Saturday, December 22, 2007

Loves and Hates of the UK~I

I'm an avowed Anglophile.

I've been one since I was a small child... my grandmother was Irish, and although she hated the English for the horrible things they did to her family back in, oh, the early 1800's, she was lace curtain Irish, so, she had quite a few English habits.

I went to a boarding school where my house nun was English, so, it was enforced upon us that all things English were good and true and proper. My pen of choice is a fountain pen, I still use 'u' in words that American's drop it in, such as colour and favour, I take cream in my tea, I speak English fluently. My children have always had crackers on Christmas Day. I make an amazing roast dinner on Christmas Day... yes, I am an avowed Anglophile, and I've been coming to the U of K since 1997 visiting friends.

I have a Love/Hate relationship with the country.

I love pubs. I love pub food. I think pickled onions are a culinary masterpiece, and a friend of mine, Mel (who used to live in Malmsbury), told her dad of my love of them... so, he made me some. We bonded over those. One of the upsides of our bonding, along with marvelous onions, were his stories of working for Prince Charles. His comment about Camilla? "Oh, yes, well... the photos are kind."

I do love the radiators. You can wash your clothes in the teeny tiny washing machines that hold one pair of jeans, two shirts, a pair of underwear and a small towel, then you hang them on the little drying hangerthingies that hook onto the radiators. Presto! Dry clothes in no time at all. You also put your towels there during your shower, and your pajamas at night before you go to bed... hang your clothes there during the night.... all of these things will provide warm comfy things to put on your freezing cold body, making you content for at least five minutes.

The markets. Tesco. Asda. Sainsbury's. The people in the U of K know their food. You buy ready made pizza with buffalo mozzarella cheese on it. Or smoked artichoke hearts with pecorino cheese and lonza. There is Winter Soup, which has white onion, Stilton cheese and white port in it... just there on the shelf. We have been making mince pies... I'm not a fan of mince pies, but, Loo has a recipe that is to die for. You heat them up, and pour brandy cream on them. Brandy cream you buy in the dairy case. Imagine! The cheese case goes on for miles. There are 470 different kinds of cheddar alone. Fresh breads and nice veg and the meat is great. We went to Costco, which made me laugh. Where else can you buy 47 pound bags of tea and haggis but in a UK Costco? For the record, I love haggis.

Chocolate. Real Cadbury's. Entire aisles in the market given over to chocolate. Cadbury's Flake. Bury me there, when I die.. do.

The little local markets are lovely, too. You pick up your paper, some bread or cheese or milk. Everyone stands about and gossips... they all know you. They remember me from my last visit, "Ohhh, look! It's Loo's Yank!" They know my name, I'm just called the Yank.

The Countryside. What you see in the costume dramas is true... it's rolling and pure green and dotted with sheep or some other kind of animal with four legs. I once pointed out the sheep to Loo only to be told they were ponies.

I live in the city, what do I know?

Gossip magazines... they are amazing here. I don't read them in the states, not even People, the news magazine for the illera...illir... people who can't read. Here, I consume them. I won't read a decent newspaper, only the trash ones. Great fun, really, they are...and they are full of pure, delightful over the top gossip. I'm currently reading Heat.... bliss.

I love how they don't fool about with cigarette warnings. None of this small print, with a little, "Well, smoking might hurt you, you know." No, here in the U of K, it's flat out on the front, "SMOKING KILLS YOU, YOU WANKER". Nothing subliminal about that.

People are friendly, with a deep desire to talk to me when they hear my accent. I had a following in Costco, one woman saying to her son, sotto voce, "Ohhh, look.... there's an American!" I felt as if I should do a trick or something. One came over and said, "Right, mate.. sorry about your dollar." Since I was sobbing over the exchange rate on a travel shop window:

$1000 CASH AND




I thought that was very kind of him to say something.

My friends here are honest to a fault. When you are trying on dresses, and you walk out and they both fall on the ground laughing, telling you "Oh, dear, Quin, you look like a paeodiphile's nightmare in that one!" or, when you try on a dress you know is perfect, that you are willing to shell out precious pounds for, this conversation occurs:

Me: "I like it."

Limey, dear, sweet, kind Limey says, "No, darling, it's far too young for you."

Me: " said my new haircut took years off me"

Limey: "Darling, it does... but, that dress isn't a miracle worker."

The trees sticking out of the houses, the really pathetic holiday lights, the greasy fish and chips that are still rumbling in my tummy from last night, the huge dogs I share my bed with, HB and MB who never make me feel anything but an Aunt... all of those who will be at pub on Christmas Eve, and will go over every war the US has been in since WWII with me...we will go to Loo's parents for Christmas Day and do our crackers and wear our paper crowns and play games and eat and laugh... then, Boxing Day comes about, more time with family and friends... the little shops with sweet old ladies running them, the dogs being walked everywhere, red cheeked children and the soft air and the simple knowledge there are customs and traditions that are there, things you do... this and more makes me love the UK.

I'll go to London after holiday and spend a day with another dear friend, adding more to the fun of being here.

For now, I've the fog, the light brushing of snow on the road (which run the wrong way)... the roundabouts, the doors for each room, the moss on the trees, the tiny narrow lanes that scare the crap out of me when we drive, day or night... the accents I understand so easily, the fact I drink massive amounts of tea, the idea that no matter how rattled you are, a cup of tea is just what you need.

I'm an avowed Anglophile.

Now, if only the dollar was worth something.... it would be a perfect time here.


Bud said...

I dearly love England as well but we differ on the food. I find most of it deplorable. Especially the pub food. But perhaps that was just my experience. Cornish Pasties are good. Cadbury is good. Cream filled pastries are good. That's about it. When I go, I bring LOTS of peanut butter. On the rest, I totally agree with you. So glad you're having a magical time AND you like the food.

Harriet V said...

Ah, Cadbury roses. One of the best things I brought back from our week in London... Hon, you have to explain to the kids about the difference between "lace curtain" and "shanty Irish." One difference, so I've heard, is that lace curtain Irish have fresh fruit on the table, even if no one died.

golfwidow said...

We went out for Chinese food in London and when we ordered soup, thinking we'd get wonton or hot and sour, we got cream of mushroom. It was ... odd.

Quin said...

lace curtain irish were those who, although poor, made sure there were curtains on the windows, worked at moving upward, tried to maintain a sense of 'class'.

my grandmother had a very hard life, yet, she always set a proper table, put manners forth as something that were very important (manners and no money will gain you more respect than money and no manners) and who was tidy and proper her whole life, even when she lived in mississippi during the depression on a farm with no plumbing. she never wore pants her entire life. no matter how much you had in the bank, you kept your home clean, your children well behaved, and yourself dressed properly.

otherwise, you were shanty irish, and no good.

Deb said...

Though it gives me FITS of giggles to hear it- I love the way you fall so naturally into the upper crust Brit accent! It takes about 2 days for it to emerge fully, but as you would say by now 'Tis GRAND dahling'. Tee Heeee!
Hurry home, we have lots to talk about!

constant_drama said...

What a lovely post. It made me smile all throughout.

I put 'u' in some words too:glamour, neighbourhood, colour, favour and all that you know. That's just coz Malaysia is a Commonwealth country hence the British education system.

Valley Girl said...

I love this post. I think I would love it in the UK.

Writeprocrastinator said...

"she was lace curtain Irish, so, she had quite a few English habits."

There is nothing in the world that will get my ears boxed any faster, than for me to call my mother-in-law "lace curtain Irish."

I remember being over there and it was 1.65 pounds to the dollar. Of course we are talking about Reagan's first term in office.

austere said...

Cadbury's Dairy Milk is to die for, though Bourneville is quite all right.

"lace curtain Irish". Pleasure, delighted.

U is all right, I've come to terms with it, its the punctuation differences that leaves me all flustered.

Peter Varvel said...

Happy Christmas, Quin, my Anne!

You make me miss my British friends!

Quin said...

wp~my gran never made the distinction, but, it was there. the last time i was here, the dollar was at 1.57, and that was three years ago.

a~milk chocolate..omg. the us tries to pass off a version, but, it's hershey's.. you simply can't recreate cadbury's.

peter~same to you, a few days late. ((hugs))