the UK

Ah, England! I’ve been spending the week hopping around the country (and a little bit in Wales) to promote the paperback release of Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse. Once or twice each year I come to the UK, and I never fail to go home smarter! Here are some of the things I’ve learned on this year’s tour.

1. The birds in England start singing at 3 AM in the spring. In Texas, hearing birds sing in the morning is my natural alarm clock, and so I’ve been spending a lot of time awake at 3 AM. It then gets light at 4:30 AM, which is a most unnatural state of affairs. I really must speak to the Royal Naval Academy about this, because I understand this whole ‘latitude-longitude’ thing was their idea. 

2. Winchester is King Alfred country. There’s a big statue of him in the traffic circle. He’s proudly holding his sword as if to say, “Look, I have a sword.” King Alfred is apparently famous for burning cakes. Why this is important, I’m not sure. I burn cookies all the time, and no one has made a statue of me.

3. The name Harry is spelled Harri in Wales, whych ys strange because Welsh loves to use “y” ynstead of “i” yn almost every other word. Even a short vysyt to Wales can make thys practice a bad habyt.

4. Bristol has many beautiful hills. I have now climbed them all. If you try this, I would recommend leaving your suitcases behind.

5. Britons as young as seven are following the American election. I know this because a seven-year-old fan asked me which candidate Percy Jackson would be voting for. I declined to answer for Percy, but I was impressed by the question. I’m tempted to think that Britons as young as seven may *understand* the American election better than your average American, but perhaps that’s being too pessimistic about my countrymen. We’ll have to see who wins.

6. It is possible to get a Starbucks latte in Waterloo Station. It is not possible to stand still drinking it without getting run over.

7. Math in England is ‘maths.’ I suppose this is because two maths are better than one. As a student, I found singular math sufficiently horrifying. I would not care to study it in plural. Nor am I sure how one manages to say ‘maths’ without tripping over one’s tongue.

8. The goddess of victory is not Foot Locker. Almost always, I have to give hints when I ask this question in my Greek trivia quiz. Usually I say, “It’s the name of a sports shoe company,” which leads to many guesses of Adidas and Sketchers. This week, that never happened. Almost every time, at least one kid in the audience has known the answer Nike without any hints. This either means that children in the UK know a lot about Greek mythology or they know a lot about sports shoes.

9. Yes, it rains every single week. I’ve come to England for weeklong visits a dozen times now, and I have never yet gotten through a visit without at least one day of rain. I almost thought this week would be an exception. The weather was mild, partly cloudy and beautiful ever since Monday. But then we got caught in a light rain in Birmingham this morning, which broke our winning streak. I can now safely conclude, based on statistical evidence, that it really does rain every single week in the UK. I wish they would send some of this rain to the American Southwest. We could use it!

10. When one makes a top ten list, one should make sure there are actually ten items to list.

LabyrinthI’ve been to London, Winchester, Bristol, Newport, Coventry and now Birmingham this week, and I still have two days to go. Who knows how many more things I’ll learn? I look forward to meeting more fans of the Percy Jackson series along the way, and I can’t wait until the fourth book Battle of the Labyrinth is released in the UK on July 3. Keep reading, everyone, and watch out for minotaurs!

Rick Riordan