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Monday, 13 July 2009

8 Great English Things (There are only 8)

I am leaving London for the summer. The past 6 months have been my longest stint here yet, the longest amount of time I've been away from home my entire life. With my flight a mere 72 hours away, I feel a fear creeping up inside me that I have become too "English". My mind is cluttered with conversations where I refer to "Laundry" as "Washing", say "loads" in place of "tons", make dentist appointments for "half six a week Monday" instead of "next Monday at six thiry". As much as I dread the ridicule that will follow the abandonment of my native New Yorker tongue, I have come to the realization over the past half year, that England ain't half bad. Yes there is no sun here and it rains all the time and the people can be cold and closed off and hyper-stylized and they drink too much and then act inappropriate and at times have stereotypically poor hygiene and bad teeth, but there are a few things the UK has over the USA. I counted 8. Here they are:

P.S.: If you think I might have missed a great English thing, please email it to me at

Marmite -

I've already dedicated a entire blog to Marmite, the disturbingly thick yeast extract solvent I spread on my bagels each morn (have to get my NYC fix somehow). Back in September I saw it as a warning sign of my impending Englishness. Guess I was right. Read my Marmite blog at

Withnail & I

Before I got to London I'd never heard of this 1987 cult classic, a perfect slice of dark comedy which has become mandatory University viewing here in the UK. Consider it a more literate, drug fueled counterpart to Animal House or Up In Smoke, one of those special kind of movies where every single line is instantly and eternally quotable. I remember watching the movie Warlock in 5th grade and being strangely drawn to Richard E. Grant's character, Giles Redferne. Withnail was Grant's first role and he is truly brilliant, spewing one memorable, hysterical line after another. And Richard Griffiths, Uncle Vernon of Harry Potter fame, plays a very different kind of uncle here, the terrifying Monty who nobly exclaims, "I mean to have you boy, even if it must be buglary!'

Pimm's & Lemonade

First produced in 1823 by James Pimm, a farmer's son from Kent, Pimm's is a gin-based drink containing quinine (tonic water) and a "secret" mixture of herbs. There were originally 5 different types of the drink (No.1-5), but after the brand fell on hard times in the 1970's, No.'s 2 & 5 were phased out. Pimm's mixed with lemonade is one of the traditional drinks at Wimbledon and during the Ashes. I tried this delicious, refreshing summer cocktail while playing my first and only game of Cricket. You can watch my experience at

Marks & Spencer's at rest stops

Pulling off the M1 (The UK's version of I-95) while en route to Latitude Festival, I discovered what I still consider to be the best thing about England. I walked into a gas station and was able to purchase freshly squeezed orange juice, smoked salmon, and a tomato and mozzarella bruschetta. How is this possible? Mark's and Spencer (M&S for short) is one of the UK's major retailers of clothing and food. They are known for their superior quality and taste, servicing an upper end of clientele compared to Sainsbury's or Tesco's. They have food outlets in rest stops throughout the north of England. I can't tell you how many times I've been on tour in the States I've forced myself to eat hydrogenated, freeze-dried, fat boy foods like Beef Jerky, two-week old Donuts, and Sandwiches made from God knows what. Never again.


This one may seem ridiculous to English people, but I think Nando's is amazing! We don't have high-quality fast food in America. It's all crap (with the exception of In-and-Out Burger in L.A. which is clearly what they eat atop Mount Olympus, the food of Gods). Nando's is a Portuguese Chicken joint which is fast, nutritious, and delicious. And the price is right! And you can get membership rewards cards! Buy 9 Chickens and the 10th is free. Amazing!

Fancy Cars parked on the street

People park really dope, mint condition vintage cars on the street in England. I dunno why, maybe it's safer here, but somehow I doubt it. Walking around London, I see incredible MGs, Triumphs, Austin Martins, Porsches, even Lamborghinis almost every day. Here's a look at the ones I snapped, pretending they were mine of course:


Film4 is the UK version of HBO but better in my opinion. We all know HBO's original programming is second to none (Sopranos, The Wire, Curb, Entourage, etc.). But in my mind, HBO stands for Home Box Office, just like MTV stands for Music Television. When I was a kid MTV played music videos, and HBO played movies, and that's all Film4 does. Their programming is impeccable, mixing long lasting classics with the latest releases, curating their schedule with themes like "Great Indie Directors' Week" or "The Films of Ben Stiller". Plus it beats HBO in the cost department: it comes as a part of Freeview which is, you guessed it, free.

BBC iPlayer

We've all heard about the BBC in America courtesy first of Jimi Hendrix's Radio 1 sessions, then Austin Powers' amazing BBC song, and now through BBC America which plays UK comedy staples like Little Britain and The Office. The BBC website has an amazing feature called iPlayer which lets you watch any of their programming on demand without commercials, whether it's coverage of Glastonbury Festival, The Olympics, documentaries on Jazz legends like Jelly Roll Morton, or the latest original Guy Ritchie rip-off, East London gangster mini-series. This is the gold standard of television programming. BBC 1, 2, 3 and 4 is all they need to get the job done. My Pops has over 700 channels at home and there's never anything on.


reading said...

We all know that what the role of English in the globalism time.I also agree with Mr.Marmite...
Mr.Marmite thanks for sharing yuors experience...

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reading said...

English got that position of the world ..Other language must never touch..
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reading said...

The English is written and spoken very efficiently by the natives, they must be selected to teach English to non-native learners...Expatriates