The British Are Coming

Being British, people here in the United States often ask me things like:

“Why do you all drink tea?”

and:

“You don’t like tea? Then how can you be British?”

and:

“I love Irish accents!” (I’m Scottish)

or:

“Oh you’re Canadian! No? Australian? English!”

and even:

“You’re from the UK? Do you know [insert random person’s name here]?”

Because I know everyone in the United Kingdom folks. Every single person. Even your uncle Albert who likes wearing ladies’ corsets and your brother’s best friend’s dad who’s in Strangeways for armed robbery.

And of course once it’s been established that I am Scottish:

“Do you eat haggis?” Answer: I would rather eat my own toes. And quit the ‘Braveheart’ jokes. Or I’ll force my sword up your runway.

In my new capacity at work I deal a lot with the UK – London in particular – a town where I spent much of my debauched and misspent (although possibly well spent!) youth, playing with my band, buying cheap garb at the markets and conversing with hobos on Oxford Street (The west end just has a better class of hobo I always find).

I’ve also spent significant hours of my life I’m never getting back being suitably smashed on pints of Snakebite and riding around the country in the back of a pick-up truck watching indie bands and quaffing cheap liquor (and later vomiting the same cheap liquor all over my lap) all in the name of entertainment. Because it’s the British way.

Now, after a few years in the U.S., dealing with the Brits (and by “Brits” I really mean ‘English people’ as opposed to Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish people) is a strange business. For a start they sound funny. And they have much too strong an attachment to liquor. There’s a chain of importance in England that goes:

  • Lager (lager’s like a soft drink in the UK and if you ask for a shandy (lager mixed with lemonade, i.e. 7UP or Sprite) you must be flamingly, Liberace gay or a child)
  • liquor
  • Pets
  • Family
  • Liquor
  • Friends
  • Liquor
  • Nintendo
  • Car
  • Liquor
  • Other

Working with them, on the other hand, has been all good. They’re all friendly (probably due to the huge liquor intake), informal, have a sense of humor, are laid back and spell things properly. *In this blog I spell things in the American way because I keep being terrorized by the little red line of death that appears when I use British spellings, also known as “correct spellings”.

This is good because in the real world, that is, the world in my head, I hate Brits. I hear them all the time in the street here in New York City and I snarl. Damn tourists, go home. Coming here with your strong pound buying our stuff and talking funny. I hate British accents. They make me cringe. They sound so common. And familiar. Especially since I have one.

I’m a little excited because I’m going to the UK this week for the holidays for the first time in three years and I’ll probably just hand the security guys at the airport all my money on arrival to save time, what with the dollar limping painfully and breathing its last and the pound’s mighty reign.

Thankfully, when I get there, there will be people to feed me and keep me from dying of hypothermia. You know, if my plane doesn’t crash.

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36 Responses to “The British Are Coming”

  1. Chris Says:

    Wait… Scotland’s in the UK? Well hell… I always thought it was in Canada, right between Newfoundland and Upper Volta. Huh. Well THAT explains a lot!

    I’m always a bit horrified at the average American’s complete and utter lack of geography. Whenever my beloved Viennese Snowflake tells people she’s from Austria, people INVARIABLY ignore her Germanic accent and ask her what it’s like “Down Under.” When she does get them straightened out that Austria is actually in Europe (pronounced “Yerp” hereabouts), people are still often confused until she brings up “The Sound of Music.”

    I went to a military funeral Friday. There was a guy there strangling what appeared to be a set of bagpipes but may have been an elaborate beer bong (he did a great job, by the way!), wearing what I assume is traditional Scottish stuff — A tam, kilt, sporran, the works — including a big-@ss knife stuck in his sock. A buddy of mine turned to me, his breath billowing out in the 10-degree air, and said, “Hell, he don’t need no knife to impress me! Anyone who can stand outside wearing a dress in weather like this I ain’t gonna f*ck with!”

  2. Suze Says:

    No, don’t leave me alone over the holidays. Damn you guv, I thought we were BFFs? I totally knew you were Scottish. I love your tape 🙂

  3. The Guv'ner Says:

    Chris: Well I believe there are enough Scots IN Canada to count! 🙂

    It’s not just Americans though, I think most nationalities are ignorant to the rest of the world outside their direct vicinity. “Yerp’s” a little better since there are so many damn countries in one small area that they get used to it.

    Any man who’ll wear a kilt in this weather is definitely deficient in some chromosome or other. Plus the whole not being able to wear anything under them must get a touch chilly.

    Bagpipes can be quite emotional when played properly and if you’re listening from about a mile away. Otherwise it’s like strangling a very large cat.

    …Austria and Australia aren’t the same place???? Who knew! Ha. I have only been to Austria in passing through en route to Hungary. I remember it was very clean and polite. I always meant to go back and try out my stellar German (“Deutsches bier ist gut!”)which would get me pummeled since who in Austria gives a hoot about German beer anyway?

  4. The Guv'ner Says:

    Suze: Do you think we don’t have computers in Scotland? Do you think I won’t be terrorizing people from afar? TSK!

    Um…that tape was for my own private use only. And we used night vision technology. And I only answered my cell phone in the middle of the “action” because it was an important call from my dealer, mmmkay?

    What? What other tape?

  5. The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: Says:

    I tend to picture you as a cross between Shirley Manson and Kelly McDonald (circa Trainspotting) but only have your cartoony self portait to go by! I’m hoping one day you’ll post a real photo of yourself, but understand if you can’t or won’t.

    I spent about 8 hours in London when I was 16 and it’s where I learned of the existence of The Cure, Siouxie and Joy Division and where I decided that I wanted to be a “punk” (in my small town American way). Just that short period of time changed my life. I saw Top of the Pops on the TV in the bar of the ferry I took across the English Channel (before the Chunnel!) I knew that everything there was way cooler than anything in Ohio.

    When I got back I signed up for an English pen-pal and stopped writing to her after a couple of months because she was a twinset wearing, boring goof who didn’t have anything pierced or know any of the bands I wrote about. She was from Essex. My mistake, thinking that a real punk would be dork enough to get a pen-pal.

  6. Leonesse Says:

    Wait? They have computers in Scotland? I thought you all sat around the hearth and carded wool.

    I very much want to travel more. I love it and have only been to England and Amsterdam except for a holiday as a teen to Canada with the fam and a small jaunt across the border in Nogales.

    I will be sunning myself in Arizona over the holidays. It is the only way we get to see those grandbabies.

  7. The Guv'ner Says:

    Leo: You said all that twice you idiot!:) I wish I was somewhere cosy like Arizona this Christmas. Give me warmth ANY DAY over cold. As for traveling, the only reason I’ve been so many places is that I’m European therefore there are hundreds of countries close by, so it’s easy! 🙂

  8. The Guv'ner Says:

    Ms. Lady: Shirley Manson huh! I like her so I’ll take it. She can rock the eyeliner better than me however. 🙂

    I never post pics of me on this blog in case anyone from work ever finds it! 🙂 Yikes that would be embarrassing. Maybe on the other one though…

    Top of the Pops was a MUST if you grew up in the UK. Every Thursday was TOTP night. They had funny, boring stuff AND cool bands too back in the 80s whereas the later ones were really mainstream. I used to tune in for the latest Echo & The Bunnymen and Jesus and Marychain etc. I can’t believe they canceled TOTP. It was THE show to watch and had been around since before I was even born. Insane!!!

  9. pistols at dawn Says:

    You’re foreign? I knew there was some reason I always get the sense of America being dragged down by supporting filthy Otherworlders from you.

    Say hi to Stiff Little Fingers for me when you’re back in Croatia! Those guys rocked.

  10. The Guv'ner Says:

    Silly boy. YOU’RE foreign!

    I LIKE Stiff Little Fingers. They kick the asses of your The Ramones and your New York Dolls. Huh! Next you’ll be saying the Boomtown Rats suck!?!

    Ahem…

    I am actually here to take over the United States with my Awesomeness. So far so good.

  11. Dale Says:

    Come on, stiff upper lip and all that. Good luck on a safe arrival.

  12. The Guv'ner Says:

    Thank you Dale! In place of a stiff upper lip I’ve decided to employ a “stiff drink” policy instead. Much more fun!

  13. BeckEye Says:

    So, wait a minute. You’re saying that you know Ewan McGregor?? I can’t believe you’re holding out on me! Hook me up!!

  14. The Guv'ner Says:

    Yes Beckeye, I was holding Ewan hostage till the moment I need a REALLY big favour from you, then I planned unleashing him in all his glory. And I hear that even “glory” might be doing him a disservice. WINK!

  15. minijonb Says:

    have a great time back home. i’ll actually be in the UK next June on a trip with my girlfriend… we’ll be going to London and Redding and a few other places.

    …and for what it’s worth, i was married to my ex-wife in Scotland. long, long story that has something to do with her slight Scottish heritiage.

    have you thought about trying to speak with an American accent for a while? see if people still peg you as British?

  16. The Guv'ner Says:

    MJB: I can actually peg a perfect American accent and will use it if I absolutely can’t get myself understood elsewhere, but I feel like a complete fraud! 🙂 My accent’s quite a soft Scottish one – I don’t sound like Billy Connolly or anything. I just have the lilt. Of course I’m going home for 2 weeks and 2 weeks with my sister and mum usually mean I’ll come back all incomprehensible! 🙂 But with great British goodies. I miss supermarkets in the UK the most. The variety is just second to none.

    Actually it’s the only thing I miss. They can keep that awful weather.

    I’ll just take the food and the music and maybe some of the cider and leave it at that.

    At least you guys are going in June where you MIGHT get some weather that doesn’t make you want to slit your wrists. Of course June in England can be grey and dismal too. Hopefully not though.

    My band’s last gig was in Reading oddly. The band on before us had a singer who was about six foot ten (honestly!) so everyone laughed their ass off when little five foot six me went for the mike and it was about a foot and a bit over my head. Tsk. Good times!

  17. BeckEye Says:

    Ah, so you love Squeeze. Of course you do. You’re from the UK. They got the good love from over there. Americans missed the boat on that one.

    So, Squeeze fan…did I ever tell you about the time I met Glenn Tilbrook? You’re kind of a latecomer to my blog so you haven’t been annoyed with that same story over and over like the rest of my readers. My mild obsession with him is well documented, as any good obsession should be.

  18. The Guv'ner Says:

    Beck: I look forward to FINDING OUT ALL ABOUT THIS OBSESSION! He’s supposed to be a nice guy, you know, for a blonde. He has a good voice anyway.

    We used to sing a great version of UP THE JUNCTION whenever ten of us were sandwiched in the back of the truck on our way to shows. There are always songs we always sang and that was one of them. Everyone love “Up the Junction”. Well unless they’re retarded or a freak. 🙂

    Going now to read the story! 🙂

  19. Teri Says:

    I was watching the “Graham Norton” show yesterday on the BBC and I was cracking up the whole time.

    They say what’s on their mind and I love that about them. We Americans are too stuffy!

    Why, for God sake, did you choose to live in this country? The UK seems a better place to live.

  20. gizmorox Says:

    My Brit gets pegged for Aussie all the time. Not even close. That’s how I got a date with him in the first place, because I knew he was a Brit! Hee.

    The first time I was ever in London, I was talking to some people who at least got that I was American, and when I told them I lived in Vermont, they said “Really? I’ve got friends in Texas, that anywhere near that?”

    I had to say “well…it’s kind of like where Poland is from here. Soooo, no.”

  21. The Guv'ner Says:

    I guess, Ms. Teri, the grass is always greener…

    I prefer the U.S. hugely. Much better weather, bigger, more scenery, better attitude. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve lived in both places. But I still have a lot of affection for the UK and love when I go back to visit. However, I’m always delighted I’m coming back here afterwards. It’s so expensive over there I don’t know how anyone survives.

    Graham’s quite the naughty Irish boy. Those episodes BBC America run are always pixelated and bleeped – in the UK you get them uncensored. They just don’t have the censorship we have over here. Even when I was a kid there was swearing on TV after 9pm and no one bats an eyelid.

    Plus there’s no desert in the UK and it rains all the damn time. Who’d want THAT?

  22. The Guv'ner Says:

    Giz: Ask a Brit about the US and they’ll tell you that NY is on the east coast (most couldn’t tell you WHERE on the east coast) and that Florida is south east and California’s on the other side of the country. That’s it. My American geography is top notch. I know where all the states are and give me a blank map I will easily place them.

    I don’t know where half the counties in the UK are however….oops! 🙂

  23. Laughing through my chardonnay Says:

    Good Lord Americans can be so idiotic!

    When I moved to California from Georgia in the early 90’s people used to ask me if “the roads back in the south are paved” or if we have “malls and grocery stores back there”.

    Idiots.

  24. The Guv'ner Says:

    Yes, I have had someone ask about our “electricity situation over there” which was somewhat puzzling. Do they think we live like Robin Hood, by candlelight in huge castles? WTF? 🙂

  25. ~:*:*:Pixie:*:*:~ Says:

    *psssssst!* Can you hook me up with some HP?????

    I AM SO JEALOUS! I’m sweating jealousy… tomorrow morning I will eat jealousy for breakfast and I’ll belch jealousy throughout the day!

    Have a WONDERFUL time and stay warm… and dry… because I really need my HP! *wink*

    Happy holiday, YOU!

  26. dmarks Says:

    I love music from the UK, so I have to resist the urge to pester British people about my favorite musical artists. Yes, “The Killing Fields”, listed in your profile, is one of my favourite albums/CDs’

  27. The Guv'ner Says:

    Pix: What in the HELL is HP? Hot People? Hot POCKETS? Hire purchase? Honey pots? I am baffled. Naturally, I’ll bring you your HP once I know what the HELL it is:):):)

    *If it involves the outdoors in December in Scotland though, forget it. Ha.

  28. The Guv'ner Says:

    DMarks: Isn’t ‘The Killing Fields’ a hip hop album from Chicago (by the Molemen)? 🙂 I’m a big fan of the movie The Killing Fields. Depresses the hell out of me but is uplifting too. Fabulous.

    What is it with American people and British music? What do you like? Brit music used to be great but lately, I don’t know…it’s like the 80s revived themselves all over everything. 🙂

  29. Anonymous Says:

    Guv’ner, I know it’s a pain in the arse, but go with the ‘Scottish’ stuff…

    I am Welsh, and whilst some people can get very chippy about jokes at the expense of the Celts, I think we are strong enough to take it.

    If you don’t believe me, just look up ‘Existentialism, innit ‘ on Google.

    Prepare to be dazzled..

  30. WendyB Says:

    Hey! I like haggis!

  31. The Guv'ner Says:

    Hey Welsh Anonymous. In Scotland (I’m sure this applies equally to Wales) there’s a definite offense taken when people refer to the whole damn country as “England”. I get it all the time and I stubbornly refuse to let it slide. “I AM NOT ENGLISH!”

    I have nothing against English people but really, we’re not all English. And I tend to go more with Scottish than British. To me “British” says “English” and I think it does to most people of other nationalities. And if they do bring in the new passports they’re talking about you get to have a GB passport with a dragon on it and I get a St. Andrews cross and I’m all for that. Wales and Scotland (and Northern Ireland who’re always an afterthought as far as “Britain” goes) are always sort of 2nd class citizens to everyone else.

    Celts rock. My family are Pict in origin so we’re apparently “dark, short and fierce” – I only inherited the “fierce” part though! 🙂 And Wales? Apart from being beautiful it has DR. WHO and TORCHWOOD! Awesome!

  32. The Guv'ner Says:

    WendyB!!!! Haggis tastes lovely. So long as you don’t know what it is, you’ll be just golden. Blaaaaah.

  33. ~:*:*:Pixie:*:*:~ Says:

    HP Sauce… I’d eat it on ice cream – it’s like Catsup but a gazillion times better!

    mmmmmmm…. HP…. mmmmmm…. hell, I’d probably eat Haggis (knowing what it is) with HP!

    *giggle snort* @ Hot People? Hot POCKETS? Hire purchase? Honey pots?

  34. The Guv'ner Says:

    PIX: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH I thought it was some secret Pixie code for something. HP SAUCE! How do you know about the fablousness that is HP? You know what’s good? Grilled cheese with HP Sauce. Honestly you’ll thank me. It’s also good on chips (uh..fries I mean) when you’re hammered. Allegedly…

  35. Oda Says:

    In three years in the UK, most of that in London, I’ve managed to pick up a Norn Irsh accent (from the husband). And a bit of Australian, in the ‘a’s and constant ‘no worries’ing. (Aside: Why must the god of accents mock me so?) So I just confuse English people, and have to consciously drop into the old Baltimore accent to confirm that yes, yank here.

    Welsh, Scots, etc seem to roll with it just fine, for some reason.

    Enjoy your trip back home! Edinburgh is on our list of ‘must visit as soon as the ice age passes’ 🙂

  36. The Guv'ner Says:

    Oda: I sort of dig Northern Irish accents – I mean they’re fun to imitate TOO but really I sort of like them. I think they remind me a bit of home as they’re not dissimilar I think to a Scottish accent.

    You’re also freaking me out because half the people I meet online seem to be from Baltimore – what is up with that city that it just breeds internetz folkz? Of course there’s nothing wrong with that since my fave show (Homicide) is set there. So I love it on principle.

    In the years I’ve been in the States I’ve gone from fast talking heavy Scots to polite generic clear Scots that people actually understand. probably why they think I’m Irish or Canadian… Wait till I get back to the USA after this trip, no one will understand a word I say EVER AGAIN. Yes.

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