Black Bloody Friday!

Gordon Bennett, I’ve had enough of Britain’s attempt at Black Friday nonsense already and the date isn’t even here yet.

Why have we even got Black Friday here anyway? Asda brought it to the UK a few years ago (aren’t they the UK sister of Wal-Mart in the States?) and everyone went nuts for cheap TVs and DVD players and smacked each other round the chops to get hold of stuff and caused a right old scene? I’m glad Asda’s had the sense to get rid of it this year. Good call!



Black Friday comes the day after Thanksgiving in the USA. We don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK, so why the foofing heck have we got Black Friday?

“What’s this all about anyway?” asked a British friend of mine.

“Well,” replied I, avec my British tongue firmly in cheek, “Americans get together on the Thursday and say how thankful and grateful for all that they have, and then the next day they go out and buy loads of crap they don’t need.” 🙂

Halloween and Bonfire Night

I don’t care what some of my British friends say, Halloween ain’t NUFFINK like it is in the States. Not a patch on it. As Harry declared sadly, ‘It’s not like in America.’

Case in point:





I am sad to report that we did not do Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes night this year, despite it being Harry’s first memorable one. I blame the rain. There was loads of it.

However, Harry’s learned all about it: ‘Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parly-ament and now we burn him to death every year.’


Waitrose coffee – a revelation!

Waitrose is, dear American friends, the most middle class of all our British supermarkets. When I returned to this very country I was told with much glee by my Brit chums that Waitrose give away ‘free coffee’! To needy middle class people!


Still, I thought it would be rude not to partake. But I did the American thing and walked around the shop with mine, to many disapproving British middle class looks. ‘You should have got a tea and sat down with it, That’s the thing to do’ said my chums. Nah. I wanted to create an interesting juxtaposition of cultural wotnot. It worked.

Walking round the store wiv me coffee. God forbid!!

Walking round the store wiv me coffee. God forbid!!

Off to get one now!

Cheers dudes!

Size isn’t everything….

My little British house

When I first went into my little British house last week I was shocked by how small it was. Small and narrow. After a few days it just felt totally normal. And actually rather nice. It was the one bit of coming back to the UK that I was not really looking forward to and now it makes me smile.

But, of course, everything is pretty good in our little house. Our small loo, our small sitting room, our small bedrooms. We managed before and we’ll manage again. And it made me realise that, whilst everything is much bigger in the USA, size really isn’t everything (and many previous boyfriends had told me that in the past…).

Typical British house!

Typical British house!

Admittedly we’re on suitcase rations at the moment, since our shipping has yet to arrive, and I’m sure when I encounter frustrating storage issues I’ll be thinking entirely differently, but right now I’m at peace with my little British house.

Our American house was almost too big. We had to yell to each other to communicate in the house, I could never close a door downstairs and have some space to myself, and it was a frigging nightmare to clean (so I basically didn’t – I know, dirty British housewife!!).

With smaller British roads, I’m re-learning driving etiquette and the courtesy of ‘giving way’. How cute – everyone gives that ‘thanks’ wave!

Cheering enthusiastically

That heading should read NOT cheering enthusiastically. It’s become very apparent that the wooping and cheering between Brits and Americans extends to many things. Like Americans do it for everything and Brits do it for bugger all.

Like at Zumba class: ‘How are you all?’ says the British instructor to the British Zumba class. No one replies or they stare at their feet and hands or they just mumble and hope she doesn’t ask them directly. The awkwardness of it all!

However, if this question was asked by an American instructor to an American Zumba group, it would actually be kind of shouted with an expectation of a response, like this: “Woooooooo! How y’all doing’?!? Yeah!’ And then the enthusiastic group of folks would woop and cheer back and perhaps hug or high five one another in a frenzy of anticipation.

Americans love to cheer!

Americans love to cheer!

I like the frenzy. I almost shouted “Good thanks, woohoo!’ at Zumba last night, but I would just have looked like a knob, and even though I really wanted to do it in order to show them it can done, I just couldn’t do it in the end. Shame on me!

Next time, chaps!

British Charm In The UK: It’s A Thing!

My last post about being back in the UK, if I may be so bold to say so, read slightly glum.

So, I got to thinking – what did I love about being back in the UK, and what surprised me?

The thing that really made me go ‘Oh, I don’t think I ever clocked that before’ was how jolly friendly many of the British customer service folk were. Honestly, they weren’t all miserable and down in the dumps! They were super friendly and chatty. For me that was a certain thing that took me by surprise. Yes, really.

Happy Britain!

Happy Britain!

The reason this surprised me was that I am v v v v v used to the American way of customer service – all smiles and ‘How are you?’ (and in the USA they are not really wanting an answer. FYI, just ‘Good’ as a response will suffice, and on occasion ‘Good, how are you?’, but you don’t really care for an answer at this point cos they are smiling in their customer service smile way anyway and they’ll just say ‘Good’ whether things are good or not…).

(Side note: The exception to this is Tom in Walgreens, Clarksville, USA, who is the cheeriest, most sincere chap I have ever met, and who, if you go into Walgreens with your sunglasses on, shouts ‘ Welcome to Walgreens – oh my, it’s a celebrity!’ (Cue you to take off glasses.) And then ‘Oh no, it’s not, it’s you! Well, welcome to Walgreens anyway!’ Tom is a diamond 🙂

Anyhoo, yes, charming the Brits were! The lovely chap and his ma in the local corner shop, who called everyone ‘darling’ about 50 times in a sentence. ‘Oh, darling, the Maltesers are out of date, you know, darling, so help yourself, darling. And if you need any bread, darling, the delivery is tomorrow first thing, darling, and I always want to make sure you have a fresh loaf, you know, darling.’

And the lovely train conductor who asked where I was heading and had I had a good weekend. I was so surprised that I almost didn’t know what to reply. I had, of course, had a smashing weekend in Bristol.

And the lovely young waiters and waitresses who asked why I needed a take out bag – was their sitcky toffee pie not good? And me having to explain how it works in America with take out bags, and that they’re a good thing; my son just can’t finish it right now, and no, I don’t think we’ll take the clotted cream with us, but thanks for asking!

And the charming waiter in Bill’s in Cheltenham who was very happy to take pictures of me and my friends, and chat to my friend Rachel about her cats (many pussy jokes cackled about, of course).

Me and my gals have our picture taken by v v v friendly waiter (think he actually fancied Rachel ;) )

Me and my gals have our picture taken by v v v friendly waiter (think he actually fancied Rachel 😉 )

I wonder, thinking back, if this has always been the case in Britain, and perhaps I just didn’t acknowledge it before, or does it just feel genuine in comparison to the American way? Or is it a new thing and folks in the UK are realising the benefits of being cheery?

Anyway, whatever the reason, I like happy Brits. Let’s keep it that way 🙂

Britain is Bloody Brilliant…

‘Bloody brill back in Britain!’

So says Ben Barker, who’s a British expat in the USA and who has just returned to the States with loads of top banana things to say about the UK.

He’s so cheery and upbeat about Britain, I almost can’t wait to get on that plane this week and head on over myself.

(FYI: confession……I just watched the movie Night of the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and there are some great shots of London and when we saw it Harry and I were whispering to each other going ‘Ooooh, doesn’t London look faberooni!’) 😉

Anyway, enough Hollywooding of the UK, this is….

Ben’s Brilliant Britain 🙂

I’m just back from 12 days traveling in Britain. I hadn’t been back in a few years and a few of my expat friends had warned me that I might be surprised how things had changed. Mulling it over on the flight back here’s my ‘top 10’ of what I noticed and had reaffirmed while I was there.

1. We British have humour as part of their DNA. I had light-hearted banter with shopkeepers, pub staff, strangers on the street and immigration officials – it’s just a way of life.

I might be biased, but British humour is the BEST! ;)

I might be biased, but British humour is the BEST! 😉

2. Britain loves history. Sitting in a pub dating to 1460…I could see the concept of time sinking in to my teenage kids. There’s nowhere like it for discovering your ‘place’ in history.
3. Who knew: British food is really good! Not just the traditional stuff, now there are cafes and restaurants cooking really good stuff with all kinds of international influences.

It's not all Spotted Dick, you know....

It’s not all Spotted Dick, you know….

4. Public transportation in Britain is better than ever – clean, fast and generally on time – and people use it and trust it and love it.
5. It seems like there are ‘development’ and ‘projects’ and ‘schemes’ being invested in everywhere. The place seemed exciting and brimming with ideas on how to get things done!
6. Here’s an important one – the beer selection ‘on pull’ in pubs has really improved. The regional choices are varied and tasty.

Beer British-stylie

Beer British-stylie

7. I people-watched a lot and chatted whenever I could: the British public are diverse and interested and opinionated and knowledgeable and eccentric and different and concerned and charitable…and outward looking. I enjoyed every conversation.
8. The British countryside is still truly stunning. From coast to stream to farmland to moor to woodland to mountain it’ll still take your breath away.

Beautiful Britain

Beautiful Britain

9. I was struck by how ‘techy’ Britain is and how well ‘engineered’ everything is – from credit card systems to football stadium ticket scanners to hand dryers to sim cards to solar arrays to Sat Navs etc. Hi-tech is the norm.
10. Last, but not least, Britain remains a nation of dog lovers! They’re everywhere – all shapes and sizes. I used to think that a nation that watched the same TV shows at the same time always had something to talk about…or a nation obsessed with the weather always had something to chat about over the garden fence, but I now have to add the common bond of strangers discussing their fidos…and they do – a lot.

Now, I know Britain has problems (while I was there, there were headlines of inner city murder and child abuse cover ups and NHS emergency room waiting times and terrorist threats) – I’m not blind to those problems – but the good news is, no one in Britain is blind to them either. My sense is there is a normal, high level of work being done to fix the problems. The truth is I was interested to see what had changed to the Country I love and I am more than happy to report that what is fundamentally British hasn’t changed and may well have actually improved.

In short, Britain, in my opinion, is still brilliant and beautiful and this expat will try to get back as often as possible!

British bits

British bits

You can see more of Ben’s stuff about Britain, British pubs, pub banter and all sorts do with Britain stopping by his site BarkerBites 🙂

I’m super excited to get on over to Blighty now for that visit!