Tag Archives: Olympics

I’d like to apologise unreservedly

It’s wryly amusing seeing that the Evening Standard has been forced to apologise to Prince Philip for wrongly claiming that he was fighting prostate cancer. Not because of the nature of the illness that the Queen’s husband absolutely and categorically does not have, but just because it’s rare to hear a story that’s not about Philip himself having to say sorry for something he’s said.

Let’s face it, Philip only ever opens his mouth to insert his foot in it. From asking a Scottish driving instructor how he managed to keep locals off the booze long enough to get them to pass their test, to asking a Cayman Islander whether they were all descended from pirates, Prince Philip is the king of the inappropriate comment. After all, who can forget his 1986 comment on a state trip to China, when he told a group of British students that “if you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty eyed.” Or congratulating a native from Papua New Guinea on managing to not get eaten?

He’s an embarrassment to his country. Fortunately his country is Greece, but the British are all guilty by association.

The terrible irony, of course, is that the American equivalent of Prince Philip is the president of the entire country. Given that George Bush is in Beijing at the moment for the opening of the 2008 Olympics, here’s hoping the American embassy has got its crisis management team on 24 hour standby.

Are there dollars in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

When you’re a Brit exiled in America, it’s difficult to avoid the fact that the dollar has about as much value as the Zambian kwacha. For a start, whenever your friends come to visit, you have to endure the tales of how they spent sixteen straight hours shopping, and bought two pairs of jeans for the price of a bag of Maltesers. If I hear the cry of “of course, everything’s so cheap over here” one more time, I swear I will shove their over-active credit card where the sun doesn’t – and more importantly, wouldn’t want to – shine.

The flipside, of course, is that when you earn your salary in dollars and you spend any time in the UK (as I am doing for work at the moment), you find that buying a sandwich costs about as much as a Paul Smith suit. And don’t even think about having that bag of crispschips to go with it. It’s no wonder Americans don’t leave the country that often.

But the fact that the dollar is barely worth the paper it’s printed on isn’t my only problem with the US currency.

When I got to the UK earlier this week, I collected up all my dollar bills, carefully folded them up and placed them neatly in my wallet. OK, that’s a lie. I grabbed them all, scrunched them into a ball as I normally do, and stuffed them into my jeans. My pockets bulged in a frankly inappropriate fashion, such was the sheer amount of paper involved. Though I hadn’t counted it, I was fairly sure that the cash would be enough to get me a taxi home from the airport at the weekend, and still leave me change for a bagel.

Having changed jeans this morning, I totalled up the cash and found $13. It’s barely enough to get me out of the environs of JFK, let alone to buy me breakfast at the end of my journey.

It’s fair to say that the United States has an obsession with paper currency. If ever the country decides to get its arseass in gear about saving the environment, they could do worse than look at the amount of paper used to create their notes. And given that every TomBrad, DickDirk and HarryLarry in bars and restaurants gives you your change in dollar bills to ensure that you’ve got no possible excuse for not tipping, walking around after a night out can sometimes feel like going for a stroll with a ream of company letterhead in your back pocket.

Personally I’d love the US to abandon the dollar bill in favour of a coin, yet repeated attempts to introduce the dollar coin into general US circulation have failed. Probably because you’d need to be an Olympic standard clean-and-jerk weightlifting specialist to carry round all your change after an evening in a bar.

Sadly I think we’re stuck with one dollar notes for a considerable time for come. I’m seriously considering getting a large rucksackbackpack to carry around a week’s worth of change in.

Maybe when it’s full, I’ll be able to use the cash to buy a single round of drinks in Britain?

I can but dream.