Archive for May, 2011

Case No. 2

May 30, 2011

Remember the un-brush-off guy?

Well, it’s not just dating where the English struggle with graceful refusals. They plain hate saying no.*

Their version: “I’d love to come to brunch, but I have a hen-do the evening before, and I’m staying overnight at the bride’s in Notting Hill, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to get home, change, and make it back to yours in time.”

My response: “Oh, it’s very casual, don’t worry about being late.”

Then: dawning realization that in England, I have the social skills of Rainman. The would-be guest wasn’t worried about tardiness. She was doing the English equivalent of “Oh, I’d love to, but I already have plans!”

I was lamenting about all this to my friend Aimee. She said, “You mean, in America, that’s all you have to say?” Yes. “How lovely. I spend so much time trying to think of excuses that sound good enough.”

Surprisingly, there is one circumstance where the English are actually okay with saying no: “Afraid I can’t make Saturday. There’s a work-do Friday, and I’ll have quite the fuzzy head.”

Yup. In England, an anticipated hangover is a legitmate excuse for a 30-year-old.



* Even on Facebook, an English party invitation will incur 12 Yesses, 47 Maybes, and not one No.

To an American, that’s just crazytown. How do you know how much beer to chill and sour cream’n’onion dip to make if your friends won’t give you an honest rsvp?



May 7, 2011

When the weather’s good – or merely dry – millions of Londoners emerge from within to stroll, wander, and stand in the streets. I find this… vexing. Fine weather is not improved by heaving crowds.

But over Easter, so many people left town that the city had a quiet, emptied-out feel.

I decided to visit Eel Pie Island, which I’d been wanting to see because: 1) it’s a tiny island filled with tiny houses 2) it’s accessible only by footbridge and 3) it’s called Eel Pie Island.*

Off I went, equipped with a book and visions of neat stone cottages, lapping wavelets, and lilac trees encircled by benches, where I could curl up to read.

Ah, expectations.

Turns out, Eel Pie Island is across from Twickenham Embankment, a suburban esplanade lined with pubs and the very crowds I’d hoped to avoid.

The island has one walkway and not a single bench. The houses are newish, and the yards have a cluttered, hippieish vibe (if hippies liked “Keep Out” signs). I heard helicopters, the Beastie Boys, and “JUMP! JUMP!” – from the Twickenham side, where some of the drunker, fatter boys were daring each other to leap from the footbridge.

Naturally, I filmed this.



* Aren’t you surprised you’ve never heard of this place? But most Londoners haven’t either. It’s not hard to get to – just take the tube to the Richmond, walk a ways, and it’s right there, in the middle of the Thames.