I have been for a long time. Since childhood. I mean, when you’re Jewish and your ancestors each come from a different Slavic country, Brits just seem so exotic. Plus they have those fantastic accents where even their janitors seem smarter than you.
And then, of course, there was the music. I suppose if I had come of age in the grunge era I might worship Seattle or something. God knows, the way they have good coffee even at the gas station is worthy of great heaps of admiration. But as you have no doubt figured out, I was a teenager in the 80’s and Depeche Mode, the Cure, the Smiths, and New Order were my objects of affection. I figured any place that could breed these awesome bands had to be like a Promised Land of some sort. It didn’t occur to me that England might be a miserable place what with all the moaning and complaining. I guess the fact that they all made minor-chord music to commit suicide by should have clued me in.
But I loved it anyway. I took my first trip to London as a nearly 16 year old, with my father on a business trip (his, not mine, otherwise that’s kind of unlikely, right?). While he was at work, I was scouring record shops for obscure cassettes (we listened to cassettes back then, whippersnapper) and buying black clothing. Suddenly, all the bands that didn’t even warrant their own header cards at the local Sam Goody were huge! Frankie Goes to Hollywood had a billboard! It was tremendous.
I still love the UK. I’ve been back many times, to London and other cities, to Cornwall and to Wales. I meant to go to Manchester but I chickened out at the last minute with the thought that it might be something like being a tourist in Detroit. So I kept going and went to Scotland instead.
And I read their newspapers online every day. Their news just seems to be so much more fun than ours. Today, Prince Charles was featured in the Daily Telegraph wearing a lei. Then there was the “Talking parrot gives away girlfriend’s secret lover” story. Not that that was funny. No. Breakups due to avian issues are sad. Very sad. I’m so sad.
But people there use fun words like “chuffed” and “gobsmacked” and “telly.” Aren’t they adorable? Couldn’t you just pinch their cheeks? I think it’s their mysterious mixture of delightful fun and dark depression that has always attracted me. Or maybe I’m just confusing the United Kingdom with the Cure. Whatever.
By the way, should you be British and feel dismayed that I have used England and the UK interchangeably, please send your complaints to G.W. Bush, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC, 20500. I know they’ll get right on that.