Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 502

Undertaking, USA style

I’ve mentioned before how I love driving on the roads in the USA because they are [mostly] big and open and it takes less time to get to places than it does in the UK, because of all our stop-start-traffic-lights-smaller-roads-congestion-road-works etc.

However…I get totally infuriated with undertaking! So much so that I even wrote a song about it (sad but true).

I is only a matter of time before I completely lose it with drivers in America who keep speeding up to undertake in the inside lane when I indicate to pull over. Oh, come on white lady in your 50s who was today’s undertaking queen, you’re better than that surely!

My British reserve and passive aggressive head shaking don’t past muster anymore on the American roads. But today, the British V sign worked wonders, and I don’t care if it got interpreted as a victory sign, because today I did win that inside lane battle.

Thou shalt not undertake a Brit. Be warned, Americanas ;) – I can swear like a British sailor, don’t ya know!

This is the sort of sign I made today (sorry mum and dad, but it had to be done!)

This is the sort of sign I made today (sorry mum and dad, but it had to be done!)

British slang t-shirt

I love this t-shirt. I would like one, please (hint, hint, it’s nearly the UK Desperate Housewife’s [ahem] 40th birthday!).

Brillopads!

Brillopads!

You can find all the explanations for those words here :)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 501

Rennfest

The Renaissance Festival: medieval merriment like only the Americans know how.

Do we have this sort of thing in the UK, they ask. Not really, unless you count a few Forest of Dean folk pretending to make blankets out of wool on a miserable foggy morning in an ‘encampment’, talking like they’re extras on Merlin, as being like Rennfest, which it totally is not.

I’ll miss this Game of Thrones/Harry Potter/Pirates of the Caribbean drunken revelry in the woods. I’ll especially miss the Lancashire/Somerset hybrid accents from some folks who are trying to be totally authentic and the annoyed looks they give me when I speak in a real British accent.

I have one wish for Rennfest tho: I wish for everyone’s sake they had invented bras in medieval times. #lotsofboobsfloppingabout ;)

Rennfest is an eclectic mix of folks

Rennfest is an eclectic mix of folks

Wizards meet at Rennfest!

Wizards meet at Rennfest!

My mate Joe works the whole of Rennfest

My mate Joe works the whole of Rennfest

The mime troupe

The mime troupe

This guy (in the middle ) ;)

This guy (in the middle ) ;)

Louis Van Amstel

I don’t watch Dancing with the Stars, but it’s the American version of Strictly Come Dancing. Anyway, there’s this dude on there who is a pro dancer and today he came to Columbia, MD to teach us fitness instructors some of his ‘La Blast’ moves.

What a cheeky chap he is (he loves an innuendo!). And he is super talented and v funny!

Louis, with his big bouffant!

Louis, with his lovely hair!

Dance, ladies and gents!

Dance, ladies and gents!

With my chum Christine :)

With my chum Christine :)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 500

Politico stuff

Someone the other day asked me why I get involved and support the American politico stuff when I can’t vote.

I said to them, that whilst I can’t raise a dolphin, I can do stuff to support it in its natural habitat. After I said this, I had to mull it over for a while, but I think that analogy kind of works ;) .

The way I feel is that I can make a small difference whilst I’m out here in the USA getting involved, supporting my friends and those I believe in. If I just sat there on my sofa, stuffing my face with popcorn, watching whatever trash TV there is, then I think it would be a waste of living out here.

Plus, let me tell you this: the folks I have met have been amazeballs, and the vibe and anticipation is incredible.

I’m really not sure about the kind of people I would meet in the UK if I got involved in this sort of stuff, but last night I sat next to a USA high school kid who was very charming, dapper, funny, articulate, mature and engaging. He made an impression on me, and I’ll watch out for him because I think he’s going to be a big deal when he comes out of Princeton.

Supporting the dishy Calvin Ball :)

Supporting the dishy Calvin Ball :)

Campaign HQ

Campaign HQ

The kids get in on the act

The kids get in on the act

Always time for a quick UK Housewife USA signing! ;)

Always time for a quick UK Housewife USA signing! ;)

So, what was I doing last night? Phonebanking, which is like campaign cold calling to see if voters support the people I’m calling about.

I was a little skeptical about taking part in this, for several reasons:

a) My British accent. If some British bird calls up an American household it can be rather disconcerting as to why a British person is calling you at all, let alone to ask you about whether you are supporting particular political candidates. I usually get a ‘pardon’ straight away after I’ve spoken to anyone, because they’re taken aback at my accent. Sigh. ;)

b) My ‘sultry’ British accent. When I speak all right and proper on the phone I use my rather sultry posh tone, where I sit my voice back in my throat. I don’t know why I do this, it just happens. I think it means I enunciate more clearly. Anyway, last night a woman answered the phone and I had to ask for her husband and I swear to God she thought I was a caller from some adult hotline. Bet she was ready to give him a right bollocking!

:)

Fall

What a beautiful Fall day in Downtown Columbia, MD. Wowsers!

The lakefront

The lakefront

Columbia MD

Columbia MD

Looking fabulous

Looking fabulous

How’s that Autumn doing in the UK, chaps?!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 499

The Importance of an Accent

This is a story which was told to me whilst sitting in Holding on the set of the TV show VEEP by one of the other extras and I wanted him to share it with you. It’s a pretty amazing story he tells, all about the British and American accents….

Happy reading!

The story

In February 2010, I was teaching English at a community college on the east coast of the US. One day I received an email that was forwarded to me from my supervisor. The email originated from the Director of Theatrical Arts at the college. The email read, “Auditions for The Importance of Being Earnest scheduled for February 4th and 5th. Please bring your best British accents.”

I thought to myself “this is for me!” I drove to the audition on the night of Feb. 4 only to find that it had been canceled due to snow. I couldn’t go the following night because I was teaching. The day after the auditions were completed, I called the director and left a voice mail message for her using my British accent, explaining how I was unable to make it to the audition. I offered to assist her with the play.

The director emailed me the next day. She explained that all of the parts had been cast. She asked if I would be interested in working as a vocal coach for the actors in the play. I wrote back and let her know that I would in fact, be interested.

A great play!

A great play!

The following night, I drove to the first rehearsal. It was being held in a large classroom at the college. The director met me at the door. Over her shoulder, I could see that the room was full of people that turned out to be actors, technicians, and backstage crew members. She said, “Are you Kevin?” I said, “Yes, I am.” She immediately turned around and said, “Attention everyone! I would like to introduce you to a Real British Person.” I was stunned and didn’t know what to say. Do I tell her that I’m not British, that the accent was faked or do I play along? I didn’t want to make her look bad in front of everyone, so I played the part.

I sat through the 2 ½ hour read-though/rehearsal and took copious notes. After the read through, the director said, “all of the principal actors go to the back of the room with Kevin, the rest of you come with me.”

Using my notes, I critiqued each one of the principal actors on their British pronunciation. After a couple of rehearsals, I received an email from the director. In the email, she explained that the actor playing Dr. Chasuble was in the hospital. He had pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She said, “you’ve been to the rehearsals and you’re familiar with the script. Would you be willing to step in and play the part of Dr. Chasuble?” I told her that I would be happy to and that I would do my best.

We rehearsed for six weeks and then did seven performances. I continued to perform with my British accent on and off stage. After the final performance we had a cast party at the director’s house. At one point during the party, I asked the director if I could say a few words to the cast and crew and she said, “yes”.

I started out by complimenting everyone on a job well done. Next, I thanked everyone for their support of me as a latecomer to the cast. Then, I told everyone that I had been working on my American accent. I told them that I taught English at the college and that I needed to teach the class with an American accent in order to teach colloquial expressions correctly. I then said that for the reminder of the party, I would only speak with an American accent. I told them that it was now their turn to critique me. Of course they all loved this idea.

After my little speech, I found myself in the kitchen talking with a group of actors and a few members of the backstage crew. One of the crew members said to me, “Okay, let’s hear your American accent.” What do you want me to say?” I asked. He said, “The Pledge of Allegiance.” I thought to myself, I’ve been saying this since I was a kid in elementary school. So I put my right hand over my heart and began to recite the pledge as I always have…

“I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of The United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

“How was that?” I asked with a confident smile. One of the guys said, “Not bad, but I could still hear a little of your British accent.”

“What?” I thought to myself. I wanted to tell them so badly that I was American, but didn’t, and still haven’t.

Today, four years later, I still hear from some of the actors thanking me for helping them with their British accents.

KP

:)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 498

Got or Gotten

Today I heard Harry say ‘gotten’ for the first time. I’ll confess, this verb conjugation messes up my English ears. Sorry, American chumbalies, I can’t help it. It’s already a past participle. Sigh.

;)

;)

My garage

My American garage (or ‘ga-rarge’) is bigger than my sitting room back in the UK. That’s nuts.

American-stylie padlocks

I hate these things!

I hate these things!

Americans love these padlocks, which is all well and good, except I cannot effing open them and I turn up to work 10 mins early so that I can spend 10 mis trying to unlock the wretched thing and open the stereo. In the end, I just ask any American nearby because, as they say, they’re used to them from high school. What’s wrong with those ones where you line up the numbers? Oh, I get so darn confused about which way to go and how many times past which number etc with these ones. I don’t think I’ll ever get it!

Expat survey

Did you know that the US ranks among the five best expat destinations worldwide? Or that it offers some of the best career prospects out of all the countries surveyed? Ooh, super!

Expat Statistics USA infographic

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 497

Political frenzy in Maryland!

There’s a slight frenzy in the air at the moment in Howard County, Maryland, as people are gearing up for the elections…..4 November is the big day!

As well as attending pretend-politics VEEP fundraisers, I have also attended real American fundraisers, and, thankfully, the candidates I know and support are far more grounded and adept in their roles than the somewhat confuddled Selina Meyer.

First off….Tom Coale, who’s running for District 9B in Ellicott City. He’s what I would call a ‘dude with a brain’. He gets the real stuff going on around him, he’s dedicated to his causes, understands his community, and is probably one of the sharpest tools in the Howard County box of politicos.

We rallied together for Tom this week and I was rather caught off guard by his utterly inspiring and passionate words, because, although I know he talks from the heart, the way he delivered this speech was nothing short of a powerful Shakespearean monologue to the troops. These words will undoubtedly get him to his seat in Annapolis, and that means I’ll be hanging out and babysitting with his wife Nicole and their new baby (due any day now!) even more!

Tom Coale, everyone

Tom Coale, everyone

Secondly….Courtney Watson, who’s running for Howard County Executive. I admire Courtney tremendously because she is a working wife and mother of some [very handsome] young men, and has given her heart and soul to the community of Howard County. I think I will shed a tear when Courtney takes her seat because she stands for something that I believe in, not just for the County, but for women everywhere. You can achieve and you can make a difference.

The #hocohomos and I are holding an event in support of Courtney this weekend and it will be a fine wine and fun affair, naturally!

Me and Courtney in the Spring :)

Me and Courtney in the Spring :)

Thirdly……Ken Ulman, who’s running for Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, alongside Anthony Brown for Governor. I also totally dig Ken’s vibe. He is one of the people, doing it for the people. He is focused, grounded and determined, and I think we’ll see that Ulman name heading towards the White House before long.

And his wife, Jaki, is perfect First Lady material. She’s a total babe!

See ya at the White House!

I’d better get an invite to the White House!

So, that’s my Top Three of Howard County. Best of luck, y’all! :)

Bangs / fringe

How did that word ‘bangs’ appear in the American language my British friend and I mused the other day.

This, apparently:

The term bangs originally referred to a hair cut bang-off (straight across at the front). It is probably related to bang-tail, a term still used for the practice of cutting horses’ tails straight across. The term fringe (UK) refers to the resemblance of the short row of hair to ornamental fringe trim, such as that often found on shawls.

Et, voila mes amis! :)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 496

American accents – blurred lines!

I keep getting comments about my TV news appearance from folks in the UK saying I sound really American!

What???!!!

I donned my best British accent for that piece! I suspect there are a few inflections that I’ve picked up and you tend to just because it’s easier. But, even yesterday on the set of another TV show some of the other extras didn’t catch my British accent until I spoke ‘full sentences’ and thought I was either American or Australian!! I’m guessing my accent blends now; must try harder!

Just joshing! (Remember my American accent fail here?!)

Just joshing! (Remember my American accent fail here?!)

Suellen

I met an American lady yesterday called Suellen. Not ‘Sue Ellen’, as we might now it from Dallas, but pronounced ‘Swellen’. Fact!

The First Lady of Texas

The First Lady of Texas

The importance of a fake accent

I met an American guy too yesterday who told me a wonderful story about how he auditioned for a play (The Importance of Being Earnest) in Maryland and did the whole thing in a British accent, and they thought he was a real Brit, so he kept the whole thing up on stage and off stage for the whole of the show and afterwards, but I don’t want to spoil the whole thing for you, so he’s going to write that story for this blog shortly. It was captivating and very, very funny!

VEEP

So why did I meet all these people yesterday? Well, I sat in a holding room for the TV show VEEP (the British version of The Thick of It) from 1130am-3am. Yes, that long. We did do a scene or two, mind you, but I can’t talk about that! ;)

Funny stuff!

Funny stuff!

Fun fact: Chris Addison, British stand up and TV show comedian was directing, wearing an Orioles baseball cap. An interesting British/American juxtaposition!

Chirpy British chap!

Chirpy British chap!

Also, there was a British female director called Becky Martin, who did Peep Show, back in the UK. I had a little chinwag with her about how Americans just can’t nail saying the word ‘brilliant’ in a British accent.

It was a very cool, but very long day/night in chilly Downtown Baltimore.

I’ll let you know when my episode airs!

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