Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 485

I know jack about the UK

My American buddy asked me about how the UK was made up (notably because of the hot topic of Scotland), and what was Britain and what was Great Britain and I began to explain. ‘Hold up,’ said he (cos he is American, and not British – if he were British he would have said ‘hang on’ ;) ). ‘We were taught in school that Britain is England and Wales.’

‘Oh,’ said I. ‘I did not know that.’

So I checked, and goddammit, he’s right! What was I taught in school?!

Here’s the info that I did not know (hangs British/England/UK/Great British head in shame).

Great Britain is the official name given to the two kingdoms of England and Scotland, and the principality of Wales.

Is Great Britain the same as the UK?
No, Great Britain and the United Kingdom refer to different areas.

Great Britain is very often, but incorrectly, used as a synonym for the sovereign state properly known as the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ (UK).

The UK includes Great Britain AND Northern Ireland.



Great Britain is a political term which describes the combination of England, Scotland, and Wales, the three nations which together include all the land on the island. It is also a geographical term referring to the island on which the greater parts of England, Wales and Scotland are situated.

Is Great Britain the same as Britain?
Great Britain and Britain do not mean the same thing.

Great Britain is made up of Scotland, England and Wales, where as Britain is just England and Wales. The name Britain goes back to Roman times when they called England and Wales “Britannia” (or “Britannia Major”, to distinguished from “Britannia Minor”, ie Brittany in France). The Roman province of Britannia only covered the areas of modern England and Wales. The area of modern Scotland was never finally conquered.

However, it is important to note here that Britain has not existed in the true sense since the Roman times. Wales became a separate country in its own right, and then became a principality of England, which it still is today. The Union in 1707 joined Scotland and England and Wales to create Great Britain.

Britain was the name made popular by the Romans when they came to the British islands.

Great Britain
The term Great Britain was first used during the reign of King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) in 1603, to refer to the separate kingdoms of England and Scotland on the same landmass, that were ruled over by the same monarch. Despite having the same monarch, both kingdoms kept their own parliaments.

King James 1

King James 1

England used to be known as ‘Engla land’, meaning the land of the Angles, people from continental Germany, who began to invade Britain in the late 5th century, along with the Saxons and Jute.

United Kingdom (The uniting of kingdoms)
The ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain’ was formed in 1707 by the Act of Union that created a single kingdom with a single Parliament. (Scotland has always retained its own legal system) copyright of pro

A hundred years later the Act of Union of 1801 joined Ireland to ‘Great Britain’ and the name “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” was first used. (Since 1921 only Northern Ireland has been part of the United Kingdom and so the name changed).

History lesson complete :)

But, many questions remain if Scotland take independence. Such deep and meaningful questions as:

What about the Great British Bake Off?
Will Andy Murray play for Scotland and leave us with a hope in the tennis?
What will they call Britain’s Got Talent?

So much to consider! ;)


America, I must share with you this ingenious thing called ‘chevrons’ which we have on the roads in the UK, Great Britain or whatever the hell it’s called.



They are designed to make you keep your distance between you and the car in front of you. Fancy that!

Just imagine, America, if you had these and abided to them! Then you wouldn’t be driving RIGHT UP MY ARSE all the time.


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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 484

Scotland and America

I’ve heard a little rumour that if Scotland decide they don’t want to be part of the UK anymore then America might quite like to take their place. I’m not quite sure how the logistics of this would work out, but I wonder if we Brits might get to choose just one state to begin with, given that America is quite large.

I’m tossing it up between Maryland (out of loyalty); California (out of lust); and Texas (only because it would be utterly mind-blowing to see Texas and England, Wales and N. Ireland attempt to combine).

Something very serious will happen, however, if we are no longer the United Kingdom…..what the flippin’ heck will I call my blog and my twitter handle?! They’re currently UK Desperate Housewife USA and @ukhousewifeusa….right now I’m considering all options, so send them in if you have them!

Scottish independence looming?

Scottish independence looming?

John Denver Xmas special

An American friend recently told me that, for them, sitting around the TV at Christmas they had one tradition – the John Denver Christmas Special. Much like us Brits watching The Queen’s Speech, I imagine ;) .

Just enjoy.

America celebrates beating us Brits

This weekend in Baltimore it’s been all about the week of beating us Brits and how the Star Spangled Banner was written.

It’s always a bit awkward popping out to these events, because the minute you speak in a British accent someone says something all clever dick about you being British and how America whooped our arse.

Star Spangled celebrations

Star Spangled celebrations

Yes, I'm British....roll out the jokes... ;)

Yes, I’m British….roll out the jokes… ;)

Canons at Federal Hill

Canons at Federal Hill

The mighty flag

The mighty flag

For McHenry

Fort McHenry

Anyway, whatever happened, we’re all firm chums now and hoorah for us all!

I did have to make a mental note to myself after a few minutes at a presentation about the war and wotnot and it went like this: ‘When at the USA War of 1812 and freedom from the British celebrations don’t whoop and cheer every time they mention the British.’ ;)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 483


I know where the ‘s’ in Maths has gone in America – they put it at the end of Legos!

Lego tell it how it is!

Lego tell it how it is!

Back to school parties

We don’t have such things as Back to school parties in the UK.

But here they have them on a school night till 830pm and ply the kids full of pizza, popcorn, popsicles and Kona Ice.

The kids love it; the parents suffer it.

That is all I have to say about that.

Oh, great.

Oh, great.

Deer nibbling my bush

We have three beautiful deer who come into our garden every morning and nibble our bushes.

Hello m'dears ;)

Hello m’dears ;)

I’ll miss that.


It will be interesting to find out if the school talks about the anniversary of September 11th today. The Before-Care Club had this sign up and I explained to Harry what it was about. I hope they do discuss it.

A day of memories today all over the world.

We won't.

We won’t.

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 482

Creatives award

A piece that my lovely friend Kate Evans and I put together for Global Living Magazine about her expat experience in Botswana and the difficulty of coming back home has won a ‘creatives’ award. How lovely!

See the award here :)

Good to be curious!

Good to be curious!

Confederate flag at school football game

There was some controversy in Howard County recently when a student unfurled a Confederate flag at a high school football game.

The student displayed the flag while standing at the top of the bleachers during the season opener between Glenelg and River Hill high schools last Friday night. The student was immediately told to take the flag down.

Controversial, as you can imagine

Controversial, as you can imagine

Ken Ulman, Chief Executive of Howard County says this: “My response to the incident that happened during a recent HCPSS football game: “Public displays of the Confederate Flag evoke division, hate and subjugation — precisely the opposite of the values we hold in Howard County, and in Maryland. We must teach our kids why this is such a hurtful symbol to so many people. We must fight against injustice and intolerance in any form, especially at our schools.”

Ray Rice

An American friend asked me what I thought of all the Baltimore Ravens/Ray Rice debacle happening in America this week.

I honestly couldn’t give a flying oojamaflip about American football, but I do give a flying oojamaflip about domestic violence.

So, I responded thus in my best British, pulling out my very best British vocabulary, much as I would back home if some over-paid knob-head tosspot had punched his girlfriend in a lift or an elevator or wherever:

‘What an utter w*nker.’

Please feel free to adopt this phrase, America.

Pedestrian crossings in suburban America

I was under the impression that a pedestrian crossings in suburban America, where I live, that the pedestrian has the right of way. I think Americans call them ‘crosswalks’, but whatever they are called, there is this sign clearly displayed:

I think this is pretty clear!

I think this is pretty clear!

Yesterday evening I let my son walk to the Back to School party ‘on his own’. I stood 20 feet behind him as he waited to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing. Four cars went speeding straight over the crossing while he waited.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen drivers ignore people at pedestrian crossings here. I see it nearly every day. One car nearly rammed me up the arse when I stopped for a mum pushing a buggy last week. Sigh.

The majority of drivers here do stop, but it’s a bit hit and miss (pun intended) as to whether they will or not. My American friend says this: ‘I’m always shocked whenever in Europe and people stop for pedestrians waiting to cross. Not sure why people don’t comprehend that here.’

And a visiting Brit commented thus: ‘I was surprised by the lack of pavements when I was in your area….perhaps few people walk alongside roads these days….but mostly surprised when people didn’t stop their cars for others to cross the road…maybe living in the UK this becomes part of normal life/behaviour?’

I think it’s the fact that walking is not the norm here; everyone is in their cars, so there is little expectation or room for anticipation for someone to actually be at a pedestrian crossing.

Anyway, my comment on this is: Slow the frigging hell down drivers and stop at the crosswalk!

#rantover ;)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 481

How to be British

An American friend asked me if her British accent passed muster the other day. It was pretty good. She said she had found a site about being British and she would attempt to pass herself off as one when she was on her holibobs in the UK. Good luck to her with that! ;)

This is that site.

The bit on the site that I identified as highlighting a real difference is the way we speak, particularly the syntax and vocabulary we use.

Such as this:

In response to a question with an auxiliary and main verb, Brits respond with both: “Could you do the washing up for me?” “Could do” or “will do” (as opposed to the American, “I could.”)
“Do you have…?” in American correlates to, “Have you got…?”
Watch out for things like “at/in hospital,” instead of “at the hospital.”
Brits use the past perfect (“I have eaten”) much more often than Americans, who automatically go for the past simple (“I ate”).

We're not very good at this, though.

We’re not very good at this, though.

I recently wrote a note to an American friend (I know – I wrote a note – does anyone do that anymore?!). In it I wrote ‘I shall definitely do this in October‘. She wrote back to say that she never hears anyone in America conjugate the verb ‘shall’, and that it was very quaint and perfectly British! :)

Lie back and think of England

Sometimes when I am teaching abs class I mutter this to myself (at least I thought it was to myself): ‘Lie back and think of England’.

One of my students today asked me if I say this because I am homesick.



How I laughed inside!

Happy 60th birthday to Ruby Bridges!

Today is the anniversary of when the six-year-old Ruby Bridges famously became the first African-American child to desegregate an all-white elementary school in the South. When the 1st grader walked to William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960 surrounded by a team of U.S. Marshals, she was met by a vicious mob shouting and throwing objects at her.

This is the story:

One of the federal marshals, Charles Burks, who served on her escort team, recalls Bridges’ courage in the face of such hatred: “For a little girl six years old going into a strange school with four strange deputy marshals, a place she had never been before, she showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier. We were all very proud of her.”

60 years ago

60 years ago

Once Ruby entered the school, she discovered that it was devoid of children because they had all been removed by their parents due to her presence. The only teacher willing to have Ruby as a student was Barbara Henry, who had recently moved from Boston. Ruby was taught by herself for her first year at the school due to the white parents’ refusal to have their children share a classroom with a black child.

Despite daily harassment, which required the federal marshals to continue escorting her to school for months; threats towards her family; and her father’s job loss due to his family’s role in school integration, Ruby persisted in attending school. The following year, when she returned for second grade, the mobs were gone and more African-American students joined her at the school. The pioneering school integration effort was a success due to Ruby Bridges’ inspiring courage, perseverance, and resilience.


The Life of a TV extra

I promise, promise, promise that I won’t go on about being an extra on a TV show, but my editor for the Baltimore Post Examiner asked me to write a piece about what it’s like being an extra.

This is that piece. :)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 480

British put downs

A recent reader of my Desperate English Housewife in Washington Facebook page asked me ‘Why do the Brits either hate Americans or continually make fun of them? Is that just part of their “charm”?’

I replied: ‘Good question. We tend to make fun of those who are in a high position. In shows such as X Factor we always champion the underdog and the winner never does well, despite getting all the votes in the first place. What an odd bunch we are!’

We Brits like a bit of self-deprecation – it’s our dry wit! ;) But we also enjoy putting down others. For example: “Colin Firth got nominated for an Oscar? That’s wonderful. But, of course, he’ll lose.”

I stole this bit from BBC America’s bit about Brits to help you understand our British need to halt any show or outpouring of pride (we’re not comfortable with that, most of the time).

You're welcome!

You’re welcome!

Enjoying the Misfortune of Others
Nothing brightens a Brit’s day like discovering someone we didn’t particularly like lost their job or misspelled a status update. I get a smugness buzz every time I clock an acquaintance’s incorrect apostrophe usage. Americans, meanwhile, seem to spend less time thinking about other people, in a good way.

Doing Ourselves Down
As previously mentioned, Brits revel in the downfall of others. But we don’t want to come off as mean so we also make a point of knocking our own achievements. This makes us miserable. On the plus side, there’s the option of an “I never boasted about my Nobel prize on Facebook” gravestone inscription. (Note: a posthumous brag is borderline acceptable.)

We are strange beasts!

Criss-cross apple sauce

In school in the USA, Harry is told to sit this way: ‘criss-cross apple sauce’. I’d never heard that before I came here.

Today he asked me what we call it in England, and I replied: ‘Sit up straight with your legs crossed.’

He nodded solemnly, maybe understanding the difference between how he will be taught in England when he returns and how he is being taught to do things here.

Criss cross apple sauce, innit

Criss cross apple sauce, innit

Using the British accent

I had a gentle warning from a blog reader about using the life-saver that is the British accent in the USA…

‘Your story about using your accent to get out of a speeding ticket cracked me up. I have a British friend here who has had that happen at least 3 times. The British accent is like a super power here — it makes us Americans all delighted and obliging and submissive, so please use it wisely!’

Terribly well heard, and point taken, what, what, jolly ho! ;)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 479

On the telly!

Well, Desperados, I had my USA TV debut last night and in case you missed it, here are some shots from the show, Investigation Discovery’s Season 3 episode, Blood Ties, where I play a cop!

Going in...

Going in…

Spotting the bodies

Spotting the bodies

Calling for back up

Calling for back up

Asking the neighbours about the commotion

Asking the neighbours about the commotion

Getting serious!

Getting serious!

If you want to see the trailer for the show it’s here. It’s purdy good!

This is how I reacted when seeing myself on TV in America at 930pm on a Saturday night:

Oooh, it’s me, it’s me! Quick, pause! Hahahaha, look, I’m a cop! Woohoo, I’m on the telly! Awesome!‘ (Btw, this was all to myself since I watching it on my tod!)

Obviously, I was in no way excited by this event ;)

I was most happy that everything I filmed was in the show, and even though the close up is less than flattering (be honest, it is!!), hey who cares – I got my mug on the telly in the USA! Tick that one off the bucket list! :)

Fyi, when I spoke during filming, I used a really bad faux-American accent (just in case, ya know) that ranged from South Carolina to Boston. It’s a good job there is a narrative voice over during the scenes!

The show is running off and on during September on the ID channel, so do check it out if you didn’t catch it last night, and I’ll be sure to let you Brits know when it’s on.

And my other ID show will be in December, and then House of Cards in February! Whoop!

British/American History

An American blog reader of this very blog alerted me to some British/American shenanigans that have been taking place recently.

She says: ‘ We Yanks have done some rather bizarre things to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the burning of our capital. Case in point: the recent Flee the British 5K race’ in DC.’

Run, Americans, run!

Run, Americans, run!

(Hmm, I wonder if next year I can dress up in old British military uniform and pop out and scare the crap out of the American runners, like the zombies do in the Zombie races….) ;)

She adds: ‘Last weekend. in nearby Alexandria, Virginia — which, defenseless after the burning of Washington, surrendered to the British in 1814 to avoid the destruction of the city — the City challenged the British Embassy to a ‘rematch’ involving a cricket match, a yacht race, and a tug-of-war. (Bizarrely, the Americans won all three (who knew there was actually a Washington Cricket League?).

‘The Mayor of Alexandria concluded that the Brits must have been letting us win in deference to this being Alexandria’s day of celebration :) .

‘Anyway, I like how different towns, which were the sites of War of 1812 battles or occupations, have been using this year to celebrate 200 years of peace and friendship between America and Britain — we are lucky to have such a GREAT (yes I’m patterning that after the recent Visit Britain campaign) friend.’

Ah, we love ya too, America!

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