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Notes from a small vacation

Christmas itself: Presents, turkey, beer, too much Quality Street, playing Scrabble (and winning!) against my mum, going for a brisk walk and doing a geocache or two, watching Xmas Top of the Pops & Doctor Who on the telly, watching more telly (Kirsty Kount : 9 times, yay!) sitting on my arse on the sofa reading my book, taking a nap, waking up, feeling like I’m being fed tea intravenously by my mum. i.e. all the standard things you’ve come to love and expect and make you feel totally at home. Marvelous.

And everything else? Well – there’s a shock. It appears that England is still here, and managing just fine on its own thank you very much, and no we haven’t missed you at all. It’s a bit like when you dump someone and you check in with them a few months later to discover that they’ve been getting on just fine without you thanks. Oh.

There are lots of accents here. I must be in London then. I get a certain pleasure from hearing at least three different European languages in the space of ten minutes when out shopping. And it’s doing all the ‘small’ things where it hits you the most – queuing up at the cash machine, pressing the button whilst waiting to cross the road, and the woman in front of you at the ticket machine at the train station.

People certainly look British. But then I torment myself continually for a while trying to work out what that thought actually means to me. Downtrodden? Not tanned? Just not … ‘American Looking’. I’m not sure I could even tell you what American looking is, but I know that if you sat me in a room with ten people from Charleston I didn’t know, and ten people from London I didn’t know I could identify them all within seconds without knowing anything about them. There’s just a look. Trust me.

England of course is notorious for having bad teeth and bad service. Well at least those are the stereotypes that my delightful American chums take great delight in telling me – even the non traveled ones. Well I’ll give you the first one, but I’m going to have to take exception to the second, because I’ve figured out that it’s all about making an effort.

I try it first on the girl in WHSmith [Americans equivalent: Er, none] in my mums local town. Yes … if I don’t make an effort, then there’s no way she’s going to talk to me. But the moment I crank the flirt-dial up to maximum level and chat away, there’s no stopping her. I find out her name (no name tag, have to ask), what time she’s finishing tonight, where she’s going with her mates for a drink and what she hopes her boyfriend bought her for Christmas.

Just for a bit of equality, a few days later I pop into Waterstones [American equivalent: Barnes & Noble] and asked for a book that I couldn’t find. Not only did the assistant happily look it up for me, they also walked over and showed me where on the shelf I could find it. No customer service? Bollocks. This England place is quite good. So it was a split choice between them and the person next to them at the tills when I went to pay, and so I did that “You’re better looking than the other, I’ll get served by them, thanks” gag, and made my choice. And yes – they were both guys. I am shameless.

And on the train to this game on boxing day with my dad and my cousin, it would have seemed almost rude not to flirt outrageously with the pretty girl sitting opposite us. I then discovered (or just … remembered?) that the flirt gene is naturally inherited, and an alpha-male game between me and my family sparked up to see who could make her giggle the hardest. I think you’ll find I won.

I’m sat in a Starbucks right now (What, like you’re shocked at that?) typing this up on their wireless service. Charleston Barista to London Barista? Seamless. It’s nice to know that my skills are transferable. Then I remember that I used to do it all the time with the girls in the local coffee shop around the corner from where I worked almost ten years ago. So really, nothing had changed – except my perspective.

I’m also apparently ‘more lively’ than anytime before on any other trip. “You could tell you were getting happier, ’cause your emails got slowly chirpier” notes one extremely astute person. Figures.

So everyone is here. Everything is great. I’ve slipped back into the old routine, but this time with skills and experiences learned over there, which I’m happy to report are extremely transferable on my travels and equally applicable here. That’s going to make 2009 even easier than I thought.

11 responses to “Notes from a small vacation”

  1. Moley says:

    But have you been to Woolworths – go before it closes to nick Pick’n’mix for one last time!

  2. geofftech says:

    i *did* check out Redhill Woolies, yes – looking very forlorn. Guildford’s was barren (and actually closing that day!) when I walked past it. But I bought nothing.

  3. Geoff's Mum says:

    The Vultures were down at Woollies the day they announced the closing, stripped it bare.
    I went and bought a few pens and photo frames, but there was really very little left after a few days.
    Sad to say you can get everything they use to sell at Tesco’s along with your weekly
    shop, collecting points in the process, and no queuing like at Woolworth’s which really
    used to put me off, a 10 minute wait just to get a couple of items. I shan’t miss them,
    just remembering, I worked there as a Saturday girl whilst still at school, and it was awful!

  4. Amber says:

    There used to be a Woolworth’s on King St. downtown Charleston when I first moved here, diner section and all. I loved it. Made me feel like I was in a different era. It’s where the GAP is now. Depressing!

  5. Chris R says:

    I know what you mean about the “British look” that people have. I have decided it’s that Brits always look pessimistic and Americans always look optimistic. I’m not saying that the British look is worse… in fact, I often want to smack their happy little American faces.

  6. DivineMrsM says:

    I have to say that (as a North Walian myself) I can do the same with them. North Walians that is. They just *look* like people from North Wales. Spot ’em at 20 paces.

    Glad you’ve had a nice Christmas in Blighty.

  7. lucy says:

    2 things:

    1) Flirting with girls of course gets you better service. But that doesn’t mean service in the UK is better or equal to the US. Tere’s no control in this experiment. Surely you get great servie in the US with the flirting + British accent, no?

    2) Does that mean you’re gonna stay there then? You sound back at home.

  8. tami says:

    Well- Are you or aren’t you? That is the question?

  9. Richard says:

    Good to read a cheerful blog entry – hope you have a super 2009.

  10. Alan Perks says:

    Happy New Year to you sir!
    Be sure to email me before you return.

  11. ckd says:

    Pretty symbolic title that, in several ways. 1) The more than appropriate Bryson reference. 2)People don’t vacation to their home. 3) Word choice of vacation instead of holiday.

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