On being British

Teenage me would not have thought much about the Royal Wedding, yesterday. She would have reminded everyone that the monarchy is a disgusting, archaic idea that does Britain little good other than bring in tourism, which we’d get anyway, because we have HISTORY. She’d have told you, in no uncertain terms, how disgusting it was that a group of people were treated differently by sheer accident of birth. That having a monarchy means we will never be able to adequately bridge the gap between rich and poor. That they were all fairly awful people anyway, by dint of having to live such sheltered unreal lives.
In fact, I might have thought all of that, right up until we arrived in America, a few weeks ago. There is, of course, something about being in any foreign country that makes you very aware of your own nationality. Sometimes, it’s because you look around and think ‘Wow, we do it so much better at home’. Sometimes it’s when you have to speak to the waiter in very loud, very slow English because, of course, you never bothered to learn enough Spanish. Sometimes it’s because of the way people can spot you as different from a mile off (though I’ve been told this is because of the colour of the Husband’s hair).

In America, though, they love the British. Okay, so maybe it’s a little patronising; the British accent is ‘awful cute’ after all. But they are happy to talk to you; happy to hear about all the differences ‘across the pond’; happy to show you their way of doing things (You have to tip waitresses because they haven’t worked out the idea of a minimum wage yet, right?). One girl stopped us in the street. “Are you guys British?” she gushed. “Say ‘hello’”, she begged. “Hello” we said. “No! No! Say it properly!” she asked.
“‘Ello, guvner” said the Husband. She roared with laughter.

They also love America. There is no fear about being patriotic. They aren’t embarrassed that it might not seem cool. They are unashamedly and totally in love with their (frankly, ludicrous) belief that everything they do there helps every citizen to live the American Dream: To work their way up from the bottom and become something amazing.
It’s a beautiful dream. But it won’t work if you don’t help the poorest people a little more. Like with free healthcare.

Being in America made me proud to be British. I may have mentioned before that I can stop whole lessons and wax lyrical about the NHS, I believe it is so important. It isn’t just the NHS, though.

Quick aside: I was speaking to a woman in a bar in New Orleans. She worked in the medical industry. I asked her what the reasons were for a lot of Americans not wanting a free health service. She said “People like me wouldn’t get paid enough”. I said I understood, I was a teacher. She blessed me, said it was wonderful that I did such a lovely job, started talking about God. I said “Forgive me if this sounds rude but, that’s kinda my point. Don’t you think that a free health service, helping those people in society who are the greatest in need, is the most Christian thing a country can do?”. She left soon after that.

No, it isn’t just the NHS. It’s this:

A sign outside a bar in Memphis (or was it Nashville?) reminding people that they have to leave their guns at home and can’t bring them into a bar.

And it’s the radio over there, that makes me proud to be British. We drove all the way from New Orleans to Chicago, listening only to local radio stations. The music was good. I like a bit of Country. But the Husband likes to listen to talk radio when he’s driving, so we tried some of those stations. No word of a lie, I heard a radio presenter call the president of the USA: Barack Hussein Obama, Peace be Upon Him. I heard an entire radio slot that appeared to be about how odd gay men are; listing every stereotype I’d ever heard. I heard a presenter using the ten commandments as a reason why Obama’s plans to tax the rich higher were anti-Christian (It’s stealing, and that’s wrong). The level of stupidity and stubborn refusal to change made my blood boil.

(It was wholly different when we got to Chicago, I have to say – and I know that it wouldn’t be right to judge all Americans with the same brush, or whatever the saying is, but these guys were pure evil).

So, returning to Royal Wedding mayhem was actually quite refreshing, and took on a whole new meaning to me. I watched the service and was reminded again what a fantastic institution the Church of England is (though I was sad that Rowan wasn’t given the opportunity to have a little joke with the nervous pair). Even the BBC commentary on everything the guests were wearing, was so hopelessly quaint and innocent, that it made me smile.

So, it might be embarrassing, and it might not be very cool. But, I’m proud to be British this weekend. We don’t do so bad after all.


Purrrfect Anais

I was at a wedding recently (more on that later) and was a little shocked to find that all of the bride’s other friends were quite incredibly talented musicians. More than one of them got up and performed – some had even written songs just for the happy couple. It made me think about how it might be that she had found this people and why it was that I wasn’t so surrounded by brilliance.
We need to find new friends, I said to the Husband, all of us are talentless freaks.
This isn’t true, of course. Perhaps it’s something to do with the UK (the wedding was full of Americans). We just don’t shout about our talents as much as we should do. Self-promotion is seen, over here, as a little crass and that just means that too many truly talented people are hiding away for fear of ridicule or jealousy. Enough! I say!
And so, I’m talent-collecting. I’m going to watch out for incredible talent in my friends and loved ones and shout about it here.

Starting with the lovely Purrr, a friend from Uni who I’ve only really known since; a true artist. It isn’t simply the wonderful paintings that make Purrr an artist. You could meet her in a bar, and realise in seconds that she isn’t of this world – she isn’t one of us. She’s fragile and beautiful and a little work of art – just like the lovely ladies she paints on old book pages. One such painting is now in our living room, apologies that the photo quality is terrible (and the framing is shoddy, but I so desperately wanted to get her on the wall, that I couldn’t wait to have her mounted professionally!). Paris, 1957 – Anais, in her favourite room. As I imagine many of Purrr’s customers feel, I like to think this one was painted just for me and named for my favourite author.

Check out Purr’s work here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Purrr?ref=pr_shop_more . Or like her on Facebook! I’m also a big fan of Patrice reads obsessively. What great clothes these little ladies have!

What a talent and an inspiration. It’s a pleasure to know you, pretty lady.

How to make a mess, part 2.

The garden’s coming along nicely, with this funky new pot holder that I bought online and screwed together myself. I’m getting pretty nifty with a screwdriver, as you can see.

The bench also arrived, and will be the death of me… I think I may have underestimated how long it might take to paint a bench. I got up for five days in a row and painted until I just couldn’t paint any longer and it still isn’t done! But, boy, what a great colour!!





Next on the list is a handmade mosaic tile, a mirror / plant holder which should be arriving any day now, and a bird house of some kind… Fun!

Friends like these…

When I was growing up, I struggled to have good friends. It seems to be hard-wired into a girl’s nature to think one should only have a Best Friend and no need for any one else. Or, at least, that’s how it was for me. I had a host of ‘best friends’ one after the other, and was happy, until they all found someone better to hang out with… or, in one case, found life too difficult… and opted out.
But, over the last ten years or so, I have found myself surrounded with some of the most beautiful people. When I started University, I realised I wasn’t that hard to love – at least, not always. And my current Best Friend is someone I met in the very next room to me on my first night in halls. I have many friends from Uni still, most of them not necessarily the people I knew best while I was there, but who I love dearly…. and Facebook has brought me back in touch with a lot of the people who really made a difference but with whom I lost touch.
The friends I see most often, though, are newer friends. My London Friends. And even these, I realise with a jolt, are people I have known for over 7 years. I can’t list them here, I don’t think I need to, but I just spent a lovely weekend with them all. After Uni, the best thing that happened to me was a chance meeting in a pub with the Best Man – which moved me to London where I met the Husband and my Brother in Law (neither of which had those titles at the time, that would be weird). Then, after a year in North London, we advertised for more housemates on Gumtree and found the American and the Journalist. We were incredibly lucky, or God was watching out for us, because when we advertised for housemates, we found life-long friends. Family. And now, years down the line, the group has grown, to include former Uni friends on the Husband’s side (now friends in their own right, of course) and girlfriends and husbands and other significant others… and suddenly I have a group of friends who I really could turn to in an hour of need… but also who are excellent fun to drink with.
I feel immensely privileged to be able to grow up with these people, and grow old. A few years ago, it wouldn’t have been our choice to spend a weekend in the suburbs walking and having dinner parties, but now, we enjoy ourselves and laugh over the Observer together, and pat ourselves on the back that we have come this far and… well, it is pretentious, but we like it…
And all of them, behind the boisterous silliness and jibes, love me entirely for who I am… and I love them the same. I am very lucky. I don’t think I tell them that enough.