Monday, September 12, 2016

Lost in translation

When we visit England it is my time to chortle as TLOML says silly things. (As opposed to me being the one with the funny accent and strange sayings).

Two incidents prompted snickers and guffaws.

First, a conversation about the Rosedale show, which is a classic English country show with prizes for livestock, produce and handicrafts, and the like. Including sticks (8 classes), and many baked goods. A friend's mum took first prize in the fruit loaf category, which we thought might have put a few noses out of joint as she is relatively new to the village. We had a good long chat about it and at the end TLOML asked 'what is a fruit glove anyway?'.

We set him straight. This is a fruit loaf:
And so far as we know there is no such thing as a fruit glove. Although given the eccentricities of English country shows - which he and I saw at Danby years ago -  I think TLOML can be forgiven for thinking there might be such a category.

Secondly, he came back from watching Birmingham City beat Fulham FC chuckling at how lame the Fulham FC supporters' chants were, compared to those of Birmingham City. 'We're going to shit in the river' was one he particularly remarked on. I think most Brits would be able to make out the words 'We're going to shit on the Villa' from even the slurriest, most incoherent Birmingham FC fans.

TLOML loves England, and has spent plenty of time there over the years. But I think it's safe to say he's not ready to blend in as a local just yet.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

England, compressed

I really want, on these trips back to the UK, for P to soak up some Englishness. I want her to develop an easy familiarity with English manners and customs, food, and just the general vibe. A big part of it is understanding the way things used to be. So she can read - as I did - a Milly Molly Mandy book, or a Secret Seven, and fully understand what a blacksmith is or why someone might be beating their carpets.

What better way to achieve this than a quick tour around a model village? So we headed to Bekonscot. All of English life is there, and much of it still as it was when the village was built in 1929. A blacksmith, a town square, a race course, a little harbor, lots of trains (pre-Beeching, of course) and just lots of English scenes. It was the perfect opportunity for me to explain the ways of our people.

'Look, there are some people playing cricket', I said. 'Where is the cricket?' she said, looking, I think, for a chirruping insect.
'I don't see any cricket'

Brownies around a maypole
A town cryer.
 'He's telling everybody the news,' I explained. 'But why?' came the inevitable answer. Is now a good time to explain that there was a time without TV and internets? No, onward to the 1930s zoo, complete with a chimps tea party.
Anyone who loves Curious George is perfectly comfortable with the idea of dressing up chimps to put on a show. So P had no questions about this bit.
The only thing I couldn't explain was the ring of people dressed in yellow and brown, bending over. P said they were doing their exercises. I'm not sure but didn't have a better answer. Suggestions welcome...

All in all it was a very efficient way to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time. Now her education is complete we can relax and enjoy the rest of the trip rather more aimlessly.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Exotic imports

We are off for our annual trip to the UK and I'm, predictably, beside myself. The prospect of two glorious weeks with family and friends is making me beam from ear to ear.

But it's not just the people. It's the stuff. There are some things you just can't buy in the US. Or if you can buy them, they're just not the same as the British versions. I'm not saying whose version is better and whose is worse. I'm just used to the British way of life. (Okay, I'll say it, I think sometimes the British way is better).

Marmite and M&S tights are probably obvious. But did you know it's really hard - almost impossible - to find mint flavoured toothpaste for children? It's all bubble gum or strawberry or sparkly. Since Lady P enjoys minty toothpaste I'm not sure why I'd want her using something that tastes like candy.

And birthday cards too. It's SO hard to find a card which isn't elaborately verbose, covered in glitter, or both. I can go out of my way to an artisanal gift shop and buy a witty letterpress one overtime someone's birthday comes around (but that takes time and I'm short on that) or I can just stock up on nice, simple British cards for the year ahead.

So here's to reconnecting with loved ones - and here's to my annual spree at Boots, M&S and John Lewis.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Tastes change

Has my brain atrophied? Is it LA's fault? The advancement of middle age? Or parenthood?

I used to go to the theatre, and galleries, a lot. I mean, like, most weeks I'd consume some culture. And I'm talking legit, intellectual culture. Heck, I once went to a gamelan concert at the Barbican.  I used to read newspapers and even occasionally go to political rallies.

And now I read about 30% of the NY Times on a Sunday. And I recently went to a Guns N'  Roses concert... and liked it.

It's fair to say I'm not a huge Guns N' Roses fan. As far as I knew I had only been exposed to their work in a couple of times.  That Moth story by Duff McKagan, which I loved. And that time Axl Rose was in Sex and the City. I  know, it turns out to be Jon Bon Jovi. Okay, well, so I think I've made my point. It's not that I think they're not an interesting band, it's just that I was too busy listening to Tom Waits and reading Prospect to notice.

 But TLOML is a huge fan. So he bought awesome seats for their recent gig at the Dodgers Stadium and - news flash - I had the time of my life. It turns out I LOVE Guns N' Roses, and know at least 5 of their songs. Probably we all do. Anyway, I loved it. The rock'n'roll, the noise, the crappy beer, the long guitar solos, the pomp, the fireworks, all of it. It was unchallenging, high octane, pure and simple fun.
Hard not to love
So. Are Gn'R, as TLOML has long maintained, one of the top 5 bands of their time (and I'm just late to the party)? Has my brain atrophied, and now all I can handle is fireworks and Paradise City? And if so, what's next? Cow tipping? Following The Bachelor? Subscribing to Us Weekly? Time will tell and based on recent experience I'm not ruling anything out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Keeping it real

One of the many things I love about Hermosa Beach is a faintly scruffy, surfy vibe. I like to kid myself it's a little more real than neighbouring Manhattan Beach - with its pristine boutiques and bankers driving Teslas.

Painting a town where real estate costs $1k a square foot and we have an IV hydration clinic across from the library as 'keeping it real' might be a bit of a stretch. Still, there are enough barefoot surfers walking from the beach, and tattooed punk kids skateboarding along the Strand, and cottages with peeling paint and massive collections of tchotchkes on their front patio, to allow me to delude myself. I'm not the only one. Hermosa is frequently described as a 'sleepy beach town' in press.

Meanwhile, gentrification marches on, relentlessly. Pier Plaza, which mainly exists for drinking purposes, is going upscale. A new hotel is going to be built here soon which will be quite swanky, in a very beachy way of course. A crappy souvenir shop was replaced by a hipster coffee shop (which failed - gentrification too soon?) and is now a nice looking poke shop, and our favorite coffee shop which was always beset with pigeons and a little tired looking has had a facelift.
New poke shop: cleaner and fresher than some of Pier Plaza's occupants

But is it all getting a little anodyne? The plaza remodel involves some totally generic white planks in the so-called coastal chic style you see everywhere.
Also cleaner and fresher: our favorite coffee shop on the pier
It does seem that our City elders are doing their best to retain a little Hermosa spirit. Punk and surf-themed graphics pepper the improvements.

Punk surfers

I think as long as Scottys retains the same paint job its had since the 1950s, Yer Cheating Heart tattoos and Sharkeez bar are still in business, and there are tattooed skateboards in knee socks and bikinis cruising the pier, the scruffy heart of Hermosa is still beating.
The unimproved (unimprovable?) side of Pier Plaza

Prime beach real estate and also the tattiest breakfast place in town
All (soul / scruff) is not lost

Nothing says Hermosa like a tattooed skateboarder in bikini and knee socks