London Calling

The fine British comedian, actor and writer Stephen Fry got in mindthegapsome hot water recently for suggesting that Americans might be seduced by the cut-glass accents of British actors. “I sometimes wonder,” Fry said, “if Americans aren't fooled by our accent into detecting brilliance that may not really be there."

I have often wondered too, whether I enjoy London so much because it is genuinely a great city to visit, or I am just enthralled by those unique things that make London so terribly British. The moment you get off the plane, you enter a world where you are soon reminded that you may require a quick English As A Second Language course. By the way, the best source I’ve found for translating English to American is here.

Take the Underground or Tube, and at every station a sober voice intones “Mind the Gap.” It is of course referring to the large gap that can exist between the train door and the station platform. I guess what most impresses me about the phrase is that rather than using the plebian Watch Out or Hey You, the Brits have assumed that we have a mind, so they urge spotteddickus to use it.

Now that British cuisine has moved to a higher rung on the ladder, you might not find it on a menu anymore, but Spotted Dick is a curious sounding dish if ever there was one. Benignly, it consists only of steamed pudding, usually with currants thrown in (the spots, as it were). Strangely, many people still like it very much and have it shipped to far away places.

To see lawyers (or barristers, I should say) wearing wigs and flowing robes is unique enough, but they barristerhave their own hang-out at Middle Temple. One of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English bar as barristers, it’s located in The City or Square Mile, the very heart of London’s commercial and financial district.

Scones with tea is all very civilized, but if you really want to do it right, you need a big dollop of clotted cream on top of the scone. Made from unpasterized cow’s milk, it takes time for the cream to rise to the top and form clots, but if you focus on how it tastes rather than how it’s made, you will not be disappointed.

fishandchipsIf you want to eat in your hotel room or rented apartment (flat), it’s time to head to the take-away. There you will find hot food of questionable nutritional value that you can take home/away to eat. Many of the locals stagger snoggerydown the street in a drunken stupor whilst eating theirs, but that is by no means mandatory.

To finish on a high note, London has a good deal of snoggery, or swapping spit as some uncouth persons might refer to it. To snog can be as simple as making out, but most assuredly involves the exercise of two tongues. They might call it French kissing, but London is after all, not going to give the French credit for something as exalted as kissy face.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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