Monday, November 21, 2011

Something About England

There is something about England. The thing is, I can't pinpoint what that thing is. Is it that it has the largest city in the European Union? No. Is it that it's one of the fashion capitals? Definitely not. Is it the annoying, condescending accent? Maybe. Or maybe it's that the damp, cold winter months make it pitch dark by 4:30pm. And what is that conducive to? Depression, eating, watching the telly, hibernating and going to pubs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying England is a horrible place. After all, if it was, there wouldn't be so many damn foreigners there. And thank god there are, because it's all the damn foreigners who make London, in particular, such an interesting place. And if there ever was a country in need of an infusion of melanin and a pinch curry, it's England.



The thing about the food in England? The best food in England is NOT English food. Because English food is bland and weird. And I'm being kind here. I am not a picky eater either. In fact, there are very few foods I dislike. But, after two years of ethnic food, I was really looking forward to the exoticism of uncomplicated, straightforward hygienic food. And since I like virtually everything, I don't bother asking pesky questions about what I'm eating. So pot pie? Chicken. Beef. Veggie. Whatever. Can't go wrong. Serve it up. Because again, I like everything. Except organ meats. Oh holy hell! Who would put a disgusting kidney in a perfectly good pot pie? Sweet Jesus. This must be a remnant of the World War II rationing we-mustn't-waste-anything mentality. Or maybe it was just leftover from World War II, like SPAM was in Hawaii.



Do you know who the big four of the fashion industry are? (Ok, I admit, I didn't until I researched for this post. And yes, I actually research stuff for this blog. No joke.) New York. Paris. Milan. And of course, London because why else would I bring it up? Walking the streets of London, you see stores from all over the world. Which makes it all the more perplexing when you look at the people walking down the street. Cause they were the biggest conglomerate of some of the unfashionable people I've ever seen. And consider the source here. This is coming from an American woman who wears ripped jeans and balled up t-shirts every day of her life. Which has got to make you think, oh my god, this must be dire. And I assure you, it is. It's like walking into an episode of "What Not to Wear" and to my surprise I'm Finola Hughs. (Don't laugh. It could happen.) It's like the English get dressed in the dark or something. But that's probably because they do. Because the sun doesn't come up until like noon, if it ever does. This might also explain the real obvious super long fake eyelashes. They're probably wearing several layers of lashes cause they can't tell they already have them on. Thus creating this effect and reinventing the new black trend. All I can say is, it's better than wearing white athletic ankle socks with brown scuffed up shoes and a grey suit.



London is also a world financial market. They did originate the gold standard after all. And I don't know what they did after that to keep the title. But they did bravely cling to the Pound while the rest of the European Union switched to the Euro. Really smart or really dumb? The debate continues. Check any newspaper for the day's take on that one. And England has lots of them to check. Oh you'll have to wade through the crap in it to get to the financial section. Oh right. Cause guess where the tabloids first debuted in 1900? England. And in 1969, the page 3 girl debuted to increase readership. Or oogleship. Whatever you want to call it. I mean one would hope that as a world financial market, journalists would cover the hard hitting news. Like whether converting to the Euro would have taken the sting out of the exorbitant cost of the wedding of Kate and Will. But, on second thought, I'm pretty sure they did cover that.



I think it goes without saying that all big cities carry the burden of high crime rates. London is no exception. Jack the Ripper? British. Ok, so that was unfair. That was a long time ago and things have changed. Violent crimes have actually decreased in London, but the flip side is that other more petty crimes have increased. Today it's Jack the Ripoff. See, young hoodlums don't want your money. They want something far more valuable. They want your music. You see, England used to be an exporter of good music. Very good music. Remember. The British Invasion. Punk. Then, The Spice Girls. Ouch. Obviously, the good years ended at punk. And the British youth are desperate. So, if you find yourself in an alleyway in London with a knife to your throat. Don't reach for your wallet. English thieves don't want your money. Instead give them what they want, what they really really want. Your ipod.



Luckily, culture is everywhere in England. After all, it is the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the English language. Says who? Says Wikipedia. So it must be true. His plays were translated into every modern language. And you'll be happy to know that the rich tradition of live theater lives on here. The evidence of it is everywhere. Big, pink posters declaring Legally Blonde "fantastic" and "blows other musicals out of the water". Uh, REALLY? Now I didn't actually spend any money to see it, because I hate musicals and being raped by the Pound, personally. But, (and I'm just guessing here) it's no Shakespeare. So it's yet to be determined. Will Legally Blond be pronounced legally dead or will it be translated into Swahili? I'm on the edge of my seat in anticipation and sitting here reading the dictionary while I wait for the verdict.



I know, you're thinking I'm being too hard on the British. And, you're thinking but, it's quaint how they drive on the wrong side of the road and everything. Once upon a time, I thought so too. I even drove on the wrong side of the road in Australia, Scotland, Ireland and Malta. Sure I almost killed some people. But, as I tell the kids, almost doesn't count. Neither does that ticket I almost got in Malta for not following roundy-round protocol. But, the most treacherous thing about London traffic? It's walking across the street. You see 99% of the world drives on the right side of the road. And by right I mean right side of the road. And 99% of those crossing the street in London are foreigners. So, 99% of people are going to look left, even if your condescending crosswalk reminder says to look right. (Caution: Statistics are overinflated for effect.) And who the crap looks down at their feet when crossing the street? Not my brother, a casualty of looking left when he should have looked right, who got assaulted by a mirror on a double decker bus right after we said goodbye on that fateful day. Don't worry, he's ok. I was hoping he got a really cool eye patch out of it, but he only got some stitches. I think he should make up an elaborate story, wear and eye patch and start talking like a pirate. Well, that's what I would do anyway.

So what's my point? Good question. Do I have one? Ah yes, I guess my point is every destination is a collection of small oddities and contradictions steeped in history. That's probably the most fun thing about travel, making your own adventure (or misadventure) while unraveling the hidden story of the place. And then slowly falling in love with all it's endearing intricacies.

Unless it's for the quest for collecting random facts that may aid in us winning the World Trivial Pursuit Tournament someday.

But let's be honest, it's probably for the collection of priceless trinkets like that commemorative crown in a box I forgot to buy...

18 comments:

MarieHarmony said...

I loved this tour of London through your special and funny lenses. Each destination has its goods.........and so crazy habits or style. I am sure nobody would envy Irish Style but what is good here is that if you don't know what to wear you can still pick up something in your grandma cupboard and look Fashion!
Seems you enjoyed your London break........not talking about the food - obvious!

Lucy Patterson said...

Harsh. I think the same can be said of any large capital city across the Western world...and surely there were some, just some people you felt like taking a photo of because they looked good/unique?
On the other hand I haven't chuckled so much in ages! lol

Jan said...

What fun it is to travel with you. i so enjoyed this trip through London. Thank you so much for bringing a smile to my face.

Penelope J. said...

Funny and so true what you say. I had similar thoughts when in London, though you also sound a trifle biased on the negative side. London is a mess, I agree, but that's its personality and has been probably since its inception. As for English food, only the English like it, yet some of the best chefs come from England. Both the pound and driving on the left side are part of British uniqueness/eccentricity/island mentality or who cares what the rest of the world does? I agree that the English seem to be the world's worst dressers - along with Southern Californians - so who wears all the lovely clothing sold in stores? Foreigners of course.

No argument about the weather. It's well-known to be awful. However, as Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes says, he has a residence in London - perfect for writing and to attend cultural events (of which there are many) and lives in Mexico the rest of the time.

Personally, I feel ambiguous about London and its crazy mixtures. It took me over a year to get used to living in that grey city and I can see why you would be bemused and confused by it.

Late Bloomers said...

Oh, Marie, which places in London did you go to? I truly enjoyed your London tribulations but I have to come to the defence of these poor English eccentrics: rarely have I eaten better food (and drank better wine) than in England and this was English food both in the countryside and in London. Admittedly, these days you could buy a car for what it cost a family of 4 (or 6!) to have a holiday in London. But it used to be different, aha and here comes: it used to be different before all the foreigners flocked to London! And I have met some strange foreigners: at one time I staid at a B&B in South Kensington and there was an elderly gentleman (with not so gentlemanly behaviour for a police chief as the landlord told us) from Qatar residing there for months (they used to ship them to London for medical treatment) and practically each night he would bring home some young girl for his entertainment, his shenanigans would leave us sleepless and the young girls in question wearing heavy makeup to cover the nightly nightmares.
Ah well, we found a lovely mews house which cost us so much we lived on carrots and mungo beans!

Adriene said...

That's ok. Visiting London is still on my bucket list. Your virtual tour made it even more interesting. It's good to hear the not so positive side of things sometimes. ;p

The Loerzels said...

My point in this post is that everyplace has it's eccentricities and it's those that makes them endearing. Except for young girls in heavy make up performing "shenanigans", there is nothing endearing about that...

TexaGermaFinlaNadian said...

(sorry to any brits reading) You aren't being too hard on them. But it is how we see them, not how they are. You would think, that going to London where they speak English and are basically the same people as Americans, would be like Americans. Dead wrong. I find it bizarre there. Or at least from what I've seen. Give me a non-English speaking Euro country over Britain any day. If it is going to be weird, might as well not understand the language.

Sine said...

I so love your writing! (reminds me of Gail Collins at the NY Times, maybe you've read her columns). And glad none of it was politically correct. That's not the point of a blog like yours. I loved how you looked at all these little funny things and made me laugh.

The Loerzels said...

Sine that was the most amazing comliment ever! Thank you.

MuMuGB said...

You are spot on about London. We have the best and the worst over here. It is all about being "in the know..."
That said, London is also addictive. As much as I complain about the food and the fashion sense (and the dark, dark evenings), London is a nice place to live. I would know, I came here reluctantly 7 years ago!!!

Janine said...

Are you for real? Legally Blonde the musical!?!??!

Lalia said...

Love your take on things Marie! What a crack up. I'm just sorry it's the end of your London adventures or misadventures :)

Mrs. Tuna said...

I have a confession. I have a What not to Wear photo album on my Facebook. I only need the crown to be complete.

rumpydog said...

I would DEFINITELY eat the kidney pie!

Leah Griffith said...

I can't believe that you passed up a chance for your very own crown-in-a-box!

andrea-rachid said...

I found the post amusing, rather stereotypical and insulting but I still still had a chuckle of the tongue in the cheek amusing. I can't really relate to much of your experiences. If I could live in any place in the world, it would be in a mews house in London. British food is the best I have ever tasted, as for fashion...well anything goes! I love the politeness in fact compared to living in The Netherlands I find the British politeness like a breath of fresh air. Cold and damp, pitch dark at 4.30 in winter, yes it is just like many places in Europe, but that too has its plus sides...getting indoors in front of the open fire , lights dimmed, candles lit. As for the music, those Brits just keep churning out brilliant group after brilliant group......Iam not a lover of fast food, but I did eat a couple of times in London MacDonalds and I have to say the hamburger flippers could teach the Americans a thing or too.

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