Category Archives: UK

There’s no place like home

For somebody who isn’t remotely patriotic, has no celebratory mugs bearing images of the Queen or Prince Edward, and wouldn’t be able to tell you which way up a Union Jack flag is meant to be even if you paid him, I have to say that ‘being British’ is something I enjoy and am proud of. OK, so I’m not willing to defend our violent colonial past, our role in the Iraq conflict or our responsibility for the meteoric rise of the Cheeky Girls, but on the whole I have to agree with Grand Lake Ink and her assertion that “I think I won the lottery of life being born British.”

Britain has many faults, regardless of who has political power at any given moment. And any country which has more votes cast for a pop talent show than for a general election should always consider a long hard look in the mirror. But it’s also an incredibly beautiful place, with (as one American friend once put it) “Roman shit and old stuff everywhere”. And there’s at least an attempt at a duty of care towards its people, which you can’t say about many countries.

Of course, being away from your homeland only heightens those feelings of affection. It’s not out of any lack of love for New York either – if any city can put you in a Christmas mood, it’s this one. But emigration kits come equipped with rose-tinted spectacles. If I was in the UK right now, I’d be moaning about the weather and bleating about the failures of the economic system. Instead, I sit on the subway dreaming wistfully of low-lying moisture laden clouds and fog, and an interest rate that’s at least above zero (for the moment, admittedly).

The strangest thing about not being in Britain is that it makes you pine for things you never bothered much with when you were there in the first place.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a biscuit as much as the next man. And the man next to me right now is called Mr McVitie. But back home I’d probably go six months without eating one, and certainly wouldn’t buy them in a supermarketgrocery store. Now I have vivid dreams involving custard creams and bourbon biscuits, and I’d kill for a Garibaldi.

Similarly, the Christmas spirit has me longing to go to a pantomime. I haven’t been to a pantomime since about 1987, when Angie from Eastenders played a thigh-slapping Aladdin alongside Derek Griffiths from Play School and Play Away at the Pavillion Theatre in Bournemouth. But right now, I’d be more than happy with a slapstick cry of “he’s behind you” and the last five minutes of fame for a Big Brother star from three years ago.

Earlier this week, the pangs reached a new low when I found myself in the kitchen making Cornish pasties from scratch. Without a recipe. I have never made Cornish pasties in my life. Love them though I do, they’re a convenience food that you pick up when you’re hungry. Making them yourself is much less convenient, let me tell you. Back home, there would be more chance of me eating pencil sharpeners than there would be of making my own Cornish pasties, but here it just seems like a perfectly natural thing to do.

Anyway, enough of this. I’m going to see Oasis tonight, and I’ve got no idea where I’ve put the tickets.

Reality bites

I’ve been an avid follower of CSI: Miami for about three years now. However bad an actor David Caruso is, I practically live for the moments when Horatio Caine takes off his glasses and tells Frank that it’s murder.

I’ve now been in Miami for three days, and not once have I been shot at. There’s been no attempted murder, and I’ve not even been in the vicinity of a drive-by. I admittedly saw a Miami-Dade police car, but I think that had more to do with a John McCain fundraiser in my hotel, than any Emily Procter-led investigation.

Miami is known for two things – crime scene investigations, and dolphins. I’ve seen neither since I’ve been here. I’m thinking of suing under the trade descriptions act.

The sad truth

In the interests of fairness, it’s only right that I draw your attention to a story pointing out the abject stupidity of my fellow countrymen, as highlighted by fakeplasticnoodles.

According to the Manchester Evening News, Camelot have been forced to withdraw a lottery scratch card in the UK, because too many people were confused by it.

To win a cash prize, players needed to scratch out a panel and reveal a lower temperature than the one featured on the card. Sadly, working out minus temperatures was too much for the gambling folk of Blighty, with Camelot being inundated with complaints from irate customers unable to fathom why -5 is actually a higher temperature than -6.

Outraged 23-year-old Tina Farrell (who admitted to not having a maths GCSE) summed up why Britain is currently suffering from a skills crisis.

"On one of my cards it said I had to find temperatures lower than -8. The numbers I uncovered were -6 and -7 so I thought I had won, and so did the woman in the shop. But when she scanned the card the machine said I hadn’t.

"I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher – not lower – than -8 but I’m not having it.”

Words cannot sum up the shame that I feel right now. Although as The Special One pointed out, the inability to work out minus temperatures is almost certainly one reason that Americans decided to stick with the farenheit system in the first place.