As a twenty-something, I came to England from the U.S., hoping to get a job with a work permit. One night an English friend took me to see Spike’s one-man show at the Mermaid. I hadn’t a clue who he was but went along. My friend laughed uproariously during the entire show but as I was a fairly new arrival to these shores, I’m ashamed to admit that most of the jokes went over my head.
My friend then dragged me backstage so he could say hello to one of the crew. There I spotted Spike, all alone, plucking out ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ on a guitar. Naturally, I started to sing it. ‘Oh, you like jazz,’ he said, suddenly noticing me. ‘Maybe we could go out some time.’ (more…)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love this country. I’m here by choice. What’s more, I’m one of you: a citizen. But over the years some Brits have said some very annoying things to me. I’ve decided it was time to stop ‘keeping a stiff upper lip’ and instead tell all.
Did you know, for instance, that there are about 250,000 Americans living here in the UK? I imagine many of them have had similar experiences to mine. I’ve decided to appoint myself their unofficial spokesperson and the following ‘rant’ is in order to perpetuate our ‘special relationship’. (more…)
I walked to the gate for my flight from Miami to London, holding the hand of my two-and-a-half year old daughter. It was late winter of 1984 and I’d been visiting my parents who’d retired and moved from New York to Miami Beach. My three-week-long welcome escape from the English chill and damp was over and it was time to fly back to my husband and home in West Sussex. (more…)
Like many Americans, I’m a sucker for an English accent. If I still lived in the U.S., I’m sure I’d have joined the ranks of America’s millions of ‘Downton Abbey’ fans, just to listen to the actors speak. (more…)
Charlie and Jill, our National Trust warden and wife, became our good friends. They seemed to have an infinite knowledge of the English countryside – and even my country-bred Dave learned from them. In the spring Jill acquired three adorable little lambs which she named Daisy, Maisie and Gracie. I kept finding excuses to visit over the succeeding months as it was such a treat to watch their playful antics. One October evening when we were invited to dinner, Jill served a garlic-and-rosemary seasoned leg of lamb with all the trimmings. ‘Genuine South Downs lamb,’ she announced as she made her entrance. I looked at the sizzling platter, my stomach suddenly in knots. (more…)
Food shopping always meant the supermarket – where my choice was from an uninspiring array of pre-packed produce. Then I discovered the joys of the farm shop and became one of its most loyal customers. The owner, Harry, sold fresh fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, and a selection of locally-sourced meat and sausages. His ‘pick your own’ was legendary, attracting customers from miles around. (more…)
Despite having central heating, we still needed the extra warmth provided by our open fire. Dave would saw up logs which I learned to stack. My urbanite background meant that I knew nothing about laying or starting a fire but I was an apt pupil. ‘Banking a fire’ was a term that stymied me. Wasn’t ‘banking’ what you did with your money? (more…)
My knowledge of British birds was embarrassingly limited. Imagine my excitement when I spotted a very large, most unusual specimen on our bird table – only to be deflated when Dave identified it as merely the common wood pigeon. Dave continued my avian education by identifying other British birds for me. He ‘warned’ about magpies: ‘one for sorrow, two for joy’ – making me slightly apprehensive if I spotted a solo bird in our garden. (more…)
Striding across a field with Dave one cold January morning, I stopped suddenly. ‘Who’s coughing?’
I asked. Eyes twinkling with amusement, he replied, ‘That’s a pheasant calling.’ There, on
the other side of the hedgerow, was a beautiful male, feathers aglow in the winter sunshine. (more…)
Dave and I revelled in exploring the Sussex countryside. We came upon many charming, centuries-old churches, each with its own special history. I was enchanted by one in particular which we found
at the top of a long winding lane, overlooking the Downs. I felt instinctively it just had to be the venue for our first Sussex Midnight Mass. (more…)