Archive for February, 2009

London On My Mind

I miss London.  Those photos of Big Ben and Houses of Parliament capped with snow made them look more lovely than they ever did while I was there.


And I wish I had been there for the big snowball fights and group snowman building that happened in parks across London last Monday, according to my friends there. Because no one could get into work (trains, buses, most of the tube shut down), everyone took a snow day.  

That I miss less — the creaky infrastructure.  But really, that’s part of the charm.  I miss emerging from an epic tube ride from Notting Hill Gate to St Paul’s, and seeing a nearly 400 year old Cathedral looming over a square full of pigeons.  

Which were gross.  But the winding cobblestone streets and pubs with thatched roofs made you feel like you had landed in Victorian London, with Jack the Ripper waiting to pop out to slash you.

And then, you turn a corner and see one of three Starbucks that you pass when you walk five blocks in any direction from St. Paul’s.  

Now that’s an experience we can replicate here in Atlanta.  It may not have the history, but it has the coffee chains.

Just Trying to Be Polite

Brits tend to tell it like it is. This is most apparent in the job market.  An old boss of mine at the BBC in London told me that I would never report on-air for them because they don’t like American accents (I instead reported for BBC World, seen in countries other than the UK. So hah!).  

No American boss of mine has ever said anything so blunt, even if that’s what they thought. Now that I’m back in the US, and looking for a job, I notice the lengths Americans go to, just to be polite.

I’ve had several job interviews in which the interviewer tells me they have just the role for me, and they can’t wait for me to start — and then I won’t hear from them again.  I honestly think they would rather tell me what they think I want to hear, rather than the truth — their company is cutting jobs, or is too scared to hire anyone in this economy, so I may not hear from them for a while. If ever. But that sounds too harsh to tell someone to their face.

I find that I do the same thing. I took a tour of a gym in our new neighborhood, and knew immediately it wasn’t for me. They had personal training sessions of five people (why not one?!), which you had to pay for up front (that would never work — I would pay for the minimum ten classes, then realize I didn’t have a babysitter, miss the classes and lose the money).  And they weren’t cheap.

But instead of saying “Thanks, but no thanks,” I told the very earnest gym manager that it sounded fantastic — “A personal trainer working with five clients at once? How novel!” — and I would be in touch.

I think he knew I was lying. But I also think he understood why.  Sometimes, the truth hurts.

The Half-Time Divide

My British husband was in awe of the Superbowl half-time show. Not just because Springsteen, aged 59, seemed to run around the stage as much as some of the football players on the field; he couldn’t believe a stage and a dancing crowd appeared on the same field where the game had been played just minutes before. The 12 minute long performance, complete with fireworks, isn’t something you would ever see during a football match in Britain — especially if it hadn’t ended yet.

The Brits prefer to kick it old school. You won’t find cheerleaders, jumbotrons or cool graphics at their games.

They seem to be more purists about their sports. When they go to a game, they want to watch the game, then grumble about how badly it was played during half-time.

A singing and dancing Springsteen would distract the fans from their enjoyment of the half-time banter. But for those of us who are bored by football in either country, the half-time show is the perfect pick me up.

Amazed at Grace

Americans are much more overtly religious than Brits, I have found.

At a church service this morning, we tried to sit out of the Communion. An usher summoned me and my husband to partake, but we gave a gentle nod and a slight shake of our heads. This, I assumed, would be sufficient to signal that we wouldn’t be leaving the pew.

Then another, presumably more senior, usher rushed over, leaned into our pew, and told us firmly that all baptized Christians were invited to take Communion. His hand was planted on my husband’s shoulder. This was not an offer we were supposed to refuse.

After the strong-arm Communion tactics, we retreated to brunch with some people from the church. This was prefaced by grace, while all the guests held hands.

The average Brit would think you were kidding if you suggested a group of adults hold hands for any reason — especially a religious one. I think religious beliefs are almost seen as a weakness in the UK. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair didn’t admit to being a practicing Catholic until after he left office, as though it was something that ashamed him.

So maybe more Brits are religious than admit to it — they just don’t feel like practicing in public.