After encapsulating the alien culture of America in my last post, I now turn my attentions to the quirks, traditions, foods and general aspects, or lack thereof, of my home culture.
Seventeen things I miss about the UK and the People’s Republic of Sunlun’:
1. The biggest miss of course is my family, that goes without saying. They’re a huge miss. I often find myself seeing or doing something amazing and thinking, “it would be so cool if my family were here”. That being said, living in America is such a great excuse for them visit and make some amazing memories here with me. Something I’m certain they agree with.
2. Whilst living in the UK I must admit that I was never the biggest advocate of Greggs. Say the word and memories of greasy brown bags made translucent by saturated fat, chavvy mams shovelling sausage rolls into golden-boxing-glove-necklace toting toddler’s mouths and seagulls scrapping over an abandoned mince pie come flooding into my mind’s eye. However, that being said, I really miss the site of a Greggs on every other street corner; stottie bread and steak bakes… the Americans haven’t lived. You know, I once opened up a steak bake in front of Danielle, she cringed and said it looked like dog food; however, after some slight convincing, she took a bite. Her eyes rolled in delight and next thing I know I’m buying another one. Touched by the grace of the North Eastern baking gods. Greggs in America would be amazing, yet I fear their may be some form of international agreement already in place that prevents any such occurrence from happening – I don’t think America needs any obesity inducing encouragement, they’re pretty good at that kind of thing already in case you didn’t know.
2. Americans always joke around saying in a shrill, poorly imitated English accent, “Oh, would you like a cup of tea, old chap?” laughing and nudging me in the ribs with a dagger-like elbow. However, when I reply, “Oh, yes please, if you’ve got some” – the look on their face is priceless. Cue rummaging through every cupboard and pantry in the house whilst stating, “I’m certain we have some somewhere”. After ten minutes of tearing the house apart they emerge with a mangy old box of Lipton’s tea, a grin spread from ear to ear. The look on my face must say it all; “What is this, peasant? Have thou not any olde worlde English tea? PG tips perchance?” They trudge back to the kitchen apologetically, the look of defeat ingrained on their face.
Britain 1 – America 0.
3. I miss walking down the street and hearing the mellifluous, honeyed North Eastern accent.
“Ere man, ya radgie did ye just nick the dusties off me bmx?”
“Norr nah, divvint be daft ya divvy”
American faces reading this post must be an absolute picture. But, in all seriousness, I really miss hearing the accent that formed part of my identity; hearing my Mam and Dad talk is a whole new experience now and I treasure it so much more in an odd sort of way. (Note: my parents do not converse in the aforementioned vernacular, I’d like to clear that up).
4. I miss walking in general. Unless you live in an urban, cosmopolitan area, then you’re resigned to driving everywhere. I live in a residential development located off a main highway, if I wanted to walk to the nearest bar or restaurant, it would take an hour minimum; people don’t even walk in our neighbourhood, they drive around in golf-carts #’Murica. Now, I know this isn’t the case in all of America, and I also understand that there are areas of the UK where similar situations exist, but ultimately, America isn’t designed to be pedestrian friendly. Without a car it would be impossible to survive, it would be like living on the moon.
5. People from the UK always assume living in the Floridian sun is a big fat tick in the “Pro’s” list. Well, they’re wrong. As a pale (and when I say pale, think polar bear porcelain), ginger Brit, the sun is my eternal nemesis. I burn on the mildest of Floridian days; I could probably burn at night if I wanted to. In my youth I was always the kid in the swimming pool with a long sleeve t-shirt and sun hat… Who am I kidding? I’m still the kid in the pool with the long sleeve t-shirt and sun hat *wipes tear from eye*. Joking aside, I really do miss the British weather, especially the reddening of the leaves signalling the arrival of Autumn. Walking home from school as a kid in the Autumn time, wrapped up warm, crunching your way through the fallen leaves, sunset at four p.m. Magical.
6. In my last post I commented on the fact that Americans all seem to be extremely polite and pleasant. I fact, I was out running a few days ago and a little old couple stopped, clapped and cheered me on to the chorus of “keep on trucking!” – I couldn’t make it up if I tried. But, you know what? The politness can get old, I miss people being miserable. If you work in McDonalds and you’re smiling away to every customer wishing them a nice day, then there is something seriously wrong with you (unless you’re spitting into the arrogant fat guy’s burger). I mean, at least in the UK you know what you’re getting; you’re working in a dead end job, miserable? I can tell -your face looks like a smacked arse.
7. Americans have bars, and penty of them, yet I haven’t found one worthy enough of going toe-to-toe with the good old English pub. Sunderland has a fine tradition of pubs: The Chesters, The Museum Vaults, The Isis, The Saltgrass, The King’s Arms, The Dun Cow, Fitzgeralds, The Wheatsheaf, The Jackson’s and my personal favourite, The Willow Pond (Tha Willa) are but a few good haunts dotted across the Sunderland landscape. What is it that makes them so special? Well, for a start, the beer is a lot better in UK; I’ve yet to visit a good pub in Florida that sells a good real ale. Hoppy, fruity, cloudy, heavy I don’t care how it tastes, I’d just like to have one that isn’t an average commercial creation; Blue Moon & Shocktop are the American answers to a real ale *Spits on the floor in disgust*, but they pale in significance when confronted with a Deuchars or a hand-pulled Double Maxim. Also, the atmosphere in American bars is very different. That’s not to say American bars have a terrible atmosphere, but I really miss watching old blokes sitting in the corner of the pub playing dominoes whilst supping on a half of Boddington’s – you just don’t get that here. You don’t get the craic about the football or the decor that hasn’t been updated since time began. I love a good pub and as of now, America has failed to deliver.
8. Pallion Road. If I ever felt a bit down, I would take myself down to Pallion Road. For those reading this from outside of Sunderland, I will do my best to describe the unadulterated joy experienced whilst driving along Pallion Road. The road in question is around half a mile long and is flanked on either side by shops, known as the Pallion Road shops. However, when I say shops I really mean takeaways: fish & chip shops, bakeries, takeaway pizza, Chinese food, Indian food, sandwich shops, Butchers selling hot beef dips and savaloy dips as well as fried chicken outlets line either side of this relatively small street. There must be at least twenty takeaway restaurants in the vicinity, no word of a lie. What makes the place so magical, aside from the vast array of takeaway delights, is the people you find there. I once drove along Pallion Road with my Mam one day and we counted as many people as we could who were dressed in their pyjamas. The grand total? sixteen; sixteen people left their homes dressed in nothing but nighttime attire, a few of the classier shoppers wore a dressing gown and slippers, however, and they deserve a lot of credit for that. I’ve seen fights, thefts, break-ups, make-ups, kisses, slaps, cuddles, crying and laughter all on one road in the middle of the city. A melting pot of emotions set against a backdrop of saturated delight, there’s nowhere else like it.
9. I miss going to watch Sunderland AFC. I haven’t had a season ticket in a while (going to university in Edinburgh smothered any chance of that), but I would still catch two or three games per season in person. Everything about a match day is just brilliant, apart from Sunderland’s usual results. I love walking to The Willow Pond (Tha Willa) with my Dad before moving on down to The Museum Vaults for a couple in front of the coal fire. Then, we would set off for the Stadium, heading over the Wearmouth Bridge, a tide of red and white sweeping us on our way to our seats. The chanting would begin outside the stadium as we passed various street vendors, the smell of a hot beef sandwich filling my nostrils, and more often than not my gob, too. A bottle of lucozade and some bon bons would keep me company for the first half. Cue Prokofiev’s, The Dance of the Knights, the players emerge from the tunnel and the stadium erupts in a cacophony of noise. Goosebumps. An atmosphere unlike any other.
10. British humour just isn’t compatible in America. I saw a kid fall off his bike in our estate and laughed so hard I started to cry, a typical British thing right, laughing at the misfortunes of others? Don’t dare disagree because ‘You’ve Been Framed’ is basically a slideshow of dad’s getting hit in the crotch after gifting their kids a cricket bat, and fat people breaking rope swings. I feel Americans, however, aren’t as mean with their sense of humour – laughing at the kid fall off his bike was “just plain nasty”. Sarcasm is a lost art here, too. When you’re friend says something idiotic and you laugh saying “Yeah, good one” before repeating what they said in a stupid voice… Plain rudeness to most Americans. But, if you can’t lightheartedly take the mickey out of people, then where’s the fun in life? I will laugh at the fat kid falling over, whether you like it or not *stamps foot and folds arms across chest*.
11. Sunday morning walks with my Mam and Dad on Seaburn beach are also a big miss. Grey skies, angry seas and the threat of rain do nothing to dampen our spirits, we stop off at one of the seafront cafes for a spot of brunch and a pot of tea. Bliss.
12. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Someone please give me a kinder bueno or a bar of dairy milk (I’m drooling right now), none of this hershey’s nonsense. Gritty chocolate, seriously? Who thought that would be a good idea? American chocolate just doesn’t cut it, although peanut butter M&M’s are an absolute treat! Walmart sells cadbury’s, but it just doesn’t taste the same. Lord help the obese if America got their grubby mits on our chocolate recipes, diabetes would skyrocket.
13. Fish and Chips. The Brits are renowned for having a rather bland culinary repetoire, but I cannot stress enough how much I miss fish and chips. The Yanks try their best to emulate our most iconic of national dishes, but again they come up wanting. I made mushy peas for Thanksgiving, and they went down well, despite looking like the contents of a newborn’s nappy (that’s a diaper for you Americans). Can you beat fish and chip Friday’s though, in all seriousness? The fresh, flaky cod fillet coated in a crisp light batter accompanied by hand cut chips straight out of the fryer. Oh Lawd Jesus, get me to Merrill’s!
14. I miss hearing words pronounced correctly. Jaguar, oregano, aliminium, croissant, the word z are but a few innocent words butchered in the mouths of the American people. When I first moved here I’d say something like, “oh, look at that nice jaguar (car) in front”, Danielle would reply using the incorrect pronunciation of ‘jag-wahr’, I’d correct her – she’d get annoyed. We soon put this issue to bed when I strongly reminded here that America once was Britain’s bitch, and yes you may have won a war of independence, however, that didn’t give her and countless others the right to pollute and alienate the wonderful language we bestowed upon them.
Britain 2 – America 0 (to be fair I think she gave me the dirtiest look imaginable and I shrunk into my seat like a naughty schoolboy. Still taking it as a win for Her Majesty, though).
15. I miss playing rugby on a Saturday afternoon. I can only describe rugby as a thug’s game played by gentlemen; we kick the living daylights out of one another for eighty minutes, then afterwards we all shake hands and have a few pints together. Don’t get me wrong America has rugby teams, but I grew up playing at Sunderland RFC, it’s where I became a man, so to speak. I miss the camaraderie in the club house, all clean and honest fun of course… Songs are sung, clothes are lost and copious amounts of alcohol are consumed before we make the pilgrimage into the city centre for a sophisticated evening of wines and cheeses…
16. I miss measurement systems thata actually make sense. There are like five countries in the entire world that still use pounds, America is one of them. Why continue to use an outdated imperial system? The same applies to writing the date 03-13-15 – no, just no. I care about the day of the month not the month itself, I know it’s March, I did not just wake up from a year long coma, stop patronising me America, I just want to know the bloody day of the month! Also, despite the using of miles per hour as a speed measurement, American speed limits are quite possibly the most frustrating thing around. I’m driving on a highway, it’s a 70mph zone… two miles later make that 55mph, then 45mph over this little hill, back up to 60, now 65 and eventually back to 70. There is no national speed limit, and quite often you don’t know what the speed limit actually is, great news when a cop pulls out from behind a bush wearing a big old smile on his face. The UK is so straightforward, national speed limit is a little sign that mean 60mph on a single lane or 70mph on anything bigger. Of course there are ares that have lower limits, but they are few and far between.
17. I miss a lot of things, but I’m going to list my family again, because I couldn’t have been in the position to make this list without their help and support. They mean the absolute world to me and I love them to bits. So cheers for being such a fantastic group of humans. They’re funny, nuts, loving and always there for me, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
For my next article the theme will be the number eighteen (shock horror). I have decided I want to put the overall theme out to tender, so if you have any suggestions as to what eighteen should be about, feel free to comment on wordpress or facebook and the most intriguing idea will be submitted to the annals for all eternity.