British versus American

Unlike most Britons (male and female) that I know, I am unreserved about enjoying a British series called Made In Chelsea (MiC). I debriefed the series in a previous post here, which you can read up on here. Liking the series (and Britons who also like it, but are embarrassed to admit it in British public) may say a great deal about me as a person, and the people I attract. Let’s face it, black-identified Americans have called me “bourgie” since I was a child. It’s pretty hilarious to think about the cultural connection, too, as Anglophones typically view Francophone people as “refined” ( Ou Lah Lah! ) but “arrogant.” We all bathe in parfum and are serial epicureans. “If the shoe fits?” Continue reading

Language for show

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So, I passed a pleasant weekend in Cardiff (Wales) and Bath (England) over the weekend. I must say it: I really, really enjoyed both, although for decidedly different reasons. 

Cardiff I found quite fascinating for the linguistic character of the place (mostly) and also for all the old castles and edifices. For me, it was like being in Edinburgh, a place that both looks and feels … old. A time machine. What was modern, on the other hand, was the bilingual Welsh-English signage all over the city. I noted to Haidar that I found it … perplexing, 

 

because although there were bilingual signs everywhere, everyone spoke English in the shops, on the streets and on cell phones. And right when I said that, that one random couple of friends strolled pass us speaking the gutturally soothing Gaelic Welsh. Don’t shoot me for using Gaelic. Okay? I only mean it in the linguistic family sense.

Anyway, the whole language flavor seemed very familiar to me, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. Then it hit me: New Orleans. 

Wales Tourism BoardNew Orleans has bilingual signage in the vieux carré, mostly only names of streets (some being trilingual French-English-Spanish). Like Cardiff, New Orleaneans walk down the stench-filled aroma of the quarter speaking in English. But New Orleans, like Cardiff, also feels old world … stuck in time, yet modern at once. Ah, hah! I got it: I then immediately thought about a possible tourism ploy to make Cardiff moreattractive for tourism (the case in New Orleans). Then at the entrance to our hotel (Mercure), a sign confirmed it: the local tourism board was mostly responsible for the bilingual signage throughout the city on governmental, municipal and tourist buildings. Language for show. Although, I am well aware of Welsh being spoken outside of Cardiff. Jarod, m

y landlord last year, his wife, Rhiannon, who is Welsh, speaks Welsh fluently and only speaks in Welsh with her parents … and they’re no Welsh Hillbillies, either. Professors. So, the language does live on in some Welsh circles where it’s “for real,” and not “for show.” Hats off to them.

In any case, I highly recommend both. Bath was so beautiful. I could live there. By far the cleanest city I have visited in the UK. The streets are clean. The river is clean (with greenish water). The building façades are clean and of an eggshell color. All in this simple Roman style. After all, the city is the sight of age-old Roman baths and spas from back when Romans lived there and like all good Latins, spent most of their time gossiping about this and that naked in warm water to decompress … an all day affair. Speaking of which, our Bed-and-Breakfast neighbors had an orgy for two hours from 1AM to 3AM and we were–literally–locked in the room. Don’t ask. Ah, heck, I thought, “when in Rome …” except I’d rather not have been in that Rome with Haidar. 🙂

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Those ‘things’

We were at my girl Sandra’s flat one night to watch a season première of the British series Made In Chelsea (MiC). MiC is, more or less, the same kind of show as the 1990s American series Beverly Hills 90210. They actually copied BH90210 and created a British version of it, called 90210, based in the UK with British actors. Not sure what happened to that show, however.

For whatever reason though, MiC is socially frowned upon here, but everyone secretly watches it at home. Oddly enough, the Brits squeal at most of their reality TV shows; god forbid you refer to Hollyoaks or to EastEnders in public here! So, go crawl into your hole, you bloody TV crazed commoner!

But seriously, Brits cringe when MiC is mentioned and, I think, it has a lot to do with the British obsession on social class and caste. You’re not meant to show anything mildly perceived as successful or an accomplishment. This must be linked to the elite here, who, if you saw them on the street, you’d think they were an ordinary person; a commoner. Go into their age old châteaux, and you’ll find hand-me-down shabby rugs, couches, cold bathrooms and an old Volkswagen parked out front, according to anthropologist Kate Fox. Anything showy is, immediately, associated with Essex County folk, the British equivalent to nouveaux riche, outlandish, bling-bling Jersey Shore “Italians.”

Accordingly, it is an absolute social requirement that fans of these shows watch them at home with no mates or colleagues around who, without a doubt, would take the piss out on them. I watch it, though; I’m not British and they find Americans excessive and showy, anyways.

Anyway, we had a few other international folks round to watch. I had longer than usual hair, then. And, when my hair grows out, it forms pencil thick spiral curls. At that point, my hair must’ve been about 3 or 4 inches on top and on the sides, but the spirals tend to be quite compact, so it didn’t seem as long as it really was.

We were watching the show. Hilarious. That Millie is so repulsive, with that feline language of hers, purring and shit. Just talk, already! It is, what it is. She’s not the only one purring as she speaks.

Photo du 12-10-11 à 21.43 #2

Same hair length. Click to expand image.

Rella, Sandra’s landlord, who’s from the UK (one of 2 in the entire group there), was sitting next to me. I noticed she had been studying my head, but didn’t point it out. I’ve seen that stare before; when people are trying to make out what’s on your head, in your hair or what your hair pattern is. Black-identified Americans are the worst at this. And, unexpectedly, out of nowhere, Rella asked me “so, are you going to do those ‘things’?” as she rubbed her thumb and index together making a rolly-polly gesture and partially smiling. I was in shock. I asked for clarification, even though I knew exactly what she was asking. “You know: those curly things that black people wear in their hair. I think it’s cool.” Ummmm, “probably not. My hair is naturally curly. Why would I want to make fake twists?,” I responded. But I was really thinking: why do these Brits think that all tan people in the U.S. have twists, corn-rows and dookie-braids? Weird, I tell you. Too much TV is not good.

The commercial’s off. Just in the nick of time.
Spencer’s obsessing over Caggie. Turns out that she’s decided to speed off to New York City to free her mind from all the Chelsea drama.
I like Caggie, actually. She’s the only one of the cast members that seems like a real person; plus she doesn’t do that crazy purring when she talks.
But, surprise(!), suprise(!), she somehow American … I think she was reared in Tennessee or the Carolinas with her mom and step-dad?
Cute thang, that one.

Dang.
Spencer’s sobbing and supplicating has soaked up the remainder of the show for the week. Oh, well, will have to wait for next week to see what mess Cheska starts and who Jamie’s shagging next. Ahhhh

I head out as I’ve a ride on the bus home, and it’s late.
It’s biting chilly, too.
Well, that’s nothing new ’round here.
brrrrr

At Brown’s

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I was at Brown’s on Thursday.
It was a nice day out and given that these are rare occurrences in “sunny” Brighton, I figured it wise to go out and get some vitamin D-producing UV-rays while I could.

Besides, I had never been to Brown’s, a Bar and Brasserie located one block from the seafront, where Middle Street forms a horseshoe.

And, I dunno, it always struck me with a healthy dose of dissonance, because I always see brasseries (or, breweries, as we say in the U.S.) as fun and cheap, but Brown’s has a distinct air of refinement to it: pristine windows, waiters in black and white uniforms (white aprons, mind you!) stiff as paper from starching.

Anyways, there I was, seated with my 2 menus in hand, cross-eyed trying to decide what to concentrate on first: drinks (for which an order would be requested imminently) or food. Aw, hell, I’ll go for a glass of Champagne: (in my very best British English) “Oi will hahv ay glahs of chawmpahnyuh, please.” How chic of me. The server, more gingery than Ginger GRANT on Gilligan’s Island, returned for my lunch selection, prancing and spinning around like a top. That dude must be on speed of some kind, I thought to myself.

“When in Rome,” they say.
There I sat, back straight as a wall, apron in lap, forks and knives in place.
I was utterly bored watching boring-ass proper people who, I suspect, were mostly as “posh” as I. Well, in Louisiana, people do commonly refer to me as “proper,” especially now that I’ve been living in the United Kingdom.
I really wanted to study the entire posh act of the patrons, but decided that they were indirectly paying more attention to me. So, I figured, it’d be a lot of fun to mess with them, a bit.

My pan-seared sea bass arrived, with veggies and what not. It was tasty. What a surprise. And while I worked my way through the dish, fork in right-hand, knife in left, I overheard an interrogation at the table immediately next to mine.
The husband at the table was cornering the waitress about her Britishness.
She kept reassuring him that she was British, told him where exactly she was from (which went over my head), and all. To no avail. Stuffy, froo-froo, His Highness, Duke of Nowhere, Pompous-General of Britishité, kept at it. He must’ve taken her for Eastern European: she was tall, blond, well-proportioned, nice bum, pleasant air and face. But, she shocked him, I guess, that tall, elegant and forthcoming waitresses can actually be British.

The Brits can be quite obsessive about speech.
One of my mates from who-knows-where in England (he’s a bit of a mystery to all of us) finds so much joy in hearing different ahksents from throughout the united kingdoms. It’s, literally, orgasmic for him. And he’s, consequently, very good at reproducing the accents.

Maybe that Sir, Duke–whatever title he accords himself–was fixated on the waitress because she broke the clichés normally defining Britishness. It’s true, the Brits really do live-and-breathe clichés. They make me quite uncomfortable at times, because they will try to mold me into the American cliché that they feel comfortable with: Obama-fanatic, urbanite, hip-hop fan, gangster movie watching, basketball or football playing; you get the drift. Umm, no. I am from a sugar- and pepper-producing Bayou city of 40,000 inhabitants, speak pretty neutral mid-Atlantic English in addition to Creole, French etc, like Lounge music, watch documentaries, played baseball and soccer in school, and only like Obama as much as he is a he is the first socially-approachable head of state since JFK and, identify as Creole, not blahk. When I don’t fit their clichés, they usually just stop talking to me, as the client did to the waitress.

Oops. My shawm pahn yuh glass is nearly empty. I won’t finish it all, as this is such a working-class thing to do. Plus, I really need to go, as my mates are waiting for me for yoghurt then shisha. Must make the best of the sunshine while it lasts. And, that’ll probably be short-lived.  Off I geaux.