Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Tailgating is brilliant

I'd never heard of tailgating before I moved to the US, so let me take a moment to explain it as it was explained to me. Tailgating is when you get to a sports event early, or stick around after the event, and eat and drink in the car park.

Until recently my sole experience of it was at Princeton, where we had gone to watch TLOML's cousin play soccer. It involved sober families standing around in a  slightly chilly carpark, so we made our excuses and left. Then there were those old oddballs eating sardines out of the boot of their car in the underground lot before that Bruce Springsteen gig. Suffice to say I was a bit bemused by the whole tailgating concept.

Now I know what it's like. And it suddenly it makes complete sense. We joined some friends at the USC Trojans game a couple of weeks ago, and naturally, as they say 'we tailgated'.

Now an American Football game already takes an hour of play and turns it into a three hour event. But if you tailgate, you get all the delays and pageantry of a college football game, and add a layer of co-ordinated, team-oriented drinking.  It's brilliant. Way to take an afternoon of watching sports and complement it with a morning of eating and drinking.

Luckily for us our friends have passes for the best parking lot at the USC ground. This is the pastoral bliss version of a tailgate: a grassy parking lot, kids playing ball, balloons and fireworks. And a very chilled out, friendly vibe: the exact opposite to the experience I imagine a foreigner might have drinking in a Celtics pub before a Celtics v Rangers game.
 A whole encampment of USC tents (people bring their own, in case you wondered) and a game of corn hole

This guy actually brings a TV so him and his buddies can watch pre-game coverage.

It's hard to tell from the pic but this man has two umbrellas cantilevered out from his car

A lawn, and a portable grill. It's not cricket but I still like it.

Of course in LA the tailgate is better than the game. In fact it was so hot in the stadium we left at half time and, as they say, 'tailgated' some more before heading for home. To beat the traffic, because LA.

Again, Americans know how to do social. Tailgating is a great idea and makes for pretty much an ideal Saturday. For this invention alone we might almost - but actually, really  not - forgive them Trump.

Friday, September 30, 2016

More than just one hit wonders? T'Pau and A-ha

I half-formed so many reflective, pondersome posts during and after our trip to the England. Musings on nature, and the importance of brambling and learning about nettles. And family, and time, and distance. Episodes of discovery to share, of Lady P's adventures in the city where she was born. Just lovely stuff like that.

But then work got in the way.

And now I find myself with a far more burning topic to blog about: the terrible under appreciation of T'Pau and a-Ha in the US. Now I'm not huge fan of either band. But I was. And I had their albums. Which might raise a snicker now, but among Brits that's a snicker of 'gosh you're old' and 'what cheesy taste you had'.

In the US the snicker is because no-one realizes these were bands with many hits. Really! Over here they all think a-ha only had one hit (Take On Me, if you're interested). And the same goes for T'Pau - that their oeuvre starts and ends with Heart and Soul. Many Americans have no idea that a-Ha had ten studio albums, at least two of which charted in the top 10. And T'Pau, ah, T'Pau. Okay, they only had a couple of albums worth mentioning - but still, three top ten singles in 1987 says this was a band whose cassette it was not embarrassing to have next to your your hi-fi.

I guess they never really 'broke' America. Probably like a bunch of other artists I like a lot more. But for some reason these are the ones which pained me. You never really know, even after years of living here, what's going to pull the rug from under you. T'Pau and a-Ha, of all things.

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.