Saturday, August 06, 2005

Reluctant Anglophile on temporary hiatus

The Reluctant Anglophile will be on temporary hiatus through this Wednesday, August 10th, due to the unforeseen arrival of Annette Terkaly from Paris (pictured above with the RA above during a toothy-grinned moment after imbibing one to many glasses of wine in a Parisienne brasserie). Annette was there taking the annual creative writing course taught at the American Academy by my high school friend, travel writer Rolf Potts.

The last-minute itinerary I've cobbled together for Annette's visit includes lots of fun things, such as an outdoor movie & picnic at Kensington Gardens, tapas at that rarest of beasts in London--a BYOB restaurant, a shopping trip up to Camden Market, and a Soho pub crawl. We might also make it to the Great British Beer Festival, where you can even do tutored beer tastings. But lest you fear that life here in London involves entirely around the imbibing of alchoholic beverages, I've also planned some cultural activities as well, such as the Freida Kahlo exhibit at the Tate and viewing of the Buckingham Palace State Rooms, open only once a year during August.

Given my hard-won knowledge of British culture and my love for seeking out all that my new city has to offer, readers will be happy to know that I'm soon going to be putting all of that to use by working part-time for the expat organization FOCUS, where I'll be doing magazine writing, marketing and website work. Unfortunately, I won't be granted the same editorial freedoms (read: cynical liberties) that I have with my blog, but at least my experiences will hopefully help other expats adjust more readily to their new life here in England, by warning them about such insidious things as roosting pigeons, abysmal customer service and alarming newspaper headlines.

Blogging will resume this Wednesday and I'm sure there will be lots of blog-worthy moments during Annette's visit, especially if we attend the Beer Festival on 'Funny Hat Day'. Looking forward to having everyone visit and having some blog-worthy moments of our own!

Monday, August 01, 2005


We are blessed with a virtual bounty of newspapers for a country the size of England, and the British press is nothing if not sensationalistic. Of course, not all the papers here are quite as over-the-top as The Sun (a publication that makes the NY Post look positively highbrow), but quite a few of them are and it makes for some great entertainment.

Unless of course you've got a highly nervous personality such as myself. Then, just walking by a newstand (or the ubiquitous Evening Standard sandwich boards) can become an anxiety-provoking event. At first, I rather liked the idea of being able to know the day's top stories without actually buying a newspaper, especially when the headlines captured the ridiculously mundane. However now I've come to realize that seeing some of the more alarming headlines completely out of context can lead to irrational fear and poor decision making.

The first time this happened was soon after our arrival in June when the headline on the sandwich board read"RECORD 10-DAY HEAT WAVE". Now, had I bought the paper and perused the article, I might have noticed that it said "in New York" or "may happen in England sometime in the year 2008". I might have even learned that over here, 60-degree temps can constitute a headline-inducing "heat wave". But ignorantly, I ran home to call Steve and ask him to proceed immediately to HomeBase after work to get us a portable air conditioner before they ran out.

Now, to be fair, it was unseasonably warm for England at the time, and we had just gone out to dinner the previous night with friends who'd regaled us with tales of the deadly 2003 European heat wave. Further in my defense, when things run out in England for the season--they run out. There is no just-in-time replenishment or backordering or warehouses of plenty where additional stock is kept--you've got to get while the getting is good over here. In any event, we became the proud owners of the world's most enormous air conditioning unit that I have assured Steve we will undoubtedly be able to use at least once before moving back:

So you can see firsthand the dangers that these headlines can create. But right now, even reading the newspapers (and not just the headlines), only adds fuel to the flames of anxiety because of the alarming information you learn, such as the fact that they are fully expecting another attack on the subway system any day now. Which explains why we've had the largest police presence in London since WWII taking place since last Thursday. The information was not released until this weekend, and undoubtedly came from the batch of would-be terrorists they caught last week, so nobody had a clue why there were suddenly so many police (with machine guns) hanging out at every tube and train station very recently. In these instances, ignorance can be bliss; it was comforting to have them there but downright terrifying to know why.

Though I was at least somewhat reassured after reading in tonight's Evening Standard that savvy transit police forces "would not waste time searching old white ladies". So we, and the British grannies, can all breathe a huge sigh of relief in knowing that Scotland Yard is that much closer to developing a detailed and analytical profile of the members of our homegrown Islamic extremist network.